Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills 

students at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire showed extensive progress in critical thinking over four years, as measured by a test called the CLA+. Above, Kate Frederick, a sophomore. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

Students at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire showed extensive progress in critical thinking over four years, as measured by a test called the CLA+. Above, Kate Frederick, a sophomore. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

Results of a standardized measure of reasoning ability show many students fail to improve over four years—even at some flagship schools, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of nonpublic results.

writes: Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.

Some of the biggest gains occur at smaller colleges where students are less accomplished at arrival but soak up a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum.

For prospective students and their parents looking to pick a college, it is almost impossible to figure out which schools help students learn critical thinking, because full results of the standardized test, called the College Learning Assessment Plus, or CLA+, are seldom disclosed to the public. This is true, too, of similar tests.

Plymouth State University student Madalyn Stevens, standing, performed in a mock trial in a class led by Prof. Maria Sanders, seated at rear, designed to develop critical-thinking skills. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

Plymouth State University student Madalyn Stevens, standing, performed in a mock trial in a class led by Prof. Maria Sanders, seated at rear, designed to develop critical-thinking skills. Photo: Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal

Some academic experts, education researchers and employers say the Journal’s findings are a sign of the failure of America’s higher-education system to arm graduates with analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing, increasingly global job market. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Exclusive Footage of James Comey Waving Goodbye


EXCLUSIVE: Fidel Castro Health Update

File photo of then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro attending manoeuvres during the 19th anniversary of his and his fellow revolutionaries arrival on the yacht Granma, in Havana


EXCLUSIVE: Commemorative Japanese Noodle Cup Donald Trump Portraits

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From our Japan Bureau comes this exclusive series of commemorative noodle-cup Trump portraits. Created at the Cup of Noodle Museum in Yokohama (yes, it’s a real thing) these hand-decorated cups were then sent through a robotic shrink-wrap machine, ready for delivery to our USA Headquarters, for tasting.

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MAGA stands for “Make America Great Again“. Another cup, I’m told, is emblazoned with MJGA, or “Make Japan Great Again”. When you travel to see our allies in Japan don’t forget to visit the Cupnoodles Museum – not to be confused with Yokohama’s famous Ramen Museum –  but visit there too, you’ll be glad you did! In the meantime, enjoy the Japanese Donald Trump Commercialトランプ2016.

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EXCLUSIVE: Next Week’s News

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[PHOTO] EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump Capturing and Torturing a Human Child

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[PHOTO] EXCLUSIVE: GOP Voters Celebrate Paul Ryan’s First Legislative Achievement

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Massive party breaks out to celebrate Ryan’s spectacular legislative victory, new speaker’s stewardship of $1.1 trillion omnibus budget bill a ‘masterstroke’,  hailed as historic success.


EXCLUSIVE: TOP SECRET Photo of Syria’s State-of-the-Art Terror Database

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Friday’s Sun Front Page: Exclusive: ‘Jihadi Plot to Snatch Brit Envoys’

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 via Twitter


[VIDEO] EXCLUSIVE: Leaked Footage of Clinton Lawyer’s Psychotic Meltdown

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EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton Campaign Disclosure Confirms Trump’s Comment

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EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Warren’s Hand-Written Message to Hillary Clinton

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EXCLUSIVE: Leaked List of Osama Bin Ladin’s Top-Secret Conservative Book Collection

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Bin Laden’s Right-Wing Reading List Goes Viral

editor-commen-deskThe list includes an archive of radical right wing books, history books, humor texts, and conservative philosophy belonging to the former al-Qaeda chief, some of which are still being withheld by the U.S. government, but leaked online this afternoon.

Among the volumes of books on law and military strategy that were publicly released this week, are a not-yet-declassified list of books by popular conservative authors such as Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and Andrew Breitbart, as well as scholarly texts by Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich von Hayek. The collection includes:

The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome by Kevin D. Williamson

Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change by Jonah Goldberg

Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama by Ann Coulter

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! by Andrew Breitbart

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

Human Action, The Scholar’s Edition by Ludwig von Mises

The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 by George Nash

Witness by Whittaker Chambers

The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk

Ethnic America: A History by Thomas Sowell

Natural Right and History by Leo Strauss

The leak comes shortly after the fourth anniversary of Bin Laden’s death at the hands of US special forces…

developing…


[VIDEO] Exclusive Footage: In Historic Cuba Visit, President Obama Visits Modern Havana


Exclusive Excerpt from Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World’

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‘Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ 


[VIDEO] EXCLUSIVE: Preview of Hillary Clinton’s Address to the Nation

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HBO Now launching exclusively on Apple TV and the App Store next month for $14.99/month


[PHOTO] Exclusive: POTUS Right After Speech

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Credit: Instapundit


[EXCLUSIVE] Hong Kong Democracy Protests — Democracy, Strategy and Tactics

The Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters had planned to have some kind of vote yesterday on how they would go forward.  But they didn’t.  From the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper:

Occupy Central protesters and observers yesterday backed an 11th-hour decision to scrap a poll on the way forward for the month-old sit-in, saying the move made it easier to enter into more talks with the government.

