Today's Papers

Irish Tremors

The Washington Post leads with a sudden, last-minute proposal (the New York Times calls it an “ultimatum”) by the British and Irish governments to salvage the Northern Ireland peace process, a story fronted by the NYT and Los Angeles Times. Having failed to bring Catholic and Protestant leaders to agreement, Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern sided with the Catholics’ desire to establish a legislature in Ulster before disarming the IRA, then implied they would scuttle the entire peace process if the Ulster unionists did not accept. The NYT leads with an exclusive: Hungary’s, Romania’s, and Bulgaria’s refusal to allow Russia to use their airspace to fly hundreds of Russian troops to Kosovo. The three former Soviet satellites instead referred Russia’s request to the U.S., which said no, having not yet worked out Russia’s role in Kosovo peacekeeping. The LAT leads with the Labor Department’s report that hiring increased significantly in June, a story run inside by the other papers.

Tony Blair called for a power-sharing, 12-member Cabinet (the NYT says 10) to be set up in Northern Ireland on July 15, with IRA disarmament to begin in August. The NYT says the Ulster unionists–who have insisted on IRA disarmament first–must accept the plan or do without the entire self-rule agreement, which Northern Irelanders overwhelmingly approved by referendum last year. The WP and LAT say Blair only implied he would scuttle the process, and the WP quotes a local Northern Ireland politician saying the unionists are secretly resigned to Blair’s proposal. All papers note the start early this month of a Protestant holiday season, which features battle celebrations and sometimes starts violence.

All papers note the better-than-expected employment numbers for June. Although the unemployment rate crept up a notch to 4.3 percent, employers hired 268,000 workers, a sharp turnaround from May, when they shed 5,000. The stock markets rallied, and the bond markets–which typically fear inflation after strong economic news–barely reacted. All analysts agreed that the report bolsters the Fed’s Wednesday announcement that it will not raise rates again for a while. The WP stresses the report’s good news for blacks, whose unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent, the lowest since 1972, when such tallying began.

The WP, in an interview with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., reports that he sees the House passing compromise gun-control legislation this year, despite its recent setbacks. Hastert said the Republicans will pay a political price if they do not pass a bill.

The NYT reports that 10,000 people demonstrated against Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia’s second-largest city, Novi Sad, where local opposition politicians threatened that if Milosevic does not resign, they will throw him out. Unlike Wednesday’s similar demonstration in Cacak, Serbian police did not turn away any demonstrators. The NYT also reports that French soldiers in Kosovo arrested several Serbian soldiers, one a suspected war criminal.

The LAT fronts the death of Godfather author Mario Puzo, a story reefered by the WP and NYT. Puzo, 78, earned $6,500 from his first two books–which, unlike much of his later mass-market novels, received favorable reviews. TheGodfather sold 21 million copies.

The WP fronts the death of candy-titan billionaire Forrest Mars Sr., a story reefered by the LAT and NYT. Mars, 95, the patriarch of an international food and candy empire with $15 billion in sales, originally created M&Ms to prevent his chocolate from melting in stores in pre-air conditioning days (“Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”).

The NYT and LAT reefer the public confession by Julius Erving–basketball’s “Dr. J”–that he fathered rising 18-year-old tennis star Alexandra Stevenson, who will play in the Wimbledon semifinals Saturday. Erving, who has been married since 1972, had an out-of-wedlock relationship in 1980 with a sports journalist named Samantha Stevenson. Erving said he has supported the child since birth, and that his wife and kids have known about the child for years. The NYT quotes the mother describing herself as “the epitome of the American dream” because she is a “single parent, multicultural.”

A 5.1 earthquake, felt from Oregon to British Columbia, produced few injuries and did not figure prominently on the papers’ radar screens. TP, however–who felt his 1930 brick apartment building in Seattle sway and creak at 6:43 p.m.–feels compelled to mention it.

The WP runs a hilarious editorial satirizing the (over-)confidence of federal budget forecasters, who recently predicted surpluses well into the next century. The Post applies “similar forecasting methods” to Richard Hamilton, the first-round draft pick of the NBA’s Washington Wizards. Since Hamilton’s points-per-game increased by 35 percent over the last two years, the Post writes, he should be at 50 points-per-game in another five. “In addition, there is the growth factor: In only 21 years, the recruit has gone from practically zero to six-foot-six. Taking account of today’s favorable climate for growth, it can be safely predicted that by the middle years of his long-term contract, Mr. Hamilton will have attained a height of 11 1/2 feet.”