Who came out on top in the Bali climate change agreements?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 16 2007 7:02 AM

Climate Control

The Washington Post leads with, and everyone else fronts, the end of the U.N. climate talks in Bali, where some surprising, last-minute concessions paved the way for a framework for negotiating new climate change accords over the next two years. The Los Angeles Times leads with the U.S. military's change of plans for reducing troop levels next year, saying troops will be concentrated in Baghdad as it pulls back soldiers from other parts of the country. The New York Times leads with the White House and NATO worrying about losing whatever gains they've made in Afghanistan over the last six years.

Spending two weeks in talks just to settle on a framework for negotiating a climate change pact over the next two years may seem like no great accomplishment to some. But every paper makes it clear that getting nearly 190 countries to agree on even this much required major concessions all around. The United States managed to nix language stipulating hard and fast emissions cuts for developed nations, and developing nations secured promises of financial and technological aid. The LAT says that just keeping the United States engaged in the talks constituted a victory for the United Nations. The NYT's piece, meanwhile, says the framework was agreed to with one eye looking beyond the Bush White House, in hopes that the next president will place a higher priority on addressing climate change.

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The military's decision to focus its efforts on Baghdad while reducing troop levels elsewhere marks an abrupt change of strategy. As troop numbers return to pre-surge levels next year, many commanders figured they'd focus on outlying areas of the country and let Iraqi security forces pick up the slack in the capital. But as progress in other areas has been swifter than in the city, commanders now feel the risk of renewed violence is too great without troops at current levels.

The WP adds that the Iraqi government has been encouraging refugees to return to Baghdad, much to the consternation of U.S. and U.N. officials who are worried about the effect jobless and impoverished refugees will have on an increasingly segregated city.

NATO and the Bush administration will conduct a series of reviews on progress in Afghanistan, reports the NYT. The reviews will study everything from strides made in capturing al Qaida and Taliban leaders to solidifying the power of the current government. Over the last few years, the Taliban has gained renewed influence in rural areas while the government in Kabul continues to flounder. The paper characterizes the White House as being concerned that one of its biggest wins—the defeat of the Taliban in 2001— may fall apart in the last months of the Bush presidency.

The NYT off-leads with the White House pushing Congress to pass legislation granting legal immunity to telecom companies cooperating with a range of NSA programs. The White House is arguing that without legal immunity, companies will be less likely to aid wiretaps. These NSA efforts go beyond previously reported counter-terrorism programs and include tracking calls made by American citizens to countries in Latin America, as part of an anti-drug-smuggling effort. The NYT says that the government's reliance on private industry isn't born of legality but technology, as modern fiber optic systems prevent the NSA for intercepting calls directly.

The WP wraps up its week of "front-runner" presidential-candidate profiles with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The leading candidates (three Democrats, four Republicans) get their backgrounds, their sense of style, their speeches, and their political fortunes all picked apart by WP regulars. The paper is a little kinder to Rudy than it's been to some of the other candidates (Fred Thompson, for instance) … but not by much. Compare all the profiles here.

The LAT looks at the unintended consequences of the Gates Foundation's work to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in Africa. While the foundation's work has saved countless lives, a study conducted by the LAT found that because of the foundation's very specific grants, many other indicators of health have stagnated or worsened as resources are diverted away from other illnesses.

The NYT goes above the fold in proclaiming Sen. Barack Obama resurgent in Iowa, after several months of lackluster campaigning. The paper is nonspecific, however, on whether Obama's recent gains in several early contest states are a function of his own renewed vigor or a consequence of Sen. Hillary Clinton's stumbling after months of seeming inevitability.

Regardless of why Obama is up in the polls, Clinton may need to use the New Hampshire primary as a firewall to avert disaster for her campaign, says the WP. But even though the Clintons have spent years nurturing political ties to the state, the paper says New Hampshire is still very much up for grabs.

Under the fold, the LAT delves into former Gov. Mitt Romney's career in venture capital for clues as to how he'd govern.

Nobody fronts it, but Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., died of lung cancer Saturday morning. She is the sixth member of Congress to pass away this year.

What's in that bag? Why, it's a slow news day at the NYT.

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

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