Today's Papers

Bad Acting?

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times lead (and the Washington Post fronts below the fold) the findings of John Danforth, special counsel investigating the Waco fire, that the U.S. government and Attorney General Janet Reno are clear of any wrongdoing in the incident at the Branch Davidian compound. But Danforth did chastise the government for failing to speak promptly and candidly about the case. The special counsel also noted that the investigation considered only “whether government agents engaged in bad acts, not whether they exercised bad judgment.”

The WP leads and the NYT fronts speculation that former Defense Secretary Richard Cheney heads Bush’s short list for a vice-presidential candidate. Frank Keating, George Pataki, and John McCain have also been considered, but the word is that Bush favors Cheney (who currently oversees Bush’s vice-presidential search team) because of his experience with international security. Bush is poised to announce his running mate sometime early next week. All three papers report that the only obstacle to Cheney’s nomination is his history of heart trouble, and the LAT notes one black mark on his record: writing 21 bad checks while serving in the House.

The WP off-leads (and the LAT and the NYT both stuff) the Pentagon’s avowal to enforce the “Don’t Ask” policy regarding gays in the military. A Pentagon-appointed panel has drawn up an “Anti-Harassment Action Plan” aimed at improving the military’s policy toward gays in its ranks. The plan (aimed at reducing widespread harassment) seems not to extend beyond a strongly worded commitment on the part of the armed forces to train its troops to treat each other with respect and dignity. Is the panel’s proposal really this vague and ambiguous, or has the WP failed to report the substantial details?

The NYT goes above the fold with the Environmental Protection Agency’s acknowledgment that for nearly two decades it ignored reports about the illegal use of asbestos by W.R. Grace and Co. in the manufacture of many of its building products. The EPA not only disregarded the reports, it is alleged to have discouraged further testing of Grace’s products and knowingly accepted inaccurate figures on the levels of asbestos in the materials Grace was using.

The WP fronts a report that the U.S. is considering North Korea’s offer to abandon its missile program if it receives international help with launching its satellites. The U.S. is under pressure from China and Russia to accept the offer: Both China and Russia strongly oppose the proposed missile defense program of the U.S., and both countries would have more leverage in their arguments against the program if the North Korean missile threat were abolished. The NYT runs this story inside, focusing on Putin’s attempts to utilize North Korea’s offer as a bargaining tool.

The NYT and the LAT both go below the fold with reactions to reports that Israel may for the first time agree to share control of parts of Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Emotions on both sides range from anger to excitement to incredulity. The specifics of the proposed deal are not yet known, but one report suggests that in exchange for gaining partial control of several neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinians would annex a number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The NYT reports the story with a greater degree of skepticism: The Palestinians have said from the start that they wouldn’t accept anything less than full sovereignty in East Jerusalem; and a recently released poll indicates that 70 percent of Israelis oppose any concessions whatsoever on Jerusalem.

The LAT runs two front-pagers on the Gore campaign. One story outlines how the Democrats have orchestrated Clinton’s symbolic passing of the baton to Gore at the convention. The basic strategy is simply to make Clinton scarce–he will depart the convention shortly after delivering his opening-night speech. The second story examines the reasons for Gore’s recent resurgence in the polls. According to Gore’s aides, voters now prefer Gore’s sound political positions to Bush’s winning personality.

The WP goes inside with the one-sided House and Senate vote to relax trade and travel restrictions against Cuba. Many Republican legislators who have traditionally supported trade sanctions have been under fire from agriculture and business lobbies looking to expand their markets abroad.

The NYT reports inside that federal authorities arrested 18 people in Charlotte, N.C., for their role in funneling money from cigarette sales to Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon. None of those arrested were themselves charged with terrorist activities, but they were charged with money laundering, immigration violations, weapons offenses, and cigarette trafficking.

The WP runs an inside piece reporting that the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal upheld a ruling that established rape as a war crime. The ruling came in the case of a Bosnian Croat commander convicted of looking on as one his subordinates tortured and raped a female prisoner at knife-point.