Today’s papers – August 23, 2009

U.S. Shifts, Giving Detainee Names to the Red Cross

The New York Times leads with the Pentagon’s decision to release the names of detainees held at secret camps in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Red Cross. The military previously insisted that the detainees’ identities be kept classified for fear they could jeopardize counterterrorism efforts.

Red Cross efforts to obtain the names of detainees held at two Special Operations prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan have long been for naught, but the U.S. military has finally agreed to hand over the information. The new tack from the Pentagon, which came without a formal announcement, indicates a shift in detention policy in keeping with the Obama administration’s promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay by the end of the year. It also foreshadows a week where detainees and interrogations are likely to dominate the news: On Monday, the C.I.A. will release a long-awaited, critical report on its own interrogation techniques, and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder is expected to decide whether or not to begin a criminal investigation into C.I.A. interrogation policy after September 11, 2001.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/world/middleeast/23detain.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/us/politics/23cia.html

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Swine Flu Campaign Waits on Vaccine

The Washington Post leads with an unprecedented government effort in the works to vaccinate half of the U.S. population against swine flu “within months.” More than 2,800 local health departments are gathering medical personnel and developing strategies to reach as many as possible.

Public health officials are cooking up a plan for what one professor says is “potentially the largest mass-vaccination program in human history”—a sweeping effort to protect Americans against H1N1, the first influenza pandemic the country has faced in 41 years. The number of cases could spike within the next few weeks as schools and colleges reopen, but vaccination efforts are still fraught with uncertainty. Scientists are “rushing” to test the vaccine for safety, but they still don’t know how many shots people will need and what dosages should be. The campaign will not move forward until the results of clinical trials are in; the government is being cautious to avoid a repeat of a 1976 vaccination effort that caused more illness than it prevented.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/22/AR2009082202337.html

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The Los Angeles Times leads with California legislators having a difficult time slashing the required $1.2 billion from the state’s ailing prison system. Federal courts ordered California to reduce its prison population by 40,000, and the state’s ongoing budget crisis makes deep cuts a fiscal necessity.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-chemical23-2009aug23,0,2941213.story

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Clock ticks down on a deadly chemical stockpile

The LAT reports that the clock is ticking on the U.S.’s remaining stockpile of chemical weapons, which it is internationally obligated to destroy by 2012. Construction on the facility to destroy an arsenal of deadly gases in Kentucky has been endlessly delayed, and the Pentagon notified Congress in May that even on an accelerated schedule the job will not be done until 2021. The Army holds chemical weapons at six locations, four of which are currently incinerating their stockpiles. The Kentucky site is the most difficult operation because the weapons “are loaded in highly explosive M55 rockets and corroding, fully armed munitions.”

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-chemical23-2009aug23,0,2941213.story

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Daschle Has Ear of White House and Industry

Tom Daschle may have withdrawn his nomination to be President Obama’s “health czar,” but he’s still a key player in the debate over reform. A NYT front-pager reports that Daschle has met regularly with the president, and a “highly paid policy advisor” to Alston & Bird, a legal and lobbying firm with powerful health industry clients. Democrats are moving toward a health care solution centered on nonprofit insurance co-ops, a plan Daschle has promoted and that “happens to dovetail with the interests of many Alston & Bird clients.”

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/health/policy/23daschle.html

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‘Better to Be Deported Alive Than to Be Dead’

Cartels that smuggle illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border have realized they can extort money from other undocumented residents: their customers’ relatives. A gripping WP story reports that cartels have called family members demanding ransom, forcing them to pay up or make an equally frightening call to U.S. immigration officials.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/22/AR2009082202356.html

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Calls to tax junk food gain ground

A front-page LAT story suggests that support for a junk-food tax is growing among the American population, though no one in Congress has endorsed it. According to a poll, 55 percent of Americans support a ban on “unhealthful snack foods,” and “63 percent of those who opposed the idea said they would change their minds if the revenue were used to fund healthcare reform and combat health problems related to obesity.” Junk-food taxes are “a no-brainer” to many health experts, but the numbers suggest they’re not as effective as other “sin taxes” because it’s easy to switch to an untaxed alternative.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-junk-food-tax23-2009aug23,0,5244082.story

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Rating High on Hollywood’s List: Immature Audiences

Well made big-budget movies for adults are disappearing, according to a trend piece in the WP “Style” section. “High-end, relatively sophisticated movies made with glossy production values and well-paid stars” are becoming scarcer because their actors’ salaries and marketing campaigns eat up so much of the studios’ profits. Movies tied to an already-successful book or video game—or better yet sequels in already-successful movie franchises—are less of a financial gamble and more likely to get a green light.

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Full article:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/20/AR2009082004479.html

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A Grand Bargain Over Evolution

Slate contributor Robert Wright suggests a compromise between militant atheists and religious believers, who are both wrong about the conflict between science and religion for the same reason. “Believers could scale back their conception of God’s role in creation, and atheists could accept that some notions of ‘higher purpose’ are compatible with scientific materialism. And the two might learn to get along.”

