Iran, All Bark, No Bite…Right

Let’s place this article in the “We’ll react with surprise after Israel is vaporized” file., or Move Along, Nothing to see here!
 

US downplays Iranian nuclear advancements as ‘hype’

By REUTERS, via The Jerusalem Post
 
Ahmadinejad unveils new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster; “We frankly don’t see a lot new here. This is not big news,” US responds.

The United States on Wednesday played down Iran’s latest announcements on advancements in its nuclear program, saying its reported breakthroughs were “not terribly new and not terribly impressive.”

Iran proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how, including new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster.

“We frankly don’t see a lot new here. This is not big news. In fact it seems to have been hyped,” a State Department spokeswoman said.

Despite Washington’s dismissal of the nuclear advancements as unimportant, the moves appeared designed to show that increased sanctions are failing to halt Iran’s technical progress and to strengthen its hand in any renewed negotiations with the major powers.

“The era of bullying nations has past. The arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a live television broadcast.

“Our nuclear path will continue.”

However, Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam television said the government had handed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressing readiness to “hold new talks over its nuclear program in a constructive way”.

An Ashton spokeswoman confirmed receipt of the letter, saying she was evaluating it and would consult with the United States, Russia, China and other partners among the big powers.

Iran has long refused to negotiate curbs on its nuclear program, saying it is intended to produce electricity for booming domestic demand and for other civilian uses.

The nuclear achievements proclaimed by Tehran involved a new line of uranium enrichment centrifuge and the loading of its first domestically produced batch of fuel into a research reactor that is expected to soon run out of imported stocks.

Tehran has for some years been developing and testing new generations of centrifuges to replace its outdated, erratic “P-1” model. In January it said it had successfully manufactured and tested its own fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants.

Ahmadinejad said the “fourth generation” of centrifuge would be able to refine uranium three times as fast as previously.

If Iran eventually succeeded in introducing modern centrifuges for production, it could significantly shorten the time needed to stockpile enriched uranium, which can generate electricity or, if refined much more, nuclear explosions.

Last year, Iran installed two newer models for large scale testing at a research site near the central town of Natanz.

But it remains unclear whether Tehran, under increasingly strict trade sanctions, has the means and components to make the more sophisticated machines in industrial quantity.

“We have seen this before. We have seen these announcements and these grand unveilings and it turns out that there was less there than meets the eye. I suspect this is the same case,” said Shannon Kile at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

However, Ahmadinejad said Iran had significantly increased the number of centrifuges at its main enrichment site at Natanz, saying there were now 9,000 such machines installed there.

In its last report on Iran, in November, the UN nuclear watchdog said there were 8,000 installed centrifuges at Natanz, of which up to 6,200 were operating.

State television aired live footage of Ahmadinejad loading Iranian-made fuel rods into the Tehran Research Reactor and called this “a sign of Iranian scientists’ achievements”.

The Tehran reactor produces radio isotopes for medical use and agriculture. Iran says it was forced to manufacture its own fuel for the Tehran reactor after failing to agree terms for a deal to obtain it from the West.

In 2010, Iran alarmed the West by starting to enrich uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent for the stated purpose of reprocessing into special fuel for the Tehran reactor.

In boosting enrichment up from the 3.5 percent level suitable for powering civilian nuclear plants, Iran moved significantly closer to the 90 percent threshold suitable for the fissile core of a nuclear warhead.

Analysts remained doubtful that Iran would be able to operate the research reactor with its own special fuel.

“As usual, the announcement surely is exaggerated. Producing the fuel plates … is not so hard. But the plates have to be tested for a considerable period before they can be used safely in the reactor,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“If Iran is really running the reactor with untested fuel plates, then my advice to the residents surrounding the building would be to move somewhere else. It will be unsafe.”

Clean Up Your Space, Young Man

More than half a century of sending objects into space has left the Earth surrounded by junk. Bits of long-dead satellites, spent rocket stages and other debris orbit the planet at almost 18,000 mph, each chunk a potential hazard to working satellites or astronauts.

