Today's Papers

Sneak Preview

The New York Timesleads with a look at what might be included in the Iraq Study Group’s draft report as the commission prepares to meet in Washington today. The paper talks to some members of the commission and some others who have seen at least part of the report, and, as expected, the group is likely to promote direct talks with Iran and Syria. Less clear, however, is whether the report will include a guideline for when U.S. troops should start leaving Iraq. The Los Angeles Timesleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with the cease-fire in Gaza, which appears to be holding despite its tenuous start. The Times says Israeli and Palestinian leaders seem to be pressing for the agreement to work because both sides have suffered politically from the five months of violence. The WSJ sees the cease-fire as a “potential opening for Mideast peace talks.”

USA Today leads with news that for the first time since its inception, spending on Medicaid has declined this year. In the first nine months of the year, Medicaid spending fell 1.4 percent, which means a 5.4 percent decrease if adjusted for the rate of health-care inflation. Some of this decline in spending has to do with switching some Medicaid drug expenses over to Medicare, but states have also been instituting some cost-cutting measures that seem to be providing results. The Washington Postleads locally but off-leads an analysis piece on how President Bush’s advisers are looking into the way former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan recovered from a midterm-election thumping.

Whether there will be a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal seems to be the main point of disagreement between members of the ISG. “It’s not at all clear that we can reach consensus on the military questions,” a commission member tells the paper. The commission is likely to tie the withdrawal of U.S. troops to the training of Iraqi forces. But exactly what guidelines, if any, would be used to determine when and whether the Iraqi forces would be able to take over is likely to become one of the most contentious issues of debate this week. Commission members are scheduled to meet for two days, but the meeting might be extended if they have trouble reaching an agreement.

A political analyst tells the LAT that Israel and Hamas were “like two bruised boxers swaying in front of each other.” While Palestinians have been suffering due to international sanctions, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has paid a high political price for the failure of the army to curb the rocket attacks, not to mention he is still dealing with criticism for Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. This all added up to political leaders on both sides being desperate for a cease-fire that would allow them to claim some sort of victory. Israeli and Palestinian leaders say they hope the truce will be extended to the West Bank.

Haaretz reports the Israeli army killed two armed Palestinians in the West Bank early today, which has raised concerns of a possible violent response from Gaza.

Although neither Clinton nor Reagan had to deal with their midterm losses while fighting an unpopular war overseas, they both managed to recover from events that seemed to spell their doom. Some analysts urge Bush to be serious about working with Democrats, while others suggest he can still shape policy but must choose his battles carefully. The NYT also mentions the Clinton presidency in an inside piece that looks into the unanswered question of the direction Bush will decide to take his presidency. If the president chooses to continue pursuing a conservative agenda, he might not get anything approved by the new Congress, but if he compromises with Democrats,he might anger his conservative base.

The WP fronts a look at how militia members were integral in helping civilians in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Sadr City last week. Although getting rid of the militias has been a priority for U.S. officials, last week’s events help to illustrate how difficult that would be to actually carry out. Many Iraqi civilians see the militia doing things for them that the government is unable or unwilling to do, and last week’s attacks only served to illustrate that point further. Sadr City residents are praising the Mahdi Army, which answers to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, as heroes because of their actions that day.

Meanwhile, citizens don’t have such warm and fuzzy feelings toward the Iraqi government. As the papers note, but the LAT emphasizes in its inside pages, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was met with some small protests when he went into Sadr City yesterday, and some threw stones at his motorcade. While he tried to urge calm, people from the audience started shouting at Maliki, calling him a “coward” and “collaborator.” Despite the ongoing curfew, which the government is planning to lift today, killings continued in Baghdad yesterday.

According to the LAT, six U.S. service members died over the weekend in Iraq, four yesterday and two on Saturday. 

The WSJ mentions at the top of its worldwide newsbox, and everyone else notes, that King Abdullah of Jordan said in an interview on ABC’s This Weekhe fears the “strong potential of three civil wars in the region, whether it’s the Palestinians, that of Lebanon, or of Iraq.” Out of all three, though, Abdullah said he’s more concerned about Lebanon and the Israel-Palestinian conflict than Iraq. Jordan will serve as the host country for the meeting between Bush and Maliki this week. 

All the papers mention that the leftist candidate in Ecuador seems poised to win the presidential election. According to an early count, Rafael Correa received approximately 65 percent of the vote.

The LAT and WP go inside with more than 20,000 people gathering in a town square in Istanbul to protest Pope Benedict XVI’s planned visit to Turkey, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Although the Vatican wants this visit to help the pope’s relationship with Muslims, many are still angered by comments he made a few months ago regarding Islam that many found offensive.

The LAT fronts word from environmentalists that as more cell phone towers pop up, more birds are dying as a result. Apparently birds can confuse the lights on top of the towers for stars, and they circle the towers until they end up crashing into them or something around them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says anywhere from 4 million to 50 million birds die a year as a result of these towers. It seems using white strobe lights, instead of the continuous red ones that are currenty in most towers, could solve the problem.

The WSJ points out some mainstream journalism Web sites are beginning to use in-text advertising, a practice that seems to blur the line between editorial and advertising. Although the practice of putting advertising as links within an article has been used for some time, so far its use in mainstream media sites has been quite rare. Ethics experts decry the practice, but representatives of the Web sites insist the editorial department doesn’t know the keywords that have been purchased, so there is no real conflict of interest.

Too famous for his own good … The LAT speculates Universal Pictures may already be “feeling buyer’s remorse” over the $42.5 million it paid for Bruno, a film by Sacha Baron Cohen (of Borat fame) scheduled to be released in 2008. Even though Borat has been quite succesful at the box office, several lawsuits have been filed, and, perhaps even more distressing for Universal, some think Cohen might be too well-known to succeed in pulling off similar stunts again.