Unrest Grows In Russia

The anti-government movement in Russia is expanding amid strong opposition to the rule of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after a voting scandal.

About 16,700 people have indicated on Facebook that they have intentions to gather in Revolution Square, near the Kremlin, this Saturday. Another 5,500 people said they would attend a similar protest in St. Petersburg, according to The Guardian.

A disputed parliamentary election result that protesters say fabricated popularity of Putin’s United Russia party sparked the country’s recent civil unrest.

Dmitry Finikov, a Russian election monitor, posted photographs and video online Wednesday showing how election officials at his polling site in central Moscow threw away the official result of the vote, which showed United Russia coming in third with 128 votes, behind the Communists (202) and liberal Yabloko (134). In the final tally, United Russia won the vote at the site.

The police presence throughout Russia has been strengthened, and officials in the country are prepared to quell the unrest. People planning to protest have been warned that the unrest may lead to instances of violence.

Vladimir Milov, a Russian opposition leader, warned people to stay away from the protest on Saturday.

“All this can end in big blood,” he wrote on the website of Ekho Moskvy, a liberal Russian radio station. “This is the most dangerous thing in today’s situation.”

The Media Want To Pick A President For You Because You Aren’t Smart Enough

As the first of the 2012 GOP Presidential contests draws near, Americans are being inundated by media reports, poll results and “insider” opinions about who will face President Barack Obama in the Presidential election.

Throughout the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary season a few well-defined media-driven themes have emerged: Ron Paul is a hopeless candidate and Mitt Romney is the definite front-runner.  Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have all had a turn as the anti-Romney in the No. 2 spot. The long primary season has done well to shape each candidate’s public identity from his or her personality, rather than testing the candidates as statesmen with voting records. This tactic isn’t dangerous unless you recall a young, charismatic fellow from Chicago who promised hope and change, provided neither and stormed through his first Presidential bid as a media darling.

What has been the result of the continuous stream of news based on personality rather than policy in the 2012 GOP race? The heavily publicized accusations of sexual misconduct against Cain are a good example of the media’s ability to put the real issues on hold just long enough to alter completely the outcome of an election. Before what has been called a “high-tech lynching,” Cain consistently polled as a strong alternative to Romney as the 2012 GOP candidate. After POLITICO reported that two women had accused Cain of sexual harassment, his campaign hit a stumbling block that many people knew, at the moment the story broke, could not be overcome. Cain continued his campaign and denied, forgot and then remembered his relations with accusers. The media, thirsty for more sensational sex stories, dug up more accusers, along with an alleged 13-year extramarital affair. Cain announced last week that his campaign was on hold.

While the accusations against Cain do raise the moral eyebrows of most Americans, he was convicted and sentenced in the court of public opinion before he ever responded to the accusations. If you remember the timing, not to say that there is any similarity between the two instances, but the same timeframe that brought us news of Cain’s alleged sexual promiscuity also brought us news of the highly disgusting Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal. Again, there is absolutely no comparison between the accusations against the two men, except that Cain became the victim of the 24-hour news cycle as his involvement in a sex scandal was emblazoned across the same media that were discussing Sandusky’s alleged sexual perversions.

With Cain’s suspension of his efforts in the contest, a new No. 2 emerged to take on the media-lionized Romney. A few weeks ago, had he not become the victim of his own tongue-tied confusions, Perry may have emerged as the No. 2 candidate. But, somehow, it seems the American public just isn’t ready for a candidate who gives speeches that sometimes border on incoherent or confuses the legal voting age with the legal drinking age.

So, Americans are left, for now, with Gingrich as Romney’s media-declared No. 2. Despite the fact that it has been claimed and evidenced that Gingrich is probably the most hypocritical, flip-flopping, unethical candidate in the race, he is polling strongly.

Cain was taken apart by his scandals, it seems, because he lacks the number of “look what I did when I was a liberal for a moment” incidents that Gingrich possesses. Sitting on a loveseat with Nancy Pelosi to discuss global warming, supporting massive corporate bailouts and being paid handsomely to be a corporate lobbyist are all things that can earn a perceived “conservative” a moment in the spotlight. With the addition of those “liberal moments,” leaving a wife who is hospitalized, spending thousands of dollars on jewelry at Tiffany and Co. and having several extramarital affairs are all forgivable offenses for a family-values conservative.