Protest leaders announced the U-turn hours before the electronic ballot was to start at 7pm and apologised for not having sufficiently discussed with demonstrators the poll’s methodology and objectives. But shelving it did not mean they had shifted their stance or intended to end the occupation, Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang said.

Some protesters had said the poll was redundant. A huge banner that called for delaying the poll was hung from an Admiralty footbridge yesterday morning.

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said: “The public may feel there are problems with the movement’s organisation and leadership, and we admit that … I promise that in the future, we will give sufficient notice to and discuss with protesters before making a major formal decision.”

For me, the lesson in this story is that “democracy” is not a self-executing political panacea. Democracy has a value — a high value — as ONE element of a fair and well-ordered society. But democracy can only serve its proper function as a check on the tyranny of the state when it operates within a system of well-defined and transparent laws and institutions. It is not surprising to me that the vote called by the protesters did not happen. There was no framework of law and institutional operation within which it could happen.

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters still occupy the ground in front of the main government offices — but what do they do now?

The smartest lawyers and statesmen in the rebel colonies worked for many months to draft the Constitution of the United States before it was finally implemented. Doing this created the framework of laws and institutions in which democracy operated as only one dynamic part of a system that was crafted after extremely careful deliberation by some of the wisest men who have ever considered these issues. The Framers of the US Constitution did their work after putting in place a temporary structure — the Articles of Confederation — to ensure a stable environment for long enough to work out the permanent “political operating system” for their country. They did not do their work in the heated stress and passion of an armed rebellion against the Crown. They first made an imperfect compromise in the Articles of Confederation to buy themselves the time they knew it would take to work out a truly well-ordered system. My advice to the protesters: study history.

“For me, the lesson in this story is that “democracy” is not a self-executing political panacea. Democracy has a value — a high value — as ONE element of a fair and well-ordered society.”

The problem, of course, is that there is no time for study.  The pro-democracy protesters have been improvising and responding to the largely pro-Beijing government’s actions from the beginning.  They are working from a base that is fueled by legitimate passion for liberty and fear of tyranny, but without a well-established leadership operating within a widely-recognized and accepted organizational structure.

“But democracy can only serve its proper function as a check on the tyranny of the state when it operates within a system of well-defined and transparent laws and institutions.”

In any conflict, all things being equal, the side with the more easily achieved strategic goal and the larger number of tactical options will prevail. For better or worse, in this situation, the side with both of these advantages is the pro-establishment side. For the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government, the strategic “victory condition” is maintaining the status quo, and they have a broad range of tactical options along the spectrum of patiently waiting out the protesters on one end to forcefully removing them on the other. I fear the pro-democracy side may not really realize this or, if they do, can think of no tactical response other than “keep doing what we’re doing.” Without regard to the merits of either side’s goals, this makes the pro-democracy side’s strategic and tactical position very weak. Unless they realize this and adjust their strategy and tactics accordingly, the outcome for them does not look good.

“In any conflict, all things being equal, the side with the more easily achieved strategic goal and the larger number of tactical options will prevail. For better or worse, in this situation, the side with both of these advantages is the pro-establishment side.”

This grim picture is playing itself out in a situation where the largest number of the anti-establishment protesters are high school and college students, without strong and experienced leadership that has been tested over time, and without any organizational infrastructure to support the building of strategic or tactical consensus.  Unless this situation changes, it looks increasingly unlikely that the pro-democracy movement will put itself into a situation where it can achieve a real “victory.”  If their only tool is a “passion for democracy,” they cannot prevail.

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is fenced in by its own passions.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations, Day 17 — The Empire (sort of) Strikes Back (Hong Kong Style)

Starting this morning, Hong Kong police executed an operation to clear street barricades on Queensway Road and other major arteries in Hong Kong.  It’s unclear to me how the clearing has gone in Causeway Bay and on Nathan Road on the Kowloon side. But in the Admiralty district immediately in front of my office, I’ve been taking periodic trips downstairs to see and photograph the police work methodically all morning and into the afternoon to push protesters back out of the road and systematically dismantle and clear the barricades they had built.

I saw NO violence.  The vast majority of the police wore empty holsters — only very senior officers carried their sidearms.  No riot weapons (shotguns, tear gas grenade launchers) were evident, but other riot gear was visible — small clear plastic shields and helmets (although none of the police were wearing helmets).

