Today's Papers

A Sure Target

The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timeslead and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with yesterday’s fighting in Iraq, where Iraqi troops, with support from American forces, battled insurgents near the city of Najaf. According to an Iraqi official, 250 insurgents were killed during the daylong battle. Two U.S. soldiers died when their helicopter crashed during the fighting, the third American helicopter to crash in eight days. 

The New York Timesleads an interview with Iran’s ambassador in Baghdad, who said, not surprisingly, that his country is planning to extend its activities in Iraq. The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran is prepared to offer help with military training and emphasized the strong economic ties between both countries by stating that Iran will open a bank in Baghdad. USA Today leads with word from the Army Corps of Engineers that it has discovered 146 levees across the country at risk of failing if there is a major flood. If local officials fail to repair the levees, it could mean property owners would have to buy flood insurance to protect their property.

Iraqi officials believe the insurgents were planning to attack Shiite pilgrims, clerics, and shrines during the holiday of Ashura, which starts Monday night. Some officials said the fighters were part of a group that call themselves Soldiers of Heaven, according to the NYT (the WP goes with the name Soldiers of the Sky, while the LAT chooses Heaven’s Army). The WP notes that, according to officials, the fighters were a mixture of Shiites, Sunnis, and foreign fighters. The nature of the group itself seems a little unclear, because, as the LAT notes, officials gave different versions, as some said it was part of a Sunni effort to disrupt the holiday, while others said the insurgents were members of a Shiite splinter group, and still others described them as foreign fighters, or perhaps Saddam Hussein loyalists. Najaf is under Iraqi control, and U.S. troops came to help only after local forces requested assistance.

The LAT notes the U.S. military announced the death of three additional U.S. troops yesterday. It was another bloody day in other parts of Iraq as more than 100 civilians were killed across the country. At least five students were killed after a mortar shell hit a girls’ secondary school.

The NYT notes Iran’s plans are likely to raise tensions with U.S. officials. The ambassador confirmed the two Iranians who were detained by U.S. forces last month were security officials, but he insisted they were discussing official business with the Iraqi government. The ambassador also predictably dismissed the evidence American officials said they found to link Iran with militias. An Iraqi official confirmed Iran had received a license to open a bank, and the ambassador said it would be the first of several.

The NYT goes inside with another gripping account of U.S. troops fighting in the streets of Baghdad. In the middle of the emotional retelling of last week’s battle on Haifa Street, the paper mentions that U.S. troops involved in the fighting had “no communication links with their Iraqi counterparts.”

The WSJ fronts a look at how new ethics rules have caused vast amounts of confusion on Capitol Hill. For example, the seafood industry tried to determine what food it could serve at a reception while following what is commonly known as the “toothpick rule” (if it can be eaten with a toothpick, it’s allowed). Also, a rule banning corporate-jet travel has made life complicated for some lawmakers who are used to flying their own planes and are finding that they would be in breach of the rules if they continue.

The Post goes inside with what may seem to be a simple question: “What precisely is an earmark?” The answer could have serious consequences, but there’s no simple answer. “I heard an appropriator say this week that it was like Justice [Potter] Stewart’s definition of pornography—it’s hard to define an earmark, but he knew it when he saw it,” one Democratic staffer tells the paper.

Everyone notes Sen. Hillary Clinton concluded her first weekend of campaigning in Iowa, where, as the WP and USAT emphasize, her criticism of President Bush got a little tougher. Clinton said President Bush is trying to leave the Iraq problem to his successor, which she described as “the height of irresponsibility.” The WSJ and NYT emphasize how Clinton is trying to change her image as an “ice queen” (the WSJ’s words) and tried to connect with voters using answers that sometimes included humor and self-deprecation.

There was great laughter at an event yesterday when she “slowly and theatrically” (NYT) repeated a question: “What, in my background, equips me to deal with evil and bad men?” Humorless (or, more likely, bored) journalists hounded her about the statement, until, finally, she had to say she didn’t think the crowd was thinking about her husband when they laughed. “I thought I was funny,” she told reporters earlier in the day. “You know, you guys keep telling me lighten up. I get a little funny, and now I’m being psychoanalyzed.”

In an Editorial Observer column, the NYT’s Adam Cohen takes a look at the administration’s repeated claims that the president has the constitutional authority to decide the country’s involvement in a war. But that power isn’t so clear cut. Cohen examines historical precedent to show that Congress’ authority is not just limited to the ability to cut funds and it has every right to “set the terms of military engagement.”

The NYT points out that since 2004, more than 100 judicial rulings have cited Wikipedia in some form. These citations are frequently for definitions to terms such as “jungle juice” or “booty music,” but the online encyclopedia has also sometimes been used as a source for central facts about cases.