The New York Times leads with a twist on the old "income gap" story: In the wake of the Bush tax cuts, not only are the rich getting richer, but the very richest Americans are leaving the somewhat rich in the dust. Dubbed "the hyper-rich" by the NYT, taxpayers making more than $1.6 million a year are not only seeing their incomes rise faster over time than those making $100,000 to $500,000, they're paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes. The Washington Post leads with the growing doubts of voters and lawmakers regarding the White House's optimistic depiction of the Iraqi insurgency. After a congressional delegation visited Iraq last month, law makers on both sides of the aisle, along with the obligatory anonymous "government officials and independent analysts," voiced concerns the Bush administration's hopeful rhetoric doesn't reflect the 80 U.S. soldiers killed in the last month. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, leads with a piece examining how President Bush's second-term foreign policy has been shaped by a "practical idealism," aimed at spreading democracy across the globe. The LAT concludes that this pursuit of democracy has been inconsistent at best, however, as recent uprisings in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have met with little U.S. support, possibly due to the strategic importance of military bases in both countries.
The NYT fronts (while the LAT and the WP stuff) that U.S. troops in Iraq found an underground network of bunkers hidden in a quarry in the Anbar province. The bunkers contained weapons caches, functional computers, and living quarters and are believed to have been used as a base by the Iraqi insurgency, though it's unclear how recently. The NYT says the bunker system measured "558 feet by 902 feet, nearly equal to a quarter of the Empire State Building's office space." All of the papers note that it is one of the largest such bases to be discovered in the last year.
The LAT off-leads with a story on a potential collaboration between Medicare and the FDA that could help spot harmful side effects of prescription drugs sooner. Beginning in January when the new prescription drug benefit plan kicks in, the FDA could cross reference the billing data from prescriptions with the healthcare information Medicare already collects to search for patterns that could be indicative of serious side effects. The logic is that with a larger data sample from people with a variety of conditions, side effects that don't emerge in clinical trials will become apparent more quickly. Despite the low cost of the proposal ("well under $10 million a year") the LAT notes that the FDA has so far been reticent regarding the proposal.
The NYT scoops the competition, fronting a piece on a confidential report by the Department of Homeland Security, stating that current airport security measures are too time-consuming for passengers and still don't do enough to prevent security breaches. The report contains a number of relatively simple and low-tech suggestions for automating parts of the screening process, like having a conveyor belt return screening bins for the X-ray machine to the front of the line. This would free up an employee to screen luggage for trace amounts of explosives using a device that airports checkpoints are already equipped with but infrequently use.
The WP fronts a story on the greater precautions judges across the country are taking after a string of courtroom attacks by disgruntled defendants in the past year. Congress recently approved $12 million for installing alarms systems in the homes of federal judges and many courthouses are installing metal detectors, while some judges are even thinking about getting concealed-weapon permits. The WP notes that while courthouses are taking steps to become more secure, the cases which breed such hatred against the judges who preside over them, most often arising from Family Court disputes, remain as virulent as ever.
The LAT fronts a story on the "09 Limas" a group of Arabic speaking "combat linguists" serving as interpreters for the U.S. Army in Iraq. The 09 Limas are not only hated by Iraqis, who see them as traitors, but face insensitivity and mistrust from U.S. soldiers, who are often convinced their interpreters are terrorists or spies. These interpreters are often targeted specifically by insurgents, to the extent that "many recruits don't tell their parents they've gone to Iraq or even that they've enlisted. Most would worry too much."
Good as Gould … The NYT reports that concert goers may someday be able to attend "live" performances by their favorite dead pianists thanks to the work Dr. John Q. Walker. Walker has developed software that converts decades-old recordings of past masters into a format readable by a high-tech player piano called a "Disklavier" which reproduces the performance, right down to the occasional flubbed chord. The NYT remains skeptical of the device's ability to replicate artistic expression, however, noting that even some of the technology's proponents recognize that it may never recreate every variable of a human performance.