Today's Papers

Cease To Exist?

The New York Times leads with Ford announcing it will produce 20 percent fewer vehicles in the last quarter of this year, the latest sign of serious trouble in Detroit. The Washington Post goes with new details in the Haditha incident, reporting that the officer who commanded the battalion involved has given a statement to investigators saying he did not consider what happened unusual. The  Los Angeles Times top nonlocal story says at least seven of the airline-plot suspects arrested in Britain visited Pakistan regularly, where they sought information on making explosives. The  Wall Street Journal tops the business half of its newsbox with Ford but puts the mass burials of war victims in the south of Lebanon at the top of its world-wide news column.

While too late for newspaper deadlines, wire services reported early Saturday that Israel may have broken the cease-fire that took hold Monday by launching a raid in eastern Lebanon. Lebanon security officials told AP and Reuters that helicopters dropped off Israeli commandos in Boudai village, a Hezbollah stronghold. According to the Lebanese officials, fighting broke out, Israel forces fired missiles, and the commandos withdrew. Israel had yet to respond to the claims.

Ford’s production cut means it will reduce its output by about 168,000 vehicles. In accordance with union agreements, workers will still be paid while their factories temporarily go dark. The company named continued high gas prices as the main culprit, resulting in greatly reduced demand for SUVs and its popular F-150 truck line. Analysts say Ford should’ve known long ago that gas would continue to be expensive, and the NYT points out that gas prices have been rising since 2003.

The WSJ says the company is, perhaps unsurprisingly, mulling more job and benefit cuts, as well as the permanent shuttering of more factories. It’s the latest reminder of Detroit’s woes, with the large U.S. automakers engaged in serious soul searching about how to fend off the Japanese brands.

The NYT apparently decided to contact a freshman lit major to put the whole thing in perspective, who said: “There is a tragic element here or at least a bit of pathos. You just have the feeling that all the air is going out of all four tires as well as the spare. You’re in a time of discontinuity and a sea change is at hand.”

Meanwhile, the WP fronts a related story explaining that U.S. lawmakers are not exactly rushing to Detroit’s aid.

The WP’s Haditha piece is based on a leaked statement from Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, and the paper calls it the “first formal evidence to emerge in the case” involving U.S. forces allegedly killing civilians, including women and children, in the Iraqi village. Chessani, who declined a lawyer when he spoke to investigators despite being told he was suspected of dereliction of duty, did not order an investigation after the incident because he didn’t consider what happened unusual, the paper reports. He considered it normal “combat action.”

According to the story, the Marine lawyer who took Chessani’s statement “seemed almost exasperated with Chessani’s passive approach to the incident.” He asked whether Chessani considered investigating to at least be able to explain to local residents that the deaths were justified. “Sir, I did not think about it like that,” he said.

The Post admirably points out that a “person sympathetic to the enlisted Marines involved in the case” provided the statement, and that Time magazine first broke the Haditha story. But was the statement leaked directly in response to yesterday’s NYT article on Marines appearing to have destroyed or withheld evidence in the case? The WP makes no mention of this.

The LAT’s terror plot update says the seven suspects held British and Pakistani citizenship. In Pakistan, they allegedly met with 25-year-old Rashid Rauf, whom Pakistani authorities had arrested days before the terror plot was exposed. The LAT says the “new details appear to highlight Pakistan’s role as a virtual bazaar for would-be terrorists.”

The WSJ fronts a nice roundup summarizing the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict, concluding that Israel underestimated Hezbollah fighters and highlighting the confused nature of the cease-fire agreement. While the story doesn’t break loads of new ground, it’s nonetheless a good read.

The NYT checks in on Plan Colombia, the U.S. government’s massive program to reduce cocaine production in the South American country and finds that it’s, well, not making much difference. Perhaps the plan could be directed toward sports, considering news that Marion Jones, five-time Olympic medalist, has apparently joined the ranks of those who have failed a drug test. 

The WP fronts a feature from Kandahar, Afghanistan, showing that Taliban forces have reasserted themselves, causing the region’s once promising recovery to be all but erased. In other war-on-terror news, far fewer Iraqis are visiting mosques, opting instead to pray at home because of spiraling sectarian violence, according to the NYT

The papers flag Raúl Castro’s first public comments since becoming Cuba’s acting president. Fidel’s brother warned that his country is prepared to fend off any U.S. invasion.

The NYT reports that Republicans are quietly lining up behind Sen. Joe Lieberman in the closely watched Connecticut election. With the current Republican candidate barely registering in the polls, they’re betting that a cooperative Democrat like Lieberman will serve their purposes better than one they can ridicule.