Top News

This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News over a one-week period from July 3 to 9

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

Scoring system: 5 points for news stories appearing on the front page of The Washington Post, 3 for stories on the next two pages of the "A" section, and 1 thereafter. Same formula for USA Today, except the values are doubled to account for its national circulation. Stories carried on NBC Nightly News receive 10 points if they run before the first ad break, 6 between the first and second break, and 2 thereafter. Anchor-read stories earn 2 points early, 1 point late.


Too many cooks

122 points | Just days after they announced a whopping $3.9 billion understatement of their debts, WorldCom officials were summoned to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, where two top former officials invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But conservatives suggested books cooks in Congress ought to take a look in the mirror: The House and Senate had spent $142 billion more than they budgeted in the last five years. "That's 12 times the misstated figures from Enron, Xerox, and WorldCom combined," explained Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste. But the corporate scandal is serious (see cover story, p. 14) and new, tighter regulation is imminent. A bit defensive over his own past business dealings, President Bush went to Wall Street to promote his own corporate reform plan. "It is time to reaffirm the basic principles and rules that make capitalism work: truthful books and honest people, and well-enforced laws against fraud and corruption." Democrats insisted the president isn't serious unless he backs a stringent bill by liberal Sen. Paul Sarbanes, which includes a veto-baiting provision expanding the time for trial lawyers to file shareholder lawsuits.


El al, et al.

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99 points | Fourth of July celebrations overcame terror warnings, but the country was not totally untouched by international violence. Cable news channels were riveted on the story of how Hesham Hadayet, an Egyptian immigrant and limousine driver, entered Los Angeles International Airport, patiently stood in line at a ticket counter for the Israeli airline El Al, and then fatally shot two people and wounded three others before he was wrestled to the ground by security officers and bystanders. As he tried to stab them with a knife, he was shot dead. FBI officials wouldn't identify the act as terrorism, as the Israeli government charged, but political pressure built on the newly developed Transportation Security Agency to move beyond its focus on airplanes and metal detectors. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of a House aviation subcommittee, complained, "The TSA is supposed to be looking at all aspects [of security], not just building a bureaucracy at the checkpoints."


Still unstable

71 points | U.S. commanders in Afghanistan admitted that civilians were killed in an airstrike in Uruzgan province. Afghans claimed 48 people were killed and 117 wounded, including 25 members of an extended family celebrating a wedding in the village of Kakarak. But U.S. investigators who visited the site expressed doubts about the numerical claims, and U.S. officials claimed the pilots responded to anti-aircraft fire, but investigators found no proof of anti-aircraft guns in the area. The Afghan government reeled when two assailants emptied automatic rifles into a vehicle carrying Abdul Qadir, a cabinet minister and its vice president. Mr. Qadir was a key political figure for 25 years, despite his age of 48. Foreign ministry spokesman Omad Samad declared, "It was an act committed against everything the people of Afghanistan believe in." The shooting came just five months after tourism minister Abdul Rahman was killed in a riot at the Kabul airport.


Fire and rain

62 points | We've seen fire and we've seen rain. Disastrous summer wildfires in the West were followed by torrential rains and flooding in south central Texas. More than 30 inches of rain in one week easily surpassed the rainfall records the area marked just four years ago. The floods were responsible for the deaths of nine people, including an 11-year-old boy who was removed from life support five days after he fell into a swelling San Antonio creek. One man was listed as missing. More than 4,000 people fled their homes, and the Red Cross reported more than 48,000 homes were affected. In some spots, entire houses floated past amazed bystanders. Farmers who battened down for a drought found their crops of fruits and vegetables rotting into mush in standing water. President Bush declared 24 counties eligible for federal disaster-relief funds, and Gov. Rick Perry said he expects financial losses to approach $1 billion.


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