Today's Papers

Pol Pot–Potted Pol?

The Washington Post leads with a new study indicating that false positive mammogram results are quite common. This is also the top national story at the Los Angeles Times (and is featured on the USA Today front and carried inside at the New York Times). USAT goes with word that the State Department has declared twenty Russian agencies and research facilities ineligible for millions in U.S. government aid because they may have provided missile technology to Iran. The NYT lead is that Kofi Annan has decided to pull U.N. human rights investigators out of Congo (formerly Zaire) because of the new government’s harassment and obstruction of their work.

According to the study of the medical records of 2,400 women, the most comprehensive of its kind ever attempted, 32 percent of all American women who undergo annual breast checkups for a decade can expect to get at least one false mammogram indication of a tumor. That’s if some of the checkups are physical checks only–if all ten are mammograms, the odds go up to 50 percent. (Hence USAT’s alarmist-seeming, but dead-accurate headline: “False-positive rate for mammography 50-50.”) The researchers calculate that ultimately unnecessary follow-up tests add 33 percent to the cost of breast cancer screening. Some doctors quoted in the Post say that the threat of malpractice suits in the U.S. contributes to the problem, in that it pressures radiologists to overdiagnose breast cancer.

By the way, the study appears in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a fact that the NYT leaves until the last sentence of its AP version of the story. The WP waits until the 13th paragraph. What’s that all about? The LAT and USAT put the provenance high.

The USAT lead is based on a State Department list, obtained by the paper, of banned Russian organizations, from universities to intelligence agencies. Since it was issued, the paper says, U.S. officials have actually denied funding to at least three Russian projects because their proposed recipients were on the list. The move marks the first time specific Russian institutions have been penalized for suspected missile aid to Iran.

The WP reports that a cable-funded three-year study of television violence billed as the largest ever concludes that “glamorized” violence–where physical and mental consequences are not depicted, the kind considered most harmful to viewers–remains rampant, despite Industry promises to address the problem. The Post says the American Medical Association reacted by commenting that “the study definitively confirms that TV portrays violence in a way that increases the risk of learning aggressive attitudes.”

Both USAT and the LAT give front-page above-the-fold play to the first major study of the Internet’s economic impact, released Wednesday by the Commerce Department. The information is stunning: Net traffic is doubling every hundred days. E-commerce should reach $300 billion by 2002. The digital economy is growing at twice the rate of the overall economy and now represents 8 percent of GDP. While it took radio 30 years to reach 50 million people, and TV took 13, the Internet did it in just four. (At this rate, Slate might just break even while there are still papers for “Today’s Papers” to be about.) Both papers mention that Net technology has served as a brake on inflation, but the LAT is clearer about why–the paper relates that Hewlett-Packard has saved more than $200 million annually by linking employees on an internal network and will shave 70 percent off its paper costs via making personnel policies and payroll forms available online. The Wall Street Journal notes another Net business trend: Internet stockholder voting. Corporations that allow it include Bell and Howell, Atlantic Richfield and Intel.

The late metro edition of the NYT is able to state with some confidence what the paper’s earlier national edition was only able to treat as a rumor: “Pol Pot is Dead, Thai Army Says.” But not everybody is convinced–the paper quotes a Western diplomat’s reference to the recently announced U.S. intention to bring Pot to international justice: “This is certainly a convenient moment for him to have a heart attack.”