The latest on the housing slump.

The latest on the housing slump.

The latest on the housing slump.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 22 2008 5:14 AM

Houses Without Homes

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Postall front stories about the worsening housing slump. The LAT leads with an article on record foreclosure rates, reporting that at the end of 2007, they were at "the highest level since the [Mortgage Bankers Assn.] began keeping records in the 1970s." The states hit the hardest by foreclosures and delinquent mortgages were California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, and in those regions the housing crisis may last longer than it will nationally. The weekend edition of the WSJ leads with a prediction that the stagnant condo market will deteriorate further. Even though there's already an excess of unfilled units, developers will still complete more building projects because they "usually put up their own money for a project first, then spend borrowed funds," so once a project's moved through its initial phase, they have a "strong incentive to keep building to finish," and hope the market will turn in the meantime. And with its contribution to coverage of the troubled economy, the WP off-leads locally with a profile of a Virginia woman who lost her home when she defaulted on a subprime loan, pushed through for her by predatory lenders.

The New York Timesleads with a report that Pakistan will begin talks with militant leaders, after an increased number of suicide bombings in urban areas. This marks a departure under new coalition leaders from Washington's recommendation against negotiations, which it has opposed in the past because "short-term peace deals between the militants and the Pakistani military were a sign of weakness and resulted in the militants' winning time to fortify themselves." After more than $10 billion in U.S. military aid granted to President Musharraf, leaders of Pakistan's new coalition government say "the war against the insurgents has to be redefined … as 'Pakistan's war' " instead of a item on "an American agenda." The country's tribal areas near its border with Afghanistan * spawn much of the violence; the Bush administration believes that the region serves as "a sanctuary for Taliban forces" as well as al-Qaida. But Pakistanis, according to the piece, view it as "a once peaceful region where a group of militants have turned their wrath on the rest of the country as punishment for the American alliance."

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The WP leads with news of Condoleezza Rice's apology for State Department employees' nosing into the passport files of the presidential candidates. Workers looked into the files without authorization, but the article notes, unless they gave the information to an outside source, "they probably did not violate any law." Below-the-fold, the NYT remarks the "breaches are particularly mortifying for the State Department because officials there discovered them as far back as last summer … but did not inform any of the candidates until Thursday." The WSJ tops its world-wide news box with a warning that the passport-snooping reveals problems in government agencies' ability to monitor how well they protect the data collected on citizens.

The NYT,the only paper to front Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama, concentrates above-the-fold on the New Mexico governor's perceived snub of Hillary Clinton. The nod is "a stinging rejection of her candidacy" coming from a man who "served in two senior positions in President Bill Clinton's administration." In his speech, Richardson also neared doing "what Mrs. Clinton's advisers have increasingly feared some big-name Democrat would do as the battle for the nomination drags on: Urge Mrs. Clinton to step aside in the interest of party unity." The WSJ adds that the nod could attract Hispanic voters away from Clinton and push more superdelegates in Obama's direction. An article in the WP interestingly pulls bits of Richardson's rhetoric along the campaign trail to see how he moved from "trumpeting the importance of his own extensive experience to lauding Obama as a 'once-in-a-lifetime leader.' "

The LAT, WP, and the NYT continue to cover violence in Tibet. The LAT fronts eye-witness descriptions of the brutality on both sides. Chinese forces have target Tibetan rioters, who have "bludgeoned [a Chinese motorcyclist] in the head with paving stones" and killed 19 other native Chinese. According to the Dalai Lama, 99 Tibetans have died, including one 16-year-old-girl who was shot by Chinese police. The WP reports human rights groups have increased criticism of corporate Olympic backers like Coca-Cola, Visa, and General Electric, after China's squashing of Tibetan protesters. The piece notes, "Corporate sponsors are walking a fine line, trying to appear sensitive while arguing that the Games not be politicized." In its international section, the NYT observes that on Thursday, the Chinese government "acknowledged for the first time that civilians had been struck by police gunfire," but "insisted that the police opened fire only in self-defense."

Elsewhere in the Himalayas: On the eve of the nation's first democratic elections, the WSJ rounds out its front page with an investigation on how Bhutan's unique Gross National Happiness model is holding up as a governing principle and examines the Bhutanese government's three-year-old prohibition on the sale of tobacco products. The WP considers Nepal's upcoming elections, in which nearly 6,000 candidates are running for 601 spots in an assembly that will write the country's new constitution.

* Correction, March 24, 2008: This piece originally referred to "The country's tribal areas near its border with Pakistan." It should have read "border with Afghanistan," as Pakistan is the country in question. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.