Balkan Balking

Balkan Balking

Balkan Balking

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 1 2002 5:11 AM

Balkan Balking

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all lead with news that in a U.N. Security Council vote, the U.S. vetoed a proposed six-month extension of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia because the council refused to give U.S. peacekeepers immunity from the world's new permanent war-crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Court, which opens today. As everybody says, the U.S. then agreed to a three-day extension. If a deal isn't brokered by Wednesday, the peacekeeping mission will then shut down. According to USA Today's lead, federal authorities probing security at the nation's 33 largest airports were able to sneak simulated weapons past guards nearly 25 percent of the time. The New York Times' lead reports that the Bush administration is planning to cut funding at 33 toxic waste Superfund sites throughout the country. The Times says that local EPA offices had requested $450 million to clean up the sites, which the paper says are "among the most polluted" in the country, but instead the administration has allocated $228 million.

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As the papers all note, the U.S.'s Bosnia veto was, as the LAT puts it, part of "a rare and heated" confrontation between the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. explained that it's trying to protect its soldiers from the possibility of "politicized prosecutions." That position, said the French ambassador to the U.N., "is difficult for us to understand." He argued that safeguards are already in place to make sure such prosecutions don't happen.

Everybody points out that there are actually two peacekeeping missions in Bosnia: 1) the U.N.'s 1,500-member police-training mission, including 46 Americans; and 2) NATO's 18,000-member peacekeeping mission—including 2,500 Americans—which, the papers say, can continue without a U.N. mandate.

USAT, which consistently has the best airport security reporting, got the latest stats from leaked Transportation Security Administration memos. Cincinnati fared the worst—weapons got by 58 percent of the time there—while Miami did the best, clocking in at six percent. The paper points out that the testers were instructed not to spend too much time hiding the fake weapons. That's because, according to officials, the testers were supposed to simulate "a typical passenger," not terrorists.

The NYT'slead says up high that it got the data about the Superfund's budget shrinkage from an EPA report provided by Democrats "who oppose the cuts." The article quotes a couple of environmentalists, but it doesn't have a comment from anybody in the administration, nor does it say it tried to get one.

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The WSJ reports that investigators are becoming "increasingly convinced" that WorldCom overstated its income by more than the $3.8 billon that the company disclosed last week. The Journal also says that investigators are now "turning their attention" to WorldCom's founder and longtime CEO Bernard J. Ebbers. (Meanwhile, the WP's media columnist, Howard Kurtz, points to some of the more positive coverage that Ebbers once received, such as a 1997 NYT profile of him entitled, "A Long-Distance Visionary.")

Everybody notes that police have arrested a contract firefighter for intentionally setting the fire that became the largest blaze in Arizona's history and has destroyed 400 homes so far. Authorities said the alleged arsonist, Leonard Gregg, lit the blaze with the hope that he could make some money helping to put it out.

The WP goes below the fold with a report noting that Attorney General John Ashcroft is "aggressively" promoting the death penalty. Since taking office early last year, Ashcroft has overturned federal prosecutors 12 times, ordering them to seek the death penalty in cases in which they had recommended not doing so.

The NYT goes above the fold with word that prosecutors in Mexico are investigating human-rights abuses that the Mexican government committed during a secret "dirty-war" from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The Times says that the Mexican government's own human-rights commission concluded that at least 275 suspected leftists were murdered by the government, while others were tortured, kidnapped, or raped.

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The Times' article waits until the 39th paragraph to offer up info that would seem to be of particular interest to the paper's (mostly U.S.-based) readership: Declassified U.S. docs "strongly suggest" that the U.S. was "well aware" of Mexico's activities. According to a 1973 cable sent by a U.S. diplomat in Mexico, "All of the authorities that are working now against the terrorists are authorized to skirt the legal process."

The papers note inside that Israel's defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who is also head of the left-center Labor party, ordered the Israeli army to dismantle 10 unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank. The papers say that Ben-Eliezer, who announced the move at a campaign rally, is trying to distinguish himself from Israel's hard-line prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

The papers also note that Israel says it killed a top Hamas bomb-maker. Israel said he was responsible for attacks that killed at least 100 Israelis.

The WSJ notes up high that Egypt appeared to reject U.S. pressure to drop support for Yasser Arafat.

The papers all note that acclaimed pop and jazz singer Rosemary Clooney died Saturday. She was 74.

Everybody reports that Brazil beat Germany yesterday 2-0 to win its fifth World Cup. Brazil's star player Ronaldo scored both goals. After the game, Ronaldo dedicated the victory to "my family, and my physiotherapist." Ronaldo has had two major surgeries in the past few years.

The NYT biz section's patents column takes notice ofpatent number 6,411,687, a customer service-type voice-mail system (i.e., what you get when you call, say, an airline) that can detect if callers are "mad, impatient, or speaking with fury." It works by sensing if you're speaking loudly or swearing, and can also sense if you're "jabbing numbers repeatedly." Once it decides that your "annoyance level" has reached some pre-set trigger point, then, essentially, you win: Your call gets routed to a human.