Today's Papers

Ray of Hopelessness

The Washington Post leads with an exclusive based on an interview with Ken Starr’s successor Robert Ray: The independent counsel “is actively considering seeking an indictment against the president after he leaves office.” The charges being considered, says the paper, include perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, and conspiracy to commit these crimes, all arising in connection with various statements President Clinton made under oath during the Lewinsky matter. USA Today leads with yet another unpredicted consequence of the Internet: Apparently, the ability of consumers to price-shop online for airline tickets has propelled air travel to very high volume levels despite two fare hikes already this year. (Inside stories at the Post and the New York Times report that a new academic study says airline service continues to dip, however, with passenger complaints climbing in every category but baggage handling.) The NYT goes with concerns about vote-rigging in the Peruvian presidential election, based on the contrast between the initial assessment of independent election monitors that incumbent Alberto Fujimori would be forced into a runoff with his closest challenger, Alejandro Toledo, and the latest Peruvian government tally indicating that Fujimori may have indeed won the simple majority required to avoid a second election. The Times explains the predicament this presents to the U.S.–trying to balance support for democratic principles against Fujimori’s value as a key ally in the drug wars who has managed to suppress the sort of narco-guerrilla movements that plague neighboring Colombia. Peru is also the top non-local news story at the Los Angeles Times, which emphasizes the large street protests that Toledo has been leading. Both papers quote unusually pointed State Department pronouncements that despite the official results, the U.S. expects a second-round election to be conducted.

The news of the Post lead is that contrary to the general perception, Ray is not winding down the independent counsel’s office, indeed he has recently added six lawyers and an investigator to his staff.

The NYT also fronts an exclusive: Microsoft has quietly hired Ralph Reed, a senior consultant to George W. Bush and former head of the Christian Coalition, to lobby Bush in the hopes that the presumptive Republican nominee will speak out against the government antitrust case and perhaps take a softer approach to Microsoft if he’s elected president. The story is based on e-mails sent from Reed’s company to Bush supporters, one of whom apparently didn’t agree with the project. A Microsoft spokesman is quoted saying that Reed’s firm was hired to get the company’s point of view across to Al Gore too, but the Times says the strategy is “much more closely aimed at the Bush campaign.”

The WP fronts a report from a National Academy of Sciences panel that concluded there is no scientific evidence that taking large amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, or selenium or beta carotene can reduce chances of getting cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s. The panel established for the first time ever upper dose levels for a number of supplements including vitamins C and E. The paper says the findings could have an huge adverse impact on the booming multivitamin industry.

Everybody reports that the Supreme Court announced yesterday it’s going online, at, starting next Monday. Featured at the site will be opinions and argument schedules, currently very hard for the average person to obtain.

The Wall Street Journal and the NYT report inside that an FDA panel–whose conclusions are usually accepted by the agency–has backed for consumer use an anti-impotence drug that would compete with Viagra. Where Viagra works on increasing blood flow to the penis, The new drug, Uprima, works on the parts of the brain that control erections and takes effect in only 15 minutes, compared with Viagra’s hour. The Journal says there are some side effects, mentioning slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, fainting, dizziness, drowsiness, and sweating. The Times dispatch refers to “worrisome side effects” and elaborates: One in 30 men who tested the stuff fainted or suffered seriously low blood pressure, a few fell and hit their heads, and one crashed his car into a fence. One FDA science adviser is quoted by the Times as saying some people will “probably lose their lives” on the drug because they pass out at the top of the stairs or are operating a car.

The Pulitzers were announced yesterday and all the fronts except USAT’s pay homage. The WP took three, and another reporter who won for his work at the WSJ now is at the Post as well. This is the first year since 1985 that the NYT, which has cumulatively won the most, wasn’t awarded any. The two newspaper winners that stand out the most to Today’s Papers are a WP series on the mistreatment of mentally retarded people–including fatal mistreatment–in local city-run group homes, and an AP effort establishing that American forces killed hundreds of unarmed Korean civilians during the early days of the Korean War. Both involved strenuous fact-finding but more special still, they were undertaken to speak for those who can’t. Wow.


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