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The Chocolate of the Future is in 3D: Hershey’s Has a 3D Chocolate Printer

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by The Tatler

Retailing Today reports that Hershey’s has collaborated with 3D Systems to create a 3D chocolate printer for an exhibit at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.  The 3D chocolate exhibit opens today.

Visitors can design, “print” and purchase their own chocolate creations.

People will also be able to see what they look like in 3D chocolate because who wouldn’t want to see that?

The 3D printing business is projected to become a $13M industry, so it’s no surprise that the chocolate kingpin would want a chocolatey piece of that action.

“This exhibit is a great example of co-creation with consumers. They will be instrumental in shaping the future of commercially available 3-D chocolate printing,” Hershey Co.’s chief research and development officer, Will Papa said in a news release.

If you can’t make it to Hershey’s in PA anytime soon, you can watch the 3D printer in action:

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[WATCH] CNN: Hackers Sent Message to Sony Thanking Them for Obeying Demands

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Liz Sheld

CNN is reporting that the people responsible for hacking into Sony sent them a message, thanking them for acquiescing to their demands.

The message reads:

“It’s very wise you have made a decision to cancel the release of ‘The Interview.’ It will be very useful for you. We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

Brian Stelter described it as a “victory lap.” Both hosts opined on what President Obama would say about this later today in his press conference.

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Senator Wants to Screen The Interview at First Re-election Fundraiser

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants to screen the movie that angered North Korea so at his first re-election fundraiser.

“I would say one thing — I’m pretty disappointed in Sony Pictures decision to pull The Interview under pressure from North Korea,” Kirk said Thursday on WBEZ radio, in comments captured by BuzzFeed. “I would say that I’m gonna be trying to hold the first big Kirk for Senate fundraiser at a screening of The Interview, so that everybody shows the North Koreans that you cannot edit what we want to see and do in the United States, under the First Amendment.”

“It was a terrible lesson to terrorists, to give them what they wanted — that we should, as Americans under the First Amendment, we should never have to ask North Korea for permission as to what movie we can — just think of a previous really good movie, that was Team America: World Police, that was really funny about North Korea,” Kirk said of the 2004 film from the creators of the South Park that lampooned Kim Jong-il.

Like the assassination plot against Kim Jong-un in The Interview, the elder Kim dies in Team America by being impaled on a kaiser’s helmet.

However, without explanation, Paramount has now banned theaters from screening Team America.

“And your birthright as an American citizen — you never have to ask the North Koreans for permission for what movie you can see,” Kirk said. “I hope that now all the media about this movie makes it a smash hit, and that we see many more movies like it, and teach the North Koreans a lesson about what Americans can and cannot do.”

There was no elaboration on how the Kirk campaign would get the film if Sony refuses to ever release it.

Anonymous accounts on Twitter have noted that people are asking or assuming that the power-hackers will leak the film, but they haven’t indicated that they plan to do so.

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Obama Names ‘Task Force’ to Recommend ’21st Century Policing’ Practices

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama has decided on his task force to review police practices and make recommendations after the Ferguson protests.

Obama signed an executive order creating the  Task Force on 21st Century Policing as “part of the administration’s efforts to strengthen community policing and strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” according to the White House.

“The Task Force will examine, among other issues, how to build public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction. The Task Force will prepare a report and recommendations to be presented to the President.”

Obama intends to appoint:

Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey (co-chair)

George Mason University professor and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson (co-chair)

Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety Cedric L. Alexander from DeKalb County, Georgia, who is also the National President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

Jose Lopez, lead organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY), a Brooklyn-based nonprofit community organization focused on civil rights, education reform, and combating poverty

Yale Law professor Tracey Meares

Brittany Packnett, executive director of Teach For America in St. Louis, Mo.

Susan Rahr, executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, formerly the first female sheriff of King County, Washington

Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project

Sean Smoot, director and chief counsel for the Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois (PB&PA) and the Police Benevolent Labor Committee (PBLC); formerly a policy adviser to the Obama-Biden transition team on public safety and state and local police issues

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.

Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villaseñor

“These fine public servants bring both a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles,” Obama said in a statement. “Our nation will be well-served by these men and women, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

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Earnest: Obama Has ‘Certainly Been on Receiving End of Expressions’ Like The Interview

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House vaguely promised a “proportional response” toward the “sophisticated actor” who hacked Sony and brought down the planned Christmas release of The Interview.

Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that the cyber-crime ”is still under investigation, both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.”

“I for, I think, pretty obvious reasons, am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements that they may make about that investigation,” Earnest said.

President Obama will undoubtedly be asked about the North Korean threat at his year-end press conference this afternoon.

“But I can tell you that consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter. There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest continued.

“And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect. It has also been the subject of a number of daily meetings that have been convened here at the White House that have been led by both the president’s homeland security adviser and occasionally by his cyber coordinator. This includes senior members of our intelligence community and homeland security officials, military, diplomatic and law enforcement officials.”

However, he wasn’t ready to say how the U.S. might respond to an attack.

“Before we start publicly speculating about a response, it’s appropriate that we allow the investigation to move forward. I do understand that the investigation is progressing. And that as the members of the national security team meet to discuss this matter, they are considering a range of options,” Earnest said.

“As they do so, though, they’re mindful of the need for a couple of things. They’re first of all, as we would be in any scenario, strategic scenario like this, they would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response. And also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors when they carry out actions like this are oftentimes, not always, but often seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America… So we want to be mindful of that, too.”

As far as Sony canceling The Interview, Earnest would only say that “as a general matter is that the president and the administration stand squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views.”

“Sometimes those views can be laced with criticism, or are sometimes intended to provoke either some kind of either comedic response or one that is intended to be some element of some pretty biting social commentary,” he added.

“All of that is — is appropriate and well within the rights of private citizens to express their views. And the president has certainly been on the receiving end of some expressions like that. And while we may not agree with the content of every single thing that is produced, we certainly stand squarely on the side of the right of private individuals to express themselves. And that is a view that we — that is strongly held by this administration as it has been throughout the history of our country.”

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Nebraska, Oklahoma Ask SCOTUS to Declare Colorado Pot Law Unconstitutional

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by The Tatler

On Thursday, Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s law legalizing recreational use of marijuana. The states claim that Colorado’s law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Marijuana is flowing into neighboring states causing a law enforcement hassle.

Nebraska’s Attorney General Job Brunning said the law is creating problems in his states where the drug is still illegal. “Colorado has created a system that legalizes, promotes and facilitates distribution of marijuana,” Mr. Bruning said in a statement. “The illegal products of this system are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska. Colorado has undermined the United States Constitution, and I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional principles.”

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also having a tough time enforcing anti-marijuana laws.

“As the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general’s office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.

Colorado’s top law enforcement official promises to defend Colorado’s law.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers claims the responsibility is with the federal government to enforce federal law.

“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Mr. Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post that he has discussed these issues with Nebraska and Oklahoma, adding “I’m not sure filing a lawsuit is the most constructive way to find a solution to whatever issues there are.”


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Poll: Plurality of Americans Opposed to Commercial Drones

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by The Tatler

A new poll conducted by AP-GfK shows Americans are “skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety.”

However, they do favor using drones for dangerous jobs or in remote areas.

AP reports that “by a 2-1 margin, those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial purposes. Only 21 percent favored commercial use of drones, compared with 43 percent opposed. Another 35 percent were in the middle.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is about to broaden the regulations that govern small drone use. Once those go in effect, there could be dones everywhere. Congress also wants the FAA to move on the regulations, as the drone industry is expected to “create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years they’re allowed, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group.”

Women and seniors were least supportive of the drones while white college graduates and wealthier people were most supportive.

