Today's Papers

The Kauaiing Game

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with East Timor, where the region’s just-announced vote to secede from Indonesia is being met with a murderous spree by anti-independence groups. The violence is also the top non-local item at the Washington Post.

The anti-independence forces, labeled “gangs” high up by the two Times (although the word is never used by the WP), had by late Sunday set fire to numerous buildings in the territorial capital of Dili and shot “scores” of Timorese there and elsewhere on the island. The NYT and LAT say that 25,000 people in Dili have taken shelter and the former also reports that Australia is making plans to receive up to 100,000 refugees. The coverage makes it clear that the Indonesian government is at best only giving lip service to stopping the violence. The striking picture on the LAT front seems to speak to this: It shows an Indonesian soldier trying to stop the photographer from taking a shot of refugees preparing to board a plane. The NYT and LAT both note that several top Indonesian government and military officials flew to Dili and made promises to restore order but did not venture beyond the airport. The WP says there are increasing indications that Indonesian forces have joined in the violence, noting that apparently many victims had been shot by military assault rifles and citing a report that a U.N. convoy was fired on by paramilitary police. And the Post quotes a policeman at a Dili hotel saying he would not shoot militia members if they attacked and that what they are doing is good for the country.

The LAT notes concern before last week’s vote about possible civil strife afterward, but says that “what is happening is not civil war but simply the killing and intimidation of unarmed civilians.” The paper goes on to characterize international reaction thus far as “public condemnations and much hand-wringing,” and also notes a problem with a proposed interposition of a U.N. peacekeeping force: China, which can veto such a move, is believed to be opposed to it.

The LAT and WP run front-page reports of two car bombs exploding in Israel just 30 miles and minutes apart. The NYT runs the story inside. The explosions, the papers note, came on the heels of a promising preliminary Israeli-Palestinian land-for-security deal and threaten moving further towards peace.

The NYT fronts, and the WP and LAT stuff, word that a powerful car bomb demolished an apartment building in Dagestan housing Russian counterinsurgency troops and their families. Prior to the explosion, Russia had, says the NYT, all but declared victory against Islamic rebels there, but this development appears to mean Dagestan will continue to be a political and military problem for the Yeltsin government.

The NYT fronts the very negative reactions of several Puerto Rican New York politicians to Hillary Clinton’s call for her husband to rescind his clemency offer to convicted Puerto Rican terrorists. According to the paper, the most outspoken was Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat, who said that as a result he was withdrawing his support for her likely Senate bid. The WP adds inside that on the chat shows yesterday, several Republican pols charged that Hillary’s stance was an attempt to back off a political favor by President Clinton that was backfiring.

The WP reports that the Indianapolis Colts have become the first team in the NFL to start its own PAC. An official is quoted saying that his team is concerned about a range of matters before Congress, including an antitrust bill and workers’ compensation laws and tax issues. (Maybe they should concentrate a little bit more on, oh, scoring.)

The WP’s Howard Kurtz gives some details about the recent departure from the Post of reporter Maria Elena Fernandez (now with the LAT). Quoting an account Fernandez wrote for a Hispanic news service, Kurtz says she quit in part because an editor told her some of her wardrobe was too revealing and was creating a stir in the office.

The NYT runs a front-page feature by sports long-form legend Robert Lipsyte on the first major league baseball player to come out extensively to the press (in a previous article in the Miami Herald), a retired utility player named Billy Bean who played with the Tigers, Dodgers and Padres. What Bean was up against in the aggressively hetero world of MLB is well expressed in his line, “I went to Hooters, laughed at the jokes, lied about dates because I loved baseball.”

Is there a better racket than travel journalism? At least if you write a travel book you actually have to come up with a couple of hundred pages’ worth of information. But even for a couple of thousand words that could have come from a brochure, the airfare still gets picked up by somebody else. Witness Sunday’s NYT piece on Kauai by the paper’s Los Angeles bureau chief Todd S. Purdum, who tore himself away for a week in order to break the bulletin that “the exoticism of the island state is palpable and omnipresent.” Who knew?