Today's Papers

Notes on Camp

The Washington Post leads with the surprisingly bipartisan and refreshingly altruistic House passage yesterday of this year’s foreign spending bill, which includes increased funding for overseas debt relief and for fighting AIDS in poor countries. The paper says the vote is a clear signal that in light of current health and economic conditions in Africa, Congress is committed to providing the region with more resources. The bill also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page world-wide news box, and the Journal says high up that the House vote testifies to the growing foreign policy influence of African-American lawmakers. The other papers take a big turn toward technology. USA Today leads with the launch next week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of a study into the risks of driving while using cell phones, Internet devices, and onboard computer navigation systems. No small matter, since the story says 44 percent of drivers now have car phones, 7 percent have e-mail, and 3 percent can receive faxes, and that there are more than 1 million cars on the road with navigation suites, although many of these cannot be operated while the car is moving or at least give the driver a stern warning about doing so when they’re first turned on. The story’s last sentence makes the reader wonder what the point of the NHTSA study could possibly be: It states that the agency “has no plans to regulate in-car electronics.” The Los Angeles Times lead reports that a fast-growing search engine called Scour (a main backer is Mike Ovitz) that specializes in finding photos, music selections, and video clips not only visits the Web, but also individual PCs whose owners have–either intentionally or unintentionally–toggled their file-sharing options. The New York Times goes with the apparently good prospects for a House bill coming to a vote next week that would ban most forms of online gambling, by requiring Internet service providers to block access to wagering sites. (The Senate has already passed a similar measure.) The bill’s good chances are, explains the Times, a function of the variety of its supporters, which include the owners of horse tracks, Las Vegas casinos, major sports leagues, and of liquor stores, as well as evangelical Christians.

The Post says the foreign aid vote was a “striking turnaround” for many House Republicans who’ve long been outspoken critics of foreign assistance. The paper suggests that one reason is the renewed interest in the plight of the Third World among conservative religious groups. Another sign of the shifting political winds here, say the papers, is that the extra aid money was largely taken from funds for foreign military assistance and training.

The LAT lead is confusing because, after citing concerns from various computer experts and then defenses from Scour, midway through (in the 13th paragraph), the story states that the company will discontinue the information-gathering technique in question. Moreover, there’s no hint of the planned discontinuation in the headline or subhead. A clearer and more present danger comes across in the WP’s off-lead about the wild proliferation of “spyware,” software that funnels personal information, including information about a user’s surfing habits, back to corporate databases. Examples given in the story of companies who stealthily foist this capability on their customers include Mattel, Quicken, and Netscape. Tracking programs are even, informs the Post, downloadable from the Web as shareware. One place where citizens are protected from such invasions is Myanmar, where, reports the NYT inside, to stave off the influence of exiled opposition political groups, the government has flatly banned the World Wide Web and made unauthorized use of a modem punishable by seven to 15 years in jail.

Interesting interview with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the NYT front, which depicts him as not particularly close to his brother nor particularly involved in his campaign. The story says the two talk only about once a week and quotes George W. Bush on whether he might appoint Jeb Bush to a Cabinet position: “Uhhhhhh, no!”

The LAT fronts the Justice Department’s preliminary investigation into the actions of a dozen Philadelphia police officers who were videotaped kicking and beating a black man as they arrested him. The story describes the beating, cites the comparison to the Rodney King beating, says the suspect is in the hospital in serious condition with police gunshot wounds–all before mentioning (in the 10th paragraph) that he is being charged with attempted murder of a policeman. The subhead over the story doesn’t mention attempted murder, opting instead to describe the man merely as “a carjacking suspect.” The story prominently mentions a shortcoming of the King analogy: Some of the officers pivotally involved in the arrest were black. The NYT front-pager on the episode gets its pretty much right, mentioning high up that the suspect shot at a cop. (A perfect score would have required mentioning high up that the cop got hit.) The Times effort emphasizes the threat to Philadelphia’s image as it prepares to host the Republican convention.

The WSJ letters page makes it clear that not only does America love Harry Potter, but it hates Harold Bloom. Earlier this week, the paper ran Bloom’s nose-to-the-ceiling citation-fest castigating the new Potter. Today it runs eight letters in response, all basically telling the Yale professor of professors to go sit on a goblet of fire.

The modern age makes short work of the trip from fiction to fact. Yesterday, the NYT op-ed page entertained with a humor piece about the kids in Cabin 5 starting up Today, a front-page WSJ feature introduces absolutely for real iluvcamp, started by two former investment bankers, a site that provides daily photo and text updates on the little darlin’s at 140 different summer camps.