The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox,and New York Timeslead with yesterday's two bombings inside the Green Zone, which killed six people, including four American security contractors, and wounded about 20. It was the first major attack inside the guarded area apart from rockets and mortars. Two GIs were also killed in separate attacks. USA Todayfronts the bombings and leads with complaints in some key states about voter fraud and intimidation. In Nevada, employees of one firm hired by the GOP to register voters said they were told to toss out forms filled out by Democrats. The Washington Post, whichgoes inside with a GAO report saying the Justice Dept. is unprepared for the potential flood of election-day complaints,leads with a campaign catch-all: "RIVALS GEAR UP FOR FINAL PUSH."
One Iraqi witness sat next to the two apparent suicide bombers and heard them speaking with Jordanian accents. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, which originated in Jordan, as usual claimed responsibility for the attacks.
There have been signs for weeks of deteriorating security in the Green Zone. A bomb was found last week in the same restaurant where one exploded yesterday. One Iraqi told the papers (in what seems to have been a group interview) that security has gone down ever since Iraqi guards took over some responsibility at checkpoints. Friday was the first day of Ramadan, and officials said they say they expect a surge in attacks during the holiday.
Most of the papers mention there were increased airstrikes and artillery strikes on targets in Fallujah, including what the military says was a "key planning center" for Zarqawi. The so-called insurgents' council in town has suspended peace negotiations, saying they won't or can't comply with the demand to turn over Zarqawi and other foreign fighters. "Zarqawi does not exist in Fallujah," said a council spokesman.
The NYT's James Glanz went on raids with Marines south of Baghdad and notices a new trend: Again and again whole villages were empty, with signs people left right before the Marines arrived. "Something happened," said one sergeant. "They knew we were coming."
The LAT says the Pentagon is planning to promote the former top commander in Iraq who was in charge while the abuses were happening at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Two unnamed defense officials told the paper that SecDef Rumsfeld and other top officials have been talking about the promotion. An independent panel concluded that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez wasn't directly "culpable" but is "responsible" for doing a poor job overseeing the prison system and not laying down clear interrogation rules.
The Post mentions inside that the top intel officer in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib abuses, who was also criticized by the panel (though not blamed in other reports), has just been praised by her superior. He said she should be put in charge of the Army's intel school as planned.
The NYT off-leads and LAT fronts New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer filing suit against the country's largest insurance broker, Marsh Inc., accusing it of fixing prices and accepting kickbacks. Spitzer said he's going to go after more than Marsh. "Virtually every line of insurance is implicated,'' he said. "There will be numerous criminal and civil cases."
The LAT and NYT front researchers saying they've found a vaccine for malaria, though it's only moderately effective and more studies need to be done. About one million people die from malaria annually.
A Page One piece in the NYT reminds that Ralph Nader is still getting enough support to potentially swing some key states. The Times doesn't mention another candidate who is actually on more ballots and is drawing similar numbers in some states: Libertarian Michael Badnarik.
The NYT fronts a federal panel concluding that contrary to previous studies, neurological problems suffered by Gulf War I vets have probably been caused by exposure to chemicals during the war.
Another bad plan ... From a letter to the NYT by Steven Lubet:
In the final presidential debate, President Bush announced that he is not going to get a flu shot. That was an egalitarian gesture, but it showed astonishingly poor judgment.
Influenza can be debilitating, and the president's health—as our chief executive and commander in chief—is a national priority.
As an active campaigner, Mr. Bush must shake hundreds of hands each day, which puts him at even higher than usual risk. Both Republicans and Democrats will benefit from a president who is vigorous and clear-headed rather than one who is bedridden with the flu.