Today's Papers

Unhappy Campers

Everybody leads with the latest Camp David news. Successive editions track first the zig of the talks breaking up acrimoniously as a disappointed and weary President Clinton prepared to depart for the Japan economic summit and then the zag of the meetings continuing with Madeleine Albright stepping in as mediator (with Clinton aiming to reevaluate the situation upon his return). The papers’ consensus is that the chief sticking point is how to adjudicate the two sides’ competing claims on Jerusalem.

The papers quote President Clinton’s explanation for the talks’ surprise second wind: “Nobody wanted to give up.” This capped a day–called by the Los Angeles Times “one of the most unusual days in diplomatic history”–in which Ehud Barak wrote a letter charging the Palestinians with the talks’ breakdown and Palestinian spokespeople returned the blame, in which Clinton met separately with Barak and Yasser Arafat three times, but during which the two men never sat down with each other.

Because of the news blackout, there isn’t much concrete information on substance, but there are some interesting tidbits. The New York Times cites a Radio Israel report saying that Clinton had unsuccessfully proposed that Barak and Arafat accept a partial agreement that would address the borders of a Palestinian state and the fate of the Palestinian refugees but would exclude the Jerusalem issue. The LAT reports that the U.S. proposed shared sovereignty for the city, but Barak demurred. USA Today has Barak telling Clinton that if he, Barak, were to concede on Jerusalem, his next visit to Washington would be as opposition leader and has Arafat adding that if he were to make concessions he would soon be drinking coffee with Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated five years ago by an opponent of his conciliationist stance.

The Washington Post and LAT front the House’s passage yesterday of a big increase in the contribution limits on IRAs and 401(k) plans. Although the latest in a series of Republican-led wealth-enhancing measures, this one garnered lots of Democratic votes. Nevertheless, the papers report, President Clinton strongly opposes the bill because it mostly benefits higher income people. (Currently, points out the LAT, only about a third of the U.S. workforce participate in the plans sweetened yesterday.) Instead Clinton supports government-subsidized retirement accounts for low earners. The WP lead editorial sees things Clinton’s way, wondering, “If Congress wants to improve retirement income, why not start with those who lack it rather than those who already have it?”

Not that Al Gore asked him, but the NYT reports on Bill Clinton’s preferences for a Gore running mate. His faves? Ex-Sen. George Mitchell and Sen. Bob Graham. The latter apparently still has some name recognition problems: The story is accompanied (online at least) by a picture of Republican Sen. Phil Gramm.

The WP fronts word that come Monday morning, Stephen King will try to be the first person to widely distribute a book without a publisher. That’s when the first chapter of his new novel becomes available at a dedicated Web site. (King’s first e-release, “Riding the Bullet,” was done under the auspices of Simon & Schuster.) The economics of the deal: If at least 75 percent of those who download the chapter send King a dollar, he’ll keep writing installments. If not, not. The story quotes Dick Brass, Microsoft e-publishing honcho, as saying that this event signifies that the balance of power in the publishing world has changed in six months. “This time,” Brass is quoted, “King’s not riding the bullet, he’s shooting it.”

Player goes one for two on roadtrip.. USAT top-fronts word that Andy Morales, the Cuban baseball star who was caught by the Coast Guard at sea last month while attempting to flee Cuba and therefore by treaty was returned, has, on his second try, made it to U.S. soil, and therefore by that same treaty, can remain in the U.S. And, points out the paper, could sign a lucrative major league contract.

Since Today’s Papers just happens to be composing itself today while wearing its stylish “186,000 miles per second. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law” T-shirt, it was quite confused by the stories on the WP and LAT fronts reporting that scientists were able to make a light pulse go faster than light. The confusion was furthered because while the WP says the experiment involved said pulse leaving a chamber before it was finished entering it, the LAT goes further saying flatly it exited the chamber before it entered it. But the LAT says the result doesn’t upset basic notions of time and causality–it quotes an expert saying “No, you can’t kill your ancestors.”