Today's Papers

No Props For California

The New York Times lead is that despite the U.N.’s nominal administrative control, it’s the Kosovo Liberation Army that’s truly in charge of Kosovo. The Los Angeles Times leads with California Gov. Gray Davis’ decision not to fight in the federal courts to establish Prop. 187, the state ballot measure that passed in 1994, cracking down on illegal immigration. Davis’ stance means, says the paper, that both 187 as a whole and most of its individual provisions will never become law. USA Today goes with a fresh survey of doctors and nurses that seems to show that insurance company procedures are inimical to efficient patient care. The survey also gets front-page coverage at the LAT and space inside everywhere else. The Washington Post leads with the explosion in special funding provisions (a k a “pork”) that the House Republican leadership has attached to the spending bills currently under consideration in order to gain members’ votes for them.

The NYT’s veteran foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, filing from Pristina, gets KLA leaders on record saying that they’re running things now and gets U.N. officials to admit they can’t do much about it. The problem is that, of the 3,100 member U.N. police force planned for Kosovo, only 156 officers are there yet, and the NATO troops in the area haven’t been able to close the gap. Indeed, the weapons turnover program they are administering is almost universally flouted by the KLA. Hedges says that KLA shakedowns of merchants are the order of the day, and he describes the confiscation of one furniture merchant’s car and the theft of $50,000 worth of his inventory. Hedges spots some of it the next day at the office building occupied by the KLA’s self-appointed prime minister.

According to the LAT, the Davis deal means the end of the 187 provisions calling for denying illegals access to social services and public schools, and those requiring police, school administrators, and public health officials to turn them in. All that will remain are two laws aimed at stopping the false document market in the state. All this for an initiative that, notes the paper, won the approval of nearly 60 percent of California voters.

Basically, the HMO survey indicated that the doctors and nurses who took it aren’t all that thrilled with insurers (USAT says it was 601 doctors and 365 nurses; the Wall Street Journal says it was 1,053 docs and 768 nurses), but their attitudes are nuanced. For instance, respondents noted that they are frequently able to reverse an insurer’s initial decision to deny a course of treatment, and they admit that the rise of managed care has probably led to an upswing in preventive medicine. The LAT headline is a wry one: HMOs PERFORM BEST FOR THE HEALTHY, DOCTORS SAY. Only the NYT headline (in the online edition at least) mentions that nurses were surveyed too.

The WP reports on the Center for Responsive Politics’ assessment of the year in lobbying. Total lobbying expenditures for 1998 were 13 percent higher than the year before, with the total number of clients up 21 percent over that time span. Top influence spender? The insurance industry.

The WP fronts a federal judge’s ruling yesterday that the FDA cannot stop the pharmaceutical industry from encouraging doctors to prescribe medications for unapproved “off-label” uses. The judge ruled that to do otherwise would be to violate the constitutional protection of commercial speech.

The WP says the New York state police are investigating four rapes at Woodstock ‘99. The paper also produces several festival attendees who come on the record by name to say that they saw or saw evidence of rapes, some of them gang rapes. The paper adds that one of these witnesses also described a woman having her clothes ripped off her while she was “crowd-surfing” over the mosh pit. An experienced concert safety official expresses the bottom line: “What would not be allowed on public streets is allowed at concerts.”

USAT’s business section front page reports that after several failed attempts at settlement, the DOJ is again focused on seeking a break-up of Microsoft. The paper reports that senior Justice officials have approached at least two leading investment banks recently, requesting detailed break-up analysis. Interestingly, both firms declined, out of fear about the business impact of appearing allied with the interventionist DOJ.

A letter to the WP carefully rehearses some facts about military compensation that are routinely overlooked by the papers. The writer notes that his cousin, an 18-year Army officer, attended college and graduate school for free, and that given the tax advantages of a military salary, his pay of $54, 792 is actually equivalent to a civilian salary of just under $94,000 a year. A key tax advantage the letter-writer mentions is almost never in the papers: Military members can usually avoid paying state taxes. Many military officers have had some training in Florida or Texas for instance, and remain constructive residents of such low- or no-tax states for many years thereafter.