The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with North and South Korea’s announcements early today that their leaders would meet in the first-ever summit between the two countries. The meeting will take place in June in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The story also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page world-wide news index. The early edition of the Washington Post doesn’t have Korea on its front, but goes with a congressional report scheduled for release today showing that in 1997 and 1998, among Americans returning from overseas, black women were nearly twice as likely to be strip-searched on suspicion of drug smuggling as white men and women. And black women were three times as likely as black men to get strip-searched. USA Today goes with Senate hearings starting today looking into abuses into what the paper at one point calls the “death care industry.” Much attention will be paid to “pre-need” arrangements, in which a person pays for his/her own funeral arrangements and burial plot prior to giving up a life-long air addiction. One case to be highlighted, says the paper, is an 86-year-old stroke victim (still alive) who was pressured into buying a $132,000 funeral. For the first time in a while, none of the papers fronts Elián González.
Both Korea leads agree on the reason that historically intransigent North Korea made the invitation, put this way in the LAT by a South Korean government official: “North Korea desperately needs external assistance.” This is a reference to the country’s free fall and widespread malnutrition. The NYT says issues to be addressed at the talks will be “economic cooperation, reunification of separated families and political reconciliation.” The LAT mentions the symbolism of the summit date, which is just two weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. Although both stories are suggestive, neither flatly states a background fact that makes the summit all the more striking: The two countries are still technically at war. That was only a truce they signed back in 1953.
The WP lead suggests that Customs, which conducts the searches in question, is determined to curtail purely racial profiling. Plus, by placing 10 body-scan machines at major airports, the agency will be cutting down on the number of strip-searches it performs. The story confuses, however, on a very basic point. In the second paragraph, it states that the disproportion in searches was “not justified by a higher rate of discovery of contraband among minority groups.” But in the 26th paragraph, it states, “According to Customs data from Oct. 1, 1999, to March 31, 2000, more African Americans and Hispanics than whites were X-rayed, but Customs found drugs in more than half the cases involving minorities.” It would have been helpful if the story had said what the hit rate was among those whites, but if it was appreciably less than half, then the current practice (at least as regards decisions to X-ray) is not so off the mark, is it? At least not as off as the top of the story suggests.
The LAT is alone among the majors in fronting the grounding of the four remaining Osprey experimental aircraft after Saturday night’s crash that killed 19 Marines.
The WP passes along a TV Guide story saying that CNN and NPR have stopped using interns from the Army’s Psychological Operations branch. The reason, according to the Post, is they raised “questions about the news organizations’ independence from the military establishment they cover.” Huh? By that reasoning, media outlets couldn’t use interns who are in the National Guard or the reserves either. Or be owned by mega-corporations …
The NYT reports inside that in an insider trading trial underway in New York, the judge had to rule on whether or not the true occupation of an X-rated film star could be mentioned in open court. The prosecution wanted to, but the defense, fearing an inflammatory affect on its client, accused of giving illicit stock tips to the woman, did not. The judge ruled with the defense, says the paper, holding that such information would be “unduly prejudicial and distracting.” Maybe the NYT should have mentioned that the judge, Kimba Wood, has a unique perspective on this issue, having once been a Bunny trainee in the London Playboy Club.
Saturday’s TP inadvertently increased the budget surplus. That “$1.8 billion” in projected federal spending should have been “$1.8 trillion.”
In a letter to the WP, an official of the parent company of Ringling Brothers defends the circus’ treatment of elephants. But what truly fascinates is not that, but the sign-off. The missive comes, the reader learns, from the firm’s vice president for government relations. Hey, it really is true–every clown does have a lobbyist.
For more political news, go to Slate’s Politics page.