Today's Papers

Shirt Happens

The New York Times leads with the likely end of the 15-day-old strike against Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless and local phone company. USA Today leads with the continued use by more than a dozen states of an accounting gimmick that is draining $3.5 billion annually from Medicaid. The top non-local effort at the Washington Post is hardly a bulletin: As conventions become less important for actually choosing candidates, they’ve become bigger vehicles for collecting big bucks from donors. The Los Angeles Times lead contrasts the enthusiastic public reception Mexico’s President-elect Vicente Fox will receive in Washington this week with the far more cautious attitude expressed by unnamed Clinton administration officials. The paper says that the White House and Congress are nervous about Fox’s call for an opening of the border to hundreds of thousands of new Mexican immigrants and proposals from his aides that could add billions in additional foreign aid to Mexico.

The NYT lead reports that concessions the unions secured via the Verizon stoppage include a 12 percent wage increase, limits on the number of workers who can be transferred to different parts of the country, a simpler method for unionizing a given work site, and stock options.

USAT explains that the Medicaid trick is inflating the cost of the program by claiming additional outlays of state funds that in fact never come to pass. Sometimes, says the story, the extra federal monies thus generated are even put toward non-Medicaid programs. The story says federal officials are moving to stop this abuse, but doesn’t say why the state officials aren’t facing criminal charges. Isn’t this fraud and theft?

Everybody but USAT fronts word that Norwegian dive teams have reached the downed Russian sub (and later editions inform that they have even opened one of the sub’s escape hatches) without finding any signs of life.

The NYT front-pages a report dramatizing Al Gore’s weakness in the South. The Democratic candidates for governor in North Carolina and for senator in Georgia have avoided making campaign appearances with him. And both skipped the Democratic convention. The governor of South Carolina left the convention early and has dismissed Gore’s chances in his state. The Times says Gore will have to work hard to capture “even a few states in the region.” Nevertheless, USAT fronts its fresh polling, which has Gore ahead of Bush by one percentage point among likely voters. This poll was taken after the convention but before news got out about the event described inside the NYT by an AP dispatch: The Aug. 12 arrest of Al Gore’s 17-year-old son on speeding and reckless-driving charges. The family will no doubt insist to the press in the days ahead that this is a private family matter, a little hard to take from the gang that brought you internationally broadcast tongue hockey.

The NYT reports inside that German far-righters have been moving their Internet sites to U.S. access providers in order to evade a German government crackdown prompted by the country’s recent wave of violence that’s left 10 African immigrants injured and one dead. The story says that there are some 320 German neo-Nazi sites. The Times fronts a story on that violence, which says the German racist murder rate could be as high as 10 per year. Given the tendency (among American readers especially) to stereotype Germans as particularly xenophobic, both these stories fall down by not providing some comparative context. How many neo-Nazi sites are already based in the U.S.? And what’s the U.S. racist murder rate?

An inside NYT story reports that the Congressional Research Service has a new study out showing that international arms sales now top $30 billion a year, and that the U.S. has solidified its position as the world’s largest weapons pimp. Russia and China are also still major arms merchants. Two-thirds of all sales went to developing nations. The story doesn’t mention it, but it’s worth noting that such arms sales play an important part in U.S. defense contractors’ strategies to sell more weapons to the U.S. How? Well, if potential adversaries have improved orders of battle, that’s all the more reason why the U.S. has to buy the Advanced Gee-Whiz fighter.

Today’s Wall Street Journal features yet another screed against Al Gore, this one titled “How Gore Lost Russia.” (TP didn’t know it was misplaced). In it, editor Robert Bartley notes that Gore showed up in Moscow a week before the invasion of Chechnya and also the week before the 1998 default. With equally sinister implications, Bartley goes on to observe that Gore “was no doubt” introduced around Russia by family friend Armand Hammer. Would it be out of line to ask for a bit more in the way of factual connections here? After all, wasn’t Bartley in the U.S. around the time of the Watergate burglary? And Today’s Papers has “no doubt” that Bartley has been introduced to someone by such unsavories as R. Foster Winans or Gordon Liddy or Michael Milken.

The NYT reports that while on a long weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., President Clinton was approached in the street by a young woman who asked him to sign her T-shirt. When he did, she immediately stripped it off in glee (she was wearing a bra underneath). As a result, she was quickly surrounded by law enforcement officers and handcuffed. She was questioned by them and later released.

A letter writer to the WP raises a question about Joseph Lieberman that hasn’t been asked by the professionals yet: How does he square his vote–based on his belief that inappropriate sexual behavior took place–against the nomination of Clarence Thomas with his vote against Bill Clinton’s impeachment?