Ron Paul is clinging to a one-point lead over Mitt Romney, with Rick Santorum hard on the heels of both just before the voting in the crucial Iowa caucuses, according to Public Policy Polling survey released last night. The latest results show Paul, who surged to the lead in the PPP polling in mid-December, has lost four points since the last survey, but remains ahead of Romney 20-19 percent, with Santorum but a single point behind Romney at 18 percent. Newt Gingrich at 14 percent and Rick Perry with 10 percent are the only other candidates in double digits. Michele Bachmann (8 percent), John Huntsman (4 percent), and Buddy Roemer (two percent) remain at the back of the pack.

“The Republican caucus in Iowa is headed for a photo finish” among the three top candidates, PPP said in a statement accompanying the statistics, though the pollsters seem to be looking for a continued surge by Santorum to bring the former Pennsylvania Senator an upset win in the first major voting event in the presidential nominating process. Santorum gained eight points since the PPP survey of a week ago and among those who said they've decided in the last seven days, he is ahead of Romney 29-17 percent, with Paul and Gingrich tied at 13 percent.

The last Des Moines Register poll before Tuesday's voting in Iowa shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul in a virtual tie for first place and three other candidates competing for a third-place finish before the battle for the Republican nomination moves east to New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary one week later. It also shows Paul well ahead of the rest of the field in attracting Independents to his candidacy. A CNN poll released last week, meanwhile, has drawn criticism for leaving out Democrats and Independents and likely underestimating Paul's strength with caucus voters.

 

The lawmakers promoting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) insist that in the long term it will improve the economy by protecting the intellectual property market and the associated industries and jobs. That would increase revenue and would guard American Internet ventures against economic harm perpetrated by foreign websites.

It does seem odd that given the safeguards supposedly established by SOPA, so many online organizations — Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Reddit, and YouTube — have aligned themselves against the measure and are actively working to prevent its passage.

Perhaps these information-age giants are onto something. Perhaps they understand that by granting the government the power to pull the plug on any one of these websites at any time without warning, SOPA is a persuasive disincentive to investment and thus to corporate growth and survival.
 
SOPA, H.R. 3261, was introduced into the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011 by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) along with 12 co-sponsors (as of December 16, 2011, there are 31 co-sponsors signed onto the bill). The bill, which endows the federal government with a broad array of powers over Internet content and activity, is now before the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

The commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Rear Admiral David Woods, has suggested a fundamental rule change regarding the military’s right to access and review written communication exchanged between Gitmo prisoners suspected of being co-conspirators in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the attorneys representing them.

According to details of the rules published by the Associated Press, all the covered correspondence sent back and forth between any of the five detainees categorized as 9/11 co-conspirators and their legal counsel would be thoroughly reviewed by law enforcement and Department of Defense personnel.
 
The new policy has not yet been promulgated as Woods has yet to sign it. However, he has sent a draft copy of the proposal to the appropriate lawyers and has attached thereto an order for them to sign if they agree with the changes to the currently applicable standard operating procedures.
 
In response to the request from Admiral Woods, the attorneys for the five prisoners have written a memo opposing the new rule based on their averment that such a scheme would violate the privilege afforded communication between attorneys and clients. Furthermore, were the rule to be enforced, their clients would be deprived of the right to counsel afforded to individuals by the U.S. Constitution.

President Barack Obama signed a law on New Year's Eve granting him power to detain Americans indefinitely.

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Category: News

The $30 billion sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, announced by the Obama administration on Thursday is a continuation of a history of U.S. weapons sales that has resulted in the arming of a wide array of enemies as well as friends of America in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The deal includes the sale of 84 F-15 jets and “assorted weaponry” to the Arab kingdom, the Washington Post reported. It also provides for the modernization of 70 of the Saudi's current aircraft, as well as munitions, spare parts, training, and maintenance. The announcement comes at a time of increasing tension between the United States and the Saudis' neighbors in Iran and threats and counter-threats surrounding the strategically important Persian Gulf region.

“This sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East,” Andrew Shapiro, assistant Secretary of State for political-military affairs, told reporters. But the history of arms sales in the region has shown that the allies we arm one year may turn out be our enemies the next.

In the years preceding the Islamic revolution in Tehran, the United States sold tens of billions of dollars worth of military hardware and technology to the Shah of Iran. When the revolution ushered in the reign of  Ayatollah Khomeini, America was confronted with a new enemy in the Middle East, one armed with American high-tech weapons.

The spate of good news about the economy, headed up by the National Association of Realtors (NAR)’s report that pending home sales increased by 7.3 percent in November from October, has resulted in improved outlooks by many observers, along with warnings from others not to get overly confident.

Even Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, was cautious in his announcement, perhaps chastened by NAR’s admission last week that they had overstated sales for the past five years: “Housing affordability conditions are at a record high and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who’ve been on the sidelines, but contract failures have been running unusually high.” And to avoid making the same mistake twice, Yun said that some of the increase in pending home sales may be people who couldn’t qualify before who are attempting to make another purchase now.

The pending home sales index hit 100.1, the first time it has been over 100 since April of 2010 when sales were goosed by the expiration of the government’s homeowner tax credit. Actual home sales were up in November as well, hitting a seven-month high, according to the Commerce Department.

In the final run-up to the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses, a handful of Republican presidential candidates highlighted their pro-life bona fides in a nationally simulcast “teletown hall” forum sponsored by Personhood USA and several pro-life organizations.

Significantly, all four of the participants in the National Presidential Pro-life Forum — Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry — have signed on to the Personhood Republican Presidential Candidate Pledge, which supposedly binds them as President to, among other promises, “work to advance state and federal laws and amendments that recognize the unalienable right to life of all human beings,” and to appoint federal judges and other officials who will work to uphold such federal measures.

 

The Council on Foreign Relations recently asked the above question of some of its favorite commentators. One of the answers sent to this seat of the Eastern Liberal Establishment likely surprised whoever received it. Andrew Bacevich is a professor of International Relations at Boston University. He happens to be a fairly new member of the CFR. But he is also the father of an Iraq War victim; his U.S. Army lieutenant son perished during the fighting.

In his uninvited response to the query posed by the CFR, Professor Bacevich scoffed at the customarily cited benefit — the capture and death of Saddam Hussein. Then, without mentioning the loss of his son, he added:
 

In a decision a plaintiffs' lawyer called an effort “to put lipstick on a pig,” a panel of the in San Francisco upheld Thursday a congressional grant of immunity from law suits to telecommunications companies that had surrendered records of their customers phone calls and electronic communications to warrantless government searches. The three-judge panel unanimously affirmed  a lower court ruling holding the congressional action constitutional. The case consolidated 33  lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp, on behalf of the companies' customers.

The legal battles grew out of presidential order signed by George W. Bush in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance on Americans and others inside the United States in search of evidence of terrorist activity. The presidential directive authorized searches without either the domestic court warrants required for criminal investigations or those issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for investigation of activities of foreign persons or organizations, as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

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