Even as Cain was being flogged by the initial sex scandal, his poll numbers remained steady for a moment; but the American public does tend to tire of the reiterations of the same nasty story, and support eventually broke. Good press can hold a candidate at a steady position; bad press can create a flurry of attention that can go either way. Romney, being the most “Presidential-looking” is perceived by many “political insiders” to have the best chance against Obama, so his support stays at a steady mark. The fact that he more or less drafted Obamacare, a conservative deal-breaker, is seen as a positive by “insiders” and the media as something that will help him earn a chunk of the Obama electorate. The candidates vying for the same media coverage as Romney are tasked with not stacking themselves against conservative values or principled beliefs, but on their ability to convince part of the electorate that they have some conservative values while convincing another segment that they could immolate their conservative beliefs to become Obama 2.0 at a moment’s notice. Who better for that job than Gingrich?

As the media offer the public sound bites, short clips, scandals, and warm and fuzzy moments of all kinds to provide a cartoonish sketch of their choices for the GOP Presidential candidate, they also enlist their own army of experts to make it a little easier for the everyman.

National Journal has been a prominent voice throughout the season, and it has polled and re-polled its team of “political insiders” over the past several months to determine who it thinks the GOP Presidential candidate will — or should — be. The group of 264 political insiders includes former national party chairmen, current State party chairs, party strategists, pollsters, media consultants, lobbyists, political fundraisers, local elected officials and interest-group leaders from both the Democratic Party and the GOP.

The “insiders” have made two things remarkably clear over the past several months: They believe that Romney is the best choice for the GOP in 2012, and they don’t think that you are smart enough to pick  a candidate yourself.

The group, termed by National Journal as “members of the political class,” was asked last March: “On balance, does the public know enough about the issues facing Washington to form wise opinions about what should be done?”

More than half of the “insiders” said that Americans are too ignorant to understand issues that affect Washington, D.C., with answers like, “In this day and age of Twitter and consumer-driven demand of news, there is a surplus of information, yet a deficit of attention to the news that really matters.”

When polled both in September and again this month, the “political insiders” picked Romney to beat his GOP challenger by an overwhelming margin. In the September poll, pitting their favored against Perry, 83 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of the Republican “insiders” picked Romney. This month’s poll pits him against Gingrich and determines that 86 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republican “insiders” prefer Romney.

Before you consider the word of the “insiders” to be gospel, however, you must consider who these people are. Of the 264 names on the list, one on the Democratic side sticks out like a sore thumb: Janet Napolitano. The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona governor is undoubtedly on the inside of the political system, but having her tell the American people who is best suited for the Republican nomination or the Presidency seems a dangerous prospect, especially as her agency continuously pushes new agendas that assault American liberties.

Another Democrat on the list is John Anzalone, the founder of Anzalone Liszt Research (ALR). A bio on his company website reads: “We’re especially proud of our role helping elect President Obama in 2008. ALR polled in seven states for the Obama general election campaign, including the critical ‘red to blue’ states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – and we’re excited to be a part of the President’s 2012 re-election campaign.”

On the Republican side, the individuals’ backgrounds are seemingly no less frightening, as most of those “insiders” represent lobbying organizations and crony capitalism. One such individual is Sam Geduldig, who The Hill said in 2008 “knows how to kill legislative threats to his clients.”

So as the “insiders” are asked who they think is the best choice to beat Obama in 2012, perhaps they are hearing, “Who would make your job of assaulting liberty, lobbying politicians for corporate interests or further altering America as we know it easier after 2012 if Obama doesn’t win?”

The Washington Post, earlier this week, proclaimed that the 2012 GOP race is undeniably the year of the insider as far as candidates are concerned. Why do they claim this is? Because Americans “rarely elect” genuine outsiders but prefer career politicians that pretend to be normal folks.

Why some of the candidates are perceived to be outsiders — even though running for President surely requires a healthy connection to the political system — is evident if you consider the media’s role. National Journal’s group of “insiders” have yet to make mention of Paul, though he consistently polls in the top three among likely voters across the Nation. But most of the general public, even if they may select him in a poll, are unlikely to vote for him in primaries as long as the “insiders” say he doesn’t have a chance.

