Today's Papers

One for the Record Books

The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today lead with news that WorldCom has filed the papers to become the latest biggest bankruptcy in United States history. The telecom company, which owns the second largest American long distance carrier, MCI, and which carries 50 percent of all Internet traffic, has $41 billion of debt and listed $107 billion in assets. The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox announces that Homeland Security Department bills are moving briskly through Congress. This week, the House will debate the bill put forth by the Republican leadership, and a Senate panel will vote on a draft bill.

As everyone notes, the WorldCom bankruptcy has been expected since the company said its accounting records were off by nearly $4 billion last month. The company’s CEO says he will remain on the job and that he plans to use the bankruptcy to reorganize WorldCom into a stronger company. Creditors have promised $2 billion in new loans to carry WorldCom through its restructuring.

The papers take a look at how investors, employees, and customers will be affected by the filing, the WP in the form of a Q&A piece. (One question: Do I still have to pay my MCI bills? Answer: Yes.) WorldCom’s customers should not notice any changes in service in the near term, federal officials said. However, as the NYT puts it, industry consultants couldn’t imagine that bankruptcy would improve customer service. The papers note that WorldCom will have immediate access to $750 million of its new loans to keep things going. Its investors will lose everything; although, as USAT points out, many have already seen their once $64.50 WorldCom shares drop to 9 cents each on Friday. Its employees should be secure in their jobs for now, said the CEO. (The company already laid off 17,000 workers last month.)

The papers report that California’s governor will sign a first-of-its-kind law that will require that car makers reduce, by the year 2009, the amount of carbon dioxide coming from California cars. Details on how manufacturers should go about doing this and how much they have to reduce these emissions by will be worked out by a state agency. The WP takes the story national, saying the new emission standards in California could change the kind of cars Americans drive because manufacturers won’t be making special California versions of their cars.

The NYT interviews officials from the Environmental Protection Agency on their cleanup plans for toxic waste Superfund sites and finds out that 11 more sites than had been reported will be getting additional cleanup funds. A few weeks ago, the NYT’s lead announced that according to a report by the EPA’s inspector general, the agency would not fund the cleanup of 33 sites to the levels requested by EPA regional officials. As it turns out, say EPA officials, the additional money to clean up 11 more sites was being given out as the inspector general’s report was being completed. Those 11 sites will get an additional $29.6 million out of $55 million requested.

The NYT off-leads word that a former Iranian intelligence official stated, in secret testimony, that the Iranian government organized the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 and paid Argentina’s then-president Carlos Menem $10 million to cover it up. The NYT got the deposition from Argentinian officials who are frustrated that the investigation into the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history remains incomplete. Menem, whose presidential run ended in 1999, is again a candidate for Argentina’s presidency.

In a piece on Foreign Service officers opting out of risky but strategically important posts like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the NYT mentions that in Saudi Arabia little interest in manning the American diplomatic presence there has “left in place an unqualified staff” according to a General Accounting Office study. The GAO found that neophyte officers are handling sensitive work and that the head of public outreach at one consulate in Saudi Arabia didn’t speak Arabic.

The NYT reports that Israel has eased off its plan to deport the families of West Bank suicide bombers to the Gaza Strip and will only consider deporting relatives who are found to be directly involved in supporting an attack. Israel’s attorney general said there are no immediate plans to send the 21 captured relatives of two militants responsible for last week’s bombings to Gaza. The deportation plan was criticized by the U.S., EU, and U.N.—and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has threatened to attack the families of Israeli officials if Israel goes through with deportations.

The NYT has comments from Turkey’s prime minister warning the United States that it won’t be easy to oust Saddam Hussein. Turkey, a would-be vital ally in any Iraq campaign, has publicly opposed a military strike. “President Bush is a friend of Turkey. We do not want to hurt his feelings, but it is our duty to make our concerns known,” said the prime minister.

The WP reports that scientists are developing genetically modified bacteria that attack the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Rats whose teeth were swabbed with the beneficial bacteria and were then fed a diet of very sweet drinks developed 40 percent fewer cavities than a control group of rats. “Our strain can be just brushed onto the tooth surface or squirted into someone’s mouth,” said a researcher.