Supreme Court: No Warrantless GPS Tracking

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before tracking suspects with GPS technology.

The case stems from an incident wherein GPS technology helped authorities link Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs after said authorities attached a device to Jones’ Jeep. An appeals court overturned a conviction that would have put Jones in prison for life.

The Justices said in their opinion that the act of attaching a tracking device to a vehicle was a form of search and, thereby, required officials to first obtain a warrant.

“By attaching the device to the Jeep, officers encroached on a protected area,” Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

The Supreme Court found that Jones’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed that GPS tracking of wireless devices, like mobile phones, should also be addressed.

 

EU Imposes Sanctions On Iran

Following the U.S. move to tighten sanctions on Iran late last year, the European Union has moved to ban the import of all Iranian crude oil and petroleum products — a measure that may lead to the Iranians closing the vital Strait of Hormuz.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement in response to the EU decision to impose further sanctions on Iran:

An excerpt from the statement reads:

Our message is clear. We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. But the Iranian leadership has failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region.

Following the European sanctions, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s third-largest bank, Bank Tejarat, for providing financial services to several Iranian banks and firms already subject to international sanctions for involvement in nuclear activities.

Amid dealing with heavy sanctions, Iran has warned if the country closes the Strait of Hormuz, the United States should not intervene.

“If America seeks adventures after the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran will make the world unsafe for Americans in the shortest possible time,” Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee, told Fars news agency a day after U.S., French and British warships sailed back into the Gulf, according to Reuters.

Senior Officials Refuses Fast And Furious Subpoena

Last week, a senior official from the U.S. Attorney’s office said he is refusing to appear before the committee headed by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who issued him a subpoena as part of his investigation into Fast and Furious.

An attorney for Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Phoenix office’s criminal division within the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona, said his client was planning to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid acting as a witness against himself, according to The Hill.

Issa subpoenaed Cunningham early last week to be deposed before the committee over his role in Fast and Furious, which was run out of Arizona in coordination with the State’s U.S. Attorney office.

“Senior Justice Department officials have recently told the committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the department in preparation for its initial response to Congress,” said Issa in the letter, which was made public last Thursday.

Cunningham’s involvement centers on a letter sent from the Justice Department last year to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that contained false statements about the operation.

Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s committee in two weeks.

Loveless Triangle: Gingrich, Ex-Wife, Media

Newt Gingrich slammed CNN debate moderator John King at a Republican debate in South Carolina last Thursday following the first question, which involved allegations by Gingrich’s ex-wife that he requested an open marriage in 1999.

“Would you like to take some time to respond to that?” asked King.

“No, but I will,” responded Gingrich. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

Gingrich went on to criticize ABC, the network that ran the interview with his ex-wife, for not allowing him to provide people who could back up his side of the story. Gingrich says he never requested an open marriage.

“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” he said. “My two daughters, my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am, frankly, astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”

ABC said that Gingrich was lying in an email from its Senior Vice President Jeffrey W. Schneider to The Washington Post:

“That’s just not true. His daughters were in our story last night and we sought interviews with Gingrich or surrogates very aggressively starting Tuesday morning. Would have been happy to interview anyone they put forward.”

 

Study: Be Kind To Immigrants And They Will Become Legal Citizens

A new study from the University of California at Irvine says that kindness, not money, is the biggest inspiration for immigrants to go through the processes necessary to become legal U.S. citizens.

Naturalization rates increased after the 1996 Welfare Reform Act restricted many benefits to just citizens, leading many immigration experts to speculate that the promise of welfare benefits was inspiring more immigrants to become citizens.

But results of a study by demographers Susan Brown and Frank Bean suggest that there is a strong connection between how welcoming a community is toward immigrants, and the immigrants’ likeliness to opt to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

“Legal immigrants are twice as likely to naturalize when they live in states with a warm, welcoming attitude toward immigrants,” Brown said.

The researches defined “welcoming attitudes” as those in areas where locals believe immigrants are hardworking and beneficial, and where they tend to oppose English-only policies.

“There’s no doubt that welfare reform has contributed to increased rates of naturalization — it added value and salience to citizenship,” Bean said. “But when we look at all the different forces influencing immigrants to naturalize, money doesn’t seem to be the major factor — it’s whether the state puts out its welcome mat.”

The most favorable attitude toward immigrants was reported in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Immigrants in those areas were more likely to naturalize.

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.