The Note

USA Today 's William Welch and Andrea Stone report that Democrats want inquiry into reports of a Medicare vote for campaign cash bribe. LINK

The Washington Times talks to a number of congressmen who say the Medicare bill is already a problem for their pending re-election campaigns. LINK

The politics of national security:

The White House announced this morning that former Sec. of State and all-around GOP fixer James A. Baker III will go around the world seeking debt relief for Iraq as the president's envoy.

(Does this mean he is a better or worse bet for President Kerry's Administration?)

The AP reports out of Baghdad this morning that a "bomb exploded near a Baghdad mosque as a U.S. military convoy passed by Friday, killing an American soldier and two Iraqis." LINK

As for the state of insurgency, the New York Times reports "American commanders say the people fighting them appear more brazen recently, and in recent weeks they have even circulated leaflets in Hawija asking all Iraqis to join them." LINK

As intended, the last paragraph of this piece is likely to prove chilling for American readers.

Secretary Powell became the second Administration official this week to put out the appeal from Brussels for more allied assistance in Iraq, reports the New York Times . The remarks, writes the Times , indicate "the strength" of the administration's "intent to find help in handling the costs and sacrifices of rebuilding Iraq with international partners." LINK

Meanwhile as the effort to stabilize and reconstruct continues, the New York Times reports the Sheraton in Arlington hosted a "marketplace of sorts," bringing together "more than 400 people from 30 countries" for a "conference focusing on how to rebuild Iraq and get a piece of the $18.3 billion Congress has authorized for the effort." In attendance: "bankers, architects, lawyers, engineers, real estate developers, insurance agents, construction specialists, transportation experts, communication company owners, investment counselors and more than 40 Iraqi officials working with the Coalition Provisional Authority." LINK

The New York Times ' Eric Schmitt writes on the stealth resurrection of the thwarted Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence, reporting "a couple of months ago, the Pentagon quietly awarded a $300,000 contract to SAIC, a major defense consultant, to study how the Defense Department could design an 'effective strategic influence' campaign to combat global terror." LINK

The UK's Independent reports this morning that "pressure is mounting on the United States military to support its claim to have killed 54 Iraqi guerrillas in the biggest battle since George Bush declared an end to major combat seven months ago. Scepticism about the US's version of the death toll has been expressed within upper echelons of the occupation authorities."

The Los Angeles Times reports "a former senior Israeli military intelligence official asserted Thursday that the nation's spy agencies were a 'full partner' to the United States and Britain in producing flawed prewar assessments of Iraq's ability to mount attacks with weapons of mass destruction." LINK

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