Today's Papers

Full House to Beat Wild Pair

USA Today

leads with the U.S. government’s announcement that this country’s AIDS deaths dropped 47 percent in 1997, a story making everybody’s front. The disease is not among the nation’s top ten killers for the first time since 1991. The New York Times and Washington Post go with President Clinton’s statement that Democrats should vote their consciences, with no need to fear White House retribution, when the full House of Representatives decides today whether or not to start an impeachment inquiry. That story is the off-lead at USAT and the Los Angeles Times. The LAT lead is Wednesday’s resurgence in Japan’s stock and currency markets, spurred by evidence of a political deal there to allow public funds to be used to rescue its crippled banking system. The Wall Street Journal explains that the rally shows that Japan’s credit crunch is the number one issue with its investors.

The papers note that the main thrust of the AIDS results is that while the new treatment drugs are making a huge dent in the death rate, the infection rate continues apace–at a rate of about 40,000 new HIV cases a year. In other words, they say, prevention is not improving. Indeed, USAT quotes an expert who points out that there have been no new federal funds spent on prevention in the past two years. Give the NYT credit for being the only major to put the sustained infection rate in its headline. And although, for instance, the Times mentions an upsurge of unsafe sex practices among gay men, and the problems of instilling effective prevention among intravenous drug users, USAT never mentions the words “gay” or “sex” or “intravenous drugs.”

As the NYT and Post explain, President Clinton’s remark about the House vote allows Democrats facing tough re-election fights to avoid the extra baggage with voters that resisting any impeachment inquiry–described by the papers as a sure thing–might bring. After all, the Post points out, House Democratic votes will be more valuable later on than they are now, should an impeachment bill eventually come to the floor. The WP reports that Hillary Clinton delivered this message to 25 Democratic freshmen members at a White House meeting. The Times says President Clinton’s statement came as some Democrats openly complained about White House pressure on them to vote to block or limit the investigation. Clinton’s response, quoted by the Times, has the familiar I-didn’t-inhale-and-I-didn’t-impale flavor: yes, he was talking to House Democrats, but “a large number called me.”

The LAT front features a big picture and accompanying story about yesterday’s 600,000-strong nationwide protest in Russia calling for Boris Yeltsin to quit. The story is pushed inside everywhere else. In Moscow alone, the rally drew 150,000 people. The LAT reports that with the development, a new political movement appears to be forming behind Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhov.

The front pages of the NYT and the WP give lots of space to purported inside stories of what it’s like to do business with Microsoft if you’re Netscape or Intel or Compaq or AOL. Most of the narrative in the two articles obviously comes from materials produced in discovery for the upcoming government anti-trust case against MS. Such a press preview amounts to the government’s air war before the ground war of the trial itself.

The WP runs an inside story reporting that the House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill designed to restrict minors’ access to adult material on the Internet. The bill, explains the paper, is designed to be narrow enough to withstand the court scrutiny that struck down a 1996 predecessor. The legislation would ban the Internet availability to young people of material that includes “actual or simulated acts of sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or female breast.” And the bill stipulates that people found making such material available to minors online would face fines of up to $50,000 and up to six months in prison. The story utterly overlooks an obvious fact: Ken Starr would be a clear violator.

USAT runs a fascinating front-page “cover story” on the Travelers, a little-known South Carolina-based but itinerant clan of English, Irish and Scottish descent thought to number up to 100,000. The Travelers are said by many law enforcement authorities to be a criminally based society, specializing in home repair scams generally targeting the elderly. In addition, the group keeps their kids out of school and encourages its girls to get married off in their low teens or younger–often to blood relatives. One gap in the story: no mention of the Gypsies, whom the Travelers seem to resemble in many respects.

Front-page stories at both the WP and WSJ detail the opulent lifestyle of the IMF and World Bank officials gathered in Washington this week to ponder an increasingly straitened world. The Post catches the financiers nibbling on pea pancakes topped with caviar, while at another party, the Journal spies a six-foot-high ice sculpture of an eagle bedecked with oysters, shrimp and lobster.