The Soft Machine

The Soft Machine

The Soft Machine

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 24 1998 7:27 AM

The Soft Machine

The Los Angeles Times leads with the Senate passage of an education bill that would create a new tax break for parental school expenses. USA Today goes with the second alliance between major airlines in two days. The Washington Post has an investigation into the latest financial machinations of the Democratic National Committee. And the New York Times leads with the biggest increase in the cost to employers of health care insurance since the rise of managed care.

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The Senate education bill, reports the LAT, is almost certain to draw a Clinton veto for such provisions as an IRA-style tax break for private and parochial school tuition, blocking national testing and allowing states to spend federal education funds virtually any way they choose. The story also makes the front at USAT and the NYT and is inside at the WP.

USAT reports that United and Delta will announce a domestic partnership today on the heels of yesterday's decision by American and US Airways to do the same. Continental and Northwest airlines announced a similar link earlier this year, which, says the WP in its front-page story, sparks these actions by their competitors. These new links, explains USAT, while falling short of a merger, will mean accepting the frequent flier mileage earned by passengers of the other airline and letting them into its airport clubs. More importantly, they could mean the consolidation of flight schedules, resulting in fewer and more expensive choices for consumers and fewer jobs for employees. The mileage and club arrangements do not require government approval, says the paper, but the schedule changes do.

The Post investigation reveals a campaign finance strategy of the past few months under which the DNC collected more than $1 million from labor unions, corporations and fat cats in "soft money" that cannot be used directly for congressional or presidential campaigns and handed it over to at least a dozen state Democratic parties, which then sent back to the DNC unrestricted "hard money" funds that can be spent on individual races. The state parties, reports the Post, have been charging a 10 to 15 percent commission for their part in these swaps. The paper says campaign reform advocates conclude that the scheme, "while legal, renders meaningless" the distinction between general-use-only soft money and unrestricted hard money.

The death of convicted Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray gets front-page coverage at USAT, the NYT, and LAT and is inside at the WP. The coverage notes that the Department of Justice review of the case, based on information recently submitted by King's family, which had come to support Ray's drive for a new trial, will continue.

The WP has a front-page report on disturbing new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that the recent decline in U.S. AIDS cases is not due to a notable drop in new infections, but rather to improved medical treatment of the disease. The rate of HIV infection among the populace, says the study, has in fact remained quite stable. Despite considerable public education efforts targeting them, young people and intravenous drug users continue to contract HIV at high rates.

The NYT front runs a Felicity Barringer piece that details an important aspect of the recent proliferation of federal investigations: prosecutors are pressing reporters more and more for their notes and other source materials and to a surprising degree, getting them. And unlike past press-prosecutor conflicts, these latest episodes aren't drawing much media coverage. According to the piece (which credits earlier little-noticed reports of such matters in the media-related press), in recent months, the feds have had their subpoena for the complete tape of Diane Sawyer's "PrimeTime Live" interview with Susan McDougal upheld and got the interview tapes writer James B. Stewart made with McDougal for a New Yorker piece he wrote. And under a subpoena served on him by the FBI in the lobby of Time's Washington bureau, reporter Jeffrey Birnbaum gave the government transcripts of his on-the-record conversations with a former White House aide. It is, Barringer writes, "a new season in First Amendment law."

The Wall Street Journal reports that its latest poll (undertaken with NBC News) indicates 66 percent of the public approve of the job Bill Clinton is doing. Only 4 percent of those surveyed think he will have to resign.

The WP's "Reliable Source" column makes a gimlet observation on Paula Jones' determination to appear this weekend in the same room as President Clinton at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. In the deposition Jones made for her lawsuit, notes the column, she testified, "Every time I look at this man on TV--I don't even look. I just turn it off because it brings back that terrible day..."