Loose Change

Loose Change

Loose Change

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 31 2001 7:32 AM

Loose Change

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journalall lead with the resignation of Argentina's interim president, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, just one week after he assumed office. The papers cite lack of party support and widespread protests as the key reasons for the hasty departure. A few hours later, the man next in line for the office, Ramon Puerta, resigned his Senate leadership post so that he would not have to assume the presidency, according to USAT. The New York Timesreefers the Argentine crisis and leads instead with airborne troops relieving Marines in Kandahar, signaling a long-term American presence. The Washington Postgoes with the unprecedented relief efforts in Afghanistan over the past month, which have successfully averted widespread famine there.

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Rodríguez Saá stepped up to the presidency of Argentina on Dec. 23, following the noisy resignation of Fernando de la Rúa two days earlier. The WSJ says Rodríguez Saá's schemes for rejuvenating Argentina's crumbling economy were overly ambitious for an interim president, at least in the eyes of his Peronist colleagues. (An election scheduled for early March was to determine who would get the presidency for the two years remaining on de la Rua's term.) Rodríguez Saá had scheduled a party meeting for Sunday, but the turnout was disappointing. "Though protesters beating pots and pans and shouting insults showed up, a majority of the country's 14 Peronist governors and several other party bosses did not," is the way the NYT puts it.

One of Rodríguez Saá's more controversial notions was to introduce a third currency, alongside the peso (which is tied to the U.S. dollar), according to the NYT. The paper reports that people feared the government might transfer their peso and dollar accounts into this new currency, which they consider worthless. The citizenry was already testy on monetary issues; Rodríguez Saá had kept his predecessor's $250-a-week limit on bank withdrawals, according to the LAT.

So who's next? The Argentine Congress will name a new president within 48 hours, the LAT reports, and although the next-in-line may be willing to take the post, he may have trouble lining up colleagues. The Cabinet would have resigned on Saturday, back when Rodríguez Saá was still in power, according to the NYT, but replacements could not be found.

A changing of the guard at Kandahar airport "underscores the changing nature of the American military mission in Afghanistan," according to the NYT lead. Though their duties will be much the same—guarding prisoners and pursuing Taliban stragglers—the Army 101st Airborne Division is typically used for extended missions, whereas the Marines move on after about 30 days.

It seems like only yesterday that every bouncing baby boy born to an Islamic extremist was named Osama. No longer, according to a LAT fronter. Muslims who put their faith in Bin Laden "feel like victims of their own illusions," according to the LAT. "I think morally he has the obligation to come out of the caves and step forward," says a tea salesman in Peshawar. "Otherwise the killing won't end in Afghanistan. If he hadn't been there, there would have been no bombing, no killing, so I'm just as glad he's history." Those still in a mood for protest have turned their sights on India's policies in Kashmir.

The Post and the LAT both run "where's Osama?" stories, with the latter guessing Afghanistan and the former leaning toward Pakistan. The NYT fronts Bin Laden trying to include Iran in his terrorist clique back in 1996. The paper explains that although Iran was not averse to terrorism, it tended to back Shiite-based groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, rather than ones dominated by Sunni Muslims such as the Taliban, which Iran "fiercely opposed." There's no evidence of an Iran/al-Qaida link.

The NYT fronts the fire in the historic section of downtown Lima, Peru, that killed at least 276 people on Saturday night. Fireworks were to blame, according to the city's fire chief. "I don't understand the satisfaction a person gets from exploding a firecracker," he said on Sunday, standing amid the wreckage. Among the victims were shopkeepers who had locked themselves in their stores in an effort to keep out looters. 

Finally, the WP fronts the euro, which arrives with the New Year in 12 Western European countries. (Britain, Denmark, and Sweden are the holdouts, but they're expected to sign on eventually. "If Britain and other countries adopt it, it could be a challenger to the primacy of the [U.S.] dollar—not in two years, but in 12 or 20 or so," says one London economist.)  "Price tags, postage stamps, parking tickets, even Monopoly games have all been reprinted," the Post reports. Winners of France's version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire will now get their million in euros—the equivalent of about 6.56 million francs.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.