President Barack Obama greets filmmaker George Lucas. Lucas was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his cinematic work. A military aide prepares to hand the medal to the president. (Caleigh Bourgeois/SHFWire)

President awards medals to writers, artists

WASHINGTON – Rarely does one see the creator of “Star Wars,” an opera star and a sportswriter in the same room. What makes it even rarer is when that room is in the White House. Filmmaker George Lucas, opera diva Renée Flemingand sportswriter Frank Deford were three of 24 recipients of the 2012 National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals. The medals were awarded Wednesday at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House by President Barack Obama. First lady Michelle Obama attended.

A sign marks an area restricted by the U.S. Border Patrol near the line between Juarez and El Paso. (Mariana Dell/

House Republicans fume over border security issues

WASHINGTON – On the same day the Senate passed an immigration reform bill, a small group of House Republicans voiced concerns over border security problems.

Republican members of the House Subcommittee on National Security on Oversight and Government Reform brought up numerous concerns for border patrol executives about a new report and border security in general at a hearing Thursday. The Government Accountability Office testified about a report, also released Thursday, that said a $1 billion tax-funded border security program had failed. The Secure Border Initiative Network used technology to create a so-called “virtual fence.” Deemed a failure four years after it began, the program was shut down in 2011. “I know you can never satisfy any government agency’s appetite for money or land, but I’m really skeptical as to whether we can officially and effectively spend all the money we’re throwing at this effort,” Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., said. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the subcommittee chair, said his main concern is that border agents do not track immigrants and international visitors when they leave the United States.

Affirmative action returned to lower court, Title VII of Civil Rights Act further defined

WASHINGTON – In a day full of discrimination decisions, the Supreme Court sent an affirmative action case back to a lower court and ruled on a critical aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court did not decide whether the University of Texas at Austin acted unconstitutionally in using race as a factor for admissions, leaving the debate over affirmative action unresolved. Justices said that the university must prove to an appeals court that using affirmative action in its admissions process achieves educational benefits from diversity. Essentially, the school must define its criteria for using affirmative action before a decision can be reached. “The particular admissions process used for this objective is subject to judicial review.