Auld Lang Sigh

Auld Lang Sigh

Auld Lang Sigh

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 1 2002 7:09 AM

Auld Lang Sigh

The Washington Postleads with Pakistan, which is rounding up Islamic militants in an attempt to stave off war with India. The strategy appears to be working. The Los Angeles Times(on the Web, at least) goes with the latest from Argentina, where a frontrunner has emerged in the who-will-be-president-next sweepstakes. But he may not want the job. The Wall Street Journaland USA Todaylead with the hunt for … well, it's Omar rather than Osama this time, actually. Photographers witnessed Marines helicoptering off to Baghran, 100 miles northwest of Kandahar, in search of the Taliban leader. The Afghan prime minister confirmed the mission, though the U.S. Central Command denied it, according to a New York Timesfronter, saying, in fact, that no Marines had left Kandahar. The NYT, for its part, leads with the swearing in of New York's brand new mayor, Mike Bloomberg.

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Pervez Musharraf is walking another political tightrope in Pakistan, this time rounding up Islamic militants who see themselves as Kashmiri freedom fighters, according to the WP lead. "I want to eradicate militancy, extremism, intolerance from Pakistani society," says Musharraf, who took office in a military coup in 1999. He adds, covering all fronts: "And ... I would like to eradicate any form of terrorism from the soil of Pakistan." To that end, he has arrested two dozen militants, including the man held responsible for the attack on the Indian parliament in December. "It is a good first step," says the Indian foreign minister. Thus far, domestic response in Pakistan has been "muted," the Post reports.

A senator from Buenos Aires, Eduardo Duhalde, a Peronist, appears to headed for the presidency in Argentina, the LAT reports in its lead, if his colleagues can convince him to take on the enormous challenge of leading the country for the next two years. It's unclear whether or not he will maintain the economic policies—including the introduction of a new currency—his predecessor espoused. There is a president in the meantime—the leader of the house has been sworn in, though he's expected to hold office for less than 24 hours, according to the WSJ. In celebration of the New Year's holiday, Argentines were allowed to withdraw $500 from their bank accounts.

Paul Krugman's op-ed column in the NYT urges Americans to acknowledge that U.S. economic "neoliberalism" and IMF monetary policies led to the political and economic crisis in Argentina. He doesn't do a supergood job of making his case ("I could explain at length the causes of Argentina's slump …"), but his point is more that the rest of the world stamps "made in Washington" on this crisis and we should, perhaps, too. Or at least we should understand how anti-U.S. sentiment develops around the world—although, again, he's stingy with the details. His implication is that a little enlightened sympathy could keep Argentina from becoming another Afghanistan. "Don't cry for Argentina," he writes, "cry with it."

Mike Bloomberg shed some tears in Times Square as he accepted the reins of the city from outgoing demigod/mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to the NYT. Bloomberg had already taken the oath once before, on Monday morning, at the city clerk's office, where he paid his 15-cent registration fee as required by law. The official ceremony—making three oath-takings in all—will be on the steps of city hall this afternoon. Bloomberg will be joined in office by a host of rookie politicians—including three dozen new city councilors, a new comptroller, and a new public advocate—thanks to New York's term-limit laws, the Times reports.

For the first time since 1973-74, major stock indexes have reported losses two years in a row, according to an LAT fronter. The WSJ calls it a "brutal" year for the markets, with the Dow losing 7 percent and the Nasdaq down 21 percent. The outlook for '02 is hazy. There haven't been three consecutive down years since World War II, so bulls are betting on a recovery, the LAT reports. Bears maintain that "many stocks still trade at historically expensive levels relative to companies' underlying earnings potential."

The WP fronts Anniston, Ala., where people eat "Alabama clay," i.e., dirt, because they are so poor—and it's not even good dirt at that, contaminated with PCBs for over 40 years by the Monsanto Corp. Thanks to a lawsuit—with 3,600 plaintiffs—"an unusually detailed story of secret corporate machinations" has emerged, according to the WP. In 1966, Monsanto execs discovered that fish submerged in a west Anniston creek "turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood and shedding skin as if dunked in boiling water." The managers kept this information to themselves. The WP story is littered with similar examples of Monsanto's reprehensible behavior.

Finally, a WP editorial examines the "Year in Death: 2001"—death as in application of the death penalty, which seems to be in rapid decline. Only 66 people were put to death in 2001, down from 85 in 2000 and 98 in '99. Texas alone dropped from 40 two years ago to 17 last year, sans George W. Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina, and Georgia, the top five death penalty states, accounted for 77 percent of all executions, and no other state killed more than two people. The WP leaves it to us to decide if this is a happy trend.

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