Today's Papers

Billions: Sold!

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with congressional approval of a bill authorizing a 700-mile, multibillion-dollar fence along the U.S. border with Mexico—hardly the overhaul of immigration policy the president wanted, but he’ll sign it just the same. The Wall Street Journal’s online world-wide newsbox leads with congressional approval to spend billions more for the U.S. wars. The New York Times leads with a warning to the Maliki government in Iraq that torture, abuse, and killings by the Interior Ministry police better stop, or America’s money will too.

The border-barrier measure passed easily with bipartisan support. It authorizes a fence but does not create a guest worker program or a path to U.S. citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here. Nor does it allocate enough money to get the fence built. But no matter; it’s an election year, and lots of lawmakers can go home and brag about getting tough on illegal immigration with an “enforcement-first approach.”

The WSJ puts the number $447.6 billion on the record-breaking Pentagon budget Congress sent to President Bush; the Post calls it $463 billion. It includes $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, with nearly $24 billion to help the Marines and Army rebuild worn-out equipment, and nearly $2 billion to defend against roadside bombs, the leading cause of death for U.S. troops in Iraq. The Post says the new funding brings to $507 billion the total amount authorized by Congress for both wars, and for extra security for military bases and embassies since the 9/11 attacks.

In Iraq, the minority Sunni Arabs have long been pissed off about the problem of rogue militia members and criminals infiltrating the Shiite-dominated national police and security forces, and Iraqi leaders’ unwillingness or inability to purge the worst offenders. In May, Iraqi and American inspectors found a house of horrors at the police prison in eastern Baghdad known as Site 4—1,400 prisoners crowded into a small space, some with “lesions resulting from torture,” others beaten, bound, and hung by their arms. The Times reports the U.S. is warning Iraqi leaders that if they do not crack down on the abuses, the U.S. will withhold funding for the police forces under a law, known as the Leahy law, that prohibits the financing of foreign security forces that commit “gross violations of human rights.”

The Times makes no mention of what feels like the elephant in the (news)room: the administration’s high-road stance on human rights comes just two days after the Bush administration succeeded in getting Congress’ permission for all but the most extreme types of interrogation techniques for terror suspects in U.S. custody. Moreover, TP notes that it was just 10 days ago that the Times gave front page real estate to senior Iraqi and American officials’ strong doubts about Maliki (note: subscription required); is the paper merely reporting on, or is it being used to help create, a dump-Maliki movement?

Also in the papers: The resignation of six-term Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley after revelations that he exchanged sexually explicit e-mails with a 16-year-old boy who worked as a page at the Capitol. The New York Times plays up the hypocrisy angle—Foley, co-chair of a House caucus on missing and exploited children, “stands accused of being the very kind of predator he had denounced”—and the Washington Post buries it and instead emphasizes the political implications—that Foley’s self-destruction could help the Democrats recapture Congress in November. The papers publish only snippets of the e-mails and instant-message exchanges between the teenager and “Maf54,” but has the full monty, and boy, is it clear why Foley hit career-alt-delete.

Speaking of spectacular collapses, investors in the Amaranth hedge fund that lost a cool $6 billion this month in disastrous bets on natural gas, have been told that the fund has suspended withdrawals to “enable the Amaranth funds to generate liquidity for investors in an orderly fashion, with the goal of maximizing the proceeds of asset dispositions.” Translation: We’re done.

The paddle—corporal punishment—is apparently alive and well in many American public schools, while in Russia, Soviet-style psychiatry-as-punishment is making a creepy comeback.

Fresh spinach is making a comeback at the grocery store, and the FDA says most of it is “as safe as it was before the outbreak” of E. coli. Investigators still have not pinpointed the cause of the contamination, and health officials in California, where the offending spinach was grown, warn that another outbreak in the Salinas Valley is possible. TP suggests arugula.

Scooped: And finally, the Washington Post knows it got beat yesterday by the Times on what’s in the new book, State of Denial, by its own Bob Woodward. In fact, the Post reveals in its above-the-fold attempt to catch up, after the Times managed to buy a copy of the book and splashed details on the front page, “Bush aides frantically called Woodward and asked for copies, which he sent over.” Nice inside detail, WP, but the NYT beats you again today: It got former Chief of Staff Andy Card on the phone and asked him about Woodward’s report that he spoke to POTUS about dumping SecDef Rumsfeld. You can read what he says here. White House spokesman Tony Snow, meanwhile, says the book and its tales of dysfunction, deceit, and backstabbing is “sort of like cotton candy—it kind of melts on contact.”