Each major goes its own way today. The quixotic death and destruction of the renewed Ethiopia-Eritrea fighting is finally a lead story--at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post leads with a report that U.S.-backed anti-drug programs in Colombia have ground to a halt because Congress has not moved on emergency funding for them, with the upshot that cocaine production there is likely to increase this year. The New York Times goes with increased concern in the wake of Los Alamos about the heightened impact wildfires could have in the mountain west, where there's been a dramatic increase in residential populations close to likely fire zones. The paper says that nationwide, the monetary damage to property from wildfires has increased sixfold from the 1980s to the 1990s. USA Today leads with a congressional report it's obtained that questions the Pentagon's need for more than 100 luxury executive aircraft used to transport generals and admirals. (Today's Papers recalls how more than 20 years ago the Romeo-Alpha-Tango call letters for the Navy's executive jets were said to stand for "Rear Admirals' Toys.")
The LAT reports that yesterday's main war action was a daylight Ethiopian air raid on a military airstrip on the outskirts of Eritrea's capital, Asmara--which for all its daring caused no loss of life--and also heavy ground fighting to the south. The paper refers to dozens of Ethiopian soldiers' stiff and bloated bodies littering the landscape there. All this while an attempt is being made to jump-start peace negotiations between the two sides in Algiers, with the help of EU reps and a U.S. special envoy.
The WP lead describes unnamed Clinton administration drug policy officials as seeking to emphasize the urgency of the problem, but unfortunately they are the only sources cited in the story for information about the situation in Colombia. So the reader is left wondering what's real and what's spin. The story should have included comment from independent people with on-the-ground knowledge.
The WP off-leads with the State Dept.'s swift response to Peru's Alberto Fujimori's claim of re-election: Invalid. Furthermore, the Post says, Washington repeated the possibility of sanctions against Peru. The story is also the top item in the Wall Street Journal 's front-page news box.
The USAT front reports that in the opinion of the FDA, the newly appointed editor of the New England Journal of Medicine made "false or misleading" statements last year about the value of an asthma drug sold by a company that had hired him as a consultant.
On the heels of yesterday's LAT story reporting that Microsoft is among the high-end donors to both upcoming political conventions, USAT 's "Money" section covers the company's burgeoning lobbying efforts. According to the story, the company has seven full-time lobbyists and 50 more on retainer working in 20 states, it has flown at least 130 members of Congress or their aides out to its HQ in Redmond, Wash., within the past 16 months, and is spending as much as $1 billion a year to influence public opinion and government officials. The story quotes a MS spokesman as saying the $1 billion figure is an "exaggeration." According to the piece, Microsoft has been a funder of such advocacy groups as the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and Citizens Against Government Waste, all part of what USAT calls the company's "stealth" political campaign. The story says there are only a few other firms in a league with the company's lobbying, but it doesn't mention what sorts of dollars those other companies are spending or how many lobbyists they employ. Context, please.