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Dec. 29, 2011 at 5:00 PM
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Bachmann's Iowa chairman bolts for Paul

DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann says her Iowa campaign organization is strong despite the departure of a key aide for another GOP candidate.

"Our campaign organization is very strong," Bachmann told reporters in the parking lot of WHO-Radio in Des Moines.

Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, bolted from her campaign Wednesday for U.S. Rep Ron Paul's campaign and endorsed him at a Paul event in Des Moines. Sorenson didn't alert the U.S. representative from Minnesota about his decision to leave until after attending a morning Bachmann event.

Sorenson said the decision to leave the Bachmann campaign was "hard" but he thinks Paul, from Texas, was the most conservative candidate who had a realistic chance of defeating former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, The Washington Post reported.

He also said Paul campaigned for him during his state Senate race and thought it was his duty "to come to his aid, just like he came to my aid during my Senate race, which was a very nasty race."

On Thursday Bachmann repeated her statement from a day earlier that Sorenson left for financial reasons, the Des Moines Register said. She named Iowa state Rep. Brad Zaun as her new state chair.

"I had a conversation with Kent Sorenson and in the direct conversation that I had with him, he told me that he was offered money, that he was offered a lot of money by the Ron Paul campaign to go and associate with the Ron Paul campaign," she said, adding that no one else was present during the conversation.

Sorenson and the Paul campaign have denied Sorenson was being paid.

The recruitment of Sorenson was indicative of the "nervousness" by the Paul campaign, she added.

"They were losing steam in Iowa, losing momentum in Iowa, because Iowans' eyes were opening up," she said.

Several polls indicate Paul could win the Iowa caucuses Tuesday.

U.S. population up 2.2M in 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Census Bureau projects the population of the United States will be 312,780,968 on New Year's Day.

That would be an increase of 2,250,129, or 0.7 percent, from New Year's Day 2011, and an increase of 4,035,430, or 1.3 percent, since Census Day on April 1, 2010.

One birth is expected to occur every 8 seconds in the United States next month and one death every 12 seconds, the Census Bureau said Thursday in a release.

International migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 46 seconds in January 2012. The combination of births, deaths and net international migration results in an increase in the total U.S. population of one person every 17 seconds, the Census Bureau said.

Colorado wants federal change on pot

DENVER, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Colorado says it wants the Drug Enforcement Administration to loosen federal controls on marijuana to account for its "potential medicinal value."

Colorado is the third state with a medical marijuana program to ask the DEA to make the change involving pot, The Denver Post reported Thursday.

In a letter to the DEA, Colorado Department of Revenue executive director Barbara Brohl said current federal law that makes all marijuana possession and distribution illegal makes it difficult for her to administer Colorado's medical marijuana laws.

"As long as there is divergence in state and federal law, there is a lack of certainty necessary to provide safe access for patients with serious medical conditions," Brohl wrote.

The letter asks the DEA to consider moving marijuana from schedule I, a category including such drugs as heroin and LSD considered to have no medicinal value, to schedule II, which includes drugs such as methadone and cocaine, considered to have some medicinal value even though highly addictive.

The governors of Rhode Island and Washington asked the DEA earlier this year to reschedule marijuana, requests the DEA rejected, the Post reported.

Police: Gunman planted weapon on victim

GRAPEVINE, Texas, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A man who shot six relatives planted a gun on his brother-in-law's body before killing himself, police in Grapevine, Texas, say.

Sgt. Robert Eberling said Azizolah "Bob" Yazdanpanah is believed to have shot all the victims, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. He was holding a .40-caliber Glock, while Mohamad Hossein "Cyrus" Zarei had a 9-mm Smith and Wesson in his hand.

Zarei had been shot more than once with each gun, investigators said.

"A couple of the victims tried to hold up their hands to protect themselves from being shot," Eberling said Wednesday. "But this was a small room and we believe everything happened in a matter of moments. No one had any time to run or protect themselves and everyone, it seemed, was taken by surprise."

Yazdanpanah's estranged wife and their two children were living in the apartment where the shootings took place on Christmas afternoon. Three relatives were with them for the holiday.

Yazdanpanah was wearing a Santa Claus costume when he carried out the killings.

Family members, friends and co-workers held a memorial gathering for the victims of the shooting Wednesday night in a Grapevine park.

Chicago cardinal defends KKK reference

CHICAGO, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Cardinal Francis George, head of Chicago's Roman Catholic archdiocese, is defending a comment he made comparing a gay rights event to Ku Klux Klan marches.

Gay rights activists have called for his resignation over the comment, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

The KKK reference was made last week in an interview with Fox News Chicago over scheduling and route changes that would have placed Chicago's Gay Pride Parade in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel during Sunday Mass.

The time of the parade has been changed to avoid potential traffic problems.

"You know, you don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism," George said in the interview last week. "So I think if that's what's happening, and I don't know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor's, you know, position on that."

He issued a statement Tuesday defending his comments.

"The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church," the cardinal's statement said.

"When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate."

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