The Washington Post leads with Mayor Ray Nagin's barnstorm across Louisiana to urge the displaced to come back to New Orleans. The New York Times' lead reports that in the past two weeks, most Katrina refugees have been moved to hotel rooms paid for by FEMA. The Los Angeles Times leads with the discovery that three-quarters of the parishes in the L.A. archdiocese at one time employed priests accused of molestation. The Times' study of 560 lawsuits notes that, although actual molestation has been claimed at a third of the parishes, the priest's routine transfer (every 4.5 years, on average) brought them into contact with many more parishioners than previously believed.
Nagin tried to lure those in shelters back to the city with promises of high-wage restaurant work created by the labor shortage. ("I'm not talking about minimum wage jobs. Minimum wage is out in New Orleans.") He offered to provide transportation, but housing may be a bigger obstacle: The NYT notes that FEMA has placed only 11,000 refugees in permanent trailer homes or apartments. 22,000 remain in shelters, while the remaining 600,000 are in hotel rooms, at an average cost to the taxpayers of $59 per room per night. FEMA has been doling out apartment money to families, but many are using the money for everyday expenses and remaining in FEMA-subsidized buildings. USA Today lists the ways that the Bush administration has cut red tape for relief authorities.
The NYT runs two additional New Orleans stories inside: an upbeat piece about spontaneous communities springing up in hotels with refugees, and a downer about Lower Ninth Ward residents surveying the wreckage of their homes.
The WP and LAT report Pentagon plans for a force of troops dedicated to large-scale disaster relief. The LAT emphasizes that the troops would only be called up for once-or-twice-a-generation catastrophes—on the scale of Katrina, or a pandemic.
The NYT reports that an over-the-counter, at-home HIV test may become a reality. A company initially sought approval for such a device in 1987, but regulators stopped the application, fearing that at-home tests could lead to panic or even suicide. (Test kits are now sold only to clinics.) An application is about to be submitted again, partly because opinion among regulators has changed: HIV is no longer a death sentence, and hundreds of thousands who avoid regular checkups are infected but don't realize it.
The NYT and WP report that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled stop in Kabul yesterday. She emphasized electoral progress at a press conference with President Hamid Karzai, who warned that if the opium trade is not brought under control, "we will fail as a state and eventually will fall back into the hands of terrorism." Six aid workers and six Afghan police were killed in the 12 hours or so before Rice's arrival. The Post mentions that foreign reporters traveling with Rice were forced to wear bulletproof vests, "unlike on previous trips to the country."
The WP and NYT run confidentially sourced stories asserting that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been served with a subpoena by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Post, which fronts its story, says he will testify about his recent sale of hospital stock.
The LAT reports inside that a suicide bomber killed 30 in the northern Iraq city of Tal Afar, one day after a previous attack. In the last two weeks, 275 Iraqis have been killed, which the paper calls an escalation of violence in advance of Saturday's constitutional referendum. The NYT fronts a piece on U.S. soldiers in Ramadi barricading polling places (the location of which will remain secret until immediately before the referendum).
USA Today interviews Saddam Hussein's lawyer, who says that Hussein is allowed to vote in the referendum but probably won't, because he doesn't recognize the legitimacy of the new regime.
A wire piece inside the LAT says that the Italian government has awarded a $4.65 billion contract to connect its mainland with Sicily. The suspension bridge will be the longest in the world—2.1 miles, or three times the length of the Golden Gate.
The NYT offers up the latest installment of its ongoing series on the experience of being a medical patient. Today's piece, on the frustrating unintelligibility of most insurance paperwork, consists largely of bureaucratic horror stories that will be familiar to most readers. One expert, however, offers up a useful analogy to today's medical billing system:
"Suppose you walk into a restaurant," he said, "and you don't get a menu, you don't get any choice of what food you'll eat, they don't tell you what it is when they're serving it to you, they don't tell you what it's going to cost. … Although you [eventually] get the bill, you still can't figure out what you really owe."