Today's Papers

Union Dues and Don’ts

The New York Times leads with an exclusive: extensive corruption in the nation’s second-largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, based on an internal union document. The Washington Post goes with the D.C. government’s decision to follow the example of numerous other cities by filing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the nation’s major handgun manufacturers and distributors. USA Today leads with fresh polling indicating that despite close races in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, both Al Gore and George W. Bush have “huge” leads among voters nationwide. The poll shows that among likely voters, Bush beats Gore decisively and beats Bradley too, although by less of a margin. And McCain beats each of the two Democrats as well. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is the expected announcement today by President Clinton that his proposed budget will include a $3 billion increase over last year in federal science funding.

The NYT says the union report describes corrupt activities by 35 union officials, mostly misappropriation of union funds, totaling $4.6 million. A particularly disturbing note: The paper quotes the union’s general counsel as saying it is “cleaner than most unions.” It should be noted that the Times says high up in its story that the report was “made available by a union official eager to have the federation take a tougher stance on corruption.” This exemplifies the paper’s admirable general policy when dealing with unnamed sources of at least communicating to the reader the source’s motivation and personal connection to the story.

The WP lead notes that municipal anti-gun suits have suffered a series of legal setbacks recently, with judges throwing out several of them. Another obstacle, explains the Post, is unique to D.C.: Congress, which overseas the city’s budget, can step in to prevent the funding of a lawsuit. And, indeed, the story goes on to quote Rep. Bob Barr calling the action “utterly frivolous.” But still, the paper reminds, between 1992 and 1998, guns were used in more than 2,000 D.C. homicides.

The two Times front yesterday’s Jesse Helms U.N. visit/speech. Helms’ gist was that Congress has the right to dictate conditions that must be fulfilled by the organization before it receives U.S. dues. The main condition Helms seemed to have in mind was for the U.N. not to impose its “utopian” vision on America. Even so, the reporting shows that Helms–said by the NYT to be the most powerful foreign policy voice in Congress–had much more productive contact with Security Council officials yesterday than he’d ever had before.

The LAT and WP fronts report a rather striking sign that the Russian assault on Chechnya is in disarray: A senior Russian general leading forces attempting to capture Grozny is missing in action. The Chechen rebels say that he has been captured alive. The LAT explains that the rebels are making this claim on their Web site. And the paper is to be commended for including the URL, which is The NYT mentions the Web site in another connection, but doesn’t give out the address. What’s up with that?

The NYT and WP front the German parliament’s launch of a full-scale investigation into the financial dealings of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the political party he led for 25 years, and the Los Angeles Times puts it at the top of its front-page world-wide news index. The LAT reefers the news. The WP’s headline makes no mention of a tragic turn–the apparent suicide death of the party’s finance chief. And, hey, how come nobody fronts the similar investigatory ratchet-up in a similar financial scandal involving Israel’s longtime president?

The WSJ goes high in its front-page financial news box with the record U.S. trade deficit posted for November, which it attributes to higher imports of cars and other consumer goods as well as Y2K stockpiling and rising oil prices. Everybody else stuffs this.

The WP reports that the search for bodies of victims of Mexican druglords along the Mexico-Texas border has ended after having yielded nine corpses–on Page 22. Contrast this to the front-page treatment accorded by many of the dailies to the first stories claiming that there might be more than 100 bodies at the site.

A front-page WSJ feature celebrates the return to fashionability of the mustache. The story doesn’t note one quarter in which upper lip layering seems permanently out of fashion: presidential candidates. What possible explanation is there for no presidential mustache since Taft? Another challenge for Jesse Ventura.