Let's start with the weakest story on this morning's New York Times' front page.
Gina Bellafante files "An Immigrant Group in a Rush to Marry Young." Bellafante's article reads like a synopsis (with endorsments for various things -- where to buy that wedding dress! Are you reading Russian Bride!). It may have a place inside the paper, but if there's a front page story in this topic, I don't believe Bellafante has unearthed it. But it does give us a front page photo of a bride to be trying on a wedding dress -- for those shopping for one, try Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Marina Shalyakhova will fix you up. The photo inside will help you plan that reception -- Da Mikelle Palace in Queens.
The strongest topic (and strongest writing) is in Thom Shanker & Eric Schmitt's "Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/13/politics/13info.html?hp&ex=1103000400&en=bf59e633a9d3e197&ei=5094&partner=homepage):
Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations.
Critics of the proposals say such deceptive missions could shatter the Pentagon's credibility, leaving the American public and a world audience skeptical of anything the Defense Department and military say - a repeat of the credibility gap that roiled America during the Vietnam War.
James Risen & David Rohde weigh in with "Mountains and Border Foil Quest for bin Laden"
(http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/13/international/asia/13osama.html). If you've followed the story in The New Yorker this summer you may be less than impressed (the people and culture of these "rugged mountain frontier of northwest Pakistan" aren't given attention) but it's a strong story still and worthy of the front page:
More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York transformed Osama bin Laden into the most wanted man in the world, the search for him remains stalled, frustrated by the remote topography of his likely Pakistani sanctuary, stymied by a Qaeda network that remains well financed and disciplined, sidetracked by the distractions of the Iraq war, and, perhaps most significantly, limited by deep suspicion of the United States among Pakistanis.
Keith Bradsher writes of "China Relents, and Promises Textile Tarrifs" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/13/international/asia/13tariff.html) which is also worth a read.
Sadly, Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Lipton's "Strain is Seen in Giuliani Ties With President" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/13/national/13relations.html) tease. Despite starting off noting a "Christmas dinner at the White House on Sunday night" attended by Giuliani, this isn't an update on yesterday's "Annual Physical Exam Finds Bush Is In 'Excellent' Health" (aka Bush is packing on the pounds). So if you're hoping to read of a tussle over a turkey leg or a slice of pie our stocky "leader" had with Giuliani, prepare to be disappointed.
Instead we learn that Bernard Kerik's failed nomination has led to a strain in relations between Bush and Giuliani. The sources are the usual anonymous people plus Giuliani himself who explains, "I feel very bad."
[For the news of prez packing on the pounds see http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2004/12/brazil-afghanistan-bush-packs-on.html.]
Lastly, Neela Banerjee looks at the moves by Christian conservatives to push their agenda on the state front in "Christian Conservatives Press Issues in Statehouses" (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/13/national/13states.html?oref=login). Check out this from "the director of State legislative relations at Concerned Women for America:
"I think people are becoming emboldened. On legislative efforts, they're getting more gutsy, and on certain issues, they may introduce legislation that they normally may not have done."
You might be tempted to say, "Now you girls at Concerned Women for America need to take a breath here." But don't because that Concerned Women staffer is Michael D. Bowman. That would be Mr. Bowman apparently (even if you're not nasty -- Janet Jackson ref). Huh? Nothing gets that manly blood rushing more than heading up Concerned Women?
Inside you'll find Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" (A18) which starts off promising in the headline with "Alert the Pastry Chefs" but once again we're denied a story of the packing on the pounds prez because it's followed quickly with "6,500 Guests Are Coming." It's the usual blend of society column and factoid that has led some to groan "why does the "White House Letter" takes up space in the paper?"
[Note: This post has been edited. Thanks to Shirley for catching typos and recommending clarity.]