The Obama administration gave states and the gambling industry an early Christmas present December 23 in the form of a controversial Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that reversed years of federal policy covering online gambling. As reported by Reuters News Service, previously the DOJ had held that “online gambling in all forms was illegal under the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders.” The recent DOJ opinion, dated in September but released only in late December, makes the qualification that “[i]nterstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”

President Obama and the U.S. Congress concluded the last contentious battle of 2011, the payroll tax cut debate, by reaching a short-term agreement to extend the tax cut for two months until a more permanent compromise could be reached. That same deal included the Keystone XL oil pipeline provision, which requires the President to make a decision on the pipeline within the next 60 days.

Employers across the country are facing new concerns related to federal oversight in hiring, as a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warns that requiring a high-school diploma from a job applicant might infringe on the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The revelation has some employment analysts concerned that the commission’s guidance will generate an educational backlash by shackling the incentive for students to graduate from high school, as well as subjecting employers to frivolous lawsuits and spawning a new industry for lawyers.

Paul, Romney, and SantorumRon Paul is clinging to a one-point lead over Mitt Romney, with Rick Santorum hard on the heels of both just before the voting in the crucial Iowa caucuses, according to Public Policy Polling survey released last night. The latest results show Paul, who surged to the lead in the PPP polling in mid-December, has lost four points since the last survey, but remains ahead of Romney 20-19 percent, with Santorum but a single point behind Romney at 18 percent. Newt Gingrich at 14 percent and Rick Perry with 10 percent are the only other candidates in double digits. Michele Bachmann (8 percent), John Huntsman (4 percent), and Buddy Roemer (two percent) remain at the back of the pack.

Jon HuntsmanFormer Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is making some desperate efforts to wrest independent voters from the surging Rep. Ron Paul in New Hampshire. The latest salvo in that effort is Huntsman's "The Ron Paul Chronicles," a Web-based video series of out-of-context quotes from Paul and other observers designed to make Paul look like a conspiracy nut, complete with a Twilight Zone-themed introduction.

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