Today's Papers

Suit to a VP

The Washington Post leads with a proposed merger of defense contractors Northrop Grumman and TRW, two of the Washington area’s largest private employers. Northrop, maker of ships and planes, made an unsolicited bid to buy TRW, a leader in space, satellite, and missile technology, for $11.4 billion. The Post’s calculation of the value of the bid is based on $5.9 billion of TRW stock and the assumption of TRW’s $5.5 billion of debt. Stories on the bid in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times just count the value of the stock and say Northrop offered $5.9 billion. The NYT leads with the GAO’s filing of a law suit against Vice President Cheney to find out who attended and what happened at last year’s energy task force meetings, which helped develop national energy policy. The long-expected suit is the next step in the 10-month-old battle between the White House and the GAO that officials believe is likely to end up in the Supreme Court. The LAT leads with the assertion that the administration is considering declaring war-on-terrorism on Colombia’s leftist rebels and making their destruction a policy priority. The guerrillas, who make the United States’ list of terrorist organizations, previously have been mentioned in passing in the press as possible targets in the war on terrorism.

Northrop’s TRW bid, one of several analysts expect for the company from various defense contractors, takes advantage of TRW’s depressed stock price following the recent resignation of its CEO. The WP says the combined company could be the largest in the defense contracting business, and the LAT puts some numbers behind that assertion, noting that the over $26 billion in sales the enhanced Northrop would generate would put it in first, ahead of Lockheed Martin. While the NYT says that Bush’s proposed $379 billion military budget would mean happy times for all military contractors, no one looks specifically at how much more of the proposed defense budget Northrop potentially stands to gain by acquiring TRW. 

The papers go over the previously reported positions of the GAO and the White House on the energy task force data in today’s papers. The White House wants the president and vice president to be able to receive confidential advice, while the GAO believes the public and Congress have the right to know whether political donors had undue influence in drafting energy policy. The GAO believes that constitutional powers that protect the vice president do not apply to Cheney in this case, because he was acting as a head of a task force. White House lawyers believe that he was acting as the vice presidential head of the task force, and so they can claim executive privilege if they choose. The NYT says that the administration did throw some energy task force papers at the accounting office last summer, but the GAO was not appeased. The 77 pages did not reveal the identities of participants in the task force but did include doodles of telephones.

Fearful of getting involved in an endless military mess, Congress traditionally has limited U.S. troops to supporting counternarcotics work in Colombia, the LAT says. The administration now wants troops to train and accompany the Colombian military on missions to retake the country from the rebels. The piece’s subhed highlights why the administration thinks it now has a stronger case for the policy shift. Intelligence has sniffed out a Colombian guerilla-Libya link—terrorism state-sponsor Libya seems to have supplied them with weapons.

The NYT says that Colombian troops have already begun reclaiming their country, taking a piece of jungle back from FARC yesterday. The paper also reports that the United States will share military intelligence with Bogotá and is sending supplies.

The NYT reveals that Israel is thinking about letting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat out of Ramallah, where he has been trapped by Israeli troops for over two months. Arafat may be let free because he has arrested the Palestinian suspects in the killing of the Israeli tourism minister last fall, the condition Israel put on his release. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may be inspired to keep his promise to Arafat in part because keeping the PLO leader confined has not weakened him or discouraged violence, as Israel had hoped it would. Instead, his predicament has made him more popular among Palestinians.

New details on the Daniel Pearl case: According to the NYT, the main suspect in the kidnapping told investigators that killing Pearl was part of a plan to attack the United States Consulate in Karachi. The paper doesn’t have any more information on the plot. The WP is reporting that police investigators believe the kidnappers always intended to kill Pearl and videotape the execution, perhaps to retaliate against the United States for the war in Afghanistan, or perhaps because people with ties to secret Pakistani government agencies didn’t like a story he was pursuing. The LAT says that investigators think that Pearl may have been the victim of a conspiracy among Islamic jihad veterans who decided to target him 18 months ago.

The papers report that an end to Angola’s 26-year-old civil war, one of Africa’s longest, may be near. The rebel commander who has led the effort to overthrow Angola’s government was killed in an ambush, making way for a possible peace.

The NYT fronts researchers’ belief that the second World Trade Center tower to be hit by a plane collapsed first possibly because that plane was traveling 100 mph faster than the plane that hit the first tower. After measuring radar and the sound the planes made as they flew, scientists guessed that United Flight 175 was flying at up to 586 mph, fast enough at that low altitude that the plane could have come apart in flight.

More plagiarism problems plague historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, according to the NYT. She has disclosed that her researchers have found scores of other authors’ passages in her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. Previously, she had admitted to borrowing a few words from just three sources for that book. Her publisher, honoring Goodwin’s request, will destroy all its paperback copies of the book and publish a corrected version. Goodwin offered to pay the roughly $10,000 the process will cost.