Friday, May 27, 2005

NYT: "Little Progress in Bid to Extend Patriot Act" (Eric Lichtblau)

The Senate Intelligence Committee failed to reach final agreement on Thursday on a proposal that would expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation's powers to demand records and monitor mailings in terror investigations, but officials said they were confident that the committee would come to a consensus on the issue.
The committee met in private for two and a half hours amid continuing complaints from civil liberties advocates and some Democrats that the proposal would give federal investigators too much power to conduct "fishing expeditions" in pursuing terrorism leads. Senate Republican leaders and the Bush administration, who are backing the proposal, say it provides the F.B.I. with essential tools in fighting terrorism.

The above is from Eric Lichtblau's "Little Progress in Bid to Extend Patriot Act" inside this morning's New York Times.

That's an A16 story. On the front page we get some lifestyle-trend stories (surrogates having children for same-sex couples which is hardly breaking news for this decade, the last decade or the one before) and the rise in home entertainment (ditto). (Note to Laura M. Holson and the Times, everytime you do another story on the 'collapse' of the box office, you only negate your efforts to, for instance, kiss David Geffen's ass as you attempt to get that toe hold in Los Angeles.
If Holson knows her subject -- big if to many -- she needs to start noting the economy in these type of stories if she must run them. But not even Entertainment Weekly would run a "health at the box office" series on Memorial Day weekend.)

So what does it matter when lifestyle and trend stories make the front page?

Gina Kolata is a front page survivor. On April 20th, her article "Some Extra Heft May Be Helpful, New Study Say" appeared on the front page. Which of course means it was picked up by NPR (Morning Edition -- and became the source of the kind of ha-ha morning chat you'd expect from one of the television networks, not NPR). Kolata did note that it was a study (one) and that the findings were preliminary (e.g. no peer based review).

But why did that story ever appear on the front page to begin with?

One study and the Times front pages it? They're still dealing with that story. For instance, over a month later, today they run "Study Tying Longer Life to Extra Pounds Draws Fire." This is also by Gina Kolata and here's an excerpt:

The study under attack was published last month by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. It concluded that people who are overweight but not obese have a lower death risk than people of normal weight. The scientists also reported that being very thin increased the risk of death, even if the thinness was longstanding and not due to illness.
In a seminar and news conference yesterday at the public health school, in Boston, the critics said other studies, including their own, had found that the death risk from excess pounds increased continuously from normal weight to overweight to obesity.

What goes on the front page gets attention. This topic, originally, made the front page. A single study with no peer review made the front page. Now the peer review is coming and the paper buries the story inside.

Maybe the answer is to move away from putting lifestyle and trend stories on the front page?

Now let's note Thom Shanker's "Inquiry by U.S. Finds 5 Cases of Koran Harm:"

An American military inquiry has uncovered five instances in which guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba mishandled the Koran, but found "no credible evidence" to substantiate claims that it was ever flushed down a toilet, the chief of the investigation said on Thursday.
All but one of the five incidents appear to have taken place before January 2003. In three cases, the mishandling of the Koran appears to have been deliberate, and in two it was accidental or unintentional, the commander said, adding that four cases involved guards, and one an interrogator. Two service members have been punished for their conduct, one recently.

Billie e-mails to note Anne Kornblutt's "Treasurer of Texas Group Is Fined Nearly $200,000:"

A Texas judge ruled on Thursday that the treasurer of a political action committee formed by United States Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, broke campaign finance laws as the group propelled the party into power in the Texas House in 2002.
The judgment awarded nearly $200,000 to five Democrats who were ousted by Republican candidates backed by Texans for a Republican Majority, the political committee founded by Mr. DeLay to help win control of the Legislature.

This story (and the one on Koran abuse)? Front page or inside the paper? If you guessed inside the paper, you are correct.

Laura M. Holson can tell you about Matthew Khalil, "a senior at" UCLA, who prefers his popcorn and movies at home on the front page. Actual news (and Holson has no grasp of the cycles of the box office so the half-baked story can't be justified that way) is shoved inside. The result is tongues wag about Holson (with jokes about her trolling around UCLA) and real news doesn't get attention.

An Associated Press story set in Ohio (I'm finding it hard to believe Albert Salvato was too busy to cover this for the Times -- maybe the paper's waiting to dispatch Tom Zeller Jr. to mock and insist it's all "tin foil hat time" again?), "Trouble Over State Investment in Coins Is Deepening in Ohio" captures Zach's attention if not the Times'. From the article:

The focus of the investigation is Tom Noe, a private coin dealer and Republican donor who led the coin investment. Democrats have alleged that Mr. Noe was awarded the state's business in return for campaign contributions to Republicans, who control most of state government.
Officials do not know what assets are missing or where those items are supposed to be, said a bureau spokesman, Jeremy Jackson. Investigators went into Mr. Noe's coin shop under a court order issued Thursday morning, but were not able to remove coins from their cases to inspect them and verify their authenticity, Mr. Jackson said.
The bureau had made $15.3 million from the investments, while Mr. Noe has collected about $3.8 million in commission.

Trevor e-mails to note Jim Yardley's "A Crescent of Water Is Slowly Sinking Into the Desert:"

In this desert oasis where East once met West and that is home to one of the world's greatest shrines to Buddhism, the water is disappearing. Crescent Lake has dropped more than 25 feet in the last three decades while the underground water table elsewhere in the area has fallen by as much as 35 feet.
[. . .]
"I would call it an ecological crisis," said Zhang Mingquan, a professor at Lanzhou University who specializes in the region's hydrology. "The problem is the human impact. People are overusing the amount of water that the area can sustain."

Francisco e-mails to suggest that, on the topic of the Bolton blockage, we read the entry at A Winding Road. Here's an excerpt from "Senate Dems Delay (ie Filibuster) Bolton Confirmation:"

Well, the Democrats are doing something right, at least. Today they blocked a final vote on John Bolton's confirmation as Ambassador to the United Nations. They aren't pledging to filibuster the nomination for good, unfortunately, though they really should be. The filibuster is intended for exactly this sort of situation, in which a dominant majority is trying to confirm someone who is grievously wrong for the job.
What they are doing, though, is filibustering Bolton (though they're not actually using the F word!) until the State Department comes through with crucial documents it's been withholding from the Senate. These documents are directly related to Bolton's suitability for the job that Bush has nominated him to and by withholding them, the State Department is attempting to thwart the Senate's very real responsibility to Advice and Consent.

Ben e-mails to note Douglas Jehl's "Democrats Force Senate to Delay a Vote on Bolton:"

The move put off until at least June 7, when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day break, any decision on Mr. Bolton's nomination, and it set Democrats and Republicans in the Senate at odds once again just three days after they reached a compromise intended to avert filibusters on judicial nominations. Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, described himself as "very, very disappointed" by what Senator Harry Reid, the top Democrat, conceded was the "first filibuster of the year."

Kelli wonders if this will lead the Bully Boy to make a recess appointment.

The e-mail address for this site is