Today's Papers

Taking Stock

The New York Times leads with word that the speaker of the House, Republican Dennis Hastert, appeared to endorse a Senate bill that expands criminal sanctions for cooking the books. The Times calls it one sign among many that “even” the Republican-controlled House is “not satisfied” with Bush’s proposals. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that “normally pro-business” Republicans in the House proposed new measures to stop American companies from abusing tax shelters. The bill also imposes a moratorium on U.S. companies relocating to tax havens, such as Bermuda. The Washington Post leads with word that Senate Democrats blocked a proposal that would have forced companies to count as expenses any stock options they give to execs. The Los Angeles Times leads with a warning from Attorney General John Ashcroft that al-Qaida still has “sleeper cells” in the U.S. The story also notes that the Justice Department announced that most of the 1,200 people picked up in post-9/11 sweeps have been deported on immigration violations. USA Today leads with word that the new Transportation Security Administration is quickly ramping up on the number of officers on its staff. Problem is, many of them are coming from other government agencies, leading, the paper says, to a sort of brain drain.

The stock-option proposal killed yesterday had been sponsored by former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. After Democratic leaders blocked it from coming to a vote, McCain responded, “The fix is in.” Everybody also noticesMcCain also gave a speech yesterday in which he excoriated “crony capitalism” and called for much broader reforms than the president has. A piece in the NYT’s biz sections points out that while it might seem like McCain is revving up to campaign again, he’s probably not going to do it. Apparently, his coffers are running on empty.

The NYT’s lead says that yesterday President Bush “displayed some impatience” over all the attention that’s being paid to corporate malfeasance. According to the Times, he said, “I believe people have taken a step back and asked, ‘What’s important in life?’ You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff, is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself?” 

USAT’s lead—headlined, “AVIATION SECURITY DRAINS AGENCIES”—explains that officers at various security agencies are moving over to the TSA because the new agency pays more. The INS appears to have fared the worst, having lost 566 employees (out of 30,000) to the TSA. The only quotes and analysis in the article bemoan the trend. (“We have a critical problem that could ultimately threaten public safety,” said one congressman.) But isn’t there another possible interpretation, especially for the long-term: If the TSA pays more, other agencies will probably end up paying more too (a possibility mentioned in USAT’s last paragraph), and wouldn’t that ultimately mean that everybody would get higher-quality officers?

Everybody notes that a House committee voted to keep the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency out of the administration’s proposed new Department of Homeland Security. The Post is the quickest to point out that the votes are “non-binding.”

Everybody goes high with scientists’ announcement that they’ve synthesized a live polio virus out of scratch. As one researcher explained, “You no longer need the real thing in order to make the virus.” The papers point out the bio-terror potential in that. The NYT says that scientists built the virus using a genome sequence “available on the Internet.”

The papers go high with Israel’s announcement that it will give a civilian trial to popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who Israel accuses of masterminding terrorism. Israel said that it’s trying him in a civilian court rather than a military one (“as is usual,” says the LAT), because, as one official said, “we want the public to see the evidence.” The papers suggest, but don’t outright say, that trying Barghouti in Israel is technically a violation of the, essentially defunct, Oslo accords.

Everybody notes inside that hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans protested against their president, Hugo Chavez. Unlike similar protests three months ago, there was no violence, and no coup.

Everybody notes that NBA star Allan Iverson plans on turning himself in today for forcing his way into an apartment while armed, and threatening two men inside. Police have charged him with various counts, including criminal trespassing and making “terroristic threats.” (Question: What defines “terroristic threats”?)

As he did last week, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof berates the FBI for being “unbelievably lethargic” in investigating a potential anthrax suspect who Kristof has taken to calling “Mr. Z” (presumably to guard against a Richard Jewell-type situation). Kristof notes that Mr. Z has “denied any involvement” in the attacks. Still, Kristof has done some digging, and he spends his whole column recounting eerie “echoes” between the attacker and stuff Mr. Z may have done, such as, Kristof says, sending a letter to B’nai B’rith filled with fake anthrax. (Today’s Times has a letter from the FBI defending its efforts.)

As Today’s Papers mentioned last week, it’s easy to figure out what Mr. Z’s real name is. In fact, many publications, including the Times itself, have already named him. So, readers: Should Kristof, who has now written more about the guy than nearly anybody else has, just name him? Should the other publications have not?