Today's Papers

Operation Cannonball

The New York Times leads with a big story on the growth of al-Qaida in Pakistan and the Bush administration’s waffling over plans to give commandos greater latitude to operate in the country’s tribal areas. The Washington Post leads locally with the surprise death of a suspected cop killer in Maryland. The paper’s top national spot goes to skepticism of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reliance on high oil prices to keep himself afloat; rich businessmen are profiting, but rising inflation is hurting Iranian consumers’ purchasing power, thereby hurting Ahmadinejad’s re-election prospects. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that high energy prices are forcing local governments across the United States to scrimp and save, just like consumers. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with the swearing-in of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe. USA Today leads with news that a high birth rate, not immigration, accounts for most of the growth of the nation’s Hispanic population.

The NYT’s anonymous sources tell the paper that bureaucratic squabbling in Washington has severely hampered “Operation Cannonball,” the code name for efforts to hunt al-Qaida in Pakistan, where the terrorist organization has re-established its base after being smashed in Afghanistan. Secret plans to make it easier for commandos to go after Osama Bin Laden and his top deputies have been held up over fears of alienating Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. And, according to the Times, the war in Iraq has diverted lots of resources, such as Predator drones, from the pursuit of al-Qaida in tribal areas. The NYT says that the upshot of all this is that the United States today faces a threat from al-Qaida comparable to the threat it faced before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For the past day, the Drudge Report has promised “BUSH ANGER” over the NYT’s coming disclosure of highly classified details. TP expects the story to make waves.

Twenty-four states are reducing services this year to cover budget deficits due to high energy prices, reports the LAT. The Times has some compelling examples. Here are three of them: A sheriff’s department in Colorado can’t afford car patrols, a Seattle school district is eliminating stops on school-bus routes, and state offices in Utah are moving to a four-day workweek.  

The WSJ fronts word that, for various reasons, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York City is going to take longer and cost more than expected. The project might be delayed by one to three years and cost overruns might total $1 billion to $3 billion. A key consequence of the delays is that the memorial portion of the project might not be completed by the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

A new design for gallon milk jugs makes the containers cheaper and easier to ship, and it keeps the milk fresher, but the NYT reports that consumers are crying about it because it makes them spill. The jug is a sign of the way changes will play out in the American economy over the next couple of decades, experts say. The benefits of the new design are so manifold that retailers are “undeterred” by consumer complaints. The trick, according to one smart person, is to tilt the jug slowly and pour slowly.

Put milk in a cumbersome jug that costs less money, consumers get all upset. It follows, then, that if you put plain old water in a fancy bottle, people will shell out for it. The WP fronts a supersharp look at the bottled-water industry.

The NYT fronts a look at how food hoarding by at least 29 countries has contributed to increases in food prices worldwide, making it more difficult for impoverished countries to import what they need. The Times calls the situation an acute symptom of a chronic condition.

The WP reports that the Department of Defense, “the nation’s biggest polluter,” is refusing to go along with orders by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated military bases. The EPA can’t sue the Pentagon as it would a private polluter, but the law is supposed to give the EPA final say in environmental disputes with other agencies.

The LAT fronts the 2008 Veepstakes, hyping the large number of highly prestigious folks getting mentioned for the No. 2 job. The Times acknowledges, however, that the actual shortlists for Democratic and Republican vice presidential candidates remain a mystery. Still, the article boasts a very nice lede: “Never in modern memory have so many eminent people been mentioned for a job that has been compared—unfavorably—to a bucket of warm spit.”

Some Vietnam veterans who served on swift boats are annoyed that thanks to the 2004 presidential election, most people associate the term “swift boat” with a nasty political smear instead of honorable military service, reports a Page One NYT story.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is in the grips of a self-help craze, reports a Page One WSJ story. Iranian youth are snubbing religion in favor of New Age theories and motivational speakers. The article notes that the theocratic regime, which typically suppresses un-Islamic behavior, has so far done little to stymie the trend.