Today's Papers

Longing for Militias

The New York Timesleads with word that “a growing number of Iraqis” are blaming the United States for creating an insecure environment that allowed Saturday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed at least 135 people, to take place. The Washington Postleads with what can only be described as a no-duh headline: “Iraq Vote Could Resonate in 2008.” But the story turns out to be a good look at the challenge facing 20 Senate Republicans who are up for re-election in 2008 and must decide how they will cast their votes on the nonbinding resolution. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the $2.9 trillion spending request President Bush will be sending to Congress today.

USA Todayleads with word that apartment rents are set to rise by 5 percent this year, marking the third straight year of increases. The discrepancy between the rise in apartment rentals and wages means workers will have to devote even more of their paychecks to housing. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a local story that could have national implications by revealing that the number of Los Angeles County jail inmates identified as illegal immigrants almost doubled last year. The sheriff’s department started investigating the legal status of inmates last year over the opposition of some who worry the program could lead to illegal immigrants becoming more hesitant to report crimes to local police.

At first glance, the NYT’slead doesn’t even seem like news. After all, it’s hardly surprising that Iraqis would blame the United States for violence. Yet these complaints take on new dimensions when considered against President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. One of the main objectives of the “surge” is to help rid Baghdad of the Shiite militia groups, namely the Mahdi Army. But many Iraqis say the bombing was able to take place precisely because the militias have been keeping a low profile in recent weeks, and Shiites say this leaves them particularly vulnerable. Now there’s a persistent risk that those who initially supported the plan will conclude they were foolish to even give it a chance and merely return to their old routine. Apparent retaliatory attacks by Shiites killed at least 15 people in Baghdad yesterday.

Senators are quick to dismiss any claims that their votes will take into account political considerations. But how several of these Republican senators who are up for re-election will vote is one of the big unanswered questions, as there are fears that whatever they say in the upcoming days will come back to haunt them one way or another. If attempts to block the beginning of debate on the nonbinding resolution aren’t successful, expect a lot of debate back and forth on what should be included. The Post says Republicans will attempt to make Democratic lawmakers sweat a bit with an amendment calling for an immediate withdrawal of all troops.

The LAT tries to put a little perspective on the Senate debate by saying that “the nonbinding resolution would have no more force of law than the one approved Thursday commending the Miss America Organization for its commitment to ‘the character of women in the United States.’ ” At the same time, though, the symbolism of the measure shouldn’t be discounted, as it could turn out to be the first “formal rebuke” of the administration’s war strategy.

The LAT fronts a look at the massive defense budget the Bush administration is expected to include in its spending request and says that, if military leaders get their way, this could be just  the beginning. The chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are preparing a strategy to convince lawmakers and the public that more money should be devoted to defense spending every year.

The WSJ goes inside with a look at how the spending request will highlight the administration’s attempts to ease rush-hour traffic by awarding millions in grants to cities and states. According to officials, these attempts will mainly focus on experimenting with a toll system that will charge people for traveling in and out of big cities during peak times.

The Post fronts word that the new U.S. commander in Iraq is putting together a group of advisers composed of military officers who have Ph.D.s. Although highly educated officers have frequently served as advisers, this group looks like it will be larger and more influential than in any other war effort.

The NYT fronts word that the Justice Department is finalizing a plan to collect the DNA of anyone arrested or detained by federal authorities. Officials say they want to make DNA collection as routine as taking fingerprints. This was USAT’s lead story on Jan. 19.

Everybody fronts the Super Bowl, where the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17. But how about the ads? The NYT sees hints of the war in Iraq in many of the ads that “celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous.” The LAT was simply unimpressed and says the spots showed how the advertising industry has run out of ideas. And what about all those amateur ads? “The best things that could be said about [them] was that you couldn’t tell them from the professional ones.” The WSJsays “this year’s Super Bowl ads overall didn’t live up to the hype surrounding them.” (Do they ever?) Among the “ad executives and consumers” the WSJ talked to, several Anheuser-Busch ads stood out, and they particularly liked the one where men slap each other. USAT’s panel also liked Budweiser’s spots, but they preferred the one with the  crabs.