Today's Papers

Raisa and Raises

USA Today

and the Washington Post lead with the sodden aftermath of Floyd, which President Clinton spent yesterday inspecting. The New York Times fronts that, but leads instead with the tremendous earthquake (magnitude 7.6) that hit Taiwan early today, killing thousands, and trapping perhaps just as many in toppled-over and collapsed buildings. Everybody else fronts the quake. The Los Angeles Times, however, leads with the day’s dollop of the city’s metastasizing police brutality and corruption scandal: that a police captain chose to ignore officers’ allegations of a stationhouse beating of a suspect.

USAT emphasizes Floyd’s nationwide toll, favoring numbers to do so: One million people in New Jersey ordered by authorities to boil their tap water; total damages possibly as high as Andrew’s $26.5 billion, the U.S. record; 62 deaths in 12 states and one in the Bahamas. The WP goes more for narrative, with such passages as: “In county after county, meanwhile, people confronted hardships that seemed almost biblical in scope: Coffins sent floating away from low-lying cemeteries; portable incinerators being assembled to dispose of 100,000 dead hogs and a million drowned poultry; oceanfront homes being swept away; and thousands of residents living without safe tap water, telephones or mail service.”

The insertion of the U.N.-supported peacekeeping force into East Timor is going so uneventfully thus far that it’s off everybody’s front save the NYT’s.

Everybody but the NYT (which runs it inside) fronts the death from leukemia of Raisa Gorbachev. The WP and NYT especially capture the sense in which she broke Soviet ground as a political wife: less dowdy, more fashion-conscious, if not downright materialistic (with her own American Express card, the Times reminds). But the coverage fails to deliver a bit in its attempts to depict any further contribution. USAT says she “drew criticism for speaking out” and the Times says she emerged as someone “who had her own mind,” but neither describes any position she ever took on anything.

The WP runs a long story inside claiming to move the ball forward on the question of how George W. Bush came to get a slot in the Texas Air National Guard. The then-speaker of the Texas legislature had been saying that although he often received requests for Guard placement, he never received such a request from anyone in the Bush family, including GWB’s father. But now, says the Post, the ex-speaker says he did intervene, at the request of a good friend of the elder Bush.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to the latest government stats, labor productivity in the U.S. manufacturing sector rose 4.1 percent in 1998, the same as the year before. Robert Kuttner, in his WP op-ed advocating further raises in the minimum wage, observes that the past two years have shown that raising the minimum wage doesn’t detract from job creation. The just-quoted statistic suggests that they’ve shown it also doesn’t detract from–maybe stimulates–productivity.

The WP fronts the third in its well-reported series looking inside the high echelons of the U.S. and NATO military during the Kosovo war. Today the emphasis is on the war-long dispute between NATO commander Army Gen. Wesley Clark and his subordinate, air warfare chief Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Short. Clark wanted to use his air assets to target tactical assets, such as tanks and artillery pieces in the field, while Short wanted to hit strategic targets, such as ministry buildings and power plants. In noting that, according to the recently released bomb damage figures from the war, two-thirds of all Yugoslav army assets in Kosovo survived intact, the Post leaves the reader with the impression that it was the strategic campaign–Short’s target list–that made the difference.

Back to the LAT and the police scandal for a beat. The paper reports that city officials are bracing for a raft of legal claims likely to be brought against the city by suspects who’ve been arrested or questioned by the policemen implicated thus far. Question about that: Just as papers routinely appeal to citizens to provide information they might have about unsolved crimes or fugitives, why doesn’t the LAT invite readers who think they’ve been mistreated by the officers in question to come forward? Of course, this would be easier if the public knew what the officers look like–which raises another question: Why hasn’t the LAT run their pictures?