Trading Insults

Trading Insults

Trading Insults

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 2 1999 7:02 AM

Trading Insults

For the second straight day, the WTO meetings in Seattle is everybody's lead. USA Today's lead focuses entirely on the street-level protests and the police response to them, while the others split their attention between that and the actual issues confronting the organization.

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In discussing the situation in the streets, where a dusk-to-dawn curfew stayed in effect last night, all the papers report that the police now believe their initial handling of the situation was too permissive. The New York Times reveals some of the cops' most effective techniques after they decided to get tougher: confiscating gas masks and cell phones from demonstrators. (But USAT says protesters are still using cell phones, as well as laptop computers and Palm Pilots to regroup and alert journalists about their activities.) What a difference from Day 1, when, according to "several American cabinet members" quoted by the NYT, there hadn't even been any police barricades in place.

A second NYT front pager, from Timothy Egan, offers the best you-are-there account of Tuesday's mayhem. The piece has an unidentified person in black saying that anarchists had planned all along to incite the rampage. The Los Angeles Times passes along unconfirmed reports of violent altercations on Tuesday between demonstrators and WTO delegates and also reports that when the presidential limousine came through downtown Seattle yesterday it was occasionally met by raised middle fingers. The WP front runs a profile on one Mike Dolan, who it claims was the "architect" of the Seattle protest, a claim brought a bit into question because none of the other papers' Seattle coverage even mentions him.

Only the Washington Post really clearly says what the WTO delegates are actually trying to do: forging an agreement on what should be on the table for the next round of trade liberalization talks. Everybody reports that President Clinton was much in evidence at the meetings yesterday, addressing WTO types, meeting privately with enviros, and closeting one-on-one with the head of the AFL-CIO. The coverage makes it clear what the top WTO item is on the Clinton agenda: getting the organization to apply higher standards regarding working conditions and environmental damage. And that Clinton, who condemned the violent protests but welcomed the peaceful ones, in effect endorsed one of the protesters' key complaints: that the WTO is far too secretive. Clinton also chastised European resistance to the importation of U.S.-produced genetically engineered foods. The WP plays this latter point higher than anybody else.

The NYT reports on a more specific Clinton proposal--his advocacy of relaxing American trade rules to make anti-AIDS drugs more affordable in Africa. This, the Times notes, is a reversal of recent administration policy, which had favored the U.S. drug companies' stance of strict distribution controls that kept prices high. (But there is no mention of Al Gore's history of having taken a pro-drug company position in this matter.) The paper also reports that Clinton would support ending tariffs on all exports from the poorest nations.

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The WP off-leads and USAT goes bottom front with the Federal Aviation Administration's revelation yesterday that investigators who set out to test security at major U.S. airports repeatedly found it could be easily breached. They broke through checkpoints 117 times in 173 attempts. Some of them, say the papers, even managed to get themselves comfortably seated aboard airliners at departure time. The testers used such techniques as piggybacking through locked doors behind properly credentialed personnel, and driving through unmanned gates.

The USAT, WP, and LAT fronts report that after a decade of work, scientists have decoded the information in a human chromosome. The chromosome in question is the second-smallest of the 23 pairs in a human cell. Mapping all the information in all 23 is the ultimate goal being undertaken by the government's Human Genome Project as well as by a competing private company. The NYT stuffs the story.

The WP reports inside that in the year since the federal government required background checks on people trying to pawn guns, the gun inventory of the nation's pawn shops has fallen from 10 million to 3 million.

The WP editorial page comes down hard on those class-action suits filed against Microsoft in the wake of the rather harsh finding of fact handed down against the company in the DOJ antitrust trial. Such lawsuits are, opines the Post, "particularly troubling in cases such as these, in which the plaintiff's lawyers, who are not elected officials after all, seek to take in their own hands significant public policy questions." Excuse, but couldn't segregationists have said the same thing about Brown vs. Board of Education?

The Wall Street Journal "Business Bulletin" has a fact that dramatizes how profoundly well-off this country is--Americans throw out approximately 12 percent of the stuff they buy at the supermarket.

The WP reports that the implementation of various energy-efficient measures has saved taxpayers nearly $1.4 million in the operation of the White House since 1993. Guess having the lights down low in the Oval Office all those times really paid off ...