Today's Papers

Mooed Point

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the government’s release of some key first-quarter numbers showing strong economic growth and a bigger than expected increase in labor costs. The New York Times puts the economic news below the fold and goes instead with Rudy Giuliani’s announcement that he has prostate cancer in an early treatable form, a story that makes everybody’s front. The papers report that Giuliani would not make any definite decision now about whether or not he will nonetheless run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton. USA Today leads with a story nobody else fronts–the FDA’s contemplation of moving many prescription drugs to over-the-counter status, perhaps even when the manufacturer objects. The focus would be on relatively safe drugs for chronic conditions–examples the paper cites include birth control pills and blood pressure medications.

Both the WP and LAT stress the concern that the labor cost increase is a leading indicator of inflation to come, and that, as a result, the Federal Reserve might well drop its incremental quarter-point interest rate raises in favor of a somewhat more draconian strategy. The Post adds the worry that the U.S. trade deficit continues to drag down the country’s economic growth. But still, the Post reminds, the latest numbers show a lot of strength too, such as the third straight quarter of 5 percent-plus GDP growth.

All the fronts save USAT’s go high with word from France of gene therapy’s first documented success–allowing the defeat of immunity disorders in several infants that ordinarily would require them to live in germ-free bubbles. The USAT front opts for a different genetic research story, carried inside elsewhere and coming out in Science today: Researchers at an American biotech company have cloned some cows whose cells appear to age at half the normal rate. It’s not known if this means the cows will themselves age more slowly, but perhaps. In any case this result shows that, despite worries raised by earlier cloning, the process doesn’t inherently produce “old” cells.

The WP fronts what the papers have been bandying about all week: that the Department of Justice will go into court today asking that Microsoft be split into two competing companies–one that runs Windows and one that does everything else. The two, says the story, couldn’t recombine for at least 10 years. Other alleged details: Microsoft will have to draw up the implementation plan for the split, and will decide which of the new entities gets the Microsoft name. Also, Bill Gates and other company officials will only get stock in one of the companies whereas ordinary shareholders would get stock in both. The Post also reports that the court has already received an unsolicited brief from a group of noted economists, which includes the argument that a two-way split such as the government will allegedly propose could actually raise prices. Virtually all of the 19 states in the Microsoft antitrust case are expected, says the Post, to sign on to the DOJ proposal.

Because the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon approaches, there’s much ink on Vietnam. A NYT front effort wall-flys a West Point class on the war. A USAT front-pager traces the return of a staffer to her birthplace in-country. The Wall Street Journal op-ed page runs a long essay, “History Proves Vietnam Victors Wrong,” by James Webb that contentiously tries to root out what Webb sees as liberal shibboleths about the war. For instance, in Webb’s view, the Tet Offensive was actually a huge military defeat for the Communists, Vietnamization was working when the U.S. pulled out of the ground war, and Vietnam fell not because of an inept not to mention corrupt South Vietnamese military but because the Watergate Congress stinted on funds. The story is epigrammed by several wickedly unfortunate Vietnam-era quotes about the war from liberals. There are, miraculously, no idiotic quotes from conservatives. What Webb uses to win this argument–a zealous selectivity about evidence and history–is precisely what America used to lose this war.

Tonight’s Episode: Two Of Our Servers Are Down. The WP TV section reports that ABC is planning a “reality” series about a Webzine start-up. A real dot-com magazine staff is going to be hired and then a camera crew will film their activities 24 hours a day for six months.