Today's Papers

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

The New York Times and the Washington Post both lead with stories about this weekend’s meeting of the Group of 20 in Washington to discuss the global financial crisis, while the Los Angeles Times stuffs the news. World leaders from 20 countries drew up plans to begin the process of regulating financial activity conducted across national borders, but they postponed many of the more difficult decisions until their next meeting, scheduled for April 2009. The LAT leads with the latest on the wildfires sweeping across Southern California. More than 30,000 people have fled and hundreds of homes have been burned.

At the economic summit in Washington, members of the Group of 20, plus Spain, the Netherlands, the United Nations, and other international organizations, gave a greater role in the planning process to developing nations such as China, India, and Brazil. Europeans walked away happy, according to gloating French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and President George W. Bush adopted a far less stringent defense of free markets than he held when he announced the summit in October. Some of the measures to which the group agreed include the establishment of a “college of supervisors” to oversee the activity of financial institutions that operate internationally, closer scrutiny of hedge funds, and more frequent and diligent reviews of countries’ financial systems by the International Monetary Fund.

The NYT downplays the summit’s conclusions with a quote from an MIT economist who claims that these were “plain-vanilla” measures that could have been accomplished without a summit, and the only significance of the event was that it was attended by the developing nations included in the G-20 instead of just the larger powers of the Group of 8 nations. President-elect Barack Obama, who both papers agree will face more difficult decisions at the spring summit, was not present this weekend but did send two senior advisers in his place. The LAT goes inside with a story on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who took the opportunity at the summit to say that he hopes for improved relations between his country and the United States under the Obama administration.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger proclaimed a state of emergency yesterday in Los Angeles and Orange counties, adding to his earlier proclamation for Santa Barbara County. Fires yesterday tore through a mobile home park in Sylmar, where 500 homes were destroyed, in a blaze that a local fire chief described as the worst he’d seen in the city in three decades on the job. Flames struck downtown L.A., as well, where the temperature reached a record hot and dry 93 degrees. Several highways in the area have been shut down, throwing a wrench in the evacuation plans of many.

Calls for reform abound in another front-page story in the LAT that laments the present failure of 401(k) plans to guarantee financial security for Americans’ retirement years. Committee meetings in the House of Representatives and other research groups have entertained suggestions from experts that include returning to a system that guarantees a pensioner’s benefits instead of just the employer’s contribution, as well as a proposal to offer government-backed retirement savings accounts that would yield a fixed return, provided for by the elimination of tax breaks that participants in 401(k) plans currently receive. To date this year, the average employee’s 401(k) balance has dropped by 21 to 27 percent.

A front-page NYT story kicks off a series examining the role natural resources play in inciting conflict in Africa. Over an expanse of column inches not often granted to such topics, the article considers the value of the tin ore that the Congolese unearth through the exploitation of the poor. Inside the A section, the LAT includes news that the United Nations has sent in an official to facilitate talks between Congo’s president and the rebel leader responsible for clashes with soldiers in the eastern part of the country.

On a more trivial note, the NYT also fronts a story that wonders if Obama will be the first e-mailing president. While the president-elect hopes to be the first to have a laptop in the Oval Office, he may have to surrender his BlackBerry and give up e-mail, as President Bush did, because of security risks and laws that allow presidential correspondence to become public information.

The WP reports that Iraq’s prime minister and its top Shiite cleric will support an agreement to keep U.S. forces in Iraq through 2011, when the measure goes before the Iraqi parliament. The article predicts that this will greatly aid in the agreement’s passing. The NYT, however, takes a less sanguine view of the pact’s chances for success, pointing out that the most prominent Shiite bloc did not attend yesterday’s meeting with top Iraqi politicians, held to gauge support for the plan.

The WP goes inside with a feature that draws parallels between the Great Depression and today’s economic climate. Maryland residents who grew up in the 1930s share their tales of scrimping, saving, and going without luxuries. The interviewees wag their fingers at grandchildren who are too quick to pull out the credit card, but also remind the younger generations that even the Great Depression came to an end.

Also in the WP,Chris Cillizza breaks down five post-election myths. Mostly, Cillizza takes a contrarian’s perspective, claiming this election did not signal the death knell for the Republican party and choosing Sarah Palin was not necessarily a mistake. However, he also points to pre-election predictions that fell flat (namely, black voters and the young were not the crucial factor in Obama’s victory).

In the WPMagazine, though, faux-news takes top prize in a feature on The Onion. The piece goes inside the production of the satirical weekly newspaper, where stories are invented to fit the headlines.

A story in the NYT Style Section buzzes about possible schools the Obama daughters might attend in Washington, a topic about which D.C. parents have been speculating since Nov. 5, as Hanna Rosin noted in “XX Factor.” Will they choose a place like Sidwell Friends, the elite private school attended by Chelsea Clinton? Or could the Obamas shock the region’s parents by enrolling their daughters in public school, as former President Jimmy Carter did with his daughter? Washington’s “power parents” are holding their breath in anticipation.