The New York Times leads with hastily arranged Sunday talks between President Clinton and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Clinton administration officials tell the paper that as a result, they expect that Pakistani-backed forces will soon be withdrawing from the positions they have recently occupied inside the Indian side of the cease-fire line in the Kashmir region. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times stuff the Kashmir talks and lead instead with the suicide of the white supremacist suspect in the weekend's midwest shooting spree, a story the NYT runs at the top of the page.
The Times lead says that Sharif called the White House to suggest the meeting and Clinton told him to come right away. The paper points out that it's not clear how much control Sharif in fact has over the 700 Pakistanis across the line in Kashmir, because the force appears to contain guerrillas as well as regular Pakistani army troops and because it's not clear how much sway he has with the new, more activist, head of the Pakistani army. The Times notes that the current ratchet-up of the 50-plus-year-old Kashmir tangle has new urgency in that its disputants are now both nuclear powers.
All the coverage of the Midwest shooting spree--which included the wounding of seven and the murders of a black man jogging with his children and of a Korean man leaving church services--notes that until May, suspect Benjamin Smith was a member of the World Church of the Creator, led by Rev. Matt Hale, whose application to join the Illinois state bar after he passed the bar exam was recently turned down because of his racist and anti-Semitic views. The LAT says the WCC is the fastest growing white supremacist organization in the country. Apparently, Smith shot himself in the head while being pursued by police.
The diplomo-speak is flowing regarding continuing tensions between NATO and Russia over the latter's role in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. According to the LAT front, after Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria refused Russian entry into their airspaces, Russian troops began a trip by sea to the region. This was chosen, a Russian general tells the paper, because sea travel is cheaper and "a new experience." And a Marine spokesman for NATO is quoted saying that Russian troops were barred from landing at the Pristina, Kosovo, airport because the lighting there needed work.
The LAT fronts the news that the California state Senate is set to consider a bill, already approved by the state Assembly, that would eliminate the current requirements that first-time applicants for driver's licenses provide the DMV both with proof of legal residency in this country and with valid Social Security numbers. The laws have meant thousands of dollars in fines and towing costs and numerous unclaimable impounded vehicles for the state's "thousands" of illegal immigrants. (Why couldn't the LAT supply a more specific number?) Advocates say these people are staying in California anyway, so why keep them from making economic progress, and even from opening savings accounts? Critics reply that illegals shouldn't be rewarded for working around the system. The paper notes that the bill's survival this far just a few years after the passage of Prop. 187, which would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving many basic publicly funded social services, is a clear sign of the rise of Latino electoral power. Among the groups supporting repeal of the legal residency requirement is the Los Angeles Police Protective League, representing more than 10,000 officers. The story waits until the 34th paragraph to inform that Gov. Gray Davis hasn't taken a position yet on the issue.
A NYT front-pager cites one concrete accomplishment of the reign of Slobodan Milosevic--a decline in the birth rate. Apparently parents are increasingly unwilling to bring children into the poverty and stress the Milosevic regime has made a daily constant. The story mentions several couples either getting or having gotten abortions recently because of this, but makes no mention of the pill or condoms or other contraception devices. Does this reflect the actual birth control tendencies of Serbians or did the reporter just fail to pursue this?
Add this to the usual statistics bearing on the strength of the economy: According to an item in yesterday's LAT real estate section, in the first six months of 1999, 162 homes sold for more than $2.5 million each. Not nationwide, not statewide, not even citywide, but just in West Los Angeles. A realtor is quoted saying that the money for these purchases is coming from computer and Internet businesses.
The party line OK, this is the official deal on the Today's Papers 2nd Anniversary Party. It's Thursday, July 15th, 1999, 5-7 PM, in Los Angeles, California at Il Grano Restaurant, 11359 Santa Monica Blvd. There'll be wine and hors d'oeuvres, prizes and general merriment, perhaps even a celebrity guest or two. Price: Like the American press and especially Slate--ABSOLUTELY FREE. But attendees MUST do two things: 1) RSVP by July 9, to 323-654-6742 (email doesn't count); 2) Bring one especially loved or detested newspaper clip (no admission without one).
Why would the NYT editorial page need to give over space today to an "Editorial Observer" item stating that "last week on a cruise" it was observed that the middle sections of The Great Barrier Reef have the look of thriving underwater communities, that "to a snorkeler or scuba diver, the reef looks like a petrified undersea garden," and that "officials of the marine park authority find no clear evidence in their monitoring data of any significant, large-scale declines in the health of the reef"? Could it be that this allows writer Philip M. Boffey to write off the cruise and snorkeling/scuba trip he took there last week? If the IRS is in the habit of demanding actual journalism before allowing such deductions, they'll want more proof than this.