SOPA/PIPA Appear Stalled For Now

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he will delay action which would have taken place next week on the Stop Online Piracy Act until more people agree with the legislation.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said in a statement. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) also announced that he is delaying consideration of online piracy measures until the concerns of those against them can be alleviated.

Many previous legislative supporters of the piracy bills changed their minds following a public protest against the legislation that made its way across the Internet.

Among those who withdrew support of quickly moving the piracy legislations was Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who said on Facebook, “Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”

Critics of the legislation say that though the bills are on hold for now, Americans must remain wary of the issue.

SOPA, PIPA Protests Raise Awareness

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act warned on Thursday — a day after many Internet companies shut down in protest of the bills — that though awareness and discontent with the bills is heightened, the fight continues.

After receiving emails and petitions from thousands of Internet users, lead sponsors of the bills have promised to make changes and are expected to remove the most controversial provision, which would allow Internet service providers to block access to foreign-based piracy sites, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Websites such as Reddit and Wikipedia temporarily shut down to oppose SOPA and PIPA. As a result, more than 162 million people saw the protest message on Wikipedia and other sites.

According to PC World, 18 Senators have backed away from the proposed legislation, and 4.5 million people signed a petition against the acts.

The next Senate vote for PIPA is scheduled for Jan. 24.

GOP Race Evolves As South Carolina Draws Near

As Saturday’s primary voting in South Carolina draws near, there have been some shake-ups in the 2012 Republican Presidential race.

When polls indicated that Ron Paul had a chance of a very strong finish in the Iowa caucus that took place earlier this month, many political insiders said that if he did, the results should be disregarded. The results initially showed Mitt Romney beating Rick Santorum by just eight votes and put Paul in third.

However, the Des Moines Register reported on Thursday that after a review of the results by the Iowa GOP, there are “too many holes in the certified totals” from the caucus to know for certain who really won — though Santorum came out 34 votes ahead by the final count. The results remain “unresolved” because GOP officials in the State say the results from eight precincts are missing, never to be recovered and certified, and that they discovered inaccuracies in the results of 131 precincts. The final decision by Iowa GOP officials was to call a “split decision” or “virtual tie” between Romney and Santorum.

Also on Thursday, Rick Perry abandoned his Presidential bid and endorsed the campaign of Newt Gingrich as an alternative to Romney for conservative voters. Political analysts say that it is unclear what weight Perry’s endorsement will carry for Gingrich; the Texas Governor was running last in polls of South Carolina voters before dropping out.

“I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country,” Perry said at a press conference in South Carolina. “We have had our differences, which campaigns inevitably bring out. And Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

A Rasmussen poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina conducted on Wednesday showed Gingrich leading in the State with 33 percent favorability.  In second place was establishment favorite Romney taking 31 percent followed by Paul’s 15 percent third-place finish. One-third (31 percent) of the likely voters polled said they could still change their minds before Saturday.

Santorum has reportedly been struggling to make a connection with South Carolina voters, but some political experts say that his Iowa upgrade may help him gain steam as the “anti-Romney” right before the primary. Establishment media have also said that Paul was showing lackluster campaign performance in South Carolina after he left the State last weekend to take a short break from campaigning and then traveled to Washington to vote against a debt-ceiling increase Wednesday.  The Paul campaign says that it expects to do well on Saturday because of its dedicated supporters.

Though many candidates have dropped out of the race, the South Carolina Election Commission said nine candidates (Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Paul, Perry, Romney and Santorum) will be listed on the ballot Saturday.

 

New Cases Of Bird Flu In Asia, Mideast Spark Concerns

New cases of the H5N1 virus — or bird flu — are being reported more frequently throughout Asia and the Mideast.

On Thursday, Vietnam confirmed its first human death resulting from the virus since April 2010. The fatality came just one day after neighboring Cambodia reported a bird flu death.

The 18-year-old Vietnamese man, who died on Jan. 11, was a duck farmer in the southern Mekong delta province of Hau Giang, according to Channel News Asia. Experts in the country are investigating whether the infection came from his flock.

In Cambodia, a 2-year-old boy from northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, died on Jan. 18 after contracting the virus. The child is thought to have been exposed to infected poultry, according to the World Health Organization.