There have been no scandals reported about Paul, he has not been pointed out as a crony capitalist and his voting record and his rhetoric parallel one another. The “insiders” write him off as a kook, because his ideas and plans will derail many of theirs. As long as the media and their “insiders” are allowed to manufacture Americans’ worldview, despite the vast wealth of knowledge that is at almost everyone’s fingertips, it will be “insider” picks for President and a bright future for the American political “insider.”

Blogger Sued For Defamation

A Federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman who was sued for defamation was not considered a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case.

United States District Judge Marco Hernandez’s ruling, which may impact bloggers throughout the country, said that Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections against lawsuits afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.

Cox said she considers herself a journalist because she has produced more than 400 blogs over the past five years and uses a technique that gets her postings on the top of search engines, where they get the most readers, according to The Associated Press.

“What could be more mainstream than the Internet and the top of the search engine?” she said.

Cox was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted on her blog that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group, LLC. Obsidian and Padrick said that their business has been hurt by the blogger’s statements and that she was guilty of defamation of character.

“If anyone can self-proclaim themselves to be media, the concept of media is rendered worthless,” Padrick said. “When everyone is media, the concept of media is gone.”

The judge agreed, saying that Cox had no journalism education, credentials, affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story.

Russian Media: Fox Attempts To Mislead Viewers

A recent report by Russia Today details attempts by Fox News to mislead viewers as they report on recent protests in Russia while rolling footage of civil unrest in Greece.

As Fox anchors discussed the violence that is beginning to take hold in Russia, footage rolled of protesters hurling objects and clashing with police in front of a building; the only problem was that on the building was Greek lettering that said Greek National Bank.

The state-run Russian media outlet concluded that use of the violent Greek footage was an attempt by American media, working in lock-step with the Federal government, to mislead U.S. citizens into believing there may be a need to intervene in Russian domestic affairs.

Eva Golinger, a journalist and author interviewed by Russia Today said: “It’s not surprising whatsoever that at the moment that there would be any kind of protest, no matter how small it be, in Russia against the Russian government that it would be greatly exaggerated in media, and used by the U.S. government as well, as a way to try to somehow push for change in Russia that would be more favorable to U.S. interest.”

Young Americans Leaving The Country In Record Numbers

A new study shows that more U.S. citizens than ever before are living outside of the United States.

Statistics from the State Department indicate that about 6.4 million Americans are either working or studying overseas, the largest number in history.

Surveys conducted by Gallup of 135 nations outside the United States found that numbers of Americans leaving the country have skyrocketed only in recent years. In the two years before polling began, the number of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 living abroad surged from about 1 percent to more than 5.1 percent.

Among 18 to 24-year-olds, nearly 40 percent say that they would leave the United States if they had the opportunity to find work elsewhere.

Many experts say that the growing trend is the result of college-educated Americans being able to find higher-paying jobs in foreign countries.

Columnist and researcher Bob Adams wrote in a recent piece entitled The Great Escape:

This is a dangerous time for the United States, and not just because of the lingering Great Recession. Young adult Americans are packing their bags and heading out of the country in astonishing numbers. Many more are turning their minds in that direction.

Adams contends that a feeling of hopelessness over the massive debt being left for future generations in America is driving the trend.

Shooter At Large At Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech was locked down Thursday after a police officer was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop on the Blacksburg, Va., campus and a second person was found dead in a nearby parking lot after the gunman fled.

Jermaine Holmes, director of academic support services for student athletes, said the shooting was likely resultant of a traffic stop gone wrong, according to The Washington Post.

“It’s right across from our building in the parking lot,” he said. “It didn’t appear to be just a kind of random shooting.

Officials described a suspect as “white male, gray sweat pants, gray hat w/neon green brim, maroon hoodie and backpack” and said he was “on foot towards McComas,” a facility housing health and counseling services. At the time of this article, he was reportedly still at large.

Virginia Tech is home to about 30,000 students, and has one of the most advanced security alert systems of any college in the Nation. The system was installed after the campus shooting in 2007, when student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before committing suicide.

More Americans Than Ever On Food Stamps

More Americans than ever before have applied for Federal food aid over the course of the year.

