Today's Papers

Bulgari’s Novel Strategy

The Washington Post’s top national story predicts that the fifth meeting between President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox will be an “international lovefest.” Bush needs Fox’s imprimatur to boost his standing with Hispanic voters; Fox needs Bush’s promises of investment and softer immigration policy to score a much-needed political victory in Mexico. The Los Angeles Times lead casts the meeting as a historic step in a period of reconciliation between the two countries. The New York Times leads with a prediction that President Bush and Congress’s return to Washington, D.C., this week will result in a “bruising political collision over spending and taxes.” The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s business and finance news box is Bayer’s $5 billion purchase of an agricultural chemicals business. (USA Today takes Labor Day off.)

The WP lead singles out Fox as the needier of the two presidents. Despite a popularity rating of 64 percent, Fox has been unable to pass economic reform and needs concessions from Bush–softer immigration rules, more U.S. investment in Mexico, etc.–to justify his friendship with the “colossus to the north.” An analyst says Bush must improve his take of the Hispanic vote (35 percent in 2000) by three or four points to be competitive in 2004. The most important issue, the LAT lead reports, will be immigration policy, always a sore spot between U.S. and Mexican presidents, including George H.W. Bush. But even as it plays up the enormity of the meeting, the paper offers no hint of what kind of immigration deal might emerge. Bush advisers explain that a broad framework, not detailed policy, will come out of the meeting.   

The NYT calls it a “collision,” but in the face of dwindling surpluses the upcoming congressional session is more likely to be a stalemate. Bush wants to focus the remaining money (and Congress’s attention) on education and military spending. But one prominent GOP House member scoffs that Bush’s military spending increase “is not what was suggested or promised.” Bush’s other initiatives–the energy plan, the faith-based initiative, and securing fast-track trade authority for himself–will likely languish in the Senate. The paper suggests the parties might “[split] the difference” between education and military spending but offers no details. 

The WSJ predicts that Bayer’s acquisition of Aventis SA’s CropScience signals its shift toward becoming a “chemicals company.” (Bayer’s withdrawal last month of a cholesterol-lowering drug has endangered its pharmaceuticals unit.) The after-purchase scorecard: Bayer becomes the world’s fifth-largest agrochemical company and third-largest herbicide business.

Everyone reports the death of Christiaan Barnard, the South African surgeon who performed the first human heart transplant operation in 1967. Barnard, 78, suffered a fatal asthma attack while vacationing in Cyprus. The NYT’s obit suggests that Barnard’s most important contribution was harvesting a heart from a brain-dead accident victim, a controversial practice in the United States at the time. Barnard’s first patient lived for 18 days after the operation; his second lived for more than 19 months.

The WP fronts (and the others stuff) the death of 10-year-old David Peltier, the first American killed by a shark this year. Peltier was attacked by an undetermined species near Virginia Beach, Va. Only five shark attacks have been reported in Virginia waters since 1850.

The NYT fronts news that Bulgari, an Italian jewelry company, paid £18,000 to British novelist Fay Weldon to place its products in her new book. (The company asked for at least a dozen product mentions; Weldon made the jewelry the centerpiece of the book and titled it “The Bulgari Connection.”) For what sounds initially like a hand-wringing story, the paper musters only one hand-wringing quote, from the president of the Author’s Guild. She worries the arrangement “erodes reader confidence” and “adds to the cynicism.”

The WP fronts news that Washington lawmakers are spending less time in the District and more time in their home districts. The paper passes on the chance to conduct a complete survey–noting that “no one” keeps track of this kind of information–but finds that only six of 42 congresspersons surveyed keep their families and permanent addresses in Washington. Pols are lured out of the district by a bombardment of interest group and press information–hence a greater need to massage the message back home–and cheap airfares.

How did the editorial pages grind out a hardy perennial: the Labor Day editorial? A WSJ writer takes comfort in the fact that “most workers report being satisfied with their jobs and their leisure.” (This after a different scribe on the WSJ’s Web site called for the abolition of the holiday on Friday.) The NYT goes the historical route, celebrating Labor Day’s radical founding. After an odd start–“You always have to wonder, at the end of a three-day weekend: Is work an ingrained need of human beings?”–the WP spends 140 words summarizing the findings of a NYT article from last week. A restful holiday, indeed.