Today's Papers

The Magna Jakarta

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the surprising result of Indonesia’s first truly contested presidential election in nearly 50 years: the victory (in a vote taken in the national legislature, not among the general public) of a first-time office-holder, an aging, frail, and nearly blind Muslim cleric named Abdurrahman Wahid. This is also the top nonlocal story at the Los Angeles Times. USA Today puts Indonesia deep inside and leads instead with Department of Justice documents made public yesterday showing that the DOJ believes the clemency release of convicted Puerto Rican terrorists last month by President Clinton increases the threat of violence posed by their separatist group, FALN. The paper also reports that documents made available yesterday show that the DOJ weighed in with the White House against clemency in 1996. The WP runs a similar story inside. A NYT front-page story based on those same documents paints a diametric picture, reporting that Justice took extraordinary steps to maximize the terrorists’ chances for clemency, including the highly unusual step of making their applications for them and having supporters persuade them to write statements of repentance.

Wahid’s victory came despite his having only recently declared his candidacy, at the expense of the prohibitive favorite, the daughter of the nation’s founding president, Sukarno. Wahid was, the papers report, sworn in almost immediately after the legislature’s vote. Both the NYT and LAT note that he is a moderate, with the LAT stating he has something that will be much needed as Indonesia tries to dig itself out of two solid years of political upheaval and economic failure–good relations with all the major blocs of Indonesian society: the military, former presidents Suharto and Habibie, and the country’s students. That said, the coverage still notes the outbreak of street violence upon the announcement of the election outcome, although the NYT says it didn’t approach what was feared if Sukarno’s daughter lost. (Thanks to the WP, by the way, for answering a question nobody asked: Wahid’s favorite all-time hit is Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”)

Everybody fronts (with accompanying photos) Elizabeth Dole’s announcment yesterday that she was abandoning her presidential campaign. The papers all basically credit Dole’s explanation: Money has come to mean too much in presidential politics and she had too little of it. The NYT reports inside that President Clinton seized on Dole’s announcement to take a shot at George W. Bush, calling him the first candidate in the history of the modern era who’s given up federal funding so that he could raise an unlimited sum of money, something Clinton says he’d been urged to do in the past but did not because it “wasn’t fair.” The paper notes a Bush spokeswoman’s response: “We appreciate the President’s advice. … But we don’t intend to use him as a model for how Governor Bush will raise money or lead the nation.” The Times sees in Clinton’s comment the strategy of provoking Bush so Al Gore doesn’t have to.

The LAT front turns in an exclusive on a topic it first broached a few weeks ago: The New England Journal of Medicine’s apparent violation of its own ethical policies requiring the disclosure of authors’ possible conflicts of interest. Out of 36 recent NEJM drug reviews examined, the LAT finds eight in which researchers reviewed a drug’s performance but had undisclosed ties to its manufacturers.

A Wall Street Journal feature flagged in its front-page news box explains how the recent settlement between General Tire and the union workforce at the company’s facility in Charlotte, N.C., is the wave of the future: the union set up a Web site to give the union’s take and also made it easy for strikers to e-mail company management in Charlotte and at the company’s corporate parent in Germany. And in chainlike fashion, workers at other tire plants were notified about the strike and its issues and encouraged to email their solidarity to HQ as well. It’s called, says the Journal, cyberpicketing, and it takes a lot of the logistics out of doing a labor action.

The WP and NYT report that yesterday the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order against three people for trying to sell securities on the Internet. The three agreed to stop and as a result are not facing criminal charges. And eBay reacted by banning stock auctions at its site. But neither story explains why stock sales are wrong at eBay, but right, say, at Datek. The Times suggests the key factor is ensuring that investors have access to good information regarding any stock to be purchased. But doesn’t this imply that if an eBay seller were to post a prospectus along with his sales offer he’d be in compliance?