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/opinion/23wright.html

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The Insult Was Extra Large

NYT ombudsman Clark Hoyt responds to a deluge of mail complaining that a recent Times story seemed to mock J.C. Penney’s first store in New York City.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/opinion/23pubed.html

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2226035/

Today’s papers – August 22, 2009

Economy Is ‘Leveling Out,’ Bernanke Says

All the papers lead with news that the battered global economy could finally be on the mend. The Washington Post and the New York Times both top their front page with yesterday’s declaration from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the economy appears to be “leveling off,” his most upbeat assessment since the global meltdown began. “Prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good,” he told a gathering of economists and central bankers, adding that aggressive action by governments and central bankers around the world appeared to have successfully staved off the worst of the downturn.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101273_pf.html 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/business/economy/22fed.html

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Housing Lifts Recovery Hopes

The Wall Street Journal leads with news that sales of existing homes expanded by more than 7 percent last month, the fastest rate in more than 10 years, driving up global stock prices and prompting hopes that the U.S. housing market could be stabilizing after years of decline. The Los Angeles Times puts a glass-half-empty spin on the news, noting that California’s jobless rate reached a post-World War II high last month, climbing to almost 12 percent; even if the national recovery pans out as expected, the Golden State could be hurting for years to come.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125085108563549051.html

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-caljobs22-2009aug22,0,6343107.story

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Central Bankers Breathing Easier

The world’s central bankers struck a positive and slightly self-congratulatory tone yesterday at a retreat in Grand Tetons, on the back of strong reports from major European and Asian economies and signs that the U.S. housing market could finally be recovering from its lengthy swoon. Adding to the sense of optimism, the WSJ reports, stocks and oil prices rallied to their highest levels of the year, while European stocks posted their biggest gain for a month; the Post notes that even credit-card charge-off rates—a measure of hopelessly delinquent balances—fell last month for the first time since September, providing a glimmer of hope for the struggling industry.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125085771862849199.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125085283439549091.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125090733371250999.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103630.html

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Credit Card Payment Performance Improves

Still, it’s not all good news. Banks will continue to take credit-card hits until employment rates improve, and the Post notes that while things are looking up in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, unemployment rates are continuing to rise in 26 states. That means many banks will remain on the ropes; another bank collapsed yesterday, bringing the year’s total failures to 81, and analysts predict that hundreds more institutions will fail in coming months. To make matters worse, the bust banks have flooded the market: With few domestic buyers available, the federal government is now selling off defunct banks to foreign investors.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101636.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125089446936650523.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/business/economy/22fed.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103414.html

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Report Reveals CIA Conducted Mock Executions

The Post fronts word, via a late-breaking Newsweek scoop, of a long-concealed CIA report that found that agency interrogators staged mock executions using a handgun and an electric drill in an attempt to frighten a captured al-Qaida commander into giving up information. A redacted version of the report is due to be published Monday, following a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The report is also believed to list a number of other incidents in which CIA and contracted interrogators overstepped their authority, in some cases violating international bans on cruel and inhumane treatment.

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Full article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/213188

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/22/AR2009082200045.html

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Reports Revive Debate on Contractor Use

The CIA also remained under scrutiny yesterday for its reliance on private contractors, following the disclosure that the agency had used hirelings from Blackwater USA for elements of an assassination program; the Post notes that lawmakers this week criticized the use of private companies for “inherently governmental” activities like intelligence work. The NYT reports that despite publicly breaking with Blackwater, the State Department continues to pay the company more than $400 million to transport and guard diplomats in war zones and to train security forces at its base in North Carolina; the WSJ focuses on Afghanistan, where contractors now significantly outnumber military personnel despite the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce the Pentagon’s reliance on hired help.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103635_2.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/us/22intel.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125089638739950599.html

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Afghan Contenders Claim Leads

In Kabul, meanwhile, the WSJ reports that Presdent Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah both claimed significant leads as the vote count continued after Thursday’s election. Each candidate claimed to have garnered more than 50 percent of the total vote, the threshold for avoiding a run-off contest, raising concerns that their supporters’ impossibly high expectations might undermine the final result or even lead to ethnic clashes, potentially impeding international efforts to stabilize the country.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125087300076649629.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/world/asia/22kabul.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125089899772250685.html

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Lutheran Group Eases Limits on Gay Clergy

Members of America’s largest Lutheran denomination yesterday voted to allow the appointment of noncelibate gays to the clergy, reports the NYT, in what religious scholars called a watershed moment in American Christianity. “Today I am proud to be a Lutheran,” said one gay-rights leader after the vote; still, many conservative members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were dismayed by the result, with some calling for “faithful” ministries to break away from the national church.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/us/22lutherans.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-lutheran-gay22-2009aug22,0,7741458.story

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Lockerbie Fallout Puts Scotland on the Spot

The WSJ reports on the Scottish government’s attempts to contain the fallout from its decision to release terminally ill Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi after TV images of the terrorist receiving a hero’s welcome in Tripoli sparked outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. The NYT notes that questions remain over the extent to which the decision to release al-Megrahi was influenced by efforts to clear the way for British companies to pursue lucrative oil contracts in Libya. In an editorial, the Post calls for the U.S. to impose sanctions against Libya unless al-Megrahi is placed under house arrest until his death. “To bestow freedom and the comforts of home on a man serving a life sentence for one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in modern times is a breathtaking abuse of power,” the Post declares. “There was only one appropriate way for Mr. Megrahi to have returned home: in a box.”

