Today's Papers

Disarming Peace Progress

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post all lead with the Irish Republican Army’s stunning promise to open its cache of arms to independent weapons inspectors, a commitment that revives the Good Friday peace plan of 1998. The underground organization pledged it would “completely and verifiably put IRA arms beyond use” and keep those arms out of the hands of its own splinter groups, avoiding “risk to the public and misappropriation of others.”

The papers report that the agreement, part of a plan that is expected to restore home rule to Northern Ireland by May 22, is the first indication that the IRA is willing to tackle disarmament, the sticking point in negotiations for the past two years. The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, said yesterday that the deadline for extra peace measures–including disarmament–would be pushed back to June of 2001. According to the WP, a British proposal to withdraw more of its troops was particularly well received by the IRA, which has been reluctant to take part in any action that could be construed as surrendering: Now the IRA can claim its concessions are a reciprocal response to Britain’s own demilitarization. What’s the political fallout in Northern Ireland? The WP describes Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble as “almost jaunty” and “downright effusive.” The NYT, on the other hand, claims Trimble greeted the news with “customary wariness.” Trimble, both the NYT and LAT remind us, must still contend with the members of his party who want to see a handover of guns before they re-enter government with their Sinn Fein counterparts.

The NYT offleads with the imminent inundation of what has been called “a second Pompeii,” a recently discovered archeological site in southern Turkey that will soon be underwater, behind a newly constructed dam. Experts predict that the ancient city of Zeugma–located on the banks of the Euphrates River and once a focal point of the Silk Road trade–holds one of the richest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. (So far only two of the hundreds of villas buried underground have been excavated.) This ia a classic case of policy taking precedence over art. But the dam project–part of a multibillion-dollar development plan that has come under fire from international protesters–is also, of course, a tragedy for the Turkish population. One villager sums up local sentiment: “Now even old stones are considered more important than we are.”

The WP offleads with a report on the aging of America’s bureaucracy: Thirty percent of the country’s full-time civil service workers will be eligible to retire within five years. Perhaps most troubling is that 65 percent of the bureaucratic elite–members of the Senior Executive Service of manages and technicians–will be eligible to retire in 2004. According to an Andersen Consulting partner, “We have a human-capital time-bomb ticking.” The Post maintains that the government, which has failed to compete with the private sector for young, technically savvy workers, faces an uphill recruitment battle as well as an image problem. Who wants to work for a federal government that for the past two decades has been characterized in national debate as “bloated, dysfunctional, or evil”?

The crisis in Sierra Leone fails to make any fronts today. The WP and NYT stuff news that tensions have escalated and that more than 500 U.N. peacekeepers and other personnel have been detained or are reported missing. (Yesterday all three papers fronted the kidnapping of U.N. peacekeepers by rebel soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone.) The papers disagree on how many “blue helmets” were sent to Sierra Leone in the first place, but according to the NYT, 2,000 Indian, Jordanian, and Bangladeshi troops will be sent to reinforce the 8,000-plus troops already on the ground. In a second NYT Sierra Leone report, the president of Zambia criticizes the U.N.’s strategy, claiming the peacekeepers were deployed prematurely and sent into unfamiliar terrain with dated maps. (Most of the peacekeepers captured by the RUF are Zambian.) The president’s complaints give some–but very little–credence to the RUF spokesman’s seemingly disingenuous claim that at least some of the peacekeepers are simply lost in the bush.

The LAT fronts former President George Bush’s post-political career on a not-so-ordinary lecture circuit, as an informal representative of U.S. companies in foreign countries. The piece is an exhaustive list of Bush’s overseas trips and speaking engagements, most of which were sponsored by U.S. corporations. What’s interesting, aside from the $4 million Bush earns per year in speaking fees, is the potential conflict of interest should George W. win the White House. There’s no reason, the LAT suggests, companies wouldn’t try to curry favor with the president by indulging his father or his father’s business associates.

Speaking of currying favor with the president, on the NYT op-ed page Maureen Dowd argues that Hillary Clinton’s campaign mantra, “More than a first lady,” de-emphasizes the power of her office. “Who is the one staffers tip-toe around, run from, kowtow to, have nightmares about, get their jobs from, get fired by, see shrinks about, turn henchmen for and secretly try to win to their side of an argument, hoping for a little pillow-talk advantage?” Well, usually, it’s the first lady. In any case, in her bid for the Senate, wouldn’t it be a little odd for Hillary to play up the power of her role as Clinton’s wife?