Today's Papers

Hacker in Hack?

USA Today leads with the arrest by Canadian authorities of a juvenile computer hacker in connection with February’s extensive denial of service attack against Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, and other commercial sites. The paper says that details will come in a Montreal press conference today. The development is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post goes with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision limiting the federal judiciary’s power to reverse state court rulings in death penalty cases. The LAT and USAT run the decision inside. The top non-local story at the New York Times is the decision by the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights not to act on a U.S.-sponsored resolution criticizing China’s human rights record. Right at the top, the paper calls the non-action “an embarrassing defeat for the Clinton administration.” The WP’s inside effort has one American supporter of censure suggesting that a big reason for the outcome was that President Clinton had not played a more active role. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page biz news index with yesterday’s Nasdaq and Dow rallies, which nobody else fronts.

Both the Post and the NYT, which top-fronts the court’s death penalty decision, claim that the court could have completely eliminated federal review of state death case rulings but chose instead a somewhat less conservative course according to which the state court ruling can still be reversed provided it’s held by the higher court to be objectively unreasonable. The upshot is that the death penalty appeal process will take less time than it did before 1996 when Congress passed streamlining legislation.

The WP off-leads the most strident comments yet from South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki about AIDS in Africa. The paper reports that in a letter recently dispatched via diplomatic pouch to heads of state including President Clinton (and made available to the WP, which got the letter’s authenticity confirmed), Mbeki urges Africans to chart their own course on the disease, even to the point of seeking help from scientists who dispute the prevailing view on the cause and treatment of it. More strongly still, he writes it “would constitute a criminal betrayal of our responsibility to our own people” to mimic foreign approaches to AIDS.

Both the WP and NYT run inside stories on the escalating tensions in Zimbabwe between black land squatters and the tiny minority of whites who own (says the Post) about a third of the country’s best land. This week, squatters killed two more white farmers. And the nation’s president Robert Mugabe (roundly condemned by a WSJ editorial yesterday) hasn’t exactly put his foot down. Both papers say he’s made murky statements about the situation including expressions of regret and also tough ones criticizing the whites as “enemies.” The WP puts the “enemies” talk first, the murk lower down. The NYT reverses the order.

The day’s big Elián news is carried inside everywhere: that a pediatrician brought in to advise the government in the matter has written a letter to Janet Reno and the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service opining that the crisis has “taken a profound turn for the worse.” The doctor concludes that the boy “is now in a state of imminent danger to his physical and emotional well-being in a home that I consider to be psychologically abusive” and says there is no justification whatsoever to wait any longer in carrying out a legally appropriate response. The doctor likens the infamous video to what comes out of hostage situations. “We think the child should be rescued,” he’s quoted as saying in the NYT. A tough, tough Maureen Dowd column, “Never on Sunday, Monday or …” lampoons Reno’s indecisiveness in the crisis, pinning it mostly on Waco flashbacks and the Miami riots that occurred when she was a prosecutor there. (Although perhaps Dowd’s at her most venomous in dissing Hillary: “[S]he’s too busy actualizing her self-worth in New York to worry about a real child’s psyche being razed by a vengeful village.”) A WP inside effort says that Reno spends most of her 14-hour days on Elián, but that according to people familiar with her handling of the case, she has lost perspective. None of the papers mentions a clear connection between Waco and Elián that the doctor’s report cements into place: It was reports of child abuse occurring at the Koresh compound that emboldened Reno to authorize tactical action there.