Today's Papers

Resigned to Their Fates

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the news that Robert Pittman, the chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, resigned under pressure in what the NYT calls “the most public repudiation yet of the promises behind the $165 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner.” The papers note that Pittman’s resignation means that the company is now controlled almost exclusively by people from the Time Warner side who have decided to divide the company between two operating executives, one to head a media group and the other, an entertainment division. USA Today’s lead, and the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox, is Zaccarias Moussaoui’s declaration to a federal court that he is a member of al-Qaida and that he wants to plead guilty to charges that he conspired in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. However, he has repeatedly affirmed that he was not directly involved in Sept. 11. USAT guesses he meant he wanted to plead guilty to some of the charges against him but not to participating in Sept. 11 and that he hopes he can offer the government information on al-Qaida in exchange for his life. The judge didn’t accept his plea and gave him a week to think about whether he wanted to make a plea that could mean the death penalty. The Los Angeles Times leads with the decision of the California Supreme Court that Californians who use marijuana for medical purposes with their doctor’s approval can’t be prosecuted in state court. This is the first review of California’s 6-year-old medical marijuana initiative.

The papers report that Pittman, an enthusiastic backer of the merger that Wall Street considers a failure, had been taking heat for the company’s inability to meet post-merger growth projections and for the revenue decline in the AOL division. The WSJ says it expects more “housecleaning” in the online division because Time Warner execs want to reshape an AOL corporate culture that embraces tough deal-making and aggressive accounting for advertising revenue. The papers highlight major points in Thursday’s WP installment on AOL’s unconventional ad revenue accounting practices, and the NYT and WP point out that Pittman oversaw AOL at the time of these ad deals. Today’s installment of the WP report on AOL’s accounting describes how business dealers at AOL were rewarded for what the paper calls “creative transactions.”

Everyone reports that the House Republican leadership agreed to a bill that gives President Bush a lot of what he wants in a Homeland Security Department. The leadership’s legislation makes the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency part of the Homeland Security Department against the wishes of Republican committee chairmen who want to keep those agencies independent. Thursday’s Post predicted a fight on the House floor over the inclusion of these agencies in the new department. The bill includes the parts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service that are responsible for the borders in the Homeland Security Department, but not, as Bush wanted, the whole INS.  The House leadership also rejected Bush’s plan to nationalize drivers’ licenses.

The WP fronts news that the head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Magaw, was forced to resign after too much disagreement with airlines, airports, and lawmakers. The administration said he resigned for health reasons. The air travel security policies Magaw has overseen have cost more than expected and have annoyed travelers and airline executives, and Magaw hasn’t managed to smooth out these bumps. His deputy, a more conciliatory manager, will replace him.

The NYT front reports that five Israeli settlers have been arrested for allegedly stealing thousands of rounds of ammunition from the Israeli army and selling them to Palestinians.

According to the WP, Arab foreign ministers got the impression from their meeting with Bush Thursday that the president agrees Israel must withdraw troops from Palestinian territories to make way for peace, and he is willing to use American influence to make that happen. A “senior administration official” didn’t dispute the Arabs’ account, according to the paper.

The WP fronts word that the Greek government has captured leaders of the anti-American guerrilla group November 17 after not making any progress against the group for years.

The WP fronts a study of women in 30 countries that is the first to conclude that breast feeding itself, separate from other reproductive functions, reduces breast cancer risk, a story the other papers appear to ignore or cover as an Associated Press dispatch. As the Post acknowledges, smaller studies have already indicated that breast feeding may have protective potential, which may explain why the other papers don’t seem as interested in the new finding.

The WP reports that after Spain sent special forces and helicopters to retake an island—a 1,500-foot-long island inhabited only by wild goats—from six Moroccan soldiers who had invaded, Spain told Morocco it would withdraw its troops if Morocco promised not to try to take the island again. Morocco hasn’t agreed to Spain’s offer and has kept its rhetoric heated, the Post says, though there don’t appear to be plans for a Moroccan counterstrike. An AP piece in the WSJ says that both countries claim they need the island to fight illegal immigrant and drug trafficking.