Quarrel in Quebec

Quarrel in Quebec

Quarrel in Quebec

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 21 2001 8:18 AM

Quarrel in Quebec

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (at least online) all lead with the Summit of the Americas meeting in Quebec and the accompanying protests. But the papers play it differently. The NYT goes sober and focuses on President Bush's announcement that his top foreign policy goal will be to develop closer ties with Latin America. The other papers are more excited about the action outside the meeting. "Protestors, Police Clash As Quebec Summit Opens," reports the LAT. While the Post headlines, "Protesters Seize Day In Quebec."

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The reality is that while all the papers make the requisite references to the WTO-inspired Battle in Seattle (1999), the quarrel in Quebec has, so far, been a kinder, gentler, civil disturbance: All the papers report that the demonstrators limited access to Bush's hotel for a time and as a result forced the president to cancel a meeting with Caribbean leaders. But the papers also note that protests had calmed down by early evening and that the opening ceremonies were only delayed for about an hour. About 25 protestors where arrested (compared to nearly 500 in the first two days of Seattle). 

The LAT ignores the summit and focuses solely on street activities. The NYT stuffs its demonstrators piece, and seems as mellow about the protests as the anonymous Bush official who commented, "We expected this. You can't have a trade summit these days without tear gas; it would be like having a cheeseburger without cheese." The WP, hyperbolic headline aside, digs into the details of the summit. It's the only paper to note that yesterday the Bush administration announced a decision that should please the folks hanging out on the streets: All future U.S. trade agreements will be subject to environmental review, which affirms a policy put in place by President Clinton. The paper also reports that protestors aren't the only ones skeptical of the summit's main topic, a pan-America free-trade proposal. Yesterday, the presidents of both Venezuela and Brazil expressed fears that the hoped-for pact might exacerbate their countries' already large socio-economic inequities. 

The NYT off-leads with a report from the Environmental Protection Agency that concludes that fine soot--the stuff you see belching from trucks--is more dangerous than previously thought and is causing "thousands of premature deaths each year." The report, which is based on a review of 3,000 studies, could push the president to further regulate the emissions. The Times gives plenty of useful background, but waits until the 24th graph to unload a key detail: Scientists have a good estimate for the number of deaths caused by soot. It's not "thousands," it's 50,000.

The WP and LAT front news that yesterday Peru mistakenly shot down a small plane that carried five Americans--three passengers survived, while a mother and her infant daughter were killed. Peru apparently mistook the plane full of missionaries for a drug-running craft. Both papers point out that Peru, as part of its anti-drug campaign, has shot down about 25 planes in the past decade.

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The WP stuffs an exclusive: The Bush administration has ordered the National Institutes of Health to cancel a planned meeting that was set to consider funding projects for research on human embryo cells. Such research could eventually yield enormous medical benefits, but it's controversial because, well, it uses human embryo cells (generally "extras" from fertility clinics). Clinton had approved such research. But Bush's decision, which the WP says wasn't announced publicly, could be a sign that the president is moving to reverse Clinton's decision.

The NYT reports that interest groups--particularly those focused on the question of abortion--are gearing up to influence who gets picked to be the next Supreme Court nominee. The court has gone over six years without a justice stepping down, and observers think that with three justices over 70, at least one of them is going to be heading to Boca soon. Liberals are already pressuring senators to oppose Bush's  (as yet nonexistent) nominees. Some conservatives, meanwhile, are hoping that the president will nominate someone without an obviously conservative record. The ideal nominee, said one conservative analyst, "is someone who has no paper trail but will instantaneously be viewed by conservatives as one of them--sort of the immaculate conception of judicial appointments."

The WP fronts an analysis about the tough-guy tactics of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Since taking office in early March, Sharon has lived up to the hawkish image he earned, first as a general then as a Cabinet member of various Israeli governments. Sharon, says the Post, "has increased the use of tanks, helicopters and heavy automatic rifle fire against Palestinian civilians and military targets." The WP, in a remarkably blunt assessment, characterizes Sharon's approach as "a miniature version of tactics dating back to the Vietnam War: sending messages through destruction and killing."

Next time you wash your hands, pause for a moment. The NYT reports that Alfred Moen, the man who brought you that pleasantly temperate water, died yesterday at the age of 84. He invented the faucet in which hot and cold streams both come out of one spigot.

Return to Quebec: The WP notes that with all the hubbub outside his hotel, President Bush apparently wasn't in the mood to speak with the press. At a photo-op, Bush reminded reporters that there would be no questions allowed, "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."