Today's Papers

Life on Mars? And Other College Essays

The New York Times leads with an assessment of the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle that ended on Friday; the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post front similar analyses. The former leads with the latest NASA news. The latter leads with word that AT&T will allow “customers of rival Internet services to use AT&T’s cable lines,” a story not on any other fronts.

AT&T controls more than half the nation’s cable lines and had declared it would only let its own Internet service provider (ISP) use them for at least two years. The WP doesn’t say when this declaration was made or if the two years are up. On Monday, AT&T plans to send a letter to the FCC Chairman William Kennard in which it will outline its deal with the nation’s second largest ISP, MindSpring Enterprises Inc., and its concurrent commitment to an “open access” policy. The piece says “open access has become a pivotal debate within the telecommunications world.” Competitors and consumer advocates feel AT&T hasn’t gone far enough and worry that this is a proactive attempt by the company to avoid stricter industry regulation. There’s also worry that the telecommunications giant still has the power and potential to “undermine the free-flowing ethic if the Internet,” which it could do by funneling traffic away from non-AT&T ISPs.

The NYT WTO story’s angle: The lack of a trade deal is a major setback for Clinton. It’s his second major foreign policy defeat since summer; the first was the Senate rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Clinton issued an optimistic statement on Saturday, but anonymous members of his administration called the talks a “fiasco” and “circus.”

The WP touches on the fact that the WTO situation was a blow for the president, but focuses on why the negotiations bombed–labor leaders, environmentalists and human rights activists credited their protests; trade ministers said it was the sheer complexity of issues coupled with delegates’ unwillingness to compromise. The Post calls the European Union’s refusal to talk about “eliminating its generous subsidies for farmers and their exports” the biggest obstacle. Both the NYT and WP state that AFL-CIO president John Sweeney feels no deal is better than a bad one; the NYT defines this as “one that failed to set up a study group … to make recommendations on labor rights.”

The LAT has a different emphasis, exemplified by its Sweeney quote: The talks represented “a stunning breakthrough in the public debate over globalization.” It (almost giddily) states “the unruly forces of democracy collided with the elite world of trade policy”; “the elitists … lost and debate was changed forever.” The anti-WTO movement barely existed a decade ago, it notes, and has been “abetted by global communication … and transportation.” An LAT piece reefered on its front cites a rebellion of ambassadors from Third World countries “that helped bring the WTO summit to an abrupt and embarrassing halt.”

The LAT lead says Mars Polar Lander mission officials’ mantra is that the communication failure of the MLP “was not unexpected.” (Do those officials think taxpayers will be comforted by the idea that they thought a $165 million mission might flop?) The NYT reports on its front that officials haven’t given up hope but conceded that “chances of success would be diminishingly slim if they are unable to hear from the robotic spacecraft in a test on Sunday.” The WP reefers a story about the MPL news which has a more pessimistic tone than the others about the likelihood of establishing contact with the Mars space probe.

The NYT off-leads an exclusive about two reports prepared by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on human rights abuses in Kosovo. The first details the Serbian abuse of power after the NATO air war started. The second focuses on Kosovar Albanians’ efforts, often spearheaded by the former Kosovo Liberation Army and often evidenced by NATO-led peacekeepers, to drive non-Albanians out of the province since the conflict’s end. The reports will be released on Monday in Pristina.

Inside, the WP carries news that the “National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence found that violent crime in major cities reported to the FBI has risen by 40 percent since 1969.” The findings provide a counterpoint to reports of crime decline based on comparisons between contemporary rates and those of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when “unusually high levels of violence” prevailed.

A WP front piece on the presidential hopefuls discusses the sniping between Gore and Bradley but also talks about the “remarkably civil … in comparison” relationship between McCain and Bush. A NYT story focuses on the Republicans’ relationship.

The WP fronts a piece on wacky, esoteric college application essay questions that colleges like Bennington and University of Chicago are using for a variety of reasons. How important are these essays compared to SAT scores as a college determines acceptances, and are the essays fair assessments of a students’ abilities? The piece might be weightier if it addressed such issues.