Today's Papers

Done vs. Said

Everybody leads with yesterday’s stock market drop. The papers are responsible about not overemphasizing the raw point drops in the various indexes–they also report the percentage of declines: The Nasdaq was down over 6 percent, and both the Dow and S&P 500 were down over 4 percent. There is a bit of confusion about what exactly it was that made yesterday’s drop so newsworthy, however. For instance, USA Today says that the S&P’s 53-point drop yesterday put it “firmly in bear market territory for the first time since 1987” but never defines a bear market. The other majors do, though, citing the convention that it’s a market that contracts 20 percent from its peak. And way down below the New York Times’ headline about how “MARKETS PLUNGE IN WIDE SELL-OFF”–28 paragraphs down–the paper’s lead mentions that the Dow is “down only 5.4 percent for the year and remains the only major index that has not yet had a 20 percent decline from its peak.” But the companion NYT fronter also provides the best explanation of yesterday’s significance when it states that the Nasdaq has now in percentage terms suffered the “the largest loss any major American index has suffered since the Depression.”

The NYT and Washington Post lead headlines essay a bit of explanation, with both citing investors’ concerns about corporate performance and the latter saying they’re also worried about Japan. The Post means Japan’s political and economic crisis, while the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal go high with an explanatory appeal to the falling Japanese stock market. USAT never mentions Japan.

The WP lead has some analysts saying the drop will increase pressure on the Federal Reserve for a prompt rate cut and then cites “other Fed watchers,” saying it was unlikely that the Fed would act before its meeting next week because it would not want to be seen as propping up the stock market. But the paper never explains how/why the rate cut would help the stock market nor what would be wrong with the Fed transparently helping out stocks.

Everybody else stuffs President George W. Bush’s Florida road trip, but USAT fronts an interview he gave to the paper on the way there in which he dismissed the media examinations of the Florida presidential vote as “re-voting.” The paper says Bush was “scornful” as he added, “I don’t know how many times I have to win the recount.”

Proving once again that being in the general vicinity of the U.S. Navy isn’t a job, it’s an adventure, the fronts report that yesterday, a USN carrier-based attack aircraft accidentally bombed an observation post during an exercise in Kuwait, killing six military observers (five Americans and a New Zealander) and seriously wounding three others.

The NYT fronts an in-depth account of the lobbying behind a close-to-passage proposal making it harder for people to wipe out their debts that was led by credit card companies and banks that gave millions to members of Congress and contributed generously to President Bush’s election campaign. The story says sponsors of the bill acknowledge that lawyers and lobbyists for those businesses “were involved in drafting it.” The Times says one of the big players behind the legislation is MBNA Corporation, apparently the world’s biggest independent credit card company. Citing figures provided by the Center of Responsive Politics, the paper says the firm’s employees and their families contributed about $240,000 to Bush’s campaign, and after the election, the firm pledged $100,000 to help defray inaugural costs. By contrast, only three of its employees gave money to Al Gore, a total of $1,500.

The papers go inside with the announcement in Moscow yesterday of an arms and technology cooperation pact reached between Russia and Iran. The agreement makes possible Russia’s sale to Iran of sophisticated conventional weapons and is seen by the papers as defiance of U.S. diplomatic efforts to restrain Iran’s arsenal.

In his WP column, Richard Cohen argues that throughout the Arab world, ugly and ridiculous anti-American, anti-semitic and anti-Israeli diatribes are “routinely published” in the media “and always with either the acquiescence or the prompting of the government.” He cites an example from a paper in one of the most moderate Arab countries, Egypt, published during Colin Powell’s recent Mideast trip: “The American secretary of state did not hesitate to demonstrate humiliation and submission when he recently visited Israel; he stood humble, a Jewish yarmulke on his head, in front of the memorial to the false Holocaust of the Jews in WW II.”

These days the fronts are full of the Census Bureau’s new charting of America’s multi-ethnicity, and the LAT goes inside with a new take on the phenomenon: The most wanted bank robber in California right now seems to be eluding authorities in part because witnesses can’t seem to agree on what group he belongs to. An FBI agent working the case tells the paper, “We’ve had him described as a dark-skinned white male, as a light-skinned African American, as Puerto Rican, as Brazilian and I think we had Middle Eastern…You know they all can’t be right.” The paper adds that he may just be using make-up.

The NYT runs a correction today in response to the story it ran Saturday about how the Vienna Freud Society cancelled a planned lecture by Columbia University professor Edward Said after members saw a photograph of him throwing a stone while in the Middle East. The paper today says the earlier story misstated Said’s target. “He was aiming toward an Israeli guardhouse at the Lebanese border, not at Israeli soldiers.” On what evidence did this correction get issued? Other photos? Eyewitness testimony? Presumably, if this were the case, the correction would have mentioned such additional data. More likely is that this was in response to a complaint from Said. But why take his word for it? And were there Israeli soldiers in or near the guardhouse? You know, no more than a stone’s throw away?