The Washington Post leads with news that a Canadian woman and her Algerian companion, arrested last Sunday at a border crossing in Vermont, may be connected to a militant Islamic organization (the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times front the story). The car she was driving and phone she was carrying were linked to a “primary member” of a group that sponsors terrorism in Europe and Algeria. The NYT’s top non-local story is the dismal result of talks in Moscow. The deputy secretary of state expressed displeasure over Russia’s offensive in Chechnya and Moscow’s refusal to budge on modifications to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The LAT leads with the Dow’s record high, its first since August. Why the boom? The Y2K panic sell-off many analysts predicted has failed to materialize. The NYT leads with the Board of Education’s decision not to renew New York City’s schools chancellor’s contract, citing his increasingly erratic behavior and unwillingness to address recent allegations of widespread attendance fraud. An accompanying article paints Mayor Guiliani, a former ally of the chancellor, as the man behind his dismissal.
All the papers say that there is no link yet between the Vermont arrests and the earlier arrest in Washington state of a man with a carload of bomb ingredients. The Algerian Islamic League, the suspected terrorist group, is described as a now-defunct cultural organization by its founder, an Algerian arms dealer living in Switzerland. The WP also notes that the woman listed her only asset as $8 in a checking account, and claims her living expenses, including significant international travel, are met by her wealthy mother.
The LAT fronts the story of Freddie Meeks, who received a presidential pardon yesterday. Meeks was one of 50 black seamen accused of mutiny in 1944 when they refused to resume loading ammunition onto ships after a deadly explosion at Port Chicago. White officers were given a month’s leave in the wake of the explosion; a 1994 Navy investigation concluded that Meeks and the other “mutineers” were victims of racial prejudice but did not overturn the ruling. Meeks was one of 37 people pardoned by President Clinton yesterday.
P.T. Barnum, eat your heart out: High-flight tech stocks continue to soar, but aging rock stars, another perennially overvalued commodity, have hit the skids. The LAT reports that fewer than half of the seats for a Jimmy Buffett New Year’s concert–priced at around $1,000 apiece–have sold. Another gala affair, featuring Sting and Tom Jones, was canceled when partiers balked at the $2,500 tickets. Many promoters blame general Y2K dread for the sluggish sales. Filled with the spirit of the season, Today’s Papers offers a more charitable explanation: Maybe folks just aren’t as dumb as rock promoters think they are.