Today's Papers

Russian Rubble

The Los Angeles Times leads with yet another terrorist bombing of a Moscow apartment building, a story also fronted at the New York Times, which leads instead with preparations being undertaken in connection with the East Timor peacekeeping force, both bureaucratic at the U.N. Security Council and logistical in the militaries of the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere. The Washington Post bottom-fronts some refugee accounts of last week’s Timor rampage, but stuffs the Moscow terrorism, all in favor of its lead about the latest fiscal gimmick gaining currency among Senate Republicans as a way to continue spending while technically not violating Congress’ previously agreed-upon spending caps: declare the coming fiscal year to be made up of 13 months (“instead of the usual 12,” explains the Post ever so helpfully). USA Today leads with the decision in both the House and Senate to proceed with (separate) investigations into the Russian aid money scandal.

The apartment bombing, the fourth in Russia and the third in Moscow in the past two weeks (the cumulative death total: at least 266, says the LAT) is, report the papers, like its predecessors, widely viewed by the Russian authorities as the work of Islamic terrorists working with or sympathetic to the Chechen and Dagestan insurgencies. Boris Yeltsin responded with a nationally televised address in which he stated that “Terrorism has declared war on the Russian people.” A major security effort is underway, including a search of every apartment basement in Moscow and intensified paperwork for non-Muscovites. The LAT reports that the explosions have prompted a lengthy discussion in the Russian parliament about whether or not Russia should drop an atomic bomb on Chechnya. The NYT quotes one former government minister likening the situation to that in Northern Ireland–in which terrorism will go on for years.

According to the NYT lead, some things suspected in yesterday’s Timor coverage are now confirmed: The U.S. is preparing to fulfill a primarily logistical role, particularly by providing air transport to the ground troops, who will be supplied by other nations; the force will probably be led by Australian troops (and an Australian commanding general); and the Indonesians are expressing a preference for, but not insisting on, a predominantly Asian force. The Times ends its lead with a helpful explanation: Setting up a security council force rather than a “full-dress” peacekeeping operation is essential to the Clinton strategy because of congressional restraints on American participation and funding in operations of the latter sort. But the NYT could have been more helpful still if it had explained what constitutes “full-dress” peacekeeping.

Both the NYT and LAT front a Waco revelation made yesterday by a California congressman: Information showing that the FBI used combustible tear gas canisters at Waco has been in the DOJ’s possession “for years” and was even sent to Congress no later than 1995. Another piece of Waco news is more troublesome for the feds: The Texas Rangers released a report to Congress stating in part that the Rangers, in their Waco post-mortem, found spent cartridges from two different types of sniper rifles used by FBI agents–which conflicts with the bureau’s assertion that their agents never fired a shot. The paper points out, though, that the casings could have been from ATF weapons admittedly fired during the initial gunfight at the compound.

The WP adds to the buzz around that new book by the KGB guy who defected to the Brits. Yes, there is the usual trench-coat ineptitude–like trying to discredit Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski by spreading the word that he was having an affair with Candice Bergen (note to Kremlin: to discredit, try Bea Arthur)–but there’s also the news that Russian spies managed to intercept fax communications of top U.S. defense contractors concerning some of this country’s most sensitive military projects. And that the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., was the locus of a successful effort to intercept messages between Andrews Air Force Base and government aircraft used by the president, the secretary of state, and other senior officials. One former KGBer is quoted saying that the then-head of the KGB loved listening to intercepted conversations between Henry Kissinger and his then-fiancee Nancy Maginnes.

Inside stories at the WP and NYT report that the State Department, in an attempt to convince other countries to maintain tough sanctions against Saddam Hussein, yesterday released new evidence suggesting that under the sanctions Hussein has enough money to feed his people and provide them with medicine but has chosen to spend it on other things. The evidence includes aerial photos of a lakeside village resort complete with Ferris wheel he recently completed, a facility for the exclusive use of his political cronies.

The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column reports that in a survey of restaurant workers at 11 national chains, respondents admitted stealing an average of $218 in food and property, compared with $96 the previous year. Those with a drug or alcohol problem stole five times more than nonusers.

USAT runs a top-front “talker” about the decision of the folks running the Miss America contest to relax its rules about contestant marriage and childbirth. The old requirement: A contestant must sign a document stating that she has not been married and is not cohabitating, is not now nor has previously been pregnant, and has never had a child. The new requirement: Signing an affidavit affirming not being currently married and not being currently pregnant. The AP says the change was motivated by the pageant’s fear of discrimination lawsuits. In a related development, it’s now OK if Miss Congeniality used to be a pain in the ass.