Today's Papers

The Labor Party

The Los Angeles Times leads with word of a Bush administration plan to “escalate the war of words against Iraq” by training Iraqis in North America, Europe, and the Arab world to speak out against the Saddam Hussein regime. The Washington Post’s lead says that political groups are finding new ways to work around the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and raise soft money. The New York Times leads with a feature noting the shuttering of wards and curtailing of services at many of the nation’s hospitals, in response to the soaring cost of medical malpractice insurance.

The LAT says that Iraqi exiles will soon be appearing on talk shows, writing op-ed pieces, and giving speeches. Training will be given by the State Department, and according to one subtext-friendly sentence in the article, “The program will bring in journalists and media personalities to teach Iraqis how to ‘become shapers of public opinion’ to counter Hussein’s ‘propaganda machine,’ the State Department official said.” The war of rhetoric will also, according to unnamed U.S. officials and named Iraqi exiles interviewed in advance of training, likely reframe the need for a regime change from that of Saddam’s anti-weapons-inspections policies to how Saddam rules his own citizens. Iraqi-American Muhannad Eshaiker, a California architect who will soon undergo Bush administration training, says several “new arguments” will be introduced into the media. “Is Saddam a legitimate president?” Eshaiker asks, as an example of one such new argument.

The WP highlights two major ways that new political groups are trying to beat McCain-Feingold legislation effective Nov. 6 that bans “soft money,” or contributions made to political parties and groups without the more severe cap limits of what can be donated to the candidates themselves: Create tax-exempt organizations not covered by the legislation and disengage these new groups from coordinated efforts with the political party and candidate. Supporters of McCain-Feingold are calling into question the legitimacy of the new practices and say they will challenge it in court. The paper attacks activities on both sides of the political fence but reserves its biggest blows for Progress for America, an organization run by the political director of the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, for complete nondisclosure of its activities.

According to a survey by the American Hospital Association, cited high in the NYT lead, 20 percent of the association’s 5,000 member hospitals and other health-care organizations have had to cut back on services, and 6 percent have eliminated some units altogether. (No time frame is given.) The NYT points to a few examples, saying that obstetric wards and trauma services have been hit particularly hard. Although the article’s 20th paragraph offers an alternative explanation—”Many obstetrics units have struggled financially because of growing competition and reduced payments from the federal government and private insurers”—the headline, lede, and most of the rest of the article finds little doubt that rising insurance premiums are to blame. As for the cause of that, “the roots of the crisis are complex,” the NYT writes. Many, including Bush and the American Medical Association, say that high jury awards in civil litigation are the cause. Consumer advocates point to insurance company mismanagement. Regardless of the answer, one question the paper misses: Could the curtailing of services actually add to a hospital’s liability should anything go wrong?

The NYT is all over civil action elsewhere too. The paper fronts word that several Roman Catholic priests are filing slander suits against their sexual abuse accusers. Four separate cases in Tulsa, Okla.; Cleveland; and St. Louis, where the plaintiff has had no accusations beyond the one being questioned, are getting private endorsements by their bishop. “We’re witnessing a new and aggressive national strategy,” said a Dallas lawyer who has represented victims of abuse in the past.

Inside the paper, the NYT covers a $300 million lawsuit against the FBI for “false imprisonment.” Joseph Salvati, a reputed Mafioso who spent 30 years in jail for the March 1965 murder of “small-time hoodlum,” Edward Deegan, filed notice with the Justice Department last week that he intended to sue the FBI. According to evidence uncovered in the last five years, the “real” killers were FBI informants never prosecuted.

The LAT off-leads questions about what activities FBI agents are up to in Pakistan. “Between several dozen and a hundred” FBI agents are in Pakistan, confirms an anonymous FBI agent. They are acting as advisers to Pakistani police rounding up terror suspects, and because of that, human rights experts say, the U.S. may be becoming party to Pakistani torture methods of interrogation.

The WP offers a simple reason for the nation’s economic woes on its front page—overcapacity, or too much supply chasing too little demand. “And it can be found these days across a wide swath,” writes the paper: “agriculture, autos, advertising, chemicals, computer hardware and software, consulting, financial services, forest products, furniture, mining, retail, steel, textiles, telecommunications, trucking, and electric generation, just to mention a few.” Meanwhile, on the front of its business section, the paper writes that Starbucks has 4,479 locations in North America, opening three or four stores a day. Furthermore, Washington, D.C., area residents “could” drink 65.5 million cups of specialty coffee per year, company research shows. Only seven states have more than a 100 Starbucks stores. The nation’s capital has 147 and will be opening more soon.