The New York Times leads and the Wall Street Journal tops it world-wide newsbox with the arrests in Iraq of 10 Sunni Arabs ( USA Today and the Journal say only eight) for allegedly plotting to kill the chief investigating judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein. The trial resumes in earnest today after a six-week recess, but defense lawyers say they will demand a new 45-day adjournment so the court can consider their motion to annul the proceedings. The Washington Post stuffs the Saddam trial and looks east, leading with the recent surge of violence in Afghanistan. Afghan and international officials are concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining foreign support to carry out attacks that increasingly mimic those in Iraq. USA Today stays at home and leads with victims of Hurricane Katrina leapfrogging thousands of low-income Americans on waiting lists for limited federal housing aid. The Los Angeles Times goes front-page with the preparation of a new batch of initiatives for the ‘06 state ballot.
The latest threat to the Saddam trial was foiled when Iraqi police raided two insurgent safe houses near Kirkuk early Sunday. According to the police commander in the city, the 10 men allegedly involved in the assassination plot were caught with a document containing orders to carry out the killing from Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam’s former vice president and a man considered by many to be the leader of the insurgency. Investigators also found three car bombs, as well as other documents linking the men to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to Osama Bin Laden.
In their stories on the assassination plot, the NYT and WP also report that insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped four Western aid workers. The Times seems more confident than the Post in reporting that one of those kidnapped is an American, but U.S. officials have not confirmed the report.
Also noted in the WP piece, and reported separately by the NYT and USAT, is an accident involving a military vehicle that was carrying three American lawmakers to the Baghdad airport. Rep. Jim Marshall told reporters that Rep. Tim Murphy was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany and Rep. Ike Skelton was taken to a Baghdad hospital after their vehicle flipped over while trying to avoid an oncoming tanker truck. A spokesman for Marshall said both representatives suffered only minor injuries.
The WP lead on the surge of violence in Afghanistan largely rehashes the analysis that followed a pair of suicide bombings in Kabul on Nov. 14. The Post reiterates the fact that suicide attacks are a new phenomenon in Afghanistan and adds that recent attacks “have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials.” But don’t worry. Down in the 16th paragraph the Post lets us know that the level of violence in Afghanistan is still nowhere near that of Iraq, the insurgency has far less public support, reconstruction projects are ongoing in most parts of the country, and Westerners can move freely in many areas with little fear of violence.
According to USAT, the federal government has urged housing officials across the country to give priority to Hurricane Katrina victims when allotting scarce public housing and rental vouchers. This has obviously ticked off the 1.5 million families already waiting for housing aid. But it’s not at all clear how many Katrina evacuees have actually jumped to the front of the line. As USAT points out, the vast majority of families displaced by Katrina are eligible only for temporary FEMA aid. And although the paper insists that many of the 50,000 Katrina families living in hotels and motels are poor enough to qualify for permanent housing assistance, only 6,000 families have applied for new federal housing vouchers in their adopted communities.
Everyone manages to cobble together 500-plus words on Patrick Fitzgerald’s request for testimony from Time reporter Viveca Novak in the CIA leak case. Apparently Fitzgerald is interested in conversations Novak had in 2004 with Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Karl Rove. But no one is quite sure what exactly Fitzgerald is looking for.
After weekend features in the NYT and WPon the effects of battle on soldiers’ psyches, the WSJ chimes in with a front-page report on how military therapists in Iraq are dealing with soldiers’ trauma. The goal, says one Army psychiatrist, is to “put a lid” on the soldiers’ symptoms so that they can continue to perform their duties. The Journal notes that even troops exhibiting signs of trauma will likely be asked to return to the war zone. “There are a lot of ethical questions about it,” says the quoted Army psychiatrist. TP sure agrees with that assessment, but the Journal doesn’t dwell on it.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 hit southern Iran on Sunday, killing 10 people and injuring 80. According to the NYT, the tremors were felt as far away as the United Arab Emirates and Oman, forcing many office workers to evacuate their buildings. A quake of a similar magnitude in southeastern China has left several hundred thousand people without shelter.
After a disappointing Friday kickoff to the holiday shopping season, U.S. retailers’ hopes were boosted by strong weekend sales, which were up 22 percent from a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation.