The New York Times leads with British authorities formally charging 11 people in the foiled trans-Atlantic bombing plot. The Washington Post leads with a “resolute and at times exasperated” President Bush defending the Iraq war at a White House press conference. The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox leads with Bush, at the same conference, promising aid for Lebanon and publicly urging other countries to pony up soldiers for a peacekeeping force. USA Today leads with an in-house poll with good numbers for Republicans. The Los Angeles Times leads with California raising its minimum wage from $6.75 to $8 an hour, affecting the pay of more than 1 million workers.
The airplane bombing charges were announced to a British public that has become increasingly skeptical that the plot was serious, all the papers note. Eleven other suspects are still being held, including one man thought to be a ringleader. Among the evidence collected so far: “martyrdom videos” of the would-be bombers intended to be released after the plot was carried out.
While Bush acknowledged that the war in Iraq is “straining the psyche of our country,” he showed no signs of scaling back ambitions there, referring at various points to bringing democracy, defeating terrorists, emboldening reformers, and bringing hope to the Middle East. As the LAT opines: “At times, the loudest noise at his news conference was the sound of mission creep.”
The NYT and LAT stories on the Bush news conference, both on the front page, focus on Bush’s attacks on the “Democrat Party” for wanting to cut and run. The Post story ignores the presser’s political content and sticks to the president’s “stay the course” message. Bush did offer up one novelty, what he said was a connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq: “Imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.”
Bush opened the press conference with a plea for other countries to put together an international peacekeeping force for Lebanon. After France backed out, Italy has offered to lead the force and contribute 2,000 troops, Reuters reported. The Post says, however, that Italy’s leadership may be contingent on replacing the current U.N. force commander, who is French, with an Italian. The U.S. will introduce another U.N. resolution to clarify the rules of engagement for the peacekeepers, something that is not yet clear and is giving some countries pause as they consider whether to contribute troops.
In the USA Today poll, a generic Democrat running in the congressional midterm elections has a two-point edge over a Republican rival, a margin that has shrunk considerably of late. Bush’s approval rating is up to 42 percent, a five-point gain from earlier this month. The paper notes that the only specific issue Bush’s rating rose on was terrorism and argues that it was the London arrests that boosted his numbers. The survey also found that Americans don’t want anything to do with Lebanon: Nine out of 10 think fighting will resume soon and two-thirds say the U.S. should play a minor role at most in developing a peace agreement.
Iran says it will “forcefully” continue its nuclear program, the country’s supreme leader said Monday. Tehran is expected to respond formally today to a U.N. proposal that it give up its program in exchange for a package of incentives, but the Post says Tehran has already said privately that it will turn down the offer and that the U.S. is lining up allies to push for sanctions. And the AP reports that Iranian officials recently denied U.N. investigators access to a key nuclear facility. The good news among all this: As of TP’s press time, Iran had not nuked Israel, as a Journal contributor recently suggested may happen on Aug. 22.
Also in the papers … The U.S. military announced the deaths of four troops in Iraq, and the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein kicked off. There’s a “bear resurgence across the U.S.,” bringing the animals into ever closer contact with humans, the Journal finds. “This has all the makings of trouble,” an Alaska official says. The LAT finds “Obama-mania” in Kenya. Both the LAT and NYT report on a kerfuffle over a Pakistan-England cricket match. Physicists say they have found proof that “dark matter” exists and that it makes up 20 percent of the universe, but they still don’t know what it is, the Post reports. The AP has sued to get court documents in the JonBenet Ramsey case unsealed, the LAT reports. “There is great public interest to learn whether the arrest of John Mark Karr solved the case after a decade or is yet another ‘mistake,’ ” the AP says. The U.S. arrested more than a dozen Tamil Tiger supporters in the U.S. for trying to buy weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, for use against the Sri Lankan military. The U.S. says some of those arrested also tried to bribe their way off the U.S. official list of terrorist groups, but those guys they thought were from the State Department were actually the feds, the Post reports via Reuters.