Today's Papers

Custody’s Last Stand?

Everybody leads with a federal court’s ruling yesterday that Elián González must remain in the U.S. until that court hears an appeal of the government ruling that would send him back to Cuba. All the majors with pictures front shots of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, which was dedicated at a ceremony in which President Clinton was the main speaker. The memorial consists of empty chairs at the site of the outrage, each one slightly different, with 19 of them smaller, representing the children among the murdered.

USA Today calls the court’s decision in the González case “strongly worded” and everybody notes that, although the court’s immediate concern was the procedural question of whether to issue an injunction keeping Elián in the country, it surprisingly got into the substantive issue of whether or not the boy had an independent right to seek asylum–suggesting that he had–and into the issue of whether the Immigration and Naturalization Service had taken proper account of his stated wishes–suggesting that it had not. Indeed, report the papers, the court scolds the government for not even speaking to the boy about this. The Washington Post adds that the court observed that Elián had “personally signed an application for asylum,” the paper adding that this was a reference to the word “Elián” “in a childish scrawl” on the bottom of some paperwork submitted by his great-uncle, Lázaro.

USAT waits until near the end of its story to describe how Elián’s Miami relatives were buoyed by the decision, while the WP and the New York Times put that in the first sentence. The Los Angeles Times gives its first paragraph over to emphasizing that the decision does not bar Janet Reno from taking the boy from his Miami relations and reuniting him with his father. The paper goes on to say that the ruling puts increased pressure on Reno to forcibly do so.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to an INS official, the ruling and the coming Easter weekend make any such reunion “unlikely.” But both the LAT and the NYT refer to a statement made last night on Nightline by one of Lázaro’s lawyers to the effect that the Miami family is ready to take Elián anywhere in the U.S. to meet his father.

The USAT front goes long with an account of the investigation that led to the arrest of a 15-year-old Montreal boy (as yet unnamed, but screen-named “mafiaboy”) in last February’s massive denial of service attacks on such major portals as Yahoo! and The story says that investigators homed in on the kid after eight days and that they actually monitored his computer use (his home is four blocks from Royal Canadian Mounted Police HQ, says the paper) for almost two months before arresting him. The account says fellow hackers helped in fingering the boy, primarily by reporting his online boasts of his exploits. For right now, he is being charged only in connection with the assault on, although, says USAT, he is suspected of knowing about stoppages at Yahoo!,, eBay, and E-Trade as well. The LAT front-pager on mafiaboy’s arrest goes the other way, suggesting that he is very unsophisticated (one computer administrator is quoted calling him “relatively boneheaded”) and hence not likely to be connected to those other Web attacks. Ditto for the WP front-pager, which assesses mafiaboy as probably a “copycat.”

USAT says the suspect is looking at 20 years if convicted as an adult, but doesn’t mention what happens if he’s convicted as a juvenile. The NYT inside effort ignores the adult possibilities but reports the juvenile ones: up to two years and a fine of $1,000. For right now, though, the story says, he is living at home but banned from associating with three specific friends, from using computers for anything besides schoolwork, and from getting on the Internet.

Right next to a fun piece about undergraduate venture capitalists, the WSJ riles with an excruciating look at the death from beating, electro-shock, and exposure of a 58-year-old widow at the hands of Communist government torturers. Her crime? Practicing Falun Gong–Tai Chi, basically.

Both USAT and the NYT front two new studies suggesting that, contrary to widely offered medical advice, a high-fiber diet does not prevent the recurrence of potentially cancerous colo-rectal polyps.

The WP fronts what it calls John McCain’s “stunning reversal” in the matter of South Carolina’s official use of a Confederate flag. McCain went to the state capital, Columbia, yesterday to say that during the state’s presidential primary, he had impugned his own integrity by failing to call for removing the flag from the statehouse roof. McCain said that he didn’t take that stance because he was afraid of losing the primary. According to the story, McCain was called “a liar and a coward” almost right away by one of his former supporters in the state, but others praised him.

The WP goes inside with a government report showing that the nation’s prison population has recently begun growing more slowly, although it is still on track to hit 2 million next year. Main reasons for growth: rising drug offenders and immigration violators and longer sentences. The paper says a typical drug sentence grew from 26 months to 42 months in 1997. (The Post doesn’t explain “typical” here.) According to the story, one in every nine African-American men in their 20s and early 30s is behind bars, compared to one in 25 Hispanic men, and one in 65 Anglo men.

The NYT tells of an unwieldy title transfer that can only happen when academe meets media: Alex S. Jones will be leaving his post as Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism at Duke University to become director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


For more political news, go to Slate’s Politics page.