Today's Papers

An Army of More

The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with word that the Bush administration is leaning toward sending as many as 20,000 more troops to help stabilize Baghdad. The Washington Postleads with the top Army general calling for a growth in the force by at least 7,000 soldiers a year and warned the current Army “will break” under current demands if something isn’t done to increase the number of servicemembers. He also called on the Pentagon to ease restrictions on the Army National Guard and Army Reserves. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with a look at how the Senate has never forced any of its members to resign due to physical or mental problems. Throughout history, there have been a few senators who were too incapacitated to show up, but were nevertheless allowed to keep their seat. As Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., emerged from surgery facing the prospect of a long recovery, this tradition could be a benefit to Democrats, who hold the slimmest of majorities in the Senate.

The New York Timesleads with new data that reveals there was a 15 percent decrease in the most common form of breast cancer from August 2002 to December 2003. USA Todayleads with word from Pentagon officials that flame-resistant uniforms will become the norm for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by early 2007. The uniforms resist catching fire for approximately nine seconds, which could be long enough to escape a burning vehicle.

Iraqi officials and many U.S. military commanders on the ground are not keen on the idea of increasing troop levels. White House officials insist no decision has been made, but aides say Bush and senior administration officials “appear receptive to calls to temporarily send 15,000 to 30,000 new U.S. forces to Iraq.”

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, said it was imperative that the Army increase its numbers for what he characterized as a long and dangerous war. “At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components, through remobilization, we will break the active component,” he said. Schoomaker also seemed skeptical of the idea that more ground troops should be sent to Iraq. “We should not surge without a purpose, and that purpose should be measurable and get us something,” he said.

All the papers front stories on Sen. Johnson, who has gone from being a low-profile lawmaker to the center of a political drama in Washington. The senator was apparently in stable, yet critical, condition after an operation to stop bleeding in his brain. Everyone explains the senator’s condition was caused by an abnormality in the blood vessels that was present from birth. The WSJ says patients who suffer the same problem as the senator have a good chance at recovery but it all depends on how much bleeding he actually suffered and whether it caused any permanent brain damage.

The Post focuses its Page One story about Johnson on Capitol Hill sources saying there will be “tough negotiations” next month on how the Senate would be organized if a member happens to leave, die, or switch parties. In 2001, an agreement allowed Democrats to get the majority after one senator switched, and Republicans are likely to want to keep the same sort of rules in place. Democrats will try to fight it.

Researchers say the reduction in breast cancer rates could be due to the fact that millions of women stopped taking hormone treatments after it was revealed they could increase the risk of developing the disease. Overall, among women of all ages and all types of breast cancer, there was a decrease of 7 percent over the same period. This was the first time studies have shown a significant decrease in what has become the second leading killer of women.

The WP fronts an interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which she rejected the idea that the United States should be seeking the help of Syria and Iran to solve the problems in Iraq. Rice said the United States would have to give too many concessions to get their help. “If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway,” she said. Rice also emphasized the Bush administration would continue to pursue and promote democracy in the Middle East.   

The NYT and LAT go inside with the White House criticizing Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida for going to Syria and meeting with the country’s president. The White House said the meeting was inappropriate and undermined democracy in the region. Meanwhile, three more senators, including one Republican, plan to visit Syria in the next few weeks.

Everyone goes inside with the latest mass kidnapping in Baghdad. Uniformed gunmen went into a major commercial area of the city and kidnapped dozens of shopkeepers and bystanders (the LAT says “at least five dozen”). Later in the day, at least 23 people were released unharmed, apparently after they were able to show their identity cards that had names associated with Shiite Muslims.

The papers mention one of Iraq’s vice presidents said the Bush administration has made the creation of a new political coalition a top priorities. Tariq Hashimi said Bush and other senior officials told him that, for now, this new coalition is “the only solution we have” to strengthen the country’s central government.

Meanwhile, a congressional delegation led by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman arrived in Baghdad to meet with U.S. and Iraqi officials. McCain reiterated his call for more boots on the ground and, according to the NYT, said military commanders are currently discussing the possibility of sending as many as 35,000 more troops to Iraq.

The NYT notes a suicide bomber killed four civilians in Afghanistan yesterday.

The NYT fronts word out of the Homeland Security Department that the United States is giving up on efforts to track visitors and determine whether they actually leave the country. Officials say creating the program with the existing equipment would be too expensive and reports say it will take anywhere from five to 10 years before new technology is created.

The NYT fronts, and everyone else mentions, the New Jersey legislature voted to allow same-sex unions. Lawmakers had a mandate from the state’s highest court to come up with a system that would allow gay couples to have the same rights as heterosexuals. The move was criticized both by gay rights advocates, who complain the law doesn’t go far enough, and by conservative groups.

The WP fronts, and the LAT goes inside, with news that Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the military’s use of “targeted killings” of Palestinian militants. The court, which ruled on the controversial topic for the first time, said the military should take extra care to make sure civilian deaths are minimized. In addition, the court also said an independent judicial review should follow each operation and recommended that the military compensate civilians who are caught in the crossfire.

Everybody mentions Israel blocked Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from entering the Gaza Strip with $35 million. After a long standoff, Haniyeh was allowed through, but only after he left the money with Hamas officials in Egypt. Palestinians say the money is desperately needed to pay salaries, but Israel insists the money would be used to fund terrorist attacks.

The NYT fronts, and everyone else mentions, a long-awaited investigation in Britain concluded Princess Diana’s death was a “tragic accident.”

The LAT fronts, and everyone mentions, the death of Ahmet Ertegun, who co-founded Atlantic Records and was responsible for supporting and shaping the careers of some of the biggest names in music. He made his name with such acts as Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, and Aretha Franklin. Ertegun died as a result of a brain injury he suffered when he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert on Oct. 29. “Few people have had a bigger impact on the record industry than Ahmet,” said David Geffen. Ertegun was also a founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was 83. Slate interviewed Ertegun last year.