Today's Papers

We Are Family

The Los Angeles Times’ lead national story: the House’s approval of a campaign finance bill. USA Today leads with more news on the two girls switched at birth. The New York Times and the Washington Post go with scandal-related leads.

The LAT calls the provisions of the campaign finance bill “the most sweeping reforms since those inspired by the Watergate scandal.” Approved 237 to 186 (with 51 Republicans breaking party lines to support it), the bill would 1) Ban unregulated “soft money” donations to political parties and 2) Restrict “issue-advocacy ads,” which sometimes mask their true sponsors and currently skirt regulation. Despite approval, the bill still faces competition from other House bills, and even if passed is not expected to win approval from the Senate. USAT and the NYT go front-page with the news, while the WP puts it inside on A02.

USAT continues to lead the way on the engrossing switched-at-birth tale. Latest news: The two girls’ respective guardians have agreed to maintain status quo and not swap their three-year-olds. Rebecca Chittum’s grandparents (her parents were killed in a July 4 car crash) will continue to raise Rebecca, while Paula Johnson (mother of Callie Johnson, who is thought to be genetically related to the Chittums) will continue to raise Callie and not seek custody of Rebecca (thought to be Paula’s biological child, but raised from birth by the Chittums). Perfectly clear, yes? USAT adds that each family will establish visitation rights with the other child. (TP’s movie-of-the-week script is already in its second draft.) The WP goes front-page with the story, while the NYT story hides inside and lags a full day behind in its reporting.

In scandal news, the NYT and WP run the same story with opposite spins. The story: Everyone wants President Clinton to fess up to the hanky-panky we all know he’s guilty of, but the White House stubbornly asserts Clinton’s innocence. WP headline: “In Political Washington, A Call for Confession.” NYT headline: “Calls for Clinton to Confess Affair Are Turned Aside.” Several congressmen are hinting that a public mea culpa would end all of Clinton’s worries, but a White House spokesman stated, “The President has told the truth about this and he will continue to do so.”

Elsewhere in scandal-world, the White House has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist to temporarily stay a subpoena of Clinton lawyer Lanny Breuer. If Rehnquist refuses the stay, it’s likely that Clinton lawyer/confidant Bruce Lindsey will have to testify, too. (The WP lead offers the clearest explanation of this legal maneuvering.)

The NYT’s Science Times runs a fascinating story about a mathematical theorem. Benford’s Law, by comparing the digits in a list of numbers to the outcome that probability would predict, can identify cases where a series of numbers (tax returns, accounting records) may have been faked. Benford’s Law shows that in any given number, the first digit is most likely to be 1. (For the reasoning behind this astonishing fact, TP highly recommends reading the article in full.)