Today's Papers

Buy Two, They’re Small

The Washington Post leads with the release by Sierra Leone rebel forces of the last of the nearly 500 U.N. peacekeeping troops they’d taken captive earlier this month. The Los Angeles Times also fronts the release but goes instead with the key role major corporations are taking in funding the upcoming Democratic and Republican Conventions. (The headline over the online version of the story says the story only covers the Democrats, but in fact it covers both, although the Democrats were more forthcoming with details about the companies involved.) The New York Times goes with a cheering nationwide trend: As the violent crime drop continues, once-blighted neighborhoods are showing glimmers of renaissance.

The WP reports that the Sierra Leone prisoner release was, like some of the earlier deals, brokered by Liberian president Charles Taylor, a longtime sponsor of the Sierra Leone rebels, who was asked to intercede by West African and U.S. officials. The story says that most of the peacekeepers captured surrendered peacefully but that some engaged the rebels, and indeed some–all Zambians–died doing so. On the whole, the returnees are, say the papers, in good shape, although some reported rough treatment by their captors. The LAT says the return helps get Sierra Leone’s peace accord back on track, while the WP sees in it primarily the end of a humiliation for the U.N. and the resuscitation of congressional support of U.N. peacekeeping missions.

The LAT lead reports that both Microsoft and AT&T–described by the paper as two firms with “extensive, contested, coast-to-coast interests”–are near the top of the donor lists, with each making separate $1 million (cash and/or services) contributions to each of the conventions. (Who is at the top? The paper doesn’t say.) Other companies going both ways include: DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, and UPS. One difference is that the Republicans are getting $250,000 from Philip Morris, but the Democrats have sworn off all convention financing from tobacco companies.

The LAT and NYT front, while the WP deep-stuffs, the apparent election win in Peru of the incumbent Alberto Fujimori. The coverage explains that this is a hollow victory, since Fujimori’s opponent boycotted the election, citing vote fraud. Fujimori’s unwillingness to delay the election until independent monitors could address fairness concerns may result in economic sanctions being leveled against Peru by a number of countries, including the U.S.

The NYT goes front and long saying that although millions of Americans have signed living wills thinking this would enable them to avoid unwanted medical treatment and a lingering death, in many cases the measures prove to be useless. The main reasons, according to the Times: People lose or forget them, they are too vaguely written, or medical personnel override them anyway out of fear of legal retribution. The story appears under the banal headline: “AT LIFE’S END, MANY PATIENTS ARE DENIED PEACEFUL PASSING.” Why not “LIVING WILLS TOO OFTEN USELESS”?

The WP fronts the current Miss America’s support of veterans’ issues. The story says her father was shot in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange, which left her with a congenital rash. The point of Memorial Day is also driven home by sober editorials at the WP and NYT. Memorial Day seems like a good day to ask if we should broaden the way we think about war dead. Most soldiers killed in war have been as non-ideological as U.S. troops. And indeed, in the Vietnam war at least, even the committed enemy wasn’t always obviously evil. So maybe the papers should take a little wider view. If the topic is Agent Orange, maybe they should put a little more stress on how neither the U.S. government nor the manufacturer has ever spent a dime to relieve the suffering of the Vietnamese people the U.S. hit with the stuff. If the topic is MIAs, how about a little attention paid to whether the U.S. government has done enough to solve riddles about folks who’ve disappeared because of U.S. military actions? The papers make it clear that nowadays the biggest producer of war dead is tribalism, so let’s work at being less tribal.