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.  
On Wednesday Internet users got a taste of what opponents of an intellectual property bill currently before Congress say the web could look like if the bill becomes law. Popular websites such as Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit, Google, and Wired “went dark” or otherwise modified their usual appearances to protest the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s corresponding Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA). Both bills are scheduled for major actions in the coming weeks.  
In response to rising citizen demand for government transparency and efficiency, this year China plans to defog the secretive workings of the government and ruling Communist Party, a senior official said Wednesday. "In this new year, we will adopt an even more open attitude and even more forceful policies," asserted Wang Chen, a Chinese propaganda official.  
Anyone who has ever been in a Third World country, or even in a slum neighborhood at home, is likely to wonder why there can be such dire poverty among some people, while others are prospering.  Both politicians and intellectuals have tended to have simple answers to that question, even if these simple answers have been different in different eras.  
Following months of activism by Tea Party and conservative groups in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker decided to officially reject millions of federal taxpayer dollars in the form of controversial ObamaCare grants that came with numerous “strings attached.” Critics of the President’s wildly unpopular health law greeted the news with relief.  
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a pair of cases involving the offering of prayers at county and school board meetings, continuing its decades-long tradition of steering clear of ruling on the supposed constitutionality of public prayers. According to BloombergNews.com, the High Court “hasn’t ruled on the constitutionality of prayer at government meetings since 1983, when the justices said lawmakers could begin sessions with nonsectarian prayers offered by a state-employed chaplain.”  
Another taxpayer-funded solar-panel company, Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC, is undergoing operational issues, as it recently laid off about 40 people indefinitely due to delays in its production line. CEO and board chairman Michael Cicak would not comment on the timeline of the production changes or when the laid-off employees might return to their jobs.  
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