Only 1 in 4 people support using drones to deliver small packages and 39% were opposed. There was a similar breakdown on the question of whether drones should be used to take pictures during weddings or private events. Only 23% favor the recreational use of drones.




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What the Stats Really Say About Racially Motivated Cop Killings

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Larry Elder at Real Clear Politics breathes essential statistical insight into the ongoing fight over whether or not white cops have a predilection for shooting black men:

In 2012, according to the CDC, 140 blacks were killed by police. That same year 386 whites were killed by police. Over the 13-year period from 1999 to 2011, the CDC reports that 2,151 whites were killed by cops — and 1,130 blacks were killed by cops.

Police shootings, nationwide, are down dramatically from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. The CDC reported that in 1968, shootings by law enforcement — called “legal intervention” by the CDC — was the cause of death for 8.6 out of every million blacks. For whites the rate was was .9 deaths per million.

By 2011, law enforcement shootings caused 2.74 deaths for every million blacks, and 1.28 deaths for every million whites. While the death-by-cop rate for whites has held pretty steady over these last 45 years, hovering just above or below the one-in-a-million level, the rate for blacks has fallen. In 1981, black deaths by cop stood at four in a million, but since 2000 has remained just above or below two in a million.

So what’s driving this notion that there is now an “epidemic” of white cops shooting blacks when in the last several decades the numbers of blacks killed by cops are down nearly 75 percent?

As Elder points out, there was no mention of race or racial motivation in the cases of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, or Michael Brown. When questioned about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, “several jurors later said that during jury deliberations ‘race never came up.’” Elder asserts

This white-cop-out-to-get-black-civilian narrative advances the interest of many. The media loves what Tom Wolfe called the “Great White Defendant” — a bad white guy everybody can agree to dislike. For the Democrats, it furthers their assertion that race remains a major problem in America, that Republicans/tea partiers/black conservatives are out to get them, and you must vote for us. For “activists” like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and local wannabes, it gives them continued relevance.

In reality, the facts provide a startling lack of evidence in support of the theory of racial motivation. At the same time, they do provide solid evidence that both the media and so-called community activists like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to promulgate the myth of ghetto culture in order to maintain power over an audience and presumed authority over an entire segment of the American population.

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Carly Fiorina Seems to Be Gearing Up for a Presidential Run

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Why not?

Carly Fiorina is laying the groundwork for what one ally says is an “imminent” presidential campaign—one that could launch as early as next month.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who raised her political profile with a failed run against Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010, has frequently been mentioned as a long-shot contender to seek the Republican presidential nomination. The speculation is driven by equal parts novelty and activity: Fiorina, who paid several high-profile visits to early-nominating states in 2014, acknowledged that she would likely be the only woman in the GOP field.

“Look, I think it would be great if we had female candidates—or candidate,” Fiorina told National Journal earlier this year.

Fiorina is now poised to become that candidate. According to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation, she has authorized members of her inner circle to seek out and interview candidates for two key positions on her presidential campaign: political director and communications director. Notably, the sources said, her associates are aiming to fill both positions with women.

Look, she’s a more sane option than Jeb Bush to consider this far out. Then again, I’m a better idea than Jeb Bush. Ebola is a better idea than Jeb Bush.

Are we clear on the fact that I don’t like Jeb Bush?

Kidding aside though, I’ve talked to several people in the past year who have heard Fiorina speak at different events and each one was extremely impressed. She is apparently much better with crowds now and one colleague told me that she wasn’t even on his radar for 2016 and now he’s taking her seriously for at least the VP slot.

And she’s not Jeb Bush.

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Rubio Leads With His Chin, Gets Clocked

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

The underwhelming Florida senator, Marco Rubio, walked right into this one:

The White House on Thursday took a direct shot at Sen. Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American and Florida Republican who has emerged as the most vocal critic of the administration’s move this week to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A clearly prepared White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at Thursday’s daily briefing that Mr. Rubio’s own past statements on diplomatic relationships with other dictatorial regimes conflicted with his harsh remarks on re-opening ties with Havana.