About 46.3 million people received a total of $75.3 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what was formerly known as the food stamp program, in fiscal 2011, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics released earlier in the week. Officials said participation spiked after residents in a dozen States hit by Hurricane Irene applied for assistance in late August and September, according to The Washington Post.

Food stamp use is up about 8 percent, and about $7 billion more in food stamps was distributed this year than in fiscal 2010, according to the report. The USDA said that more than half of food-stamp recipients are children.

In response to the growing use of food stamps, the Federal government said it is developing new procedures to cut down on food-stamp abuse and fraud.

The USDA and its State partners are developing new penalties to punish food-stamp “traffickers” who either steal benefits or misuse them to earn cash payments. Trafficking can account for as much as $753 million of food-stamp payments each year, according to The Washington Post.

According to the article, in fiscal 2010, State governments conducted more than 847,000 investigations that led to the disqualification of 44,483 food-stamp recipients, and Federal investigators with the Food and Nutrition Service conducted nearly 5,000 undercover investigations.

Obama Administration Cuts Off Aid To Countries Unfriendly To Gays

The Administration of President Barack Obama warned the world against gay and lesbian discrimination Tuesday, saying the United States will use foreign assistance as well as diplomacy to back the Administration’s belief that it is a basic human right to be a homosexual.

At the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the struggle for gay equality to difficult passages toward women’s rights and racial equality, and she said a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination.

“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said. “It should never be a crime to be gay.”

According to The Associated Press, Clinton’s audience included diplomats from Arab, African and other nations where homosexuality is criminalized and where discrimination against homosexuals is tolerated or encouraged.

The announcement that the United States will no longer send foreign aid to countries that do not support gay rights reportedly did not sit well with many of the U.N. leaders, as many of the ambassadors in the audience rushed out of the room as soon as Clinton finished speaking.

Republican Presidential primary candidate Rick Perry has spoken out against Clinton’s announcement, saying in a statement: “Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.”

Florida Lawmakers Allow Guns In Capitol, Install Panic Buttons

Since the Republican-dominated Legislature in Florida made it easier to carry guns in the State’s Capitol, Democrats are noting that every Senator and staffer has now had a panic button installed on his or her phone.

The new law says that local governments may not regulate guns, except in those places specified by Florida law. Although the State bans guns in legislative chambers and committee rooms, they can now be carried in other parts of the Capitol complex located in Tallahassee. Previously, entrants to the complex had been asked to leave their firearms at the door or be followed around the building by a guard.

Mike Haridopolos, the Republican Senate president, said the panic buttons were not a response to the new gun law, but a long-planned feature that was supposedly “just finally getting instituted.” But Democratic legislators in the State say that it is an odd coincidence, according to St. Petersburg Times.

A safety course recently offered to State employees by Capitol Police included an update on the law’s “impact on the Capitol” and “how to respond to an active shooter situation.”

“Instead of reversing what we did, we’re resorting to panic buttons,” said Florida Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich of Weston, who opposed the new gun law. “It’s unnerving. My staff is very nervous.”

Fewer Illegal Border Crossers Reported

Arrests of illegal immigrants along the U.S. border with Mexico are at the lowest level since the 1970s, indicating that fewer people are attempting to cross the border to live or work in the United States.

During the 2011 fiscal year, Border Patrol arrested 327,577 people trying to cross the Southern U.S. border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deported a record 396,906 people in the same period. This is the first time in decades that more people were deported than entered the country, according to The Associated Press

The number of arrests of people trying to sneak across the border has been steadily declining since 2006, after an all-time high of more than 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000. Reports indicate that more immigrants now seek citizenship.

“This is all part of a larger picture that we’re not seeing very many new undocumented immigrants coming in, so the share of new undocumented immigrants is smaller,” said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “A lot of people are staying. They’ve put down roots. There clearly hasn’t been a large-scale departure of people who have been here awhile.”

Some officials believe that the lower number of individuals attempting to illegally enter the United States is related to the slow economy and that, if conditions improve, illegal immigration will spike.

Blagojevich Gets 14 Years

Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who fought for three years against criminal Federal corruption charges, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday.

Among his 18 convictions is the charge that he tried to use his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat in exchange for favors.

According to The Associated Press, Blagojevich has received the harshest sentence among the four Illinois governors sent to prison in the past four decades.

While the defense argued that Blagojevich’s schemes had not cost the state a penny, Judge James B. Zagel said the real cost was “the erosion in trust for the government.”

Blagojevich is expected to appeal his conviction, but is ordered to begin serving his sentence on Feb. 16.

“I’m here convicted of crimes. The jury decided that I was guilty and I am accepting of it. I acknowledge it and, of course, am unbelievably sorry for it,” Blagojevich said before his sentence was handed down.

The judge, however, was not moved to be lenient on the former Illinois governor.

“Whatever good things you did for people as governor, and you did some, I am more concerned with the occasions when you wanted to use your powers to do things that were only good for yourself,” said Zagel.

Saudi Religious Leaders: Female Drivers Would Result In Lack Of Virgins

The results of a so-called “scientific” report written by scholars of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, in collaboration with a former King Fahd University professor, said allowing Saudi women to drive would lead to a scarcity of virgins.

The religious scholars, in their report, evaluated the possible impact of repealing the ban in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed behind the wheel, reported the FARS News Agency.

The “research” contends that allowing women to drive leads to “moral decline,” saying that in other Muslim countries where women are allowed to drive the decline is already visible. The report also says that the resultant blight of virgins would lead to the proliferation of homosexuality, pornography, prostitution and divorce in the country.

The report was presented to the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s legislative body, soon after Shaima Jastaina, a 34-year-old woman was sentenced to 10 lashes after being caught driving.

Paul Says No Way To Trump Debate

Republican Presidential hopeful Ron Paul says that he will not attend the GOP debate in Iowa to be hosted by Donald Trump on Dec. 27 because he says the reality star’s presence undermines the Nation’s highest office.

“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” read a statement from the campaign. “Mr. Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Mr. Trump’s participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.”

The statement goes on to say that Trump made a mockery of the Presidency at a time when the Nation needs a strong leader more than ever, by “toying with the serious decision of whether to compete for our Nation’s highest office, a decision he appeared to make frivolous.”

Jon Huntsman has also declined publicly to participate in what his campaign called “Presidential Apprentice.”

Trump responded on TODAY Monday by calling the two “junk candidates” and vowing to run as an independent if he does not like the GOP selection.

Coburn: Gingrich Lacks Leadership Skills

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on Sunday that he cannot support GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich because the former House speaker lacks leadership skills.

“I am not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s having served under him for four years and experienced his leadership. Because I found it lacking often times [sic],” Coburn said on Fox News. “There’s all kind of leaders, leaders that instill confidence and leaders that are somewhat abrupt, leaders that have one standard for the people that they are leading and a different standard for themselves. I will have difficulty supporting him for president of the United States.”

Coburn, who served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001, said in March that he was looking for a President that would unite the country and raised questions about Gingrich’s confrontational style, according to The Hill.

With less than a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Gingrich is drawing 25 percent support from likely Republican caucus-goers, a new Des Moines Register poll reports. He has enjoyed an 18 percentage point jump since the same poll in October.

GAO: Foster Children Prescribed Psych Drugs At Alarming Rates

The Federal government is failing to protect children in foster care from the devastating effects of potent, psychiatric medications that alter the mind, according to a new report.

A report filed in the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that thousands of foster children across the Nation are being prescribed powerful psychiatric medications at doses that exceed the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Within that number there is a subgroup that’s taking five or more psychiatric drugs simultaneously despite potential safety issues. Some of the drugs are not even approved for psychiatric use by the FDA.

The report’s findings are the result of a two-year probe featuring five States: Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Of the approximately 100,000 foster kids studied, investigators found that about one-third were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug.

The States spent more than $375 million for prescriptions provided through fee-for-service programs to foster and non-foster children. The report says that while the high cost does not necessarily show that doctors prescribe the drugs inappropriately for financial gain, there is no evidence that it was safe to take five or more psychiatric drugs in adults or children; yet hundreds of both foster and non-foster children were prescribed such a medication regimen.

Lawmakers: Child Farm Rules, Urban Assault On Rural Life

New child labor rules proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) last month that would prevent children under the age of 16 from performing certain farm work have raised concerns among many lawmakers.

