The Washington Post and the New York Times lead with news that, in a speech to be made this evening, President Bush is expected to announce that he'll deploy thousands of National Guard members to America's southern border in what the White House calls a temporary move to support an overworked Border Patrol. Although the White House swears this won't lead to a long-term militarization of the border, Mexican President Vicente Fox is unconvinced—and unhappy. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with news that at least 26 people were killed in Baghdad yesterday in a spate of attacks.
USA Todayteases the border news and leads a poll finding that 51 percent of Americans oppose the National Security Agency's domestic-call database, with two-thirds bothered by the potential implications. However, only 22 percent say they'd be "very concerned" if they knew that the feds had their phone records. The Los Angeles Times leads with a new study showing that many workers over 65 years old are being forced into retirement despite their desire to remain on the job. Among other things, the early retirement often means diminished pension payouts and increased reliance on Social Security.
Bush's proposal would have Guard members aiding Border Patrol agents in training, intelligence gathering, and other tasks. The idea is meant to bolster support from a Republican base uneasy with talk of amnesty for illegals and hopefully to engender a spirit of compromise in the hard-line congressional nativists who have been stalling Bush's guest-worker plan. Critics such as Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., worry that patrolling the border isn't the National Guard's job. More to the point, is an already overstretched National Guard even numerically capable of assisting in any meaningful way?
Mexican President Fox understandably sees this as a regression from his stated goal of solving the illegal immigration problem via legislative means. Facing an upcoming election in which he wants to secure victory for his chosen successor, Fox will be pressured to take a strong stand against the proposal in order to deflect criticism that he's been less than vigorous in protecting Mexican sovereignty, according to the NYT Web article. *
Bush's speech comes as Congress is scheduled to begin debate on various immigration-reform measures, and the Post fronts news of the struggles faced by a recently formed confederation of activists, religious leaders, and Spanish-language disc jockeys mobilizing to influence the discussion. While some longtime activists resent the newcomers, others feel that the stakes are too high for petty turf battles.
In addition to the 26 or so Baghdad deaths, everyone reports that more than 60 people were also injured in what the NYT calls "the deadliest day in weeks." The LAT runs a telling piece on how the Iraqi parliament is getting so bogged down by procedural details that it's unable to make any substantive progress toward establishing a coalition government. Thanks for nothing, Robert's Rules of Order.
The McKinsey study on retirement finds that seniors who expect to offset their savings deficiencies by working longer "are setting themselves up for a rude awakening and a significantly poorer standard of living in retirement than they had expected." Does this mean that more of the cash-poor elderly will have to rely on the Medicare Part D prescription-drug benefit? Today is the final day for seniors to enroll in the program without incurring financial penalties, and the NYT and USAT report that lawmakers and interest groups are arguing that the penalties should be forestalled or eliminated entirely. While detrimental to the program's finances, such a move would certainly be politically expedient for congressmen facing re-election. In related news, USAT fronts a feature on what it deems a growing trend of elderly parents moving back in with their adult children.
The NYT fronts news that conservative Christian leaders, smarting over what they consider a values betrayal by an administration that courted their support in 2004 and has done little for them since, are threatening to withhold support in the midterm elections unless Republicans get serious about social issues. "There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall," one man said. That'll teach Congress to put vanity projects like "the budget" and "immigration reform" ahead of critical issues like banning gay marriage!
The WSJ reports that the Boeing Co. will pay $615 million to settle the Justice Department's probes into several contracting scandals involving the aircraft manufacturer. Among other things, Boeing was accused of stealing documents from rivals in order to get an advantage in bidding for contracts; while the fine is one of the largest ever levied on a military contractor, Boeing gets to avoid any admission of criminal wrongdoing.
The NYT fronts news that a long-overdue revamping of the federal flood insurance program is meeting with congressional opposition. The main problem with the old program was that nobody was required to buy the insurance—and so nobody did. Now that the government is upping the premiums and mandating coverage for people in federal-designated danger zones, people in rarely flooded districts are getting angry. "You've got people living in dry areas paying for people who want to keep living in wet ones," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich. "They're sticking it to us, and I don't like to be stuck."
Everyone mentions that Gen. Michael Hayden's nomination as CIA chief will succeed or fail based on how well he answers questions raised over his involvement in the NSA's warrantless domestic spying program. Meanwhile, the Post goes inside with a gotcha on U.S. intelligence kingpin John Negroponte, who as recently as last Monday unequivocally denied that the NSA was monitoring domestic telephone calls, and USAT notes that the class-action lawsuit filed against Verizon last Friday might expand to include AT&T and BellSouth.
The Post fronts the federal investigation of Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., who apparently profited handsomely from untoward business arrangements with constituents who handled many of the financial appropriations that he directed toward his district. Mollohan, of course, disputes the charges—which were triggered by information uncovered by an organization at least partially funded by the conservative Scaife family.
The 25,000 Year Old Pyramid: The NYT reports on Bosnia's foremost amateur archaeologist, Semir Osmanagic, who claims to have discovered the world's largest and oldest pyramid buried under tons of earth. Exasperated geologists maintain that it's not a pyramid, it's just rocks—but Osmanagic, dubbed the Bosnian Indiana Jones (mostly because he wears a flat-crowned hat), won't let "science" stand in the way of rekindling national pride. "The Bosnian brain is going to excavate this site and show results to the international community," he maintains. "This isn't a pyramid, it's a bad circus," says one academic.