Today's Papers

Kung Pow: Enter the Frist

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide news box all lead with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s statement yesterday that Iraq’s weapons declaration constitutes a “material breach” of U.N. resolutions. USA Today leads with word that Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist will challenge Trent Lott for the Senate majority leader post.

Iraq’s defiance, Powell said yesterday, “has brought it closer to the day when it will have to face consequences.” Word at the U.N. was less severe, but still condemning. Hans Blix, in his statement to the U.N. Security Council, said the report had “inaccuracies” and that “an opportunity was missed” by Baghdad. France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said the declaration “doesn’t lift the doubts about the possible continuation of prohibited activities.”

The papers begin to hint at what is missing in Iraq’s report. It fails to account for the previous production of 26,000 thousands of liters of anthrax, 20,000 quarts of botulinum toxin, and 500 tons of chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and nerve gas. The LAT offers the fullest report of what the State Department is saying Iraq neglects to explain.

The papers also report that the Pentagon is prepared to move more than 50,000 troops into the Persian Gulf in January, thus doubling the U.S. presence in the region. The WP says the plans also include activation of as many as 250,000 reserves. Still, in a front-page news analysis, the paper says that war isn’t inevitable. One possibility being widely discussed is that a coup could remove Saddam Hussein from power. Another is that Saddam could have a “deathbed conversion” in which he comes clean about his weapons of mass destruction.

USAT leads, and all the other papers front, news that Frist will be running against Lott for Senate majority leader. Everyone notes that Frist is a key ally of the president and was instrumental in helping Republicans regain control of the Senate. Frist’s biggest challenge may be White House support, as the Senate is a “clubby world” that resents outside interference. Frist has already garnered the support of a number of senators, including Don Nickles, R-OK, whom many thought harbored leadership ambitions of his own. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, is also mulling a bid, and the WSJ ends its article on the subject by declaring that Frist would have trouble beating McConnell.

In a NYT poll, 45 percent of surveyed Republican National Committee members say Lott should step down, compared to 20 percent who say he shouldn’t. (35 percent are undecided.) Only 16 percent think he will survive as Senate majority leader.

The papers all front news that the nation’s largest investment banking firms have agreed to pay $1 billion in fines to end an investigation into conflicts of interest in their business practices. The firms also consented to change the way they conduct research and to buy $500 million worth of independent research for investors over the next five years. Did Wall Street executives sell out their analysts to escape prosecution? No one asks, but the NYT offers this tidbit: “The broad agreement does not include the punishment of any Wall Street analysts or executives who supervised them, though state and national regulators may still pursue investigations of some analysts. That means Sanford I. Weill, the chairman of Citigroup, would not be charged with any violations of securities laws under the agreement.” Citigroup analyst Jack Grubman, however, could be.

The NYT does seem to get one thing wrong on the story, though. It writes that, per the settlement, “the firms would neither admit nor deny charges that they had misled investors.” The other papers report that Citigroup, Credit Suisse, and possibly other investment banks may indeed have to issue statements of apology.

The papers front South Korea’s presidential election results. Millenium Democrat Party candidate Roh Muh Hyun won a close race, and both papers read the results as a foreshadowing of strained relations between the United States and South Korea. Roh (whose name is pronounced “No”) has said in recent days that South Korea should have stronger dialogue with North Korea and that the South should assert its independence, making sure the U.S. doesn’t go to war with the North. 

The NYT reports that the Bush administration wants to ensure that Internet service providers build a centralized system to enable monitoring, including potentially surveillance of users. The plan (which will be issued in a paper called “The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace”) doesn’t go into how it will be built, where, and at what cost. The NYT quotes a data mining company representative who calls it “10 times worse” than Carnivore, the FBI’s system for wiretapping the Internet.

Yesterday’s tornado in Mississippi caused the entire nation’s cable news networks to break regular programming in order to cover the “incredibly big” weather event. Some news agencies reported that the storm caused deaths. Today the papers largely dismiss the tornado, denying any deaths (although there were 60 injuries). The LAT reassuringly reported that a student wrote a three-page report on Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy immediately after the twister passed.