Today's Papers

We Still Don’t Know Dick

The Los Angeles Times leads with the arrest by Israeli undercover agents of up to eight of the men believed to have killed those two Israeli soldiers last week inside a Palestinian police station. The Washington Post leads with the situation on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza as both Israeli and Palestinian officials respond to this week’s truce announcement. USA Today leads with the Norfolk naval base memorial service for those killed on the Cole, attended by 36 of the 39 sailors wounded in the attack and by President Clinton. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page worldwide news box with a Middle East situation report and its front-page business news box with yesterday’s Wall Street slide, which saw the Dow close below 10,000 for the first time since March. The New York Times leads with a story no one else fronts, the Senate’s passage yesterday of a bill, now sure to become law, that loosens four-decades-old government sanctions against selling food to Cuba. But as the story explains, the agricultural interests behind the move were countermeasured by anti-Castro forces, who succeeded in tacking on travel and financing restrictions that effectively keep Cuban markets off-limits to U.S. food vendors anyway. Because of this, the paper should have moved some mention of the restrictions up into the biggest print of its headline.

The papers refer to sporadic fighting–which caused no deaths–yesterday on the West Bank and Gaza, but the LAT, NYT, and WSJ also refer to a Palestinian Authority statement calling for a halt to “all that could lead to tension and violence.” The LAT notes that Ehud Barak’s office pointed out that the statement was not made by Yasser Arafat. The coverage notes also that in a speech, Barak said that he is not convinced that he has a partner in the search for peace.

The LAT lead emphasizes that if Palestinians come to believe either that the Palestinian authorities aided the Israelis in the arrests of the lynching suspects or that Israeli security forces abducted the suspects from Palestinian-controlled territory, that would probably immediately negate whatever halting progress is being made towards peace. A separate inside story at the WP emphasizes a different corollary: Given that the arrests were aided by television news video and wire service photos taken at the lynching scene, they will only intensify the feelings among both Palestinians and Israelis that the press is hostile to their point of view, which could make journalists’ jobs there that much more dangerous.

The NYT front-page Middle East story has a brief unconfirmed report on the arrests in its third paragraph but does not mention them in the headline or subhead. USAT breaks out the news in a separate story inside on Page 8. And the WP puts it in the last paragraph of its lead and runs a separate mention of it inside in a story about press coverage of the region.

Both USAT and the WP report that yesterday in Moscow, an American businessman, Edmond Pope, went on trial for spying. He’s charged with trying to buy plans for a high-speed Russian torpedo. Pope has had bone cancer in the past, and he is demanding access to an American doctor, a request that thus far Russia has denied. Some questions about all this: Why, in the six months since Pope was arrested, has this story gotten so little play? It is not on anybody’s front today–and that’s been the norm. True, it’s being held in a closed courtroom, but are American papers so poorly sourced in Russia that that’s enough to effectively kill the story? And why haven’t the presidential candidates been asked about the Pope case by such world-wise reporters as Jim Lehrer?

The NYT is alone in fronting the news that independent counsel Robert Ray asserted that Hillary Clinton gave “factually false” sworn testimony when she denied playing a meaningful role in the firings of seven White House travel employees, who were then replaced by Clinton acquaintances. And inside, the Times provides snippets from HRC’s sworn statements and those of two other former White House staffers that convince on this point.

Both the LAT front and the WP “Style” section run long wet-kiss profiles of Dick Cheney. Long, but not deep. Neither asks, for instance, what role the Gulf War secretary of defense played in the decision not to pursue Saddam Hussein’s forces at the war’s end.

If you never got very far in Econ 101, the WSJ front says help is on the way in the form of the hot trend of econ textbooks that use pop–even pulp–fiction to teach the dismal science. For example, there’s the “Life, Love & Economics” definition of “opportunity cost”–a woman telling her boyfriend that it’s what you could be doing with “this other bimbo.”