Reflecting on three years in Iraq.

Reflecting on three years in Iraq.

Reflecting on three years in Iraq.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 19 2006 4:46 AM

Unhappy Anniversary

The New York Times leads with news that two private pension-reform bills under consideration in the House and Senate will drastically reduce the amount of money corporations are required to contribute to their pension plans. The Los Angeles Times leads a piece on the growing number of Republican leaders and former White House officials criticizing President Bush's unfocused domestic policies. Citing his low approval ratings and growing internecine strife, the story suggests that Bush is well on his way to lame-duck status.

The Washington Post leads a story on the ways that Washington lobbyists plan to skirt the lobbying-reform laws expected to be passed in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Their nefarious plans include contributing to campaigns and using the Internet to foment grass-roots activism. Plus, you know, the usual bags of money with dollar signs on them.

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Three years into the Iraq war, everyone is pausing to assess the extent of the damage done. A front-page LAT analysis cites recent muted comments by the administration as evidence of "a creeping redefinition of U.S. goals that increasingly allows for the possibility that the nation may remain unstable for years to come." Inside, a generous editorial gives Bush credit for the idealism behind his initial goals while regretting the pathetic prosecution of the same.

The WP commemorates the three-year anniversary by fronting a soft feature on veterans remembering their experiences in Iraq. The Sunday Outlook section gets a little more academic, with Donald Rumsfeld and George Will both writing op-eds on the war's ongoing legacy. Their respective headlines say it all: Rumsfeld's is titled "What We've Gained in 3 Years in Iraq," and Will's is called "Bleakness in Baghdad."

The NYT leaves the stock-taking to its opinion staff. A harsh editorial takes Bush to task for living in a "dream world," saying that, "Unlike the horrors of Saddam Hussein, the horrors of the present can be laid at America's doorstep." An op-ed from a former military bigwig calls for Rumsfeld's resignation as secretary of defense.

The government's pension oversight agency is saying that legislation currently under consideration in Congress will significantly weaken the private pension system. Although the legislation began as an effort to fix the current decades-old policy, lobbyists and other corporate interests have done their best to emasculate the bills by urging lawmakers to insert clauses that allow corporations, among other things, to defer payments. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, thinks he's got the real solution: better investment advice for retirees.

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The NYT off-leads a huge feature on systematic military prison abuse by a Special Ops unit called Task Force 6-26. From Camp Nama, their base at Baghdad's airport, the elite soldiers regularly abused and degraded Iraqi detainees in attempts to elicit information as to the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Whether shooting prisoners with paintball guns or punching them repeatedly in their spines, the soldiers of Task Force 6-26 adhered to an unofficial motto: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it."

Civil unrest in France raged on as more citizens took to the streets to protest a law that proposes to eliminate job security for young workers, as everybody notes. An estimated 500,000 citizens nationwide marched in solidarity with France's disaffected youth, waving signs and banners and destroying a Parisian McDonald's for good measure. The protests are problematic for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who will have to weigh his commitment to the legislation against his presidential ambitions.

The Post fronts a piece on how the State Department is obstructing some former Iranian hostages' efforts to get reparations from the Iranian government. The State Department claims that the hostages' lawsuits violate the terms of the Algiers Accords, the agreement that freed the hostages in 1981; one very angry former hostage points out that "This administration has not been shy about breaking international agreements." Well, touché.

Everyone mentions that more than 50,000 people gathered in Belgrade to remember Slobodan Milosevic on the day of his burial. Although anti-Milosevic protesters were in evidence, the majority of the crowd vocally mourned the man known as the Butcher of Belgrade. Some fear the crowds presage a revival of Milosevic's brand of belligerent nationalism, as Serbia prepares to join the European Union.

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The Post goes inside with a feature on middle-class flight from big cities on both coasts. With real-estate prices at all-time highs, middle-income families are moving to cheaper locations, leaving cities like Seattle and San Francisco increasingly polarized by class, and increasingly bereft of children. "A city without children has no future," says San Francisco mayor and Whitney Houston fan Gavin Newsom.

With a sham presidential election in Belarus scheduled for Sunday, citizens are bracing for the protests and governmental reprisals that are expected to follow Aleksandr Lukashenko's all-but-preordained reelection, the NYT reports. "Like Fidel Castro, he will be president forever," one woman said.

The LAT fronts a story on how China's insatiable desire for scrap metal is turning junkmen into rich men and fueling "one of the greatest commodity booms in modern times."

Studies suggest that drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease can have bizarre effects on users, turning otherwise sober individuals into "obsessive pleasure seekers," the WP reports. Some patients are suing the involved pharmaceutical companies to recover the money they lost gambling while taking dopamine enhancers like Mirapex and Permax.

The LAT runs a piece on Andrew Young, Wal-Mart fan. Young, a longtime civil rights leader and contemporary of Martin Luther King, is being paid by the retail behemoth to chair an organization called Working Families for Wal-Mart, intended to counter the chain's negative image. Young's take is that Wal-Mart's low prices can help revitalize inner-city neighborhoods.

Oleg Cassini, one of the first clothing designers to bring couture to the masses, died at 92. Cassini was known for dressing Jackie Kennedy and introducing the Nehru jacket to America. He was preceded in death by his brother, Cholly Knickerbocker.

Bridget Joneski's Diary? The NYTBook Review features an engaging essay on global variations on "chick lit," the girl power literary subgenre epitomized by titles like Bridget Jones' Diary. Various nations are spawning their own versions of the genre, each with a distinct spin: Polish chick lit often features dark, violent undertones while the Scandinavian version is "marked by a certain existential angst." France, however, hasn't gotten into the act, and the Times theorizes that "with a 35-hour work week, maybe they just can't relate." Oh, snap!