Today's Papers

Nader’s New Bill

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the convening Tuesday of the Barak-Arafat peace talks at Camp David, hosted by President Clinton. All three fronts feature the same picture of the three men horsing around about who should get to go through a doorway first. The headline writers at the NYT go off the rails a bit with their “Arab-Israeli Talks Open at Camp David”–because the Palestinians are not representing all Arab interests, not the Syrians’ for instance. USA Today fronts the picture, but puts the talks story on Page 9 and goes instead with the latest in the case of a Texas man whose scheduled execution was delayed last month by George W. Bush so that DNA tests could be applied to physical evidence in the rape and murder he was convicted of; sources close to the case say the tests don’t clear the man.

In the peace talks coverage, there’s much reference to the Carter-Sadat-Begin Camp David triumph, but the WP emphasizes that neither Barak nor Arafat are in as strong a domestic political position as their 1978 counterparts. The NYT adds that most observers think a resolution of the 52-year-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is “improbable.” The LAT and NYT depict the Palestinians as more pessimistic than the Israelis, quoting a senior Palestinian saying his side’s position “will never change.” The NYT also reports that Barak has been making preparations back home for the talks’ possible failure, referring to television reports showing newly fortified Israeli positions in the West Bank.

The WP and LAT front news from the world AIDS conference in South Africa. The Post emphasizes that despite the conventional wisdom that combination drug “cocktail” therapy is too expensive and logistically complicated to be effective in Africa, several small-sample studies involving subsidized drugs have suggested this therapy can be successfully adapted to the region. The Post, NYT, and LAT also mention the encouraging signs that programmed interruptions (which are much cheaper) of combination therapy might help patients as much as the standard constant combination therapy. And the LAT trumpets research showing that an inexpensive antibiotic, while doing nothing against AIDS, can prevent many opportunistic infections that come in its wake. USAT goes inside with the imminent beginning of human trials of the first experimental AIDS vaccine designed for Africa. The drug is based on information culled from Nairobi prostitutes found to be immune to HIV.

The WP fronts the FBI’s new automated Internet wiretap system called “Carnivore,” which can, when installed on the servers of an Internet service provider, monitor the contents of a remote user’s e-mail and Web activity. The system was reported on in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and was mentioned in congressional testimony last April. The device can be tweaked to provide full content or just to show where e-mail is coming from and going to. The big issue: whether or not service providers have to accept the installation of the Carnivore box.

The WP goes inside with a call from Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi for closer ties with the U.S. Khatemi lamented that a U.S. ban on Iranian exports of rugs, caviar, and pistachios is still in effect. Although the WP doesn’t connect the dots (and should have), another Post story suggests that Khatemi should be thinking about something besides pistachios. The paper reports that a federal judge has ruled the government of Iran must pay $327 million to the families of two young Americans killed by a suicide bomber in Israel, because of evidence showing former Iranian officials aided the terrorists who carried out the attack. This is, the paper informs, the fourth such judgment against Iran, which so far has paid … none.

The papers go inside with yesterday’s Senate hearings about Napster and music copyrights. The hearings featured the CEO of Napster and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn. The WP account makes it clearest that the hearing chairman, Orrin Hatch, is pushing the recording companies to cut fair licensing agreements with the sounds-swap sites. The Post observes that at the beginning of the hearing, when senators demonstrated how to download MP3 files from the Internet, a witness suggested this was itself copyright infringement. Hatch replied that it was for educational or government purpose and “we define what that is.”

The LAT front reports that today Ralph Nader will name as his presidential campaign media adviser Bill Hillsman, the Minnesota-based ad man whose quirky spots were a big part of the from-nowhere victories of Jesse Ventura and Paul Wellstone. The story passes along Hillsman’s view about why there isn’t more creative political advertising: greed. Most media advisers get a cut of a campaign’s total amount of air time, so they get paid more if they saturate the airwaves with ads turned out quickly. By contrast, the story says, Hillsman’s signature ad, “Looking For Rudy,” a Roger and Me homage for Wellstone that is considered in some circles the greatest political ad ever, ran exactly … once.

The WSJ “Tax Report” says that when a Nevada man deducted cash payments he’d made to prostitutes as research for a book he was writing, the Tax Court turned him down, on the grounds that the fees were “so personal in nature as to preclude their deductibility.” There may be a good reason to disallow the hooker fees, but the court didn’t provide it– after all, such fees are not more personal than a hemorrhoidectomy, which (if it costs enough out-of-pocket) is deductible.