Today's Papers

Trickier Treaty

The New York Times leads with a U.S. proposal to alter the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. President Clinton sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in January proposing changes that would allow the U.S. to implement a limited missile defense system, but negotiations have been underway for only several weeks. The Los Angeles Times, which fronts the story, leads with the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook the Mojave Desert at 2:46 a.m. Saturday. The WP and NYT run the story inside. The Washington Post, which runs the treaty as its non-local lead, pastes across its front a new study on Internet use that christens the D.C. area the nation’s largest web of Internet users.

Concern over growing missile threats in North Korea, Iran, and Iraq led the Clinton administration to suggest changes to the groundbreaking ABM treaty. The Cold War-era pact prevents the U.S. and Russia from installing antimissile defense systems, for fear that they would provoke a race to develop defense-eluding missiles. Clinton is now itching to help Russia finish a missile-tracking radar in Siberia. In return, the U.S. seeks Russia’s blessing to tinker with the treaty enough to allow installation of its fledgling missile defense system. The LAT defines the problem most succinctly: “Under the ABM treaty, Washington may not deploy such a system.” So far Russians have objected to the proposal, saying that reported nuclear threats from upstart nations are greatly exaggerated. The WP front-pager credits the NYT early edition with breaking the story.

The Hector Mine earthquake, named for a mineral mine near the epicenter, was three times more powerful than the 6.7-magnitude quake that killed 57 people in L.A. in 1994. However, the impact was minimal because of its remoteness: An Amtrak train was knocked off its rails, and about 250,000 homes lost power, though almost all was restored by the afternoon, the LAT reports. The quake shook people out of bed in three states, from L.A. to Las Vegas to Phoenix. In spots the NYT and WP come off sounding unavoidably like Dick Clark. The NYT describes the quake’s “shake-and-roll” and quotes an Amtrak passenger who sensed “rocking and rolling.” The WP says Southern California “rattled and shook.”

The WP runs the first of two articles explaining how soft campaign contributions, which are not supposed to be used for federal elections, are raised by House party committees concerned exclusively with federal elections. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has grown much more quickly than its Republican counterpart in its ability to raise funds for House elections. Since 1996 House Democrats have blown the roof off the amount of money they beg from wealthy contributors and have begun more aggressively courting donors disgruntled with Republican leadership. By June 30, Democrats had successfully wooed 21 six-figure donors of soft money, 50 percent more than Republicans. (The National Republican Congressional Committee has raised more this year overall, $27 million to $17 million.)

“Credibility, transparency and accountability in running state affairs” top the agenda of Pakistan’s new military government, according to an army statement quoted on the NYT front page. The WP runs an upbeat piece on Pakistan deep in its A-section. Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, by all accounts a political neophyte, is expected to avoid international tension while he figures out, as supreme commander, how to dig his country out of corruption and feudal backwardness. A front-page LAT news analysis is less rosy because it sets its sights on long-term prospects for Pakistani democracy, rather than on allaying immediate international worries.

The NYT explains in its National Report that people shoot themselves more than they shoot each other. In 1997, 17,566 people committed suicide with guns and 13,522 died in homicides. About 60 percent of suicides are committed with firearms. Surgeon General David Satcher has made suicide prevention a top priority, and later this month a Senate health subcommittee, the chairman of which lost his father to a self-inflicted wound, will hold hearings into the issue.

The WP lead celebrates news that a cluster of local technology companies and hordes of well-educated and well-paid information junkies has put the D.C. area on top of a new nationwide study on Internet access. Sixty percent of area adults are online, followed by the San Francisco area with 56.1 percent. Residents of Austin, Seattle, and Salt Lake City can also boast (if they’d like) that more than 50 percent of their adults are Internet-savvy.

Hector Mine is the world’s first cyberquake, according to the LAT. Within five minutes, sensors sent data to an Internet site measuring the temblor’s strength. By 11 a.m., 9,000 local residents filed eyewitness reports online. Much of the data came from a network of hundreds of seismographic stations called Tri-Net.

In the NYT Book Review, David Brooks of the Weekly Standard wades into the approaching deluge of George W. Bush biographies. The piece, which also looks at former President George Bush’s life in letters, discusses the Texas governor’s executive qualities: “When the National Journal recently asked him how he made decisions, he replied, ‘I’m a decisive person…I’ll read. I won’t read treatises. I’ll read summaries.’ ” Of course, generally speaking, there is one briefing that stands out as an authoritative resource for decision-makers in high-stakes international conflicts and domestic policy squabbles. Ahem.