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The front pages deliver a heaping helping of trend stories this morning. The New York Times offers up an analysis that's sure to reach the top five most e-mailed list (if the success of "Sex and the City" is any indication.)

That's because a "New York Times analysis of census results" reveals that for "probably the first time," there are more women in the U.S. "living without a husband than with one." Specifically, 51 percent of women in 2005 said they were living without a spouse. In 1950 the figure was 35 percent and in 2000, 49 percent.

Unsurprisingly, experts describe this shift the same way that every other change in thinking since Malcolm Gladwell coined the most overused phrase of the millennium has been described. As a tipping point.

Said one demographer with the Brookings Institution, it's "'a clear tipping point, reflecting the culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence and more flexible lifestyles for women.'"

Gasoline Prices Sink

The ever popular topic of gas prices gets front page attention in USA Today, informing readers that despite the weekend drop in prices those "who expect gas prices to fall as sharply as oil prices in recent weeks will likely be disappointed." The good news is that "a number of energy analysts" say that average gas prices will likely "drop a dime or more over the next few weeks."

Credit Card Chronicles

The Wall Street Journal, economic trendspotter that it is, takes a look at the increasing number of merchants who are "steering." That's an industry term, people. It means that merchants are "encouraging customers to pay using methods that carry low transaction fees, in particular PIN-based debit cards."

According to one St. Louis bike shop owner: "It's the No. 1 thing that we can do on our end to save quite a bit of money," telling the paper that last year, he paid about $40,000 for card processing fees for a shop that has annual sales of $2 million.

And yes, this means that consumers are somehow being screwed, since "banks rarely offer debit-card rewards if customers use a PIN." Why? "[B]ecause banks want to encourage customers to sign, which earns them a higher fee."

Botched Execution II

Although video of the event thankfully doesn't appear to be available on YouTube, the hangings of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, the former head of Saddam Hussein's secret police and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, the former chief judge of Hussein's revolutionary court, are mired in controversy nonetheless.

Specifically, the hanging of Mr. Ibrahim went "seriously awry," as the noose used to hang him "decapitat[ed] him after he dropped through the gallows trapdoor," writes the New York Times' front page.

Iraqi officials have said the decapitation was not intentional, "saying that Ibrahim's neck had been unable to absorb the noose's force," writes the Washington Post, adding that a spokesperson for the government described it as a "rare incident."

Nonetheless, the both executions "set off new waves of anger and celebration along sectarian lines" across Iraq, despite the government's "great pains to prevent the type of chaotic spectacle that accompanied Hussein's hanging." For her part, Secretary of State State Condoleezza Rice, traveling in Egypt, told reporters that all three executions "should have been carried out with 'greater dignity.'"

Travels With Condi

The Wall Street Journal's newsbox leads with news of Rice's travels in the Middle East, and the New York Times front page features a story on her trip to Egypt.

The article serves to highlight the sense from "Egyptian political commentators, political aides and human rights advocates" that Rice did not address any of the country's rights violations – including some particularly brutal incidents of police violence. She instead focused on Egypt's support of the U.S.'s efforts in the region and her appreciation for that relationship.

It poses a particularly thorny question for U.S. foreign policy, writes the Times: "…where Washington was criticized in the past for supporting repressive governments, it risks even sharper criticism now because it made such a public commitment to promoting democracy."

The awkwardness of the situation is pretty well captured in the title of the Times article: "Rice Speaks Softly in Egypt, Avoiding Democracy Push."

Health Insurers Not Having A Coronary After All

While the Los Angeles Times noted last week that news of the Governator's new plan to provide health insurance for every Californian "gave virtual coronaries to leaders of California's hospitals, doctors' groups and insurers," because of the costs likely to befall them, today's article tells a different story.

Instead, "in a sign of how the political climate is shifting," representatives from all kinds of unlikely places – including America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the trade group that represents the health insurance industry – are joining with doctors' groups and unions to advocate the overhaul.

The reason? Yes, you guessed it. "This week marks a kind of tipping point," said Karen Ignagni, of AHIP. "The health insurance problem has been with us for decades. With all these different efforts, you are seeing a consensus emerge that the time for action is now."

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