Each paper leads with a different piece that the others don’t or barely mention on their front pages. The Washington Post leads with the capture of al-Qaida in Iraq’s No.2 man, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi. The Los Angeles Times goes with a piece on the Energy Department’s failure to clean up an old nuclear weapons plant that threatens the Columbia River with radioactive sludge. With Labor Day officially kicking off an already swinging campaign season, the New York Times leads with a piece on the imperiled Republican Party. All three papers prominently display a teary-eyed, kiss-blowing Andre Agassi, whose 21-year career came to an end in four sets at the U.S Open.
Saeedi is blamed by authorities for bombing the Shiite shrine that is widely seen as sparking the current civil war. Others aren’t so sure about the guy’s status. The Mujaheddin Shura Council, which includes al-Qaida in Iraq, says he wasn’t a member. But the piece has a leader on the council saying that he actually was a member of al-Qaida but not the hot shot the U.S. says it collared, calling him “not that famous or any sort of leader.”
The NYT lead lets us know that Democrats have a good shot to take over the House and a realistic stab at the Senate, hooking the piece on political quote-machines Stuart Rothenberg and Charles Cooke, both of whom predict a Democratic takeover were the election to be held today. “It isn’t today. That’s the unfortunate part,” replies Democratic leader Rahm Emanual in the kicker.
The LAT has the government project in Washington state to clean up nuclear waste as 20 years behind schedule and likely to cost $100 billion. The piece describes the radioactive sludge as “the texture of ketchup” and stored in leaky underground tanks. The NYThas its own piece on toxic sludge and government ineptitude, but this time the culprit is China. (The piece is worth reading for a Hollywood car chase about halfway through.)
The NYT also goes above the fold with a check-in on the latest American strategy to contain violence in Baghdad, the visible increase of U.S. troop presence in blood-drenched neighborhoods. Damien Cave has interviews with residents of Dora, where 126 bodies surfaced in July and “only” 18 in August, a decrease Cave calls an “embryo of progress.” The key question remains unanswered: Will the embryo die when U.S. troop presence is reduced, replaced by the corrupt and infiltrated Iraqi army? Asked if they are nervous despite the downturn in violence, Cave says Dora residents “simply laughed.”
The LAT fronts an Iraqi evergreen on the contrast between the peaceful, secular Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. Several of the quoted Kurds come quite close to relishing the flames that lick the region’s southern border. “I don’t care,” says 25-year-old Danyar Farok in the lede. “The Arabs never cried for us when we were suffering. I’m going to a teahouse with my friend to have some fun.”
The Post has a Page One boxed-feature that previews the second-most anticipated trial in Washington, that of Douglas Jemal, a lively developer accused of bribing a city official. His frankly believable defense is that the gifts he gave to the official were just that—the type of thing he does even for strangers at times—and he expected nothing in return. Jemal’s flair and penchant for the one-liner should keep this one on the Post’s pages as it progresses over the next four to six weeks.
The NYT gives prominent play to another ID-theft story, this one with the twist that the thief’s purpose is often not to run up credit card bills and to empty bank accounts, but to get a job and a mortgage. Illegal immigrants use the numbers to get on the tax rolls in what one sociologist calls a “subsidy from migrant workers to the aggregate of American taxpayers,” because they’ll probably never collect their own Social Security checks.
The NYT editorial page longs for a week of Labor(less) Days, while the LAT reprints some classic anti-worker venom from its archives. The Post recognizes the holiday by bemoaning the deteriorating wages paid to the average American worker despite a growing economy and increasing productivity.
In tragic news that TP naively believed was simply impossible, the Crocodile Hunter, Australia’s Steve Irwin, was killed while filming a documentary on “things that can kill you in the sea.” Having faced down death countless times, he seems to have died in something of freak accident. He was killed “instantly,” according to a friend, by a stingray—a generally nonaggressive creature whose barb struck him directly in the heart. The world follows Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on this one. The LAT benefits from its time lag and manages a blurb below the fold, jumping to an AP report.
The news of the deaths of four soldiers in Iraq over the weekend gets buried across the board. A fierce battle in Afghanistan between NATO and Taliban forces is blurbed by the NYT but generally stuffed.