Today's Papers

Secrets Unlocked? Laws Unheeded?

The Washington Post leads with the U.S. government’s claim that America’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, has, in the conduct of its satellite business in China, violated arms export control law. The story includes Lockheed’s strong denial of wrongdoing. The Wall Street Journal flags the story atop its front-page world-wide news box, but nobody else fronts it. The USA Today lead is a DOJ/state attorneys general investigation into drug industry pricing practices that may have resulted in Medicare and Medicaid overpayments of more than $1 billion per year. The basic problem, the paper explains, is that drug companies set prices billed to the government artificially high, which induces doctors to buy their product because when they make purchases below the official rate, they legally can pocket the difference. The New York Times lead adds new detail to the general-on-general sex harassment allegation roiling the U.S. Army, revealing for the first time the identity of the accused officer (sourcing it to “four senior officials familiar with the case”) and reporting that he was slated to become the Army’s deputy inspector general, a position responsible for investigating accusations of service members’ wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct. It was this promotion, reports the Times, that prompted the complaining officer to formally raise charges she had previously only made informally. The Los Angeles Times leads with the federal indictment on civil rights charges of one current and one former LAPD officer in connection with allegations they falsely claimed a man they arrested was carrying a weapon.

The charges made against Lockheed are similar, says the Post, to those lodged in 1998 against two other companies with satellite business in China: Hughes Electronics and Loral. The paper says, however, that the government is only initiating a civil case against Lockheed, but it never explains why. The government says that after assessing a satellite rocket motor being used by a private Hong Kong concern, Lockheed distributed a report about it to that company and to another Chinese outfit. This was problematic, the story explains, because the former report was allegedly not the redacted version approved by the Pentagon, and the other, although properly edited, was sent to a wholly state-owned company, thereby, it’s claimed, violating rules against disseminating information that could enhance the Chinese government space program.

The LAT and WP front word that an independent counsel determined that Labor Secretary Alexis Herman should not be indicted on influence-peddling charges. The others put the story inside, although the NYT fronts Herman’s picture. It seems to Today’s Papers that putting such a story inside violates the parity of placement principle: When accusations of scumbaggery make Page One, then their deflation should as well.

The papers report inside that the House yesterday passed, for the third time, a ban on a particular third-trimester abortion procedure. And they also report that there aren’t enough Senate votes to override the almost certainly forthcoming presidential veto. Following recent journalistic custom, the stories at first refer to the procedure along the lines of “what opponents call ‘partial birth’ abortions.” The circumlocution has been adapted because the papers don’t want to appear to beg the question of when life begins. But it would seem that the forgoing formulation has the opposite tendency, in that it savors of scare quotes, suggesting that the opponents are cracked. Far better, it seems, would be a more neutral term like “partial delivery” abortion. By the way, in both the WP and NYT accounts of the vote, a brutally frank extended description of the procedure does appear, much higher in the Post.

The WP fronts Bill Gates’ appearance in Washington for meetings on Capitol Hill and for a White House summit on the new economy. Several fronts feature pictures of the leader of the free world sitting next to Bill Clinton. The Post flatly states high up that the Gates tour kicked off a campaign “aimed at influencing the outcome of [the] antitrust case.” The story also communicates a good deal of fawning by Hill Republicans, quoting Rep. Dick Armey saying, “I’d rather break up the Justice Department.” And a WSJ story is headlined, “GOP CALLS MICROSOFT PROSECUTION ‘OVERZEALOUS,’ SEEKS INVESTIGATION.” The story says Republicans are planning to make the Microsoft case a political issue with hopes of tying it to Al Gore and then makes the point that this could backfire by drying up donations from Microsoft’s Silicon Valley competitors.

The papers report that Elián’s dad is expected to arrive in Washington, D.C., today, which may indeed accelerate closure of the whole controversy. Meanwhile, the WP’s Richard Cohen makes a gimlet observation about conservatives who are excoriating the Clinton administration’s return-Elián stance: Didn’t a lot of them bitterly criticize Hillary Clinton for two law review articles she wrote saying there were extreme circumstances where a child’s welfare trumped parental authority?

Tuesday night, George W. Bush issued a press release about his good day in the primaries, which said, “Thank you, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Kansas.” The WP reports a small problem with this: There was no Kansas primary.


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