The New York Times leads with the failure of settlement talks between Arthur Andersen and the Justice Department to resolve the obstruction of justice charges pending against the firm. The papers had been anticipating a settlement over the last few days. The Washington Post leads with news that at least six were killed and scores injured when an Amtrak train carrying nearly 500 people to the D.C. area crashed in northern Florida. It is not yet known what caused the train to derail. The Los Angeles Times lead announces that the Senate has effectively blocked a proposal to drill for oil and gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox is word that Israeli forces have pulled out of Jenin. They are now ringing the outskirts of the city. A U.N. official described the situation at the refugee camp as “horrifying beyond belief.” USA Today leads with the reaction of relatives of the passengers on United Flight 93 to hearing the tape of the plane’s final moments. Some said the tape confirmed that their loved ones died heroes.
The NYT lead says that Andersen refused to accept a deal before the government’s deadline. The Justice Department is not interested in resuming talks before Andersen’s early May trial date. Before the talks’ collapse, Andersen had agreed to admit to misbehavior in its dealings with Enron records, and in return Justice had offered a “deferred prosecution” which would have effectively just put the company on probation. The papers have different takes on which of the deal’s terms Andersen couldn’t stomach. The WSJ’s sources said that under the terms of the deal as it stood at the deadline, Andersen would not have been a viable company. Other points of contention as the deadline loomed, the WSJ reports, included the fact that some state accounting boards may not have allowed the company to practice in their states, and there was disagreement on the length of the probation. According to the NYT’s sources, though, Andersen had no problem with the length of time for a deferral. Rather, the NYT says, problems arose with the terms relating to “procedural aspects” of the deal.
According to the papers, pro-drilling senators couldn’t get the 60 votes needed to stop a Democratic filibuster against the drilling proposal. Forty-six senators favored ending the filibuster, and 54, apparently unswayed by Republican warnings about Middle East and Venezuelan instability hurting oil supplies, voted against ending it. The pro-drillers didn’t even get the simple majority the White House was hoping for, which would have demonstrated that the proposal could be kept alive. This means that the drilling plan is “probably” dead, at least this year, the NYT says, which would be a blow to President Bush’s energy plan.
The papers report that Bush praised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday, calling him a “man of peace” and saying he was satisfied that Sharon was taking steps to end his military incursion into the West Bank. Furthermore, he said he understood why Israel was leaving its troops in Ramallah and Bethlehem, a statement that the NYT notes makes it look like Bush is backing off his earlier demands that Israel immediately withdraw from those cities. The WP says White House officials insisted Bush did not mean to indicate he favored the Israeli position. But the NYT says that some administration officials appeared confused over whether Bush had misspoken or whether he intended to indicate he sympathized with Israel.
The LAT reports Bush’s remarks in a piece on Arab concern over the administration’s failure to convince the Israelis to speedily withdraw from the West Bank. An anonymous Arab envoy characterized the prevailing Arab attitude for the paper: “They’re way beyond angry.” Jordan’s king called on Bush to “take firm stances to make Israel immediately withdraw its troops.” According to Arab diplomats, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince considered canceling his upcoming visit to Bush’s ranch.
Everyone reports that a small plane crashed into a skyscraper in Milan, Italy, after the pilot radioed that he had a problem with his landing gear. Three people were killed, including the pilot, and 60 injured. Italian authorities said that the crash was likely an accident. However, the LAT reports, officials are investigating the possibility that the pilot was suicidal. An Italian official initially called the incident an attack, a statement that was later amended, and the NYT spends some ink reporting how Italians found the incident to be similar to Sept. 11.
The papers cover the return of Afghanistan’s well-loved former king to his country from exile in Italy. The king cried as he cleared Afghan airspace and again when he landed. Thousands of Afghans turned out to cheer the man who, the NYT and WP agree in very similar language, represents the enormous hopes for peace in this “broken” country.
The papers try to explain how an American F-16 pilot came to bomb Canadian troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday. According to the Pentagon, the pilot thought he was under attack when he saw flashes of gunfire from a training exercise on the ground. He requested permission to strike. According to USAT, Pentagon sources differ on whether he was given the go-ahead to strike (the LAT says he was not). He then dropped the bomb, which pilots are permitted to do if they believe they are in danger. According to USAT, the Pentagon is trying to figure out why he didn’t know he was flying over a training exercise.
“Universal constants” like the speed of light, the charge of an electron relative to a proton, and Newton’s gravitational constant are numbers that are not supposed to change no matter when or where you measure them. Well, Science Journal reports that experiments show these constants actually may not be that constant. It appears, for example, that the speed of light could vary over time. In fact, one scientist suggests, such universal constants may better be termed “lawless variables.”