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A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 14 2003 4:17 AM

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The New York Times leads with word from "administration officials" that the White House has decided against seeking a U.N. mandate for Iraq, which India, France, and others had said they would need if they were to send troops in. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with news that 200 Marines will head into Liberia temporarily to back up Nigerian peacekeepers and help secure Monrovia's port. The Marines won't be going on patrols and, says the LAT, will likely only stay until more Nigerian forces arrive, which should happen in a few days. USA Today teases the troop dispatch on Page One, while the NYT all but skips it. USAT leads with an NCAA study suggesting that schools that increase their spending on athletics don't do better in sports and don't make more money off of them.

Pentagon officials told the NYT that giving the U.N. a major hand in Iraq would cramp the military's style—or as the Times' paraphrases, "hamper the latitude the United States must have in overseeing Iraqi security and pursuing anti-American guerrilla forces."

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One White House official said, "The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council and saying, 'We really need to make Iraq an international operation.' You can make a case that it would be better to do that, but right now the situation in Iraq is not that dire."

As everybody briefly mentions inside, another GI in Iraq was killed yesterday and at least one other was wounded. Meanwhile, as the WP highlights inside, Iraqis in a poor Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad clashed with U.S. forces yesterday. One Iraqi was killed and four wounded. Military officials said soldiers only started shooting after they came under fire, which Iraqis denied. The clash happened after a low-flying helicopter knocked over a religious flag. (Iraqis say that a soldier in the chopper pulled the flag down.) "Until now we haven't done anything to the Americans," said one resident. "We are warning them not to come inside here again." This could end up being a major development. As the Post notes, it was among the worst unrest in Baghdad since the city fell. More important, the clashes were with Shiites, who until now have largely held off from launching guerrilla attacks.

As the NYT emphasizes inside, gas shortages are continuing in Basra and continuing to tick off residents there. "You can see the frustration on the streets," said one British officer. "I have the ability to sustain public order. But I'm not sure for how long." The piece adds that there's some evidence that the rioting in Basra has been orchestrated by radical groups.

The NYT, alone among the papers, fronts word that over 50 people died in Afghanistan yesterday in assorted violence. Fifteen people were killed, including six children, when a bomb blew up a bus in southern Afghanistan. The others died when suspected Taliban forces fought "government" troops near the Pakistan border and when fighters with rival warlords clashed in a central province. European countries and the U.S. and have opposed expanding the peacekeeping force beyond the capital. One reason the Times' piece made the front and the others didn't: It's better; probably because it's written by a staff reporter and datelined Kabul. The other papers don't seem to have anybody in Afghanistan.

As everybody at least mentions on their front page, the final count is in on the number of candidates who've qualified for California's recall election: 135. It'll be the longest state ballot since 1914.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.