Today's Papers

Bridgestone/Firestone Gets Fire and Brimstone

The New York Times and USA Today lead with the ongoing Firestone tire debacle. The Los Angeles Times leads with President Clinton’s call for peace before a U.N. summit of world leaders. The Washington Post leads with news of a 10-year high in world oil prices. The Clinton administration is pressuring OPEC to lift its production and keep oil rates down but expect a 30 percent rise in home heating oil costs this winter.

At congressional hearings yesterday, executives from Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone faced fierce criticism for their failure to act sooner in recalling faulty tires. Newly released documents suggest both companies may have been aware of the tire failures for several months before moving to get tires off the road. Firestone’s CEO apologized to Congress and to accident victims but continued to spread blame to the Ford Explorer’s “rollover” tendency and to consumers’ “lack of care for the tires.” The NYT notes the nasty finger-pointing between Ford and Firestone. With Ford’s CEO on the hot spot, too, the LAT says the hearings demonstrated “high-stakes damage control by two global corporations.” The Wall Street Journal tops its news box with the story, and all five papers front it above the fold. The LAT and NYT run identical front-page images: Firestone CEO Masatoshi Ono photographed through the frame of a Firestone tire.

At the U.N. Millennium Summit, President Clinton reminded world leaders of the U.N.’s responsibility to intervene, even in civil wars, to maintain global peace. He stressed the importance of carefully defined missions and well-trained and well-equipped forces. He also once again urged Israel and Palestine to reach an accord in the peace process. The WP says Clinton “avoided” fellow attendee Fidel Castro. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the summit with a moment of silence for three U.N. workers killed by a rioting mob in West Timor.

In campaign news, the LAT and WP go front page with stories on George W. Bush’s obsessive concern over where and when debates with Al Gore should be held. Gore wants traditional 90-minute debates, broadcast on all the networks. Bush wants 60-minute debates shown to smaller audiences and is pounding away at the idea with ads and speeches. The LAT says Bush’s debate focus is pulling voters’ attentions away from the core ideas of his campaign–at a time when he’s losing ground in the polls. The NYT goes further, running an above-the-fold story arguing that worry is afoot in the GOP ranks. Republican big dogs such as William J. Bennett have “acknowledged puzzlement, frustration, and even some distress about the strides that Mr. Gore has made.”

The NYT and LAT both go front page with new suggestions that some American Indians were cannibalistic. A Colorado archeological site has yielded fossilized human feces that, upon testing, show evidence of digested human muscle protein. The debate has long raged over whether Indians in the Southwest were gentle farmers or ravenous person-eaters, with modern American (non-cannibalistic) Indians arguing the former, and anthropologists coming down on both sides of the debate.

The WP fronts a spooky story about a case before Britain’s Court of Appeals involving a set of Siamese twins. If the twins are not separated, both will soon die, according to doctors. If they are separated, one will certainly die, but the other may live long and prosper. A lower court ruled to separate. The parents, the Roman Catholic Church, and the British right-to-life movement all oppose that decision. The trial is a mess, with lawyers representing “the parents, the doctors, the stronger twin, the weaker twin, the public health service and the government.”

A WSJ Page One feature says the future of the much-heralded Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang is in serious doubt. Once meant to be a one-volume tome, the work moved through Volume 2 … and it’s still only up to “O.” Famed linguist J.E. Lighter has delivered far more slang than he was asked for but is way past deadline, hasn’t submitted anything past “S,” and is mired in disputes with the publisher. Stuck with this (likely unprofitable) behemoth, Random House may call the whole thing off. It has already tried to recoup some investment by releasing a single entry (quick, guess which) as a 272-page book titled, yes, “The F-word.”