Byte Man's Burden

Byte Man's Burden

Byte Man's Burden

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 15 2000 3:24 AM

Byte Man's Burden

The Washington Post leads with an exclusive: a warning from an unidentified senior Pentagon official that unless ethnic Albanian guerrillas curtail their cross-border attacks against Serbia, they may face U.S. military action. USA Today goes with Nasdaq's 201-point down day, with the plummet led by biotech stocks reacting, says the paper, to statements made yesterday by President Clinton and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair urging that human genome information be made freely available to scientists. The story also tops the Wall Street Journal front-page business news box and is fronted by the New York Times, where the top non-local story is a long look at some mortgage companies that cater to would-be homeowners with bad marks on their credit and, claim consumer groups and the AARP and regulators in five states, deceptively charge them significantly higher fees and interest rates. The story, which leads with a home loan where $13,000 in fees was tacked onto a $47,000 principal, says that such high-yielding deals have meant that the lenders have been vigorously supported by Wall Street investment banks. The Los Angeles Times puts the Clinton-Blair gene comments into its top non-local story: The announcement by a British company that it used adult pig cells to clone five piglets, which were born last week and are featured in a top-of-the-page picture that looks like a Babe outtake. (The WP also fronts the story and pic.) The paper says the development ushers in what could be a new era in cell and organ transplants--because pigs are the best animal for producing organs for human implantation (they're the closest in size)--while also renewing fears of the imminence of human cloning. And, oh yeah, both Al Gore and George W. Bush nailed down their parties' nominations, a story that USAT and the LAT front, but the others cover inside.

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The WP fronts and the NYT reefers a state judge's strike-down of Florida's groundbreaking private school voucher plan for students assigned to public schools certified as failing. The NYT story makes more of the political fodder potential of the case, noting high up that the program is cited as a model by George W. Bush. But the Post piece says (near the end) that vouchers appear to have limited appeal as a campaign issue, citing an unnamed poll that concluded that the idea "elicits little energy from the electorate." Really?

Both the WP and the WSJ report that authorities have brought charges in an $8.4 million insider trading case said to be the first such conspiracy to use the Internet. A New York-based temp worker at two big investment banks allegedly used online research to help him identify the companies mentioned in encoded bank internal documents he'd gotten hold of and then he sometimes passed along his confidential tips to people he met in AOL chat rooms. The stories emphasize that the Internet helps disseminate tip information much faster and wider than conventional insider trading but also that it creates electronic clues for investigators.

A WSJ op-ed piece tracks the media career of the story broken last Friday by the LAT about how the DOJ's top campaign-finance investigator wanted an independent counsel to investigate White House fund-raising activities because Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Harold Ickes had, he felt, received special treatment from Justice. Or is that media non-career? The Journal piece notes that: Nothing was done about the story last Friday on any of the network evening news shows; CBS's evening news did broach the story on Saturday evening (in a broadcast bumped most places for basketball); a Sunday night ABC news show about Gore's fund-raising past didn't mention the LAT revelation or the conviction of a Maria Hsia, a Democratic fund-raiser and Gore friend. This is all troubling, but the piece would have been stronger if it had discussed what television did with the story this week. Follow-up, anyone?

A big development in '80s and '90s journalism was the press's unabashed idolatry of rich people. But now apparently, the media doesn't just adore these folks--it feels sorry for them. Yesterday's LAT front had a lengthy takeout on the recently discovered tragedy known as "sudden wealth syndrome." Billions can, it seems, bring the newly rich "a sense of isolation, uncertainty, and imbalance--as if they had been teleported into an alien world that was very pleasant at times but still completely strange." And today's WP runs a "Style" profile of Red Hat cash-out Marc Ewing and his wife Lisa Yun Lee, which along the way details the conscience pangs Lee is suffering: While she was finishing up her thesis on neo-Marxism at Duke, she bought herself a new BMW, but driving it to campus made her feel "disjointed." Solution: She parked it three lots away from campus.