The New York Times leads with a report on the increasing cynicism and resignation of the religious right regarding the political process. The Los Angeles Times fronts Bob Dole's peace mission to the Balkans. The Washington Post goes with the dramatic decline in the fire death rate. In its off-lead the Post reports on the building excitement over Texas Governor George W. Bush's prospective presidential candidacy. The paper quotes a confidant of the as yet undeclared candidate in summing up the ferment: "the fires are burning as hot as the sun . . . it's saddle up and ride."
According to the New York Times, while some of its influential leaders are complaining about the lack of obeisance on the Hill, the Christian coalition is struggling to coalesce around a clear strategy and a single presidential candidate. The paper notes the forthcoming publication of a book by two former Moral Majority officials, arguing that government cannot correct what is wrong with America. The Times, concludes that the troubles of the religious right will increase the willingness of Republican candidates to distance themselves from the coalition. Oddly, this analysis does not factor in the effect of the failed impeachment move on the mood of Christian conservatives.
The LA Times leads with Dole's announcement that Albanian Kosovars are prepared to sign the interim peace accord that emerged from the recent talks in Rambouillet. Yugoslav President Milosevic would not grant Dole a visa, forcing the former-Senator to exercise his influence from neighboring Macedonia. The paper notes the scheduled arm-twisting visits of European and U.S. officials from Balkan "contact-group" nations, leading up to the resumption of talks on March 15. The Post looks on the bright side of things, noting Dole's assertion that Kosovar acquiescence might pressure Milosevic to accede. The NYT emphasizes that Dole "failed to clinch a deal" and that agreement remains "uncertain." The Times does not spare the "most embarrassing" details of what it portrays as a misadventure, including the fact that a 29-year-old commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army stood Dole up, leaving him to wrangle over the telephone with another guerilla leader.
The Post lead reports that in 1997, firefighters responded to 1.8 million fires, down from 3.3 million fires 20 years earlier. Last year, U.S. fire deaths totaled 4,050, dropping from 6,215 in 1988. The paper reports that the good news is due to many factors, including: the increasing prevalence of smoke alarms, major strides made in the treatment of burn patients, tougher building codes, tighter standards for fire resistant furnishings, migration of many hazardous jobs overseas, the growing percentage of meals that are eaten outside of the home, the increase in the use of microwaves and the decrease in smoking. Republican Representative Curt Weldon, chairman of the House fire caucus, offers an alternative explanation: when the economy is strong, "they don't need to commit arson or bail out a business."
In its off-lead, the WP fans the flames of the Bush buzz in anticipation of the launch of his exploratory committee today. The paper reports that a slew of supporters arrive daily to pledge allegiance, offer assistance and grab a piece of the action. According to the papers the support is unprecedented for a first-time candidate and is "both spontaneous and organized." The paper reports that GOP state legislators will deliver letters personally pledging support to Bush, as they were instructed to do by veteran strategists.
Yesterday, the NYT led with a special report alleging that the Chinese made a leap in their nuclear capability using secrets stolen from Los Alamos and that the White House attempted to sweep the issue under the rug to avoid disturbing its "strategic partnership" with China. The WP picks up on the story, pointedly noting that the espionage was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The WP, goes on to cite actions the administration has taken to toughen security and White House denials that Clinton sought to minimize the Chinese espionage. The paper avers that "a former top Los Alamos official told The Post last month that it would be difficult to demonstrate the importance of what may have been revealed to the Chinese 'because they already had done advanced work in this area.'" The WP notes that the alleged spying was one of three cases of purported espionage. Is The Post downplaying the Times scoop or did the NYT overplay its hand?
The Times fronts a report that more than 10 percent of U.S. health care workers are allergic to latex. The allergy impedes the careers of medical professionals because latex gloves are required by many hospitals and medical offices. While normally reports on allergies might not rouse the Sunday morning reader, I'm sure most will read on to discover that, indeed, the afflicted are equally irritated by latex precautions for other extremities. The paper notes that due to the balloon factor, children's birthday parties are also a menace.