Mental Blockade

Mental Blockade

Mental Blockade

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 19 1999 6:45 AM

Mental Blockade

Everybody leads with war news. All the leads state that a new wave of Kosovar Albanian refugees is streaming out of Yugoslavia, and all mention that Sunday's round of NATO airstrikes--primarily against air defenses and oil refineries--was effective. Indeed, one NATO official's after-action report is widely quoted: Slobodan Milosevic no longer has the ability to refine crude oil. The New York Times adds that the property of the Serbian elite is also being targeted. And the NYT and Los Angeles Times report that the U.S. has initiated discussions within NATO of subjecting Yugoslavia to a naval blockade to prevent it from receiving oil shipments from elsewhere. The USA Today, Washington Post and LAT leads go high with the news that NATO has photographic evidence of fresh mass graves in Kosovo. The WP notes that in Sunday chat show action, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott denied that the U.S. is losing the war, while Sen. Richard Lugar said "that things are going even more poorly than one might have predicted." The Post also reports that the Kosovo Liberation Army took three POWs yesterday: two Yugoslav officers and a Russian volunteer wearing a Yugoslav army uniform.

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Of the two oil blockade stories, the NYT's is evidently more sourced inside NATO. It says that when the U.S. first proposed the idea inside NATO last week, France objected, questioning whether there was a legal basis to do this without a new resolution from the U.N. Security Council. The LAT says that since the bombing commenced, most of Yugoslav refined oil has been coming in via ports in Montenegro. The NYT adds that most of the vessels bringing it in are of Panamanian registry, and quotes an intelligence official saying that about a half dozen oil tankers have docked at the port of Bar in Montenegro since the war started.

USAT, the LAT, and the WP leads all report that President Clinton wrote a piece for the Sunday Times of London suggesting that Milosevic could not be allowed to stay in power. Why hasn't Clinton written an editorial defending his policy in a U.S. outlet? (Like George Bush did in Newsweek in the run-up to Desert Storm.)

The LAT lead and an inside story at the NYT report that the U.S. ambassador for war crimes said on TV Sunday that he doubts the oft-quoted claim that some 3,200 people have been killed in the Serbian rampage in Kosovo--he thinks the number of dead is much higher, possibly as high as 100,000.

The papers report that five refugees died when the car they were fleeing in hit a Serbian land mine at the Albanian border. However, with the exception of two sentences in the fifth paragraph of the WP lead and a single sentence in the 12th paragraph of the USAT lead, this news runs inside all around. And therein lies an unjustifiable news judgment. Friday's papers were full of front-page stories about the inadvertent deaths of refugees at NATO's hands. Why should inadvertent deaths of refugees at Serbia's hands be less prominently played? Not having pictures and not getting a Serbian tour of the scene are not good reasons.

The USAT front, the Wall Street Journal front-page news box, and inside stories elsewhere report that Sunday Compaq abruptly fired its CEO. The move is explained in the Journal in a marvel of bizspeak. The company's chairman is quoted saying, "The company is so much more complex than it was a couple years ago. It takes a different skill set in managing the company as successfully as it should be."

The "Media Talk" column of the NYT reports that at the upcoming White House Correspondents Dinner, President Clinton will probably, as part of an awards ceremony, have to honor Michael Isikoff, who wrote the Newsweek stories that kicked off the Lewinsky scandal.

Part A, Not Slot B: The NYT runs the following correction: "The Metropolitan Diary column on April 12 rendered one word incorrectly in a poem titled 'Signs of Spring' by Thomas Froncek. The passage should have read 'Now add as well, 'neath the too-short shirt; What lures the eye and tempts the flirt; The bellybutton wink of a sweet young thing.' It should not have read 'too-short skirt.' "