From Welfare to Warfare

From Welfare to Warfare

From Welfare to Warfare

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 29 1999 6:44 AM

From Welfare to Warfare

The New York Times lead reveals that states have not spent about 20 percent of the money they received from 1997-99 to fund anti-poverty programs. The Los Angeles Times goes with a Syracuse University study showing that federal prosecutions of gun cases have recently dropped by a third and that convicted criminals are serving less jail time.  The paper off-leads tomorrow's referendum in East Timor on independence from Indonesia. The Washington Post leads with a report that two local utilities cannot account for about 66 million gallons of water a day--a fifth of their total supply. The loss, which adds up to millions of dollars each year, is brought to light as area residents are being asked to conserve, conserve, conserve.

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An analysis conducted by the NYT probes an unforeseen effect of the 1996 welfare law, which freed states to run their own anti-poverty programs: A combination of fixed federal grants and shrinking welfare rolls have left states $7.4 billion in the black. The paper conducted a mammoth survey of state spending records to figure out where the money is going, and found that "in 50 state budgets reside 50 different stories." The article emphasizes four results of the study and profiles Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Texas: 1) The federal government spends 64 percent more per family than before the law took effect, averaging $5,300 in 1998. 2) Differences in states' allotments and changing state welfare enrollments may feed new political clashes (Wisconsin got about six times more money last year than Illinois). 3) Much of the money hasn't been converted into new benefits and services--state spending has increased only 28 percent. 4) Some of the poorest states, such as New Mexico, are the slowest to tap their anti-poverty funds.

Militias in East Timor said they will restrict their armed forces to certain areas to prevent interference in tomorrow's referendum, according to a LAT front-pager. The paper cautions that similar agreements between pro- and anti-independence forces have dissolved in the past. The U.N. will supervise the vote and announce the results in no less than a week. The NYT depicts the military struggle as more one-sided, conducted by "brutal, rag-tag militias that oppose independence." Both papers explain that East Timor, which has 800,000 residents, would face intense poverty if it gains independence. 

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told the Post that northwestern cities have industrialized and expanded over the past few decades, despite a string of predictions that an earthquake would hit. The paper points out that in 1997, a respected (though unnamed) journal singled out Izmit as most vulnerable to a quake. Other details of the government's role are emerging: The state never set up a communications network that would link them to local officials during crises. Turkey's president, vacationing in Istanbul, could not call to Ankara for four hours after the quake. A law requires the state to provide people with new homes for free; costs to be met with international loans. A dramatic LAT "Sunday Report" looks at four middle-class Turkish families who must rebuild their lives from scratch. 

The Syracuse study suggests that criminals' shorter prison terms indicate that investigators have been less than successful targeting the nation's biggest illegal weapons dealers. Opponents of gun control blame federal authorities for failing to enforce existing laws. An ATF officer told the Times that the survey did not take enough into account, like understaffing or the number of cases referred to state officials. The LAT devotes its entire editorial space to a plea for stricter gun control. The paper calls on lawmakers to ban assault weapons, require that guns be registered and owners licensed, impose background checks at gun shows, and ban Internet gun sales by private parties. 

International health specialists concerned with preventing malaria are trying to soften a possible U.N. global ban on DDT, the NYT reports. The group wants the treaty to allow people to spray small amounts of DDT on walls indoors to repel disease-carrying mosquitoes. A U.N. official told the Times that such a provision is likely, but not without a fierce struggle by unlikely adversaries: public health experts and environmentalists.

The WP puts Russian "capital flight" at $100 billion-150 billion since 1992 and suggests that all the country's problems (the prime minister carousel, inflation, and social disintegration) have only encouraged a broad range of people with money to find ways to send it westward. The article mentions a couple of recent, highly visible financial scandals but does not allot space to the back-stabbing political environment that is thought to have helped them surface.

A NYT "Week in Review" piece takes on the First Golfer's notorious habit of hitting "mulligans," or spontaneous "do-overs," after flubbed strokes:  "Mr. Clinton, after all, claimed that he did not inhale, and that he did not have sexual relations with that woman.  Why wouldn't the President also put the spin on his golf score?"  Dissatisfied with its own first shot, the NYT grants itself a mulligan.  Earlier in the week, the paper (and others) ran a glorious photo of President Clinton following through on a swing, his cheeks inflated Dizzy Gillespie-style, eyes intently tracing the ball's path.  The Times' second shot turned out much better: It's in full-color and at least twice the size of first, which had hooked left, straight onto the back pages.