Today's Papers

Two Outta Three Is Bad

The Los Angeles Times leads with news that total employment grew less than expected in June. The statistics indicate a controlled economic slowdown and suggest that Federal Reserve policy is succeeding in bringing the economy into the much-discussed soft landing. The Washington Post fronts the story; the New York Times runs it inside. The NYT leads with the discouraging results of a new study on AIDS infection among infants. A simple drug treatment that scientists had hoped would stop the spread of AIDS from mothers to their newborns appears to leave babies susceptible to infection from breast milk. The WP leads with news that Episcopal bishops voted to allow an exchange of clergy with the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. The Episcopal bishops agreed to accept Lutheran clergy and bishops not ordained and consecrated in the traditional Episcopal manner. The Lutheran clergy and bishops had already agreed to abide by the Episcopal procedures starting in January. The deal is expected to receive final approval shortly. Some Lutherans are upset about what they view as the imposition of a clerical hierarchy on their egalitarian denomination and are threatening to leave if the agreement is finalized. The NYT goes inside with the story but does not mention the dissention in the Lutheran ranks.

All three papers agree that the very modest increase in new jobs is good news that will discourage the Fed from raising interest rates when it meets next month. But the papers disagree on the meaning of another economic statistic: the 5-cent increase in hourly wages. The LAT and the WP claim the increase is slight and is another reason the Fed will not raise rates. But the NYT suggests the same increase could lead to inflation fears and a rate hike.

The AIDS story reports that a once-promising treatment shown to protect babies in the first several weeks of life has almost no effect after 18 months, probably because it cannot prevent transmission through breast-feeding. The results are sure to reignite the heated debate over breast-feeding in Africa and elsewhere. Many public health experts think infected mothers should be encouraged to use formula, but contaminated water supplies make formula almost as dangerous as breast milk, and heavy cultural and economic pressures force many women to breast-feed regardless of the health risks.

The LAT fronts word that the latest defense missile test failed. This failure, the second in three tries, is certain to complicate the already contentious politics of missile defense in Washington. Opponents – many of whom claim the test was dumbed down to increase the chances of success – now have more evidence that missile defense is simply an unworkable idea. But the Pentagon announced before the failure that the prototype could still be declared accurate even if the missile interceptor missed its target. The test was delayed for two hours while technicians repaired a mechanical malfunction in the system. Both the NYT and the WP argue more forcefully than the LAT that the failure will put off the missile defense issue until a new administration is in office.

The NYT fronts the highlights of an interview with George and Barbara Bush. The former president predicts his son will win the White House in November because the country is ready for a change and because Al Gore will suffer for President Clinton’s sins. Bush thinks the same winds of change that propelled Clinton to victory eight years ago will ironically favor George W. this year. Bush was philosophical, steering clear of specific policy discussions. Although he was extra gracious when discussing Clinton and Gore, his wife took several shots at each.

The NYT fronts a report that a prescription drug program for elderly Nevadans similar to the program approved by Congress last month has started very slowly. The Nevada program invites insurance companies to draw up prescription insurance plans that seniors can buy into with the help of a state subsidy. The problem is that the insurance companies uniformly failed to submit proposals because they are not interested in selling drug-only insurance.

The WP fronts news of the tension between the Al Gore and Hillary Clinton camps about what role Hillary will play during the Democratic National Convention in August. Gore wants her to speak on opening night on Monday and then cede the spotlight to him, but some of her advisers think she should make remarks in prime time on Tuesday. Vice presidents running for president always have trouble establishing themselves apart from their bosses, and Gore worries that the first lady could overshadow him at the very moment when he needs to differentiate himself from the Clintons. Convention chairman and fund-raiser extaordinaire Terry McAuliffe and new campaign chairman Bill Daley are trying to broker an amicable settlement.

GOP Fights for Tenants: The WP reports that several Republican Party volunteers are helping the Mayberry family move out of rental property owned by Al Gore in the wake of accusations that he failed to make necessary repairs on the house. The volunteers will follow the family to Ohio, and the party is footing the $700 moving bill. Said Tracy Mayberry: “I’m tired of putting up with lies. I’m tired of putting up with Al Gore.”