Government on the Fritz

Government on the Fritz

Government on the Fritz

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 19 2000 7:27 AM

Government on the Fritz

The Los Angeles Times leads with the first weekday of L.A.'s bus and rail strike, which is affecting 450,000 commuters, but its top non-local story--fronted by no one else--is the Army's just-released scathing report on the misconduct of some peacekeeping soldiers in Kosovo (apparently largely confined to one paratroop company), which found that some soldiers on duty there "had violated basic standards of conduct, human decency and the Army values." The top national story at the New York Times is that the governors of six Western states (five of them Republicans) yesterday endorsed the Clinton administration wildland firefighting plan, which would emphasize prevention and local decision-making about such contentious issues as controlled burns and wildlife protection while more than doubling the current federal budget in this area. USA Today leads with NBC's ratings for the Olympics' first weekend--a 10 percent smaller audience than the network had promised advertisers. The Washington Post leads with a story also fronted by USAT: one of the largest donations ever to an American museum--a no-strings $80 million to the Smithsonian for its American history branch.

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The LAT explains that the Army report was prompted by the rape and murder charges successfully brought against one sergeant in the unit and that nine other soldiers from it have since been given various forms of administrative punishment. Thus far, the Army has declined, the paper explains, to court-martial any soldiers besides the man convicted of murder. But based on this story, it's hard to see why: It details soldiers' repeated abuse of civilians, including assault, torture, and sexual misconduct. The troops seem to have mistreated ethnic Albanians but not Serbs. The LAT lapses in not trying to explain this favoritism. The paper reports that the Army will likely take corrective actions within 30 days, but suggests that these will not include criminal charges. If the report is accurate, why not?

It will be interesting to compare the Army's handling to how Israel responds to a scandal there reported inside the WP. It seems that several Israeli border police severely beat and threatened with death three Palestinians who did no more than present their identity cards at a checkpoint. And then the goons took pictures of their handiwork, which ultimately led to their indictment last week. The good news in all this: It was an Israeli, a rabbi, who informed his government about the beatings.

A Wall Street Journal story wonders if with Iraq's current oil export rate of 2.3 million barrels a day, the world is now dependent on Saddam Hussein's oil. "You're damned right," is the answer the paper gets from Iraq's oil minister. The story goes on to quote a European oil executive as saying that any political flare-up that results in Iraq's halting exports would cause the price of oil to double. Tom Friedman says in his NYT column that such an outage would cause gas in the United States to go to $3 a gallon.

The NYT reports that newly released CIA documents show that the Chilean general later convicted of being the mastermind of the Washington, D.C., car bombing that killed Salvador Allende's former ambassador to the U.S. and an associate was a CIA informer at the time, and had been paid for such services just the year before.

Another example of your tax dollars at work: The papers report that just days after receiving $12.6 million in federal election funds, Pat Buchanan yesterday ventured to Bob Jones University where, says the WP, he declared that the courts and the media elite "are abolishing America." He also said that homosexuality "always has been associated with social decadence and national decline."

The NYT fronts a long take out on the surge tide of prostitutes washing over the EU and countries immediately adjacent to it. The story describes the West European sex marketplace as a "world of violence, xenophobia, disease and misery." By contrast, a WSJ feature on Sydney's free-wheeling ways describes the prostitution scene there, where it is completely legal, as "clean and mostly nonviolent."

The WP front continues to bore with its attempts to reinterest readers in Bill Clinton's misbehavior via excerpts from a staffer's book. Today's installment (the last, mercifully) is a ticktock of the Senate impeachment trial. Clinton still walks, but the Post wants you to know that during the ramp-up to the final vote, South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings said that if Clinton had an ounce of honor, he would have resigned and gone back to San Francisco "where they don't recognize funny people like him."