Today's Papers

Blow Book Blows

The Washington Post leads with a Russian rocket attack on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, that killed more than 100 people–mostly civilians–and wounded several hundred more. The assault is also the top nonlocal story at the Los Angeles Times. It is carried inside elsewhere. The LAT leads with news that the Los Angeles police scandal is mushrooming, based on a reporter’s unadvertised attendance at a special briefing for LAPD officers at which they were told that investigators are now looking into seven questionable shootings of Angelenos, and into the police theft and resale of street drugs. USA Today leads with the latest evidence of the U.S. military’s recruiting difficulties: the cost per enlistee is now at an all-time high. This is, the paper points out, money therefore not available to spend on service members’ training or housing. The New York Times front is a campaign manager’s dream: The lead is Al Gore’s vow yesterday that if elected president, he would ban offshore drilling for gas and oil along both the California and Florida coasts (the Clinton administration policy is a mere moratorium), and nearby is a reefer reporting that Bill Bradley yesterday advocated attacking child poverty by raising the minimum wage, increasing child-care spending, and providing working parents with various tax benefits. Pictures of the candidates dominate the page.

The WP goes bottom front with a dispatch about how the batch of appropriations bills currently on Congress’ plate are salted with discreet little money plums for business: for auto companies, defense contractors, utilities, agribusiness, shipbuilders, chemical companies, and even an ammunition manufacturer. Bennies like the $15 million for research on supersonic aircraft noise reduction, a subsidy that will help Gulfstream develop a supersonic business jet, apparently to meet the pressing national need for fat guys in loud pants to get to golf tournaments quicker.

The WP front reports that Australian investigators operating as part of the peacekeeping forces in East Timor are beginning to arrive at an understanding of why, despite eyewitness accounts of the mass murder of independence advocates by Indonesia-affiliated militias, they have found very little murder evidence. They now believe, says the paper, that the militiamen took pains to cover their tracks, in one case burning their victims’ bodies and then dumping the ashes into crocodile-filled lakes, in another putting bodies in a boat and sinking it at sea. “In Kosovo, they didn’t care what the world saw,” one investigator is quoted saying. “The Indonesians are extremely concerned about saving face. They want to be able to deny any of this happened.”

The NYT and WP go inside with a new study of Americans’ investment practices. The big news: Nearly half of all households are in the market now, compared to just 19 percent in 1983. The other major finding: far more Americans practice buy-and-hold investing than all the headlines about day traders would suggest, with 55 percent of investors not making a single trade last year. And only 11 percent made trades over the Internet. And the Wall Street Journal reports that a survey of nearly 400 U.S. companies indicates that corporate profits are up huge: their aggregate third quarter total is 27 percent ahead of last year.

The NYT fronts and the rest of the papers go inside with what is perhaps the world land speed record for credibility disintegration: not only does that St. Martin’s Press book alleging that George W. Bush has a coke conviction in his past not contain a shred of convincing evidence, but it turns out that the book’s author is apparently a convicted felon who did a five-year stretch for attempted murder. Confronted with the blow up, St. Martin’s pulled the book yesterday. As Slate’s Jacob Weisberg was the first to point out, the incident reminds that quality control in the publishing business lacks only two things: quality and control.