New figures reveal the UN has long overstated the prevalence of the AIDS virus.

New figures reveal the UN has long overstated the prevalence of the AIDS virus.

New figures reveal the UN has long overstated the prevalence of the AIDS virus.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 20 2007 6:14 AM

Wrong Number

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with news that the United Nations will announce today it has been overestimating the number of people infected by the AIDS virus. UNAIDS will also acknowledge that, despite previous assertions, the number of new infections around the world has been decreasing since 1998. After using a more precise methodology than in the past, the U.N. will report there are 33 million people infected worldwide, compared with 40 million last year.

The New York Timesleads with a look at how the security improvements in Baghdad have translated into a real change for Iraqis. The paper carried out more than 50 interviews and discovered that although there is still an overall sense of fear about the future, many are now more willing to go back to activities that were once seen as too dangerous, such as eating out at restaurants. The vast majority of people who fled their homes still haven't returned, but there seems to be an increasing sense of hope that things have changed and day-to-day life is slowly returning to normal. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with the completely unsurprising news that Pakistan's Supreme Court, which was recently filled with supporters of President Pervez Musharraf, dismissed most of the challenges to his re-election. USA Today'slead warns all those planning to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday that they should expect delays. Passengers were already suffering through delays yesterday, which are bound to get worse as weather conditions are set to deteriorate in much of the country throughout the week.

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Besides reporting a lower number for overall infections from the deadly virus, UNAIDS will also report about 2.5 million new cases of HIV this year, which represents a 40 percent decrease from last year's number. These new numbers mean "that the number of new infections peaked in 1998 and the number of deaths peaked in 2005," reports the LAT. Some scientists have long been critical of UNAIDS statistics, saying that the organization had an interest in portraying the virus as out of control because bigger numbers usually translate into more funding. Critics contend that the lack of reliable figures has often made it more difficult to learn about what strategies to fight the virus could bring about the best results. The new statistics make it clear that the pervious way of coming up with national estimates relied on what many saw as a flawed sample of women who were more likely to have the virus. In India alone, changing methodologies resulted in a cut of the estimated number of cases from 5.7 million to 2.5 million. Of course, everyone is quick to point out that just because the numbers are lower doesn't mean the virus is no longer a problem.

The WP and NYT go inside with word that federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury and issued subpoenas to several Blackwater employees involved in the Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad. The Post gets word that the investigation "ranges well beyond Blackwater" and several other private security firms have also been subpoenaed for documents.

Everybody reports Iraqi soldiers detained 43 people after private security guards protecting a convoy shot and injured a woman in Baghdad. The private guards work for a company based in Dubai that has a contract with the U.S. military, but none of those detained were Americans. A government spokesman said the arrests should be seen as a message to contractors that "no one is above the law."

The WP fronts a new poll that shows Sen. Barack Obama is gaining some ground in Iowa. The race in Iowa remains extremely close between the top three Democrats: Obama has 30 percent support from likely caucus goers, compared to Sen. Hillary Clinton's 26 percent and 22 percent for John Edwards. Although there isn't a big difference between the Obama and Clinton numbers, the poll reveals more Iowans seem to be tilting toward picking a candidate that is more like the senator from Illinois. A growing number say a "new direction and new ideas" are their main priority when picking a candidate and more Democrats view Obama as the most honest candidate. In addition, 55 percent say he's their first or second choice, which is seen as an important marker in a state where voters often change their minds at the last minute.

USAT fronts a new poll that reveals 78 percent of Americans believe the economy is getting worse, which is "the highest reading since the Gallup Organization started polling on the question in 1991." Only 20 percent of people are "satisfied with the direction of the country," which is the lowest point since May 1992.

Almost two months ago, the LAT noted that U.N. officials believed the humanitarian crisis in Somalia was worse than the situation in Darfur. Today, the NYT fronts a dispatch from Somalia echoing the same sentiments and noting that many in the Western world still aren't paying attention to a situation that is steadily getting worse. The NYT waits until the middle of the story to reveal that U.N. officials now believe Somalia was better off during the brief period when the Islamist movement ruled the country last year before it was overthrown by Ethiopian troops with help from the United States.

The LAT fronts a look at how reality TV shows have made stars of certain plastic surgeons who may not be the most qualified. Since the death of Kanye West's mother shortly after undergoing plastic surgery earlier this month by a doctor who had his own TV show, new questions have been raised about the surgeons that networks choose to promote. Although plastic surgeons recognize these shows have helped move cosmetic procedures out of the shadows, there's concern that they make people think going through surgery "is not much more complicated than buying a new dress."

Guess he really liked the quote … In a story published Oct. 25 about the changing situation in Iraq, the WSJ quoted Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch: "I tell my guys, the best way they can prepare before they come out here is to watch The Sopranos." Today's WP also quotes Lynch, who has apparently made his recommendation slightly more specific:  "I tell a lot of my soldiers: A good way to prepare for operations in Iraq is to watch the sixth season of The Sopranos."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.