Today's Papers

Apostrophe S

The House Republicans’ passage of a health-insurance bill leads at the New York Times and is atop the Wall Street Journal’s “Worldwide” box. (The Washington Post, which usually plays up Capitol Hill intrigue, reefers this story.) The GOP’s response to George W. Bush’s criticisms of it on Tuesday is the lead at USA Today and the top non-local story at the Post. The Los Angeles Times leads with the National Football League’s decision to pass over the City of Angels and put an expansion team in Houston instead. (This story is put above the fold by USAT and reefered by the NYT and Post.) A Houston billionaire offered over $700 million for the team–the highest price ever paid for a pro sports franchise–plus a publicly financed, $300 million glass-walled stadium with a retractable roof.

The $50 billion (over 10 years) health-insurance bill would, among other things, a) accelerate the 100 percent tax deduction for the self-employed, b) expand the availability of tax-free accounts for medical payments, and c) create tax deductions for long-term-care insurance. The Democrats said the bill would help only 1 percent of the population, and President Clinton threatened to veto it in its present form. But the main event is today, when the House votes on competing “patient rights” bills, which would allow customers to sue their HMOs. (On Tuesday, the House leadership for the first time threw its weight behind a limited right to sue–see yesterday’s TP for details.)

All the papers, save the LAT, run follow-ups to George W. Bush’s rebuke of congressional Republicans on Tuesday. Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, and some Hill Republicans accused Bush of abandoning the GOP rank and file, and Bush backtracked slightly, stressing that the GOP’s image as heartless was a Democratic caricature, not reality. USAT calls the GOP response a “backlash” against Bush, but the other papers are more favorable to him. The NYT story stresses the inability of congressional Republicans to soften their image post-Newt Gingrich; the Post notes that Bush’s policy positions are still solidly conservative, despite Bauer’s and Forbes’ assertions to the contrary; and the Journal calls Bush’s Tuesday remarks his “Sister Souljah moment”–referring to candidate Clinton’s successful 1992 strategy of distancing himself from his party’s ideological base. (For Ballot Box’s take on the Bush-GOP brouhaha, click here.)

The LAT fronts the FBI’s disclosure that the computer networks of the Pentagon, Energy Department, NASA, and of defense contractors have undergone a year of extensive, coordinated cyberattacks from overseas computers–some from Moscow. The hackers have stolen unclassified but sensitive information on weapons research. One thing holding up effective countermeasures, the Post writes, is a culture clash between low-tech FBI agents and the geeky computer consultants helping them with encryption.

Following up on a Journal story yesterday, the NYT reports that a diet pill company is using a Web site to broadcast an ABC News interview of its chief executive before ABC has aired the program in which the interview will be used. (Companies often make their own tapes of their interviews with the press.) Metabolife International Inc. says that after discovering the Web site of ABC interviewer Arnold Diaz (titled “Schemes, Scams, and Savin’ a Buck“), it began to suspect that ABC’s report will be unfair to its product, so it released the entire interview on the Internet as part of a counteroffensive. Today’s Papers envisions a world in which every interview subject is his own media watchdog; when a reporter quotes him out of context, the subject need not beg an editor or producer for space or time to respond–he can simply publish the unedited interview himself.

The Journal notes the demise of a hallowed cultural institution: the wedding-night consummation. These days, half of all couples live together before marriage, and less than one-fifth are virgins on their wedding night. As a result, many newlyweds–one-third of 18-to-24-year-olds and half of those over 40–would rather spend their wedding night engaged in non-connubial activities like partying with wedding guests visiting from afar. “Sex, when it happens” for newlyweds, reports the Journal, “is often an apostrophe, not an exclamation point.”