The New York Timesleads with an analysis of initial Iraqi voting results, seeming to confirm what’s long been obvious: There are darn few Sunnis in the army or police. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and alone goes high with, the deadliest day in Iraq since the elections: About two dozen civilians were killed in bombings and other attacks. Also, eight members of an Iraqi SWAT team were reportedly wiped out in an hourlong battle with insurgents. And a GI was killed in Baghdad. As usual, the most comprehensive roundup of the attacks comes not from the newspapers but from blogger Juan Cole.
The Washington Post’s top nonlocal coverage goes to the skyrocketing number of vets diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Apparently the jump isn’t from Afghanistan and Iraq vets but from Vietnam-era veterans. With costs of PTSD disability payments having risen 150 percent in five years, the Veterans Administration is starting to sweat and, as it happens, wonder if PTSD is really as common as the diagnoses suggest. USA Todayleads with an overview of the security operation for the coming Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Italian authorities are reportedly keeping tabs on “at least 700 people.” Not that there’s any specific intel about an attack. The Los Angeles Timesleads with California’s raking in dough from cigarette taxes, in defiance of a national “epidemic of tobacco tax evasion.” (That’s right, an epidemic.) Apparently, the state is benefiting from lots of high-tech tools.
The Post quotes veterans activist groups as saying the government is trying to restrict the definition of PTSD so it can stop paying so darn much in benefits. And the government is clearly worried about the costs. “On the one hand, it is good that people are reaching out for help,” said one GOP Senate aide from the Veterans Affairs Committee. “At the same time, as more people reach out for help, it squeezes the budget further.” But the WP also quotes some apparently controversial experts who suggest that PTSD is indeed being overdiagnosed. So, who’s right? Beats the heck out of TP. The WP’s story, besides being confusing, leaves readers in he-said-she-said land.
The vote tally from Iraqi security forces showed just 7 percent support for Sunni parties. Meanwhile, the main Kurdish party got 45 percent. Kurds are thought to make up only about 20 percent of the country, but they also have the largest militia, plenty of whom have been rebadged as army forces. Anyway the stats ring true, but don’t read too much into them: The count was “preliminary” and “far from exact.”
With mass protests in Iraq alleging fraud, the NYT buries what seems like a key bit of news: There doesn’t seem to have been much hanky-panky. “We do think there might have been fraud in a few isolated places, but we don’t see this widespread fraud people are talking about,” said the U.N. top election monitor in Iraq. The Times sticks that right up where readers are sure to spot it: the 20th paragraph.
A piece inside the Post emphasizes that former U.S.-favorite Ahmed Chalabi doesn’t appear to have gotten enough votes to earn a spot in parliament.
The Journal goes high with North Korea telling international food agencies to get out of the country. The regime is also banning what had been the nascent free-market sale of food. No one is really sure what’s going on, but the Journal cites speculation that the Dear Leader is looking to strengthen control as a reaction to worries about “potentially restive urban populations.”
USAT fronts surveys showing roughly 80 percent of survivors from last year’s tsunami are still living in tents or other temporary shelters. Indonesia, where 500,000 people were made homeless, has built a total of 16,000 replacement houses.
USAT goes inside with the newest gadget for sniffing out bombs: Wasps. Yup, they’re trained. And no, they don’t sting.
Isn’t he special … A NYT correction:
A front-page article last Tuesday about foreign governments’ security concerns regarding satellite photography available through Google referred imprecisely to security measures applied to some of the imagery. Although images of the White House and its environs are now clear in the Google Earth database, the view of the vice president’s residence in Washington remains obscured.