Today's Papers

A Vast, Recall Agenda

The Washington Post leads with, and everybody else but the New York Times fronts, a peace deal between Liberia’s government and rebel groups. The NYT’s lead says that Congress appears unlikely to pass a separate bill to improve the nation’s power grid, and will instead keep the proposal as part of a larger energy package, which happens at the moment to be stalled, mainly over contentious issues such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. USA Today leads with a poll finding that Americans’ support for NASA has gotten a post-Columbia-crash bump, putting support for NASA at its highest level since the Challenger disaster in 1986. The Los Angeles Times leads with a recall wrap-up and previews a speech today by Gov. Gray Davis in which he’ll describe the recall as part of a large-scale Republican effort to undermine the democratic process. By the way, the LAT’s lead headline is press-releasely limp: “DAVIS TO MAKE HIS CASE, BUT NOT PLEAD IT.”

According to the plan for Liberia, the current president, Moses Blah, who took over from Charles Taylor last week, will step down in October to be replaced by a transitional government. The top positions in that new government will be set aside for political parties that weren’t involved in the fighting. Meanwhile, the rebels groups are supposed to disarm, while the army is supposed to bring former rebels into its ranks. There have been various peace-deals for Liberia before—but the papers suggest this one has a good chance of success, since Taylor is gone and peacekeepers are there.

Everybody notes that fighting has died down in Monrovia. The NYT has the best on-the-ground dispatch: One of its reporters, Tim Weiner, spent the day trailing a Nigerian peacekeeper, and chatting with such fine men as General Iron Jacket and General Push the Button—both soldiers who, reluctantly, said they’ll stop fighting.

A WP piece, inexplicably tucked away on A8, quotes officials from the electric oversight group charged with preventing blackouts, complaining that they’re underfunded and don’t have any enforcement authority. A plan locked in the larger energy bill would address that, though the White House opposes the proposal (as does, a group founded by Ralph Nader). Perhaps this didn’t make Page One because it was crowded out by the plethora of other hot stories, such as the A1 breaking news piece about the many New Yorkers who don’t drive.

Most of the papers note inside that another GI was killed yesterday and two others were wounded by guerillas in Iraq. As the WP reminds, U.S. forces face an average of a dozen attacks per day. So far as TP can tell, the NYT skips any mention of yesterday’s casualties.

The Wall Street Journal says up high that the U.S. is going to try to Iraq-ize the conflict, and plans to quickly create a 7,000-strong Iraqi militia that will take over some patrol duties. “It’s really bad out there,” said one named, American officer in Baghdad. “Iraqis are mad as hell right now and, yes, it worries me.” Question: Who will make-up this budding militia; exiles, former soldiers, newbies? And a note: Though the Journal never says so, 7,000 helpers isn’t much—there are about 150,000 GIs in Iraq.

The Journal also mentions that the U.S. is still pushing Pakistan to lead a division of foreign troops in Iraq, while the Pakistanis are still saying they won’t send in soldiers without a U.N. mandate. As the NYT recently noted (thought it got lost in the blackout coverage), the White House appears to have decided it doesn’t want a U.N. mandate.

The WP notices that President Bush recently celebrated the fact that there are only 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan, which, Bush said, “is down from, obviously, major combat operations.” Actually, notes the Post (read: Dana Milbank), “The 10,000 troops [now] in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war began.”

Meanwhile, the papers have wire pieces inside noting that a few hundred Afghan guerrillas attacked a police station yesterday. That’s the second time in two days that a large group of guerrillas has overrun a police station. Until these latest attacks, guerrillas had been operating in small groups. None of the papers appear to have any staff reporters in Afghanistan right now.

The NYT, alone among the papers, fronts word that France’s top health official resigned yesterday after an estimated 3,000-5,000 elderly French have died as a result of a month-long heat-wave. The Times quotes epidemiologists saying that despite the resignation, the deaths aren’t really the government’s fault: Half of victims died outside hospitals. It seems that families are too frequently leaving the elderly to their own devices, especially during France’s get-away August. Said one doctor, “We were all guilty, in a way.”