KO'd-Mart

 KO'd-Mart

 KO'd-Mart

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 22 2002 4:39 AM

 KO'd-Mart

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a good, enterprising piece examining how energy industry lobbyists are trying to make sure that the Enron fiasco doesn't cause lawmakers to re-regulate the industry. "Enron's problems were Enron-based," said one lobbyist. "They weren't demonstrative of a greater flaw in the energy markets or industry." Congress was, and perhaps still is, considering further deregulating the energy industry. Yesterday, one lawmaker labeled such a bill the "One Last Gift for Enron Act." The New York Timesleads with word that Kmart may be kaput and could file for bankruptcy as early as today. If it does, the company will be the largest retailer in history to do so. The Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox with word that countries have now pledged about $4 billion over five years to rebuild Afghanistan. The NYT reminds readers that "international donors have a spotty record in following through on public commitments." USA Todayleads with word that unlike President Bush, four Republican governors have decided to scale back tax cuts they enacted last year. Among the penny-pinchers: the Prez's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The Washington Post's top non-local story reports, "For the first time in 16 months of fighting, Israeli forces occupied a major Palestinian town." Israeli tanks and soldiers entered Tulkarm, which they contend has been the launching pad for a number of recent terrorist attacks, and seized the mayor's home as well as "dozens" of other buildings. The Post says the action is "among Israel's most ambitious military operations in the Palestinian territories since the Middle East war of 1967." The NYT reports that Israel says it's already pulling out of Tulkarm. 

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The papers front news that a former Enron executive, who was laid off just a few weeks ago, claims in a sworn affidavit that Enron was shredding documents as recently as last week. 

The NYT notes an indirect Enron connection to Kmart's pending catastrophe. The retailer paid for a sort of bankruptcy and liability insurance, and when Enron failed, that insurance suddenly got a lot more expensive. "Their cash-flow model for post-Christmas would have been fine—until Enron scared every last living person in finance out of their wits," one adviser said

The WP mentions that Hamas appears to have started manufacturing a small rocket capable of delivering a 20-pound payload up to five miles. Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon warned that if Hamas actually launches one of them, the Israeli army "will adopt totally different tactics."

The papers all note that Yasser Arafat is surrounded by Israeli tanks and essentially under house arrest. The NYT calls him a "virtual prisoner." The WP notes that Arafat has stopped mentioning the cease-fire he ordered last month.

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Most of the papers catch late news that Israeli soldiers have entered Nablus. "In fighting on the western edge of the city, five Palestinians were killed, nine arrested and an explosives lab discovered," the LAT reports.

The Post says Israeli officials are bickering about the next steps in their war. The paper adds, "Comments by senior officials suggest that Israel's planning and thinking are driven by events—specifically, by anticipated Palestinian attacks—rather than any grand strategy."

A USAT front-page teaser reads, "Israel begins anti-terrorism campaign." Didn't they start it a while ago?

The papers go high with news that gunmen attacked an American building in Calcutta, killing four Indian police officers and injuring 20 civilians. The building housed some of the U.S. consulate's offices. No Americans were injured, and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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USAT says that U.S. forces "swooped down with helicopters" in eastern Afghanistan and captured four men who are believed to "have close ties to senior Taliban officials."

The papers report that British officials returned from Guantanamo Bay and said that prisoners there aren't being mistreated. According to the officials, the three British prisoners there had "no complaints about their treatment." The officials also noted, "there were no gags, no goggles, no ear muffs and no shackles while [the prisoners] are in their cells."

The NYT implies that earlier this month the United States bombed an arms cache that Iran gave to Ismail Khan, an anti-Taliban leader and the governor of Herat.

The WP fronts word from a former top officer at the Army's bio-weapons lab that there's no need to get all worked up about the anthrax that went AWOL from there in the early 1990s: The stuff had been sterilized.

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The Post's story has a fascinating bit—first uncovered by the Hartford Courant, though the WP doesn't mention that in today's paper: Back in the early '90s, the lab was the scene of vicious office politics and harassment. At one point, two top officers held a weekly ceremony to "honor" one of their employees, Ayaad Assaad, a physiologist and Egyptian-American. According to the Post, which has more detail about this than the Courant, the "officers established a 'Camel Club' and awarded a stuffed toy camel each week to a scientist who had not performed to their expectations."

That might seem irrelevant now, but last fall, just days before the anthrax attacks become public, the FBI received an anonymous letter stating that Assaad was a "potential bioterrorist."

"Whoever sent the anthrax letters did this to divert attention," Assaad said. "They knew the attacks would be eventually traced back to [the lab], and they used me as a scapegoat."

We may soon find out if Assaad is right. The NYT's fronts news that scientists have identified "genetic fingerprints" that could help them identify exactly which lab the anthrax used in the attacks came from.

The NYT's correction box has a nice mea culpa:

The "Inside the N.F.L." column on Sunday discussed the antagonism among some former assistant coaches toward Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, who dismissed about a dozen of them last week along with the head coach, Marty Schottenheimer. Quoting three former assistants who were not identified by name, the three opening paragraphs described their suspicion that Mr. Snyder had used listening devices to eavesdrop on their telephones and offices.

In fairness, the assertion—based only on the suspicions of three people who were cited anonymously, and denied by the owner—should not have formed the main point of the column or its headline.