Today's Papers

Y2K Glitches, Dubbya’s Riches

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the Senate passage of a GOP private health-care reform bill by a largely party-line vote of 53-47, a story put above the fold by USA Today. Republicans defeated a Democratic amendment to make it easier for managed-care patients to sue their insurance companies, all papers note. President Clinton guaranteed a veto. USAT leads with a story carried by no other paper: a soon-to-be-released report by the Gartner Group, a Y2K consulting company, that the Y2K glitch will lead to $1 billion in electronic theft. Most of the money will disappear through “trap doors” inserted into computer code by unscrupulous Y2K repair techies.

The Senate bill would provide $13 billion in tax breaks–such as full deduction for insurance premiums, and new savings accounts–and increase consumer rights. Most papers do a decent job explaining the labyrinthine features of the bill: It gives the 124 million people in employer-sponsored health plans a better way to appeal if denied treatment. For 140 million people, it bans genetic discrimination and allows their doctor, not their insurance company, to determine the length of post-mastectomy hospitalizations. Many other protections were limited to the 48 million people in “self-insured” company plans, in which the employer, not an insurance company, assumes the financial risks. Democrats had tried to make most provisions apply to all 161 Americans covered by private insurance, but the GOP countered that the states were better equipped to regulate most private plans.

The Post fronts a story largely buried by the other papers: The House passage of a “religious rights” bill requiring public officials to show a “compelling” public interest before taking actions that inconvenience people of faith. The bill, which will likely become law, is a narrower version of a law struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997.

The NYT, USAT, and Post front, and the LAT reefers, yesterday’s expected announcement by George W. Bush that he will forgo the federal matching funds that would have limited him to spending $40 million in the primaries. Strangely, only the NYT notes how much money Bush is giving up–$16.5 million–and what the lack of a spending cap means: Bush will be flush next spring just after the primaries, while Gore will be broke. Bush’s announcement coincided with the presidential candidates’ quarterly fund-raising disclosures to the FEC, which revealed that although Al Gore has raised $7.8 million more than Bill Bradley, he has spent so much raising it that he has a less than $4 million edge ($11.2 million to $7.5 million). The Wall Street Journal notes that Bush raised over $230,000 from the big four accounting firms, compared to Gore’s $65,000, and received donations from 659 CEOs, compared to Gore’s 129.

Ehud Barak’s meeting with President Clinton is reefered with above-the-fold pictures in the NYT and LAT. Barak said Israel is willing to pull some troops out of the Golan Heights on the Israel-Syria border if the two countries can agree on the status of Lebanon, terrorism, borders, water rights, and normalization of diplomatic relations.

The LAT and Post front the British government’s announcement that the entire Northern Ireland peace process is on hold. Yesterday the Protestant unionists boycotted what would have been the first session of a Northern Ireland parliament, protesting that the IRA must disarm before they will share power with Sinn Fein.

USAT reports that President Clinton was ready to bomb sites of suspected Middle East terrorists in the wake of the crash of TWA 800. The story is sourced to a new book, In the Blink of an Eye: The FBI Investigation of TWA Flight 800, by Pat Milton, a reporter for the Associated Press. The book also claims that Clinton had placed the U.S. armed forces on the highest state of alert since the Cuban Missile Crisis in the weeks before the crash, based on intelligence reports that Iran was planning a series of terrorist attacks against the U.S.

All the papers note the Labor Department’s announcement that the Consumer Price Index did not rise at all in June, for the second month. The NYT lead paragraph puts it best: “In the middle of the ninth year of one of the longest economic booms in U.S. history, the rate of inflation is precisely zero.”

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the launching of Apollo 11, the LAT opinion editors publish a quasi-fascistic eyewitness account by Ayn Rand. (Conveniently, the “piece was excerpted by the Ayn Rand Institute.”) “The dark red fire parted into two gigantic wings, as if a hydrant were shooting streams of fire outward and up, toward the zenith. … It was an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.”