On January 3, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation imposing sanctions on Belarus. The Belarus Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2011 was passed by Congress in December in response to a litany of alleged human rights abuses on the part of the former Soviet Republic. The text of the act enumerates several causes of the congressional effort to punish Belarus: The Government of Belarus has engaged in a pattern of clear and uncorrected violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Government of Belarus has engaged in a pattern of clear and uncorrected violations of basic principles of democratic governance, including through a series of fundamentally flawed presidential and parliamentary elections undermining the legitimacy of executive and legislative authority in that country. The Government of Belarus has subjected thousands of pro-democratic political activists to harassment, beatings, and jailings, particularly as a result of their attempts to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of assembly and association.
The Obama administration may have revealed classified information related to the killing of Osama bin Laden to a group in Hollywood planning to make a film about the event. On Thursday, Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) stated that the Department of Defense was initiating an investigation into whether Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow (the team behind the 2008 war film The Hurt Locker) were provided “improper access” to unreleased intelligence about the hunt for and assassination of the former head of al-Qaeda by members of the American special operations forces that took place in Pakistan in May of 2011.
According to the latest census, there are fewer than 2,000 people living in Morrison, Wisconsin. There are at least 10 times that many cows. A drive along any one of the country roads criss-crossing rural Brown County reveals one after the other of the area's many family-owned dairy farms (mega farms are still the minority). In fact, Brown County, home to Morrison, is one of America’s largest dairy-producing regions. Such pleasant landscapes are common to most of the surrounding communities dotting this rolling prairie of bucolic midwestern hamlets that are home to the salt of the earth. Hidden from sight, however, is the petty tyranny of the Morrison Town Board and its egregious agenda of quashing the freedom of speech. This ham-fisted oligarchy is threatening to stain the idyllic tapestry woven by generations of good, law-abiding citizens and muzzle their ability to have a say in the making of the laws that govern them. So constitutionally offensive are the recent policy positions taken by the Town Board, there is a distinct possibility that legal challenges could bring down serious repercussions upon some member of that council.
Republican presidential candidates came out verbally swinging at each other on so-called "attack ads" in a debate on NBC January 8, just days before the New Hampshire primary. The discussion of "attack ads" that examine the records of political opponents focused upon campaign advertisements and so-called "SuperPac" independent expenditures. Both the official Ron Paul campaign and an independent, pro-Mitt Romney SuperPac, Restore Our Future, spent millions each in the attack on Gingrich in Iowa. The Atlantic magazine credited Restore Our Future with handing Romney the Iowa victory. "The Iowa caucuses, more than any single contest in 2010, will mark the arrival of the super PAC as a potent, and likely lasting, political weapon. Restore Our Future, the super PAC that has run millions of dollars in television advertisements on Romney's behalf, deserves an Oscar for the role it played in Iowa." In the January 8 NBC debate, moderator David Gregory asked Gingrich if he had changed his position on "negative" advertisements after being hit by about $5 million in advertisements in Iowa highlighting his record:
Who is responsible for a YouTube video that paints Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman as “The Manchurian Candidate”? On the basis of rather scant evidence, Huntsman was quick to finger supporters of rival candidate Ron Paul. Since then, however, further evidence has called Huntsman’s rush to judgment into serious question, with some observers even suggesting that Huntsman himself — or his daughters, who have been involved in some rather odd videos before — may have uploaded the thing in an effort to garner sympathy and, in turn, votes. The whole flap began on January 4, when, as the End Run blog put it, “a ridiculous, pathetic joke of a video” entitled “Jon Huntsman’s Values” was posted on YouTube. The amateurish production, which questions whether the candidate’s values are American or Chinese, shows photos of Huntsman in China and clips of him speaking Chinese (both only natural given that he was once U.S. Ambassador to China), images of him with his adopted Chinese and Indian daughters (with the caption “China Jon’s Daughters/Even Adopted?” — whatever that is supposed to mean), and a still picture with Huntsman’s face superimposed over Mao Zedong’s. It concludes with the words “American Values and Liberty/Vote Ron Paul.”
