The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with the Labor Department’s release yesterday of the latest productivity numbers, which show that American workers are operating at efficiency levels not seen in years, and which augur, say the papers, continued economic growth without much inflation. USA Today puts productivity on its “Money” section front. The Washington Post fronts it, but leads instead with the Delaware Republican primary results. The main news there, says the Post, is that George W. Bush got a much-needed win, John McCain’s strong second despite never campaigning in the state is further evidence of his momentum, and Steve Forbes’ third-place finish (despite what the story bafflingly calls “an exhaustive bus tour of the tiny state”) might finally convince him to drop out. The NYT fronts the primary while the LAT puts it on Page 14. USAT puts it on Page 12 and goes instead with yesterday’s service-stopping hack-attacks on eBay, Amazon.com, Buy.com and CNN.com, a story the two Times front. The disruption profile was apparently the same as that seen Monday when Yahoo got the treatment: immense streams of data, such as requests for a Web page, overwhelming the sites.
In reporting the productivity numbers, the papers flash their own economic mindsets. High up, they quote experts saying, for example, this is “the best of all worlds,” but all wait until late in the game to report that the Labor analysis also shows that worker pay is not keeping pace with the other surging parameters. The LAT, for instance, waits until the 16th paragraph to broach this.
The stories suggest that the most likely cause of the productivity uptick is the advent of computers and the Internet, but it seems plausible that another trend of the ‘90s has also been playing a part, even though none of the papers mentions it: increasingly using stock options as an ingredient in employee compensation. Workers are motivated to work harder because of these and yet unlike salary raises, they mitigate the increase in labor costs per widget because typically the worker doesn’t exercise them unless the widget rate is up.
The LAT front-pager about Alaska Airlines Flight 261 and the Wall Street Journal reefered story about the flight report that the pilots of the plane went off autopilot early on, an unusual choice that suggests they realized they had a stabilizer problem for a lot longer than was initially thought. But since they waited so long to request an emergency landing, the LAT story surmises that the crew thought the problem wasn’t very serious.
The NYT reports on a race against time that’s developing in criminal investigations nationwide. Just as states are rapidly expanding their computer DNA databases, which allow them to close long-cold rape cases, they are running up against the statute of limitations on the crime, typically five years. (The paper should have explained that this is not a problem for murder, for which there is no statute of limitations.) In light of the problem, says the NYT, New York City’s police commissioner has started chatting up the idea of dropping the statute of limitations for rape.
The papers go inside with the latest from that hijacked Afghan plane sitting on the tarmac at an airport near London: Unnoticed by the skyjackers, four men escaped from the plane by climbing out of the cockpit using an emergency rope ladder. The NYT cites an Agence France Press report saying that all four were members of the plane’s crew.
The WP reports that today’s JAMA includes the finding that leading medical textbooks do not provide enough information about how to care for dying patients. Worst offenders: textbooks covering surgery, AIDS, and oncology.
In discussing Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, the WP’s David Broder makes a pretty persuasive observation about carpetbagging: More than one-third of the current crop of senators were born outside the state they represent. Today’s Papers would add that if running for Senate in a state you’re not from originally is a sin, the condemned would also include John McCain and Bill Bradley.