Today's Papers

Partial Court Press

The Washington Post and the  Los Angeles Times lead with the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear cases on abortion rights and gay rights this spring. Specifically, it will review a judgment overturning Nebraska’s ban on late-term abortions and a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts could not exclude a gay troop leader. The LAT off-leads with the Supreme Court story and leads with the ongoing LAPD probe: police officials’ request that charges be filed against three officers. The charges would be the first in the Rampart corruption investigation. The New York Times  lead focuses on the partial birth abortion ban and doesn’t mention the Boy Scout case. The NYT and the WP front (and the LAT reefers) Russia’s publication of a new national security doctrine. The new doctrine broadens the conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons, and describes the West, for the first time since the Cold War, as a potential threat to Russian security.

All the papers mention that the Supreme Court won’t actually re-evaluate the constitutional status of abortion. Nor will the hearings affect the bans on abortions after “fetal viability” (24 weeks into the pregnancy) currently pending in many states. Nebraska’s Supreme Court rejected the state’s ban because its loose definition of a “partial birth abortion” could apply to many common procedures used in early stages of pregnancy, violating a 1992 Supreme Court ruling against “undue burden” on access to abortion. The WP scrutinizes how the timing of the hearings and rulings will affect the presidential elections. The court will most likely hear the cases in early April and rule in late June, just as the Campaign 2000 kicks into high gear. This timing should make the Supreme Court a major election issue, as the next president will likely nominate three justices.

The New Jersey case, according to the WP, turns on what sort of organization the Boy Scouts are. The scouts say that as a private organization, they have the First Amendment freedom of association to decide who to include, while the court argues that the group’s size and tradition of “nonselectivity” renders it a “public association” subject to federal anti-discrimination laws.

Everyone quotes Russia’s change of heart about nukes. In 1997, they would be used “in case of a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation,” but in yesterday’s revised doctrine they are an option when “all other means of resolving the crisis have been exhausted.” It could have been worse: Some Russian officials had argued for a policy that included an “early first use” option. The NYT also reminds us that U.S. doctrine is traditionally more hawkish on the use of nuclear weapons, but no one mentions what today’s U.S. policy actually is. Analysts agree that the added chilliness toward NATO is a result of the Kosovo crisis and more recent criticism of the Chechen campaign by NATO members.

A U.N. tribunal found five ethnic Croats guilty of “persecution” and crimes against humanity for their role in ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. The decision is groundbreaking because it is the first to declare ethnic cleansing a crime against humanity. For their roles in a 1993 massacre that ended with over 100 Muslims dead, the convicts could spend up to 25 years in prison.

The NYT front notes that South Korea plans to spend around $1 billion over the next five years to build a rocket capable of launching satellites. U.S. analysts fear that the plan is economically unfeasible and deleterious to the stability of the region: South Korea could export the technology to countries who would use it to launch weapons, and fears that South Korea might use the rocket to deploy their own weapons could set off an arms race in northeast Asia. The WP continues to mine the aftershocks of the AOL-Time Warner merger, saying the incident has revived European anxiety about technological inferiority: Europeans are far less likely than Americans to be wired, and e-commerce revenues in the 15 European Union nations are only a third of what they are in the U.S. The story blames the gap on government subsidies of failing industries (to save jobs) and a greater cultural aversion to risk.

In a NYT op-ed, author and dog lover Caroline Knapp fans the flames of New York’s dog wars, lambasting snobbish humans who only want properly sized, pedigreed dogs in their co-ops. Unlike many of these whiny elitists, she says, the dog is “a noble and sensitive creature who, given proper care, may make a far better tenant than many humans.” Maybe so, but at least we’re housebroken.