The Washington Postleads with word that the Bush administration wants more money for the Iraq war and is planning to ask Congress for up to $50 billion next month. The thinking seems to be that lawmakers won't be able to say no after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker ask for more time to build on the progress they have made. The New York Timesleads with a look at how even though the United States has pledged to accept more Iraqi refugees whose lives are threatened because of their work for the U.S. government and military, "very few are signing up to go." Iraqis have to leave the country to apply, which means taking a costly and dangerous trip to neighbors such as Syria and Jordan, where, if allowed in, they could languish for months. The State Department says the security challenge would be too great to process applications inside Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsboxlead with new census figures that show the number of people without health insurance increased by 2.2 million in 2006 to a grand total of 47 million. In terms of the overall population, 15.8 percent of people lacked insurance, which is the highest level since 1998. At a time when President Bush is in a fight with Congress over health insurance for children, the LAT points out the number of uninsured children grew by 600,000. The LAT also mentions, while USAT goes inside with, economic figures in the census that showed there was a slight increase in median household income and a modest drop in poverty rates in 2006, although pretty much no one (except President Bush and some Republicans) saw this as particularly good news.
The extra money for Iraq would be in addition to the approximately $460 billion in the defense budget and it will probably be added to the $147 billion supplemental bill to pay for Afghanistan and Iraq. The Post breaks it down: "the cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week." The additional request is a sign the administration sees the "surge" lasting "into the spring of 2008." Near the end of the story an unnamed officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff continues the campaign to reduce expectations for the Petraeus-Crocker hearings, saying he doesn't expect "any surprises."
Although the State Department wants to give priority to those who worked directly for the U.S. government, the approximately 69,000 Iraqis who work on U.S. contracts for the private sector face many of the same threats. There's no official count of how many Iraqis working for the war effort have been murdered, but one large company says 280 of its employees have been killed since 2003.
The modest rise in median household income to $48,201 was mainly due to people working longer hours, or more people entering the workforce, and not because they were being paid more. And the household income still remains below the pre-2001 recession peak. In addition, the slight decrease in the poverty rate was not a reflection of a widespread improvement as old people were the ones that saw the largest benefit. The WSJ points out that even though the poverty rate saw its first significant decline in a decade, the figures "showed how meager some of the gains for those in the middle class have been," which is partly because of the continuing trend of increased income inequality.
Yesterday, the WSJ introduced us to Norman Hsu, a political fund-raiser who got into the game three years ago and has given lots of money to Democratic candidates, a big chunk of it to Sen. Hillary Clinton. The paper raised questions about how a family of apparently modest means with ties to Hsu has donated $200,000 in the last few years. Today, the WSJ looks into how Hsu is one of Clinton's top fund-raisers but has maintained a "remarkably low-profile." In a Page One story, the LAT reveals Hsu might have a reason to want to stay (relatively) far from the limelight: "He's a fugitive," said the man who handled the case 15 years ago in which Hsu agreed to serve up to three years. Although the paper notes Hsu has been photographed at numerous events, authorities are still technically looking for him since he disappeared after pleading no contest to grand theft.
The Post fronts, and everyone mentions, Senate GOP leaders calling for an ethics investigation of Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho after it was revealed that he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges. The NYT fronts a look at the exasperation currently felt by Republicans who seem to be engulfed in scandal after scandal.
Yesterday, Craig tried to begin the process of saving his career and reputation and denied any wrongdoing. He said it was a mistake to plead guilty after he was arrested by an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport restroom. Craig contends he was under pressure from a newspaper that was investigating claims he had sexual encounters with men in bathrooms. He has now hired a lawyer, but experts said he faces an uphill battle if he hopes to reopen the case.
The NYT is alone in trying to look into claims that there had been a number of arrests "regarding sexual activity in the public restroom" at the airport. But the airport wouldn't talk numbers and although it's clear there had been stepped-up security patrols, it's less clear whether anyone was caught having sex or whether there were complaints. Most of the major airports say they haven't experienced problems of this nature. Unfortunately, the paper doesn't take the extra step of questioning whether this is a real or fabricated problem for places like airports. But it does talk to the owner of a popular Web site that lists places where men can have sexual encounters with other men, and explains that foot tapping is part of the "little unspoken code" of bathroom sex. Although the site's URL merely consists of the words "cruising" and "sex," the Times doesn't name it and prefers to call it simply a "gay sex Web site."