Vietnamese authorities say that there is no need to be alarmed about the recent H5N1 reports.

“The bird flu situation is still within our control,” said Le Minh Hung, a doctor from the Health Department of Ho Chi Minh City. “Some healthcare teams have been sent to check on the situation in southern provinces.”

Urgent Warning: Global Pandemics... Scarce Food And Water...
 

Since 2003, the disease has killed 340 people worldwide; 59 of those deaths have been in Vietnam and 17 in Cambodia. Other human bird flu cases have recently been reported in Indonesia, Egypt and China. Indonesia, which has been the hardest-hit by bird flu in recent years, last week reported its third fatal case in three months. Bird flu is most likely to occur in the winter months.

The WHO says that a worldwide bird flu pandemic in humans is a possibility:

The H5N1 AI virus remains one of the influenza viruses with pandemic potential, because it continues to circulate widely in some poultry populations, most humans likely have no immunity to it, and it can cause severe disease and death in humans. In addition to H5N1, other animal influenza virus subtypes reported to have infected people include avian H7 and H9, and swine H1 and H3 viruses. H2 viruses may also pose a pandemic threat.

Recent scientific experiments with bird flu deepen concerns about the possibility of a human bird flu outbreak. To try to better understand the virus, scientists in Wisconsin and the Netherlands have recently successfully mutated bird flu so that it can more easily spread among humans. Many health and government officials believe that in the wrong hands, the scientists’ discoveries could be used to spark a pandemic for terror purposes.

Gingrich’s Dirty Laundry

Tonight on Nightline, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s second wife Marianne Gingrich may provide insight to some of the candidate’s personal baggage that his opponents are so fond of mentioning.

Marianne Gingrich said she is coming forward now so voters can know what she knows about her ex-husband, according to Global Post.

Newt Gingrich’s two daughters from his first marriage, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, sent a letter to ABC News saying that the media should focus on other issues, “ABC News or other campaigns may want to talk about the past, just days before an important primary election.  But Newt is going to talk to the people of South Carolina about the future– about job creation, lower taxes, and about who can defeat Barack Obama by providing the sharpest contrast to his damaging, extreme liberalism.  We are confident this is the conversation the people of South Carolina are interested in having.”

In an interview with ABC News, Marianne alleged that when she found out that Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair with his now-wife Callista, he asked if they could have an open marriage and said that Callista did not care what he did.

Obama To Accept Nomination At Bank Of America Stadium

The Democratic Party has decided to move President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the 2012 Democratic Presidential nomination to the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., — a venue named for a company that was at the center of the financial crises.

According to MSNBC, Democratic officials defended the decision, which has drawn a fair amount of controversy, saying that the stadium was chosen for its seating capacity.

“That allows for greater participation by Americans from all walks of life,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

But critics say that the move, if only in a symbolic sense, is a slap in the face of many Americans who believe that there is too much corporate influence in American politics.

“It’s a surprising and disappointing choice,” Mary Boyle, vice president of Common Cause, told MSNBC. “Bank of America is the poster child for corporate greed and corporations out-of-control. The president would be better served by choosing a large public space with no corporate logo attached to it.”

The convention will have available the stadium’s plush skyboxes to donors in attendance who drop $1 million for a package including a “premier uptown hotel room” and a “platinum events package and “concierge services.” The $500,000 “Gold Rush” package includes hotel room, credentials and a “premiere events package.”

Occupy Protests May Be Losing Steam, Funding

Though the OWS protests have continued throughout the country, with protesters rallying outside the White House and on Capitol Hill earlier this week, donations for the movement are reportedly drying up.

According to CNN, the original OWS general assembly, which makes major decisions for the group, recently approved a partial spending freeze. Spending on housing, food and other items deemed crucial will reportedly continue.

“There’s been a lot of disagreement lately about how things have been spent,” said Pete Dutro, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s accounting working group. OWS has reportedly recently become much less frugal in its spending than it was at the beginning of the movement.

More than $800,000 has been donated to OWS, and the group reportedly has about $170,000 available to spend, according to the accounting working group. It also has more than $100,000 in the Alliance for Global Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status, and $100,000 set aside for bail in the event of member arrests.

