Today's Papers

Juan for the Road

The Washington Post leads with the arrival in Washington, D.C., of Elián González’s father, Juan González (along with his second wife, their infant, and a senior Cuban diplomat), and the U.S. government’s initial failure to convince the boy’s Miami relatives to voluntarily relinquish their custody of Elián to Juan. These developments are also the top non-local story at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. The headlines at the WP and NYT stick to Juan’s arrival and the negotiations. The LAT is more dramatic: “ELIAN’S FATHER ARRIVES, SAYS HE FEARED FOR SON.” USA Today reefers the story, going instead with something nobody else fronts: the government’s forecast that gas prices will probably drop considerably by the onset of summer, although drivers will still end up paying about 25 percent more than they did in the summer of 1999.

The papers report that the size and intensity of the crowds surrounding the Miami house where Elián is staying increased during the day, with rumors flying that the U.S. government might swoop down and forcibly remove him. What’s really much more likely, say the papers, is that the government will send the Miami folks a letter telling them where to bring the boy and when. The NYT points out that if the Miami relatives do not comply, then they could face criminal contempt charges.

Everybody reports that in his tarmac remarks upon arriving yesterday morning, Juan González complained about the psychological and media pressure he thinks Elián has been subjected to while in the U.S. Only the LAT sees or stresses any particular anti-Americanism in Juan G.’s remarks. But that paper’s very first paragraph says the father “defiantly came to America and angrily rebuked the United States for making him ‘fear for the safety of his son.’ “

The LAT, USAT, and Wall Street Journal reefer word that a private company, the Celera Corp., has announced it is in a position to assemble a complete map of a human being’s 80,000 or so genes within three to six weeks, far earlier than expected, and apparently ahead of a publicly financed academic collaborative effort that started work on the project much earlier.

The NYT goes inside with a World Health Organization report concluding that more than two-thirds of the world’s nations are failing to supply safe blood to their own populations, thereby significantly adding to the spread of HIV and hepatitis. The countries with the most suspect blood supplies are the world’s poorest, comprising 80 percent of the world’s population. If there’s good news here, it’s that blood safety in Latin America and the Caribbean has improved dramatically in the past five years.

The LAT fronts, and the NYT carries inside, a federal jury’s finding yesterday that Consumer Reports falsely reported in 1995 that the Isuzu Trooper SUV had a dangerous propensity to roll over during sharp, emergency turns. But the jury refused to impose any financial penalty on the nonprofit organization that puts out the magazine. One sign of the Rashomon angle here is that both the car company and the publication issued victory statements afterward. Another is headlines: The LAT tags the story “JURY FINDS MAGAZINE ERRED IN ISUZU CRITIQUE,” while the NYT (online at least) goes with “JURY DENIES ISUZU DAMAGES IN LAWSUIT AGAINST MAGAZINE.”

USAT goes long with a front-page “cover story” about the dangers lurking at the nation’s amusement parks. The six park-ride deaths last summer were the most in a decade, the paper reports, and the number of injuries is also on the rise. The 9,200 people treated for ride-related injuries in 1998 represent a 24 percent increase over 1994. There is, explains USAT, no federal regulation of amusement parks and only limited regulation of traveling carnivals. The stringency of state laws varies tremendously, with 11 states not even requiring ride inspections.

On Wednesday, at a meeting in the Capitol, a Republican congressman urged Bill Gates to give more money to the GOP. The WSJ and WP report that now House Democrats want the Ethics committee to study whether that constituted improperly soliciting funds on federal property.

A letter to the NYT raises a fresh point about gays in the military. If open homosexuality among service members threatens morale and unit cohesion, then how can the U.S. possibly continue to allow its forces to serve with those from NATO countries? After all, many NATO armies are open to open gays.