Political in-fighting, the economy, religion and war--all get their due today. The New York Times leads with the anger of most of Washington's leading nonprofit advocacy groups over being subpoenaed by the Senate committee investigating political fundraising. The Los Angeles Times leads with new reassuring government statistics on inflation. The Washington Post goes with the president's imminent announcement of religion guidelines for the federal workplace. And USA Today has a big revelation about the Pentagon's knowledge of the battlefield dangers posed by Iraqi chemical stockpiles.
USAT's scoop is that contrary to previous Pentagon announcements, a report was prepared for the Air Force three months before the outbreak of the Gulf War indicating that bombing Iraq's chemical weapons facilities was "certain" to release deadly nerve gases in patterns dangerous to American troops. Noting that Congress and the media have been seeking such information for half a decade, the paper reveals that it was finally released to a former Senate investigator in response to his repeated Freedom of Information Act requests. The development drew the ire of Rep. Christopher Shays, who tells USAT that it "indicates a cover-up."
The NYT does a good job of crystallizing the main issue in the UPS strike--employee pensions. The company wants to pull out of the multi-employer Teamster plan it's in now in favor of a UPS-only one. The company's proposal, explains the Times, puts Teamster boss Ronald Carey in a tight spot, pitting his UPS members, many of whom are attracted to the apparently more lavish company proposal, against Teamsters working elsewhere, who fear that a UPS pull-out could jeopardize their pensions. No wonder, says the paper, that the union tends to downplay the pension debate, saying instead that it's the company's heavy use of part-time workers that is really the core issue. The article suggests that ultimately, the union will give on pensions and the company will give on part-timers.
One thing quite unusual about the UPS stoppage, observes the Wall Street Journal, quoting an ABC News poll and one by Fox News, is that for the first time in years, the general public seems to be siding with strikers. The main reason for the sympathy vote, says the WSJ, is that "just about everyone knows a UPS delivery man.." (Send those letters of gender complaint to the WSJ--not here, where a very fit woman in brown shorts visits regularly.)
According to the Post, those forthcoming presidential guidelines about religious expression at government jobs will be rather specific, stating for instance, that federal workers "are allowed to wear religious medallions over their clothes, conduct lunchtime prayer sessions in unused conference rooms, distribute proselytizing brochures to colleagues and keep the Bible or Koran on their desks." Boy, those lines at the Post Office will really be a party now.
Inside the Post today:
- Federal prisoners can once again purchase Playboy and Penthouse. A federal judge ruled that a ban on the publications violated the First Amendment rights of both inmates and publishers. The judge also stated that there is no reason to believe that these two magazines "are any more or less rehabilitative" than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or the Victoria's Secret catalogue.
- The company that became high-fashion menswear purveyor Hugo Boss manufactured Nazi and SS uniforms during World War II, probably using slave labor. A Boss spokeswoman is quoted as saying, "...We're currently trying to find what was going on."