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Map: Freedom Of The Press Worldwide

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Reporters Without Borders has published  its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, which measures the freedom of information and journalists in 160 countries around the world.

Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, followed by Netherlands and Norway. America fell 13 places to 46th for various reasons (Here’s a interactive list of the rankings).

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Late Night World Music: The 5 Peace Band – John McLaughlin, U Srinivas, Zakir Hussain

From Austria: The 5 Peace band- John McLaughlin (guitar), U Srinivas (Mandolin), Zakir Hussain (Tabla), V Selvaganesh (Ghatam),S Mahadevan (Vocals) perform live in Vienna. This is the Remember Shakti lineup with S Mahadevan, 2004. The songs they play are: Caruna, Ma No Pa, Sakhi, and Giriras Sudha.

Kam Falk’s Blog


Winter Storm Pax Updates: Hundreds of Thousands Lose Power; Traffic Snarls; Northeast Braces for Storm

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Winter Storm Pax continued its second wave of wintry weather Wednesday, dumping freezing rain and sleet across a wide area that could experience catastrophic conditions for a prolonged period of time.

In North Carolina, snowfall led to a disastrous commute Wednesday afternoon in Raleigh and Charlotte. Cars slid off roads and heavy traffic led to gridlock, forcing some drivers to sit in hours of slow commutes or abandon their cars.

(FORECASTWinter Storm Pax | Live Updates on the Storm)

The National Weather Service also warned to “expect significant – crippling – ice totals from Atlanta eastward along the I-20 corridor.” In the Carolinas, snow fell Wednesday in areas expecting to see as much as 18 inches of accumulation from Pax.

[75% Off Men's Jackets and Coats at Amazon]

At least 14 deaths have been blamed on the storm: two in North Carolina, one in South Carolina, two in Mississippi, two in Georgia and seven in Texas. More than 3,000 flights were canceled Wednesday in the U.S., with many more flight cancellations expected Thursday. More than 400,000 customers lost power across the Southeast Wednesday.

Next up, Pax is hitting parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast Wednesday and into Thursday, closing schools and disrupting travel plans across the region.

(MOREHere’s Why Ice Storms Are So Dangerous)

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Meredith Kercher’s Killer Gets Day Release as Amanda Knox’s Nightmare Drags On

John Sexton  reports:  Rudy Guede killed British university student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy in 2007. He was a small time burglar who was known to throw large rocks through 2nd story windows in order to gain access to homes. There was a rock and a broken 2nd story window at Kercher’s flat when her body was discovered. Bloody hand and shoe prints matching Guede were found at the scene as were his fingerprints. His DNA was found on the body, under the body and even inside the victim’s body.

[Knox's book: Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir is available at Amazon]

Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crime, but that was later cut to 16 years. Tuesday, reports surfaced that Guede will now be eligible for “day release” so he can pursue a degree in history. He will be studying only a few dozen miles from where the crime took place.

[More coverage of Amanda Knox at punditfromaotherplanet.com]

Parallel to the conviction of Guede, Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were tried and convicted of helping Guede commit the murder. The conviction was based upon nothing more than the prosecutor’s salacious claims that Kercher’s murder was revenge for some perceived slight or part of a sex game gone wrong. No DNA of either defendant was found at the scene of the crime. Both Knox and Sollecito were later released when an appeals court ruled there was no evidence connecting them to the murder. By that time, each had already spent four years in Italian jails.

[The Forgotten Killer: Rudy Guede and the Murder of Meredith Kercher (Kindle Single)]

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Boy Howdy! Behind The Scenes in America: The Non-White House Menu

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Wait, there’s more! Don’t you want dessert?

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Bodacious Bar-B-Que


Merde! U.S. National debt to rise to $18.2 trillion

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Matthew Boyle  reports:  The price tag for Congress suspending the debt ceiling until March, 2015 may give some Americans sticker shock.

According to an analysis by the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff, the national debt when the debt ceiling comes back into effect will be $18.2 trillion, about $1 trillion more than the current, $17.2 trillion debt.

That’s $18,200,000,000,000.

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Sacré Bleu! Peasants, Peek Behind the Scenes at the France State Dinner, See the Menu…

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The Royal Palace White House


The Hammer: Where Does The Law Exist? ‘In Obama’s Head’

“It’s whatever he thinks. He wakes up in the morning and decides what the law is going to be…”

obama-dreams

“… remember how Democrats were complaining that when Republicans were trying to overturn Obamacare it was somehow unpatriotic because it was an attack on the law of the land?”

