Today's Papers

U.S. Gets Its Locks Off

USA Today

leads with the Clinton administration’s warning to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan that the U.S. will hold them responsible for any terrorist acts attributable to Afghanistan resident Osama Bin Laden. Nobody else fronts this. The Washington Post lead is the ceremony in the Panama Canal Zone marking the imminent transfer of the waterway to Panamanian control. The event drew Jimmy Carter, who as president pushed for the hand-change. The Post quotes his reference to the “colonialism” and “state socialism” of the original arrangement. The New York Times fronts the canal, but its top non-local story is the agreement of German government and industry to set up a $5.1 billion fund to compensate the estimated 1 million people still alive who were slave laborers under the Nazis. The story runs inside at the WP, is flagged near the top of the Wall Street Journal front-page news box, and is fronted at the Los Angeles Times, which leads with the latest blockbuster in the paper’s continuing coverage of the city’s police scandal: the D.A.’s view that dirty cops may have tainted over 3,000 criminal cases. He is quoted as saying that more inmates will be released as a result, that criminal charges will be filed against some cops, and that the whole thing will take years to resolve.

USAT’s lead reminds that Bin Laden has been indicted in connection with two 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa that killed 229. The paper explains that the warning about him comes after the State Department just barely announced arrests yesterday of Bin Laden operatives somewhere about to do something someplace. USAT cites some intelligence officials as sources for the idea that the intended target may have been in Vatican City.

Although Germany and German corporations have paid reparations in the past in connection with the Nazis’ murder of Jews and others, the coverage states that the latest sum is their first significant settlement on behalf of laborers. A hallmark of the agreement, says the NYT, is that it will include payments from American companies, notably Ford and GM, with German subsidiaries. Previously these firms had protested that they had no liability on the grounds that the Hitler government had forcibly taken over their German businesses.

The WP off-leads, and the NYT and LAT carry inside, the decision by a Maryland trial judge that Linda Tripp had no immunity agreement protecting her from Maryland wiretapping charges. The judge’s key finding is, says the paper, that Tripp’s federal immunity didn’t take effect until it was approved by a judge, five weeks after it was first promised to her by Ken Starr’s office. The WP says the ruling deals “a major blow” to Tripp’s defense in her wiretapping trial scheduled for next month.

A NYT front-pager reports a surprising consequence of 1998’s reform of the IRS, which had been prompted by congressional hearings portraying (a largely discredited portrayal, the paper reminds) the agency’s hounding of ordinary citizens: Wealthier Americans are being subject to less tax scrutiny while poorer ones are being subject to more. The IRS is backing off attempts at auditing the complex returns of the better off, while putting more effort into looking for abuse of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit available only to the working poor, and into catching people who file no returns at all, traditionally a practice inordinately associated with modest earners.

The WSJ reports that the DOJ is investigating MTV for alleged antitrust violations in its dealings with major music companies. The core issue is the network’s practice of demanding music companies give its MTV, M2, and VH1 channels exclusive air rights to music videos when they are released, making it nearly impossible for rival music networks to enter the market. The Journal notes that under Viacom’s proposed buyout of CBS, this sort of issue will take on even more importance, because the resulting new company would own additional cable music channels.

Everybody fronts an illustration of Charlie Brown, in honor of yesterday’s announcement that cartoonist Charles Schulz, aged 77 and ailing with cancer, will retire right after the first of the year.

The WP’s continuing front-page deconstruction of Bill Bradley today looks at his schoolboy days in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The story quotes intimates as saying that as late as senior year at Princeton, Bradley was considering becoming a minister. Bradley tells the paper he has no recollection of this. Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd, in her NYT column, says that in his most recent debate performance, George W. Bush supported “the holy trinity of ethanol, Jesus and soft money.”