Today's Papers

Carpal Diem

Both the New York Times and Washington Post lead with the government’s expected introduction today of safety rules designed to counter repetitive stress injuries in the workplace, like carpal tunnel syndrome. The USA Today lead notes how states will be spending the first installment of the $206 billion they’ll receive in settlements with the tobacco industry. Most of the initial $2.4 billion, the paper reports, will be going to health care, but much will also be spent on completely unrelated areas, such as roads, jails, farm aid, schools, and senior centers. The story quotes the architect of state legal action against tobacco companies, Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore, as deploring this diversion of funds. The Los Angeles Times leads with a snapshot of the nation’s current political sentiment, based on 1,800 adults (including 370 who aren’t registered to vote–who cares what they think?). The polling’s takeaway: Voters would prefer Democrats controlling Congress and a Republican in the White House (the survey’s presidential tally is Bush over Gore 55 percent to 40 percent), a stance the paper summarizes as “Times are good, so throw the bums out.”

The big type over the WP lead–“OSHA OFFERS STANDARD TO FIGHT INJURIES IN WORKPLACE”–is clearer than the big type over the NYT’s–“AFTER LONG DELAY, U.S PLANS TO ISSUE ERGONOMIC RULES.” But with that exception, the NYT effort is the better story. For instance, what does the WP mean with this first sentence, “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will take the first step today to require many employers to provide work spaces and equipment to support the physical makeup of each individual doing his job.”? And the NYT uses its third paragraph to cite bottom-line-based business resistance to the rules as the chief cause in their delay, while the Post doesn’t get to this until its 13th. And while the WP quotes somebody from something called Food Distributors International as its source for the bottom-line worry, the Times goes instead with the Small Business Administration, which the paper explains, is an independent government agency.

Moreover, the Times has the clearest statement of the dimension of the problem being addressed: 600,000 Americans injured this way on the job each year. (A puzzle arising from reading the stories together: Although the WP doesn’t give the injury total, it says the new regime would prevent 300,000 injuries. Can it really be true that fully half of these injuries are unpreventable?)

The LAT is alone in fronting the news that according to the FBI, serious crime continues to plummet–10 percent in the first half of 1999. The story makes the point that the falling crime rate helps police fight crime: lighter caseloads mean more cops on the street.

The NYT front reports that a class action lawsuit will be filed today on behalf of millions of Californians claiming that Microsoft used its monopoly on operating systems to overcharge for Windows 95 and Windows 98. The paper says that this sort of lawsuit could ultimately be more of a threat to the company than suits brought by competitors, potentially costing it millions, even billions.

George W. Bush gave a live interview on TV yesterday (on Meet the Press) and what is most important about what he said depends on which paper you read. The WP emphasizes his praise for what the paper calls the “Supreme Court’s two most consistently conservative and antiabortion jurists,” while refusing to say what he thought about Justice David H. Souter. The NYT starts off with Bush’s profession of opposition to most abortions but then immediately cites his remark that in his presidency an anti-abortion stance would not be the principal consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court. The Wall Street Journal leads instead with GWB’s statement of his commitment to an overhaul of the Social Security system. The Journal story doesn’t mention abortion.

The WP passes along the results of a New York Post online poll soliciting readers’ opinions about the most evil people of all time: Bill Clinton finished second (voters had to write him in), after Adolf Hitler but ahead of Stalin, Pol Pot, and Josef Mengele. Hillary Clinton, also a write-in, finished sixth.

Evidence of just how overpaid college coaches are at even “legitimate” programs can be garnered from this straight-faced item in the real estate section of Sunday’s LAT: “UCLA basketball coach Steve Lavin has purchased a newly built custom home in Marina del Rey for close to its $1.5 million asking price.”