U.S. October death toll in Iraq reaches 102.

U.S. October death toll in Iraq reaches 102.

U.S. October death toll in Iraq reaches 102.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 31 2006 6:01 AM

Violent Wave

The New York Timesleads with the wave of violence that engulfed Baghdad yesterday and killed 46 Iraqis. The U.S. military also announced three more American deaths, raising the October death toll to 102. The Los Angeles Timesleads with what it says is a "growing number of American military officers" who have begun to "privately" question the wisdom of not setting a hard deadline for troop reduction in Iraq.

The Washington Postleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with President Bush stating at a campaign rally in Texas that if Democrats win on Nov. 7 and are able to impose their policies on Iraq, "the terrorists win and America loses." The speech is seen as a broad effort by Republicans to raise the stakes so that conservatives will be encouraged to get out to the polls. Vice President Cheney said he thinks insurgents in Iraq are timing their attacks to affect the outcome of the U.S. elections. USA Todayleads with word from the federal government that it wants to require all nursing homes to have sprinkler systems. Approximately 3,500 older homes are currently exempt from sprinkler requirements. These latest efforts seem to, at least in part, stem from an investigation by the paper last year that revealed the extent of the problem.

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On the same day National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley arrived in Baghdad, 33 day laborers were killed by a blast in Sadr City. U.S. and Iraqi forces had the city cordoned off, as they continue their search for the kidnapped U.S. soldier, which led to some Shiite leaders blaming the U.S. forces for allowing the bomb to go through. Total Iraqi deaths reported yesterday totaled 81, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Although the Bush administration and its supporters have always said setting specific deadlines in Iraq would only embolden the insurgents, some officers and traditional supporters of the president are now expressing disagreement with the policy. Many are having a change of heart because they are disappointed with the pace of progress and say the Iraqi government won't begin to make changes unless it feels specific pressure.

The WP spent some time with U.S. troops in charge of training the Iraqi police and tries to explain why some believe it may take "decades" before local forces are able to take on responsibility for the country's security. The head of the police-transition team of a U.S. military battalion tells the paper 70 percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias. Although U.S. soldiers say they frequently gather evidence of militia ties from within the police ranks, Iraqi officials don't take action on this information and no one has been fired.

While national attention is mostly focused on the Congressional contests, the NYT fronts a look at statehouse races, where Democrats could have a chance of winning back control of state capitols for the first time in a decade. This would bring more women, which is significant because local posts often serve as starting points for national politicians. A Democratic victory could also have a big impact when congressional districts are redrawn after the 2010 census.

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The Post reefers word of two leadership fights that are bubbling up within the Democratic Party, which could have lasting effects on party unity before the midterm elections are even decided. These fights stem from the question of who would take the positions of majority leader and majority whip. The only post that now seems to have no disagreement within the party is that a Democratic victory would mean California's Nancy Pelosi will become speaker.

The WSJ mentions Republicans claim early voting is largely going their way, which is a demonstration of their superiority at getting voter turnout. Democrats, on the other hand, contend Republicans are exaggerating their early successes. Regardless, experts agree this type of voting is increasing and predict anywhere from 19 percent to 25 percent of the electorate will either vote early at the polls or through absentee ballots. In the 2002 midterm election, the figure was closer to 14 percent.

Everybody mentions a report released by the British government warning that failure to prevent global climate change could cause great damage to the global economy. Effects, including, but not limited to, droughts, famine, and flooding, could all bear a huge toll on the world's gross domestic product. "The consequences for our planet are literally disastrous," Prime Minister Tony Blair said. Some critics say the report overestimated the potential cost of climate change.

USAT fronts news that the federal government's abstinence message will no longer be directed exclusively to kids and teenagers. Revised guidelines show the government also wants to reach adults up to age 29 who are unmarried. The government insists it's just a clarification, but critics contend it's an intrusion into the private lives of adults, not to mention completely pointless.

Everybody points out the Pakistani military launched an airstrike against a religious school, killing close to 80 people. Pakistani officials said the facility was used as a terrorist training camp and denied involvement of U.S. or NATO troops. The Post is alone in reporting the attack was the result of U.S. intelligence reports that declared the school was used as a hiding place for senior al-Qaeda figures. The NYT fronts a four-column picture of the mass funeral. Early morning wire reports say thousands gathered close to the site on Tuesday to protest the airstrike. 

Today's must-read comes from the LAT, which fronts the final heart-wrenching installment of its three-part series chronicling a gay couple's efforts to become parents through a "gestational surrogacy arrangement." Times correspondent Kevin Sack spent two years following the ups and downs of Chad and David Craig's saga and shines a light into the high financial and emotional toll faced by gay couples who want to start a family and choose not to adopt. 

On Halloween, the LAT fronts a look at a group of people in the Philippines who have to live every day surrounded by ghosts. There are approximately 50,000 people who live among the tombstones in the North Manila Cemetery, known as Norte, which is the country's largest public burial ground. "The dead don't scare me so much," said a Norte resident. "It's the living I'm afraid of."

Mirror, mirror on the wall … The Post fronts, the LAT reefers, and the NYT goes inside with, news from researchers who claim elephants have a degree of self-awareness that before had only been definitively shown in humans and apes. Researchers put a mirror inside the habitat of elephants at the Bronx Zoo, and the animals proceeded to examine parts of their body. More impressively still, one of the elephants passed what is known as the mark test. Researchers painted a white X on the elephant's cheek and it then proceeded to look in the mirror and repeatedly touch the mark (video is available here). This is quite impressive because it requires the elephant to, in some way, understand that the mark is on its body and not on the mirror.