Today's Papers

WIMPs, Spies, and the Palmetto Prize

The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times all set the stage for today’s Republican primary in South Carolina. The WP and the NYT lead with the contest, and all three papers splash their fronts with huge shots of John McCain (Bush has to settle for a smaller shot with a stars-and-stripes backdrop on the WP front). Polls show Bush leading, but all the papers note that these polls don’t account fully for the throngs of independents and Democrats expected to turn out for McCain. The LAT leads with the announcement by federal prosecutors that they will seek the death penalty in the trial of white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. Furrow shot four children in a Jewish community center and killed a Filipino postal worker last August. The prosecutors offered no reason for their decision. Why not? One source told the LAT that disclosing their reasons would be prejudicial to Furrow’s case. The paper notes that it’s fairly unusual for the Justice Department to seek a death penalty conviction and that the federal government hasn’t executed anyone since 1963.

The WP and the NYT front the arrest of a U.S. immigration official on espionage charges. The man, Mariano M. Faget, is the first U.S. government official charged with spying for Cuba. He was nabbed by a sting operation, in which he passed on false information about the defection of a Cuban agent to an unnamed New York businessman. Faget, only a month away from retirement, could face up to 10 years in prison. Immigration officials are uncertain about the extent of the damage he might have done but, says the NYT, they quickly assured the public that he was not involved with the Elián González case. The WP doesn’t mention Elián, but plays up the dramatic nature of the sting, noting that its code name, “Operation False Blue” is “a play on the patriotic expression ‘True Blue.’ “

The NYT front reports that trade with China has become a sticky issue for Al Gore as he attempts to court both union chiefs and business leaders. On Thursday, he told the AFL-CIO that he’d take a tough stance on labor and the environment with China. Yesterday, possibly under pressure from the Clinton administration, he issued a letter reiterating his support for a current trade agreement President Clinton is trying to push through Congress. The current bill makes no provision for preserving labor rights or environmental standards.

Scientists at the University of Rome, according to the NYT, may have finally detected dark matter, the stuff that roughly 80 percent of the universe might be made of. The gravitational effects of dark matter have been evident since the 1930s, but the particles are difficult to pin down: They pass through other matter undetected, owing to their weak tendency to interact. The particles are alternately known as neutralinos or Weakly Interacting, Massive Particles (WIMPs). The findings, should they survive the ensuing scrutiny, will be of Nobel Prize caliber.

The WP fronts a story on researching “dark energy,” or anti-matter, another mysterious phenomenon that may help fuel the universe-expanding effects of the Big Bang. The story seems a bit stale, however: The last major breakthrough in dark energy research apparently occurred in 1998. Sci-fi buffs will be disappointed to know that anti-gravity “will not reverse the course of a falling apple, drive an inflating wedge of nothingness between lovers, affect suburban traffic patterns or propel spacecraft.”

An LAT exclusive reports the controversy surrounding Rezulin, a drug used to treat diabetes. One doctor instrumental to the drug’s speedy FDA approval has recommended that Rezulin be removed from the market. Some researchers have expressed concern about the drug’s adverse effects on patients’ livers, and evidence increasingly supports their trepidation: In 11 months, the number of people who have developed liver failure “possibly or probably related” to Rezulin use has doubled, to around 85 patients.

The LAT also fronts news of the market’s rough day–both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq fell by around 3 percent. The drop follows Alan Greenspan’s announcement of an imminent rate hike on Thursday, which was initially met with general indifference. The WP and the NYT reefer the story.

Inevitable + Unremarkable = Front Page News?: One of the NYT’s front page stories laments the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation of the Bush campaign. The article contrasts the high-minded, unifying rhetoric of last summer with the divisive tactics George W. has deployed in the South Carolina primary. However, the article dynamites itself in paragraph 15, noting that “To a large extent, what happened to Mr. Bush in South Carolina was the inevitable and unremarkable product of an extraordinarily tight race.”