Today's Papers

Supreme Court: No Grandfather Claws

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the Supreme Court’s 6-to-3 decision limiting the visitation rights of grandparents. The New York Times goes with a micro-follow-up to the Chernobyl-is-closing story it fronted on Sunday: The exact date of the shut-down, announced by Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma during a visit by President Clinton is Dec. 15. USA Today leads with the Federal Aviation Administration’s expected tightening of rules about the ID and employment status verification to be needed by law enforcement officers flying armed on commercial airline flights–this in response to the General Accounting Office investigation released last month that reported investigators were able to use phony police IDs to enter secure areas at two airports. The paper reports that if a satisfactory system of closer ID monitoring cannot be arrived at, fewer cops will be allowed to come on board armed, which makes those traveling with prisoners very unhappy. One question though: Since a round from a gun can depressurize a cabin and since there are plenty of other weapons (like tasers or pepper spray) available for controlling prisoners without this risk, why isn’t the solution to just pack the gun and carry one or more of these other tools for the flight?

The papers make clear that the Supreme Court did not render all grandparental visitation rights nugatory–just that the court held that a Washington state judge erred because he didn’t give special weight to parental wishes. In other words, the court ruled that while neither side’s rights are inviolate, in the absence of harm or abuse, parental rights should be held to be stronger.

The NYT lead explains that a key inducement for Ukraine was Clinton’s pledge of American aid to repair and strengthen environmental protection measures at the damaged site, to improve security at other Ukrainian nuclear plants, and to assist the Chernobyl workers who will be displaced by its closing. Clinton has also, according to the Times, promised to solicit the G-7 countries and Russia for additional funds. The story also highlights Clinton’s speech earlier in the day before the Russian Parliament (also fronted by the WP and the LAT), in which he urged Russians not to reject the U.S. proposal for a limited national missile defense and also to make the changes in the Russian economy necessary to become fully engaged in global trade. Clinton also criticized Russia’s war in Chechnya but stressed that the U.S. wants a strong Russia.

Both the WP and NYT off-lead the FCC’s approval of AT&T’s purchase of MediaOne after ordering the companies to sell off some of their assets. This clears the way to a merger creating the country’s largest cable TV outfit, long-distance telephone company, and high-speed Internet access provider.

The WP fronts the Supreme Court’s toss-out yesterday of the tax evasion conviction of Web Hubbell, ruling that it was improperly based on records and documents Hubbell provided under a grant of immunity from Ken Starr. The paper calls the decision a “significant rebuke of Starr.”

Mesomorph Update: The WP fronts word that murder charges were dropped against pro footballer Ray Lewis in return for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and his agreement to testify about the deaths in question of two men during a post-Super Bowl street brawl. And everybody goes inside with the demotion to the minors of Atlanta relief pitcher John Rocker one day after he verbally confronted a Sports Illustrated writer for the article he wrote last year in which Rocker uttered the comments that brought him almost universal opprobrium. The Braves say the send-down is for his pitching. For the threatening behavior there’s a $5,000 fine. Would it kill one of the papers to say how long it takes Rocker to earn that fine money?

A NYT correction stipulates that the Seattle WTO protests last November were “primarily peaceful,” on the grounds that “any objects thrown were aimed at property, not people.” Wonder if the shop owners who spent the next couple of weeks cleaning up and making repairs would agree. Ditto re the people who were, ahem, accidentally hit by rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The Wall Street Journal “Work Week” column reports on the latest hiring stratagem induced by the tight, tight labor market: sending headhunters to events with lots of attendees but few other recruiters–flea markets and sports events, for instance. Problem: Sometimes the music and the crowd are too loud.

A NYT editorial deplores the Luxembourg cops’ successful gambit last week of pretending to be a camera crew to get close enough to shoot a man who had taken 37 children and three teachers prisoner. The Times says journalists must always be solely journalists. Any confusion on this point, says the paper, will just make journalism more dangerous and less truth-gathering. Now, presumably, the Times thinks it’s OK for cops, in similar desperate circumstances, to pretend to be other things. Pizza deliverer and bus driver are two guises that have been used in hostage situations. And once the trick gets out afterward, do those jobs become intolerably dangerous or ineffective? So, if the stakes are high enough, why should journalists be so privileged that they can’t ever help the cops this way?