Try and Try Again

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 3 2004 6:47 AM

Try and Try Again

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with March's gain of 308,000 jobs—the biggest one-month increase in four years—and the upward revision of January and February's employment numbers. The New York Times fronts this story but leads with the mistrial called in the corporate-fraud case against two Tyco executives. (The others front this story.)

The economy added jobs in nearly all sectors save manufacturing, which stayed flat after years of losses. Combined with the new estimate of January and February's job gains (to a combined 205,000 from 118,000), the March number means that the first quarter of 2004 saw more new jobs than any quarter since April, May, and June of 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst. The White House, of course, trumpeted the success of its tax cuts, and the Democrats, of course, reminded voters that the country still has 2 million fewer jobs (the NYT says 1.8 million) now than it did when the president took office. The average time of unemployment lengthened; nearly a quarter of the jobless have been without work for at least six months, the highest figure since July 1983. Everybody mentions that retail employment was buoyed by the end of the California supermarket strike, but only the WP puts a number on those grocery jobs—15,000. The WP and LAT both note, far down, that the number of part-time workers increased from 4.4 million to 4.7 million. An economist quoted elsewhere in those articles, Sung Won Sohn of Wells Fargo, notices in his online report what none of the papers do: Those part-time gains account for most of the 308,000 jobs.

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The Tyco judge did not specify why he declared the mistrial, but all the papers report—from anonymous sources—that a threatening letter was sent to the juror who last week became infamous for apparently signaling her collusion with the defense. (The defense had been calling for a mistrial ever since the Wall Street Journal first named the juror last weekend.) The judge warned that the media's public mockery of the 79-year-old schoolteacher, Ruth Jordan, could deter citizens from serving on juries. Disappointed jurors said they had been on the verge of delivering several guilty verdicts. The government accuses the two executives, L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, of stealing $600 million from the company. In the second trial, prosecutors are expected to focus less on the executives' lavish lifestyles and more on their criminal intent. Kozlowski and Swartz still face tax-evasion charges and multiple civil suits after the retrial.

The NYT and WP front, and the LAT runs inside, the feds' announcement that starting Sept. 30 non-visa-holding visitors to the U.S. will be electronically fingerprinted and photographed. This will merely broaden a policy that since Jan. 5 has applied to all visitors with visas. (Citizens of 22, mostly European, countries who stay in the U.S. for less than three months can travel without a visa; the new policy will exempt Canadians and Mexicans with 72-hour border passes.) The Department of Homeland Security said it welcomes equivalent procedures in other countries. The new policy is in part a stop-gap measure until other countries can produce new, high-tech passports requested by the U.S.

The LAT fronts word that Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday criticized the quality of Iraqi intelligence he had been given for his U.N. Security Council presentation a year ago. He hopes that the bipartisan commission on Iraqi intelligence "look[s] into these matters" to see whether there was "a basis for the confidence that [analysts] placed in the intelligence at that time." (See yesterday's "TP" for more about the commission; see last Sunday's "TP" for more about the dubious sourcing of Powell's U.N. data.)

All three papers reefer Spain's discovery of an unexploded bomb buried under a bullet-train track between Madrid and Seville. Authorities believe the explosive may be the same type used in the March 11 attack. Because the bomb was dry after a night of rain and contained no detonator, officials think that the terrorists were interrupted while placing it Friday morning.

The WP and NYT tease the White House's announcement that the 9/11 commission can have access to all the Clinton-era documents it originally requested. (Thursday the administration said it was holding some documents back because they were redundant or classified; Clinton advisers say only about 18 percent of the documents have been turned over.) The administration refused to say whether the 9/11 commissioners would get copies or just be allowed to look. 

The NYT runs the mother of meandering editorials on the Tyco mistrial. It argues that both the prosecution and defense should welcome a new trial, then notes that the jury would probably have found for the prosecution. It chides, without explicitly naming, the Journal and New York Post for identifying Ruth Jordan, then concludes that her behavior probably warranted a mistrial anyhow. It excoriates the executives' greed, then scolds the prosecution for focusing on greed rather than criminal intent.

Lest you think that only the Journal and NY Post violate standards of journalistic decency, a Washington Post reader wants the world to know that his paper regularly countenances—nay, encourages—an especially heinous crime against civic order:

When spring arrives I can usually look to your paper to publish a photograph of our beloved cherry trees being mistreated. This year proved no exception. Surely the National Park Service does not condone the hanging of hammocks between the trees. Why encourage the public to display such behavior by publishing these images? Last year it was a low-angle shot of a child up in a tree breaking off some blossoms. What activity will your paper document next year? A visitor digging up one of the trees to take home?

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