Today's Papers

Full of Bull Market

The Washington Post leads with Congress’ approval of a $15.3 billion package of financial assistance for farmers, which the paper describes as the third bailout of agriculture in the past four years. USA Today goes with the wide regional gas prices differences awaiting Memorial Day weekend motorists. The story says the most expensive fill-up is in Chicago ($1.84 per gallon) and the cheapest is Atlanta ($1.38 per gallon). (A USAT front-page cover survey of manners in four cities finds that Jackson, Miss., comes out on top, while San Francisco is a distant fourth. A look back at the paper’s lead reveals that Jackson has some of the cheapest gas in the country and S.F. some of the most expensive. Coinkydink?) The Los Angeles Times reports that today President Clinton will issue an executive order–on a par with his recent moves creating more wilderness areas in America’s forests–creating vast reaches of ocean that will henceforth be free of all fishing, oil drilling, mining, and dumping. There are few details given on location, although mentioned by name are the reefs of the northwest Hawaiian Islands. Clinton will also, says the paper, order the Environmental Protection Agency to step up its fight against beach and ocean pollution. The late metro edition of the New York Times has a local lead (the governor’s veto of a bill requiring fire-safe cigarettes) and off-lead (a quintuple murder at a Queens Wendy’s); its top non-local news story is the Department of Justice’s approval of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of MediaOne. The DOJ has decided that the deal poses no monopoly provided that AT&T divests MediaOne’s stake in Road Runner, the cable modem outfit. Even after doing so, the phone company will, thanks to the deal, be the nation’s largest cable operator.

The WP lead waits until the 17th paragraph to inform that the ag grab bag includes $340 million in direct relief for tobacco farmers. Not only should this have run higher, but it should have been accompanied by a statement of how much money the government annually pours into smoking-related health issues.

The WP fronts a Texas federal judge’s ruling that the Department of Agriculture does not have the authority to shut down a meat processing plant for repeatedly failing to control salmonella bacteria. At issue, the paper explains, is the status of using the detection of salmonella as the measure of a plant’s unfitness, a standard the USDA adopted in 1996 in place of its traditional “sniff and poke” standard. The department views the decision as retrograde and intends to enforce the newer standard everywhere in the nation except for the federal court district where the ruling was made.

The papers go inside with situation reports from the Ethiopia-Eritrea fighting. The latest: Ethiopia appears to have repulsed Eritrean forces from a key border town. But Eritrea claims its forces left voluntarily as a peace gesture. There have been no other changes of force disposition along the war’s 600-mile front. The WP runs an editorial that serves as a good primer on the conflict (as does the NYT news piece) while also castigating the Clinton peace envoys for misplaced trust in the two countries’ principals. The editorial also mentions $1 billion in World Bank loans to the two combatants in the past two years that apparently went for weapons, but neither the editorial nor the paper’s news coverage mentions weapons by name. And the NYT story is likewise silent. That’s a mistake–the reader is entitled to know what U.S. companies are profiting by this misery.

The NYT passes along word that the AP says that its key source for its Pulitzer-Prize-winning story of an alleged U.S. massacre of Korean civilians in the early days of the Korean War now says he was not present. The admission came after the man was confronted by the AP with service records proving he was elsewhere in Korea on the day in question. (The deconstruction of the story was initiated by the military affairs Web site and by U.S. News & World Report.)

The WP reports inside that according to the surgeon general, while most Americans have healthier teeth than their grandparents, there’s a “silent epidemic” of oral diseases, from cavities to cancer, among the poor and minorities. For instance, says the paper, nearly half of all poor blacks and Hispanics have untreated tooth decay, as compared with about one-third in the general population. The LAT runs a story on this as well, but its headline utterly misses the race/class angle, saying only: “Oral Diseases are Rampant, Report Says.” The Post gets it right: “Dental Health High, Except Among Poor.” If public health officials are looking for a catchy way to refer to the problem, Today’s Papers has a suggestion: dental divide.

The papers go inside with the secretary of defense’s reprimand of the Pentagon’s top press officer, Kenneth Bacon, and an aide of his, for releasing to The New Yorker information from Linda Tripp’s confidential personnel files. And they also report that the CIA announced yesterday that six current and former high-ranking agency officials had been (non-monetarily) disciplined for their improper handling of the investigation into former director John Deutch’s home computer security breaches.

The Wall Street Journal “Politics and Policy” page reports that a draft of a soon-to-be-released federal government report on global warning says that rising sea levels and heavy rains will force coastal cities to spend billions to redesign subways, tunnels, dams, and sewage treatment systems. But, says the paper, some government experts think that picture is too gloomy, so they want the report punched up to reflect more optimism. So, it would include more facts like: When the northern half of the country is much warmer than now, farmers there may be able to plant more than one crop.

USAT reports that a new kind of strategy is picking up steam on Wall Street: astrological investing. A chief technical analyst at a big house is quoted claiming that all major stock market crashes have occurred a day or two before a new moon. Which is why he predicts a crash today (there’s a new moon June 2).

The WSJ “Washington Wire” reports that, concerned about how their guy is doing with women, Gore strategists convened a focus group of women to ask them how Gore would stack up against Bush as a date. The result: not a dream date but a better date than Bush, who, says the paper, was perceived as the “the type who would drive up in a flashy convertible, honk the horn instead of coming to the door, lean against his car chewing gum and spend all night talking about himself.” And what exactly was Gore supposed to do if he came out as a less good date? Sheeesh.