Schwarzenegger Flexes His Muscles

The Skinny is Hillary Profita's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

The Governator has grabbed the front pages of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times this morning after yesterday proposing a plan to extend health care coverage to all 36 million Californians at a cost of $12 billion.

Of the 6.5 million residents who don't have health insurance, at least one million are illegal immigrants (which means Lou Dobbs is none too pleased with the idea.) The only other states to provide similar "near universal" health care plans are Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, writes the New York Times.

While Democrats in California's legislature greeted the news positively, the LA Times writes that the news "gave virtual coronaries to leaders of California's hospitals, doctors' groups and insurers," since the plan would impose new fees and obligations on them as well as employers.

Those employers that don't offer insurance would be required to "contribute to a fund that would help pay for coverage of the working uninsured," writes the NYT.

The LAT notes that even consumer advocates have their doubts about the plan's efficacy: "…many leading consumer advocates, academics and business leaders said they feared that the governor's proposal was inadequately financed and would shift more responsibility for healthcare to families while unintentionally encouraging businesses to drop or downgrade the coverage they now offer."

Ah-nold's Not Finished!

Next on the Governator's to-do list: combating global warming. The LAT's front page notes that Schwarzenegger is "expected to announce today that he will order a 10% cut in motor vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide." It's the "first major step" in last year's law that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (considered a cause of global warming) 25% by 2020.

Iraq's "Nightmare Scenario"

The Wall Street Journal's front page offers a pretty picture of the "nightmare scenario" that "Arab leaders and U.S. military planners" are concerned may ensue if the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq expands further throughout the region.

Scholars Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution and Daniel Byman of the Rand Corp., have "worked for months" developing a study of possible worst-case scenarios of a civil war that would include bordering countries "from skyrocketing oil prices to huge, destabilizing refugee flows."

They say that "Iraq could become the world's premier sanctuary for terrorism and that strife there could spark minority uprisings in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria -- and even among Turkey's sizable Kurdish population."

The Iraq Study Group report mapped out its own potential sequence of events, explaining that "'[a]mbassadors from neighboring countries told us that they fear the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world. Such a broader sectarian conflict could open a Pandora's box of problems -- including the radicalization of populations, mass movements of populations, and regime changes -- that might take decades to play out.'"

Selling The Iraq Plan

As USA Today highlights a poll on its front page that reveals 61 percent of those surveyed oppose the idea of a troop surge (36 percent support it) and Bush's approval ratings have reached a new low (26 percent), the Washington Post outlines the ways in which Bush is rallying support for the plan. So far, that has meant that he met with 30 Republican senators yesterday, who reported back what's already been known for days – that Bush plans to send as many as 20,000 troops to stabilize Baghdad.

The Post's own poll revealed that "three-quarters disapproved of how Bush has handled the situation" in Iraq and "[o]nly 17 percent called for an increase in U.S. forces." The President will officially reveal his plans on television tomorrow night, in what the ever-quotable former Reagan White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein calls "the biggest speech of his six years." In comments to the Post, he added: "'If the American people tune him out, the next two years will be very rocky. He really needs to sell the American people that this is a strategy that can be accomplished.'" In other words, if the speech interrupts a new episode of "Lost," those poll numbers are only going to get worse.

Strike On Al-Qaeda

Two front pages highlight news that broke yesterday on the "CBS Evening News" – the US launched strikes on suspected al-Qaeda fighters in Somalia on Sunday. It was the "first acknowledged US military action inside Somalia since 1994," writes the Washington Post. The targets of the strike were three "key suspects" in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa that left 224 dead. "U.S. military and counter-terrorism officials said they did not know whether the strike, made within the previous 24 hours, killed any of the three fugitives," writes the LA Times.

Chapter One In 2007 Mysterious Manhattan Odor Coverage

And after hours of cable news coverage of the questionable stench looming over Manhattan yesterday – a sort of sequel to the maple syrup odor coverage of late 2005 -- the New York Times' front page prominently features a chronicle of the odorous drama.

Reports of the "telltale, unpleasant sulfur scent that typically signals a gas leak" "rattl[ed] the nerves of the city," leading to the evacuation of schools and offices, the re-routing of commuter trains as well as the dispatch of various fire trucks and Coast Guard vessels. There were about 4,500 more 911 calls than usual between 9 and 11 a.m.

And still, no one knows what it is. But nonetheless, theories abounded. As a New Jersey native, I was particularly offended by this one: "Some suspicion fell on New Jersey, given the path of the prevailing winds and the prevalence of chemical and petroleum facilities in the state."