Trash Talk

Trash Talk

Trash Talk

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 19 2002 6:19 AM

Trash Talk

The Los Angeles Timesscoops its colleagues with the story of six terrorist suspects in Bosnia taken into custody by the United States. The case against the men had been dismissed by the Bosnian Supreme Court due to lack of evidence. The New York Times, for the fifth consecutive day, leads with Enron-related news. Today it's Kenneth Lay's cheerful e-mails to his employees, encouraging them to load up on Enron stock even while he was quietly jettisoning his own shares. The Washington Postoff-leads Enron, going instead with China's claim that bugs were planted aboard its presidential plane while it was being refitted in the United States.

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According to the LAT lead, the United States laid claim to six terrorist suspects and flew them out of Bosnia after that country's Supreme Court had ordered them released, citing a lack of evidence. The six (five Algerians and a Yemeni) were arrested in Bosnia in October on U.S. intelligence reports, but were not charged. After the dismissal by the court, the Bosnian government willingly turned the men over to the United States. "Bosnia-Herzegovina is still a developing democracy, to put it mildly, and their rule of law is not quite mature enough to handle this issue," says an anonymous U.S. military source. 300 Muslims in Sarajevo tried to block the U.S. military transport. "This is nothing short of a kidnapping," a DePaul University Law School prof says in the LAT. "This is a return to the Wild West and is surely likely to affect the credibility of the U.S. as a country that adheres to the rule of law." But a Yale law professor calls it a "sheer wartime necessity." According to the LAT, about 200 Islamic mujahideen remain in Bosnia, many with links to al-Qaida.

Wednesday's NYT fronted a full-color Sherron Watkins above the headline, "Author of Letter to Enron Chief Is Called Tough." That letter went to Kenneth Lay in mid-August, and he asked an outside law firm to look into the accounting problems Watkins spoke of. Today's NYT lead reports that Lay's e-mail to employees went out on Sept. 26, encouraging them to buy Enron stock and failing to mention the accounting concerns. Lay had begun to dump, albeit gradually, his own Enron shares "within days of receiving the warning" from Watkins, according to the NYT.

The Chinese government charges that U.S. intelligence planted high-tech listening devices on China's Air Force One while it was being refitted in the United States, according to the WP lead. Twenty-seven bugs were found throughout the presidential plane, including in the presidential bathroom and on the headboard of the presidential bed. The Boeing 767 was refitted in San Antonio this fall, under heavy Chinese guard, so how the bugs boarded is a mystery. The Post reports that China has long been wary of purchasing high-tech equipment from the West, fearing that Western governments could, in the words of the Communist Party newspaper, "place secret codes or technical Trojan horses inside the products to collect intelligence." George W. goes to Beijing in February for a summit with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin.

The LAT fronts, and the NYT stuffs, the devastating volcano in the Congo that sent a mile-wide river of lava through Goma (pop 350,000) and surrounding villages, killing "scores" (LAT) and forcing thousands of refugees into neighboring Rwanda. "Some literally raced the lava, sprinting just a few feet in front of the flow," according to the NYT.

The NYT fronts the untimely death, at the tender age of two, of Talk magazine, Tina Brown's baby. Hearst magazines and Miramax films, Talk's backers, pulled the plug when the latter could not find another partner after the former withdrew. Tina blames the bad economy for the magazine's lackluster performance. "Unfortunately, we simply had to be realistic about the fact that 2001 and 2002 to date represent the worst period in memory for general interest magazines," she says in the Times. She'll stay on as chairman of Talk Miramax Books, which is owned solely by Miramax. It's not clear what will become of the magazine's 50 or so staffers.

The Michael Jordan Newsletter, aka. The Washington Post, fronts news of his airness' impending divorce. No one knew, apparently, because, as MJ recently admitted, he "has very few friends." (Sigh.) The story covers the usual ground in cases like these, about how difficult it is to keep one's mind on the game, but then how the game can provide a kind of refuge as well. The irony, which the Post underplays, is that JORDAN, the magazine, will soon be on the newsstands, offering "lifestyle pieces and advice." Today's Papers encourages displaced Talk staffers to send their resumes to Nike, the magazine's publisher, ASAP.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.