Today's Papers

No News is Good News

The Los Angeles Times leads with the war crimes tribunal’s investigation of the massacre in Kosovo. The current death toll is 10,000 and growing. Mounting evidence suggests that the massacre was premeditated and centrally orchestrated. The German government believes it has obtained the written blueprint for the campaign. Allegedly drafted by Yugoslav generals, the plan, code-named “Operation Horseshoe,” was reportedly approved by Slobodan Milosevic even before the February peace talks in Rambouillet fell through. The New York Times fronts a different Kosovo story–the area’s worsening housing shortage. The United Nations probably won’t meet its goal of one warm, dry room for every family by winter, but it is doubtful that many Albanians will freeze to death.

The NYT leads with Clinton’s decision to dispatch federal officials to all 50 states to determine whether states have improperly excluded people from Medicaid, and to investigate the surprising underutilization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Only 1.3 million children have been enrolled since the program’s 1997 debut (Clinton expected at least 3 million enrollees by this year) and there are still around 10 million children without health insurance in the U.S.

The Washington Post goes local with a report that neither Democrat nor Republican candidates have come up with a workable solution to northern Virginia’s traffic problems, a key issue in the state’s upcoming legislative elections.

The LAT fronts and the NYT and WP stuff the assault by Chechen gunmen on three villages in neighboring Dagestan. As the LAT went to press, the estimated 300 attackers held at least two of the villages. Russian gunships were dispatched to fire on the attackers. It is believed that the assailants are militants of the Islamic Wahhabi sect seeking to unite Chechnya and Dagestan to form an independent Islamic state. The incident could provoke Boris Yeltsin to impose emergency rule, with potentially serious effects on Russia’s forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

The LAT also fronts the claims of Saudi Arabian Intelligence’s chief that Saudi officials were negotiating the arrest of Osama Bin Laden with Afghanistan’s Taliban militia shortly before last year’s bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The paper hints that Bin Laden’s arrest might have prevented the bombings, but the deal dissolved after the attacks and U.S. retaliation.

The WP front describes a suit filed against the Department of Energy by workers at a Paducah, Ky., nuclear processing facility. The government-owned plant unwittingly exposed the workers and the environment to small amounts of plutonium, and greatly underestimated the health risks posed by exposure to uranium. One anecdote describes plant managers who would salt their lunchtime bread with uranium dust to prove to their workers that it was harmless. The suit alleges that workers were misled about their risk of exposure well into the 1990s. Cleanup of the plant will cost $240 billion and take 75 years.

The NYT front ponders the fate of aging Palestinian militants operating out of Syria. As peace with Israel grows more likely, Syria may not be the haven for dissidents and terrorists it once was. Many of the groups in Syria have long since given up arms for political activism, but some, such as Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, still skirmish with Israeli troops in southern Lebanon (Syria forbids such actions on its own soil). If peace does come, Syria will probably shut down training camps and officially discourage violence against Israel. They probably won’t actually expel Palestinian dissidents (many of whom are wanted as terrorists in Israel), because Syria still wishes to be seen as sympathetic to the Palestinian national cause.

The NYT front notes that black women are still four times as likely as white women to die in childbirth, a statistic that hasn’t changed since the ‘60s. Though the number of maternal deaths during childbirth is small (327 nationwide in 1997), Surgeon General Dr. David Thatcher maintains that the persistent disparity is cause for concern. Not only are black women statistically more susceptible to conditions (such as hypertension) that create complications in pregnancy, they also tend to seek medical attention later and only after more serious complications, further increasing their risk of fatality. Attempts to address the issue are uniting politicians across party and ideological lines, and the Clinton administration has set 2010 as the target date for eliminating racial disparities in health care.

The Trojan Cow: Bovine intervention threatens to further dampen relations between North and South Korea. The NYT reports that last year the South Korean founder of Hyundai donated 500 cattle to famine-stricken North Korea as a gesture of goodwill. Since then, half of the herd has perished under mysterious circumstances. North Korean security officials say autopsies revealed vinyl sheeting, magnets, large nails, and the like in the animals’ stomachs, and call the gift “a despicable trick in a bid to hinder and frustrate nongovernmental cooperation between the North and South.” South Korean officials denied any wrongdoing. Today’s Papers dismisses the allegations as udderly ridiculous.