Today's Papers

Grating Expectorations

The New York Times leads with its declaration that the world’s economy has “slowed to a crawl” because the U.S., Europe, Japan, and some major developing countries are in a “rare simultaneous slump” not seen since the 1973 oil shock. The Washington Post lead reports that contrary to and perhaps because of rising expectations among Hispanic, immigration, and business groups, President Bush has begun signaling his congressional allies that administration-led policy changes regarding the nearly 8 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally won’t be sweeping or soon, but rather piecemeal and slow. The Los Angeles Times dips into the U.S. census well for its lead, reporting the latest numbers show that in the past decade, the number of unmarried partner households went up 72 percent nationwide, with the trend now firmly established in even the nation’s most conservative regions, including the seven states where such cohabitation is illegal. USA Today leads with Houston’s project to narrow the “digital divide” by, beginning today, offering free e-mail and software to its residents that’s usable at some 1,000 PCs in libraries and fire and police stations. The story quotes a city official saying, “We expect to have [people] standing in line to use the Internet.” The story doesn’t quote any police or fire folk for their reaction to that.

A USAT top-fronter matches the mood of the NYT lead by pointing to similarities between the U.S. and Japanese economies, noting that some investment types are saying the Nasdaq is doing now what the Nikkei, currently at 1984 levels, already did, and that in the U.S. as in Japan (where interest rates are zero), interest rate cuts don’t seem to be stimulating anything.

The WP lead, which relies heavily on the Utah congressman it says is likely to be the Bush point man on immigration, reports that both a) a guest worker program allowing, say, Mexicans seasonal-only entry for work in the U.S. and b) a blanket amnesty have been ruled out by the administration. But, says the paper, a leading possibility is c) an “earned adjustment” hybrid: a system under which illegals who can document their U.S. working status could eventually earn temporary and then permanent resident status. The story ends claiming that Bush has a strong incentive to do something on immigration, citing unnamed administration officials saying that if the president doesn’t improve on the 35 percent of the Hispanic vote he received in 2000, “he will lose in 2004.”

An LAT fronter describes U.S. peace-keeping troops in Kosovo trying to stopper the routes used by ethnic Albanians to smuggle weapons to the Albanian insurgents in neighboring Macedonia. The only typically smuggled weapon mentioned by name is the Russian-made AK-47, but a NYT insider says that according to a brand-new congressional study, Russia is only No. 2 in global weapons sales behind the U.S., which is the source of about half of all weapons sold in the world market. The report says that 68 percent of those U.S. arms are bought by developing countries.

The NYT’s Bob Herbert dedicates his column to the rise of white-power music groups, such as those featured at Hammerfest 2000 last fall in Georgia, which Herbert describes as a concert “for hard-core fans of Hitler and lynching and the developing ideology of ‘pan-Aryanism.’ ” Herbert says proceeds from such events help finance the operations of major neo-Nazi and other racist groups. He says the music, aided by the Internet and cheap air fares, is linking the groups’ European and American branches. Herbert says he’s not calling for censorship of any of the music’s practitioners; he simply wants people to be made aware of them. Well, then how about providing some Web addresses for the racist sites or Internet-based radio shows he mentions? You know, like the paper did a month or so ago for its story on a Web site featuring stripping newscasters.

The Wall Street Journal front reports on a surprise bonus some folks who bought computers at dot-bomb distress sales are discovering: proprietary company information left on the hastily off-loaded machines.

The Journal also fronts the cottage industry that Stephen Ambrose has become. The one-time obscure historian has ridden the D-Day crest to movie and cable deals, $40,000 lecture fees, and $1 million book advances, astride a family-owned-and-operated business. (His daughter is the company secretary, his son-in-law is the treasurer, one son runs the family historical-tour outfit, and another is his agent). The paper says that if Ambrose were to retire (he recently suggested he might), the impact on his publisher, Simon & Schuster, would be equivalent to an industrial company losing one of its most profitable factories. One senses Ambrose’s key media position from the appearance of this story and the one on USAT’s “Life” front about Ambrose’s forthcoming book about the American crews who flew the B-24 bomber during World War II. The Journal mentions this project, too, although somehow doesn’t mention that the central figure is B-24 pilot and Ambrose pal, George McGovern. But there’s a hole in the USAT story, too, which says that after McGovern started the book with another writer, McGovern told Ambrose about it, and that later the other writer “ceded the project.” The story says McGovern “pushed” for this while Ambrose “hesitated.” Hmmm … wonder if the writer would have agreed with that account. For some reason, USAT didn’t ask him.

Turns out they’re not inscrutable–they’re phlegmatic. The WP reports that in the seven-year run-up to welcoming the world to the Beijing Olympics, Chinese government officials know that one of their biggest challenges isn’t stadiums or roads, it’s stamping out the widespread national habit of spitting on the floor in public.