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Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, poses for photographs after a campaign event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Looking for the magic

Iowa isn't about actually winning, but persuading the political correspondents and prospective voters in the states following to think they see a winner. It's not even about delegates won, or the order in which a candidate finishes, but whether the result can be spun as a victory.

Oregon State Police man a roadblock at the intersection of highways 395 and 20 outside of Burns, Ore., Wednesday morning, Jan. 27, 2016. Authorities were restricting access on Wednesday to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters being occupied by an armed group after one of the occupiers was killed during a traffic stop and eight more, including the group's leader Ammon Bundy, were arrested. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

Western ways matter

There's nothing like a fatal shooting to rile a community. The chain of events that led to the death of a rebellious rancher along a country road in Oregon last week is still under investigation, but for Americans who yearn for the wide-open spaces of the West, freedom's last refuge, the tragedy spells oppression. To them, Western lives matter.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at a town hall in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The scramble for the top

The Iowa caucuses rarely produce the winner in November, but they always produce panic in the camps of the losers. It's an exaggeration to say the caucuses Monday night decided anything but temporary winners, but winning is always better than losing.

In this Jan. 25, 2016, photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the Knoxville School District Administration Office in Knoxville, Iowa. Battling across Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-country vote on Feb. 1, Clinton and Bernie Sanders are dueling on fertile populist ground: resentment against Wall Street, bailed-out big banks and a financial system seen as rigged. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Baggage to New Hampshire

The Clinton defense, first used by Bill and employed again now by Hillary, is getting a little frayed but it's difficult to give up something that has worked so well in the past.

A nun from Little Sisters of the Poor based in Scranton, Pa., holds her rosary beads as she participates in a "March For Life" walk on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Dunmore, Pa.  Friday marked the 43rd anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion.  (Butch Comegys / The Times & Tribune via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT

Relief for the Little Sisters

One of the most important human rights issues has reached the Supreme Court, which will decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order, has the right to dispense charity according to its own code.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves after speaking during a campaign stop on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Gilbert, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Now to the real show

Soon the voters in Iowa will get a little relief from the invasion of candidates, their handlers, and the tsunami of reporters, pundits and assorted wise men who have trudged through snow and ice to make sure that no burp of the body politic goes unheard or unremarked. Iowans will get their state back, and to relish once more the silence of the cornfields.

Migrant children Nor, Saleh and Hajaj Fatema from Syria sleep outside the Swedish Migration Board, in Marsta, Sweden. Interior Minister Anders Ygeman says Sweden could deport between 60,000 and 80,000 asylum-seekers in coming years. (Jessica Gow/TT News Agency via AP, File)

Scandinavia learns a hard lesson

The rewards of pride and piety have suddenly expired in Scandinavia. The northern democracies, accustomed to dispensing unwanted tutelage in sanctimony, have canceled their welcome for the wave of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa trying to break down the door to Europe.

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2015 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, makes a point as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas listens on during the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. Ted Cruz once proudly wore a belt buckle reading “President of the United States” borrowed from George H.W. Bush. He campaigned and worked for, and helped write a book lavishing praise on, that former president’s son, Dubya. And the endorsement of George P. Bush, the family’s latest rising political star, lent credibility to Cruz’s then little-known 2012 Senate campaign. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

How to fix the debates

Donald Trump has a knack for drawing attention to a problem, but rarely has a way to fix it. He has done that again, largely by accident, with his row with Fox News over the Republican debates.

In this Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 photo, Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, DPP, presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen raises her hand as she declares victory in the presidential election, in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, FIle)

Good news from Taiwan

The Republic of China (Taiwan) has become an economic powerhouse, the fifth largest in Asia and in the top 20 in the world, and even more important, its political institutions are stable. Real growth has averaged about 8 percent over the past three decades. The older labor-intensive industries have steadily moved elsewhere, replaced by technology-intensive industries.

The grim news comes with less than a year left for President Obama to put the Affordable Care Act on firmer footing as he seeks to head off what is likely to be a last effort at repealing the act after November's elections. (Associated Press)

Obama's not-so-hot report card

Not everyone can win a popularity contest, which is why not everybody can be the president. As difficult as winning may be, staying in the good graces of the electorate is even more difficult. Seven years after climbing to the top of the heap, public-opinion has put President Obama in his rightful place: well below average. The judgment of his countrymen can be cruel, but it happens to every president.

For Fox News, Donald Trump's absence could be disastrous. The candidate said his presence has helped the previous debates set records for viewership. "Without me, they'd have no ratings," he said in a Twitter post Tuesday as the feud erupted. (Associated Press)

Will he, or won't he, show up?

Conventional wisdom once held that a front-runner shouldn't debate his challengers because meeting them on the same stage gives them stature. So why do a favor for a challenger? That's why Ronald Reagan wouldn't debate George H.W. Bush in 1980. He sat on his lead, lost to Mr. Bush on caucus night and breathed new life into a challenger who began the race as a footnote in most early polls.

Homecoming: A U.S. government plane met with a Dassault Falcon of the Swiss army air force at Geneva airport in Switzerland to bring back to the U.S. American hostages who were recently freed from lengthy imprisonments in Iran. (Associated Press)

The price of freedom

Freedom is priceless, or used to be. A longstanding American policy decrees that the United States will never negotiate with terrorists, and will never pay ransom for hostages. That rule has been honored in the breach -- never is a long time -- but the rule has never been more enthusiastically abused than during the Obama years.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, file photo, more than 30 oil drilling rigs are idle in a Helmerich & Payne, Inc. yard in Odessa, Texas, along Highway 80, as rig counts drop in the Permian Basin. The price of oil continues to fall, extending a slide that has already gone further and lasted longer than most thought, and probing depths not seen since 2003. Lower crude prices are leading to lower prices for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil, giving drivers, shippers, and many businesses a big break on fuel costs. But layoffs across the oil industry are mounting, and bankruptcies among oil companies are expected to soar. (Courtney Sacco/Odessa American via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

A new energy 'crisis'

Big Oil, particularly in the Middle East, never had it so good, and now some of the sheiks sound like they've never had it so bad. A gallon of Perrier, Poland Spring or Mountain Valley Water costs more than a gallon of crude, and Big Oil ain't seen nothin' yet. The shale revolution continues to shake up old assumptions and change things as revolutions always do.

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