Today's Papers

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Both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the first moves of Pakistan’s new military leader: his announcement of a unilateral pull-back of troops from India’s border and the establishment of a combined military-civilian council to run the country. The Washington Post fronts Pakistan but goes instead with the hard line the White House is taking with Congress on spending (made clear by staffers on Sunday chat shows), which will include President Clinton’s veto today of a $12.7 billion foreign aid bill and his refusal to sign other key money bills until Republicans assure the protection of the Social Security surplus. USA Today plays Pakistan on Page 8 and leads with the changing taste of car thieves. According to an insurance industry report out today, while the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry remain the cars most often stolen, pickups, minivans, and SUVs are moving up fast. The story also reports that BMWs and Mercedes Benzes are not prime theft targets (there aren’t enough people in the market for them), and that car theft has been trending down since 1991. Nobody else fronts the USAT or WP leads.

The WP off-lead is slugged “HIS TERM FADING, A WISTFUL CLINTON LOOSENS UP,” but it doesn’t really deliver much about President Clinton’s inner thoughts. With these possible exceptions: 1) Clinton remains concerned about what he believes is Al Gore’s troubled campaign organization, and 2) For several months after the impeachment trial, an air of sadness hung over Clinton (or so says one unnamed former adviser).

USAT and the LAT front stories about the latest FBI crime statistics, released yesterday. The USAT effort emphasizes the drop in the murder rate–6.3 per 100,000 Americans, the lowest since LBJ was president. The LAT stresses the drop in juvenile crime–although its discussion seems to take a leap since the story mostly reports on declining numbers of juvenile arrests and hence doesn’t address the possibility that increasing numbers of juveniles are committing crimes but just aren’t getting caught. An inside NYT story goes high with the drop in gun-related felonies. And the inside WP piece dwells mostly on the absence of a clear explanation for these decreases, while also noting two retrograde movements: There hasn’t been a significant crime drop among white suburban and rural teen-agers, and cities between 10,000 and 24,999 have experienced a murder increase.

USAT uses its front-page “cover story” to go long with a flight safety piece: about how the failure of a radar-based altitude warning system was probably the cause of four air crashes (total death toll: 246) that federal investigators have been attributing to pilot error. The story says that the system has failed widely, including along some of the nation’s busiest airport approach paths.

A WP story makes a powerful case for wondering why the U.S. is backing a peace accord in Sierra Leone that provides a general amnesty for rebel war criminals and indeed, will put eight of them in the country’s cabinet. After all, notes the Post, the rebels there routed 2 million people from their homes–twice as many as in Kosovo–and are ultimately responsible for the deaths of 20,000. And why, pray tell, is this story on Page 13? Was that story on the Post front about how some commuters actually like to commute really more important?

In a Wall Street Journal commentary, Sen. Jesse Helms defends the Senate’s defeat of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. His key claim: Nuclear arms are coming into the hands of more and more countries not because of the absence of such a treaty but because of the Clinton administration’s failed nonproliferation policies. “This administration,” Helms writes, “in its shameful effort to curry favor with Silicon Valley executives, has loosened export controls on supercomputers, putting them in Russian nuclear weapons factories. The administration has decontrolled satellite launches, helping China improve its nuclear missile force. The administration has looked the other way as Russia has been repeatedly caught assisting both Iran and Iraq in their drive to build weapons of mass destruction.”

A WP item mentions in passing that since 1990 Bill Moyers has been drawing $200,000 a year from an organization trying to change campaign finance laws, which Moyers describes as having turned politics into “an arms race for money.” Here in a nutshell is the difference between a politician and a journalist: If a politician tries to get money out of politics, it’s a career risk. If a journalist does, it’s a career.