The New York Timesleads with the Iraqi prime minister ordering the U.S. military to lift its blockade on Sadr City, which is seen as an attempt by Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to assert his independence from the American forces. U.S. troops seemed to have been caught off-guard by the demands but later went ahead and lifted the checkpoints. The Washington Postleads with news from Chinese and U.S. officials in Beijing that North Korea agreed to return to the six-nation nuclear-disarmament talks.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with a wrap-up of the day on the campaign trail, where polls show control of the Senate is still up for grabs and the 2004 presidential candidates exchanged bitter words. In addition, a student and liberal blogger who approached Sen. George Allen with confrontational questions was shoved, put in a headlock, and pushed against a wall by three of the senator’s supporters. USA Todayleads with the thousands of lawyers and volunteers who will act as election monitors on Tuesday to make sure there are no problems at the polls. The Justice Department will send 800 observers around the country, a record for a midterm election.
The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with a new in-house poll that reveals President Bush has a higher approval rating for his handling of the economy but little else going for him. While in June, 39 percent approved of the president’s handling of the economy, the latest poll puts that figure at 46 percent. Iraq continues to be the most important issue, and 52 percent of voters want Democrats to take control of Congress while 37 percent want the Republicans. Meanwhile ,54 percent of voters believe removing Saddam Hussein from power wasn’t worth the cost.
Iraqi citizens went out into the streets of Baghdad to celebrate the removal of the checkpoints, which were set up, at least in part, to aid troops in the search of the kidnapped American soldier. The Post is alone in pointing out the blockade also was set up to search for Abu Deraa, who is thought to be a prominent death squad leader. The WP also mentions Mahdi Army members, who answer to Moqtada al-Sadr, were present in the streets of Sadr City on Tuesday morning to ensure citizens respected a strike the Shiite cleric and his followers had announced to protest the blockade.
Word of North Korea’s willingness to negotiate comes three weeks after it conducted nuclear tests. Washington officials said it was willing to discuss lifting financial restrictions on North Korea, but emphasized no conditions had been set in order for the talks to resume. Everyone points out this might just be a ploy for North Korea to delay sanctions, and it is unclear whether any talks will be successful. North Korea walked away from talks in October of last year. Everyone sees this as a victory for the Chinese government. The WP’s editorial page joins the dots and raises the possibility that the Chinese government may have put pressure on North Korea by not delivering oil in September.
President Bush criticized Sen. John Kerry for a speech in which he told students to study hard because, “If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” Bush and some prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, said Kerry insulted the intelligence of U.S. troops and he should apologize. Kerry responded by saying his comment amounted to a “botched joke” that was meant to criticize President Bush’s intellect and said the criticism over his speech was a “shameful effort to distract from a botched war.”
The NYT points out the back-and-forth made Republicans talk about the Iraq war again, a subject most of the party’s candidates are trying to avoid. Besides the war in general, many Republican candidates are trying to steer clear of President Bush, says the Post on Page One. “The politican who has done more than anyone else over the past decade to build and expand the Republican Party has become a liability to Republicans in many parts of the country,” writes Dan Balz.
W. Michael Stark, whom the WP characterizes as “Democratic activist”, tried to ask Sen. George Allen whether he had ever spit on his first wife, before a group of Allen’s supporters shoved him away, all in front of television cameras. Stark is now demanding Sen. Allen “fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government.” Charlottesville police confirmed to the WP that Stark reported the event, and they are trying to determine the identities of those involved so he can try and obtain a warrant.
The LAT fronts news that the October death toll in Iraq for American troops increased to at least 103. Military officials say the number of attacks sustained against American and Iraqi forces reached exceptional levels in October. At least 43 of the U.S. military deaths were in Baghdad.
The NYT got a hold of a slide shown at a classified briefing by the United States Central Command that graphically illustrates the increasing lawlessness in Iraq and the reasons behind these developments. The revealing slide has a color-coded bar chart with “peace” on one side and “chaos” on the other. The chart shows how Iraq has been moving closer to the “chaos” mark since the February attack on the Shiite mosque in Samarra.
The LAT goes inside with word from intelligence agencies that they have created a system that allows analysts to share information on sensitive issues. They dub the system Intellipedia because it is built on the open-source software used by Wikipedia. The system is, of course, classified.
All the papers front or reefer NASA’s announcement that it will send a space shuttle to service the Hubble Space Telescope as early as May 2008. Two years ago, NASA said servicing the telescope was too dangerous, which caused an outcry from scientists and the general public. Now NASA said the risks are worthwhile if it means the telescope can be saved. The papers seem to agree, as both USATand the NYTpublish editorials celebrating NASA’s decision.
The papers note the death of P.W. Botha, South Africa’s head of state from 1978 to 1989, who tried to maintain apartheid rule and never quite accepted its end. After apartheid fell, the“great crocodile” refused to appear before the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was 90 years old.
A fine line … A correction in today’s NYT: “An article yesterday about races for state legislative seats across the country referred incorrectly to the coming State House elections in New Jersey. Not only is a shift in power in New Jersey’s legislature ‘unlikely,’ it is impossible because the state elects its legislators in odd-numbered years.”