Today's Papers

“Going Nasdaq” on Taiwan

USA Today and the Washington Post lead with the designation of West Virginia and parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as federal disaster areas, a story fronted by the New York Times. Farmers in these regions–who are suffering the worst drought since the 1930s–are now eligible for low-interest federal loans, which would, says USAT, cover up to 80 percent of their losses. The NYT leads with the EPA’s prohibition of two fruit-and-vegetable pesticides, a story fronted by the Los Angeles Times. The pesticides kill insects by interfering with their nervous system; some fear the agent may affect the nervous systems of children, although there are no hard data. The LAT’s top non-local story is a massive head-on train collision involving 2,500 people in India, a story at the top of the Wall Street Journal’s front-page “Worldwide” box and reefered by USAT. The Post and NYT put the death toll at over 200 (many of whom were burned alive or dismembered) but the LAT, with a later deadline, says the number approaches 400. A signal failure was the likely cause.

All the papers except USAT front China’s unusual announcement of a long-range missile test within its territory. Almost every paper has a different angle: the Journal notes that the announcement will frustrate efforts to prevent North Korea from testing its own missiles; the NYT says the announcement was done in tandem with a harsh public critique of the United States for selling military technology to Taiwan; the Post puts the missile test in the ninth paragraph of a larger story on increased sorties over the Taiwan Strait by Chinese and Taiwanese military jets. In separate stories, the NYT and Post report that a Chinese court meted out harsh prison sentences to two political dissidents. The Post notes that since NATO’s accidental May 7 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, China has sentenced nine dissidents to prison terms of up to 10 years.

The Post and NYT front a decision by a federal district judge to throw out most of a 3-year-old Federal Election Commission lawsuit against the beleaguered Christian Coalition. The judge ruled that, in all but two cases, the Christian Coalition’s distribution of voting guides did not constitute specific endorsement of candidates–which would have amounted to an illegal campaign contribution. The decision is expected to allow more citizen groups to distribute election literature in 2000 without the burden of FEC regulation.

The Post and Journal both run articles on the risks and rewards of day trading, which apparently contributed to the recent massacre in Atlanta. The Post says it’s not surprising that the rise of non-professional, home-based Internet trading can encourage the occasional bankrupted player to “go Nasdaq”–as Mark Barton’s murders have been termed. Most traders sit at home alone, get unreliable tips through chat rooms, and lose their own money rather than that of a client. The Journal acknowledges these risks but argues that day trading makes financial markets more efficient and provides greater odds than (other) legalized forms of gambling, such as lotto and blackjack.

On the NYT op-ed page, former Clinton economic advisor Laura D’Andrea Tyson tries to convince the financial markets that last week’s report of unexpectedly high labor costs in the second quarter does not necessarily mean the economy is overheating. As if in divine confirmation of her argument, the Journal notes that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have climbed over 8 percent for the first time in two years, signaling an end to the housing boom. And the Post reports that economic growth and price increases in the manufacturing sector were less than predicted in July, “easing Wall Street fears of an overheating economy.”

Writing on the LAT opinion page, contributing editor Robert Scheer makes the provocative argument that the quickest way to halt China’s belligerence is to simply hand over all our nuclear warhead and ballistics secrets. China’s current saber rattling, Scheer reasons, stems from an inferiority complex about its relatively primitive nuclear arsenal. Once China has a deterrent equal to that of the United States, Scheer says, it won’t feel the need to taunt its neighbors after every tiny technological advance.