Today's Papers

System Fix

The Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Todaylead with the release of the presidential commission report that pushes for major changes in order to improve health care for wounded veterans. The President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, chaired by Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole, made 35 recommendations and emphasized that only six of them would require approval from Congress, so it’s up to the administration to take action. Among the recommendations, the commission called for an improvement in the way post-traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries are treated, the appointment of “recovery coordinators” to help wounded veterans get the care they need, and a restructuring of the veterans’ disability system.

The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox, and the NYT fronts, the scene that played out in Baghdad yesterday that dramatically illustrated how good news in Iraq is often short-lived. After the national soccer team won the semifinal in the Asian Cup, thousands of Iraqis went into the streets to celebrate. But the crowds in Baghdad got a cruel dose of reality when two suicide car bombs ripped through the celebrations and killed at least 50 people. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that California health-care regulators will issue a $3 million fine against Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the state, for failing to fully investigate how patients were treated in their facilities. It is the second time in a year that Kaiser has been “fined for glaring breakdowns in oversight,” says the LAT.

The president appointed the Dole-Shalala commission after a series of stories in the WP revealed the poor conditions that some veterans had to contend with at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In their final report, the commission recommended “fundamental changes” to a flawed system, although it avoided criticizing the administration and instead focused on how to make it more efficient for the patients. Putting the proposals into practice would initially cost about $500 million annually. Yesterday, the Senate passed related legislation that, among other things, aims to improve care for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Post notes that White House press secretary Tony Snow first said the president wouldn’t immediately act on the commission’s report. But after some criticism, Bush came out yesterday afternoon to say that his administration will quickly move to implement the recommendations.

Although bombs targeted the celebrating crowds in Baghdad, there were celebrations all over the country, and most of the papers mention the brief sense of unity that the victory created. “The Iraqi players with this win have done what the Iraqi politicians have failed to do all these years for national unity,” a television anchor said.

The Post doesn’t lead its Iraq roundup with the soccer celebrations, and instead focuses on how the country’s main Sunni political bloc threatened to quit the Cabinet if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fails to meet a list of demands. The WSJ bluntly describes it as “a bid to dislodge Maliki,” and everyone notes the threat is yet another setback for the Bush administration, which is in countdown mode until the much-awaited September report.

The LAT off-leads news that the Taliban killed one of the 23 South Koreans it is holding hostage in Afghanistan. The Taliban said it will not hesitate to kill other hostages if the Afghan government doesn’t meet its demands to free eight prisoners.

The NYT goes inside with a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that says Bechtel National, one of the largest contractors in Iraq, failed to meet its objectives in more than half the projects that were part of a $1.8 billion contract. But instead of pointing the finger directly at Bechtel, the report says that much of the blame lies with the U.S. Agency for International Development, which failed to properly oversee the contract. This is the first of what promises to be several examinations into the work of contractors in Iraq.

The WP fronts an easy-to-understand look at how “the era of cheap money appears to be ending” in the United States, which could have huge repercussions in all aspects of the economy. The problem goes far beyond mortgages, as companies are beginning to see that lenders aren’t as willing to finance many of their operations. “The question now is how far will the pain spread, and how many people will get hurt as it does,” says the Post. Some contend it all amounts to a blip that will soon blow over, while others foresee a recession before the end of the year.

All the papers note that the House judiciary committee voted along party lines to issue criminal-contempt citations to White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, and the former White House counsel Harriet Miers. The entire House now has to decide whether to proceed, but nothing is likely to happen before lawmakers go on summer break at the end of next week.

The NYT fronts a look at how the Iraq war will be portrayed in a dizzying number of Hollywood movies in the coming months. Although filmmakers used to wait until a war died down before making it a central theme, several of these movies will be released right in the middle of the debate over Iraq and at a key point in the presidential campaign. “Media in general responds much more quickly than ever before,” a producer tells the paper. “Why shouldn’t movies do the same?”

Bad influence … Everyone fronts a new study that shows how a person’s social networks play an important role in determining whether he or she will become obese. As the LAT puts it, the findings suggest “obesity can spread among a group of friends like a contagious disease.” And the same is true for those who lose weight. Although family members have an effect, nothing compares to the influence of close friends. It all comes down to perception, the study’s leader said. “What spreads is an idea. As people around you gain weight, your attitudes about what constitutes an acceptable body size changes.”