Help Unwanted

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 6 2003 7:52 AM

Help Unwanted

All three papers lead with the Labor Department's report that the country lost 93,000 jobs in August despite accelerating economic growth. The 22 consecutive months of job losses since the recovery began in November 2001 represent the longest stretch of jobless growth since World War II, the New York Times reports. A million jobs have disappeared in that 22 months; at a comparable point in the early '90s recession, the Los Angeles Times points out, 876,000 jobs had been created. All the papers dismiss the static unemployment rate—about 6 percent—as a statistical quirk, because the rate is based on a survey and does not count the jobless who have given up looking. A month ago, the Washington Post was sanguine about July's job losses (44,000), calling them a temporary result of welcome growth in worker productivity. This month, all the papers finger productivity growth (which, at 6.8 percent annually, is about double GDP growth) and quote analysts' predictions that continued job losses may impact consumer spending and tank the recovery.

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will resign today, according to the NYT. The front-page report, sourced to "four senior Palestinian officials," explains that Abbas' resignation is actually a power play: He wants to foment an international outcry that will force Yasser Arafat to re-draft Abbas and cede him more authority over Palestinian security forces.

The NYT and Post front focuses on security lapses in Iraq. The Times piece, sourced to an anonymous official in U.S. Central Command, asserts that about 50 munitions sites around Iraq with explosives equivalent to those used in recent terrorist bombings are woefully underguarded. Many of these sites (2,700 in all) were already looted when the U.S. arrived, and the U.S. has removed all rocket-launched weapons, but many explosives remain. An American inspection of an Iraqi air base last month revealed no guards and villagers rooting through buildings. The Post's Anthony Shadid reports on the sudden appearance in Najaf yesterday of a Shiite militia called the Badr Brigade, part of a Iranian exile group participating in the U.S.-appointed Governing Council. The Badr are lightly armed and claim only self-defense in the wake of last week's assassination of a Shiite cleric. The U.S. command tells the Post it intends to disarm the Badr.

The Post fronts word that 69 percent of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein had a role in the 9/11 attacks. The article reviews comments made by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney that implied the unproven link, but it concludes that the White House merely reinforced an impression that already existed: In a Time/CNN poll taken on Sept. 13, 2001, 78 percent of Americans suspected Saddam. The Post does not bother to reveal the poll's margin of error, sample size, or why it took over three weeks to announce the results. (The poll was conducted Aug. 7-11.)

Both the NYT and Post run inside stories on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq yesterday. (The NYT reefers it with an above-the-fold photo.) Rumsfeld scolded reporters for dwelling on "snipers and car bombs" while ignoring the quiet successes of thousands of reconstruction projects and elected town councils. The Post quotes him saying that the speed of improvements "dwarfs any other experience I'm aware of," including that of Germany and Japan after World War II. Elsewhere, the Post runs stories on a shooting at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad and a suicide bomber at a university in Ramadi, both of which caused injuries. The NYT mentions these incidents and two others in its Rumsfeld story, whose author seems determined to depict Rumsfeld as Pangloss.

The NYT reefers an announcement by the U.N. that former Liberian Prime Minister Charles Taylor stole a $3 million peacekeeping donation before departing for Nigeria last month. The money was given by an Asian country—presumed to be Taiwan—for disarming soldiers. To put the dimensions of the theft, and Liberia's poverty, in perspective, the Times notes that the sum is equivalent to six months of government revenues.

The Post and NYT both stuff the wholesale retraction of last year's study in Science claiming that a single dose of Ecstasy can cause permanent brain damage and Parkinson's symptoms. When the Johns Hopkins researchers could not replicate their results, they discovered that they had accidentally injected the test monkeys with high-dosage methamphetamine, which had been either mislabeled by a supplier or mixed up in the lab. The Times notes that the publisher of Science, who used to head an organization that has donated millions of dollars to the Hopkins researchers, testified to Congress last year on the dangers of Ecstasy.

The Digital Generation Salutes the Greatest Generation: According to the Post's "Washington Brief," the Pentagon has approved the use of an electric bugle that simulates the playing of taps when a soldier touches it to his lips. Eighteen-hundred former servicemen die every day, yet the Pentagon employs only 500 buglers; families that can't secure one of them have been reduced to playing taps on boom boxes at their loved one's military funeral.

The Post reports that the Russian government has hit upon an ingenious way to make the campaign season tolerable: Outlaw punditry. A new election law bans "most of the staples of campaign journalism—profiles of leading candidates, for example, that touched on their personal lives or their hobbies, or the forecasting of results. ... Two warnings [by the government] are enough to trigger [a] legal process, which can shut down a media outlet for the duration of the campaign." Surely members of Congress can reach across the aisle and come to a bipartisan consensus that Bill O'Reilly, Al Franken, and all who aspire to their lofty heights deserve a big, fat muzzle between now and November 2004?

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