The New York Times and USA Today go with President Clinton's likely unveiling today and tomorrow of his plans for shoring up Social Security and Medicare and for handling expected federal budget surpluses. The Los Angeles Times leads with the increasing anomie inside Kosovo, where, says the paper, 16 people were slain between Thursday and Sunday. The top national story at the Washington Post notes a main consequence of the more restrictive gun laws being enacted in most of the world's leading industrial nations. Gunmakers are moving more product to the one exception to the trend--the U.S. According to the WP, citing ATF statistics, more than half of the 1.7 million handguns made in or imported into the U.S. (in 1997? The Post isn't clear.) are produced by foreign or foreign-owned companies. The story points out that many Browning and Winchester pistols sold in this country are made in Japan, where private ownership of a handgun is just about impossible. Similarly, Smith & Wesson, the largest maker of pistols in the U.S., is a subsidiary of a company located in Britain, where two years ago private handgun ownership was outlawed. "Europeans are so sanctimonious about their gun-control laws," one former ATF official is quoted saying. "But their shock at our rate of gun deaths doesn't keep them from making guns." In the song-remains-the-same department, a Post op-ed by former LBJ hand Joseph Califano points out that his ex-boss's campaign 30 years ago to require the registration of all guns and the licensing of all gun owners was undone by ... the NRA.
The NYT and USAT leads are essentially placeholders, saying that there will be budget details forthcoming today, but not having them because the administration held off releasing any. (Such news-free stories generally only get prominent placement on Sundays and Mondays.) But the Times airs out the basics: the budget will claim to extend Social Security's solvency so that it can begin coping with the coming retirement bulge caused by Boomer demographics; it will feature a "lockbox," ensuring that any Social Security excess revenues are either put back in SS coffers or spent to draw down the national debt; and the nonemergency spending caps agreed to in 1997 are too low for real budgeting. USAT says that the Clinton plan will not raise Medicare eligibility above the current level of age 65, nor will it endorse indexing premiums charged to the ability to pay (this nonmove was reported by Saturday's WP).
The LAT lead reports that the latest Kosovo murder victims include a man and a woman who had been international monitors there before the war, and a man who died of gunshot wounds after the British army medics working on him were driven off by a drunken sniper. The paper reports that in one city German troops enforced a curfew designed to cut down on brawls and looting. Also, NATO peacekeepers are operating security checkpoints where weapons are being confiscated. An inside NYT effort tells much the same story. A Wall Street Journal story provides ground-level reporting driving home the idea that the inclusion of Russian troops in the peacekeeping effort is going to inflame Kosovar Albanians, who view them as in league with the Serbs.
The fronts feature two war wash-ups. The NYT goes above the fold with word that in the two weeks since NATO arrived on the ground in Kosovo, allied officials have scaled back their estimates of the damage inflicted on Yugoslav forces. The paper quotes unnamed NATO and Pentagon forces as saying the assets remaining under Slobodan Milosevic's control probably enable him to suppress domestic opposition. "NATO hit a lot of dummy and deception targets. It's an old Soviet ploy," says one military source. The deception, says the paper, included phony tanks and artillery batteries, even phony bridges, one of which took a cruise missile right through its center. Such measures took advantage of the lesser visual acuity possible from NATO's high-altitude flight profiles. A WP NATO leakfest claims that the war demonstrated that the rest of the allies are so far behind the U.S. in the use of precision weapons and satellite reconnaissance that NATO is in danger of becoming a two-tier organization where the bottom tier is unable to perform many of its missions. The Post story echoes the Times in saying that the difference came out most markedly against fixed targets, not tactical and moving ones where the use of ground decoys caused the most confusion.
A NYT inside story cites new legal documents to explain the funding of a lawyer's 7-year-old libel suit filed against James B. Stewart over the man's brief appearance in Stewart's much-lauded Den of Thieves. It seems that the lawsuit has been mostly funded by Lowell Milken, Michael Milken's brother.
According to an LAT op-ed by two Dartmouth medical professors, there's a slight flaw with the Postal Service's new stamp with the legend, "Prostate Cancer Awareness: Annual Checkups and Tests": There's no scientific evidence warranting annual checkups or tests for this disease.
Archetypal NYT long-form profile pieces begin with the reporter's lunch with the profilee. An inside NYT story about New Yorker editor David Remnick reveals the power of the archetype. The Times says Remnick, "who understands the art of the dramatic set up," didn't want to send the wrong message about his stewardship of the magazine by his choice of eating/interviewing place. So he picked a plain old coffee shop. Why did he bother? Remnick was dramatically set up anyway--the piece begins with his wondering about that choice.