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Greenback Green Cards

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 29 1997 7:51 AM

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leads with the scores of injuries and one death on board a United Airlines jumbo jet enroute to Hawaii from Japan. The Washington Post leads with exposure of a little-known program giving visas to immigrant investors. The New York Times goes with the revelation of a major Clinton administration domestic goal for this year: sign up millions of children eligible for Medicaid health insurance but not currently enrolled. The Los Angeles Times leads with a striking drop in the Los Angeles murder rate.

The WP lead details how a U.S. immigration program enacted in 1990 reserves up to 10,000 green cards a year for rich investors and their immediate families. The program has led to the growth of consulting firms handling the details--the leading one boasts George Bush's brother on its board. More than 80 percent of these visas are going to Asians.

The Clinton push on Medicaid coverage for poor children, which will be featured in the upcoming State of the Union message, apparently came, says the Times, after the president was dismayed to discover that most states had made little progress on this since he first started talking about it early last year. The piece is by the NYT's long-time social policy reporter, Robert Pear, but it will be interesting to see how the Times handles any subsequent coverage of this by its other main poor people reporter, Jason DeParle, whose wife is the administration's Medicaid expansion point person.

The LAT says that fewer people have been killed in 1997 in the City of Angels than in any single year since 1977, which, the paper reminds readers with head injuries, was when Jimmy Carter was president. The paper cites a number of factors that might explain the drop: a stronger economy, stabilization of the drug-trade, stricter sentencing laws, improved police tactics, periodic gang truces, and a decrease in the young-adult demographic. But shouldn't the Brady Bill, with its waiting period and background check for any handgun purchase, also get a mention?

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The LAT, USAT, the Wall Street Journal, and the NYT all run front-page items about Hong Kong's decision to combat that new strain of chicken flu by killing all 1 million of its chickens. The Post runs it on p. 11. (What kind of soup will folks there drink when they get the flu?)

Both the WSJ and the NYT run columns wondering if the Asian economic downturn is good for the U.S. economy or the beginning of a recession here. Both pieces run through the arguments, with the Journal coming down on the side of optimism and the Times piece, while avoiding a flat prediction of impending doom, says that with the "myth of Asian invincibility" gone, "we have lost a foundation stone." (Did you ever believe that myth?) Taken together, the two columns prove nothing so much as that the world economy is a duck-rabbit.

Today's installment in the series about women in the military that the WP started yesterday focuses on a little-noticed obstacle confronting women officers trying to rise to top command jobs: a key route for getting them is serving as an aide-de-camp to those in them now, and the top brass hardly ever pick women.

Yesterday's NYT "Week in Review" contains selections from the Senate hearings on the Titanic disaster, which convened four days after the sinkings and hence are shot through with searing details. The lowlights include testimony that there were no binoculars on the ship and that J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the Titanic's parent company, was on board and, despite the inadequate number of lifeboats and the woman-and-children-first policy, managed to get himself into one of them.

"Today's Papers" heard from many readers countering last week's animadversion about the WP's use of the phrase "innocent verdict." The main point they expressed was that, while not legally precise, "innocent" was preferable because it doesn't run the risk of libel that "not guilty" does if the "not" is inadvertently dropped. Indeed, the AP style book takes this point of view. So perhaps this column erred in calling this a "rookie mistake." It is apparently a very experienced mistake. But it should be noted that, especially in the case of public figures like Terry Nichols, it takes far more than a dropped bit of type to constitute even a prima facie case of libel. Moreover, if this were a coherent policy, then newspapers should ban the use of "not" altogether, since dropping it always carries this same risk.