Today's Papers

Arresting the Hose

USA Today

and the Washington Post lead with the House and Senate approval of a $792 billion tax cut (dispensed over 10 years). The New York Times, having dedicated much front space earlier in the week to the emerging cut, runs a front page “news analysis” piece on the politics of the vote but leads instead with the FCC’s abandonment of its longstanding one-station-per-market ownership rule, a story nobody else fronts. The Los Angeles Times stuffs the tax cuts on Page 16 and leads with the likelihood that Los Angeles will not be awarded an NFL franchise any time soon. The LAT front’s top non-local story is a new bipartisan Senate report finding that federal counterintelligence officials badly bungled their investigation into Chinese nuclear espionage. The probe probe is also fronted at the WP and runs inside at the NYT.

USAT notes that the narrow House (221-206) and Senate (50-49) votes mean that President Clinton’s promised veto of the bill (because he says it squanders an historic opportunity to retire a substantial portion of the national debt) is unlikely to be overridden. The WP gets at the high quality of the economic analysis evident in the floor debate with its observation that at one point during a discussion of the bill’s tax credit for producing energy from poultry waste, “[d]ozens of Democrats seated in the chamber clucked like chickens …”

The NYTexplains the gist of the FCC ruling: If a market has at least eight independently owned TV stations, then one company can own two. This is a condition, the Times notes, met by the country’s largest 50 cities. The paper suspects that a likely result of the ruling is that the networks will quickly try to snatch up available stations in the cities where they already own one. Both the NYT and the WP have exuberant reaction quotes from the owner of PAX TV, but the Times wins with, “If we’re going into the duopoly game, we’re the prettiest girl at the du-op dance.” It would have been nice however, if the two papers had spent a sentence or two explaining how such a momentous market decision gets to be made, not by Congress, but by four people.

The China spying stories all point out that there was a multi-year delay in investigating the contents of suspect Wen Ho Lee’s computer–caused by wrangling between the FBI which wanted a warrant to do so, and the DOJ, which found the evidence for doing so less than compelling. The Senate report says that investigators also focused on Lee and Los Alamos too much, ignoring other possible spies and other possible sites for their espionage. The coverage notes however that the report discloses for the first time that Lee was fired last February after he failed a polygraph test in which he was asked if he ever passed computer information on miniaturized nukes to unauthorized people.

The WP front reports on the first day of Maryland’s new drought-driven water-use regulations. It seems that some folks just can’t abide by such rules but that their neighbors do a fine job of turning them in to authorities for such now-criminal violations as lawn sprinkling. (You can use a hose though–but you have to hold it.) And yes, police were actually sent out on some calls. The story sallies forth under a truly wonderful headline: PUT THE SPRINKLER DOWN SLOWLY.

The Russian files on Lee Harvey Oswald that Boris Yeltsin gave to Bill Clinton earlier this year became available at the National Archives yesterday, and the WP has a look. The paper says the 80 pages of material is less voluminous than the total Russian Oswald file as described by a U.S. district judge who once was shown a 4-foot stack by Russian officials. The only really new material in the file about Oswald: An allowance and a housing subsidy paid to him in addition to his factory job salary were decreed by the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Also at the achives, says the paper, there’s a previously released tidbit revealing that on at least one hunting trip while Oswald was in Russia, he “shot very badly.”

The Wall Street Journal reports some numbers indicating that the Internet IPO boom is bust. Of the 156 Internet IPOs this year, 37 percent are now below their offering price, and 68 percent are below their first trading price.

The Journal also files what could be the first mention of a revolutionary change in the auto business. In September, Toyota plans to start producing finished cars within five days of receiving a customer order. Currently, says the story, GM takes about 17-18 days and Chrysler-Daimler takes 10-12. The first Toyota to get the quickie treatment will be the Camry Solara.

Just a week after the Atlanta day trader murders took over the front pages, an Alabama workplace shooting fails to crack them. What are the newspapers thinking with that? Is it the lower body count (“only” three)? The lower-rent vocations involved (plumbing and hospital supplies)? Or that since it happened last week already, it isn’t really “news” now? And the answer is (envelope, please): Yes.