Today's Papers

Nico-Teen Habit

The USA Today lead reports, based on interviews with senior Israeli officials, that Israel plans to “greatly increase” its use of force against the Palestinian Authority. The story’s headline focuses on something else the officials told the paper they are debating doing if there’s another suicide bombing traceable to the West Bank: “ISRAEL CONSIDERS INVASION.” The top nonlocal story at the New York Times is that the government of Macedonia agreed to amnesty for the ethnic Albanian guerrillas who’ve been conducting a six-month insurgency against it, and the guerrillas have promised, under NATO supervision, to give up their arms–the two main conditions previously set by NATO’s secretary general for sending in his alliance’s troops on a peace-keeping mission. This could mean, says the paper, that a multinational NATO force led by British troops could go into the region as early as the middle of next week. Although, the Times adds, NATO officials must first still determine if the brand-new cease-fire is being observed. The Washington Post leads with its government-sourced report that the Bush administration plans to delay and revise scheduled Clinton administration safeguards that would have given Medicaid patients (who are poor and disabled) in private health plans (56 percent of all Medicaid patients, 19 million people) the same sort of access to emergency care, health care information, and grievance procedures that President Bush has endorsed in the patients’ rights bill he’s urged Congress to pass. The paper notes high up that health plans and state governments have intensively lobbied against the planned rules since Bush took office and says that this planned revision, like several other Bush do-overs of Clinton rules, seems to weaken consumers’ positions. The top national story at the Los Angeles Times is new information from the Commerce Department pointing to one main reason why the U.S. economy isn’t in recession: American consumers continue to spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave. The paper explains that the buying has been fueled by tax rebate checks, falling gas prices, a relatively low unemployment rate, rising wages, a solid housing market (which presumably makes homeowners feel prosperous), and the increasing use of home equity loans to fund purchases.

The WP fronts an inside look at what it calls the Mideast’s “suicide bomb capital,” the town of Jenin, which Israel recently struck with a tank and bulldozer raid. The story provides a stat that supports Israel’s account of why it went in: At least nine of the suicide bombings carried out against Israelis in the past two months, including the one last week that killed 15 Israelis, involved terrorists from Jenin. Further support for recent Israeli accounts of the situation is found in a NYT insider following up on the Jenin raid. The Times reported yesterday that Palestinian sources said there had been an intense firefight between Palestinians and Israeli forces, while Israeli officials said they had not fired back. The paper’s reporter today observes with his own eyes that the focal point of the Israeli raid, Jenin’s police station, had no bullet holes. Yesterday’s NYT also quoted Palestinian claims that Israelis had taken some 70 Palestinians away with them, and that two or three townspeople had been killed. These assertions, too, adds the Times today, turned out to be false. Question: Why is this key follow-up information held to the middle of the story and kept out of the headline?

USAT fronts and the NYT and WP go inside with a study coming out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluating the performance of the nearly 1 million pacemakers or defibrillators implanted in people in the U.S. The main finding: That from 1990 to 2000, half a million of these were flawed enough to prompt an FDA advisory. USAT says that nevertheless, the devices are quite safe. The NYT says that’s what the manufacturers say. The WP doesn’t say anything about this. None of the stories say how many of the gizmos had to be pulled out of patients again because of the problems noted in the advisories.

The NYT front says flatly that although the biggest tobacco companies agreed, as part of their 1998 lawsuit settlement with the states, to stop advertising in magazines with significant numbers of young readers, ads from three of the four major weed companies continue to appear in Rolling Stone, People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, and TV Guide. The paper says only the biggest of the companies, Philip Morris, has followed the settlement’s guidelines, and that the other three, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard say they can still advertise because the settlement’s guidelines aren’t laws.

The Wall Street Journal fronts a profile of the head of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, Mitchell Daniels Jr., depicting him as someone who in the headline’s phrase “FIGHTS TO CURB SPENDING.” An apparently important example of this, which the story uses as its going-out anecdote, is Daniels’ holding the line for a $5.5 billion farm aid bill, which President Bush signed on Monday, against (Republican and Democrat) Senate demands for more. But wait a minute, complains a WP editorial, why was even this much money necessary? “U.S. farm subsidies,” says the Post, “hurt American taxpayers and they also harm poor farmers in other parts of the world, including Latin America, which Mr. Bush says he wants to help by means of expanded trade. If any food-related issue threatens U.S. foreign policy, it is that over-reliance on farm subsidies may complicate the administration’s ambition to launch a new round of global trade talks.”

The WP has lately been loosening up the notion of what should count as a personally admirable characteristic suitable for inclusion in a newspaper story about someone. Sure, it makes sense to note that a profilee spent time in the Marine Corps. But in its story on Napoleon Beazley, the Texas man scheduled to be executed today for shooting to death a businessman (and father of an influential federal judge) during an attempted car-jacking he participated in when he was 17, the Post goes out of its way to mention that Beazley “had planned to enlist in the Marines.” And it was the Post that, in a recent profile gave the head of the General Accounting Office credit for being “a Marine manqué,” which is French for “Marine wannabe.” Note to Post editors and reporters: Today’s Papers always wanted to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Nobel Prize for Physics, and to work as a missionary in Africa dedicating its life to caring for lepers.