Today's Papers

Bailout for the Bailout

The Los Angeles Times leads with news that the fires in Los Alamos may cause the release of chemical and low-level radioactive waste in the Rio Grande. The Washington Post leads with an unreleased Pentagon report that endorses a missile defense plan the Clinton administration doesn’t support. The New York Times lead says Asia’s economies are roaring again. One investment bank estimates that the region’s economy will grow 7.1 percent this year. The news, according to the paper, should bring good cheer to the International Monetary Fund, which has been heavily criticized for mismanaging its nearly $100 billion bailout of Asian countries in 1997.

The LAT says chemical and radioactive contamination will result from erosion caused by the Los Alamos fire. The paper quotes a lab spokesman as saying it’s only a matter of time before the toxins spill into areas off lab grounds. The paper also notes that Los Alamos’ nuclear weapons lab sustained more damage than officials first stated–though it says the lab’s overall mission of “guaranteeing the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile” was not compromised. The story also contains this sentence, “Federal and state agencies have not detected any release of radiation from the lab, although local background radiation readings have increased because of the fire.” Do fires, even if they are not near low-level radiation dumps, often cause higher Geiger counter readings? Explain, please.

The Pentagon has prepared a report stating that a ship-based missile defense is a better idea than the White House’s plan for land-based interceptors. The WP writes paraphrases “senior defense officials” saying, “Top civilian officials at the Pentagon are now holding up release of the report, which was due to have gone to Congress in declassified form six weeks ago.” Besides being cheaper, more reliable, and technically feasible, the sea-based system also has the advantage of angering fewer countries. The anti-missile ships could be deployed solely off the coasts of rogue nations. Russia, in other words, could still sleep at night knowing that if we bomb Moscow by mistake, it could still blast New York. M.A.D. survives. 

The article also spends three paragraphs on one Theodore A. Postol,  “a prominent defense expert who … came to Washington this week to challenge the Pentagon with scientific findings that, in his view, show a fatal technological flaw in the administration’s plans.” While Postol is a missile defense expert, the WP doesn’t mention that he was a critic of missile defense before his announcement of a “fatal flaw” in the administration’s plans.

The WP fronts news, which the NYT stuffs and leaves to the AP, that rebels in Sierra Leone have released 180 of the 250 remaining U.N troops who have been held hostage. The freed peacekeepers were turned over at the border with Liberia after Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia and an ally of the rebels, pushed for their release.

The WP’s off-lead reports that use of testosterone-replacement therapy could increase dramatically next month when a new, easy-to-use gel form of the treatment is introduced. According to the FDA, 4 to 5 million men suffer from low testosterone levels, which causes extreme interest in Woody Allen movies (joke) and could be linked to “depression, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction.” Many researchers are skeptical. As the article summarizes, “Is it really necessary or appropriate, some are asking, for a 65-year-old man to have his testosterone levels restored to what was coursing through his veins at 25?” One key issue is testosterone’s potential link to prostate cancer. 

Both the NYT and WP go inside with worsening developments in next week’s Peruvian elections. An election-observer team from the Organization of American States, which was backed by a number of governments, including the United States, has withdrawn from Peru in protest. The pullout came after the Peruvian government rejected requests to delay the vote in order to ensure a fair election. President Clinton has condemned Peru’s decision, and sanctions may follow.

Car insurance premiums are on the rise again, says a front-page story in the NYT. The most likely reason for the modest, and uneven, rise is that insurance companies are trying to recover from very unprofitable price wars.  But the story’s evidence isn’t overwhelming. The two largest car insurance companies, State Farm and Allstate, have lowered rates in more states than either has raised them.

The LAT fronts a new analysis saying that Vice President Gore’s campaign has “seemingly drifted” while Texas Governor Bush has “seized the upper hand.” Gore is meeting with Democratic leaders to assure them that, no, he is not adrift.  The WP takes a different tack and reports that President Clinton is antsy to help Gore attack Bush. Gore, wanting to distance himself from the president, has declined the offer. But Clinton, well, according to Ed Rendell, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, “The president is anxious to do stuff.”