Krauthammer said.

“This ‘law of the land’ doesn’t even exist. It exists in Obama’s head.”

Even the Washington Post, “not exactly a right-wing rag,” as Krauthammer put it, is saying that Obama has crossed a line…

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China Flexes Muscles, Pounds Chest, Like Tarzan, in U.S.-Led Military Exercises

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BANGKOK — Richard S. Ehrlich reports:  The U.S. is leading the largest multinational military exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, and Chinese media are hailing Beijing’s first-time participation in the annual drill as proof that the communist nation’s “regional military impact” cannot be ignored.

Nearly 14,000 troops from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific countries are participating in Cobra Gold 2014, which opened Tuesday at Camp Akatosarot, about 230 miles north of Bangkok.

“Cobra Gold truly replicates the dynamic security environment we find ourselves in today, and what we will face in the future,” Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said at the opening ceremony for the military exercise.

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[PHOTOS] Hong Kong’s “Cage” Apartments

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From architales’ blog:  The Society for Community Organization (SoCO) has released these overhead photos showing how people live in tiny, cramped Hong Kong apartments to highlight the ongoing housing problems in one of the richest cities in the world. Equal opportunity for participation and fair distribution of social resources is the foundation of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in caged homes and wood-partitioned cubicles.

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SoCO took shots of the homes to show just how tight these living quarters are. The aerial perspective is not just an artistic choice; The apartments were so small that they had to be photographed from the ceiling to capture them.

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Bourbon and Books: Why is Alcoholism the American Literary Disease?

Gerald Howard  writes:  As a young literatus in training, I got myself early and often to the Lion’s Head, a legendary and now-extinct writers’ bar on Sheridan Square. Lined with the framed 51WjHVH6gNL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_covers of books by its denizens, it offered an atmosphere of boozy bonhomie and the opportunity for literary stargazing of a special sort. (Hey, I’m urinating right next to Fred Exley!) And it didn’t take long before I was told that gin mill’s trademark anecdote: A nonscribbling civilian drops into the Lion’s Head for a couple of beers. After taking in the scene for a while, he remarks to the guy on the barstool next to him, “There sure are a lot of writers here with drinking problems.”This elicits the swift reply: “Wrong. There are a lot of drinkers here with writing problems.”

[See the book: The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking at Amazon]

The same conundrum informs Olivia Laing’s heartfelt and melancholy alcoholic travelogue: Why, in America especially, are the production of literature and the consumption of destructive quantities of alcohol so intimately intertwined? Which came first, the bottle or the typewriter? While this condition has abated quite a bit in our more abstemious time (it’s been many years since I’ve seen anyone come back loaded from a publishing lunch), for much of the twentieth century, literary distinction and alcoholism were strongly linked. An oft-cited fact is that five of the first six American Nobel Prize winners—Lewis, O’Neill, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck—were alcoholics, and the list of other notable writers who suffered from the disease would more or less fill the allotted word count of this review.

 An advertisement for Echo Spring bourbon, 1957.

An advertisement for Echo Spring bourbon, 1957.

Laing, a British editor and critic, battens on to six of these sad, brilliant cases, all men, in an attempt to solve, or at least shed light on, the paradox that their desolate and haunted lives yielded “some of the most beautiful writing this world has ever seen.” Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman—ransacked souls all who drank like fish and wrote like fallen angels.

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Sacré Bleu! Est-ce Vrai? This Poll says Americans Love France Again

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The  Washington Post‘s Max Fisher reports:  Since 1991, Gallup has been asking Americans about their views of France. Americans tend to like other Western liberal democracies. But in 2003, after France opposed the Iraq War, only 34 percent of Americans said they have favorable views of France. That’s roughly on par with attitudes toward Saudi Arabia or Cuba.

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It took more than a decade, but American views of France have now fully rebounded to a very high 78 percent favorable. That’s more than double – much more than double – what it was at the bottom. French President Francois Hollande seemed to hint at that trajectory when he joked at Tuesday night’s White House state dinner, “We love the United States and you love the French, but you don’t always say so because you are shy.”

