Today's Papers

What’s a But For?

The Los Angeles Times leads with a story on everybody’s front: “A divided [UN] Security Council voted today to create a new arms inspection system for Iraq with the promise to President Saddam Hussein that sanctions against his country [imposed after the 1991 Gulf war] could be suspended within a year and eventually lifted if he cooperates,” as the New York Times puts it. All three papers note Iraq may never accept the plan. Both Timeses state that experts suspect Iraq has been restocking its supplies of prohibited weapons; the LAT lists these as chemical and biological arms and components of atomic bombs. All papers report that three (France, Russia, China) of the five permanent members of the Council abstained from voting, which might weaken the council’s position and the possibility of Iraq’s compliance; the U.S. and Britain were the two permanent members that supported the measure. Except for the LAT story, which explains Iraq said it would cancel diplomatic relations and oil contracts with France if the French supported the resolution, there’s not much on the reason for the abstentions.

The Washington Post’s lead is local: The Beltway will soon get uglier, as a federal appeals court resurrected plans to replace the deteriorating Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge with a 12-lane one that should alleviate congestion.

The NYT’s lead is also local. Gov. George E. Pataki and bipartisan legislative leaders agreed “to raise the state’s cigarette tax by 55 cents a pack in an ambitious effort to provide health care coverage for as many as one million uninsured New Yorkers.” The agreement is part of a larger plan, expected to cost $750 million over the next three and a half years, to expand coverage. Passage of related legislation, to be introduced possibly next week, is highly likely.

The focus of the WP’s front piece on yesterday’s Gore-Bradley debate is clear by its headline, “… Debate Centers on Health Care.” The WP waits till about half-way through its piece before indicating that the two Democratic hopefuls discussed anything else: It reports that both agreed stricter gun control is needed, though Bradley claimed his plan was more serious than Gore’s. A NYT piece, reefered to on its front, and LAT front piece touch on many more of the issues discussed. The WP gives the impression that the debate was heated. The NYT, while noting that Bradley showed “a new persistence and aggressiveness” and that health care was a contentious issue, said the two candidates “agreed more than they disagreed.” The LAT similarly calls the debate “mostly … decorous.” Gore thinks Bradley’s health plan is too expensive; Bradley thinks Gore’s won’t reach enough currently uninsured people. The LAT has the most detail on the education issue, reporting Gore accused Bradley of insufficient commitment to federal action on education. None of the papers have poll statistics related to how any of these issues rank on voters’ list of concerns.

A NYT front piece says that the Environmental Protection Agency ordered 392 Southern and Midwestern plants, mainly electricity-generating ones, to cut in half their emissions of nitrous oxides that contribute to Eastern seaboard smog at the request of Eastern states who asked for help meeting national smog standards. The EPA estimates the order would raise the cost of electricity by one percent but that costs to consumers are still expected to decline “because of deregulation of the industry”; the NYT should be more clear about what the final relative cost to consumers might be. Some executives and officials in the targeted states are denouncing the mandate.

News that an Algerian man named Ahmed Ressam was seized at the Canadian border because he was carrying bomb-making materials is on all three fronts. The WP cites an anonymous law enforcement official in making the claim that possible links between Ressam and anti-American militant Osama bin Laden are being pursued, and quotes an anonymous Clinton administration official, saying “this was not a run-of-the-mill operation … This was serious.” The LAT also mentions the possible connection, though both papers note a definite link to bin Laden has not been established. The NYT makes no mention of bin Laden and credits an anonymous government official with the quote, “There’s nothing mysterious at all about what was in [Ressam’s] car,” though it also says government officials are worried that the man could be part of an international terrorist group. The NYT and the LAT say the State Department recently warned that it had “credible information” about “terrorist attacks against American citizens [timed] around the Jan. 1 millennium celebrations.” The Post says 14 (the LAT says 13) of bin Laden’s associates were arrested this week for plotting such attacks.

The WP off-lead reports Clinton is “strongly considering making a request for government reimbursement of” most or all of the $5 million the Clintons owe in unpaid legal bills associated with the Whitewater and Monica investigations–which have already cost the public $47 million. To be reimbursed, Clinton’s lawyers would have to prove that he would not have needed a lawyer “but for the independent counsel statute.” This is the so-called “but for” clause. So if Clinton can show he wouldn’t have been prosecuted by a regular prosecutor, he’ll get the money.