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125087716365449725.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082100288.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/world/europe/22lockerbie.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103326.html

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Obama’s healthcare messages are backfiring, strategists say

With Obama’s health care reforms strategists sayteetering, the LAT runs a pre-emptive autopsy of his strategic blunders: Democratic strategists say he wheeled out too many messages, and failed to give the public a clear sense of why reforms were necessary. Perhaps it’s just as well that the president is about to take a breather, notes the WSJ, leaving surrogates to continue the debate while he spends the week at Martha’s Vineyard. The Post reports that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle visited the White House yesterday and reportedly asked Obama to “get off the airwaves” while lawmakers attempted to reach a deal. The paper also eyes Senate negotiators’ efforts to build consensus behind a slimmed-down compromise bill but notes that it’s not clear that a smaller bill would be any easier to write or to pass.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-healthcare-pitfalls22-2009aug22,0,3787348.story

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125086665265549473.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103633.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082103342.html

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Protecting the Fair’s Prize Pig From the Swine Flu

And finally, the NYT reports from state fairs across the country, where officials are grappling with a new health threat: bug-ridden sightseers are infecting pigs with swine flu. “The whole idea of the animals getting sick from people is a foreign concept,” says one state veterinarian. “But that’s what we’re looking at here.” It’s no laughing matter: Officials say that if the H1N1 flu strain is allowed to recirculate in pig populations, it could mutate into more virulent and deadly forms. In an attempt to insulate the prize porkers, officials at many fairs now bar visitors from petting the animals and are asking people to wash their hands before approaching the pig pens.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/22/us/22fairs.html

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2226033/

Today’s papers – August 21, 2009

Afghan Election Called a Success Despite Attacks

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal‘s world-wide newsbox lead with, and everyone else fronts, Afghanistan’s presidential election, which was marred by low turnout and scattered violence. A steady campaign of intimidation by the Taliban over the past week kept many inside their homes. Officials were quick to declare that the vote had been a success, but the papers say it’s far too early to tell “whether bombs or ballots would ultimately emerge the day’s victor,” as the WSJ puts it. Declaring a winner could take at least two weeks, and a runoff seems likely.

There were no major episodes of violence in Afghanistan yesterday, as many had feared there would be, but the WSJ points out that the Taliban did manage to carry out 73 attacks across the country. According to official reports, election-day violence killed eight Afghan soldiers, nine police officers, nine civilians, a U.S. soldier, and a British soldier. The LAT specifies that early turnout estimates were below 50 percent, considerably lower than the 70 percent who voted in 2004. Many voters stayed away from the polls, particularly in southern and eastern provinces. The NYT highlights that in some areas of the South there were almost no women voters. But the low turnout was hardly limited to the extremely volatile areas. The WP notes that even in Kabul, where thousands of security officers were on duty, some polling places reported low turnout. It seems more voters showed up in the north, which should theoretically benefit President Hamid Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, and increase the chances of a runoff. Early-morning wire stories report that both Karzai and Abdullah claimed victory today.

While it’s easy and obvious to blame low turnout on the Taliban threats, the WP points out that some residents simply had no interest in voting. Some were simply disenchanted with politics, while others didn’t think there was anyone worthwhile on a ballot that contained dozens of names or saw it as a pointless exercise, since they were certain that Karzai would win. Counting the votes “in a vast country where donkeys were used to deliver ballot boxes to many remote villages,” as USAT puts it, will probably take a while. Although preliminary results were expected Saturday, the LAT says the first results won’t be available until early next week.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/world/asia/21afghan.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125074916908145527.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-election21-2009aug21,0,1144154.story

https://webmail.wpni.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090821/wl_nm/us_afghanistan;_ylt=Akp.OM7yAhr_R3eq7qyb0jSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJzZWlzZXFvBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMDkwODIxL3VzX2FmZ2hhbmlzdGFuBGNwb3MDMgRwb3MDNQRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDa2FyemFpYW5kcml2

 http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-08-20-afghanistan-vote_N.htm

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The Deadly Cost of Swooping In to Save a Life

The Washington Post goes across the top of Page One with an investigation into the medical-helicopter business, which is now a competitive $2.5 billion industry that is lightly regulated. It is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, with 113 deaths for every 100,000 employees, a rate surpassed only by working on a fishing boat. Since 1980, 211 crew members and 27 patients have been killed in crashes that many experts say were largely predictable and avoidable.

The WP reports that even as crashes in the medical helicopter business have increased—2008 was the deadliest year—federal regulators “have acted as partners with the industry.” Helicopters aren’t required to have many of the very basic safety features of commercial airplanes. Meanwhile, the business, which is dominated by for-profit companies, has exploded. There are now around 830 medical helicopters competing for patients, and in some states the saturation is astounding. Kentucky, for example, has 26 medical helicopters for a population of 4.2 million, while all of Canada has only 20. This competition leads many pilots to take unnecessary risks to get a piece of the action. And while the government contends that leaving the industry lightly regulated increases competition and decreases prices, that has hardly been the case, as costs keep rising. Medicare spends $220 million a year to transport patients.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/20/AR2009082004500.html

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Mortgage defaults soar to record 13%

The Los Angeles Times leads with a look at how the growing ranks of the unemployed are increasing foreclosure rates among those with good credit scores and conventional home loans. According to one trade group, more than 13 percent of mortgage holders in the country were behind on their mortgage or in the process of having their homes repossessed during the second quarter of the year. It’s the highest figure since 1972. Experts worry that the increasing number of foreclosures could threaten the economic recovery.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mortgage-defaults21-2009aug21,0,4202530.story

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Cash for clunkers to end Monday night

USA Today leads with a warning that all those hoping to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program only have until Monday evening to make a deal. The $3 billion program has been more successful than expected and many dealerships have run out of the fuel-efficient cars that qualify for the program. Dealers are also a little miffed because it has taken a while for them to get their money back from the government, but the program has certainly helped boost demand for vehicles.

