Today's Papers

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The New York Times leads with the decision of the Senate Republican leadership to hold hearings next week on the Department of Justice’s decision to carry out an armed raid to extract Elián González. USA Today leads with yesterday’s arguments before the Supreme Court about whether Nebraska’s “partial-birth abortion” ban would also bar procedures the court has already upheld as legal, which is also the top non-local story at the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

The NYT lead is actually an Elián situation report, covering besides the hearings, all the story’s principal Tuesday developments, including: Al Gore’s first post-raid statement, in which he said he “would have handled it differently” with an emphasis on having a state family court adjudicate the dispute; the movement of Elián, his father, stepmother, and half-brother from an air base to a secluded Maryland conference center; the decision by the State Department to allow four Cuban schoolmates of Elián’s to come visit him there; an appeals court ruling that forbids taking the boy to any diplomatic location; and the closed-door Capitol Hill appearance of Janet Reno that prompted the Republicans’ call for formal hearings. Most of these items are covered on the other fronts as well, but with a difference in emphasis. For instance, the WP doesn’t mention Gore’s stance until after the jump, under a headline that makes no reference to him.

The coverage of the abortion arguments highlights the doubts expressed yesterday by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whom most observers view as the swing vote in the case. O’Connor said it was “difficult” to read the Nebraska statute without thinking that it banned not only a third-trimester procedure but also a second-trimester procedure that the court has already expressly protected. The consensus of the coverage is that the Nebraska law will be thrown out, but the NYT is the only paper that flatly says as much in its headline. All the papers note that the discussion was subdued, with the justices letting the lawyers go on for long stretches without interruption and with only Justice Antonin Scalia striving at all to, in the NYT’s phrase, “raise the rhetorical stakes” by focusing on the gruesome details of late-term abortions. The WP, in commenting on the protests staged yesterday outside the Supreme Court, writes: “[P]olice arrested 23 antiabortion protesters for refusing to take down a free-standing sign that was larger than federal regulation.” Now, that’s large.

The NYT off-lead, by the paper’s national crime reporter, Fox Butterfield, a story nobody else fronts, is that a new comprehensive study purports to show that black and Hispanic teen-agers are treated more severely than their white counterparts in the juvenile-justice system. Findings include: “Among young people who have not been sent to a juvenile prison before, blacks are more than six times as likely as whites to be sentenced by juvenile courts to prison.” And: “Similarly, white youths charged with violent offenses are incarcerated for an average of 193 days after trial, but blacks are incarcerated an average of 254 days and Hispanics are incarcerated an average of 305 days.” The story says that although in the past, when studies have found racial disparities in say, the number of inmates, critics have said the cause was simply that minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crime, this study is different in that it finds disparities at each stage of the juvenile-justice process. This would be important and disturbing news, which is why it’s important journalism to run down some issues the story seems to leave untethered. For instance, as regards that trans-racial comparison among people who have not been sent to juvenile prison before, has it been adjusted for equal numbers of prior convictions and for equal seriousness of the crime? If not, then it may be the prior number of blown chances and the gravity of the crimes that are pushing the offender into prison for the first time, not his/her race. A similar point can be made about violent offenses–they come in degrees of gravity, and if one group’s offenses cluster around one degree of gravity and another’s cluster around another, then the difference in jail time served may be an artifact not of race but of the type of violent crime committed. Even the study’s claim that “minority youths are more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested” needs more exegesis than the Times gives it here. If somebody isn’t arrested, how do we know he’s in any relevant sense a “counterpart” of the person who is? Maybe he’s law-abiding, in which case his not being arrested isn’t prejudice, it’s justice.

Fresh polling covered in USAT’s front-page “cover story” reveals a relatively unnoticed problem Al Gore has, a sort of reverse gender gap–men prefer George W. Bush (by a margin of 17 percentage points) and white men really prefer him (by 26 points). The piece claims that to win in November, even given his advantage over Bush with white women and blacks in general, Gore will need to cut Bush’s guy gap in half.

The NYT front and the WP inside say that the Congressional Budget Office stated yesterday that the national missile shield the Clinton Administration has been contemplating would cost roughly twice what the Pentagon had said–as much as $60 billion. Thus raising the question–if they can’t hit the target price, how’re they gonna hit the target?

The Wall Street Journal and WP run editorials decrying China’s continued abuse of Falun Gong adherents (and in the case of the Post, North Korean refugees as well). Yesterday, the papers report, more Gongists were arrested when they converged in protest on Tiananmen Square. Where’s the Clinton administration on this one?

Don’t tell Joel Klein, but a WSJ front-pager suggests another grave sin Microsoft is committing. Because the company’s easy-to-use PowerPoint program has become so popular among officers, the average military brief, which just a few years ago was based on about a dozen slides, now typically includes in the neighborhood of a hundred. According to the Journal, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs recently sent out a message saying ixnay on all the elaborate presentations. And e-mailing these kludgefests, says the paper, has actually gobbled up so much classified bandwidth that more critical military communications have been hampered. And the secretary of the Army is quoted suggesting that tedious PowerPoint presentations are alienating lawmakers from supporting new weapons programs. Caveat to Microsoft: As bad as it was when the DOJ got ticked off, they don’t have nukes …

The WP editorial page is topped by this “clarification”: “In a Sunday editorial about the Elián González case, the letters “ohhoh” appeared in the middle of the text. They were not part of the editorial as written or edited, and should not have been printed.” Homework assignment for readers: How did those letters get there and what do they stand for?


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