The government readies itself for a flu outbreak.

The government readies itself for a flu outbreak.

The government readies itself for a flu outbreak.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 16 2006 7:35 AM

Pandemic Preparedness

Lots of analysis but little actual news on this Easter Sunday. Case in point: The New York Times delves into * the implications of a law that was signed by President Bush in February and will not take effect until July. The paper examines how a provision of the Deficit Reduction Act, which will require Medicaid recipients to produce documentation proving their citizenship, may end up hurting blacks, American Indians, and others as much as illegal aliens, its intended target. The Washington Post leads with its scoop that President Bush is expected to approve a 240-page national flu response plan in the coming week. The Los Angeles Times leads with state governments introducing a "landslide" of legislation increasing property rights since the Supreme Court expanded the definition of eminent domain in a ruling last June.

The NYT tries to justify the arbitrary timing of its Medicaid coverage by pegging it to the immigration debate. The story, however, focuses on poor people who are in the country legally but may be denied benefits because they lack documentation. Those who may lose their medical coverage include African Americans and Native Americans who never received birth certificates and don't have passports, as well as elderly patients who may not understand the new requirement. After letting your outrage brew for 22 paragraphs, the Times mentions that the government is working on a policy to accommodate the needs of these groups.

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The multi-agency flu plan outlined in the WP seems to be a thorough piece of work: The Treasury Department has plans to produce currency elsewhere should U.S. mints need to close; the Pentagon, anticipating supply shortages, is stockpiling latex gloves; and the government would increase Internet capacity in order to handle the increased number of people working from home. The Post says that following its bungled reaction to Hurricane Katrina, the administration "is eager to show it could manage the medical, security and economic fallout of a major outbreak." And in order to avoid past mistakes, the president is expected to create an interagency task force to coordinate the federal response and a high-level Disaster Response Group to resolve any disputes among agencies or states.

In its lead, the LAT notes that the Supreme Court essentially invited states to make their own rules on eminent domain if they disagreed with the court's decision allowing governments to seize land for development. Well, it turns out nearly all of them did disagree in some capacity. According to the Times, "lawmakers in 47 states have introduced more than 325 measures to protect private property."

In a front-page story, the WP surmises that the videotaped rants and writings of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al-Qaida, are an effort to maintain his grip over a radical Islamic movement that is increasingly out of his control. Many analysts believe that ideological and tactical disputes between al-Qaida's feuding factions have resurfaced since 9/11, allowing new leaders, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to emerge as potential rivals to Zawahiri.

The NYT fronts a piece in which American soldiers compare their mission in Iraq to their prior peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. The article provides an interesting look at how the military has increasingly had to balance fighting the insurgency with civil affairs work aimed at holding the country together. But the comparison to Bosnia seems a little misplaced, as the violence faced by American troops there never approached the levels seen in Iraq.

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Speaking of which, dozens of Iraqi police officers are still missing after an ambush by insurgents on Thursday. Early this morning (too early for the papers) a car bomb outside of a mosque in Baghdad killed four people. And in Afghanistan, dozens of rebels were reported killed in one of the biggest attacks on Taliban targets in months. According to the NYT, the operation was largely an Afghan one.

Back in America, the LAT does some nice investigative work and finds that an "independent" television ad campaign in support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was actually paid for by a group with significant ties to his political operation. But the bigger story may be how an ad that looks like this can actually pass as an "issue" ad under state election law.

The WP, meanwhile, lets the blogosphere do the investigative work (but leaves it uncredited) and reports on the little scam Rep. John Doolittle is running with his wife Julie. Through her company, whose clients include Doolittle's campaign committee and his leadership PAC, Mrs. Doolittle gets a cut of every donation made to Mr. Doolittle's campaign. There's nothing unethical about this, says the congressman's office.

What's in a name? … The NYT Sunday Styles section looks into why stars choose such odd names for their babies. Some say it is an unscripted way for the parents to express themselves, while others say it is simple narcissism. With names ranging from Pilot Inspektor to Moxie CrimeFighter, one simply hopes these stars save enough money to pay for the inevitable therapy involved in their decisions.

Correction, April 17, 2006: This article originally and incorrectly stated that the New York Times led with a Medicaid story. In fact the paper led with a White House memo urging former military commanders to support Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Return to the corrected sentence.