Today's Papers

Spy vs. Spy

The Washington Post leads (and the New York Times goes high) with more on the Robert Hanssen case, as the spy pleads guilty to espionage charges. The NYT leads with the unexpectedly sharp rise in unemployment in June; 114,000 jobs were lost, mostly in manufacturing. No one is exactly sure what this means for the economy. The Los Angeles Times fronts the jobless rate and stuffs Hanssen, leading instead with “vastly improved” relations between the U.S. and Mexico, the result of a “warm” relationship between the Bush and Vincente Fox administrations.

Hanssen’s guilty plea allows him to avoid the death penalty in exchange for the detailed spy info he will provide the feds. The NYT delves into the personal side of the story, revealing “a man torn between his devout Roman Catholicism and his more rebellious impulses.” Hanssen first worked for the Soviets from 1979 to 1981, when his wife caught him red-handed and made him tell the family priest. The priest told Hanssen to turn himself in, but then “called him back, and told him to give the money to charity.” Hanssen supposedly helped out Mother Theresa and then swore off spying until 1985, when he picked it up again, this time giving the proceeds to a Washington stripper, with whom he “never sought to have sexual relations.” “He was a great dad,” one of his daughters says in the Post. Among other things, Hanssen told the reds about a secret “listening tunnel” that the FBI dug under the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

The jobless rate rose to 4.5 percent in June, a jump of .1 percent and a big disappointment to those who were hoping for a turnaround. “The economy now seems poised at a delicate turning point,” says the LAT, meaning it could go either way. “Right now the American consumer is still spending, but if the job leakages continue, will that spending be sustained?” asks Tom Palley of the AFL-CIO. Labor secretary Elaine Chao says in the NYT that “the stable economy is poised to take off” once tax-refund checks get mailed, and spent, in the coming months.

The LAT fronts China’s spiraling crime rates, and “Strike Hard,” the Communist government’s response. According to Amnesty International, 1,781 people have been put to death under the program in the past three months, for crimes ranging from murder to tax evasion to reckless driving. The number of executions may in fact be significantly higher, as many cases, considered “state secrets,” go unreported. The “execution frenzy” is part of an overall crackdown by the Chinese government, which has also restricted Internet use and detained several Americans on espionage charges. The Amnesty report appears one week before the International Olympic Committee announces the home of 2008 Summer Games. Beijing is considered the favorite.

The WP also fronts a story about China, this one about a boy who brought a lawsuit against his local health department after he’d contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. The article first details the government’s coverup of China’s AIDS outbreak, and then talks about burgeoning legal reforms that have convinced many Chinese that they have legal rights. “A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for an ordinary person to sue the Chinese government,” the Post says.  It calls the boy’s case “a milestone in a country where the courts have long been subservient to the Communist party.”

The NYT fronts AIDS in Cambodia, following the case of an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier who miraculously survived more than a decade of civil war only to contract HIV during peace time when brothels opened up near his home. About 3 percent of the adult population of Cambodia is infected, but health officials are optimistic about controlling the spread of the disease. “The very sight of the emaciated victims may have done more to advertise the scourge than any amount of public education. Almost everyone in Phnom Penh seems to know someone who is infected.”

The NYT stuffs coverage of Mario Cuomo going to bat for RFK Jr. in another Vieques protest trial. In a rare courtroom stint, Cuomo eloquently argued that since President Bush has ordered the bombing tests stopped by 2003, there was “no urgent need to deter” his client by sending him to prison. The judge promptly sentenced Kennedy to 30 days. “I’m not going to allow political views, philosophical views, none of that,” the judge had said early on.

Finally, inside the Post, “She went down like she was being sucked by a giant vacuum cleaner,” a man says, referring to his wife, who was attacked by an alligator at a nudist resort near Tallahassee. The man was able to pull her free and doctors managed to reattach her foot, but others have not been so fortunate. Florida alligators have attacked six people, killing two, in the past three months, “perhaps the inevitable result of what can happen when humans and alligators live too close together.”  The problem is that people like to feed the alligators. “Say there’s an alligator in a retention pond. People name it Old Joe and throw fish to it, and the alligator loses its natural fear of humans,” says a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Commission. “When that happens it’s just a matter of time.”