Today's Papers

Borneo To Be Wild

The Washington Post leads with gruesome ethnic mob violence in Borneo. USA Today’s top story is the first conclusion reached by the Florida presidential vote study it’s participating in (along with the Miami Herald and the Knight Ridder newspaper chain): Al Gore would still have lost a hand recount of Miami-Dade County, even under the most lenient standard for counting chad as votes. The Los Angeles Times lead reports that most of the Western states that have been helping energy-crunched California keep from going lights-out are themselves operating on a razor’s edge that could be severely tested this coming summer. The main cause? Virtually no new power plants in years despite runaway population growth. The New York Times leads with the proposal by the National Governors’ Association to allow states to provide Medicaid health insurance to millions of people who don’t have it now by extending to them less generous benefits than those Medicaid guarantees to the very poor. Regarding the possible impact of such a suggestion, the paper reminds that welfare reform directly resulted from policies advocated by the NGA.

USAT describes its Florida vote findings as “a blow to Democratic claims that Gore would have won the election if a hand recount had occurred.” But: 1) The paper waits until the very end of its Page Three follow-up to report that its study also discovered that in Miami-Dade, “Gore might have lost hundreds of votes” from misaligned ballots caused by voters mistakenly punching ballot chad not assigned to any candidate. 2) Today’s stories do not mention that by limiting its attention to undervotes–ballots where there is, at best, evidence of an attempt to perforate one chad–the study has chosen to ignore another type of disputed ballot that might well have given Gore a big edge in a hand recount: overvotes, ballots where there is evidence of an attempt to perforate more than one chad. Specifically, there is no mention that a postelection study conducted by the Orlando Sentinel of Florida’s Lake County ballots that included overvotes found a net gain for Gore because the overvotes included ballots where cleanly punched regular votes for Gore were accompanied by cleanly punched write-in votes for him.

The WP Borneo coverage communicates the raw murder afoot, with tales of severed heads and feasting on victims’ hearts, but waits until the middle paragraphs to broach an explanation: The majority Dayaks have increasingly resented the influx of minority Madurese, orchestrated by Indonesia’s central government to reduce overcrowding elsewhere. This hostility was suppressed under the strong-arm rule of the Suharto regime, but the current government has been slow to react, and so, says the Post, have the local police, even though they are far better armed than the roaming killers. The LAT, the only other major today to front Borneo, agrees about the cops but has more on the root explanation and refers to it higher. Neither paper breathes a word about whether the U.N. or the U.S. is considering a peacekeeping effort.

The WP front pulls at a new Bill Clinton pardon strand, reporting that Hillary Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham–revealed last week to have been involved for a fee in two successful pardon/commutation efforts–also helped two former Clinton and Democratic party fund-raisers who did not end up getting pardons. The two, a married couple, had each been convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Democrats, and the husband had also been convicted of tax fraud. The Post says the couple’s pardon application did not go through the Justice Department, but rather came right to the White House. The paper gets a litany of no comments about all this from the couple’s various lawyers and a straight-out denial that Rodham represented them “in any way” from Rodham’s lawyer, but it also has an unnamed source “familiar with the matter” saying that Rodham called an associate White House counsel (named in the story) in the waning days of the Clinton administration “on behalf of, or in favor of” the couple. The Post says Rodham’s role in this case “shows that he was more involved in the clemency process than previously known.”

Back to power crunches for a beat: Yesterday’s LAT touched on a topic that deserves to become much discussed, at least in the West: wind as a source of electricity. The head of the main wind-energy lobbying group told the paper that with proper uses of the latest technology, California could use the wind to light 1.5 million homes. (The story doesn’t say for how long, though.) And he’s also quoted saying that in California, natural gas-generated electricity costs between 15 and 20 cents a kilowatt hour, but wind-based costs only 3 to 6 cents. He also claims that President Bush is familiar with the advantages of wind energy based on his experience as governor of Texas, where $1 billion worth of new wind turbines are expected to be built this year.