Today's Papers

The Camera Subtracts 150 Pounds

The Washington Post leads with yesterday’s federal appeals court ruling that the Immigration and Naturalization Service was within the law when it refused to consider a political asylum request filed for Elián González by his great-uncle. All the majors front the story. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times go with President Clinton’s pronouncement that a historic peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is now “within view.” USA Today leads with the Clinton administration’s plans to form a research group to address a rather low visibility but potentially significant problem in the nation’s infrastructure: aging electrical wiring. This, informs the story, has been implicated in fires and electrical failures in military and commercial airplanes for years and also plagued several space shuttle flights. The story is based on a memo “obtained by” the paper. (With its suggestion of a reporter suspended Tom Cruise-style over a file cabinet full of top-secret wiring diagrams, doesn’t that phrase overdramatize a bit? Isn’t it more likely the description should be a memo “given to” the paper?)

The papers make it clear that the court was not endorsing the INS’s substantive decision in the Elián case to send him home, but rather was defending the agency’s legal ability to make it without judicial interference, ruling that the case is mainly about the separation of powers. The papers note that the boy’s Miami relatives still have a few legal countermoves open to them and 21 days in which to make them, and quotes their avowals to pursue the case. Everybody quotes Al Gore–who had parted from the Clinton administration line in saying that this was a matter for state family court–as saying that the court’s decision must be accepted. The NYT has the most detail on the emotional reaction in Miami, where the paper says, the decision made men weep and “drove several women to their knees on the narrow asphalt street.”

The two Times have President Clinton emerging from a meeting in Lisbon with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak saying that because peace really has a chance in the Mideast now, both Barak and Yasser Arafat have to be prepared to do things they have not done in the past. The WP, in an inside effort, only reports the hard second half, under the headline: “CLINTON: MIDEAST SENSES URGENCY.”

The WP fronts a rampage by Russian soldiers in the Chechen town of Aldi last Feb. 5 that is alleged by witnesses and human-rights investigators to have claimed the lives of more than 45 civilians. The paper’s lengthy account includes these extremes: soldiers joking about the murders they were about to commit vs. a soldier saving a woman’s life and possibly his own by telling her to play dead as he fired shots into the ceiling.

The papers all run accounts inside of Thursday’s sudden conclusion of a standoff in a Luxembourg village in which a man armed with a grenade and a pistol had taken 37 children and three adults hostage: The man was seriously wounded after he agreed to an apparent TV interview and then had his head ventilated by a police marksman with a gun hidden in the TV camera.

Everybody goes inside with George W. Bush’s issuance of a 30-day reprieve 15 minutes before lethal drip time in the case of a man condemned for the rape and murder of his stepdaughter, so that DNA tests not available at the time of the crime can be applied to case evidence. The papers report that during Bush’s time as governor, there have been 131 executions in Texas, and never before has Bush issued a reprieve. And they point out that the stay was actually issued by a Democratic state senator because both Bush and Texas’ lieutenant governor were out of the state Thursday. Question the coverage doesn’t answer: Does every state require a governor to physically be within its borders to exercise the powers of office? The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” quotes a comedian’s observation that if the body just exhumed in Texas that is believed to be Jesse James does indeed prove to be him, “Gov. Bush can have him executed.”