Today's Papers

Rice Pressure

The New York Timesand the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox lead with the most powerful Shiite faction publicly demanding that incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari resign because of his failure to form a unified government. This announcement coincided with a surprise visit to Baghdad by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, where they urged Iraqi leaders to speed up in the creation of a government. The Washington Postleads with the failure of U.S. reconstruction efforts to build health clinics in Iraq. A U.S. contractor, Parsons Inc., was tasked with building 142 health centers around the country, but after spending $200 million over two years, they have not managed to complete more than 20 of these clinics. USA Today leads with word that, as it relates to economic growth, federal spending is increasing more quickly than it has in the last 50 years. As the House of Representatives prepares to debate the 2007 budget, some Republicans are publicly stating that the government has gotten too big and are urging a curb in spending. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Majority Leader Bill Frist saying he wants the Senate to vote on an immigration bill later this week. Of course, it is still unclear what senators will be voting on exactly, but on the Sunday talk-show rounds, Republicans emphasized the importance of the upcoming decisions. “This is a defining moment for the Republican Party,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Although Rice and Straw were quick to point out they were not in Iraq to impose any solutions to the political problems, they did criticize Jaafari’s failure to create a government, and the secretary of state warned that “the Iraqi people are losing patience.” The NYT emphasizes that the process to select a new prime minister could become violent, as different factions vie for control, particularly since Jaafari’s main supporter is the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The LAT had early word of Jaafari’s diminishing support among Shiites in yesterday’s paper. The WP points out that on the day of the surprise visit by Rice and Straw, at least 50 people were killed in assorted violence across Iraq, and the U.S. military reported six casualties among its troops. The LAT mentions that British troops detained 14 members of Sadr’s militia in Basra, further fueling anger in some Shiite circles toward the occupation forces.

Currently, the federal government is spending 20.8 cents for every dollar that is generated by the economy, which is an increase from 18.5 cents in 2001. No other administration had this kind of growth since Franklin Roosevelt. A big chunk of the spending can be attributed to the military, but there are other culprits, and USAT has a separate story that details the eight main reasons behind this increase.

The NYT fronts news that an increasing number of Iraqis have bought guns since the upsurge in violence after the bombing of the Shiite shrine in February. Although, as could be expected, the paper has no numbers to back up this claim, it does say that the demand has led to an increase in the price of both weapons and bullets. This increase in gun ownership has coincided with the more noticeable presence of armed militias in the streets.

The LAT fronts a look at how evidence presented in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial points to the fact that two people are claiming to be the “20th hijacker,” and the evidence is still unclear on whether either one of them was actually supposed to be on a plane on 9/11. Mohammad al-Qahtani, who was not allowed to enter the country at the time and is now being held in Guantamo, said he was supposed to be part of the big day. The jury was read statements from Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who stated that al-Qaida could get only 19 operatives in the country, and so there was no 20th person. This is just one of the confusing aspects of the trial that the jury will have to deliberate as it decides whether Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. *

Everybody mentions that the French company Alcatel and Lucent Technologies Inc. reached an agreement to merge and create a $25 billion telecommunications giant. As a result, the companies will cut approximately 8,000 jobs. Regulatory agencies still have to approve the deal, but if it does go through, the new operations would be based in France. The WSJ emphasizes that bridging the culture gap may be the most difficult part of the operation and puts forward as an example the current head of Lucent, who would become the CEO of the company, even though she does not speak French. 

The NYT reports on its front page that China could be facing a profound change in its economy as labor shortages are increasing around the country. Throughout its economic boom, the Chinese could rely on cheap labor, but that seems to be changing, with some companies going elsewhere for rock-bottom prices on personnel. This could signify that China is moving away from merely being a haven for unskilled labor, and it could also mean better working conditions for its workers as their opportunities increase.

USAT says some homeowners who bought homes during the real-estate boom of the last years are struggling to make the payments. In order to afford financing, many accepted adjustable-rate loans and are now facing difficulties keeping up with increasing interest rates.

The WSJ goes high with, and the NYT reefers, word from the Iranian government that it successfully test-fired a high-speed underwater missile. The speed of the missile would allegedly make it impossible for warships to escape even if it is detected. 

The NYT and WSJ point out that French President Jacques Chirac signed the controversial jobs law yesterday. Student groups and unions vowed to continue with their protests.

On Tuesday, Brokeback Mountain will become the first major studio movie that will be available for download legally on the Internet the same day that the DVD is released. It might sound like the movie industry is catching up to technology, but not so fast. The download of the movie will actually cost more than the DVD, and it will be practically impossible for viewers to watch it on a television because of copy-protection mechanisms that will make the version work only on a computer.

A real gentleman … The WP reports that during the flight to Baghdad on Rice’s Boeing 757, the secretary of state gave Straw the bed in her cabin, and she slept “on the floor in the aisle.”

Correction, April 3, 2006: This article originally and incorrectly stated that the jury in the Moussaoui case would deliberate Moussaoui’s guilt. The jury will in fact deliberate whether Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks. Return to the corrected sentence.