Today's Papers

Civil Dislobedience

The Los Angeles Times leads with the swearing in of Ehud Barak as the prime minister of Israel, a development fronted at the New York Times and Washington Post, which lead with local heat wave stories. USA Today leads with a national heat wave story, which reports that some northeastern corridor power companies have been reducing voltage to keep service going despite record use, and that the weather has caused nine deaths, including three children left in cars in 100-degree heat.

Taking a cue from Barak’s conciliatory inaugural remarks, in which he emphasized the need for renewed negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, the LAT sees his assumption of power as marking the “beginning of a new era in Middle East peacemaking.” The paper reports that Yasser Arafat welcomed Barak’s overture, and that the two may meet as early as Monday. Barak will also meet soon with President Clinton, Egypt’s president, and the king of Jordan. Both the LAT and the NYT emphasize that despite Barak’s talk of inclusiveness, Israeli Arabs and Israeli women complained of being overlooked in the formation of his new government, which contains only one female in the Cabinet and no Israeli Arabs. The WP does not mention the disaffection of either group.

The NYT and the LAT run front-page stories about mass protests against Slobodan Milosevic in two cities, one involving an estimated 2,000 protesters, the other 10,000. The dissidents’ goal is clear–a popular chant is, “Leave, Slobo, leave.” When police unplugged the sound system at the larger protest, participants hooked it up to a generator and pressed on. A protest leader is quoted in both papers calling Milosevic, “the worst ruler in the history of the world.” One participant tells the LAT, “In the last six months, my total salary was … [about $27]. … That’s why I’m here.”

A WP front-pager reports on an emotional recent trend at Williamsburg, Va. It seems that the simulated pre-Revolutionary village has long been perceived as lily-white and as papering over the issue of slavery. (And indeed, the paper reports, blacks make up only 4 percent of the site’s 1 million annual visitors.) But that began to change a few months ago, when a new program, “Enslaving Virginia,” was inaugurated. The new material includes actors portraying slave leaders and slave owners and tourists cast as slaves. Spectators, especially young children, are so affected by what they see that they often try to intervene or are reduced to tears. As a result, post-show debriefings have been added. Upcoming re-enactments will address the brutal treatment of slaves, complete with graphic sounds of whippings.

Yesterday’s USAT front reported that a federal commission studying the future of DNA evidence would advise Janet Reno to come out against the routine, mass use of DNA testing. And today’s WP front rehearses the vital-police-tool vs. Big Brother debate. Another Post piece inside, about Virginia’s DNA databank–the largest in the country, based on samples taken from every one of the state’s convicted felons–truly contributes to the debate with detailed descriptions of cases where DNA caught or exonerated people when nothing else would have.

The Wall Street Journal breaks out some disturbing data that the Federal Reserve will be posting online later this month. It seems that according to the Fed’s study of 4,600 small businesses, black applicants for small-business loans are denied credit twice as often as whites with similar creditworthiness, a gap that’s much worse than that found in mortgage lending.

A WP reader asks a good question about the V-chip: How’s it supposed to work as long as the networks allow family-friendly programming to be punctuated by ads and promos that are anything but? Meanwhile, the LAT’s readers weigh in on the paper’s recent two-parter on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard experience: most of the letter writers hated it. “Great picture of 2nd Lt. George W. Bush in uniform,” says one. “Just to be fair, how about running one of Clinton in uniform?” But neither the LAT readers nor the LAT has stated the fundamental assumption of the Guard gotcha genre: Having legally gotten into and served honorably in the Guard is an election negative only if being president requires having been shot at. Which is absurd.