The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Postlead with a car bomb outside Fallujah that killed seven Marines and three Iraqi troops, the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in four months. The Post emphasizes that U.S. forces seem to be stepping up pressure on the rebel-held city: Troops set up a series of checkpoints, and residents also said there have been warnings by the U.S. to leave town. The LAT says there were also three bombings against GIs around Baghdad; three soldiers were wounded in one of them. USA Todayleads with a poll showing President Bush widening his lead a bit over Sen. Kerry among likely voters, 52 percent to 45 percent. That's a five point bounce, less than other post-convention polls. The poll shows the two essentially tied among registered voters: Bush 48, Kerry 46. The New York Timesleads with an overview of this fall's coming congressional action—which will apparently be focused on implementing (or opposing) the 9/11 commission's recommendations.
The NYT off-leads and Wall Street Journal goes high with Kerry going after Bush: He called Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Kerry also said his goal would be to pull troops out of Iraq by the end of his first term. President Bush accused Kerry of taking "yet another new position"—the papers don't say whether that's true. Vice President Cheney added, "When it comes to diplomacy, let John Kerry stick to windsurfing."
Everybody fronts the latest on Frances, which faded Monday to a tropical storm but has left about 6 million Floridians without power. A top state official gave cost a guesstimate of "a couple of billion;" by comparison, Charley is expected to cost about $7.5 billion.
Most papers front former President Clinton's apparently successful quadruple bypass surgery. Doctors found some arteries more than 90 percent blocked—"the edge of the cliff in coronary terms," says the NYT—but Bill is expected to make a full recovery, and doctors said he could be back to a normal workload (whatever that may be) in a few months.
There are various follow-ups on the Russian school massacre. The WP highlights the Russian government's account—purportedly back up by surveillance tapes—that the guerrillas were arguing about whether to abandon the siege right before the bombs went off that prompted Friday's conflagration. The NYT emphasizes the unusual airing of criticism of the government. The Journal notes an opposite data point: The editor of a pro-government newspaper was fired after he ran a graphic photo of the school scene. The LAT's Kim Murphy, filing from Chechnya, details how during the school takeover Russian soldiers took their own hostages: about 40 family members of Chechen rebel and political leaders. "We figured they wanted to exchange us for the hostages in Beslan," said one of those taken. The Chechen hostages, including a 5-month-old baby, were released the day after school siege ended.
Most of the papers catch early morning reports of an Israeli airstrike on an apparent Hamas training camp in Gaza; witnesses said 13 militants were killed and about 25 wounded.
A Post op-ed notices that while the administration has claimed that its 2002 memo essentially justifying torture was just a thought exercise, one of the recent reports on Abu Ghraib concluded that a Pentagon working group "relied heavily" on the memo to draw up a list of harsh, contradictory, and since discontinued interrogation techniques. TP hasn't seen that mentioned in any news stories.