Danger leads all around. The Washington Post reports that the White House has begun to regard AIDS as a menace to security as well as to health. The New York Times leads with the State Department’s designation of South Asia as a hotbed of terrorism. The Los Angeles Times goes regional, reporting that soaring arrest rates for illegal immigration and drug trafficking on the U.S.-Mexico border are straining local judicial and corrections systems.
According to the Post’s lead, intelligence officials estimate that a quarter of southern Africa’s population is likely to die of AIDS, and that the disease threatens to rip through Asia and the former Soviet Union with similar ferocity. This research has prompted the White House to consider AIDS as “a threat to U.S. national security that could topple foreign governments, touch off ethnic wars and undo decades of work in building free-market democracies abroad.” In a response that its progenitors openly admit is too little, too late, the Clinton administration is now trying to boost spending on prevention and revise trade policy to ease the distribution of medication. In a first for a disease, the efforts are being spearheaded by the National Security Agency.
According to an advance copy of a State Department report obtained by the NYT, South Asia has displaced the Middle East as ground zero for terrorism. Specifically, Pakistan and Afghanistan are accused of spawning and harboring terrorists. Other trends: State-sponsored terrorism is down, vigilante attacks by rogue individuals and religious groups are up, and Syria, Cuba, and North Korea have all made significant progress.
The trial of the two Libyans suspected of engineering the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing is set to begin this week, and the WP wonders if investigators have amassed enough evidence to convict. One key witness is backtracking, and another has been accused of fudging evidence.
The NYT reports that Al Gore will ream into George W. Bush’s foreign policy’s chops today. Among Gore’s criticisms: Bush is ignorant, “stuck in a cold war time warp,” enamored of missile defense toys that will never work, and trapped under the thumb of isolationist congressional Republicans.
The WP kicks off a four-part series on the business side of politics with an outraged look at campaign consultants. The piece makes a successful case for clearing up disclosure rules for campaign spending on consultants, but some of its other points are less than stirring. Campaign spending this year promises to be double what it was in 1996. Reason being, the piece implies, the commission system consultants use: They decide how many ads to air, and the more ads they produce, the more they make. But don’t candidates and their campaign managers have final say over what to air and how frequently to air it? The article also frets over the consultants’ less-than-noble aims. “By their own account, consultants’ personal financial interests drive everything from which politicians they will work for to what advice they will give them,” the article says. “Money matters so much today that one-quarter of the consultants surveyed for American University said it’s why they’re in the business.” But hey, these are the goals that motivate every industry. And the Post seems just as offended by the top consultants’ decadent lifestyles as by their alleged abuses. “They winter in Hawaii and summer in Italy. They have country retreats, shiny new sport-utility vehicles and famous wine collections.”
The NYT recounts how DOJ and its state partners came to demand a breakup of Microsoft. The states had been shut out of the mediation hearings and were pleasantly surprised by the stringency of DOJ’s proposal. When the suit was originally filed, their remedy of choice was to force Microsoft to auction off the Windows source code to other companies, which could then sell their own modified versions. But the prosecutors soon discovered that high prices and complicated code would dissuade other companies from buying Microsoft’s goodies. A “wide research project” consisting of interviews with industry figures convinced DOJ that Microsoft would not abide by any conduct-related remedies at all.
A WP front-pager relays the surprising news that mass transit use is at a 40-year peak. Ridership is climbing faster than auto use. The story attributes the shift to generous federal spending on transit, flat fares, upgraded infrastructure, and decreasingly tolerable traffic conditions.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, and all three papers front commemorative stories. The NYT visits rural Vietnam and finds it mostly unchanged since the war, the WP gathers reminiscences from Vietnamese who have emigrated to the Washington area, and the LAT goes with an account of a vet who’s created a traveling replica of the memorial in Washington.
Back to political consultants: The WP piece includes a priceless ad placed in Campaigns & Elections magazine by the consulting team who helped Mafia-associated Oscar Goodman win the Las Vegas mayor’s race. “If we can elect a ‘mob mouthpiece,’ ” it reads, “imagine what we can do for you.”