The New York Times leads with—and the Los Angeles Times fronts—attacks by insurgents in the Russian city of Nalchik Thursday. Eighty to 100 rebels stormed nine buildings in the city, taking hostages and prompting President Vladimir Putin to seal the city. Russian officials estimate that at least 85 people have been killed—most of them insurgents—and the death toll may rise. According to the NYT, a Web site associated with Chechen militants said that the attackers were Islamic fighters aligned with Chechen separatists. USA Today leads with the results of a poll conducted by the paper, CNN, and Gallup revealing that almost four in 10 New Orleans residents assisted by the Red Cross say they won't move back to the beleaguered city. The paper bills their poll of 1,510 displaced residents as "the first comprehensive survey of hurricane victims." The LAT leads with a look at Harriet Miers' writings in the early 1990s, which reveal, in the words of the headline, "a Glint of Liberalism." The Washington Postleads with the scandals and legal problems plaguing the Bush administration.
The LAT bases its analysis on views Miers aired while writing a monthly column for the Texas Bar Journal. And it is a "glint" of liberalism that's reflected—just barely. There's no smoking liberal gun—but Miers did suggest increased funding for legal aid to the poor; a possible increase in taxes; and additional measures that would send more minority students to law schools. She also chafed at lawyer-bashing, then popular among conservatives.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the White House continued to stand by their woman. Press Secretary Scott McClellan maintained that Miers will not withdraw as the president's nominee.
Anonymous "Republican advisers close to the Bush team" tell the WP that the White House is bracing for the possibility that Rove or other officials could be indicted in the next couple of weeks. The Post does get a few folks to talk on the record, unanonymously, about the scandals in general, such as Joseph diGenova, a Republican and former independent counsel, who tells the paper that an ongoing investigation is debilitating and "like getting punched in the stomach." The NYT runs a similar scandal roundup, noting that Bush's approval rating has hit a new low—38 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
The WP fronts a look at an insult added to literal injury: Wounded American soldiers back from Afghanistan and Iraq who are being issued debt notices by the military. An Army analysis has identified 331 soldiers dealing with this problem, which is mainly caused by an outdated Defense Department computer system that handles payment.
The Post also fronts a dispatch from Balad, a swing city in Iraq where American troops are trying to convince Sunnis to vote in Saturday's referendum. "The fight will continue against the Americans, whether we vote yes or no," one resident tells the paper.
The Wall Street Journal fronts a profile of an American military leader trying to bridge the wide gulf between Sunnis and Shiites in Tal Afar, where sectarian violence has been especially bad lately. The American colonel is trying to mend old wounds but tells the Journal, perhaps revealingly: "The Shiites and the Sunnis look the same. They speak the same language. Both of them want the same things. ... I'm not sure I'll ever really understand."
In yet another shocking revelation about the federal response to Katrina victims, the Post fronts the story of how nearly 400,000 packaged meals—a $5.3 million donation from the British—were never distributed to hurricane victims. Because of a U.S. ban on British beef, the meals have been sitting in a warehouse for a month, where taxpayers are paying to store them.
The LAT, WP,and NYT front Thursday's announcement that British playwright Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy in Stockholm said that Pinter's work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." The LAT notes that Pinter has not been coy about his political opinions over the years—he's called Tony Blair a "war criminal" and the United States "a country run by a bunch of criminals."
Deadly Asian bird flu has been detected among birds in Turkey. In response to the threat of a possible epidemic, European Union officials quickly recommended allocating $1.2 billion to help member governments stockpile antiviral medicines.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced Thursday that he'll soon be traveling to Pyongyang to encourage North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He will not be officially representing the United States but apparently has support from the Bush administration.
Give or take 6,000 ... The NYT runs a correction on yesterday's front-page article about the devastation in northern Pakistan caused by the earthquake. The story "misstated and misattributed" an official death estimate in the North-West Frontier Province: Instead of 4,000, it is actually 10,000 people who are estimated dead. The number, the Times also points out, came from the provincial government, not the military.