Today's Papers

Run of the Millennium Stories

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with (and the Wall Street Journal tops its front-page world-wide news box with) yesterday’s wide-ranging law enforcement action on the trail of the Algerian terrorist group implicated in that bomb-smuggling arrest in Washington state two weeks ago, action that netted a number of arrests in different cities, including one of an Algerian living in Brooklyn who had recently traveled to Seattle. Both papers report in addition that the feds are saying that the Canadian woman recently arrested trying to come into Vermont and the man caught in Seattle are both associates of a known Algerian terrorist. The Washington Post off-leads the story, going instead with Washington, D.C.’s final preparations for its giant millennial celebration. USA Today, which through the miracle of extended newsstand dating becomes the first U.S. daily newspaper to appear with a 2000 time-hack, gives its front over to an essay, “The Next Century,” which spends most of its time reviewing this one, predictably arcing over the likes of McCarthyism, Martin Luther King, and Dylan but then swerving into the writer’s mother’s sister and his wife’s mother. Not to mention Paul Gorman, who we learn was killed in a freakish motorcycle accident; what we don’t learn is who he was. And in the God-said-ha department, the wires report the death of the world’s oldest person, at age 119, who therefore missed by mere hours the superhuman hat trick of drawing breath in three centuries.

The NYT reports that the Brooklyn arrest was accomplished by “a black-clad antiterrorist task force,” while one in Boston involved feds giving chase with guns drawn. Both papers imply that the Brooklyn arrest was helped along by an informant. The coverage says the Seattle bomb-smuggling plan reflected sophistication, although the LAT notes “a major slip-up” occurred when the man arrested in Brooklyn, although registered under an alias at a hotel in Seattle, used his real address.

The coverage makes it clear that beyond anything specifically tied to the Seattle bomb, the cops were doing a bit of street sweeping. The WP quotes one expert referring to probable “preemptive arrests,” and saying that the FBI would “nail [those arrested] for anything they can, just to get them off the streets.”

A front-page WP story reports that federal investigators on the Wen Ho Lee case are now looking into the possibility that Lee passed nuclear secrets not to China, but to Taiwan. The story points out that Lee has long done consulting work for a Taiwan military institute and has two sisters who still live on the island.

Both the WP and NYT detect hordes of non-hoards. The Post has local merchants telling of increased traffic in bottled water, batteries, candles, etc., but nothing out of control. And the Times says that the extra $255 for each man, woman, and child added to the money supply for Y2K is just sitting there in banks.

The NYT lead editorial on the 20th century salutes “the most distinctive of all American inventions, a society based on the values of political freedom, economic opportunity, individual worth and equal justice.” The WP puts forth a gigantic effort to assess the entire 2nd millennium, with sprawling essays on the span’s history, and on its concepts of liberty, love, hate, ingenuity, fear, beauty, thought, and mystery. The effort on history says, “The best invention of the millennium is widely considered to be the printing press, which is obvious and right. The rest of the top 10 are: glass lenses, the orchestra, the clock pendulum, electrification, the birth control pill, refrigeration, anesthesia, indoor plumbing, and antibiotics. The most overrated invention of the millennium is the spacecraft.” The section also assesses the millennium’s worst year as 1347 (bubonic plague comes to the Continent) and its best as 1789 (French Revolution, George Washington takes office, the factory system is born, bourbon is invented, Mozart writes two piano sonatas, and Beethoven writes two preludes).

On the LAT op-ed page, Robert Reich states, “Eventually almost everyone in the U.S. will be working directly or indirectly for MCI-Worldcom, Microsoft, Disney or AT&T.” And the NYT explains that contrary to other holidays, where status in the organization is measured by the number/quality of party invites and the relative coolness of one’s vacation plans, for tonight the most important people in the outfit are the ones who will be working. Suddenly, Today’s Papers feels very important.