Today's Papers

Floyd Prose

The Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Today lead with the coming ashore of Hurricane Floyd, which is moving over land northward from Florida. The Los Angeles Times leads with something far more lethal than a hurricane: a semi-automatic handgun. Floyd hasn’t killed anybody yet, but as the LAT informs, a man walked into a church in Fort Worth, Texas and blew away seven parishioners before capping himself. At least one pipe bomb was detonated inside the sanctuary as well.

An anthropomorphism as relentless as the storm itself colors the storm coverage. “HURRICANE AIMS AT COAST OF CAROLINAS” blares the NYT headline. “FLOYD STAYS ‘REAL MEAN’” says USAT. A WP sub-head says, “Floyd and Siblings Grow Up Without Influence of Jet Stream,” and the piece beneath it offers this scientific explanation: “With cold water in the Pacific tropics, the chill, west-to-east, high-altitude winds known as the jet stream no longer sensed the kind of temperature differential that attracted them southward during El Niño. Instead of hurtling across the United States and out to sea in the Atlantic, the jet stream retired northward….”

The Wall Street Journal front runs a Floyd-inspired feature about the war in the southeast between homeowners and insurance companies over requiring anti-hurricane features on houses. The insurers take the position that it’s well-known what features help a house survive a medium-sized hurricane and therefore homes they are on the hook for should incorporate them. Homebuyers protest the added cost of features that may never be used, and accuse insurance companies of seeking the likes of storm shutters and high impact windows so that they can charge higher rates to those who go without.

The LAT and USAT fronts report on a speech given yesterday in Los Angeles by Ken Starr (the LAT piece was also based on an interview Starr gave to some of its senior editors afterwards at the paper’s offices). The gist: Starr says he should have let another independent counsel take on the Monica Lewinsky investigation and expressed surprise that he would be portrayed as someone with a vendetta. Starr’s talk was received warmly by a luncheon crowd of 500 civic and business types. There was only one picketer. His sign, the LAT reports, read, “Hey Starr, Impeach This.”

The LAT, NYT, and WP report that a former top Mexican drug prosecutor awaiting trial in the U.S. on drug and money laundering charges yesterday killed himself, apparently with an intentional overdose of antidepressants, in New Jersey, where he was under house arrest. He was also wanted in Mexico on drug charges and for involvement in the murder of his brother, a leader of Mexico’s long-dominant political party. The NYT and WP stories run inside. Given the large Mexican population of L.A., it’s a bit surprising that the LAT does the same, albeit with the help of a reefer on the front.

The WP and NYT write that two new reports commissioned by the Clinton administration reveal that even as the economy has strengthened, discrimination against blacks and Hispanics in the home-buying marketplace has gotten worse. Some of the research was based on the experiences of “testers,” equally financially qualified pairs of white and minority members looking for identical home mortgages. The finding: “[M]inorities were less likely to receive information about loan products, received less time and information from loan officers and were quoted higher interest rates …” One question the stories don’t answer: Since this sort of bias is illegal, why don’t these testers’ results lead to indictments of bankers? If bankers were looking at hard time for this crap, they’d cut it out.

A front-page feature story at USAT notes that a spy-scandal-inspired reorganization of the Dept. of Energy, under which eight of the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities will be moved into a new semi-autonomous organization, is apparently headed for Senate and perhaps White House approval. The problem is, notes the story, that this new unit will be on its own regarding safety and environmental protection, areas already weak in the nuclear bomb business.

The WP runs a “clarification,” saying that a headline on yesterday’s front page–WHITE MAN GETS MAYORAL NOMINATION IN BALTIMORE–“distorted the role of race in the election and violated Washington Post policy about reporting racial identifications only in proper context.” This gives rise to one very reasonable question: What, pray tell, is that WP policy? If there actually is one, why not state it? Not stating it not only makes the clarification utterly fail to clarify, but also raises the suspicion that the Post doesn’t really have a well-formed idea about what “in proper context” means beyond “when the paper doesn’t get a lot of complaints.”