Today's Papers

Really High Concept

USA Today

leads with its latest South Carolina polling, which holds that George W. Bush leads John McCain 52 percent to 40 percent, a 5 percent wider spread than the paper found last weekend. Bush tells the paper in an interview, “I am not going to lose.” The primary is the top national story at the Washington Post, which says polls show it to be a virtual dead heat. The Post focuses on Bush’s latest strategy: depicting McCain as a negative campaigner. Even though, the paper notes, McCain has stopped doing negative ads and Bush has not, the tack is apparently working. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Los Angeles mayor’s proposal to use the city’s share of the tobacco settlement to pay the likely cost of lawsuits filed as a result of the mushrooming LAPD scandal. The headline over the New York Times lead reads “GREENSPAN WARNS OF ANOTHER RISE IN INTEREST RATES.” In newsrooms across the country, that’s the F3 key. But the story does reveal something new in Greenspan’s congressional testimony yesterday: his pronouncement that the right pace of growth for the economy would be where household wealth grows no faster than household income. Last year, the Times explains, it grew twice as fast. The WP runs Greenspan bottom-front and the Wall Street Journal puts it atop its front-page financial news index.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down yesterday 46.84 while the Nasdaq was up 121.27. The WP says that because the market had already assumed imminent Fed tightening of the money supply these moves mean Greenspan’s remarks had only a small impact on the financial markets. The NYT says the DJIA down-move was blue-chip investors seeming to heed Greenspan, while the Nasdaq up-move was investors in technology stocks thumbing their noses at him. Well, both papers can’t be right, and doesn’t the equal facileness of their explanations convince you that they’re both wrong? And the Times “explanation” is particularly murky–it assumes that for the most part technology stock investors are not also blue-chip investors. Is that so? What about people who own (to pick a random example) Microsoft?

The WP front says that Chechen civilians detained by Russian troops during their offensive thrust to Grozny claim to have been routinely beaten and tortured by their captors. The story, based on separate interviews of former prisoners and not independently verified, also includes Chechen claims of rape and murder. The Russian government denies the allegations.

The NYT runs an AP story about the Education Department’s assessment of kindergartners. The bottom line is that most children at the start of their school careers can count to 10, pick out shapes and recite the alphabet, are socially well-adjusted and in good health, but these features drop off measurably for children in poverty, from single-parent homes, or non-English speaking families. The paper also runs an “Editorial Observer” that claims a similar differential occurs with respect to economic upward mobility: In a major academic longitudinal study, about 60 percent of the poorest 20 percent of children were still in the bottom income group 10 years later, while almost 90 percent remained in the bottom two income groups.

USAT fronts the Nielsen/Net ratings’ first comparison of office vs. home online activity. Major finding: People spend more than twice as much time online at work. And some of that office surfing is definitely not work-related. The stickiest 9-to-5 site according to Nielsen, is eBay–workers who go there spend, on average, nearly three hours total. Given that America’s productivity is zooming, the moral seems obvious, although USAT doesn’t draw it: It’s not bad for workers to be able to do recreational Web surfing at their desks; in fact, it’s probably good.

An AP dispatch in the NYT explains that Russian space officials have announced a surprising way to try to keep their aging Mir space station viable–they’re intending to rent it out as a movie prop. The project involves a Russian-British production company. The producer’s previous credits include The Terminator, The Last Emperor, and Platoon. A Russian actor will be included in the next crew sent up to Mir, to film some scenes aboard it. The plot: A renegade cosmonaut refuses to leave the craft and ground control sends up a woman to lure him back. And, hey, if Mir finally kabooms during any of this, you’ve got the greatest disaster movie of all time.

A NYT business section story reports that the paper has nominated two people to run for its board. One of them, Jacqueline H. Dryfoos, is described high up as a New York City psychotherapist. Subsequent paragraphs state her previous work history: psychiatric social worker, social studies teacher, and counselor. She is also, the story informs, on the Council on the Environment of New York City and the literary journal Kenyon Review. What’s more, she earned a bachelor of arts degree from Barnard College, and a master’s of arts and a master’s of science from Columbia. But two key credentials have to wait until the 10th paragraph: Her father was once the publisher of the NYT, and she is a cousin of the chairman of the Times Co. and also of the vice chairman.