The papers on the Bush administration's pricey plan to save the economy.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 21 2008 5:12 AM

$700,000,000,000

The Sunday editions of the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the latest details on the Bush administration's plan to rescue the crippled U.S. economy—most of all yesterday's increase of the price to $700 billion, a figure higher than the current cost of the Iraq war. (The LAT conveys the magnitude of the number by sprawling all 11 zeros across its front page.) Bush's plan would also give the Treasury Department "unfettered authority" to buy failing properties, notes the NYT's lede, and raise the legal limit for U.S. national debt to a staggering $11.3 trillion. All three papers also front yesterday's deadly hotel bombing in Pakistan, one of the most catastrophic terrorist attacks in the nation's history.

Speaking Saturday about his bailout plan, President Bush said, "The risk of doing nothing far outweighs the risk of the package" and that, over time, we're going to get a lot of the money back. The WP reports that the proposal puts no time limit on how long the government may hold the assets it purchases but that the goal is "to sell them after housing prices recover and to earn back much of the money."

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While just about everyone agrees that a basic bailout for Wall Street is necessary, there is potential conflict afoot: Democrats plan to insist on provisions to "help hundreds of thousands of troubled borrowers at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure," the NYT reports. "Democrats worry that it will primarily be viewed as a bailout for big Wall Street firms," the WP explains. (House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi is quoted by the NYT saying the government should "insulate Main Street from Wall Street.") Both papers mention congressional Republicans' warnings that the extra spending measures will slow the proposal's passage.

Forty people were killed and 250 were injured in Islamabad, Pakistan, when an explosives-packed truck rammed into the gates of the five-star Marriott, where foreign diplomats often stay. Similar attacks have been previously attempted on the hotel, which is near both Pakistan's house of parliament and the residence of its prime minister. The precise hour chosen for this attempt—after sunset during Ramadan—was plainly strategic, the LAT notes, since it was a time when the hotel was certain to be overflowing with guests. No militant groups have yet claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the LAT observes that "the size of the truck bomb, the successful strike against a well-guarded target and the apparently careful planning were all signs of a skilled and experienced militant group."

In a separate story deeper in the paper, the NYT reports the first speech from freshly sworn-in Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, who called for an end to both terrorism and U.S. missions to counter terrorism within Pakistan.

The NYT and WP front (and the LAT also reports) the resignation of South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose party voted to recall him before the conclusion of his final term. A bitter rivalry with populist politician Jacob Zuma led to the vote—a court cleared Zuma of corruption charges last week and suggested that Mbeki had plotted to have him prosecuted, an accusation that inflamed party divisions. The WP describes Zuma as "a populist who is considered likely to win the presidency next year." The NYT credits the outgoing president, who succeeded Nelson Mandela, with "[leading] the nation to an unprecedented run of economic growth" but notes that his administration floated dubious theories about AIDS infection and was unable to resolve South Africa's deep divide between the rich and poor.

The LAT fronts grumbling in Alaska over the McCain-Palin campaign's seeming siege of the governor's office in Juneau, which now diverts all calls and requests to campaign headquarters in Virginia. The editorial page of the Anchorage Daily News demanded yesterday that Sarah Palin "speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor." The campaign's information lockdown has touched a "raw nerve" with the state's "fiercely independent" populace, which has more criticism for Palin now than before her nomination as the Republican candidate for vice president. The complaining Alaskans on record for the story range from Democratic legislators to conservative talk-radio hosts.

A story in the NYT's "A" section links a same-sex marriage ban to appear on California's November ballot to the expected high turnout among black voters mobilized to vote for Barack Obama. Gay rights groups worry that African-American voters, who generally lean conservative on social issues, will provide extra support for the ban when they turn out to vote for Obama. To counter that possible side effect, they are courting black pastors and churches with this message: "Gay people are black and black people are gay," as one leader told the Times.

A whimsical essay in the WP "Style" section marks the passing of the "everybody" era of pop culture, which has given way to the "nobody" era. ("Nobody watches television on an actual television. Nobody watches actual broadcasts in real time, because nobody sits through ads. Nobody watches entire TV shows, just the best clips. Nobody watches prime time.") But we may be less fragmented than we think—after all, "everybody" is telling us the ways "nobody" does it anymore.

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