Today's Papers

Quick on the Draw

The New York Timesleads with, and the Washington Postfronts, new details on the Baghdad shootout that took place on Sept. 16 involving Blackwater, a private security contractor. Both papers get word that a Blackwater guard drew a weapon on a colleague who continued shooting toward civilians even as at least one other contractor called for a cease-fire. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with the continuing crackdown in Myanmar that included soldiers raiding monasteries and firing at protesters. At least nine people were killed, including a Japanese photojournalist.

The WP leads with the Senate’s bipartisan approval of the measure to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which will bring about “the biggest domestic policy clash” of President Bush’s tenure. The president has vowed to veto the bill, and yesterday faced calls from several Republicans to reconsider his stance. USA Todayleads with new figures that show sales of new homes in August “hit their lowest point in seven years,” which is seen as another sign that the worst is yet to come. “Housing is nowhere near bottom; neither is its wider impact,” an expert said. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that two of the key backers of a planned ballot initiative, which would have changed the way California’s electoral votes are awarded, quit. The initiative would have allowed Republicans to win at least some electoral votes in the state. Although the measure could be revived if a major donor comes forward, time is running out and most seem to think that’s unlikely.

The most dramatic episode of the fateful day in Baghdad is certainly the description of how a cease-fire was ordered and one guard drew a gun on another. The NYT’s source says the word cease-fire “was supposedly called out several times,” while the Post says the words used were “stop shooting.” The WP actually got a copy of a two-page report that is described as a “first blush” account of the day’s events from the eyes of the Blackwater guards. It says that one of the three Blackwater units involved in the shooting was ambushed in the traffic circle where the shooting took place and another one was surrounded by Iraqis. The NYT says only that the guards “believed that they were being fired on” and helpfully reminds readers that some witnesses say Iraqi commandos were shooting nearby.

The WP reportsBlackwater guards were moving one “principal”  back to the Green Zone  after a car bomb exploded 25 yards away from the entrance of the “financial compound” he was visiting. The NYT says the guards were moving “diplomats” and, according to its sources, the bomb went off “a few hundred yards away from the meeting.” The actual distance of the bomb could be important because some are wondering why the “diplomats” didn’t stay put since they were in a secure compound.

The NYT, WP, and LAT all front the same dramatic picture  from Myanmar that shows the Japanese journalist lying on the ground while security forces are attacking protesters. The LAT notes the journalist had covered several conflicts, including the Iraq invasion, and arrived in Myanmar on Tuesday. The Post says there were reports that another foreigner, allegedly a Caucasian woman, was shot and wounded. The violence of the last two days has made it clear that the military junta is willing to beat up and kill Buddhist monks, “the highly revered core of Burmese society,” notes the NYT. The WSJ fronts a look at how most of the news coming out of Myanmar is from “citizen journalists,” but everyone points out the flow of information has slowed down as the government cracks down on Internet use as well as cellphones.

Bush asked countries in the region to pressure Myanmar’s leaders to stop using force against the protesters and met with China’s foreign minister to personally convey that message. In a rare statement, China urged the military junta to “exercise restraint.”

Although the Senate passed the expansion of the children’s insurance program with a veto-proof majority, that didn’t happen in the House so it seems a veto  would be safe for now. But that may change as Democrats have made it clear that “[a]nyone who votes in lock step with the president and against children’s health … [is] going to hear about it back home.” If the measure fails, Democrats say they will come back to the issue periodically to exert pressure on Republicans.

The NYT fronts a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general that says the Food and Drug Administration does little to ensure the safety of people who participate in clinical trials. The FDA has only 200 inspectors to oversee approximately 350,000 sites, and Washington often downgrades any critical findings. “In many ways, rats and mice get greater protection as research subjects in the United States than do humans,” an expert said.

USAT reefers news that Mychal Bell, one of the “Jena Six,” was released on bail yesterday after spending 10 months in jail. Bell still faces charges but the prosecutor announced he will no longer seek to try him as an adult.

Everybody notes the Senate voted to approve a federal expansion of the federal hate-crime law to cover gay men and lesbians. In order to make a veto more difficult, the Senate included the measure as an amendment to the annual military authorization bill.

The LAT’s Rosa Brooks isn’t impressed by the show put on by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week and calls the whole thing a “farce.” Bollinger was quick to describe the encounter as “free speech at its best,” but Brooks says that only happens “when someone really does speak truth to power.” And Bollinger didn’t need much courage to criticize Ahmadinejad. “If Bollinger had invited President Bush to Columbia and made those same unvarnished remarks to him,” and Bush actually tried to answer a couple of critical questions, that “would have been free speech at its best.”