Today's Papers

Bad Energy

The Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s response to criticism that the United States has been mistreating al-Qaida prisoners. “To be in an 8-by-8 cell in beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not inhumane treatment,” said Rumsfeld. The paper says a “growing list” of countries, now including Germany and Switzerland, have asked that the men be designated as prisoners of war.  USA Todayleads with an exclusive: Citing government doctors, the paper says, “Aides to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle were exposed to the heaviest levels of anthrax ever documented among humans.”  The paper says nobody in the building actually contracted anthrax because, unlike postal workers who were infected, the staffers “knew immediately they had been exposed and were treated with antibiotics within hours.” The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timeslead with word that FBI agents swooped down on Enron’s headquarters in Houston to investigate charges that some employees have been shredding documents. The paper says that Enron officials were the ones who discovered the shredding and immediately sealed the area where the document destruction occurred. The New York Times  leads with President Bush saying that he is “outraged” that Enron misled investors and employees. The Times calls that language an “abrupt change of tone” from the president’s earlier, softer, Enron comments.

The president, talking at a factory, said “our government must do something” to ensure that an Enron-like debacle can’t happen again. The paper notes that the president “never elaborated on how oversight of companies like Enron, or their accounting firms, should change.” Then the Times delivers another jab: “Just minutes later, Mr. Bush returned to one of his favorite themes: that the government overregulates the economy.”

The NYT, in the 33rd graph, quotes an Enron employee who suggested that the shredding may have been legit. The man, who worked on the floor where the documents were destroyed, said the payroll department is on that floor; and as a matter of policy, he explained, that department regularly rid itself of documents.

Everybody notes that the Hart Senate building, after being sprayed with endless amounts of chlorine, has finally been cleared of anthrax and reopened yesterday. “Wooo-hoooo!” said one communications director. “It feels like going into the dorms after summer vacation—except it smells a lot like a swimming pool.”

The papers say that, as expected, Kmart filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

The WP stuffs word that the FBI believes the key to finding last fall’s anthrax-attacker lies somewhere in central New Jersey. The FBI will hold a press conference in Trenton tomorrow to announce the doubling of the reward in the case to $2.5 million.

As yesterday’ NYT reported, scientists have nearly completed the genetic sequencing of the anthrax used in the attacks, and yesterday they announced that they’ll make their findings public within a month. The Post pooh-poohs the announcement, saying it eased authorities frustrations “only slightly.” 

Everybody notes that a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a crowd yesterday in Jerusalem and injured about 20 people. A group linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction claimed responsibility.

The WP notes that the attack happened on Jaffa Street, Jerusalem’s busiest road and the target of so many attacks that “some Israelis have started referring to it as ‘Suicide Street.’”

After an Israeli attack on a Hamas hideout left four dead, Hamas announced that it will wage “all-out war” against Israel. Hamas had tepidly endorsed a cease-fire a month ago.

There were conflicting reports about how the men—who Israel said were bomb-makers—died. Palestinians said the four men were essentially assassinated, killed without a fight. Israel said they died in a gun battle.

The NYT says Israel has now acknowledged that it killed a leading Palestinian militant—the event that set off this latest round of violence.

According to the papers, thousands of people in Nablus took part in street protests and battled with Palestinian Authority police as they called on the Authority to release men who have been jailed at the request of Israel. The protestors said the men in jail weren’t safe from Israeli hit squads. 

The WP fronts word that Home Security czar Tom Ridge has big plans, including a proposal to consolidate the INS, Border Patrol, and Customs Agency into one department. The paper says Ridge’s plans are so expansive, they “could affect virtually every facet of federal and state government.” There’s only one problem: Ridge doesn’t have the direct power to implement them. Still, the Post says that Ridge has gotten most of what he’s asked for so far. “He’s doing a hell of a job with what he’s got,” said one expert. “He’s basically playing high-stakes poker with a pair of twos.”

The WSJ reports that India says the group that’s taken credit for yesterday’s drive-by shooting of a U.S. government office in Calcutta is linked to Pakistan’s secret service. Pakistan called the charges “baseless.” 

The Post notes that the United States declined to call the shooting terrorism. “I think I will describe it as a horrible tragedy and an assault on police officers,” said the FBI’s director.

That’s interesting, because the LAT reports that the gunmen may be linked to al-Qaida.

In another story where USAT is ahead of the curve, the paperreports that the United States and Libya are “close to a deal” to remove Libya from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. In return for the removal, Libya will pay as much as $6 billion in compensation for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. (Question: Who gets the money, and how will it be divided?) According to the State Department, it’s been 10 years since there’s been any sign that Libya supports terrorism. Some in the administration oppose the deal, because they suspect that Libya is still trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. 

Two reporters from the WSJ somehow convinced their editors to let them spend a few days checking the resilience of the new euro notes. The reporters appear to have had a fabulous time on the assignment, the results of which appeared in yesterday’s Journal:

First we tossed them in the stainless steel tumbler of a Matura Turbo washing machine, along with a pile of, um, fragrant gym clothes. After they dried overnight on the kitchen counter, we stuffed them in the pockets of an old hound’s-tooth jacket and trudged down the street to the dry cleaners. The manager was so delighted to launder some money that she agreed to have the jacket ready that very afternoon – much prompter service than usual. Later, she handed back the bills (all of them) in a plastic bag, along with the jacket and a receipt marked “banknote cleaning—11 euros.”

The euros survived.