Why is the government keeping track of books brought onto airplanes?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 22 2007 6:57 AM

Collection Objection

The Washington Post leads with reports that the government keeps more data on American travelers than it had previously let on—holding onto records of everything from traveling companions to reading material. The Los Angeles Times leads with the White House's request for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is projected to go up another $47 billion in 2008, despite troop withdrawals beginning in December. The New York Times leads with New York state being denied federal funds for chemotherapy for illegal immigrants. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with another Iraq withdrawal proposal getting shot down in the Senate.

The government's Automated Targeting System, used to screen for dangerous people attempting to enter the United States, has been around for 15 years, and some of the details of its inner workings have been public for a year. The WP suggests, however, that the depth of the information being kept is far greater than anything the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged previously. When several activists obtained their own travel records, they were outraged to learn that their travel plans, traveling companions, and the items they brought with them were all scrutinized in their files. The department, which expanded the program beginning in 2002, has defended the data collection, saying that the Sept. 11 attacks were an object lesson in the importance of "connecting the dots of terrorist-related information."

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The LAT says that the reason the tab for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be increasing is partly because of the surge troops, which weren't included in last year's spending request, and partly because of the need to replace and upgrade equipment. The Pentagon is particularly looking to replace Humvees with mine-resistant vehicles that can stand up to improvised explosive devices, a leading cause of troop casualties in Iraq. The paper predicts congressional Democrats will be incensed by the larger-than-expected increase but are likely to still approve the funding, since it's so closely tied to troop safety. Last week, a vote on a proposal to cut off most Iraq war funding garnered just 28 votes in the Senate.

The New York chemotherapy dispute is being viewed a federal crackdown on illegal-immigrant access to civil services. Under federal law, Medicaid can be used to cover uninsured foreigners who need emergency treatment. The paper says that the law is clearly worded in such a way that would exclude long-term treatments like chemotherapy. Since the law only expressly forbids using the program to fund organ transplants, however, some states have argued that "emergency" means any treatment without which a patient will end up in the emergency room.

The NYT offleads with a surprising decision by Chile's Supreme Court to send former Peruvian President Alberto K. Fujimori back to Peru to stand trial for corruption and human rights violations. The deal is significant since sending corrupt leaders home for trial used to be quite rare, and since the Chilean courts made the determination without pressure from the country's executive branch.

In a local story of some national import, the WP covers the collapse of an $8 billion buyout of D.C. audio-equipment maker Harman International Industries. The buyout is the first to collapse since August's credit market upheaval, leaving the future of several other large takeovers in doubt.

Dowries may be illegal in India, but women are still being killed over them, reports the LAT. It has become increasingly common for the groom's family to demand more money after the wedding takes place, beating and sometimes killing the wife if the cash is not forthcoming.

The WSJ reports on all the unexpected consequences of the Canadian dollar rising to equal the value of its U.S. counterpart for the first time in 31 years. Dry Canadian wit pervades throughout.

While Blackwater USA is going back to work in Iraq after a Sunday shooting that left 11 people dead, the LAT says the Iraqi government isn't letting the issue go. The government has expanded its investigation of the private security company to include six other violent incidents in the last year. It may all be a moot point, however, since Iraqi government officials admit they are unable to kick the company out of Iraq. Blackwater provides security details for diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq.

The Israeli airstrikes on Syria and the resulting questions about Syria's weapons capacity and where it may have come from go unresolved in the pages of the NYT.

A recent Harvard study found people living in more diverse societies turn away from community interaction and volunteer less—with the exception of evangelical Christians, who have been increasingly willing to welcome faithful from all parts of the globe while maintaining their community focus. The NYT profiles the experiences of one such "international" congregation in Georgia.

The WP reports that a local campaign may have crossed an unusual line—using a blog comment written under a pseudonym as a source for an attack ad.

More and more campaign money is coming from Americans living abroad, says the NYT. Obama and Giuliani lead the pack by appealing to wealthy ex-pats living in London, Paris, and Hong Kong.

How did all that O.J. memorabilia end up in that Vegas hotel room? Why was O.J. trying to get it all back? The LAT does an admirable job of fitting the pieces together.

The WP fronts and the NYT teases Giuliani's speech to the NRA. In truth, several candidates made speeches to the association that day, including Democratic candidate Bill Richardson, but Giuliani's speech is the most newsworthy, as he had the most to prove and the most to lose. The NYT focuses on Giuliani's partial about-face on gun control, saying he'd oppose any new restrictions. Despite the concessions, however, the WP focuses on the candidate's failure to win many hearts and minds with the speech.

The State Department has hired a team to post on Arabic message boards with pro-American messages, so says the NYT.

Inside, the WP notes the failure of what was once considered one of the most promising AIDS vaccines.

Parking Up the Wrong Tree ...

The LAT covers an unusual citywide protest favoring more space for parks. Protesters set up temporary Astroturf parks in parking spots to draw attention to the city's preference for blacktop over green spaces. It's worth reading if only for the confused, almost wounded, quotes from locals trying to understand protesting about parks in neighborhoods where not everyone has enough to eat.

Jesse Stanchak is a writer living in Washington, D.C.

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