Afghanistan Takes a Deadly Turn
The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that seven U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, the highest one-day death toll in nearly a year. Military officials warn that American casualties are likely to increase as more troops get sent to Afghanistan. According to an independent tally, 95 U.S. and 76 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan this year. Three other NATO soldiers, one from Britain and two from Canada, were also killed yesterday. Five British troops have been killed in the past week. The Wall Street Journalleads its worldwide newsbox with the more than 20,000 security personnel deployed in Urumqi, China, where at least 156 people died and more than 1,000 were injured in Sunday's clashes between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese. USA Todayleads with a look at how banks are cutting back on credit card lending. In the first four months of the year, the number of new cards issued by banks plunged 38 percent from the same time last year, while the average limit that low-risk borrowers receive has decreased 3 percent.
The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev reaching an agreement to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by as much as a third. The basic outlines of a treaty that would replace the one set to expire in December would "reduce the number of warheads and missiles to the lowest levels since the early years of the cold war," notes the NYT. The two presidents spent most of their time talking about Iran and missile defense, and agreed to work together on an assessment of the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea. While Russia is still vehemently opposed to American plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, the two leaders found some room for compromise by agreeing to cooperate more on the issue and step up discussions on a joint center to detect hostile missile launches. Obama appeared to continue in his efforts to try to empower Medvedev over Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom he met with this morning.
The U.S. servicemembers who were killed Monday were in different areas of the country. Two were killed in the south, one in the east, and four in the north. The Post highlights that the southern part of the country that is now the scene of a huge Marine operation has remained relatively peaceful and U.S. officials believe the Taliban may have left the area. Meanwhile, the attacks against American troops in other parts of the country show how the militants are determined to push into areas that had so far been relatively quiet. The LAT reminds readers that there was also an increase in American deaths in Iraq right after the "surge," but that soon began to decrease. Of course, there's no way of knowing whether Afghanistan will follow the same pattern, but at least in the short term an increase in casualties seems inevitable. "The reason is not so much the troop increase but what they want to do and where they want to go," an expert tells the LAT. "They are focusing on the areas that are least governed and most insurgency-filled."
It's not clear whether the majority of the people killed Sunday in China were protesters, security forces, or simply bystanders. State television showed images of Uighurs attacking Han Chinese but, of course, didn't say anything about violence from the police. The city's cell phone and Internet services have been largely cut, and security forces were sent to other large cities in the region to prevent the unrest from spreading. The WSJ notes that Beijing's actions in the next few days "could have major repercussions both at home and abroad." If the state's response is seen as too repressive, foreign governments may condemn the action. But if Han Chinese think the state is letting the Uighurs off easy then there could be a domestic backlash. Just like last year when Chinese officials pinned the unrest in Tibet to the Dalai Lama, this time around a Uighur exile living in Washington was blamed.
In an interesting piece inside, the NYT takes a look at how Chinese information officials seem to have picked up lessons from last year's clashes in Tibet as well as the recent unrest in Iran. Last year, foreign journalists were banned from Tibet, but images of the riots still got out, and China faced worldwide condemnation. This time around, reporters were invited to go to Xinjiang "to know better about the riots." Of course, the reporters were told they couldn't conduct interviews without government minders but it was still a sophisticated effort to spin the news, rather than just block it. That's not to say the news wasn't blocked as the government also carried out a massive operation to prevent the issue from being discussed on the Internet. "They're getting more sophisticated," one expert said. "They learn from past mistakes."
The WSJ fronts word that the Department of Justice is looking into whether AT&T and Verizon are abusing their market power. It's not a formal investigation just yet, but the paper sees it as a prime example of how the Obama administration wants to ramp up antitrust enforcement after the issue was practically ignored during the Bush years. Justice is expected to look into such things as whether the carriers unfairly lock up phones through exclusive deals and whether they unfairly prevent customers from using certain services on their networks, such as Internet calling. Experts say this investigation is particularly instructive because it shows the Obama administration believes more than one company can exercise monopolistic power over an industry.
The LAT, NYT, and WP all front the death of Robert McNamara, the former secretary of defense that led the massive buildup of American forces in Vietnam between 1964 and 1968. Later in life, he went public with his regrets about the war's escalation. Serving Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara "was the most influential defense secretary of the 20th century," declares the NYT. He was 93 and died in his sleep.
USAT fronts a look at how the recession has increased the number of people interested in donating their sperm or eggs. But many lose interest once they find out it's a long process that eliminates most people. The donor coordinator at a fertility clinic in New Jersey said she used to get about eight calls a week from potential egg donors but now gets that many every day. She also said that at least 100 men have called to ask about donating their "eggs."
Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.