Supreme Court To Address Arizona Immigration Law

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge to Arizona’s controversial immigration law (SB 1070), adding to a list of high-profile cases for the court’s coming term.

Arizona asked the court to allow the State to enforce legislation that was blocked after being challenged by the Administration of Barack Obama, including provisions that would enable police officers to question immigration status if they suspect a person is in the country illegally.

“I would like to commend the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision to review and hear arguments pertaining to the federal court injunction,” said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in a statement. “I am confident the High Court will uphold Arizona’s constitutional authority and obligation to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens.”

The Justice Department contends that the State is encroaching upon its authority because Arizona’s immigration laws are “expressly designed to rival or supplant that of the Federal government,” according to The Hill.

Justice Elena Kagan, former solicitor in the Obama Administration, recused herself from the case.

According to The Associated Press, the court will hear oral arguments in late April.

Rick Perry Gaffes Again

Texas Governor Rick Perry is again being recognized for his poor speaking performance following recent gaffes during Iowa speaking events.

According to The Hill, Perry attempted to take a swing at President Barack Obama’s green energy policy by discussing failed solar company Solyndra that received over $500 million in Federal money. He referred to the company as a country and mispronounced its name in the process.

“No greater example of it than this administration sending millions of dollars into the solar industry, and we lost that money,” he said. “I want to say it was over $500 million that went to the country Solynda.”

The latest small gaffe that has been pointed out by the press can be added to a long list of Perry speaking gaffes, but the Presidential contender acknowledges his speaking troubles.

 “[Voters] aren’t looking for a robot…or someone who’s gonna be perfect in every way. They’re looking for someone who’s got values,” he said on Fox News.

Perry has in the past months confused the minimum voting age with the minimum drinking age, given a speech that led some pundits to believe he was intoxicated, and forgotten how many justices—or as he referred to them, judges—are on the Supreme Court.

The candidate told the Des Moines Register that a back surgery last July has been at the root of his campaign difficulties. Perry underwent experimental surgery on his back in July that involved the fusion of his own adult stem cells into his spine. The procedure is so new that it has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Alabama Re-Thinking Immigration Law

Backlash from Alabama’s business community has lawmakers in the State re-considering its tough immigration reform law.

The legislation suffered major blows after two foreign employees for Alabama’s prized Honda and Mercedes plants were given trouble during traffic stops.

A German manager with Mercedes-Benz was arrested under the law for not having a driver’s license with him while driving a rental car last month. Early this month, a Honda employee was ticketed at a routine roadblock set up by police even though he had a valid Japanese passport and an international driver’s license.

Mercedes kicked off Alabama’s multibillion dollar automobile industry with its decision to build its first U.S. assembly plant about 40 miles west of Birmingham in 1993. Honda has been building cars and minivans for 10 years in the State.

The recent incidents have the foreign companies wondering if Alabama is anti-foreign investment, a claim that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley flatly denies, according to The Associated Press.

“We are not anti-foreign companies. We are very pro-foreign companies,” he said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who has defended the law against the Justice Department, has now recommended repealing sections that make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to fail to carry registration documents and that require public schools to collect information on the immigration status of students.

Taxpayers Paid $240 Million For Male Enhancement Over The Past Decade

Data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicates that Medicare has spent more than $240 million of taxpayer money on penis pumps for elderly men over the past decade.

According to Heartlander, between 2001 and 2010 the amount of taxpayer money used by Medicaid to provide “Male Vacuum Erection Systems” to elderly men quadrupled.  In 2001 taxpayers footed the bill for about $11 million toward the purchase of the devices, the number jumped to $47 million in 2010.

Because of the sharp increase in the amount Medicare spends on the devices, many people have raised concerns about fraud. In September, an Illinois man was found guilty of collecting more than $2 million from Medicare in a fraudulent operation that involved repackaging $26 items he bought from adult websites and selling them to seniors as medical devices. He charged Medicare $284 each for the devices.

Because of questions of whether the technology even serves a medical need and the opportunity for fraud, John Nothdurft, director of government relations for The Heartland Institute, questions whether it is prudent for Medicare to pay for the devices.

“At a time when the federal government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends, do we really need to be spending money on this? I doubt you need a ‘Super Committee’ to realize that this is the epitome of wasteful spending,” he said.

According to a 2011 report, Medicare spending is expected to grow from 3.6 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to roughly 10.7 percent of GDP by 2085.

Independents More Important Than Ever

A recent report by think tank Third Way shows that more than 825,000 likely voters in eight key battleground States have fled the Democratic Party since Barack Obama won the Presidential election in 2008.

“The numbers show that Democrats’ path to victory just got harder,” said Lanae Erickson, the report’s co-author. “We are seeing both an increase in independents and a decrease in Democrats and that means the coalition they have to assemble is going to rely even more on independents in 2012 than it did in 2008.”

According to ABC News Radio, in eight vital 2012 electoral States — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — Democrats lost 5.4 percent of their registered voters, while Republicans lost 3.1 percent. The number of independent voters in those States grew by 3.4 percent at the same time.

“People are frustrated and the way you tune out in American politics is that is you drop the label of the two parties,” said Steven Jarding, a Harvard public policy professor and Democratic campaign strategist. “The danger for Obama in this is he is not only going to have to capture them but capture more of them because there are less Democratic voters.”

Top Republicans Don’t Remember Endorsing Sodomy, Bestiality In Defense Bill

Many Republicans in the Senate seemingly passed the Defense Authorization Bill 93-7 last Thursday without reading, or being fully aware of, its contents.

The bill would authorize $662 billion for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs in the Energy Department, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The bill also contains provisions that would allow for American citizens to be subject to indefinite military detention if they are suspected of terrorist activities.

Neoconservatives have defended the bill as absolutely necessary to protectg the United States from terrorists, but that fails to explain one of its provisions: The repeal of the ban of sodomy and of bestiality within the military.

Asked by CNSNews.com if they were aware of the sodomy-friendly provision, two well-known Republican Senators who worked on the legislation were clueless.

Senator John McCain said to a CNS reporter who asked about the sodomy provision, “I don’t, I don’t know what you’re—honestly.  I read the bill.  And I was there for many hours of deliberation and debate and amendments.  And probably spent hundreds of, several hundred hours on it.  But that particular provision I did not know.  So we’ll have, we’ll get back to you. We’ll get back to you. Just call.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also had no recollection of endorsing sodomy or bestiality in the military when he voted for the bill and said that it was likely related to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

House Republicans Offer Payroll Tax Bill

On Friday, House Republicans released their version of a payroll tax cut extension that would also extend unemployment insurance and delay changes to doctors’ Medicare reimbursement rates.

The 369-page bill, called the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, is sponsored by Representative  Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. The legislation could come up for vote as early as Tuesday, according to The Hill.

Many GOP leaders are confident that the bill has a strong chance to pass, although there is opposition from Democrats and President Barack Obama has indicated that he will veto the bill. Obama’s opposition to the legislation stems from an included provision that forces his Administration to make a permit decision on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline that he has deferred until after the 2012 election.

The provision directs Obama to grant a permit for the pipeline within 60 days of passage. He is not, however, required to grant the permit if he determines that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest.” In that case, Obama would have 15 days to explain his position to Congress in a report.

The bill also includes measures that would weaken the healthcare reform law by repealing $8 billion in mandatory funding and cutting $34.9 billion for implementing the law, and it seeks to lessen the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate air pollutants released by some industries.

To offset the bill’s cost, the legislation extends a pay freeze for Federal workers, prohibits millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps, restricts benefits to illegal immigrants and gradually increases Medicare premiums for the wealthy.

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.