Leaning on Pakistan

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 4 2009 6:34 AM

Leaning on Pakistan

The New York Times and the Washington Post each   lead with American officials expressing doubts about the future of Pakistani security in the face of a Taliban uprising. The Los Angeles Times leads with a trend piece on how American car buyers are beginning to shop more like Europeans. USA Today   leads with a look at President Barack Obama's search for a new U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace Justice David Souter. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that cases of H1N1/swine flu have appeared in 18 countries, even as officials note that the disease may not be that severe after all.

The NYT's Pakistan coverage is squarely focused on the nuclear threat, with U.S. officials saying they believe Pakistan's nuclear stockpile is secure for now while acknowledging that they don't know where all of Pakistan's weapons are. The WP focuses on the long-term logistical challenges Pakistan presents, like providing funding and training to an unreliable partner. Both pieces note that the Taliban uprising requires the United States to rely on the Pakistanis to handle their own security, a difficult prospect given the history of mistrust between the two countries.

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USAT reiterates Obama's claim that he wants the next Supreme Court Justice to understand, "how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives." Many news sources, including USAT, take this as a sign that Obama may not choose a federal judge to fill the vacancy. Racial diversity may have a hand in the selection, the paper says, but political diversity probably won't be an issue. With the Democrats holding nearly 60 seats in the Senate, the paper argues that Obama won't need to nominate a moderate to appease Republicans but can, instead, find someone closer fitting to Souter's left-leaning mold.

After years of gorging on high-performance, low-mileage beasts, Americans are finally changing the way they buy cars. From 1999 to 2007, Americans bought an average of almost 5.9 new cars each year for every 100 people. This year, dealers will be lucky if we buy 3.5 cars per 100 people, and the cars we do buy will be smaller and more fuel efficient. Analysts say Americans are adopting the European mindset of buying very practical cars and keeping them for as long as possible.

The NYT off-leads with a big financial scoop, reporting bank stress tests will reveal that the nation's financial institutions are in better shape than expected. Reports on the strength of the nation's 19 largest banks are expected this week, and an anonymous insider says the results show all the banks are solvent. While some banks may need additional capital to make it through a long recession, the government will be able to meet those needs with the bailout money already appropriated, something that seemed impossible just two months ago.

A total of 30 states have reported cases of swine flu as on Sunday, up from 21 states the day before, writes USAT. While the disease may be spreading domestically, officials say the flu is milder than they first thought. Of course, the paper notes that the 1918 flu epidemic also appeared mild at first, and it went on to kill 50 million people worldwide.

Then again, all that panic over swine flu may be doing some good, says the NYT. According to a pair of competing computer models, it's likely that there will only be 2,000-2,500 cases of the disease in the United States over the next four weeks, in part because of school closings and other preventive measures.

Meanwhile, the WP wants you to know that lobbyists for the pork industry want you to know that you won't get swine flu (sorry, H1N1) from eating pigs. While TP isn't debating the science—influenza isn't a food-borne illness—it's uncomfortable to watch the paper parrot the lobby's message so neatly. Would it have been too difficult to talk to a public health official for this story? Or maybe a doctor? Or how about anyone who isn't being paid by the pork lobby to convince you that their product is safe?

Infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus package may help create jobs, but they're going to be terrible for traffic this summer, according  to USAT.

The White House is looking to expand student aid, reports the WP, by expanding the Pell Grant program into an entitlement program not unlike Medicare. To pay for more generous grants, the administration wants to assume direct control of all student lending, effectively killing off the private student-loan industry and saving $94 billion over 10 years. Private lenders are lobbying hard against the plan, but that paper says congressional support for the change is high, even among some Republicans and members from states where student lending is big business.

A growing number of impoverished Pakistani children are turning to radical madrasas for schooling, writes the NYT, due to a lack of other options. Sources tell the paper they're worried that the rise of madrasas in Pakistan will be followed by a growing number of suicide bombers, as it was in Punjab.

Beneath the fold, the WP considers the plight of French winemakers who say they've been sold out by their own government. French officials voted in favor of an EU resolution that would allow European wineries to sell a mixture of red and white wines as "rosé." It turns out that a rosé's pinkish hue is traditionally produced by soaking grape skins in juice before fermentation. That delicate procedure tends to inflate costs, however, and officials say they need to keep European wines competitively priced. No word on what the new mixtures will taste like or how they'll compare with traditional rosés.

What's the correct term to describe the conflict in Sudan? The LAT explores why some international bodies have stopped short of calling the mass killing of tribesmen in the Darfur region "genocide." The paper argues that the difference is much more than petty semantics, since accusing the Sudanese of genocide makes it much easier to raise humanitarian aid but also makes it harder to force an end to the conflict. Once it's generally accepted that a government is guilty of genocide, writes the LAT, it becomes difficult for anyone to accept a compromise or broker a deal with the offending government.

The WSJ fronts a report that lenders are charging higher fees and instituting tighter limits on revolving lines of credit for businesses. The paper takes the news as a sign that credit is flowing again, but lenders are still worried about defaults.

From the paradox file: The NYT reports that after years of (mostly) fruitless negotiations, many Western media companies have all but given up on marketing their content in China and have begun to look at India instead. India has nearly as many people and far fewer government restrictions, making it a more attractive investment. As a result, some executives say, Chinese officials have begun to be more receptive to Western overtures, if only out of a need to compete with their Indian rivals.

The NYT fronts the outrage of a Pennsylvania Pontiac dealer coping with the news that GM is shuttering the storied brand.

It's no secret that late-night comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman rely on writers to come up with fresh material each night, but according to the LAT, not all their writers are on staff. Freelancers typically get $75-$100 a pop for topical humor, which is a pittance by union standards, but many struggling comedians are happy to do it with hopes that the experience will help them land a better gig elsewhere.

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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