The Swiss have a plan, however. Scientists at the Swiss space centre at EPFL, the federal institute for technology in Lausanne, want to send a “janitor satellite” into orbit, to sweep up debris and permanently remove it from orbit.

The $11 million satellite, called CleanSpace One, could launch within five years, according to EPFL.

Nasa keeps track of 16,000 pieces of orbiting junk that are larger than 10cm (4in) in diameter. There could be more than 500,000 measuring 1cm-10cm and many hundreds of millions smaller ones.

Even a small fragment of debris could severely damage (or even destroy) satellites or other spacecraft that collide with them, creating even more dangerous debris. The International Space Station has to regularly alter its orbit to avoid being hit by large bits of junk.

In February 2009, the US satellite Iridium-33 exploded when it accidentally hit Russia’s long-abandoned Cosmos-2251 satellite.

“It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation,” said Claude Nicollier, an astronaut and EPFL professor.

CleanSpace One would match its trajectory to that of its target using an EPFL-designed ultra-compact motor. When it reaches its target, it will grab the junk with a gripping claw. At speeds of up to 18,000mph, this will not be an easy task, especially if the junk is rotating. CleanSpace One will then head back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere, along with its attached junk.

For its first mission, EPFL will aim to bring down one of two abandoned Swiss satellites: the Swisscube picosatellite, which was launched into orbit in 2009, or the TIsat, launched in July 2010.

Russia’s planned Mars/moon probe never escaped Earth orbit after its November launch, despite the efforts of Russian and European space agencies. It’s one of the heaviest and most toxic pieces of space junk ever to crash to Earth.

“We want to offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites,” said Volker Gass, the Swiss space centre’s director, in a statement on the EPFL website.

“Space agencies are increasingly finding it necessary to take into consideration and prepare for the elimination of the stuff they’re sending into space. We want to be the pioneers in this area.”

Attribution: UK Guardian

A Rare Look Inside the Leftist Media

Inside Media Matters: Sources, memos reveal erratic behavior, close coordination with White House and news organizations

by: Tucker Carlson, Vince Coglianese, Alex Pappas and Will Rahn of The Daily Caller

Part One:
David Brock was smoking a cigarette on the roof of his Washington, D.C. office one day in the late fall of 2010 when his assistant and two bodyguards suddenly appeared and whisked him and his colleague Eric Burns down the stairs.

Brock, the head of the liberal nonprofit Media Matters for America, had told friends and co-workers that he feared he was in imminent danger from right-wing assassins and needed a security team to keep him safe.


The threat he faced while smoking on his roof? “Snipers,” a former co-worker recalled.

“He had more security than a Third World dictator,” one employee said, explaining that Brock’s bodyguards would rarely leave his side, even accompanying him to his home in an affluent Washington neighborhood each night where they “stood post” to protect him. “What movement leader has a detail?” asked someone who saw it.

Extensive interviews with a number of Brock’s current and former colleagues at Media Matters, as well as with leaders from across the spectrum of Democratic politics, reveal an organization roiled by its leader’s volatile and erratic behavior and struggles with mental illness, and an office where Brock’s executive assistant carried a handgun to public events in order to defend his boss from unseen threats.

Yet those same interviews, as well as a detailed organizational planning memo obtained by The Daily Caller, also suggest that Media Matters has to a great extent achieved its central goal of influencing the national media.

Founded by Brock in 2004 as a liberal counterweight to “conservative misinformation” in the press, Media Matters has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics. The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country. Brock, who collected over $250,000 in salary from Media Matters in 2010, has himself become a major fundraiser on the left. According to an internal memo obtained by TheDC, Media Matters intends to spend nearly $20 million in 2012 to influence news coverage.