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Full article: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-08-20-cash-for-clunkers-endings_N.htm

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C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones

The NYT fronts word that Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, plays a pivotal role in the CIA program that uses unmanned drones to kill al-Qaida leaders. The private contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on the Predator, work that was previously done by agency employees. The Predators are launched from a remote base in Pakistan, and, the paper reveals, a second site in Afghanistan. On occasion, agency employees have accused contractors of doing their job poorly, particularly if the drone misses its target. In one case, a 500-pound bomb dropped too early, leading to a frantic search for the unexploded bomb that was ultimately found 100 yards from the original target. This is a reminder of how the CIA “now depends on outside contractors to perform some of the agency’s most important assignments,” says the paper.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/us/21intel.html

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Detainees Shown CIA Officers’ Photos

The WP reports that the Justice Department is looking into allegations that military defense attorneys in Guantanamo unlawfully showed detainees photographs of CIA personnel. Apparently, the lawyers were trying to determine who the officers and contractors who carried out harsh interrogations in the so-called black sites outside the United States were. Researchers trying to shed light on the interrogation program took the photographs, sometimes outside the home of CIA officers. If true, this illustrates just how aggressively lawyers and human rights groups are pursuing this information. But defense attorneys say it’s just an attempt to intimidate them and change the subject away from the CIA’s interrogation tactics.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/20/AR2009082004295.html

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Faith in Obama Drops As Reform Fears Rise

The WP reports on a new poll that shows public confidence in Obama is slipping. Less than 50 percent of Americans are confident that he will make the right decisions for the country, which is down from 60 percent when his presidency hit the first 100 days. His overall approval rating stands at 57 percent, 12 points lower than in April, while his disapproval hit an all-time high of 40 percent. A full 42 percent disapprove of how he’s dealing with health care, and 52 percent back a government-run health insurance plan, also known as the “public option,” which marks a decline from 62 percent in June. The decrease in support for the public option is particularly notable among independents and seniors. One bright spot for Obama is the economy, as more Americans are optimistic the recession will be over within the next year.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/20/AR2009082004305.html

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Rise of the Super-Rich Hits a Sobering Wall

The NYT says that while many proclaimed the return of multimillion-dollar bonuses is just another example of how the rich always end up winning, “a significant change may in fact be under way. The rich, as a group, are no longer getting richer.” They’ve become poorer over the last two years, and may not get back to their old levels of wealth anytime in the near future. Of course, it’s difficult to feel sympathy for someone who still has $4 million, even if he did once have more than $100 million, but some economists think this trend could elicit some broad new trends. One of the more interesting ones is whether the fact that there will be fewer obscenely wealthy people will mean that the average middle-class worker will be a little better off. Or, as the NYT puts it, “the question is whether the better metaphor for the economy is a rising tide that can lift all boats—or a zero-sum game.”

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/business/economy/21inequality.html

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Runner Caster Semenya has heard the gender comments all her life

Meanwhile, the question of whether runner Caster Semenya is really a woman has raised interest across the world, but, in South Africa, many have taken up her cause and are outraged by the question, particularly the idea that Westerners are judging an African woman based on appearance alone, reports the LAT‘s Robyn Dixon. Semenya became an instant worldwide sensation Wedneday, when she beat her nearest rival in the 800-meter race by 2.45 seconds. But many immediately questioned whether she was really a woman and she was asked to undergo a variety of complex gender tests. For many in South Africa, it quickly became another example of how Westerners attempt to minimize the achievements of a black African woman. But the request should have hardly surprised the 18-year-old, who has been teased about looking like a man since she was a little girl. “They’re jealous of my daughter,” her mother said. “It’s the first girl in the black people doing such things. That’s why they say those things.”

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-south-africa-runner21-2009aug21,0,5294672.story

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A-List Stars Flailing at the Box Office

Will this be the year that kills the A-list movie stars? Well, it’s a trick question because the biggest movie star in the world—Will Smith—didn’t open a movie this season. But so far, everyone below him hasn’t fared too well, notes the NYT. Films starring the likes of Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler, and Tom Hanks, to name a few, have failed to deliver, giving more ammo to the studios’ eternal quest to cut down on the $20 million paychecks. Needless to say, agents and actors are biting their fingernails and thinking up excuses. Now the question is whether Bradd Pitt will be the next to fall with Inglourious Basterds. “Stars will always be important,” the chairman of Universal Pictures said, “but the industry is definitely seeing a transformation in their ability to open movies.”

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/movies/21stars.html

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2225871/

Today’s papers – August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

The New York Times leads with word that the CIA hired contractors from Blackwater USA to take part in an assassination program that targeted top al-Qaida operatives. Blackwater is a private security contractor, now known as Xe Services LLC, that has come under scrutiny for using excessive force against Iraqi civilians.

The Washington Post also leads the news in its late edition, and while it gives credit to the NYT for first reporting the story, it takes it a step further by saying that the whole of the assassination program was outsourced to Blackwater in 2004 and the private contractor was given “operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders.” For its part, the NYT isn’t clear as to whether the contractors were going to be used to kill or capture al-Qaida suspects or just for training and surveillance in the larger program. Regardless, the program was canceled before any missions were actually carried out.

The NYT says that one of the main reasons why Leon Panetta, CIA’s director, informed Congress of the agency’s assassination program was that he found out about the involvement of the private contractor. The Post explains that the program itself was launched in 2001, but it was revived under a different code name in 2004 using the outside contractor. The NYT states that while the CIA has used private contractors for a variety of controversial efforts, including interrogation, many were uncomfortable about using a private company for assassination-related work. Au contraire, says the Post, it was precisely because they were using a private contractor that the CIA allowed itself to restart the once-moribund program. “Outsourcing gave the agency more protection in case something went wrong,” a source tells the paper.

