Today's Papers

Taking Hikes

The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and USA Today all lead with the Fed’s half-percent hike in the prime interest rate. The story also tops the Wall Street Journal’s financial news box. The only other story that makes more than one front is the anticipation of an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency that it will seek tighter emission controls on diesel-burning trucks and buses.

As the rate increase was widely anticipated, the stock market reaction was moderate, with both the Dow and the Nasdaq posting gains. Coverage of the rate increase is pretty consistent across the papers: The hike was the largest one-time increase in five years, and it puts the prime rate at a nine-year high and mortgage rates at a five-year high. Though the general reaction to the bump was cautiously positive, nearly everyone prints a dissenting sound bite from economist Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, who called the raise “unnecessary shock treatment.” Another hike of at least a quarter-point is expected when the Fed meets again in June, and some analysts suggest in the NYT that the Fed wants to get as much tightening as possible out of the way before the presidential election gets into full swing.

The NYT and USAT front news of today’s anticipated EPA crackdown on diesel-burning trucks and buses. The organization is expected to call for a 97 percent reduction in sulfur emitted by diesel engines over the next 10 years. The rules are only a draft, and the diesel industry, claiming that the changes will cause price hikes and possibly shortages, is expected to push for a 90 percent reduction. The NYT notes that the rules would be carried out under the auspices of the Clean Air Act and thus would not require congressional approval.

The NYT analyzes the aftermath of yesterday’s violence in Israel’s West Bank. The article says that the quick diffusion of the skirmishes, as well as signs that both sides are eager to continue negotiations, are a windfall for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s beleaguered efforts to jump-start the peace process. The events bode less well for Yasser Arafat, who both Israelis and Palestinians think “allowed or initiated the protests,” but could not keep them from spiraling out of hand.

The NYT also reports the latest from the New York Senate race: Hillary Clinton was officially named the Democratic nominee yesterday in Albany. After “a last-minute change of plans,” her husband attended the ceremony. The article emphasizes that Mayor Giuliani was expected to make an announcement regarding his own candidacy to steal Clinton’s spotlight, but no such announcement transpired.

The WP fronts, and the NYT and USAT stuff, the retirement of UPI’s famed White House correspondent, Helen Thomas. Her resignation coincides with the acquisition of UPI by a company controlled by the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The NYT quotes a departing UPI editor, who is quitting because he “cannot work for the new owners.” This editor and the WP (which does not quote him) intimate that the ownership change also caused Thomas’ departure, although her own statement made no mention of this. It’s certainly possible that Thomas is fleeing the Unification Church, but without better evidence of a causal connection, it just looks like Moonie-bashing. The WP notes that: 1) a source who worked for the Unification Church-owned Washington Times had no complaints about editorial control; 2) Thomas is 79 years old; and 3) the UPI’s size and prestige have been steadily diminished by competition from AP and Reuters. Given all this, doesn’t it seems more likely that Thomas has simply seized on the transition as a convenient time to bow out?

The WP also fronts a story on Microsoft’s lobbying efforts. It seems the software giant has been giving large sums of money to groups that promote a Microsoft-friendly agenda without explicitly acknowledging the company’s involvement. However, as the article indicates, this is standard lobbying procedure, long practiced by companies, including Microsoft’s competitors. So why is business as usual front-page news? Today’s Papers has a sneaking suspicion that the Moonies are to blame. Just when you thought comparisons between cyberspace and the Wild West couldn’t be stretched any further, the NYT comes up with another analogue: cyberposses. Public investigators are occasionally working with amateur cybersleuths, sometimes even deputizing them to help track down virus creators and child pornographers. The problem, of course, is that these practices could lead to an increase in cybervigilantes: for example, child-porn foes who illegally hack into and crash porn sites. Or, just maybe, antitrust fanatics who hack into Microsoft-owned e-zines and

… Transfer Interrupted! …