Today's Papers

The Pop and Momintern

USA Today leads with President Clinton’s signing yesterday of an executive order banning discrimination against parents in the federal workplace, which came at a White House conference on raising teen-agers that also recommended regular family meals together, chores for kids, and flextime for parents of teen-agers as well as for new parents. The Los Angeles Times leads with Time Warner’s decision yesterday to relent and give its cable subscribers access once again to ABC programming–at least until July 15. Yet, notes the LAT, Disney refused to drop the issues of market control that it had raised at the outset of the flap. Indeed, yesterday for the first time Disney called for the government to block TW’s proposed sale to AOL, and a top Disney executive referred to TW’s “monopoly pipeline.” The New York Times goes with a Republican Party commission’s recommendations that presidential primary voting start with small states only and then progressively proceed to larger and larger ones so that the races aren’t decided until the biggest states vote in early June. The plan would also combat early pre-emptive outcomes by banning winner-take-all primaries. The Washington Post leads with a number of new regulations governing genetically modified food, which will result in more research as well as more disclosure to the government and consumers about such foods as corn that makes its own insecticide and salmon with fast-growth genes. The story quote one senior Clinton administration official’s context for the new rules: that while bioengineered food is as safe as its non-engineered counterparts, the public could use some reassurance on this point. With the exception of Time Warner/ABC, which is fronted by the NYT and the WP, everybody’s lead is absent from everybody else’s front.

The WP and NYT inside stories on President Clinton’s executive order basically just mention it without elaboration. But even the USAT lead leaves a crucial question unexplored: Is it discrimination against a working parent who goes home promptly at 5 and never works weekends if a company allocates its biggest rewards of money and power to those whose accomplishments come from effort expended after-hours and on weekends? Also, the coverage notes that a similar Clinton-supported ban on parental discrimination in private sector workplaces has been bottled up in Congress, which raises another question the papers don’t answer but should: What are the limits of executive orders?

The WP front reports federal officials’ charge that although one of a Tufts University scientist’s research subjects died of a heart attack after having a gene infusion in her heart and another who shouldn’t have been in the study because of a pre-existing cancer having a lung tumor rapidly double in size, the scientist did not reveal anything to supervisors. Months later, he reported the complications but not the death. The story scatters time references around in a way that makes it hard to recognize that the Tufts death took place before the death last fall of a teen-ager participating in a University of Pennsylvania gene therapy experiment.

The NYT and the Wall Street Journal report that the publisher of the Hearst paper the San Francisco Examiner was removed yesterday after he admitted that he’d offered San Francisco’s mayor favorable editorials in return for his support of Hearst’s purchase of its competition, the San Francisco Chronicle. This had been previously denied in Hearst press releases and by the Examiner’s executive editor, Phil Bronstein (the NYT doesn’t mention who he’s married to, but the Journal identifies him as “Mr. Sharon Stone”). The Journal makes the point that if true, the episode takes a chunk out of the theory that editorials don’t matter to anybody.

Unfortunately, some of the biggest helpers of that theory are writers of … editorials. Witness today’s lead LAT editorial on Time Warner/ABC. Under the hortatory headline, “CLEAR THE CABLE STATIC,” the effort stresses that the interest that must be served in the controversy is not that of TW or of ABC, but of the public, and yet never says in two full columns anything about what that interest is nor how it should be served.

The WP runs an op-ed on the current vogue for limited missile defense, asking, among other things, how would such a system meet an attack of aluminum-coated balloons only some of which contain nuclear warheads. If there are more balloons than system interceptors, then at least one nuke gets through. (To make the example seem more tactical, make that aluminum-coated multiple warheads coming Hydra-like from an opening missile nose cone.) And a letter to the NYT notes that American negotiators have been trying to persuade the Russians on the advisability of the U.S. adopting a missile defense system by pointing out to them that the U.S. system couldn’t handle an “annihilating counterattack” (see WP example above), which is possible as long as Russia keeps its strategic arsenal on constant alert. In other words, marvels the letter writer, the U.S. system works if the Russians increase their number of warheads trained on the United States!

The WP’s Howard Kurtz does a long takeout on new media’s next new, new thing, Powerful Media, which hopes to be a journaltainment Web site media players will have to have. Kurtz one-hands and on-the-other-hands in the usual way, but one thing he doesn’t do is give the Web address. (Even if the site isn’t up yet, doesn’t anybody know where it will be?) This is like reviewing a play but not saying where the theater is.

The WP reports that yesterday, 10 black current and former Secret Service agents filed a federal class-action lawsuit alleging the service’s systematic racial discrimination in hiring and promotion. Surely this rates higher placement than Page 21!

The NYT’s Maureen Dowd runs a clever riff showing a stunning isomorphism between Bill Gates and Bill Clinton. Her sharpest parallel: “When you look at the alternatives, these guys start to look pretty good.”

Today’s Papers confesses to a frisson upon first seeing that the Michael Kelly column in the WP was headlined “Some Closing Thoughts.” But TP was quickly brought down by: a) the realization that this is not Kelly’s last column, but only one about his closing on his new house; and b) that this is yet another column in which a boomer stuns us with domestic insights like buying a house is expensive. Now we know why Kelly has zero feeling for Bill Clinton. He’s spent it all on himself.


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