Some people say that OWS’s eviction from Zuccotti Park gave the movement less attention from the media and, therefore, cut donations by making the protests less visible.

As funding dries up, OWS protesters in Los Angeles reached a sort of milestone for the protest movement: its first felony arrest. Sergio Ballesteros, 30, objected — in some fashion — to the arrest of another protester at a demonstration. Police then arrested Ballesteros and charged him with lynching, which is defined by California penal code as “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer,” with “riot” defined as two or more people threatening violence or disturbing the peace.

 

Poll: Economy Still Bush’s Fault

A new poll found that three years into the Barack Obama Presidency, a majority of Americans still believe President George W. Bush is to blame for economic problems in the United States.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent of respondents said that Bush was more to blame and 29 percent put the blame on Obama; 9 percent said both men deserved blame while 6 percent said neither. Among registered voters, the numbers are similar; 54 percent blame Bush, and 30 percent blame Obama.

Independents were reportedly the most likely to say that economic troubles were more Bush’s fault than Obama’s, 57 to 25 percent.

 

Obama Rejects Keystone

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said that he would not bow to Congressional pressure as he announced that he was rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, the massive project that would have connected Canadian oil sands with refineries in Texas.

The President claimed that the Feb. 21 deadline set by Congress as part of the temporary payroll tax cut extension made it impossible to do an in-depth review of the pipeline project proposed by TransCanada.

“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,” the President said in a statement.

TransCanada will be allowed to reapply for a permit after it develops an alternative route that bypasses Nebraska’s Sand Hills which many people call too sensitive a habitat to be marred by the pipeline. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said his company will re-apply for a permit to build the pipeline, and will continue its work with officials in Nebraska on an alternative route that avoids the region.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the President is afraid to stand up to his environmentalist base, even if it means breaking his jobs creation promises.

“The President has said he’ll do anything that he can to create jobs. Today that promise was broken. The president expedited the approval of the Solyndra loan project, but won’t approve a project that’s been under review for over three years,” he said during a press conference. “Yesterday, the president’s own Jobs Council said the energy pipeline projects like this one can create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. The unions support it. The states along the proposed route support it. And it has bipartisan support here in the Congress of the United States — and yet the president decided to reject it anyway. The President won’t stand up to his political base even in the name of creating American jobs. And now Canada is going to have to look to other nations like China to sell its oil reserves to.”

The Real 2012 Doomsday: U.S. Falls To Tyranny

The past year has been a bad one for democracy, and the Republic that once was the United States seems to live in name only. Because of the extreme abuses of power the Federal government has exercised just in the past year, the people of the Nation have been broken, discouraged and must now only be controlled.

A recent report in the state-run Russia Today cites an instructional military book, Non-Lethal Weapons Reference Book (leaked by PublicIntelligence.net) to outline the coming “high-tech crackdown” that may soon befall citizens of the United States deemed unruly.

If you have ever seen a farmer persuade his livestock to bend to his will with less-than-lethal methods such as cattle prods, whips and electric fences, you know how incredibly persuasive they can be to the animals. The U.S. government also knows a thing or two about controlling groups; unfortunately, the target isn’t unruly livestock, but U.S. citizens.

The report references one device that has already made a military debut in Afghanistan and that will likely become commonplace for domestic crowd control as law enforcement agencies throughout the country become increasingly militarized. The Active Denial System, which is described as a “long range, directed energy, vehicle mounted system that projects an invisible electromagnetic millimeter-wave energy beam beyond small arms range,” can be used as a non-lethal way to create extreme discomfort and quell group dissent.

Other military implements that may soon see use within U.S. borders include Acoustic Hailing Devices that provide “scalable, directional warning tones” causing “auditory damage” and the Distributed Sound and Light Array which “uses a combined laser, non-coherent light, and acoustics to produce a synergistic engagement system.” Other systems can completely disable motor vehicles and emit acoustic waves that make it impossible for crowds to shout without discomfort and nausea.

While many Americans deny that the U.S. government will ever use such weapons on a widespread basis against dissenters, recent developments in the country appear to indicate otherwise. The crackdowns on OWS camps carried out by police in riot/military gear, armed with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, indicate that when large masses of people cry out, no matter what the political agenda, they will be quieted by local, State and/or Federal officials.

