Obama Offers New Student Loan Rules

President Barack Obama has given credence to one of the issues most espoused by young Occupy Wall Street protesters: Student loan debts are crippling recent college graduates who are unable to find jobs.

In the United States, student loans are the second largest source of household debt. Obama has offered a plan that he says will ease that burden and free up money for first-time homebuyers and other consumer spending.

The President’s plan will speed up a measure passed by Congress that reduces the maximum required payment on student loans from 15 percent of discretionary income annually to 10 percent. It will go into effect in 2012, instead of 2014. The White House also says the remaining debts will be forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25, according to MSNBC.

In addition to the student loan plan, the Administration is partnering with the Small Business Administration to offer specific programs that will promote young entrepreneurship. The Student Start Up Plan offers recent graduates options to defer student loans and provides informational material for young, business-minded individuals.

Many Republicans are opposed to Obama’s plan, saying deferment will result in financial strain on lenders and poorer service to borrowers.

Gays In Military Seek More Reform

It has been just five weeks since the military effectively ended its ban on gay and lesbian service members. Now a group of homosexual service members and veterans are filing suit to challenge the Constitutionality of the Federal ban on gay marriage.

On Thursday, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) filed suit at a Boston district court challenging the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as laws precluding the military from providing same-sex married couples with the same benefits and family support as their straight, married peers.

“This case is about one thing, plain and simple. It’s about justice for gay and lesbian service members and their families in our armed forces rendering the same military service, making the same sacrifices, and taking the same risks to keep our nation secure at home and abroad,” said Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. “These couples are in long term, committed, and legally recognized marriages and the military should not be forced to turn its back on them because the federal government refuses to recognize their families.”

Gun Ownership At Two-Decade High

A recent Gallup poll shows that gun ownership in the United States is at its highest level in more than two decades.

According to the poll, 47 percent of Americans say that they have a gun in their home. An earlier poll noted that support for the 2nd Amendment is also at a high.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they have a gun in their household: 55 percent to 40 percent. The gap is narrower than that seen in recent years; the number of Democrats in favor of gun ownership grew last year. The number of women who report household gun ownership is also at a new high: 43 percent.

By region, gun ownership is higher in the South, at 54 percent, and Midwest, at 51 percent. In a finding that Gallup calls typical of trends, in the East only about 36 percent of individuals polled report owning a gun, and in the West about 43 percent own guns.

According to the poll, middle-aged adults — 35 to 54 years old — and adults with no college education are more likely than the rest of the population to be gun owners.

Withholding Tax Expected To Be Axed

House lawmakers are expected to approve legislation today to repeal an Internal Revenue Service plan to withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors at every level of government.

The withholding tax was designed to go after contractors who were delinquent on their taxes, but lobbyists say it is burdensome to taxpayers and an example of government overreach, according to The Hill.

Once the measure moves through the House, it is expected to gain steam in the Senate. Last week, 57 senators voted for an appeal, just three votes short of what was needed for passage.

Implementation of the tax has been delayed more than once since it was created in 2006. The 2009 stimulus packaged pushed it to 2012; and last May, the IRS delayed it until 2013.

Lost revenue from withholding tax repeal will be offset by legislation sponsored by Representative Diane Black (R-Tenn.) that sets strict limits on Medicaid eligibility, a move that was recommended by the President to the supercommittee, according to The Hill.

Lawmakers who were in favor of the tax fear that repeal means more avenues for government contractors to cheat tax obligations. Reportedly, they are calling for other measures to enforce tax codes in the absence of the withholding tax.

Militarized Police Forces Attack Occupy Camps

Tear gas, non-lethal bullets, flash-bang grenades and arrests “under the suspicion of unlawful assembly” are now all definite realities in the streets of American cities that have been overtaken by Occupy protesters.

While their demands are ill-defined, the protesters’ fate, it seems, is sealed by the hands of officials in cities like Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta who have instructed police to conduct raids on encampments to quell the dissent.

In Oakland, a pre-dawn raid Tuesday that turned violent effectively eliminated all but a handful of protesters from areas around the city hall. Police fired upon the protesters with non-lethal bullets, and they employed the use of tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse protesters. Protesters reportedly attempted to fight back by lobbing glass bottles and stones at police.

Police forces in Atlanta were able to more peaceably remove protesters from Woodruff Park. In both instances, media reports indicate that police arrived in full riot gear. In Oakland there were reports of armored vehicles conducting patrols.

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The Greatest Government Cover-up Ever

The subprime mortgage market collapsed…financial institutions across the country failed… unemployment skyrocketed… and America was catapulted into the biggest financial crisis of all time.But what really happened? And why is our government distorting—and even deliberately covering up—the seriousness of the current financial situation? What are they trying to hide from you?

To get the truth about the financial crisis—and discover the simple steps you need to take in order to survive it—click here now.

 

According to The Associated Press, most of the arrests being made are for disorderly conduct or “suspicion of unlawful assembly,” which has raised ire from some people who do not even agree with the Occupiers’ anger. One man in Atlanta, who did not give his name, arrived at the protest with a rifle in tow. He said that while he was not in agreement with the protesters’ message, he wanted to “protect their right to protest.”

Big Brother Considers Tracking Drivers’ Every Move

As lawmakers face the facts of soaring deficits and a mountain of Federal debt, they may opt to rethink the way that Americans pay for the roads and highways they use every day.

According to POLITICO, the Highway Trust Fund, money set aside for resurfacing and highway infrastructure, will be nearly $100 billion in the red by 2021, and the mass transit account will be about $30 billion short. The article says that because gas and diesel taxes have not been increased in two decades, the fund has lost about one-third of its purchasing power since 1992.

Reportedly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Trucking Association and AAA have all lobbied lawmakers for an increase in fuel taxes to re-energize revenues, but Congress stands nearly unanimously against the measure. Most lawmakers say that raising fuel taxes in today’s economic climate would greatly harm businesses that rely on ground shipping services to transport goods throughout the country.

Instead of raising the price of fuel, many lawmakers support what some Americans may consider an egregious invasion of privacy to raise funding for roadway repairs. The measure would require American drivers to equip their vehicles with a GPS tracking device to measure vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The device would not only measure the number of miles traveled but also where a driver went during each trip, which route he took and the hours during which he was driving.

Some proponents of the measure say the generation raised on Facebook and Twitter — proudly posting their every move for an Internet audience — probably will not mind being tracked in their vehicles by the government.

Cain Leads CBS Poll, Americans Watching Closely

A recent national CBS News poll shows businessman Herman Cain leading the pack of 2012 GOP Presidential hopefuls as Americans begin to pay closer attention to the primary race.

The poll, released Tuesday, shows Cain gathering support from 25 percent of Republican primary voters followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 21 percent. The most recent numbers, tabulated Oct. 19-24, show Cain edging past Romney, with whom he was tied at 17 percent support earlier in the month.

According to the poll’s results, much of Cain’s support comes from Tea Party members, with 32 percent of the group behind his message. Romney has held at a steady 18 percent Tea Party favorability while Texas Governor Rick Perry has 7 percent support from the conservative group.

Trailing Romney in the national poll is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with 10 percent overall support and 15 percent support among Tea Party members, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas at 8 percent overall support and 9 percent favor among Tea Partiers.

The poll also says that Americans are becoming increasingly interested in the Presidential race, with 70 percent of registered voters paying at least some attention to campaigns.

Researchers: Soda Induces Teen Violence

A behavioral study of Boston-area high school students provides a link between high levels of consumption of carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violent behavior. Researchers call their findings the “Twinkie Defense,” relating diminished mental capacity to junk food.

The study published in Injury Prevention was the result of researcher interviews with 1,878 teens from 22 high schools. The teens were asked how many cans of carbonated non-diet soft drinks they regularly consume and the data divided into two groups: those who had consumed fewer than four cans over the preceding week (low consumption), and those who had consumed five or more (high consumption).

Another line of questioning in the survey analyzed possible indicators of violent behavior: Had the students been in violent altercations with peers, siblings or partners? Had they carried a gun or knife during the past year?

The information indicates that students who drank higher numbers of soft drinks were about 20 percent more likely to have carried weapons, 12 percent more likely to have been violent toward a partner, 23 percent more likely to exhibit violence toward peers and 17.6 percent more likely to be violent toward siblings.

Overall, heavy soft drink consumers were 9 to 15 percentage points more likely to be violent, concordant with figures linking alcohol and tobacco use to violence in teens.

“There may be a direct cause-and-effect-relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the study’s authors conclude.

Children May Be Set To Receive Anthrax Shot

The Federal government, citing the possible threat of an anthrax attack, is considering whether it should begin injecting healthy children with an anthrax vaccine, the possible side effects of which are unknown.

The National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB)— created by the Federal government in 2006 to “prevent, prepare for and respond to chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological health threats” — is set to meet Friday to vote on whether it will recommend testing the drug on children, according to The Washington Post.

The vaccine, which is made from a strain of anthrax, has been tested on adults and administered to about 2.6 million people in the military.

The government has long administered a series of vaccinations to children under the justification that the diseases for which they are presently vaccinated against actually exist. Opponents of testing anthrax vaccines on children say the risks of vaccinating against the possibility of an attack outweigh the benefits.

“With this, you’re putting children at risk for no clear scientific or medical benefit,” Meryl Nass, a doctor in Bangor, Maine, who is one of the most outspoken critics of testing the vaccine on children, told The Washington Post.

Though the vaccine has been administered to adults in the military, it has not been done so without adverse reactions. Military personnel inoculated with the drug have reported a variety of complications, including nervous system and autoimmune disorders.

Fannie, Freddie Debtors In The Hole May Now Refinance

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced Monday a program that will allow homeowners who are “underwater” — owing more on their homes than they are worth — to refinance at today’s low interest rates.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) will apply to borrowers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and FHFA estimates that up to 1 million borrowers will use the program, according to The Washington Post.

“We know that there are many homeowners who are eligible to refinance under HARP and those are the borrowers we want to reach,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco in a press release. “Our goal in pursuing these changes is to create refinancing opportunities for these borrowers, while reducing risk for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and bringing a measure of stability to housing markets.”

HARP is the only program by which borrowers owing more on their property than it is worth are given the option to refinance at a lower interest rate. The new changes will remove a number of fees and rules, thereby making it easier for these “underwater” homeowners to act.

Special Interests Solicit Supercommittee

As the 12-member budget supercommittee considers where the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction cuts will be made before its looming Thanksgiving deadline, the members are being bombarded by concerned special interest and lobbying groups.

According to POLITICO, about 200 lobbyists representing businesses and groups have reported that they are talking to supercommittee members in an effort to protect funding ranging from healthcare to money allocated to Native American tribes.

According to the report, organizations related to the healthcare industry are currently leading the efforts with representatives from insurance companies and big pharmaceutical seeking to influence deficit reduction panel members. Representatives from the defense, education, telecommunications and transportation industries have also been attempting to reach the committee to talk taxes and benefits.

Many government insiders say that the deficit reduction team is offering very little information about what is being discussed in their talks, calling it “one of the most tightly lipped” special committees in decades. What information is known, POLITICO says, is not very reassuring. Both Republicans and Democrats understand the problems, but cannot reach many agreements as another U.S. credit downgrade looks evermore unavoidable.

Reports indicate that the supercommittee will likely focus heavily on taxes this week with discussions of an international tax bill. Some details of the proposal include a mandatory repatriation of corporate money overseas, and a separate provision that lowers corporate tax rates to 25 percent. Lobbying is expected to become more intense with the discussion of taxes.

MSM Continues To Muddy Paul Message

GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul appeared on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday to explain to David Gregory, the show’s host, his definition of true conservatism. By Monday, mainstream media headlines called the candidate everything but an anarchist.