A few students were standing on the sidelines weeping, while others had pulled back to the barricades that protected the approaches to the main protest site in front of the government offices, a block away.  Police were making no attempt to clear those barriers.  During one phase of the clearing, the police formed a cordon to allow protesters to retrieve their tents and other personal items from the underpass where they’d been camping.

At one key point along Queensway, students were sitting in the streets leading to the main road.  A line of police standing at the edge of Queensway faced off against this group to keep the students from moving back into the main road.  As of now (1:30 PM Hong Kong time) that is the only large group of police still present on the main road.  I suspect this may stay this way to keep the protesters from trying to re-block Queensway.

All of this was done in what I think of as “Hong Kong style:” Compared to anywhere else in the world (including definitely anywhere else in China), everyone was incredibly polite on both sides, there were a minimum of raised voices, and the police force was professional and outright courteous to the protesters and curious passersby and people who work in the area who had to navigate the work of barricade clearing that was underway all along the road. I saw no arrests and have heard of none.  I spoke with one police officer who told me that no arrests were planned.  The entire operation was very well organized and executed in a very efficient manner — typical Hong Kong.

Now the big question is how the pro-democracy demonstrators will react.  Over the last week or so, they have proved themselves to be a largely leaderless movement.  Will they try to move back onto the main roads and block them again?  If they do, I fear they may lose significant popular support — and that the police response might not be so polite next time.

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Police blockade of area where protesters had encamped under a road crossing.

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Police line blocking access to the protester camp under a road crossing on Queensway.

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Police lines blocked access to the blockade-clearing operation.

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Police carried out the clearing operation with precision and . . . politeness.

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After yesterday’s tense confrontation with the “Antis,” the protesters had reinforced their barricades with bamboo fencing. That didn’t last long.

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Police cordon through which protesters retrieved personal items left at their encampment when the clearing operation had begun earlier in the morning.

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Exclusive PunditCam aerial view of police action on Queensway.

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Police line opposite students sitting in access road.

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Police and democracy demonstrators face off at the edge of Queensway.

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By early afternoon, a few umbrellas are all that was left of the protester encampment in front of the Bank of China Tower.

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Students pushed out of the encampment discussing their next steps.

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Demonstrators at one of the barricade sites still surrounding the main protest area in front of the central government office.

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The main protest site was undisturbed.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations Day 16 — The Empire Strikes Back (sort of)

About an hour and half ago a group opposed to the pro-democracy protesters made a concerted attempt to take down the barricades on Queensway Boulevard near where I work.  Hearing the commotion, I headed down and snapped some pics.  After about a tense hour, the “Antis” backed down and left in groups of ten or twelve.

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The “Anti” group heading East on Queensway toward a protester blockade. I’d say there were between 250 and 500 people in this group.

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The “Anti” group was accompanied by a handful of taxis. They chanted “OPEN, OPEN” in Cantonese.

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The police very quickly mustered and formed lines to separate the two groups.

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Looking south, with the “Midlevels” neighborhood (where REALLY rich people — the 0.001% — live in Hong Kong) in the background

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Soon the largest group on the scene were curious people drawn down from the surrounding skyscrapers.

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Police escort a couple of angry “Anti” folks away who had gotten on the protester side of the barricades and tried to pick fights — I personally witnessed their aggressiveness.

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Police lines like this formed very fast to hold strategic roads leading to the site of the confrontation.

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Police movements around the area were very well coordinated, and their fast work averted an ugly fight. I personally observed multiple occasions where individual policemen and policewomen acted very calmly and professionally to defuse small confrontations.

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The average age of the “Anti” people was probably 40 years higher than the pro-democracy protesters. Interestingly, I observed quite a few groups like this of fairly elderly people who seemed to have come together and, in the end left together — accompanied by one or two younger people who seemed to be organizing them.

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More of what I called the “Grey Brigade” that I watched for some time. I was convinced by what I saw that they had come and departed as a group organized by a much smaller number of younger people.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations, Day 13 — Comics and Cartoons

The talks between protest leaders and government representatives didn’t happen — the students backed out when they felt the agenda for the first meeting was to be too limited.  They called for a surge in attendance at the main blockaded site in front of the government office last night, and thousands showed up.  Today, I walked down to the site in the early afternoon.  I sensed a relaxed atmosphere among the demonstrators, and more signs that they’re committed to the long haul, including setting up a “study hall” for kids to keep up with the school work they are missing.  Also, both Asian and Western comics and cartoons are making their way into more and more of the new posters that constantly pop up around the site.  Some of the images below are very clever adaptations of the iconography of American comics — something that would give hardliners in Beijing (is there any other kind now?) serious heartache if they got the jokes.

