The New York Times leads with word that the majority of foreign fighters who entered Iraq in the last year were from two countries the United States considers allies, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The Washington Postleads with a look at how hundreds of thousands of people might not be able to vote in next year's elections because of long delays in processing citizenship applications. The Department of Homeland Security failed to adequately prepare for the large increase in applications after it announced fees would increase. Critics say the delay is caused by the same sort of miscommunication and poor planning that led to huge waits for new passports that were experienced earlier this year.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with New Hampshire finally setting an official date for its presidential primary. As was widely expected, it will be held on Jan. 8, which is less than a month before Feb. 5 (aka superduper Tuesday), when more than 20 states will be holding their contests. This means the nominees "could be decided in a one-month blitz of balloting," says the paper. Although several states tried to move their primaries earlier in the year to take away some of the power from Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states are actually turning out to be as important as ever, particularly since they're both still seen as up for grabs.
In a September raid on an insurgent cell in Sinjar, near the Syrian border, U.S. troops found five terabytes of data that included biographical information on more than 700 fighters. Records "underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni," reports the NYT, but they're also helping officials get a better profile of the typical foreign militant. The records showed that 41 percent of the fighters were from Saudi Arabia and 18 percent from Libya, while 39 percent came from various North African countries. Notably, the findings contradict previous assertions that Syria and Lebanon were responsible for a significant portion of the fighters. The cell is thought to have been responsible for smuggling most of the foreigners into Iraq, and, since the raid, both the flow of fighters and the number of bombings have decreased. But officials warn that a new organization could take its place. "We cut the head off, but the tail is still left," a senior military official said.
The LAT's lead story looks into, and the WP devotes a separate Page One story to, the difficult decisions now facing the candidates who must decide just how much they can campaign during the holiday season. "We fully expect candidates working the Communion line at St. Joseph's on Christmas Eve," the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party tells the LAT. It's a funny thought, but campaigns are wracking their brains trying to figure out whether they can keep on soliciting votes on Christmas, and how negative they can go without being accused of destroying the spirit of the season. "Politicians on Christmas is the equivalent of seeing the Grinch fill your stocking with coal," a strategist tells the Post.
The NYT and WP both go inside with the last-minute efforts by the Bush administration to prepare for next week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis. The Post highlights how the administration is still working on trying to get important countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Syria, to send top officials. Several are expected to make a final decision during the Arab League meeting that ends tomorrow. The NYT goes high with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasizing that she wants to achieve a lasting deal between Israelis and Palestinians before the end of the Bush presidency. Many are skeptical of the recent efforts and say the administration isn't trying anything new so nothing substantial can come out of Annapolis.
The NYT goes inside with a look at how the Pakistani government's claim to have freed many opposition leaders often amounts to empty words. Although the government said that the dismissed chief justice of the Supreme Court, who had been under house arrest, was free to move around, people who tried to visit him were turned away by police officers and one lawyer was even arrested.
The LAT catches late-breaking news out of Pakistan, where, to the surprise of no one, the Supreme Court dismissed the last challenge to last month's re-election of President Pervez Musharraf. The government also announced this morning that it had released 5,634 lawyers and political party members.
The Post goes inside with a look at how Republican leaders who have been decrying the Democratic spending bills because they contain too much pork have also played their part in making the measures more expensive. Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, for example, described the health-education bill as a "billion-dollar earmark bonanza" but his district was slated to receive $1.25 million in federal money from the bill.
The LAT gives Page One treatment to a fascinating story that has been buzzing around the blogosphere lately about a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide shortly after her online friendship with a boy on MySpace turned sour. The girl's parents later learned the "boy" was actually a fake profile created by a neighboring family. Several Web sites have identified the family, who, predictably, has been shunned by the local community.
If you've got some extra time on this Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to read the LAT front-page feature on a reporter's quest to find his birth parents. It's a moving, first-person account about the unexpected consequences of discovering the truth about a piece of family history that had been buried for so long. "My determination to satisfy my curiosity would cause pain in ways I could not foresee."
While most Americans will be eating large quantities of turkey today, some will be spending the day with pet turkeys in their backyards, reports the NYT. A growing number of groups are offering turkeys for adoption and placing them in (vegetarian) households. But it turns out Turkeys are not the easiest pets to have. "All of the sudden one, for no reason, they will turn on you and decide they don't like you anymore and peck you," a woman who has three turkeys said. "I had one that would just fly at you, and I would have to carry a rake to protect myself."