Today's Papers

The Ships Hit the Fan

USA Today

and the Los Angeles Times lead with a major U.S. vs. Japan dust-up concerning shipping. The Washington Post leads with yet another use by President Clinton of the line-item veto. And the New York Times goes with news that major car insurers plan to raise rates for sports utility vehicles.

On Thursday, the United States told the Coast Guard to bar Japanese cargo ships from U.S. ports and to detain those already here. The action came, say USAT and the LAT, after three Japanese cargo ship companies refused to pay $4 million in fines levied because of their costly and unfair treatment of U.S. ships in Japanese ports. Both papers say the development inspired yesterday’s 119-point drop in the Dow. And USAT calls it the most tense situation between the two countries in ten years. The decision was made by a federal maritime commission and could be overturned by Clinton. The White House tells USAT that the two countries are in negotiations.

Yesterday, the WP reports, President Clinton used his newfound line-item veto to kill a provision that would have allowed many federal workers to switch to a different pension system, boosting their annuities but costing taxpayers about $854 million over five years. In response, a major federal employees’ union in New York filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the line-item veto. In a separate action, New York City also filed a similar suit yesterday against a previous Clinton line-item move. Hence, for the first time, there are anti-line-item suits in the courts with plaintiffs alleging actual harm.

About a month ago, the NYT ran a front-page story revealing that crash tests show sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are inflicting very high levels of harm to cars and their occupants in collisions, and today the Times brings word that in response, some big insurance companies are raising their liability rates on the oversize vehicles. The move might be, says the paper, the largest overhaul of liability insurance since the advent of no-fault, meaning perhaps increases of 20 percent for the big vehicles and cuts of 10 percent for car owners.

The Times wonders whether the adjustments will hurt oversize vehicle sales, but goes on to observe that their owners are perhaps too prosperous to be affected, reporting that the typical Chevrolet Suburban buyer is now more affluent than the typical Cadillac buyer, and that the average household buying a Range Rover or Lexus LX450 makes $360,000 a year.

The NYT, WP, and LAT all run front-page stories about a fertility breakthrough: the first successful pregnancy in this country using a frozen egg. Although the egg in this case came from another woman, this development sets up the possibility that young women will be able to freeze their own eggs (which are less biologically problematic) and then much later, when the women are ready to have children, have them fertilized. The technique would also allow women undergoing chemotherapy to save some eggs for later use. According to details in the NYT piece, the “donor” of the frozen egg that produced the twins was paid about $46,000, or almost five times the going rate for a full-term surrogate pregnancy.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire” reports that White House aides are very unhappy that U.S. reporters devoted much of a Clinton news conference with Brazil’s president to Clinton’s campaign-finance woes.

If you want proof that even at the NYT, the front page isn’t always so objective, check out the headline on the Times front page: “Clintons Present Their Act to an Admiring Argentina.” Who gets sober, respectful headlines at the Times if not the president? Well on the same page, over a story about yesterday’s speeches and ceremonies at the Times marking the retirement of NYT CEO Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and the succession to that title of his son is the headline “Sulzberger Passes Leadership of Times Co. to Son.” Not “Sulzbergers Present Their Act to Admiring Employees.”