The Wall Street Journal leads its worldwide newsbox with word that Pakistan is redeploying troops who had been fighting Islamic militants in the northwest. The troops may be headed for Pakistan's eastern border with India, as tensions escalate between the two countries following the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The Washington Postleads with a look at Ohio's dire need for an infusion of federal funds. After accruing a $7.3 billion budget deficit over the last two years, the governor says that the state's only way out of its economic morass is through federal funding from a planned stimulus package from President-elect Barack Obama.
The Los Angeles Times leads (and the others go inside) with new developments in the Christmas Eve massacre of nine people in California by Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, whose original plan to flee to Canada after the shooting was thwarted after he received third-degree burns from the firebomb he set off. News has also surfaced of the precipitating event for Pardo's recent divorce: Years before his marriage, he abandoned a son from a previous relationship who was paralyzed after a swimming pool accident that occurred while Pardo was baby-sitting him. The New York Times leads locally with the news that nearly $5 billion worth of development projects in the city have been put on hold or canceled due to the recession. Development projects have been a driving force in New York City's economy, and their loss signifies unemployment for many of the city's thousands of unionized workers.
In addition to moving troops, Pakistan has also limited leave for all troops. Pakistani officials will not disclose how many troops have been shifted but say that the redeployment will not affect the country's fight against terrorism. Conflicting sources in the WP put the number of troops at either 5,000 or 20,000. The NYT also fronts the story but notes that as of Friday, there was little evidence to indicate the shift was a significant redeployment; sources in the LAT frame Pakistan's move "as a warning to India rather than an actively aggressive posture." India has not ramped up its military presence in response, but it is advising citizens not to travel to Pakistan following an unconfirmed bomb in Lahore last week. Pakistani media sources reported that an Indian national set off the bomb.
Ohio has cut 100,000 jobs this year and $640 million from the budget year ending in June, but the state is still facing a further loss of 25 percent of discretionary funds in its next budget period. The governor is hoping for federal support for Medicaid, infrastructure projects, and education. Seeking funding for education is largely a preventative measure, as the state's schools have not suffered budget cuts yet, but governors from several other states are teaming up with Ohio in this request.
The WSJ fronts a profile of the middlemen who found investors for Bernard Madoff. None of them are alleged to have known about Madoff's investment scheme, but they may not always have been up front with clients about who was investing their money, either. In addition to Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, the middleman in New York who apparently committed suicide earlier this week, others who attracted funds for Madoff's investments have also taken a fall with personal financial losses and now lawsuits brought against them by clients.
A front-page story in the WP delves into the role a private intelligence firm played in capturing an Afghan drug trafficker and Taliban supporter and selling other intelligence to the government, banks, and securities firms. In the hope of securing future government contracts, Rosetta Research and Consulting led one of its top informants, Haji Bashir Noorzai, into the hands of Drug Enforcement Administration officials after luring him to the United States to provide intelligence to the FBI. Rosetta was never rewarded for its role in turning over the drug trafficker. Instead, the company fell thereafter when investors who wanted to support the fight against terrorism, not drug trafficking, pulled out.
The LAT fronts a story about Guantanamo Bay prisoners arrested as minors. Captured in Afghanistan as a 15-year-old on charges of throwing a grenade at an American soldier, Canadian Omar Khadr has been subjected to harsh interrogations during his six years in prison, which have involved "snarling dogs, 'stress positions' and being upended by guards and used as a human mop to clean the floor." Now legal scholars and human rights advocates are questioning the detention of Khadr and other juveniles with the argument that child soldiers should not be held responsible for crimes perpetrated by adults.
The WSJ tests another of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged corruption schemes for possible Obama involvement. An article finds that Obama may have "unwittingly" aided Blagojevich's alleged attempts to use a planning board for hospital expansion projects to solicit money for political favors. As a state senator, Obama supported legislation five years ago that reformed the planning board but ultimately enabled Blagojevich to curry favor with a majority of the board members.
After "one of the worst holiday shopping seasons in decades," the NYT fronts a story on retailers' attempts to recoup some of their losses with massive post-Christmas sales. Estimates suggest that consumers purchased 10 percent to 40 percent fewer gift cards than last year, so package deals offer incentives to try to drive consumers into stores after the holidays to clear out merchandise before the spring.
As the recession carries on in the United States, the enormous crash of tiny Iceland's economy earlier this fall continues to cast ripples in foreign markets. A front-page story in the WSJ reconstructs the last days of the collapse of Iceland's economy, which sent the country plummeting from its previously high quality of life and has left investors abroad with little to no assurance that their deposits in Icelandic banks will ever be recovered. Banking assets vastly outnumbered Iceland's national gross domestic product after the country's banks were privatized and expanded in the early 1990s, but even at its height, Iceland's wealth was only "a mirage" perpetuated by high interest rates.
In the LAT, British columnist Chris Ayres tells Americans to buck up at the prospect of losing our status as the top world superpower. It would actually be a godsend, he says, because no one blames the little guy.
In Portland, Ore., there's more to being a barista than just pouring coffee. A five-page job application for Ladybug Organic Coffee Company wants to know what prospective employees think might improve their city and what they routinely do "to make the world a better place," says the NYT. Although 150 people have answered the 10 essay questions on the application since the cafe opened in 2007, only 25 have been hired.
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