THE GOP’S NEW SOUTHERN STRATEGY. In this week’s cover story, contributing writer Ari Berman reports how Republicans in virtually every state in the South, including critical swing states like North Carolina, are using the redistricting process to dilute the Democratic party vote. Hoping to build on their gains in 2010, Republicans are using their control of the process in at least twenty states to pack minority voters into districts represented by black Democrats, while diluting the minority vote in swing districts held by white Democrats. As Berman explains, not only does this weaken the Democratic party’s ability to compete in the upcoming November elections, it threatens to undo an integration process in a region with a long and troubled history of racial segregation. Our slideshow this week looks at the familiar faces behind the GOP’s new Southern strategy.

THE ASSAULT ON LABOR IN ARIZONA. At the urging of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Arizona Republicans led by Governor Jan Brewer are racing to implement a series of anti-labor initiatives designed to cripple Arizona’s unions, reports Washington correspondent John Nichols. Brewer, who outlined her anti-union plan at a meeting of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in December, announced this week her intent to go above and beyond Walker’s assault on Wisconsin’s public workers. Legislation introduced by her Republican allies in the state Senate—striking for its resemblance to ALEC’s model legislation as revealed by The Nation/Center for Media and Democracy last summer, would effectively end collective bargaining rights for public workers, including public safety unions, end automatic payroll deductions for union dues, and ban compensation of public employees for union work. Nichols joined MSNBC’s The Ed Show Thursday night for the latest on this story.

HOW NEWT CRIPPLED CONGRESS. Emerging bruised and battered from this week’s GOP primary in Florida, Gingrich continues to tout his Reagan “conservatism” and long legacy of leadership in Congress. But as’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports, Gingrich’s “legacy” is far from laudable. “It was Gingrich who made winning, rather than good governance, the chief currency of success,” writes Seitz-Wald. His tenure as Speaker of the House in the 90s was characterized by obstructionist brinksmanship, toxic divisiveness and excessive partisanship. “How Newt Gingrich Crippled Congress” is a must read, and available here.

HOW NEBRASKANS DEFEATED THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE. YES! magazine’s Madeline Ostrander offers up an originally reported look at how an unlikely grassroots coalition of farmers and ranchers in Nebraska banned together to oppose the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and in turn helped catalyze a national campaign that led to the Obama administration’s rejection of the plan. In this week’s episode of Nation Conversations, web editor Emily Douglas spoke with Ostrander about whether the success in Nebraska could translate into a model for use at the national level. Listen to that here.

El País’S JOURNEY TO THE MAINSTREAM. How did a newspaper that once represented a progressive alternative to the status quo ultimately come to be identified with the state? That’s the key question explored in Jonathan Blitzer’s essay, “The Future Is Not What It Used to Be,” in Books & Arts this week. A powerful work of narrative journalism, Blitzer traces the evolution of the Spanish daily over four decades: from a “vanguard force” to a mouthpiece for the state, and how the emergence of the newspaper Público came to fill the void left behind by El País. In this video by web producer Francis Reynolds, Blitzer explains how El País’s evolution leaves lingering questions about how both papers will deal with Spain’s ongoing social and political upheaval.

ACT NOW: CHALLENGING ARIZONA’S BAN ON ETHNIC STUDIES. My colleague Peter Rothberg details how you can join the movement to challenge Arizona state Attorney General Tom Horne’s ruling to ban Mexican American Studies from classrooms across the state. Be sure to read that here and find out how to make your voice heard.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m on Twitter—@KatrinaNation. Please leave your comments below.