Iran Better Than You Did!
The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead, and the Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide newsbox, with the state of play in the Iranian elections, which—as of early Saturday morning, with votes still pouring in—appears inconclusive. Though state-run media claimed victory for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by a 2-1 margin, his opponent Mir Hussein Mousavi alleges voting irregularities. "I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin," Mousavi said at a press conference in Tehran. The decision will ultimately come down to Ayatollah Khameini, who has been silent on the candidate he prefers. None of the papers had a clear picture of what might happen next; more will be known after official results become available.
Mousavi—who had been the candidate favored by Iran's Westernizing progressives, while Ahmadinejad dominated in the rural, traditional areas—claimed that there had been ballot shortages and that polling places had closed earlier in areas where he was more popular. The opposition also noticed a scarcity of cell phone service, as well as blocked text messages, which Mousavi's supporters had been using to rally people to the polls. Early Saturday morning, the LAT reports, security forces shut down Mousavi's offices; things got dicey as police fired tear gas to disperse an angry crowd gathered for Mousavi's press conference. The good news: Despite some long lines and suspicion of ballot manipulation by the incumbent, the WSJ reports that turnout was high and the election went peacefully.
Over in another of the world's hot spots, the U.N Security Council slapped heavier sanctions on North Korea and condemned the country "in the strongest terms" for its nuclear gamesmanship, in a bid to force the wayward nation back into six-party talks. The resolution bans all arms exports from North Korea, aimed at cutting off an important revenue stream, and allows any ship suspected of carrying arms to North Korea to be stopped and searched. Yet the measure is weaker than the U.S. had initially hoped, the Journal emphasizes. It stops short of authorizing military force to back up the Council's demands and holds open a few loopholes to keep fractious countries on board, as with China's exemption to keep selling North Korea small arms (to South Korea's chagrin). Analysts are not optimistic that even these stricter sanctions will be enough to stop a nation bent on causing trouble.
It's Mexican Drug War day at the Big Three—the Post, NYT, and WSJ all front extensive stories on narcs south of the border. The Journal has perhaps the most fantastical read, a profile of the legendary Joaquín Guzmán Loera—known simply as "El Chapo"—who runs an international smuggling cartel responsible for a goodly chunk of the crack, heroin, and meth on U.S. streets. He's a larger-than-life figure who has the cops in his pocket and who dominated the prison where he was ostensibly being held before breaking out. The Post focuses on La Familia Michoacan, a rival cartel known for killing its enemies by driving ice picks through their skulls and boiling them alive—but that also acts as a social -service agency of sorts. Last month, several mayors were arrested by the national security police for their alleged roles in the gang, which opponents charge was politically motivated. In a sunnier scenario, the NYT takes us on a trip through Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican border town where once-brutal, drug-fueled gang violence has at least retreated behind the scenes, leaving a facade of calm that allows residents to lead somewhat normal lives. Through the eyes of police officers, newspaper editors, an orphanage mother, and a shopkeeper, reporter Marc Lacey finds that while violence is still very much a force, prospects for peace seem more realistic every day.
North of the border, San Francisco is coming to terms with its own immigrant population, as a wave of crimes by undocumented immigrants prompted a new policy of deporting anyone accused of a crime and found to be living in the country unlawfully. Mayor Gavin Newsom—gearing up for a gubernatorial run—says his city is still immigrant-friendly, but no longer the sanctuary it once was.
The Post is still having fun with the latest raft of financial disclosures, which show a number of power players in the health care debate with hefty investments in the health care industry. There's Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., with between $254,000 and $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health care companies. And the family of Congresswoman Jane Harman, D-Calif., which held at least $3.2 million in health care companies at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, those companies aren't going to be happy about President Barack Obama's announcement of $300 billion in cost cuts—bringing the total projected savings to about $950 billion—to offset the projected $1 trillion price tag for a new health care system. But, hey! All that stimulus money might have done some good earlier—the Journal reports that stocks are now surging thanks to the unprecedented amount of money sent sloshing through the system.
The NYT walks us through the scary implications of a cyberdefense plan, which is a difficult thing to reconcile with personal privacy, despite the administration's assurances. Because domestic and international networks are so intertwined, it's nearly impossible to avoid intercepting messages from civilians or noncombatant countries. As it stands, there are no "rules of engagement" for cyberspace—putting military planners in an even trickier situation, since they don't know what constitutes a violation. Also in the department of technological terror: The LAT fronts an account of the computer glitches that doomed Air France flight 447's 228 passengers to the depths. Airbus planes are more automated than most Boeing models, and the pilots struggled to manipulate the plane as a tropical storm rising from below fouled its instruments.
Gout is back, the NYT reports—the American middle class is eating enough meat and drinking enough beer and soda to contract what was once known as the disease of kings. The FDA just approved the first gout drug in four decades, meant to ease a condition caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints that feels like "having a toothache so bad you can't stand it, all over your body," in the words of one sufferer.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have found a target in the fish-throwers at Seattle's Pike Place Market, who allegedly disrespect the dead animals by hurling them through the air, to tourists' delight. "Killing animals so you can toss their bodies around for amusement is just twisted," a PETA member said.
Lydia DePillis is a writer living in New York.