What is Benazir Bhutto after?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 11 2007 6:52 AM

The Loyal Opposition

The Los Angeles Times leads by arguing that Pakistani President Perez Musharraf will weather the current political storm, at least in the short term, due to the opposition's inability to  galvanize support for an ouster. The New York Times leads with an investigation into the corruption and mismanagement that allowed U.S. forces to lose 190,000 guns in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. The Washington Postleads locally, with federal agents' investigation of corruption at a D.C. tax office.

The LAT says Musharraf has managed to avert disaster by pitting his foes against each other and diffusing the opposition's momentum with strategic crackdowns. Musharraff is also emboldened by a lack of international pressure, particularly from the United States, though all that could change down the line if he doesn't follow through on promises to lift emergency rule and hold elections.

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Not sure what to make of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto? The NYT says no one can really be sure what she's up to, as she seems to be fighting Musharraf and brokering peace with him simultaneously. Whether that flexibility ends up preserving or destroying democracy in Pakistan is anyone's guess.

And amid all that turmoil, the WP would like to take a moment to remind you that Pakistan is a nuclear power. Pakistan's track record of secrecy with the United States and proliferation of nuclear technology with al-Qaeda makes maintaining the country's stability all the more vital, even as it constricts U.S. policy options. An accompanying feature traces the history of nuclear proliferation in Pakistan. The NYT adds its two cents on the matter in its "Week in Review" section.

The NYT's Iraqi guns story doesn't lay blame upon a single person or group for the proliferation of ill-gotten arms in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency. It instead paints a picture of a time and place where small-arms distribution was a fool's errand rife with illicit opportunities. Even more unsatisfying is the piece's conclusion that no one will ever know exactly where all those guns went or how they've affected the war in the years since.

Federal law enforcement authorities believe more than $20 million may have been stolen from a Washington D.C. tax office by five employees who were arrested last Wednesday. Even though the investigation had been going on since July, the secrecy surrounding the case was so tight that even Mayor Adrian M. Fenty wasn't told about the probe until after the arrests had been made.

Everyone fronts a feature on Norman Mailer, an American novelist who died Saturday of renal failure at the age of 84. The papers' assessments of Mailer are stunningly uniform: As a novelist, critic, provocateur and demagogue, Mailer was a man defined as much by the tone of his voice as by what he was trying to say.

The NYT fronts a feature on the collapse of a secret spy-satellite program that cost the government $18 billion between 1998 and 2005. The paper says the program was crippled from the get-go by unrealistic expectations and a lack of oversight. The piece focuses on the naive promises made by Boeing to secure the contract and the financial costs of the program's failure. The heart of the story, however, is something the paper can just barely hint at: the strategic cost of forcing intelligence agencies to rely on outdated technology.

Democrats are increasingly divided on immigration, says the LAT. Democratic candidates have met with electoral success by taking tougher stances on immigration issues, but some officials worry the party could alienate Hispanic voters if it moves too far to the right. The article suggests, however, that the debate's importance lies less in choosing a particular position and more in keeping Republicans from defining the issue ahead of the 2008 elections.

A stagehand strike has hobbled Broadway and could cost the city millions of dollars a day in lost tourism revenues, reports the NYT. The paper says the strike occurred with little warning, despite the union's promises not to "blindside" producers with a work stoppage. While tourists and producers alike are dismayed, the strike is a boon to at least one group: scalpers, who are jubilant at the prospect of higher prices for the eight Broadway shows unaffected by the strike.

The WP teases a piece on the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam War memorial, an event that drew thousands of aging Vietnam veterans to the district.

The NYT examines the possible impact of genetic tests that highlight the differences between one racial group and another.

Like sushi? The growing global popularity of bluefin tuna is threatening both the species and its culinary legacy, says the WP.

In a late-breaking story, the NYT covers a Democratic presidential campaign event in Iowa that turned into the most combative campaign stop yet.

A writer from The Daily Show keeps a diary of picket line experiences from the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike for the NYT. Apparently writing about not writing doesn't violate any union rules.

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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