Before the crackdowns on the OWS camps, the Federal government demonstrated its willingness to bypass the judiciary system anytime an individual poses a threat to its agenda. In September, the Administration of Barack Obama executed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in the mountains of Yemen with a drone strike. Though he often spoke on behalf of al-Qaida, it could be reasonably assumed that al-Awlaki’s citizenship status gave him the right to trial before execution. The Administration disagrees: Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson said of the execution that only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

Johnson’s statement would be less alarming if the Administration — with the help of hawkish neoconservatives like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) — had not recently passed a military spending bill with provisions that effectively designate American soil a battlefield and every American a possible enemy. The bill gives the President the ability to indefinitely detain terror suspects, but this comes at a time when the lines of what constitutes “terror” are becoming increasingly blurry. The Federal government is currently in active negotiations with members of the Taliban, and Obama has made it clear that anyone who rejects his agenda is considered a “right-wing domestic terrorist.”

How long will it take for Federal government to decide it necessary to carry out al-Awlaki style executions on those deemed “domestic terrorists” as they sit in their homes in the United States? With the increasing use of military drones in U.S. airspace, the idea is not so far-fetched. The same Federal agencies that carried out fatally-flawed operations like those in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in the 1990s now have aerial drones and a license to kill in the name of Homeland Security. Some people may think that the agencies have refined their methods since those days; others have been following news about Operation Fast and Furious, the most recent endeavor by the Department of Justice, and know better.

Those people who do not believe the Federal government is out to harm them by breaking their will, dehumanizing them and bending them to be the subservient masses that will keep it afloat should simply take a flight. If being prodded, poked and virtually stripped naked by poorly trained agents of the Transportation Security Administration is not bad enough, how about having very personal belongings fondled, food stolen and grandmothers groped by the TSA? All are tactics of dehumanization to create subservient masses, and all are things that happened to American travelers last year.

Aside from quashing unruly masses and making problems disappear, the Federal government wants to keep tabs on the information being put out by journalists and bloggers throughout the Nation with a new Homeland Security initiative. According to Russia Today, in a new report, the Department reserves the right to collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

And while Homeland Security is busy putting together a plan to rid the country of any bad press, Congress has been working to sanitize the Internet. Pending legislation like SOPA and the Protect IP Act will effectively give American citizens about as much online freedom as citizens of China.

Some Americans may think that if they are not in the public eye, don’t regularly protest and are not members of al-Qaida, they are not subject to government intrusion. But a recent decision by Magistrate Judge David Noce in United States v. Robinson says that as long as you park your vehicle in public parking lots or use public roadways, law enforcement has the ability to install a GPS tracking device with no warrant to log where you travel if they believe you “may be involved in criminal activities.”

When the First Congress enacted the original Crimes Act in 1790, with only 17 recognized Federal crimes, it may have been reasonable to assume that as long as a person was a law-abiding citizen, he was not at risk of intrusion. Today, though, there are more than 4,500 Federal crimes — and many are so obscure that they are nearly indecipherable. In addition to the 4,500 Federal crimes, there are tens of thousands of Federal regulations. Many people commit criminal acts daily without even knowing they are doing so.

Last year was a very busy one for all of those interested in ending American life as it is and has been known. The United States that was a Republic has already collapsed and has very quietly become a totalitarian regime, complete with a dictator named Obama and a Congress that bends to his will and continually legislates in such a way that would make any totalitarian regime proud. Together they have done everything in their power to undermine the Constitution and name themselves as the all-powerful ruling class. And with the undoing of the ideas of the Founders and the ruination of but a few more checks and balances, they will effectively claim their supremacy.

So what have Americans lost and why does the ruling class have to do away with the Constitution and the rights it gives to every American citizen? It is explained by James Madison, who contended that there was no way American lawmakers could declare themselves a ruling class under the provisions of the Constitution, in the 57th volume of the Federalist Papers:

If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.