The NYT says that Blackwater’s involvement in the assassination program ended years before Panetta informed Congress because senior CIA officials were concerned about using private contractors for such a purpose. But interestingly enough, the paper says there was no actual contract with Blackwater for the program, but rather, the CIA had “individual agreements” with top officials from the company, which makes the whole thing even stranger. The WP‘s sources say the effort, known as a “targeted killing” program, was meant to be expanded to other countries beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. There were apparently three versions of the program over eight years, each with a separate code name. In total, the agency spent “well under $20 million” throughout the eight years, says the Post. But, as has been reported before, the program never really got past the training stage. “We never actually did anything,” said a former official.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081904315.html

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Iraq bombings kill 95

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal‘s world-wide newsbox lead with, and everyone else fronts, the deadly day in Baghdad, in which a series of coordinated attacks killed 95 people and injured more than 500. Most of the dead were casualties of the two massive truck bombs that hit the foreign and finance ministries in heavily guarded areas of downtown Baghdad. It was by far the deadliest attack since June 30, when U.S. troops withdrew from urban areas, and the WSJ says it might have been the deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year. The Iraqi government quickly blamed al-Qaida in Iraq and followers of former President Saddam Hussein for the attack.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iraq-bombs20-2009aug20,0,5622431.story

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2009-08-19-iraq-attacks_N.htm

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2 Blasts Expose Security Flaws in Heart of Iraq

While much of the attention about Iraqi violence has recently focused on conflicts between Kurds and Arabs in the country’s north, the blasts in Baghdad served as a grim reminder that the old sectarian conflict is far from over. The NYT describes a scene of frustrated U.S. troops who couldn’t get involved to help deal with the aftermath because they now have to wait for requests from the Iraqi government, which “apparently never came.” USAT, however, says U.S. servicemembers were hardly sitting on their hands. While they may not have taken control of the bombing scenes, they did help guide rescue crews and provided intelligence.

The LAT notes that while some recent attacks targeted Shiite civilians in what seemed to be a brazen attempt to restart a sectarian war, these latest attacks “seemed designed to send the message that [Prime Minister] Maliki is failing to protect even his own government’s facilities.” Indeed, Maliki said the attacks were “a vengeful response” to his recent optimism that led to ordering the removal of the blast walls that were once a common sight in Baghdad’s streets. The barrier protecting the Foreign Ministry was recently removed. Iraqi officials were quick to recognize that the attacks demonstrate how far they still have to go in order to effectively protect the population from terrorist threats. “The criminal attacks that happened today require without a doubt a reevaluation of our security plans and mechanisms to face terrorist challenges,” Maliki said.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/world/middleeast/20iraq.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2009-08-19-iraq-attacks_N.htm

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iraq-bombs20-2009aug20,0,5622431.story

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081900533.html

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Key Senator Calls for Narrower Health Reform Measure

In an interview with the WP, Sen. Charles Grassley, the key Republican in the health care negotiations of the Senate finance committee, seems to suggest that he makes his governing decisions based on who screams the loudest. The anger expressed in the town-hall-style meetings this month has convinced him that the government needs to scale back its overhaul efforts. Those who want to reform the system are “not quite as loud as people that say we ought to slow down or don’t do anything,” he said. “And I’ve got to listen to my people.” He insists he still wants to reach a bipartisan agreement but that legislation needs to be smaller and cheaper since there is great concern over the national debt, considering how much money has been spent to prop up the economy.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081904125.html

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New Rx for Health Plan: Split Bill

The WSJ fronts word that Senate Democrats are in discussion with administration officials about breaking the health care legislation into two parts. Seeing little chance of bipartisan support, key Democrats are thinking about passing the most expensive provisions of the health care bill only with votes from members of their own party. They hope this will help get a bill to Obama before the end of the year. Certain budget-related measures can pass in the Senate with 51 votes, rather than 60 as is usually the norm, through a procedure known as reconciliation. Recently Democrats have come to the conclusion they could use this tactic for a big chunk of their health care plan, perhaps even the “public option”—the government-run insurance plan—but no one is quite sure yet. Then other parts of the legislation that are seen as less controversial, such as forbidding insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, would more comfortably get the 60 votes.

Democrats say there’s now a 60 percent chance the two-bill tactic will be used, although it’s unclear who’s running up the odds on Capitol Hill. In an interesting tidbit, a senior Democratic aide tells the paper that the statement by Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that led to all the outrage when she suggested the public option wasn’t essential was all part of a strategy to see how Republicans would respond. The fact that several key Republicans dismissed the suggestion as mere theatrics and refused to get behind the idea of nonprofit insurance cooperatives told Democrats that it would be nearly impossible to reach bipartisan consensus.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125072573848144647.html

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Administration Makes Progress on Resettling Detainees

The WP reports that the White House is making progress in its quest to find new homes for Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release. So far, six European Union countries have agreed to take detainees, while four others have told the administration privately they want to help. In addition, five EU countries said they’re considering it, and the White House plans to expand the search to other nations around the world. Still at question is the fate of 98 Yemenis, whom the United States wants Saudi Arabia to take. Many lawmakers are vehemently opposed to bringing detainees to the United States, and while administration officials thought that would make it more difficult to convince other countries to take them in, it hasn’t been as bad as many anticipated. “Obama has a lot of political capital,” explained a senior official. “Countries want to do something for him.”

