The Los Angeles Times leads with the latest move by the Clinton administration to ensure congressional approval of permanent normal U.S.-China trade relations: a standing government organization for monitoring China's compliance with its trade promises and commitments. Nobody else fronts this. USA Today goes with the main Democratic congressional campaign organization's lawsuit, filed yesterday, against Rep. Tom DeLay and three campaign groups he's associated with, that accuses DeLay of, in the paper's words, "heavy-handedness to the point of extortion" of political contributions, and of a method of distributing those funds that "amounts to money laundering." The suit alleges civil violations of the main federal racketeering statute. The Wall Street Journal puts the development atop its front-page news index box, but elsewhere it runs inside. The Washington Post goes with the United Nations' attempt to drum up support for sending more peacekeeping troops to join its 8,700-strong force in Sierra Leone, after rebel forces in that country killed seven U.N. soldiers and abducted some 50 others. The paper reports that although no U.S. troops are in the Sierra Leone U.N. contingent and none are contemplated, the U.N. has requested U.S. supplies and logistics support. Unlike the Post, which uses its big print to talk about the U.N.'s call for troops, the New York Times, which off-leads the story, shows a better sense of priorities in running a headline about the murder and abduction, and stresses those in the copy as well. The NYT leads, however, with the death last night at age 80 of Cardinal John O'Connor, leader of the New York archdiocese and, says the Times, "the Vatican's most forceful spokesman in the United States." Interesting tidbit buried deep in the obit: O'Connor, a Navy chaplain who served in Vietnam, recanted a book he had written defending the U.S. war role. The LAT and USAT also front his passing.
Both the WP and NYT are a bit clearer than USAT about what the Democrats' suit against DeLay alleges, namely that in the Post's words, he "pressured contributors into donating to the GOP and then directed those funds to nonprofit political groups that do not disclose their donors or how they are spending the money." The NYT quotes one legal expert's assessment of the suit's use of the racketeering statute as "creative but legally questionable." USAT and the Post get similarly dismissive language from the law professor who crafted the statute.
The LAT quotes a leading congressional critic of the administration's China policy as complaining that the proposed monitoring mechanism doesn't address American concerns about China's human rights, democracy, religious freedom, or environmental problems. Judging from the coverage of the proposal, it's hard not to agree.
The WP's John Mintz goes front-page with a scooplet, based on a videotape provided to the paper by a gun-control advocacy organization: The NRA's second-in-command recently boasted at a closed NRA meeting that if George W. Bush wins in November, "We'll have ... a president where we work out of their office." The story quotes a Bush spokesman denying that his boss is that close to the NRA.
The WP and NYT report inside that stateside political protests are mounting against the Clinton administration's plan to arrest protesters who've occupied a Navy bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The Post story says protesters are warning that arrests could hurt the Senate election chances of Hillary Clinton. But today's coverage of the Vieques flap follows earlier installments in curiously omitting past quotes from HRC about the matter.
A front-page LAT feature and a piece in the WP TV section remind that not only is America a country that has to have not one but two high-profile sock puppets, but is also one where one of the puppets sues the other. The creator of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, a feature of Late Night With Conan O'Brien since 1997, is being sued by Pets.com for Triumph's alleged defamatory remarks implying that the Pets.com spokessock is a rip-off of Triumph.