Suicide Suspected

Suicide Suspected

Suicide Suspected

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 23 2004 3:22 AM

Suicide Suspected

Everybody leads with the military saying a suicide bomber was responsible for the blast in Mosul. Investigators found portions of a suicide vest and an unidentified human torso. "We have had a suicide bomber apparently strap something to his body and go into a dining hall," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Damage from the explosion also included little holes from ball bearings, which are often packed inside suicide vests to increase destruction.

The Iraqi militant group that initially claimed responsibility for the attack said the bomber was a local resident who had worked at the base for a few months.

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One former four-star general slammed the Army's reliance on contractors. "We have a terrible problem," he told the New York Times. "We have all this indigenous labor. We don't wash our dishes, cook our own food. When you bring indigenous laborers into camps, you immediately have a security problem." Halliburton, which operated the cafeteria where the bomber hit, said no Iraqis were employed inside it.

Yesterday, U.S. forces launched a big sweep in Mosul and essentially put the city in lockdown. The mayor warned residents that anybody trying to cross one of Mosul's bridges could be shot.

The papers mention in passing that a car bomb hit an Iraqi national guard checkpoint just south of Baghdad last night, killed nine and wounded 13.

The Washington Post's Josh White tags along with soldiers on raids in Samarra, where he describes a "virtual intelligence meltdown." The GIs—and White—blame guerrillas' increasing intimidation. "They all watch us and follow all of us," said one resident of the insurgents. "This is the fifth time the Americans have put snipers on the roof. Of course we are afraid. Of course we don't want to help." The soldiers are also operating without translators—they all quit after being threatened.

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The NYT notices inside that seven countries, led by Canada, are preparing to monitor the Iraqis elections ... from Jordan. "We are not calling this an observation mission," said a Canadian official. "It is an assessment mission."  

The Los Angeles Times, NYT, and WP all front the news from the administration rules making it easier for forest service officials to approve logging and drilling. The Post calls it the "biggest change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades" and says it includes "jettisoning some environmental protections" that have been around for 20 years. The revisions, which will cut lots of paperwork, also allow economic-development issues to get equal weight as environmental concerns. The LAT does a bit of digging and notices that three of President Bush's "elite fund-raisers" were timber execs.

The NYT teases word that the government seemingly tightened student financial aid rules, and as a result "college students in virtually every state will be required to shoulder more of the cost of their education." The Times says "at least 1.3 million" students could end up with smaller than expected Pell Grants, and the final number could be far higher: The changes are "expected to have a domino effect across almost every type of financial aid, tightening access to billions of dollars in state and institutional grants." Get to the ninth paragraph and it's a bit less End of Days: "Even with the new rules, spending on Pell Grants, which could easily surpass $12 billion this fiscal year, may continue to increase, and the ranks of recipients will probably grow as well, because so many new students are applying for aid."

The Post's lead editorial sums up the recent torture doc revelations. "Since the publication of photographs of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in the spring the administration's whitewashers—led by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld—have contended that the crimes were carried out by a few low-ranking reservists, that they were limited to the night shift during a few chaotic months at Abu Ghraib in 2003, that they were unrelated to the interrogation of prisoners and that no torture occurred at the Guantanamo Bay prison where hundreds of terrorism suspects are held. The new documents establish beyond any doubt that every part of this cover story is false." The headline: "WAR CRIMES."

The Wall Street Journal suggests concerns about Aleve are being overblown. One study of it was indeed just stopped. But contrary to many media reports, the seemingly observed increased risk for heart problems was so small as to be "not really" statistically significant, said the researcher who led the study. He explained the study was stopped not because of evidence of problems, but rather because patients in the study started freaking out, refusing to take their pills after hearing about problems with other pain relievers. "Kafka couldn't have written it better," he said.

The NYT fronts former Homeland Security nominee Bernie Kerik resigning from his buddy Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm. He told reporters he didn't want to be a distraction, and he didn't take questions.

Such insightful acquaintances ... "SUSPECT WANTED A BABY DESPERATELY,ACQUAINTANCES SAY"—WP.

The LAT fronts a feature on the increasing pressures Santas face. Among them: children's feet. "You got to protect your private parts," said one Santa. "I don't wear a cup or nothing; it's all in how you sit on your throne."