Pay Checked

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 18 2004 6:15 AM

Pay Checked

The New York Times leads with new data showing that wages aren't keeping pace with inflation. The Los Angeles Times' lead reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei submitted his resignation yesterday to President Yasser Arafat, who rejected the move. The Washington Post's investigative lead indicts the government agency charged with cleaning up of the Chesapeake Bay for major exaggerations of its environmental achievements. While the Chesapeake Bay Program reports that river pollutants have dropped nearly 40 percent in the last two decades, the WP digs up U.S. Geological Survey water monitoring data that shows almost no decline.

According to the NYT lead, non-management workers are earning a little over 1 percent less today than they did a month ago, once you factor in inflation. That's the biggest one-month drop in hourly earnings since the recession of 1991.The reason for the decline, according to the NYT: relatively high unemployment means there's little pressure on businesses to raise wages.

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Both the NYT and WP reefer their coverage of Prime Minister Qurei's resignation, which was submitted to Arafat after what the LAT describes as a "particularly lawless day in Gaza" in which four French nationals and two Palestinian security officials were abducted. Everyone notes that Qurei would be the second Palestinian prime minister to quit since the post was created by Arafat last year.

The WP plays catch-up to the NYT this morning with its own preview of the 9/11 commission's final report, which is scheduled to be released on Thursday. The WP credits the NYT in the fourth paragraph for breaking the story yesterday that the report will recommend the creation of a Cabinet-level national intelligence director. However, the WP waits until the last paragraph to credit Time magazine's Web site with what may prove to be one of the biggest bombs in the report. According to the Time article, which was published Friday and is also cited inside today's NYT, the final report will offer new evidence that Iran may have cooperated with al-Qaida by providing safe passage to its members in the year before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The NYT off-leads an investigative piece on the safety of Tasers, the electrical shock guns increasingly carried by police. Tasers are supposed to be non-lethal, but at least 50 people have died since 2001 after receiving shocks. Though the British don't allow their police officers to carry the weapons, here in America their popularity with law enforcement has grown 20-fold since 2000. Independent tests commissioned by the Times show the Tasers are far less safe than their manufacturer maintains.

A front-page piece in the WP notes that President Bush has yet to lay out an agenda for a second term. Most analysts guess he'll try to reform social security, but beyond that nobody's sure what else he'll propose. The president's strategists say the seeming lack of a plan is all part of the plan. Better to spend their efforts during the early stages of the campaign trying to define Kerry as a flip-flopper, they say, and wait until after the Democratic convention to release their own agenda.

According to a NYT front pager, you're more likely to see a Bush campaign ad during a break in NYPD Blue than Judge Judy. Both candidates are trying to connect with women and the elderly, so both are advertising heavily on Oprah, Wheel of Fortune, and Dr. Phil. But beyond that, their strategies diverge. Bush buys ads on crime shows like Law & Order and Cops, which are heavily watched by conservative men. Kerry is trying to shore up single women by advertising on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Living It Up With Ali & Jack.

Both the WP and LAT front large images of American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the 13th stage of the Tour de France yesterday and is now in second place overall, just 22 seconds behind the leader.

The WP continues to best the other papers with its coverage of the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Post's foreign correspondent, Emily Wax, scores an exclusive interview with Musa Hilal, a commander of the Janjaweed militia responsible for the ethnic cleansing that has already killed at least 30,000 people in Darfur. Not surprisingly, the guy comes off as a total thug. "There is death in war, and until it is all over we will not know the true extent of what has happened," he hauntingly tells Wax.

The NYT reprints an op-ed that ignited a heated debate in France when it first appeared in Le Monde a month ago. The translated essay, by a French literary critic, deconstructs Harry Potter with a distinctly anti-capitalist slant. The author argues that Hogwarts is a "pitiless jungle where competition, violence and the cult of winning run riot" and that the book is a "caricature of the excesses of the Anglo-Saxon social model," and is full of "neoliberal stereotypes." The piece provoked a response from another French philosopher (not reprinted by the Times) whose alternate reading holds that Harry Potter is not the prototypical capitalist but rather a hero of the anti-globalization left. It's not totally clear whether by reprinting the piece the NYT is mocking the French for their self-serious academic excesses, or the editors actually finds the argument provocative. The piece concludes without even a wink of self-awareness: "The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds ... as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. ... [S]everal generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson."