The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with Congress returning to Capitol Hill today. Legislators are scheduled to meet for the next 19 days before they take another break for the midterm elections, and security and terrorism will be the focus of their agenda. The Washington Postleads with the Sudanese government increasing its attacks in the Darfur region to try to quash the rebels before a possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with progress in Lebanon's peacekeeping efforts as a large group of U.N. forces arrives in the country. It also mentions that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will appoint a mediator to discuss the release of the two abducted Israeli soldiers. USA Todayleads with the NATO commander in Afghanistan setting a six-month deadline to show the Afghan population that the Taliban will not win control over the country. On Saturday, NATO troops began a new offensive, and so far they claim to have killed more than 200 Taliban fighters.
As Republican fears that they might lose control over Congress increase, party members are sticking to talking about national security, while, as the NYT emphasizes, other issues such as immigration reform will be tossed aside for now. To illustrate just how focused on the elections Congress will be in the next few weeks, the WSJ says tax cuts for the middle class may also be added to the agenda.
The new attacks by the Sudanese government managed to push back some rebel groups, but they have also been forcing more people into refugee camps. Officials in Sudan have made it clear they don't want U.N. peacekeepers in their country, and they have threatened to expel the 7,000-strong African Union force. Aid groups warn that atrocities against civilians are on the rise and will get worse without African Union monitors .
As the NYT is quick to point out, it is still unclear how exactly the U.N. mediator will operate since Israeli government officials say the captured soldiers should be returned without any conditions. Annan said both sides agreed to indirect talks and that his goal is to set up a process by which prisoners can be released from both sides.
Nobody fronts the death of five U.S. and two British troops as a result of enemy fire in Iraq since Sunday. On Monday, 40 bodies (some handcuffed and mutilated) were found in Baghdad and a mass grave containing 18 people who were apparently murdered in the 1980s was also uncovered. The LAT takes a look at morgue figures and notes in its inside pages that at least 334 people were killed in Baghdad last week.
The Post fronts a picture of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan after one of their colleagues was killed when a U.S. warplane fired on NATO troops by mistake.
To better understand exactly what has gone wrong in Afghanistan almost five years after the Taliban government was ousted, the NYT fronts a comprehensive overview that clocks in at more than 5,000 words. Although some factors may not be necessarily surprising (not enough money or troops were sent over to Afghanistan, for example), it is helpful to see it all laid out in one place to understand the chain of events that led to the situation that now exists.
To commemorate Labor Day, President Bush visited southern Maryland, but, as the WP points out, he was not accompanied by either of the state's top two Republicans. The NYT mentions that unlike previous election years, President Bush chose to have a "low-key" Labor Day and didn't take any candidates with him while he made his 11-minute speech.
In order to explain what might drive November's undecided voters, the Post talks about what it calls "mortgage moms" in a Page One piece. Candidates are spending a lot of time debating Iraq and security but a deciding factor in the upcoming elections might be, simply, money. Although the basic economic indicators look strong, many middle-class families feel their wages aren't keeping up with inflation and that they are being overwhelmed by debt.
Everybody mentions that a British man was killed and six were injured when a gunman opened fire on tourists in Jordan.
After months of countless stories and even more speculation, Katie Couric finally makes her debut as anchor of the CBS Evening News tonight. The WSJ takes a look at what it took to compose the new 10-second clip that will introduce Couric. CBS hired an Academy Award-winning composer who said it was one of the biggest challenges of his career. The LAT points out that with Couric in the anchor chair, one of the periods of greatest changes in network news will be coming to an end. USAT says that CBS will become the first network to stream its newscast live on its Web site, which some believe may be the key to Couric's success.
Yesterday, the LAT was the only paper that managed to catch late-breaking news of Steve Irwin's death. Today, except for the NYT,all the papers have some mention of the "Crocodile Hunter"on Page One.
Thanks for the clarification … From the NYT'scorrections: "An article on Sunday about a coming referendum on plans to modernize the Panama Canal misstated the reason a Western diplomat was quoted anonymously. … He asked for anonymity because he did not have his government's permission to discuss the issue—not because he did have permission."