Those who are working so hard to claim themselves a ruling class know that their goal cannot be achieved if there is such a thing as a population that holds dear its “vigilant and manly spirit.” And they know how to slowly break that spirit without alarm by dehumanizing populations — luring people into accepting tyrannical rule in the guise of laws claimed to exist for public safety, homeland security or the better good of humanity. Unlike Madison, they always leave out words like freedom and never discuss the great threats government poses to the people, but contrarily advise vigilance to combat the people’s threat to the government.

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul has been warning the public of many of these frightening developments for more than 35 years. Now, as he vies for the Nation’s highest office, many of his predictions have come true. Maybe it is time Americans listened to the “kook,” because those things he said would happen — predictions Americans once considered to be crazy and far-fetched — are now reality. He may be the Nation’s last hope to a path back to some semblance of the Constitutional Republic created by the Founders.

Editor’s note: It’s time to make your submissions for this month’s You Sound Off! feature, which will run Jan. 25. Get your submission in by Jan. 23. It should be no more than 750 words (if they are longer, we probably won’t read them). We will select the one or two we think are the best of the week to publish. We reserve the right to edit for grammar and style but will try not to alter the meaning.

Send your submissions to yousoundoff@personalliberty.com. Please include your name, address and telephone number (only your name will be published) so we can contact you if we need to clarify something. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.–BL

Conflict With Iran Means More Costly Fuel

Recent reports indicate that some Americans may be paying as much as $5 per gallon of gasoline by the time the warm-weather driving season arrives.

According to AAA, the average national cost per gallon of unleaded gasoline was $3.38 as of Tuesday, nearly 30 cents higher than it was one year ago and only 72 cents below the highest national average in July 2008.

According to a report by CNN, experts say there are a variety of reasons that Americans can expect to pay more at the pump in coming months. According to the report, modest economic recovery will likely contribute to rising fuel prices as demand increases, and foreign conflicts will also play a role.

The possibility of a conflict with Iran and that country’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz has driven fuel prices up in recent weeks. In 2011, 17 million barrels of oil per day passed through the strait. If it is blocked, about 20 percent of global oil trade could be halted and cause fuel prices to rise.

Experts say that the fuel price increases that many Americans noticed due to Libya’s civil war last year would pale in comparison to the price spikes that would result from an Iranian conflict.

The Web World Fights Back Against Federal Internet Control

Does the Federal government need to have a hand in controlling the Internet’s vast wealth of information via the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act? Many people in the tech industry think not, and some are using the resources at their disposal to fight back.

The proposed legislation is the product of years of lobbying by music labels and film studios to combat pirated content available through search engines and websites. The industries lobbied Congress and the Senate to introduce SOPA, which in its current form would transfer the responsibility for policing the Internet from law enforcement agencies to websites and the Internet providers. The founders of leading search engines and websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia are concerned that the bill will have a chilling impact on free speech, innovation and the free-flow of information on the Internet because webmasters would be forced to heavily monitor all content that passes through their pages to avoid liability for copyright infringement.

In an open letter to Congress, the tech innovators argue that SOPA and Protect IP will:

Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;

Deny website owners the right to due process of law;

Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and

Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.

Though the Administration of Barack Obama has said the President will veto any legislation that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” Congress has not backed down on SOPA. As lawmakers continue to try to move forward with the Internet regulation legislation, major players in the tech industry are fighting back.

Founder of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, Jimmy Wales has called for a “public uprising” against SOPA and Protect IP. His website is joining social news website Reddit — founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian — in a 24-hour website shutdown today in protest of the legislation. Search engine Google will also protest the legislation not with a shutdown of its service, but by displaying a message on its homepage for the millions of Americans who use it daily.

“Right now what I’m thinking is that if there is a credible threat that this might happen, this could have a positive impact on the thinking of some legislators,” wrote Wales of the site shutdowns on his blog. “Do not underestimate our power – in my opinion they are terrified of a public uprising about this, and we are uniquely positioned to start that.”

Ohanian — in a recent video blog that can be viewed below — said that government has no business in Internet regulation because lawmakers do not understand the technology, but only understand the money that Hollywood lobbyists are throwing their way to get the laws passed.