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If (like me) you”re a Marvel comics fan, click this to view the larger version and savour the sheer genius

 


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations, Day 11 — Today’s Sign

There is little true “news” from Hong Kong about the pro-democracy demonstrations.  The students and others in the pro-democracy movement are being urged by supporters to get better organized before talks with the government begin tomorrow.  Meanwhile, various reports have appeared in world media to the effect that there is effectively no support for the Hong Kong democracy movement on the mainland.  I think these are accurate.  The vast majority of Chinese have no idea what’s going on in Hong Kong other than what is spoon-fed to them by the party-approved media, and a common view of Hongkongers on the mainland is that they are “ungrateful,” unpatriotic and too influenced by Western ideas and media.

My personal opinion is that the demonstrators need to declare a tactical victory, raise the road blockades and think very hard about organizing for the long game — the very, very long game.

Meanwhile, two new signs at the blockade outside my office:

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EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations Day 10

I’ve been busy with work-work and only have time for a quick update and some pics from a lunchtime walk down to the main protest site in front of the government offices. (…and no time to do translations; if you don’t read Chinese, just make something up . . .) The weather has FINALLY begun to change from broiling summer heat and humidity to the golden “Autumn” Hong Kong experiences — clear skies, relatively dry air and temperatures that would be normal in San Diego. This has taken some heat (literally) off the protesters who continue to hold their ground.  Local news is reporting that “leaders” of the student movement and representatives of the government have agreed to begin talks on Friday aimed at ending the standoff.  It’s hard to see what could come of them but my personal opinion is that pressure is mounting on the protesters from fear that the barricaded roads may be alienating more and more Hongkongers — especially in Kowloon on the other side of the harbor.

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EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations Day 7 — More Scenes and Signs

Last night the local press was full of reports of scuffles and fights breaking out between demonstrators and groups of men — civilians, not police — who were confronting them in the blockade of Nathan Road on the Kowloon side of the harbour.  This neighborhood is far more “blue collar” than the posh areas on the island (where I live) that have been blocked.  Some of those attacking the students have been confirmed to be men with “triad” backgrounds.  The triads are Hong Kong organized crime gangs that are the analog of the Japanese yakuza or the US mafia.  The demonstrators believe the triads have been hired by Beijing’s secret police to create provocations and bad press — to give the impression of popular opposition to the student movement.  Police finally stepped in and calmed things down, but the pro-Beijing commenters are out in force on Hong Kong news websites citing the incidents as evidence of popular, grassroots opposition to the street blockades.

A Saturday stroll through the Central/Admiralty barricades to the blockaded government complex revealed significantly reinforced barriers across the roads, and a still impressive number of protesters in front of the main government building.  Periodic rain squalls and a week on the streets haven’t undermined what looks like a committed core of activists who seem to give no indication of abandoning their blockades of main roads in Hong Kong.

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An unmanned barricade on the far western edge of the Central demonstration area in front of the famous Mandarin Oriental hotel. A close look reveals that the demonstrators are now using stout zip ties and plastic wrap to make it impossible to clear the barricades quickly.

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The westernmost manned outpost in Central — a small, lonely encampment.

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A rare sight in 21st century Hong Kong — a phone booth. It bore a few notes from the protesters.

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There are lots of puns and plenty of wordplay in both English and Chinese throughout the site — although what is clever in one language is just straightforward in the other.

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One of Hong Kong’s busiest roads remained a pedestrian walkway on the seventh day of the demonstrations.

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The ubiquitous umbrella combined with the 5-petaled flower symbol of Hong Kong.

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“We want genuine universal suffrage” “Hongkongers supporting Hongkongers”

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“Hong Kong” “Hope”

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Hongkongers making the pilgrimage along the blocked freeway to the main demonstration site has become a regular outing.

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Clearly there are some engineering students among the protesters.

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Cresting the top of the overpass (“flyover” in Hong Kong’s UK-influenced English), the view of the main center of the demonstration.

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Demonstrators have settled into life on the streets.

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“689” is code for CY Leung — the number of votes the governor received from the Beijing-controlled electoral council.

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A wall covered with post-it notes containing answers to the question “Why are we here” is a magnet for the press and visiting locals.

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“Occupy Central” is (was?) the name of a semi-organized group of opposition political figures. The students have been out ahead of “OC” all through this process, for good or ill.

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The Chinese is a clever pun on the word for “patriotism” — the meaning is “sorrowful for my country.”

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“The people of Hong Kong thank you.”

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A comment on the people who attacked protesters in Kowloon last night.

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The gate to the main entrance to the government complex — now covered in yellow ribbons and protest signs.

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Although the average age of the protesters seems to be somewhere around 20, it isn’t hard to find groups like this — who in more normal times might be doing tai chi in Hong Kong Park.