Donors have every reason to expect success, as the group’s effect on many news organizations has already been profound. “We were pretty much writing their prime time,” a former Media Matters employee said of the cable channel MSNBC. “But then virtually all the mainstream media was using our stuff.”

The group scored its first significant public coup in 2007 with the firing of host Don Imus from MSNBC. Just before Easter that year, a Media Matters employee recorded Imus’s now-famous attack on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, and immediately recognized its inflammatory potential. The organization swung into action, notifying organizations like the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, all of which joined the fight.

Over the course of a week, Media Matters mobilized more than 50 people to work full-time adding fuel to the Imus story. Researchers searched the massive Media Matters database for controversial statements Imus had made over the years. The group issued press release after press release. Brock personally called the heads of various liberal activist groups to coordinate a message. By the end of the week, Imus was fired.

Continue to Part Two, where you may read the Entire Article

Or, after reading One & Two, you may choose to read it in small bites (read in order):

Jump to Part Three

Jump to Part Four

Jump to Part Five

Jump to Part Six

Santorum Gets the Ax

Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine is singing a different tune.

The heavy metal legend reported from the Democrat National Convention for MTV News at Madison Square Garden during the 1992 election, but is now slinging his ax for the Republican Party and endorsing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

“I’m just hoping that whatever is in the White House next year is a Republican,” Mustaine told MusicRadar.com. “I can’t bear to watch what’s happened to our great country. Everybody’s got their head in the sand. Everybody in the industry is like, ‘Oh, Obama’s doing such a great job…’ I don’t think so. Not from what I see.”

Blasting Republican front-runner Mitt Romney for his five sons’ multimillion-dollar trust fund and Newt Gingrich for being “that angry little man,” he says he settled on Santorum.

“Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable,” Mustaine told the music site.

Attribution: NY Daily News

Catholics Deal With the Devil

Excerpts from Paul A. Rahe’s article titled: American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil

One might say that the Catholic Church itself laid the groundwork for the recent firestorm they find themselves embroiled in. I speak, of course, of the battle royal between the Church and the Obama administration over what they claimed to be “Women’s Healthcare”.

Now, just as the whites of today cannot be held to account for slavery, Catholics leaders of today cannot be accountable for their past leaders. Or can they?

It might be instructive to add some historical perspective to this dilemma.

In the burgeoning American republic, the principle of limited government was codified in its purest form in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it had additional ramifications as well – for the government’s scope was limited also in other ways.

 There were other amendments that made up what we call the Bill of Rights, and many of the states prefaced their constitutions with bills of rights or added them as appendices. These were all intended to limit the scope of the government. They were all designed to protect the right of individuals to life, liberty, the acquisition and possession of property, and the pursuit of happiness as these individuals understood happiness. Put simply, liberty of conscience was part of a larger package.

This is what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church forgot.

In the 1930s, the majority of the bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so, as is usual, with the best of intentions.

Due to their concern during the Depression, for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal. They gloried in the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Frances Perkins, a devout Anglo-Catholic laywoman who belonged to the Episcopalian Church but retreated on occasion to a Catholic convent, Secretary of Labor and the first member of her sex to be awarded a cabinet post.

They welcomed Social Security, which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They just did not stop to think of any potential consequences.

In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to that which had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States. That of the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism, the belief that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.

At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the Catholic hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlement state. It did not cross the minds of the hierarchy, that the paternalistic state they had embraced, would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate how it would conduct its affairs.

The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority.

In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernadin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many.

Here is what Cardinal Bernadin said in the Gannon Lecture at Fordham University that he delivered in 1983:

“Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.

Consistency means that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot urge a compassionate society and vigorous public policy to protect the rights of the unborn and then argue that compassion and significant public programs on behalf of the needy undermine the moral fiber of the society or are beyond the proper scope of governmental responsibility.” 

The truth is that the priests in the United States are far more likely to push the “social justice” agenda of the Church from the pulpit than to instruct the faithful in the evils of abortion.