Evidence to support Ohanian’s claim that lawmakers have no idea what they are about to do to the Internet may have been best noted in a recent report by a blog called Vice. In a recent post, the blog pointed out that the author of SOPA, Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), on his own website actually broke the law he wrote. Smith apparently used the artwork of artist DJ Schulte, which is protected under a Creative Commons license, without any attribution to the artist. If SOPA were in effect, Schulte would likely be able to petition a court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.

According to Vice, Smith’s website went down for several hours “for maintenance” after the blog posted the article about the lawmaker’s alleged hypocrisy. When it came back up, several images had been changed.

OWS Steals A Man’s House

OWS protesters who decided to occupy a foreclosed home in Brooklyn, N.Y., are victimizing a struggling father who was working to save his home from foreclosure.

OWS protesters announced last month that they moved a homeless family into a “foreclosed” Brooklyn home. The house actually belonged to a struggling single father desperately trying to renegotiate his mortgage, according to The New York Post.

“They’re trying to take a house and say the bank is robbing the people because the mortgage is too high — so contact the owner!” said Wise Ahadzi, 28, who owns the home.

Ahadzi reportedly purchased the house for $424,500 in 2007 before the housing bubble burst and the market price plummeted to $150,000. He told The Post he lost his job as a day trader in 2009 and couldn’t meet his mortgage payments. The man moved with his two young daughters to a small apartment while he was working with the bank to renegotiate his mortgage.

Instead of helping Ahadzi reclaim his property, the OWS group reportedly moved in a “homeless family” who were affiliated with the protest movement and have taken over the house.

TSA Makes About $410,000 In Loose Change Each Year

The delays caused by the Transportation Security Administration caused hurried passengers to leave behind about $410,000 in pocket change at security checkpoints in 2010, according to reports.

The amount of change left behind by travelers amounted to $376,480.39 in dollar coins, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies, plus foreign currency worth $32,605.17.

According to USA Today, passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York left the most change in 2010 ($46,918.06), followed by Los Angeles International ($19,110.83), Hartsfield Atlanta International ($16,523.83), San Francisco International ($15,908.02) and Miami International ($15,844.83).

The TSA “makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint,” agency spokesman Greg Soule told the newspaper. Money that is not returned to its owner is used to finance agency operations.

Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) has proposed legislation that would mandate that the unclaimed change be sent to the United Service Organizations.

“Allowing TSA to keep unclaimed taxpayer money for any and all purposes is an egregious breach of its duty to the public that it serves,” Miller wrote in a recent letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y. “This money should be put to good use, and there is no better organization to use this money wisely than the USO.”

The TSA reportedly collected about $433,000 in loose change in 2009.

Huntsman Drops Out, Endorses Rival Romney

Jon Huntsman dropped out of the 2012 Presidential race Monday after offering an endorsement to establishment-favored candidate Mitt Romney.

“The race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people,” Huntsman said at the beginning of a press conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “I call on each campaign to cease attacking each other and instead talk directly to the American people about how our conservative ideas with create American jobs.”

The candidate then went on to offer support for Romney, a candidate he has sharply criticized in the past, as the best choice for Republican voters.

“It’s now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to beat Barack Obama,” Huntsman said. “Despite our differences… that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”

Huntsman’s endorsement has raised the eyebrows of many conservative pundits and voters who remember his scathing attacks against Romney. In a September interview, Huntsman referred to Romney as a “perfectly lubricated weather vane” who frequently changes direction on important issues. The two have also had tense moments at past debates, which can be seen below:

Obama Emulates Paul Policy

The Ron Paul campaign has long been saying that the Texas Congressman’s rivals in the Republican Presidential Primary make halfhearted attempts to copy his “cut the size of Federal government” message, but the campaign says he now has an unlikely imitator in the Administration of Barack Obama.

A campaign statement pointed out the attempt:

“Just like most of the Republican presidential candidates, President Obama really isn’t going to consolidate government or cut spending. But also like them, the President apparently thinks it’s important to try to sound like Ron Paul. Paul’s budget plan eliminates five federal departments, transferring some functions to other departments, allowing for $1 trillion to be cut in the first year.”

The comparison between Obama and Paul’s GOP rivals comes as the White House recently announced a new plan to consolidate Federal agencies, beginning with those related to trade and commerce. The Administration claims that the plan will eliminate about 1,000 Federal jobs and save $3 billion over a 10-year span.

