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IN THE NEWS - December 28, 2002: Time Honors 3 Women - 2002-12-27

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

For many years, Time magazine has recognized a person or persons who made important news during a year. Recently, Time named three American women as its Persons of the Year for two-thousand-two. One of those honored is Coleen Rowley. She works for America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. Time also honored Cynthia Cooper, an official with the communications business WorldCom. The third winner is Sherron Watkins. She formerly worked for the energy trading company Enron.

These women reported serious problems or wrongdoing in the places where they work. Each woman risked her job to tell the truth. Their actions have led to congressional investigations and calls for reform.

Coleen Rowley wrote a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller in May. She criticized the agency for failing to gather evidence before the September eleventh terrorist attacks on the United States. Mizz Rowley told how officials at FBI headquarters had dismissed information from the agency’s office in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The information concerned a French citizen, Zacarias Moussaoui. Mister Moussaoui is now waiting to be tried in the state of Virginia. He is accused of helping plot the terrorist attacks.

Missus Rowley wrote that an FBI agent had identified Mister Moussaoui as a terrorist threat one month before the attacks. The Minneapolis office asked FBI headquarters to let it seek a court order to search the suspect’s property. Agents especially wanted to search his computer. Yet higher-level FBI officials dismissed their appeals. Congress and the Bush Administration now are exploring ways to improve the agency’s performance.

Cynthia Cooper examines financial records for the WorldCom Corporation in Clinton, Mississippi. In June, Mizz Cooper told a WorldCom financial committee that the company’s records were dishonest.

Soon, WorldCom’s chief financial officer admitted that the company earned almost four-thousand-million dollars less than it had reported. Since then, the amount has grown to more than nine-thousand-million dollars. Owners of the company’s stock shares have lost three-thousand-million dollars. WorldCom reported that it is unable to pay its debts.

Sherron Watkins was a communications officer with Enron, based in Houston, Texas. In August of last year, she wrote to then company chairman Kenneth Lay. Mizz Watkins told him about questionable financial methods at Enron. She also said the company should tell its shareholders the truth about its losses. Months later, the company began to fail. By then, Enron had lost about one-thousand-million dollars.

The actions of Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper led to criminal charges against some Enron and WorldCom officials. Congress also is considering ways to prevent companies from lying about their finances.

This VOA Special English broadcast was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.