Today's Papers

“Close,’ Gulps Gulf Coast

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox all lead with Hurricane Dennis’ damaging sprint across the Florida panhandle yesterday. The hurricane, which started the day as a Category 4 with monstrous 145 mph winds, weakened to Category 3 status by the time it made landfall and by Sunday night was downgraded to a tropical storm. No deaths were reported, and because Dennis’ path cut between larger cities rather than through them, property damage was less severe than authorities had feared. Still, many cities and towns across the Florida-Alabama coast suffered flooding and wind damage, and close to 500,000 homes and businesses were without power—and will be for possibly up to three weeks. The New York Times puts the hurricane second and leads with the steep decrease in the number of Army Reserve and Army National Guard personnel on active duty. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 220,000 National Guard and Reserve troops had been deployed at home and abroad. That number has now fallen 37 percent to about 138,000, and the trend will continue.

Everyone compares Dennis to Hurricane Ivan, the storm that devastated the same region last September, killing 52 and destroying $14 billion worth of property. But at 7 mph, Ivan moved slowly, allowing its winds to hammer the area relentlessly. By contrast, Dennis blazed through at 20 mph. USAT quotes Buck Lee, the manager of Pensacola Beach, on the issue: “If Ivan was a 10, this was a three or a four.” However, as the Post points out, Dennis still made a name for itself by being “the first major hurricane to hit the United States in July in 150 years of recorded history.” 

The fact that the pool of active reservists is shrinking has a nettlesome flip side for Army managers: There is an increasing shortage of specially trained “combat support” soldiers—minesweepers, mechanics, truck drivers, military police, etc.—without whom the Army will have serious trouble maintaining its regular forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re building very quickly toward a crisis if in the next two or three rotations we still have 135,000 troops on the ground in Iraq,” said one Army official.

Meanwhile, the Post reports on another leaked British memo addressed to Prime Minister Tony Blair. The secret memo indicates that the U.S. and Britain are planning to “withdraw the majority of their troops from Iraq by the middle of next year,” and that the U.S. expects to be able to hand over 14 of the 18 provinces to Iraqis around the same time. 

The Post fronts, the NYT and USAT reefer, and the LAT stuffs the surge of violence in Baghdad Sunday that left nearly 50 dead. A suicide bomber detonated belt-bombs in a crowded Iraqi army recruiting center, killing 25 (AP via USAT). The man had apparently slipped through the base’s security, which had already been stepped up in February after another bomber killed 21 people in the same place. Elsewhere in Baghdad, police found a family of eight Shiites slain in their beds—a ninth was hospitalized with gunshot wounds. The killings appeared to be the result of sectarian feuding. There were also at least three car bombings in different parts of the country that killed an additional 16 Iraqi police and customs agents.

The NYT runs a front on the international intelligence summit called by the British yesterday. With “few leads and no suspects” 48 hours after the London bombings, British investigators invited intelligence officials from two dozen European countries and the United States to a meeting meant to generate ideas and gain information, if possible, about the crime. The meeting was considered “extraordinary” because European countries don’t usually cooperate on large terror investigations.

The LAT fronts an interview with Cyrus Kar, the Iranian-American filmmaker in Iraq who was recently released from U.S. custody after being detained for eight weeks as a suspected insurgent. Kar and his cameraman had been riding in an Iraqi taxicab that was stopped at a security checkpoint. In the car’s trunk, guards found dozens of washing-machine timers belonging to the cabbie—parts that can be used to make time bombs. All three men were arrested, and Kar was held in solitary confinement until his family initiated a campaign to release him.

The number of children entering the foster system because of methamphetamine use by their parents has skyrocketed in the last several years, says the NYT. In Kentucky, the number of foster children rose 12 percent in the last year; in Oklahoma it rose 16 percent. Caseworkers from Oregon estimate that if meth vanished, they would have half as many children in the system.

The LAT fronts the second in the series on a very tough 10-year-old girl’s dream to be a championship boxer

Bull Stuff: For once, no one’s been killed this year in the annual “running of the bulls,” the most famous part of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain. Every day six large bulls are released to run from one part of the city to another, and hundreds of brave revelers dash along beside them, hoping not to get trampled or gored. One British participant described the sport’s allure as follows: “People are falling, you see people really scared, you see the sheer terror and you just run.”