None of the papers share the same lead. USA Today goes with the imminence of NATO airstrikes against Slobodan Milosevic's forces in Kosovo, a story everybody else runs inside. The New York Times goes with the opening on Tuesday of the FBI's national DNA database, which is also on the USAT front. And the Los Angeles Times lead is the National Institutes of Health's plans to dramatically shorten the government approval process for drugs, which could mean much faster access to new medicines, a story on nobody else's front. The Washington Post lead is the paper's latest poll results indicating that in the wake of last week's vote to start an impeachment investigation, public support for the Republican-held Congress and Republican congressional candidates has dropped considerably, most of all among likely voters and independents. The poll also indicates that support for Democratic congressional candidates is up. The poll also finds that Clinton, now with a 67 percent approval rating, is currently more popular than before last week's vote. The WP says the numbers offer hope to Democrats of avoiding Clinton's impeachment in favor of some lesser punishment.
USAT reports that NATO officials are scheduled to meet today in Brussels to approve an order that gives allied military commanders the authority to order airstrikes against Serbian forces. This means apparently, that air strikes could come as early as today. Meanwhile, says the paper, in a last-ditch attempt to avert bombing, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is still holding talks with Milosevic. The U.N. demands Holbrooke is pressing, says USAT, include the withdrawal of Milosevic's forces and allowing humanitarian aid into Kosovo. One issue making the talks sticky, says the Wall Street Journal, is how to keep the Albanian separatists from taking advantage of any NATO show of force.
The despair of the Albanian civilians Milosevic's troops have targeted is everywhere in USAT's on-the-ground front section "cover story." A woman refugee gives reporter Jack Kelley a lock of hair she says she took from the head of her 18-month-old godchild, slain in a massacre by Serbs last week. "Please give it to Mr. Clinton," she tells him. "Maybe he'll decide to save the Albanian people." In light of the incubator mythology of the Gulf War, one hopes that USAT checked this story out before repeating it, but if so, heaven help us.
The FBI DNA database, the Times explains, is actually a computerized organization of the fifty databases set up by the states. The new system holds the promise of reducing rape and other crimes by catching criminals earlier. The NYT does an excellent job of canvassing the issues raised by the database, which include: What types of offenders should be required to give samples? Should mass screening be allowed? The story points out that the established and quite successful DNA system in Britain has opted for a wide range of criminal samples as well as mass screening. It is undeniably curious though, that when the paper turns to explaining how DNA can be used forensically, the discussion is completely generic and never mentions the most famous unchallenged DNA identification ever: that of President Clinton via the Monica dress stain.
The LAT front details a concrete consequence of California Gov. Pete Wilson's decision last year to block funding for the state bar association: no one is disciplining the state's negligent or dishonest lawyers. The California state bar, now has, says the paper, a backlog of 6,556 unresolved complaints against attorneys. Before the funding shut-down, the bar's L.A. office had 40 prosecutors. Now it has four.
Readers howled in protest when this column stated last week that Ken Starr would have been a violator of a bill working its way through Congress that criminalizes making obscenities available on the Internet. The readers are absolutely right: It's Congress that is the distributor of the obscenities of the criminal referral. Starr is the publisher.
The papers have consistently savaged President Clinton's Lewinsky stance of apologizing without admitting. But isn't that what's going on in the following "Editor's Note" from Sunday's WP? "The Sunday, Sept. 20, 'Rugrats' comic strip's depiction of Jewish worshipers and use of the Kaddish were inappropriate and should not have appeared in The Washington Post. We have expressed our strong disapproval to Nickelodeon, which produces the comic, and Creators Syndicate, which distributes it. Our comics screening process failed in this instance, and we apologize to our readers who were offended." Note the Clintonesque use of "inappropriate" without ever saying what was wrong with the strip. And what, pray tell, does the paper's "comics screening process" screen *for*?