Today's Papers

China Inserts Semi-Colin

The Washington Post lead is a State Department-sourced exclusive saying that an as-yet-unreleased State investigation has concluded that the U.S. and Peru were both “sloppy” in their conduct of a joint anti-drug plane program that last April shot down a plane of missionaries, killing two of them, on the mistaken assumption that it was running drugs. USA Today leads with the State Department’s criticism of China for deleting Colin Powell’s remarks about human rights and Taiwan when an interview with him was shown on Chinese government television. None of the other majors available at filing time (which today does not include the New York Times) fronts the story. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that despite recent government projections that it would pay off some $57 billion in debt in the current fiscal quarter, the U.S. government is now saying it will instead borrow $51 billion. The LAT’s explanation: The tax cut President Bush pushed for and the economic slowdown have depressed government revenue. The paper refers to the possible end of the “era” of big budget surpluses, without saying how many months that was.

The WP lead, based on unnamed sources who have seen the report detailing State’s investigation, says the report “does not assign direct blame” for the missionary deaths, but it does refer to “lax adherence to procedures” on the part of U.S. and Peruvian aircrews and mentions that there was no checklist of interception procedures to be followed in their planes involved in the wrongful shoot-down. The story waits till nearly halfway through to reveal that the report was completed “weeks ago.”

The USAT lead says that the U.S. government has lodged a strong protest with Beijing over the edit of Powell’s interview. The story reports that state-owned Chinese television had beforehand promised the U.S. that Powell’s comments would not be censored. It also has a Chinese spokesman saying there was no political agenda involved–it was just squeezed by a competing news event: the first Chinese swimmer to cross the English Channel. USAT contexts by pointing out that China aired live and unedited material during former President Bill Clinton’s trip there in 1998, which included a debate he had with China’s president.

The WP fronts, and everybody else stuffs, a congressionally mandated report from the National Academy of Sciences that concludes automakers have the technology to make SUVs and light trucks “significantly more fuel efficient” (the paper’s words) in the next decade. And, say the scientists, although the upgrade would mean higher sticker prices, fuel savings would offset the increase. The report also balked at specifying target fuel efficiency rates, instead advocating that car companies be able to buy and sell fuel economy credits among themselves, as power plants trade in emission credits today. The Wall Street Journal says that despite the absence of a hard mileage increase recommendation, the report will buttress congressional efforts to increase the standard for SUVs and light trucks from 20.7 mpg up to 27.5.

The papers report on the ceremonies in Harlem yesterday when Bill Clinton opened his new offices there. The WP is clever with its reefer headline, “CLINTON COMES TO HARLEM,” while the LAT’s fronter goes wild by referring to Clinton as “PRESIDENT OF HARLEM.”

The LAT features an op-ed that compares the recent U.S. hand-over of an Air Force man to Japanese authorities so that they can try him on rape charges with Japan’s attitudes toward rapes by Japanese service men. It’s not a favorable comparison. Japan, the authors Barry Fisher and Iris Chang remind, still hasn’t honestly confronted its own World War II-era rapes of Chinese and Korean women. Surprisingly, they add, the U.S. government has called for the dismissal of a class-action suit brought against Japan in a U.S. court by women once horribly abused as “comfort women” by the Japanese army.

Some questions provoked by a letter of protest from reader Madelon Bloom in the WP against the quote below, which ran in the paper last Friday: 1) Why didn’t the quote reap a whirlwind of response, if not from ex-President Clinton, then at least from Democratic stalwarts? 2) Isn’t that quote as good an example as any of why U.S. law is mistaken in allowing you to say anything you want about the dead? The quote, from Republican pundit Barbara Olson (wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson) runs as follows: “Look at Bill Clinton’s mother, as opposed to George W.’s mother. Is you[r] mother a barfly who gets used by men? Or is your mother a strong woman who demanded respect for her ideas and always received it?”