Today's Papers


The Washington Post and New York Times lead with OPEC’s decision to raise oil production over the next three months, although not as much as the U.S. was angling for, with the upshot that if stateside gas prices do moderate, it probably won’t be any time soon. OPEC also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page biz and finance news box. The Los Angeles Times fronts OPEC but goes instead with a story the NYT fronts and the Post stuffs: the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure means police cannot stop and frisk a pedestrian based only on an anonymous tip. USA Today fronts OPEC and stuffs the court, leading instead with a scientific study suggesting that airline pilots fly into thunderstorms more often than was thought, and more often than airline rules or FAA-sanctioned training say you should. And often at low altitudes, where aircraft are particularly vulnerable to the powerful forces of wind shear. The study suggests that planes running late are more likely to ill-advisedly penetrate bad weather as are planes following planes that have just done so.

The OPEC coverage says that 9 of the organization’s 11 members, led by Saudi Arabia, are going along with the output boost. Iran refused, complaining about what it calls American pressure tactics. And although Iraq does not participate in OPEC production quotas since its oil sales are separately regulated by the U.N. sanctions put in place after the Gulf War, it nonetheless backed Iran’s resistance.

The NYT refers to a “bitter test of wills” between Saudi Arabia and Iran, adding that Venezuela’s OPEC reps have also been particularly reluctant to appear to be doing the United States’ bidding. The papers note that although the OPEC production increase falls short of U.S. goals, the stated intention of non-OPEC members–such as Mexico, Norway, and Oman–to also increase production means that overall worldwide numbers will be in the ballpark the U.S. was looking for.

The LAT lead says that the court’s decision, which threw out gun-wielding charges against a black Miami juvenile found carrying a concealed handgun by police acting on an anonymous phone tip, was a “rare rebuff to police” by the court, which, it says, has often granted police considerable leeway in the conduct of searches. Both the ACLU and the NRA, says the paper, filed briefs supporting the juvenile.

The WP and NYT both off-lead the conclusion reached by outside investigators about why the Mars Polar Lander went MIA: A missing line of computer code meant it was going too fast when it hit the red planet’s surface. Both stories make it clear that the investigators concluded NASA’s recent credo of “faster, cheaper, better” was in fact “none of the above.”

The WP fronts a government report purporting to show that in the U.S., the total number of births and the birthrate were up in 1998 for the first time since 1990. The trend is being driven, says the paper, by an increase in births among women in their 20s. The overall teen-age birthrate continues to trend down, having dropped nearly 20 percent since 1991. Births to unmarried women rose slightly, to 33 percent of total births, with the following demographic breakdown: 22 percent of births to white women were outside of marriage, 42 percent for Hispanics, and 70 percent for blacks. Two questions: Why does the story wait until the 10th paragraph to give the out-of-wedlock numbers? And where are the abortion numbers?

When it comes to the Internet and taxes, Brother David Ignatius of the WP explains it all for you. Ignatius asks some good questions about the package of tax loopholes the special congressionally appointed commission addressing the topic is about to adopt. Why, for instance, should the Internet sales tax exemption extend to online retailers that have brick-and-mortar “affiliates”? And why should all things that can be sent electronically, like music, e-books, and software, be tax exempt? That is, why should CDs of guitar music be exempt when guitars aren’t? The answer, says Ignatius, is that the commission has so many Internet heavy hitters on it.

The WSJ fronts a rollicking good business mystery. With promises of billions of dollars in contracts for a top-secret NATO project, a man claiming to be an Air Force officer convinced some 90 companies to send him gratis tens of millions of dollars of equipment to his offices in Belgium. The project was so secret that the companies–such as EDS, Sony, 3Com, and Adobe–were not allowed to breathe a word about it to each other or to anybody else. And, this officer told them, the sample equipment they sent him would be tested to destruction, so they wouldn’t be seeing it again. The equipment mostly disappeared, although there is no evidence that it was sold. The man did too, although there was some pretty good evidence that he wasn’t really military. Despite his uniforms, he wore a ponytail, stuffed under his officer’s cap.

A letter writer to the NYT suggests a pretty good story idea to the paper: Check out domestic violence in the Hamptons. A good place to send a reporter might be, according to the letter, the local Mercedes-Benz dealer where abused spouses take their cars for service.

That was always my favorite, said Dr. Ruth. It was on Page 57 … The NYT runs the obit of 80-year-old Dr. Alex Comfort, the author of The Joy of Sex, which the paper describes as covering everything from G-strings to “love positions that might tax a circus contortionist.” The obit goes on to quote Dr. Ruth Westheimer as saying, “I stood on the shoulders of a giant.”


For more political news–Gore says his missing e-mail and staff calls to the IRS are red herrings pursued by the GOP, and a hacker plays a prank on Gore–go to Slate’s Politics page.