Today's news attention is primarily divided between NATO's decision at its meetings to expand and the opening of congressional hearings into 1996 campaign fundraising irregularities. The Washington Post and the New York Times lead with NATO's decision to grant membership to former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. USA Today and the Los Angeles Times lead with the hearings.
The general account of the NATO decision is clear: France doesn't like being dictated to by the U.S. on the particular choice of the added countries, and Russia doesn't like the idea of expansion, period. There is, however, one little bump in the reporting road regarding other NATO business. The WP sums up discussions among alliance members concerning what to do about the failure to bring accused Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic to justice this way: "They refused to propose any changes in the mandate of the NATO-led peacekeeping force to hunt down Karadzic and others who are wanted to stand trial at the Hague war crimes tribunal." Does that mean, the reader naturally wonders, that the NATO peacekeepers are allowed to hunt war criminals in Bosnia or not? Fortunately, the NYT makes it clear: they are not.
The papers generally agree that committee chairman Republican Sen. Fred Thompson struck a dramatic note when he opened the proceedings by saying that intelligence agencies have concluded China tried to influence the 1996 presidential campaign, as well as congressional and state elections, and that Democratic Sen. John Glenn was just as dramatic when he announced that the key figure in the probe, Democratic fundraiser John Huang, was willing to testify if he is given limited immunity from prosecution. NYT columnist Maureen Dowd takes the minority position that the Democrats carried the day, thanks to Glenn's smooth presentation and to the Republicans' jagged one, which, Dowd writes, consisted "mostly of arrows pointing to John Huang's name," and "a Byzantine theory linking Mr. Huang and the Lippo Group, his employers, to the 16th-century House of Fugger in Augsburg, the Rothschilds and the election of Emperor Charles V of the Hapsburgs."
The NYT reports that Clinton administration officials reviewing the proposed tobacco industry settlement have concluded it puts too great a restriction on the FDA's power to regulate nicotine, and thus that this deal is not likely to receive President Clinton's support.
USAT, the WP, the LAT and the NYT all run front page stories about 24 previously healthy women in their forties who have used the combination of two diet drugs known as Fen-Phen and who have now turned up with two very rare kinds of heart damage. The drug combination was never approved by the FDA and is believed to be prescribed about 18 million times a month. The FDA's immediate reaction: send out a warning letter to thousands of doctors.
The WP and LAT report on their front pages that a Census Bureau task force has proposed a modification in the racial categories it will use in the year 2000. Currently, respondents can choose from among "American Indian," "Alaskan Native," "Asian or Pacific Islander," "black," or "white," and also from the ethnic categories of "Hispanic origin" and "not of Hispanic origin." The change would be to allow people to check more than one race block. This adjustment might, notes the Post, significantly affect affirmative action hiring goals or the boundaries of congressional districts. The paper goes on to report that "civil rights groups were generally pleased with the proposal, particularly because many feared the alternative--adding a separate 'mixed race' category--would dilute their numbers."