Today's Papers

Falling Down

The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsboxlead with the collapse of an eight-lane bridge in Minneapolis during rush hour, which sent dozens of vehicles crashing down into the Mississippi River. The LAT has the latest information and reports that at least nine people were killed, but officials expect that number to increase. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that at least 20 people are still missing. Everyone fronts amazing pictures of the unbelievable scene.

The Washington Postleads with the House passing an expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program with a 225-204 vote that was mostly along party lines. The bill, which Bush has vowed to veto, would expand insurance coverage to about 5 million more children at a cost of $47 billion. The New York Timesleads with a new report by the Government Accountability Office that says the Education Department doesn’t have a system in place to oversee the student loan industry. The report says the department is slow to react to problems, offers little guidance to schools on what is allowed, and has sought sanctions against lenders only twice in the past 20 years.

“This is a catastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. But it could have been much worse. A school bus with as many as 60 children was on the bridge when it collapsed, but, like many other vehicles, it didn’t actually fall into the water, and everyone was rescued. No one knows why the 40-year-old bridge collapsed, as recent inspections found no structural deficiencies. Officials were quick to point out there were no indications that terrorism was involved.

The health-care bill would also prevent cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and increase the federal tobacco tax by 45 cents a pack to fund the measure. Republicans decried the bill as an expansion of a system that could be operated more efficiently by the private sector. “Republicans fear, and Democrats hope, the bill will set a precedent for efforts to cover more of the 45 million Americans lacking health insurance,” notes the NYT.

Buteveryone notes the bitter debate on the issue shows the differences between the two parties over what the role of government should be in covering the uninsured and illustrates just how difficult it would be to pass any kind of national health-care reform. The Senate is expected to pass a more modest version of the bill this week.

The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, news that Iraq’s main Sunni political bloc withdrew from the government yesterday, dealing a huge blow to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Any remaining chance of political progress before the September report is even more unlikely now since any agreements reached without the Iraqi Consensus Front “would be virtually meaningless,” says the NYT. Six of the bloc’s Cabinet members (the WP says five) resigned, but the group announced that its 44 parliament members would remain.

The withdrawal came on a particularly violent day in Baghdad, where a string of bombings killed at least 75 people. And, according to the LAT, the U.S. military announced the deaths of six soldiers. The bad news today contrasts with reports that July had the lowest monthly casualty rate for the U.S. military since November. In a Page One analysis, the NYT says this illustrates how “the war has produced both victories and defeats, and most have been short-lived.” Of course which news you emphasize depends on what your opinion is on the war, but it goes to show how difficult, and some would argue overly simplistic, it is to try to measure progress in Iraq with a series of benchmarks.

The NYT fronts a look at how the almost 20-year friendship between Rudolph Giuliani and Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, has raised questions about whether the channel will cover all the Republican presidential candidates fairly. Giuliani has been on Fox News more than any other candidate but those running the channel say this is becaues of his popularity. The NYT points out Ailes frequently criticized CNN during the Clinton years because its president was friends with President Clinton.

The WP fronts a look at the bonuses that FDA officials have been paid over the last few years as part of a program designed to prevent officials from jumping to the private sector. The cash bonuses have quadrupled since 2002 and lawmakers are complaining that some of these bonuses are going to the highest-paid officials. Although it seems to make sense that those making the most money would also receive the largest bonuses, it is strange that they were awarded at a time when the FDA was under intense criticism. The paper also seems to suggest that many of those who received the largest bonuses have been in government for years and therefore aren’t really at risk of moving to the private sector. But, then again, wouldn’t their extensive public service make them even more attractive to the private sector?

The WP and WSJ front officials from Chiquita International Brands saying the Justice Department failed to make it clear the company shouldn’t make payments to a Colombian paramilitary group, even though company officials were perfectly aware that they were a violation of anti-terrorism laws. The LAT had the story a few weeks ago but focused on whether government officials were more lenient toward important companies who paid money to Colombian terrorist groups rather than al-Qaida. Today the papers reveal that a Chiquita board member admitted the payments to Michael Chertoff, who was the assistant attorney general and is now the secretary of homeland security. Chertoff allegedly said the situation was “complicated” and urged the board member to wait for more feedback that never arrived. The WSJ focuses on concerns that if companies that admit wrongdoing aren’t treated any less harshly it could lead to fewer confessions.

The WP reports that the “iPod will make its live concert debut with the National Symphony Orchestra tonight.” Before going to the concert, people can download an MP3 file, which will allow them to hear commentary from the conductor during the performance. * TP wonders why it seems that so many journalists insist on using iPod as shorthand for MP3 player. Of course, Apple’s player is the most popular, but it’s hardly the only one.

Correction, Aug. 2, 2007: This article originally referred to the symphony performance as an opera. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)