Today's Papers

Enron End-Run

The Washington Post leads with word that federal prosecutors are going to try to seize $23 million that they believe former Enron execs illegally collected from the company. Prosecutors also said they’re going to try to seize the houses of a few of the alleged crooks. The New York Times’ lead notes that, as expected, former Enron executive Michael Kopper turned in state’s evidence and pleaded guilty yesterday to pilfering company money. He was also ordered to give up the $12 million he scammed. The Los Angeles Times also leads with Enron, emphasizing that Kopper implicated his former boss, Andrew Fastow. USA Today leads, lamely, with word that a jury convicted David Westerfield in the kidnapping and murder earlier this year of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.

The Post’s “Business” section notes that Kopper’s $12 million fine will go into a fund set up to compensate investors who were cheated by Enron execs’ shenanigans.

In an apparent attempt to explain why it’s leading with the kidnapping story, USAT’s first paragraph says that van Dam was “the first victim in a series of highly publicized child abductions that have chilled American parents this year.” That’s probably true. Of course, the reason for the “chill” isn’t the series of kidnappings, it’s the overpublicizing of them by—hello USAT!—the media. According to the last paragraph of USAT’s story, experts believe that child “abductions are decreasing.” [Emphasis added.] (Here’s a takedown of the kidnapping scare from the NewRepublic.)

The NYT goes above the fold with, and the Wall Street Journal  tops its world-wide news box (online) with, news that Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf rejiggered his country’s constitution yesterday, including adding amendments that undermine Pakistan’s coming elections in October. Other changes implemented by Musharraf stipulate that he can dissolve the country’s elected parliament and can unilaterally appoint Supreme Court justices. The State Department said it won’t respond in detail until it sees the text of Musharraf’s moves, but offered, “We believe it remains critically important for Pakistan to restore democratic civilian rule. We continue to look forward to the holding of free national and provincial elections in October.”

The NYT off-leads and the LAT fronts word that President Bush said yesterday that he’s a “patient man” and “will look at all options” for how to deal with Saddam. The NYT also notices that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told troops at a base in Texas, “The president has made no such decision that we should go into a war with Iraq.” Rumsfeld paused, then added, “He’s thinking about it.”

The WP and LAT front word that Israeli officials announced that they have busted a Hamas terrorist ring made up of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Officials said that the group was responsible for eight bombings, including last month’s attack at Hebrew University. As everybody notes, Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East War, and thus residents there—including the men arrested—have been allowed to work and travel throughout Israel. 

The Israeli government issued a statement yesterday hinting that such privileges might not last: “The implications of the [investigation] directly damages the trust given to residents of eastern Jerusalem, who could pay a dear social and economic price as a result.”

USAT and the NYT note up high that scientists have discovered a bacteria-eating virus that can both detect and destroy anthrax much more efficiently than current methods. Nowadays anthrax tests take a couple of days; these little virus things can do it in about an hour. The papers say that it’s likely that similar good-guy viruses will be able to treat other germs, such as strep and staph. 

Everybody goes high with word that, as the LAT reported yesterday, the Bush administration is planning to loosen the rules for cutting down timber on federal land.

According to a piece fronted in USAT, the federal government’s National Fire Plan, which was launched two years ago and has “helped spark a multibillion dollar war on wildfires,” isn’t working. Among the problems: The Forest Service is still focusing on fighting fires in unpopulated areas—even though experts agree that it would be healthier for forests if those fires were left to burn. The LAT had a similar story, focused on California, last week.

A good piece in the WSJ’s “Money and Investing” section notes that the SEC is having trouble finding folks to staff the newly created accounting-oversight board. Part of the problem is that serving on the board will be a full-time job, and members will be required to sever their business ties.

The WP goes inside with a preview of an interview President Bush gave to Runner’s World magazine. Bush, as everybody knows, is a huge runner and has recently been holding “100 Degree Club” competitions in which he challenges staff to a three-mile run around his ranch when it’s 100 degrees out. That sure sounds hard. But apparently it’s not hard enough for Bush, who said, “It’s sad that I can’t run longer. It’s one of the saddest things about the presidency.”