Today's Papers

Department of Offense

The Los Angeles Times leads with “an ominous turn” in the Indian Airlines hijacking: the terrorists’ escalation of their demands to a $200 million ransom and the release, not of the previously reported one Pakistani guerrilla, but of 35. They also want the exhumation and return from India of the body of a dead comrade. USA Today leads with a report that because of the general reluctance to fly this coming New Year’s Eve, America’s domestic airspace will be nearly empty–only 45 airliners will be aloft–when the next millennium hits. The Wall Street Journal front-page business news box flags its story reporting that in part because of the major airlines’ lower flight volumes, analysts are cutting their earnings estimates. The New York Times’ top non-local story is Act II of its lead yesterday about an ultra-religious party’s possible defection from Israel’s coalition government. Today the Times explains that Prime Minister Ehud Barak coaxed the party to stay by pledging more funding for its state-subsidized religious schools. The top non-local story at the Washington Post is the latest stage of its presidential candidate psychling tour: Al Gore, Part 6. Save for the NYT’s fronting of the hijacking, none of the fronts runs anybody else’s top story.

The WP chronicles Gore’s 1969 internal struggle over the military draft. The paper says he decided to enlist in the Army primarily because he didn’t want to doom his anti-war father’s Senate re-election bid and because he wanted to preserve his own political viability. The story reveals Gore turned down a relative’s offer to get him into the Alabama National Guard.

The USAT front-page “cover story,” upon reviewing some 1,500 personnel decisions made at the Department of Defense, concludes that the Pentagon regularly grants security clearances to civilian employees of defense contractor companies who have prior criminal convictions and/or long histories of financial irresponsibility or substance abuse. Recent grantees include, says the paper, a convicted murderer, a man convicted of sex offenses against a minor, and a man who participated in a scheme to defraud the Navy of $2 million.

The LAT front reports that many Asian-American computer entrepreneurs in Los Angeles complain that their companies are being unfairly singled out by the IRS to pay “ozone tax,” a levy on items made with ozone-destroying chemicals. The story says that even though many of these local small shops have been forced to pay up, some of the region’s biggest corporations–Mattel, Sharp Electronics, and Atlantic Richfield, for instance–have never been ozone-audited. And, says the paper, Microsoft hasn’t either. The story quotes a Microsoft vice president saying he’d never heard of the ozone tax.

The papers all go inside with the decision of Seattle’s mayor to cancel the city’s planned gala millennium celebration. The main reasons cited: the city’s WTO-inspired unrest and the recent capture at the Canada-Washington border of a man trying to smuggle in materials for large bombs.

The NYT and USAT report inside that a man and his wife were arrested Monday on child abandonment charges after they left their severely disabled son in a Delaware hospital ER with a note saying they could no longer afford to care for him. The father, the papers report, is the CEO of a chemical company. The Times says the company does $500 million in annual sales while USAT says $380 million.

The WP editorializes against a provocative new procedure being implemented by the Fairfax County, Va., police: The department is planning to hand out cards to crime victims and witnesses advising them that they have the right to refuse media interviews.

Today’s Papers is refreshed by the periodic unflacked appearance of Lowell Bergman’s byline in the NYT. (He’s in the paper today with a workaday story of an arms dealer’s arrest.) After all, Bergman, a contract player at the Times, is portrayed by Al Pacino in The Insider and a lesser outfit would have plugged that fact to the (Mira)max.

Clayton Moore, who played TV’s “Lone Ranger” in the ‘40s and ‘50s, died yesterday. It’s a measure of boomer media dominance that Moore is given a lengthy obit at the NYT and a front-page one at the LAT.