Today's Papers

Hot Air

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the ongoing heat wave and resultant drought–though the heat is abating, the situation is dire for farmers in the eastern U.S. The Los Angeles Times and USAT front (and the WP reefers) Hillary Clinton’s comments on her marriage in the premiere issue of Talk magazine. The LAT leads with a story on increasing reuse of disposable medical equipment. Such reuse, though potentially disastrous, is largely unregulated by the FDA. The New York Times leads with the latest woes of the waning Christian Coalition–reports of falsified lists of supporters. The NYT and the LAT also front the beginnings of Mexico’s first presidential primary.

Extreme heat has caused over 180 heat-related deaths nationwide. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, touring West Virginia and Maryland this week, may recommend declaring a state of emergency. Nonetheless, given the rainfall the heartland has had, yields there should be sufficient to prevent nationwide food shortages or price hikes. In fact, USAT reports that America’s farmers may be on the verge of another crisis, brought on by low prices in the U.S. and depressed markets abroad.

In today’s inaugural issue of Talk, Hillary Clinton blames her husband’s infidelities on psychological “abuse” he suffered as a child, particularly the fallout from a conflict between his mother and grandmother. USAT and the LAT (but not the WP) actually describe the conflict: Clinton’s grandmother petitioned for custody of the 4-year-old when his mother, Virginia Kelley, decided to wed Roger Clinton, a man his grandmother deemed unsuitable. (He turned out to be an abusive alcoholic.) Clinton’s “elaborate rationale” (WP) for her husband’s behavior also involves viewing his lies as “sins of weakness” designed to protect his loved ones. Talk Editor Tina Brown tells USAT that the timing of the article had nothing to do with the New York senatorial race. But the WP reports that Lucinda Franks, Clinton’s interviewer, claimed Clinton agreed to the interview to “defuse the issue in New York politics.” Clinton’s spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on the first lady’s motives. The WP helpfully reminds readers that Talk is “powered in part by corporate synergy.”

To cut costs, the LAT reports, many hospitals process items like angioplasty balloons or biopsy needles for reuse. A growing number farm out the reprocessing to cheaper third-party facilities. Even materials marked for “single use” are reprocessed, sometimes with horrific results–a reprocessed cardiac catheter, for example, broke off in a patient’s heart during treatment. The FDA, citing a lack of information, exercises little regulatory control on reprocessing, but a ban on third-party reprocessing is likely. One abuse such a ban won’t fix: manufacturers changing the status of formerly reusable items to “single use” merely to boost sales.

The NYT reports that even at the height of its influence, the Christian Coalition kept thousands of dead persons, duplicate names, and wrong addresses on its lists of supporters. They also hired temporary workers to provide the press with images of bustling offices. Even their current claims of almost 2 million members rely on one-time petition signers and erroneous addresses. Now that the coalition’s plea for tax-exempt status has been rejected, it may split into two wings: a tax-exempt voter education branch and a political action committee that would endorse candidates and donate to campaigns.

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has ruled the country for 70 years, kicked off its first presidential primary. In the past, the president has simply hand-picked his successor. The leaders in the four-candidate primary are Interior Minister Francisco Labastida Ochoa and Roberto Madrazo Pintado, governor of Tabasco. Though analysts say Labastida could unite the technocratic and populist factions of the party, polls show Madrazo to be the early leader, despite longstanding fraud allegations and campaign funds of dubious origin.

The WP reports that an Air Force nurse was punished for criticizing the military’s use of an anthrax vaccine. Her letter to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, which included a request that “numerous individuals ask the questions” about the vaccine’s possible side effects, was viewed by her superiors as a possible incitement to insurrection. The vaccine is the first attempt to protect the entire U.S. military against a germ warfare agent.

40 Acres and a Windows Upgrade: A New York Times/CBS News telephone poll shows that Microsoft’s approval rating with consumers is down to 60 percent, compared with 73 percent two years ago. According to the “relationship theory” of a Harvard Business School associate professor, further trouble may be on the way. Consumers view their relationship with Johnson & Johnson as “mother-child,” and their relationship with McDonald’s as “childhood buddy.” But their relationship with Microsoft? “Master-slave.” Today’s Papers agrees: Now get back to work.