Today's Papers

No Color TV

The Washington Post leads with the first face-to-face meeting of new Israeli prime minister Yehud Barak and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and their resulting joint pledge to fast-track a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The paper reports that Barak all but promised that talks will address the status of millions of Palestinian refugees displaced from land now part of Israel and address the status of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital but also viewed by Palestinians as potentially the center of an independent Palestinian state. Barak also said that Israel will not undertake any new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Also, the Post says Arafat promised to continue a zero tolerance policy toward terrorism. The New York Times fronts the talks, but it has one story that none of the other fronts do: the announcement Sunday by India and Pakistan of a withdrawal plan for Pakistani forces that have been fighting inside the Indian portion of Kashmir. The paper, which has been alone in hitting Kashmir heavy since May, notes a large remaining issue: whether or not all the forces fighting there against India will indeed respond to a Pakistani government call to leave. USA Today fronts the Mideast as well, but goes with a scheduled meeting today between President Clinton and congressional leaders about tax cut proposals just floated in both the House and Senate, proposals described by Clinton to the NYT yesterday as “very dumb,” primarily because of the threat they posed to deficit reduction. The Los Angeles Times fronts the Mideast talks too, but leads with yet another failure of a California state government computer project–the fifth in the decade, for a total of nearly half a billion dollars down the drain–this one the fizzle of a system for improved tracking of welfare records.

The LAT lead probably contains lessons for other states. The reasons why California has failed to create modern computer systems for welfare, child support, or state prisoner records include: 1) No central state technical agency for controlling such projects; 2) a protracted bidding process that often renders projects obsolete; 3) power contests between state and local officials involved; and perhaps most significant, 4) most of California’s computing talent is sucked into the private sector in Silicon Valley.

The LAT also brings word that the NAACP will announce today, in a keynote address by its president Kweisi Mfume, that it will fight the four largest broadcast networks over their near-exclusion of minorities in their new fall offerings. The organization will consider suing the nets for violating the federal law that ensures the airwaves belong to the public, will ask for congressional and FCC hearings on the matter, and will open an industry watchdog bureau in Hollywood. The story waits until the 14th paragraph to state exactly what precipitated all this: Of the fall season’s 26 new shows, none features a minority person in a lead role. And the story makes the issue seem open-and-shut by never mentioning ratings, and hence never mentioning that although in recent years black shows have done rather well with black audiences, their overall ratings have been rather poor. Also, the story doesn’t address if something has changed in the thinking of audiences or programming executives since the golden days of The Cosby Show .

And the Wall Street Journal reports that the NAACP is fixing to sue handgun makers, importers, and distributors, an action that will also be announced by Mfume today. The suit wouldn’t seek money damages but would instead aim for courts to force better monitoring by gun companies of the marketing and selling of their products.

An able WP front-pager describes an idea gaining currency among criminologists: that even though increasing the incarceration rate in a community can initially decrease the crime there, the rate can get so high that it destabilizes the community and families and actually then becomes a factor in increasing crime. Most of the reporting focuses on a neighborhood in Tallahassee, Fla., but it mentions other likely examples, such as South Central Los Angeles, where up to 70 percent of the young men are involved with the criminal justice system. (Actually, the story says they are “in the clutches of” the criminal justice system, which is a mite tendentious.)

The NYT and WP report inside on the DOJ’s first-ever comprehensive study of the mental health of the American prison population, revealing that about 16 percent of those incarcerated have severe mental illness. A psychiatry professor bottom-lines it thus: “Jails have become the poor person’s mental hospitals.”

Recently, the WSJ got a lot of attention for a bitch-by-bitch description of unhappy campers on a Northwest flight stranded on a runway. The USAT front puts the methodology to work on the survivors of an American Airlines plane that last month ran off a runway and hit light poles, killing 11. The chief finding: Passengers are likely to survive the impact of a crash but increasingly, it’s the obstacles and malfunctions then encountered in trying to evacuate that prove injurious or fatal.

The WP runs an AP story inside reporting that newly obtained FBI memos show that a month after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the FBI opened an investigation into his successor, Ralph David Abernathy, with the clear implication that the bureau was looking to develop the same sort of evidence of sexual promiscuity on him that it had previously developed on King. The story also claims that J. Edgar Hoover was on record saying that Spiro Agnew, in preparing to respond to criticisms made of him by Abernathy, had asked the FBI for anything they could give him that would destroy Abernathy’s credibility.

A letter in the Sunday’s NYT supplies a datum relevant to any discussions of Hollywood’s proclivities for sexual and violent content. A Rutgers finance professor says that his studies have revealed the single best predictor of a film’s return on investment: its rating, with G and PG flicks doing much better than the others. Therefore, it’s being drawn to sick material, not the demands of the marketplace, that makes Hollywood tick.

News You Can Abuse The LAT top-fronts a story under the headline: MANY LATINAS EMBRACE MALE STRIPPER CRAZE.