Today's Papers

The Navy: More Tail, More Hooking

The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is the satellite detection of an apparent Pacific Ocean temperature pattern–much bigger than any El Niño–that has scientists arguing about whether the world is about to experience a decadeslong climate change that might include droughts in Southern California. The Washington Post fronts this weather whether but goes instead with Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA–as an executive and part owner with the Washington Wizards. USA Today does a front-page “cover story” on Jordan but leads with the deadly fire at Seton Hall University and the general topic of campus fire safety. The paper points out some facts of the tragedy that are typical: an older building not required to have sprinkler systems and a lulling frequency of false fire alarms. The New York Times fronts the weather and the fire but goes with the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to open up radio to hundreds of small broadcasting operations via its approval of non-commercial low-power FM radio stations. The story says that the nation’s largest broadcasters are opposed to the plan but that the FCC chairman champions it as promising to bring many new voices to the airwaves that have not previously had an outlet. All of which makes the reader wonder if the Times has ever heard of cable access TV, which has no effect whatsoever on major broadcasters and is execrable.

The LAT fronts the growth last year of union membership, which is noted inside elsewhere. The paper explains the swell–the biggest increase in the past 20 years–as a function of the booming economy’s job creation and of the slowing down in the late ‘90s of the flight of manufacturing jobs to other countries.

The WP fronts and the Wall Street Journal tops its front-page news box with President Clinton’s unveiling yesterday of his 10-year $110 billion health-care plan, which Clinton called the biggest government investment in health since Medicare. As the papers report, the plan, which extends the government subsidy to the parents of the poor children who are now covered and employs subsidies and credits to encourage people to get coverage between jobs or prior to qualifying for Medicare, is much more like Al Gore’s than Bill Bradley’s, and in any case is not likely to get much Republican support.

The WP fronts another in its series on presidential candidates, this one on John McCain. (By the way, why does McCain rate only a two-parter, when Gore got many times that?) The main point of the story seems to be that McCain has long been fiercely stubborn, as exemplified by his shunning for 27 years the fellow POW who he admits saved his life, because the man accepted an early return home from Hanoi.

The LAT and NYT report that yesterday a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy, Michael Skakel, was charged with a 25-year-old Connecticut beating and stabbing murder of a 15-year-old girl. The crime had been the subject of a novel by Dominick Dunne and more recently of a nonfiction effort by Mark Fuhrman, the latter concluding that Skakel was the likely perpetrator. The first big issue in the case, say the papers: Should the 39-year-old Skakel, who was 15 in 1975, be tried as an adult or as a juvenile? A hearing on this issue will be held shortly. The coverage is mum about whether or not the Supreme Court has ever ruled on this issue, which surely must have come up before, no?

The WP’s Howard Kurtz reports that the NYT, WP, and USAT and other papers had arrangements with the U.S. government’s anti-drug office similar to the one the office had with the TV networks. The story quotes the NYT editorial page editor, Howell Raines, as saying that he knew absolutely nothing about this when he recently wrote an editorial excoriating the TV arrangement. The NYT reports that the government has announced that, while the financial incentive program for TV anti-drug messages will continue, the practice of prior script review by the U.S. anti-drug office will not.

The NYT reports that on Wednesday, the Navy announced it was restoring its ties to Tailhook, the private naval aviation booster club whose 1991 convention was the scene of rampant sexual misconduct by numerous naval aviators. In the days ahead there will be much discussion about whether or not the Navy has in the interim become fairer to women, but let’s see if the papers also get on top of the re-emergence of another scandal: the amount of taxpayer money and military flight time used to send naval aviators to Vegas for most of a week.

The WP features an op-ed primer on State of the Union speeches by former Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldman. Cutest nuance noted: The “Delay Delay”–the amount of time it takes for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to figure out whether he finds something President Clinton says should be applauded or not, so-called because apparently the key step in the speaker’s process is being able to see what the House Whip thinks.