Today's Papers

You’ve Got Fraud

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide news box, and Washington Post lead with word that two suicide bombers just feet from each other blew themselves up in Tel Aviv, killing three and injuring about 40. In response, Israel canceled plans to slightly loosen its clampdown on Palestinian cities.  USA Today leads with the FBI’s chief of counterterrorism saying that he thinks Bin Laden is dead. The paper notes that the G-man’s comments caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the administration, which has recently tried to keep the focus off the fate of OBL. As President Bush put it earlier this month, “The issue is bigger than one person.” The Los Angeles Times leads with word that a grand jury indicted two police officers involved in the videotaped beating of a 16-year-old boy. Officer Jeremy Morse, who punched the boy, was charged with assault. The other officer was charged with making a false police report. The others papers note the first indictment. But the LAT appears to have news of the second one all to itself.

The LAT’s headline on the bombing mentions “5 KILLED” in the attack. The subhead clarifies that that count includes “two suicide bombers and three others.” Should it be including the suicide bombers as part of the death count?

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Also yesterday, Israeli troops entered a Palestinian town and killed two militants.

The Post mentions that two Palestinian children in the West Bank were killed yesterday when they picked up ordnance “that had been left by Israeli troops.” It would have beengood if the paper had tried to say whether the explosives were purposely left as a booby trap—since that’s how a few Palestinian children died earlier this year.

The WP mentions inside that Arab leaders have come up with a plan for Palestinian statehood that incorporates Bush’s demanded reforms and envisions Arafat taking a ceremonial role. The plan won’t get rolling until next January because Arab leaders concluded that the Bush administration doesn’t want to have to deal with peace negotiations—and thus potentially have to pressure Israel—before the November congressional elections.

USAT’s lead—headlined, “FBI TERROR CHIEF SAYS HE THINKS BIN LADEN IS DEAD”—doesn’t actually include the relevant quote. And that’s too bad because readers could have seen that it’s caveat-filled: “Is [Bin Laden] alive or is he dead?  I am not really sure of the answer. I personally think he is probably not with us anymore. But I have no evidence to support that.”

The WP off-leads an exclusive: The paper says it has insider AOL Time Warner docs showing that the media giant counted as ad revenue several deals that probably shouldn’t have been counted. In one case, AOL sold ads on behalf of the auction site eBay and then booked the sales as part of its own revenue. The paper says the deals total $270 million, and without them, AOL wouldn’t have met profit projections for much of last year.

The Post’s article—which clocks in at over 5,000 words and is the first of a two-parter—includes golden quotes from two former AOL execs, both named, who say they questioned the deals. According to one, “There were some pretty big business issues they were not willing to face. For nine months, I tried to get these guys out of denial. I tried to take the perfume off the pig.”

According to “a lawyer hired by AOL to respond to the Post’s questions,” the company didn’t do anything wrong. He called the Post’s questioning “arm-chair speculation.” (The Post also has a separate anticipatory response from AOL.)

A Page One feature in the WSJ looks at AOL’s muddled ad sales effort and actually mentions in passing questions about how the company has booked ad revenues.

The NYT off-leads the results of a NYT/CBS poll, which found, as the headline puts it, “CONCERNS THAT BUSH IS OVERLY INFLUENCED BY BUSINESS.” Fifty-eight percent of respondents said businesses have too much influence on the president. (The Times offers a chart  with some of the poll’s questions and answers. But CBS’s Web site offers much more detailed data—albeit in Adobe PDF format.)

The WP, meanwhile, fronts the results of its own poll, headlined, “POLL SHOWS BUSH’S RATINGS WEATHERING BUSINESS SCANDALS.” Despite the differing headlines, the two polls actually have similar conclusions. The Post, for example, notes that 50 percent of respondents said that Bush is paying too much attention to the needs of corporations. The NYT, for its part, puts Bush’s approval rating at 70 percent. The Post puts it at a statistically similar 72 percent.

The NYT fronts an interview with SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt and emphasizes his comments that with the expiration of a one year “cooling-off” period in which he wasn’t allowed to work on cases involving his former clients, Pitt now plans on taking a “direct role” in such cases (NYT’s words). As the paper points out, Pitt was a big-time securities lawyer and represented just about everybody in the industry.

The Times’ story is filled with quotes criticizing Pitt’s position. But the article waits until the 18th paragraph to mention what looks like a key point: “Ethics rules bar Mr. Pitt from ever participating in any matter in which he had been substantially involved when he was in private practice.”

Everybody notes that yesterday Republicans in the House backed down from their threats to fight the Senate’s accounting reform bill. Instead they offered, says the WSJ, “mostly minor changes.” The lead in yesterday’s Post had said that House GOP leaders were intent on weakening the bill.

The NYT goes inside with a dispatch from last night’s White House state dinner in honor of the Polish president, who’s in town. The fête included $50 per-pound Kobe-style beef and jazz vocalist Vanessa Rubin. Explained First Lady Laura Bush, who was wearing a “two-piece tulle Oscar de la Renta” gown, “It’s really just like having a party in your own house.”