But have American views of France really substantially changed? I’m not sure.Jokes about the French – a form of ethnic humor that would be a fireable offense if it referenced any other ethnicity but is considered widely acceptable in the United States – long predated 2003 and the “Freedom fries” era.

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The Solis Files: Former Labor Secretary Accused of Accepting Favors from Shady Union Bosses

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Michelle Malkin  writes:  Former Obama-administration official Hilda Solis, who is now running for yet another government position in Los Angeles, is embroiled in yet another union corruptocracy scandal. The Hope and Change hits just keep on coming.

[Michelle Malkin's book: Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies is available at Amazon]

Solis served as President No More Business as Usual’s first secretary of labor. Remember waaaay back then, when “most transparent administration in history” had not yet become an automatic punchline? Well before Solis’s confirmation, it was already clear she was a poster child for left-wing sleazeball politics:

• Solis’s husband’s businesses failed to pay thousands of dollars in tax liens, which were 16 years old, until she was nominated.

• While she was in Congress, Solis served as director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group, American Rights at Work, which was pushing her Big Labor “card check” legislation to eliminate the secret ballot, undermine worker choice, and obliterate privacy protections.

• Solis failed to disclose those interest-conflicted positions to the House on her financial-disclosure forms. In effect, she was lobbying herself — while the group she worked for raked in at least $1 million in contributions from labor unions and spent thousands of dollars on television spots described by the group in its report to the FEC as “electioneering communications.” The scheme circumvented vaunted McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reforms barring so-called soft-money donations from unions and corporations alike. Despite apparent violations of both basic disclosure and campaign-finance rules, Solis skated.

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Vintage Advertising Illustration of the Day: Kool-Aid Valentine

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Retrogasm


Exclusive: Airport Security Confiscates Toy Story Doll’s Gun, Closer Inspection Reveals Surprisingly Dangerous Firepower

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National Review Online‘s Andrew Johnson reports:

Another gun-wielding toy has had its weapon seized by airport security. After a cowboy sock monkey Rooster Monkburn had his tiny harmless weapon seized last year, a Woody doll underwent similar probe at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Healthrow traveler John Hazen posted a picture of his son’s figurine to the social-media website Reddit on Tuesday showing a security official removing the doll’s gun. “At Heathrow, security just confiscated his ‘weapon,’ keep the world safe boys,”​ Hazen wrote on the site…

So far, so good. But it’s this next sentence that aroused our concern…

The doll does not usually come armed with gun — it was an accessory the family added.

The gun was added? It’s not part of Woody’s provided supply of toy weaponry? This prompted us make a closer inspection.

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With forensic photographic enhancement of some of the unpublished images associated with this investigation, we were able to determine the make and model of gun Woody was accessorized with. Sure enough, the Airport Security Officer at Heathrow had good instincts, indeed, and was acting in good faith when he seized Woody’s weapon.

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As our photographic research reveals, Woody was packing what appears to be a miniaturized version of a 3D Colt Python .357. A very deadly and dangerous firearm. And a shocking weapon for a toy action figure to be trying to smuggle aboard a plane.

As you can see in the enhanced photo image here, the Security Officer is also holding what can clearly be identified as single a .357 miniaturized hollow point bullet. Which leads us to believe the gun contained five more bullets just like it.

Not only did Woody have a gun, in an international airport, he was carrying a loaded gun. 

Our compliments to London Heathrow Airport’s Security Officer, who acted wisely.  Without his extraordinarily good eyesight, alertness, and keen attention to detail, Woody might have boarded the plane with a loaded gun. 

Note: it’s not clear how dangerous a miniaturized Colt Python–loaded with teeny-tiny hollow points–actually is, to human passengers. But we do know, the safety of other, similarly-sized, defenseless small toy action figures on that plane were clearly at risk.

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Cautious Optimism About NASA’s Troubled New Telescope

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Andrew Moseman  writes:  They call it the successor to Hubble. But the James Webb Space Telescope is something more than the next great observatory to provide breathtaking views of nebulae and new insights to our place in the cosmos. It is also nearly all of NASA’s eggs in one basket, one that appears to be perpetually near the brink of disaster. But things are looking up. Relatively speaking.

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Someone’s Been Sending GOP Lawmakers A Bizarre Threat Over The Debt Ceiling

House Republicans have been getting a weird email in recent weeks: a threat over the debt ceiling vote that’s been sent to the lawmakers’ closely guarded personal email addresses. “It’s got to be another member. Probably one of the crazy ones,” one GOP lawmaker said.

