The Washington Post's leads with, and everybody else stuffs, news that the first of 3,000 West African peacekeeping troops are expected to begin arriving in Liberia today. The Los Angeles Times leads with the results of a "three-month investigation" that brings together and adds evidence around what's already well-known: Iran is in the "late stages" of a nukes development program and is probably just a few years away from making them. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (online) with a wrapup on Iraq, noting that American forces reported no military deaths for the second consecutive day. USA Today's lead notes that state taxpayers are stuck shoring up public pension funds that got nailed by the stock crash. States are planning to contribute a total of $9.6 billion to the nation's 12 largest state pension funds this year. The New York Times' lead says a small part of the Medicare drug coverage bill—discount cards intended as a stop-gap measure until larger benefits kick in—has become a "major source of disagreement" between the White House and Congress.
The Post emphasizes that the West African peacekeeping force earned a bad rep in Liberia the last time it was there, in the 1990s, when many of the soldiers were corrupt. The paper says the troops are better trained this time, mainly by U.S. special forces. As the Post and other papers note, U.S. ships with a few thousand Marines are nearing Liberia's coast—though there's no indication that the troops are being sent ashore. Meanwhile, a NYT front-page piece notes that with rebels in control of Liberia's main ports, food has all but disappeared from the capital, Monrovia. People have begun eating pets. "I had to keep my dog in, lock him up all day," said one aid worker. According to the Journal's newsbox, "United Nations aid shipments began to arrive in the capital." But the article itself notes that it's only a half-ton of food, which doesn't seem like enough to merit highlighting.
The LAT's piece about Iran's nukes program notes that it's been quite an international effort. "Pakistan's role was bigger from the beginning than we thought," said one Middle Eastern spook. Then there's North Korea, which has such a large contingent in Iran that a resort on the Caspian "coast is set aside for their exclusive use." Meanwhile, the Times suggests that the White House's response has been stunted by internal issues. "The administration does not have a strategy because there is a fight in the administration over whether you should even deal with this government in Iran," said one analyst. Finally, the LAT deserves big ups for helpfully posting supporting documents, photos, and links.
The NYT explains that the White House wants less regulation of the Medicare drug discount cards. For instance, the administration opposes provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the bill requiring companies selling the cards to have oversight panels ensuring that the discounts are based on medical need and not on which slow-selling drugs could use a Blue Light Special. The White House argues that it's a bad idea to set up a large bureaucracy for a short-term program.
The Post says below-the-fold (oddly) that Secretary of State Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, plan to step down in January 2005, even if President Bush is re-elected. According to the story, which cites unnamed sources, Powell says the decision is based on a "commitment made to his wife" rather than any beefs he might have with, say, White House policies. The Post, citing sources "inside and outside the administration," says National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz are leading contenders to replace Powell. Two "dark-horse candidates" are also mentioned (seemingly just for fun): Sen. Richard Lugar and Newt Gingrich.
Everybody fronts word that a group of Episcopal leaders yesterday approved the selection of the denomination's first openly gay bishop. A group of Episcopal bishops is expected to ratify the choice today.
The papers note inside that Palestinian gunmen shot and wounded four Israelis yesterday, firing on cars in the West Bank.A caller from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility.The Post says on Page One that the number of Israeli settlement outposts isn't going down significantly. The military have indeed dismantled a few outposts, but settlers have built more of them, resulting in a wash.
The WSJ reports on the rising number of dissident Iranian clerics who've decided to head into exile and set up shop in Iraq. The latest decamper: Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, who appears to have a touch less anger toward the Great Satan than his grandpa did. The U.S. Army, he says, is "a liberating force that freed Iraqis, not occupiers." He added, "Just like the Iraqis, the Iranians are desperate to be free and if all other methods fail they may welcome American military intervention."
A WP editorial nails the administration for dodging questions about how much the reconstruction of Iraq might cost and for not including an estimate in next year's budget.
The LAT fronts the latest on what has been a series of pieces in the papers on rising instability in Afghanistan. The LAT mentions that "little" of the aid authorized by Congress has actually been spent, though it doesn't clearly explain why.
Let's hope so: "OFFICIALS TAKE RECENT ATTACK THREATS SERIOUSLY"— LAT.
Welcome to slow-news August ... The Post's (and CNN's) Howard Kurtz does a play-by-play of a recent softball game between CNN and its corporate sister, America Online. As CNN's White House correspondent John King was rounding second on a homer by a fellow CNNista, he shouted, "You've got mail!" According to Kurtz, "King denies adding a choice expletive." The result of techno-trash-talking: "A bench-clearing melee."