The top national story in all the papers is that the U.S. economy lost 63,000 jobs last month—the most in five years—the Labor Department announced yesterday. That news, coming on the heels of net losses the month before, makes it all but certain we are in or headed for a recession.
The Washington Post focuses on the political impact of the report, even though most of the presidential candidates didn't really have anything new to say. President Bush said he's got the situation under control and that the stimulus package approved last month—including $600 checks for most people—will give the economy a "booster shot."
And everyone quotes the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors: "There is no denying that when you get negative job numbers, realistically the economy is less strong than we had hoped it would be," he said. "The question is how quickly will it pick up. … We think it will pick up by the summer."
But, as the New York Times puts it: "Few private forecasters were so buoyant. Many firms had already concluded that a recession was under way. Within minutes of the new report on employment, many in the dwindling pool of optimists changed their positions." JPMorgan Chase and Lehman Brothers both declared the economy in a recession after the report came out.
The NYT and Wall Street Journal delve much more deeply into the nitty-gritty of the fallout of the report, which surprised everyone. They both go high with related financial news: that a top mortgage company and a major private-equity firm both said they are in trouble after they couldn't meet demands from lenders to post more collateral.
"I believe we are facing the most serious ... economic and financial stresses that the U.S. has faced in at least a generation—and possibly much longer," said Lawrence Summers, treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, as quoted in the Journal. "We are in nearly unprecedented territory with respect to financial strain."
The NYT and Post both have front-page stories second-guessing Barack Obama's strategy in light of his losses on Tuesday—the Times on his taking the high road and refraining from attacking Hillary Clinton, and the Post on Obama's small-state strategy.
One of those small states, Wyoming, hasn't had a presidential candidate visit in 20 years, and the race was so little-considered that there are no polls. But with the Democratic race still up in the air, the state's caucuses are getting an unprecedented amount of attention, the Los Angeles Times reports. Obama and all three Clintons spent time there yesterday, hoping to get its 12 delegates in play today and some momentum for the bigger contests to come.
Everyone goes inside with news that Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador have made up after Colombia's president apologized and said he would never again violate another country's borders, as he did when the Colombian military killed rebels in Ecuador last week. The incursion prompted Colombia to accuse Ecuador of aiding terrorists and Venezuela to move troops close to the Colombian border. All was apparently forgiven when the presidents of the three countries shook hands and embraced at a summit of Latin American leaders in the Dominican Republic and agreed to restore diplomatic relations with each other. However, as the Post notes, "the most serious issue raised in the debate—that Colombian rebels operate with the help of foreign governments—has not been resolved and is sure to fester."
The Post has a terrific dispatch and photo gallery of Turkish Kurdish rebels in Iraq. Turkey claimed victory after it crossed the Iraqi border two weeks ago to attack bases of the PKK rebels. But the PKK, the Post finds, is unbowed. "The Turkish army could not capture any of our territory, could not get one of our bases, our weapons or even a scrap of nylon," the commander told his troops, with the reporters listening in. "The Turkish army didn't have any chance to rest. When they attacked, we hit them. When they made camp, we hit them. Even when they pulled back, we hit them."
Another excellent wartime dispatch is in the Journal, on how a U.S. commander in Afghanistan—following centuries-old tradition—writes handwritten letters to the parents of soldiers killed under their command: "Before coming here from his battalion's home base in Italy, he bought some parchment stationery bearing the wing-and-sword crest of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He knew he would likely have to write letters such as these. He didn't want to use printer paper." It's a moving read.
Also in the papers … Today, President Bush is going to veto a bill that would ban water-boarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, the Post reports. Democrats have a shot at filling the seat in Congress vacated by Dennis Hastert in a special election today, the Post reports. China is rethinking its controversial Darfur policy as the Olympics approach, the LAT and NYT report. The NYT says European vote monitors have revised their assessment of Armenia's elections last month, now saying the vote was less fair than they had originally said. John McCain will not pick John Kerry as his running mate, the NYT says.
Didn't this used be called "selling out"? The Journal finds that selling music to television shows and advertisements is no particular shame for at least some of the bands participating in the hipster-mecca music festival South by Southwest next week. With music sales declining, such sales are an increasingly attractive way to make money for emerging bands. And among the many music fans at the shows in Austin, Texas, will be marketers representing E-Trade and Playtex. One musician tells the paper: "TV is almost the new radio."