POLITICO, following Paul’s assertion that the Federal government has taken advantage of students seeking education loans, claimed that the candidate wanted no available loan programs for those seeking an education.

“Just think of all this willingness to want to help every student get a college education,” said Paul during his television appearance. “I went to school when we had none of those. I could work my way through college and medical school because it wasn’t so expensive.”

On Monday, Paul released a statement on his website saying that media has once again misconstrued his message claiming that he wants people to pay cash for school. In reality, the candidate said, if the Federal government gets out of the student-loan business, other lenders will fill the gap and will do so more competitively.

A piece in The Wall Street Journal draws on “Meet the Press” statements made by the candidate calling his views on foreign interventionism “skeptical.”

During his Sunday interview, Paul expressed disbelief that President Barack Obama’s announcement that troops were to be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year was true. The candidate said that because the military and private sector defense companies have been intermingled on U.S. dime, it is really impossible to say how many armed American interveners will actually remain at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He also raised questions as to whether Iran is a real threat to the United States or even to Israel.

“Israel has 300 nuclear weapons and missiles… Iran can’t even make enough gasoline for themselves, they have to import gasoline,” Paul said. “So, they don’t have intercontinental ballistic missiles, they don’t have a nuclear weapon, there’s a big discussion going on on how far along they are. I was in the service, and lived through the 60s, the Soviets had 30,000 of them and they were going to bury us. And we survived that, so for us to plan to go to war against Iran under these conditions scares a lot of Americans. It certainly scares the young people… because they’re going to bear this burden financially and also they may be required to fight these wars that are unnecessary and un-Constitutional.”

Paul’s “Restore America” plan, offering a comprehensive view of his plans if elected President, can be viewed in full on his website.

Judicial Watch: Documents Prove Gardasil Casualties

Judicial Watch, a public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced last week that documents it obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request detail 26 new deaths resulting from Gardasil vaccinations.

The deaths were recorded in adverse reaction reports made between Sept. 10, 2010 and Sept. 15, 2011. Other adverse reactions to the drug detailed in the reports included seizures, paralysis, blindness, pancreatitis, speech problems, short-term memory loss and Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

The adverse-reaction reports include the case of a healthy 14-year old girl first injected with the drug in 2007, who developed symptoms including numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes, fatigue, a hard time falling asleep, urinary tract infections, ovarian cyst, irritability, trouble getting out of bed and seizures. At the time of her final injection in 2008, she was said to have suffered more than 150 seizures. The child reportedly ultimately died from complications related to ovarian cysts.

Another victim, an 18-year old girl, died five months after receiving the inoculation from complications related to meningitis. The young woman had reportedly also received a meningitis vaccine during her Gardasil treatments, but health officials contend the strain that killed her was “likely the type not prevented by the vaccination.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends the vaccine: “Based on all of the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination for the prevention of most types of cervical cancer. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines.”

The Gardasil controversy has recently resurged in headlines amid reports of GOP Presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry’s signing of an executive order in 2007 requiring the vaccine for young girls in his State.

Nasty Primary: Good Or Bad For GOP?

Consensus is split among analysts trying to decide whether the nastiness of recent GOP Presidential primary debates is creating problems for the Republican Party or forging a battle-tested, formidable opponent to emerge in the contest against Barack Obama in 2012.

Following each debate, headlines about the ongoing feud between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been abundant; and recently, rhetorical transfers between the two candidates have become more and more personal. According to The Hill, many Republicans think the “friendly fire” is doing little more than ensuring Obama a victory in the 2012 election.

“What happened last night was horrific. If you applaud what happened last night, then don’t come asking me in December of 2012 what happened,” GOP strategist Frank Luntz told activists last Wednesday at the Western Republican Leadership Conference following the Las Vegas debate.

Many Republicans agree with Luntz, using words like “childish,” “unprofessional” and “desperate” to describe Republican on Republican attacks that may resurface as Democratic ammunition in the general election.

