Today's Papers

What The Market Will Bare

The Los Angeles Times leads with the California legislature’s passage of a tough clamp-down on assault weapons. The New York Times goes with a story on nobody else’s front, the surprise declaration Monday by Taiwan’s president that his country is no longer accepting the “one China” policy, the principle that Taiwan and the Chinese mainland were but two parts of the same nation. The Washington Post, which runs Taiwan inside, joins USA Today in leading with the budget talks conducted yesterday between the White House and congressional leaders. The papers agree that the two sides expressed optimism about being able to reform Medicare and Social Security, with them reaching a basic agreement to include the Republican “lockbox” application of Social Security surpluses back into the program and the Democratic idea of prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients, but they are still miles apart on tax cuts, with the Republicans proposing $800 billion in cuts over 10 years and President Clinton offering more on the order of $300 billion over that span. But the two papers’ headlines go duck-rabbit, with USAT’s reading TAX-CUT TALKS CORDIAL, BUT NO PROGRESS while the Post’s big print reads CLINTON, HILL AGREE ON BUDGET GOALS.

The LAT lead reports that the legislature’s new gun bill not only does away with the manufacture and sale of new readily concealable easy-firing weapons that take magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and of the magazines themselves, but would also eliminate the aftermarket in these items. The paper unaccountably delays the information that this extra ban exceeds current federal law (7th paragraph), and that its definition of “assault weapon” includes pistols holding more than 10 rounds (10th paragraph). The paper points out that already this session, the legislature has passed bills limiting gun buyers to one purchase a month and banning small, cheap handguns. A WP op-ed claims that the national interest in gun control is far more than just a superficial reaction to Littleton: the piece says that a research center at the University of Chicago has confirmed that even before that tragedy, majorities of those surveyed backed all control measures short of banning gun ownership outright.

The NYT goes top-front with continued student protests in Iran, now reported in 18 cities. (The WP runs this inside.) Chain-wielding vigilantes, arriving at the scene in government buses, forcibly suppressed the latest demonstrations in Tehran, just outside the grounds of the university. The students are protesting the slow pace of reform in the country and they are being opposed by die-hard Islamic revolutionaries. The proximate cause of the unrest is the passage of a new restrictive law governing the press and the attendant closure of a popular leftist newspaper.

The WP reports that with the Reform Party’s national convention only a week or so away, a battle over control of the organization is shaping up between the party’s founder Ross Perot and its most prominent elected official, Jesse Ventura. Ventura is trying to oust Perot and has said that if the party nominates a chairman not to his liking, he may get out. The story omits a fact that helps explain the bad blood between the two men: When Ventura was running for office last year, he asked the Perot-controlled national Reform Party to provided some campaign funds and was turned down.

Related stories: the WP and USAT report that Donald Trump says he might run for president if the Reform Party supports him. (Hey, how about him and Perot on the Crazy Billionaire ticket?) And the Post says that soon Ventura will return to the WWF ring, although the paper doesn’t know whether as a wrestler or a referee.

An inside piece at that WP says that according to a new U.N. report on wealth, the planet’s three leading billionaires–Bill Gates, the Sultan of Brunei, and the Walton family (of Wal-Mart)–have more in combined assets than the combined GNP of the 43 countries held by the U.N. to be “least developed.”

Where sex and sports go, can money be far behind? The USAT front reports that shirt-ripping soccer player Brandi Chastain was one of 10 women on the U.S. women’s team supplied by Nike with a model of its latest sports bra. Chastain swears that her move wasn’t calculated, and Nike says she wasn’t on the payroll, although, says the paper, the company might now hire her for promotional appearances or ads.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS is going to decide if “charitable family limited partnerships,” what it calls the latest tax-planning craze among the very rich, are legal. The technique: Suppose you want to sell your company and give the proceeds to your daughter. Avoid a capital gains hit by giving the bulk of those assets to a charity, while retaining management control of them by becoming a managing partner of the charity. Take an immediate tax deduction for the value of the gift. Then have the business sold, which is a nontax event because the seller is a charity. And as a general partner you can direct the nontaxable income from that sale to whomever you want–your daughter, say.

Yesterday’s tipper in the LAT regarding the NAACP’s step-up of its campaign against what it views as an unacceptably low number of nonwhite characters in the fall TV schedule is followed today by stories at the NYT and WP. The Post’s takeout notes that blacks make up almost 12 percent of the U.S. population and only 10 percent of the characters on entertainment programs, compared to 18 percent during the 1993-4 season. The paper doesn’t stop to wonder: If that 10 percent is unjust, wasn’t the 18 percent as well? In fact, even more so, no?