Today's Papers

Smoked Again

The Florida tobacco settlement leads all around. Everybody has the same basic details: the top four cigarette manufacturers and the largest seller of smokeless tobacco have agreed to pay the state $11.3 billion over 25 years in compensation for its previous tobacco-related medical expenditures and to fund and/or enact various public health measures, including an anti-smoking campaign aimed at children. The companies will also cease most outdoor advertising. And everybody notes that the deal could help cement the proposed $368 billion national tobacco settlement, although none of the papers gives the most obvious explanation for this, namely that at $11 billion a state and climbing, fifty separate settlements would be far more expensive.

Everybody also notes that if approved, the national settlement would supersede this deal. But it’s the Washington Post that explains that the public health aspects of the state agreement would still remain in force. And it’s the New York Times that explains that this agreement will benefit Mississippi, which in June made a purely financial settlement with the major tobacco companies, but also secured the benefit of any additional public health concessions made in other deals with other states. And it’s the Times that reveals that, according to the deal, the tobacco firms will be paying the plaintiffs’ legal fees.

On the heels of Sunday’s NYT magazine cover piece on Wisconsin welfare reform comes today’s WP front-pager on the same topic. But where the Times emphasized the elaborate support system the state has erected, the Post, while recognizing that aspect, emphasizes instead Wisconsin’s tendency to cut people off who’ve demonstrated the most minimal ability to hold a job, regardless of whether they currently have one.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Work Week” column reveals a new and surprisingly lucrative job category: Year 2,000 conversion worker. It turns out that the need of business to change mainframe computers so that they don’t freak out when they come across the millenium is so wide and so pressing that folks are getting hired on at a minimum of $30,000 a year immediately after completing a six week training course, with others in the field making twice that much. The column reports that in a survey of 128 large companies, 60% say they are hiring more Y2K (the hot new acronym, apparently) staff.

But if you try to vote for Marion Barry, you’re ejected into deep space. If you’ve been up nights worrying about the disenfranchisement of astronauts, the NYT says relax, reporting that NASA yesterday announced a technology that will allow space-bound astronauts to vote via email from their laptops.

In his column today, the WP’s James Glassman gives his reason for thinking that the current economic boom is nearly over. While playing on a “swanky verdant Robert Trent Jones golf course” he noticed a helicopter lifting off from the clubhouse pad, taking a business executive back to Washington after a round. When you see excess like that, writes Glassman, a downturn isn’t far behind. Gee, I don’t know–I bet the old boys with the old money probably thought the same thing when they heard that their swanky verdant club was letting in journalists.