Today's Papers

Crimson Tidying

USA Today leads with the murder indictment and surrender into custody of two former Ku Klux Klansmen in connection with the infamous 1963 Birmingham, Ala., church bombing that killed four young black girls. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times go with two congressional committees’ (one House, one Senate) approval by wide margins of the bill that would establish permanent normal trade ties between the U.S. and China. Both stories give the impression the votes mean that prospects for final passage are much improved. The NYT fronts a separate story about George W. Bush’s endorsement of the Clinton-Gore-driven bill yesterday. The China bill is also the top non-local story at the Washington Post, which is the only major that stuffs the church bombing arrests.

The USAT lead compels by fronting pictures of the four fresh-faced victims, the only paper to do so. The NYT does likewise with the detail that the bomb “blew the face of Jesus out of a stained glass window.” USAT and the NYT say the bomb was planted under the church, while the WP says it was hurled from a passing car.

The NYTWP, and LAT note that in recent years authorities have had much success convicting white men long suspected of long-ago race crimes. The LAT suggests a reason the Birmingham case wasn’t broken at the time: J. Edgar Hoover, who, the paper says, speculated that local blacks had, in a sympathy grab, bombed the church themselves.

USAT and both Times explain that although federal investigations preceded the arrests, the men will be tried in state court. None of the papers reveal the nature of the evidence that catalyzed yesterday’s developments, but the NYT quotes the local U.S. attorney’s reference to evidence “a good bit different than it would have been 36 years ago.” DNA?

Lest one marinate too long in a sense of progress, the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news index immediately follows the Birmingham news with a report that 17 people died when a bomb exploded at a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.

The NYT, WP, and LAT all front the capture, by civilians, of Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader who had plunged Sierra Leone into turmoil by ordering the abduction of hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers (since released) and whose bodyguards last week killed 19 demonstrators.

USAT fronts word that despite the resurgence in gun-control issues fueled by Columbine, the NRA is more popular than ever, having reached a record membership of nearly 3.6 million. Some 200,000 of them have joined up in the past six weeks. The paper reports that the pace of contributions to the organization is also up. There’s some context missing though: What’s the membership size and war chest of Handgun Control Inc.?

The LAT fronts the conclusion of a DOJ study of domestic violence, the most extensive ever: such abuse dropped 21 percent from 1993 to 1998. And domestic murder has dropped to the lowest level in a quarter-century–1,830. (Still sobering, no?) The story attributes this to the rising availability of alternatives to staying in the abusive relationship–more restraining orders issued, more hotlines to shelters, more support groups, and more rules mandating arrests of violent partners. (Who, says the story, are, by a ratio of 5 to 1, still mostly men.) The LAT saves any mention of race until the last paragraph, where it informs that black women are victims at 2½ times the rate for other women. The WP AP dispatch on the study doesn’t mention race at all. But the NYT inside effort starts off stating that the study shows that killings of black men by their black women partners have dropped 74 percent in the past two decades, while the number of white women killed by their husbands or boyfriends rose slightly. But the NYT organizes its information curiously. We get the above news about a comparatively odd event high up, but have to wait until the 12th paragraph to learn that the number of black women killed by their partners, a much more common occurrence, dropped 45 percent during the same time frame. And the reader has to wait until the 13th paragraph to find out about that 21 percent overall drop in domestic abuse. And until the 19th to learn that, according to the Times, one factor in the drop in domestic violence is the increase over the past 25 years in the number of black men in prison.