Today's Papers

Of Nukes and Bras

The New York Times leads with Senate politicking over the nuclear test ban treaty. The Los Angeles Times goes with the mounting toll from flooding and landslides in Mexico this week, a story the Washington Post fronts and the NYT reefers. The WP leads locally, reporting that charter schools in D.C. are among the most popular in the nation. After three years in existence, charters already enroll nearly ten percent of the District’s public school students.

Senators from both parties agree it’s unlikely President Clinton will be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The question now is whether Majority Leader Trent Lott, a vocal opponent of the pact, will be able to bring it to a vote early this week and embarrass Clinton with a defeat. The president hopes to persuade moderate Republicans, who largely dislike the treaty but are reluctant to vote it down because they fear that action would make the U.S. look weak abroad, to put off considering the ban for up to a year. A vote to delay needs only a simple majority, so Clinton and Democratic senators are looking for six Republican defectors.

Floods and mudslides have killed more than 250 in central Mexico after five days of record-breaking rain, according to the LAT’s lead. President Ernesto Zedillo calls it “the tragedy of the decade for Mexico.” The WP–which puts the death toll at 330 despite an earlier deadline than the LAT’s–reports from the hard-hit town of Teziutlan, where at least 72 residents were killed Tuesday afternoon when a terraced block of concrete houses slid down a mountainside.

The WP’s off-lead reports on an upcoming battle in Congress on the future of stem-cell research, a promising but highly controversial form of medical exploration that draws material from human embryos and aborted fetuses. Scientists predict that stem cells may provide the building blocks for treatments to ailments from Parkinson’s disease to diabetes. In their calls for more stem-cell money, they’re backed by patient groups but opposed by right-to-life advocates. The House will take up the question Monday.

The NYT fronts some good news for AT&T: The Federal Communications Commission voted Friday to relax rules on how much of the cable industry a single company can legally control. In its second ruling this week smiling on corporate consolidation, the FCC said that because companies have begun offering new kinds of service over cable wire–namely high-speed Internet access and local telephone service–competition will be bolstered by changing the ownership laws, not stifled. The decision means that AT&T’s recent purchase of the Media One Group can go forward without the telephone giant having to sell off other cable properties.

Also on the NYT’s front is the news that the computer industry may soon have trouble keeping up with Moore’s Law, the oft-cited rule maintaining that computing power doubles every 18 months. In an article in the journal Science, an Intel scientist named Paul A. Packan reports that as silicon chips continue to shrink, their manufacturers are running up against stubborn physical limits for the first time–already, the smallest transistors have insulating layers only a few atoms thick.

An LAT front-pager tells of growing cracks in the Reform Party’s façade. Disunity and chaos were the order of the week for the R.P. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura watched his approval rating plummet 20 points–and heard calls that he should resign from the party–after the publication of a Playboy interview in which he ridiculed organized religion and said he wouldn’t mind being reborn as an extra-large bra. And the party’s faithful are now confronted with the possibility that three very different candidates will jockey for the Reform presidential nomination: Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan, and Warren Beatty. (Two of those might have something to say on the bra issue.)

The WP fronts a report that early campaign-trail promises by Al Gore and Bill Bradley, if enacted, would eat up nearly all of the projected $1.1 trillion government surplus over the next ten years. Bradley has made the costlier pledges so far: his ambitious universal health-care initiative would by itself use the entire surplus, according to some estimates. Gore’s spending plans include tax cuts up to $150 billion, universal preschool, and his own more modest health-care package.

NYT op-ed columnist Frank Rich, who reported on his share of culture-war skirmishes as the paper’s chief theater critic in the 1980s and early ‘90s, weighs in on the controversy surrounding the Brooklyn Museum’s week-old exhibit “Sensation.” Rich casts New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani–who has threatened to shut down the exhibit of work by a group of young British artists because he thinks it’s full of anti-Catholic, “sick stuff”–as a schoolyard tough who likes to pick on scrawny opponents. “Could it be that the Brooklyn,” Rich asks, “a struggling museum in an outer borough, is easier to bully than a Manhattan cultural mecca with a heavy-hitting board bulging with Giuliani fat cats?”