Today's Papers

Atomic Balm

The New York Times and USA Today lead with situation reports on the Elián saga–although because of late-breaking developments, they don’t report the same situation. The Washington Post, which off-leads Elián, leads with plans the Clinton administration is expected to announce today for compensating thousands of atomic workers for the extensive medical problems they’ve experienced as a result of radiation exposure suffered while working in government bomb facilities. The NYT puts the story above the fold, but it’s absent from the remaining fronts. The Los Angeles Times goes with a story nobody else fronts: A federal appeals court has ruled that Border Patrol agents may not consider a person’s Hispanic appearance as a factor in deciding whether to stop for questioning motorists coming across the U.S.-Mexico border. A fact that goes a long way toward supporting this decision is buried in the story: The California county on the U.S. side of the case’s border crossing is 73 percent Hispanic.

The coverage reports that yesterday the feds were making arrangements for a Thursday transfer of Elián in Florida, but according to the NYT and USAT, late in the day the boy’s Miami relatives agreed to bring him to his father in Washington instead. But shortly before midnight ET, that deal apparently fell through, and one of the boy’s great-uncles, Lázaro González, told the press the reason was that Elián didn’t want to go. The last-minutedness of all this put the papers up against it: The lead headline in the late edition of the NYT reads, “MIAMI RELATIVES TO RETURN CUBAN CHILD TO HIS FATHER,” but the Times online version of the story includes the latest contretemps. USAT was able to make-over its front so that the headline reflects the change. And the Nation’s Newspaper has the most inflammatory detail about all this: Lázaro G. saying that Elián ripped up a newspaper picture of his father.

The Post lead explains that the atomic worker compensation program, which will include an office for certifying individual claims and will offer both $100,000 lump sum payoffs as well as negotiated individual packages, is a complete break with the government’s long tradition of contesting atomic worker claims. The story suggests that several hundred thousand people may be in a position to make claims, mostly concerning cancer.

The NYT and LAT front a London court’s clearing of American Holocaust studies professor Deborah Lipstadt of libel charges brought by British writer David Irving. In a scathing ruling, the trial judge declared that Irving was a racist Holocaust denier. And under the British “loser pays” rule, both papers note that Irving could now be looking at legal bills of $3 million.

The WP goes top front with a wrenching story about the return of drought-based famine to the Horn of Africa, immediately endangering as many as 16 million people. As always, the paper reports, the most vulnerable are the children. There are many situations reported on in the papers where it’s hard to know what to think or do. This is not one of them. When you put down this column, make a donation to Oxfam.

The NYT has the follow to its revelation yesterday that George W. Bush adviser and ex-Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed had been retained by Microsoft to get GWB to see things its way: Reed apologized for lobbying the governor on behalf of Microsoft and promised not to lobby him again for Microsoft or anybody else. The story describes the Bush campaign as “obviously irritated,” and says that according to a campaign official, Bush had not known that Reed’s organization was lobbying him. One hole in the story: Does Reed give back any money to Microsoft, since his job responsibilities just got pared back?

Another interesting follow: In light of yesterday’s WP revelations that the independent counsel was seriously considering indicting President Clinton after he leaves office, the White House yesterday flatly said, as reported in today’s Post, that even so, Clinton would not pardon himself.

Back to that British libel trial for a beat: The headline over the LAT effort–“HISTORIAN LOSES LIBEL SUIT ON HOLOCAUST VIEW”–is not one of the great ones. Since both plaintiff and defendant were historians, it tells you exactly nothing.


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