Blockbusted

Blockbusted

Blockbusted

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 6 2001 4:07 AM

Blockbusted

The New York Times, the Washington Post (at least online), and the Wall Street Journal's front-page news box all lead with the completion of Vermont Sen. James Jeffords' jump from the Republican Party, thus giving Democrats control of the Senate. The transition could be bumpy. Some Republicans are hesitant to cooperate with the revising of Senate committees and want Democrats to first promise smooth sailing for the president's judicial nominees. The Los Angeles Times leads with early returns showing that City Attorney James Hahn was leading former State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa in the city's mayoral election yesterday. Though both candidates are fairly liberal Democrats, the race was bitter. One controversial Hahn ad showed an image of a smoking crack pipe followed by a portrait of Villaraigosa. (The ad argued that Villaraigosa--who was vying to be L.A.'s first Hispanic mayor in over 100 years--has coddled drugs criminals.) USA Today leads with news that cancer rates have declined in the past decade. According to findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, death rates from cancer have dropped about 1 percent every year from 1992 to1998. Experts attribute the decline to earlier detections, better prevention, and a decline in smoking rates. Still, USAT warns, "little or no progress has been made in treating the advanced stages of the most common cancers."

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With the Senate's power switch, President Bush is doing his best to play to nice to Democrats, including their newest hero, Sen. Jeffords. Yesterday, Bush had Jeffords over to play (and enjoy a photo-op) at the White House The NYT fronts an interview with the president in which Bush steadfastly denied that he's been bothered by the Senate's new tilt: "I haven't had any blue days. Every day has been chipper," said the president, who continued, "Every day is a great day when you're the president."

The LAT off-leads a federal court ruling that a FBI sniper can be tried for manslaughter in the killing of white separatist Randy Weaver's wife during the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho. During the siege, the federal sharpshooter fired at and killed Weaver's wife after she held open a door to let in a family friend (who was armed). The case had focused on whether federal officers are immune to state prosecution. They're not, said Judge Alex Kozinski: "When federal officers violate the Constitution, either through malice or excessive zeal, they can be held accountable for violating the state's criminal laws."

It's official: As top-fronted in the NYT, CIA Director George Tenet is on his way to the Middle East for a peace pilgrimage. The White House is trying to downplay expectations. Tenet, it said, isn't trying to hash out a grand solution. Instead, his goal, said the State Department, "is to assess the situation and to encourage additional security cooperation between the parties." That won't be easy. Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat a "murderer and a pathological liar." Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group Hamas now says it won't honor a cease-fire Arafat had called for earlier this week.

Monday's papers had speculated about whether Tenet would visit the Holy Land: The WSJ reported about "hints" of the excursion. The WP said that Tenet "may already be on his way to the region." And the NYT reported that "after an intense internal debate" the White House had decided to keep Tenet home. (For the record, Today's Papers was won over by the Gray Lady's insider-talk--and predicted that Tenet would stay stateside.)

The LAT fronts word that 11 Guatemalan communities are going to file suit today against a former president, accusing him of genocide. More than 200,000 Guatemalans were killed during a civil war in the 1980s. According to the LAT, the suit charges that former President Efrain Rios Montt "presided over a brutal policy of racial extermination as the nation's dictator in the early 1980s." The charges have some basis. According to a 1999 United Nations truth commission report, the Guatemalan military, led by Rios Montt, committed "acts of genocide." One thing the LAT didn't mention: Rios Montt had a friend to the north. The last time he hit the front pages, in 1982, Ronald Reagan was celebrating him as "totally dedicated to democracy in Guatemala." 

NYT stuffs word that the combination of the dot-com bomb and the unrest in Israel has resulted in the cooling off of Israel's once sizzling economy. Last week, the Israeli government reported that manufacturing, construction, and consumer spending had all declined. (The Times also notes, "Israel's travails pale next to the drastic contraction of the Palestinian economy, where unemployment has quadrupled in the last eight months.") But there's a silver lining: Israel's spy agency, the Mossad, which was once jonesing for job applicants, "has received more than a thousand applications from skilled software programmers and telecommunications experts, many of them victims of high-tech layoffs."

USAT reefers news that Blockbuster, where more Americans get their videos than from any other source, has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit which claimed that the video pusher's late-return policy resulted in exorbitant fees. The dispute centered on Blockbuster's practice of charging customers a full rental fee for each day a tape was late (i.e. a five-day rental that cost a total of $2.99 would cost an additional $2.99 each day it was late.) Blockbuster--which didn't admit to any wrongdoing--agreed to issue customers up to $450 million in free coupons.  Go get your slice of the pie (limited to a max of $18 per person).