The defense secretary strikes back.

The defense secretary strikes back.

The defense secretary strikes back.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 30 2006 5:59 AM

Rummy Punches

USA Todayand the Washington Post lead with news that the country's median household income rose slightly faster than inflation last year, according to the Census Bureau. The New York Timesfronts that story above the fold, but leads with a recap of President Bush's visit to New Orleans, where he commemorated the one-year anniversary of the day the levees broke. The Los Angeles Times gives banner-headline treatment to the passage of a bill that will give Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a freer hand to reform the city's schools. Its top nonlocal story, on a decidedly slow news day, is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's incendiary speech in which he accused Iraq war critics of appeasing "a new type of fascism." The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, which flags mounting casualties in Iraq, says Rumsfeld's speech marks the start of "another PR campaign … to garner support for the war."

The slight rise in median household income, to $46,326, is the first in six years. That's the good news. But the rest of the Census Bureau report makes for grim reading. For one thing, wages are actually shrinking relative to inflation, which suggests that incomes are rising only because more household members are working at more lousy jobs. The number of people without health insurance rose slightly, to a record 46.6 million. So did the number of uninsured children. The proportion of Americans living in poverty held roughly steady, at 12.6 percent, but of that group nearly half were really poor, earning less than half of the poverty-line cutoff of $20,000, "the highest such percentage ever recorded," an analyst tells the NYT.

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The WP's lead story mines the same report for a local angle, finding that the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is now the nation's second-richest, after San Jose, a development the paper attributes to "the enormous flow of federal money into the region through contracts for defense and homeland security work."

Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the working class' growing economic insecurity in this fall's midterm elections. As for Republicans ...

Well, entirely coincidentally no doubt, Rumsfeld gave a rousing speech before an American Legion convention yesterday in which he said that the real problem with the country these days is that too many people "believe that, somehow or someway, vicious extremists [can] be appeased." In a pointed attack on the media, he added: "Any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere." There is too much criticism of American atrocities, he said, and not enough praise for those who win medals for valor.

Inside, the WP reports that the commander of the platoon that allegedly massacred two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha was initially recommended for a medal for his conduct in the incident.

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A WSJ piece puts Rumsfeld's broadside in a larger context, saying it was a "preview" of a "new rhetorical pivot" the Bush Administration is making as it heads toward the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11—and the election season.

The NYT's account of Bush's visit to New Orleans calls it a "carefully choreographed pilgrimage" that was "a whirlwind more of sights and sounds than of substance." So, why is it leading the paper?

Though TP is feeling a little (ahem) saturated at this point with Katrina anniversary coverage, today's big WP piece, on the disjointed federal role in the recovery effort, is a great read. It opens with a tellling anecdote about FEMA's refusal to pay for disposing 3,000 dead trees because the city couldn't prove they were killed during the flooding.

Another stellar WP piece, the off-lead, describes the latest depredation in Iraq: Shiite militias have now, apparently, taken to dragging Sunni patients out of hospitals, formerly one of the country's few remaining safe havens. Sunnis blame (who else?) Muqtada Sadr. The health minister is a member of Sadr's political party, and some say the ministry's 15,000-strong security force is heavily infiltrated by members of the radical cleric's Mahdi Army. When even the health minister has his own army, you know things are not going well.

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The LAT fronts the arrest of Warren Jeffs, a "self-proclaimed prophet" and leader of a polygamous cult, after a routine traffic stop in Nevada. Jeffs, a fugitive on the FBI's most wanted list, is accused of raping children, forcing girls into underage marriages, and other odious things. Jeffs and his group, a heretical offshoot of the Mormon Church, was the subject of a terrific series of articles in the LAT earlier this year.

The WP and USAT both front word that scores on the reading—formerly "verbal"—section of the SAT fell dramatically this year after the introduction of a new essay section. Some educators and students blame the length of the enlarged test, which is now pushing four hours.

The NYT does a big takeout on abuses committed by security forces in the restive Russian province of Chechnya.

In a curious thematic confluence, the NYT runs a long piece on the United States' desire to see China play a larger role in setting the policies of the International Monetary Fund, while the WSJ looks at our requests for their backing in efforts to revive a World Trade Organization deal intended to help the developing world. The common thread: We want China's help in sticking it to the Europeans.

Iran is plugging away at enriching its uranium, the WP says.

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a complex of 110 apartment buildings on the East Side of Manhattan, is going on the market. A sale might fetch $5 billion, which would make it "the biggest deal for a single American property in modern times," the NYT reports.

The NYT breaks news that Kenneth Tomlinson, a controversial political appointee who oversees Voice of America, is in trouble again, this time for running a "horse racing operation" out of his government office.

The LAT has a fun feature on a Las Vegas hotel magnate who is hoping to build an orbiting B&B. Robert Bigelow, a multimillionaire who "believes in UFOs and out-of-body experiences" is vowing to spend $500 million developing an inflatable structure that might one day allow (very wealthy) private citizens a room with a view of the Earth from space. He's already sent a prototype up on a Russian rocket. NASA has experimented with such inflatable structures several times before, but abandoned the idea, in part, one space historian says, out of concerns that "it could deflate and everybody inside would die."