Today's Papers

Uniform Pay Raise

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the limitation on the First Amendment rights of illegal immigrants imposed by the 1996 immigration reform law. The Court ruled that an illegal’s claim of being banished from this country on political grounds is not a defense against deportation that requires additional federal court hearings. The New York Times goes instead with the Senate’s passage and sending on to the House a military pay and pension package that exceeded the Clinton administration’s proposal. USA Today leads with a compendium of Y2K alarms from aviation bigwigs, congressional reports, and the CIA. The upshot is that aviation control facilities in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa are sufficiently millenium buggy that they could suffer computer problems equivalent to those created by a massive snowstorm. But the story’s headline–“Foreign Flying Risky on Jan. 1”–seems a bit shrill given that the text below also credits Western Europe and Japan with having undertaken fixes that could mean only minimal disruptions in those places.

The WP makes it clear that yesterday the Court also forbade illegal immigrants’ use of the federal courts to fight deportation until they have already exhausted all administrative procedures. In short, the ruling supports the way in which current immigration law deprives illegal immigrants of a defense and a venue. Both papers note that even before this decision, the new law has produced a much more active deportation rate, and so even though the decision doesn’t have that much direct impact because comparatively few illegal immigrants claim political persecution, it may still cut a rather wide swath, because in the words of the Post, it has “great potential to intimidate immigrants and make them wary of speaking out about any political matter for fear of drawing attention to their illegal status.”

The principal features of the Senate’s military pay bill, reports the Times, are a 4.4 percent pay raise across the board, increased educational aid funds, new 401(k)-style savings accounts, a return to a higher retirement pension rate, and $180 a month to the low-ranking troops eligible for food stamps. The paper reports that the Clinton administration favors pay increases but only if Congress increases the Pentagon’s overall budget to pay for them. Otherwise, explains the paper, the DOD may have to cut training or spare parts to afford them. The story, by experienced Hill and Pentagon reporter Eric Schmitt, communicates the widespread sentiment among members of Congress that these costs are inevitable if readiness is to be maintained. But there is no discussion of such readiness-enhancing but cost effective ideas as targeting bonuses for the specific warfare specialties where retention is worst, or restricting them to those in combat specialties (a surprisingly low percentage of military personnel). Nor does the story mention that service members receive a portion of their compensation tax-free, receive housing subsidies on top of their salaries, and pay below-market prices for goods at base commissaries and exchanges. Or that they typically become eligible for their pensions in their early forties, and hence these shouldn’t be viewed as needing to be competitive with civilian post-65 retirement packages. The WP coverage is silent about these wrinkles as well.

USAT and the WP front a study being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine that seems to show that the race and sex of patients presenting with chest pains determine the course of treatment doctors pursue. Previous studies had produced similar differences, but have been generally discounted as based on such differences as illness severity, insurance coverage, or patient preference. But, explain the papers, this study eliminated those explanations by using demographically diverse actors describing their chest pain from identical scripts. It’s the WP that passes along the reward doctors received for participating–a bottle of Williams-Sonoma tomato sauce.

The WP fronts the greatest hits from the upcoming Barbara Walters interview with Monica Lewinsky. In it, says the paper, Lewinsky says she’s no longer in love with Bill Clinton, that she’s through having affairs with married men, and that she wants to apologize to the country for the yearlong political ordeal she helped trigger.

A front-page Wall Street Journal feature reports that one of the fastest growing job categories in the country is fitness trainer, whose ranks have doubled this decade, to 100,000.

The WP runs a story inside poking fun at the list of top 100 most important news stories of all time released yesterday by a panel of journalists. The piece notes that the Cambodian “Killing Fields” genocide does not make the list, although Babe Ruth’s 60th home run does (#89), finishing five places newsier than the election of Winston Churchill. And the Challenger explosion outranks China’s Great Leap Forward. And while we’re at it, how, pray tell, could the San Francisco earthquake finish 29 places ahead of the founding of Microsoft?