Today's Papers

Holy Dow!

The New York Times leads with word that the Senate and House have agreed to reconcile their respective accounting-reform bills by essentially adopting the tougher, Democrat-sponsored, Senate version. Among other things, the bill calls for an independent body to oversee the accounting industry. The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Today also lead with the bill, but unlike the Times, they package it with other stories noting that the stock market soared yesterday. The Dow gained 489 points, or 6.4 percent, the biggest one-day percentage gain in 15 years. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with news that the House sent President Bush a $35 billion emergency spending bill that includes a couple of provisions that Bush opposes, including loosening travel restrictions to Cuba. The Journal says Bush may veto the bill. The paper says that when the House closes shop for the summer on Friday it will probably have only passed four of the 13 annual appropriations bill needed to fund the government after Sept. 30.

The NYT says that lobbyists and accounting-industry folks made an impressive effort to water down the bill but ultimately “got nowhere.” A front-page analysis in the Post, meanwhile, emphasizes that the Senate-House bill was actually weakened a bit during negotiations. The Post points out that the bill relies on the SEC to implement many of its provisions, meaning if the SEC is neglected, as it has been until recently, then many of the bills provisions will be, too. 

The Post’s analysis also points out that in the near term the bill could make the accounting crisis appear to actually get worse because the bill’s tough provisions will probably help to uncover more scandals.

The major papers all enjoy pointing out that while the White House had opposed the reforms up until a few weeks ago, yesterday it tried to take credit for helping to shape and pass the bill. The LAT notes that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer referred 12 times to the passage as “an accomplishment.” Meanwhile, the NYT says that while the White House crowed over the fact that some of Bush’s proposals were included in the bill, it “made no mention of the inclusion of other ideas the White House had argued against.”

The papers all take a crack at guessing why the market was grooving yesterday. The NYT has the most disconcerting one. It says that after the market started to go up, investors who had had bet stocks would go down(i.e., “selling short”), decided to lock in their profits “before they disappeared.” In other words, the Times says that the market rose at least in part because loads of short-selling investors panicked,and in the opposite world of short-selling that means they happened to have bought instead of sold.

USAT, meanwhile, pegs the rise to various news reports throughout the day. Among other things, at about 9 a.m. police arrested the founder of fallen cable company Adelphia and accused him of looting money from the company. About two hours after that, lawmakers announced that they had wrapped up the deal on the accounting reform bill.

The papers all front photos of Adelphia’s founder, John Rigas, being led away in cuffs after a surprise visit by police. A smart LAT piece notes that authorities rarely make white-collar criminals do a perp-walk photo-op and guesses that prosecutors, and perhaps the Bush administration, decided to do it this time in order to send a message that corporate fraud is really a bad thing.

The WP fronts and everybody else reports, news from AOL acknowledging that the SEC has opened an investigation into the company’s funky accounting practices. Everybody explains that the investigation comes in response to probing articles in last week’s WP.

The NYT goes inside with news that a Palestinian militia, called Tanzim (which is affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement), was close to announcing a ceasefire before an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a Hamas leader’s home in the Gaza Strip, killing 15 people. According to an Israeli paper cited by the Times, in the hours before the attack, Tanzim had drawn up an announcement saying that it would stop “all attacks on innocent men, women, and children.” Israeli officials argued that many Palestinian groups wouldn’t have followed the ceasefire anyway.

The Times article misses an opportunity to add a bit of context: Last December, after both sides had agreed to a ceasefire, the Israeli army killed a top Tanzim militant, which led, as in this case, to Palestinian groups calling off their ceasefire.

Everybody notes that now former Rep. James Traficant was booted from the House yesterday by a vote of 420-to-1. Traficant was convicted in April on various counts of bribery and corruption. He is only the second member of the House to be expelled since Reconstruction. The NYT points out that Traficant had promised to go down fighting, “I’ll wear a denim suit. I’ll walk in there like Willie Nelson, John Wayne, Will Smith, James Brown,” he had said. “Maybe do a Michael Jackson moon walk.” He didn’t. According to the Times, he was (mostly) jokeless and wore a  simple dark suit.

Oh, and who was the one member who voted against expelling Traficant? California Democrat Gary A. Condit.