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081903801.html

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Don Hewitt dies at 86; creator of ’60 Minutes’

The LAT fronts, and everyone covers, the death of Don Hewitt, who, as creator of 60 Minutes, changed the face of television journalism. In 1960, he made the medium an essential part of politics when he produced and directed the first debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He spent his career at CBS News and will be most remembered as creator and executive producer of 60 Minutes, the show that launched the TV newsmagazine genre, using a formula that combined journalism and show business that would later be copied numerous times. It became a top-rated TV program and showed that news could make money at a fraction of the cost of scripted programming. Later, that would become the formula for programs that would skew heavily toward entertainment news and prized sensationalism above all else. He was 86.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-don-hewitt20-2009aug20,0,2980319.story

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/business/media/20hewitt.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081901811.html 

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Life After ‘Slumdog’ Full of Promise — and Skeletons

The WP catches up with the child stars of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, which “has been a roller coaster of personal tragedy and red-carpet glamour.” Azhar Mohammed Ismaill, 11, recently moved into a two-room apartment bought by the film’s director. But his co-star, Rubina Ali, 9, still lives in a shack next to an open sewer. The two may be “experiencing at warp speed the masala of euphoria and turmoil that India’s vast poor feel as they emerge from the iron bonds of caste and class,” writes Emily Wax. But at the same time, their diverging fortunes also tell “the story of an India where some are forging ahead while others struggle and worry they will be left behind.”

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081904006.html

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2225812/

Today’s papers – August 19, 2009

Democrats Seem Set to Go It Alone on a Health Care Bill

The New York Times leads with news that in the face of stiffening Republican opposition to health care reform, Democrats look increasingly likely to quit wooing minority lawmakers and focus instead on building support among their own ranks. In theory, that should allow Democratic leaders to cut through the noise and push through more speedy and substantive reforms; still, going it alone is no guarantee of success.

The Washington Post leads with a report on Democratic infighting over the White House’s apparent shift away from the public option, a move that riled progressives and threatened to derail the broader debate. “I don’t understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo,” sighed one senior White House adviser. “It’s a mystifying thing.”

Democratic leaders yesterday accused Republicans of reflexively opposing health care reforms in an attempt to score political points against the Obama administration, reports the NYT. “The Republican leadership,” said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.” Party leaders now intend to pour their energy into mustering Democratic votes for the proposals; the WSJ notes that much will depend on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who some Democrats worry may not be forceful enough to push through the reforms.

The broader issue, though, is whether going it alone will help Democrats sell health care reform to an increasingly skeptical public. The Postnotes that following the public-option brouhaha, Democrats are increasingly concerned that Obama’s bipartisan approach effectively ceded control of the national conversation to the reforms’ opponents. Now, the WSJ says, Obama will likely try a new tack, addressing broad emotional themes rather than allowing himself to get bogged down in detail. Still, the public-option debate continues to rumble:

The LAT and the Post both run op-eds arguing that the public-option spat is a sideshow distracting from more important matters, while in an editorial the NYT argues that if Democrats do decide to snub Republicans, they should go all-in and push for a robust public plan.

Meanwhile, the LAT off-leads with a look ahead to another potential health care reform pitfall: the fate of Medicare Advantage, a program that pays insurance companies to enroll senior citizens. The White House says the program is wasteful and expensive, and hopes to trim its subsidy to bring per-patient costs in line with regular Medicare, saving $177 billion over 10 years; still, officials worry the move would spark accusations that the president wants to slash Medicare benefits.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/health/policy/19repubs.html

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803655.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125064325462441929.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803449.html

 http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus19-2009aug19,0,679453.column

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/opinion/19wed1.html?ref=todayspaper

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-medicare19-2009aug19,0,3854130.story

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Reluctant Shoppers Hold Back Recovery

The Wall Street Journaltops its online newsbox, and gives space on its front page, to reports that U.S. consumer spending remains weak and could undermine the country’s tentative economic recovery; retailers say they don’t expect their sales figures to improve until next year.

The Los Angeles Times has better news: House sales are on the rise, at least in California, with demand for entry-level homes in some cases sparking bidding wars.

 USA Today leads on predictions that farmers would plant 18 million acres of new trees by 2020, covering an area the size of West Virginia, if reforestation incentives included in pending climate legislation are passed into law.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125063872313441645.html#mod=todays_us_page_one

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-home-sales19-2009aug19,0,5419938.story

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/2009-08-19-forest_N.htm

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‘We Don’t Have Any Alternative to Karzai’

Afghans will vote tomorrow to decide their next president, and in a splashy above-the-fold report the Postsays that current leader Hamid Karzai is the clear favorite; voters shaken by decades of violence say they’re in a mind to overlook the incumbent’s lackluster performance for the sake of stability. “We don’t have any alternative,” says one. “We’re afraid of what the other candidates might do.” The WSJ fronts a report noting that the election—the second since the fall of the Taliban—doesn’t guarantee stability; a recent wave of violence could keep people from the polls, handing a boost to the country’s insurgents.

