Threatened with municipal lawsuits that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, top gun makers have agreed to discuss with representatives of various cities safety improvements and distribution control, according to a New York Times exclusive. The Los Angeles Times leads with the return of radiation levels to normal at the site of Thursday's nuclear accident in Japan, a story which the other papers front. The Washington Post offers GOP boohooing over candidate George W. Bush's opposition to a deferral of tax credits to low-income families. The NYT runs a similar story inside.
Gun industry executives met on Monday in Washington with municipal officials, who said they will withdraw their lawsuits if an agreement is reached. An industry spokesman suggested that negotiators aim for a reduction in accidental deaths and injuries and a way to prevent guns from reaching criminals. New York state's attorney general proposed that an independent monitor be appointed to make sure any agreement is carried out. Absent from the meeting were representatives from Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Newark, and from Los Angeles' "Ring of Fire" companies, which produce inexpensive guns that criminals can't get enough of.
The LAT mildly tempers official Japanese reports that the radiation level in the nuclear facility and surrounding region has normalized with critics' fears that it is too early to tell what exactly the plant spat out. But overall, scientific and political reassurances are being reported louder than anything else. A NYT front-pager voices local residents' anger at the government's negligence before the accident, official response to it, and the proximity of their homes to the facility. (The LAT supplies the detail that 39 families who live within 400 yards of the plant still hadn't been allowed home yet). Lest we think of Tokaimura residents as monolithically hysterical, the WP runs a story inside on locals impervious to panic.
Speaker Dennis Haskert said that last month Republicans in Congress had discussed with Bush's aides their budget strategy, part of which defers earned income credit payments totaling $8.7 billion. No one on Bush's team objected then. Yesterday a spokeswoman said that the campaign does not habitually coordinate stances with Congress. The candidate himself broke party solidarity with a properly alliterative soundbite ("I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor."), which an aide told the NYT was "too good" to be spontaneous. The Post reveals in the 18th paragraph that W. himself did not learn of the plan until briefed on Thursday. The NYT fronts Bush's centrist "standard stump speech" to the Christian Coalition, in which he did not address crowd-pleasing issues like abortion (in depth), prayer in schools, or gay rights.
Faced with the prospect of renewed rioting, Iran's chief cleric told hard-liners to chill out over a campus newspaper piece in Tehran that many found offensive, the NYT reports. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also spoke up for President Mohammed Khatami, usually his sparring partner, who has been trying to bring the government, police, and judiciary in line with law.
A $100 million missile launch tonight will test technology spun off from original forays into a "Star Wars" missile defense system, according to the LAT. A Minuteman missile, topped with a dummy warhead, will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Santa Barbara. Twenty minutes later an interceptor will be fired from 4,300 miles away. A direct hit could eventually lead to implementation, but also to an arms race, critics say, as other countries try to develop technology that outmaneuvers the new defense.
A Connecticut law that went into effect yesterday allows police to confiscate guns from anyone considered by a judge to be dangerous, the LAT reports. Critics have dubbed it the "turn-in-your-neighbor law" and said it amounts to "unreasonable search and seizure" that violates the Fourth Amendment. Interest, though, is not confined to the Constitution State: Illinois legislators will review a similar bill next month and California Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill this week requiring police to take guns found in people's homes for two days following reports of domestic violence.
An FAA radar monitoring system designed to prevent airplanes from colliding with each other on the ground may not be installed until 2002 -- ten years behind schedule, the WP reports. Even then, the software may not be able to foresee accidents on taxiways or with trucks and other equipment. Nor can the radar spot misbehaving schoolkids. One of the two novelty stories on the WP front follows 12-year-old Christopher Peregory on an impromptu tour of the Midwest. Instead of reporting to the principal for putting down a colleague, the Fairfax, VA elementary school student took the subway to Reagan National Airport, walked on to a plane, and flew without incident or ticket to St. Louis, the hub of TWA travel. The airline returned him without charge to his concerned parents, who promptly grounded him. No word on the principal's reaction. (The other novelty: Egyptologists north of Los Angeles hope to dig up what could be the second most important Pharaonic-era (or at least -themed) discovery of the year: the Ueber-set from DeMille's 1927 "The Ten Commandments.")
And the TP award for implacable skepticism goes to ... A NYT reader who responds to both Reagan aide Michael Deaver's Wednesday op-ed piece on working with the former president and Edmund Morris' new biography: "The Reagan that I'm finding in Dutch is a complex man. Had I read Mr. Deaver's description six months ago, I would have dismissed it as pro-Reagan propaganda. Now I have to admit that to a great extent, it rings true."