The New York Times leads with news, supplied by Clinton administration and Pentagon sources, that Iraq has restarted the missile program shattered by U.S./British air raids in 1998. The Washington Post goes with the Senate’s final approval of an $11.2 billion emergency spending bill, primarily for anti-drug operations in Colombia, peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, and miscellaneous disaster relief efforts, but which is also larded with millions of dollars in special concessions senators added for their pet interests. The top national story at the Los Angeles Times is the Energy Department’s decision to strip security responsibilities from the University of California, which runs the country’s two largest nuclear weapons labs, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore. Although the UC will remain in charge of basic research conducted at the sites, the paper says the move to shift security to various Energy components is a “sharp symbolic blow” to the school’s prestige.
The NYT lead reports that Iraq has recently conducted eight flight tests of a liquid-fueled ballistic missile capable of carrying either conventional or chemical and biological warheads. The story stresses that although the weapon is short-range, and hence does not violate the restrictions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War, U.S. experts view the tests–monitored by satellites, radar, and aircraft–as evidence that Iraq is actively working on perfecting technology for banned longer-range weapons. The bright side: The missile is based on a 40-year-old design and in the tests, it’s been really buggy.
The WP reports that the spending bill, almost sure to be signed by President Clinton, included $45 million for a Gulfstream jet for the Coast Guard commandant, prompting John McCain to offer the commandant first-class air fare instead. The NYT’s Anthony Lewis, citing a Times story by Michael Gordon and Steven Lee Myers from earlier in the week, reminds readers just how pervasive such porkfests are: The national anti-missile system being contemplated by the Clinton administration would put a huge radar installation on a remote Aleutian Island and deploy 100 interceptor missiles in Alaska, not because of strategic necessity, but because putting them elsewhere would leave a few thousand residents of the Aleutians unshielded, a fact deemed fatally offensive to Alaska’s Sen. Ted Stevens, a key defense appropriations honcho. Another example, first reported by the newsletter Inside EPA, and fronted today by the WP: Trent Lott last year entered into a secret written agreement with Idaho Sen. Michael Crapo in which he promised to kill revisions in the Superfund environmental clean-up law in return for getting a special exemption from it for scrap metal dealers.
The LAT is alone in fronting news that an audit of a Small Business Administration program designed to certify minority contractors to enable them to get more government contracts has spent up to half its funds improperly, on offices and equipment not used by the program, and on unrelated SBA activities.
The WP off-lead says that George W. Bush supporters have cut a deal with conservatives about the upcoming GOP convention and its platform: Keep in the anti-abortion plank, even though it’s to the right of Bush’s own position, but give toward the center on education, women’s health, public transportation, and immigration. The goal is to keep the convention free of the sort of ideological wrangling that so hurt the party’s nominees in 1992 and 1996.
The NYT fronts the Presbyterian Church’s step yesterday toward forbidding its ministers from conducting same-sex unions. The story’s headline says that “Presbyterians” voted the ban in, which is an oversell, in that it was the church’s top policy-making body that did so, and a tally of the church’s regions is still required to make the change.
The WP’s “Reliable Source,” reports on the full-page advertisement that appeared in a Turkish newspaper on behalf of Prince Ernst August of Monaco after he was caught urinating on the side of Turkey’s World’s Fair pavilion: “It is my duty to express to the Turkish public that relieving myself during my visit to the Expo 2000 was definitely not a conscious act.”