Today's Papers

Off the Wal-Mart

USA Today leads with Al Gore’s charge in an interview with the paper that as president Bill Bradley would endanger the economic expansion and risk “blundering into another recession” because he would take the entire projected surplus over the next 10 years and “just blow it” on health-care reform. The paper has a Bradley spokeswoman saying Gore’s charge makes it obvious he lacks confidence in his own agenda. The Washington Post also fronts campaign jousting by the two but goes instead with a momentous Labor Department decision: Companies that allow employees to work at home will be held responsible for federal health and safety violations that occur at the home work site. The stance, explains the Post, would mean that even if the employee just occasionally takes work home with him to attend to a sick child, employers are still required to make sure that he/she has ergonomically correct furniture and proper lighting and ventilation in the home office. The Los Angeles Times fronts the Post story, adding in details about California companies, but leads with the onset in West Virginia of the U.S.-moderated Israel-Syria talks, which is also the New York Times lead and which is fronted elsewhere. The same picture of President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara walking together grace all the fronts that carry photos.

Both Times report that the meetings hit a snag quickly when an anticipated face-to-face between Barak and Shara didn’t come off. Both also report that Clinton will not attend every session but will be available to return whenever circumstances warrant. So serious are the Israelis about breaking with their past tendencies to leak at such talks, say the papers, that they’ve promised to eschew cell phone calls.

The LAT and WP fronts and the others report inside that acting Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired Boris Yeltsin’s daughter from her senior Kremlin adviser’s post. The LAT and WP treat the move as only cosmetic, with the daughter and her tight little circle of Kremlin advisers known as the “Family” retaining the power over Putin widely thought to have brought him into his present circumstance. Indeed, the LAT and NYT s quote Mikhail Gorbachev from an interview in an Italian paper saying that Yeltsin did not want to resign but was pushed out by a trio of this inner circle including his daughter.

The USAT “Money” front reports an apparent consequence of not much bang for the TV advertising bucks spent by dot-coms over the Christmas holiday: Dot-com advertisers are starting to bail out of Super Bowl ad placements. Into the breach, says the paper, may step Microsoft, which has never advertised during the big game.

The WP runs a story inside about how Italy is thrilled that it came through Y2K unscathed even though it was probably one of the last developed countries to take the problem seriously. But the story doesn’t prove that doing nothing was the way to go; actually, it explains that Italy took quite a few precautions, but almost all at the very last minute. So further reporting on Italy’s Y2K experience is not likely to show that preparedness was a waste but rather perhaps that the optimal strategy included a healthy dose of procrastination.

An AP dispatch in the WP and the LAT’s lead editorial defending the Y2K preparedness effort both mention a great feel-good solution for anybody who went a touch too wacknoid with the tuna and Spam inventories: Give it to places that feed the poor. Today’s Papers doesn’t ask much from its readers, but is asking now: Please do this.

With the economy at full throttle, it would be easy to forget that not everybody has been able to make the trip. Thank goodness the Wall Street Journal helps remember the neediest. Today’s Journal front recounts the sad saga of a onetime $400,000-a-year NBC vice president, who risked it all–his five bedroom house in Greenwich, his kids’ private schools, his trips to London–to join an Internet startup. But he found himself under a more demanding boss than he was used to and got fired before he got a chance to exercise any stock options. To economize, he had to cancel his family’s annual vacation and his son’s guitar lessons. He’s now working for an internet outfit for $175,000 a year plus stock options.

The LAT business front reports that when Wal-Mart re-launched its Web site over the weekend, it found it had inadvertently featured something new–sex books. As a result of downloading a database of titles from a third-party supplier, America’s biggest retailer was suddenly able to offer The Best of Gay Adult Videos (got ‘em) and the Couple’s Guide to the Best Erotic Videos (need ‘em).