Today's Papers

Reed Sprouts 

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with word that New York Stock Exchange directors named former Citicorp exec John Reed as interim chief of the Big Board. Reed, who says he’s going to work for a buck, replaces Dick Grasso who resigned amid outrage over his $140 million pay package. The NYT calls Reed an outsider and “iconoclast,” emphasizing his comments that improving governance is Job No.1. The Washington Post, which fronts Reed’s arrival, describes him as a “safe choice not likely to push for radical changes.” USA Today leads with word that a program to photograph and fingerprint all foreign visa holders entering the U.S. is behind schedule and increasingly under fire. Congress, complaining that the program hasn’t properly tracked the money it’s spent, has cut its funding by a third. The WP leads with more local follow-up on Hurricane Isabel: About 400,000 area-residents are still without power, but the federal government will be open for biz today.

The papers all catch an early morning suicide car bombing at a checkpoint to the U.N.’s HQ in Baghdad. One Iraqi guard was killed and about eight injured. Most U.N. personnel have already pulled out of the country, so the compound, a few hundred yards from the explosion, was nearly empty. A wire story on USAT’s Web site says police somehow had a few minutes warning of an attack.

As everybody notes, a mortar attack at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison late Saturday killed two U.S. soldiers and seriously wounded 13. Also, another GI was killed late Saturday in a roadside attack west of Baghdad. The LAT’s Mark Fineman, who files the best dispatch on the mortar attack, reminds that the prison has been coming under almost nightly mortar fire. “We’ve been lucky,” said one sergeant, adding, “Last night wasn’t one of our nights.”

Fineman also hoofs it to out to two villages near the prison—one described by GIs as hostile and one as friendly. Fineman found the supposedly friendly village plenty hostile—”We don’t want the Americans here”—while residents of the hostile village say they had been supportive until GIs began responding to the nightly mortar attacks by firing machine guns into the town. Fineman says “most of the houses” were pockmarked with bullet holes. (One caveat: Townspeople say no residents have been wounded yet. So, how heavy or indiscriminate could the fire be?)

In one form or another, the WP, USAT, and NYT all preview President Bush’s speech in front of the U.N. tomorrow. The NYT’s David Sanger, who had the speech described to him by “officials involved in drafting it,” says Bush will be “unyielding” and will “give little ground and admit no errors.” Asked in a soon-to-be-broadcast Fox news interview (again, previewed by the papers) whether the U.S. will give the U.N. a bigger role in overseeing Iraq’s political development, Bush said, “I’m not so sure we have to, for starters.”

The WP mentions the overall reluctance to give up significant power, but the paper’s headline skips that and instead focuses a smaller point: Bush told Fox news he’s willing to let the U.N. oversee elections—which presumably would be similar to the U.N.’s oversight of East Timor’s vote for independence during Indonesian rule there.

The NYT interviews French President Jacques Chirac, who said Iraqis should be gradually given control of their country over the next six to nine months. France’s foreign minister recently proposed handing things over in just a month. And Chirac still says, “There will be no concrete solution unless sovereignty is transferred to Iraq as quickly as possible.” Chirac also said that France won’t veto the U.S.’s Iraq resolution unless (of course) the proposal is “provocative.”

As the WP and LAT notice on Page One, U.S. has decided to privatize much of Iraq’s economy and will allow full foreign ownership in nearly every sector except oil, which will remain state-controlled. The WP’s headline is informative: “ECONOMIC OVERHAUL IN IRAQ, Only Oil Excluded From Foreign Ownership.” The LAT’s is more vague and cheerleadery: “A FREE IRAQ ECONOMY IS OUTLINED.”

The NYT’s off-lead points to one good thing about the slumping economy: It’s helped the Army meet its recruiting quotas, including in the reserves. There had been concern that lengthy tours of duty in Iraq and elsewhere would discourage potential recruits. The military said long-term recruiting is still looking iffy. And, as the Times’ 14th paragraph says, the National Guard acknowledged it will probably fall short of its recruiting goals. 

The NYT notes inside that Iraqi Governing Council members are heading to Washington to make an end-run around the administration and argue that the U.S. should turn over power more quickly and that doing so will save money. One of their arguments will be that the U.S.’s reliance on American contractors results in enormously bloated spending. Apparently Bremer and Co.’s skivvies and such get sent to Kuwait for fluff-and-fold.