Today's Papers

Stuff for Sissies

The New York Times leads with e-tailers’ moves to abandon the more absurd pricing schemes they have used in the name of developing a customer base. Web retailers need to show investors they can sustain business by charging higher prices, hoping eventually to turn a profit. The Washington Post goes local: School principals in the D.C. area are fleeing in greater numbers. Salary, some say, is incommensurate with responsibility. No younger generation of eager education administrators has come forward to replace them. The Los Angeles Times leads with the end of an era in Mexican politics. For the first time in 30 years, a transition between presidential administrations will be accompanied by economic stability.

The NYT Sunday-ifies (elevates to a trend) yesterday’s biz report that is in frail health–“weak and deteriorating” in the words of Lehman Brothers analysts. Web retailers have been eagerly raising their prices to calm investors, who so far have only seen their pet startups give away the shop. The “Money & Business” section reports that the music industry is so healthy–CD shipments will top 1 billion this year for the first time–that Web upstarts, including Napster, may have a tougher time making an impact than the industry fears.

If former Coca-Cola-Mexico CEO Vicente Fox becomes the first non-PRI president in the republic’s 71-year history, he will do so in an economic environment where rampant inflation, joblessness, and peso devaluation are remarkably absent. However, the LAT reports, this rare election-year stability is slightly misleading. Shifts in the economy over the past three decades–less reliance on oil exports and a budget deficit of less than 1 percent of GNP–have made the country less vulnerable to shocks. Most Mexicans, however, have nothing to show for this success, since growth is concentrated in the manufacturing and export sector.

The Post buries word that South Korea has decided to freeze development of long-range missiles, fearing that such development might jeopardize improved relations with its northern neighbor. The article rehashes the U.S. national missile defense debate and in passing notes that Korean rapprochement is confounding U.S. politicians’ plan to build their $60 billion forcefield.

In 1998 and 1999 each there were 320 near-collisions of aircraft on runways, the LAT reports. The FAA will introduce a system in two years that allows pilots to keep track of each other on a monitor. In the meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration may adopt a European technique to control runway traffic: stoplights.

Twenty years after an independent Zimbabwe violently emerged from the former British colony Rhodesia, voters in today’s parliamentary elections may choose to break again with the past, the papers report. For many, current wants have displaced painful memories of colonization, which play into the political hand of former revolutionary and current President Robert Mugabe. A majority is within reach for the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. The NYT Magazine documents the grisly killings of white farmers in recent months by armed gangs who see the farmers as vestiges of colonial rule.

A Republican fund-raiser tells the Post that George W. Bush dismisses public image and speech consultants as “stuff for sissies,” preferring “authentic” delivery. The paper’s off-lead recounts the discomfort Bush’s public speaking style causes party members and supporters. The paper likens this style to “a schoolboy reading aloud from a grammar book” but falls short of actually suggesting that the governor spend more time with a grammar book.

The NYT rolls out two special sections, designed perhaps to prevent Sunday morning marital spats: his and hers health sections. The top-front of the “Women’s Health” section shows a silly photograph of actors posed as doctor and patient in a doctor’s office. Not quite the usual fare for newspaper photojournalists. Why stage photographs instead of using illustrations or shooting something real? The lead story (“The Big Decisions? They’re All Yours”) concerns doctors’ growing expectation that patients will do research on their medical options and choose a course of action. The article, not surprisingly for a service-oriented Sunday special, does not mention the one eternal public controversy in women’s health where choice actually is the issue, but does, surprisingly, elaborate briefly on a study revealing that men in Washington were five times likelier to have prostate surgery than men in Connecticut.

Nearly a dozen North American cities have opened their gates to cattle, swine, and other varmints, the NYT “Travel” section reports. Life-size sculptures of cows, decorated by artists, made a splash in Zurich two years ago and in Chicago last summer. This year there are mooses in Toronto, pigs in Cincinnati, and Snoopies in St. Paul. New York’s herd of fiberglass bovines may provide an artistic touch to the urban landscape but, the NYT feature does not point out, some heifers are little more than advertisements for artists’ patrons. Like, say, the Times-sponsored steer in Times Square, a sky-blue beast plastered with newspaper articles shaped into clouds. Doesn’t this artvertising take some fun out of the project?