Today's Papers

Thinking Jiang

USA Today

leads with the season’s first winter storm. The Los Angeles Times goes with a questionable loan to the Democrats. The New York Times leads with the vanishing budget deficit. The Washington Post leads with Jiang Zemin’s visit.

The Marlins win in the World Series gets plenty of front-page play, even at the NYT, which just a few months ago would have missed the story, but now doesn’t because its new printing set-up allows for later deadlines. USAT’s game wrap-up has good details on the presence at the game of the mother of Marlins pitcher and Series MVP Livan Hernandez. It seems that her visit, too late for seeing any of her son’s stellar pitching, was the fruit of three weeks of negotiations, including a written plea to Cuban officials signed by the Marlin players.

The WP does some good deconstruction of the Jiang visit, pointing out that his laying of a wreath at Pearl Harbor’s Arizona memorial was designed to remind Americans that China was once a military ally, and noting that the full military honors Jiang received upon his arrival in Hawaii were one of China’s requirements for agreeing to a U.S. summit. Both the WP and NYT observe that the summit won’t produce as many substantive agreements as was once hoped–the main result will be China’s agreement to stop exporting nuclear technology in return for access to U.S. nuclear power equipment, but probably neither trade issues, nor human rights issues, nor the status of Taiwan will get resolved.

The NYT says President Clinton will announce today that the federal budget deficit has fallen to $22.6 billion, the lowest since the early 1970s, and far below any other major industrialized nation. So low, says the Times, that “it almost does not matter whether it is eliminated.” The paper says most of the credit goes not to government planning but to a healthy economy and a surging stock market.

The Wall Street Journal says that a look at the current economy also shows that the alleged bad consequence of raising the minimum wage–increased unemployment in the low end of the service sector–just did not happen, turning the minimum wage increase into “one of the nonevents of 1997.”

A good test of the coherence of a news story is how much sense could you make of it if you could only read the first few paragraphs or at most only to the “jump” to the inside. (Indeed, the pyramid style of newswriting came about because 19th century reporters were often interrupted in their filings by down telegraph lines.) Today’s LAT lead is a good example. The story is supposed to be that the celebrated Indonesian gardener and his wife told Senate investigators this summer how they really came to donate $450,000 to the DNC. The headline says, “Indonesians Contradict Democrats on Donations.” But unfortunately, neither the DNC explanation nor the nature of the contradiction makes an appearance until after the “jump,” a full ten paragraphs in. Ditto for any explanation of the law that would explain why the DNC would opt for its story rather than the couple’s. (And “Today’s Paper’s” can’t answer those questions because, as of filing time, this column doesn’t have access to the end of the story.)

The LAT front page has news sure to add to the medical marijuana controversy: the discovery by researchers of chemicals in marijuana that could serve as an effective remedy for serious pain, without morphine-style side effects. The WP also has a fresh new brain research result: scientists at Cal Tech have created silicon chips that interface directly with brain cells. The advent of such neurochips is probably the biggest human science story ever. And fraught with trouble: imagine what will happen when rich people can pay to instantly smarten themselves but poor people can’t.