Today's Papers

Aftereffects: Political, Economic, Military

The New York Times leads with the news that, despite signs of recovery, 9 million Americans who lost jobs near the start of the recession are now nearing the limits of their unemployment insurance, even as extended and boosted by stimulus legislation. The Washington Post leads with a peek at White House reporters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson’s new book on the Obama campaign. The Los Angeles Times leads local with a whopper investigation into a Hollywood set production facility converted from an old NASA plant, where workers have been falling ill—but the factory’s owners deny that workers’ aggravated flulike symptoms could be work-related, saying toxic cleanup got rid of anything that might be considered unsafe.  

The Post reporters’ new campaign synthesis is probably worth reading at least in shortened form, even though you’ll wonder why when you thought everything had been hashed over months ago, for the expansive ruminations from the president after the election and before the battles he is currently engaged in were joined. For another Obama flashback, read the LAT’s inside story of how his Cairo speech went from legal pad to prime time.

As if to fast forward, the Post outlines the Obama administration’s increasingly compromising approach on health care reform, as the president gives ground on more and more formerly ironclad priorities in order to keep the bill moving toward approval. Politically, leaving the bill-writing in Congress’ hands is a strategy that contrasts sharply with the Clinton approach of presenting a fully formed bill for acceptance or rejection. Back in “Week in Review,” the NYT looks at the challenges facing health care lobbyists (the poor things!) as they scramble to keep tabs on a legislative effort where the president’s willingness to cede ground is uncertain, a handful of committees are each in charge of some small piece of a very large bill, and the targets are constantly moving. For its health care contribution, the LAT looks at the generous plan enjoyed by members of Congress, which only Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin has declined until all Americans enjoy the same level of care.

The NYT fronts a bizarre tale of the mass trial in Iran that is prosecuting 100 people simultaneously for their roles in postelection unrest. The accused, some of whom have “confessed” on tape to subversion and foreign manipulation, include opposition clerics, bloggers, former government officials, and a Newsweek reporter, along with notables like Nobel Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi (in absentia). The story makes an appearance in the skyboxes at the LAT—which illuminates another case of imperfect justice in how witnesses are treated in Russia—but only inside the Post, which finds room on A1 instead for reports on the NFL’s Twitter problem and domestic difficulty over wrangling with the AC.

In “Outlook,” the Post goes and does something you never expected: It declares the war in Iraq over, at least for America, proclaiming that “the moment for doing nothing” has arrived. The generals say there is still work to be done, but they mostly mean Iraqi forces will be the ones doing it. For the new frontier, the NYT outlines the United States’ approach to cyberwarfare—or attacking a country’s computer networks and defending one’s own—which has been comfortingly cautious. As early as 2003, the Bush administration considered launching a cyberattack to freeze Saddam Hussein’s assets but balked for fear of upsetting the civilian financial system in the Middle East and further afield.

In the matchup for Sunday off-lead features, we have the NYT’s heartbreaking story of Sgt. Jacob Blaylock, who shot himself seven months after his return from Iraq in spring 2007—one of four men in his 175-person unit to take his life, and part of a rising tide of suicides that reached 192 reported deaths last year. The Post depresses the mood even further with a portrait of the personal cost of war in the Congo, which is surging again as the Congolese army targets Rwandan rebels. Five million people are estimated to have died in the conflict since 1994, as many from secondary effects like disease and malnutrition as from direct violence. The LAT perks things up a bit, though, with a description of the decadelong census of marine life to be released next year that maps every squid, tuna, and worm—or at least significant populations of them—underneath the sea.

Turn back to the NYT’s business page for an awesome profile of an odd duck in the banking industry, John A. Allison of BB&T, to whom the current financial system is an Ayn Randian nightmare. The Atlas Shrugged author’s warnings against government encroachment on liberty have taken a fresh hold on entrepreneurial types, but no one adheres more strongly than this self-made CEO. Relatedly, the NYT looks at a choice the Treasury’s new czar for executive pay faces in dealing with Andrew Hall, the billionaire energy trader who grew rich from oil speculation—driving the price up for consumers—and is now owed $100 million in a contract with Citigroup.

Want to be a reality-show star? Think again—the NYT calls it “Hollywood’s sweatshop.” Hey, tipsy tired people make for good TV!