The tone of Thursday's grim off-lead story from Kabul-based Carlotta Gall can be inferred by the baleful stack of headlines: "Mood of Anxiety Engulfs Afghans As Violence Rises - Many Losing Confidence - Taliban Offensive Stirring Impatience - Hostile Fire Downed Chopper." Continue after the front-page jump, and the text box reads: "Confidence in Karzai and the U.S. is undermined."
The flashpoint for this round up of woe is the fatal shoot-down of an American Chinook helicopter: "The loss of a military helicopter with 17 Americans aboard in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday comes at a time of growing insecurity here. For the first time since the United States overthrew the Taliban government three and a half years ago, Afghans say they are feeling uneasy about the future. Violence has increased sharply in recent months, with a resurgent Taliban movement mounting daily attacks in southern Afghanistan, gangs kidnapping foreigners here in the capital and radical Islamists orchestrating violent demonstrations against the government and foreign-financed organizations. The steady stream of violence has dealt a new blow to this still traumatized nation of 25 million. In dozens of interviews conducted in recent weeks around the country, Afghans voiced concern that things were not improving, and that the Taliban and other dangerous players were gaining strength."
As Slate's "Today's Papers" columnist Eric Umansky points out, USA Today's review  of events in Afghanistan is much less dire. Unlike the Times, USA Today also posits a reason that fighting might be growing fiercer right now: The Taliban know they will do badly in the country's upcoming elections.
For more Gall click here: 
Saddam the "Literary Lion"
Hassan Fattah files from Amman on support for Saddam Hussein and the popularity of his new "novel" in Thursday's "Banned, Then Bootlegged, Saddam Hussein the Literary Lion Roars Again." (The headline writers apparently consider this a cute story.)
Fattah writes: "The unpublished novel 'Get Out, You Damned One' will not win any literary awards. A forgettable piece of pulp, it features a scheming traitor, an invading army of Zionist-Christian infidels and an Arab liberator. The only thing that sets the novel apart from numerous others like it in Arab bookstores is its author: Saddam Hussein."
Still, according to Fattah, Jordanian "experts" say Hussein's "tight grip" on Iraq was justified: "The continued turbulence in Iraq has served to justify his tight grip over the country during his 30-year rule, experts here contend. American missteps, prison scandals and growing corruption have added to his support."
For the full story from Fattah on Hussein's novel, click here: 
"Female Submission" Only In Utah?
Wednesday brings a disturbing story from West-based correspondent Nick Madigan of a polygamist community in Utah, where young girls were apparently forcibly married off to much older men. The text box reads: "Women who escaped an oppressive town may be put in charge."
The story begins: "Carolyn Jessop escaped in the dead of night, her eight frightened children in tow. The town she fled had been her home for her entire 35 years. It was the nation's largest polygamous community, run by an offshoot of the Mormon Church that she described as a 'dangerous and destructive cult' that oppressed its women and children."
Madigan continues: "That women might share power with men over a place known for female submission - the makeup of the board will be finalized in a court hearing on July 21 - is almost revolutionary in the communities, home to as many as 8,000 sect members." A photo caption of women and girls of the community reads: "Women and girls in Hildale, Utah, tend to remain covered from neck to ankles, even in the summer, with most wearing long cotton dresses."
But is Utah really the world center of "female submission"? Judging from the picture, the clothing resembles formal Sunday frocks - less oppressive than, say, the head-to-toe burkas formerly required in Afghanistan.
Yet according to Nexis, the Times has never used the judgmental term "female submission" in a story about Islam or the Taliban, and only rarely uses the term "oppressive."
For the rest of Madigan, click here: