All the papers lead with the Iraqi Shiite politicians' decision Friday that Jawad al-Maliki, an experienced, often outspoken Shiite leader, should replace the ineffectual Ibrahim al-Jaafari as the nominee for prime minister. The decision comes one day after Jaafari stepped aside; Sunnis and Kurds see Maliki, a Jaafari ally, as more competent. But the Wall Street Journal, which tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with Maliki's selection, writes that his main qualification for the job seems to have been that he comes from Jaafari's own Dawa party. The Los Angeles Timesscoops the others with its story, scoring an interview with Maliki himself (although he does little to illuminate the political maneuvering inside the country). The Washington Postdives deep into the new nominee's background and unearths his December 2002 comments opposing a U.S. invasion of Iraq. And the New York Times, looking ahead to the battles Maliki will face in forming a new government, highlights the selection of an interior minister as a particular stumbling block. Sunnis charge that Shiites in the ministry are responsible for ethnic killings.
The CIA fired a career intelligence officer for unauthorized leaks to the media, the Post notes in its off-lead. CIA officials said that the officer, anonymously identified as Mary McCarthy, failed a polygraph test and confessed to leaking information. But the Post's account is surprisingly less substantial than those in the NYTand LAT. McCarthy's most significant leak—of a secret CIA prison network—was first described by one of the Post's own reporters. The NYT picks apart the atmosphere at the CIA, quoting one former agency employee's description of the investigation as "very aggressive" and citing another's comment that the Bush administration's war on leaks is difficult to accept, given recent revelations about leaks from the White House itself. Although the LAT raises the possibility of McCarthy's prosecution, the Post and the NYT report it is unlikely.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States this week revealed the tension between U.S.-Chinese ties both commercial and political, the WSJ writes. While businesses embraced Hu, political leaders were more distant. The article concisely summarizes a visit in which little was accomplished (beyond a series of embarrassing gaffes).
The Post alone fronts Allan Mollohan's (apparently) temporary departure from the House ethics committee, where he was the ranking Democrat. The West Virginian has been accused of using his position on the appropriations committee to enrich himself. The Post places the accusations in the larger context of the House's corruption investigations, rather than falling into the typical newspaper trap of equating all scandals.
The NYT fronts the latest on the democracy protests engulfing Nepal; on Friday, the king offered to transfer power to a prime minister chosen by the country's political parties. The other papers stuff the news, and although the NYT elegantly captures the scenes in the streets of Katmandu, it offers little hints as to when or how the protests might be resolved.
The WSJ examines the ways businesses have increased their efficiency in response to rising oil prices, thereby helping avert an economic downturn. But the paper quotes one analyst who fears that if oil hits $85 per barrel—just $10 more expensive than it is today and equal to the inflation-adjusted average of 1980—the economy will sag.
Not everyone is worried about oil's impact on the economy, however. The NYT profiles a group more concerned about its impact on the environment. These people have begun buying "carbon offsets" for their cars, which help pay for clean energy output equivalent to the pollution they produce.
Voters in New Orleans head to the polls to cast their ballots for mayor Saturday, and the NYT offers a preview of the election, emphasizing the racial dynamics of the race. Black voters are rallying to defend Mayor Ray Nagin, who once struggled for black supporters, now that many white voters have turned against him. (See Slate's Dispatches from New Orleans this week.)
Illegal immigrants aren't the only ones being targeted in immigration enforcement crackdowns, the LAT reports. The paper fronts a fascinating story about IFCO Systems, a company that recruited undocumented workers for below-minimum wage jobs that offered minimal safety standards. The paper also adds a global dimension to the immigration debate with the final installment in its four-part series on the remittances immigrant workers send to their home countries.
A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore: Oil isn't the only natural resource with soaring costs, the NYT notes. As demand for zinc pushes its price higher, the U.S. Mint, which already loses money on every penny it makes, soon may face a future in which you're better off melting down your pennies than spending them.