“It occurs to me that it seems odd Sen. Rubio would be reluctant and, in fact, actively seeking to block the appointment of an ambassador to Cuba when earlier this year he voted to confirm the ambassador to China that the president nominated,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.

Rubio sank himself with many conservatives by joining the Gang of Eight on an abortive immigration “fix,” revealing himself to be a “Hispanic” senator first and a a Florida senator second. Now it seems like he’s a “Cuban” senator first and everything else second.

Following the announcement Wednesday that the U.S. would end its 50-year policy of isolation toward the communist island, Mr. Rubio held a press conference and blasted the president for opening travel and business ties with Cuba in light of the nation’s dismal human-rights record.

Mr. Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also hinted he may look to block funding for an American embassy in Havana and could hold up the appointment of an ambassador.

That would be a huge mistake. The passions over Cuba have long since cooled, except among the expatriate Cuban community in Florida. Castro will soon be dead. Cuba will become neither a greater nor lesser basket case than any other country in Latin America with the exception of sterling little Costa Rica. Life will go on. And Marco Rubio will never become president.


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In Holland, It’s Back to Court for Geert Wilders

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Are Moroccans a “race”? To a still guilt-ridden Europe, which has decided to atone for the Holocaust by committing cultural suicide, it looks like the answer is yes:

 Dutch far-right populist lawmaker Geert Wilders is be tried for inciting racial hatred after pledging in March to ensure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in the Netherlands, prosecutors said Thursday. ’The public prosecutor in The Hague is to prosecute Geert Wilders on charges of insulting a group of people based on race and incitement to discrimination and hatred,’ prosecutors said in a statement.

‘Politicians may go far in their statements, that’s part of freedom of expression, but this freedom is limited by the prohibition of discrimination,’ it said, adding that no date had yet been set for the trial.

What did the conservative Dutch politician say now, you wonder?

The case centres on comments Wilders made at a March 19 rally after local elections. He asked his followers whether they wanted ‘fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’

When the crowd shouted ‘Fewer! Fewer!’ a smiling Wilders answered: ‘We’re going to organise that.’ In a later TV interview, he referred to ‘Moroccan scum’. The remark led to 6,400 legal complaints being lodged across the Netherlands, and criticism was even voiced within Wilders’s own Party for Freedom.

Remember, that in the brave new egalitarian world the Left is making, “countries” are just a legal fiction and (in this case) Dutchmen are those holding a passport issued by the Netherlands; in other words, it’s all one big bureaucracy. Meanwhile, in Sweden:

 Sweden has led the way in European immigration, and Muslim immigration in particular. Some 20 percent of Sweden’s 9.5 million people are immigrants or the children of immigrants: the highest figure in Europe. Most European states were until recently monocultural. They have trouble assimilating immigrants, especially rural Muslims who wish to keep their cultural and religious identity. Sweden has applied the noblest of ideals—shelter to the oppressed—with the narrowness of mind that can happen when you live in a small society on the quiet side of the Baltic. The state has failed to assimilate its immigrants. Ordinary Swedes, both indigenous and immigrant, have paid the social cost. In a May 2014 poll, 44 percent of respond-ents wanted the new government to reduce immigration.

Last week, the comments sections of Swedish press websites abounded in conversions from both left and right. All said the same thing: Mass immigration has dissolved Sweden’s social cohesion and overburdened the welfare system. The established parties are too cowardly or corrupt to stop the rot… If Sweden leads the way, Europe’s political future is grim: a governing class unwilling to acknowledge a systemic failure of democracy, a populist backlash against immigration and the EU superstate, and deep hostility between an aging indigenous population and a fertile immigrant one. This is bad for Sweden and bad for Europe. And a weak, introverted, and increasingly extremist Europe is bad for the United States, too.

Remember, they’re not “immigrants,” they’re invaders. Is it too late for Europe to understand the difference?


