The New York Times leads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the escalating tension in Pakistan, where security forces thwarted a protest rally by placing opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest. After 15 hours, officials said they had lifted the detention order; it remained unclear last night whether the former prime minister was in fact free to leave her home. The Washington Post—the only paper not to front the news from Pakistan—leads with a big-picture look at the global impact of rising fuel prices. The LA Times leads local, with news that the LA school system, still tussling with a badly flawed payroll system, is to ask teachers to hand back $53 million in accidental overpayments.
Six days after President Pervez Musharraf declared de facto martial law, riot police yesterday threw metal barricades and barbed wire around Bhutto’s home; the NYT reports that the opposition leader remained defiant, speaking to the media and repeatedly attempting to breach the cordon around her house. The Post reports that police blanketed Rawalpindi, where the protest had been scheduled to take place; there were clashes with demonstrators as police sought to seal all routes between the city and Islamabad.
The LAT notes that confinement served to bolster Bhutto’s credibility while preventing her from burning bridges with Musharraf; the NYT is more skeptical, reading the clash as a blow for State Department officials who had hoped to broker a power-sharing deal between the two figures. In a lengthy front-page analysis, the WSJ argues that the breakdown of the tentative Bhutto-Musharraf alliance could accelerate the growth of Pakistan’s Islamist insurgency; inside, the paper carries a useful recap of the week’s developments.
The WSJ’s editorial board takes wry delight in Democratic Sen. Joe Biden’s denouncement of Bush’s failure to aggressively promote democracy in Pakistan; still, the paper agrees that restoring democratic institutions must take center stage in any further engagement “even if we have to call it the Bush-Biden Doctrine.”
With crude prices closing in on $100 a barrel, consumers are paying up to $5 billion a day more for oil than they did five years ago, fueling what may be the greatest transfer of wealth in history—and sparking social and economic turmoil from Burma to Brazil and from Saudi Arabia to Senegal. The Post makes a valiant effort to sketch the global fallout though inevitably only scrapes the surface. The WSJ notes that OPEC leaders aren’t likely to provide much relief when they meet next week in Riyadh; they blame the sky-high prices on bottlenecks further down the supply chain.
The Post fronts word that North Korea has given U.S. experts access to equipment and documents in a bid to refute claims that it sought to produce enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons. That could deal a blow to the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community; reports of a uranium-enrichment program helped trigger the collapse of a Clinton-era deal freezing North Korea’s plutonium reactor and ultimately cleared the way for Pyongyang to build several plutonium-based bombs.
The FCC will announce a major overhaul of cable television regulations next month in a bid to open the industry to independent programming, reports the NYT. The new rules would cap the size of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, and prevent other large companies from making significant new cable acquisitions. The move stands in contrast to the agency’s plans to relax rules limiting regional cross-media ownership.
The House narrowly approved a $73.8 billion measure easing the impact of the alternative minimum tax on middle-income families; the move is offset by tax increases for the superrich. The Post goes above the fold, reporting on a fiery debate that flagged the difficulties facing Democrats, who have pledged to pay for all new tax measures with corresponding tax increases. The NYT relegates the story to the front of its business section, noting that Senate Democrats are unlikely to be able to rally enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.
The Post reports that former New York police commissioner Bernard Keric * yesterday pledged to fight federal corruption charges. The NYT notes the case could prove awkward for Kerik’s onetime mentor, Rudy Giuliani and argues that the “extraordinarily close bond” between the two men raises questions about Giuliani’s judgment. Columnist Gail Collins is less restrained, lambasting the former mayor’s habit of valuing personal loyalty above all else.
The WSJ fronts a lengthy look at Barack Obama’s appeal to white voters. To many, the senator offers a chance to buy into a vision of a colorblind America. The paper also eyes Mitt Romney, who recently gave his sales pitch to the editorial board. He apparently came across as a wonk who daydreams of calling in management consultants to remodel the executive branch.
Calm returned to the streets of Georgia yesterday, reports the Post, two days after President Mikheil Saakashvili suspended civil liberties. Bowing to international and domestic pressure, President Saakashvili has now called a snap election; he should win, but the WSJ questions whether it will be enough to restore confidence in his democratic credentials. In an editorial, the NYT calls for Bush to push his ally to fully restore Georgia’s freedoms.
Condoleezza Rice’s management of the State Department is drawing increasing criticism, following a string of damaging crises. In a front-page report, the Post notes that Rice’s aloof leadership style has alienated underlings more used to the more personable approach of her predecessor, Colin Powell.