Today's Papers

Funds and Games

At the Washington Post and New York Times, scandalous political fund-raising leads. At the Los Angeles Times, it’s news of dramatic drops in California welfare rolls. USA Today’s top story is that a presidential commission is warning that the nation’s public and private computer systems are gravely vulnerable to cyber-sabotage.

The cyber-commission’s findings won’t be handed in until Monday, but USAT says they include such measures as establishing a center for collecting information about all computer security breaches and creating a White House office to coordinate all the government’s computer security efforts. Former Sen. Sam Nunn tells the paper that the issue is right up there with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons security.

The NYT’s lead reports that President Clinton denies that the coffee tapes mandated the appointment of an outside counsel and repeats that the failure to turn over the tapes in a more timely manner was a “simple mistake, not deliberate defiance.” The president also says that Republicans are using the tapes to divert attention from their defeat of the McCain-Feingold reform bill. Clinton made these remarks before embarking on a campaign fundraising swing through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, made necessary in part by the large number of contributions to the DNC during the last election cycle that had to be returned because they proved questionable. Meanwhile says the Times and the other majors, at the Thompson hearings, former senior WH aide Harold Ickes also staunchly defended Clinton campaign finance practices.

The Post’s campaign finance lead is that a Pennsylvania landfill company has pleaded guilty to funneling $129,000 in illegal corporate donations to ten political candidates–including the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Bob Dole–and agreed to pay a record $8 million fine. The scam here was the disguising of company donations as individual donations. The Dole and Clinton officials involved state that they had no reason to believe that the purported individual $1,000 donations weren’t legit, even though some came from secretaries and clerks.

The NYT reports that today, the Clinton administration will announce that it has persuaded handgun manufacturers to provide child-safety locks with all their products. Accidental shootings, says the paper, killed 185 children in 1994.

All the majors give front-page space to Alan Greenspan’s inflation warning yesterday–and to the downward spiral it predictably caused in the financial markets. In recent testimony, the fed chairman had suggested that the American economy has entered some new sort of anti-inflationary era where tremendous increases in productivity enable companies to absorb cost increases they would have formerly passed along as price increases. But yesterday, Greenspan returned to a straightforward reading of the Phillips curve: increased employment leads to higher wages, which leads to higher prices.

USAT reports that flu shots drive down business absenteeism and health-care costs so much that companies are starting to entice and pressure their employees to get them. Eastman Kodak, for instance, says the shots saved $2.8 million in absenteeism just last year. But even though the company gives the shots for free, 70 percent of its employees “won’t take one in the deltoid for the team.” The leading causes of worker reticence seem to be fear of getting the flu from the shots and fear of needles.

The WP has word that a Dutch study today reports that when people stop smoking, overall health costs decline only in the short term, and after 15 years, actually increase. Look for this study to be used by tobacco manufacturers in an attempt to whittle the cost of any state or national tobacco deal, even though it merely illustrates the truism that dying of old age is the most expensive way to go. After all, issuing handguns to all teenagers would cut overall health care costs too.

How have recent meat health scares affected the restaurant business? Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, you can still get a rare hamburger at the Mountain Mist Ice Cream stand in Saranac Lake, N.Y.–but you do have to sign a liability waiver first.