The New York Times and Los Angeles Timeslead with congressional leaders from both parties agreeing to extend $143 billion in middle-class tax cuts the White House has endorsed. The LAT emphasizes that the cuts are a political plus for Bush while the NYT points out that they're unfunded. "I wish we could pay for them," said Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel. "But this is a political problem and we have people up for re-election." The Wall Street Journal goes high with a poll showing the presidential race near tied, with Bush leading Kerry 48 percent to 45 percent among registered voters. (Among likely voters it was Bush 50, Kerry 46.) One question in the poll but not the Journal's coverage: Assuming the president is re-elected, how much would you like the second term to be like the first? Nine percent said "a lot," 31 percent said "minor modifications," and 58 percent want "major changes." The Washington Postleads with a government report showing that Fannie Mae, the government-chartered mortgage backer, essentially cooked its books. The report avoided singling out top execs but said Fannie "maintained a corporate culture that emphasized stable earnings at the expense of accurate financial disclosures." As the NYT emphasizes, the SEC is launching an "informal" investigation in response to the report. USA Today leads with a government report saying that undercover investigators—back in 2003—snuck explosives and weapons past security at 15 national airports. The TSA said it's tightened things up since then.
The NYT notes that Republicans added $13 billion in business breaks to the tax bill and defeated a $7 billion measure that would have extended tax credits to poor families. The Post is the only paper that headlines that: "BID TO SAVE TAX REFUNDS FOR THE POOR IS BLOCKED."
About 30 Iraqis were killed and 150 wounded in two car bombings and a battle with U.S. forces in Baghdad's Sadr City. One GI was killed in that fighting, and two were killed elsewhere. Nobody fronts the violence, presumably since it's the new normal.
In fact, the Post doesn't get to the deaths until the 12th paragraph of its stuffed wrap-up while the NYT waits until the 17th paragraph. Instead, the papers focus on the hostages. There was another video, one showing a Briton pleading for Prime Minister Blair to get Iraqi women detainees released, as the terrorists have demanded. "I don't want to die in Iraq," he pleaded. "I don't deserve that." As the LAT says, the Iraqi government gave conflicting statements about whether one female detainee would be released, and the U.S. said it won't happen soon.
The NYT's off-lead has aides to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani saying their boss is worried the elections might be delayed and that Shiites won't be adequately represented. One nameless source "close to Sistani" told the Times that the cleric is prepared to boycott the elections. Sistani is reportedly particularly piqued about a plan by some of the largest parties to join together on a "demographically balanced" single ticket, which would limit voters' choices. Earlier this week, Knight Ridder reported that Sistani condemned a U.S. raid in Najaf against Muqtada Sadr.
Another GI was killed in Afghanistan, the third one this week. According to a wire piece inside the Journal: "U.S.-led troops clashed with militants in eight separate locations Monday, a military spokesman announced. A total of 14 Americans were injured and one Afghan soldier was listed as missing." Meanwhile, TP doesn't see a bylined piece in the papers filed from Afghanistan. Writing an op-ed in the NYT, Peter Bergen says things actually aren't so bad there.
Most of the papers front the Justice Department announcing the impending release of Yasir Hamdi, a dual American-Saudi citizen who was picked up in Afghanistan and detained as an enemy combatant. As part of the deal, Hamdi will renounce his U.S. citizenship, be sent to Saudi Arabia, and face travel restrictions. The release comes after the Supreme Court decided that Hamdi has a right to his day in court. Meanwhile, the DOJ, which refused to discuss the case apart from a press release, said that Hamdi, who was held in isolation for two years, doesn't pose a threat. Told he was on the verge of getting out, Hamdi's lawyer said his client exclaimed, "That's what I'm talking about!"
And according to the Post, the military dropped spying-related charges against an airman who had been stationed at Guantanamo Bay, the third Gitmo espionage case to fall apart this year.
The LAT is still the only paper to have a reporter filing from Haiti, where 2,000 people are now estimated to have been killed in flooding.
Everybody mentions that a Palestinian suicide bomber killed two policemen in Jerusalem.
The NYT goes inside with President Bush's chat with Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has all but said he'll break his promise to step down as military chief. The Times says Bush appeared to make "little effort" to warn Musharraf against the move. Bush made "no effort" to get Musharraf to agree to let U.S. investigators interview nukes freelancer Abdul Qadeer Khan.
The Post announces that Chucky, a 1,000-pound alligator lost in Gulf Shores, Ala., after Hurricane Ivan, has been found. Chucky was given a big meal before the storm so, "zoo officials were less worried that he would starve than they were worried that he would eat; Chucky has learned to associate people with food."