The New York Timesleads with, and the Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal news story to, a new report that gives poor marks to the Iraqi National Police. According to the report, which has nicer things to say about the Iraqi army, the national police is a cesspool of corruption that has been infiltrated by Shiite militias and suggests it should be disbanded so officials can simply start over. USA Todayleads, and the NYT off-leads, news that President Bush will announce several measures to help homeowners with subprime mortgages avoid foreclosure. Among them, the administration will increase limits so that an estimated 80,000 more people can refinance their loans with insurance from the Federal Housing Administration.
The Washington Postand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with the Justice Department’s inspector general disclosing he’s currently investigating whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave “intentionally false, misleading or inappropriate” statements to Congress while under oath. The internal watchdog has also sent questionnaires to applicants as part of its investigation on whether political affiliations were improperly considered during the hiring process at the Justice Department.
The report on the Iraqi security forces, which will be presented to lawmakers next week, is the work of an independent commission headed by retired Marine Gen. James Jones. The Jones report suggests the 26,000-member force should be recreated as a smaller organization. As the LAT helpfully notes, the report doesn’t recommend such drastic action with the much larger local and provincial police. The fact that there are problems with the national police is nothing new, but yesterday the Pentagon vehemently rejected the report’s suggestion that the force should be disbanded. Military officials prefer to try retraining, even though these types of efforts have failed in the past. The NYT deftly points out that disbanding the force would be a risky move, especially when considering the uproar after the Iraqi army was dissolved in the early days of the occupation.
Democrats have been attacking the White House for not acting on the mortgage woes, and today’s announcement marks a change for a president who seemed reluctant to get involved. While Bush also wants to increase the size of the loans that could receive FHA protection, officials emphasized that only those who were making their payments on time before their rates increased would be eligible. Consumer groups praised the move while others were quick to characterize it as a bailout.
Besides speaking up against the suggestions of the Jones report, the Pentagon was also busy disputing certain assertions made by the Government Accountability Office in its assessment of progress in Iraq. The Pentagon is requesting the GAO give passing marks to a few more benchmarks, is specifically challenging the claims that sectarian violence has not decreased, and says the Iraqi government did successfully deliver the promised army units to Baghdad.
In other Iraq-related news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears to be using the Post’s front page to tell his Republican colleagues he is ready to compromise on ways to begin withdrawing troops. Reid says he recognizes the focus on a deadline turned off many Republicans and that he is now willing to consider other approaches. He appears to particularly like the proposal that would require soldiers be given as much time off as their most recent deployment.
The Pentagon wasn’t alone in asking for revisions on something that was in yesterday’s papers. Pakistani government officials said President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has not made a decision on whether he will step down as army chief before the elections. On Wednesday, exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said that the decision had already been made and there appeared to be confirmation from some Pakistani officials. But there was some backtracking yesterday as officials implied that Bhutto was trying to pressure Musharraf.
The Post reports Taliban fighters took more than 100 Pakistani troops hostage in the South Waziristan area. Meanwhile, everyone notes that in Afghanistan, the Taliban finished releasing the remaining South Korean hostages.
As Democrats rush to get rid of money they received from Norman Hsu, the NYT and LAT front more information on the man who had recently become a fund-raising powerhouse. But it’s still far from clear how Hsu had so much money to dole out. The LAT notes that in 1990 Hsu was apparently kidnapped by Chinese gang members to whom he owed money, which could be related to claims from investors that he stole their savings in elaborate schemes. Both the LAT and NYT continually came to dead ends when they tried to visit the supposed addresses of the companies Hsu listed in campaign-finance records.
The Post fronts a look at how the Health and Human Services Department scrapped blunt ads meant to encourage breast-feeding after the infant formula industry complained. Congress is currently looking into whether officials at HHS consistently tried to tone down efforts aimed at increasing the breast-feeding rate.
All the papers note the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has improved its cooperation with inspectors, which is likely to complicate U.S. efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran. Although Iran continues to expand its uranium enrichment activities, it is operating far below capacity.
In the least surprising news of the week (year?), everyone notes Fred Thompson officially confirmed he’s running for president. He will make a formal announcement next Thursday.
More Apple stories coming your way … The LAT talks to sources who say Apple will be releasing a new and improved iPod that will have a touch-screen display. Apple recently sent out invitations to an event on Sept. 5 but, as is the custom, didn’t say what it was all about.
What on earth is David Brooks talking about? “We all … have two summer selves,” writes Brooks. “Our greater summer self is the mountain self, which is spiritually and physically robust. … Our lesser self is our beach self, which is a banal bimbo-ized version of the person we think we are.” Maybe he’s gotten too much sun?