Today's Papers

Sanction Sabotage

The Washington Post leads with Iranian efforts to blunt U.S. sanctions by increasing its trade with friendlier nations to its east. The New York Times goes with a new FCC rule that could drastically lower cable TV prices by ending the exclusive contracts many cable companies have with apartment buildings. USA Today leads with some investigative journalism, a look at deep delays besetting Louisiana flood-protection work being done by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Los Angeles Times leads with an optimistic take on the sputtering out of the Southern California wildfires. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a Turkish operation against Kurdish guerillas in eastern Turkey that killed 20. And the Red Sox won.

The corps  had been pushing for a January 2010 completion date, but had pushed that back to the middle of 2011. USAT reports that it likely will take an additional year on top of that. To its credit, the paper manages to report a document-based story without leaning on the journalistic-fave “obtained.”

“USA TODAY got a copy of the Army Audit Agency’s report under the Freedom of Information Act,” it reports. Other than the huge delays, the project is going well, according to the report gotten by USAT. “The design and construction delays were the only bleak spot in an audit that said the corps is doing a good job in writing contracts that protect government interests, hold contractors accountable, and steer substantial work to Louisiana-based firms,” notes the piece.

Iranian intelligence is apparently capable of decoding the writing on the American wall and has been steadily shifting its trade to China as well as to friendly Islamic financial institutions that will be less likely to implement sanctions against the nation. At more than $90 a barrel, oil prices have given Iran more room to maneuver.

Nevertheless, the story reports, American sanctions are having some impact on companies attempting to do business with Iran. Nations such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have responded to U.S. sanctions, raising the possibility of increasing Iran’s cost of making financial and business transactions.

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin seems like he’s gotten one too many eye-popping cable bills and he’s not gonna take it anymore. He tells the NYT that  prices have nearly doubled in a decade and that exclusive contracts are a large part of it. The contracts, which allow one company a monopoly on TV delivery service—other than rabbit ears—disproportionately impact minorities. Forty percent live in large apartment buildings, compared to 25 percent of the general population. Martin has also pushed against the cable companies on a number of other fronts, including allowing telephone companies faster access to municipal contracts.

Despite promises to stop the slaughter in Darfur, reports the Post in a big, sectioned-off story above the fold, little has changed there. George Bush, who the paper calls the “president who famously promised not to allow another Rwanda-style mass murder on his watch,” hasn’t decided whether to put pressure on or engage with the Sudanese government, the paper says.

According to “people who have spoken” with President Bush about his inaction, the piece reports, he thinks he tied his hands by invading Iraq and Afghanistan and can’t be seen as “invading another Muslim country.”

The Post also gives front-page love to a look at the arms race between Mexico and its drug cartels. The winner: drug cartels. One study puts the number of guns smuggled into Mexico at 2,000 a day, and authorities say that “100 percent” of the weapons used come from the United States. The story cites the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004 and the ease with which folks can buy weapons at gun shows in Arizona and other states near the Mexican border. One U.S. official compared the firepower at the border to that which U.S. troops face in Afghanistan.

Washington has an answer, though, and plans to give the Mexican government $500 million, the paper notes, to fight the cartels.

The NYT has an above-the-fold story on Kurdish rebels “flouting” Turkey from redoubts in northern Iraq. The rebels “operate casually here, in full view of Iraqi authorities.”

Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal is being forced out  and is negotiating the karat of his golden parachute, WSJ reports up high and the NYT also fronts. After “writing down” more than $8 billion in real-estate-related loans in the third quarter of this year, TP expects his severance check to be huge, based on Wall Street logic. (If incompetence paid as well in journalism, just imagine how much TP would make for writing TP.)

One high-school principal is waging an uphill battle against stress, trying to relieve some of the intense pressure from the children’s lives, the New York Times reports. The LAT fronts a look at the situation in Gaza under Hamas, which seems truly stressful.

The WSJ has a fun look at a Japanese trend: Hummers. Navigating the tight and densely packed streets occasionally takes customized navigation, but a “growing” number of Japanese customers are “[m]esmerized” anyway. The Red Sox won.