The New York Timesleads with news that Florida will probably say goodbye to touch-screen voting machines and replace them with paper ballots that will be counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election. Experts say the move could very well be the beginning of the end of electronic voting machines, particularly those that don’t leave a paper record. The Washington Post leads with an early look at the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which, big surprise, says the situation is getting worse and is quickly spiraling out of control. The NIE spends little time discussing Iran and mentions how Iraqi sectarian violence has become the main obstacle to U.S. goals. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that some of President Bush’s allies in the Senate are proposing their own Iraq resolution that calls on the local government to meet certain benchmarks.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with the global-warming report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was leaked to some news organizations in advance of its scheduled release today. The report concludes global warming is “very likely” (with 90 percent certainty) caused by human activities. Worst of all, it says global warming has become uncontrollable and “would continue for centuries … even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized.” USA Todayleads with the Army Corps of Engineers revealing the location of the 122 levees across the country that could fail if there is a major flood. Some of the levees are close to areas with significant population, but others are in rural communities that may find it difficult to raise the money needed to carry out the necessary repairs. On Monday, USAT reported the existence of the at-risk levees but couldn’t get their locations. After Freedom of Information requests were filed, the Army Corps of Engineers released the list, and the paper posts it online.
Florida’s governor announced the plans for the voting systems yesterday and the state legislature is expected to approve the change, which will cost $32.5 million. Several states and counties have been recently moving toward voting with some sort of paper trail. Florida could be the first state to throw away a system that was believed to be the answer to the 2000 election debacle.
Although the NIE does say things in Iraq could improve, it strongly questions whether local leaders will be able to step up to the challenge. The report is apparently “unpleasant but very detailed.” The classified 90-page document will be available to Congress today, but the public gets to see only a two-page summary. As opposed to other years, it is expected that this NIE will prominently display disagreements within the intelligence community.
In confirmation hearings to be the new director of national intelligence, J. Michael McConnell told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he’s committed to keeping intelligence reports independent from political pressures. McConnell said the intelligence community has learned important lessons in the past few years.
Earlier this week, USAT quoted scientists saying the global-warming report would conclude there was “virtual certainty” global warming was caused by human activities, which translates into a 99 percent chance. Today, the LAT says many scientists believed the higher certainty should have been used but China strongly resisted. For the first time, the report says it is “more likely than not” that strong hurricanes and cyclones were caused by global warming. But, as the NYT also notes, some scientists are saying the report’s conclusions on rising sea levels and the extent of warming are too conservative and the actual figures are significantly higher.
The NYT and LAT front the sharp criticism lobbed at Army Gen. George W. Casey by senators for strategic failures in Iraq. The departing top U.S. commander in Iraq is the nominee to be the Army chief of staff. One of the harshest critics was Sen. John McCain, who told the general: “I question seriously the judgment that was employed in your execution of your responsibilities in Iraq.” Casey told senators securing Baghdad might require fewer additional troops than what Bush has planned.
Speaking of troop levels, a Congressional Budget Office estimate said the number sent over to Iraq under President Bush’s “surge” will likely be higher than initially reported. This is because along with the 21,500 troops, at least 15,000 (and as many as 28,000) support personnel would have to be sent to Iraq. All these troops could cost up to $27 billion for the first year.
The Post and LAT go inside with word that Senate Democrats are facing opposition to the compromise Iraq resolution from members of their own party who say it doesn’t go far enough.
In other congressional news, everyone reports the Senate voted to increase the minimum wage but also added $8.3 billion in tax cuts for small businesses. This will likely lead to lengthy negotiations with the House, where Democratic leaders oppose the tax cuts.
The Post fronts, and everyone else mentions, the latest violence in Iraq, where two suicide bombers targeted a market in Hilla and killed at least 63 people. Also, an American soldier died on Thursday in Anbar. Yesterday, the Iraqi government announced it has invited Syria and Iran to a regional security conference in Baghdad next month.
The WSJ fronts word that Russia and Iran are in talks to create a cartel similar to OPEC but for gas.
The Post’s Reliable Source reports that Paul Wolfowitz shouldn’t have any more problems finding socks without holes in his closet. Earlier this week, people around the world saw pictures of Wolfowitz’s holey socks while he was visiting a mosque in Turkey. But now several sock-makers have come to the rescue. Gold Toe and Turkish sock manufacturers sent a bunch of free socks to the president of the World Bank.