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A van delivering hot meals to the protesters.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations Day 6 — Scenes and Signs

A noon-time walk through the Central/Admiralty demonstration site in front of the main government offices revealed that the end of the National Day holiday and periodic drenching rain had thinned the crowd somewhat, but that there were still more than enough demonstrators to hold the blockade.  Local news sources report that there are some talks going on through intermediaries, but there seems to be no possibility that CY Leung (the Beijing-approved Hong Kong head of government) will resign as the protesters have demanded, nor that Beijing will modify its ruling that candidates for chief executive elections to be held in 2017 will have to be nominated by a body that Beijing will control.  At this point it is hard to see how the demonstrators can stand down without seeming to have been defeated.  Yet it also seems that many in the city are tiring of the disruptions caused by the barricades across three key roadways in a place where limited space means that there are few, if any, alternative routes.

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The main entry way to the central government offices, still blocked. The banner says “My parents cry for me; I cry for the future.”

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A flyer identifying suspected agents provocateur — they are accused of posing as demonstrators and urging violent action.

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A poem entitled “Our Generations’s Tiananmen” — the gist is that although we may die, someday the dream of democracy and freedom will be realized.

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“There is no mass demonstration without the masses.”

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“Value (our) supplies; carry out refuse.”

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A Chinese flag with the stars replaced by the words “Corruption, Illicit Sexual Relations, Obscenity/Excess, Theft, Plunder”

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“Don’t become divided”

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“[an obscenity involving one’s mother]” to China; for Hong Kong, “Stay strong” (There may be a second level of meaning here connecting the two sentiments . . .)

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“Our Demand: Just Universal Suffrage” “Our struggle: Peace, liberty, prosperity”

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This seems to be a message from one element of the demonstrators who want to limit the action to just the one area in front of the central government offices and abandon the blockade in the Mon Kok area of Kowloon across the harbor.

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The periodic heavy rain has pushed people to congregate under the pedestrian walkways leading to the blockaded government offices

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A large contingent held the blockade at a major overpass leading to the government offices. The International Finance Center Tower — the tallest building on Hong Kong island — stands about seven blocks to the west.

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Banners on the pedestrian walkway above the center of the demonstration: “Police and citizens – from the same root” and “Support Hongkongers”

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The Chinese in the middle: “Peace”

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“How do you know things will be better tomorrow?” “We don’t know, but we have hope.”

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“A clear appeal for democracy; seeking public nominations”


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations — Night 4

The leading English language paper in Hong Kong is reporting that “leaders” of the student demonstrators have set a deadline of tomorrow for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (basically, the governor), C.Y. Leung, to resign.  If he doesn’t, they say they’ll start to “occupy” government buildings:

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I assume that if this happens, things may well turn ugly again, as they did on the first night when riot police fired tear gas into the crowd and sprayed the students with pepper spray.

But tonight, in the middle of the two-day National Day holiday (ironically, celebrating the 65th anniverary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China), the crowds at the Central/Admiralty district site swelled and an almost carnival-like atmosphere prevailed:

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Hongkongers have donated thousands of umbrellas to the demonstrators. The movement has come to be known as the “Umbrella Revolution,” because the students used umbrellas to protect themselves from pepper spray on the first night.

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Pictures of C.Y. Leung taped to the street.

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Many of the students have been on site for days.

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This young lady was drawing caricatures of her companions.

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Although the majority of Hongkongers are Cantonese-speaking Chinese, Hong Kong is a multi-ethnic city and many groups had signs expressing solidarity.

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Signs along the blocked freeway’s guardrails in many languages expressed support for the demonstrators.

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The iconic Bank of China Tower provides a backdrop to one high spot favored by photographers capturing the throng.

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The sea of people jammed into the road in front of the central government offices.

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Distribution of supplies continues to improve. Stations like this are common throughout the area.

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The pedestrian overpass leading to the central government building is festooned with pro-democracy banners and slogans urging Hongkongers to maintain their resolve.

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Volunteers press water bottles and food on people passing along the main walkway through the heart of the demonstration.

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Volunteers man a spot set aside for crossing over the concrete barriers on either side of the blocked road.

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A sea of lights as the crowd waves their cell phones.

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You can just make out the cell phone lights through the crowd.

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Many posters used the umbrella motif.

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C.Y. Leung is a popular subject of protest art work.

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The first aid area I spotted a couple of days ago has grown into a well-manned clinic.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations – Day 2 Signs

At noon today I walked through the site of the demonstrations and street blockades in front of the central government offices.  There were slightly fewer people there than at the same time yesterday, but they seemed better organized and definitely better provisioned.  Below are some of the signs I encountered.

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One of the few signs in English — posted near one of the main entry ways into the demonstrator’s area.

