Today's Papers

United Lands One

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the completion of Israel’s departure from Lebanon, an event that produced an unanticipated surge into Israel of Lebanese refugees–fearful of their fate under the bandoleered Hezbollah guerrillas who are gleefully taking over the region. The fronts feature some dramatic pictures of the refugees’ hurried and harried exit. USA Today puts Israel on Page 11 and goes instead with United Airlines’ parent corp’s purchase of US Airways, which will be officially announced today. The Washington Post fronts Israel but also leads with the airline deal, adding an off-lead about one of its byproducts: a Washington, D.C.-based airline that would be spun off of US Airways and owned and run by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert T. Johnson. The new outfit, DC Air, would, informs the paper, be the nation’s first minority-owned airline. The LAT reefers the deal, putting it on the business section front and caveating that it “reportedly” will take place. The Wall Street Journal flags it at the top of its front-page business news box.

The NYT lead states that despite Israel’s official protestations, its forces were, if not chased out of Lebanon, then at the very least withdrawn in a far quicker and more improvisational way than planned. A front-page WP “Analysis” piece says the development is provoking a national debate in Israel like the one the U.S. departure from Vietnam prompted in the States. In at least one instance, says the NYT, Israel’s client militia, the Southern Lebanon Army, moved out so abruptly they left tanks with their motors running. The story quotes the smiling anchorwoman on Lebanon’s state TV channel referring to “the slinking, servile withdrawal by Israel.” And one Hezbollah fighter tells the Times that “Jerusalem twinkles in our eyes.” The story makes the point that for the moment the leaders of the Lebanese Arabs and Christians seem to be working well together as they fill the power void created by Israel’s departure. The LAT lead goes high with the relief felt by many Israeli soldiers about departing what was essentially a war zone. Also, unlike the NYT account, the LAT contextualizes by pointing out that actually it’s Syria, not the Hezbollah, that runs the show in Lebanon.

The LAT is typical of today’s coverage in leading with Israel/Lebanon, but deep-stuffing Ethiopia’s offensive against Eritrea to Page 16. Question: Why?

USAT, NYT, LAT, and WSJ say United will shell out $4.3 billion in its merger deal with US Air, while the WP says it’s $11.6 billion. The Post says the resultant airline would provide nearly twice the number of flights as its nearest competitor. Everybody agrees the deal probably presages further airline mergers.

The papers report that George W. Bush yesterday called for a much larger missile defense program than the system proposed by the Clinton administration–a system Bush called flawed–while also promising that as president, he would unilaterally reduce the country’s nuclear arsenal to the lowest possible number of warheads consistent with national security. Bush made his remarks, notes the coverage, while standing in front of such GOP national security icons as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, and Henry Kissinger, who, to show their extreme support, all drank water while Bush was speaking. (That’s a joke. It wasn’t water.) The papers’ headline writers don’t seem quite up to the proposal. The NYT and USAT fronts big-print the cuts and leave out the defense. The LAT and WP fronts big-print the defense and leave out the cuts.

The Post reports that conservatives championing a national missile defense system are financing 30-second TV spots suggesting that President Clinton and Al Gore have left Americans vulnerable to nuclear attack. “Where will you be when the missiles are launched?” the ad wonders.

A WSJ effort says that if the Microsoft case goes to appeal, the company’s fate could rest on which three appellate judges are randomly assigned to hear the case. The story says the random choice is made on a computer but falls down by not ascertaining which company’s software is involved.

The NYT reports that one of the Arkansas judges who might have been picked to hear the disbarment case against President Clinton has been ordered removed from the bench for practicing law on the side, writing 59 bad checks, and illegally switching license plates on his vehicles.

USAT fronts, and everybody else stuffs, a study coming out in JAMA today, based on a 30-year look at some 8,000 Japanese-American men, that purports to show that 4 to 5 cups of coffee daily can prevent Parkinson’s disease. The stories don’t mention whether that amount of coffee is suspected of causing any other diseases or syndromes. Also, while they mention that for instance Michael J. Fox, Janet Reno, and Muhammad Ali all suffer from the disease, none picks up a phone to find out if any of these folks drink coffee.