Today's Papers

Brainless in Seattle

Everybody leads with yesterday’s Seattle street clashes between protesters and police that delayed the opening of the WTO summit and resulted in an all-night curfew and the calling out of some unarmed National Guard units to keep the peace for President Clinton’s arrival early Wednesday morning. The fronts all feature photos of the cops firing tear gas and pepper spray on protesters, reminding the reader of the authorities’ central PR problem in such situations: Regardless of the merits, there’s no way to look good when you’re armored from head to toe and shooting stuff at folks who are unarmored and unarmed.

The coverage explains that what the Washington Post calls a “guerrilla army of anti-trade protesters” (anti-trade?) started massing early in the day, prompting the lock-down of the main hotels in downtown Seattle housing WTO delegates and of the convention center where the meetings were supposed to be held. Stores and restaurants then shut down and then protesters filled the streets. The papers say that most of the protest was nonviolent noncompliance, but also pass along eyewitness accounts of destruction of property, including that Seattle sacrilege, the looting and vandalizing of a Starbucks. (USA Today shows a moronic dirtball doing just that.) It’s reported that much of the violence was committed by people in black clothes and ski masks.

The papers grapple with the sheer diversity of the protesters: people dressed as pigs, turtles, clowns, Superman, vegetables, fish, and butterflies, says the WP. The Los Angeles Times spots Earth First! members chaining themselves together and women calling themselves “Vegan Dykes” marching topless. Also present were some top leaders of U.S. labor, a Sierra Club honcho, and a leading Chinese dissident. The only common thread seemed to be, as the New York Times puts it, the view that the WTO is a “handmaiden of corporate interests whose rulings undermine health, labor and environmental protections around the world.” Francis Fukuyama, in the Wall Street Journal, and Thomas Friedman, in the NYT, have columns today ridiculing this view.

The WTO protests are undoubtedly an important, perhaps even watershed, event, but the LAT overshoots when it states: “Not since the days of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement has the entire downtown core of a major American city been seized by a popular political uprising.” Well, no … actually there was this thing called the L.A. riots. Remember, LAT?–your building got trashed.

The LAT fronts and the NYT and USAT go inside with new research uncovering brain damage in Gulf War veterans complaining of the myriad symptoms collectively known as “Gulf War Syndrome.” The finding means, according to a lead researcher quoted in the LAT, that the vets’ complaints are not the result of battlefield stress, the conclusion of a presidential advisory panel two years ago.

An AP dispatch in the “Findings” section of the WP says secondhand cigarette smoke may be more dangerous than previously believed: A new study found that a group of Missouri women with a certain genetic mutation who live with smokers were 2.6 to six times more likely to develop lung cancer. Another piece of research–based on 366,000 people (!)–in “Findings” is that not smoking and watching your cholesterol and blood pressure is worth six to 10 extra years of life.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. auto business will this year break a total vehicle sales record that’s stood for 13 years. And the paper says some auto industry types think the new car market has broadened permanently. Reasons? The enormous wealth caused by the boom means more three-car garages. The intersection of rising median income and flat or falling new car prices hasn’t been this favorable since 1980. And baby boomers are entering their 50s, which are the peak car-buying years.

The WP profiles a Maryland man who took a problem where he lives–dead deer on the highway–and turned it into a solution to a problem everywhere–poor people not having enough to eat. His idea: pick up the road kill and turn it into venison for the hungry. The paper reports that in the past five years, the project has produced more than 100,000 pounds of meat for the poor. The man’s business card reads “You Whack ‘Em, I Pack ‘Em.” Now, if he could only make a sauce from spent pepper spray shells …