Pyrotechnical Difficulties

Pyrotechnical Difficulties

Pyrotechnical Difficulties

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 27 1999 7:16 AM

Pyrotechnical Difficulties

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post lead with Janet Reno’s reactions to the FBI flip-flop--after six years of denials, FBI officials admitted that "pyrotechnics" were used during the standoff with Branch Davidians in Waco. Reno has ordered an internal investigation. (The New York Times and USA Today front this story.) USAT leads with further developments in the Russian money laundering investigation. The NYT and the Wall Street Journal scrutinize the Bank of New York’s involvement in the laundering, and the WP fronts the scandal’s ramifications for Al Gore. The NYT leads local with New York’s surprise flash floods. Between two and four inches of rain fell during the morning rush hour, effectively shutting down the subway and flooding many streets. The NYT, WP, and LAT all front photos of a triumphant Michael Johnson, who broke an 11-year-old world record in the 400-meter dash.

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The WP and USAT note Reno’s call for an investigation, and stress the still unresolved question of the U.S. military’s involvement in the affair. Technically, the military is barred from participating in domestic police work, but the WP details their involvement in the siege, including the presence of the Army’s anti-terrorist Delta Force during the standoff. The Army claims they were there as observers. The investigation, to be conducted by 40 FBI officials, will attempt to explain why the fact that incendiary canisters of tear gas were used wasn’t made public earlier.

The NYT worries that Reno’s desire to protect her own credibility will hinder the effectiveness of her investigation. Henry Ruth, a Watergate prosecutor who participated in the Treasury Department’s investigation of the Waco assault, warned that keeping the investigation internal renders it useless and redundant: "If they don't reopen the whole thing now and actually use outside investigators, this will be like the Kennedy assassination for the next 50 years."

Russia’s dirty laundry thus far: Billions of dollars, most intended as IMF loans, may have been laundered through the Bank of New York into accounts held by a company called Benex. Benex is purportedly a front for a top Russia mafioso (currently missing). The man suspected of laundering the money for Benex is married to a Bank of New York executive (currently under suspension). Another bank executive (currently under suspension) who handled the bank’s Russian accounts is married to a man who once worked as 1) Russia’s IMF representative and 2) the deputy chair of a now-defunct Moscow bank (also targeted by the investigation). Russia’s Federal Security Service (today’s "equivalent" of the KGB) announced that it would begin its own investigation. The Kremlin stated that neither Yeltsin nor any of his family have foreign bank accounts.

The WP presents an interesting angle to the laundering story below the fold. Al Gore once touted his dealings with Russia (particularly involving IMF aid to Russia) as evidence of his foreign policy savvy. Now he’s forced to answer allegations that he and the Clinton administration were too lenient with Russia despite evidence of rampant, ongoing corruption.

American Home Products offered to settle lawsuits over Norplant, a contraceptive that could be injected into women to prevent pregnancy for up to five years. Around 36,000 women filed suit with the company throughout the 1990s, claiming that they were not adequately warned about Norplant’s side effects. Plaintiffs’ attorneys were disappointed by the amount of the settlement: $1,500 per woman, for a total of around $50 million. The flaw in their case was an inability to prove permanent damage—most side effects disappeared after women stopped using Norplant.

The NYT reports that President Clinton’s offer of clemency to imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists was unanimously opposed by a range of Federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons. The Puerto Ricans, who were never convicted of crimes which resulted in death or injury, have not yet responded to Clinton’s conditional offer.

Mine Your Own Business: Last week, Amazon.com began featuring thousands of customized bestseller lists for places like NYU and the Library of Congress. Many organizations protested, claiming that the information the site made public was actually private. The WP reports that Amazon has now made it possible for customers and corporations to opt out of these "Purchase Circles," which Amazon creates by "data mining" its extensive customer database. This option did not come soon enough to prevent the WP from running a few Purchase Circle shockers: The Microsoft File: The Secret Case Against Bill Gates is a bestseller at Microsoft, and the Top 10 list at National Semiconductor includes 101 Nights of Grrreat Sex.