Today's Papers

Into the Woods

The Los Angeles Times leads with President Clinton’s return to Camp David and the renewed intensification of the Middle East peace negotiations. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, which front the peace talks, go instead with Deutsche Telekom’s agreement last night to buy the fledgling VoiceStream, America’s eighth-largest wireless corporation, for $50.5 billion. The Washington Post stuffs the still-pending merger inside the “A” section, reefers the peace talks, and leads with reports that Richard Cheney has moved to the top of George W. Bush’s shortlist for the vice-presidential nod.

Clinton, who left Camp David on Thursday to attend the Group of 8 summit in Japan, re-entered the wooded retreat yesterday evening and met individually with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. All papers agree that the status of Jerusalem, which nearly killed last week’s negotiations, remains the crux of the combustible talks. The LAT reports that Barak was contacted over the weekend by two of his ex-Cabinet members, both of whom advised the Israeli leader against any deal affecting Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Even Pope John Paul II threw his miter into the fray, repeating the Vatican’s position that the sacred nature of Jerusalem be preserved by a special international status. Need more signs of mounting tension at the talks? The NYT reports on the Egyptian president’s visit to Saudi Arabia to cement Saudi support for Arafat;  the LAT cites a Cabinet session briefing in Jerusalem on alleged death threats against Barak and Arafat; and the WSJ quotes an Israeli spokesman’s televised speech last night: “It would be easier to prophesy what will happen in 24 years than what will happen here in the next 24 hours.”

The WSJ and the NYT count the still-unprofitable VoiceStream’s rapid growth and network size among its prime attractions. Unlike the NYT, whose report is bogged down by jargon, the WSJ is quick to reveal the import of the proposed merger: the potential imminence of a “seamless world-wide usage of cellular phones.” Both papers agree that the German-U.S. communications merger is far from a done deal. The proposal–which would be the first acquisition of a U.S. telecommunications company by a corporation owned largely by a foreign government–faces serious opposition in Congress, which introduced legislation last week to stymie the deal. At issue is the German government’s share in the corporation: 48 percent if the deal goes through but, as the NYT notes, still way above the 25 percent congressional opponents are likely to require before they will transfer a wireless license. A letter circulated among senators eager to block the deal warned that the amount of capital generated by government-owned companies would reduce free competition in the U.S. telecommunications market, the world’s largest.

Speculation regarding Cheney’s front-runner status was bolstered by a report yesterday that a Houston heart surgeon had recently reviewed the results of Cheney’s physical examination at Bush’s (and his famous father’s) request. Cheney, who has suffered three heart attacks, was deemed medically fit to serve as veep by senior Republicans. The LAT cites the reigning buzz that by picking Cheney from his dad’s Cabinet, Bush would only fuel Gore’s attempt to saddle him with the sins of his father. The governor’s aides dismiss such talk and counter that Cheney’s “less partisan style of politics” is precisely what Bush has embodied and emphasized throughout his campaign. Aides to the Texas governor say Bush could announce his choice on Tuesday.

As part if its “Understanding Bush” series, the WP off-leads with a report on the evolution of Gov. Bush’s religiosity–a politically protean mix of evangelical Christianity, self-help, and gentle theo-philosophical conservatism. The piece moves from Bush’s Presbyterian upbringing through his “spiritual awakening” in an all-male Bible group in the mid-’80s, to his campaign’s landmark speech in Indianapolis, where he “laid out a detailed version of his ideal America, calling for everything short of religious revival.”

All papers front America’s remarkable one-two punch in sports yesterday: Lance Armstrong’s second consecutive win of the Tour de France, only four years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, and Tiger Woods’ eight-shot victory at the 129th British Open.  At 24, Woods became only the fifth player–and the youngest ever–to complete a Grand Slam, seizing all four of golf’s major championships.

Offering more proof that “Big Brother” isn’t just crappy summer television, the WP fronts a report on heightened suspicions that the National Security Agency is conducting industrial espionage against Europe via a high-tech intelligence facility in Bad Aibling, Germany, that was once used to monitor Soviet Bloc troops. The U.S. listening post, equipped with powerful antennas and satellite communications gear, is thought by an increasing number of European critics to have intercepted sensitive business information and then passed it along to U.S. businesses. The fears have prompted the European Parliament to vote for an investigation into the espionage charges, which have been vigorously denied by the NSA. The story’s headline, Today’s Papers thinks, might have worked equally well for the WP’s story on Bush’s piety: “A Suspicious Eye on U.S. ‘Big Ears.’ “