Today's Papers

Slobo to China?

USA Today and the Los Angeles Times lead with the Senate testimony yesterday of eight film executives. The former, with its headline “STUDIOS ADMIT TO TARGETING CHILDREN,” focuses more on the Industry’s performance to date. The latter, with its headline “MOVIE EXECUTIVES OFFER TO CURB SOME MARKETING TO KIDS,” focuses more on its promises to do better in the future. For the second day straight, the New York Times leads with a situation report on the continuing ferment in Yugoslavia, a story below the fold or off the front elsewhere except the Wall Street Journal, where it tops the front-page world-wide news box. The top national story at the Washington Post, which puts the Hollywood heavies below the fold, is a huge takeout on the rising foreign policy power and influence of the Pentagon’s regional commanders, who have budgets and staffs that rival the White House, and face-to-face relationships with foreign leaders unavailable to those inside the Beltway without personal air forces. Pictures and/or stories of U.S. Olympic gold medals in super heavyweight wrestling and baseball find front space at the Post, NYT, and LAT, while USAT puts its ample coverage of the stories on its sports fronts (that’s right, fronts–besides the usual section, the paper runs a sports bonus package). Speaking of ample: Only the LAT front finds space to reefer yesterday’s decision by an L.A. federal judge that former Playmate and Guess Jeans girl Anna Nicole Smith was entitled to $450 million from the estate of her late nonagenarian oilman husband.

The Hollywood hearings coverage notes that the studios have expressed different degrees of compliance with Washington’s fresh enthusiasm for watchdogging youth marketing. USAT says that Sen. John McCain, who chaired the proceedings, singled out Disney, DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros as being more responsive to the charges of illicit marketing of violent material to young people raised in that FTC report prompting all this. The paper describes some of the other studios as “defiant,” and quotes Universal’s chairman as saying that restricting advertising to those over 17 is “impossible.” The LAT says that the studios also declined to commit to sanctions for companies or theaters that violate restrictions. The paper says that the outfits that seemed most willing to accommodate Congress are, “coincidentally or not,” (way to go, LAT lawyers!) the ones with the most pressing business before Congress.

The WP goes inside with another media hearing in Congress yesterday, this one on the AOL/TW merger, where AOL’s Steve Case said that no hard deadline should be set for when his company’s immediate messaging system should have to be interoperable with other those of other companies.

The NYT lead notes that the anti-Slobodan Milosevic crowds in Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities are getting larger (some 200,000 peacefully assembled in protest in Belgrade last night), that the opposition leader, Vojislav Kostunica, is adamant about not participating in the government-ordered runoff, and that the police and army are beginning to pull away from Milosevic. All this adds up to an impression that things are fast approaching fish-or-cut-bait time. The paper quotes an unnamed “senior western official” as saying that now the only way Milosevic can avoid a war crimes trial in the Hague is to say he’s leaving. The paper surmises that Russia and Belarus are possible havens. This dovetails with the WSJ’s Yugoslavia story, which has one of the country’s former prime ministers urging Russia to take Milosevic in.

The WSJ runs a front-page feature about a new optimistic study on the experimental anti-AIDS technique of using anti-HIV cocktails just long enough to stimulate the body’s immune system under the headline “NEWLY INFECTED AIDS PATIENTS MAY SQUELCH VIRUS DRUG-FREE.” But the NYT goes inside with word that the “nation’s leading science organization” has issued a report sharply criticizing the Clinton administration for a failure to develop a comprehensive plan for combating AIDS. The story reminds that the new-case rate for AIDS has not dropped since 1992. Among the report’s charges are that the government is misspending money when its funding favors blood screening over needle exchanges and abstinence over more comprehensive sex education that includes condom availability.

The editorial page of the NYT puts on its very own hair shirt for its own Wen Ho Lee stances over the past 17 months. But in truth, like the news section’s halfa-culpa earlier in the week, it’s lined with cotton-poly and turns out to be pretty comfortable. The editorial asserts that Lee “grossly and consistently mishandled classified material” and says that once the FBI got on his trail, he “deleted 310 files in a single day.” And more importantly, it says that many of the paper’s Lee editorials “have held up well.” But there is the page’s admission that it “too quickly accepted” the government’s theory about Chinese espionage in general and Lee in particular as the chief explanation for China’s apparent progress in nuclear weapons technology. Earlier in the week, after Today’s Papers complained that the Times online evaluation of its Lee news coverage was not accompanied by the online versions of that coverage, TP was informed by the paper that these links had been added after TP had been filed. Let’s hope it’s the same with this new Leeward tack–because as of this writing, there are no links to Lee editorials in it.

A WP “Style” section piece about the importance of tiny increments of time in the Olympics touches on a question that has troubled Today’s Papers: If, for faster times, swimmers shave their bodies, and now even wear smooth total body suits, as do some runners, why would any runner (the Post’s example is Michael Johnson) wear a heavy gold necklace? (Yesterday, Today’s Papers saw a 400-meter hurdler wearing a watch. What’s the point?) And by the way, what will the IOC say when the first runner or swimmer has his/her outer ears surgically removed?