Throughout the Republican presidential primaries, the candidates have continually expressed ideas that reveal much about how they regard not just themselves, but the nature of America generally and the office of the presidency in particular. There is no better example of this trend than a brief but intense exchange which transpired between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum during the debate in New Hampshire on January 7.  
Steal $40,000 from a bank, and you’ll spend a decade or two in prison. Steal $40,000 from an airplane passenger’s luggage and you’ll get six months — if you’re a Transportation Security Administration employee, that is.  
The Associated Press is reporting out of Paris that a French judge is seeking permission from American authorities to investigate claims of torture suffered by three French citizens while detained at Guantanamo Bay. According to the report, investigative magistrate Sophie Clement has requested access to the dossiers of the three men in order to examine all documents that may contain information relevant to the accusations made by the three French citizens.    
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich unloaded on CNN Anchor John King for asking about allegations made by Gingrich's ex-wife that the former Georgia Congressman had proposed to make their marriage an "open marriage." "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine," Gingrich told King in the January 19 South Carolina debate. “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.” The South Carolina presidential primary is scheduled for Saturday, January 21. “He said the problem with me was I wanted him all to myself,” Gingrich's ex-wife Marianne told the Washington Post in a story published earlier that day. “I said, ‘That’s what marriage is.’ " The former Marianne Gingrich concluded: “He was asking me for an open marriage, and I wouldn’t do it."
All new legislation offered by members of the House of Representatives since January 3, 2011 is required to include, under House Rule XII, a reference to the constitutional authority under which the bill is presented. Most of the bills offered since then show either the members’ lack of understanding of, or blatant disregard for, the purpose of Rule XII: to tie the proposed legislation to the enumerated powers under the Constitution.  
After an early meteoric surge in the polls, followed by steadily declining popularity among voters, Texas Governor Rick Perry, as expected, dropped out of the GOP presidential race on January 19. “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat,” said Perry at a late morning press conference in South Carolina, where other Republican primary candidates were aggressively campaigning ahead of the state’s January 21 primary. “I will leave the trail, return to Texas, and lay down my 2012 campaign.”  
President Obama rejected a permit to expand the controversial Keystone pipeline Wednesday, blaming Republicans for ordering a hurried deadline that, he claimed, did not provide sufficient time for officials to review the plan. "The rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline's impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment," the President said in a statement. The White House disputed that the pipeline provision that Republicans attached to the short-term payroll tax cut extensions last year — which forced the Obama administration to make a decision in two months — is what dismantled the project. "This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people," Obama charged in his written remarks. "I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil." TransCanada’s Keystone XL, which would transport Canadian crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to southern parts of the United States, has been battling an ongoing review from the State Department, and despite receiving several other federal, state, and local approvals, the department retracted from signing off on the project last year after environmental groups and Nebraska lawmakers protested the measure.
Maryland’s Baltimore County is considering an ordinance that critics warn would allow transvestites, cross-dressers, and men confused about their gender to access women’s bathrooms, showers, and dressing rooms. Tom Quirk, the county council member who is sponsoring what he calls the “Act Concerning Human Relations” (Human Relations Bill No. 3-12), insisted that the measure is designed to address discrimination by employers based on an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. “It’s my strong belief that the only thing that should matter is someone’s qualifications for a job,” Quirk told the Columbia Patch, a local newspaper. But the measure also includes language that would allow men dressed as females to walk into women’s accommodations, and that is raising protests from some citizens and groups. Ruth Jacobs, president of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government, argued that the proposed legislation would do little more than facilitate peeping toms in their lecherous pastime. “The bill is a direct attack on women’s privacy,” said Jacobs, noting that under a similar measure, Portland, Oregon’s “gender identity” law, a cross-dressing sex offender gained access to a women’s locker room, where he was caught changing his clothes in the presence of little girls. “Women are easily victimized, and ladies’ bathrooms can be risky places when men have access,” Jacobs said. “Since the passing of a similar law in Montgomery County, Maryland, rapes have occurred in the women’s bathrooms of Montgomery Community College, Asbury nursing home, Pelican restaurant, and Bethesda Hyatt.”
A liberal Swedish politician has sent a shot over the bow of that country’s home school community. Writing in a Swedish newspaper, with a follow-up posting on her blog, Lotta Edholm of Sweden’s Liberal Party called for changes to the country’s laws that would allow government social workers to more easily take children away from home school families.  
How high can America’s astronomical debt reach? The level is set to increase once more in late January as Congress, in effect, rubber stamps President Obama’s request to raise the limit on the nation’s debt beyond its current $15 trillion.  
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