And there is more. Paul has not once, in the thirteen years of attending mass, heard the argument against contraception articulated from the pulpit, nor has he once heard the argument for chastity articulated. In the face of the sexual revolution, the bishops, priests, and nuns of the American Church have by and large fallen silent. In effect, they have abandoned the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in order to articulate a defense of the administrative entitlements state and its progressive expansion.

Those who seek to create heaven on earth and who, to this end, subvert the liberty of others and embrace the administrative entitlement state will sooner or later become its victims.

A Rock goes for a Walk

What’s so special about a rock rolling across the ground, even on the moon?

One would certainly forgive you for thinking that this solitary boulder on the Moon had recently rolled down a slope, leaving a trail behind it.

The tracks are in almost perfect condition so it appears as though this journey just happened.

However, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) is able to zoom in so closely that it is possible to see craters along the route of the 9-meter (29-1/2 feet) boulder, which is thought to have bounced off the rim of the Schiller crater.

With the high resolution capability of the LROC, scientists were able to work out when they believed the journey took place.

It is thought the boulder actually rolled between 50 and 100 million years ago.

Lunar scientist James Ashley said on the LROC website: “Studies suggest that regolith development from micrometeorite impacts will erase tracks like these over time intervals of tens of millions of years.”

“Eventually it’s track will be erased completely”, added Ashley.

It is not known what might have caused the rock to roll but Ashley has suggested the boulder moved because of impact and that this might have been caused by a direct hit from a meteoroid.

 

Attribution: Daily Mail

Greenies on the Run

Three Cheers for James Inhofe, an American hero. Thanks to spearheads like Inhofe, could it be that we may actually be able to beat back these Enviro-Fools?
It appears we’re making progress.

The following video is from December, 2011. It is quite funny to watch these desperate Green Movement pin heads as they throw out their talking points & slogans. The newest one is “Climate Justice”. They’ve even folded in the old 99 vs. the evil 1%. Listen carefully. No facts or evidence, just slogans.

Next we have a short article by John Gizzi at Human Events entitled: Inhofe unveils “the greatest hoax” of climate control from Friday:

After years in the wilderness decrying the scientific argument for climate control (formerly known as climate control), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is finding that the tide is turning to his point of view–that climate control is little more than a hoax, and one perpetrated on the world for many years.

In an interview HUMAN EVENTS at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment Committee unveiled his new book, “The Greatest Hoax,” about the lack of truth in the case for climate control.

“Yes, we’re finding that the tide is turning,” Inhofe told us, citing “Climate Gate–the 2010 revelation that much of the evidence produced by scientists to support climate change on earth had been confabulated and was untrue. The Oklahoman said that since the revelation, people who formerly assumed climate change existed have come over to his point of view.

“And much of the international community feels the way [I] do,” said Inhofe, In just the last few weeks, the environment minister in Canada has come out against international agreements on the agreement. Other countries have followed suit.

For Inhofe, the publication of “The Greatest Hoax” puts into print what he has argued against the tide for a long time. Like the author, the book will in arguably be controversial.

And from Tulsa World News:  Ralph Nader has dropped out of efforts to schedule a global-warming debate between U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and a House Democrat, the Tulsa World learned Thursday.

Katherine Raymond, an assistant to the veteran activist, said Nader is leaving the organization of a debate to Inhofe and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

“Ralph won’t be doing anything further on this, it appears,” Raymond said.

Several weeks ago, Nader issued his debate challenge to Inhofe after the Oklahoma Republican declared victory on the years-long global warming controversy.

Inhofe, who once declared global warming a scientific hoax, quickly accepted Nader’s challenge.

Not much has happened since then.

It was unclear what impact Nader’s decision will have on whether a debate will occur.

The New Navy

I recently read that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who, last year, survived an assassination attempt is receiving a real honor. She is having a Navy ship named after her.

 My first thought was, good for her. Then I began to ponder it further. Why her? I feel for her & her family but I’m not sure this is appropriate. Yes, she was in congress. So what?

