leads with the Senate’s passage of a huge transportation-funding plan, 38 percent larger than the one currently in effect. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the announcement that U.S. cancer rates have declined in the past five years, reversing the trend of the previous twenty. The Washington Post goes with the revelation that last fall, just weeks after gaining China’s pledge to halt assistance to Iran’s nuclear programs (elicited in return for allowing American firms to sell nuclear reactors to China), the Clinton administration discovered and protested China’s secret negotiations with Iran regarding shipping it material used to make weapons-grade uranium.
The coverage of the transportation bill, which includes an LAT front-pager and a piece inside the WP, generally stresses that its rich provisions could be a budget buster. But the NYT front-page piece emphasizes a “little-noticed provision” (noticed, however, also by USAT) that would let employers give workers up to $65 a month in tax-free mass-transit benefits (in the form, for instance, of subway tokens and bus passes). This could, says the Times, sharply cut the cost of train, bus and subway travel in New York and elsewhere.
The NYT notes that experts attribute the decline in new cancer cases to changes in behavior, most notably a drop in smoking, and the decline in deaths to increased screening and better therapies, but the paper also observes that these positive trends are not equally benefiting all Americans. “Minorities and women,” says the Times, “remain particularly at risk.” While the USAT and WP front-page cancer pieces mention this, the LAT cancer lead doesn’t mention it before the “jump” to the inside. Also, according to the graphic accompanying the NYT story, the biggest increase seen in the most recent data is for melanoma of the skin, yet this type of cancer isn’t mentioned at all in the Times story proper.
A piece on the WP front reports on an organized protest campaign of thousands of angry phone calls, letters and e-mails directed at Merriam-Webster because of its current dictionary’s definition of “nigger” as “a black person–usually taken to be offensive.” The campaign was started by two Michigan women and has now been joined by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who warns that if the company doesn’t bend, his organization will urge colleges and school systems not to buy its dictionaries. The WP, historically very skittish in its treatment of race, doesn’t complicate the story with the inconvenient but true observation that since most whites know better than to use the N-word epithet, and since it has become a common phrase of salutation and even endearment among blacks, a high proportion of its current usage is in fact as a synonym for “black person.”
There’s a lot of Al Gore’s quote brilliance unquote suspiciously on display today. The WP reports on its front that he literally dreamt of the idea of making a live video image of the Earth as seen from space continuously available on the Internet, and that after conducting twenty minutes of Internet research, he quickly assembled a NASA team to make his dream a reality. What’s involved is launching a spacecraft that can be stationed 1 million miles from Earth. The WP reports that Gore suggests calling it Triana, after Rodrigo de Triana, who Gore apparently knows to be, without benefit of flashcards, the lookout on Columbus’s ship who first sighted the New World. Meanwhile, in the Wall Street Journal, Gore is depicted wowing the nation’s top computer executives with his fluent references to Immanuel Kant and Thomas Kuhn. What controlling mental authority!