Today's Papers

Supreme Court Cover-Up

The ratcheting-up of the Elián González controversy leads at USA Today and the New York Times and is the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post stuffs Elián and goes instead with “COURT AFFIRMS BAN ON NUDE DANCING.” The NYT fronts the dance case, while the LAT puts it on Page 14.

The headlines over the USAT and NYT leads emphasize Fidel Castro’s announcement yesterday that arrangements have been made to bring Elián’s father to Miami to pick up the boy. The LAT story emphasizes increasing anger among Miami’s Cuban-Americans directed against the Clinton administration for its return-Elián-to-Cuba stance. But none of the headline writers put in the biggest print what seems the biggest piece of the story: the Miami-Dade County mayor’s remark that “If blood is shed on the streets of this community as a result of what the Justice Department does, yes, I will hold them responsible.” Or the similar remark by the city of Miami’s mayor: “It is not the responsibility of the Miami Police Department to snatch Elián González from his Miami family and be sent back to a Communist regime.”

The coverage explains that these government officials are taking the same line as Elián’s Miami relatives, who have refused to sign a formal document agreeing to relinquish Elián if the courts rule that he should be returned to Cuba. The LAT conveys the most alarm, being the only major that mentions fears among Miami’s Cuban-Americans that the current situation is heading toward another Waco. The paper’s news coverage also appears to condemn conservative Republicans who’ve weighed in, referring without further explanation to “oxymoronic” imagery in the remarks of two Republican senators advocating a bill giving permanent resident status to Elián and his close relatives still in Cuba.

The WP lead explains that while the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 vote yesterday upholding the Erie, Pa., anti-nudity ordinance, failed to produce a single majority opinion, five justices endorsed a First Amendment reading that enhances a municipality’s ability to ban nude dancing on the showing of harmful “secondary effects,” such as higher crime or lower property values. And the paper quotes Sandra Day O’Connor’s proffering of some effects she says are associated with nude dancing: street violence, public intoxication, and prostitution. The Post doesn’t raise any questions about this. Today’s Papers has a few: 1) The Erie law allows sexy dancing provided that the dancer wears pasties and a G-string. So, in effect, the O’Connor claim is that the mere addition of these two patches of cloth on the very same gyrating body would tend to reduce street violence, public intoxication, and prostitution. Really? 2) Since these just-mentioned activities are already illegal, what exactly is accomplished by banning nude dancing because of its alleged association with these activities? 3) If an association with these activities is the key, then shouldn’t cities also be able to pass ordinances banning St. Patrick’s Day or Mardi Gras celebrations? Also, the coverage doesn’t make clear if the court’s reasoning would also license a city banning a performance of Hair.

The LAT, the NYT, and the WP front the decision yesterday by the main body of Reform rabbis to support members who officiate at Jewish marriage rituals uniting two gays (or lesbians).

The WP fronts a federal judge’s ruling that when the White House released letters written to President Clinton by Kathleen Willey, Clinton and other top White House officials committed a crime–namely, they violated the Privacy Act, which controls the release of personal information by the government. The ruling, the Post explains, came in a civil suit brought by former Reagan and Bush officials who allege their privacy rights were violated when the White House improperly obtained their FBI files. Therefore, there is no immediate likelihood that Clinton or any other White House staffer will be charged with anything as a result. The Wall Street Journal puts the story high up in its front-page news box.

The WP off-leads word that some conservative Republicans in Congress, including Trent Lott, are telling people not to fill out any questions on their census forms that they find invasive. The focus is mostly on the 52-question long form, which includes queries about the number of bathrooms a respondent has and what time he or she leaves for work. Members of Congress would naturally be embarrassed about their answers to either question.

Both the WP and the NYT go inside with an AIDS study coming out today in The New England Journal of Medicine. What’s controversial isn’t what the study says–the risk of spreading the disease via heterosexual sex is proportional to the amount of HIV in the blood, and circumcision is a damper on the spread of AIDS–but its methodology. The 15,000 Ugandan volunteers in the sample were not offered treatment nor were their healthy sex partners informed that the research subjects were HIV positive. Excuse please, but why isn’t this like the NEJM supporting the Tuskegee experiments?

George Will has apparently been studying libel law with Wayne LaPierre. He opens his WP column on Bill Clinton by saying that “there is reason to believe that he is a rapist (’You better get some ice on that,’ Juanita Broaddrick says he told her concerning her bit lip) and that he bombed a country to distract attention from legal difficulties arising from his glandular life.” Hey, George, wanna take a polygraph about your glandular life?

The NYT reports that a study done at Berkeley concludes that finger length is correlated with sexual orientation. Researchers questioned 720 people at three street festivals in San Francisco, finding that lesbians are more likely, says the study, than other women to have index fingers shorter than their ring fingers, as men do. And that this difference in length is more pronounced in gay men than in straight ones. [PAUSE HERE WHILE READERS EXAMINE FINGERS.] Another finding: If you want strangers to show you a finger, go to a street festival in San Francisco.