 As is usually my want, I started to look a little further.

 It seems this is the “New, socially conscious, Navy”. In 2010 the USS John P. Murtha was unveiled, of course, named after said liberal shady dealer.  Earlier this year, the Navy announced plans for the USNS Cesar Chavez, after the labor leader.

 Are you kidding me? What’s next, the USS George Soros or maybe the Saul Alinsky? Are there no American traditions left?

 Rather than ranting over it, I’ve compiled a history of how naval ships were named. You may be the judge of whether this new nepotistic method is appropriate.

 The Navy traces its ancestry to 13 October 1775, when an act of the Continental Congress authorized the first ship of a new navy for the United Colonies, as they were then known. The ships of the Continental Navy, and of the Navy later established under the Federal Constitution, were not named in any strictly categorical manner.

Ship names in the Continental Navy and the early Federal navy came from a variety of sources. As if to emphasize the ties that many Americans still felt to Britain, the first ship of the new Continental Navy was named Alfred in honor of Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex who is credited with building the first English naval force.

On 3 March 1819 an act of Congress formally placed the responsibility for assigning names to the Navy’s ships in the hands of the Secretary of the Navy, a prerogative that he still exercises. This act stated that “all of the ships, of the Navy of the United States, now building, or hereafter to be built, shall be named by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President of the United States, according to the following rule: Those of the first class shall be called after the States of this Union; those of the second class after the rivers; and those of the third class after the principal cities and towns; taking care that no two vessels of the navy shall bear the same name.” The last-cited provision remains in the United States Code today.

Ships armed with 40 guns or more were of the “first class”; those carrying fewer than 40, but more than 20, guns were of the “second class.” The name source for the second class was expanded to include principal towns as well as rivers.

An act of May 4, 1898, specified that “all first-class battleships and monitors [shallow-draft coast-defense ships completed between 1891 and 1903, armed with heavy guns] shall be named for the States, and shall not be named for any city, place, or person, until the names of the States have been exhausted, provided that nothing herein contained shall be construed as to interfere with the names of states already assigned to any such battleship or monitor.”

However, in 1894 the famed Civil War sloop-of-war Kearsarge ran aground in the Caribbean and had to be written off as unsalvageable. There was so much affection for that ship in the Fleet that the Secretary of the Navy asked Congress to permit her name to be perpetuated by a new battleship. This was done, and Kearsarge (Battleship Number 5) became the only American battleship not to be named for a state.

Ship name recommendations are conditioned by such factors as the name categories for ship types now being built, as approved by the Secretary of the Navy; the distribution of geographic names of ships of the Fleet; names borne by previous ships which distinguished themselves in service; names recommended by individuals and groups; and names of naval leaders, national figures, and deceased members of the Navy and Marine Corps who have been honored for heroism in war or for extraordinary achievement in peace.
As battleship construction went on through the early 1900s, state names began to run short. The law stated that battleships (first class) had to bear state names; to comply with this, monitors and armored cruisers were renamed for cities within their respective name states to free the names of their states for assignment to new battleships. The monitors Florida and Nevada, for instance, became Tallahassee and Tonopah, while the armored cruisers Maryland and West Virginia became Frederick and Huntington. By 1920, state names were the sole preserve of battleships.

World War I brought the development of mine warfare necessitating the introduction of a new type of ship, the minesweeper. A new type of ship required a new name source. The then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had a keen interest in amateur ornithology. This led him to select bird names as the name source for these new ships, and “F.D.R.” signed the General Order assigning names to the first 36 ships of the Lapwing class.

Between World War I & II, the Navy’s first aircraft carriers came into service. Our first carrier, converted from the collier Jupiter, was named Langley (CV 1), in honor of aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. Our next two carriers were built on the unfinished hulls of battle cruisers, two of a canceled class of six fast capital ships, which had already been assigned the names of American battles, and famous former Navy ships. These new carriers kept their original names, Lexington and Saratoga. The original battle-cruiser name source continued as carriers Ranger, Yorktown, Enterprise, Wasp, and Hornet entered service between 1934 and 1941, carrying on through World War II and into the postwar years.

