Today's Papers

The Sheepskin Game

The top national story at the Washington Post is the U.S. marshalling support among allies as it heads into another stare-down with Iraq over arms inspection access. The New York Times leads with the decision of the Israeli Cabinet to make no further withdrawals from the West Bank until the Palestinians satisfy a series of “stringent” conditions. The Los Angeles Times leads with the explosion in cable TV rates, and USA Today goes with the news that this country’s rate of inflation now stands at a 32-year low.

The WP reports that for now, the administration is, in the face of the latest Iraqi provocation–the blocking of a U.N. weapons search led by an American, William Scott Ritter–opting for a cautious diplomatic path aimed at orchestrating a condemnation from the U.N. Security Council. The WP runs a profile of Ritter inside, revealing that he once rattled Norman Schwarzkopf by turning up evidence that the U.S. Gulf War air campaign had not destroyed Iraqi mobile missile capabilities. The NYT front-page Iraq story features a top-of-the-page close-up photo of Ritter, and the LAT top-front effort is accompanied by a wider-angle shot of him.

The LAT reports that the FCC just issued a report showing that cable rates are rising at four times the rate of inflation and that in California and a few other states, subscribers are looking at double-digit price increases. None of the other dailies runs this story.

The Wall Street Journal reports that two-thirds of U.S. households have answering machines and that fully half of those use them to screen incoming calls.

The LAT reports on its front page that the Asian economic crisis is affecting Asian students, especially Thais and Koreans, attending college in this country. The piece has the example of one USC junior packing to go back to Korea after getting a call from her mom saying that the currency collapse had in effect doubled the cost of tuition. In addition, states the paper, “Wealthier students from struggling Asian nations say their parents have pleaded with them to tighten their belts or even sell them, especially if they carry chic Coach or DKNY labels.”

The WP front reports that Sen. John Glenn’s interest in going back into space on a NASA mission (first reported widely last summer) is still being seriously considered at the agency. The paper says the answer will be no unless NASA can produce a solid rationale. The decision about whether or not to include Glenn on a flight this October, says the Post, could come anytime.

Post TV critic Tom Shales takes a long backstage look at the meddling by NBC executives that led to the firing of Norm MacDonald from “Saturday Night Live“‘s Weekend Update anchor chair. Many people quoted in the story seem puzzled by the new level of interference from the suits. One possible explanation Shales doesn’t consider: Maybe NBC honcho and O.J. Simpson buddy Don Ohlmeyer wanted to punish MacDonald for all the O.J. gags he did on the segment over the years.

The 1/12 “Today’s Papers” was mistaken when it credited the WP with breaking that story about the Navy asking and AOL telling about a possibly gay sailor. The reason for the error was the Post’s shabby sourcing. Although the Post didn’t mention it, the story had already appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, and before that in the on-line version of the NYT and (on the same day) at and before that, in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which–for now–should be credited with the scoop. (Thanks to the many readers who helped fill out this backstory.)

USAT runs a “talker” across the top of its front reporting that “Study Finds Highly Educated Have Less Sex.” But the results, based on a survey of 10,000 adults, aren’t quite so straightforwardly anti-intellectual. It turns out that there’s sort of a sexual bubble: while people who’ve been to grad school average 52 sex acts a year, and those who’ve only been through high school average 59, folks who left school after college average 61.

Note: If most people live another fifty years after college and if college costs a total of more than $100,000, then the additional sex achieved by college students over their high school counterparts is purchased at Heidi Fleiss rates: about $1,000 per.