Today's Papers

Whir No. 1

The New York Times leads with the Bush administration’s first unofficial issuance of a deadline, November, for Russia to agree to changes in the ABM Treaty or face a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the accord. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Federal Reserve’s recession-fearing quarter-point interest cut yesterday–its seventh rate reduction this year. The story is accompanied by a graphic showing that the Dow is now below where it was when the Fed started cutting last January, a sign, says the paper, that the stock market doesn’t believe a U.S. economic recovery is near. The cut is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page business news box. Both papers go high noting the Fed’s willingness to ease rates even more, although the Journal adds that “some economists saw hints” in the Fed’s official statement that there would now be a pause in the rate-cutting. The Washington Post leads with 79-year-old Jesse Helms’ expected announcement today that he will retire from the Senate when his current term ends in 2003. The paper has leading conservative William Kristol saying that the step-down exemplifies the going out of existence of the American conservative movement and has a political science prof saying it marks the going out of style of a type of politics that “offered nothing to blacks.” USA Today leads with the FBI’s sting arrests of eight people on charges of fixing McDonald’s promotional games. It’s alleged that the scheme was masterminded by an employee of a company that runs many of the McDonald’s contests, who embezzled winning game pieces and sold them to people recruited to fraudulently claim the prizes.

The NYT lead is keyed to comments made on Russian radio by a State Department official. The paper communicates a feeling of a Bush administration coordination lapse when it says an unnamed senior Pentagon official “expressed surprise” upon learning about the radio remarks. However, the story also has a sign that the administration plans to move forward on a missile defense system are based on formally notifying Russia in November of U.S. intent to withdrawal: Ground-clearing is scheduled to start this week for a missile defense test site in Alaska (they probably, says Maureen Dowd in her NYT column, “need to hurry up and get there before the oil drillers”), with silo construction to begin as early as next April, and the paper reminds that the ABM treaty requires a six-month post-notification-delay before the U.S. could undertake any activity that would violate it.

The Times also reminds that President Bush has invited President Putin for talks at his Texas ranch in November, which would, on the November notification schedule, therefore be the last chance the two men would have to negotiate toward some new strategic framework before the ABM Treaty is slated for abandonment, something Putin has urged Bush to do.

The NYT fronts a harbinger of an intensifying political battle over the budget: what it calls President Bush’s “unusually long and impassioned speech” (delivered in Harry Truman’s hometown of Independence, Miss., to emphasize, says the paper, Bush’s “interest in transcending partisan squabbling”) in which he defended his tax cut and warned against Congress’ excessive spending.

The NYT goes inside with the revelation that the transportation appropriations bill that the Senate passed earlier this month includes a one-sentence measure authored by Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens that would transfer 1,505 acres of prime Alaskan wilderness from the federal government to a small restoration group headed up by a longtime Stevens friend. Stevens wouldn’t comment to the paper, which notes that the federal government had recommended a transfer of 10 acres.

All the majors either front, reefer, or at least give a big picture to yesterday’s video interview with gaunt but game Robert Tools, revealed yesterday to be the world’s first recipient of a totally self-contained artificial heart. All the papers take note of one thing Tools said takes some getting used to: not having a heartbeat. He only hears, he said, a “whirring sound.”

The WP and NYT report inside that census figures show the number of gay couples in the U.S.–around half a million–went up 300 percent in the 1990s. Nearly 40 percent of these pairs reside in California, Florida, New York, or Texas. The biggest percentage increases over the 1990 census were in, says the Post, Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. The paper notes that there are still 22 counties with no gay couples.

Following an AP story yesterday, the NYT goes inside to report on what newly declassified documents show about U.S. government knowledge at the time of the 1994 Rwanda slaughter: Several senior U.S. officials were aware of its genocidal dimensions, “even as some sought ways to avoid getting involved.” The docs were released by the National Security Archive, a research group whose director argues on the Times op-ed page against a proposed tightening of the U.S. classification system that would push such documents further away from the press. Probably the hero of the Rwanda documents is Prudence Bushnell, then a State Department official (now the ambassador to Guatemala and, the paper doesn’t add, a survivor of the Kenya Embassy bombing, which took place when she was the U.S. ambassador there), who warned Secretary of State Warren Christopher of imminent widespread violence. She also urged a Rwandan military officer to end the killings. One document includes an unidentified U.S. official’s not exactly clarion call: “Be careful, Legal at State was worried about this yesterday. Genocide finding could commit U.S.G. to actually ‘do something.’ “

The WP and USAT are alone in fronting yesterday’s presentation by NASCAR of the findings it arrived at in its investigation of Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in last February’s Daytona 500: 1) The separation of Earnhardt’s seat belt was a factor in, but not the sole cause of, his death. 2) A head and neck restraint system, which Earnhardt was not using, will continue to be recommended but not required. 3) Airplane-like “black boxes” will now be mandatory on each race car.

“Hey wait a second, R.J., I think I just found New York City’s new slogan.” The LAT comes up with pure quote gold for its insider on some of the odder folks trying to become the next mayor of New York. The paper notes that one of them, Bernard Goetz, was convicted on weapons charges and served time in prison after a famous subway shooting incident. But an election board official tells the paper that’s not a problem: “Once you do your time, you’re OK. We have lots of convicted felons working for the city.”