Today's Papers

Take Me or Leave Me

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and USA Today lead with, and the Wall Street Journal places atop its “World-Wide News” box, the news that former Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee, accused of mishandling nuclear weapons secrets, is expected to be released from prison today after agreeing to plead guilty to a single felony charge. The Washington Post  off-leads the Lee story and goes instead with yesterday’s announcement that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will raise production by 800,000 barrels a day in response to global fears of an energy crisis. According to the WP, OPEC hopes that stepping up oil production will prevent a surge in crude oil prices and a winter heating shortage. The LAT and NYT off-lead, and the WP goes below the fold with, news that the Palestinians have decided not to declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state Sept. 13 as they had planned.

The U.S. government agreed yesterday to drop nearly the entire case against Wen Ho Lee in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to a single charge that he “improperly downloaded classified material onto an unsecure computer,” according to the NYT. Although Lee has been imprisoned for months on charges that he stole U.S. weapons secrets with the intent of handing them to a foreign power, the NYT says that the U.S. government has since abandoned that suggestion. Government officials say that by accepting Lee’s agreement, a courtroom situation in which U.S. nuclear weapons secrets could have been disclosed will now be avoided.

Lee has agreed to a statement in the plea agreement that the U.S. government was justified in their pursuit of the seven missing computer tapes containing nuclear weapons data, an action that federal prosecutors hope will offset claims that Lee’s arrest was race-based, reports the NYT. Since Lee’s indictment in December, Asian-American groups, national laboratory scientists, and “several former senior intelligence officials” have said that Lee was singled out because of his Chinese ancestry. The LAT reports that the FBI began their investigation of the Taiwan-born Lee as a potential Chinese spy, later admitting that it found no evidence linking Lee to espionage. Under today’s expected agreement, Lee will be required to explain what he did with the computer tapes.

OPEC’s plan to step up oil production is the third increase this year, with the current crude oil prices at a 10-year high of $35 a barrel. The U.S. and European Union welcome the Oct. 1 production increase, but it is doubtful that the crude oil shortage will improve as cold weather encroaches on the Western Hemisphere. Oil analysts cited by the WP say that the low inventories could “trigger a market panic that could send heating oil prices into the stratosphere.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council said their decision to postpone the declaration of an independent Palestinian state–the second postponement in 16 months–was not indefinite. Rather, it was “intended to give the troubled Middle East peace talks a few more weeks to bear fruit,” writes the WP. Palestinian officials plan to resume peace talks immediately, reports the NYT, although the Israelis said no new talks have been scheduled.

The LAT, NYT, and WP front, and USAT reefers, news that Indiana University President Myles Brand announced yesterday that men’s basketball coach Bob Knight was fired due to “a persistent and troubling pattern of behavior,” according to the WP, which couldn’t resist the Web headline: “Knight’s Days Over.” Knight, a former U.S. Olympic coach who would have entered his 30th season with the Hoosiers this year, had been subjected since May to a zero-tolerance policy designed to keep his behavior in check. In addition to alleged confrontations with staff, opposing teams, and a policeman, Knight choked a former player in 1997, which cost him a three-game suspension and a $30,000 fine. Yesterday’s announcement came two days after a freshman student alleged that Knight verbally and physically assaulted him. Both papers report that the freshman and his family have received threats since Knight’s dismissal. The WP reports that riots broke out yesterday on the school’s Bloomington, Ind., campus as students protested Brand’s decision. Police equipped with riot gear attempted to control students who were vandalizing school property and burning images of Brand and the freshman student.

Just after millions of television fans watched the 52nd Annual Primetime Emmys last night, the LAT, NYT, and WSJ all front stories about a federal report detailing the entertainment industry’s practices of marketing violent material to children and young adults. The yearlong study, which will be released today and discussed in a Senate hearing on entertainment violence this week, finds that entertainment companies target kids who the firms admit are too young for the material, reports the WSJ, including advertising over-17 materials during TV shows popular with the under-17 set. In anticipation of the study’s release, the NYT scored an interview yesterday with Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, who said that if the entertainment industry did not cease the marketing of violent entertainment to kids and he and running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman are elected in November, “they would propose legislation or new regulatory authority allowing the federal government to sanction the industry,” writes the NYT. The NYT also observed that Gore didn’t seem to fear alienating Hollywood’s deep pockets: “Those who don’t like it, well, they don’t like it,” he said.