In a bid to maintain order, the NYTreports, Karzai’s government will censor news organizations on Election Day, barring them from reporting on violence that might deter voters. A WSJeditorial pre-emptively trumpets the election’s success and calls for Afghanistan’s voters to stick their “ink-stained thumb in the eye” of the Taliban. In a more measured piece, Slate‘s Anne Applebaum counters that recent violence underscores the need not for “some kind of Jeffersonian idyll in the rugged heart of Central Asia,” but simply for a government recognized as legitimate by the majority of Afghans.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803156.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125066249115242443.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/world/asia/19afghan.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358421469615300.html

http://www.slate.com/id/2225614/

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Study on Vaccine for Cervical Cancer Finds Benefits Despite Some Risks

Government-backed researchers say that a new vaccine designed to protect against HPV and cervical cancer has a safety record in line with other vaccines, reports the NYT; still, it’s unclear whether any level of risk is acceptable, since cervical cancer can be prevented by screening. More troublingly, notes USAT, the researchers also reveal that three medical associations received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Merck, the vaccine’s developer, in order to promote its use—and subsequently promoted the vaccine to affluent women rather than targeting poor women who were at greater risk of developing cervical cancer. “This clearly shows how Merck was able to influence opinion leaders in the medical field to promote the vaccine without presenting any of the downsides,” a doctor who helped test the vaccine told the Post.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/health/research/19vaccine.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-08-18-gardasil-hpv-merck_N.htm

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Obama Sees ‘Positive Steps’ in the Middle East

President Obama met with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak at the White House yesterday, and afterward said that he remained upbeat about the prospects for progress in the Middle East. The NYT stresses the meeting’s cordiality; the WSJemphasizes Mubarak’s demands that Obama press Israel to accept a freeze on West Bank settlements. As the Postnotes, that may not be easy: Polls from Israel indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making political gains by defying U.S. pressure to halt the settlements’ spread, despite Israeli voters’ longstanding tradition of punishing politicians who distance themselves from Washington.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/world/middleeast/19prexy.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125060622453340141.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803569.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081802499.html

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F.B.I. Agents’ Role Is Transformed by Terror Fight

The FBI’s use of “threat squads”—dedicated teams of counterterrorism agents assigned to investigate tips and rumors—come under scrutiny in the NYT; the squads are a drain on the bureau’s resources, and their investigations seldom result in prosecutions. “A lot of the time we are chasing shadows,” admits one agent.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/us/19terror.html

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 Combative Writer Broke High-Stakes Scoops

And finally, all the papers note the passing of Robert Novak, the 78-year-old conservative pundit and self-branded Prince of Darkness, who died early yesterday morning from brain cancer. The Post, which ran Novak’s column for 45 years, reports his death below the fold and gushingly editorializes about his merits as an old-school reporter turned political insider; unsurprisingly, the WSJ‘s opinion-page editors are equally effusive in their praise. Of course, Novak’s immediate legacy is less his columns (which Slate‘s Jack Schafer reminds us won’t be anthologized anytime soon) than the lingering fallout from his 2003 outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame—a move that earned Novak enduring opprobrium from liberals. Still, perhaps the grizzled old ideologue wouldn’t have minded leaving a slightly sour aftertaste. “Novak loved his vampire-like public persona,” recalls one Republican strategist. “His one last dream was to play an assassin in a movie.”

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081801761.html

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2009/08/07/LI2009080702952.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081801792.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358552308710732.html

http://www.slate.com/id/2225617/

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/18/AR2009081803520.html

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2225677/

Today’s papers – August 18, 2009

Iraq May Hold Vote On U.S. Withdrawal 

The Washington Post leads with news that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki endorsed a referendum that could force U.S. troops to withdraw a year ahead of schedule at a time when American commanders are proposing sending troops to the country’s north to deal with the rising violence. U.S. officials had been lobbying against the referendum that would force American troops to leave the country at the beginning of 2011, rather than the end, which is what the current agreement allows.

The Iraqi parliament still has to approve the referendum that was endorsed by Maliki yesterday. But if it does, then that means that Iraqi citizens could effectively make invalid a standing security agreement between the United States and Iraq and force American troops to leave earlier than scheduled. Yesterday, the top American general in Iraq proposed a plan to send troops to the north of the country, which has seen lots of violence lately.

The WP calls the move “a clear indication that the military sees a continuing need for U.S. forces even if Iraqis no longer want them here.” As the WSJ highlights, American commanders think much of the violence in the country’s north has to do with the continuing tensions between Arabs and Kurds, which has created a security vacuum that has made it easier for al-Qaida in Iraq to operate. Under the plans proposed yesterday, American troops would work alongside the Iraqi army and the Krudish regional government’s paramilitary force, known as the pesh merga. It would mark the first time that U.S. forces join forces with the militia.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081700949.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125054346470538075.html

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Mental Stress Training Is Planned for U.S. Soldiers

The New York Times leads with word that the Army is planning to require all of its soldiers to open up about their feelings as part of a training program that is supposed to improve performance and prevent mental health problems, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The NYT notes that the new Army program to prevent mental health problems has mostly been tested in middle schools and some experts caution that it’s hardly a guarantee that soldiers will become more resilient as a result of the training. The Army’s chief of staff candidly tells the paper that he’s not sure a military culture that often shuns talk of emotions and sees it as a sign of weakness is really ready for this type of training program, but the rising suicide rates, not to mention myriad other mental health problems, has convinced commanders to at least give it a shot.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/health/18psych.html

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Obama’s healthcare trade-off

The Los Angeles Times leads with a look at how, by making it clear that the overhaul efforts do not have to include a government-run insurance option, President Obama may have angered some supporters but also increased the likelihood that some type of legislation will pass. Conservative and centrist Democrats praised the president for his flexibility, and the White House seems convinced it will ultimately get the support of liberals, despite their insistence on a public option.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-healthcare18-2009aug18,0,973899.story

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Arrest in Epic Cyber Swindle

The Wall Street Journal leads its word-wide newsbox with prosecutors announcing that they have indicted a 28-year-old American and two of his Russian accomplices on charges that they carried out the the largest case of computer crime and identity theft ever prosecuted.

