The Lava Lamp Index

The Lava Lamp Index

The Lava Lamp Index

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 18 2001 9:51 AM

The Lava Lamp Index

The lead in the Washington Post reports that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. appears to be much greater than the 6 million the government had estimated. Some researchers put the number as high as 11 million. The discrepancy in the numbers has significant policy implications, from border enforcement programs to visa regulations. Officials hope to resolve the issue by the fall when they have to make decisions about distributing federal funds based on the census. The nonlocal lead in the Los Angeles Times reports that Bill Clinton is unlikely to face criminal charges in the investigation into his 177 last-minute pardons. The U.S. attorney in New York who is pursuing the case will have difficulty proving that pay-for-pardon crimes were definitely committed, though an unnamed former prosecutor is quoted as saying that charges may be brought against others "lower in the food chain." The New York Times leads with a piece on the growing number of food poisoning cases in the U.S. Despite improved technology to ensure food safety, food poisoning remains as common today as it was 50 years ago. One possible reason is the changing eating habits of Americans. More people are eating uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables, which increases the risk of infection through viruses and bacteria. In addition, new foods are being introduced into the market faster than the government can inspect them.

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The WP runs a four-column special report on the plight of the estimated 700,000 Afghan refugees who have fled the country this year because of drought, two decades of war, and the extremist policies of Taliban rulers. More than 60 percent of the harvest in 2000 failed, forcing an exodus to Pakistan, Iran, and other nearby countries in the hope of finding food.

The NYT off-lead catalogs the ramifications of the end of the bull market--specifically, deep debt for corporate America, which bought back stock and obtained shares to issue to employees when confidence in the market was high, and diminished savings that resulted from the drop in the value of 401(k)s, which rise and fall with the market.

The LAT goes above the fold with a report that despite the inquiry into the U.S. sub accident, the military has resumed distinguished visitors tours on military craft such as jets and tanks. On Monday, a group from the U.S. House will board a Navy sub for an eight-hour demonstration. The military is unwilling to give up the program because it generates substantial support from taxpayers and lawmakers for military spending. The article points out that "visitors who have been awed by the power of a $1-billion attack sub are likely to be more receptive to arguments that the Navy needs more of them, not fewer."

A WP front-pager previews Monday's Senate debate on campaign finance reform. Proponents of reform are hopeful for the legislation: The threat of a filibuster has subsided, and Bush has supported putting at least some restrictions on the flow of soft money that enters into the political system. Foes argue that the new law would simply redirect funds from political parties to outside (and perhaps secret) groups that would lobby independently for their own candidates, thereby further diluting the democratic process.

The NYT fronts below the fold a story on "assembly line" surgery (for conditions that hadn't been conclusively diagnosed) performed on the mentally ill that generated tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare fees for the hospitals involved and for at least one doctor.

An LAT front-pager examines Mexican attempts to broker improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Mexico holds a significant interest in the negotiations: At present it's hindered by the Helms-Burton Act, which punishes non-U.S. companies for doing business with Cuba. Repeal of the act would create new markets and generate new revenues for Mexico.

The NYT goes below the fold with a piece on why many Alaskans (despite their state's reputation for being ruggedly self-reliant) are supporting Bush's plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Simply put, oil is money, and recently there's been less oil flowing out of Alaskan fields. Some residents, however, argue that dependence on oil money is a dead end and that focus ought to be shifted to more viable industries, such as tourism. The NYT runs a companion piece inside on the financial support provided by coal and gas interests that helped to pass legislation loaded with tax breaks for the oil, coal, and nuclear energy industries and that also seeks to lift the ban on drilling in the Wildlife Refuge.

The WP fronts a piece on the demise of Internet freebies. The days of complimentary lava lamps are over now that tech stocks have bottomed out and dot-com companies continue to fold. According to one man who equipped his home office with the free merchandise offered online by companies who sought to increase their visibility, the situation now is, "If you want something, you're going to have to pay for it."