Today's Papers

Why Not the Most?

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with the House’s decisive passage yesterday of the bill that would, should the Senate concur, grant permanent normal trading status to China. Which means that, instead of the annual review China trade policy has been getting (and passing) since 1979, China would henceforth have the same standing low-tariff access to U.S. markets that’s extended to all but a handful of nations (such as Afghanistan, North Korea, and Cuba). The vote is also the top item in the Wall Street Journal front-page business news index. USA Today plays the vote at the bottom-front and leads instead with the Microsoft antitrust trial judge’s remarks in court indicating that he intends to order the breakup of the company and that he won’t wait very long to do it either. Everybody else fronts the Microsoft case development.

The papers all agree that the vote is a policy triumph for President Clinton, a huge market-opening win for U.S. business, and a big setback for organized labor, some of whose leaders have suggested they might not endorse Al Gore as a result. The NYT says that the head of the AFL-CIO, John J. Sweeney, was so miffed that he twice declined President Clinton’s personal invitation to a Democratic fund-raiser. The NYT captures the politics of the bill with its observation that three out of four House Republicans voted in favor while two out of three Democrats voted against. The WP lead doesn’t mention Gore, or George W. Bush for that matter, but elsewhere it’s noted that Bush gave the bill high praise and Gore supported it although he said more needed to be done to guarantee American workers’ rights. (USAT doesn’t mention the Gore caveat.) Everybody says that passage in the Senate is virtually assured, but the WP waits until the 10th paragraph to say it.

The WP tells of more than 40 corporate lobbyists huddled in a room in the Capitol basement, munching on sugar cookies as they watched the vote on television. The NYT says the $10 million spent on ads by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable made it the organizations’ largest-ever campaign for a single issue.

USAT notes that the Microsoft trial judge seemed rather snappish in denying the company’s request for a six-month-plus delay while it amassed evidence for its side. And it paints a picture of a man who might well order a division of Microsoft that goes even further than the in-twain pain the government is asking for, an observation everybody else makes too, the papers all noting his interest in court yesterday in the idea of breaking off Microsoft’s browser business as a third separate entity, in addition to companies respectively concerned with Windows and applications.

The WP fronts the decision by a Maryland prosecutor to drop his wiretapping case against Linda Tripp, claiming that the trial judge’s ruling blocking most of the testimony he’d anticipated getting from Monica Lewinsky had gutted his case. The Post puts the story below the fold, and everybody else puts it inside. When the world first heard of Linda Tripp, the stories about her got considerably more play than that. Shouldn’t there be a kind of parity of placement principle at work here? A similar point could be made about the Post’s story reporting that the University of Pennsylvania’s gene-therapy institute, responding to concerns raised about the death there last year of a teen-age boy, has decided it will no longer experiment on people. The death led the paper, but this consequence of it runs below the fold.

Lebanon/Israel is still on the WP and NYT fronts, but Eritrea/Ethiopia–where a cease-fire is apparently in the offing–is still buried deep–Page 32 in the Post.

The papers report that charitable giving in the U.S. rose last year to a record high $190 billion. The papers discuss a few different baselines to use to assess this amount, like GNP and money spent on personal consumption, but what about relative to after-tax income? It would be interesting to learn if this record number was the result of anything close to tithing.

The LAT fronts the revelation that special undercover U.S. security agents have recently penetrated security barriers to sensitive government facilities all over Washington, D.C. The paper reports that they tried to get into 19 of the country’s most tightly secured buildings–the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and the DOJ among them–and succeeded all 19 times. In most cases, says the paper, the agents were carrying guns and uninspected briefcases, and fake police and other government credentials, purchased from movie prop suppliers or on the Internet.

USAT’s “Money” front reports that when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration purchased two Chrysler PT Cruisers recently for safety testing, they were able to get each of them for a mere $10,000 above invoice. The story adds that Consumer Reports bought its test cars at the sticker price.