Today's Papers

Repairing China

Both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the first high-level encounter between the U.S. and China–a lunch meeting in Singapore between China’s foreign minister and Madeleine Albright–since NATO’s bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Diplomacy also leads at the Washington Post, which stuffs the Albright meeting, but goes with the impromptu talks between new Israeli P.M. Ehud Barak and the new president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika; and between Barak, Yasser Arafat, and President Clinton at the funeral of Morocco’s King Hassan, a story the other majors run inside. USA Today leads with a story also fronted by the LAT, the arrest of a man in last week’s Yosemite National Park murder of a naturalist, a man the FBI is saying is also a suspect in the February murder there of three other women.

The two Times agree that Albright’s luncheon with her Chinese counterpart is a hopeful lift in what has been a difficult patch with China, especially given that it resulted in the two announcing that President Clinton will meet with President Jiang Zemin in New Zealand in the fall, a nice change from just after the embassy bombing, when, notes the NYT, Jiang wouldn’t take a Clinton phone call. A key ingredient in the upswing is that Albright emphasized that the U.S. doesn’t endorse Taiwan’s recent attempts to depart from the “one China” policy. The only real difference between the two accounts is that the LAT stresses remaining strains in the relationship a bit more, noting this in the big type of its headline, and also mentions the spurning of Albright’s requests for renewed visits to China by U.S. naval vessels and for resuming talks regarding the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The LAT fronts the follow-on to a story the paper led with last week: The U.S. and Vietnam agreed Sunday to normalize trade relations, thus marking the real end of the Vietnam War. The paper says both sides were “ecstatic.” The paper says U.S. diplomats don’t anticipate much trouble in gaining congressional approval.

A NYT front-pager reports that because so many members of the House and Senate now have personal experience with the difficulties posed by aging, infirm parents and other relatives, the issue of how to help alleviate the cost of long-term care for the elderly and disabled is at last becoming part of Congress’ agenda. “Until you’ve gone through something, you don’t really understand it,” is how Rep. Richard Gephardt explains the change to the Times. Hmmm … so maybe what this country also needs is for more politicians to have family members who can’t get drug rehabilitation treatment or day care or who end up on the wrong end of a handgun.

A Wall Street Journal front-page feature notes a way corporate America is bucking the general trend against affirmative action: The business group that certifies minority ownership of corporations is likely to drop its definition from 51 percent ownership by minority group members to 20 percent. The story notes two overriding factors behind the trend: 1) Corporations are slashing their suppliers down to a handful of giants, which would, under the present rules, automatically exclude virtually all minority-controlled companies; and 2) the clout of minority consumers has grown and therefore companies want to be able to undertake 1) without losing the chance to establish a minority-friendly track record. But isn’t this sort of like becoming more attractive to investors by weakening the definition of profitability?

Ex-Reagan defense official Lawrence Korb points out in an NYT op-ed that the vote the other day to deny money to the F-22 doesn’t, despite many headlines, actually kill the plane. That’s because, he explains, the money that was turned down was only for producing the first block of aircraft next year. $1.2 billion in R and D for the plane was left untouched, and Korb notes that this sort of pot has been used in the past to resuscitate killed or virtually killed aircraft such as the B-1 and B-2 bombers and the Osprey tilt rotor aircraft. If politicians want to really kill a weapon, they need, Korb points out, to do what Bush Defense Secretary Dick Cheney did to bury (the runaway-expensive) A-12–take away all its funding.

The LAT’s recent addition of a reader’s representative is starting to pay off. Sunday’s column from her gives readers an inside look at how the LAT failed to cover a demonstration of 6,000 Iranians in L.A: When one of the protest’s organizers called, he was transferred three times and then apparently none of the three faxes he sent got through. The sole Iranian reporter at the paper, an intern, knew in advance of the demonstration, but assumed the city desk would already know about it. Just getting the snafu story out there will make both the paper and its readers more aware of what needs to be done to avoid this sort of mistake in the future.

Back to USAT’s account of the arrest of the suspect in the Yosemite cases. His crucial misstep appears to have been a profound failure to blend in. He was “arrested Saturday, fully clothed, at a nudist colony near Sacramento.”