Today's Papers

U.N. RUF-ed Up; DOJ Hangs Tough

Sources said yesterday that the Department of Justice would bring a civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department unless the city and the LAPD enter into a consent decree, according to the Los Angeles Times lead. The news broke on the same day that more than a dozen LAPD officers were served search warrants related to an ongoing, four-year DOJ investigation into complaints about civil rights abuses by the LAPD. DOJ officials believe they have enough evidence to file a so-called pattern and practice lawsuit against the department. The terms of a consent decree could require that a federal monitor take charge of things like internal police investigations; at least, that’s what happened in Pittsburgh after the federal government took action against that city’s police bureau in 1997.

The Washington Post leads with news that the jobless rate was down to 3.9 percent last month, its lowest level since January 1970. The Post notes in its first paragraph that unemployment rates among Hispanics and blacks are also at record lows, which the other two papers don’t mention till more than halfway through their front-page stories. The coverage cites analysts who think the Federal Reserve will choose to raise interest rates more aggressively, probably by half a point, in order to slow economic growth and prevent inflation. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan fears “job shortages will eventually give workers enough bargaining power to push up labor costs ahead of productivity gains” (New York Times). Stock prices shot up, a reaction that implies Wall Street thinks the Fed will successfully curb inflation, as the NYT points out.

The NYT goes with news, not fronted by the others, that the DOJ and FBI have begun an investigation to determine whether to press charges against ex-CIA Director John Deutch, who placed large volumes of classified material on unsecure computers in his home. His indiscretion sparked a CIA investigation after it was discovered in December 1999. But some CIA officials complained that senior staffers involved in it tried to protect Deutch; and Attorney General Janet Reno was criticized for her (initial) decision not to prosecute him last year. As such, Reno ordered an internal review of the case in February. The current investigation was started as a result.

Also on all the fronts: Rebel soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone have taken more than 300 U.N. peacekeepers hostage, commandeered 13 U.N. armored vehicles, and confiscated hundreds of U.N. weapons and uniforms in Sierra Leone. According to the Post, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and others have warned that international support for African peacekeeping is being compromised by the Sierra Leone situation and unwillingness on the part of the United States and European powers to intervene there. RUF members are known for chopping off the limbs of civilians thought to be sympathetic to Sierra Leone’s elected government. They reportedly killed four Kenyan U.N. troops and wounded 12 others who were trying to confiscate their weapons earlier this week. The U.N. force is made up mainly of African and Indian troops, says the NYT, which numbers them at 8,300; the other papers say there are 8,700 people in the peacekeeping unit. The LAT explains that “only once before in the U.N.’s history had so many peacekeepers been seized”: Bosnian Serbs held U.N. peacekeepers in 1995. The NYT has this information as well but doesn’t set it up as nicely. There is a disparity in the number of reported 1995 hostages: The LAT says 370; the NYT says 350.

The Post reports that a former executive director of the District’s Information Protection and Advocacy Center for People with Disabilities, Vivianne Hardy Townes, misspent $725,000 during a three-year tenure, according to an audit by the Department of Health and Human Services. Townes disputes the implications of the financial report. The DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s office are not pressing criminal charges in the case because “when someone uses government money for personal reasons, but also pays some back from time to time [as Townes did], proving theft is difficult.” (The story comes on the heels of a 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of D.C.’s health care for the handicapped by Post reporter Katherine Boo.)

The Post off-lead is about the so-called “Love Bug” computer virus, which an estimated 45 million people received on Thursday. Before it is brought fully under control, the virus may cause $10 billion worth of damage, according to analysts; the Post doesn’t explain why–would the money primarily go to IT staffs’ overtime? A stuffed NYT article has more details on the suspect than the Post’s: Law-enforcement officials here and in the Philippines think a twentysomething college student using a Philippine Internet service provider launched the virus, and one Swedish expert identified the perp as a German exchange student named Mikael. The Post explains that investigators trace viruses using clues within the text of the virus program.