Today's Papers

The Weak, The Spin

Washington news, most of it coming out of Congress’ summer session, dominates. The New York Times leads with the decision by Republican leaders in the Senate to abandon their push for a big tax cut this year. Following its lead earlier in the week about the Clinton administration’s intention to more strictly police nursing homes, USA Today leads with more information about how lax government supervision has been, reporting that between July 1997 and April 1998, only six of the nation’s 16,000 nursing homes lost eligibility for government reimbursement. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Senate’s unexpected vote Thursday for an overhaul of the laws governing immigrant farm workers that would make it easier for farms to bring in workers from abroad. Both of California’s senators opposed the measure, says the paper, citing a recent government finding that there’s no farm labor shortage. It’s unclear, says the LAT what will happen to the measure in the House, where Republicans are divided: some want to help agribusiness hiring, while others worry that workers brought in tend to stay illegally. The Washington Post lead concerns a shake-up in the local schools, but the off-lead is a local story of broader interest: According to the Census Bureau, there’s been more residential building going on in the Washington-Baltimore corridor during the 90s than anywhere else in the country. In fact, in that time, reports the Post, D.C.’s housing stock grew more than a third faster than the population. Among the causes cited: the Baltimore-Washington region has one of country’s highest concentrations of baby boomers.

The Times says one of the main political facts that has scared top Senate Republicans off a tax-cut is their fear that any such move would be met by President Clinton’s charge that the GOP would risk Social Security’s long-term health to give tax cuts to the wealthy. But, the paper reports, House Republicans are intent on plans to bring to a September vote a ten-year $700 billion tax reduction. The Times account leaves the Washington outsider reader mystified by so much tax-cutting zeal in one branch of the legislature and virtually none in the other. The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” also notes, but also does not explain, this difference.

The USAT lead quotes one senator as saying the nursing home enforcement numbers are “shocking,” and that the federal agency charged with overseeing the homes “has failed.” Meanwhile, the paper says, the agency head puts the blame on state inspectors.

USAT’s off-lead, reefered by the NYT and carried inside everywhere else, is California juice maker Odwalla’s agreement to pay the biggest criminal fine ever in a food injury case–$1.5 million. The company’s 1996 shipment of unpasteurized apple juice led to an E. coli outbreak that killed a 16-month-old girl and sickened at least 66 other people. Some of the fine will pay for expanding E. coli research.

Two other developments get front coverage at USAT but are inside elsewhere: 1) The House vote to override a Clinton veto of the ban on the late-term abortion procedure involving partial vaginal delivery followed by removal of the fetus’ brain. The Senate is thought to be a few votes short of an override. 2) The Senate vote to ban most forms of Internet gambling.

Perhaps reflecting L.A.’s large Persian population, the LAT is alone in fronting the conviction of Tehran’s mayor in his corruption trial. The sentence: five years in prison, getting whipped and being fined more than $300,000. Because the mayor is a staunch ally of the country’s rather d,tente-oriented leader, Mohammed Khatami, the harsh sentence is viewed, explains the paper, as a setback to Iran’s incipient liberalization.

In light of those cloned mice “Today’s Papers” has taken to calling the “Hawaiian Five-O,” the WP runs a front-pager addressing how various religions view genetic replication. Christianity, Islam and Judaism each have a wing that considers cloning an abomination. This includes the Vatican, which condemned cloning, says the Post, ten years ago. The Southern Baptists are in the same ballpark. Denominations that take a cautious but not condemning approach include Lutherans, conservative and reformed Jews, and many Muslims. And Hindus and Buddhists are open to cloning. The paper says that’s because of the religions’ doctrine of reincarnation, but doesn’t satisfactorily explain why this is thought to support the liberal view. After all, clones are not, unlike reincarnated souls, the very same person.

The WSJ “Washington Wire” reports that some presidential aides think Kenneth Starr is about to subpoena President Clinton, and notes a new question making the rounds, “Will a Secret Service agent take a subpoena for the president?” The column notes another sex-scandal-in-the-making: a Hong Kong shore-leave sex orgy indulged in by at least seven members of the gender-integrated crew of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.

*Department of Corrections* If to err is human, yesterday’s column was overflowing with humanity. The WP’s science writer Rick Weiss is not married to the NYT science writer Gina Kolata–he is married to the NYT science writer Natalie Angier. It wasn’t Elizabeth I who died the same day as Shakespeare–it was Cervantes. (Other examples of co-mortality “Today’s Papers” meant to include: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and JFK and Aldous Huxley.) And Snoop Doggy Dogg is spelled with double-gs throughout. The “Today’s Papers” pledge: no more recreational NyQuil.