The New York Timesleads with "senior American officials" saying North Korea has completed fueling a long-range ballistic missile—the kind that could, eventually, reach the U.S.—and is set to test it. "Yes, looks like all systems are 'go' and fueling appears to be done," said an SAO. Pyongyang's last such test was in 1998, after which it declared a moratorium. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the U.S. pressuring Latin American countries to vote against Venezuela's bid for the region's open seat on the U.N. Security Council. Chile's foreign minister recalled a meeting with Secretary of State Rice, who warned that if Chile supported Venezuela, it would be lumped in with the "loser" Latin American countries. The Americans "have made it quite clear this is a top priority," said one diplomat.
USA Todayleads with an interview with a Treasury Department official saying terrorist groups, facing pressure from ... oh, the Treasury Department ... are increasingly being forced to move funds via cash. The Washington Post'slead says that until the immigration debate took off in the past year the administration had "virtually abandoned" enforcement against employers of illegal immigrants. In 1999, the government moved to fine 417 companies. In 2004 that dropped to three. The Post attributes the drop-off to cuts in funding, as well as to pressure from "business lobbies, immigrant rights groups and members of Congress."
The NYT says the U.S. is so concerned about a test by Pyongyang that Secretary Rice made a "highly unusual" move and actually spoke with North Korean diplomats. The message: Knock it off. "We needed to make sure there was no misunderstanding," said a SAO.
The Wall StreetJournal says diplomats in "Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo" are all distressed about the possible test, but the paper also emphasizes the "distinct possibility" that North Korea is engaged in a "bluff."
The NYT has a front-page piece on the mainstreaming of illegal immigrants: According to one survey the paper cites, about half of those working illegally get a regular paycheck and W-2 forms.
USAT and NYT front the Episcopal Church electing its first female leader, the first time a woman has been tapped to head any church in the Anglican Communion. The new bishop is also a progressive and supported the church's naming an openly gay man as a bishop. Her promotion has ticked off a few churchgoers. "Just like we can't use grape juice and saltines for Communion, because it isn't the right matter," said one conservative activist, "we do not believe that the right matter is being offered here."
The WP goes above-the-fold with what seems like a remarkable drop in the number rapes during roughly the last decade. It's not clear why the dip has happened, but there does seem to be increasing agreement that it has. "The decline has been steady and consistent, which gives us a lot of confidence that it's a real occurrence, not a statistical anomaly," said one anti-rape activist.
The NYT and Post have fascinating dispatches from Mogadishu, where some of the recently triumphant Islamic militia leaders are moderate, and others, well: "If you will not join Islam, you are not my brother," one young leader told the NYT. "I am a holy warrior and those who disturb Islam, we will disturb them."
The Journal has a campaign-contribution analysis showing corporations hedging their bets in the last year and cranking up their donations to Democrats.
The WP profiles the coming "doomsday vault." It's being built on a Norwegian island above the Arctic Circle and will store samples of millions of seeds in case of a nuclear winter or other small problem. "We will have the biological foundation for all of agriculture," said an official from the international organization that's coordinating the effort.
A front-page NYT piece looks at the latest bubbling disaster in Iraq: The government has been pumping waste oil from refineries into "open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River" and until last week had been setting the stuff on fire. Turns out that does nothing good for the water table.
For those sick of the media's downer coverage of Iraq, TP is happy to report that you can skip their biased work and get the true picture of freedom on the march. Yesterday's WP featured a leaked cable from, apparently, U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad to Secretary Rice detailing the embassy's Iraqi staff's concerns that conditions in Baghdad have "visibly deteriorated." It's a PDF file—see, no filter needed—and it's today's must read.