Internet: Lots of Balls

Internet: Lots of Balls

Internet: Lots of Balls

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 6 1999 7:02 AM

Internet: Lots of Balls

The Washington Post leads with Washington, D.C., officials' decision to reopen two homicide cases and their pledge to revamp the city's supervision of 150 group homes for the mentally disabled, all in response to a Sunday Post story revealing that in the nation's capital, officials routinely don't investigate the suspicious deaths of retarded people. The Los Angeles Times lead is what the Post went with yesterday: the decision by AT&T to give competing Internet service providers access to its high-speed cable network. The New York Times runs this inside, leading instead with the trend in many states to aggressively enforce truancy laws that threaten parents with fines and jail time. The story stuns early with this statistic: Last year, more than one-third of Detroit's public school students missed more than a month of classes. USA Today, which also runs AT&T inside, leads with the claim that the Federal Election Commission will have increasing trouble doing its job of enforcing federal election laws because of the upsurge of work brought about by the most expensive election cycle ever.

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The Post lead points out the limits of good journalism when it reminds the reader that Washington, D.C., still hasn't implemented the reforms it promised in response to a Post series done earlier this year on abuse in those group homes. Obviously, the city needs to bring in people with more investigative talent and a better sense of the bureaucracy than those calling the shots now. How about hiring (in jobs with real power) some of the Post reporters who keep nailing these stories?

The USAT FEC lead raises more questions than it answers: Why exactly is this election cycle producing more work for the agency? The story mentions the rise of complaints about "issue ads," but is that the sole cause? And what do independent experts think? The only people quoted by name in the story are FEC personnel, which is less than convincing since it's in the interest of every government agency to cry being underbudgeted and understaffed.

The WP and LAT front, and the NYT reefers, word that at the moment, the Mars Polar Lander is still MIA. The papers report that there is growing concern among project scientists that the craft will not complete its $165 million mission. One question: Why don't the stories mention the manufacturer of the craft? When an airliner crashes, the papers quickly announce that it's a Boeing or an Airbus--why should this be different?

For the second time in a week, a NYT front-pager about Congress' performance this year is brutally frank, appearing under the headline "HEALTH INDUSTRY SEES WISH LIST MADE INTO LAW."

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A pair of WP front-pagers emphasize that taxes are looming large in the Gore vs. Bradley battle. Gore, says the paper, is charging that Bradley will have to raise taxes in order to finance his health-care plan, and Bradley has chosen not to rule out an increase. The Bradley story serves up a memorable line from Jim Nicholson, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who calls Bradley "Dukakis with a jump shot."

In its "Heard on the Street" column, the Wall Street Journal makes a great observation about AT&T's likely announcement today of an IPO of a tracking stock tied to its wireless business: underwriters of such deals tend to be firms that have in the past given good ratings to the issuing company. Which of course means those ratings aren't exactly reliable for the rest of us.

The LAT's "Column One" details a corollary of Russia's constitutional provision that no member of its parliament can be prosecuted for a crime while in office: One hundred and five of this year's candidates are convicts and four others are wanted by police. It would have been nice if the story had mentioned what sort of immunity is enjoyed by members of the U.S. Congress and indeed how many, if any, are convicted felons.

The LAT business front reports that that Disney Internet executive who was arrested a few months ago by the FBI on charges of using the Internet to solicit sex from a minor has a defense ready to go for his trial this week. He will claim that the Web is a massive masquerade ball and that he never expected that anybody portraying themselves as a minor there would actually be one.

Sunday's NYT was more than a little fascinated with the topic of whether or not companies with "20th Century" in their names would change with the times. So fascinated that it ran not one, but two stories on the apparently bottomless topic, one in the "Money and Business" section and one in the "Week in Review."