The Washington Post leads with destruction wrought by Hurricane Ivan, which is the deadliest American hurricane since Floyd in 1999. Thirty-nine were left dead after the storm, and 1.8 million people in nine states remain without power. Southern Appalachia, not as familiar with hurricanes, sustained major flooding. The New York Times leads with the latest NYT/CBS News poll, which shows Bush leading Kerry by eight points. The poll also reveals that a majority of those surveyed think Kerry is spending too much time talking about the past and attacking the President, even though they think Bush is leading the country in the wrong direction. The Los Angeles Times' top non-local story is Sen. John Kerry's attack on Bush administration ties to Halliburton—a story the WPalso fronts.
Both the LAT and the WP hook their stories on Kerry's release of a television ad yesterday that implied a connection between payments Vice President Dick Cheney received from the company and its contracts to rebuild Iraq, but any interesting tidbits about the company and its link to Cheney is all news that's been reported before.
The Post also buries a compelling piece of reporting analyzing Kerry's attack strategy against President Bush. On Friday, the senator accused Bush of hiding plans to send reservists to Iraq after the election. Defense officials, however, said the plan has been known about all along and the National Guard has been preparing for the deployment.
Two suicide car bombings killed seven in Baghdad yesterday. Also on Friday, American forces launched air strikes on Fallujah, targeting areas associated with insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. Forty-four people were killed, including women and children, said health officials in Baghdad and Fallujah. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted in an interview that American-led forces would bring Iraq under control in time for elections in January.
The NYT fronts news that after a week of rulings and reversals in Florida courts, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday that presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name will appear on statewide ballots in November. The decision came just one day before state officials are required to send absentee ballots to Floridians living abroad (The WP says there are 25,000 of those voters; the NYT says the number is twice that). Also on Friday, Nader gained a spot on the Colorado ballot, but was denied a place on the New Mexico ballot. He is now on the ballot in 27 states.
The papers mention a statement issued over the internet taking responsibility for a spate of recent terrorist attacks in Russia. Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev claimed to be the author, but authenticity has not yet been confirmed. The militant leader chillingly calculated what he spent on the recent attacks—a little more than $20,000—and compared the Beslan school takeover to the American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. President Vladimir Putin suggested that pre-emptive strikes are near.
The WP fronts an examination on the corrupt security system easily exploited by the hijackers of two Russian planes several weeks ago. A bribe of approximately $34 allowed one of the hijackers on board. In recent years, other Chechen attacks have been facilitated with the help of bribed security officials.
The LAT fronts a play-by-play in the CBS offices in the days running up to the now famous 60 Minutes report on Bush's National Guard service. In an interview with the LAT, a CBS producer said that in an on-camera interview, the White House communications director didn't deny the authenticity of the documents before the broadcast. The LAT also scoops the other papers by tracking down the identity of "Buckhead," the blogger who first publicly said the documents were fraudulent. Instead of being a typography or document expert, the blogger is actually a conservative activist in Atlanta. The Post notes more evidence that the documents were leaked by retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, and the NYT reports that Burkett unsuccessfully offered advice to the Kerry campaign on how to attack the President.
Broken Record ... A forthcoming report concluding that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs seems to have failed to convince President Bush. He again defended the Iraq invasion on Friday, uttering his frequently used phrase: "Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision." The report—by Charles A. Duelfer, the top American weapons inspector in Iraq—is slated to be released in the coming weeks, but leaks to the press have revealed some of its contents, which show that a thorough search has turned up no evidence of large weapons production in Iraq.