Today’s Economic Headlines

How the country’s newspapers are covering the financial crisis

Here’s what the nation’s papers are writing about today.

The Topeka Capital-Journal launches “Road Through Recession,” a local-focus series. Reporter Jan Biles will travel across Kansas to document how towns are dealing with the economic downturn. Today’s installment focuses on Sabetha, where a mix of agriculture and manufacturing have helped the town, population 2,500 to 3,000, “hold its own.” Sabetha’s commerce includes “a car dealership, three banks, three nursing homes, a hospital, two pharmacies, three hardware/lumber stores, five doctors, three to four dentists, an optometrist, two motels, two auto parts stores, a grocery store, two convenient stores, a grain elevator, a floral and gift shop, a crop dusting company — and the list goes on. Recently, a Mexican restaurant and an electronic store opened.” In other Kansas news, government buildings are saving money on energy by updating the Shawnee County detention facility, courthouse, and other facilities.

News from New Orleans is mixed this morning. On the one hand, the Times-Picayune reports that the area gained 1,700 jobs in March. The current unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, compared with 3.4 percent in March 2008. On the other hand, it’s unclear if the city will succeed in attracting young professionals whose energy is needed to aid in the city’s recovery. Census statistics indicate that the post-Katrina surge of interest has declined.

Two kinds of job vacancies are making news in the Sacramento Bee. Wildfire-plagued California needs firefighters and is reaching out to women who might be interested in the job. There’s also an open position in the city auditor’s office, which is a problem—“staring a historic deficit in the face, the city of Sacramento is losing an experienced set of eyes for its financial books.”

In Alaska, the phone is off the hook at the clearinghouse for stimulus funds, reports the Anchorage Daily News. There’s $450 million available nationwide for technology opportunities, and questions are coming from “cities, nonprofit organizations and others wondering how to apply for grants funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an update on the Rate Search/Scott Luster case, a $5 million dollar Ponzi scheme. (Let’s call this the Missouri Madoff.) Last week, Luster’s associate plead guilty to “misprision, which means he had knowledge of a felony, failed to notify authorities in a timely manner and had helped to conceal the crime.” And meanwhile, Luster “has already been ordered to pay $5 million in restitution, but apparently he’s broke. He has lost his house to foreclosure, and he’s been living in his parents’ basement. He’s about to go to prison for 70 months. He’s 55 years old, and according to testimony, he’s HIV positive.”

The Arizona Daily Star has an AP report that state officials may have to dip into reserve funds to meet the education budget. Elsewhere in the state, a historic building in Tucson will receive an $800,000 facelift. The Spanish Colonial Revival structure was used as a Walgreens from 1950 to 2004. Also in Arizona, a debate about the state’s speed-enforcement cameras is building. It’s a huge issue in the state: recently, a camera operator was shot and killed, but citizens have also tried civil disobedience with “sticky notes, Silly String and even a pickax to sabotage the cameras since September when they began snapping photos of highway speeders driving 11 mph or more over the speed limit.” Perhaps in an effort to save their readers money, the Star lists the speed camera locations.

Stimulus funds will help boost the Early Head Start program in Memphis, the Commercial Appeal reports today. Shelby Country will receive more than $3 million to expand programs serving young children. I wonder if these baby penguins just born at the local zoo will be welcome.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.