Profiteering at nursing homes leads to declining care standards.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 23 2007 3:31 AM

Granny Farming

The New York Timesleads with a report on profiteering at nursing homes; thousands of institutions have been bought up by private investment companies, often to the detriment of care standards. The Washington Postleads with news that the Bush administration's $150 million campaign to tackle human trafficking has produced remarkably few arrests, suggesting that the extent of the problem—at least in the United States—may have been significantly overestimated. The Los Angeles Timesleads local, with a look at the financial troubles plaguing many L.A.-area hospitals.

In recent years, Wall Street investors have snapped up thousands of nursing homes across the United States, cutting costs and slashing staffing levels in the hope of reselling at a hefty markup. That's led to plummeting standards, according to government data, with elderly residents receiving less care than they need and increasingly suffering from bedsores and preventable infections. Worse still, the companies' Byzantine corporate structures make it hard for disgruntled residents to sue—or for regulators to impose meaningful fines.

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In 1999, the CIA estimated that 50,000 people were illegally shipped to the United States every year and put to work as prostitutes or forced laborers; lawmakers swiftly moved to clamp down on the "modern-day slave trade." But despite a costly Justice Department campaign, fewer than 1,400 victims have been unearthed, causing criminologists to radically rethink the extent of the problem; experts say the CIA used shoddy data-gathering techniques that gave grossly inflated results.

Above the fold, the Post investigates the sequence of botches that last month saw a nuclear-armed B-52 make an unauthorized flight above the United States. Officials say the incident, in which nuclear warheads equivalent to 60 Hiroshimas slipped from the Air Force's safety net for more than a day without anyone noticing, was due to human error.

The Iraqi government said yesterday that it will bring charges within days after a shooting by Blackwater employees that left at least eight Iraqis dead; the Post notes that the move comes after repeated complaints about the company were rebuffed by U.S. officials. The NYT suggests that a culture of showboating at Blackwater may have given rise to its employees' reckless use of deadly force.

The LAT fronts a profile of Michael B. Mukasey, Bush's nominee to succeed outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; the NYT likewise fronts a piece poring over Mukasey's past decisions. Both agree that with his stint at the Justice Department unlikely to last more than a year, Mukasey—a conservative federal judge with a fiercely independent streak—would likely show little reticence in standing up to the Bush administration on points of law.

Despite being bested by Barack Obama on the fund-raising front and wrong-footed by John Edwards on policy issues, Sen. Hillary Clinton remains the firm frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, reports the NYT. The Post fronts a look at Clinton's reclusive mother, whom the senator identifies as her most enduring influence and the inspiration for her presidential run.

In the GOP camp, meanwhile, no candidate has yet managed to break away from the peloton; the NYT fronts a look at the diverging road maps being sketched by the contenders as they jostle for position.

The LAT fronts a look at Rudolph Giuliani's migrating position on immigration: As New York City mayor, Rudy was a staunch defender of the rights of undocumented workers, but as a presidential candidate, he's sought to deflect criticism by calling for strict border controls and tough deportation policies.

Following the NYT'spublication of a MoveOn.org ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus for his report on the Iraq war, Matt Bai accuses the liberal group of "shrewdly gaming liberal politics in the way the National Rifle Association has long gamed conservative politics; the more controversy, the more members it attracts." The Times' public editor pens a lengthy nostra culpa, arguing that the ad violated the paper's code of standards and probably shouldn't have been published. *

In Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are prohibited and single men are even barred from shopping malls, disaffected youths have found a new outlet for their frustration: graffiti. The Post reports that increasing numbers of bored young men are turning to spray painting; some say they dream of one day traveling to the United States, to see the graffiti walls of New Jersey.

The NYT book section fronts a glowing review of The Nine, Jeff Toobin's look at the Supreme Court's drift to the right; the real fun comes from trying to figure out which of the Justices spilled the beans. (Best guesses: Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and Sandra Day O'Connor.) The Post is more critical, accusing Toobin of stretching facts to support his thesis.

Last year, two American academics published a much-discussed article accusing Washington's foreign-policy establishment of pandering to the Israel lobby. The pair now have a book out; writing in the NYT, former CFR chief Leslie Gelb accuses them of "shoddy scholarship" that has "added fuel, inadvertently, to the fires of anti-Semitism".

All is not well in Manhattan's cupcake community, reports the NYT: Purists are up in arms as avant-garde bakers try to take the confectionery to the next level. "Can the cupcake loyalist support the sale of a chocolate Guinness cupcake with green-tea cream-cheese frosting? Has the cupcake been stolen from the people by the baking aristocracy?" Watch this space.

Correction, Sept. 27, 2007: This article originally implied that the Times public editor was taking responsibility for the error. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

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