Today's Papers

Tough Sit

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the agreement that New Jersey struck Wednesday with the Dept. of Justice that’s designed to ensure that the state’s highway police stop using race as a factor in making traffic stops. The Washington Post leads with testimony from last week’s court hearing for Wen Ho Lee in which an FBI agent said that Lee went to unusual lengths to mislead his colleagues at Los Alamos about what he was doing when during nighttime and weekend sessions, he downloaded onto portable tapes the highly classified nuclear secrets to which he had access. USA Today leads with a new poll (undertaken with CNN and Gallup) indicating that, because of the latest terrorism concerns, 50 percent of respondents are less likely to attend public gatherings on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of those asked thought it was at least somewhat likely that an act of terrorism would occur somewhere in the U.S. on one of those two days. The story also reports that on Wednesday a federal grand jury indicted the Algerian arrested in Washington state for trying to smuggle bombmaking components into the country, a development that is fronted at the WP and reefered at the NYT. Neither the Post nor USAT front the racial profiling story.

Both Times leads state that under the New Jersey profiling deal, the state police will report to a federal monitor who will have broad powers to investigate virtually any police function and who will track the cops’ patterns of arrests and traffic stops to make sure that minorities are not being singled out. Neither story really gets at the nuances involved in really doing this. The NYT mentions for instance that under the agreement with Justice, troopers are still allowed to make a race-based stop when they are pursuing a specific criminal suspect, but neither story says whether an all points bulletin saying to be on the look out for say, a fleeing black or Latino is specific enough. And neither addresses whether or not race-driven stops that result in an arrest or conviction will/should be counted as racial profiling.

The NYT’s story does not include any negative reactions from cops, but the LAT’s does, including a harsh one from L.A.’s black police chief: “It’s not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail. It’s the fault of the minority males for committing the crime.”

The LAT front reports that the U.S. Army is on the verge of adopting its first new rifle in thirty years. The weapon would use the precision guidance technology already common in planes and tanks to deliver rounds that explode in the air above enemy soldiers, thereby lessening their ability to survive battlefield small arms fire by taking cover. There are question marks however: the weapon is more than twice as heavy as the M-16 it would replace, and it’s not clear if its complex works are really combat-hardy. The LAT waits until pretty deep into the story to raise another very realistic worry: these weapons would wreak havoc in the hands of guerrillas. And hey, given the track record of the M-16 and its ilk–what about in the hands of street criminals?

A NYT front-pager describes an Oregon experiment that intensifies the issues surrounding the possibility of adding genes to human embryos. And the headline makes the whole thing sound like science gone mad: “SCIENTISTS PLACE JELLYFISH GENES INTO MONKEYS.”

The WP reports that Louis Farrakhan, recovering from prostate cancer, yesterday made his first public appearance in nearly a year. Appearing alongside a Catholic priest and a rabbi, Farrakhan called on all peoples of the world to “end the cycle of violence and the cycle of hatred.”

The NYT front identifies at least one area of the economy that’s booming as a result of Y2K: the babysitting sector. In big cities, New Year’s Eve rates of upwards of $100 an hour are common. Also pulling down premium prices for the big night: pet sitters and security guards.

The Wall Street Journal front returns to the arena of one of its more widely read pieces of 1999–an airline nightmare story–to tell the tale of U.S Airways’ MetroJet Flight 2762, an evening flight from Atlanta to Dulles that has the distinction of being this year’s most delayed flight. The scheduled 70-minute hop, says the Journal, averages an hour behind schedule. It is late 80 percent of the time. The piece quotes the pilot of one night’s flight after an 80-minute runway stint followed by controller-ordered zigzag patterns over the ocean: “We hate it too.”