Today's Papers

Bombing the Ban

Everybody leads with the Senate’s rejection yesterday of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, which needed 67 votes but only got 48–a nearly straight Democrats-for/Republicans-against party vote. All the papers view the vote as more about partisanship than nuclear policy, and all see it as politically devastating for President Clinton.

The papers also see the vote as quite historical. The New York Times headline says it evokes the Senate’s rejection of the Versailles Treaty, which meant that the League of Nations went forward without U.S. participation. USA Today says the vote was the first time in history that the Senate has voted down an arms control treaty. But USAT is wrong about this, because as the Washington Post points out, the Versailles pact was an arms control accord. The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal also make the Versailles reference. But nobody quite connects the dots on what the comparison could mean for the planet: The Versailles vote is now considered to be one of the principal causes of World War II. But this general level of gravity is apparent in the WSJ’s quote from an arms control advocate describing the “nuclear domino effect” that could have just been unleashed: “If we don’t ratify, Pakistan and India won’t either. And if they begin a substantial testing program, that would push China to do the same. … From there, it is easy to foresee Russia following suit. Even Japan might think it necessary to jump into the nuclear arena.” The lead editorials at the WP, NYT, and LAT deplore the vote-down.

The LAT has the toughest reaction quote from President Clinton: “Never before has a serious treaty involving nuclear weapons been handled in such a reckless and ultimately partisan way.” And both the NYT and USAT go high up with his determination: “I assure you the fight is far from over.” But the WP points out that the treaty can only be brought up again during this Congress if Trent Lott decides to do so.

The NYT says, “The failure of the treaty to clear Washington raised serious questions about its survival.” But the WP and LAT say that to be implemented, the treaty must be ratified by all 44 nuke-capable countries, which implies that it is as of right now completely dead internationally.

The LAT says that Republicans wanted in return for deferring a treaty vote an ironclad promise from the Democrats not to bring the treaty up during the election, but “Clinton feared making such a pledge would tie his hands in the event of a diplomatic emergency.” Without further explanation, this leans a bit too pro-Democratic for a news story–after all, although Clinton might well have that fear, he also surely wanted to have the treaty as an election issue.

In the JonBenet Ramsey case, no news is news. USAT, the WP, and the LAT front the announcement that the Boulder County grand jury that has been examining the case for 13 months has been dismissed without handing down any indictments in the case. The NYT runs the story inside.

The LAT fronts the Associated Press’ follow-up to the story it broke two weeks ago about possible U.S. atrocities against civilians during the Korean War. The new news: There were at least two bridges ordered blown up by U.S. officers including an Army general even though Korean refugees were streaming across them at the time. USAT runs the AP’s story inside.

The WP and WSJ report that today’s New England Journal of Medicine features a study revealing that a big reason lung cancer is deadlier for blacks than for whites is that the former are less likely to have the cancer surgically removed while doing so would do them any good. The usual socio-economic disparities between blacks and whites don’t seem to explain this difference, because in the study racial comparisons were made between patients with similar access to health care.

The NYT has an inspiring obituary: that of the 86-year-old number one lox slicer at Zabar’s, the Manhattan deli. The man, Sam Cohen, worked at the store for 46 years, after barely escaping the Holocaust, which claimed most of his family. Despite arriving in the U.S. in 1952 with $3 in his pocket, he eventually, reports the Times, put his daughter through dental school and his son through medical school.

A letter to the NYT from a woman reader rejects the use of the term “chairman” by women as part of their job titles, advocating instead “chairperson.” Today’s Papers says go all the way: “furnitureperson.”

Both the NYT and WP report a major social change in France. Reporters, just getting back to work after recovering from the grueling chef riots there, today inform that France has given legal status to unmarried couples, including homosexual couples, making it, says the Post the largest country in Europe and the first Roman Catholic country to do so. The headline over the NYT’s online version doesn’t mention the homosexual angle, while the WP’s headline–“FRANCE LEGALIZES GAY UNIONS”–doesn’t mention the heterosexual angle. What’s more, the latter reads more like it slugs a story about the Amalgamated Interior Decorators and Salon Stylists.