Balkin' War

Balkin' War

Balkin' War

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 8 1999 7:03 AM

Balkin' War

Everybody leads with the apparent convergence in the Kosovo talks held Monday near Bonn among the allies' foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart, who was essentially representing Serbian claims and interests. The lead headlines at USA Today, the Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times emphasize progress, with the latter explicitly mentioning Russia's come-along. On the other hand, those at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal explicitly mention Russia's balking.

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According to the coverage, the main sticking points are: 1) arriving at a precise sequence for the Serbian pullout, the end of the bombing, the passage of any U.N. resolution on Kosovo, and the interposition of peacekeeping forces; and 2) determining the roles in that peacekeeping force of the U.N. and NATO. Additionally, the NYT, USAT, and WP report that at talks continuing in Macedonia between junior NATO and Serb military reps, the Serbs have asked to keep 15,000 troops in-country. (The LAT says the request is for 10,000.) There is only one mention in the papers about the status of this difficulty: The WP cites an unnamed Clinton administration official as saying the Yugoslavs have reiterated their commitment (from last week) to pull out all their troops. Incredibly, the Post saves this for the 25th paragraph. All the papers state that Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari got new reassurances of cooperation from Slobodan Milosevic when the two talked Monday. And, according to the Post and WSJ, Milosevic's brother, his country's ambassador to Russia, says that Serb troops will pull out. The coverage makes it clear that the Serbs explain their hesitancy to evacuate all their troops as a concern for the safety of Kosovo's Serb population, especially from the threat posed by the KLA. Hence, the demilitarization of the KLA is a big issue.

The WP says NATO resumed heavy airstrikes Monday to keep the pressure on Belgrade to honor its deal. The LAT says 70 missiles hit targets. The NYT says however, that much of Monday, NATO held back, hoping that the restraint would influence Russia.

A WP front-pager sees a new Bill Clinton emerging from the war: no longer swerving in the face of criticism, and detached in the face of his recent poll dip. The piece includes a comment Clinton made to Tony Blair on the phone about a reported Serb atrocity, which suggests the depth of his feeling on Kosovo: "If we had one TV picture of the 15 men being roped together and burned alive, people would be wondering why we haven't leveled the place."

The papers report on Monday's Donahuesque conference in Washington, D.C., on mental health, attended by both Clintons and both Gores, and on President Clinton's call Monday for Congress to ensure that Americans get the same insurance benefits for depression as they do for physical ailments, and his edict that henceforth, federal employees will have just such a parity of coverage. It would have been nice if the papers had dedicated a sentence or two to explaining why you need Congress for the former but not the latter. And the NYT off-leads a further Clinton attempt to widen medical coverage: a proposal rolling out soon under which Medicare would offer prescription drug coverage to all beneficiaries. The administration calculates the additional monthly premium to be between $10 and $25.

The LAT fronts news that the Clinton administration is about to loosen government export controls on sales of the most powerful sorts of computers, the third time this will have happened under Clinton. The plan is to ease restrictions on sales to most countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe. But not on sales to China, or some 50 other countries. The paper notes this comes hard on the heels of the Cox report, which charged the administration with permitting careless sales of computers to China.

An amazing gun control fact from the WP front: A study conducted by the office of Sen. Charles Schumer based on data supplied by Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (not just an agency, but a way of life) found that 1 percent of the nation's gun dealers sold nearly half of the guns used in crimes last year. A WSJ front-page feature notes that current concerns about imminently tighter gun laws are having the usual effect: sending gun sales through the roof.

Now he tells us. From the LAT op-ed page: "To put it bluntly, few, if any, people thought of O.J. Simpson as black. His social circle was almost entirely white. His extraordinary athletic skill and congeniality permitted him to flourish within white society. To portray Simpson as an African American martyr is absurd." The author? Johnnie Cochran.