Hot Coca

Hot Coca

Hot Coca

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 15 1999 7:14 AM

Hot Coca

The Los Angeles Times   fronts an accord to admit China into the World Trade Organization--a story that broke too late to make the print editions of the East Coast papers and too late for the LAT to change its print lead (a feature story on Haiti). Monday afternoon's signing ceremony (Beijing time)--the culmination of more than a decade of intermittent negotiations between the United States and China--comes after a week of intense, last-ditch efforts by Clinton envoys to ink a deal by the Nov. 30 WTO meeting in Seattle. (China still needs the consent of the European Union and several other WTO members.) Neither the LAT story, nor the Associated Press, nor online stories by the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal   has any details about the agreement.

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USA Today   leads with last evening's report by the Associated Press that the EgyptAir 990 cockpit voice recorder gives no evidence of a crime--a story that does not make the early editions of the other papers. The two pilots are talking "like pals" when ''something happens," an anonymous source tells the AP. "Alarms go off. Both work to try to fix it. There is some kind of problem that they're dealing with. It gets progressively worse. And the tape stops.'' The Post leads with a profile of the new generation of Colombian drug smugglers. Unlike the traditional Medellin and Cali cartels, these traffickers maintain a low profile, do not commit terrorist acts, are tech-savvy, and reduce their organizational structure by merging licit and illicit business and by hiring outside smugglers on a per-job basis. They also cooperate with Colombia's Marxist insurgents, who control much of the country. As a result, this year the Justice Department expects to double or treble its estimate of Colombian coca production. The LAT leads with an update on Haiti. Five years and $2 billion after the U.S. invasion, the country is a dictatorship in which "chaos and violent death remain facts of life." The NYT leads with fears among Republicans and their supporters that the party will lose control of the House of Representatives next fall.

Republican officeholders, the NYT explains, have retired twice as fast as Democrats, fund-raising is below expectations, and to hedge their bets, business groups are uncharacteristically giving soft money equally to Democrats and Republicans. The Journal runs a similar piece lamenting the explosion of partisanship and gridlock on Capitol Hill. The Post, however, fronts an article concluding that Clinton's budget victories are a mixed blessing: He had defeated GOP attacks, but launched no initiatives of his own.

USAT off-leads British telecom Vodafone Airtouch's failed friendly takeover of German behemoth Mannesmann A.G. for $106.4 billion. Analysts expect European and American firms--including, USAT notes, Vodafone's cellular partner in America, Bell Atlantic--to compete in a bidding war for Mannesmann.

The Journal puts atop its "Worldwide" box--and the NYT reefers--the agreement reached by the White House and the GOP to pay back $1 billion in U.N. dues. The White House compromised on funding for international family-planning programs--a stance first hinted at in Friday's NYT lead (see Friday's "TP").

The Post fronts--and the NYT reefers with an above-the-fold picture--Bill Bradley's unusual Madison Square Garden fund-raiser, which netted, pardon the pun, nearly $1.5 million. The 7,500 attendees (the NYT says 7,000), who paid between $50 and $1,000, got to dribble an obstacle course and listen to 19 NBA Hall of Famers (the NYT says 20) extol the Democratic candidate. "It was ironic," the Post notes sourly in an otherwise glowing story, "that a man who stopped watching basketball, who wouldn't do sports interviews, who wouldn't even play a pickup game after his career ended in 1977, would be the instigator of such an occasion." (Click here for the pundits' reactions to Bradley's basketball bash.) Meanwhile, the AP reports that former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich will endorse Bradley and join his campaign. (Click here to read Jonathan Rauch on Reich's unique White House experience.)

On the NYT Op-Ed page, Gordon G. Chang, a Beijing-based lawyer for an American firm, argues that the Chinese-American WTO negotiations are overhyped. China's claimed 7.8 percent growth is illusory, the writer asserts--the economy is actually just barely expanding, the government is debt-ridden, and millions are unemployed. WTO or no WTO, China will have to reform its economy.

The Journal reports that Dow Chemical has revolutionized slime. Not just any slime, mind you, but methyl cellulose--a wood pulp broken down by chemicals into a tasteless, odorless, calorie-less goo. Unlike most plastics, methyl cellulose thickens, rather than thins, upon heating, and is safe to eat. Unlike most starch-based food additives, methyl cellulose gives a buttery, rather than pasty, flavor. Discovered accidentally in the 1930s, it was kept on a shelf until early this decade, when Dow decided to market it aggressively. Today it is used for special effects in movies and for time-release medicines, as a grease-sponge in frozen dinners, as an egg-white substitute for vegans, and as a thickener in soups, sauces, and gravies. One problem: getting food manufacturers to believe that cellulose treated with chemicals is safe to eat. To put his money where his mouth is--or, in this case, his mouth where his money is--a Dow scientist recently used an overhead transparency made of the substance for a presentation in front of food manufacturers. After he was done, he proceeded to wolf down the transparent, ink-stained sheet.