Today's Papers


USA Today

and the New York Times lead with a surprisingly large revised Congressional Budget Office 10-year estimate of the federal budget surplus, now thought to be as much as a boom-driven $1.9 trillion, nearly, notes the Times, twice last year’s CBO estimate. The Washington Post gives its whole above-the-fold space to D.C.’s snowstorm, pushing the surplus down below the fold. The Los Angeles Times’ top non-local story is the research bombshell that the standard long-term estrogen/progestin replacement therapy for menopause substantially increases the risk of breast cancer, a story also fronted by the WP. The Wall Street Journal front-page news box is topped by the new surplus estimate, which the LAT stuffs to Page 12.

The coverage states that President Clinton and the leading presidential candidates quickly weighed in on how they would variously divvy up the surplus among tax cuts, spending, debt reduction, and Social Security and Medicare reinforcement. But the front pages contain a built-in reminder not to spend the money just yet: The surplus stories are juxtaposed with reporting about how the East Coast’s blizzard was such a surprise. The WP notes that Monday, the National Weather Service used a new IBM supercomputer and enhanced software to predict a “total accumulation less than one inch.”

Both the WP and LAT make it clear that the new hormone study was quite extensive–conducted over 15 years and covering some 46,000 women. But the WP says high up that it impacts 8.6 million post-menopausal women, whereas the LAT doesn’t mention menopause until the eighth paragraph and never mentions the number of women at risk. Both stories mention that progestin also reduces the risk of uterine cancer, which prompts a suggestion: It would be helpful if the papers would get in the habit of accompanying stories about the particular potential cancer risk of a given substance with a graphic summarizing all its known cancer plusses and minuses.

The papers go inside with the latest in the Elián González saga: After the Immigration and Naturalization Service threatened the boy’s Miami relatives with revocation of his permission to temporarily reside in the U.S., they relented and agreed to allow his visiting grandmothers to see him today. But the feds also made it clear to the g-moms that they will not be allowed to take Elián back to Cuba at this time.

The NYT runs a Reuters dispatch saying that China is implementing new vetting procedures designed to prevent Chinese Web sites from containing state secrets–which in China, the paper explains, means virtually any information not specifically approved for publication. The WSJ follows up its report yesterday that Chinese authorities would require companies doing business in-country to reveal their encryption software. Today’s development is that the country’s spy agency will help ensure compliance. Western countries, the paper explains, are worried that providing this information will lead to rampant Chinese knockoffs. Although technology companies aren’t saying much officially about this, the Journal says some will, rather than surrender source code, simply halt exports to China.

The WP reports that all the presidential candidates submit to interviews about their pre-political lives in a one-hour MTV special airing tonight, Where Were You at 22? All, that is, except George W. Bush, who instead dispatches a cousin and friend to sing his praises. The result, says the paper, is that “Bush is the only candidate who comes across like he’s got a closet bursting with frat house skeletons.”

The WSJ reports that former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who had been pressured by Whitewater prosecutors into cooperating with their investigation as part of a guilty plea deal, was hired last year by an Indonesian cable TV company controlled by Clinton friend James Riady. This is significant, the paper explains, because Riady was previously suspected of paying large consulting fees to Webster Hubbell to buy Hubbell’s silence on various Whitewater topics.

The WP runs an editorial and a letter today bearing on the controversy sparked when a D.C. taxi commissioner said that cabdrivers should for their own safety refuse to pick up “dangerous-looking” young black male passengers and avoid taking fares to “dangerous neighborhoods.” Both the editorial and the letter (from the head of the city cab commission) state that failing to serve potential clients because of their race and redlining of neighborhoods are both banned by the city’s cab rules. As they should be. But there’s a complication here that both the editorial and the letter overlook, but that cab drivers cannot: Although the local rules say a cab driver cannot ignore a fare on the basis of “personal appearance,” this obviously can’t mean that drivers must see threatening behavior before refusing to pick someone up. Imagine for instance that you are a cab driver and around the corner from the county jail you are peacefully flagged down by a young man in a bright orange jumpsuit stamped “Property of County Jail.” You’d be nuts to pick him up and no law could possibly make it otherwise, even though he only looks like trouble.

A doctor writes a letter to the NYT that poses a good question: Although Bill Bradley and his doctor have discounted his recent heart episodes, would a doctor examining him to determine eligibility for a $1 million health and disability policy agree? Perhaps the dailies ought to pose this question to some insurance company docs.