Today's Papers

Senate M.D.

The New York Timesleads with a look at how a top agenda item for lawmakers this week will be to try to figure out what to do about the 10.6 percent cut in doctors’ Medicare fees that automatically went into effect earlier this month. The American Medical Association ran a series of advertisements targeting 10 Republican senators, most of whom are up for re-election, to pressure them to pass legislation that would prevent the cuts. The Washington Postleads with a look at how many pension funds are winning big returns on investments in oil and other commodities. This means that the funds that millions of Americans are counting on for retirement are doing well despite drops in the stock market. But the move into the commodity markets is hardly without controversy, as many people are accusing financial investors of artificially inflating prices. Others say pension funds shouldn’t be getting involved in such a risky and volatile market in the first place.

The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the doubts surrounding whether the Group of Eight will be able to agree on any of the big-ticket items on the agenda as world leaders arrived in Japan for the annual summit of major industrialized nations. USA Today leads with a general overview of how the continued gains in Iraq are leading many to believe that further troop withdrawals are almost inevitable. The last of the five brigades sent as part of the surge is scheduled to withdraw this month, leaving about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with a look at California’s financial woes. Although many states are suffering from financial shortfalls due to the decline in the economy, no one has it quite as bad as California. Analysts say California only has itself to blame as it has “the most dysfunctional” budget system in the country, and experts look to the state “as an example of how not to do things,” notes the LAT.

Despite a veto threat from President Bush, the House passed a bill to prevent the cut in doctors’ Medicare fees by a wide margin before the Fourth of July recess. But Senate Republicans—who, like Bush, oppose the bill because it would cut payments to some private insurers—blocked consideration of the measure. The issue affects more than just the millions of Medicare beneficiaries, because many health plans, including the government program that covers military personnel, use the Medicare fee schedules to set their payment rates. While there’s wrangling in Washington, the NYT notes that many doctors across the country have stopped taking on new Medicare patients because of the low fees.

The G-8 participants will probably come to an agreement on international food reserves to help poor countries deal with the soaring prices, but progress on other items on the agenda, including greenhouse-gas limits, appears unlikely. The WSJ notes the G-8 countries are under increasing pressure to revamp the group’s membership in order “to reflect new global realities” since the founding countries no longer have the clout they once did. But as more countries begin to participate in the meetings, it has also become harder for the group to reach agreements on fundamental issues.

The Post goes inside with word that the G-8 leaders are likely to agree on a plan this week to track whether countries fulfill their promises of assistance to African countries. Nonprofit groups have often accused the industrialized countries of making big, flashy promises of aid that get lots of publicity even when the money often doesn’t arrive. Everyone notes that one of the first things Bush did when he arrived in Japan yesterday was to defend his decision to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics. He said that skipping the ceremony would amount to an “affront to the Chinese people” and would make it “more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership.”

The WSJ fronts a look at how Sen. Barack Obama is having trouble courting “dozens” of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s top fundraisers, many of whom continue to be angry at what they see as the media’s sexist treatment of the former first lady. Although they don’t directly blame Obama for this treatment, they say that he, and other Democrats, should have done more to stop it. Some of these supporters are starting groups to pressure Obama on issues and to push him to give Clinton a starring role in the campaign. Although this could be discounted as yet another story about bitter Clinton supporters, the WSJ has some interesting data that should worry Obama’s campaign. While 115 people who had given at least $1,000 to Clinton donated to Obama in May, the same number of individuals who supported the former first lady also made their first big contributions to Sen. John McCain that month. Approximately two dozen big Clinton fundraisers will apparently be meeting with McCain’s campaign soon as part of the Republican’s efforts to benefit from their disenchantment.

For his part, McCain could also start facing some real challenges from within his own party. The Post fronts a look at how conservative activists are already gearing up for a fight over the Republican Party’s platform. Although the presumptive Republican nominee hasn’t made any statements about how he plans to change the party’s official declaration of principles, many are worried that McCain will want to include some of his views on issues such as global warming and campaign finance that aren’t popular with the party’s base. Many are trying to discount the idea that there will be a big platform fight at the convention, but some activists see it as unavoidable, particularly if McCain wants to get into more controversial issues such as immigration.

The WP highlights inside that after a few relatively quiet days, violence once again rocked Baghdad yesterday. One day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that “we defeated” the terrorists in Iraq, 16 people were killed in and around the capital. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates vowed to forgive at least $4 billion of Iraq’s debt. The move is seen as a significant step in the efforts of Iraq’s Shiite-led government to improve relations with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

Early-morning wire stories report that 40 people were killed in Afghanistan’s capital when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the Indian Embassy. It was the deadliest attack in Kabul this year. In other news out of Afghanistan, the NYT and LAT note that local officials said that a U.S. airstrike killed 27 civilians who were taking part in a wedding ceremony, including the bride. This marks the second time in three days that there’s been an uproar over an American airstrike. The Afghan president had already ordered an investigation into a helicopter strike on Friday that allegedly killed 22 civilians in the eastern part of the country.

The LAT fronts the horrifying story of a 21-year-old woman in Zimbabwe who is being held as a sex slave at a base of the ruling ZANU-PF party. “The election is over, but the terror isn’t,” notes the LAT, saying that women are being held as sex slaves in party bases across the country. The woman the LAT talks to has been at the base for 10 weeks and expected her captivity to end after the elections. Yet now there’s no sign that the party has plans to let her go—even though the number of militia members at the base has dropped.

The WP fronts the uplifting story of how most of the dogs that were part of football star Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation have been successfully rehabilitated (cute pictures included, of course). Of the 47 surviving dogs, 25 went to foster homes, while 22 were deemed potentially dangerous and sent to an animal sanctuary. This high rate of success has surprised even the animal behaviorists who set out to save a few of the dogs. Some are skeptical that fighting dogs can ever be fully rehabilitated, but others say this experience shows that even pit bulls need to be judged individually. “Every pit bull, even if it’s of fighting stock, is not an aggressive dogfighter,” an animal behaviorist said. “There are no simple answers.”