The first new child labor regulations issued by the DOL in 40 years propose barring children under the age of 16 from performing tasks such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle on farms that have grown to the point of commercialization. The rules do not apply to small, family-owned farms.

A group of more than 70 lawmakers in the House, led by Representative Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), sent a recent letter to the DOL that said the rule “challenges the conventional wisdom of what defines a family farm in the United States,” according to The Hill. The lawmakers believe that the rules are also an assault on a deeply rural-American way of life by urban lawmakers.

“You’ve got a president of the United States … from Chicago, you’ve got a director for secretary of Labor who’s pushing this from Los Angeles, and you have to think to yourself, do you have any idea what it’s like not just to run an agricultural business in a rural state … but to raise a family in one?” asked Rehberg.

The Labor Department has been flooded with more than 6,000 comments about the new rules. Rehberg said the next move should be to withdraw the proposed changes.

SOPA Alternative Introduced

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed an alternative to controversial online piracy bills currently pending in both chambers of Congress.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would enable the government and copyright holders to demand third parties delete links to foreign websites deemed rogue or dedicated to copyright infringement, has been labeled by critics as an assault on free speech and an underhanded government attempt to censor the Internet.

The alternate proposal would authorize the International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate and issue cease-and-desist orders against foreign websites that provide pirated content or sell counterfeit goods. Instead of allowing third parties to sweep in and delete at will, the ITC would be tasked with providing proof that copyright violations occurred, according to The Hill.

As the new proposals are introduced, organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continue in their vehement support of SOPA. Among those in opposition to the bill are free speech advocates, the Libertarian party, and many GOP and Democratic lawmakers, as well as software and Web-based communications companies.

Branstad: Paul, Gingrich Strong In Iowa

In the opinion of Republican Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, one month away from the caucus, GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul has the strongest organization in the State.

“Ron Paul has got probably the best organization and has a very loyal following. He’s got more yard signs and bumper stickers than anybody else,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll win, but I think he will get 15 to 18 percent. The person who wins is going to probably get 25 percent plus.”

The Iowa governor believes Newt Gingrich could win the Jan. 3 caucuses depending on his performance in the last two debates, according to POLITICO.

“The debates have had more to do with this than anything else,” he said. “I still think organization matters, and yet more people are watching the debates.”

Branstad said that he believes of the seven potential candidates, none will procure more than 30 percent of his State’s electorate.

Gingrich has not spent a great deal of time in the Iowa and he did not open his Iowa campaign headquarters until last Wednesday, but Branstad believes his voters will be those social conservatives who have not fallen in line with any one candidate.

The Iowa governor has not offered support to any of the GOP candidates in the race.

Lady Gaga Could Soon Be On Postage

In September, the United States Postal Service (USPS) waived a rule that required stamp honorees to be at least five years deceased, the result: The likes of Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga and others may soon adorn your postage stamps.

The decision was made in an effort to boost interest and sagging sales, postal officials asked customers to use social media or mail, to nominate an American or American-related subjects that “made enduring contributions to the United States of America.”

A panel made up of former postal officials, artists, designers and congressional staffers, reviews more than 40,000 suggestions and selects about 50 suggestions for new stamps for consideration each year. The Postal Service then spends about $40,000 to develop and produce each new stamp. Though it does not pay license fees for the images of a character or famous person, it does pay about $5,000 to artists and designers to produce the final image.

USPS has received at least 1,500 submissions by mail and more than 1,000 through social media that fit its new, less restrictive criteria.

Stamps generate between $250 million and $300 million in annual sales, a fraction of total postal revenues, according to The Washington Post.

Senate Passes Indefinite Detention Bill With ‘Meaningless’ Changes

On Thursday evening, the Senate passed a $662 billion Defense bill, which included controversial provisions for the detention of American citizens on U.S. soil.

The bill passed 93-7, after an agreement was reached to add compromise language on the detention of U.S. citizens and terror suspects on U.S. soil. The compromise, proposed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), states that “nothing in the bill changes current law relating to the detention of U.S. citizens and legal aliens,” but this measure is meaningless according to some opponents of the bill.

Two provisions that would have specifically blocked the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens on American soil and ensured “the military won’t be roaming our streets looking for suspected terrorists” were barred with the passage of the bill.

