The Los Angeles Timesand the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with the recent bomb attacks in northern Iraq and Baghdad that have killed at least 112 people since Friday and have once again raised fears that insurgents want to rekindle the sectarian conflict that once swept the country. The latest attacks amount to the most serious surge in violence since Iraqi security forces officially took over security in urban areas on June 30. An Iraqi police spokesman said the attacks had “al-Qaida in Iraq’s fingerprints all over them.” USA Todayleads with a look at how the continuing economic woes could quadruple the size of last year’s federal budget deficit. The White House and the Congressional Budget Office are getting ready to release new deficit estimates that some predict could be worse than forecast and are likely to raise new questions about the cost of health-care reform.
The Washington Postleads with President Obama vowing to pursue comprehensive immigration reform while also cautioning that no one should expect legislation before 2010. At the end of a two-day summit with his counterparts from Mexico and Canada, Obama said any effort at reform must include “strong border security” as well as “a pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants who are already in the United States. The New York Timesleads with a look at how Mexico’s prison system is a cesspool of corruption, where drug traffickers continue to operate their businesses and train new recruits while often planning their escape with the help of bribed guards. In fact, the top drug bosses often end up running things in prison and guards can essentially become their employees. The United States is devoting $4 million to try to fix the system, but in the meantime the Mexican government is extraditing a record number of drug traffickers to the United States.
The NYT also fronts the attacks in Iraq, and highlights how the most devastating attack basically flattened a village that is about 10 miles east of Mosul. The WSJ specifies that the two dump trucks that exploded contained 6,600 pounds of high-grade explosives. There was also a string of bombings in Baghdad, but the LAT points out that the “violence in and around the northern city of Mosul is the biggest concern” because it’s a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq as well as of Baathist insurgents who have an interest in firing up tensions to spark a civil war. Indeed, the attack yesterday, just like a similar one on Friday, appeared to be an attempt to heighten the conflict between Kurds and Arabs over a piece of territory. Everyone expects violence to continue increasing in advance of January’s elections as insurgents try to undermine confidence in the Iraqi government.
Obama acknowledged that passing comprehensive immigration reform would be anything but easy, yet he predicted he would be successful, despite the almost-certain objection from “demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form or pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable.” Still, he said Congress wouldn’t pick up the issue until after it gets done with legislation on health care, energy, and financial regulation. “That’s a pretty big stack of bills,” Obama said.
The LAT and NYT front a look at how the White House unveiled a new Web site yesterday to rebut what the administration decries as “misinformation” from opponents of health care reform. As President Obama prepares to hold three town-hall meetings this week, the administration is more forcefully fighting against rising public anxiety about the plan. The NYT points out that the Web site is a tacit acknowledgement that the White House is “suddenly at risk of losing control of the public debate over a signature issue” and must now play defense. While Democrats insist they were expecting opposition to their efforts, the growing intensity has caught them off guard. By taking on the Republican claims about the health care plans head-on through the White House Web site and advertisements, the administration is going against the conventional wisdom that repeating rumors, even if it’s to dismiss them, ends up reinforcing them. But it’s a tactic that Obama employed during the campaign through a “fight the smears” section on his Web site. House Minority Leader John Boehner was quick to say the new White House Web site is filled with “errors, misstatements, and falsehoods.”
The WSJ goes inside with word that a new effort is under way to enlist Afghan tribal fighters in the war against the Taliban. Initially, thousands will be hired from 18 provinces to provide security for the Aug. 20 elections. If all goes as planned, the tribesmen could then get more permanent jobs protecting villages and neighborhoods. “We are trying to recreate the Awakening of Iraq here in Afghanistan,” said the director of the initiative. Their role is seen as particularly important in areas where there are no Afghan security forces. This isn’t the first time officials have tried to get local fighters to join up against the Taliban, but there are hopes the new effort will be more successful as it’s part of the broad plan to improve relations with tribes across the country.
In yet another horrifying dispatch from Congo, the WP’s Stephanie McCrummen writes about how the U.S.-backed Congolese military operation that was supposed to save citizens from rebels has worsened what was an “already staggering epidemic of rape.” Women lock themselves inside before sundown and walk only in groups to avoid getting raped by soldiers who earn a pittance and often don’t even receive enough food to survive. Recently, every three soldiers got a single can of sardines that was supposed to last them for 15 days. “If I see a woman walking on the road, and I love her, I will take her. I will help myself,” said one lieutenant who is in charge of teaching his soldiers about human rights. “Now,” he continued, “buy me a beer so I don’t have to rob you.”
Early-morning wire reports report that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Congo today and spoke up against the proliferation of sexual violence. “The entire society needs to be speaking out against this,” she said. “It should be a mark of shame anywhere, in any country. I hope that that will become a real cause here … that will sweep across the country.”
The WSJ reports that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor may have retired from the Supreme Court in 2006, but she’s “still out there judging.” The 79-year-old jurist has been quietly visiting federal appellate courts across the country, sitting in for vacationing judges or in panels where there are vacancies. “It’s nice to keep your hand in a bit,” she said even as she admitted that most of the cases aren’t “particularly demanding, intellectually.” O’Connor has heard almost 80 cases and written more than a dozen opinions. “I now have occasion to have to apply some of those [Supreme Court] holdings with which I didn’t agree when they were made, but of course now they’re binding,” she said.
Tiger sharks aren’t exactly known as picky eaters. In the wild, they eat everything from smaller sharks to copper wire. But the new 5-foot-long tiger shark at the Aquarim of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. is anything but typical, reports the LAT. The shark has caused innumerable headaches to the aquarium staff as her finicky taste buds sometimes lead her to reject restaurant-grade ahi tuna, mahi-mahi, and halibut, to name three of the 30 potential food choices that could be offered to the high-maintenance shark. “Some days she won’t eat,” said the man who is in charge of keeping the shark happy. “Other days she goes on benders, feasting only on one type of food. Her tastes change from one day to the next. The tricky part is figuring out what thing triggers her hunger on a given day.”