The Los Angeles Timesand USA Today lead with President Bush's announcement that the Pentagon is planning to "bring home" about 65,000 U.S. soldiers from Europe and Asia over the next decade. The Washington Postleads with Venezuelans' overwhelming defeat of the referendum to recall PresidentHugo Chávez. "The Venezuelan people have spoken and the people's voice is the voice of God!" said Chávez. While international monitors, including former President Carter, backed the results, Venezuela's opposition is balking. One anti-Chávez protestor was shot and killed during a demonstration in Caracas. The New York Timesleads with a federal study concluding that children attending charter schools have lower test scores than those who attend regular public schools. Charter schools, which have far more freedom than most public schools, have been heavily supported by the White House. The findings, notes the Times, were "buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement."
The general outlines of the redeployment plan have been known for months—namely pulling troops out of Germany and South Korea, bringing most of them home, and establishing a series of forward operating posts in Central Asia. Bush's announcement, which came during a campaign speech to veterans, didn't add many details. The president said the realignment is needed to shift troops from their Cold War positions and "for the sake of our military families."
Analysts were skeptical. "I don't understand how we gain strategic ability to respond by moving people to the U.S., further away from the likely trouble spots," one told the Post. The Post and NYT editorial pages are also flummoxed. "It is certain to strain crucial alliances, increase overall costs and dangerously weaken deterrence on the Korean peninsula at the worst possible moment," says the Times. The Journal pronounces the move a "good idea on several levels—geographic, political and strategic."
Only the Post fronts word that members of the ongoing national Iraqi conference in Baghdad voted to send a delegation to Najaf to urge Moqtada Sadr to stop fighting and disarm. The delegation, being led by a Shiite cleric distantly related to Sadr, issued a statement condemning Sadr's use of the Imam Ali shrine. The conference approved it with a standing ovation. But trouble came when the delegation tried to hit the road: Iraqi police refused to go along, citing the danger. Private guards were apparently hired in their place, but the Post says they haven't shown up either. So, no trip yet.
In other Iraq news: There was fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City, where an American tank was destroyed though the crew escaped with only minor injuries; militiamen kidnapped the father of Najaf's police chief, dragged him through the streets, and demanded that the chief take his place; and in the south, Sadr supporters torched an oil field. According to a well-regarded Iraqi paper—cited by professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole—19 Iraqis were killed and about 100 wounding in fighting yesterday.
The NYT teases on Page One new federal data showing that SUVs continue to be more dangerous than passenger cars, even for the people in them. Last year, SUVs riders had an 11 percent higher chance of being killed in a road accident than did car riders.
In the final chapter of its three-part series on how the Bush administration is loosening up environmental and safety regulations, the Post focuses on a White House "clarification" of the Clean Water Act. The new rule said that the debris from mountain-top removal, which often clogs up streams, isn't "waste" it's "fill," and thus A-OK.