Today's Papers

Poses for Moses

The USA Today lead is about a forthcoming government report saying that human medical research subjects are not adequately protected. The Washington Post leads with a look at prospects for House Democrats–now in the minority by 11 seats–in this fall’s elections. The Los Angeles Times goes with Sen. Trent Lott’s declaration Sunday that the tobacco bill is “dead in the water.” The top national story at the New York Times is Americans’ recent tendency to purchase much less life insurance. More and more people, says the Times, are viewing “whole life” insurance as a comparatively poor investment and are instead choosing to self-insure via such instruments as 401ks and annuities. And two-income families feel more cushioned against needing even non-investment “term” insurance.

Later this week, says USAT, the Department of Health and Human Services will issue reports calling for reforms in the way human medical tests are monitored. The reports do not claim widespread abuses of test subjects but say that the increased speed of research created by the hothouse competition among drug companies has led to weaknesses in the ways safety is monitored. No one, says the paper, in government or industry knows how many people take part in medical trials or how many people are injured or killed in them. The story says the reforms the reports call for include providing more education for researchers and preventing conflicts of interest, but doesn’t elaborate. This is a little brisk–on the part of the reports and/or on the part of USAT. How, it’s natural to wonder, does a drug company do an AIDS vaccine experiment on subjects that’s not enmeshed up to its eyeballs in the conflict between company profits and subject safety?

The WP says that right now, the most likely result of the fall House races will be a virtual deadlock between Democrats and Republicans–which would be, reminds the Post, a historic feat for the Democrats, since the president’s party has picked up seats in a midterm election only once since the Civil War. The paper figures there are only about 65 races that are truly competitive. And because voters are very pleased with the economy, most of the action will be in the 33 open seat races. Of course, that’s really all there is to say at the moment, but the WP goes on and on for many more column inches. The story features one of Washington journalism’s time-honored ways to positively cram one pound of information into a ten pound sack: call Norman Orenstein of the American Enterprise Institute. He’s quoted saying, “With an 11-seat margin, even a tiny wind, not necessarily a gale force, can make all the difference in the world.”

Yesterday it was reported that a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs confirmed that during the Vietnam War the Nixon administration had the CIA carry out the nerve-gas killing of American defectors. Why was the sole appearance of this story on anybody’s Page One the one-inch reefer (to a story on p.18) on the LAT front? Could it possibly be because the story was broken by Time and CNN? Is that a good reason?

According to the Wall Street Journal’s “The Outlook,” one of the most important facts about E-commerce is that it’s a paradise for comparison shoppers. This fact is helping to remind us that the traditional biz world’s devotion to the market has its limits. As one on-line travel agency executive is quoted saying: “There is nothing more terrifying than a consumer who knows everything about the pricing of your product.”

The Journal also reports on the hottest new recreational pursuit of the Dilbertized workplace: buzzword bingo. You play by getting together with the other drones before the meeting with the big bosses and setting up a bingo-like grid made up of their favorite jargon–like “incent” and “proactive”–and then check off the boxes as the gems flow. The first player with a line checked off wins, and signifies so not by shouting “bingo” but by coughing. Hmmm.wonder if this is popular at companies supervising human medical trials.

Sportswriting legend Shirley Povich of the WP died late last week at age 92 (he was still writing for the paper; his last column appeared the next day) and the papers have been full of his greatness. One wonderful line quoted by the Post and the NYT is his lead from a 1960 column, when Povich was campaigning hard to have the Washington football team break the color line: “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday.”

The NYT’s off-lead is the NRA’s big image-buffing campaign, personified by the likely election today of Charlton Heston as the organization’s new president. The Times does what it can to unbuff the image, running a picture of Heston that seems to show him either a) getting a hit off the gunpowder fumes on his fingertips, b) blowing kisses or c) throwing up.