The Washington Postleads with the continuing battle among states for political influence as South Carolina's Republican Party will apparently announce today that its presidential primary will be moved up to Jan. 19. The announcement will undoubtedly spur more changes, which could lead to the Iowa caucuses taking place before Christmas. The New York Timesleads with investigators announcing that they may have found a flaw in the "steel plates that connect girders" in the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed last week. Investigations are ongoing, but federal officials warned that states should be careful about how much weight they put on bridges when carrying out construction projects. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with U.S. troops in Baghdad killing 32 people during a raid in Sadr City, a district largely run by Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia.
USA Todayleads with new census numbers showing that, as has been much talked about, a growing number of Hispanics are moving into areas that are far away from cities with traditionally large immigrant populations. Many see this growth as the reason why immigration has become a political priority for more people who began seeing this trend in their backyards a few years ago. "What causes the friction is the rapid change much more than the absolute number," an expert said. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally with the failure of California's lawmakers to pass a budget, which has put all other legislative priorities on hold.
South Carolina's Republican primary had been scheduled for Feb. 2, but the state wants to hold on to its banner of being the "first in the South," which was threatened by Florida's decision to move its contest to Jan. 29. After South Carolina acts, New Hampshire and Iowa are bound to follow. South Carolina's move won't affect the Democratic primary, but the changes in New Hampshire and Iowa will affect both parties, and the campaigns aren't too happy about these constant changes. More changes could still be in store as Michigan and Nevada continue to explore whether they will also move up their primaries.
USAT notes "tons of construction material" got to the Minneapolis bridge on the day of the collapse and the extra weight could have caused too much stress on the steel support plates. As the NYT makes clear, this announcement raises the possibility that the bridge had always been structurally deficient. If that's the case, it raises the questions of why the bridge didn't collapse earlier and how inspectors failed to catch the design flaw throughout the years.
The Post emphasizes that the raid in Sadr City angered many of Baghdad's Shiites because it came on the eve of a major religious festival. The WSJ cites the U.S. military saying the 32 people killed were suspected insurgents, but the WP talks to Iraqi police who claimed several women and children were also among the dead. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki began a three-day visit to Iran, where he is expected to discuss security issues with several leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The NYT fronts a dispatch from Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province where British officers are criticizing American Special Forces for causing a large number of civilian casualties that are turning the local population against all foreign troops. A senior British commander has reportedly even asked the Special Forces to leave the area that is under his control. The officers are particularly critical of the reliance on airstrikes, which sometimes kill civilians in large numbers. For its part, the U.S. military blames the Taliban for using civilians as cover.
The WP fronts President Bush hinting that he might try to pass a new round of tax cuts for U.S. businesses to make them more competitive abroad. But the president recognized it's unlikely Congress would pass such a measure. Bush also tried to ease economic worries by stating the problems in the housing market amount only to a natural adjustment and dismissed calls to give government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more power to buy up mortgages. The president also vowed to veto spending bills that are deemed too expensive, including the measure to expand the children's health insurance program.
Everyone mentions word that Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is considering imposing a state of emergency, which would restrict movement and could result in the postponing of elections. Meanwhile, the NYT emphasizes how Musharraf is suffering from a large decrease in popularity.
The NYT fronts a look at how difficult it is to be former President George Herbert Walker Bush these days, as people aren't shy about approaching him to share their negative opinions about his son. "It wears on his heart," Ron Kaufman, a longtime adviser, said. The piece also takes a look at how it seems Bush gets more involved in his son's presidency than what has been publicly acknowledged. Bush pere plays a decidedly behind-the-scenes role, but he does talk to his son often, expresses his opinions, and has even talked to White House officials about seeking advice from outsiders.
In the Post's opinion pages, a wiretapping expert warns that the new warrantless surveillance law "could create huge long-term security risks for the United States." Susan Landau says that in order to avoid wiretapping every single communication, "the NSA will need to build massive automatic surveillance capabilities into telephone switches." The problem is that once this new infrastructure is in place, others, including foreign governments, could hack into the system and have access to U.S. communications.
USAT has the story of an American Idol hopeful who had to finish her audition while undergoing strong contractions. She passed to the next round and was promptly taken to the hospital where she gave birth to a healthy boy. She named the baby Jamil Labarron Idol McCowan.