Today's Papers

The Court States Its Case

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with three 5-4 decisions handed down by the Supreme Court yesterday that dramatically shield states from the reach of Congress. USA Today and the Washington Post, which both front the Court hand-down, go instead with the American Medical Association’s endorsement of doctors’ unions, a story fronted at the two Times.

Both Times leads do an able job, but the NYT focuses more on the history of the cases while the LAT hits the philosophical and concrete impact of the decisions harder. It’s the LAT for instance that says the dissenting justices characterized the decisions as espousing the states’ rights philosophy that was defeated in the Civil War. And that says the decision will likely have the immediate effect of dismissing Genentech’s long-running patent lawsuit against the University of California, a state-run school. Also, the LAT’s court follower David Savage effectively pulls in the remarks made yesterday by justices, quoting for instance, Anthony Kennedy’s conclusion that the sovereign status of the states was accepted in 1787 by the Founders, on the grounds that they did not mention it in the Constitution. He also cites dissenter John Paul Stevens’ observation that under the decision, UCLA (a public school) can sue USC (a private school) but USC cannot sue UCLA. The NYT lead editorial calls the rulings “particularly alarming.” In another major decision, amply covered, the court overturned a $1.5 billion asbestos settlement on the grounds that a company cannot use a class action that arbitrarily limits the settlement amount and doesn’t allow plaintiffs to opt out of the class and pursue their claims individually.

The WP says that the AMA voted to form a labor union (as does the NYT front-pager; the LAT is a little vaguer on this point), which will target physicians with a direct employer–the only ones that can unionize under current law. That, the reader doesn’t learn until the ninth paragraph, is but one-seventh of all doctors. USAT, on the other hand, says that the AMA won’t form a union, but will merely help local groups of doctors do so. And the paper calls the move “largely symbolic.” Both leads state that the AMA’s move signifies physicians’ belief that they are losing ground. Yet the WP delays mentioning until its penultimate paragraph that the typical doctor’s salary is about $200,000. (If the paper is talking about the median salary, it should say so.) USAT never mentions this. The Times stories don’t mention it either.

Both the WP and NYT fronts report that a mid-level CIA officer questioned the allies’ Yugoslav war targeting of a building that turned out to be the Chinese embassy. Both papers say his question never got a serious hearing anywhere within the operational chain of command. The NYT has the detail that after raising his query, the officer went away for two days of training and returned only to discover that the bombers were already on their way.

The Wall Street Journal reports out a 10-country study that finds noticeable variations by nation in entrepreneurship. The U.S. is the highest at 8.4 percent of all adults trying to start their own businesses. Some other stats: Canada (6.8 percent), Israel (5.4 percent), France (1.8 percent), Japan (1.6 percent), and Finland (1.4 percent).

The WP reports that Nancy-Ann Min Deparle, the head of the Health Care Financing Administration, will in July become the first head of a federal agency to take maternity leave. The story explains that unlike ordinary federal employees, there are no standard rules governing the family-related leaves of presidentially appointed Senate-confirmed types like Deparle. Fortunately, the Post reports, with the help of HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and the HHS general counsel and the folks at the Office of Personnel Management, Deparle has managed to work something out. The paper doesn’t quite say, but implies that the deal is she gets three months off without missing any of her $118,000 annual salary. The Post should have been clearer about the terms, and should have explained what kind of parental leave deal a HCFA secretary gets or, for that matter, a WP reporter. Three months off with nearly $30,000 to show for it seems a bit lusher than average and is an example to remember the next time you read one of those studies about how federal employees get reamed compared to their private sector counterparts.

In its “talker” position at the top of the page, USAT, in its typically aggressive coverage of product safety, reports that all “dive stick” pool toys are being recalled and banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission after being implicated in injuries to six children nationwide. Also under a stop-use notice are Snugli baby carriers (13 injuries) and Star Wars Lightsabers (three cases of burns due to overheating batteries). Why don’t stories like this include for comparison the number of children’s deaths and injuries due to that un-recalled product the handgun?