Today's Papers

Secrets and Spies

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the New York Times lead with follow-ups on the Los Angeles day-care shootings. The Washington Post goes with anonymously sourced reports of Chinese military plotting against Taiwan, a story fronted by the NYT. The Wall Street Journal places atop its “Worldwide” box the Energy Department’s decision to seek punishment in a botched nuclear-espionage investigation, a story fronted by USAT and the NYT. All the papers front countdown stories to Saturday’s Iowa straw poll.

Follow-up to the Los Angeles shooting takes different forms. In the LAT, a four-column headline reveals that suspect Buford Furrow had considered unloading his weapons at three prominent local Jewish sites: the Museum of Tolerance, the Skirball Cultural Center, and the University of Judaism. (The Post also mentions that he scouted three locations.) But after finding security there too tight, he stumbled upon the North Valley Jewish Community Center. USAT’s follow-up focuses on proposals by Attorney General Janet Reno for more federal gun regulation. The story fails to define clearly what Reno actually proposed (it summarizes one of her proposals as simply, “federal limits on handgun purchases”) and never mentions what laws are on the books already. The NYT details how schools are taking elaborate precautions against shootings, despite federal reports that gun-carrying and violence in schools have actually declined this year. Simulated shootings in schools in Florida and Pennsylvania, for instance, have featured SWAT teams, helicopters, ersatz pipe bombs, and drama students sporting fake wounds. The director of a superintendents’ lobby group sums up the mood nicely when he tells the NYT: “Everyone feels the need to do something, even though no one agrees on what that should be.”

The NYT and WP report that Chinese Embassy officials and visiting military advisers and scholars have hinted that the Chinese government is considering a blockade of some small Taiwan-controlled islands, a small air battle, or perhaps an incursion into Taiwanese waters to punish the nation for its recent talk of independence. Both stories, sourced to “experts” and “Clinton administration officials,” assert that the threat is unlikely but nonetheless real. The Post says any action would likely occur after an October Clinton-Jiang Zemin summit in New Zealand. “We have some time to play with, but we’re not out of the woods,” an unnamed U.S. source intones ominously.

The WSJ and USAT report Energy Secretary Bill Richardson’s recommendation that three Los Alamos officials be punished for their failure to properly investigate espionage allegations against fired employee Wen Ho Lee. (Since Los Alamos is run by the University of California, Richardson can only recommend disciplinary action.) The officials, fingered by the agency’s inspector general, were not named, but a “department source” tells USAT that one of them is former lab director (now senior fellow) Siegfried Hecker. The WSJ’s “Washington Wire” reports that Richardson will make amends with several DOE whistle-blowers in the espionage scandal who had been punished rather than rewarded for speaking up. “There was a total breakdown of the system and there’s plenty of blame to go around,” Richardson said.

The NYT publishes a below-the-fold headline that almost reads like a satirical teaser in The Onion: “In Intense but Little-Noticed Fight, Allies Have Bombed Iraq All Year.” It seems that over the last eight months, American and British pilots have fired on more than triple the number of targets attacked in last December’s highly publicized Iraqi attack and have flown two-thirds as many missions as NATO pilots flew against Yugoslavia in 78 days. This is a curious story: It is hard news reported almost as if it were a trend, and it is pegged partly to its own absence in the very newspaper in which it now appears.

An LAT “Column One” story describes how the spouse of nearly every 2000 presidential candidate was pulled along reluctantly, albeit willingly: “Gore is Mrs. Gung-Ho; McCain is Mrs. Stay-At-Home; Quayle is Mrs. Experience-With-Gritted-Teeth; Bush is Mrs. Traditional-Yet-Cautious; and Bradley is Ms. Modern-But-Naïve-About-Politics.” And the one male spouse? “Dole is Mr. Foot-In-The-Mouth.”