Today's Papers

Sub Par Performer?

The Washington Post  leads with comments from President Bush and his energy secretary expressing concern that the U.S. is facing an energy crisis that could do economic damage. The paper contexts the remarks with OPEC’s recent decision to cut production and with the rolling power blackouts scheduled yesterday by energy officials in many parts of California. The WP likens the White House’s economic argument for its proposed expansion of Arctic oil exploration to its economic argument for its proposed tax cut. The Los Angeles Times  leads with those California blackouts, the first to include Los Angeles since the state’s electricity woes started last summer. The planned outages were prompted, the paper explains, by increased demand brought on by a heat wave, coupled with curtailed deliveries from out-of-state and alternative energy suppliers worried about the state utilities’ ability to pay. The New York Times  reefers the blackouts and stuffs administration energy worries, leading instead with the decision by Japan’s central bank to combat falling prices and slack demand by putting more money into the economy via eliminating short-term interest charges, a reversal of entrenched policy. USA Today  stuffs energy and leads with the government’s report, which everybody else has inside, that Social Security and Medicare will stay solvent longer than was thought last year–the former till 2038, the latter until 2029. The USAT story points out that the change is primarily due to the economic assumptions made by the government’s assessors, something neither the headline nor subheadline mention.

The NYT lead points out that it’s debatable whether the Japanese central bank’s money-pump will have the same effect such moves have had in the U.S., because Japan isn’t experiencing a credit crunch; it’s just that Japanese companies and consumers are disinclined to borrow money even at rock-bottom rates.

USAT, the Wall Street Journal, and the WP point out that the government’s Social Security/Medicare solvency assumptions conflict with those being made to support the Bush tax cut. All the papers observe that President Bush and other administration figures said the systems need reforms, such as allowing people to invest some of their Social Security accounts themselves or letting private insurers compete for Medicare customers.

The LAT and NYT front yesterday’s testimony at the Greeneville inquiry by one of the sub’s sonar technicians that he failed to notice all his equipment’s readings of surface traffic and that even when he noticed that one indicated a ship coming closer to the sub, he didn’t inform his captain. The LAT points out right away that the man was a 14-year veteran, which makes these admitted lapses–not explained yesterday–all the more mysterious.

The NYT, in the course of a fronter about how Sen. Hillary Clinton has media-eclipsed her senior New York colleague, Sen. Charles Schumer, passes along a New York Post report that her Manhattan office costs more than any other senator’s. Her annual rent is $514,000, more than twice what Schumer pays for his Manhattan space.

USAT fronts word that yesterday Russian cosmonauts training with NASA in Houston in preparation for an April voyage to the International Space Station, walked out of a planned practice session when it became clear to them that the agency wasn’t going to train the American engineer and money manager, Dennis Tito, who has paid Russia $20 million to be included on that trip. The story says that Tito has been training for eight months. It would have been useful if it had compared this to the amount of training experienced by such previous NASA amateur astronauts as Sen. Jake Garn and Christa McAuliffe.

The NYT reports inside on an article in the forthcoming Atlantic Monthly by Ronald Reagan’s former national security adviser Richard V. Allen about the White House scene after Reagan was wounded in 1981, based on tape recordings Allen made at the time. The story shows even more of the internal confusion and tension about who was in charge of the country–until then-Vice President George H.W. Bush could arrive at the White House–that the world got a glimpse of when then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig declared that it was him. At one point, Allen reports, when Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger asserted his right to “command authority,” Haig told him, “You’d better read the Constitution.” The Times story doesn’t make clear whether the many other high-level persons heard on the tapes and quoted in the article were aware of or consented to Allen’s tapings.

The NYT and WP go inside with the abrupt resignation yesterday by San Jose Mercury News publisher Jay Harris over what he thought were too-high profit targets being sought by the paper’s owners, the Knight Ridder chain, targets widely believed to be about to result in layoffs of reporters and other newsroom employees. (The LAT runs the story inside, but it was not available to Today’s Papers.) Amid all the stories’ talk of corporate earnings figures, the WP waits until its 22nd paragraph to point out that the chain recently paid its CEO, Tony Ridder, a $300,000 bonus, $274,000 to pay taxes on that bonus, and incidental expenses of $25,000. The Times story doesn’t mention these or any other payments to K-R execs.