Technical Difficulties

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 31 2008 5:45 AM

Technical Difficulties

The New York Times leads local, with the collapse of a construction crane yesterday that killed two workers and has worried a city where this kind of thing has happened before. The Washington Post goes with Shiite protests over the U.S. plan to keep troops in Iraq until the end of its UN mandate on Dec. 31. The Los Angeles Times' feature lead has to do with the death of an Italian woman who was killed while hitchhiking across the Middle East in a wedding gown, while the Wall Street Journal leads with news that Floridians may have U.S. taxpayers to thank for lower premiums if backers of an initiative that would have the federal government supplement disaster insurance get their way.

The crane incident, in which an arm snapped off and crashed into an Upper East Side building across the street, probably had more to do with a bad weld than human error. But it comes on the heels of another accident in March that killed seven people, prompting the city to tighten regulations on tower cranes, and the WSJ adds that the latest incident has led builders to call for a "comprehensive review" of construction regulations in the city.

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Friday's protests in Iraq indicate rising dissatisfaction with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which has had to counter rumors that the Americans are pushing to establish permanent bases in the country. The NYT's bigger picture piece notes that some Maliki allies hope to put off substantive negotiations until a new U.S. president takes office. Much of the resistance has been led by supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who will be contesting October's elections and wants the plan to be put to a referendum of the people. Maliki's government is getting some credit for having stanched the violence in once-bleeding Basra, the LAT reports, although complex and overlapping political forces continue to operate under the surface.

The Democratic disaster "reinsurance" plan would cover all 50 states, but coastal states would benefit most as hurricane season gets under way—which environmentalists and some private insurers warn could prompt more building in high-risk coastal zones. The measure passed the House last year, and although a Senate vote is unlikely this session, backers—including Allstate and State Farm—are trying to make it an issue in the presidential race. Also in disaster news, the NYT finds that Buddhist monks are filling in where the Burmese junta falls short in providing aid to victims of Hurricane Nargis, and the WP reports that local Chinese bureaucrats are getting a run for their money dealing with quake victims.

The NYT off-leads with news that on May 9, the Bush administration set a deadline of June 1 for all new regulations and Nov. 1 for final regulations in an effort to prevent a last-minute rush of new rules, which could be frozen by a new president if enacted less than two months before the old one leaves office (as Bush did when he came into office and Clinton did before him). The June 1 deadline is expected to impact "scores" of new pending regulations in areas including the environment and workplace health.

Today is the day that Hillary Clinton will make her last stand for Michigan and Florida, as the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to determine how to deal with their delegates. Many expect a compromise in which half of the delegates from each state will be seated, but the Journal reports that some—including Michigan Sen. Carl Levin—promise to appeal any decision that doesn't result in a state's full delegation having spots in Denver.

The LAT fronts and the Post and NYT cover the bizarre tale of a polygamous Mormon sect in Texas that may now get its children back after the state supreme court ruled that child welfare officials had overstepped their bounds in seizing more than 460 kids from the 10,000-member fundamentalist group's compound in April. Talks between parents and the state broke down yesterday, and courts may have to move through each case one by one as DNA testing determines whether abuse occurred.

The WP fronts a feature on good news for Danville, Va., which landed furniture giant Ikea's first factory in the United States after almost dying when the tobacco industry moved out. The NYT says that jobs are also in the offing in Iowa, where growth in service sector and green-collar positions, baby boomer retirements, and an exodus of college graduates has created a burgeoning job surplus (if only people wanted to live there). Meanwhile, the job market for 2008 graduates is bad, but it's maybe not as bad as it possibly could be—if you graduated from Harvard with a 3.8 average, you probably still have a chance.

The NYT points out below the fold that Detroit is trying to have it both ways, putting out big-as-ever SUVs with hybrid technology that add about $4,000 to the asking price and 6 miles to the gallon (they're not having many takers). Smarter automakers are putting smaller engines in regular-sized cars, as consumers opt for pocket change over horsepower. 

In the day's reassurances: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says that he is not leaving anytime soon, despite rumors of a rift between him and a top general; and the Vatican says that women can still not become priests, despite a spate of "so-called ordinations" by renegade dioceses in recent years.

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