Today's Papers

The Odd Couple

The New York Timesleads with word that the Bush administration is “quietly” trying to encourage Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to agree to a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how U.S. law-enforcement officials say the biggest threat of a terrorist attack in the homeland comes from small groups of men who can quickly become violent. An increased spotlight on these groups, known as BOGs (“bunch of guys”) or GOGs (“group of guys”), is a change from earlier theories that said the biggest threat came from “lone-wolf radicals.” The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with an Iraq catchall and emphasizes Gen. David Petraeus’ statement that he’s preparing recommendations on how to reduce troop levels since the “surge” would have to end by next summer.

USA Todayleads with an analysis of presidential campaign contributions and finds that the top Democratic candidates have received $32.5 million, compared with the Republicans’ $13.8 million, from the 50 zip codes that give the most money. Democrats outperformed Republicans in almost all of the top 50 zip codes, and the amount of money raised is vastly greater than what was going around at this point in the 2003 election. The Washington Postleads with a look at how the Bush administration is moving to expand the access that local law-enforcement officials will have to satellite spy images. The story led yesterday’s WSJ and immediately raised concerns from privacy advocates who weren’t convinced by assurances that civil liberties will be protected.

Musharraf’s popularity has been steadily decreasing in Pakistan, and U.S. officials are worried they’ll lose an important ally if he’s removed from power. The Bush administration believes that if he agrees to share power with Bhutto, Musharraf stands a better chance of remaining president. Although he’s hardly an ideal leader, whoever replaces him might be less willing to work with Washington, which would not only hurt the fight against al-Qaida but could also be dangerous since Pakistan has nuclear weapons. But, of course, there are problems, not least of which is the long-running rivalry between Musharraf and Bhutto, who has been in exile since 1999. Although they would both clearly gain something from a deal, it’s unclear whether a partnership could be sustained for a significant period of time.

The increased threat from small groups of men raises many challenges to law-enforcement officials because, as a report released by the New York Police Department made clear yesterday, they are difficult to track. “There is no useful profile” to determine who will take the step from being simply angry and disaffected with society to actually planning a terrorist attack, according to the report. Officials are particularly concerned about how these groups often “self-radicalize” very quickly. Some Islamic groups criticized the report and said it encourages law-enforcement officers to make suspects out of all Muslims. The LAT talks to some defense lawyers who say informants are the ones who frequently encourage these guys to become violent.

The Post fronts, and everyone mentions, the death toll from the four near-simultaneous bombs that exploded in northern Iraq on Tuesday increased to at least 250 (USAT says it could reach 500), making it the deadliest attack since the U.S. invasion. “Someone in every family is dead,” a resident said. U.S. officials and analysts were quick to say the coordinated bombings follow the pattern of previous attacks by al-Qaida in Iraq.

The Post off-leads word that Bush administration officials had proposed that the much-awaited September report in Iraq be delivered by the secretaries of state and defense, while testimony by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, would be relegated to a private briefing. Lawmakers balked, and yesterday the White House backed away. U.S. officials in Baghdad “appeared puzzled” when they heard of suggestions that the general and the ambassador would not testify publicly. The Post says “the skirmishing is an indication of the rising anxiety on all sides” as Sept. 15 approaches. But it seems like the true “anxiety” is coming from the administration, which is understandable since all evidence points to the fact that the assessment won’t report much progress on the all-important  political benchmarks.

The WP also follows up on yesterday’s LAT story that mentioned how the report will not be written by Petraeus but rather as a group effort by the White House. This hardly seems surprising since, as the WP notes, the legislation passed by Congress stated that the president would be the one responsible for preparing the report. But Bush has frequently talked about how the assessment would come directly from Petraeus, so the revelation raised some eyebrows.

The LAT manages to catch news that a powerful earthquake rocked southern Peru last night and killed at least 330 people (the AP says the death toll is at least 115). The 7.9-magnitude earthquake was followed by several strong aftershocks.

The NYT fronts news that CARE, one of the largest humanitarian organizations, has decided to stop accepting food aid it receives from the U.S. government. It receives the aid under a plan that gives out tons of subsidized American agricultural products to nonprofit groups who then sell it to fund their work. The practice has come under much criticism because it is inefficient and some claim it drives down the price and demand for locally grown products. “If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote,” a CARE official said.

Just two days ago, the LAT reported that many soccer fans were growing impatient with David Beckham, who had made only “two token appearances over eight games” because of an ankle injury. But yesterday, he played for more than 60 minutes, scored his first goal, and “erased a month of doubts about the value of his multimillion-dollar move to the Galaxy.” Or as the LAT columnist Helene Elliot puts it, “he certainly showed what the fuss … was all about.”