Today's Papers

Budget Headache? Try Bufferin’

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with NATO’s decision to deploy troops in Macedonia to collect weapons to be turned in by Albanian rebels. An advance contingent of 400 British troops could be in-country within a couple of days, with an additional multinational force of around 3,000 (to include Americans in noncombat roles) to follow if NATO determines that the cease-fire between the rebels and the Macedonian government forces is holding. USA Today leads with two new government data points relating to Social Security: 1) The Congressional Budget Office will soon release new figures indicating that Social Security reserves will be tapped by the government for non-Social Security spending before Sept. 30; and 2) The White House will soon release its own numbers showing the Social Security surplus untouched, but only because the White House has dropped a long-standing accounting method. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box has a key White House economic adviser acknowledging that government spending will come “very close” to dipping into the Social Security surplus before the end of September, but that the White House accounting change “will provide more of a buffer.” The story also says the Bush administration, for its budget forecast, is projecting higher U.S. economic growth next year–which would help by producing more tax revenue–than many private sector economists. In an August news drought classic, the top nonlocal story at the New York Times is the apparent dwindling of America’s (that is, Louisiana’s) Cajuns, a story the paper plays above NATO/Macedonia. The paper reports that according to census figures, the group went from 407,000 in 1990 to just 44,000 in 2000. The story suggests that the explanation might simply be that on the 1990 census form “Cajun” was one of the examples of ethnic self-identification, but that the 2000 form dropped it and added “French-Canadian.” Plus, the 2000 census found an unusual increase in Louisianans identifying themselves as “French.”

The Macedonia coverage emphasizes that the NATO effort is limited in mission–disarmament only–and in duration–about 60 days, says the LAT. The WP says that “NATO has warned that it will not enforce the peace, nor police lines between the two sides.” But the LAT reminds that “Western deployments elsewhere in the Balkans have run longer than predicted.” The WP has the most on how the plan could go awry: The constitutional reforms expanding the rights of Macedonia’s Albanians, which the government is sponsoring as part of the deal, might not pass, which could encourage the rebels not to disarm. Or even if the reforms become law, the rebels might not turn in their good weapons. The paper notes that this is thought to have happened in Kosovo, where Albanian guerrillas there appeared to have disarmed but later shipped weapons to their counterparts in Macedonia.

The NYT usefully contexts the mission with the observation that “the demise of the old Yugoslavia has led to four conflicts–in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo—that killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of people and made refugees of more than one million.”

The LAT fronts word from the general heading up the Pentagon’s missile-shield program that because he doesn’t yet have the right comfort level about the system’s basic reliability, the next scheduled test of the shield technology will be a repeat of the one target missile/one decoy test conducted successfully last month, rather than a multiple decoy test, which he had recently said was a possibility.

The WP and LAT front, USAT reefers, and the NYT stuffs a Texas appeals court’s issuance of a stay of execution in the case of Napoleon Beazley, just four hours before he was scheduled to be lethally injected. The court did not say what issues it wants to examine before signing off on the death sentence, but the issue in the case that has drawn the most attention is that Beazley was 17 years old when he shot a man fatally during an attempted car-jacking. Still, isn’t the WP going overboard with its headline reference to him as a “JUVENILE KILLER”? After all, the legal system held that for its purposes he was an adult when he pulled the trigger.

Just a few days after solemn commemorations in Germany of the Berlin Wall, the WP’s Charles Krauthammer has an interesting proposal for the Mideast mess. Israel, he writes–after attacking Yasser Arafat’s command structure and that of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and evacuating Jewish settlers from the more far-flung settlements–should build a wall around itself to keep suicide bombers out. In making his argument, Krauthammer points to one fact the press has overlooked: in the current bloodshed, not a single suicide bomber has come into Israel from Palestinian territories in Gaza, where there is a … wall.

The kids had a better question: “Why does the president get more time off than second-graders?” The NYT fronts (and the WP goes inside with) what happened yesterday when President Bush visited a second grade class in New Mexico. When Bush, who is in the midst of a month’s vacation he is representing as reconnecting to his Texas roots, asked the kids if they knew where he was from, several answered instantly: “Washington, D.C.!” The Times reports that Bush responded with a grimace, and that when he asked again, he got the same answer.