Others say the attacks are simply a means by which Republicans will be better able to identify the best man or woman for the job, according to NPR. Many people believe that last Tuesday’s debate was the first moment that candidate Romney has abandoned his cool, collected demeanor to defend against attacks. In one of the debate’s most heated moments, an exchange occurred between Perry and Romney in which the Texas Governor brought up mud slung in 2008 regarding Romney’s employing a lawn care company found to have used illegal alien labor.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy believes arguments and attacks are good moments for Republican primaries, if they end well before the general election: “Having a spirited primary that ends at a reasonable time — like mid-March — is the best outcome, because you get battle-tested, you get better, but you can unify the party quicker, and the grinding and the clawing stops in enough time for the candidate to pivot to the general election and be competitive there.”

Complete Iraq Troop Withdrawal By Dec. 31

On Friday, President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cemented an agreement for a planned end-of-the-year U.S. troop withdrawal from the country.

The Washington Post reports that, as a result of the withdrawal, only about 150 soldiers will remain in the country to protect the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and the thousands of American diplomats who work there.

“The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home at the end of the year,” Obama said at the White House. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Originally planned was an agreement between the two leaders to create special teams of American troops that would continue to train Iraqi police and military personnel. However, Obama and al-Maliki were unable to come to an agreement about how the special operations and training were to take place and scrapped the idea.

The announcement represents a more definitive end to a war that has lasted nearly a decade at a cost of about $1 trillion dollars to the United States. Some people believe that the looming withdrawal will catapult Iraq into a state of sectarian violence and open doors for Islamic militants in the country.

About 39,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq today, and roughly 100,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. If the Obama Administration successfully withdrawals troops from Iraq, analysts say the feat will become valuable campaign fodder for the incumbent President in 2012.

 

 

Louisiana: No Cash For Secondhand Goods

If you’re in Louisiana and you plan to buy secondhand goods, cash may be useless.

By order of new legislation in the State, House Bill 195, those who buy or sell secondhand goods are no longer allowed to use cash to complete the transactions more than once a month, according to The Consumerist.

Lawmakers in the State claim that the new legislation will cut down on theft of metal and other goods by creating a paper trail of money orders, checks and electronic transactions for police to use as investigative leads.

The law puts requirements on any individual who has a yard sale more than one time in a month and will also affect trading posts and flea markets. They will now all be required to keep detailed records of transactions by logging customer IDs and accepting only checks, money orders or electronic transfers. Many individuals who operate trading posts and flea markets reportedly are unaware of the new law, but backlash is expected as knowledge of the cumbersome fiscal regulation spreads.   

“The government is placing a significant restriction on individuals transacting in their own private property,” Thad Ackel Jr., a lawyer in the State told KLFY.

Pawn shops, which were already required to record transactions in detail, and nonprofit organizations are exempt from the law.

Debate Follows Familiar Trend, Paul Speaks Up

The two-hour CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday followed the same plot that the four GOP debates since Labor Day have: contention between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and 9-9-9, Michele Bachmann’s love of Israel, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum not saying too much, and Ron Paul’s cry for liberty.

About midway through the first hour of the debate, the moment which most mainstream media chose to use as a headline occurred. Perry, in an attempt to alleviate scrutiny of hypocrisy that he has been accused of, accused Romney of hiring illegal aliens as landscapers, referencing a news story from the 2008 election cycle. The two continued to quarrel throughout the rest of the night, mostly over personal issues.

Cain, who has enjoyed favorable poll numbers in recent weeks, again came under scrutiny by other candidates over his 9-9-9 plan. When he called the attacks “mixing apples and oranges,” the candidate was attacked by Romney, who noted that some States don’t want the burden of a national sales tax.

“I’m going to be getting a big bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it, because I’m going to be paying both taxes. And the people of Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes,” Romney said in one of the debate’s early lines that drew applause.

Most news reports don’t make mention of Paul’s performance in the Tuesday debate, but on the heels of the release of his “Restore America” plan that announces $1 trillion in proposed budget cuts the candidate had much to say. Many times after Paul answered a question, candidates responding would preface their statements with, “Congressman Paul is right.”

