Today's Papers

Let’s MIG a Deal

Election ‘97 leads at USA Today, and the major local races lead at the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Los Angeles Times leads with a Supreme Court decision that could lead to cheaper consumer goods. The political races that get most of the ink are Rudolf Giuliani’s big win in New York City and Governor Christie Todd Whitman’s close call in New Jersey. USAT describes Whitman as “once considered a future presidential candidate”–an odd appellation since pulling out a second term over a strong challenger would seem to enhance her prospects. The paper says Giuliani was being rewarded for presiding over his city’s 44 percent crime drop.

The WP’s top national story is that President Clinton’s nomination of Bill Lann Lee to the Department of Justice’s top civil rights job is in bad shape. Senate Republican leaders are feeling their oats over yesterday’s Supreme Court decision letting Proposition 209 stand and are suggesting that Lee and any other future nominees to the post will face a tough new standard on affirmative action.

The NYT’s top national story is what it calls “one of the most important antitrust decisions in years,” the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling on Tuesday that a manufacturer or supplier does not automatically violate antitrust statutes by placing a ceiling on the retail price that may be charged for its products. The paper, which filed a brief in the case supporting price caps, notes that it’s widely believed the decision will lead to lower consumer prices.

The LAT lead story on this decision includes the provenance of a common ad phrase: “offer good at participating stores only.” Prior to yesterday, the paper explains, this rider was required because independent sellers could not be forced to charge the price in question. USAT also carries the price cap story on its front, while the Wall Street Journal includes it in its front-page business and finance news box. But the WP doesn’t get to it until p. 9 of its business section.

Although the Iraq inspection crisis hasn’t really changed that much, the papers, never really that engaged, have dropped it down a couple of notches. The story is featured in the WSJ’s “world-wide” news box, and it’s above the fold of the LAT front. But it’s below the fold at USAT and on p. A6 at the NYT and p. A29 at the WP.

The NYT runs a top-front story about “a novel tack” the U.S. has just used to keep some advanced Soviet-era fighters out of the hands of Iran–buying them first. It seems the U.S. recently bought 21 MIG-29 jet fighters–fourteen of them capable of carrying nuclear missiles–from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova out of the fear that they would otherwise end up in Iran’s possession. (The Air Force will study and fly the aircraft, the DOD says.) Defense department officials wouldn’t say what the purchase price was, but, says the Times, the U.S. put up not just money but also food and supplies. The WP story on the deal reports that the cash put up was less than $50 million. Both papers note that the purchase funds came from a “threat reduction” program established to help dismantle the Soviet arsenal.

The latest circulation audit shows that nine of the nation’s fifteen largest newspapers recorded an increase in daily circulation, reports the WP. And nearly two-thirds of all papers with circulations over 200,000 recorded gains. Sunday papers aren’t doing so well, though.

Did you know that the IRS allows some of its employees to use pseudonyms when dealing with the public? So says the WSJ “Tax Report,” which states that Internal Revenue says these are only allowed for agents who fear being harassed, threatened or assaulted by taxpayers. There are currently 350 pseudonyms in use at the agency.

Back to those MIGS for a minute: Note that our “threat reduction” money isn’t being used to buy back similarly capable aircraft, such as the F-15s in the inventories of such combustible countries as Pakistan and Turkey. That’s because those planes were made and sold for a nice piece of change by us.