What the Nation's Leading Papers Said This Week

Slowdown psychology. Whoopee on Yahoo. What's wrong with department stores. Individual Development Accounts. And more!

By Eric Hübler

This is the thanks he gets? The Washington Post tallies the many ways Alan Greenspan is being slammed for alleged mismanagement of the economy. For investors, though, the bottom line comes near the bottom of the story: Whenever the Fed lowers rates as much as it has this year, stocks rise.

It's tempting to ascribe economic slowdowns to psychology -- but wrong, economists tell The Minneapolis Star Tribune. One conclusion from a roundtable convened by the paper: President Bush probably can't cause a recession just by saying he's afraid one is coming. Still, it sure feels like we're in one already, adds The Cincinnati Enquirer. The Seattle Times continues the depressing theme by describing how one company, Onyx Software, handled layoffs. If only its business had been orchestrated as carefully!

Telecom reform wasn't primarily supposed to aid the Baby Bells. But it's helping them dominate the industry, says The New York Times (free registration required). Also, some good news and some bad from the online world. A site called Ideas.com is introducing inventors to companies that just might bear their brainchildren; but online slander is wrecking offline lives.

WHOOPEE ON YAHOO. For another take on the fate of the Baby Bells under deregulation, see this San Jose Mercury News article on Pacific Bell, which is aggressively marketing new services -- but, critics say, sacrificing reliability in the process.

Could Packard Bell go the way of the Packard? The Los Angeles Times says the same sort of shakeout that wiped out most automakers half a century ago may have begun in PCs.

Yahoo got its knuckles rapped after trying to boost sales of adult content, but it was just following the money. The Denver Post says porno purveyors have thrived on the Internet in part by charging subscriptions while other content providers tried the now-discredited advertising route. Death sells too; The St. Petersburg Times' Robert Trigaux examines the morality of one Internet company's desire to charge $1.95 for a webcast of Timothy McVeigh's execution.

WHY DISCOUNTERS WIN. Trying to make a living with one's hands these days is a good way to get your heart ripped out. The Chicago Tribune humanizes the impact of a changing economy with this profile of two brothers who thought -- mistakenly -- that factory work was the American Dream come true.

It takes a special talent to design a store so badly that consumers who genuinely want the stuff inside won't go in. Department stores have this talent. Until they smarten up, they'll continue to lose share to Kohl's, Target, and Wal-Mart, says The Dallas Morning News

Reports on the anti-free trade protests in Quebec City have left me unsure what the fuss is about. But here, from our other border, is one answer. Proposals to let Mexican trucks haul goods into the U.S. are being opposed on the grounds that those vehicles are unsafe, says The Arizona Republic. The Mexican side says that's not true, but concedes that free trade in trucking would lower American truckers' earnings.

Who do you take investment advice from, your no-goodnik brother-in-law or a seasoned investment professional? Your brother-in-law, I hope. Using the example of high-profile flameout PSINet, The Baltimore Sun shows that stock analysts can err due to understandable goofs or what amounts to legalized influence-peddling.

SUV R.I.P. A treaty to reduce fluorocarbons worked. A similar treaty to reduce greenhouse gases didn't. The Boston Globe's David Warsh says the difference lay in people failing to adequately appreciate how technology and negotiations can influence one another.

They're called Individual Development Accounts, and if the name is a bit patronizing, so be it: The St. Paul Pioneer Press says they work. The idea is to reward low-income earners for saving by matching the dollars they put aside, then limiting the uses to which the money can be put to buying a house, starting a business, or paying for an education. Turning income into assets is a key to individual and community development, a proponent says.

The decade-long dominance of the SUV is ending. The next trend, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: the CUV or crossover utility vehicle, an SUV-like machine that's technically a car, not a truck.

Finally this week: The cell phone industry is in a jam in Canada and elsewhere. Jamming devices -- to stop interruptions of, say, concerts or board meetings -- are proliferating. But The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that lives could be threatened if emergency workers can't be reached because they're in a jammed room.

Hübler reports for The Denver Post

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