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“Longshore Union” “Strike to support the students”

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“Persevere to the End”

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The Chinese text clashes with the politeness of the English sign. The Chinese reads “Hong Kong police eat dog shit”

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“I love Hong Kong” and “C.Y. Leung (Hong Kong’s Chief Executive) Step Down”

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“Resist to the End”

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My favorite: “Protect endangered species — Hongkongers”

 


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations Day 1.5

I call it “Day 1.5” because what’s really happened here is that student protests grew beyond anyone’s anticipation last night.  The student pro-democracy movement has had a completely different dynamic and wasn’t formally allied with the “official” Occupy Central movement or any of the political actors who are known under the general rubric of “Pan-Democrats.”  The students crowded too close to a couple of major government facilities last night and the police fired tear gas into them.  This brought out lots of Hongkongers in support who hadn’t been participating before, and forced the hand of the “adults” in Occupy and the Pan-Democrats to move up their plans for demonstrations on October 1 and 2 — the Chinese National Day holidays.

At noon I took a different route around the western edge of the barricaded area, and ended up getting a much better view from above of the main body of the demonstrators directly in front of the central government office.  On the way there, I paid a visit to the People Liberation Army’s main barracks on Hong Kong island — which just happens to be a block away from where the demonstrators are blocking access to the central government building.

Also, a note about “Occupy Central” — one of the organizing groups.  The choice of the “Occupy” name is unfortunate, because the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has very little in common with the unfocused and disorganized “Occupy Wall Street” thing and its mutant progeny in various Western cities.  The Hong Kong “Occupy” group is not a vague anti-corporate, leftist gesture, as Occupy Wall Street was.  The issues here are real and focused — rule of law and actual democracy (not some vague invocation of “the 99%”).

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One of the blockades on the western edge of the protest zone. In the outlying areas, the demonstrators seem to have posted just a few people to block traffic.

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Main entrance to the PLA barracks, just a block from the center of the demonstration in Central/Admiralty (there are others in Wan Chai and Kowloon districts). Nothing menacing seemed to be going on and there was less security in this particular spot than I saw back in August when things were cranking up.

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Tamar Park — just north of the now-blocked central government building. The sign and facilities are set up for a celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China on October 1st. One wonders what will come of that now.

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Shots of main center of demonstrators immediately in front of central government building.

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Shots of main center of demonstrators immediately in front of central government building.

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Shots of main center of demonstrators immediately in front of central government building.

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Shots of main center of demonstrators immediately in front of central government building.

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Support for things like water and basic shelter (umbrellas) seemed ad hoc, but also seemed to be building up.

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Support for things like water and basic shelter (umbrellas) seemed ad hoc, but also seemed to be building up.

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Support for things like water and basic shelter (umbrellas) seemed ad hoc, but also seemed to be building up.

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Support for things like water and basic shelter (umbrellas) seemed ad hoc, but also seemed to be building up.


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations — The Morning After

I could not get down to the scene of the action last night, but this morning I walked down to where things had been rocking nearest to my home — the area right between the Central and Admiralty districts.  Here are some pics taken within the last couple of hours:

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Lee Ka-Shing, the richest man in Hong Kong, takes no chances and has barricades in front of his building.

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Barricades across Queensway Road — normally packed with traffic on a Monday morning.

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More barricades on Queensway, in front of the landmark Lippo Centre building.

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Barricades on Queensway — clearly put together by demonstrators from the kinds of things one usually finds along sidewalks in Hong Kong.

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Queensway — devoid of traffic on a Monday during normal rush hour.

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Demonstrators in front of the Lippo Centre blocking Queensway.

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Demonstrators on Harcourt Road in front of the Central Government offices appear to be getting some rest in the shade after a long night.

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Riot police with grenade launchers for tear gas canisters held a well-manned key location in front of the central government offices on Harcourt Road. Despite the display of firepower, there seemed to be no animosity between the police and the demonstrators — no shouting, no ugly language. Maybe everyone was just exhausted from the previous night.

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Demonstrators appeared to be dug in for a long haul.

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Demonstrators and police chat across the barricades. I saw more than one scene like this, with lots of smiles on both sides.

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The demonstration was kicked off last night by high school and college students. These two seemed a little older — and were taking advantage of a comfortable spot in a barricade across an access road to the central government offices. The woman on the right told me “This is a contest of wills — who will last longer?”

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Some of the youngest demonstrators I saw — enjoying a card game while sitting in the middle of what would normally be a very busy entrance to Queensway on a Monday morning during rush hour.


EXCLUSIVE: Nearing Retirement, Harry Reid’s Unusual Behavior Fuels Increased Speculation about Recreational Drug Use

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“When I move my hand…like this…pretty colors…”

(WASHINGTON D.C.) Rumors are swirling in both Democratic and Republican campaign headquarters about Senator Harry Reid‘s alleged use of psychoactive drugs, recreationally, including hallucinogens, though what kinds remain uncertain. In the last few months, in advance of Reid’s near-certain retirement as Senate majority leader, Reid’s mood appeared to be melancholy, say sources close to the Senator.LSD-vial

“His attacks on the Koch brothers seemed increasingly insincere, as though he were just going through the motions,” said a campaign staff worker, who spoke to punditfromanotherplanet on the condition of anonymity.