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Obamacare Tax Rules a Boon for Preparers

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Tax preparation for the average American is going to be a lot more complicated this year as Obamacare penalties will be assessed for those who fail to purchase government-approved insurance.

Taxpayers have until February 15 to buy an approved insurance plan. Failure to do so will result in a fine being assessed of $325 or 2% of your income, whichever is greater.

Both insurance companies and tax preparation outfits are playing up the fines for non-insurance as a marketing tool. Companies like H&R Block and Jackson-Hewitt are inviting tax payers to pay them a visit to ensure they are in compliance with IRS regs.

The Hill:

Part of the pitch is helping consumers avoid the mandate through an exemption if they are eligible.

A variety of hardship qualifications makes this route possible for many people, including those who experienced the death of a close relative, had their previous health plan canceled or saw an increase in necessary expenses due to caring for an aging family member.

“There are a lot of people who will qualify for an exemption,” said Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson. “If a company can save someone the 2 percent fine on $50,000 of income, that is significant.”

Firms are also offering to help current enrollees understand how changes in income can affect their tax credits to buy coverage. In some cases, they can also help the uninsured select health plans.

In promotional materials, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service say they can provide consumers relief, arguing that healthcare reform is making tax planning more difficult.

“The ACA [Affordable Care Act] has changed the landscape of both healthcare and tax,” H&R Block states online, inviting consumers to calculate their mandate penalty or receive a “tax impact analysis” when they become a client.

Jackson Hewitt urges consumers to stop by one of its locations, promising that their employees “work harder to keep up with the latest tax law changes to protect you from possible penalties — not everyone else does.”

The marketing around the healthcare law is taking flight at a time when surveys show the public remains deeply confused about the mandate.

Almost half of U.S. adults are unaware they must report their health insurance status on their 2014 tax returns, according to a TurboTax survey released earlier this month.

And while about three in five uninsured people know the law penalizes people without coverage, nearly 90 percent do not realize the 2014 deadline has already passed.

As a result, experts are urging insurers and the federal government to do more to emphasize the mandate this enrollment period.

Some Americans are going to get a nasty surprise when they realize what exactly the individual mandate means. It’s relatively simple if you have insurance through your employer. But if you buy insurance on the open market, here are 13 pages of instructions that tell you how to fill out IRS Form 8965. (PDF)

Of course, most taxpayers won’t even attempt it, which is where the boon for tax prep companies is going to be huge. Complexity in this case is not a bug; it’s a feature.

But there’s a dirty little secret that the IRS doesn’t want you to find out. They won’t have a clue if your insurance plan is in compliance with the law or not:

Call it confusion over what to call the law – “Obamacare,” the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the “Affordable Care Act,” the “PPACA,” or the “ACA.” Or a technical glitch. Or insufficient funding to write the program. But for whatever reason, the IRS has absolutely no way of verifying whose insurance coverage did not qualify under the law and who pays the penalty.

With just under 25 million people enrolling in the federal and state health exchanges (including Medicare and Medicaid recipients), plus the estimated 150 million who have employer-paid health care plans, there are still some 62 million people who would have to pay a penalty but likely will not. For those who do the math the IRS apparently did not, that’s a potential loss of nearly $6 billion in revenue – potentially out-pacing the EITC fraud everyone is so enraged over.

But wait, it gets worse. Some 3.6 million more people were laid off during the year and lost their health benefits – becoming liable for some or all of the penalty for the months they were not covered. Call that another billion and a half dollars.

And even worse. Those who successfully did enroll in Obamacare and received a premium credit must repay the overage if the IRS finds that the customer’s 2014 income increased over the 2012 income used as a benchmark. That’s the theory, but with the start of tax season mere weeks away there is no mechanism to make that comparison. The final rules say there will be income comparisons, but who will do this?

