The Washington Postleads with the kidnapping in Iraq of a top official for the relief agency CARE. Margaret Hassan has worked in the country for 30 years and actually holds dual Iraqi-British citizenship. She's well-known there and was a vocal opponent of the sanctions and later the invasion. The Los Angeles Times leads with a poll showing lots of support for a California proposition to roll back the "three-strikes" law. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a poll showing the presidential race tied. The New York Timesleads with a thumb-sucker on the massive get-out-the-vote effort by an "army of interest groups" who are "rewriting the tactics of elections." The Times estimates $350 million has been spent by the technically independent organizations that can keep mum about their sources of funding. USA Today leads with a White House letter-cum-press-release urging the Senate and House to resolve their differences over the intel reform bills.
The NYT has a similar take on the administration's Rodney King move. The Post doesn't: "WHITE HOUSE ASSAILS PARTS OF BILLS." For instance, as the Post explains and an editorial bemoans, while the White House supports most of the Senate bill it opposes a provision that would create a civil liberties oversight board, a proposal that has bipartisan support.
As everybody mentions, five Iraqi National Guardsmen were killed and about 80 wounded in a mortar attack on a base near Baghdad. One American contractor was also killed in another mortar attack. And the NYT details how a (gutsy) Iraqi National Guard commander survived an assassination attempt yesterday.
As usual, blogger-professor Juan Cole has a more comprehensive wrap-up of the violence, including two Iraqis killed when GIs and Iraqi national guardsmen clashed with guerrillas. * Cole also has a development that should be making the papers soon: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most popular leader, has called for an independent slate of candidates to run in the coming elections. Before his announcement, a slate of (mostly pro-American) parties had a near-lock on the race.
USAT fronts word that about 300 Iraqi soldiers from a 750-man unit deserted during the recent offensive in Samarra. Officials said a total of 1,500 Iraqi soldiers stayed in the battle and actually fought well.
The Journal goes up high with an internal Pentagon survey finding that only about 45 percent of Army reservists who served in Iraq said their units were "well prepared" for their missions. Reserve and National Guard troops account for 40 percent of the troops there.
Another piece inside the WSJ says the Army fell 30 percent short of new GIs in the first month of the new recruiting cycle. The Army Reserve was 40 percent below its goal. The military was short last year, and as a result pushed recruits who had planned to hold for a bit to join up sooner—contributing to the new shortfall.
The NYT serves up its second installment of a retrospective on the invasion. This one blames intel services for not predicting the insurgency: "POOR INTELLIGENCE MISLED TROOPS ABOUT RISK OF DRAWN-OUT WAR." Except, read down—past the cartoonish lead—and it gets murkier. The intel services did get things wrong, both tactical and strategic. But they also did raise at least some flags about a guerrilla war and the weaknesses of an occupation. Or as the NYT put it a few weeks ago: "PREWAR ASSESSMENT ON IRAQ SAW CHANCE OF STRONG DIVISIONS."
The Post off-leads with word that despite the nationwide flu vaccine shortage, members and employees of Congress have their own stash and can get shots no questions asked. The Capitol's attending physician said he trusts people to abide by government guidelines, which urge only those at risk to get the shots. The doctor has also recommended that all members of Congress get the shot since they shake a whole lot of hands and thus could be flu middlemen. The Post says the doc's stance "appears to directly contravene" the White House's advice. "If you are one of the doctors who got vaccine in the early shipments, please do not give it to people who are not" at high risk, said HSS Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Q the Post doesn't address: Couldn't the doctor's advice about inoculating the glad-handers be sound?)
The LAT goes inside with a report—prompted by a column yesterday in the paper by Robert Scheer—that the CIA may be stalling on releasing an internal report on 9/11 that named agency officials who may have screwed up.
The NYT fronts the Bush administration proposing to loosen regulations requiring banks to lend money for community redevelopment.
The Post points out that in response to its needling of Kerry for keeping mum on his (non-)position about enemy combatants, his campaign has released a statement: "A Kerry administration will apply the Geneva Conventions to all battlefield combatants captured in the war on terror."
The NYT's Nicholas Kristof continues to catalog the genocide in Darfur, and wonders why we aren't doing more:
This wouldn't require troops, just a bit of gumption to declare a no-fly zone, to press our Western allies and nearby Arab and African states, to impose an arms embargo and other targeted sanctions, to push a meaningful U.N. resolution even at the risk of a Chinese veto, and to insist upon the deployment of a larger African force.
Instead, President Bush's policy is to chide Sudan and send aid. That's much better than nothing and has led Sudan to kill fewer children and to kill more humanely: Sudan now mostly allows kids in Darfur to die of starvation, instead of heaving them onto bonfires.