Today's Papers

Air Apparent?

The Washington Post leads with additional likely Bush Cabinet choices, which nobody else fronts. The New York Times leads with yesterday’s statement from the Federal Reserve that it was now more concerned about a slowdown in U.S. economic growth than about inflation. The paper says that while the Fed didn’t use the word “recession” and didn’t cut interest rates, the statement nonetheless signals that the Fed is prepared to cut, which would be “a 180-degree turnabout from its previous position” on the money supply, which it has been tightening with periodic small interest rate increases since mid-1999. The paper says the abruptness of the slowdown has caught the Fed by surprise. The Fed change also sits atop the Wall Street Journal’s front-page business news index box and is fronted by the Los Angeles Times but is stuffed elsewhere. USA Today goes with the Clinton administration’s issuance today of sweeping new federal privacy protections for personal medical records, which the other majors also front. The top national story at the LAT is an overview of an area the paper has hit hard this year: How in recent years the Food and Drug Administration has been more partner to drug companies than regulator, resulting in drugs coming to market faster and causing more deaths and side effects once they get there.

The WP lead says that President-elect George W. Bush plans to pick Mel Martinez, the chief executive of Orange County, Fla., to be HUD secretary, Bush campaign chairman Donald Evans to be commerce secretary, and Ann Veneman, a senior USDA official in the previous Bush administration, to now head up that department. The story also says that Bush is moving toward tapping welfare-to-work pioneer Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson for secretary of health and human services and New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. The paper quotes Jerry Falwell enthusing about the personnel moves: “We’re going to like President-elect Bush the way we loved Ronald Reagan.” Falwell is also quoted liking Whitman, an abortion rights supporter, for EPA, where she “will have zero voice on social policy.” The Post story doesn’t say anything about Dan Coats, who the paper yesterday said was earmarked for defense secretary. The USAT inside story on Cabinet picks emphasizes mounting Republican concerns over the leading Treasury candidate Paul O’Neill. (The sniping was first broached in yesterday’s WSJ.) The latest concern is that O’Neill, an aluminum company CEO, doesn’t know the high-tech economy. The story says Dick Cheney vetoed a leading alternative and “promoted his old friend, O’Neill.”

The WP goes inside with a pickup from the Orlando Sentinel on the results from the first outside recount in Florida. The Sentinel’s inspection of some 6,000 disallowed ballots from conservative Lake County found 376 so-called overvotes where the Gore oval was filled in and so was the write-in oval, but which were clearly intended as Gore votes because “Gore” was the name written in. The review produced a net increase for the county of 130 votes for Gore. The story reminds that when the U.S. Supreme Court halted manual recounts in Florida, the Bush lead there was 154 votes. A Bush spokesman is quoted accusing the Florida paper of “inflaming public passions.”

A story inside the NYT notes that publicly Bush officials say that it’s President Clinton’s call if he wants to go to North Korea before the end of his term in hopes of securing a deal ending that country’s missile program, but that privately Bush foreign policy advisers have been “scathing” about the idea, calling it “grandstanding and unnecessary.”

The NYT is alone in fronting two new studies–“two of the most rigorous yet”–of the health hazards of cell phones. One is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the other by the cell phone industry and the federal government. Their bottom lines: Cell callers are not more likely than others to develop malignant or benign brain tumors. Oddly, given southern California’s communication instrument of choice, the LAT puts the story on Page 43.

But the LAT is the only major to front Airbus Industrie’s decision yesterday to go into production with the world’s largest airliner, the A380–an 800-seat double-decker that will include some sleeper cabins, a casino, a kids’ playroom, and a gymnasium. And as the story makes clear, the plane might introduce another feature–a trade war. President Clinton has warned European leaders not to provide the project with government subsidies, and the EU has responded by accusing its chief competitor, Boeing, of receiving monies from NASA and the U.S. military. Airbus, the story says, already has 50 firm orders for A380s, which will enter service in 2006.

The WP fronts two stories on George W. Bush’s visit to Washington–where he met yesterday (separately) with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. The NYT fronts one. The story is inside elsewhere. The LAT looks to be suffering from acute transition fatigue–it puts the story on Page 19. The Post’s David Broder thinks Bush seemed “ill-at-ease” in his Oval Office meeting with Clinton but also reports that in a congressional get-together, Bush directly told Rep. Tom DeLay: “You and I are both pretty feisty, and they will try to drive a wedge between us. But I’m not going to fall for it, and you shouldn’t either.” Broder adds that one Republican meeting Bush for the first time was struck by his “Texas macho” and by how he “swore a couple of times just for emphasis.” (But, he quickly didn’t add, in a way that elevated the moral tone of the White House.)