Today's Papers

Himalayan Summit Attempt

According to the New York Timeslead, the Pentagon will ask for a $20 billion increase for its 2003 budget. The figure is less than the $33 billion increase the Pentagon got last year, but it comes at a time when the economy is in recession and other government agencies are being ordered to cut back expenditures. The Washington Postlead announces that the U.S. probe of the financial path that led to Sept. 11 is finished. It’s official, the Los Angeles Timeslead reports: Argentina has ended the country’s peso-dollar peg. Argentina also is stopping payment on $135 billion in public debt, the largest default ever by a country. The first item in the Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box is reported inside the other papers: The Pentagon is sending troops to build and guard detention chambers for up to 2,000 Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The WSJ’s story also reports that many U.S. officials believe that Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar may well have escaped into Pakistan, a fact other papers also mention. USA Today’s lead sums up the weekend’s sparring between Democrats and Republicans over whether President Bush’s tax cut helped or hurt the economy. The story lines up statements from guests on Sunday’s political talk shows in support of each side of the debate and includes Bush’s tax-increases-over-my-dead-body quote that other papers got into their Sunday editions.

The NYT lead predicts that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan to transform the military with modern technology for such programs as missile defense and unpiloted aircraft is still on the table. However, instead of cutting back on conventional forces, as many thought he would before Sept. 11, the secretary will now also likely want more tanks, warships, and fighter planes. The additional money would also pay for health care costs and precision-guided munitions but won’t be going toward the campaign in Afghanistan. Emergency budget supplements, $17.5 billion worth so far, are paying for that. Because of public support for the war against terrorism, Democrats are not likely to balk at Rumsfeld’s budget numbers, the paper says.

The WP lead says that the goals of the investigation into the hijackers’ spending include: 1) getting a better understanding of the sources of al-Qaida financing, and 2) discerning spending patterns in the United States that may foreshadow a terrorist attack. Supercomputers and financial analysts are collaborating on defining these patterns, and U.S. banks have begun to search for them. By tracing credit card receipts and ATM withdrawals, investigators have added up $325,000 out of the $500,000 that the hijackers spent on the attacks. The remainder of the funds was likely cash.

Relations between India and Pakistan look worrisome or hopeful, depending on which paper you read. The WSJ’s headline announces that the two nations failed to use the recent summit of South Asian nations in Nepal to lessen tensions. In what the paper reads as “an indication of how tense the relationship has become,” the Indian Army said it fired on a Pakistani spy plane over Kashmir. But the WP headline says the summit ended with some optimism, as the leaders shook hands and left with “new hopes that they might resolve their differences peacefully.” These new hopes appear to be fairly one-sided, with the Pakistani president telling the press that the future looked better “from the reduction-of-tension point of view.” The Indian prime minister seemed not to share that sentiment, dismissing his interaction with Musharraf as lacking “significant discussion.”

A NYT front-page piece analyzes Bush’s strategy to smooth relations between India and Pakistan. In daily phone calls to both leaders, he and his foreign policy team have tried to portray stateless terrorists with possible links to Bin Laden as the real problem the two countries have. They have taken no position on who should control Kashmir and instead have argued that terrorists threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as India and that it would behoove Musharraf to stop them.

The papers report that the teenager who flew a plane into a Tampa skyscraper left a suicide note which paid tribute to Osama Bin Laden and the Sept. 11 hijackers.

For several days, reporters from the NYT and USAT lived with U.S. Special Forces teams in Afghanistan, and today they filed front-page reports on their hosts’ activities. Conveniently, USAT’s reporting, comprised of soldiers’ recollections, covers the Special Forces’ activities during the height of combat and then the NYT picks up the story and describes what they are doing now. USAT’s host team, a “remarkably low-key and cerebral group,” said that local Afghan commanders weren’t that happy to see them until they began calling in bombs, enough to kill 1,300 Taliban in all. The NYT’s team is detonating unexploded bombs, paying local fighters to give up Stinger missiles, and helping Afghanistan rebuild.

Italy’s respected foreign minister has resigned after disagreements with the country’s prime minister over Italy’s policy toward Europe, a development which the papers think might hurt Italy’s international standing. The prime minister, who the WSJ says is considered weak on foreign policy issues, has appointed himself foreign minister for the time being and plans to revamp the foreign affairs ministry.