Today's Papers

Kidnapping En Masse

The New York Timesand Los Angeles Timeslead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with yesterday’s brazen mass abductions in Iraq, where anywhere from 50 to 80 gunmen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms went into the Ministry of Higher Education in broad daylight and kidnapped dozens of men. They then left in a convoy of more than 30 police cars and trucks. The estimates of how many were taken vary widely, with the ministry initially saying the number totaled 150 employees and visitors, while the prime minister’s office put the number at about 50, and the American military said it was 55.

The Washington Postgoes high with the Iraq abductions but leads an interview with Sen. Harry M. Reid, who was elected Senate majority leader yesterday. Reid said President Bush still doesn’t fully understand how much the country needs an immediate change in its Iraq policy. USA Todayleads with word that there has been a rise in near collisions at the nation’s airports for the second year in a row. In fiscal year 2006, there were 31 high-risk runway incidents, which was an increase from the 29 in 2005. Federal regulators have vowed to tackle the problem, although, as the paper is quick to point out, the latest number is nowhere near the 67 near collisions in the year 2000.

The WSJ mentions the gunmen sealed the area by telling security officers the U.S. ambassador was arriving. The LAT manages to catch the latest word from a government spokesman who this morning said a total of 39 people were kidnapped. The spokesman also confirmed some scattered reports that 37 people have been released in the evening and throughout the night.

The WP says that by Tuesday evening five senior police officers had been arrested, although it is not clear whether officials participated in the kidnappings directly, gave aid to the abductors, or simply turned the other way and let it all take place. The WSJ says the district’s police chief and five of his aides were arrested for helping with the plot, which, according to the papers, “displayed sectarian infiltration of Iraq’s police.” Everyone notes the victims included Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Christians, which raises questions of whether this was connected to the wide array of sectarian violence taking place in Iraq. The NYT, however, notes other mass kidnappings have also followed this pattern

Reid acknowledged anger over Iraq is what led to his party’s victory and now his party has to channel that sentiment to make sure things change. He vowed that as one of its first acts, the new Congress will boost the military budget by $75 billion. He promised to keep Bush’s middle-class tax cuts intact, and pledged to look into solving the problem of the uninsured. 

Senate Democrats also elected Richard J. Durbin of Illinois as the majority whip and Charles E. Schumer of New York was awarded a new No. 3 position, which puts him in charge of policy and strategy.

In a front-page analysis, the NYT talks to some military experts and officers, including some who are critics of the administration’s war policies, who caution against pulling troops out of Iraq too quickly. These experts worry a too-early withdrawal could embolden the militias and increase violence. Anthony Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command who called for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, said it might be necessary to consider sending additional forces to Iraq in the next six months to further stabilize the country and speed up the training of Iraqi forces. This is the move Sen. John McCain has been advocating.

The LAT fronts word from Washington, where Republican Party members were complaining about the choice of Sen. Mel Martinez to lead the GOP. Some conservative members of the party say that in an effort to reach out to minorities, Republicans will be ignoring that Martinez has a much more moderate view of immigration than the party’s base.

The WP reports members of Congress have been so focused on leadership races they are being slow to pass some crucial spending bills. Also, any chance Bush had left of getting his Vietnam trade bill passed while on his trip to Asia this week were shot yesterday when House Republicans decided to put off any decision until December. Republicans blamed Democrats, while Democrats said some GOP lawmakers wanted to embarrass the president after they lost last week’s election.

The papersgo inside with a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that says Iran has been progressing toward enriching uranium. The IAEA also reports it discovered new traces of plutonium. Iran’s president, meanwhile, declared yesterday he hopes “we can have our celebration of Iran’s full nuclearization this year.”

The NYT fronts, while the WSJ goes inside with, the changes taking place in Washington’s K Street with the Democratic victory last week. Democratic lobbyists, who had been mostly shunned for several years, are now back in the game and finding they are in high demand. “I’ve told my Democratic partners it’s time for them to buy some suits … I went out and bought two new fishing rods and looked into yoga classes,” a Republican lobbyist jokingly tells the NYT.

Meanwhile, the papers note disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is due to start his prison term today.

The Post fronts a fun piece on Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who “was sworn in as congresswoman on Monday night and already she’s a lame duck.” Sekula-Gibbs was elected in Texas to fill out the remaining portion of Tom DeLay’s term, but lost the general election as voters chose the Democratic candidate to be part of the new Congress. Although her term is likely to last less than a month, she was enthusiastic, held a news conference, and voted on legislation yesterday.

The NYT fronts a look at how, after many ignored him and even campaigned against him, the Democratic senators are now falling all over themselves to be extra nice to Sen. Joseph Lieberman. For his part, Lieberman seemed to relish his new power and popularity in the Senate, where he is a vital part of the Democratic 51 to 49 majority.

One of the four U.S. soldiers who have been accused of raping an Iraqi teenage girl and murdering her family is expected to plead guilty today in a military court. Spec. James P. Barker, 23, would be the first to deal with the charges against him and publicly admit his role in the rape and killings.

As the Iraq Study Group continues its work, the Bush administration has begun its own internal review of Iraq policy, the Post reports in its inside pages. The White House wants the report finished by mid-December, which is also when the ISG report is scheduled to be released.

USAT fronts a class-action lawsuit filed by  tree planters who entered the country as “guest workers,” and now say they were paid less than minimum wage and were abused by their employers. Some advocacy groups see this as just another example of how U.S. employers take advantage of these workers, who come into the country legally under a program known as H-2B.

From the is-this-a-bad-joke department … The NYT mentions O.J. Simpson has written a book and will appear on the Fox television network describing “how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible.” The book will be published on Nov. 30, and Fox will broadcast the interviews in two segments on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, which is the final week of sweeps. The book is tentatively titled O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.