Today's Papers

Pair o’ Military Leaders

The New York Times leads with predictions that Al Gore’s popularity with African-Americans in the South will give him a distinct advantage there over Bill Bradley in early March primaries. The story ran off-lead in the early edition, swapping places with a lengthy piece on Israelis in the Golan Heights who are anxious about the territory’s possible return to Syria. The Washington Redskins capture the top third of the Washington Post front but not a berth in the NFC championship game. The Post off-leads a piece on presidential candidates’ maneuverings before the Iowa caucuses (Jan. 24) and the New Hampshire primary (Feb. 1). The Los Angeles Times lead reports that more and more employers may be breaking the law by firing or threatening illegal workers. The trend is described as a backlash to unions that have been aggressively recruiting workers to beef up their organizations.

The NYT waits until the beginning of its jump to reveal the reason Gore holds an advantage over Bradley among black voters: He’s riding Clinton’s coattails. Clinton enjoys great popularity among black political leaders in the South for opening doors to political appointments, affirmative action programs, and other kinds of support. Bradley has ardently discussed the topic of improving race relations but has not been able to sway those content with Clinton administration policies and Gore’s place near them. Gore lands on the LAT front calling for better race relations and lambasting George W. Bush for failing to take a stand against South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag over its Capitol. Both papers mention Gore’s speaking appearance tomorrow at Martin Luther King Jr.’s old church in Atlanta.

Gore’s and Bush’s war chests seem to be giving them a boost in Iowa, and both candidates hope strong showings in the caucuses will boost their chances in New Hampshire the following week, the Post reports. All the Iowa campaigns–save John McCain’s, which has circumvented the state from the word go–are scrambling in the final week to set their expectations and resulting strategy.

Employers have been cracking down on illegal workers to deliver a blow to the unions that have been recruiting and organizing these workers, according to the LAT. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission policy released in October protects all workers, including those without papers, but a) employers do not have to rehire illegal workers, even if they were fired wrongly; and b) the workers themselves are afraid to unionize for fear of being fired or deported.

Both the Post and NYT front follow-ups to the AOL-Time Warner merger. The split in shareholder ownership turned out to be the sticking point in negotiations, according to the NYT. Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin wouldn’t make the deal unless AOL granted TW shareholders 45 percent of the new company (For a profile of Levin as CEO, see Slate’s “Assessment.”) The story follows the negotiations, occasionally lapsing into celebratory narration. (“And so a pair of skilled corporate sherpas–one representing each side–started gearing up for the climb to the summit.”) The NYT “Money & Business” section runs three articles on the merger, including a mock oration of Levin to Time Warner shareholders. The Post front-pager looks at AOL’s growth during the ‘90s and Time Warner’s abortive Pathfinder Web site. The piece, like the Times’ “Money & Business” lead, points out that Time Warner gave early legitimacy to AOL when it sold the rights to post Time magazine in 1993. The old media giant decided not to pursue buying AOL a year later, figuring that the free Web would chase away private online communities like AOL.

The leader of Serbia’s Tigers, a paramilitary group notorious for murdering and/or terrorizing non-Serbs, was killed in Belgrade. Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, was shot in one of his eyes at Belgrade’s Intercontinental Hotel yesterday afternoon, the Times reports. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic might benefit most from his death, since Arkan–indicted in 1997 on war crimes charges–was thought to know a great deal about Milosevic’s involvement in “ethnic cleansing.” Blame or credit?: The NYT reports that “no arrests were made, as opposed to the Post, which runs inside a report filed from Rome explaining that “no one claimed responsibility.”

The NYT Golan Heights story, a Sunday early edition lead if there ever was one, offers a glimpse at how Israeli settlers are coping with the possibility that the territory will return to Syria as part of a peace deal. The biggest strategic loss would be Mount Hermon, from which the Israeli military peers out over Syria. Israeli army escorts learn a lesson in journalism: “After escorting journalists to the off-limits peak last week, the army announced that the two dense clusters of dish-encrusted antennae and Buckminster Fuller radar domes were off the record and should not be mentioned.”

The NYT editorial page runs an “Editorial Notebook” called “Why America Loves The Sopranos” in the midst of a boundless media campaign pushing the show. The last paragraph begins: “Of course, half the fun of watching The Sopranos is watching a family that is really a paramilitary organization.” Not only is the piece already a gush for the show, but–not to be a party-pooper–the last paragraph seems somehow overblown after reading the news accounts of Arkan’s slaying, since he headed what was really “really a paramilitary orgainzation.”