Everybody leads with the Pentagon’s announcement that it’s boosting troop strength in Iraq by 12,000, mostly by keeping GIs and marines already there a few months past their return dates. The order will bring the total number of troops to about 150,000, the highest figure since the occupation began. There has long been talk of an increase, but the New York Times says the announced figure was “larger than many officers had expected.”
(The washingtonpost.com had some issues last night; TP couldn’t see many of the articles there.)
As USA Todayteases on Page One, Iraq’s appointed president, an influential Sunni, backed the January 30 elections. Many Sunni groups have demanded a delay.
The NYT says on Page One that U.N. inspectors, in a seemingly aggressive move, have told Iran they want access to two secret military sites where they suspect nuclear skullduggery. Normally military bases are considered off-limits, especially since inspectors acknowledge they don’t have iron-clad evidence of nukes development. But there do seem to be some pretty good hints: One European diplomat said the inventory of items showing up at the site, “looks like a shopping list for an enrichment program.” Iran hasn’t agreed to the requests yet.
As the Los Angeles Timesand NYT front, the opposing camps in Ukraine have agreed on the outlines of a deal that paves the way for a revote and takes some power away from the office of the presidency. In another sign of the opposition’s strengthening position, the parliament passed an, essentially symbolic, vote of no-confidence against the government. Meanwhile, protestors ended their blockade of government buildings.
The Washington Postfronts a Democratic congressional study concluding that students in federally-funded abstinence courses are learning such, ah, facts as: HIV can be spread by sweat, touching of genitals can cause pregnancy, and abortion can lead to suicide. Of 13 curricula examined, 11 had boo-boos or falsehoods, though “some” were only minor mistakes. (How many?)
The NYT fronts and Wall Street Journal goes high with popular Palestinian leader, and current prisoner, Marwan Barghouti reversing his previous position and entering the race for president. Until now, Fatah’s anointed candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, who’s favored by the U.S., had no serious opposition. Barghouti, is serving five life-terms in Israel for murder. He was once widely touted as a moderate, and still supports a two-state solution, but was also one of the organizers behind the latest intifada. “Marwan is running in solidarity with the uprising and out of loyalty to President Arafat,” said his wife, who registered him for the vote.
The WSJ details the prime minister of Thailand’s plan to quell the beginnings of a rebellion in the Muslim south. His idea: origami. “A flock of at least 63 million cranes—one Japanese-style water bird of folded paper for each Thai man, woman and child” will be dropped from the bomb bays of Thai air force planes, says the Journal. Opposition politicians aren’t impressed. Until now, the prime minister has relied on crackdowns in the south that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds. The government’s “policy is to depend on repression,” said one Thai senator, “and litter.”