The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox and Washington Post lead with the latest attacks in Iraq which have killed a total of 15 U.S. soldiers over the past two days. There was particularly heavy fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City, where GIs made a show of force and came under repeated attacks by Muqtada Sadr's militia. An estimated 40 Iraqis were killed and about 200 wounded. The Los Angeles Times also leads with Iraq but focuses on yesterday's milestone: 1,000 Americans have now been killed. The New York Times'lead mentions the 1,000, but focuses on top Pentagon officials acknowledging that many cities in the so-called Sunni Triangle are essentially rebel-controlled and that January's election will be in trouble if the towns stay that way. Officials said they're hoping Iraqi forces are ready by December to help retake the cities if necessary. Elections are scheduled for January, and the Times wonders if the wait has a domestic component: "A two-month hiatus before major force is applied to rebel areas would also mean a delay until after the American presidential election." USA Today also fronts the 1,000 but leads with a survey showing college tuition costs up an average of 9 percent this year or $491. Last year they were up an average of 14 percent.
Everybody mentions that two Italian humanitarian workers and two of their Iraqi co-workers were kidnapped after about 20 gunmen stormed their office in Baghdad.
Also yesterday, a roadside bomb exploded next to a convoy carrying Baghdad's governor. He wasn't injured but two others were killed. Also, the Marines attacked Fallujah with what the Post describes as "tank rounds, artillery shells and bombs." The military claimed 100 militants were killed, though hospital officials told the NYT there were only a few casualties, including an 8-year-old boy.
The NYT says U.S. officials have decided Sadr is vulnerable, and they're trying to crush his movement. "There are no negotiations," said one officer. "Sadr needs to disband and disarm, and then we can talk." The Times suggests the U.S. is making a mistake: "By many accounts, the armed incursions by American forces appear to be deeply unpopular, serving mainly to strengthen the cleric and his otherwise unloved band of followers."
USAT's front-page feature announces: "U.S. DEATHS IN IRAQ WAR TOP 1,000. This Community of 19,000 in Kansas Loses Four sons in the War on Terror." Two of the men profiled were killed in Afghanistan and two were killed in Iraq, which, correct TP if he's wrong, is a different war.
The WP, NYT, and LAT all off-lead Cheney going nuclear or at least suggesting al-Qaida will if Kerry is elected. "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice," Cheney told a crowd of supporters. "Because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
The LAT and NYT front the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office contradicting the White House and saying that while this year's deficit will be slightly less than projected, even under the most optimistic assumptions it will balloon to an estimated $2.3 trillion over the next decade. "The message is that you cannot grow your way out of this," said the head of the CBO. The LAT points out that neither candidate has a "plan for putting the federal budget back in the black."
Nobody fronts the non-partisan GAO concluding that the former head of the Medicare agency should repay some of his salary since he illegally ordered an accountant not to give Congress estimates that the Medicare bill would cost more than projected. (A federal law states that anybody who stops bureaucrats from sharing info with Congress can't take home a paycheck.) In a bit that TP didn't see in the papers, the Associated Press says the administration has still "refused to release the estimates."
Knight Ridder reports that the U.S. military in Afghanistan kept prisoners hidden from the Red Cross as part of "standard operating practice." A number of the investigations into prisoner abuse have mentioned the "ghost detainees," but none have specifically investigated the practice, which violates the Geneva Conventions.
The Boston Globe takes another look at Bush's military records and concludes the president "fell well short of meeting his military obligation"—despite Bush's repeated claims to the contrary. ''He broke his contract with the United States government," said one retired officer who reviewed the records. NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof talks to two former military pilots who back that up, saying they served on the same base as Bush did, or least was supposed to. Both officers said they looked for him; neither could find him.