WASHINGTON —  reports:  A group of House Republicans has received a mysterious threat in recent weeks: an anonymous email that promises political retribution for those who vote yes to a debt-limit increase — sent to their closely guarded personal email addresses.

bohnerBecause of the near-secret nature of lawmakers’ internal email addresses, the emails have raised more than a few eyebrows — and the possibility that one of their own was behind, or at least assisting in the attacks.

The emails, circulated to lawmakers at the end of January and during their closed door retreat earlier this month, came as Republicans struggled to come up with a plan to extend the nation’s debt limit. Leadership threw in the towel Tuesday, opting to move a bill that simply raises the debt ceiling without other conditions. The bill passed Tuesday, with nearly every House Democrat and 28 Republicans voting for it.

“It’s got to be another member. Probably one of the crazy ones,” said a Republican who had seen the email, which was sent from an anonymous email address, unrepresentative1@gmx.com.

In the email, the lawmakers received a set of forwarded emails sent by “unrepresentative one” to Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford and Speaker John Boehner. The apparent message to GOP House members: If you vote for a debt-limit increase, an outside group mentioned in the email will mobilize against you.

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Finally: Free From ‘Constitution-Lock’

Free at last...free at last...the chains of the constitution must be broken in order for us to be free

Free at last…free at last…the chains of the constitution must be broken in order for us to be free

Obama Frees America From the Tyranny of Law

Charles C. W. Cooke  writes:  ‘That’s the good thing as president,” President Obama half-joked yesterday at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, Virginia. “I can do what I want.” And, as if signaling that he had finally transcended all of those antediluvian “I’m not a king/emperor/dictator” reassurances, a few hours later the news broke that he had, once again, done what he wanted — this time delaying part of Obamacare’s employer mandate until 2016.

“Now,” ventured the Volokh Conspiracy’s Eugene Kontorovich, “Obama really is bypassing Congress”:

Manipulating large-scale legislative policies, duly enacted, around election schedules goes beyond the parameters of executive discretion. Nor can this be justified by the dubious claim of “transition relief” from tax obligations. The employers are not being relieved just from taxes, but from direct primary legal obligations to provide insurance. Every year the administration delays large portions of ObamaCare, it says it is no big deal, because it is “temporary.” But a few temporary fixes in a row becomes a new permanent form of executive lawmaking.

“Executive lawmaking” sounds so harsh, don’t you think? Perhaps conceive of it instead as the executive branch’s “liberating“ itself from that pesky “Constitution-lock” we’ve heard so much about. After all, the alternative is just too depressing: “Whatever the stated reason for the new delay,” Kontorovich’s colleague at Volokh, Jonathan H. Adleradjudged candidly, “it is illegal,” and “the increasing brazenness with which the Administration is disregarding inconvenient or ill-conceived portions of its signature legislative achievement lowers the bar to a disturbing degree.” Fair enough. But how rich and how various have been those reasons! “Why do you care: you like the outcome?” the president’s critics have been asked, just one among a host of unconvincing defenses that have included, “well, I don’t like Congress,” “think of it more as that the White House is improving the law,” “this is too important for the rules,” “look, Obama won,” and, perhaps my all-time favorite, “what are you going to do about it anyway?”

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[VIDEO] Getaway Bike Fail: Cop’s Diving Tackle Snatches Break-In Suspect

Dramatic footage has emerged of the moment police tackled a man who fled from officers after he allegedly tried to break into a garage.  A Sacramento Police officer was able to stop the man with a diving tackle in the street.

CBS13 captured the footage as the man fled on a bicycle in California.

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President Bambi, Legislator-in-Chief, Suffers Setback on Illegal IRS Rules

king-obama“The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading of” the law. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit used these words in a Feb. 11 ruling that struck down an Obama administration regulation on tax preparers.

Federal judges should copy this phrase and be ready to paste it into rulings — sometimes replacing “IRS” with “Health and Human Services” — as President Obama continues to act as legislator in chief, making and amending laws as he sees fit, separation of powers be damned.

In the same week Obama illegally delayed the employer mandate and out of thin air created a bizarre loyalty oath to administer to companies suffering from Obamacare, a federal court unanimously smacked down his IRS for executive overreach.

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