Very little is known about those who die in immigration detention; welfare rolls on the rise.

Very little is known about those who die in immigration detention; welfare rolls on the rise.

Very little is known about those who die in immigration detention; welfare rolls on the rise.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 5 2008 6:32 AM

Out of Sight

The New York Timesleads with a look at how very little is known about many of the people who have died while detained by immigration authorities. The NYT obtained a list through a Freedom of Information Act request and reveals that 66 people died while in immigration custody from January 2004 to November 2007. USA Todayleads with figures that show welfare rolls rose in 27 states in the last six months of 2007. This marks a reversal since the numbers had been steadily decreasing for more than a decade. "When the economy starts to tank, that's when our business starts growing," the chief of eligibility for Nevada's welfare agency said.

The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how health care will provide voters in November with an issue on which the Republican and Democratic presidential contenders offer very different proposals. Although all the candidates say they want more Americans to have access to affordable health insurance, their strategies on how to get there offer a stark choice, ultimately because "they view the problem differently." The Washington Postleads with the latest he-said/she-said from the campaign trail as the candidates campaigned furiously before the critical Tuesday primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with a look at how Sen. Barack Obama has gone back to addressing voters in a more intimate setting. Even though the large rallies draw lots of people, they don't necessarily help him gain new voters, and Obama's campaign now sees the arena-style events as one of the main reasons why he lost the popular vote in Texas.

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Although the list obtained by the NYT "is the fullest accounting to date of deaths in immigration detention," the document "raises as many questions as it answers" because there are few details on the list, and the information is "often unreliable." Once a person gets detained by immigration authorities, it is notoriously difficult for friends and family members to get information, "even when they die." The NYT followed up on a few of the deaths and finds family members who still have questions about how or why their loved ones died. Some families say they weren't told when a detainee became sick, and one woman says she only found out her husband had died several weeks after the fact. Critics, including several lawmakers, are calling for greater oversight of a system that has ballooned in size over the past few years.

Both of the Democratic presidential contenders made an appearance on the Sunday-morning talk-show circuit. Sen. Barack Obama once again had to discuss his former pastor, while Sen. Hillary Clinton had to answer questions about her stance on Iran, but they both frequently came back to the issue that has dominated the rhetoric in the last days before the Tuesday primaries: the gas-tax holiday. Obama continued to characterize the holiday as a political "gimmick." When Clinton was asked whether she could name an economist who agreed with her on the holiday, she said, "I'm not going to put in my lot with economists." And then, in a not-so-veiled reference to Obama, she said that "elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans."

In the last few days, Clinton has been increasing her populist rhetoric in order to make Obama seem an out-of-touch elitist who doesn't understand the problems of regular Americans. The NYT says that as the Tuesday primaries approach, "the candidates were a study in contrasts." Clinton seems to be getting angrier as she talks about how working-class Americans are constantly suffering at the hands of people who couldn't care less about them. For his part, Obama is striking a more conciliatory tone, trying to appeal to Democrats who may like Clinton but mostly just want to win back the White House in November. In a separate Page One piece, the NYT takes a look at how the warrior attitude that Clinton is displaying on the trail also highlights why she's such a divisive figure.

Reviewing the Sunday talk-show appearances, the NYT's Alessandra Stanley says the programs "provided an arresting tableau of the reversal of fortunes in the Democratic race." While Clinton appeared "forceful, confident and at times even frisky," Obama "looked grave and dispirited."

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The NYT and USAT both front new polls that show how much Obama's standing has been hurt in the past few weeks. The NYT says that while most Americans think Obama handled the controversies regarding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright appropriately, almost half thought he denounced his former pastor because it would help him politically rather than because of actual disagreements. And even though 24 percent of voters say the issue would affect their vote in November, 44 percent said it would be important to "most people you know."  For its part, USAT's poll gives even worse news to Obama because, for the first time in three months, it shows Clinton with more support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. (USAT helpfully mentions that other polls continue to show Obama in the lead.) And while Obama used to beat Clinton by wide margins on the question of who would be a stronger candidate against McCain, the former first lady is now ahead by five points. The one piece of good news for Obama is that voters still see him as more honest, and the NYT poll says "an overwhelming majority" see the gas-tax holiday as political pandering.

The NYT fronts word that U.S. officials believe Hezbollah militants are training Shiite militias in Iran. This information apparently came from captured militia members and was given to the Iraqi government, but it's not clear whether the issue was discussed when Iraqi leaders traveled to Tehran last week. Although U.S. officials say the training is overseen by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the instructors are from Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, it's not really clear whether the Iraqi government believes Iran is arming and training Shiite militias. The LAT does a good job of explaining the confusion by noting that yesterday it seemed like the Iraqi government was taking distance from the American claims of Iranian involvement when it announced that a committee had been set up to investigate. But a few hours later, the Iraqi government spokesman said his comments had been misinterpreted. He said the proof of Iranian involvement is there, and the committee is tasked with compiling the evidence so it can be presented to Tehran.

The LAT fronts an interesting piece that looks at how more Chinese companies are choosing to set up shop in the United States. Several states are working hard to promote themselves and are offering plenty of incentives. The strategy seems to be working, and more Chinese investors are deciding that it makes economic sense to expand into the United States, despite higher labor costs.

Ever wondered why there are so many Vietnamese manicurists? The LAT describes how it all started entirely by chance when actress Tippi Hedren took it upon herself to teach a group of 20 Vietnamese refugees how to do nails in 1975. Now, approximately 43 percent of nail technicians are Vietnamese Americans.

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