Today's Papers

A Real Deal

The Washington Post leads with the International Monetary Fund’s announcement that it’s going to loan Brazil $30 billion. The loan—the biggest in IMF history—is meant to keep Brazil from defaulting on $264 billion worth of debt. The New York Times leads with, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with, news that as Colombia’s new president, Álvaro Uribe, was being sworn in—”Our whole nation is crying out for respite and security,” he said—guerrillas launched homemade mortars just blocks away, killing at least 14 people. The papers say that one of the mortars actually landed inside the presidential palace compound, injuring a number of guards. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, but everybody guesses that leftist guerrillas did it. As the paper note, the guerrillas are known for attacking with such mortars. Uribe centered his campaign around a promise to crackdown on the guerrillas. USA Today leads with a wrap-up of the latest war-talk about Iraq. The paper emphasizes that President Bush said he promised to “consult with Congress and with our friends and allies” before taking any action. The Los Angeles Times leads with the latest war-plan leak, only this one isn’t about the Pentagon’s plans. Citing, “current and former U.S. intelligence officials,” the paper outlines Saddam Hussein’s supposed war strategy. According to the paper’s sources, Saddam is going to stay away from desert fighting and is instead going to keep his troops in major cities, where U.S. and civilian casualties would be highest.

The Post has the most concise explanation of Brazil’s current cash-flow problem: Investors, partially spooked by the possibility of a leftist candidate winning Brazil’s presidency, have been rushing to sell the government bonds and Brazil’s currency, the real. The result is that the government has been forced to pay exorbitant interest rates on money it’s borrowed, hence the possibility of a default.

The WP’s piece also notes that compared with previous such deals, the IMF’s loan didn’t come with many strings attached. The WSJ, which also plays the story high, explores why the Bush administration has changed its tune and is now supporting international financial rescue packages. The Journal speculates that the White House doesn’t want to risk Latin America’s economy going kaput and possibly spreading its bad mojo north. The Journal also says the administration may have been influenced by the fact that U.S. banks have already lent Brazil $27 billion, which they stand to lose if Brazil defaults.

USAT’s lead on Iraq mentions that the paper has “obtained” a Pentagon intel agency memo saying that an invasion is going to be a big problem since, among other things, many of Iraq’s neighbors may not support it.As USAT notes, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the U.S. will not be allowed to use Saudi land as a launching pad for any invasion.

A story inside the NYT also summarizes the White House’s Iraq-talk. But unlike the USAT’s lead, the NYT doesn’t dwell on Bush’s kumbaya quotes. Instead, the Times emphasizes that Vice President Dick Cheney said he was “skeptical” that inspectors will be able “solve the problem.”

The NYT goes above the fold with anonymous former Enron execs’ claims that Merrill Lynch agreed in late 1999 to participate in a bogus trade meant to increase profits for the energy company. “This was absolutely a sham transaction,” said one former exec. Merrill Lynch denied that it did anything wrong.

Everybody notes up high that Samuel Waksal, former chief of biotech firm ImClone Systems, was indicted yesterday on charges of insider trading, bank fraud, and obstruction of justice.

The papers go inside with wire stories reporting that unknown militants attacked Afghan soldiers in Kabul yesterday. At least 16 people were killed in the ensuing firefight, most of them militants. Also, the papers mention that a U.S. soldier on patrol near eastern Afghanistan was shot in the chest yesterday. He is in stable condition. The papers also mention that U.S. soldiers shot and killed four men who might have been trying to shoot them. It’s not exactly clear yet what happened.

Despite all the action in Afghanistan, the NYT seems be the only paper that actually has a reporter who filed from there yesterday.

The Post fronts essentially a smackdown of the White House’s Afghanistan policy. According to the news story, the policy—driven by President Bush’s hesitance to get too involved in nation-building type stuff—is “high on the rhetoric of commitment and low on the level of engagement.”

A piece in the WSJ says the administration is leaning toward labeling newly captured al-Qaida suspects as “enemy combatants,” rather than sending them to the civilian judicial system. “There’s a different legal regime that we’re developing,” said an unnamed White House official. Asked if that meant that future al-Qaida types won’t be heading to civilian courts, the official responded, “Not if we can help it.”

WP columnist Lloyd Grove notices the latest inductee into theSturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. Thompson says he’s been riding Hogs for 10 years. His current model is a Harley 2000 Ultra Glide.