Today's Papers

Pouty Saudis

The New York Times leads with the nation’s two largest banks, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, agreeing to pay nearly $300 million in fines to settle charges that they helped Enron with accounting scams. The Washington Post’s lead says that Saudi officials, “furious” over the 9/11 congressional report’s suggestion that there were links between the hijackers and individuals in the Saudi government, are going to meet today with President Bush about it. As you probably know, the report’s section about the Saudis has been blacked out by the White House, and the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal both emphasize that the Saudis want the chapter declassified. The LAT leads with and the WP off-leads a report from the CDC showing that the number of new AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased for the first time in a decade. The biggest jump, 7 percent, was among homosexual and bisexual men. USA Today leads with a poll it conducted suggesting that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against sodomy laws, Americans have become less tolerant of homosexuality. Asked whether intercourse between same-sex adults should be legal, 48 percent said yes and 46 percent said no, the lowest level of such tolerance since 1996. Back in May, 60 percent of respondents said they were OK with same-sex action. Meanwhile, a front-page piece in the NYT notes, “GAY-THEMED TV GAINS A WIDER AUDIENCE.” As the producer of Will & Grace told the paper, “Finally, television is catching up with society at large.”

The NYT says that the bank settlement, reached with the SEC and Manhattan district attorney’s office, is particularly significant since it’s one of the first times that companies have been held responsible for actions that deceived investors but were still legal. The Times also has a great “analysis” on the deal by Floyd Norris. As he explains, the banks knew that Enron was doing bad things and didn’t say anything about it. In some cases, the banks lent Enron money that the company then laundered and reported as profit. When one J.P. Morgan exec noted that, his colleague wrote him back, “Shut-up and delete this email.”

The LAT and NYT front a quite creative new plan by the Pentagon to begin taking bets on events in the Middle East—terrorism, coups, whatever—and use the collective wisdom of the quasi-stock-market as a tool to guess about the future. (Standard disclaimer: This is not a joke.) The potential market program, which was revealed yesterday by two Democratic senators, is being overseen by the Information Awareness Office, the same geniuses who last year proposed electronically spying on all Americans to smoke out terrorists. As the NYT makes clear, the proposal—for which the White House requested $8 mil for 2005—isn’t likely to go far: “Republican officials in the Senate were privately shaking their heads over the planned trading.” Before it’s gone, take a look at the program’s Web site—particularly, appreciate the early ‘80s motif.

Everybody notes inside that another soldier was killed in Iraq yesterday as his Humvee was bombed; three other GIs were also wounded in the attack. Whoever was behind the bombing got away. Says the NYT, “No one was detained, and the Americans had no chance to return fire.” The Times also says that Sunday’s botched raid by the mysterious Task Force 20, which resulted in five Iraqi bystanders being killed, has residents in the neighborhood “seething.” According to the paper, the military still isn’t giving out any details about the shooting.

According to an Associated Press story in the papers, GIs on a raid in Tikrit captured a bodyguard and “close associate of Saddam.”

The WP says on Page One that tensions in Fallujah have markedly mellowed in the past few weeks, mostly because U.S. commanders there have reduced the military’s presence and ordered troops to be polite and abide by local customs. Among the changes, soldiers now knock on doors before searching a house, and they pay blood money to anybody who’s been shot by troops. The soldiers “changed my opinions,” said one man who was shot and is now 500 bucks richer. “I used to hate them, but now I realize they made a mistake and they really want to help us.” Anybody interested in the rebuilding of Iraq, should read this story: It’s one of the few pieces that details how things can go right.

In a poll that USAT teases on Page One, “AMERICANS MORE SURE ALLIES WILL NET DICTATOR.” What’s the point in asking such a speculative question? If the goal is to judge people’s confidence about Iraq operations, there are more direct ways to get that.

The WP notes on Page A8 that U.S. officials say they have credible, multi-sourced intel suggesting that al-Qaida plans to highjack a plane in the “latter part of the summer.” (The WP’s, perhaps overly specific, words.) “It didn’t just come from one place,” said one intel official. But a government spokesman also said, “We are continuing to investigate the credibility of the information.”

The NYT gives front-page play and the WP stuffs a human-rights group report documenting what the Times calls “widespread extortion, armed robbery and kidnapping” by Afghan warlords. The report says the U.S. has been “impeding attempts” to force the men to step aside.

Everybody fronts the death of Bob Hope, who was 100. The LAT has posted some videos from his career. While the WP lists some of Hope’s jokes, “most of them written by an army of other people.” “I feel very humble,” Hope once said. “But I think I have the strength of character to fight it.”

A WP editorial begs the president to have a press conference before he heads for a monthlong sojourn to his ranch. At this stage of their presidencies, Clinton had held 33 press conferences, the first Bush 61, and our current president: eight. The Post also notes that Bush has been locking out the press in other ways. At a meeting with Argentina’s president, for instance, the White House broke custom and only let in photographers. 

Meanwhile, the WP’s Dana Milbank details five instances in which President Bush has refused to answer whether he ultimately takes responsibility for the sketchy uranium claims in the State of Union. Milbank also notices a recent, intriguing comment by Deputy SecDef Paul Wolfowitz, who said, “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.”