Today's Papers

A Moot Beirut?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times lead with word that Yasser Arafat won’t be attending the Arab Summit in Beirut. USA Today reefers the development and instead leads with news that two earthquakes hit Afghanistan, 100 miles north of Kabul.  At least 1,800 people are said to have been killed.

The WSJ goes with the most creative, encapsulating headline for an Arafat-less Beirut—ARAB SUMMIT’S GUEST LIST DWINDLES AS ‘ARAB STREET’ VOICES FRUSTRATION. Amid continued regional violence and a volley of rhetoric, Arafat, refusing Israeli Prime Minister’s Ariel Sharon’s conditions—including possible exile—won’t be in Beirut. Neither will Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, apparently. The WSJ notes that the summit may now be the worst-attended conference in the 57-year history of the event, but it also briefly details “a rare burst of civil activism” in the city: A parallel non-government organization met on Tuesday in a hotel basement in support of human rights and democracy.

The NYT and the WP, both filing their leads from Jerusalem, are in tandem in declaring the U.S.’s inability to get Sharon to let Arafat unconditionally go a “setback for the Bush Administration.” The WP, which more or less declared a de facto victory on the subject for the Bush administration yesterday, isn’t 100 percent ready to watch Arafat’s teleconferenced speech to the Arab Summit quite yet. It devotes three paragraphs to a Washington official who believes the decision might not be final.

The WP also includes this quote by Sharon to an Israeli newspaper, on the topic of an earlier promise to Americans not to harm Arafat: “My consent may have been correct at first, but from a certain stage in the conflict it was a mistake. I should have told them, ‘I can’t keep that commitment.’ “

USAT, detailing the Afghan earthquakes, gives the numbers (6.1 and 5 in magnitude) and says aid workers “raced to deliver survival basics.” The LAT questions the numbers and says that relief efforts have been “hampered” by debris in the road. The paper also reports that when U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told the reporters in the room that the death toll had reached 1,800, reporters in the room were “stunned.”

The LAT and the NYT call newly announced Surgeon Gen. Richard Carmona “colorful.” The WP writes that Carmona has a “swashbuckling past,” and the WSJ notes he is “charismatic.” But the USAT truly knocks the melodramatic out of the wood with a lede that reads, “Richard Carmona, a SWAT trauma surgeon who has gunned down a killer and rappelled from a helicopter to reach crash victims, now faces his toughest challenge.President Bush wants him to get the nation in shape as the new surgeon general.”

The chief executive of Andersen, Joseph F. Berardino, resigned yesterday. The WP notes that Berardino was originally given the post partly due to his successful efforts to resist the SEC’s move to separate consulting work within accounting firms. The big question now seems to be whether former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker will assume control, after he offered as much a few days ago, in return for the Justice Department dropping indictment charges against Andersen. The LAT quotes an accountant who believes Andersen’s board will vote Volcker in, but the NYT cites lawyers who think that prosecutors won’t relent.

Meanwhile, the latest riches-to-rags tale comes courtesy of the NYT sports section, which details the bankruptcy filing last month of NFL four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dale Carter, who signed a four-year, $22.8 million contract with the Denver Broncos in 1999 and a five-year, $28 million contract with the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. Carter now owes $1 to $10 million in total debt to 20 different creditors, including the Broncos, a former Florida lawyer, a jewelry store where he had incurred a $30,000 tab, and the IRS. The story ends on the ironic side, with a weeks-old quote by Saints head coach Jim Haslett, who said, “I think Dale’s going to like being a part of this defense.”

The LAT fronts a fascinating new look into the highly publicized Dec. 10th American bombing mistake that almost killed Hamid Karzai, who was named as prime minister the following day. The “friendly fire” is now believed to have taken out three Green Berets and 25 Afghan allies. According to the story, American military and members of the Northern Alliance were leading an offensive mission against the Taliban. A commander called for airstrikes to wipe out the enemy. An Air Force serviceman calculated the position where the strikes needed to be made, but then the battery to his global positioning system unit needed to be changed. Once that situation was remedied, the serviceman’s own coordinates came up on the unit, and this was the data that was relayed.

As the rumble of B-52s came, Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, who earlier captured four pickups from Afghan fighters, yelled out, “Ride ‘em like you stole ‘em!”  Davis didn’t make it.