The New York Times leads with the close of the United Nations Millennium Summit, which is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post runs the summit inside. Its top non-local story is Russia’s decision to reduce its military troop strength by nearly 30 percent over the next three years.
The NYT tries hard to glean some news out of the U.N. summit before throwing up its hands and covering the event like a local county fair. The summit’s eight-page declaration, which tries to blend demands for universal democracy and human rights with poorer nations’ demands for greater economic equality, is admiringly called a “brave attempt” by the world’s leaders to try to agree on common goals to strive for over the next 1,000 years. By the fourth paragraph, however, the paper admits that hardly anyone expects the pledges in the declaration to be fulfilled. From then on, the NYT satisfies itself with color about the vintage elevators and escalators at the U.N. headquarters, the “plumed personalities and ruffled feathers” of diplomats, and the 3,000 pounds of chicken, 2,000 pounds of beef, 300 pounds of pasta, and 100 gallons of tomato sauce consumed at the U.N. cafeteria. The LAT lead is newsier but just as skeptical, emphasizing the summit’s goals of halving world poverty, reversing the spread of AIDS, and strengthening U.N. peacekeeping operations. The paper criticizes the U.S. for underfunding the international body. The inside WP story focuses exclusively on the U.S. effort to reduce the nation’s share of U.N. peacekeeping expenditures. The U.S. wants China to pay substantially more than the 1.2 percent China currently chips in for the U.N. peacekeeping budget. The U.S., by contrast, is assessed 30.2 percent of peacekeeping costs, though Congress has refused to pay more than 25 percent.
The WP lead says that Russia plans to cut 350,000 troops from its 1.2 million-member armed forces by 2003. More than half of the cuts will come from infantry and tank troops. Believe it or not, the downsizing is part of a plan by President Vladimir Putin to shift money away from Russia’s nuclear arsenal and into ground forces. By reducing the number of troops, Putin hopes to find enough money to feed and clothe the Russian army. Right now, many Russian soldiers are so destitute that they beg for cigarettes and prostitute themselves in public parks.
The WP fronts word that California is about to promise free tuition to a public university to any high school senior in the state who has a “B” average and who belongs to a family of four that earns $64,000 or less. The student could also choose to receive $9,700 for tuition to any private California college. All it takes to maintain the grant through college is full-time status and “good academic standing.” The program is expected to cost $1 billion annually, but with a $12 billion budget surplus, lawmakers (and taxpayers) don’t seem to mind. California Gov. Gray Davis will sign the measure into law Monday.
The LAT fronts a fascinating case involving a Massachusetts woman who is being kept in state custody to protect her unborn child. The woman, who is nine months pregnant, is a member of a 13-person religious sect that views science and religion as blasphemy, denies the existence of the United States, and denounces education, government, banking, and entertainment. The woman’s two previous children are alleged to have died because the group refused to seek medical help. A juvenile court judge ordered the woman to be hospitalized until her baby is born. The judge also said he could hear the unborn child’s voice in the courtroom: “And it said, ‘I want to live. I do not want to die. I do not want to die like my brother Jeremiah did.’ ” The judge has appointed an attorney to represent the fetus. Feminist groups are outraged. The fundamentalist Christian woman has refused legal counsel for herself (believing in prayer over law), but reproductive rights lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed friend-of-the-court briefs.
The WP fronts a profile of Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, who is a leading candidate to become secretary of defense in a Gore administration. Danzig has ordered the Navy to fill sailors’ long hours on ships with education and to limit traditional duties such as chipping paint, waxing floors, and cooking food. Danzig has also compared the Pentagon budgeting process to a “communist system,” with its five-year plans and command economy run by top-down directives rather than market forces. “It didn’t work for the Soviet Union, and I think that it doesn’t work very well” for the Navy, he says. And he should know: Danzig is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Ore., a school whose unofficial credo (unmentioned by the WP) is “atheism, communism, free love.”
George W. Bush just started campaigning under the banner of a new slogan, “Real Plans for Real People,” the WP notes. Today’s Papers can’t help but notice the similarity to the Beef Council’s old slogan, “Real Food for Real People.” If the new Bush catchphrase doesn’t work out, TP has a recommendation for another meat-inspired one: “Bush: The Other White Candidate.”