Today's Papers

Impeaching Cobblers

Both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the Senate’s mood as it prepares to conduct the impeachment trial. The Washington Post puts its daily take on the Senate inside and goes instead with a story first tipped last week by the Wall Street Journal, that the Clinton administration will propose a $1,000 annual tax credit for those requiring long-term medical care or for the relatives who take care of them, a proposal that is also fronted by the two Times and USA Today. The latter leads with the Midwest snowstorm and the travel havoc it’s wreaking.

The main news source for the Times’ leads is Sunday’s chat shows–16 senatorial heads talked, according to the LAT–and the main new information coming from them is that some senators think President Clinton should postpone his State of the Union address if the scheduled date–January 19th–should find his fate in the Senate still unresolved. This suggestion, says the LAT, “signals a growing recognition that the impeachment trial will inevitably slow, if not stop, Washington from conducting the public’s routine business.” (One wishes the LAT had noted here that Washington produced virtually no non-budgetary legislation last year even without such a distraction.)

According to the NYT, Sen. Phil Gramm and Sen. Arlen Specter are emerging as two proponents of a full trial with witnesses, in opposition to the fast-track view favored by Sen. Trent Lott, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and several others. And the House-Senate divide on impeachment matters is put on sharp display in a “Face the Nation” remark by Sen. Patrick Leahy about the House quoted by the NYT: “They flunked the exam in their body. They hope to do a make-up exam in the Senate, and that’s not going to happen.”

The papers report that Clinton’s long-term tax credit proposal will be accompanied by a call for the federal government to distribute over the next five years $125 million per annum to state and local agencies for support to caregivers. Also, the plan will call for the federal government to locate affordable long-term care policies for its employees. There is no firm word in the papers about how the $6.2 billion (over five years) program will be financed, although their educated guess is that the money will come from eliminating some corporate tax loopholes. The Post story has a lot of missing nuts and bolts. For instance, how many people in the country would the proposal affect? Is the credit duplicated or divided among multiple caregivers for the same person? And doesn’t a tax credit ignore the plight of the disabled and their caregivers who owe less than $1,000 in taxes? The NYT raises this last point and says the credit does those folks no good–no small matter, since, as the paper goes on to explain, 40 percent of the elderly pay no income taxes at all.

By the way, an administration official tells the NYT that he’s happy if the proposal helps Clinton on the impeachment front, “but that’s not the rationale for it.”

A WSJ front-page feature documents the frenzy of interest in Internet stocks. On-line auction company eBay Inc., for instance, recently in only ten weeks increased its stock value ten times, a feat it took Microsoft four years to achieve. But the trend, the Journal says, doesn’t just signify the surge of a particular market sector–rather it shows the rising degree to which online investors are influencing the market. And since these folks move in and out of stocks at the drop of a low-commission web trade, the upshot is that investor stampedes can now happen faster than ever before.

A front-page NYT story reports how the rather militant advocacy of condom use by the prostitutes of Calcutta may be the way to keep the AIDS situation in India from going the way of Africa. At the very least, the stance has helped keep the AIDS infection rate among Calcutta’s prostitutes (going rate: 50 cents) at about 5 percent, compared to about 50 percent for those in Bombay.

The LAT front runs a feature detailing the battle in China between “hacktivists”–politically-minded hackers–and the government over the so-called Great Chinese Firewall, Beijing’s system of filters designed to keep Chinese citizens from accessing online news and other sites that induce doubt about the official government line. Besides the obvious politically sensitive sites, according to the piece the official firewall servers also screen out the likes of and The hacker groups operate, says the LAT, on at least three continents and include contingents in the U.S. One of their latest tactics is their unverified claim that they have inserted into the Chinese computer system a program that allows users’ screens to be viewed remotely by the hackers. In a spoof of Microsoft’s “Back Office” program, dissidents call this Trojan Horse “Back Orifice.”