Today's Papers

Stealth Health Care Reform

NATO operations in Bosnia lead the New York Times. At the Washington Post, it’s a surprising element of the just-passed budget bill. The Los Angeles Times leads with President Clinton’s advocacy of a fast-track trade bill.

This choice by the LAT is curious. The topic of a fast-track trade bill is technical–it’s a guarantee that Congress will act quickly to vote up or down any new trade accord rather than lay on amendments–and it’s non-pressing–it’s something that the Clinton administration has tried to secure since 1995 and won’t actively be pursuing for several more weeks until after the president and Congress return from their summer vacations. Meanwhile, the LAT relegates a far more important story to the second banana position, on the top left quadrant of the front–“Crackdown on Assault Weapons Has Missed Mark.” This piece makes the point that despite a California ban against assault weapons put into effect in 1989 and a similar federal statute five years later, “today, thousands of assault weapons are changing hands because of gaping holes in the laws.” What happened, the story explains, is that the gun manufacturers got around the intent of the laws by flooding the market with copycat weapons that differ from the particular banned ones only cosmetically, and by substantially increasing the volume of assault weapons they manufactured before the ban became law, because the post-ban continued sale of such guns is allowed. This bass-ackwards news judgment comes from being too attached to “presidential” news–after all, Clinton mentioned the trade bill in his weekly radio address–and to “breaking” news–the radio address is something that “happened” on Saturday, while the disaster of the gun bills is not.

The NYT Bosnia lead emphasizes the risks being taken by the current NATO policy of backing one Bosnian Serb faction against another, and reports local sentiment that Radovan Karadzic will probably respond with intimidation and violence. On the other hand, says the Times, NATO commanders feel that if they pull out next summer as scheduled under the status quo, there is a strong chance that war will resume. (In short the situation is much like the Allied forces in Lebanon in the early 1980s, an analogy the piece surprisingly didn’t make.)

The WP lead draws attention to an initiative buried in the new federal budget agreement that will pay teaching hospitals across the country to reduce the number of residents they train in various specialties. This is in effect, an example of stealth heath care reform, as reducing the number of specialists was one of the Clinton health plan goals. All the more remarkable then, that the Republicans signed on. But some conservatives are less than thrilled. “I don’t know where the hell a Republican Congress gets off doing labor force planning for the medical profession,” Robert E. Moffit of the Heritage Foundation tells the Post.

The Times “Arts and Leisure” section points out just what a big comeback smoking has made on the big screen. “Half the movies released between 1990 and 1995,” says the paper, “featured a major character who chose to light up on screen, a significant increase compared with 29 percent in the 1970’s, according to a recent study at the University of California, San Francisco.”