leads with the expected proposal today by the Clinton administration that thousands of workers employed over the past 50 years at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities be able to seek government compensation for ills caused by their on-the-job exposure to various toxic materials. The New York Times runs nuclear compensation inside and joins the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post in going instead with a glitch in the Northern Ireland peace process.
USAT and the NYT explain that nuke workers generally have no right to illness compensation under state and federal worker compensation laws (because, the Times explains, they didn't suffer traumatic injuries of the sort state programs are geared to, and weren't considered federal workers in that they usually were directly employed by private companies). Today's proposal will be, say the papers, an unprecedented admission by the government about the dangers to workers posed by its weapons facilities. A concern reported by USAT : The range of illnesses that will be held by the government to qualify will be kept unreasonably small.
The gum-up with Northern Ireland, the papers explain, is that Wednesday night the leading Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, refused to form a government this week as planned with the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, because the IRA will not agree to first disarm. This despite last-minute appeals from both Tony Blair and Irish P.M. Bertie Ahern. This is all a consequence of a hole in the 1998 Good Friday agreement aiming to put an end to "The Troubles" by establishing a power-sharing government--namely, it calls for the disarmament of combatants on both sides before the new government is finalized, but doesn't say when that process must start. The headlines over the stories show a slight but interesting difference. The heaviest type at the NYT reads ACCORD IN ULSTER HITS A ROADBLOCK OVER DISARMAMENT, saving the particulars for the subhead. Ditto for the WP. The LAT puts more detail in the big print, with finger-wagging effect: UNIONISTS REJECT PLAN FOR GOVERNING NORTHERN IRELAND.
News of a stunningly hopeful AIDS development off-leads at USAT, the LAT, and the NYT (and is stuffed at the WP). Research just in reveals that if HIV-infected expectant mothers took just one dose of a new drug--nevirapine--costing just $4, several hundred thousand newborns could be saved from infection each year. In a study of 618 mothers conducted in the U.S. and Uganda, the drug proved 47 percent more effective against mother-to-child transmission than the far more expensive standard drug, AZT. This is likely to mean a substantially better chance of limiting the course of the disease in poor countries. The NYT informs that the drug has been in use as part of "cocktail" treatments since 1996, and the LAT suggests that this new use of it might be an alternative to the controversial (as Al Gore recently discovered) idea of producing low-cost generic and hence possibly patent-violating versions of the likes of AZT to combat AIDS in Africa.
Hey, remember the Iraqi secret weapons-of-mass-destruction program? Well, a story on Page 19 of the WP reports that U.S. intelligence experts have seen no indication that Iraq has resumed its chemical and biological programs since last December, when UN inspectors left and Iraq was bombed by the U.S. and Britain for three days.
What with the Chinese Embassy boom-boom boo-boo and all, it's nice to read in the WP that the Women's World Cup final might be smoothing relations between the U.S. and China. The paper reports that the New China News Agency wrote up a friendly exchange between President Clinton and Jiang Zemin over the match. Apparently, Clinton wrote Jiang a letter praising the spirit of the Chinese team. He also went to the Chinese team's locker room (natch) and had a picture taken with the team that appeared in a big government-run Beijing paper. But wait! The LAT sports page reports a "furor" in the Chinese press over U.S. goalie Briana Scurry's admission that she cheated in making a key save.
Richard Cohen's WP column passes along this from the Economist: From 1876 to 1885, Dodge City (population: 1,200) averaged just 1.5 killings per cowboy season (whatever that is), suggesting that even in the Wild, Wild West, folks weren't as fixated on guns as they are today.
The Wall Street Journal offers yet more proof of just how much money is washing through this economy: Americans are now going in big for ornamental lawn sprinklers, costing many times what such an item needs to. Big sellers include hand-cut copper deals that spray artistic swirls ($70-$100), swans and butterflies ($100), and a 72-inch obelisk ($498).
The WP "Style" piece about the making of Eyes Wide Shut drives home the genius take on Stanley Kubrick. The piece is cagey about whether or not the writer actually saw the movie, but it includes quotes from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and is quite generally idolatrous, suggesting that there might be something to a tip Today's Papers got from a Hollywood source. Namely, that everyone granted an interview with Cruise and Kidman had to sign a document promising to write something favorable. Question: Should newspapers let reporters sign such things? And if they do, shouldn't they tell their readers?