Today's Papers

Disk O’Infernos

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with Alberto Fujimori’s sudden weekend call for new elections for Peru’s presidency in which he will not run. Peru also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page world-wide news box. The Los Angeles Times, which fronted Fujimori yesterday and does so again today with a Peru-reacts story, leads instead with the failure of the federal highway safety agency to upgrade standards in such areas as vehicle rollovers, fuel tanks, roof crashworthiness, and head restraints. USA Today goes with the exclusive revelation that U.S. intelligence now has on CD-ROM the six-volume manual (called the Encyclopedia) used by Osama Bin Laden to train budding terrorists. The manual, the paper says, was turned over to the U.S. by Jordan’s intelligence service, which seized it when it arrested a 16-man terrorist ring last December. It contains chapters on bomb-making, using rockets, and “the most effective way to kill a non-Muslim.” (If you prick us, do we not bleed?)

The Post Peru pass sees Fujimori’s flagging support among the military as a key reason for his step-down. The paper says several military honchos refused to attend a meeting called by Fujimori last Saturday morning and credits the idea that the videotape of his intelligence chief offering a bribe–cited everywhere as the immediate cause of Fujimori’s announcement–was leaked to the opposition party with the help of “a discontented segment of the military.” Additionally, the paper says that the military kept intelligence agents from arresting a navy man involved in the videotape leak. The NYT lead depicts a wavering military as well but stresses that some senior army officers are believed to be on the side of the intel chief. The paper also reports that just a week ago, during a meeting at the U.N. summit, Madeleine Albright had urged Fujimori to clean up his intelligence service. The story goes high with the concern of U.S. officials that Peru might now undergo a period of unrest.

The LAT lead is a lengthy critical review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which detects a common pattern over the years: “The agency identifies the need for a tougher standard, announces the planned revision in the Federal Register, and seeks comments from the auto industry and the public. But often, five, eight or 10 years later, the upgrade has yet to emerge from the bureaucratic mire.” The paper says that although highway death rates have fallen from 5.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles in the ‘70s to 1.6 per 100 million today, nearly all the improvement occurred in the ‘70s and ‘80s with not much since. Since then, notes the LAT, the NHTSA’s inflation-adjusted budget has shrunk 36 percent.

The WSJ also fronts government safety regulations, those that are being contemplated to cover workplace repetitive stress injuries. The story depicts fairly resistant companies such as UPS and those in the beer business, but also shows that this is not a straightforward subject. For instance, what should count as a business-induced aggravating condition that adds to damage sustained by a worker elsewhere, say, at home, moving a couch? The government’s occupational safety arm, informs the paper, once said, “Standing, walking and sitting all constitute work activities that aggravate existing conditions.” It is, however, reconsidering that stance.

The WP runs a piece inside declaring the death of the view, associated with 1980s Republican strategist Lee Atwater, that the Electoral College favors Republicans. Instead, citing nonpartisan research, the paper finds that in the EC the advantage is now “decisively held by the Democrats.” The story waits until the penultimate paragraph to say anything at all about why: Former Republican stalwarts California and Florida have switched columns, the former because of the growing Hispanic vote and because of increasingly common pro-choice sentiment and the latter because of the “demographics of retired folks.” But this is pretty thin gruel. Aren’t Hispanics a big deal in Texas and Arizona too? And do California and Florida a shift make? Details, please.

The NYT goes inside with Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, complaining on a Sunday chat show that Al Gore attended an “X-rated” fund-raiser over the weekend only days after chiding the entertainment industry for the content it purveys to children. She referred to “scatological remarks” made at the affair while Gore was in attendance. Give the Gore opposition research gang credit: The Times has a Gore spokesman observing that perhaps Lynne Cheney should turn her attention to the fact that George W. Bush served for a decade on the board of a film company that produced a 1986 movie The Hitcher, in which a woman’s body was ripped in two. (Today’s Papers predicts a media scramble this week to locate and analyze this movie.)

In a cartoon on the LAT op-ed page, Bush is at a podium stating, “You cannot be held hostile by terrier acts because the Pentagram lacks a powerful detergent.” Now, this isn’t just picking on some ancillary aspect of Bush’s personality. This is saying he’s an idiot. And no matter how unfair this charge is, Bush can’t win unless he can change the media atmosphere that makes such a portrayal so ready-to-hand.

A NYT editorial salutes the advent of those bodysuits the Olympic swimmers are wearing, saying, “We should all be grateful for one performance enhancer that does not take the form of illegal steroids or human growth hormones or other exotic substances.” But the editorial doesn’t go on to ask the interesting question: “Why are the suits permissible and the other helpers not?” If a performance-enhancing drug were developed that had no side effects, why would it be any different than those suits?