Paul took a hard stance against military spending, but said he believes the cuts he has proposed will actually make the country safer.

“This debt bubble is the thing you better really worry about because it’s imploding on us right now; it’s worldwide,” Paul said. “To cut military spending is a wise thing to do.”

He also said that foreign aid should be the easiest cut to the Federal budget that Americans make, saying that it not only bankrupts this country but makes others dependent and unstable. To his assertion that Israel would be included in the cuts, Bachmann said there is no way the cuts should be made because, “Israel is our greatest ally.”

 

Gay Play Peeves High School Kids

A handful of students at a Connecticut high school reportedly walked out of a school play after witnessing a man-on-man kiss.

During the “Zanna Don’t” musical at Hartford Public High, a group of students walked out after the homosexual act, in what school officials referred to as “kind of a symbolic thing,” according to CBS Connecticut.

Reportedly, many students expressed a desire to skip the show beforehand because of the subject matter of the musical, which depicts life at a fictitious high school, where students with academically charged interests sit atop the popularity echelon while football players are the outcasts and heterosexuals must conceal their sexual preference to avoid public scrutiny.

School officials said they were given the opportunity to have the male kissing scene removed from the play, but opted not to because of “the importance of accepting homosexual intimacy as society accepts heterosexual intimacy.”

“Our specific task force voted for this project because we believe in it, especially in light of national and local stories about LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] issues and bullying,” said Louise Provenzano, who worked with the leadership group that brought the production to the school. “It’s not a comfortable topic for many folks… but our group is very passionate about bringing the message of inclusiveness and… compassion to the community.”

Despite outrage among some students and parents, the school will host two more productions of the musical.

 

 

U.K. Military And Medical Officials: Climate Change Will Cripple Planet

Climate change proponents in the United Kingdom believe that global warming poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security around the world.

In anticipation of the U.N.’s annual climate conference in six weeks, the British Medical Journal and a handful of military experts partnered on Monday to discuss what they believe will be the effects of global warming on societies around the world.

Among the environmental consequences the group said would be resultant of lacking action on the part of developed countries are extreme weather events, loss of habitat for humans, water and food shortages and threats to livelihood.

A statement issued by the group and signed by a number of European medical and military officials says that climate change will lead to mass migrations of human beings, causing worldwide security threats.

The group urges “modest lifestyle changes” like reducing dependence on automobiles as personal ways to reduce the chance that their dismal predictions will materialize. For U.N. member governments, however, the suggestions are a little more ambitious.

The group asks the following of world governments:

  • The European Union to unconditionally agree a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions domestically by 30 percent by 2020.
  • Developed countries to adopt more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, to increase their support for low carbon development and to invest in further research into the impact of climate change on health and security.
  • All governments to enact legislative and regulatory change to stop the building of new unabated coal-fired power stations and phase out the continuing operation of existing plants.
  • A mechanism ensuring that all people can share equitably the benefits of a safe atmosphere without penalizing those with the least historical responsibility for climate change must be established.
  • All governments to incorporate the U.N. Security Council Presidential statement from July 20 on the potential consequences of climate change on security.
  • All governments to strive to adopt climate change mitigation targets and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments.

Half Of Americans Support Legal Marijuana

A Gallup poll released on Monday says that half of Americans support the legalization of recreational marijuana use, about four times as many as in the 1970s.

The poll found that 62 percent of people aged 18 to 29 support legalization of the drug.  In other age groups, 56 percent of those ages 30 to 49 support legalization, and 31 percent of those 65 and older support it. Women were less likely than men to support marijuana legalization, with 46 percent support among women and 55 percent among men.

Politically, favor for legalized marijuana use was at 69 percent among liberals and 57 percent among those who described themselves as moderates, independents and Democrats. People who said they were conservatives supported legalization 34 percent of the time and Republicans 35 percent.

