Today's Papers

Not Just Cloning Around

The New York Times’ top nonlocal story is three researchers’ insistence, at a major meeting of (mostly disapproving) scientists in Washington, D.C., that they will each independently try to produce human clones. The Washington Post, the only major not to front the would-be cloners, leads with the EPA’s confirmation that it has decided to scale back an aggressive Clinton administration initiative designed to force aging coal-fired power plants to add modern anti-pollution controls. The paper observes that the decision comes “after intense lobbying by the utility and refinery industries.” USA Today leads with its poll showing that no Democrat is viewed as the leader of the party. Fifty-one percent of those polled didn’t have an opinion, the next highest finisher, at 10 percent, was “no one.” Al Gore was picked by just 6 percent, Bill Clinton got 5 percent, Hillary Clinton 3 percent and Joe Lieberman 1 percent. The poll also asked “If the election were today between President Bush and Gore, how would you vote?” The result: A 48 percent to 48 percent tie. The Los Angeles Times leads with the government’s finding that during the second quarter U.S. productivity increased 2.5 percent. The paper attributes the increase, not to the use of high technology, but rather to cuts in workers and hours worked. The NYT, in its insider on the numbers, disagrees, stating at the outset, “Even in a sharp economic slowdown, the new economy seems to be surviving,” and noting below that many economists saw “investment in equipment and software as the force behind” the gain. The WP, in its productivity fronter, also disagrees, with its subheadline stating, “Report Bolsters View That New Economic Era Has Begun.”

The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page business news box–also the off-lead at the WP–is that yesterday Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to vacate all the findings of fact and legal conclusions the trial judge reached in his antitrust ruling against the company. The company’s paperwork questions the judge’s fairness, in light of the private interviews he gave to several reporters during the trial.

The WSJ reports some of the first relatively hard numbers for the defense cuts Donald Rumsfeld wants to effect in order to pay for the Bush administration’s planned high tech weaponry including missile defense. The paper says his aides have recommended cutting about 56,000 Army troops, 16 of 61 Air Force fighter squadrons and two of 12 Navy carrier groups. The Journal says such cuts are “sure to provoke strong protests from both the military brass and Congress.”

The WP and NYT stuff news that Israel yesterday loosened rules of engagement for its forces so as to now allow them to shoot first at Palestinians who appear to be preparing an attack, whereas previously they had to wait until their lives were being actively threatened. The LAT puts this in a front-pager, but one that goes on higher and more elaborately about how Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is now stressing the need to work harder at winning the worldwide public relations war too. Changes to come, says the paper: Fewer soldiers in uniform explaining Israeli actions, but more women. And possibly more Israeli intellectuals. And Sharon wants to emphasize not just security issues, but also Jewish claims to disputed lands. But the story finishes up referring to a not-so-easily-solved image problem recently noted by a retired Israeli official in the Jerusalem Post: “The use of heavy weapons–attack helicopters or tanks–against a single terrorist creates the image of an Israeli Goliath fighting a Palestinian David.”

The NYT reports the results of an independent examination (paid for by the Times and other news organizations) of four computers used during the Florida recount by Katherine Harris and her aides. At issue here: to what extent Harris’s office and those computers were used then for partisan political purposes, and whether she had been sufficiently forthcoming when the Times had earlier asked to examine them. The experts concluded that the computers were used more extensively than either Ms. Harris or her spokesman had acknowledged. They found evidence that they had been used before the recounts for Harris’ political work for the Bush campaign and that during the recounts they were recipients via email of some partisan documents. They also found that some information had probably been permanently erased from them earlier this year after new operating systems were installed on three of them. The story is headlined (online at least) “DATA PERMANENTLY ERASED FROM FLORIDA COMPUTERS.” But the big print doesn’t mention what the story adds: The experts said they found “no evidence that records had been systematically purged as part of an intentional effort to destroy election documents.”

The LAT goes inside with another election flashback. In February, at a congressional hearing, the president of NBC, Andrew Lack, responding to a rumor that on Election Night, GE chairman Jack Welch, a major Republican fund contributor, had played a role in the network’s decision to call the election for George W. Bush, offered California congressman Henry Waxman access to any existing internal newsroom tapes. But now, reports the LAT, Lack says Congress has no right to internal deliberations of any news organization. Waxman says that NBC has confirmed the existence of such tapes and that he’ll seek a subpoena for them.

The WP’s Al Kamen reports that longtime Bush I stalwart Brent Scowcroft, soon to take a foreign policy job in the current administration, recently called former Bush I secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger to ask him to work with him and that Eagleburger agreed. But later Scowcroft called him back saying that there was a problem at the White House. In Kamen’s words: “Something about Eagleburger having supported that McCain fellow for president.”

A NYT editorial is rightly incredulous about the billboard outside Madison Square Garden that the University of Oregon is paying $250,000 for in order to promote the Heisman Trophy prospects of its quarterback. Sure, notes the paper, the money was all privately raised. But don’t athletic officials–not to mention, Today’s Papers would add, college presidents–have any “power or responsibility to influence what gifts their benefactors make?”