The New York Times and Washington Post both lead with word from the Commerce Department that U.S. economic growth slowed considerably in the third quarter, making it likely that in 2000, the U.S. will post a lower average annual growth rate than in any year since the mid-'90s. Reefering this story, the Los Angeles Times leads instead with the "BITTER" ("HARSH" on the WP front and "NASTY" to the NYT) new tone of the presidential race. Al Gore stands accused of negative calling in Michigan while a new ad run on behalf of George W. Bush charges that a Gore presidency might leave the nation vulnerable to nuclear attack. Each paper fronts duelling photos of the two candidates leaving no hand unshaken as Election Day draws near.
All three papers find a silver lining in the Commerce Department report of a slowdown: it might give the U.S. economy the "soft landing" it needs to avoid recession, stave off inflation, and keep Wall Street happy (the Dow rose over 200 points yesterday in response to the news). The LAT reminds that the 4 percent projected growth rate for 2000 is more sustainable than the 6 percent average of the last few years and still quite good. The WP twice (once in a quote) maintains that one reason for continued optimism is that consumer spending has held up, while the NYT lead asserts that consumer spending rose more slowly than at any point in the last three years. But the NYT goes on to explain that several factors mitigate the report's findings--including thousands of census workers leaving the federal payroll and producers selling off inventory surpluses from last quarter. Still, the uncertainty of how to take the news comes through in the tepid reaction from Robert Rubin that concludes the WP lead.
While all three papers front news of the latest violence in the Middle East, the LAT headline strikes the most feverish pitch when it declares: "MIDEAST CLASH IS BECOMING AN ALL-OUT RELIGIOUS WAR." The LAT story notes that the hateful speech on both sides has become increasingly bound up in religious/racial as opposed to political undertones. The piece asserts that with greater frequency, both Israeli and Palestinian attacks are now aimed at sites with religious significance. The message "Hitler correctly destroyed the Jewish vermin" was scrawled across the wall of the synagogue in Efrat. And in a recent speech, Yasser Arafat proclaimed that the infamous Sharon visit sparked "a new dimension--a religious one" to the fighting. The WP fronts word that four Palestinians were killed yesterday in various skirmishes throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, bringing the death total to 137, mostly Palestinians. The NYT reports that various Arab organizations had declared yesterday--the Muslim Sabbath--a "day of rage."
The papers all front the latest word out of the Microsoft e-intrusion case, where there is still nothing definitive on what motivated the breach. The WP and NYT both report that hackers logging in as Microsoft employees had access to the company network for six weeks, while the LAT headline says three months. In a statement yesterday, Microsoft insisted that the hackers did not get their hands on the source for its mega-popular Windows or Office apps (a possibility that had been floated yesterday in the Wall Street Journal), but rather peeped at code for an as-yet undisclosed Internet project still in development. The LAT adds that, in addition, the hackers had access to several sensitive internal documents and e-mails, perhaps even ones that might prove incriminating in the antitrust case. The WP notes that this is the second mammoth technology company (AOL in June) to get hacked in the last six months, and the NYT quotes an expert as saying, "if they can do this to Microsoft, they can do it to anyone." The WP and NYT give the WSJ credit for breaking the story yesterday, while the LAT refers to earlier word of the break-in as appearing in "some reports."
The WP lead reports that each candidate is accusing the other of being the first to de-glove. A day after Dems blasted a Bush special interest's revival of the anti-Goldwater "Daisy" ad (flower-picker fade to nuclear explosion), the NYT reports that, at Bush's requests, the ad has been taken off the air. And the papers report that the Bush camp is now up in arms over mass calls made by Michigan's Democratic Party. Phones across the pivotal swing state have been ringing with the warning that a Bush presidency might jeopardize Social Security and that his neglectful policies as governor led to a nursing home resident's death. The LAT reports that a new pro-Bush ad will show footage of a blustery Nader laying into Al Gore's environmental record as "an election-year delusion." The Gore camp charged that the ad, hoped to do double duty by propping up Nader and tearing down Gore, is unfair and the NYT quotes a Nader spokesman's remark that Bush's environmental record is "abysmal as well."
In a separate piece, the LAT reports that the imminent possibility of a Bush presidency has made many voters, especially those in tight-race states like Michigan, rethink their support for Ralph Nader. The story provides many compelling reasons and anecdotes that support its point, but uses few numbers to document the trend other than to say that Nader's poll numbers are "eroding."
The WP fronts chillingly detailed reflections of survivors from the U.S.S. Cole disaster. The story makes clear that the ship was filled with courageous and professional soldiers who were nonetheless entirely unprepared for this kind of attack. One officer who was tending to the ship's fuel supply when it was rammed admitted that after the sudden explosion, she braved the fires, suffered burns, and searched for comrades, all the while under the confused impression that her mistake with the fuel--and not an attack--had caused the blast. Another sailor revived after the initial explosion found himself face-to-face with a near-severed human leg and screamed. Only seconds later did he realize the leg was his own.
The LAT reports on the latest wrinkle from a Texas death penalty case. As he stood trial for a capital murder in 1983, a Texas man had the undoubtedly harrowing experience of watching his court-appointed attorney literally sleep his way through the trial, which ended in a conviction and a death sentence. Yesterday, a federal court denied the man's appeal in a divided 2-1 ruling. The LAT notes that the two judges in the majority were both Republican appointees while the fierce dissenter was added by Clinton. In an apparent slight to non-drowsy lawyers everywhere, the majority opinion declared the following (with the LAT supplying the bracketed content): "It is impossible to determine--instead only to speculate--that counsel's sleeping [actually hurt the defendant's case]." And you thought your job was unappreciated.