Today's Papers

Groping the New New Thing

The New York Times leads with the news that the IRS has been letting tax delinquents go without paying back taxes amounting to billions of dollars. The Washington Post goes local, reporting D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’ latest plan for streamlining D.C. government: He’ll “reclassify [nice euphemism] about 900 mid-level managers in D.C. government so they could be fired without explanation if they do not do a good job.” The Los Angeles Times lead says Clinton criticized the Senate during a Saturday speech to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute for delaying consideration of Latinos he’s appointed to judicial posts.

A liberal group, People for the America Way, says seven of the 10 candidates for judicial posts whose nominations have been delayed longest are women or minorities. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott argues that of 19 Clinton nominees confirmed this year, four are women; four Latino; and one African American. The expanding Latino vote has yet to be claimed by any leading presidential candidate.

Understaffing and the IRS’s interpretation of new (1997 and 1998) Congressional rules to mean the agency must collect all back taxes from a delinquent taxpayer or none, rather than negotiating a payment schedule, get a lot of the blame for the IRS mess. An anonymous Connecticut delinquent who owes 90 grand is negotiating to settle his debt with a lump payment possibly as low as 22% of what he would have paid. He calls the IRS policy “crazy.” Other delinquents are taking their chances, hoping the IRS won’t act before a 10-year statue of limitations term runs out. A NYT editorial calls on Congress to act responsibly in regards to another state of arrears: The U.S. legally owes the UN $1 billion in back dues.

The LAT off-leads that researchers at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center believe they’ve developed the first effective therapy for cystic fibrosis (CF). It involves administering large amounts of a deficient fatty acid and is based on experiments with CF-inflicted mice. Human testing could begin early next year.

The Post fronts a biographical piece about young Al Gore, painting him as inordinately cautious, responsible, competitive, perfectionistic, dutiful. Under his high-school yearbook picture, editors ran an Anatole France quote: “People who have no weaknesses are terrible.” (Clinton has certainly proven the corollary this statement implies to be true.) Wife Tipper is quoted on her first impression of him: “I thought, ‘Oh, boy! He’s good looking.’ ” NYT columnist Maureen Dowd says Gore’s campaign is “already a matter of damage control.” His campaigning has been so “weirdly incompetent,” she claims, that “those close to him” are wondering whether he really wants the presidency or if he’s just running because his Senator dad always wanted him to.

The Post also fronts a story about an escaped Maryland murderer who police say may be dangerous. Next to it is an unrelated picture of a man at a D.C. festival. Wouldn’t a picture of the escapee make more sense?

The NYT off-leads an analysis of the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, currently being debated by the Senate, which would ban underground nuclear testing. Online, the piece includes a link to the treaty itself. Critics worry it will weaken America’s position in the nuclear arms race. Since a 1992 moratorium on underground testing, the government has used computer and nonnuclear explosive tests to check America’s nuclear stockpile. Clinton attached a condition to the treaty saying the U.S. would pull out if its stockpile isn’t certified. The final paragraphs carry the news that nuke tests are more important for perfecting new weapons than correcting flaws in old ones. And according to a 1996 study, fewer than 1 percent of 830 specific defect discoveries, made between 1958 and 1993, in the U.S. stockpile resulted from nuclear testing. The writer does not explore what might happen if, as critics fear, “rogue states develop the capacity to attack our cities,” as former U.N. delegate Jeane Kirkpatrick put it.

A lengthy LAT front piece, the first in a three-part series, states that while restoring democracy and reforming politics and economics were top priorities during the last two decades in Latin America, the focus is now turning, necessarily, to eradicating police corruption.

The NYT magazine includes a piece on Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape. The piece describes the type of person who makes it big in Silicon Valley as someone who recognizes “the new new thing… [Translation:] a notion that’s poised to be taken seriously. It’s the idea that is moments from gaining general acceptance and, when it does, will change the world.” He describes a realization he had about the Internet, circa 1995: “All of a sudden it was clear to me … that I was looking at the [equivalent of the] personal computer in 1985,” Clark said. “It was this slow, clunky technology but people were using it. And it would get faster. I realized that this was the thing I’d been groping for.”