Today's Papers

Silicon Valley of the Dolls

The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times lead with the ongoing violence in the Middle East that arose after Israeli leader Ariel Sharon visited the mosques in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday. Palestinians threw rocks and bottles and gasoline bombs at Israeli soldiers stationed at the perimeter of Palestinian-controlled areas; the Israelis responded with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and, in some cases, live ammunition. Twelve Palestinians were reported dead and hundreds more wounded. The NYT reports that a cease-fire had been brokered after the day’s violence; the WP also mentions the cease-fire but says that it had been denied by an army spokesman. All three papers print one particularly gruesome incident: An ambulance driver and a 12-year-old boy were killed by crossfire as they crouched for cover behind a concrete block–a scene that was captured on film and played on Israeli television. This recent outbreak of fighting, which comes in the middle of peace talks between the two sides, seems to have ruined all chances for a settlement, despite the efforts of world leaders to salvage some sort of deal: The WP reports that Madeline Albright telephoned both Yasser Arafat and the acting Israeli foreign minister; the NYT indicates that Kofi Annan spoke with both Arafat and Ehud Barak after Friday’s fighting. No word on what was discussed.

The NYT off-lead attempts to sort out the difference between Bush’s and Gore’s prescription drug coverage. Bush intends to give $48 billion immediately to the states to help low-income people and the elderly. Later he would transform Medicare into an open-market for competing health plans. The NYT criticizes Bush for his failure to address directly issues such as how to set deductibles and co-payments. Gore’s plan involves government subsidies for half the real cost of drug premiums–an approach that Republicans ridicule as the return of Big Government.

The LAT and the NYT front analysis of the upcoming presidential debates, which kick off Tuesday in Boston. Because the polls are so close, both camps are preparing with intense meticulousness. They know the election could depend on the outcome of the three scheduled debates. Some of the details negotiators haggled over, as reported by the NYT: height of the lecterns; number of aides permitted backstage; temperature in the hall (65 degrees); and whether to allow props (no). At stake for the candidates are the swing voters who will likely decide the election: The LAT cites a poll that indicates one-third of all voters are undecided or willing to change their vote between now and November.

The WP, the only one of the three majors that fronts coverage of the abortion pill, RU-486, makes several conclusions about the drug that the NYT made yesterday in a front-pager. Advocates and opponents both say that, for two reasons, the pill might not have as large an impact on the number of abortions performed as has been anticipated: 1) abortion-reporting requirements would make it difficult for doctors who prescribe the drug to remain anonymous, which raises security issues; 2) doctors may avoid prescribing the pill simply because they’re not familiar with either the procedures of administering it or with dealing with complications that could arise from its use. In short, those doctors who already perform abortion procedures will probably prescribe the pill; those who don’t will not.

An NYT front-pager examines Hollywood labor disputes that center on new technology: Unions are threatening to strike unless they can work out an agreement with networks and studios on how to compensate actors and writers for their work that appears on the Internet. At present no firm compensation arrangement exists.

The WP goes above the fold with a follow up to a story it did last year on a uranium processing plant in Paducah, Ky. Recently released documents show that the plant spread plutonium into surrounding land further than had been believed and that it may have contaminated local ground water. Government contractors had tested for plutonium levels throughout the plant’s operation, but it seems they concealed the extent of the contamination.

The NYT goes inside with coverage of the elections in Yugoslavia. Vojislav Kostunica and his opposition party have announced a boycott of a runoff as well as a series of rallies and a general strike in an effort to convince Milosevic to concede defeat. In a companion piece, the NYT reports (as does the WP) that Vladimir Putin is prepared to take an active role in resolving the standoff. Putin says he would send his foreign minister to consult with the political parties in Yugoslavia. Milosevic has yet to reply formally, but sources say he has rejected the offer outright.

The WP fronts a piece that looks at the collateral effects of the war on drugs in Colombia. As the Colombian government, supported by $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, steps up its assault on the illegal drug industry, drug traffickers cross into neighboring countries to continue their operations. As a result, countries such as Ecuador find themselves living in the midst of another country’s civil war.

The LAT off-leads a report on increased drug use in the high-tech industry. The use of cocaine, Ecstasy, and GHB has risen significantly among young dot-com professionals. One programmer (who on occasion boosts his prescribed Ritalin dosages to increase his productivity) explains, “There’s always been an anarchist technophile drug-use thing that seems to go together.”