Today's Papers

The Pakistani Connection

The New York Timesleads with Afghan security officials declaring that all of the suicide bombers and explosive devices blown up in Afghanistan have some sort of link to Pakistan. The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timeslead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with the latest from the White House in the continuing search for a solution to the crisis in Iraq, as President Bush is facing more pressure to change his overall policies in the region. Bush, once again, argued against the early pullout of troops on the same day he met with members of the Iraq Study Group and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. USA Todayleads with a new poll taken over the weekend that shows 61 percent of those surveyed think Democrats should have a bigger influence in determining the country’s direction. Additionally, only 35 percent of those polled have a favorable view of the Republican Party, which is an eight-year low.

Suicide attacks and bombs are no longer rare in Afghanistan, as more than 100 people were killed in September and October. U.S. and Afghan officials both say much of the violence is caused by extremists who cross the border, either to become suicide bombers or to take explosive material into the country. The NYT’s Carlotta Gall was able to carry out a jailhouse interview with a Pakistani man who was arrested in Afghanistan and claims he was sent over the border with three others to carry out suicide bombings.   

After meeting with the Iraq Study Group, President Bush said he was open to new ideas on dealing with Iraq but emphasized all options have to take into account “conditions on the ground.” Olmert and Bush spent most of their time together talking about Iran and emphasized there would be no negotiations if the country does not suspend its enrichment activities. An anonymous Israeli source tells the LAT Israel would not oppose dialogue between Iran and the United States, as long as the nuclear issue was emphasized. The NYT points out Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted in local media yesterday saying the world “will soon witness [the] disappearance and destruction” of Israel.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also let his views on Iraq be known yesterday and advocated building up a “new partnership” with Iran to help calm the violence. Additionally, Blair suggested that instead of only looking for a specific Iraq plan, they should be searching for a solution to stabilize the entire region, which must include a new initiative to calm the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Bush is set to depart on his eight-day tour of Asia today, and the WSJ says Iran will be one of the most important topics of discussion.

Besides finding a low favorability rating of the Republican Party, USAT’s poll also found fewer Americans are claiming allegiance to the GOP. Twenty-four percent of respondents identified themselves as Republican, which is a decrease from the 31 percent who did so before the election. Democrats saw an increase in their favorability ratings to 57 percent, which is the highest since January 2004. Donald Rumsfeld’s unfavorable rating, on the other hand, saw an increase of 12 points since September to 57 percent.      

The WSJ mentions in the top spot of its worldwide newsbox, and the NYT reefers, news that Bush received a setback from the House of Representatives, as it failed to approve normalized trade relations with Vietnam. The measure could still be approved, but its failure is seen as an embarrassment for Bush, who hoped to have it in place before leaving for his Asia tour.

The WP fronts, the NYT reefers, and the LAT goes inside with further criticism of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to back Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania for the House majority leader position. Besides talk of how Pelosi is running the risk of looking weak as well as dividing the Democrats before they even take power, the focus is now on Murtha’s less-than-stellar ethics record. The congressman from Pennsylvania helped block proposed changes to ethics rules, has been accused of trading votes for pet projects and campaign contributions, and, if that wasn’t enough, was also involved in the Abscam corruption scandal 26 years ago, although he was never charged. The Post helpfully summarizes the complaints ethics watchdogs have against Murtha.

USAT fronts American officers accusing Iraq’s largely Shiite central government of “starving” security forces in Anbar province. Police officers in this mostly Sunni region haven’t been paid in months, which clearly makes it more difficult to recruit new Iraqis for the job. This has only served to heighten Sunnis’ suspicions that their government is not interested in helping them.

The U.S. military reported four more soldiers died in Iraq, bringing this month’s death toll to at least 34. Additionally, at least 90 Iraqis died in assorted violence yesterday, including 20 in a bus bombing.

The NYT reefers news that former New York City Major Rudolph W. Giuliani took a step toward a 2008 bid for the White House by forming an exploratory committee. Giuliani hasn’t filed papers with the Federal Election Commission and says he has not decided whether he will run. So far, the only two people who have officially filed papers for 2008 are Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Yesterday, GOP officials announced Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida will replace Ken Mehlman as chairman of the Republican National Committee. The selection of the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate comes after an election that saw shrinking support for the GOP among Hispanics.

The LAT fronts, and the NYT reefers, the proposal put forth by the insurance industry to guarantee coverage for practically all of the nearly 47 million uninsured Americans within 10 years. The proposal calls for expanding government-run programs, as well as awarding tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance. The estimated cost of the proposal would be $300 billion over 10 years.

The LAT fronts a look at how two reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle,who broke stories on the use of steroids in professional sports, could face longer prison terms than those convicted in the scandal. The two reporters have refused to reveal who leaked grand jury testimony and insist they are willing to go to prison in order to protect their sources. Many say the prosecutors are overreaching, particularly since there are no issues of national security in these leaks. “If they can make this the standard, then confidential-source reporting as you know it is done, over,” said a former Justice Department official.

Everyone notes there are signs different Palestinian political groups have come to an agreement to name a former university president, Mohammed Shabir, as the prime minister. Shabir holds a doctorate from an American university, and while he is not a member of Hamas, the university he headed does have strong ties to the group.

Guess it was just too easy … The WP and USAT go inside with stories on the orientation new members of Congress are going through this week, and, out of 53 new House members, both papers choose to lead with the same one, and the same cliché. The WP: “The moment came for Nancy Boyda when she planted her derriere on the marble balustrade outside the U.S. Capitol … She knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.” USAT takes a more direct approach: “Nancy Boyda’s not in Kansas anymore.”