Today's Papers

Occupational Hazard

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all lead with a government report finding that the war in Iraq is hurting the fight against terrorism. The classified National Intelligence Estimate, issued last April, finds that the occupation of Iraq has been a crucible for new, more decentralized extremist cells, while global outrage over the war has proved to be a boon for terrorist recruiters.

The NIE represents the opinions of all 16 intelligence agencies and was approved by Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte. It’s worth noting, as all the papers do, that a 2002 NIE was used to build the case for invading Iraq. That history makes the report’s stark assessment of the war all the more sobering. Since the report is still classified, the papers rely on sources familiar with the document for tidbits, and as a result the stories all sound very similar. TP won’t pretend it’s surprised that all three papers do their cover pieces on the same day, five months after the report was issued. It sounds, however, as if the slim 30-page report is a little short on specifics as well: There’s no attempt to discern the chances of the U.S. being attacked again, nor does the report make any policy suggestions. The report simply states, one sources tells NYT, “that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse.”

The LAT fronts the beginning of what could be a huge story for them: an investigative report on a Green Beret unit whose members allegedly killed two detainees in Afghanistan during interrogation sessions gone wrong—and then covered it all up.

The WP says that strategists from both parties think the GOP is in better shape now than it was a month ago, as the election season heads into its final six weeks. The insider quotes amount to Republicans in damage-control mode and Democrats not wanting to sound over-confident. The paper then goes on to suggest that somewhat lower gas prices and slightly better Bush approval numbers add up to an improved climate for Republican candidates. TP acknowledges how tough handicapping elections can be and even concedes that the WP’s thesis might be valid—but the paper really doesn’t offer much in the way of compelling evidence.

On the other hand, the LAT looks at how Republican strategists are targeting snowmobilers as part of their offensive against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. It’s part of their new “micro-targeting” strategy to use credit card receipts and other personal information to find niche groups and then speak to voters on specific issues that matter to them most. The program is equal measures clever and creepy once it sinks in that political operatives have this much information at their disposal.

Inside, everyone mentions that the rumors of Osama Bin Laden’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.

The NYT reports that the Islamists who seized power in Somalia over the summer have turned out to be both more moderate and more effective than many would’ve predicted.

Both the NYT and the LAT take heartbreaking looks at the toll of tainted spinach. The LAT looks at the potential long-term health consequences for those infected. The NYT focuses on sick children and the parents who have to live with knowing their boy is sick because he listened to his parents and ate his vegetables.

But on the up side, new transplant regulations are giving patients needing lungs a much better chance of making it off the waiting list, says the NYT.

The WP splashes a big feature on an Iraq war veteran convicted of killing an Iraqi civilian and his father’s quest to discover why some soldiers who kill in the heat of the moment are prosecuted, while others are excused.

Under the fold, the NYT explains the NFL’s peculiar relationship with fan noise.

The WP fronts a look at how a government regulation meant to cut down on superfluous company cars is contributing to pathological energy waste.

The WP sheds light on the government of Argentina quest to reclaim huge tracks of land held by foreigners who want to turn the property into nature preserves.

Meanwhile, the landlocked Bolivian Navy is trying to get someone to donate a coastline, says the NYT.

The NYT spends front-page real estate telling us that Donald Rumsfeld’s squash game is a lot like his political philosophy: The man only plays hardball.

… They’d Be Quickly Annexed by a Belligerent Canada …

Inside, the LAT examines the Vermont secession movement. The idea is to make Vermont the Switzerland of North America by breaking away from the United States and becoming politically neutral. The article paints the cause as being idealistic and its advocates as being slightly unhinged, citing a study showing that only 8 percent of Vermonters think the state should be an independent republic. On the one hand, that’s obviously a long way from a majority—but then again, how many other states could muster 8 percentfor secession?