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Welcome, 2011: Sarah Palin and Julian Assange on the Radar Screen

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Ready or not, 2011 is here.

Consider some of these upcoming historic milestones as the new year arrives. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis becoming president of the Confederacy, the 70th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech (actually, his 1941 State of the Union address), the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s first presidential news conference — and the first ever to be broadcast live on television), and 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

But 2011 will have its own special history, and here are some of the events that will help write it:

Sarah Palin’s presidential decision: Palin will have to decide this year whether to run for president. In order to compete in the 2012 primaries, she will have to soon start building a ground game in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure, she has her reality television show, two books, and husband Todd may show up on the next “Dancing With the Stars,” but Palin must do much more than be a household name to win a crowded GOP primary.

Sarah Palin, Julian AssangeThe former Alaska governor accumulated a lot of favors in the midterm election by supporting winning candidates in key presidential states — such as Nikki Haley in South Carolina — via her Sarah PAC. But she has a lot of work to do on the popularity front. A recent poll by CNN/Opinion Research shows that Palin would offer the weakest challenge to President Obama among current top-tier GOP contenders.

Time is ticking for Palin to make a decision because there are . . .

GOP primary debates: Yes, they’re already in the works. The Reagan Presidential Foundation will kick off the election season by hosting a panel of GOP presidential candidates in the spring. Then there’s June 7, 2011: That’s the date of the first presidential debate in New Hampshire for the 2012 GOP primary. The candidate forum will be sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR-TV, and CNN. Likely participants: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Wild cards: Palin, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding: The royal couple will tie the knot on Friday, April 29 at the thousand-year-old Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding may not draw as massive a crowd as gathered for Williams’ parents’ nuptials 30 years ago in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the media will certainly provide massive coverage. Prime Minister David Cameron has already designated the date as a public holiday.

The event will require major security, the cost of which could top $8 million. British special forces will go undercover with Afghan war veterans from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to watch for any potential attacks around Westminster Abbey. The wedding will also boost tourism — one company has launched a walking tour of locations that helped “define the next royal golden couple.” Also on tap: Kate is soon to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussauds, and the royal couple will be featured on a British coin.

Julian Assange’s autobiography: No date has been set for the book’s release, which will be published sometime in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf and Britain’s Cannongate. The WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition from England to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged sex crimes. Assange has said he doesn’t want to write a book but must do so in order to cover his ballooning legal costs and to continue funding his whistleblower website, which has angered and embarrassed governments worldwide by releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential cables and other documents.

To capitalize on (and extend) Assange’s 15 minutes of fame, Knopf will likely have to publish the book sooner rather than later. Assange will also likely cash in on a movie adaption of the book, especially since his story seems to have all the components — mystery, intrigue and sex — that sell tickets.

The space shuttle retirement: In 2011, America’s space shuttle will blast into orbit for the final time. The last scheduled flight is in early April. NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after 30 years of service to make way for future programs that will send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 — part of Obama’s new space exploration initiative. The president cancelled NASA’s Constellation program, which was developing new vehicles to send astronauts back to the moon. The end of the shuttle means that the United States will soon have to hitch rides with the Russians to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Last year, former astronaut (and senator) John Glenn condemned the cancellation of the shuttle program. In a statement, he lamented that “for the next five to ten years, the launches of U.S. astronauts into space will be viewed in classrooms and homes in America only through the courtesy of Russian TV. For the ‘world’s greatest spacefaring nation,’ this is hard to accept.”

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Gov. Perry Wins Unprecedented Third Term in Texas

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Republican Rick Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor, won an unprecedented third term Tuesday night.

His Democratic opponent, Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, gave Perry a strong challenge. It was the first election loss for White since beginning his political career in 2003.

Perry watched the election results at Texas Disposal Systems’ Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, a small town outside Austin.

Like Republicans all across the country, Perry used widespread anti-Washington sentiment to defeat his opponent. White said in interviews leading into Tuesday’s election that Perry rehashed GOP talking points and used President’s Obama slipping popularity to nationalize the race instead of defending his own record. Perry seldom mentioned White, who worked as the deputy secretary of energy in the Clinton administration in the 1990s.
While White, a lawyer, earned endorsements in the The Dallas Morning News and the The Houston Chronicle, he had an uphill climb. The Morning News wrote that Perry had done “relatively little during a decade at the helm of state government.”
Perry became governor in 2000 when George W. Bush resigned from office to seek the presidency. He has since run twice, fending off a long line of challengers. Earlier this year, he defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and businesswoman Debra Medina in the Republican primary.
In 2006, Perry faced Democrat Chris Bell as well as author and comedian Kinky Friedman. In 2002, Democrat and businessman Tony Sanchez spent $75 million on the race but won just 40 percent of the vote.
Perry seized the tea party movement early, pondering Texas’ secession from the union at a tea party rally last year. At the time, he said, “My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, will pay attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and a pretty independent lot to boot.”
When asked about the secession comment, Perry told Politics Daily’s Matt Lewis, “I totally understand how distressed people across this country are at Washington and Washington’s disdain for people’s personal freedom.” He said he tipped his hat to the tea party for “getting people to go back and read the Constitution.”
White ran on his record as Houston mayor. He received the endorsements of environmental groups for pushing practical measures to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil with more production of domestic natural gas and greater reliance on other renewable domestic resources. He also touted Houston’s job growth under his leadership.
As late as Monday, White lobbed attacks on Perry. His campaign sent out a press release hinting that the governor might leave office early to run for president in 2012 and is just prepping himself for the national stage. The release also said that Perry was planning a tour for his upcoming book, “Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington,” soon after the election. Another potential candidate in 2012, Newt Gingrich, wrote the book’s foreword.
According to The Associated Press, Perry says in the book that he is fed up with “prohibition of school prayer, the redefinition of marriage, the nationalization of health care, the proliferation of federal criminal laws, interference with local education, the increased regulation of food — [Washington] even telling us what kind of light bulb we can use.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 10:25 pm