Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
May 24, 2004 5:45PM (UTC)

'Bruised and bumped'
The president's speech will go on tonight even though he got "bruised and bumped" in a weekend mountain biking accident near his Crawford, Texas, ranch, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bush will give the first of six public speeches on Iraq before the U.S. is set to hand over sovereignty of Iraq to someone or other on June 30.

"Bruised and bumped" also fittingly describes the president's deteriorating approval ratings, CBS News reports.

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"Evaluations of the way Mr. Bush is handling the war in Iraq, how he is handling foreign policy, and how he is handling his job overall are now at their lowest levels ever in his presidency. Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating has continued to decline. Forty-one percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 52 percent disapprove the lowest overall job rating of his presidency. Two weeks ago, 44 percent approved. A year ago, two-thirds did. Sixty-one percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while just 34 percent approve. As concern about the situation in Iraq grows, 65 percent now say the country is on the wrong track matching the highest number ever recorded in CBS News Polls, which began asking this question in the mid-1980's.

From Bagram to Abu Ghraib
There's further evidence today that torture tactics infamously employed at Abu Ghraib were not conceived in the Iraq prison by a few wayward individuals. The New York Times reports that "a military intelligence unit that oversaw interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was also in charge of questioning at a detention center in Afghanistan where two prisoners died in December 2002 in incidents that are being investigated as homicides."

"For both of the Afghan prisoners, who died in a center known as the Bagram Collection Point, the cause of death listed on certificates signed by American pathologists included blunt force injuries to their legs. Interrogations at the center were supervised by Company A, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, which moved on early in 2003 to Iraq, where some of its members were assigned to the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib. Its service in Afghanistan was known, but its work at Bagram at the time of the deaths has now emerged in interviews with former prisoners, military officials and from documents."

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Bush puts lobbyists to work
Where do lobbyists go after they're finished doing the work of industry? Setting policy in the Bush administration, of course. The Denver Post reports that 100 lobbyists have found work as "high-level officials" under Bush "who help govern industries they once represented as lobbyists, lawyers or company advocates... In at least 20 cases, those former industry advocates have helped their agencies write, shape or push for policy shifts that benefit their former industries. They knew which changes to make because they had pushed for them as industry advocates."

"The president's political appointees are making or overseeing profound changes affecting drug laws, food policies, land use, clean-air regulations and other key issues. Government watchdogs call it a disturbing trend, not adequately restrained by existing ethics laws."

Wall Street funnels $$$ to Bush
The Washington Post reports that Wall Street is giving in record numbers to President Bush. Employees of the finance and insurance sector have given Bush $12.14 million this election cycle, the Post says, compared to $2.7 million for John Kerry.

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"Wall Street has stepped up to the plate in support of Bush, and Bush has sponsored legislation producing billions of dollars in revenue on Wall Street. Capital gains and dividend tax cuts have encouraged substantial asset shifting by investors -- transactions producing commissions for securities firms. In addition, in 2001, Bush secured a gradual repeal of the estate tax, allowing the accumulation of investment wealth without fear of large tax liability for heirs. The 10-year revenue loss from the elimination of the estate tax will be $133.2 billion, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The revenue losses from the dividend and capital gains cuts will be $125.3 billion through 2010, according to the committee. In addition, the administration has proposed creation of tax-free 'Lifetime Savings Accounts' that, if approved, would result in a major shift from savings accounts to investment accounts managed by Wall Street companies."

Nader to Kerry: Pick Edwards or Gephardt
Ralph Nader is giving John Kerry advice on who to choose as his running mate. John Edwards and Dick Gephardt would work, Nader says. But Nader said Evan Bayh of Indiana, who he called a "soft Democrat," would be a bad choice, the Associated Press reports.

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"Kerry won't discuss whom he is considering for vice president, but his advisers have been examining Edwards and Gephardt, two of Kerry's rivals from the Democratic primaries. 'They're very careful,' Nader said on ABC's 'This Week.' 'They're not going to cause him any embarrassment. And they do bring an additional voter support for him.' Nader rejected the idea of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona joining Kerry's ticket. Kerry has repeatedly praised McCain and many in Washington have speculated about the appeal of a Kerry-McCain ticket, but Nader said: 'McCain really should be taken at his word. ... He's not going to do it.' Nader also said he wouldn't support Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh for vice president because 'he's a very soft Democrat.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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