And worse yet. Those who do not meet the “essential minimum coverage” threshold for individuals can still avoid paying the penalty if they meet one of the dozen or so exemptions, which seem to be granted to any person who breathes air, or has a life crisis like missing a utility bill payment, or having a family member becomes ill or even a family pet with a flea problem. It really doesn’t matter, because there is no place to report either the coverage status or the exemption if you are not already enrolled in a qualified program. Those are supposed to be covered under rules that the IRS has not yet drafted.

This is a clusterfark waiting to happen. Literally millions of Americans have no idea the piano that is about to be dropped on their heads. Of course, for many of them, it’s their own fault for not paying attention to what’s going on in the country. You would think that by this time, Obamacare would hold no surprises for an informed citizenry.

But an “informed citizenry” is a relative term these days, so millions won’t see the piano. Meanwhile, H&R Block and their fellow tax preparation companies are leading the way in Obama’s economic recovery, generating wealth (their own) and creating jobs.

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Putin: Economy in Tank Not Because of Sanctions, But Because the Bear Won’t ‘Hang on the Wall’

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In a three-hour press conference today, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked if the country’s current economic troubles have anything to do with international penalties for the invasion of Ukraine.

“No. This is not the price we have to pay for Crimea… This is actually the price we have to pay for our natural aspiration to preserve ourselves as a nation, as a civilisation, as a state. And here is why,” Putin began.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia opened itself to our partners. What did we see? A direct and fully-fledged support of terrorism in North Caucasus. They directly supported terrorism, you understand? Is that what partners usually do? I won’t go into details on that, but this is an established fact. And everyone knows it,” he said.

“On any issue, no matter what we do, we always run into challenges, objections and opposition. Let me remind you about the preparations for the 2014 Olympics, our inspiration and enthusiasm to organise a festive event not only for Russian sports fans, but for sports fans all over the world. However, and this is an evident truth, unprecedented and clearly orchestrated attempts were made to discredit our efforts to organise and host the Olympics. This is an undeniable fact! Who needs to do so and for what reason? And so on and so forth.”

Putin compared Russian policy to “a bear protecting his taiga.”

“You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be!” he said.

“Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.”

In a pointed reference to the Siberian autonomy movement, which has picked up steam this year, Putin added that he’s heard “even from high-level officials that it is unfair that the whole of Siberia with its immense resources belongs to Russia in its entirety. Why exactly is it unfair? So it is fair to snatch Texas from Mexico but it is unfair that we are working on our own land – no, we have to share.”

“And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all,” he said. “So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. That is what we should all realize.”

Despite sanctions, Putin stressed, “we must decide whether we want to keep going and fight, change our economy – for the better, by the way, because we can use the current situation to our own advantage – and be more independent, go through all this or we want our skin to hang on the wall.”

“This is the choice we need to make and it has nothing to do with Crimea at all.”

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No to Tony Soprano in 2016?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Make that no Chris Christie in 2016, according to a recent poll:

A majority of voters in a poll out today say they couldn’t support Gov. Chris Christie for president. The NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey shows 53 percent of registered voters saying they couldn’t back Christie, while 27 percent said they could. The poll also found Christie faring worse than other potential GOP candidates among Republican voters more than a year before the first presidential primaries.

Other duds include also-also-ran flop Mitt Romney (60 percent disapproval) and snoozemeister scion Jeb Bush (57 percent); both had higher negative numbers than Christie, but slightly higher positive numbers as well. Illustrating the delusional fantasy land in which dwells the Establishment GOP, these figures are interesting:

Christie also was in negative territory among Republican voters, with 43 percent opposing him and 40 percent supporting him. By comparison, GOP voters said they could support Romney, 63 percent to 33 percent; Bush, 55 percent to 34 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 47 percent to 39 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 47 percent to 34 percent.

When you’re losing to Huckabee and Rand Paul among the home crowd, you know you’re in trouble. But how about that Mitt stat — 63 percent said they could support the man who lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy, a nomination race to John McCain and a presidential election to Barack Hussein Obama? Wow.

