Today's Papers

That Sinking Feeling

The New York Times leads with the United Nations’ assembly of a new team of arms inspectors that will attempt to enter Iraq soon to restart inspections of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs. The Washington Post goes with its fresh poll agreeing with yesterday’s USA Today finding that Al Gore’s post-convention bounce gives him a narrow lead over George W. Bush. The Los Angeles Times goes with a snapshot of the energy markets, focusing on Monday’s spike in natural gas prices triggered, says the paper, by that deadly pipeline explosion in New Mexico and a developing Caribbean hurricane. The paper sees this all as evidence that “the nation is edging toward a new energy crisis.” USAT leads with nationwide enrollments this fall in public and private elementary and secondary schools totaling a record 53 million kids, evidence, it says, that school crowding and teacher shortages will be top issues around the country. Nobody fronts anybody else’s lead.

The NYT reminds that the U.N. inspection regime came to an end two years ago after Hussein stopped cooperating, which prompted the U.S. and Britain to conduct airstrikes against suspected Iraqi weapons sites. The paper explains that in response to past Iraqi complaints, the new team works directly for the U.N. and is less U.S.- and England-centric than its predecessor. The imminent readiness of the team raises the prospect that once again there could be a confrontation with Hussein over his weapons programs–and right in the middle of a U.S. election to boot.

The WP says its poll gives Al Gore a 5 percent lead over George W. Bush (50-45) in a head-to-head among registered voters. When the field is expanded to include Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, that becomes Gore 46 percent and Bush 44 percent. The paper found Gore’s margins slightly wider among likely voters.

The LAT lead doesn’t explain whether the natural gas pipeline outage caused by the explosion or the possible outage that would result if a hurricane shut down Gulf of Mexico natural gas rigs for a short time would actually significantly impact supply or would only increase anxiety about this among consumers. The paper adds some other signs of energy trouble: the tight electricity market in Southern California, where rolling blackouts have only been narrowly avoided, and continued high gasoline prices.

Everybody fronts rescue divers’ determination that nobody survived on that downed Russian sub as well as the Russian government’s concomitant apology. “Mothers, forgive me for not bringing back your sons,” the fleet commander is quoted as saying. The coverage is generally dismissive of the Russian navy and its handling of the emergency, but a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sherry Sontag, the co-author of Blind Man’s Bluff about U.S. submarine espionage, provides a good corrective. She argues that current U.S. rescue assets probably wouldn’t be able to help a U.S. sub with a serious casualty at an operating depth either–there’s just too much crushing water pressure. But actually, she adds, there is now a greater rationale for developing submarine rescue capability: With the passing of the Cold War, subs are operating more in shallower coastal water (off the coasts, say, of China, Iran, and North Korea) where rescue is more feasible. And yet in military budgets, tactical subs trump rescue ones.

The WP fronts and everybody else carries inside, George W. Bush’s campaign speech yesterday in which he charged the Clinton administration with “long neglect” of service members, which has resulted in a military “in decline.” Bush also said that the U.S. military has been overextended and he promised that if elected he would conduct a timely withdrawal of U.S. forces from the likes of Bosnia and Kosovo. From the same podium (it was at a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting), Secretary of Defense William Cohen countered that defense cuts started under President Bush (when, the paper should have added, Dick Cheney was secretary of defense) and were only reversed three years ago, under Bill Clinton. The Journal points out in an inside piece that the uptrend continues with the administration’s proposed 2002 budget.

The LAT fronts Disney’s agreement to settle for $2 million a racial bias suit bought in connection with a contest run at one of its local L.A. radio outlets. It seems that a black female station employee had complained about the contest that offered listeners “black hoes” prize packages of black plastic gardening tools. The woman had been seeking the dismissal of the two disc jockeys behind the idea of using the gag prizes as a way of managing to use black slang for prostitutes, but that was not agreed to. In fact, reports the paper, the two have had their contracts extended through next year. In addition, several station executives involved were given promotions.