Reign of Confusion

Reign of Confusion

Reign of Confusion

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 5 2001 4:33 AM

Reign of Confusion

The Washington Post's top nonlocal story focuses on the royal turmoil in Nepal, which has had three kings in four days and now faces rioting from Nepalese who don't believe their government's version of events. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the death sentence of a retarded Texas man, Johnny Paul Penry. USA Today leads with the changing of party control in the Senate. It focuses on now Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's bipartisan warm fuzzies. "We have to reach out and be as inclusive as possible," said Daschle, D-S.D. USAT notes that Daschle began his reaching out over the weekend: He met with Republican Sen. John McCain and tried to convince him to defect from the GOP. The Wall Street Journal's top news box recounts the Supreme Court's 8-0 decision overruling a cap on damages in worker discrimination suits. Before the ruling, employees could be awarded a maximum of $300,000. The Supremes didn't exactly abolish that cap. Instead, they ruled that future pay--that is, the money you would have earned if hadn't been discriminated against--shouldn't be counted as part of the cap.

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Citizens of Nepal protested and rioted yesterday after they began to suspect that there was a conspiracy behind the killing of their king and his heir. Officially, well, officially the story has changed. At first, the government said the crown prince attacked his family and then turned a gun on himself. Then officials said it was an accident, a mere misfiring of automatic weapons, which left nine royal family members dead. Then they backed off that somewhat tenuous explanation and simply said they would order an investigation. Many Nepalese, though, have already come to their own conclusion. They suspect that the killings were part of a power-grabbing plot by Paras Shah, the crown prince's evil cousin. According to the WP, Shah--who is now heir to the throne since his father was named king a few days ago--is "widely described as a gun-toting thug."

The Supreme Court ruled that the jury at the trial of Johnny Paul Penry had been given flawed instructions. As a result, the court overturned Penry's death sentence. The NYT says the court's decision was actually very limited: "[I]t did not directly address the broader issue of whether a mentally retarded person should be executed" and didn't set seem to set any precedents. So why is it the lead story? (The WP stuffs the story, concluding that "the court's decision probably immediately affects only Penry and a handful of other Texas death row inmates.")

Both the WP and the LAT front news of a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Florida's election fiasco. The now-leaked but still unreleased report is full of harsh words for Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris. The election, it concludes, was marred by "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency," with minorities suffering a disproportionate number of the screw-ups. According to the report, African-Americans were 10 times as likely as whites to have their ballots rejected. Still, the commission--made up of four Democrats, three independents, and one Republican--concluded that there was no "conclusive evidence" that election officials "conspired" to discriminate.

USAT goes below the fold with news that the Ford F-150, the world's best-selling vehicle, has just earned itself the worst possible rating in an insurance industry crash test. "There was total structural failure," said the head of the testing group. "The occupant compartment collapsed and the airbag was late in firing." Ford counters that the test is unrealistic and that the F-150 has scored well on government tests.

The WSJ fronts news that Canada is considering decriminalizing marijuana. Smoking pot would no longer be punishable with jail time; instead tokers would get a fine, akin to a speeding ticket. Even the Mounties, those Canadian police guys with the cute suits, support the idea. They argue that decriminalizing pot would free them up to go after more serious crimes. The U.S., of course, isn't happy about the prospect of a greener neighbor. Decriminalization, warned one anonymous U.S. official, would be a "disaster" for Canadian-U.S. relations.

The most cogent comment about McCain's possible party switch comes from Brian Supalla, a retired Navy sailor quoted in a man-on-the-street interview stuffed in the NYT: "McCain and Daschle are using each other and they both know it," Mr. Supalla said. "But McCain isn't jumping to the Democratic Party. This is just a way for him to maintain a high profile even with the Democrats in control of the Senate. But it is also going to make things very difficult for the president's agenda."

Yesterday, USAT's snapshot graphic charted Americans' opinion of the most ethical professions. (Nursing and the clergy.) Today's question: "Who has the lowest ethics?" Car salesmen, of course, lead the list. Head down three spots (past lawyers and union leaders) until, yes!: TV reporters and commentators.