Today's Papers

Tennessee Al and the Buddhist Temple of Doom

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with Al Gore’s decision to release the full transcript of a four-hour deposition during which Gore was questioned by a Justice Department prosecutor about 1996 fund-raising abuses. The Los Angeles Times fronts the story but leads with an item of local interest: the L.A. City Council’s decision to give $4 million in public funds to the host committee of this summer’s Democratic National Convention. The twist: Before the city will hand over the cash, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan must shell out $1 million of his own money that he promised to the committee if convention fund-raising fell short. The NYT runs the story  inside.

The NYT and the WP emphasize the content of the Gore interview transcript, particularly an angry exchange in which Gore said he “sure as hell” did not know his now-famous visit to a Buddhist temple was a fund-raiser. The LAT waits until the 11th paragraph to report the angry quote–“I sure as hell did not have any conversations with anyone saying, this is a fund-raising event”–and instead focuses  on the release of the transcript as a tactical move by Gore to limit political fallout. The interview transcript does not contain any new bombshells, but there is some debate over its length. The WP reports in a front-page analysis  that the transcript is 123 pages long, but the paper’s news story  asserts that it’s 150 pages. The LAT and NYT go with the smaller number.

An above-the-fold NYT story signals  that the media may be about to focus the death-penalty spotlight on the Clinton-Gore administration. Juan Raul Garza, a migrant farm worker convicted seven years ago of marijuana smuggling and three drug-related murders in (where else?) Texas, is scheduled to receive the federal death penalty Aug. 5. Garza would be the first person executed by the federal government since the Kennedy administration. The story cites some chilling numbers about the application of the federal death penalty: Seventeen of the 21 federal prisoners facing the death penalty are members of minorities, and 13 of them are black. That’s 62 percent, a greater percentage of blacks on death row than every state except Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The numbers for Texas? Forty-one percent. The NYT also fears geography may determine who receives the federal death sentence. Fourteen of the 21 federal death-row prisoners hail from three states: Texas (six), Virginia (four), and Missouri (four). The American Bar Association, the paper reports, has called on President Clinton to declare a moratorium on the federal death penalty.

The WP off-leads  a story about “pharmacogenomics,” a field of medicine that aims to reduce side effects by matching prescription medicines to patients’ individual genetic codes. More than 100,000 Americans die each year from the side effects of “one size fits all” prescriptions. As soon as five years from now, patients may take genetic tests before their doctors prescribe drugs for them. But critics worry that profit-seeking drug companies will perform pharmacogenomic research for only the genetic subgroups that can afford to pay for designer drugs.

The NYT fronts  word that a new crime is blossoming in Bangladesh–sulfuric acid attacks on women, usually by spurned men. The intent is not to kill but to permanently disfigure the victim. Village elders sometimes propose tragic remedies for the crime. One woman’s parents made her marry her attacker. Another woman was forced to allow her husband to marry a second wife. Many of the disfigured women have concluded their society has become too permissive and that women ought to veil themselves to ward off libidinous men.

The LAT fronts  a poll showing a dead heat in the Mexican presidential election. The NYT and WP carry the story inside. The LAT declares it “the closest election in Mexican history,” a fact that distresses the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which has won every presidential election since 1929.

Everybody reefers the refusal of a U.S. appeals court to reconsider its decision in the Elián González case. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, which none of the papers think is likely, Juan González could take his son to Cuba as early as 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The LAT turns in a great anecdotal lede  for a story on high gas prices in the Midwest. The marquee at a Wilmette, Ill., gas station advertises unleaded gasoline for “$Z.29” a gallon. The reason? The station has run out of 2’s.