Texas Congressman Ron Paul slammed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a "chickenhawk" in the ABC News/WMUR debate January 7, one of two final debates before the New Hampshire primary January 10. WMUR's Josh McElveen remarked to Gingrich, "Recently, Dr. Paul referred to you as a chickenhawk because you didn’t serve." A chickenhawk is a politician who is gung-ho for war, but avoids military service for himself. In essence, a chickenhawk is someone who is brave only with the lives of someone else's sons. The comment led co-moderator Diane Sawyer to ask Rep. Paul: "Congressman Paul, would you say that again? Would you — would you use that phrase again? Paul replied: Yeah. I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t — they — they have no right to send our kids off to war, and not be even against the wars that we have. I’m trying to stop the wars, but at least, you know, I went when they called me up.
What is the biggest political lie of 2011? There are so many to choose from. I admit I was skeptical when PolitiFact said it was ready to declare the “Lie of the Year 2011.” After all, its record for bashing conservatives was pretty much unblemished. Two years ago, the scribes who put together PolitiFact selected Sarah Palin’s comment about “death panels” as the biggest lie of 2009. In 2010, they once again sprang to the defense of Obamacare, pooh-poohing claims that it represented a “government takeover of health care” as the year’s biggest falsehood. So imagine my surprise when the PolitiFact declared that the “Lie of the Year 2011” was the Democrats’ claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare.” The brouhaha began in April, when Republicans in the House of Representatives passed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to reform the hugely expensive government healthcare program. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee jumped on the issue. In a widely circulated Web commercial released just four days after the vote, it warned that senior citizens would have to pay $12,500 more each year for healthcare “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Attorneys representing the U.S. government submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on Friday, setting out their arguments in favor of the constitutionality of ObamaCare. In the pleading and at a briefing on the case, the lawyers for the Obama administration defended the healthcare law’s requirement that all legal U.S. residents purchase a qualifying health insurance plan by 2014 or face severe penalties. This key component of ObamaCare is the much maligned individual mandate. Those challenging the legality of the statute insist that in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Congress exceeded the scope of its constitutional authority. Furthermore, if the federal government can force Americans to buy healthcare, they posit, are there any limits on what it could demand of citizens? Recently, the Supreme Court granted certiorari (a petition submitted requesting that the court hear an appeal from a lower appeals court) in three of the several cases currently filed against the U.S. government and the agencies charged with enforcing ObamaCare. The announcement by the court indicates that the justices have set aside five and one-half hours to hear oral arguments from the parties.
After 131 years, it appears that Eastman Kodak will be declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy before the end of the month, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is currently seeking to sell off some of its 10,000 patents in order to stave off the inevitable, but the company is burning through its remaining cash reserves and credit lines rapidly. The last time Kodak was profitable was 2007 when its stock traded at $30 a share. On Friday, its last trade was at $0.37 a share. It’s in the process of being de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange, and Moody’s has downgraded the company’s credit to junk status. In the mid-1990s the company had a virtual monopoly on photographic film that was enormously profitable and may be have been part of the cause of its failure to adapt to changes in the marketplace and in consumers’ tastes. Ironically, its success in developing the first digital camera in 1975 was heralded by its developer, Steve Sasson, as an invention that could “substantially impact the way pictures will be taken in the future.” There was no way he could have known then just how close to the mark he was, or the negative impact such an invention would have on his own company. He called it “film-less photography” which took a “year of piecing together a bunch of new technology that ran off 16 nickel-cadmium batteries, an unstable imaging array, and some parts stolen from a digital voltmeter.” It took 23 seconds to record an image to a cassette tape which was then placed in a reader that displayed it on a black-and-white TV set.
About 40 percent of all pregnancies in New York City end in abortion, according to the most recent statistics from the city’s health department. That makes the abortion rate of America’s largest city more than double the national average. According to NYC health department numbers, the lives of more than 83,000 babies were ended via the murderous procedure in 2010, although, surprisingly, that number was down by one percent from the city’s 2009 abortion statistics. But even more horrific was the news that 63 percent of teen mothers terminated their pregnancies with the help of an abortionist. The latest tragic numbers, compiled by the pro-life Chiaroscuro Foundation, found the Bronx particularly devastated, with an astounding 48 percent of babies aborted in that borough in 2010. More shocking still were the 38,574 African-American pre-born babies who were slaughtered in the city during that time — 60 percent of the pregnancies in New York City’s African-American population. “In parts of the city more than half of all pregnancies end in abortion,” said Greg Pfundstein, executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. “This is very, very disturbing.”