Authorities say 28-year-old Albert Gonzalez, described as a “rising star in the cyber underground” by the WSJ, and his two accomplices hacked into the computer systems of five major companies and stole more than 130 million debit and credit cards numbers from late 2006 to May 2008. If the Gonzalez name sounds familiar, it’s because he has already been indicted in other cases of identity theft, including the 2005 data breach of TJ Maxx that cost the company around $200 million. He had also been arrested in 2003 but avoided being charged by agreeing to become an informant for the Secret Service. That didn’t last long, however, as he went back to the life of crime and launched what he referred to as “operation get rich or die tryin” that would target Fortune 500 companies.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125053669921337753.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/technology/18card.html

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Unemployed workers flock to COBRA for health coverage

USA Today leads with an analysis that found the number of unemployed who opt to continue receiving their former employer’s health insurance has doubled since the federal government passed a subsidy to motivate laid-off workers to continue coverage, known as COBRA. Without the subsidy, the average COBRA family premium takes up 84 percent of the average unemployment benefits. Some employers are afraid that higher enrollment in COBRA will increase their health care costs.

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Full article: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2009-08-17-unemployed-insurance-cobra_N.htm

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Obama’s Healthcare trade-off

Analysts largely expect that the House will ultimately pass health care legislation that includes a public option, while the Senate’s version won’t include it. That means there could be some intense negotiating sessions, “probably late this fall,” says the LAT. The White House once again continued to insist that the president hasn’t changed his position regarding a public option because he never said it was the only way to create a better insurance market. Still, several key Democrats sensed the shift in tone and stated that the public option should not be abandoned. The differences of opinion could end up creating a big rift in the party. One lawmaker predicted that legislation without a public option could lose as many as 100 Democratic votes in the House.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-healthcare18-2009aug18,0,973899.story

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/health/policy/18dems.html

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Where’s Mr. Transformer?

The WP‘s Eugene Robinson notes that so many aspects of health care reform “have been taken off the table … that expectations are ratcheted down almost daily.” A failure to pass anything would surely be devastating to Obama, so perhaps the White House has decided to signal it is ready to give up on the public option because something is better than nothing. But it is way too early for such huge concessions. “Giving up on the public option might be expedient,” writes Robinson. “But we didn’t elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one.”

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081702178.html

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Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate

As it tries to take some of the focus away from the public option, the White House has made clear it is ready to look into nonprofit health cooperatives as an alternative. But the NYT notes in a front-page piece that no one really knows what the health cooperatives would look like and whether they could really be effective competition against private insurers. While Republicans and insurers generally find the co-op idea more palatable than the public option, they’re hardly ecstatic about it. Some insist that as long as the government is ready to offer a good chunk of start-up money, member-owned co-ops could be effective. But setting up co-ops certainly wouldn’t be easy. Private insurers already have a stranglehold on much of the market, and there’s no reason to think people would switch unless the co-op offers better services, which, of course, it wouldn’t be able to do until it has enough members to negotiate effectively with health care providers. And the WP points out that there’s no reason why existing insurers won’t try to convert themselves into co-ops, and there’s a risk that the co-ops could then attempt to become for-profit corporations if they get a large share of the market.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/health/policy/18plan.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081702965.html

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Lack of Medicare Appointee Puzzles Congress

The NYT notes that many are dumbfounded that even as Obama spends much of his waking hours talking about health care, he still hasn’t appointed anyone to lead the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid. As the largest buyer of health care in the country, the leader of the agency would certainly play a role in the discussions about health care. But for now, the position remains vacant. “Trying to remake the health care system without a Medicare administrator is like fighting a war without a general,” writes the NYT.

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Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/health/policy/18health.html

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More Immigration Detainee Deaths Disclosed

Administration officials announced yesterday that they discovered 10 previously unreported deaths in immigration detention. The 10 names were added to the official list, and there was an 11th death that occurred late last week. The list that is known as “the death roster” now includes the names of 104 people who died in immigration detention since October 2003. When the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency gave the list to Congress in March, it had only 90 names.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125055691948838827.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/us/18immig.html

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Despite fumbles, Biden’s a player 

The LAT takes a front-page look at how Vice President Joe Biden appears to be improving his relationship with Obama and is winning some choice assignments despite his well-known tendency to speak his mind at inappropriate moments. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, goes as far as to say that his gaffes are “part of what makes the vice president so endearing” because apparently people can relate to misspeaking about Russia’s position in the world. He has been working hard to build a friendship with Obama, which one aide described as “courtship after the marriage.” Biden worried endlessly about what to get Obama for his 48th birthday. He was set on getting the president a Nintendo Wii and was disappointed when he learned Obama’s daughters already have one. So he got him a golf range-finder instead. And, for whatever it’s worth, aides say he hasn’t discounted running for president in 2016.

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Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-biden18-2009aug18,0,2588210.story

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Once Again, Mr. DeLay, You Have the Floor

The WP fronts, and everyone covers, ABC’s announcement that Tom DeLay, the former Republican House majority leader who resigned from Congress in 2006 after being indicted, will be a contestant in Dancing With the Stars. The producers have apparently wanted a politician on the show for a long time and approached DeLay thinking he would say no. But The Hammer surprised them by quickly agreeing to participate and has been preparing for the show all summer. “If I hadn’t been on the public stage, this would frighten me to death,” he told USAT. “But this doesn’t scare me. I’m going into this to have a great time.” Political types quickly tried to out-pun themselves. “It would be interesting to see if Mr. DeLay can do the Perp Walk,” said the research director of Texans for Public Justice.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081703034.html

http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2009-08-17-delay-dancing_N.htm

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Full article: http://www.slate.com/id/2225550/