The President said his plan to consolidate agencies is a part of a promise he made last year during the State of the Union address to create a leaner, more efficient Federal bureaucracy.

Obama will propose combining the functions and staff of six trade- and commerce-related agencies and offices: the Small Business Administration; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development Agency, according to reports.

The move has been met by opposition from some lawmakers who say it could hamper the government’s ability to quickly implement new trade and commerce programs, but many Republicans have supported the plan because it falls in line with small government policy, according to The Washington Post.

The Paul campaign has pointed out that the President’s plan is little more than a symbolic gesture that will merely put a dent in Federal spending and bureaucracy.

Paul Gets Key Endorsement, Campaigns In South Carolina

On Sunday, six days before South Carolina’s Presidential primary, Ron Paul scored one of the most sought-after endorsements in the State.

South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis endorsed the Texas congressman in Myrtle Beach. Davis is a favorite among Republicans and a highly regarded fiscal conservative who is liked by many Tea Party activists.

The State Senator called former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman “a fine man” and was equally kind to Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, but he said Paul was the only candidate right for now.

“At the end of the day, when I sat down, I realized there were a lot of good people running for this race,” Davis said. “But there’s only one person, there’s only one person speaking to what I believe is the core problem of our country today. The biggest threat to our liberty comes from debt.”

Paul is currently campaigning in South Carolina where a recent Public Policy poll put him in third place at 15 percent favorability, behind Romney’s 29 percent and Gingrich’s 24 percent.

North Koreans Still Crying

Any North Korean who failed to show up or to mourn the death of Kim Jong Il convincingly enough are likely a little upset now, as the government is handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate.

An unidentified source told Daily NK:

The authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn’t seem genuine.

Immediately after the mourning was allowed to stop, North Korean officials reportedly began conducting “criticism sessions” at all levels of industry, in enterprises and by local people’s units to find out who didn’t mourn enough. In addition to the session, the people of the country have also been subject to near-constant propaganda aimed at glorifying the young new leader, Kim Jong Un.

A Japanese paper reported earlier this month that Kim Jong Un issued an order not to let a single defector get away around Dec. 19, when the North announced the death of Kim Jong Il, citing a source supposedly knowledgeable about the North Korea-China border areas.

 

Newark Mayor: Turn In Gun Owners For $1,000

Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker wants people to report their neighbors to law enforcement if they are exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

The Mayor hopes to incentivize people to snitch on gun-owning neighbors by offering a $1,000 reward for every report that leads to an illegal firearm arrest.

“We as individuals have to do something about it. So we have a program in our city right now that is completely anonymous and we will give you cash—  $1000 to anyone who calls our anonymous tip-line. Give us the information about who is carrying a gun, we don’t even have to have a conviction. If we arrest that individual and simply get that gun off the streets.” Booker said in a commercial announcing the program, which you see below.

The Newark program is seemingly modeled after the Federal “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign that enlists everyday citizens to be government spies.

 

Obama Wants Internet ID

The Administration of Barack Obama is planning yet another assault on the Internet privacy rights of all American citizens, some critics say.

The Administration is currently drafting a plan that will hand over to the Commerce Department the authority to implement an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet with the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace to be released in coming months.

According to CNET, details about the Obama Administration’s actual plans for the online identification program are extremely scarce.

“We are not talking about a national ID card,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at a Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research event. “We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”

Opponents of the plan, many of whom fear this is another step toward complete Internet regulation, reportedly say that if a trusted Internet ID system is to be created, it must be done by the private sector.

Gingrich Wants To Sue Over Attack Ad

The campaign attacks are beginning to get so nasty in the Presidential primary that Newt Gingrich is threatening to sue.

Gingrich’s campaign is threatening to sue South Carolina and Florida television stations that air an ad by a pro-Romney super-PAC claiming Gingrich was “fined” $300,000 for ethics violations during the 1990s, according to The Hill.

The ad says that Gingrich is a desperate candidate who has “more baggage than the airport.”

Gingrich attorney Stefan Passantino called the commercial “a defamatory communication which exposes this station to potential civil liability” in a letter sent to television stations, according to NBC Politics.