Having their names reassigned to new construction normally honored ships lost in wartime. Names like Lexington, Yorktown, Atlanta, Houston, Triton and Shark were perpetuated in memory of lost ships and gallant crews. Unique among these names awarded in honor of lost ships was Canberra, assigned to a heavy cruiser in honor of the Australian cruiser Canberra. It was sunk while operating with American warships during the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942. This was seen to be an appropriate exception to the custom of naming cruisers for American cities.

During World War II the names of individuals were once again assigned to aircraft carriers. The Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first aircraft carrier (CVB 42) to be named for an American statesman. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal suggested that name to President Harry S. Truman, shortly after FDR’s death in 1945. The first “Supercarrier,” the Forrestal (CVA 59), was named after the aforementioned Sec. Nav.

With the onset of the new age, Nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarines, built to carry the Polaris strategic deterrent missile, began to go into commission in the early 1960s. These were rightly regarded as ships without precedent. Thus, a name source of their own was deemed appropriate. Our first ballistic missile submarine was named George Washington. They were classified as the  “41 for freedom” and bore the names of famous Americans and others who contributed to the growth of democracy, such as Patrick Henry and Ethan Allen.

All the ships of the current Nimitz class bear the names of such national figures as Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, and Ronald Reagan

Many naval ships are non-combatant in nature. Examples include, Submarine tenders that bear the names of sub pioneers, such as Simon Lake, Hunley & Holland. Ammunition ship names are of volcanoes or words denoting fire and explosives, such as Suribachi or Pyro. Fleet tugs, rescue & firefighting craft bear American Indian names like Powhatan and Navajo.

I’m sorry but I don’t see our naval history replete with any junior congressman or labor leaders.

Attribution: Naval Archives

The Magic of the Sweater Vest

Poll: Santorum takes first national lead

By Josh Lederman of The Hill:

Rick Santorum has taken the lead nationally in the Republican presidential race for the first time, a new poll showed.

Less than a week after besting Romney in primary contests in three states, Rick Santorum has a 15-point lead on the former Massachusetts governor, according to a national poll released Saturday by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Recent polls had shown Romney up about 10 points on Newt Gingrich, his nearest rival.

Santorum leads Mitt Romney 38 percent to 23 percent in the new poll, while Gingrich is in third place with 17 percent. Ron Paul comes in last with 13 percent.

This is the first major national poll to show Santorum in the lead. The closest he had come previously was after his surprise win in Iowa the first week of January, but even then, Romney performed 10 points better than Santorum nationally.

But Santorum has been riding a wave of momentum since his surprise performance on Tuesday, when he defeated the front-runner not only in Minnesota and Missouri, but also in Colorado, a supposed Romney stronghold. Santorum’s campaign has said he has raised more than $2 million since Tuesday, and he was the biggest attraction on Saturday when about 10,000 activists packed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Some of Santorum’s success in the new poll may be attributed to declining support for both Romney and Gingrich. Romney’s favorability rating has declined substantially in PPP’s polling and now stands at 44 percent — just one percentage point higher than the 43 percent who say they disapprove. Santorum remains highly popular, with 64 percent saying they approve and just 22 percent viewing him negatively. Gingrich’s numbers are almost identical to those of Romney.

Santorum is also besting Romney and the others with key demographic groups, including self-described very conservative voters, Tea Party voters and evangelicals.

“It’s important to keep in mind, though, that fewer than half of his voters are firmly committed to him,” said Dean Debnam, the polling firm’s president. “When he comes under attack in the coming days, his lead could evaporate just as quickly as it was created.”

The survey of 656 Republican primary voters was conducted Feb. 9-10 using automated telephone interviews and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.