Today's Papers

Roger Dodger?

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the Federal Reserve’s quarter-point cut yesterday of short-term interest rates–its sixth rate cut this year. USA Today stuffs the cuts and leads instead with the implementation this Sunday by the organization that accredits 80 percent of U.S. hospitals of standards requiring hospitals to tell patients (and their families) when they’ve been on the receiving end of a medical error. There is, the paper adds, still no legal requirement to do so. The Los Angeles Times fronts the Fed but leads with its poll indicating that most Californians do not think the state has a real power shortage. The survey found that 74 percent of those questioned agree strongly with the proposition that power companies have manipulated the California electricity market in order to make a higher profit. Plus, nearly half of those surveyed gave Gov. Gray Davis low marks for his handling of the situation–and the poll shows respondents favor his response over President Bush’s by a 4-1 margin.

The WP lead says that the Fed’s total of 2.75 percent in cuts this year is its most aggressive rate reduction in 19 years. But both Fed leads note that many financial types were disappointed yesterday because they had anticipated another half-point cut instead. The WP says that the quarterpoint they got was a sign that the Fed wants to avoid inflation pressures when the economy eventually picks up again. The NYT says the smaller cut was a suggestion that the Fed wanted to slow the pace of its response to the downturn while it waited to see the impact of the cuts it had already made.

The NYT and LAT both front new allegations that Roger Clinton received payment for recommending to his brother the presidential pardon of yet another convicted criminal, New Jersey heroin trafficker Rosario Gambino. The papers say that in its waning days last January, the Bill Clinton White House did request information from the DOJ on Gambino–who the government says is an organized crime figure–but ultimately did not pardon him. And both stories report that once, Roger Clinton wrote a letter to a parole board on behalf of Gambino. But the big news in both sheets is that congressional investigators have turned up a $50,000 check made out to Roger Clinton from a company controlled by Gambino’s children. The NYT reports that Roger Clinton’s lawyer concedes the $50,000 payment but says it was not made in return for clemency for Rosario Gambino. The NYT quotes an unidentified person saying that Roger Clinton led Rosario’ son Tommy Gambino to think a presidential pardon for his father “was a lock.” The story also has an unidentified Gambino source say that Roger Clinton called Tommy Gambino on Monday because the payment was being looked into and that Roger Clinton said, “Don’t you remember this is money you gave me for my house for a loan?” The LAT story quotes the spokesman for the House committee looking into Bill Clinton’s pardons saying that Roger Clinton has repeatedly refused to answer questions and that Roger Clinton’s lawyers indicate that if called to testify, he would instead plead the Fifth Amendment. The LAT account also says that congressional investigators have discovered “a couple of hundred grand” in unexplained traveler’s checks cashed by Roger Clinton.

The LAT front follows up on the paper’s previous revelations that a man arrested in late 1999 trying to bring explosives across the Canadian border and later convicted on terrorism charges had been plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport. The paper now has official confirmation from federal prosecutors. They say that the man was trained for a year in a “jihad camp” in Afghanistan and then was given $12,000 and the mission of returning to his home city of Montreal to set up a house and await the arrival of cell members who would help him conduct the attack, a suitcase bomb strike on a crowded terminal at the height of holiday travel leading up to the millennium celebrations on New Year’s Day 2000. The paper says the convicted terrorist’s confessions (he is cooperating and testifying in the prosecution of another member of the plot) confirm the fear of many U.S. intelligence officials that worldwide there are many “sleeper” anti-U.S. terror cells whose members, having been previously trained in Afghanistan, now quietly await “activation.”

The NYT goes inside to report that the head of FEMA, Joe Allbaugh, recently ordered up a training flight for himself at his agency’s flying command center. Normally, agency officials train on the plane during one of its regularly scheduled training missions, but since this was a special deal, the flight produced a $340,000 bill. The story says that FEMA had considered charging the money to disaster relief programs for Puerto Rico but might seek to have the Pentagon pay it. The Pentagon tells the paper it expects FEMA to pay it. The Times reminds that during the last presidential election, when Allbaugh was a Bush campaign honcho, he “told campaign workers to take cheap flights as they traveled around the nation.”

The NYT reports inside that the Census Bureau has decided not to provide cities and states with figures on their individual homeless populations, even though it has collected this information and did provide such individual totals in the last census. A census official’s explanation is quoted–the Census Bureau feels that after the 1990 census such figures were “misused.” The story says that for the 2000 census many big cities undertook “extraordinary and expensive measures” to help the feds count the homeless. Los Angeles, for instance, spent $300,000 to this end.

The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page biz box with its report that Microsoft has decided to drop a new feature from its Windows XP operating system–Smart Tags–that would have enabled the company’s browser to turn any word on any Web site into a link to Microsoft and/or Microsoft-selected sites. The story, by the paper’s computer columnist Walter Mossberg, says that the move comes after a wave of criticism of the company prompted by a previous column of his about Smart Tags, based on fears that the feature was part of a massive Microsoft push to attract subscribers to its Web-based services. The story says that the company has only decided to kill Smart Tags for now, and will continue to work towards eventually implementing it in some fashion.

The WP reports inside that the largest sweep ever of immigrant smuggling, conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean by the U.S. in concert with 13 other countries, led to the arrest of 7,800 illegal immigrants and the seizure of $9 million in drugs. The story waits until the second-to-last paragraph to mention that the operation cost the U.S. all of $600,000. Why wasn’t this in the headline? And why doesn’t the story do the math and point out that the illegal immigrants were stopped at a cost of $80 apiece?

USAT reefers-with-a-picture Tony Gwynn’s decision to retire from the San Diego Padres at the end of this season, at age 41. Like the Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripken, who recently announced his retirement, Gwynn has played 20 years in the majors, all for one team. Unlike Ripken, Gwynn–who has the highest batting average among active players (.338) and who has hit .300 for 18 seasons straight–didn’t get a front-page story with his announcement. Why not?