The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with, and the others prominently report, news that WorldCom has added another $3.3 billion to its tally of inappropriately booked funds. Now it has mis-accounted for a total of about $7.2 billion. (Everyone says the newly disclosed figure is $3.3 billion except the Washington Post, which added it up to be $3.8 billion. None of the reporting reveals an obvious reason for this discrepancy in the calculations.) The top story in the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox is a warning Saddam Hussein delivered via a speech to Iraqis that any nation that attacked Iraq would be forced to “carry their coffins on their backs to die in disgraceful failure.” The White House dismissed Saddam’s comments. The WP leads with news that federal regulators have mandated that most new televisions must be able to receive digital broadcast signals by 2007. Congress has declared 2006 the year by which the country’s broadcasting should switch from analog to digital signals. Digital TV gives consumers better picture and sound and makes television interactive. The Post reminds readers in passing of one reason why the government wants Americans to be digitally entertained: The freed up analog spectrum will be given back to the government to be sold for other uses, like wireless devices. The LAT and NYT add that this prospect could be worth billions of dollars. The top story in today’s USA Today reveals that reservations at national park lodges during this peak month of August are down double-digit percentages, because foreigners aren’t visiting like they usually do. Park rangers think that Asians and Europeans are frightened away by any of the following: possible terrorist strikes, airport hassles, “the economy,” Western wildfires, and overcrowded views of Half Domes and Old Faithfuls.
WorldCom’s most recently revealed accounting trickery started back in 1999, the papers say. The company now will have a harder time making it through bankruptcy, because, as USAT puts it, its creditors are “stunned” by the latest figure. WorldCom’s CEO blamed the former chief financial officer and controller, the guys who played with the books to create the original $3.9 billion in fake revenue and have been arrested for it. The CEO is not convinced that WorldCom’s auditors have found all the company’s accounting problems: “You never really know for sure,” he says in the WP. There’s real confusion in the papers over who discovered the new accounting problems: The WP says it was “internal auditors”; the NYT says the company didn’t say whether it was “internal investigators or KPMG, its new outside auditor”; the LAT says KPMG; the WSJ credits a team composed of both; and USAT cites “WorldCom’s internal auditors, KPMG.”
The NYT folds Saddam’s remarks into a piece on House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s, R-Texas, declaration to reporters that an unprovoked attack on Iraq would undermine global support for booting Saddam.
The LAT also got a piece out of Armey’s comments yesterday. The paper’s top international story reports that Armey thinks the United States should end economic sanctions against Cuba.
According to the papers, three Palestinian Cabinet ministers met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to consider security, economic, and humanitarian assistance. The WP thinks it caught hints that the discussions are making progress toward a resumption of the peace process. One hint: The Palestinians will meet with CIA Director Tenet who is in charge of getting the Palestinian security service back on track. Meanwhile, the papers report, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon called the Palestinian Authority “a gang of corrupt terrorists.”
The papers say that Colombia’s new president has inaugurated his controversial program to create a 1 million person strong civilian intelligence network to help Colombia defeat guerrilla forces.
The NYT reports that an American soldier was wounded by sniper fire while searching for al-Qaida in Afghanistan. This is the third day in a row Americans have been attacked on their missions.
The papers go inside with news of the crash of a U.S. Air Force special operations cargo plane in Puerto Rico. All 10 aboard were killed, and the cause of the crash is unknown.
The WP got in on a secret recruiting meeting for the CIA and reports that potential new spies are largely young, middle-class white Americans. Though post-Sept.-11 applications to spy are up from 60,000 to 100,000 over the last year, the agency is having a hard time recruiting enough folks of Arab descent with Arabic and Farsi language skills, people who have the best shot at spying on Islamic terrorists.
The WP and NYT report that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of State Powell are hopeful they can resolve an ongoing dispute over the fate of cars illegally parked by foreign diplomats on the streets of New York City. Foreign diplomats owe the city $22 million in parking tickets that they refuse to pay. The administration fears an embarrassing international incident when the mayor starts towing diplomatically immune cars if negotiations fail.