Others near the Senator concur. “Even while blocking bills from reaching the floor, helping to raise money for negative TV ad campaigns, engaging in partisan attacks against Republican opponents in public, and complaining about president Obama in private, his voice seemed hollow, his posture, defeated,” said a reporter who covers the Capitol.

In recent weeks, however, according to close observers, Reid’s demeanor has improved. “He smiles for no reason, sings quietly to himself, and carries on stream-of-consciousness monologues to anyone who will listen”, complained a staff member. Reid’s mood is elevated, some say, to the point of euphoria, which has caused concern among his closest supporters. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] EXCLUSIVE: Images From the Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Rally

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The Chinese central government today announced regulations that would gut Hong Kong’s evolution to real democratic election of the city’s chief executive.  In essence, Beijing imposed rules that would ensure that only it’s hand-picked candidates would be allowed to run for the city’s top government post. I attended the beginning of the rally in the park in front of the city’s main government offices today.  Here are some pictures:

[Also check out the live stream chronicling the protests. Follow the twitter feed for Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy activist group here.]

[Flashpoint Hong Kong: China rules out democracy for the former British territory – Noah Rothman, Hot Air]

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(My apologies for the poor photography — my Hong Kong cell phone has a decidedly inferior camera, and the rally really only got under way after dark.)

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Police presence was heavy in the city during the day, with large foot patrols moving around.  Interestingly, although Hong Kong’s police usually carry revolvers (.380s – I asked), most cops I saw today had empty holsters on their belts. Read the rest of this entry »


EXCLUSIVE: Transcript of Kerry’s Phone Call to Netanyahu Complaining About Insults

This one is timely again.

pundit from another planet

kerry-phoneSecretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning to protest insults the Israeli defense minister directed at the Obama administration this week, the State Department said. —  thehill.com

Punditfromanotherplanet obtained an exclusive transcript of the phone conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The following is a declassified portion of a recording of their communication from Wednesday, March 19th, 2014:

Kerry: Bibi? This is John. What the hell?

Netanyahu: John, I was going to call you.

Kerry: Bibi, you tell Ya’alon we’ve had enough of his reckless comments. “Messianic”?

Netanyahu: I understand you’re upset. I spoke to Ya’alon this morning and…

Kerry: That’s not the least of it! Ya’alon said the President of the United States is a “back-scratching, herb-tea-drinking, thumb-sucking Ivy League poser”, and a “golf-playing moron”.

Netanyahu: There’s nothing in the news reports that indicate Ya’alon said anything like that, John…

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[VIDEO] Dinesh DSouza’s Documentary ‘America’ to Feature Megadeth Founder’s Heavy Metal National Anthem Exclusive

pundit from another planet

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For The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Bond writes: Megadeth co-founder Dave Mustaine is marking the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner with a heavy metal guitar version of his own that will appear in America, Dinesh D’Souza’s follow-up to 2016: Obama’s America.

“First off, no version of our national anthem is or will ever be better than the original…” 

Hendrix debuted his version of the song, also known as the U.S. national anthem, in the summer of 1969 at the now-historical Woodstock music festival, where it was panned by some for its irreverence and heralded by others as an instant classic. Still others assumed it was an anti-Vietnam War statement, but Hendrix simply saw it as patriotic. “We’re all Americans. … It was like, ‘Go America!’ ” he said…

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Exclusive Interview with Radical Group Weather Underground Co-Founder Bill Ayers on Kelly File


EXCLUSIVE: First News Photo of Hometown Celebration Parade For Bowe Bergdahl

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Laura Zuckerman reports:  U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl‘s hometown, feeling a backlash over allegations that he was a deserter, has canceled a rally planned for later this month celebrating his release from five years of Taliban captivity, city officials said on Wednesday.

“The family needs time to heal.”

In calling off the June 28 event, the officials cited concerns that they lacked the resources to safely manage the thousands of supporters and protesters who were expected to converge on the small mountain community of 8,000 residents.

“I’m not unhappy it’s been canceled.”

The decision came as pressure mounted to cancel the rally in the face of rising hostility, expressed in a torrent of emails and phone calls directed at city officials and businesses, over claims by Bergdahl’s onetime Army comrades that he deliberately abandoned his post in Afghanistan…(read moreReuters


[VIDEO] Dinesh DSouza’s Documentary ‘America’ to Feature Megadeth Founder’s Heavy Metal National Anthem Exclusive

dave_mustaine

For The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Bond writes: Megadeth co-founder Dave Mustaine is marking the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner with a heavy metal guitar version of his own that will appear in America, Dinesh D’Souza’s follow-up to 2016: Obama’s America.

