Today's Papers

Coup’s on First?

The New York Times   and USA Today   lead with the aftermath of Wednesday’s defeat of the nuclear test ban treaty by the Senate. Like yesterday’s bold headline (“Evokes Versailles Pact Defeat”), today’s NYT headline also spans four columns and gives a distinctly pro-White House spin (“Clinton Says ‘New Isolationism’ Imperils U.S. Security”). USAT’s headline announces the international “rebuke on [the] test ban vote” received by the U.S., while the Washington Post   and Los Angeles Times–which off-lead the story–note merely that “Clinton Fumes at [the] GOP” (LAT) and “Fault[s] GOP Partisanship” (WP). The Post and LAT lead with the military’s tightening grip on Islamabad, a story off-leaded by the NYT and stuffed by USAT.

All the papers run roundup articles assessing the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in terms of international prestige, foreign policy, President Clinton’s legacy, and the presidential campaign (Gore aired a TV ad on the issue–his first). President Clinton, all the papers note, appeared angry at a press conference, resolving to continue America’s seven-year-old ban on nuclear tests and warning that the election of a pro-test president in 2000 could provoke tests by Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. On the NYT op-ed page, Senator Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., explains why he abstained from a vote for the first time in his 41-year Senate career: because the Senate didn’t debate long enough to allay his doubts about the treaty, but it was too important to vote down.

Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf consolidated power in Pakistan by imposing martial law, dismissing the parliament, suspending the constitution, and proclaiming himself chief executive. The LAT and Wall Street Journal   note that although many citizens and some newspapers welcomed the coup on Wednesday (see “International Papers“), on Thursday the Pakistani stock market fell 7.4 percent and the central bank froze foreign capital for a week. Taking advantage of its later deadline, the LAT reports that the State Department finally recognized the coup, a decision that legally cuts off U.S. aid (though at $5 million a year, it’s chump change). The NYT gets a nice detail: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif fired Musharraf as he was flying back to the country and forbade his plane to land; as the plane ran low on fuel, the army commandeered first the air control tower and then the country. The Post quotes a “senior [Pakistani] army official” saying, “There is no doubt in our minds that the world will never accept military rule, but we are in for the long haul.” He adds: “We have decided we must cleanse a political system that allows corrupt people to decide the destiny of our people.” NYT columnist A. M. Rosenthal–the paper’s former South Asia correspondent– argues that the coup underscores the poverty of America’s policy in the region, which has long favored the efficient Pakistan to the chaotic, but truly democratic, India.

Two medical stories in the NYT and WP are like day and night. The Times fronts what it claims is an earth-shattering discovery: A researcher experimenting on monkeys has determined that their brains add neurons to the cerebral cortex even in adulthood. Such a finding would uproot decades of conventional wisdom, which holds that higher mammals add brain cells only in childhood. If the discovery translates to the human brain (the Times is optimistic), it will revolutionize our neurobiological understanding of memory–which might turn out to be a long string of continually produced neurons that record experience through time like a tape recorder–and promise cures for degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and stroke-induced dementia. The Post, however, is skeptical. It runs the story on page A02 and warns that “it’s unknown whether the new cells are even functional. … What’s clear is that any regenerative potential in the brain would have to be massively stimulated in some way to be of clinical use.”

The LAT fronts and the NYT reefers the latest merger in the aerospace industry, between Germany’s DaimlerChrystler and France’s Aerospatiale Matra. It will become the world’s third-largest aerospace firm, behind Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, and will own an 80 percent stake in Airbus Industrie, Boeing’s main competitor in the commercial passenger-jet market. The Journal says the merger is a blow to the Pentagon, which had been trying to forge cross-Atlantic mergers, while the Post points to  the increasing privatization of subsidized European industries like Airbus. The NYT says the merger represents the first time European nations have integrated large parts of their defense industries–an integration made necessary, the paper argues, by technical inefficiencies revealed during the NATO bombing of Kosovo. All the papers note Boeing’s announcement of better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

The LAT and WP front Microsoft’s attempt to have Congress cut next year’s proposed budget for the Justice Department’s anti-trust division–an odd lobbying effort that, even if successful, will not affect the government’s suit against the company. The Post notes that MS also gave an expense-paid junket to several non-profit groups, who are now pressing the government for the same DOJ cuts.

The LAT runs a long portrait of Gore’s service in Vietnam. True to character, Gore struggled with his decision for many months in the summer of 1969, seeking the counsel of his father, his friends, and a professor. He was opposed to the war but worried that if he opted out a friend from Tennessee would die in his place. With his father seeking re-election to his Senate seat that fall, Gore Jr. enlisted in the Army and served as a reporter. Army buddies say he took some risks, but was kept out of harm’s way by Army brass and never saw combat. “When and if I get home from Vietnam,” he wrote a friend, “I’m going to divinity school to atone for my sins.” (He did, for a year.) During his 1988 presidential run, he often implied he saw combat, although he does not do this anymore. 

On the Journal’s editorial page, famed evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould announces that he has finally found God. “This is church–and nonbelievers cannot know the spirit,” he preaches. Gould, it turns out, worships at the altar of … Major League Baseball. A Red Sox victory over the Yankees in the playoffs and over the Mets in the World Series, he says, would redeem the fallen team’s century of ill treatment by the sinners of New York and “restore the earth’s moral balance just before our great calendrical transition. … Nothing can explain the meaning and excitement of all this to nonfans,” he says of the Pentacostal–er, pennant season. “No sensible person would even try. One can only recall Louis Armstrong’s famous statement about the nature of jazz: ‘Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.’ “