Today's Papers

Suits Out, Cuffs In

The Los Angeles Times leads with the Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by holding that neither states, nor schools, nor agencies receiving federal funds can be sued by private parties to halt practices on the grounds that they have a discriminatory effect, although discriminatory intent is still grounds for litigation. The case in question involved Alabama’s decision to give written driving tests only in English. The Washington Post, which fronts the civil rights ruling, and the New York Times, which does not, both lead with the court’s other big decision yesterday, also fronted by the LAT: that police may without a warrant arrest and take into custody people for minor offenses punishable only by a fine. The case in question involved a woman and her children caught driving in Texas without seat belts. The Wall Street Journal puts the two Supreme Court rulings atop its front-page worldwide news box. USA Today, which fronts the police ruling but not the civil rights one, leads instead with a bedside interview with the pilot of that plane carrying missionaries shot down by a Peruvian air force jet last week. The pilot says he “heard nothing” from the jet on his radio.

The LAT lead says that conservative lawyers predict that the civil rights ruling will kill off lawsuits that have been filed against the University of California and the NCAA alleging that their use of SAT scores results in the disqualification of a disproportionate number of blacks, and that Title IX, the parallel to the Civil Rights Act forbidding sex discrimination in schools and colleges, might also be rendered less effective. The paper also sees a weakening of the so-called environmental justice movement in which states and cities have been sued for locating waste facilities in minority neighborhoods.

The WP lead observes that the court’s police decision affects not only the power to arrest but also the power to search because previous decisions have granted officers the power to perform warrantless searches once they’ve made an arrest. The paper says the ruling “could reshape everyday interactions between law enforcement and ordinary citizens,” although both Times say it fits with the court’s trend of according police broad powers regarding traffic stops. It’s widely noted that Sandra Day O’Connor, a dissenter, referred to police racial profiling even though race wasn’t a factor in the case at hand.

The LAT is alone in fronting the Federal Trade Commission’s continuing displeasure with the major record labels’ failure to cut out marketing violence to young people. The FTC’s new report says, however, that the movie and video game folks have cut back on targeting kids. Universal Music Group was cited for running Marilyn Manson ads on an MTV show where nearly six in 10 of the viewers are younger than 18 and for promoting Ludacris and Limp Bizkit on other shows with large youth audiences.

The NYT fronts flooding in Davenport, Iowa, and criticism directed at the city’s officials by the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joseph Allbaugh, over their prior decision not to build a permanent flood wall. Allbaugh is quoted wondering, “How many times will the American taxpayer have to step in and take care of this flooding, which could be easily prevented by building levees and dikes?” Reporters wondering if in fact the White House was pro-levee and pro-dike were told by spokesman Ari Fleischer that in the meeting Allbaugh had with President Bush on Monday, there was no discussion about “pressuring communities.” The WP stuffs the dispute, but the paper’s lead editorial takes it up, saying of Allbaugh’s hesitancy about repeated subsidies: “He’s right about that–and lots of luck. …[T]he politics of such disasters push in favor of providing the aid, and forget the discipline.”

That refreshing degree of directness is not in evidence in the NYT’s lead editorial about the administration’s choice of a weapons package to sell to Taiwan. High up, the editorial calls it a “course of diplomatic caution,” without saying there whether it approves of the course, and waits until its last sentence to say “it is a balanced package that honors Mr. Bush’s desire to help Taiwan’s democratic government without plunging it into a new and needless confrontation with Beijing.” The headline? “Getting It Right on Taiwan.” Would it have killed the Times to have gone instead with “Bush Gets It Right on Taiwan”?

The WSJ tops its front-page biz news box with word that General Dynamics plans to buy Newport News Shipbuilding, which would leave GD the nation’s sole manufacturer of military nuclear-powered ships. The stock-purchase deal is for 75 percent more than GD’s failed 1999 bid for the same company. That plan was met by opposition from the Clinton administration and from some congressional heavyweights, but, the paper says, the players are hopeful the Bush administration will have a more relaxed attitude about strategic mergers. The story says one beneficiary of the deal will be Bill Gates, who owns just over 7 percent of Newport News stock and thus would make about $173 million.

The LAT front goes long to report how locked-up inmates, “with the 1st Amendment as a shield” and call volume too great for effective monitoring, widely use prison phones to threaten witnesses, arrange alibis, get evidence destroyed, and even to arrange murders.

USAT goes inside to report that two new studies, involving the same pool of nearly 14,000 women with breast implants, link the implants to a higher risk of brain or lung cancer. But one researcher is quoted as saying that the results are “likely just chance.” Both the implant recipients and those receiving other forms of plastic surgery also included in the study had lower death rates than the general population, probably, the researchers conclude, because both groups are healthier than their peers. But the implantees had higher cancer death rates than those having other types of tuneups.

Do the folks at the WP’s “Style” section read anything? Two days ago the section ran a piece about how the female host of TheWeakest Link was a counterexample to a historically heavily male-dominated field of endeavor and soberly proclaimed that nobody had previously noticed this, although Slate ran a piece making that observation almost three weeks before. And today, a bunch of those wacky guys go Stylin’ from Washington to New York via plane, train, car, and bus to see who gets there first, never letting on that the NYT did the same bit over a month ago.