The Washington Postleads with news that most recent Army recruits have accepted a "quick ship" bonus of $20,000 to begin basic training before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Since the Army began offering the incentive in late July to meet year-end goals, more than 90 percent of recruits have agreed to take the cash, which often amounts to more than a year's salary. The Los Angeles Timesleads with military officials saying that insurgents are increasingly using children to fight against U.S. troops in Iraq. The paper says there are now more boys in U.S. detention camps than foreign fighters. USA Today and the Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsboxlead with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashing out against Sens. Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin by name for saying that he should be replaced. The senators need to "come to their senses," Maliki said.
The New York Timesleads, and the WSJ tops its business newsbox, with word that Home Depot has agreed to sell its supply business for almost $2 billion less than originally planned two months ago. Although, as the NYT notes, Home Depot Supply might be a special case since it depends so much on the housing market; everyone sees it as the first example of what many predicted would happen as the global credit crunch forces buyers to rethink deals that were made during the recent "buyout boom." The WP emphasizes that the news is hardly surprising because the company had hinted that this might happen.
The Post says some worry the increased focus on filling this year's recruiting goals will leave the Army scrambling next year as it will have to start basically from scratch. And, of course, there are the concerns that those who sign up are doing it for the wrong reasons and that all this further illustrates how the Army has lowered its standards. "My sense is that right now, they're willing to take anybody who is willing to walk in the door and ship by Sept. 30," an expert tells the Post. The Army contends no one is signing up just for the bonus, but rather some who were considering joining are making up their minds more quickly, a claim that is supported by the people the Post interviewed.
U.S. officials say al-Qaida in Iraq is increasingly turning to children because there has been a decrease in foreign fighters and, of course, the fact that they're easier to convince than adults. Some of these children are pressured to do the militants' bidding by their own families because they can get good money for their efforts. The U.S. military apparently tries to keep child detainees separate from the adults and has begun new educational programs to try to change their ways but the increased number of boys in custody is bound to raise more questions about the detention facilities and lack of proper judicial oversight.
Although Maliki had spoken up against the criticism levied by U.S. officials last week, his comments yesterday "appeared to reach a new level of stridency," says the NYT, which notes the prime minister also spoke up against the French foreign minister. "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages," Maliki said, according to the Associated Press translation. USAT notes "it's unclear whether al-Maliki intended a reference to Clinton's" book It Takes a Village (the NYT translates the word as "cities").
In other Iraq news, a group of top Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders issued a statement agreeing to some broad goals, including the release of prisoners and allowing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to hold government jobs. But make no mistake about it, "Iraq's political process remains all but completely stalled," the NYT says. The Post points out that in a CNN interview, former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi confirmed he has hired a Washington lobbying firm to help in his effort to return to power under a new coalition that would replace Maliki.
Interested in getting a nice sign-up bonus but afraid that the Army might send you to Iraq? There's always teaching. The NYT off-leads a look at how several school districts are struggling to find qualified teachers and some are offering cash to get them. Although there are lots of baby boomer teachers retiring, some say the problem is compounded by the high turnover rate of young instructors.
The LAT fronts a picture of, and everyone mentions, the wildfires that have engulfed parts of Greece and killed at least 60 people. Firefighters were able to prevent the site of the first Olympic games from falling prey to the flames but other historical landmarks are still at risk.
The LAT fronts the story of one New Orleans resident who has been fighting with a rescue worker to get her dog back after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of dogs were rescued after the storm, and many (although not the majority) have been reunited with their previous owners. But some have sued for custody after the new guardians refused to give the dogs back, sometimes saying that the original owners did not take proper care of their pet.
Over in the NYT's op-ed page, Roger Cohen has a good piece (subscription required) that is an example of how the current crisis in Iraq's government can be traced back to some early decisions and missed opportunities by the Bush administration. Zalmay Khalilzad, currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tells Cohen that in 2003 he expected to be sent by the administration to organize a large meeting of Iraqi politicians, "something like an Afghan loya jirga." But that idea was scrapped when Bush decided to send L. Paul Bremer III by himself after the two had lunch one day. Both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were apparently shocked by the development. Powell says that "with no discussion, no debate, things changed. I was stunned."