Productive Progress

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 4 2003 4:19 AM

Productive Progress

USA Today leads with new government numbers showing that productivity grew at a 9.4 percent annual rate last quarter. That's the quickest clip in about two decades, and economists say it's a solid sign that employers are going to start hiring again (since owners can only squeeze so much work out of their current employees). The Los Angeles Times leads withthe SEC's new proposal to prevent after-hours trading and other sketchy activities that mutual funds have recently been nailed for. Among the proposals, the SEC suggested that mutual fund firms be required to have internal watchdogs that report directly to a fund's board of directors. The New York Times leads with an international court's conviction of three Rwandan media execs on charges of genocide. The court said that a newspaper owned by one of the men "poisoned the minds" of readers, while a radio station connected to the two others urged on massacres and broadcast names of people to be murdered. It was the first time since the Nuremberg trials that media figures have been convicted of genocide. The Washington Post's top non-local story says former Gov. Howard Dean has been courting Washington insiders in a bid to solidify his position as the frontrunner. About 30 Washington lobbyists and political operatives now meet every other week to plot strategy with Dean advisers. The Post adds that the courting is also working the other way, with beltway Democrats angling to work with Dean as they see him pulling ahead of the pack. 

The NYT only teases on Page One what feels like its most important story: U.S. occupation officials rejected a plan by Iraqi census officials to have a quickie census by next summer that would have resulted in a voter roll by next fall. Americans officials have opposed direct elections next year arguing that a voter roll couldn't be developed in time. Iraqi Governing Council members didn't know about the census plan, and some said they would have pushed for direct elections had they known about it. "I am irate," said one unnamed GC member. "There is no doubt the situation would be different now, if we had known about this."

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U.S. officials said they didn't mention the census plan to GC members. But census officials insisted that they sent the GC the plan and suggested perhaps it was lost in the bureaucracy. "We sent the plan to the Governing Council on Nov. 1 and asked for an answer by Nov. 15," said Iraq's top census official. "We are still waiting for a response."

An American occupation spokesman said the U.S. wasn't interested in the census plan because "Rushing into a census in this time frame with the security environment that we have would not give the result that people want."

The NYT fronts word that most major automakers agreed to redesign their SUVs and light trucks to make them less dangerous in crashes with cars. (Porsche was the biggest holdout.) The changes, including redesigning truck front-ends so that they don't ride over cars bumpers in crashes, are voluntary and will be phased in between 2007 and 2009.

The LAT and WP mention inside that a Russian government official yesterday insisted that Moscow is still "moving toward ratification" of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, despite a top aide to President Putin having said otherwise Tuesday. President Putin has remained silent, suggesting that he hasn't decided yet whether to dump Kyoto or not.

All of which means yesterday's NYT probably overplayed things when it splashed the first official's comments on Page One in the lead spot, "RUSSIA TO REJECT PACT ON CLIMATE, PUTIN AIDE SAYS." Meanwhile, today's Times relegates the other Russian official's endorsement of Kyoto to the eighth paragraph of a stuffed news analysis. (In fairness, the Times notes that the latest comments come from a lower ranking official.)

The Wall Street Journal says up high that 2003 is on its way to being the third-hottest year on record. It also "marks the 27th consecutive year that average temperatures have exceeded historical averages."

The WP notes inside that the White House continued with its Hands on Democracy Tour (wink). In the latest stop, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld visited Azerbaijan, where he talked about developing closer military ties and said, "The United States has a relationship with this country. We value it." Azerbaijan's president was recently "elected" this fall in a vote that a NYT new article more accurately described as an "anointment." The election, said the Times, was "marred by widespread and serious manipulations that included ballot-box stuffing, unmonitored voting and removal of opposition voters from rolls."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.

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