Help Wanted

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 8 2003 6:50 AM

Help Wanted

All the papers lead with the economy's creation of 126,000 jobs last month. All report, above the fold, that another U.S. helicopter was apparently shot down in Tikrit, killing six GIs. (Another was killed in an attack in Mosul.)

October's job growth represents the third straight month of increasing employment. (The Labor Department revised its August employment tally from a 93,000 loss to a 35,000 gain.) Only service industries benefited; manufacturing jobs fell by 24,000, which is an improvement on the 39,000 lost in August, but still the 39th consecutive month of shrinkage. Of course, the papers trot out both optimistic and pessimistic experts: "The economy will now enjoy strong momentum and will not stumble until something comes along ... to restrain it." ( Washington Post) "It remains to be seen whether these numbers are sustainable." ( Los Angeles Times) The New York Times reminds readers that employment increased for four months late last year and then nosedived. The LAT says that the almost two-year lag between economic recovery (11/01) and job creation (8/03) is the longest in 50 years. (The NYT says 60 years.) Wall Street reacted to yesterday's figures with a shrug. The WP and LAT note in their headlines, and the NYT notes in its third paragraph, that the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point to 6 percent. Yet between June and July, when jobs were disappearing, the unemployment rate dropped twice as much. At that time, the papers told us to ignore the unemployment figure, which they claimed is skewed by reporting inconsistencies. So, why pay attention to it now?

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The NYT fronts a piece on the strange bedfellowship between the prosecution in the ongoing John Allen Muhammad trial and the defense in the impending Lee Malvo trial. To work around a lack of direct evidence linking Muhammad to last fall's Washington, D.C., sniper shootings, prosecutors have been portraying Muhammad as the mastermind of the murder spree, rather than a triggerman. Malvo's attorneys will argue that their client is not guilty by reason of insanity due to brainwashing by Muhammad. They hope that the state's attorneys in the Muhammad trial will indirectly convince the Malvo jurors of this before the Malvo trial even begins. The Post reports on its front that Muhammad displayed emotion for the first time yesterday: He teared up when a friend testified to Muhammad's distress over losing custody of his children before meeting Malvo.  

China announced Thursday that it is giving free antiretroviral medication to its poor with H.I.V., the NYT reports inside. China estimates that it has 840,000 people with H.I.V.—many believe the actual number is well over a million—and 80,000 with AIDS. The program is tiny now (5,000 will get antiretrovirals by the end of the year), but it will expand next year to include all poor people who want treatment. China's H.I.V. epidemic was exacerbated in the early '90s when local officials urged farmers to sell their blood. A Chinese AIDS researcher notes that free medication will aid not only treatment, but diagnosis: Many peasants will not submit to a blood test—and the potential stigma of a positive result—unless they are promised free drug therapy.

The Post runs a wire story, deep inside the A Section, on a U.S.-Russian agreement to recall enriched uranium that Russia has shipped to civilian reactors in 17 countries. The retrieval is designed to prevent theft. (The NYT ran a wire story on this yesterday.) TP wonders why this flank in the war on terror is not given its due. Granted, non-proliferation diplomacy is not inherently dramatic, but in Iraq even the most mundane trends, like infrastructure repair, get the front page now and then. It shouldn't need to be pointed out that a nuclear detonation by a terrorist would make today's post-9/11 chaos seem like paradise.        

A Post reader responds to an article (summarized in Wednesday's "TP") on a Canadian man suspected of terrorist ties who was seized at JFK airport by the U.S. and flown to his birth country, Syria, where he was tortured. The reader adds that the accused man not only was born in Syria, but maintains citizenship there, which, presumably, makes the U.S.'s actions more like a legal deportment than a political extradition.

Another Post letter writer, former White House adviser Jay Lefkowitz, replies to Michael Kinsley's recent attack of Lefkowitz's rhetoric on stem-cell policy. Kinsley's Post column first appeared on this site.

The NYT publishes a droll report from London by occasional Slate contributor Sarah Lyall. The piece lampoons the British press for tittering about a salacious rumor involving Prince Charles but refusing—under pressure from the libel-mad British courts—to say what the rumor is. The Times, however, itself refuses to divulge the rumor, which makes it—well, as drolly reserved as its Anglo counterparts. Matt Drudge, of course, will have none of this foolishness: "The allegation ... has to do with purported sexual contact between Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and Michael Fawcett, one of his closest advisers," he announces on his Web site. According to Drudge, Lyall's article mentioned this when first posted on the Web, but for unknown reasons Times editors pulled the Rumor That Dare Not Speak Its Name after about 20 minutes.

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is on the clinical faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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