Plains Speaking

Plains Speaking

Plains Speaking

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 25 2001 7:28 AM

Plains Speaking

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the espionage conviction yesterday in China of two Chinese academics who have worked at U.S. universities and have permanent U.S. resident status. Both were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The papers point out right away that this comes just days before Secretary of State Colin Powell's scheduled arrival in China. Also, both suggest high that with the convictions, China might be trying to send a message--to the Bush administration, says the WP, to would-be Chinese free-thinkers, says USAT. USAT's subheadline says that the development "threatens relations" between the two countries. USAT and the Wall Street Journal, which puts China atop its front-page worldwide news box, report that another scholar, a U.S. citizen convicted earlier of espionage, was just deported from China. The New York Times off-leads the China convictions but leads with a story everybody else stuffs: President Bush's visit to U.S. peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. The Los Angeles Times lead reports that the decision earlier this week by most of the rest of the world to proceed on Kyoto-style global warming control sans the U.S. has made it more likely that Congress will pass one or more anti-greenhouse-gas measures, the most prominent being independent Sen. James Jeffords' bill that would regulate four main pollutants emitted by power plants.

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The NYT lead observes at the outset that although less than a year ago then-candidate Bush questioned whether U.S. troops should remain in the Balkans; yesterday he told thousands of GIs there that their presence was "essential." The WP insider does the same, and both papers also note that since its founding at the end of the Yugoslavia air war, the U.S. base in Kosovo has sprawled. But give the Times bonus points for noting that the base was developed by a subsidiary of the company whose CEO was Dick Cheney.

The LAT's lead editorial has some very good responses to President Bush's economically based reluctance to support global warming control. He could, it suggests, begin by supporting the parts of the just-agreed-to treaty that are sure to benefit the U.S. economy, such as its emissions-trading scheme, which financially rewards cleaner countries, and its clean development mechanism, which will do the same for countries providing energy-efficient technology to those that lack it.

The WP front reports the next likely move in Senate Democrats' attempt to find out if industrial interests have had undue influence over White House and Cabinet decisions affecting the environment: Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose committee has asked the administration for documents pertaining to this and has thus far been turned down, now says he will probably subpoena them.

USAT fronts and the NYT reefers word from Lucent that the telecommunications equipment company, spun off from AT&T, will post a large third-quarter loss and cut up to 20,000 jobs, on top of the some 19,000 it has already eliminated since the beginning of the year. The Times says the attrition is "among the largest and fastest in the history of big American corporations." The paper also reports that "some analysts say there is no certainty that Lucent can find a way back to profitability." For this, we need analysts?

The WP business front spies an interesting detail in the papers AOL Time Warner filed with the SEC when it agreed to invest $100 million in Amazon.com: a provision that allows it to initiate a takeover of the online retailer.

Both the NYT and WP report inside that Jimmy Carter has, in an interview appearing in a small Georgia paper, said that he has "been disappointed in almost everything" President Bush has done in office. Carter said that Bush has "been very strictly conforming to some of the more conservative members of his administration, his vice president and his secretary of defense in particular. More moderate people like Colin Powell have been frozen out of the basic decision-making in dealing with international affairs." Carter also dismissed plans for a space-based missile defense as "technologically ridiculous" and likely to increase tensions, and said that Bush should follow his father's precedent in demanding the removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank, and warned him not to focus on the Middle East at the expense of other areas like Africa.

The WP "Style" section runs, in a long feature on the post-Chandra Washington, D.C., intern scene, this quotation from a current unnamed congressional intern: "You'll be sitting there on the floor of the House and you're watching them debate, and it's amazing. ... These are men who know what they want, and when they see it, they go after it, and it's hard to say no. These aren't high school or college boys that are too scared to ask." The woman tells the Post she started dating a Louisiana politician while working at his office and adds, "It's fun to get a phone call saying, 'Hey, I'm going to be in town for two nights. Do you want to get together?' ... We knew it wasn't going to last forever and that's why it worked." Reader homework assignment: Figure out which member (or members) of the Louisiana congressional delegation provided this exceptionally responsive constituent service.

After a solid hour of punching stuff into search engines, Today's Papers found an item that seemed to be about Dana Milbank and a gerbil, but it turned out to be another guy. A WP profile of the No. 2 at the National Security Council by reporter Dana Milbank starts off this way: "Searching databases for news of Steve Hadley, President Bush's seldom-seen deputy national security adviser, one may come across a 1988 Los Angeles Times article: 'A 41-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday to three federal charges and agreed to pay restitution for embezzling about $1.1 million from an Iowa credit union in 1983.' The perpetrator: Steven Hadley." And it's only in the third paragraph that Milbank adds that the embezzler is not his similarly named NSC profilee. By the way, this incredibly gratuitous lead is a good example of a bad habit lesser reporters are stricken with: Anything they had to work to get, even if it's nothing, ends up in the story. Milbank did some basic gotcha database research on his target, came up absolutely empty, and shoehorned in the useless information anyway. Shame on him and shame on his equally dopey editor(s).