Today's Papers

Who’s the Man?

Everyone goes high with Yasser Arafat’s repudiation of the attack Friday on a Tel Aviv disco, which killed 18 (the Los Angeles Times says 19) Israelis, most of them teen-agers. Arafat has promised an immediate cease-fire, even though he has indicated over the last eight months that Palestinian violence is a grass-roots movement beyond his control. Everyone also fronts an update on the mass murder of the royal family in Nepal. The only major development since yesterday is the naming of Prince Gyanendra, slain King Birendra’s brother, as regent–a title that seems likely to become permanent. The crown prince, who is said to have killed the royal family because his mother objected to his choice of bride, is in a coma after attempting suicide.

Israeli officials said Arafat has to do something definitive–such as rearresting Palestinian militants–in the next few days, or they will retaliate. One Israeli military officer optimistically told the New York Times that the Tel Aviv bombing could turn out to be the turning point in the conflict. But everyone also reports that an angry Jewish mob stoned a Tel Aviv mosque yesterday. If the police hadn’t been there, they likely would have burned the place down, even though several Muslims had taken refuge there, the papers report. This would seem to best reflect the Israelis’ mood right now.

The NYT and the LAT front long features marking the 20th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS. The LAT focuses on the impact AIDS has had on the gay community. The epidemic wiped out a generation of gay men, killing many potential leaders, and leaving many survivors with lingering feelings of guilt. But there is a silver lining, the LAT says: AIDS has forced Americans to come to terms with homosexuality. The NYT, on the other hand, focuses on just about everyone else with AIDS–children, heroin addicts, members of the sex-for-drugs trade, etc. The NYT argues that class, not sexual orientation, is the most important factor in understanding the AIDS epidemic today. Wealthy patients take a drug cocktail that keeps them healthy, though no one knows for how long. Poor patients might also get the cocktail, but many don’t know enough about the disease to see why they must take the drugs everyday. And poor groups, particularly minorities, are becoming infected with HIV more frequently.

The NYT also goes above-the-fold with a recent report from a Chinese Communist Party research group that describes an increase in the size and number of anti-government protests. The driving forces are economic liberalization, the spread of the Internet, and efforts to make China a member of the World Trade Organization, the report says. The Times says the report brazenly contradicts government propaganda that it has a firm grip on the Chinese. But what’s most amazing is the fact that the research group is selling the report to the general public. Now why isn’t the Communist Party keeping this report under lock and key? The Times says the study was done by a group of reform-minded Communists who want to grab power when President Jiang Zemin retires. But why publicly contradict the party line? Wouldn’t it be wiser for these guys to push for change behind closed doors? And might this report be meant for foreign readers who question whether WTO membership is the best way to make China more democratic? These, unfortunately, are questions the Times article does not explore.

The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine features a piece on Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old human skeleton that was found in Washington state in 1996. Native Americans have claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor, and they have asked the government to hand him over. A group of scientists, however, has sued for the right to study the remains. Complicating matters is the fact that the archaeologist who first looked at Kennewick Man has said the skull appears “Caucasoid”–the racial group that includes whites. This appears to have been based on little more than a vague resemblance to the actor Patrick Stewart. (Both the skull and Stewart are bald, you see.) But the Post says that science cannot link Kennewick Man to any group. In fact, once skin color is thrown out, science has a tough time linking any of us to a racial group, the Post says.

The LAT goes inside with word that the televangelist Robert H. Schuller has begun using telemarketing to drum up attendance at his church, the massive Crystal Cathedral in suburban Los Angeles. The church now calls 400,000 homes a week, and lucky phone-answerers receive a personal, recorded message from Schuller, telling them about next Sunday’s service. Does it work? Crystal Cathedral officials say they have received about 50 complaints, but ratings on Schuller’s television program are up 5 percent. One Sunday’s attendance was 12 percent higher than the usual 8,000. There’s even a testimonial from a regular attendee who believes her call from Schuller–even if recorded–was a message from God as she faced the possible resurgence of her cancer. But the LAT didn’t seem to have much trouble finding people who are offended by the idea of preachers using auto-dialers to hawk their wares. Some, it seems, prefer their messages from God to be a bit subtler.