In the Western United States, where States like California have already seen the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and a subsequent Federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries that propagated following the new policy, 55 percent believe full legalization should take place. Those in the Midwest felt similarly with 54 percent support, while only 44 percent of Southerners were willing to lend support for legal marijuana.

The poll results come just about two weeks after a Federal crackdown targeting medical marijuana dispensaries licensed and regulated by State and local governments in California.

Massachusetts Principal Maligns Christopher Columbus

The principal of a Massachusetts elementary school has warned teachers about the dangers of celebrating fall holidays in class.

Anne Foley, principal of Kennedy Elementary school in Somerville, Mass., sent a faculty email implicating Christopher Columbus for “atrocities” and also advising teachers that they needed to be careful in their handling of Thanksgiving lessons, according to The Boston Herald.

“When we were young we might have been able to claim ignorance of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus committed against the indigenous peoples,” said the email. “We can no longer do so. For many of us and our students celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated. On the same lines, we need to be careful around the Thanksgiving Day time as well.”

Foley said that she simply wanted to open dialogue among teachers about how they could better address the very European perspectives offered to children in history classes. According to the article, when asked about specific atrocities committed by Columbus, the principal failed to cite any, saying instead that “she wasn’t going to dwell on that.”

Massachusetts Representative Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) disagreed with the school principal’s political correctness assault on fall holidays: “Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims may have had shortcomings, but they also represent the adventurous, inquisitive side of our heritage and we should recognize that they played key roles in the foundation of our great nation.”

Foley also reportedly opted to ban Halloween celebrations at the school because of possible associations with witchcraft and the presence of students that come from cultures that do not celebrate the holiday.

Clinton Visits Libya, Pledges Support, Money

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton traveled to Libya on Tuesday to offer words of encouragement and millions of dollars in U.S. aid to the country’s fledgling transitional government.

Clinton, the first cabinet member of the Administration of Barack Obama to visit Libya, reportedly made a five-hour visit to the country, hosting a town hall-style meeting with top officials of the newly placed Libyan government, according to The Washington Post. She focused on assuring new Libyan leaders of the United States’ vehement dedication to aiding the country as it tries to re-establish basic infrastructure and social order, both of which were decimated in the battle to oust Moammar Gadhafi. The Secretary of State also vowed to ensure that the thousands of shoulder-fired rockets looted from the Gadhafi compound would be retrieved with U.S. help.

One State Department official said the purpose of the meeting was to focus on “setting the table for a long-term, completely different relationship between the United States and Libya that is deep and broad.”

Americans have provided more than $130 million in aid for Libyan rebels since the beginning of the uprising earlier this year, with more promised. Reportedly, the State Department has boosted funds and staffing in recent months for the sole purpose of returning Libya to a state of order. Clinton has also announced State Department intentions of providing long-term funding for medical facilities for those wounded in the country’s civil war.

Reports indicate pro-Gadhafi forces are still holding out in cities such as Sirte, Gadhafi’s birthplace. The whereabouts of the former leader, whom State Department officials call a “lethal nuisance,” are unknown.

Republicans Put The Heat On Healthcare Reform

Feeling optimistic about the possibility of taking control of the White House and Senate in the 2012 elections, Republican activists are setting the stage for a multi-step process to chip away at Obamacare in 2013.

Many conservatives are pressuring GOP candidates to commit to using every available option to fully repeal the law before pledging to support the candidates, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Conservative healthcare experts reportedly are also discussing draft versions of an alternative to the law, a tactic seen by many people as a way to shield the GOP from past criticisms that they were willing to leave some Americans with no health coverage.

According to The Hill, Republican lawmakers called on Monday for an immediate repeal to measures of Obamacare that the President’s Administration has said are unworkable. A long-term care provision of President Barack Obama’s plan called the CLASS Act was supposed to pay for itself, but last Friday officials announced that it simply could not.

White House officials’ announcement that the CLASS Act was unsustainable prompted swift response from Republicans, many of whom say it is too late to rework the plan. The White House has issued statements saying it is against repealing provisions of the healthcare law, and some experts believe Obama may veto any attempt to repeal any part of the law.