Today's Papers

Econ Games

Different leads all around. The Washington Post leads with the dramatic rebound Thursday in the Asian financial markets off Wednesday’s U.S.-Japan coordinated yen buy. The Los Angeles Times goes with the U.S.’ widening monthly trade deficit for April–attributable, says the paper, to a much-reduced demand for U.S. exports among the crisis-stricken Asian economies. The LAT says the April deficit is a record, whereas the Wall Street Journal says it’s the worst since 1992. But both papers indicate it’s widely believed the numbers mean the Asian economic crisis will soon enough affect U.S. productivity and employment. The New York Times goes with word that Iraq is violating post-Gulf War U.N. sanctions on its oil trade by smuggling large quantities of oil into Turkey. The smuggling involves thousands of tanker trucks openly transporting millions of tons of fuel along roads in northern Iraq that are under U.S and allied air surveillance. Even though the U.S. has lobbied hard to keep the sanctions in place and these shipments are enriching Saddam’s government and his family, officials tell the paper that the U.S. has chosen to look the other way because the illicit trade also benefits American ally Turkey as well as the Kurds who keep Saddam Hussein from controlling Northern Iraq. USA Today leads with the aftermath of the tobacco bill’s defeat: A scaled-down Republican-sponsored House measure that neither raises cigarette prices nor offers tobacco companies legal indemnification but which would take aim at teen smoking by revoking the drivers’ licenses of teenagers caught with tobacco, as well as the determination of numerous state attorneys general to pursue their individual lawsuits.

The WP lead reports that at a Thursday news conference Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto appeared delighted with the success of that U.S.-Japan yen buy and pledged himself ready to “do my best to help write off bad loans, achieve growth driven by domestic demand, open Japanese markets further and promote deregulation.” The paper notes that the government has provided no further details of a course of action. The Post also notes that a deputy treasury secretary and the president of the New York Federal Reserve are in Tokyo to meet with senior Japanese government officials. The main issue they confront is what to do with all the country’s banks, which are saddled with billions in bad loans. The less ambitious plan being discussed focuses mainly on ways to help the banks resolve bad loans, the more ambitious, which the Post says the U.S. is pushing, focuses on closing failing banks. Things “Today’s Papers” finds missing from the coverage: any mention or explanation of whether or not Japan has, like the United States, any sort of government-supported system of loan insurance. As well as references/analogies/disanalogies to the U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

USAT’s front section “cover story” addresses a fact that may soon become a big issue in health care policy debates, but which is still fairly unknown to most patients and voters: in general you can’t sue your HMO for medical malpractice. The piece tells how under such an armored shield, HMOs have quite widely refused payment for second opinions and specialists. Bills changing the situation are working their way through the House and Senate. Critics, who include in their number House Majority Leader Dick Armey, argue that the change would raise health care premiums and lower coverage. The argument figures, says the story, to get louder during the fall elections.

A WP front-page story reports that the tobacco companies spent nearly three times as much on their anti-tobacco bill TV ad campaign as the health insurance companies did on their “Harry and Louise” spots.

The WSJ “Washington Wire” reports that Sen. John McCain thinks being vilified in that ad campaign may have helped his White House chances. “They’ve made me a household word,” the paper quotes McCain.

The NYT and WP report that the Boston Globe (which is owned by the NYT) has asked for the resignation of a columnist, Patricia Smith, a Pulitzer finalist last year, because a routine internal review determined that she had fabricated people and quotations in four of her columns this year. According to the Globe, the transgressions included an entirely made-up column purportedly about a woman dying of cancer. Smith acknowledges her “misdeeds” in her farewell column today. The Post account says that some Globe staffers are worried that the dismissal of Smith, a black woman, might have racial repercussions. Question: Do such worries have anything to do with the fact that although both stories mention the recently outed white male Stephen Glass, neither mentions black female Janet Cooke, the WP fabricator who cost her paper a Pulitzer?