Today's Papers

McCain and Bradley Won’t Go Soft

The New York Times’ top non-local story is a U.N.-commissioned report that holds the U.N. and leading member nations, primarily the U.S., responsible for failing to prevent or curtail the 1994 Rwanda genocide of 800,000. Everybody else stuffs the story. (The NYT lead is the change of venue to upstate ordered in the trial of four NYPD cops accused of murdering an unarmed man.) The Los Angeles Times goes with the first round of the Israel-Syria talks, which wrapped yesterday on an encouraging note–an agreement to a new round in the Washington, D.C., area early in the new year (possibly at a CIA safe house, says the LAT). The NYT fronts the talks, while the remaining majors put them inside. The Washington Post leads with the DOJ’s first-ever lawsuit against a hotel chain for racial discrimination. USA Today leads with the newest trend among online operations–striking alliances with traditional retailers. The latest example is Thursday’s deal between AOL and Wal-Mart: AOL will provide a low-cost Internet-access service carrying the Wal-Mart brand, and will at its own site promote Wal-Mart’s online store, while in return Wal-Mart will promote AOL in its stores. The paper ticks off the spate of other similar arrangements struck recently–Best Buy and Microsoft, Circuit City and AOL, Kmart and Yahoo, Radio Shack and Microsoft–and nutshells the point: giving online concerns access to the still-huge number of offline homes while jumpstarting the struggling Web presences of traditional retailers. The Wall Street Journal, in its story on the trend, coins a wonderful name for it: “bricks and clicks.”

The NYT depicts the U.N. report as striking in its institutional candor: Although commissioned by the current Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the report criticizes him and his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, for failing to take decisive action as the peacekeeping troops on the ground in Rwanda reported back about the Hutu militia’s plans for ethnic attacks against Tutsis and about their accumulating weapons caches towards that end. The report also criticizes the U.N. Security Council–managed, points out the Times, by the world’s major powers and not the U.N. bureaucracy–for extracting most of the peacekeepers at the time when even more of them were most crucially needed. According to the Times, the report’s principal investigator said he got scant help from the U.S. A U.S. State Department spokesman is quoted denying this.

The DOJ’s hotel suit, the WP says, was announced by Janet Reno and charges that the St. Louis-based but nationwide Adam’s Mark chain forced blacks to pay more than whites for rooms and kept blacks out of hotel restaurants and lounges. The paper quotes a source saying that the chain’s hotels in Philadelphia, Winston-Salem, Denver, and Indianapolis are among those implicated.

The NYT, WP, and LAT fronts cover the joint appearance in New Hampshire of John McCain and Bill Bradley at which they signed a pledge stating that if they won their nominations, they would not accept their parties’ soft money. But as the NYT points out, the agreement only goes so far: Bradley supports public financing of congressional elections, while McCain does not. Also, McCain admitted at the pledge event that he had in the past been influenced by donations, while Bradley said he had not.

Monica Lewinsky returns today to the place that made her famous. No, not the Oval Office carpet, but the front page of the WP, which covers her testimony yesterday at an evidentiary hearing for the upcoming Linda Tripp wiretapping trial. The point of Lewinsky’s testimony was to try to establish that one of her conversations was taped by Tripp after Tripp was warned that doing so would be illegal, and also that Lewinsky became aware of this taping from her own knowledge of what she had said and therefore her knowledge of it was not dependent on an immunized source–what the prosecutors told her based on what Tripp told them–and hence is not inadmissible.

The WP goes inside with a new nationwide study of high-school disciplinary practices, which, it says, shows that in the two years since “zero tolerance” anti-violence policies were popularized, black students at the schools surveyed have been expelled or suspended at a rate disproportionate to their numbers. The story quotes Jesse Jackson’s reaction: that zero-tolerance policies are “arbitrary and capricious,” resulting in wide racial disparities in discipline. The only problem here, which the Post doesn’t notice, is that mere racial disproportionality shows nothing of the sort. You would need to show that the racial breakouts of punishments are disproportionate, not to the racial composition of the student bodies, but to the racial composition of the rule breakers.

And strong letters to follow from the American Cinder Block Assn., Daisy BB guns, and General Motors. Yesterday’s NYT contained this “Editors’ Note”: “The Our Towns column on Dec. 5 described neighbors’ resistance in Greenwich, Conn., to a homeowner’s plan to add a new wing, an ice rink and a golf course to a $14.8 million house on a 14-acre lot. The column commented that Greenwich ‘is not a community of Airstream trailers where people sit outside on cinder blocks, whiling away the hours by taking aim with their BB guns at upturned Buicks.’ The reference to Airstream, though jocular, was unwarranted. The brand is a luxury recreational trailer often referred to as a land yacht. It should not have been associated with shabby surroundings.”