Today's Papers

Silicone Busts

USA Today leads with the acceptance by the U.S. government of full responsibility for the Los Alamos fire that destroyed more than 200 homes (the New York Times says twice as many) and displaced some 25,000 people. The NYT fronts that story but goes instead with the Senate’s narrow rejection of a deadline for pulling U.S. troops, now numbering 5,600 (the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal say 5,900), out of Kosovo. The vote is also the top item in the WSJ’s front-page world-wide news box. The WP stuffs the Los Alamos fire and the Kosovo vote, leading instead with the Dept. of Justice’s first official assessment of the Wen Ho Lee espionage probe, which concludes that the FBI blundered by moving too slowly and may have failed to detect some breaches of national security. Nobody else fronts the DOJ report. The Los Angeles Times goes with the agreement (fronted by everyone else but USAT) by the nation’s largest hospital chain, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., to pay the government $745 million to settle a civil case alleging Medicare fraud. The story points out that although the company still faces a criminal investigation that could result in millions more in fines and penalties, and indeed in convictions of individual company officers (two mid-level executives have already been convicted), the settlement is a turning point for the company. All the settlement stories mention that the turnabout is associated with the arrival on the scene of chairman Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., but none looks into whether Frist’s brother, a U.S. senator from Tennessee, was helpful in getting the government to go for a settlement.

The USAT lead reports that the White House is working with Congress to ensure that the Los Alamos fire victims get compensated. The story also says that discussions are underway among federal land agencies and Congress to “fireproof” the perimeters out West between urban centers and forest areas. But what can this possibly mean? The WP also touches on the topic saying that in the future forests will be “thinned” before they’re given a controlled burn, but leaves it at that. The papers should have filled the reader in here.

The papers make it clear that the Senate’s Kosovo vote was looking to be close. Indeed, they report, Al Gore had taken time off from the campaign to be in the chamber in case his tie-breaking vote was needed. The coverage notes that George W. Bush recently came out against the measure and the NYT emphasizes that this changed the minds of some Republican senators. The Times makes another observation regarding the Bush position: given that the deadline would have actually fallen in 2001, it had the potential of tying Bush’s hands. There is one basic detail that the coverage is utterly silent on: Why would such a bill be necessary given that the Senate is already armed with the War Powers Act, a post-Vietnam reaction to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that sets out strict timetables for the recall of troops dispatched by the president ex parte? True, the Act has never been used, but the papers should have explained that too.

The LAT fronts word that the U.S. intelligence community is preparing a secret report stating what many strategic policy wonks have long argued: that adopting a national missile defense system could destabilize the nuclear status quo rather than strengthen it. CIA analysts, the paper says, believe that although Russia would accept U.S. arguments that no system could protect against Moscow’s too numerous missiles and hence that their deterrent powers would be preserved, since China’s arsenal is much smaller, its nuclear powers would be diminished under such a system. And the resulting buildup by China would inspire a buildup by its longtime rival India, which would likewise inspire its enemy Pakistan, and so on and so on. Plus, an inside story at the LAT essentially repeats the information in a NYT piece yesterday about how a distinguished scientist has argued that suppressed tests have shown that antimissile systems cannot effectively distinguish decoys from real incoming warheads. Oops.

The WSJ editorial page does its photo-interpretation of those shots of Elián in his Pioneers uniform playing with his friends at the Wye Plantation: Don’t they show that Bill Clinton has allowed the Wye Plantation to be “transformed into an indoctrination camp for child Communists?”

The WSJ’s front-page world-wide news box flags an FDA study of 344 women who had silicone breast implants that revealed that two-thirds of them had asymptomatic ruptures. These results come, says the Journal when at least one company has been hoping for a return of silicone implants (banned since 1992) to the U.S. market. Story idea: Why doesn’t some reporter go interview that first generation of strippers and staple girls to go silicone some thirty-plus years ago and tell the story of what they’ve experienced? Carol Doda–please call your office.