All papers--the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post--lead with the U.S. economy's surprisingly strong third-quarter growth rate in the face of the world financial crisis. As measured in July-September, the rate was 3.3 percent, up from 1.8% in the second quarter (and far exceeding the 2% gain the NYT reports was forecast by Wall Street).
The data, released by the Commerce Department Friday, is treated by all with a blend of optimism and caution. While the Dow Jones pulled a John Glenn and rocketed up 97 points, most experts predict that the economy will slow next year. All papers report that exports fell. The NYT and LAT report that consumer spending rose at a 3.9% rate, below the rate for the first six months of the year (6.1%, though neither mentions it). Meanwhile, the WP goofs by reporting that the consumer spending rose at a 2.6% rate in the third quarter, down from 4% in the first six months. Interpretations as well as numbers differ. The NYT, which calls the consumer spending numbers "very robust," is less discouraged by the declining rate than the WP and LAT, which both emphasize that consumer confidence is sliding. Another interpretive discrepancy: The analysts consulted by the WP say that the Fed will probably still reduce short-term interests rates in November, but the LAT and the NYT say that such Fed action is now less likely. Only the NYT article points out that the economy's growth supplies the Democrats with pre-election pep-rally material.
In other economic news (fronted by the NYT; enfolded into the lead LAT story), the Group of Seven industrial nations announced their support yesterday for President Clinton's plan to provide IMF loans to economies vulnerable to Asia's malaise. The G-7 also outlined some new reforms for the IMF, such as charging high interest on IMF loans to encourage prompt payback.
Eleven judges from Spain's National Court voted unanimously that Spain has the right to bring criminal charges against former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and seek his extradition from Britain. This unprecedented decision directly contradicts the British High Court's ruling this week. An appeal is pending, and the NYT notes that Spain's action may give more impetus for Britain to overturn its ruling.
As all papers report inside, documents released yesterday show that on September 25 the Lewinsky grand jury judge ordered a special investigation of Kenneth Starr's office for leak violations. The ruling cited 24 news stories as evidence of possible leak violations. The special investigator--whose name is being kept secret--was given the authority to hire a staff and subpoena testimony and documents from the independent counsel's office.
A NYT front-pager headlined "Candidates Deploy Wives as Evidence of Constancy" adds an interesting twist to the pre-election ad wars: Candidates (especially older Democrats) are putting their wives on the air essentially to inform voters how long they have been (faithfully?) married. Among the venerable couples: Kenneth & Anne MacKay from Florida: 39 years; Roy & Mary Barnes from Georgia: 28 years; Mike & Kathy Simpson of Idaho: also 28 years.
The WP fronts an interesting story on a joint U.S.-Chinese secret electronic surveillance system established in 1995 along the China-Burma border to eavesdrop on narcotics traffickers. The specifics of the surveillance station are intriguingly murky: It is tiny, staffed by less than a dozen people (mostly or all Chinese), and possibly mobile. The interceptor device is "run by the CIA" (whatever that means), but the intelligence generated has helped Chinese officials to crack at least four cases--each involving over 220 pounds of heroin.
The NYT runs a long feature on the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. These spooky events, which have been going on since October 2, feature everything from a Chain Saw Drill Team lurking outside the haunted houses to a deranged dentist who brushes with unsuspecting visitors. Although the NYT good-naturedly complains that "Universal executives here are almost as tight-lipped as Frankenstein's monster," the paper estimates that the Halloween Horror Nights bring in $11 million in revenues for Universal.