Today's Papers

Shattering Glass-Steagall, Redux

The Washington Post   and USA Today   lead with a joint anti-urban-poverty initiative between President Clinton and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to be announced today. The plan will dovetail White House ideas, such as tax credits for banks that lend to poor neighborhoods, and House GOP ideas, such as the elimination of capital gains taxes on property sales in these “renewal communities.” The New York Times   runs this story inside, and says the plan is vague and will yield little until Clinton is out of office. The Los Angeles Times leads with the life-without-parole sentence given to Aaron McKinney, who on Wednesday was convicted of the (second-degree) murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. The NYT reefers this story with an above-the-fold photograph (the same used by the LAT) of Shepard’s mother, who argued against the death penalty. The NYT leads with congressional approval of a landmark bank-overhaul by 362-57 in the House and 90-8 in the Senate.

President Clinton is expected to sign the financial-services legislation, which reverses the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act by allowing commercial banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to expand into each other’s territory, creating one-stop financial shopping for consumers. (See the Oct. 23 TP, “Shattering Glass-Steagall.”) The Post’s story focuses almost entirely on what it sees as the lenient consumer-privacy provisions in the bill. The Wall Street Journal   notes that, at the last minute, a sentence was inserted in the legislation exempting the second-biggest credit-card issuer, GE Capital, from even these privacy provisions. On the Post opinion page, Ralph Nader predicts that the deregulation will cause another savings-and-loan-type debacle.

The NYT off-leads  Pfizer’s hostile takeover bid of $82.4 billion for Warner-Lambert, which had just announced a friendly $72 billion merger with American Home Products. The Post’s story, run inside, does the best job of contextualizing: The pharmaceutical industry is fragmented, with inefficiencies in research and few new products; it also fears that that Medicare may start to cover prescription drugs, which could lower prices. The Journal’s online edition reports that early this morning the board of Warner-Lambert–which already makes the anti-cholesterol drug Lipton in partnership with Pfizer–opposed the Pfizer bid. The NYT seems to think that Warner-Lambert will attempt to fend off Pfizer in the courts, but the Journal notes that Warner-Lambert’s anti-takeover defenses are weak: Shareholders, through a spontaneous mail-in election, can dismiss the entire board at any time. The Journal waits until the 31st paragraph to mention that Pfizer’s chairman sits on the board of the paper’s parent company, Dow Jones.

The Post fronts George W. Bush’s poor performance in a foreign-policy pop quiz. Asked by WHDH-TV in Boston to name the leaders of Chechnya, Pakistan, India, and Taiwan, Bush could name only Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui.

On the LAT opinion page, Selig Harrison, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, argues that the U.S. should formally end the Korean War as part of a missile-limitation treaty with the North. (The South signed an armistice in 1953 but pledged to reunite Korea in the future–and so did not sign a peace treaty.) In 1998 Pyongyang offered to let the U.S. monitor its long-range missiles as long as the U.S. takes a neutral role in the peninsula–that is, guarantees peace regardless of whether it is the South or the North that invades the other. A report released by a House Republican advisory group Wednesday made no mention of North Korea’s 1998 offer. 

The Post reports that NYT columnist Abe Rosenthal, a 50-year Times veteran, got fired yesterday. In his last column, Rosenthal touches on his days as the Times’ strong-fisted executive editor in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “When you finish a story, I would say, read it, substitute your name for the subject’s,” Rosenthal relates. “If you say, Well, it would make me miserable, make my wife cry, but it has no innuendo, no unattributed pejorative remarks, no slap in the face for joy of slapping, it is news, not gutter gossip, and as a reporter I know the writer was fair, then give it to the copy desk.” The Post notes that Rosenthal was the last of the old Times bulls, who included Russell Baker and James Reston.

Naomi Wolf tells the NYT that the rumors circulating about her Gore advising are not true. She never advised him about clothes, she says, and she mentioned “alpha” and “beta” only in passing, in one memo. As for her exorbitant fee, she says, “I have written a whole book about how women should not have to apologize for making the same fees men make. Also, I’m a reasonably successful writer, and I had to close down my whole shop” to write memos for Gore. She concedes that it was Gore who wanted the payments concealed. In the Post’s “Style” section, Ann Gerhart explores the Beltway’s fascination with theWolf story. Why, Gerhart asks, has no one risen to her defense? “Is it because she’s radical? Is it because she’s ambitious? Is it because she’s not a card-carrying member of the political consultancy consortium of America? Because of the money? Because she’s a girl? Because she’s a girl who writes about sex all the time?”

The Journal reports that an American staple is making a comeback: ketchup. Under a new CEO–a Midwesterner and former football coach–Heinz has transformed its marketing, and last year ketchup sales bested those of salsa, which had been first for three years running. Where it used to pitch its tomato paste to moms, Heinz now pitches it to kids. It is airing existential TV commercials, with teens philosophizing about the “moodiness” of ketchup that refuses to leave the bottle; forthcoming ads will teach the under-12 set that ketchup can be “fun” (a campaign sure to draw the appreciation of moms and day-care workers everywhere). Nationwide food fights among infants: Lets see Ricky Martin and the Taco Bell Chihuahua top that.