Today's Papers

Stop Gun

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with news that Donald Rumsfeld warned China that its rapid military development threatens Asia’s delicate military balance. The Washington Post leads with news that the United States is negotiating for long-term use of a military base in Uzbekistan despite concerns about recent human rights abuses there.

The Pentagon believes that China has built up its military capabilities—especially its ballistic missiles—more than its leaders are letting on. Rumsfeld’s warning, which both the NYTand the LATcall “blunt,” made the case that China’s arms buildup poses a danger not only to Taiwan, but also to other Asian countries, as well as to American interests. “Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment?” said Rumsfeld. The papers agree that the administration’s stance on China seems to be growing more critical. The NYT points out that urging China to make its society more open and politically free echoes the administration’s theme of encouraging democracy around the world. The WP skips the story entirely.

Although the United States has been negotiating for the use of Uzbekistan’s base for months, talks became “awkward” following last month’s government crackdown—the most brutal since the country left the Soviet Union—when Uzbek security forces killed anti-government protesters and other innocent civilians. The Pentagon described the Uzbek base as “critical in supporting our combat operations.” But as an anonymous State Department official put it, “No one wants our troops in the middle of someone else’s civil conflict or issues.” The U.S. has been using Uzbek bases for operations in Afghanistan since 2001 on a temporary basis.

The LAT off-leads and the NYT and WP both front new details about Quran mishandling at Guantanamo Bay. A military inquiry found that in five cases, guards kicked, stepped on, splashed urine on, or otherwise mistreated the Quran. The urine splashing incident was apparently accidental and occurred when “a guard urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into a detainee’s cell.” The detainee was promptly issued fresh clothes and a new Quran. Other incidents: Qurans got wet when guards threw water balloons at a cellblock; a “two-word obscenity” was found in a Quran, but investigators don’t know whether it was written by a guard or the detainee himself; an investigator stepped on a Quran, later apologized, but was eventually fired for a pattern of unacceptable behavior. The investigation found no evidence of a Quran being flushed down the toilet. The military emphasized that considering the thousands of times detainees have been moved and cells searched, incidents were relatively rare, saying, “Mishandling of a Quran here is never condoned.”

The WP and LAT tease and the NYT stuffs news that the economy produced a paltry 78,000 new jobs in May, the lowest total in almost two years. Some analysts interpreted the numbers as a sign that the economy is expanding at a “healthy, though slowing, pace,” while others called it a sign of “faltering economic growth.” The LAT points out that although more Americans are working now than ever before, there are fewer private sector jobs than when Bush took office. Meanwhile, unemployment fell to 5.1 percent, its lowest level since 2001.

The WP previews next week’s presidential election in Iran. The ayatollah urged citizens to vote, but advocates of reform are urging a boycott, condemning a system in which the top leaders are unelected and three elite bodies of appointed clerics outrank the presidency. As one reformist put it, “The free election we have here is a mere play, because we’ve got a person at the top who has absolute power.”

The NYT front page spotlights refugees in limbo, people who have been ordered deported but are rejected by their home countries. Like one Somali man in jail in Minnesota, such people can languish in long-term detention while the United States tries to ship them home. But there’s not much they can do about the wait: They have “no legal right to stay, yet no practical route out.”

The WP and the LAT front word that the Michael Jackson molestation case has gone to the jury. In closing arguments, the prosecutor appealed to the jury’s common sense, noting that Jackson had himself disclosed sleepovers with children. The defense attorney, meanwhile, referred to Jackson’s accusers as “con artists, actors, and liars.” If convicted, Jackson could go to prison for more than 20 years.

The NYT fronts news that Japan has launched a national campaign to get its citizens to save energy and fight global warming. Japan’s industrial sector has tripled its energy efficiency in the last 30 years, but efficiency at the individual level has not kept pace. By encouraging consumers to replace old appliances and buy hybrid vehicles, the government hopes to reduce energy consumption in homes and cars.

Code of honor … California’s plan to overlay a new area code in Los Angeles prompts the LAT to revisit America’s obsession with the status area code. As the paper notes, the pursuit of area code status has been explored in the culture. In the movie Swingers, characters agree that 310 is cooler than 818; on Seinfeld, Elaine gets rejected for having a 646 instead of a 212. Now, residents of posh neighborhoods are fighting the state’s plan to overlay a new 424 area code onto 310. But 310 can’t last forever. As one carrier spokeswoman put it, “The finite nature of math is catching up with us.”