STAVANGER, Norway – All we know is this: a record 259 candidates, including 50 organizations, have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. With no clues from the judges in Norway, speculation about the front-runners for Friday's announcement is primarily based on the committee's previous choices and current events. Here's a look at some of those getting the most attention:
The Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October for advocating education for girls is the bookmakers' favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Since recovering from her injuries, she has toured the world, becoming a global celebrity. Now 16, she would be the youngest winner of any Nobel. On Thursday, she won the Sakharov Award, the European Parliament's 50,000-euro ($65,000) human rights award. Concerns that a Nobel Prize might pile too much pressure on her young shoulders were somewhat assuaged by the mature speech she gave to the U.N. this summer.
DR. DENIS MUKWEGE
The Congolese surgeon, a powerful advocate for women, has treated thousands of gang-raped women at the Panzi Hospital he set up in Bukavu in 1999. Last year he lashed out at the international community for its inaction on his country's vicious civil war. The result: He is now hiding in Europe following an assassination attempt last October. Giving him the Nobel could give world attention to the conflict — but it might come too soon after 2011, when two African women and one Yemeni were honored with the peace prize for their work for women's rights.
With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics around the corner, the Nobel committee could be tempted to shine its spotlight on human rights activists in Russia. Svetlana Gannushkina and the Memorial rights group she heads have been seen as top candidates for several years. Another potential candidate is Lyudmila Alexeyeva, an 84-year-old former Soviet dissident and a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin's regime. The committee has broadened its concept of peace work to include things like human rights and climate change, so it could also choose to honor those fighting the anti-gay legislation recently passed in Russia.
SISTER MAGGIE GOBRAN
The Egyptian computer scientist chucked in her academic career to become a Coptic Christian nun and has been running the Stephen's Children charity since 1989. The group reaches out across religious boundaries to help the disenfranchised in Cairo's slums. With the Arab Spring revolutions and politics in Egypt taking a more threatening turn, the committee might seek to reward someone seen as untainted by sectarianism and violence. Lawmakers in the U.S. and Norway have nominated her.
Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the American soldier convicted of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks in one of the biggest intelligence leaks in U.S. history, is considered an outsider for the award. She is serving 35-year prison sentence for sending more than 700,000 documents to the anti-secrecy website. Awarding her the prize would not go down well with the U.S. government, but the fiercely independent Norwegian Nobel Committee is not afraid of riling powerful nations. Its 2010 peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo deeply angered the Chinese government. NSA leaker Edward Snowden is also getting attention in online betting, but that is wasted money. The deadline for nominations was Feb. 1, months before he became known.