“First off, no version of our national anthem is or will ever be better than the original…” 

Hendrix debuted his version of the song, also known as the U.S. national anthem, in the summer of 1969 at the now-historical Woodstock music festival, where it was panned by some for its irreverence and heralded by others as an instant classic. Still others assumed it was an anti-Vietnam War statement, but Hendrix simply saw it as patriotic. “We’re all Americans. … It was like, ‘Go America!’ ” he said a few weeks after Woodstock.

“…My hope for America is that we’ll become a nation they’d be proud of again and I tried to capture that with my guitar.”

Hendrix and Mustaine are both considered grand masters of the electric guitar. Mustaine, who also spent a few years with Metallica, was named No. 1 in the book 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time by Joel McIver, and Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner was named the greatest guitar performance of all time by Guitar World magazine.

The presumably right-leaning film America follows D’Souza’s hit film 2016: Obama’s America, which is the second-highest-grossing political documentary in history after Michael Moore’s left-leaning Fahrenheit 9/11. Lionsgate is openingAmerica wide on July 2, nearly 10 years to the day after the same company openedFahrenheit 9/11. Read the rest of this entry »


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS: UCSB Students Shocked, Outraged Over Massacre

UCSBShootinISLA VISTA – Austin Yack reports:  The text from UC Santa Barbara sophomore Joselin Hernandez was gut-wrenching: “My friend is dead.”

It came after six people were shot and killed and many others injured Friday night in the UC Santa Barbara college town of Isla Vista, where a 22-year-old man went on a drive-by shooting spree before ending his rampage with a fatal gunshot wound to the head, authorities say.

“As a student, this outrages me because IV is a place that many call home,” Hernandez told The College Fix about the roughly half-square mile coastal college town. “For someone to barge in, not only to intentionally kill but harm those that were simply trying to enjoy their night, is appalling.”

“This man, whoever he was, does not deserve to be talked about,” Hernandez added. “He’s a mass murderer and that’s all I have to say about him.”

Hernandez is one of the many UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students who are shocked and angry in the wake of shooting massacre in their community. Read the rest of this entry »


EXCLUSIVE: Feds, Shocked by Sales of Captive Children in Vending Machines, Investigate Criminal Child Trafficking Ring

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An undercover investigation reveals a lucrative child trafficking operation in the American heartland. Hotel chains, bowling alleys, shopping malls, and bingo parlors, all appearing as legitimate businesses, all found to be involved in this alarming new trend: illegally dispensing captive toddlers from vending machines, for profit. 

According to the FBI report, leaked to punditfromanotherplanet’s news tip line, agents learned that healthy young white male toddlers are highly prized, with vending machine locations targeted to affluent childless couples in middle America.

“We assigned undercover agents to purchase toddlers from vending machines in several states, before we closed in, and made arrests. The scale of the operation is unprecedented, we were shocked by what we found.”

— Special Agent Daniel McGuffin

Sales of white female toddlers, too, racked up record profits for the criminal trafficking ring, while profits from the sales of minority children showed disappointing growth in three consecutive quarters, attributed to low consumer demand.

“We’ve been trying to have a baby for years, but couldn’t. When we won little Jason, and two stuffed bears, from the machine, we were so happy, it felt like we were in Vegas.”

— Bowling alley customer Susan Sebastian, in a statement to local police

The report reveals details of kidnappers holding captured toddlers in vans, then loading them into vending machines, paying fees to the business owner, and employing hundreds of child-snatchers, operating in cells. Read the rest of this entry »


Exclusive: Melissa Harris-Perry Admits to Using Racial-Detection Hardware Assistance Devices, For Knowing When Stuff is Racist

Another popular one. This could almost be true, no?

pundit from another planet

perry-tampon-ears-radar Robby Soave reports:

At a recent forum at the University of Michigan, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry explained to her audience that white people will never understand why things are racist, because they lack an innate “racial trigger,” that instantly tells them when to be outraged.

Harris-Perry, on the other hand, has a very finely-tuned racial trigger.

Sometimes Harris-Perry’s innate racial trigger doesn’t work at all, she conceded, privately, to an undercover reporter allied with Punditfromanotherplanet’s media bureau. Other times, Harris-Perry said, her sixth sense isn’t sensitive enough to detect racism at levels below .04%,  (MSNBC policy requires detection at microscopic .0002 % levels) so enhancements are required, to boost otherwise invisible signals.

Punditfromanotherplanet has learned that Ms. Harris-Perry employs additional detection assistance, from miniature electronics, with on-board hardware and software analysis systems, discreetly embedded in her jewelry, clothing, or hair.

For our exclusive report, an inside source…

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