Today's Papers

Mississippi’s Flagging Economy

USA Today leads with federal emergency officials’ recent conclusion that an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in the U.S. is (in the paper’s words) “highly likely.” The New York Times–which runs a story inside emphasizing the view of those officials that hoof-and-mouth would spread very fast in the U.S. if it broke out while only mentioning in passing (in the seventh paragraph) that they thought the chances for the occurrence were “very real”–leads instead with Arab anger over Israel’s attack the night before last on Syrian positions in Lebanon, a subsequent Palestinian mortar attack deep into Israel, and also a later Israeli bombardment of Palestinian positions in the Gaza Strip. Out of this mix, the paper chooses only one for the big print over the story: “ARABS INFLAMED BY ISRAELI STRIKE ON RADAR DEEP IN LEBANON.” Neither of these stories makes the Los Angeles Times or Washington Post fronts, both of which lead semi-local. The LAT goes with increasing pressure against a Hollywood writers strike. Developments cited include: the announcement by the head of the Hollywood Teamsters that his members probably wouldn’t honor the strike, the softening economy, and the sighting of a top studio executive and a top Writers’ Guild official sitting together court-side at a Lakers game last week. The WP lead is the Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay of execution yesterday while it reviews the issues raised by the condemned man having been represented at his murder trial by the lawyer who had been representing the deceased. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page biz box with Cisco Systems’ after-trading-hours warning of sharply lower sales and revenue. The NYT and USAT front the announcement, the latter calling it a “bombshell” that could quash hopes of a tech stock recovery.

The NYT fronts the EPA’s decision to leave in place Clinton administration rules strengthening protection of U.S. wetlands. The paper says the enactment of the rules, which make it harder for developers to carry out the sort of earth-moving activities routinely performed in the creation of housing developments, is a “big defeat for developers.”

The WP fronts the options the Bush administration is weighing about the exact form renewed reconnaissance flights off the coast of China will take. The Post says sending an aircraft carrier or cruiser into the operating area is a possibility, but that the more aggressive tack of sending up U.S. fighters along the path the recon planes usually fly has been discarded. The Times, in its insider on the topic, quotes the White House spokesman as saying no decision has been made about having the recon planes accompanied by a fighter escort. One leading possibility is just that the flights continue unescorted, as before. The Post enumerates a number of wider responses it says are “most likely”: granting U.S. visas to prominent Taiwanese politicians visiting or transiting the U.S., limiting U.S./Chinese military contacts and other exchange programs, ditto for technology transfers, and opposing China’s bid for the 2008 Olympics. The paper says trade restrictions are unlikely and that details of a forthcoming military aid package to Taiwan are still under discussion.

The LAT fronts today’s referendum in Mississippi over whether that state should keep its current flag, which includes the Confederate “stars and bars” emblem. The story says several polls indicate the old flag will be retained “overwhelmingly.” Apparently, a big factor is that Mississippi is the poorest state in the union, and hence boycotts don’t seem to be the deterrent there that they are in Atlanta or Hilton Head, S.C.

Everybody has something on the Pulitzers (most of which go to newspapers) awarded yesterday. The WP, which didn’t win one, runs a front-page headline about the Portland Oregonian’s win for its story on INS abuses of illegal immigrants, rather than, say, about the two won by the NYT, the WSJ, or Chicago Tribune. The LAT fronter dedicates its headline to its own win for its (excellent) series on the FDA’s failures to keep several rather lethal prescription drugs off the market. By the way, the Pulitzers are not bestowed from on high to authors and newspapers who were simply going about being excellent. Writers and papers nominate themselves, and if you don’t do that, you can’t win–which makes these awards less meritocratic than, say, the Nobels and the MacArthurs or even the Oscars. Are the papers really fully living up to the idea of excellence in journalism when their Pulitzer stories don’t mention this?