Today's Papers

Initial Public Servant

The Washington Post leads with the revelation that dozens of radical members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who have been released from jail in recent weeks by Yasser Arafat are now coordinating, in the paper’s words, “the current campaign of violence” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The New York Times leads with the decision by House and Senate Republicans to drop from the forthcoming foreign aid bill restrictions on private family-planning groups that would have prevented them from spending their own money to provide abortions or to promote abortion rights overseas. The Los Angeles Times leads with its own fresh poll showing that in California, Al Gore leads George W. Bush by 7 percentage points among likely voters. The paper says that voters find Bush more likable and better able to ensure a strong national defense but that Gore is ahead of him on all other specific issues. USA Today leads with a criminal case development that it says is likely to make legal history. Although prosecutors in at least six states have filed warrants identifying a wanted person not by his name but merely by his DNA profile, Sacramento, Calif., authorities have for the first time ever actually arrested someone on such a warrant. None of the leads is on anybody else’s front page.

The WP lead says that although Palestinians at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit last week assured U.S. officials that the Islamic radicals released by the Palestinian Authority were being re-arrested, sources tell the paper that most remain free. The paper adds that Israeli officials are warning citizens to brace for a new wave of violence, one that if it comes, they will blame on Arafat.

The NYT explains that the overseas abortion funding deal actually increases money going to the family-planning groups but that none of it goes to them before next Feb. 15. Thus, congressional abortion rights advocates are hoping that Al Gore will win and that the deal will stand while their anti-abortion counterparts are hoping that George W. Bush wins and will reinstate the restrictions just given up.

The 1,760-word LAT lead is chockablock with statistical comparisons but concludes with this political insight about the candidates: “Neither their performances in the debates nor their vice presidential selections appeared to shift perceptions among California voters, leaving the outcome dependent on which man manages to persuade more of his voters to show up Nov. 7.”

The USAT lead confuses quite a bit when it explains the grounds that the arrested man will use to challenge the DNA-only warrant. It quotes a law professor who says that requiring a suspect to be named in a warrant protects the suspect’s right to a fair trial by putting him on notice that he is being sought. What?–do cops have to make an effort ahead of time to inform someone they want to arrest of that fact? And aren’t some indictments kept secret?

The WP, the NYT, and the LAT all front Tuesday’s talks between North Korea’s Kim Jong-il and Madeleine Albright, which focused on whether or not Kim will continue missile development and exports. USAT carries the story inside. Apparently progress was made toward Kim agreeing to cut it out, but no definitive agreement was reached. That’s the way everybody tells it, except the LAT, which says that Kim promised not to launch a long-range missile, although this hasn’t been put in writing yet.

The LAT fronts and everybody else goes inside with a new Rand Corp. study purporting to show that the student test score gains in Texas during the last decade, often cited by George W. Bush, have been inflated. The paper reports that the Bush campaign immediately discounted the study and questioned the timing of its release. The study’s authors found that students achieved far larger gains on Texas’ own tests than on national ones, and they suggested that therefore the Texas test score increases might have been the result of extensive test-specific preparation.

The only appearance on the fronts of the situation in the Ivory Coast is the NYT’s reefer. What’s happening: The military ruler has declared himself the winner of Sunday’s presidential election after dissolving the election commission that had showed him losing. The announcement prompted widespread street protests that soldiers dispersed by firing shots in the air.

The NYT says that at a stop at a school in Illinois, George W. Bush “sought to make a mockery of” Al Gore’s tax cut proposals, asking the crowd there, “How many of you own hybrid electric-gasoline engine vehicles?” and “How many of you own a rooftop photo-voltaic system?”

The NYT goes inside with details from Dick Cheney’s latest tax return, which he released at the request of the paper. It turns out that in the summer of 1999, Cheney made $45,992, a return of 80 percent on his investment, in the nine technology company initial public offering stock trades he made. Citing financial experts, the paper says it would be “unusual” for an outsider who is not a brokerage client generating significant commissions to get a chance to participate in more than one IPO, because such deals are, the paper says, “the closest thing to a guaranteed profit that the stock market has known.” In six of the nine trades, Cheney held the shares for less than a day. The founder of the company where the trades were made tells the paper that “to get that kind of preferential allocation, you have to be doing something for the underwriter.”

The Times also runs an AP dispatch reporting that Yugoslavia’s Vojislav Kostunica has publicly acknowledged for the first time (in an interview to be broadcast tonight on 60 Minutes II) that Yugoslav forces committed widespread killings last year in Kosovo. “I am ready to accept the guilt for all those people who have been killed,” he said. “For what Milosevic had done, and as a Serb, I will take responsibility for many of these, these crimes.”

In the wake of the WP’s recent endorsement of Al Gore, the paper’s executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr., takes to the op-ed page to explain the “solemn and complete” separation of the Post’s news coverage from its editorial and op-ed pages. And Downie reminds readers that as the paper’s final news decision-maker, he doesn’t even vote. But it turns out that his civic disengagement goes even further than that: “I refuse to decide, even privately, which candidate would make the better president or member of the city council, or what position I would take on any issue.” Wow–the paper’s top news decision-maker, writing today on his paper’s opinion page, has decided to have no opinions.