Today's Papers

Early Retirement

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the expected recall today by Firestone of millions of SUV and truck tires that are being linked to at least 46 crash deaths. The development also tops the Wall Street Journal’s business and finance news box. The New York Times goes with the inaugural joint campaign appearance of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. Several fronts feature photos of the aftermath of a bombing in Moscow that killed eight, attributed by officials there to Chechen terrorists.

The tire leads paint a picture of two companies, Firestone and Ford (whose vehicles are equipped with the greatest number of the suspect tires), that have been slow to act. The coverage says that until now, Ford was offering only visual inspection of the tires in question, even though it has admitted that the defects that cause them to suddenly unravel are not necessarily visible. Worse, according to the papers, in 1999 Ford started recalling the tires from certain overseas markets, without taking any similar steps domestically. The reason the company offered for its overseas actions is the allegedly unique high-speed/high-temperature conditions of driving in these places rather than any design or manufacturing flaw. There may be something to the temp angle: The WP reports that most of the U.S. accidents have taken place in states with unusually hot weather.

The WSJ says that recent network news videos of purportedly tire-related crashes have increased awareness of the tire troubles. Both the Post and LAT mention that in 1978 Firestone did a nationwide recall of a tire, after, the LAT reminds, it was implicated in 50 deaths.

The NYT lead says that Al Gore, in formally announcing his choice of Lieberman as his running mate, was determined to transform a potential liability–Lieberman’s religion–into a plus by emphasizing the tolerance and risk-taking the selection signifies. The Times notes that at the campaign appearance, Lieberman’s Jewishness was very much the main subject of discussion: The ticket’s aleph male opened with a prayer from Chronicles and indulged in what the paper calls a “labored” used of “chutzpah,” his wife talked of her parents’ survival of the Holocaust, and campaign aides disclosed that the Gores and Liebermans shared a kosher meal recently. In her column, Maureen Dowd observes that Lieberman mentioned God 13 times in 90 seconds. Neither candidate mentioned President Clinton.

Lest one think the Lieberman choice is all milk and honey, the NYT reports that his selection has prompted a huge uptick in anti-Semitic comments online, especially in chat rooms and message boards. The paper cites AOL as one ISP that has deleted anti-Semitic comments and is prepared to revoke the accounts of posters. And the Dallas Morning News reports that the NAACP’s president is about to suspend the organization’s Dallas chapter head, Lee Alcorn, for comments he made about Lieberman on a radio show. The paper quotes Alcorn saying, “I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with, you know, money and these kinds of things.”

The WP off-lead is that Chile’s Supreme Court has ruled that Augusto Pinochet no longer has the immunity from prosecution that was conferred on him when he stepped down from running the country in 1990. In principle, this means he could now be tried for crimes committed during his 17 years as Chile’s dictator. However, the paper surmises that this will never come to pass because of dilatory preliminaries about whether Pinochet is of sound enough mind to be tried.

According to a WP business section story, teen-age girls came online in record numbers in the United States last year, with the result that as of May, women finally outnumbered men online. Could this possibly have anything to do with another finding in the Post? Namely, that births to teen-agers have fallen to a 60-year low. The biggest drop was among girls ages 15 to 17. The story says the recorded high was in 1957.

A commentary on the WSJ op-ed page strikes an effective blow against the conventional notion of the digital divide. Author Daniel Akst recently upgraded computers and before saying goodbye to his old PC discovered that it–a machine with a 133 MHz Pentium chip and 32 MB of RAM that surfs the Web just fine–would fetch only $150 in such aftermarkets as eBay. In other words, anybody can cross the digital divide for less than $200. If you don’t have Web access at that price, it’s not because you can’t afford it, it’s because you don’t understand the value of what you’re missing.

The WP runs a story inside detailing how ABC, to help land its exclusive 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky, paid the fees of an attorney hired by Lewinsky’s advisers to help free her from a media gag order that Kenneth Starr had imposed as part of her plea agreement. The news of the piece is that although at the time of landing the interview ABC strenuously denied paying Lewinsky, it’s now clear that the network did the logically equivalent thing–paying some of her legal fees for her. The source for this is a piece in the current New Yorker–something you don’t find out until the Post’s eighth paragraph. Ironic isn’t it? Since the point of this story is that ABC went to some lengths to keep viewers from knowing where the Lewinsky interview came from. Earlier in the week, the NYT ran a piece about the interview, crediting the magazine in the third paragraph. Better, but still … C’mon, guys–”New Yorker” should have even been in the headline over these stories.