The global economy dominates today. USA Today leads with the Clinton administration's push for Japan to enact fiscal reforms now. The Washington Post leads with the IMF-World Bank $22 billion in loans to Russia, which also leads the national edition of the New York Times. The metro edition of the Times puts Russia/loans in the off-lead and goes instead with a jury's finding that Rev. Al Sharpton and two other Tawana Brawley advisors defamed a New York assistant D.A. when they said on several occasions 10 years ago that he kidnapped and raped Ms. Brawley. (The verdict also makes the WP front.) The Los Angeles Times pairs Russia/loans and Japan/reforms together in the lead spot.
According to USAT, the White House is urging Japan to undertake tax cuts and banking reforms, and to open up its domestic markets to more foreign competition. The U.S. had been counting on Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to do these things, but as a result of his party's severe election losses, he resigned Monday. The LAT's headline indicates doubts any new government will be any more capable of swift reform, but what the headline giveth, the subhead taketh away: ".but others say losses may jolt party into action." The Wall Street Journal back-of-the-front-section "Politics and Policy" piece also worries that the post-Hashimoto period may not see much improvement.
Hashimoto will serve, say the papers, until a successor is chosen, probably in a week or so. The NYT and LAT do take-outs on the leading contenders. The LAT, perhaps reflecting a city loaded with Japanese restaurants, describes the two most likely successors as respectively "spicy" and "bland." The WP fronts an interesting survey of the Japanese electorate's mood. One man seems to speak for many when he says his anti-Hashimoto vote was a "wake-up call."
One question not answered in the coverage: Why does reform for Japan mean cutting taxes and reform for Russia mean raising taxes?
The Times notes that the Sharpton jury will next proceed to deliberate about any damage award. The ex-D.A. is seeking $395 million, a sum the paper notes he may have trouble collecting even if awarded, given that one of the Brawley advisors is a suspended lawyer, another is a disbarred one, and Sharpton says he owns no home or other substantial property. The WP story says that the former D.A. spent $320,000 bringing the case.
Given all the press attention lavished on the Year 2000 bug, it's hard to fathom that only USAT fronts Wall Street's Y2K test Monday. Twenty-nine security firms and twelve exchanges began the first day of two weeks of simulating what it would be like to run the markets as the nines turn over. The test so far has excluded small securities firms and international markets, but Day One was, says the paper, glitchless.
If you think conservative fiscal theorists are on drugs, the WP's front page is a reminder that you are at least sometimes right: It details how Lawrence Kudlow , a former Reagan White House budget official and economics writer for the National Review, is easing back into the policy life three years after hitting bottom as a cocaine binger.
The Journal's "Work Week" column reports that according to a survey done by the Cross pen company, two-thirds of executives say e-mail has cut back on their need for meetings. Nine out of ten say it has also reduced the need for paperwork and has improved overall productivity. But nearly half the execs say they still attend too many meetings. And 6 percent of them say that during those meetings, they take notes to make it look as if they are listening--a trend "Today's Papers" is quite sure the Cross pen company deeply deplores.