The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the $1.84 trillion proposed budget President Clinton will submit on Monday. The Washington Post off-leads the budget's $35 billion for helping older Americans who have unusually high prescription drug bills and goes instead with Russian President Vladimir Putin's declaration that his country's forces have captured the capital of Chechnya, Grozny. USA Today's off-lead emphasizes the Clinton budget's aim to pay off the national debt in 10 years, but the paper saves its bold headline for Hillary Rodham Clinton's formal announcement yesterday in New York that she is a Senate candidate (and for a new poll showing that her race against Rudy Giuliani will be close), a story that is fronted by the NYT and WP but is stuffed by the LAT. Every front, though, has a picture of Bill Clinton playing his new role of candidate's spouse. The Wall Street Journal goes high in its front-page financial news box with a detail about the economy nobody else fronts: In January, U.S. unemployment fell to 4 percent, the lowest in 30 years.
The papers explain that the Clinton budget's calculation of the surplus over the next 10 years is considerably lower than that made by the Congressional Budget Office recently. It is also emphasized that the budget puts much of this money into Medicare, rather than mostly into tax cuts, which is the alternative the Republicans prefer.
The WP and LAT front the hijacking of an Afghan airliner carrying at least 140 people. The hijackers, apparently all Afghans, are trying to get the Taliban, the Muslim clique running most of Afghanistan, to release a jailed opposition comrade. The hijackers have taken the plane to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Moscow, and at press time, it had landed at an airport outside London.
The WP and NYT report inside that the oil found aboard that Russian tanker seized by the U.S. Navy late last week has been proved to be from Iraq. The Post explains that a sample of the ship's cargo was flown to a U.S. laboratory, where it was matched to a reference sample. Under international law, the paper says, the confiscated cargo will be sold. Secretary of Defense Wlliam Cohen is quoted saying that he doesn't think the incident will have any impact on U.S.-Russian relations.
To this point, the negative press coverage on the new role in the Austrian government played by Jörg Haider's party has focused on past statements of his, many of which he has (however grudgingly) apologized for. But the NYT reports that yesterday, Haider said Germans expelled from then-Czechoslovakia after World War II should get the same compensation that Austrian Jews persecuted by the Nazis get. The paper says the new remark will heighten international concern about Haider.
The WP and NYT report inside that Human Rights Watch has concluded that during the Kosovo war, NATO airstrikes killed 500 civilians, more than the Pentagon has conceded, but less than the total claimed by the Yugoslav government. The report attributes 150 of those deaths to the use of cluster bombs. The NYT says that the Pentagon never came up with a definitive account of Yugoslav casualties from the war because of the Vietnam experience, in which body counts became such a politically vexed issue.
The WP passes along results of the latest Pew study about news sources. It seems that only 31 percent of those surveyed use newspapers as their main source of campaign news, compared with 48 percent four years ago. The networks are also declining in this regard (24 percent, down from 39 percent), as is local TV (25 percent, down from 34 percent). The Internet has climbed to 6 percent, triple the 1996 level. Some context on that, though: According to the WSJ article today on political humor, 10 percent of Americans learn something about campaigns from late-night comedians.
In its story about the deterioration of U.S. military housing, the first and only independent expert the NYT quotes is ... altogether now ... Charles Moskos, the Northwestern University sociologist who studies the military. Challenge to readers: Try finding stories about U.S. military culture where Moskos isn't the go-to guy. Challenge to papers: ditto.