Today's Papers

So Long, Milosevic

The Los Angeles Times leads with (while everyone else fronts) the death of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in his prison cell near The Hague, apparently from natural causes. The New York Times leads with a dispute in China’s Communist Party-run legislature over a draft law meant to protect property rights. The Washington Post leads with a rising trend in kidnapped Chinese girls being sold to orphanages and passed off as “abandoned” to foreigners looking to adopt.

Milosevic, 64, died just months before the expected conclusion of his trial by the U.N. international war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The timing of Milosevic’s death, after four years of proceedings, is mentioned prominently by every paper. In particular, the LAT points out that while the victims of Milosevic’s wars are robbed of the chance for closure, Serbs are also denied the opportunity to move out from under their former leader’s tainted shadow.

The WP tries the hardest to play the story straight down the middle, prominently quoting Milosevic supporters deriding the U.N. tribunal and noting that some officials want to bury Milosevic “as a hero.” The NYT takes the opposite track, running a straight news story inside, but fronting a frank “assessment” of Milsovic, depicting him as a delusional gangster bent on exploiting a Serbian sense of victimization for his own political gain. For TP’s money, the WP comes off sounding a tad silly. No matter how hard the paper tries to treat Milosevic objectively, it still makes the implicit assumption he committed the crimes he was being tried for and his death robs his victims of justice. That isn’t objectivity, its just covering all the bases for formality’s sake. The NYT has no qualms about playing the ball where it lies. It paints him as a petty monster, explicitly not a Stalin or a Hitler, but a bully and an opportunist. Even if the NYT flaunts the line between news and editorial content, the piece feels more honest. The LAT compromises and runs a fairly straight article for its lead, with its slightly less-loaded assessment (appropriately titled “Banker, Leader, ‘Butcher,’ Prisoner“) running just slightly underneath.

A law meant to protect property rights has sparked a debate in the Chinese legislature, exposing discontent among party leaders with the wealth gaps emerging due to China’s growing market economy. While the party’s more Socialist wing has taken a back seat in recent years to the push toward open markets and economic growth, the earnings disparity between modern urban centers and poor rural areas has led some members to call for a return to the party’s more traditional Socialist ideology. However, the cause of debate has little to do with social equality, reports the NYT, and everything to do with nipping social unrest in the bud.

In a country famed for preferring sons to daughters, Chinese girls have become a hot commodity, the WP reports, thanks to wealthy adoptive parents, mostly from the U.S. Widespread corruption has made orphans big business, since foreign parents are obligated to pay a $3,000 fee per baby. The fee is meant to pay for the care the child received at an orphanage, but very little of that money is believed to get where it’s supposed to go.

The LAT off-leads (and everyone fronts) the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, viewed in some circles as the unofficial beginning of the Republican Primary season, since it’s the site of the earliest straw poll. Both the LAT and the WP choose to focus on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and what they see as McCain’s attempt in recent months to shore up support with social conservatives he may have alienated during his 2000 presidential campaign. The NYT examines the degree to which McCain and the five other potential candidates at the conference are willing to associate themselves with President Bush, pointing out that McCain is seen as being particularly friendly to the man who beat him in the 2000 Republican Primary. Everyone writes that McCain came in a distant fifth in the straw poll, however, due to Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., having an overwhelming home-field advantage and President Bush taking a sizable share of the votes, despite not running for office.

The NYT off –leads with analysis of a classified Army report showing that Saddam Hussein was more concerned about potential coups and Shiite rebels than the U.S. Army … even after the U.S. had begun invading.

A simple referral bonus program has helped the Army National Guard post its best recruiting numbers in 13 years, reports the WP. Guard members get $2,000 for convincing a new recruit to sign up, an incentive so effective that the Army Guard is on track to raise its membership by 14,000 before the year’s end.

Drug prices aren’t necessarily based on manufacturing costs, finds the NYT …

… And neither is the price of electricity in states that deregulated their power providers in the late 1990’s, according to the WP.

It’s Just One More Spot to Misplace Your Keys … The WP looks at the elegant science of pocket placement. As more gizmos become part of daily life, designers have had to come up with new ways to stash those gewgaws. The result is pockets in unusual places and with unusually specific functions, like a pair of jeans with an iPod docking station built in.