Many opponents of the legislation say language included in the bill that defines the homeland as a part of the battlefield in the ill-defined War on Terror is in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (18 U.S.C. Section 1385):

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

On Nov. 30, Senator Rand Paul spoke on the Senate floor against the act, saying that even the discussion of ending due process of law for any citizen is a disturbing reaction to an endless war.

Former Reagan Administration official and columnist Paul Craig Roberts said the provisions are the beginnings of the repeal of the U.S. Constitution and that the country is on its way to becoming a police state.

“Only two Republicans in the Senate voted against this amendment, only two, so what do we know? We now have a Republican party that is a Gestapo party,” he said on RTAmerica.

Because the provisions also offer revisions of banned torture policies, the Administration of Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.

Research: Most Read News By Accident

New research from the University of Missouri finds that Internet users are increasingly less likely to seek out news stories online, but more often read the news serendipitously.

The research contends that Internet users often do not make the conscious decision to read news online, but they come across news when they are searching for other information or doing non-news related activities on the Internet, such as shopping or visiting social networking sites.

Researcher Borchuluun Yadamsuren surveyed nearly 150 respondents with further interviews of 20 of those respondents to understand their incidental exposure to online news. She found that respondents experience exposure to online news in three different contexts: They come across interesting news stories while they visit online news sites; they see news stories while doing non-news related activities such as checking email and visiting Facebook and other social networking sites; and they stumble upon “unusual,” “weird,” “interesting,” “bizarre,”  “unexpected,” “outrageous” or “off-the-wall” news stories while doing Internet searches for other topics.

“Incidental exposure to online news is becoming a major way for many people to receive information about news events,” Yadamsuren said. “However, many people don’t realize how their news reading behavior is shifting to more serendipitous discovery.”

The researcher believes that the changing ways in which people discover news are also impacting what is perceived to be reliable reporting as many people now hold a much broader perception of news that goes beyond what is reported by professional journalists.

Climate Activists Call Global Warming ‘Ethical’ Issue

A coalition of civic leaders, elected officials, and labor, environmental and social activists launched a campaign earlier this week aimed at convincing politicians that they should curb greenhouse gas emissions for moral and ethical reasons.

The initiative, called the Climate Ethics Campaign, was launched to coincide with the first week of international climate talks now underway in Durban, South Africa.

“People from all walks of life across the U.S. are extremely concerned about global warming. But progress has stalled because our government keeps debating whether addressing the issue makes economic sense and whether the science is settled,” said Bob Doppelt, executive director of The Resource Innovation Group and coordinator of the Climate Ethics Campaign.

The campaign was launched at an event in Washington, D.C., featuring speakers including Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.); Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); Virginia State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple; Wood Turner, vice president for Sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm; the Rev. Jim Ball, vice president of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy; Robert Pestronk, executive director of National Association of County and City Health Officials; and others.

More than 1,200 current and former elected officials as well as representatives from the business, labor, youth, conservation, academic, racial and social justice, physical and psychological health, development, and faith communities nationwide have pledged support to the campaign.

Paul Accuses Gingrich Of ‘Serial Hypocrisy’

A new Ron Paul Presidential campaign advertisement distributed online uses former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s own statements throughout to paint him as a flip-flopping political opportunist.

Much of the ad is in Gingrich’s own voice. After a few of Gingrich’s statements, the ad shows an image of him sitting on a loveseat beside former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) while the two shared a laugh over their agreement concerning global warming.

The ad also features Gingrich’s assault on the budget proposal presented by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and it mentions the former Speaker’s lobbying ties to government mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the entities that perpetuated the financial crisis and recession. Also included is commentary on the former Speaker’s lobbying ties to healthcare firms prior to his support of an individual mandate as part of healthcare reform.

“Our campaign is making a bold move to debunk the myth that the Newt we are seeing on the 2012 campaign trail is the conservative he has been touted to be all along. This step we are taking is necessary, as voters are seeking authenticity among conservatives who are able to show a decades-long career of consistently walking the walk of Constitutional principles, limited government, and promoting sound money and economic policy. Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate with that record,” said Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton in a press release.

The ad concludes by suggesting voters ask Gingrich: “What will you tell me next time?”