Everybody leads with 14 Marines and one Iraqi interpreter killed when a massive bomb hit their lightly armored vehicle in western Iraq. The Marines were from the same unit—and in the same town, Haditha—as six Marine snipers who were killed earlier in the week.
The bomb was so big it flipped the 25-ton amphibious troop carrier, called an Amtrac, which then caught on fire. As the Los Angeles Times notes, the Amtrac's exit hatches are on top. Only one Marine inside survived. Marines moved through Haditha a few months ago and met little resistance. As the New York Times puts it, the guerrillas just "seemed to melt away." Though TP doesn't see it mentioned, U.S. commanders in the region have complained they don't have enough troops and end up sweeping towns only to be replaced by guerrillas. "We require more manpower to cover this area the way we need to," one military official told the LAT in May.
USA Todayand Knight Ridder both dig into the vulnerabilities of the Amtrac, one of the Marines' most common vehicles. "It is very lightly armored. It is under-powered. It is essentially a big boat on land," said one analyst. "It was never designed for the kind of beating it has been getting." Having said that, analysts suggested that yesterday's blast was so big it's unlikely any armor could have survived.
A piece in the NYT looks at the increasing sophistication of the bombs—including evidence that insurgents have adopted techniques once used by Hezbollah in Lebanon. "Our assessment is that they are probably going off to school," said one officer. Knight Ridder counts 39 U.S. and allied troops killed by bombs in July, the highest total since the war began.
Small, highly skilled IED cells often operate as a package and hire themselves out to the more well-known insurgent groups, such as Amman Al Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq or the Sunni group Ansaar al Sunna. They advertise their skills on the Internet. ...
Nine times out of 10, the military and intelligence officers said, the insurgents videotape IED attacks. The insurgents scrutinize the tapes—much as a coach watches postgame film.
Everybody mentions yesterday's easy-squeezy repair of the cloth fillers hanging from Discovery's underbelly. Astronaut Stephen Robinson pulled them out with his fingers, and declared, "It looks like this big patient is cured." Meanwhile, NASA is studying damage to the Discovery's thermal insulation blanket and might order a repair.
The NYT fronts an internal NASA report from last December that warned of continuing problems with foam. The report ultimately concluded that the shuttle was good to go but criticized contractor Lockheed Martin, saying the company "did not do a thorough job" in applying the foam.
The LAT fronts word that as part of his pro bono work, Judge John Roberts helped gay-rights activists win a landmark Supreme Court ruling restricting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Only three justices dissented: Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist.
Roberts was asked to help out on the case by a former colleague, who recalled Robert's response, " 'Let's do it.' "
The NYT meanwhile notices that back in his Reagan White House days, Roberts "opposed new provisions in the Voting Rights Act."
Everybody fronts Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog. With their particular reproductive system, dogs have proven hard to clone. It took nearly 1,200 cloned embryos to create just two cloned puppies, one of which died after three weeks. The advance was made by South Korean scientists, the same ones who made the therapeutic cloning breakthrough earlier this year. And no, the name wasn't a mistake: Snuppy = Seoul National University Puppy.
A piece inside the NYT notices that the recent highway bill's true price is about $9 billion more than advertised. Congress used accounting trickery to make the bill appear to stay in line with the spending cap the president demanded. A spokesman for the Senate committee on the deal said "the White House requested" the move.
G-ood Bye ...
Last week, the NYT reported that the administration was scrapping the "Global War on Terror" in favor of the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism," or G-Save. Citing administration sources, the Times said the rebranding grew "out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking." Turns out, not so much. Adding credence to (but not mentioning) an earlier blog report, a stuffed NYT piece notices that the president "publicly overruled some of this top advisors." In a speech yesterday, he referred to the "war on terror" at least five times; "global struggle against violent extremism" got zero love. The Times suggests that apart from "concern" that the new now-dumped phrase might actually "signal a shift in policy," the president just didn't like it.
Among those who had lobbied hardest for G-Save was SecDef Rumsfeld. Not that he was bothered by the president's speech. "The secretary doesn't feel this is push back," explained a Pentagon spokesman. "He feels it's an important clarification."