Takedown Ticktock

Takedown Ticktock

Takedown Ticktock

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 19 1999 7:28 AM

Takedown Ticktock

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the U.S. and its European allies putting diplomatic pressure on both Yugoslavia and ethnic Albanian leaders to accept a peace accord regarding Kosovo province before a Saturday deadline, while making preparations for NATO airstrikes in case they don't. The New York Times doesn't front Kosovo, its lead instead illustrating another step America is taking from an investigation of government to a government of investigation with the news that the DOJ is considering appointing a special prosecutor to inquire into charges of misconduct by Kenneth Starr. USA Today fronts neither story and leads instead with word that any day now, the EPA will propose new emissions standards that would require minivans, light trucks, and most SUVs to run as clean as cars by 2007. The new rules, says the paper, could add considerably to sticker price.

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The WP explains that the principal stumbling block to a Kosovo agreement is that Slobodan Milosevic, head of Yugoslavia and a Serb, remains opposed to a NATO peacekeeping force on Serbian soil. Both the WP and LAT leads report that Madeleine Albright spoke to Milosevic on the phone yesterday, telling him that airstrikes would hit his country hard. The LAT says NATO is thought to be targeting military communications sites and barracks. The Post says the planned airstrikes would be the "biggest projection of military power" since a NATO-led peacekeeping force moved into Bosnia more than three years ago. But the paper doesn't explain if this means just in this theater of operations, or if it would also be bigger than the raids recently conducted against Iraq. The LAT points out that it was NATO bombing that helped force Milosevic to sign the Dayton peace accords that ended the fighting in Bosnia.

From the reporting, it's a little hard to understand the U.S. thinking on Russia's role in all this. The LAT quotes Albright saying she was hopeful that Russia would participate in any Kosovo peacekeeping force and that she believed Russia was delivering a message to Milosevic as tough as the one she delivered to him. But, as does the WP, the LAT also reports that Boris Yeltsin on Thursday warned the U.S. not to stage any airstrikes, and said that Russia would stand by its Slavic brethren.

The LAT front goes long with a fascinating blow-by-blow on the capture of Abdullah Ocalan over the byline of Richard Boudreaux, with the assistance of such stalwarts as John-Thor Dahlburg, Norman Kempster and Robin Wright. The story flatly asserts the involvement of U.S. and Israeli intelligence agents and the government of Kenya, and strongly suggests advance knowledge if not the full cooperation of the government of Greece. Perhaps the biggest news of the piece is that Ocalan's presence in Nairobi was first detected, two days after he arrived, by FBI agents still there as part of the investigation of last summer's bombing of the U.S. embassy. British and Israeli agents independently became aware of his presence shortly thereafter.

A NYT front-pager covers the nearly tax-free status of cruise ship companies, a scandal first widely publicized by Donald Barlett and James Steele in their celebrated Philadelphia Inquirer series on America's economic disparities in the 1980s, "What Went Wrong?". For instance, reports the Times, the Carnival Corporation, larger than many Fortune 500 companies, earned $2 billion in the past three years while paying less than 1 percent in income tax. This virtual immunity from tax, explains the Times, as well as similar insulation against the nation's labor, safety, and environmental laws, is enjoyed by all 17 major cruise lines because they are registered in foreign countries, even though their base of operations is in the U.S. and 90 percent of their passengers are Americans.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Warner Bros. has refused a request from the Marines to use a clip from its movie "Full Metal Jacket" in a training CD-ROM about how to survive sniper attacks. The studio based its refusal on "serious piracy" concerns. In other words, in Burbank helping Marines stay alive runs a distant second to squeezing out every last licensing dollar. The Marines should remember that the next time the studio comes asking for technical assistance on a picture (as it no doubt did on "Full Metal Jacket").