Today's Papers

Orange You Smart

According to late reports caught by the Los Angeles Times, three bombs this morning in Iraq have killed a total of about 60 people, mostly civilians, and wounded about 100. In the two biggest attacks, about 30 people were killed outside a political office in Tikrit and roughly another 20 died at a police recruiting site near the tinderbox northern city of Kirkuk. (The LAT off-leads the bombings.)

The Washington Postleads with the Senate giving final passage to yet another war supplemental, this one $82 billion. The military said that should take care of everything … until about October when another patch-job may be required. There is typically less congressional oversight for supplementals. “We all know what’s being done,” said Sen. John McCain. “There’s greater and greater resistance.” The New York Timesleadswith China dissing the U.S. and saying it’s not interested in playing hardball with North Korea, which has been making noise recently about testing a nuke. Not everyone is convinced China is sitting tight. “The Chinese may be feigning indifference,” said one former Clinton administration official. “I believe in private they are putting pressure on the North Koreans not to test because a test would be deeply antithetical to their interests in the region.” USA Todayleads with former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge saying his agency wasn’t behind most of the orange alerts. “More often than not we were the least inclined to raise” the hue, Ridge told a forum in D.C. “There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘For that?’ ” The LAT leads with a bankruptcy judge saying United Airlines shouldn’t fret about fulfilling its federally backed employee pension plan, the government will pick up the tab. It will be the largest pension default in three decades

The NYT’s lead on China mentions 14 paragraphs in that U.S. “policy makers seem divided on the question of whether North Korea is really headed toward a test.” That mixed picture didn’t come across too clearly in the Times’ lead last Friday: “U.S. CITES SIGNS OF KOREAN PREPARATIONS FOR NUCLEAR TEST.” Perfectly understandable if the paper has only since learned of the apparent internal squabbling. So, how about reporting on it?

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the fighting in western Iraq: Clashes died down, but suspected militants also kidnapped the province’s new governor, along with his son and bodyguards. Overall, nobody is sure where the insurgents are or what they’re up to “They’ve had enough warning to flee,” one Marine officer told the LAT. “They usually know better than to step in front of the fist.” Though it’s stuffed inside the paper, the Times’ Solomon Moore continues his solid coverage with an overview of the action.

The Chicago Tribune’s James Janega, embedded with the Marines, really shines, recounting an insurgent ambush yesterday that included anti-tank mines, gunmen, and a suicide car bomber. “Pretty much everything went to hell,” said one sergeant. A handful of Marines were wounded, none died.

Two other tidbits from Janega, including from a piece not yet posted on the Web: There are no Iraqi government forces fighting. They “have simply not extended their reach far enough west to join the U.S. forces there,” said a Pentagon spokesman. Meanwhile, the Marine commander on the scene, citing evidence from interrogations, said, “I’ve always been skeptical of the amount of foreign fighters said to be out here. That skepticism is removed as of this operation.”

The Post’s Ellen Knickmeyer is also now on the scene. She details how on Sunday insurgents hiding beneath the floor in a house killed one Marine and then another who tried to get the body of his comrade. Another handful of Marines were wounded trying to do the same. “The whole scene, it was just pure evil inside the house,” said one Marine.

In another Post piece, filed from Baghdad, a doctor near the fightingsaid 21 civilians have been killed, including five hospital workers hit by a U.S. airstrike. (Military spokesman said there was no airstrike.)

The Journal has a fascinating piece on political change in Bahrain, a U.S. ally that is one of the least-autocratic Arab states—at least it was until a recent crackdown. The Shiite majority has been demanding reforms from the Sunni ruling family, which now says it would really rather not rush things. “To say ‘I want complete democracy now’ is not good for anyone,” said one royal. Moving too quickly will only leave “Islamists running the show.” Opposition members, who are typically religious and opposed to the U.S., have been pointing enviously to Iraq’s elections. The Journal is subscription only. But here’s another background piece.

The WP and NYT front an appeals court’s unanimous ruling that Vice President Cheney doesn’t have to give up details about meetings he had with energy lobbyists while devising the administration’s energy plan. “The president must be free to seek confidential information from many sources,” said the court, whose ruling effectively kills the lawsuits on the issue.

A few days ago, TP complained about the papers’ (lack of) coverage of Egypt’s retreat from its recent promises of free and fair elections. No longer. The LAT and NYT both highlight the rowback. But, critics say, the NYT’s headline is lame: “EGYPT LIMITS CHALLENGES TO MUBARAK, HIS FOES SAY.” The Christian Science Monitor has no similar hesitations: “EGYPT BACKTRACKS ON REFORMS.”