Joint Chiefs urges change in strategy; New proof of relation between circumcision and HIV.

Joint Chiefs urges change in strategy; New proof of relation between circumcision and HIV.

Joint Chiefs urges change in strategy; New proof of relation between circumcision and HIV.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 14 2006 5:28 AM

Foreskin Begone

The Washington Postleads with word that in a meeting with President Bush, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended a change in strategy for Iraq that involves switching away from combat to training Iraqi security forces and looking for terrorists. The military leaders at the Pentagon were also quick to emphasize there is only so much the military can do in Iraq and urged for a larger focus on solving the country's economic and political issues. USA Todayleads with the recommendations but with a slightly different angle. The paper talks about the plan rather than the meeting and says the top U.S. commanders in Iraq developed the strategy.

The New York Timesleads with, and the WP fronts, the National Institutes of Health announcing the results of two studies that seem to prove circumcision can reduce the risk of a man contracting HIV from heterosexual sex by half. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the results of a new poll that shows Democrats have a positive view of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton but Sen. John McCain would beat her if the election were held today. This is seen as further proof of how polarizing Clinton is with the electorate, while also illustrating McCain's popularity among independent voters. But there is a large segment of self-identified conservatives who have an unfavorable view of McCain, while former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani received high approval ratings overall. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with results from its own poll, which shows Bush's approval rating is at 34 percent.

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According to the Post,the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not favor a troop increase, and they are pushing for the Iraqi army to take over more responsibility for the country's security. Pentagon leaders want more U.S. troops to be embedded with Iraqi units. None of this is quite surprising, and, although no one seems to be talking about the withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008, many of the proposals seem to echo a lot of what the Iraq Study Group said in its report. USAT outlines similar plans that were developed by U.S. commanders in Iraq at the request of the top U.S. military official in Iraq. The LAT continues to say "many military commanders" are advocating an increase in the number of troops. After the meeting, Bush said he was "not going to be rushed" in reaching a decision about Iraq.

Two clinical trials in Kenya and Uganda were stopped when officials decided it would be unethical to continue without offering the uncircumcised a chance to go under the knife. This is exactly what happened in a similar study in South Africa last year, when the results were met with quite a bit of skepticism. But these two studies seem to be further proof of the possible benefits of circumcision, and they were hailed as possible breakthroughs in the fight against AIDS. As a result of these studies, the two largest agencies that fight AIDS said they would now be willing to pay for circumcisions. Of course, everyone is quick to point out circumcision can only be part of a larger strategy to fight the virus since circumcision is far from an effective form of prevention.

The LAT poll also reveals that 40 percent of Democrats said they don't know enough about Sen. Barack Obama to have an opinion on him. But it seems registered voters are still holding on to feelings that led to the GOP's demise in the midterm elections, as 49 percent said they would prefer a Democrat to win the presidency in 2008. In their own presidential polls, the Post and WSJ don't focus on a hypothetical contest but instead note how Sen. Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani lead their respective parties. Not surprisingly, voters see Iraq as the No. 1 priority.

The WP fronts news that Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota underwent surgery last night, after he became ill while at the Capitol yesterday. Aides said the senator did not suffer a stroke or a heart attack, but they did not offer any more details about the surgery. The illness could have widespread national implications because if Johnson were unable to complete his term in the Senate, South Dakota's Republican governor would get to choose a successor. If he were to choose a Republican, the incoming Democratic majority would be finished before it even takes over in January.

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The NYT fronts, and the WP goes inside with, news that federal prosecutors are trying to get the American Civil Liberties Union to turn in copies of a secret document it got through a leak. Experts say it's the first time the government has used a grand jury subpoena for this purpose. The ACLU thinks the document has no information that should be classified and accuses the government of trying to stifle free speech. Meanwhile, some scholars are comparing this to the Pentagon Papers case.

The WP fronts a previously undisclosed Pentagon report that looked into the conditions faced by three terrorism suspects being held at a brig in South Carolina. The Navy's inspector general warned in 2004 that the way the prisoners were being held in solitary confinement, which included depriving prisoners of sleep and religious material, could violate U.S. detention standards.

Everybody goes inside with news that the Federal Election Commission fined three 527 groups a total of almost $630,000 for their role in the 2004 presidential election. The penalties were issued against Swiftboat Veterans and POWs for Truth, MoveOn.org's Voter Fund, and a League of Conservation Voters fund. This should put 527 groups on notice, said the FEC's chairman, who added that if a group's sole purpose is to influence an election, they have to register with his agency. The Post emphasizes that this is unlikely to change things since the law regarding these groups is still unclear.

The Post goes inside with word from Homeland Security that the raids on meatpacking plants were the largest of their kind against one company and resulted in the arrests of 1,282 suspected illegal immigrants. USAT focuses on how the raids led to criminal groups that steal documents from Americans and then sell them to illegal immigrants, while the NYT looks at the possible effects for businesses. But while other media outlets are publishing several good stories about the human consequences of these raids, which range from separated families to abandoned babies and even accusations that workers at the factories were separated by skin color, the papers largely ignore these angles.  

The Post notes the tax bill Congress passed on Saturday morning included 520 tax breaks that amount to tens of millions of dollars in import tariff benefits for a group of companies. The way the breaks were added makes it mostly impossible to know who pushed for each benefit, and lawmakers from both parties called for changes in the way things are done.

Everybody goes inside with violence in Baghdad that killed at least 34 people yesterday. The largest attack, once again, targeted men who were waiting for temporary work. Yesterday, the LAT looked into how the men who seek temporary work face these dangerous circumstances every time they go looking for employment out of sheer desperation.

Everybody mentions the death of actor Peter Boyle, who was recently known for his role as the father in Everybody Loves Raymond. Boyle also acted in movies such as Young Frankenstein and Monster's Ball. He was 71 years old.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.