The New York Times leads with Pentagon evidence that although the recruiting situation with the full-time military may be turning around, the military’s reserves are increasingly missing their staffing goals even as these forces are being increasingly relied upon to help active duty troops with peacekeeping operations and other commitments around the world. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is President Clinton’s speech in Nigeria, before a predominantly female crowd, stressing that the nation’s fledgling democracy will be endangered by AIDS unless the disease is openly and aggressively fought. (If you’ve ever doubted POTUS’ powerful connection to the world, check out that picture on the LAT front. Those smiles!) The Washington Post lead is a smallish story with national implications: The 500 or so black students in Washington, D.C., New York City and Dayton, Ohio, attending private schools with the help of vouchers have moved ahead of their public school counterparts. There was no similar change observed for children of other ethnic groups. USA Today goes with Bridgestone/Firestone’s expected announcement today of an expanded recall of tires sold in Venezuela, all made at the company’s plant in Valencia. The story mentions in the body but not in the headline that a soon-to-be-completed Venezuelan government report on the tires might result in criminal action. The top story flagged in the Wall Street Journal’s front page business news box has more: It says that the report will hold Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone responsible for something like 400 traffic accidents involving 100 fatalities in Venezuela and impose hefty fines on both firms. A separate Journal front-pager chronicles mounting tension between B/F and Ford as the two companies struggle to co-manage the most closely watched product recall since Tylenol.
The NYT lead points out how far the reserves have come from being “weekend warriors,” disclosing that last year the average Air Force reservist served 58 days and the average reserve AF aircrew member served 110. The NYT reports without comment that there is one service branch that consistently hits its reserve personnel numbers: the Marine Corps. But the Times should have thought about that singularity for a bit. The explanation might be that the Marines are the only service that stresses branch pride above pay and training so that it’s the only one that generally still seems attractive to members who via an active-duty stint have already gotten some of those bennies. The other services should take note.
Everybody reports inside that according to fresh DOJ stats, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. dropped 10 percent last year–the third time it’s fallen that much year-to-year in the past decade, bringing that rate to its lowest level since the government started tracking it in 1973.
Really interesting “cover story” on the USAT front about how criminals are trying to counter the rising forensic importance of DNA. Rather than try something radical like working for a living, the doofballs have gone in for committing rapes while wearing masks, gloves, and condoms and taking DNA tests for each other while incarcerated so that subsequent matches with crime scene evidence would be wrong. The article’s wildest scam: A woman is raped and the semen sample taken from her is a DNA match for a man already in jail awaiting sentencing on a DNA-based rape conviction. The man in jail obviously has an alibi for the crime and protests that the tests must somehow be confusing him with somebody with dramatically similar genetic material. But the cops figured out what really happened (the story doesn’t say how though, and it should have): The guy in the pen smuggled a semen sample out (in a ketchup packet), and family members then paid a woman $50 to use the sperm to stage a phony rape.
The WSJ reports on some typically obscene retirement packages recently “earned” by the retiring CEOs of Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Mattel, who effed-up their companies before leaving. One puzzling feature of the compensation that the paper reports but does not explain: Why would a retirement package include stock options? The idea behind stock options is to motivate someone to work harder to increase the company’s value, something that’s hard to do when your fat ass is on the fairway at Boca. Of course, this is the particularly screwy part of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton kiss-off: The only way the company can get anything out of Cheney in return for the options it bestowed on him would be if he were to do something illegal or at least unethical.
If there were a janitors’ strike in L.A. and an actors’ strike there, which would get more coverage? Actors? Wrong, says the LAT’s reader’s representative, Narda Zacchino. In her column in yesterday’s paper, Zacchino writes that most articles on the recent janitors’ strike for a base pay hike ran in her paper’s front or second section, with four of them making Page One, while almost all of the stories about the current actors’ strike over commercial residuals ran deep inside. And she concludes that there should have been equal coverage–after all, there are 135,000 actors in the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists combined as compared to 8,500 janitors, and three quarters of the actors in the unions earn no more than $7,500 a year.