Today's Papers

Exploring The Sub’s Consciousness

The Washington Post leads with the investigation into last Friday’s collision in Hawaiian waters between a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine and a Japanese fishing vessel that sunk the latter and left nine of its crew members, four of them high-school students, missing. The New York Times goes with the health-care industry’s attempts to lobby the Bush administration to delay, weaken, or even kill new regulations protecting medical patient privacy issued in the final weeks of the Clinton administration and scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month. It’s not clear from the account which course, if any, the Bush administration has decided to pursue. The Los Angeles Times lead says the increasing likelihood that President Bush will get his tax cut proposal or something close to it has “shell-shocked” congressional Democrats on a “soul-searching hunt” for a viable opposition strategy on taxes and other matters. The paper says many Democrats, left by the election with the least legislative clout they’ve had since 1950, had assumed that Bill Clinton would provide continued unifying leadership on such matters, something that hasn’t happened because he’s been occupied instead with defusing the pardon and other controversies he set off as he left office. USA Today goes long with a lead “cover story” about the long-standing problem of mentally ill people who haven’t committed a crime or attempted suicide generally having the right to resist taking the medication that can give them hope for normal lives, a problem highlighted again last week when a mentally ill man fired shots outside the White House. The story reports that there are now more mentally ill people in prison (latest available figure: 283,000 in 1998) than in mental hospitals (laf: 61,772 in 1996).

The WP lead emphasizes that it’s U.S. Navy SOP for the practice of the maneuver that resulted in the Hawaii collision–a sudden rush to the surface used in emergencies–to be preceded by the sub’s careful, periscope, and sonar inspection of the ocean surface above it. The story says that such a surface scan “should have revealed” the presence of the 174-foot-long Japanese vessel. The LAT sub story has a member of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation team saying that the sub only used its passive (listening to ambient noise) sonar and not its more revealing active (signaling and then listening for the echo) sonar first. The Post story says the incident fed “a growing anger at the U.S. military” in Japan, not lessened by Japanese press reports that the sub made no post-collision rescue efforts. A top Navy admiral’s explanation for the noneffort is quoted: Given how choppy the seas were, it would have been too dangerous to try to get people into the sub’s round hull. The story doesn’t give much sense of how common U.S. submarine collisions are, contexting with only a 1981 accident in which a U.S. sub surfaced under a Japanese cargo ship, killing two of its crew. A recent best seller on U.S. submarines, Blind Man’s Bluff, lists 19 such collisions, mostly with other submarines, since 1960.

The LAT fronts a finding from the currently unfolding survey of the human genetic code that is a refreshing antidote to a generation or more of popular and academic emphasis on racial, cultural, and ethnic differences: It turns out that human beings are far more similar to one another than, say, chimps or gorillas are. So similar, in fact, that it appears now that everybody on the planet today is descended from a group of about 10,000 people.

The LAT unveils its latest multipart David Shaw forest-clearer, this one on the state of journalism about Hollywood. Today’s installment focuses on the inaccuracies of reporting about movies’ production budgets and box office grosses. But it goes higher to decry movie journalism’s “shift way from … substantive reportage.” Unfortunately, Shaw gives no examples of such bygone reportage. Things Used to Be Better stories require examples of those Better Things.

The NYT reports on a new trend in China: young people giving themselves new names based on English. Examples given include: Bison Zhang, Jekyll Ji, Redfox Cui, and Seven Lee. To investigate the phenomenon, the story quotes students at Beijing universities and even a psychology professor in Nebraska. But one apparent expert on the trend we don’t hear from is the reporter herself: Jennifer 8. Lee.

Yesterday’s NYT reported that last week the chairman of the investment firm Morgan Stanley said in an e-mail to clients that the company “clearly made a mistake” by inviting Bill Clinton to give a paid speech at a conference. The e-mail was sent out to customers who complained about the invitation, and it also stated that MS understood their unhappiness in light of “Mr. Clinton’s personal behavior as president.”

She said, apparently quoting Marc Rich. The WP goes inside with an AP report that Sen. Arlen Specter allowed on a Sunday chat show as to how “President Clinton technically could still be impeached” without specifying for what. (The NYT has this, too, near the bottom of its pardon situation report.) The Post story goes on to quote a Clinton spokeswoman’s reaction: “Give me a break.”