Today's Papers

Intolerable Acts

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the release of a Pentagon report on harassment of homosexuals in the military. The report’s findings suggest a widespread tolerance of such harassment: 80 percent of the 71,500 servicemen and women surveyed had heard offensive comments directed at gays in the last year, 37 percent had seen some form of harassment, from insults to graffiti to physical attacks, and 85 percent believed that these sorts of insults were tolerated by rank-and-file soldiers. The report was commissioned by Defense Secretary William Cohen after the murder of a gay Army soldier last summer. Cohen has now commissioned a committee of civilian and military officials to address the report’s findings.

Scrutiny of the report’s methodology in the NYT and the WP is virtually nonexistent. The LAT cites one source criticizing procedures that may have led to understated results–in some cases, respondents were allowed to leave the survey room as soon as they finished. Many servicemen, the source claims, might have rushed through their surveys rather than linger and risk speculation that they themselves were gay. The NYT merely notes that of the 38 bases and 11 warships and submarines surveyed, did not include “people at Fort Campbell, where Pfc. Barry Winchell was bludgeoned to death last July with a baseball bat.” The WP’s obfuscating comments could have been culled from a Pentagon PR bulletin: “Since the respondents were not individually selected to produce a representative sample, the results cannot be statistically projected to all members of the armed forces. The breadth of the survey, however, allowed the inspector general to assess the overall environment.” So it’s not really representative, but it’s representative enough?

The LAT and the NYT both front Microsoft’s last-minute settlement offer in its antitrust case, but only the LAT’s sources claim to know what’s in it: an offer to untie the Internet Explorer browser from some Windows packages. However, the offer reportedly contains no mention of breaking up the company or releasing Windows source code. The NYT merely announces the fact that the proposal was issued, and gives a brief history of the settlement discussion, including Judge Jackson’s statement that he would issue a verdict within the week if a settlement were not reached. The LAT off-lead and the NYT front both report that Ugandan police uncovered 153 more bodies in mass graves. The condition of the bodies–some seemed to have been strangled–reinforced police suspicion that the deaths were not a mass suicide, but the murder of members by the cult leaders, believed by Ugandan police to be still at large.

In anticipation of Sunday’s Russian presidential election, all three papers front Russia-related stories. The WP wonders how Putin will handle Russia’s oligarchy, represented by tycoons like Boris Berezovsky. Thus far, he’s done little to tip his hand–making some vague comments about tackling corruption but also showing up for a birthday party for Berezovsky’s wife.

The NYT reports on segments aired by Russia’s state-owned ORT television company casting one of Putin’s challengers as a puppet of Jews, gays, and foreigners, presumably to exploit anti-Semitism, homophobia, and xenophobia in Russian society. The candidate, Grigori Yavlinsky, is polling a distant third in the race, but seems most likely to siphon votes away from Putin, denying him the 50 percent that he needs to avoid a runoff in Sunday’s election. Another major owner of the ORT network is the aforementioned Boris Berezovsky.

The LAT fronts an expose on atrocities by Russian soldiers in Chechnya. One New York-based watchdog group documented 123 cases where Russian soldiers killed civilians, nearly all of the deaths occurring because Chechens witnessed looting, or attempted to stop soldiers from looting their homes.

The WP manages to write an entire piece about Hollywood’s romance with the Democratic Party without mentioning Barbra Streisand or Warren Beatty. Instead, the WP focuses on Kevin Spacey’s friendship with Dick Gephardt and notes that donations to the party from show biz types in 1999 alone were twice as high as donations made during the last election. The WP attributes the increase to Hollywood’s outrage over the impeachment debacle.

While Hollywood bucks might help the Democrats win control of the house, the outlook for the WWF isn’t so rosy. An LAT story proclaims the death of “outsider” candidates, profiling wrestler Jon “The Illustrious” Stewart’s abortive attempt to win the GOP nomination for an Illinois house seat. Today’s Papers attributes the change to the triumph of one of his favorite political maxims: The nut you know is safer than the nut you don’t.