The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal (in its "Business and Finance" box) lead with the stock market's biggest plunge in over a year--a story off-leaded by the New York Times and Washington Post. The Nasdaq index fell 5.6 percent (after gaining 86 percent in 1999) and the Dow fell 3.2 percent (after gaining 25 in '99). Analysts attribute the sell-off to tax incentives arriving with the new year and to heightened fears of an interest-rate hike when the Federal Reserve Board meets on Feb. 1. The NYT and Post lead with President Clinton's announcement that he will nominate Alan Greenspan for a fourth four-year term as chairman of the Fed. USAT and the LAT mention Clinton's announcement in their stock-market leads, while the Journal puts it fourth from the top in its "Business and Finance" box.
The Journal says that Clinton's announcement "mak[es] official what markets had been expecting and what politicians from both parties had been endorsing for months." The Post, however, writes that "some participants in the financial markets had begun to speculate that Clinton might not reappoint [Greenspan], or that the administration would try to influence Fed interest-rate policy in exchange for the reappointment." So, are the market dip and Greenspan's appointment related? Yes and no: While Wall Street analysts laud Clinton's move, his announcement frees Greenspan from political pressure to keep rates down. But the papers also blame the sell-off on tax laws--capital gains earned now are not taxed until April 2001--and an overvalued technology sector.
USAT's stock-market story describes the Nasdaq's drop as "breathtaking" but goes on to note that it was "long overdue" and only the eighth-largest percentage drop in the index's history. Both USAT and the Post begin a paragraph with the same hackneyed sentence: "The carnage was widespread." In his NYT column, Paul Krugman asks, "Why was the market so easily spooked? Presumably because everyone--me included--is even more confused than usual about what stocks are really worth these days."
The Post fronts an announcement by a Chinese economic planner that private enterprises should be put on an "equal footing with state-owned enterprises" for the first time since the 1949 revolution. Although the Post quotes an expert labeling this a "significant ideological shift," a NYT story on the announcement, run inside, focuses instead on China's inability to grow fast enough to assure jobs for its ballooning workforce.
USAT fronts and the NYT reefers the development of a new test for pre-cancerous conditions in the cervix. Unlike a Pap smear, which requires a pelvic exam and determines if cervical tissue is pre-cancerous, the new procedure tests for the presence of a pre-cancerous virus and can be self-administered. The HPV test--for human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer in women over 40--could save many lives in the developing world, where lack of access to Pap tests leads to nearly 200,000 preventable deaths every year.
The Post and Journal report that Labor Secretary Alexis Herman backtracked from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration notice requiring employers to provide proper furniture, lighting, heating, and ventilation systems to employees working at home. (The Journal credits the Post--which broke the story yesterday--in its third paragraph.) "The [Post] story raised an important debate that we need to have about the workplace of the future," said Herman, who wants to "open a dialogue on the issue" rather than inspect workers' homes en masse. An op-ed in the Journal argues that the OSHA guidelines are part of a pattern of Clinton administration electoral favors to labor unions (because the guidelines discourage telecommuters, who are hard to organize).
The NYT reports that Seattle will drop all but 40 remaining misdemeanor charges against WTO protestors. Many of the protestors decried the decision; they were looking forward to grandstanding during their trials. In the Journal's California edition, a retrospective "news article" to commemorate the state sesquicentennial hearkens back to an era when a different kind of justice prevailed:
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 8, 1856--With the sheriff unable, or unwilling, to keep crime in check, the city's 3,000-member Committee of Vigilance stepped into the breach. Over the past three months, the committee brags, it has hanged four accused murderers, banished 30 criminals and troublemakers from the region and run untold numbers of "Sydney Ducks"--as convicts from Australia are known--out of town.