The federal government announced that the FBI’s list of Americans forbidden from buying guns because of mental-health problems has more than doubled since the spring, the Washington Post reports in its lead story. The Los Angeles Times leads with Mike Huckabee riding his folksy campaigning style to the lead in Iowa GOP polls just over a month before the caucuses lead off the presidential primary season. The implications are greatest for Mitt Romney, who was counting on wins in Iowa and New Hampshire to give him a quick and insurmountable lead for the Republican nomination.
The New York Times leads with the cloud in the silver lining of the improving security situation in Iraq: U.S. military officials are blaming the Iraqi government for not having adequate plans to reintegrate the Iraqis who are returning. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a day after stepping down as chief of the army, said he will soon lift the state of emergency in that country.
More Americans are moving to different states than at any time since the early 1990s, fueled by a demographic increase in young people and immigrants moving out of border states into the rest of the United States. It’s the lead story in USA Today.
The NYT lead is based on a two-day series of briefings that the U.S. military gave reporters in Baghdad on how it quantifies progress in Iraq. “The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find their homes occupied, the officials said. Nor has the Iraqi government come forward with a detailed plan to provide aid, shelter, and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.”
The Post also fronts its take on the briefings, and focuses instead on the quality-of-life indicators that the United States is trying to collect to prove that things are looking up there—Baghdad, for example, gets 12 hours of electricity a day now, up significantly from the beginning of the year. And 28 percent of Baghdadis are happy with their electricity supply. The Post talks to some of the other 72 percent. “What kind of government allows its people to live like this?” asks one. “They don’t know how to provide services. They don’t know how to do anything.”
The LAT, for its part, focuses on U.S. concerns that as it lets Iraqis take more and more control, the data that the Iraqis gather will be less accurate than the ones Americans collect. On the positive side, the State Department is getting better at processing Iraqi refugees to the United States, the Post reports.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey made the announcement of the gun numbers yesterday at a speech in Utah. (It was his first public speech, incidentally, since being confirmed three weeks ago.) The FBI list relies on states voluntarily reporting their mental-health data to the feds; this year, the number of states who do that has increased from 23 to 32. Mukasey urged the remaining 18 states to get on the ball. The increases so far have been a result of the Virginia Tech shootings earlier this year; the killer was declared “dangerously mentally ill” by a Virginia state court but still didn’t make it on to the list. But as far as TP can figure out—and the Post doesn’t say it explicitly—none of the recent changes have closed the loophole that allowed him to buy his guns.
All the papers, the LAT especially, are skeptical of Pakistan’s lifting of the state of emergency. Television and radio stations remain off the air, and senior judges Musharraf fired remain out of their jobs. The date of the lifting of the state of emergency, Dec. 16, gives only about three weeks for campaigning before parliamentary elections. One opposition coalition, including the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, responded immediately to Musharraf’s announcement by saying it would boycott the elections. But the Post quotes the other major opposition figure in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, as saying that a boycott would “accomplish nothing.”
Also in the papers: Vladimir Putin’s party is using “unprecedented administrative pressure and harassment” to campaign for Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Russia, the Post reports on the front page. Radical Islam is rising in Tunisia, as is police repression of it, the LAT finds. Rudy Giuliani often makes claims that are “incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong,” the NYT reports. Barack Obama’s political action committee may be involved in some shady politicking, the Post finds. As the economy worsens, food banks around the country are suffering and in some cases being forced to close, the NYT finds. CNN apologized for allowing a Hillary Clinton adviser to ask a question in the Republican YouTube debate, the Post reports. But the LAT notes that conservatives are still steamed about it. The Times also reports that Ron Paul believes there is a threat from a highway plan that federal officials say doesn’t exist. Of course, that’s what they want you to believe. …
We’re No. 4! The U.K. is trying to improve on its usual Summer Olympics medal count when it hosts the games in 2012. It was 10th in the gold medal count in 2004 and is now shooting for fourth, the Journal reports. Says one British sports official: “We tried to take the real world into consideration. … The U.S., China and Russia, they’re relative untouchables.” The efforts include television ads recruiting tall Britons to try out for sports like team handball, volleyball, and canoeing.