The New York Times and USA Today lead with word that domestic manufacturing cruised to its highest level in about 20 years—a much larger jump that most economists had predicted. For the first time since the onset of the recession in 2000, the number of manufacturing jobs increased. The Washington Post leads with word that most members of the Iraqi Governing Council don't support Iraq's top Shiite clerics' call for direct elections next year. (Yesterday's NYT, in a piece TP criticized, suggested that the council supported such elections.) The Los Angeles Times' lead says that increasing guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan from Taliban and al-Qaida remnants are undermining plans to hold presidential elections by next June.
The Post piece, by Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran, says the GC members' opposition to direct elections and support for the U.S. transition plan—which calls for a complex series of caucuses made up of U.S. and GC approved members—were "the result of intense lobbying over the past few days by the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer." A piece in Sunday's Post, by two U.S.-based correspondents, suggests the opposite: "Because many of the 24 council members probably would not fare well in open elections, they pressured Bremer to establish an indirect three-step system." [Italics added.] Maybe both are true: The Council pressured Bremer then started to get cold feet after the cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, for criticized the plan.
The LAT says that because of increasing attacks in Afghanistan on foreign workers, the U.N. hasn't been able to do voter registration in many areas dominated by the Pashtun, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, who already feel like they're unrepresented. "If they can't go out and do voter registration and then the elections aren't free and fair, then the Taliban wins," one U.S. official said. "The window of opportunity to get it right before all the Pashtuns turn against us is closing rapidly."
The NYT, WP, and LAT all front follow-ups to Sunday's big botched guerrilla attack in Samarra. The Post's Anthony Shadid says the guerrillas, apparently Fedayeen Saddam, displayed "unprecedented coordination and tactics and numbers yet unseen." Citing witnesses, he also says U.S. troops fired "randomly in crowded neighborhoods" and civilians took up arms "against U.S. forces once the fight got underway."
The NYT focuses on the potential connection between crushing the guerrillas and alienating other Iraqis. "If I had a gun, I would have attacked the Americans myself," said one Samarra resident who said he saw two civilians killed. "The Americans were shooting in every direction."
Shadid notes far down in his story that some residents "speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, criticized the guerrillas for bringing the fight inside the city."
There are also continued questions about the number of KIA: The U.S. military said 54 guerrillas were killed, while the local hospital reported only eight Iraqis killed, including a few civilians. Military spokesman said that's because the guerrillas carried off their dead. The NYT notes, "Most Iraqis interviewed around this city said they had seen only a few" bodies.
The LAT's John Daniszewski has the most detailed account of the battle, going through it hour-by-hour.
The LAT quotes the U.S. commander of forces around Baghdad saying that despite assertions to the contrary, "I'm increasingly of the belief that there's central financial control and central communications" among the guerrillas.
Everybody mentions that a U.S. soldier was killed Monday in a town about 70 miles south of Samarra.
The Wall Street Journal says up high that in "a sign of how thinly stretched the Army is," the Pentagon has decided to let some units returning from Iraq drop "unfit for combat" readiness levels so soldiers in the units can have a bit of down time.
The WP off-leads and others front the resignation of Boeing's chief executive. The company has been getting heat recently for various shady business dealings, including allegedly stealing documents from a competitor.
The NYT notices that because of population shifts documented by the 2000 census, if President Bush carries the same states next year as he did in 2000, he will win seven more electoral votes.
A wire piece inside the Post notices that British Airways contradicted the White House and said none of its pilots queried Air Force One during its super-secret flight to Baghdad. The White House said a BA pilot spotted AFO over the Atlantic and radioed, "Did I just see Air Force One?" Air Force One reportedly responded: "Gulfstream 5," a little corporate jet.