The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Timeslead with the United Auto Workers union declaring its first national strike against General Motors since 1970. The union, which represents a total of 73,000 workers at more than 80 of GM's facilities across the country, says it was forced to send its workers to the picket lines because the company is unwilling to compromise. Although there's been lots of talk about the increasing cost of health-care benefits for the big automakers, union officials were quick to emphasize they want GM to issue some job guarantees, which the company doesn't seem too willing to concede. The Wall Street Journal notes that this is about more than just one company, since "any deal with GM would be a model for the other two auto makers."
USA Today leads with a new report by the FBI that reveals violent crime rose by almost 2 percent last year, marking the second consecutive year of increases. "Taken together, the two years represent the first steady increase in violent crime since 1993," the WP notes. The report also found that robberies rose by 7.2 percent last year. USAT points out that unlike the 1990s, when high crime rates were linked to the drug trade, this time around the increases are not as consistent "and many cities managed to avoid the trend." The WSJ obviously has a Page One story on the UAW strike and tops its word-wide newsbox with the latest from Iraq, where a suicide bomber attacked a reconciliation meeting of Shiite and Sunni leaders, as well as provincial officials, in Baqubah and killed at least 15 (the LAT says 25).
As the LAT notes in its lead sentence, "one question hangs over the strike against General Motors Corp.: How long?" Many have an opinion but no one seems to know. The LAT goes high with optimists who don't think the strike will last, and notes the company may be expecting a short walkout since it told dealers to continue with a sale. GM stock fell 20 cents yesterday, and investors appeared to be optimistic, "believing that it was another step, albeit a theatrical one, in negotiations," says the WSJ.
The NYT points out that each side "has made a calculated decision that it has more to gain by standing tough," which means the strike could drag on. Although most papers talk about how the strike could affect the economy as a whole, USAT is the most direct saying that it could be the "catalyst" that throws "the whole nation into a recession." Even though the auto industry has diminished in importance, it's still large enough that a long strike could "make it more difficult to avoid an economic slowdown," an analyst tells the LAT.
A few weeks ago, the Post published a much talked about story that questioned the military's methodology for distinguishing criminal from sectarian violence in Iraq. Today, the paper fronts an interview with the man in Baghdad who is in charge of implementing the military's methodology. There's a team of six analysts "who spend their nights at computer terminals, sifting through data on the day's civilian victims for clues to the motivations of killers." But despite the guidelines, in the end "it's an analyst making an analyst's call," the team leader recognized. Despite all the talk about numbers, one senior intelligence official said perception on the ground "may be more important than what the numbers are."
Most of the papers front Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University, where he was met by protesters and an audience that was anything but friendly. Having faced lots of criticism for even inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia President Lee Bollinger gave Ahmadinejad a strongly worded introduction where he said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." The Iranian smiled during the introduction but then called it "an insult to the knowledge of the audience." Ahmadinejad then went on to criticize the United States and "offered evidence of why he is widely admired in the developing world," says the NYT. Everyone notes the biggest laugh of the day came when Ahmadinejad said that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
The LAT fronts, and the WSJ goes inside with, a look at the upcoming fight that is expected between Congress and the White House, as the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 and lawmakers have yet to send a single spending bill to the president. Although Congress will approve a stopgap bill to keep the government running, "the added time seems short next to the volume of unfinished work," says the WSJ. The LAT highlights how Bush warned that if Democrats attempt to send him an omnibus bill in order to force his signature, he won't hesitate to use his veto power. Although Democrats have been unable to get the necessary votes to override a veto, that may all change with the water bill that passed the Senate yesterday as well as the expansion of the children's health insurance program.
The WP's Richard Cohen becomes the latest to speak in favor of partitioning Iraq. Unlike many other commentators, he at least begins by recognizing that such a plan might be complicated by the fact that Baghdad isn't controlled by a single ethnic group. Except he then goes on to say that's what they used to say about Sarajevo and that Baghdad has "fragmented into ethnic safe zones." An article in last week's NYT cited data showing that "migration is not neatly dividing Baghdad along the Tigris."
The LAT fronts an eye-catching picture of a house that has been stuck on the Hollywood Freeway's northbound shoulder for more than 10 days and seems to have become the talk of the town. The owner was simply trying to save money by moving the house himself, but he came across some trouble and left it on the shoulder.