Today's Papers

The Check is in the Tail

USA Today

leads with the chief U.N. weapons inspector’s suspicions that Iraq has been tampering with his surveillance cameras in his team’s absence. The Los Angeles Times leads with the House’s resounding passage of an IRS reform bill. The Washington Post leads with the meaning of Tuesday’s elections. The New York Times metro edition leads with the meaning of Rudy Giuliani’s election, while the paper’s national lead is the soon-to-be-announced decision by major mail-order companies to start collecting sales tax from their out-of-state customers.

The upshot of the camera tampering, according to USAT, is that the team leader can’t verify that Iraq is not currently producing weapons of mass destruction. The WP has this story on its front page too.

The LAT IRS lead calls the reform bill’s passage by a 426-4 margin a “spectacular display of bipartisanship” created by last month’s Senate hearings on IRS mismanagement and taxpayer abuse. The paper points out that the bill, which includes such taxpayer protections as shifting the burden of proof to the government in tax disputes and the creation of a civilian oversight board, will likely be even further strengthened by the Senate. IRS reform is on the NYT front and in the “world-wide news” box on the Wall Street Journal front, but inside at the WP.

A WSJ front-page piece makes the point that while political debate about the IRS portrays it as abusing taxpayers, in the world of corporate finance, it’s the IRS that’s the underdog, waging a constant war against a stream of ingenious and complicated new tax dodges.

The Post concludes that yesterday’s Republican victories were mostly due to lavish financing, widespread social conservatism among voters, and an unwillingness, bred of the healthy economy, to dump incumbents. In light of all this, says the paper, Democrats are viewing the goals of recapturing the House and gaining parity in governorships as more difficult than ever. And according to the WP, the lesson for the Republicans is keep talking about taxes.

The WP carries an AP story inside stating that the man who used the Internet last spring to accuse the Navy of shooting down TWA Flight 800 is now saying that action was “reckless and a mistake.” Former JFK press secretary Pierre Salinger, who championed the accusation, has quietly backed off too. He says he still believes the government was behind the disaster, but he has told the FBI that he is no longer actively investigating.

The NYT runs a story inside reporting that a U.S. intelligence official, “apparently a CIA officer,” has left Austria after being caught wiretapping the phone of a North Korean diplomat. The piece goes on to point out that in the past three years, CIA officers have been caught spying in, and kicked out of, at least four other countries: Germany, France, Italy and India.

The WP, USAT, the NYT, and the LAT all run front-page stories about how an NIH panel has for the first time concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for some kinds of pain and nausea and shows promise as a treatment for a variety of other conditions. Health experts say the decision will almost certainly lead to more patients opting for the technique and more private and government insurance paying for them to do so.

The WP runs a story inside based on AP reports saying that employees of a Little Rock junkyard have made an interesting discovery in the trunk of an abandoned car: a 1982 Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan check for more than $20,000 made out to Bill Clinton. The paper points out that last year Clinton testified under oath in James McDougal’s bank fraud trial that he had “never borrowed money from Madison Guaranty.” The Post reports that Ken Starr has been investigating the check.

Go figure: That mail-order sales tax agreement will apply to products sold over cable TV and the Internet, but not to those sold via online information providers like America Online.