Today's Papers

Policing the Pledge

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with word that the Securities Exchange Commission filed suit yesterday against WorldCom, charging it with fraud. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today lead with news that a federal appeals court ruled yesterday that it’s unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because the phrase “one nation under God,” which was added by Congress in 1954, violates the separation of church and state. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that President Bush warned Palestinian voters that if, as expected, they re-elect Yasser Arafat, the U.S. will cut off economic aid to the territories.

The papers report that the SEC announced yesterday that it will move forward with plans to hold corporate executives liable for any fraudulent data they submit on financial statements. Meanwhile, everybodynotes that Nasdaq halted trade of WorldCom’s stock.

Everybody notes that the decision against the pledge was widely criticized, and that the Senate quickly passed a unanimous resolution condemning the ruling.

Most of the papers cite legal experts saying that the decision will almost certainly be reversed. But the WP quotes legal analysts “across the ideological spectrum” saying that the ruling isn’t so out there. “It is eminently defensible,” said one conservative law professor. “I’m not sure it’s ultimately the right result. But the court is applying principles the Supreme Court has established.”

For those who are curious about potential constitutional challenges to things like the greenback’s reference to “In God We Trust”: The NYT notes that “several members” of the Supreme Court wrote in 1984 that such references are OK because any religious significance they once had has been lost through “rote repetition.”

The papers’ editorials ridicule the ruling against the pledge. The LAT concludes, “References to the Almighty have long been an integral part of everyday American life—honest to God.”

A LAT report on the Mideast seems to have a bit of new information about Arafat’s alleged $20,000 payment to a terror group: The paper says that Bush got the information from both Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources. The U.S. version apparently consists of a recording of Palestinian officials claiming that Arafat approved the money. Citing U.S. officials, the LAT calls the evidence, “hardly a smoking gun.”

Everybody reports that 10 Pakistani soldiers were killed when they raided an al-Qaida hideout in Pakistan’s tribal areas, just across the border from Afghanistan. At least two al-Qaida fighters, believed to be Chechens, were also killed in the shootout. Everybody notes that Pakistani officials said that U.S. forces weren’t involved in the fight, but were nearby. According to several analysts cited in the Post, the firefight may make Pakistani troops more motivated to fight al-Qaida.

The WP goes above the fold with a lengthy piece pointing out that authorities are increasingly worried that al-Qaida is close to knowing how to use the Internet to control pieces of U.S. infrastructure, such as power grids and air traffic control systems. The story spends a while quoting various officials who disagree about the possibility and difficulty of such an attack. Meanwhile, the article’s 38th paragraph gives a pretty good clue about how easy it is: “In 1998, a 12-year-old hacker, exploring on a lark, broke into the computer system that runs Arizona’s Roosevelt Dam. He did not know or care, but federal authorities said he had complete command of the system controlling the dam’s massive floodgates.”

Everybody notes that Amtrak and federal officials announced that they have tentatively reached an agreement to keep the rail company running until the fall. The deal calls for the government to quickly lend Amtrak $100 million and then requires Congress to figure out a way to come up with the other $100 mil Amtrak says it needs.

The WP and USAT front word that a study of more than 9,000 women found that using birth control pills does not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer.

A story inside the Post (headlined: WORLDCOM SOUGHT INFLUENCE UP TO ANNOUNCEMENT), notes that WorldCom has contributed about $1 million to congressional candidates over the last two years, and points out that just last week, the company gave $100,000 to sponsor a Republican fundraiser. But according to the article’s sixth paragraph, “There is no evidence that WorldCom ever sought government assistance to get out of its bind.”

The LAT and NYT both run front-page pieces saying that while national attention has been focused on the town of Show Low, the fires in Arizona have actually hit Native American reservations the hardest. Sixty percent of the fire has burned on Navajo and Apache land, where many residents rely on logging for employment. 

The LAT profiles 10 current and former Enron employees who, the paper says, “have nothing the hide.” The workers are featured in this month’s Playboy, the “Women of Enron” issue.