Kosovo declares independence; USDA announces largest meat recall in history.

Kosovo declares independence; USDA announces largest meat recall in history.

Kosovo declares independence; USDA announces largest meat recall in history.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 18 2008 6:10 AM

Declaration of Independence

The Washington Postand New York Timeslead with Kosovo's parliament declaring independence from Serbia. Thousands of ethnic Albanians celebrated in the streets of Kosovo, but the news brought to the forefront deep divisions within the international community about whether the Serbian province should be recognized as an independent state. The United States and several European countries are expected to support the move, while Serbia and Russia quickly condemned it, "setting up a thorny dispute reminiscent of the Cold War," says the Los Angeles Times.

The LAT leads with news that the Department of Agriculture announced the largest beef recall in its history yesterday, which involves a California meat company's entire production for the past two years, amounting to a whopping 143 million pounds of beef. Officials emphasized there is little health risk for consumers, and most of it, including millions of pounds that went to schools, has already been eaten. USA Today leads with two senators calling for investigations into a Marine Corps report that says procurement officials ignored an urgent request from Iraq for more mine-resistant vehicles because it could have caused delays in a long-term project to replace the vehicles with a new, lighter truck. The report says the Marines began to take the request seriously only after USAT published a series of stories about the issue.

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In the streets of Kosovo, revelers brought out American flags along with posters of Bill Clinton in recognition of the role the United States played in the 1999 bombing campaign that pushed out Serbian forces. Although the United States has long supported Kosovo's bid for independence, President Bush avoided directly answering whether the new country will be immediately recognized. Russia and Serbia insist that Kosovo's declaration of independence breaks international law and say the move will encourage other secessionist movements. This fear is exactly why several European states, including Spain and Greece, are also opposed to recognizing Kosovo as a state. There were dozens of people injured in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, where protesters expressed their anger by, among other things, throwing stones and smashing windows at the U.S. Embassy.

The NYT describes Kosovo as "desperately poor" with an unemployment rate that hovers around 60 percent. "It's going to be the shortest honeymoon you've ever seen," an analyst tells the LAT. "They've linked every problem with status. And now, status will not be an excuse anymore."

The massive recall of Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. beef came almost three weeks after the Humane Society released an undercover video that showed workers using a variety of methods to get apparently sick cows to walk. Besides obvious questions of animal abuse, the video also raised concerns that so-called downer cows, which could be suffering from mad cow disease, entered the food supply. The LAT points out that the recall may actually involve more than 143 million pounds because meat from different companies often gets mixed in together, which is why schools nationwide stopped serving beef dishes after the video was released. Some said the recall puts into question the entire USDA inspection process, and lawmakers are calling for hearings.

None of the papers front news out Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber killed at least 80 people at a dogfighting competition outside Kandahar. It was the deadliest attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The LAT goes high with officials saying that the apparent target of the attack was a prominent militia commander who had a long history of standing up against the Taliban. A Taliban spokesman denied the group was behind the bombing. The NYT points out that these types of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have become more deadly recently as bombers have improved their tactics and are now using more powerful explosives.

The LAT fronts a look at Sen. Barack Obama's efforts to gain support from Latinos and working-class white voters, who have been an important part of Sen. Hillary Clinton's base, for the upcoming primaries in Texas and Ohio. To woo Latinos, Obama is highlighting his background to portray himself as the candidate who better understands their concerns. But, as the WP details, Obama is clearly fighting an uphill battle in a state where Clinton and her husband have deep ties. In Ohio, Obama is emphasizing promises to change U.S. trade policies while tying Clinton to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is particularly unpopular with union members. Obama is distributing fliers that say "Hillary Clinton believed NAFTA was a 'boon' to our economy." But, as the LAT notes near the end of its story, Clinton didn't actually use the wordboon when talking about NAFTA—rather a newspaper used the word when characterizing her position.

The NYT points out inside that some of Obama's speeches, in which he fights back against Clinton's contention that he offers lots of inspiring words but no solutions, sound incredibly similar to remarks given by Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts during his 2006 campaign. "Don't tell me words don't matter," Obama said on Saturday. " 'I have a dream'—just words? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'—just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself'—just words? Just speeches?" And here's Patrick one month before his election: "'We have nothing to fear but fear itself'—just words? 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' Just words? 'I have a dream'—just words?" But Patrick doesn't mind at all. In fact, he and Obama have talked about the issue at length, and Patrick shared the language with Obama's speechwriters. "The point is more important than whose argument it is," Patrick said. "It's a transcendent argument."

All eyes are on Pakistan today, where voters have already started going to the polls amid fears of violence as well as anxiety over whether vote rigging will be rampant. The WP notes there's widespread belief the vote won't be fair, and opposition parties have already filed hundreds of complaints. The LAT points out many Pakistanis see today's vote as a referendum on President Pervez Musharraf. And the NYT says that, no matter who wins, Musharraf "is almost certain to emerge further reduced in the post-election skirmishing."

Although it's clear that the U.S. government is following the events in Pakistan very closely, the Post's Karen DeYoung notes in a separate analysis piece that the Bush administration has been relegated to little more than an observer in the whole process. "The administration has no clear idea of what the immediate post-election future will bring, few ways of influencing it, and a policy that amounts over the short term to little more than crossing one's fingers and hoping for the best."

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