What the Nation's Leading Papers Said This Week

The tech crash, one year later. Napster? Ho-hum. Killer beer. The stadium builders. Cuba's Net restrictions

By Eric Hubler

My, time flies when you have a vein open. The tech-stock bloodletting started a year ago. If you want to relive it, The San Jose Mercury News looks back -- and says things don't look much better ahead, near-term. While a market slump's impact on the economy is debatable, The Philadelphia Inquirer adds that one barometer of economic health is unquestionably down: Newspaper help-wanted ads.

Oof! The New York Times (free registration required) does everything but call Merrill Lynch Internet analyst Henry Blodget, and analysts in general, paid liars. Blodget was right for awhile, then wrong. So what? The Times suggests he hyped Merrill's underwriting clients, misleading investors as Internet stocks plummeted. Also: It looks like people-locating devices will be ready for market long before the ethical dilemmas of using them get sorted out. And: Victory appears near in the centuries-old quest to create a human blood substitute. Possible winners include Biopure, Hemosol, Alliance Pharmaceutical, and Northfield Laboratories.

If the Bush tax cut passes, we'll be able to say a funny thing happened on the way to a conservative victory: government persuaded business to put its interests second. The Washington Post says the administration got business lobbyists to agree to support the plan as presented, without breaks requested by their clients -- at least for now. Also in tax news: More Americans are paying the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is despised as much for its complexity as anything else.

NAPSTER? SO WHAT. If the AMT is worth hating, the estate tax probably isn't, says The St. Paul Pioneer Press. Most arguments against the tax are fallacious, writes columnist Edward Lotterman; for example, it's unlikely many farms have been sold to pay the tax.

After all the fuss over whether Napster would continue distributing copyrighted music for free, users could care less: The San Francisco Chronicle says they're switching to other services. Also: These are hellish times for ìangelî investors and startups that need them.

Despite (or because of?) the outlandish prices they charge, movie theaters don't make much money. Thus they're in no mood to pay the $130,000 per screen it costs to convert to digital projection, now in development. The money may come from an unlikely source, reports The Los Angeles Times: A Boeing unit that finances planes.

It sounds like a Simpsons plot: Brewery accidentally releases 77,000 gallons of beer into a river. Unfortunately the spill at Coors' famed Golden, Colo., facility killed tens of thousands of fish. Now the federal government is looking into whether the state's penalty on the locally-beloved company was too lenient, reports The Denver Post.

STADIUM GUYS. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, but also for something more important: independent physicians association. The groups, meant to give doctors more control over their HMO contracts, have become a confusing and -- when they run out of money -- dangerous layer in the health-care bureaucracy, says The Dallas Morning News.

Despite all the evidence that it's a frustrating business to be in, commercial health insurance evidently has its charms: Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans nationwide are clamoring to convert to for-profit status, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Beware a political leader with a powerful anecdote. The Cleveland Plain Dealer profiles Leo Gerard, the new president of United Steelworkers. Steelmakers are in financial peril, but Gerard says he'll never forget the damage they've done -- and might again -- to workers.

If it seems that new sports stadiums and arenas are rising everywhere, that's basically true. Benefiting from the trend is Hunt Construction Group, which The Arizona Republic says is responsible for at least 70 such facilities nationwide.

REVENGE OF THE BLACK CRAPPIE. You think your ISP sucks? Try getting an account in Cuba. The Florida Sun-Sentinel says Internet usage in a totalitarian state is as limited as you might guess. Meanwhile, in these United States, wireless networking is catching on: A standard called WiFi is popular with business travelers and may be headed for homes, says The Boston Globe.

Can't say I didn't learn anything today: there is a fish called the black crappie. And it's edible. The St. Petersburg Times says the crappie and other fish should eventually benefit from the current low water level of Lake Okeechobee, which is frustrating local businesses but designed to regenerate the plants that the fish depend on.

The Orlando Sentinel says the answer to airline delays is simpler than many people think: build more runways. Only problem: Airport neighbors and environmentalists oppose construction.

Finally this week: Next time your company is in a funk, think about what Seattle companies went through after last week's earthquake shut down many facilities. The Seattle Times describes how Starbucks and Amazon coped.

Hubler reports for The Denver Post

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