Today's Papers

Sound Check?

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Todayall lead with yesterday’s non-bombings in London. Just as on 7/7, three Underground trains and a double-decker bus were targeted. But this time the main explosives never went off; only the detonators ignited. Investigators will now have plenty of clues about the perps, who ran away when their bombs fizzled. The New York Timesleads with New York City announcing that subway-goers will now face random bag searches. Officials said the move was not in response to a specific threat and will continue indefinitely. People who refuse a search request can walk away but won’t be allowed to board the train. Civil-liberties advocates were not thrilled. The NYPD said it won’t profile by race, ethnicity, or religion. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with China’s announcement that it will no longer peg its currency to the dollar and instead will let it float within a narrow band.

The papers have little but speculation about the provenance of the attempted bombings. But for what it’s worth, the BBC says this morning—and the NYT had some officials saying last night—that the would-be terrorists appeared to use similar backpacks with similar-sized bombs and chemicals as the 7/7 crew. One possibility is that they also used the same batch of explosives, which sat around too long and went bunk. TATP, the stuff that was used in the earlier attacks, is known to be finicky. (The BBC also offers up the front pages of this morning’s London dailies.)

China’s move to add some flexibility to the yuan comes after pressure from the U.S., particularly Congress, which had complained that the yuan was kept artificially cheap to boost exports. Since China is allowing the yuan to rise in value only a bit, the move isn’t likely to have much immediate effect and, as the NYT and WP say, might not be much more than a PR move to make nice to Washington.

Still, China did hint it will allow big increases over the long term. If that happens, the U.S. could be up the creek. That’s because China has been keeping the yuan in check partly by soaking up U.S. debt. If and when that stops, interest rates could rocket. The Times’ Paul Krugman, of course, details the gloom-and-doom scenario.

In any case, nobody knows where the new policy is really going. As an actually interesting NYT news analysis notices, Beijing has just adopted “one of the world’s most opaque currency policies.” 

Citing the ever-so-popular “people who have been briefed on the case,” the NYT says above the fold that Karl Rove and the vice prez’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby—both of whom spoke to reporters about now-outed CIA agent Valerie Plame—were at the time quite busy crafting the administration’s response to questions about the president’s 16-word State of the Union assertion that Saddam was going after uranium in Niger. (That would be the same assertion that Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, undermined.) Supposedly, Libby and Rove even “helped” craft the letter former CIA chief George Tenet wrote taking the blame for ill-supported claim.

The Times says that the leakers (defense lawyers?) see the above context as helpful toward Libby and Rove. (No, TP can’t figure out why, either.) In any case, the Times says the Libby-Rove work was “particularly striking” for the unusual degree to which political and national-security arms of the White House were brought together in “an effort to defend the administration.”

For the still-confused Rove-Libby-Plame-Wilson-etc. case, the Times has this only mildly head-spin-inducing graphic

One more bit: In what seems to be a prosecutor-side leak, Bloomberg reported yesterday that the testimony Rove and Libby gave—in which they reportedly said they first learned about CIA agent Valerie Plame via reporters—is “at odds with what the reporters have said.”

Everybody goes inside with the kidnapping of the top Algerian diplomat in Iraq. Another five Iraqi soldiers were killed in a bombing south of Baghdad. Blogger-prof Juan Cole adds up wire reports and counts about 20 Iraqis killed yesterday.

The NYT says inside that the Army has proposed raising the age limit for new recruits from 39 to 42. Until this past March, it had been 35. The Post notes that the military is also upping its bonuses again.

The Post says inside that the administration is about to settle on new rules giving the military sole authority to shoot down civilian planes over restricted airspace in D.C. After a plane wandered into the no-no zone a few months ago, there was confusion about whether commanders themselves could greenlight a takedown.

An op-ed in the NYT—by a French academic—questions the line that today’s terrorists are reacting to British and others’ foreign policies: 

[I]f the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are at the core of the radicalization, why are there virtually no Afghans, Iraqis or Palestinians among the terrorists? Rather, the bombers are mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Egypt and Pakistan—or they are Western-born converts to Islam. Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan? It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the United States involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination.

The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations. And their vision of a global ummah is both a mirror of and a form of revenge against the globalization that has made them what they are.