Grunts' Groans

Grunts' Groans

Grunts' Groans

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 10 2000 7:13 AM

Grunts' Groans

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leads with the Clinton administration's proposal for establishing a nationwide computer system for rapidly tracking the course of infectious diseases like the flu and hepatitis C. The New York Times lead also connects medicine and cyberspace with a report that the rise of Americans' online pharmaceutical purchases via foreign-based Web sites has led to record levels of illegal drug imports, judging from the latest figures on Customs Service seizures of imported drugs in 1999, which ran about 4.5 times higher than 1998. The Los Angeles Times leads with good news about Medicare: The implementation of the DOJ's campaign against fraudulent claims, combined with the low inflation rate, has kept spending in the 25-year-old program to its lowest growth rate ever. The Washington Post goes with a private study of the attitudes of members of the U.S. military. Main findings of the worldwide survey of 12,000: The service members feel overworked and underpaid, feel that they don't have enough resources to carry out their assignments, and lack confidence in their leaders. But, according to the survey, they still have a deep commitment to military service. By the way, the Post reports that the issue of gays in the military was hardly ever mentioned by the service members. The military study is the off-lead at USAT and is fronted at the LAT. It runs inside at the NYT. (To see that the U.S. military isn't the only one with big problems, click here.)

The USAT lead explains the need to replace the current patchwork paper-and-pencil-and-phone disease-reporting system: Thirty-five new infectious diseases have been identified since 1973, while some older ones have been reincarnated as drug-resistant superbugs.

The NYT lead points out that the FDA advises consumers not to purchase meds from foreign sites because they will generally be illegal (because, for instance, they're not labeled properly or don't meet purity standards), but adds that usually the government doesn't bother folks ordering small amounts (up to three months' worth) for their own use.

The LAT puts the Medicare news in perspective by stating that the cost of health-care spending by businesses and individuals was up 6.9 percent. An inside WP AP dispatch has that figure and the Medicare one. But the story also states, in contrast to the fiscal optimism expressed high up by the LAT, that Medicare costs are not expected to continue to drop, once boomers begin to attain eligibility in large numbers.

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A wild but true crime tale unfolds in the NYT's off-lead. Somebody has tried to extort $100,000 from online music retailer CD Universe by threatening to release some of the company's more than 300,000 customer credit-card files. Because the company wouldn't comply, says the Times, the intruder has released some of the card numbers on the Internet and claims to have used some for himself. The paper points out that the episode is apt to rekindle consumer concerns about online credit card security. Also, since the jerkball's e-mail trail leads to eastern Europe, the case stands to highlight the freedom online criminals have to operate beyond U.S. jurisdiction.

The NYT and Wall Street Journal report that on Sunday, General Motors announced an alliance with AOL, and Ford announced one with Yahoo. Both deals will allow car buyers and owners to register to receive model-specific e-mail from the manufacturers and dealers covering everything from oil changes to rebates. The Journal account adds that the deals are intended to include Internet access for owners from their cars as well.

Citing a report in London's Sunday Times, inside stories at the WP and NYT report that British officials say they've caught Libya trying to smuggle Scud missile parts through London's Gatwick Airport. The contretemps comes just after the two countries re-established diplomatic relations.

The WSJ fronts a detailed feature about a type of worker increasingly common in the modern office: a company Internet snoop, who spends his days checking to see where other workers go on the Web. The story shows one such snoop reading the (deleted) e-mails of a former employee. At the company in question, online access to sites with any nudity is barred, but those about racism, extremism, violence and profanity, and sports are OK. Other types of URLs frowned upon are music downloading sites and online investment services. The story never questions the fundamental assumption of the snoopers: namely that companies should be able to control their employees' Web access. Now, clearly, they have the right to, but the story might have considered whether this is wise from a productivity point of view. It's the wage-slave mentality that judges workplace performance by input, by the number of hours worked, say. The enlightened view of how to manage people is to judge them by their output instead. So why should a company care where an employee surfs as long as he/she is productive? Who knows--maybe those "irrelevant" visits stimulate the creativity that's behind the employee's next big idea.

A letter to the WP makes a gimlet observation about the recent upward economic drift of journalism. The missive notes that the paper recently characterized Hillary Clinton's recent move into her new house "as a seemingly typical move on a seemingly typical day, except for the 10 TV cameras ..." The writer goes on to point out that, ahem, this was a $1.7 million home HRC was moving into. Typical perhaps for a Post editor or executive, but ...