Today's Papers

Puffy Job

The Los Angeles Times leads with what it calls the candidates’ “sharp attacks” in New Hampshire, and everybody else fronts some aspect of the primary. The Washington Post goes with a stunning exclusive: There have been 691 “adverse events” in gene-therapy experiments nationwide, 652 of which were never reported to the National Institutes of Health as required by federal law. The paper says the finding means that the death last fall of an 18-year old in a University of Pennsylvania trial procedure may not have been gene therapy’s first. The New York Times leads with a state-of-play report on the status of school vouchers. While only five voucher programs are operating now, the paper says some 25 state legislatures are considering bills creating them. USA Today leads with an academic performance ranking of the nation’s big city governments. Phoenix and Austin are tops, while New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., are rated much improved. Of the 35 biggest cities, only Buffalo and New Orleans got poor grades. The papers are thrilled by the Super Bowl, all fronting a picture from the game. The NYT’s shot is the best: a graphic so-close-and-yet-so-far portrayal of Titan Kevin Dyson being tackled on the game’s last play a yard short of what would have been a touchdown setting up a tying PAT.

The LAT summarizes the latest turn of the primary wheel thus: John McCain and George W. Bush are sparring over whose previous job experience provides better preparation for the Oval Office; Bill Bradley cited the 1996 fund-raising scandal as evidence that Al Gore is “in bed with special interests”; the issue of Bradley’s irregular heartbeat episodes persists. The main political impact of this medical news so far has been whether or not Bradley as president would turn over his powers temporarily to his vice president during any recurrence of the anesthetizing procedure he’s now admitted had been used on him thrice previously to correct this problem. Today’s Papers wonders why the situation doesn’t make the press worry about Bradley’s candor, since he knew about this aspect of his health all along.

The Post says that even when scientists do tell the NIH about problems with their gene treatments, they invariably conclude that any deaths probably resulted from underlying illnesses, conclusions difficult to challenge because the experiments recruit seriously ill people and because their families frequently decline autopsies. The story wonders why so few gene-therapy researchers have been keeping the NIH informed, noting that the requirement to report all problems fully and immediately is stated plainly on every letter from the agency to researchers permitting them to begin their experiments.

The NYT depicts the voucher debate as mostly a conflict between parents anxious about questionable public school safety and academics, and teachers’ unions worried about losing money that now goes to teachers’ salaries, instructional materials, and public school construction. The paper also observes that ultimately this issue may decided by the Supreme Court, which may well get an Ohio case about whether not taxpayer-financed vouchers used for religious schools violate the separation of church and state.

Only the LAT fronts the crash of a Kenya Airways plane with the feared loss of 170 lives. One big reason for this is that the plane went down in the Ivory Coast, where the papers don’t have many assets. Indeed, the LAT story is wire copy.

The WP fronts the likely announcement Monday by the governor of Illinois of his decision to impose a moratorium on executions in his state until an inquiry can be conducted that ensures the system is working to only execute the clearly guilty. The governor, reports the Post, is disturbed by this fact: Since the reinstatement of capital punishment 23 years ago, 13 Illinois death row inmates have been cleared of murder charges, compared to 12 who’ve been executed. If the moratorium is for real, Illinois becomes the first state to halt all executions for such a general review.

A front-page Wall Street Journal piece about the greatly underreported spiritual lives of rap stars, which starts off talking about the special relationship between Sean “Puffy” Combs and his minister, reads like special pleading for Combs. Especially given its occurrence on the heels of Combs’ recent arrest on gun charges–and by the way, the article can’t bring itself to use the a-word.

A letter to the WP disputes a recent claim in the paper that old PCs can be tossed in the regular trash, on the grounds that the machines contain such hazardous materials as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Suggestion for the papers: How about story reviewing the science and law of computer disposal?

Back to the issues of the N.H. primary for a beat: Regarding the GOP front-runner’s prior executive experience, has Today’s Papers missed the definitive newspaper article on George W.’s track record as a baseball executive, or were the political desks and the sports desks each waiting for the other to do it?