Today's Papers

Blame Maliki

The Washington Postand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with the growing number of influential voices that are calling for a change of leadership in Iraq. The WP focuses on Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the armed services committee, who said Maliki and his Cabinet should be ousted from power for his failure to reach the necessary political compromises. The WSJ mentions the Washington angle but focuses on how an increasing number of senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq also believe that progress will be achieved only if Maliki leaves office. The New York Timesleads with the Bush administration adopting new rules that will make it more difficult for states to expand the number of children eligible to be covered under a government health insurance program.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how Congress is planning to spend as much as $6.7 billion next year on projects to fight global warming, which amounts to an increase of about 30 percent. Lawmakers are eager to demonstrate they’re doing something about climate change, but they’re bound to meet resistance from the White House. Some are concerned companies and lobbyists have caught on to the popularity of environmental issues and contend that “green earmarks” often amount to little more than “green pork.” USA Todayleads with, and everyone else fronts, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick announcing that he will plead guilty to federal dogfighting charges, which means he’ll probably have to serve at least a year in prison. The move came after three co-defendants agreed to cooperate and described Vick as an integral member of the operation, who not only gave money but also participated in the killing of underperforming dogs. It’s still not clear whether Vick will ever be able to play again, as the NFL has yet to announce whether it will impose any disciplinary sanctions.

After returning from a trip to Iraq, Levin and the second-ranking Republican on the armed services committee, Sen. John Warner, issued a joint statement questioning whether the Iraqi government would ever be able to “shed sectarian biases and act in a unifying manner.” Levin was then more direct and said he hopes “the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office.” The WSJ reports that Army Chief of Staff George Casey met with U.S. commanders in Iraq last week and says he was surprised by all the anti-Maliki talk he heard. There’s “a fear that the momentum generated by the surge could just be frittered away,” Casey said. Despite these increasing voices for change, the WSJ notes it’s not clear whether whoever replaces Maliki “would be able to do much better.”

The WP folds into its Levin story a look at how a number of lawmakers are using the August recess to go to Iraq and assess the  situation on the ground. Some Democrats are coming back from their trip a little less determined to call for troops to be withdrawn by a specific date. The Post notes Republicans are watching out for these types of claims and, although some have “been clearly taken out of context,” it’s clear “some Democrats have shifted their views.” This raises the possibility that Democrats could be more flexible in their withdrawal demands if there’s a change of government in Iraq.

In a letter sent on Friday evening, states were told they would have to meet strict standards in order to expand enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Plan to families with incomes greater than 250 percent of the poverty level ($51,625 for a family of four). Under the new rules, which the rest of the papers mention inside, before expanding eligibility a state would have to prove it already covers 95 percent of children whose families make less than 200 percent of the poverty level, a participation rate no state has been able to meet. In addition, a higher-income child would have to be uninsured for a year before being eligible for coverage.

This is part of a larger fight in which President Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would expand the program, and the new restrictions naturally raised the ire of Democrats and state officials. The administration says it’s concerned families will drop private health plans and, probably more important, that it symbolizes a great expansion of the government’s role in providing care.

The LAT and USAT front above-the-fold pictures of Hurricane Dean, which officially became a Category 5 storm yesterday, and hit Mexico’s coast early this morning after ripping through the Cayman Islands. “It’s as bad as it gets,” a meteorologist tells the Post. There are 407 offshore oil wells in Dean’s path and USAT notes that damages could cause delays in shipments and increased gasoline prices.

The NYT fronts a look at how the aggressive strategy pursued by Merck in fighting lawsuits over damages caused by the once-popular drug Vioxx is paying off. None of the 45,000 people who have sued the company has received any money. Merck has spent more than $1 billion in legal fees to fight every single case and has won most of the ones that reached juries. Investors seem happy with the strategy and the company, which was once thought to be destined for oblivion, has seen its stock increase.

The LAT notes on Page One that four state legislatures are working on measures to make it easier for employees to sue their bosses “for being, basically, jerks.” It’s unclear whether the measures will ever pass, but they illustrate a growing concern over abusive bosses and how they can create a toxic work environment.

The ban on trans fats has reached “perhaps the most unlikely locale yet: the nation’s classic summer fair,” reports the NYT. So far, at least two fairs have caught on to the craze and tout that their classic fried goodies aren’t as bad for you this year. And, yes, that includes the deep-fried Oreos.