Today's Papers

Sky Rockets in Flight?

The Washington Post leads and the New York Times fronts the proposed missile defense plan. The WP reports that the findings of a Pentagon-appointed panel have raised doubts about the status and viability of the program. The NYT, however, suggests that it’s all systems go. The lead at the NYT previews the upcoming House debate over proposals to add prescription drug benefits to Medicare. The Los Angeles Times leads on its recent poll that indicates Americans have adopted more nuanced views on abortion. The LAT numbers show that fewer Americans support Roe vs. Wade–43 percent in the current poll, down from 56 percent in 1991–but that there is continued opposition (65 percent) to a constitutional ban on abortion. (For exact wording of the questions and a breakdown of the numbers, see the LAT poll, not available online at the time of this posting.)

The WP reports that a panel of weapons experts has expressed concern both about the reliability of the booster rockets that carry interceptor missiles and the ability of those missiles to distinguish between incoming warheads and decoys. The panel’s report comes at a time when missile defense is emerging as a key presidential campaign issue. Clinton is scheduled to make a decision soon about the current plan, but a number of scientists and scholars have urged him to defer judgment, citing technical questions surrounding the program as well as concern about inciting an arms race in Asia.

The NYT examines the missile defense plan in relation to the recent diplomatic talks between Korean leaders. Their agreement to work for peace hasn’t diminished the Clinton administration’s resolve to move ahead with missile defense, especially since intelligence reports indicate that by 2005 North Korea could develop a missile capable of striking the U.S. According to U.S. officials, not enough is known about North Korea’s intentions to warrant abandoning the program.

The NYT reports that Clinton and congressional Republicans are headed for a standoff on the debate over adding prescription drug benefits to Medicare. The issue is how to make drug coverage more available and affordable to those on Medicare. Democrats favor greater uniformity in benefits and premiums; Republicans want more options for beneficiaries and a larger role for private insurance companies. Democrats argue that the Republican plan will encourage insurers to cater to healthy customers (who have lower drug costs) and to neglect customers in the greatest need of drug coverage. Republicans contend that the Democrats’ “one size fits all plan” deprives beneficiaries of the ability to choose a plan that best fits their individual needs.

Ralph Nader remains in the spotlight, making the fronts of two of the papers. The LAT examines his potentially harmful effect on Gore’s presidential chances. Nader’s national support remains in the single digits, but his growing popularity in the western states has come at Gore’s expense, and Democrats worry that it could tip the balance in Bush’s favor. The WP, following up yesterday’s front-page profile of the Green Party candidate’s campaign strategy, runs a front-pager on Nader’s own financial disclosures. Citing privacy rights, for which he has always aggressively fought, Nader said that he will not release his income-tax returns, but he has provided a detailed account of his wealth and spending: His assets total $3.8 million (much of it in high-tech stocks) but he gives away more than 80 percent of his after-tax income, which he refers to as “monies [earned] for strengthening civil society.”

The WP fronts the Syrian congressional meeting that has initiated the process by which Dr. Bashar Assad will most likely succeed his father, the late Hafez Assad, as Syria’s president. Dr. Assad has never formally held a political office, but diplomats, Syrian business leaders, and analysts have expressed their confidence that the substantial political authority the son tacitly assumed during the last two years of his father’s illness have prepared him for the position.

The NYT fronts a report that the Federal Aviation Administration, after learning of safety hazards that resulted from the use of faulty materials in the construction of passenger planes, waited nearly a year before notifying airlines of the danger. FAA officials subsequently offered two explanations: Initially they contended that they had no evidence that any of the faulty material had been sold to the airlines; later they said that the material hadn’t been used in building critical components and that its failure would not have resulted in an accident.

The LAT reports that Mexico’s July 2 presidential election may hinge on the youth vote. Whereas the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party remains unsure how to appeal to the younger generation, the opposition National Action Party has successfully courted voters in their 20s and 30s by pledging more jobs and better educational opportunities.

Joe Camel in sheep’s clothing? The WP fronts a report on how dietary supplement companies–promising greater strength, mental health, and increased vitality–are targeting children with cartoonish advertising and packaging of their products. A recent survey found that nearly 20 percent of parents were giving their children supplements, many of which are untested and unregulated.