Today's Papers

Beattying Around the Bush

USA Today

leads with the Supreme Court’s decision to take on for the first time the question of whether grandparents have the right to visit their grandchildren even when one or both parents object, which is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The LAT lead also covers the court’s decision to review the Violence Against Women Act, a recent federal hate crime law that gives victims of sexual assaults the right to sue their tormentors for money damages. The Wall Street Journal’s sum-up of the court’s new term describes the VAWA case and several others, including one testing a Colorado law making it a crime to counsel, protest, or communicate within 8 feet of a person within 100 feet of an abortion clinic, and one about how to apply the three-year IRS statute of limitations to refunds, but reserves its headline for one concerning the legal liability of managed care companies accused of cutting costs and doesn’t mention the grandparenting case. The Washington Post goes with yesterday’s passage by the House and Senate of a continuing resolution that keeps the government running through Oct. 21. This means, explains the paper, that Congress and the White House have bought time to work out their myriad differences on expenditures without bringing about a government shutdown. The New York Times leads with the failure of Mexico’s opposition parties to agree to back a single presidential candidate, thus auguring the continued dominance of the party that has elected every Mexican president since the 1920s. This story is also fronted by the LAT.

The WP, NYT, and LAT front what the latter calls Bill Bradley’s “first detailed policy speech,” outlining his health-care plan, which would extend coverage to lower-income citizens by allowing them to join at little or no cost the federal government’s health insurance system or by providing tax credits toward their private plan premiums. The WSJ runs a “Politics and Policy” piece on the proposal. The papers point out that the plan is more ambitious than the one unveiled by Al Gore a few weeks ago, in that Bradley’s attempts to make health care available not just to children but to nearly all currently non-covered adults.

The NYT front says one reason the U.S. investigation into possible laundering of Russian money through the Bank of New York has been so halting is that two of the law enforcement bodies with responsibilities in the case–the Manhattan D.A.’s office and the FBI–have not been cooperating with each other. That’s putting it mildly– the Times reports that each of the two outfits even discussed filing obstruction charges against the other.

The WP fronts, and the NYT runs inside (crediting early editions of the WP), the death of an 18-year-old man while undergoing gene therapy for a metabolic disease. Although, explain the papers, many Americans have by now been treated by such experimental techniques, this is the first death associated with them. The victim had a mild form of a genetic disorder that was well controlled with drugs and diet, but he volunteered for the experimental therapy hoping it would lead to a cure. Both papers are careful to point out that so far it is not known if the therapy was the cause of death. The NYT is more firm about saying that if this is indeed the case it could be a severe setback for gene therapy.

The LAT fronts and the other majors put inside the latest assessment of the writing skills of American students. The bottom line is that only a quarter of them are proficient in writing, and only about 1 percent are advanced. The stories also note a significant gender gap, with girls handily outscoring boys at all grade levels. The reader will look in vain for comparisons to results from prior years, but as the stories explain, the tests given this year are the first of their kind and so cannot be meaningfully compared to previous writing scores.

A column by the WP’s David Ignatius and an inside story at the NYT reveal that the CIA has come up with a new way to help the agency keep pace with the explosion of information technology and get better connected to the young brilliant minds that are powering it. It is starting up an information technology venture fund, to be called “In-Q-It,” with a field office in Palo Alto, Calif., that will partner with other companies to develop such things as better intel-related search engines and improved computer security.

The NYT reefers President Clinton’s remarks Tuesday at the same prayer breakfast where a year ago he confessed that he had “sinned” in the Lewinsky matter. Yesterday, Clinton thanked his wife (seated nearby), his daughter, and his circle of religious advisers, saying, “I have been profoundly moved, as few people have, by the pure power of grace, unmerited forgiveness through grace.” The WP runs the story inside.

The WSJ “Tax Report” says the Treasury Department is reiterating its opposition to the repeal of the estate tax, pointing out that fewer than 2 percent of those who die each year leave estates large enough to be subject to it. A letter writer to the WP makes a wholly different but equally striking tax observation: The idea that smokers impose a net cost on society and therefore should have to pay higher taxes (say, though an increased cigarette tax) is wrong. The Congressional Research Service, he writes, has concluded that “all in all, smoking has apparently brought gain to both federal and state governments.” For one thing he adds, the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “smoking cessation would lead to increased health care costs.”

The New York Times fronts and gives its “Life” section “cover story” over to the question of whether Warren Beatty might declare his presidential candidacy in a speech he made in L.A. last night post-press-time. It seems odd not to have merely waited until tomorrow to report rather than wonder. An indicator of the paucity of actual information available about Beatty’s thinking is the following simultaneously filed pair of observations. USAT: “After all, this is the man about whom Carly Simon was rumored to have written the hit 1972 song, You’re So Vain.” NYT: “He is, after all, one of the men about whom an old girlfriend, Carly Simon, wrote You’re So Vain.”