Today's Papers

Banana Republicans

The New York Times leads with new government figures showing that the number of people in U.S. state prisons fell in the second half of 2000, the first such drop since 1972. The Washington Post stuffs the prison numbers, going instead with the “sizable lead” Republicans have opened up over Democrats in fund raising for the 2002 congressional elections. USA Today leads with a new government report concluding that Medicare doesn’t do a good job of investigating patient complaints and rarely punishes doctors or hospitals found to provide poor care. The report says that Medicare has referred just six medical practitioners for punishment in the past five years. The story notes a big obstacle, still hung up in the courts, to getting the truth out about bad Medicare: Under existing federal law, results of investigations are not released to patients unless the medical personnel involved consent, which they do only 21 percent of the time.

The NYT lead says that in the latter half of 2000, the U.S. state convict population dropped by 6,200, but that this time slice is too short to constitute a trend, adding that for the whole of last year, the total U.S. state and federal prison count was up 1.3 percent, albeit that’s still well below the 1990s average annual growth of 6 percent. But the paper says that if this becomes a trend, non-corrections areas of state budgets could benefit, while private prison companies and their investors could suffer. The paper says experts attribute the drop to the continuing crime decline, more widespread use of treatment instead of prison for drug offenders, and more parole officers willing not to send their clients back to prison for small stuff.

The NYT briefly mentions the report’s tabulation of U.S. prison demographics: Among the 1.3 million people in state and federal prisons are 428,000 black men between 20-29 years old, or 9.7 percent of the total number of black men in that age group. The paper notes that compares with 2.9 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of non-Hispanic white men of the same age being behind bars. The paper doesn’t mention the total number of convicts from each of these groups in prison–that is, including all ages and both genders. The Post effort doesn’t either. Wonder why.

The WP lead says that in the first half of 2001, the Republican committee raising money for congressional races raised more than twice as much money as its Democrat counterpart–$38 million to $18 million, while the Republican National Committee has raised $48 million in pledges to the Democratic National Committee’s $23 million. The paper says Republicans typically out-fund raise Democrats but that this degree of advantage is noteworthy. As a result, says the Post, the Republicans will almost certainly enter the midterm elections stronger financially than two years ago.

The WP lead illustrates how the Bush presidency has motivated donors by noting that last spring after U.S. and E.U. officials reached a trade agreement allowing American companies greater access to European markets, the CEO of Chiquita Brands International gave $250,000 to a Republican congressional campaign dinner, and his brother gave $200,000. The Post then reminds that such large “soft money” donations would be prohibited under the campaign-finance reform legislation the Senate passed this year but which is lingering in the House.

The WP says that on the Democratic side, Bill Clinton still seems to be a key fund-raiser while for Republicans, White House honchos Karl Rove and Andrew Card have emerged as major draws. The paper finishes up the story quoting a Republican congresswoman’s explanation for this: Donors “like to have a personal sense of who’s in the boat sort of driving things.”

The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box, which is the off-lead at the WP and is reefered at the NYT and USAT: a Palestinian suicide bombing of a sidewalk café in Haifa, Israel, which wounded 20 other people. Everybody but the Journal also has the death Sunday of a young Palestinian girl who got shot by Israeli troops during their West Bank firefight with Palestinians. The Journal quotes an unnamed senior Israeli army officer saying, “Both we and the Palestinians are slipping down a slide toward all-out conflict.”

The NYT fronts a story on the Berlin Wall, which was put up 40 years ago today. The piece focuses on several hobby historians’ struggle against real estate interests and public indifference to save the few remnants of the wall that dot the city today. The story waits quite a while before reporting that the former Communist Party of East Germany, the Party of Democratic Socialism–which (the NYT doesn’t mention) has fielded a candidate who might well get elected mayor this fall–has never apologized for the wall.

Coming Soon: Endangered Species Smackdown. USAT’s “Money” front reports that on Friday, the World Wildlife Fund won a court judgment against the World Wrestling Federation over the use of the initials WWF.