The New York Timesleads with President Vladimir Putin's address to a Russia stunned and angered by the series of violent terrorist attacks there over the past 10 days, the most recent being the bloody hostage crisis at a school in Beslan, where the death toll has now risen past 350, including at least 156 children. Putin called on his people to mobilize in the face of "an all-out war" by terrorists and vowed to strengthen Russia's security infrastructure and cleanse its corrupt judiciary. He acknowledged that his government had "failed to recognize the complexity and danger of the processes going on in our country and the world as a whole," and added, "We failed to react to them adequately. We demonstrated our weakness, and weak people are beaten." The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timesbothoff-lead Russia in favor of Frances, the second massive hurricane to hit Florida in three weeks. At only 6 mph, the storm is moving more slowly than expected, but it's so gigantic—the size of Texas—that it still threatens the entire state: 2.8 million were forced to flee the coasts, the largest such evacuation in Florida history.
In addition to the hundreds killed in the 10-hour battle in Beslan, more than 700 people were wounded, 400 of whom remain hospitalized, with 58 children "gravely wounded." According to the LAT, Russian officials now believe 35 attackers were killed, and a handful captured. A Russian law-enforcement official told reporters, "We think that not a single [attacker] managed to escape," but the last two paragraphs of the WP coverage hint otherwise. All the papers record reactions from Russian citizens furious about government ineptitude. LAT:"[One man] questioned why Putin and other politicians didn't 'even think about fulfilling the militants' demands to save the lives of the children. Probably because it wasn't their children here.' " WP: "Everyone is deceiving us ... they were lying about the number of hostages. And now they're lying about the number of dead." (The recent attacks in Russia, including the Aug. 24 bombing of two Russian airliners, and an apparent suicide attack outside a subway station in Moscow on Aug 31, have now claimed more than 500 lives.)
Said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of Hurricane Frances, whose 60-mile-wide eye made landfall Sunday morning near Palm Beach: "This is a dangerous, dangerous storm." Frances which is "twice the size of Hurricane Andrew," caused at least two deaths, as well as severe property damage and flooding, as it passed over the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday. By 1 a.m. today it had already knocked out power to half a million Florida homes and businesses, and at time of press, forecasts remained ominous: Not only might Frances' slow speed mean a more drawn-out and damaging scenario, but the storm's peak could coincide with high tide, increasing the chance of severe flooding. As stated, Florida is still saturated from Aug. 13's Hurricane Charley, which killed 27 people and caused billions in damage.
Remember those old punch-card voting machines from Florida in the year 2000? The ones that were "unreliable, often capricious and unable to produce a clear-cut winner in an election with razor-close margins?" Well, according to the WP, the very same machines will be used again in November by "an estimated 32 million voters in 19 states"—including Ohio and Missouri, two of the most crucial electoral battlegrounds. Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2000, but "most of the promised federal equipment replacement money was not distributed until June, and the law gives states until 2006 to put new equipment in place." Many have already done so, but others, like Ohio, have been more reluctant to replace bad with worse. One study there found that "anyone with a security card and access to voting terminals made by Diebold Inc. could take control of the machines by typing a universal password of 1111."
The NYT fronts a big feature on work-related stress and how, because stress is now worse than ever for Americans, it's costing the nation $300 billion in health care annually and making hordes of people sick and depressed. The article laments the disappearance of the traditional 9-5 work day; people are now working odder, less-regular hours, which makes it harder to balance work and family. The reporter also details the litany of stress-related health problems and packs in plenty of unnerving statistics: One study found that "the risk of dying from a heart attack doubled among permanent employees after a major round of downsizing, with the risk growing to five times normal after four years."
August was the worst month yet for U.S. casualties in Iraq, reports the WP, with about 1,100 soldiers wounded. This is likely because U.S. forces saw more intense and protracted fighting than they had previously. Thankfully, deaths did not rise in proportion to injuries.
The NYT reports more Iraq violence: A suicide car-bomb killed 17 policemen and three civilians outside a police academy in Kirkuk. Earlier Saturday, near Mosul, U.S. and Iraqi forces took out a "known terrorist cell," killing 11 militants and injuring "50 to 70" bystanders. The article cites several other small-scale attacks, including two hits on oil pipelines.
In a piece hidden inside the LAT, an AP reporter travels to the Mekong Delta and interviews Duong Hoang Sinh, a former Viet Cong soldier who fought very near the area where John Kerry's Swift boats were stationed—and at about the same time. The reporter describes what the battle might've looked like from the perspective of Viet Cong being hunted by Americans. She also notes that Sinh can't understand the dispute about Kerry's valor. Basically, Sinh says, "Kerry must have had guts to troll the Mekong Delta's spider web of rivers and narrow canals knowing that Viet Cong like [me] were waiting to pick him off."
Still biting your nails about the recent theft of Edvard Munch's The Scream? An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggests you've got a lot more to worry about: "According to a recently published estimate by London writer Edward Dolnick, 'The Museum of the Missing' would include 551 Picassos, 43 Van Goghs, 174 Rembrandts and 209 Renoirs. Interpol's running data base lists 20,000 missing works of art, half of them paintings, but the Art Loss Register in Britain tallies about 150,000."
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