The Los Angeles Timesleads with Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader, calling for street protests during religious festivities that will take place over several days next week. It marked the first time that Mousavi has explicitly called on supporters to take to the streets since dozens were killed last month in a series of post-election protests. The potential for violence during a new round of protests is also great, particularly considering that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to be sworn in for a second term right around that time. The New York Timesleads with a look at how the wealthy landowners of the Swat Valley are refusing to return to their homes even as hundreds of thousands of others make their way back to the region, where the Pakistani military has been fighting Taliban militants.
The Wall Street Journalleads its world-wide newsbox with the diminishing prospects that Democratic leaders will get their wish of voting for a health care bill in the House this week before lawmakers go on break. House Democrats remain divided on key issues, including how to pay for the legislation. USA Todayleads with a new study that says medical spending on conditions related to obesity reached $147 billion in 2008, double what it was a decade ago. As a whole, obese patients spend around 42 percent more in medical bills than those at a normal weight. Treating obesity has become more expensive in large part because the percentage of adults who are obese has increased from 23 percent in 1994 to 34 percent in 2006. The Washington Postleads with a look at how government efforts to stop foreclosures aren’t having as much effect as expected because it can often be more profitable for lenders to let a home go into foreclosure. Lenders are reluctant to modify loans for those who are likely to fall behind again on payments and for those who are able to sacrifice and make the payments one way or another. Industry leaders are set to meet with administration officials today to discuss how to prevent more foreclosures.
The LAT says that Mousavi’s call for new protests shows how the former prime minister “is growing” into becoming the leader of a youth-based reform movement. And while the post-election dispute in Iran has mostly been out of the front pages lately, Mousavi’s provocative move also comes at a time when several Iranian leaders, including some conservatives, have publicly voiced their outrage over the security crackdown against protesters and the substandard conditions at the prisons where they are being held. Several conservative lawmakers decided to speak out after an outbreak of meningitis at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison apparently killed the son of a prominent scientist who was an aide to a conservative presidential candidate. Iran’s supreme leader has even gotten in on the act, closing a substandard prison facility, while the head of the judiciary said Tehran’s prosecutor has a week to decide the fate of those detained after the elections.
Before the military moved in, the Taliban got much of its support in the Swat Valley by stirring up a class struggle. Militants would effectively target landowners and then share profits with the landless peasants, who sometimes signed up to fight with the militants. Now that many are making their way back to Swat, even as the militants remain active, some think the Taliban will simply divide up the land and hand out pieces to the peasants, automatically creating a huge base of support. Most worryingly, this could potentially expand to Punjab, Pakistan’s most populated province, where militants are gaining power.
Democratic leaders tried to build up momentum for the health care legislation by focusing on insurance companies and their huge profits. But as the debate drags on, all eyes remain fixed on the Senate finance committee and the efforts of its chairman, Max Baucus, to write a bipartisan bill. The NYT writes that the “fate of the health care overhaul largely rests on the shoulders of six senators” who have been gathering in Baucus’ office, where they eat unhealthy snacks while discussing the nation’s health. The deal looks close, but it won’t include a government-run insurance plan and instead would expand health insurance coverage through a network of nonprofit cooperatives. The group of senators is also unlikely to support the idea of a surtax on wealthy Americans to pay for the bill or the requirement that employers offer coverage to their workers.
The WP off-leads a profile of Republican Sen. Jim DeMint from South Carolina, who has fashioned himself as a leader in the fight against overhauling the health care industry. He famously said Republicans could turn health care into Obama’s “Waterloo,” which was seized by Democrats as an example of how Republicans are trying to kill reform. GOP leaders have tried to distance themselves from DeMint, saying they’re not opposed to reform as a whole, just to the Democratic proposals. But DeMint is unapologetic and has seen his popularity grow in conservative circles.
The LAT takes a look at the upcoming “beer summit” that will take place Thursday now that both Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., Police Department and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. accepted Obama’s offer to discuss the professor’s arrest over a beer at the White House. Administration officials are understandably trying to play down the meeting that “has given new definition to diplomatic mission.” Black leaders have made it clear they won’t be happy if this just turns into a photo-op and Obama doesn’t seize the opportunity to take on the larger issue of racial profiling.
Meanwhile, the 911 call that led to Crowley arriving at Gates’ home was released yesterday and raised new questions. The caller didn’t identify either man that entered the home as black, and even suggested they might have just been having “a hard time with their key.” The caller stayed there until Crowley arrived. Later, Crowley wrote that the caller had told him she saw “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks,” but the caller’s lawyer denies she ever mentioned race.
The WSJ fronts word that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be releasing a report next month suggesting that speculators are partly to blame for the roller-coaster oil prices. This would mark a reversal for the main U.S. futures-market regulator that issued a report last year that said the price swings were mainly the result of supply and demand. One CFTC commissioner says that report was based on “deeply flawed data.” The paper says this new analysis “reflects shifting political winds” now that Obama has appointed a new chairman who seems determined to shift the commission away from the “hands-off approach” of the Bush years.
The WSJ’s Dennis Berman has a little gem of a story that could very well be called Desperate Housewives: Wall Street about an Ernst & Young partner who was convicted on six counts of securities fraud earlier this year and how he was convicted with the help of testimony from a lover. James Gansman met a Phildaelphia woman, Donna Murdoch, on a Web site for people who want to have extramarital affairs. Gansman and Murdoch began an intense love affair that involved luxury hotels and more than 7,000 phone calls over two years. Gansman worked on huge deals and would often brag about the ones that appeared in the news but gradually got bolder and began leading Murdoch in a guessing game that can only really be described as financier pillow talk. “The game was that I wouldn’t be looking and he would give me hints: The market cap of two billion or market cap of 400 billion, and here’s what they do, and he’d read it to me, and ultimately make sure I guessed,” Murdoch testified. Faced with a lot of debt, Murdoch began to use this information with the help of another man she met on the same affair-seeking Web site. Of course, neither of the men knew about the other. “This is how life really happens,” writes Berman, “and how it gradually, almost unexpectedly, can veer out of control.”