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VIDEO: Eric Holder Says Race Relations ‘In a Better Place’ After His Tenure

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

This is a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general:

That was a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general.


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[Video] The Day of the Cyborg Has Arrived

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Hat tip to Huffpost Tech

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Jeh Johnson’s Short Memory: ‘We Do Not Attempt To Restrain’ Speech

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

Just a short while ago, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson brought up the 2006 movie Death of a President, a classic example of the leftist “it’s intellectual when we do it” impulse, which fictionalized what might happen following the assassination of George W. Bush. The film received praise from the expected quarters, which hailed it as some sort of envelope-pushing edgy discourse, and not at all an example of subjective morality and ideology.

But Johnson just used it this morning during an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell — he seems to have arrived prepared with Death of a President to use as an analogy — as an overarching example of how speech is tolerated in this country as compared to how Sony has been threatened for its speech that denigrates the DPRK. Said Johnson:

I was offended by the movie, but people in this country have the right to produce all sorts of different accounts of things that we do not attempt to restrain in any way.


Yes, “all sorts,” but not all sorts.

Here’s a link to Glenn Woods, father of hero Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, murdered in Benghazi, claiming that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told him she “would make sure the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” That film, the one which offended the 23 or so Muslims who had actually seen it at the time of Woods’ murder. The making of the film itself was a violation of the filmmaker’s parole, but Clinton was not aware of the filmmaker’s identity at the time of her statement to Glenn Woods. She simply happened to find certain speech to be actionable, in opposition to the Constitution and to Jeh Johnson’s statement today.

Clinton had no such prosecutorial tendencies about Death of a President.

And she followed through, too:


As did Lois Lerner, and those who targeted Sharyl Attkisson.

And those who, under the supervision and direction of Johnson’s DHS, censor counterterrorist training material that challenges Islam, to the detriment of our security.

Johnson is credibly referring to the First Amendment, but not to his administration. I am terribly bothered by representatives of this administration who refer to America as they administer it to be representative of America as codified by law. Had Sony produced a film depicting the assassination of President Obama — or at the very least, a film offending the sensibilities of Muslims, or a film championing the Tea Party — this administration has a track record of taking deliberate, severe, illegal actions to restrain speech.

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Democrat PA Legislators Indicted for Voter ID Bribes

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

Two Philadelphia-area Democrat state legislators have been indicted for accepting bribes in exchange for opposition to photo voter identification legislation. Pennsylvania state Rep. Ron Waters (D) was charged for allegedly accepting a $8,750 bribe to oppose the voter ID bill.  Gifts from Tiffany Jewelry were also offered to the legislators to oppose voter ID bills.

State Rep. Vanessa Brown (D) of Philadelphia was also charged with criminal conspiracy, bribery in official and political matters, conflict of interest and failing to make required disclosures on statements of financial interest.

Rep. Brown (D)

Rep. Brown (D)

PJ Media aggressively called for the indictment of these Democrat legislators when it was revealed that they accepted bribes to oppose voter identification legislation. The Democrat attorney general of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Kane, refused to proceed, saying that the case lacked merit. The Philadelphia district attorney, however, took on the case and indicted the legislators today.  The United States Department of Justice has conducted public corruption investigations against Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) and Republicans in the South Carolina Legislature.  No federal investigation, however, seems to have been conducted involving the acceptance of bribes to oppose voter identification legislation.

Rep. Waters (D)

Rep. Waters (D)

You might also like at PJ Media: 

Why Liberals Really, Really Hate Us

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Civil Rights Group Wants Amy Pascal Fired from Sony

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by The Tatler

The civil rights group ColorOfChange has started a petition urging Sony Pictures to fire co-chairman Amy Pascal.

In question are several emails that were hacked and leaked to the public, showing Pascal and Scott Rudin, a producer, joking about what “black” movies they should talk about with President Obama.

“Pascal’s comments are confirmation of the manipulative, exploitative relationship corporations like Sony have with Black folks” the petition reads. “Our genius, our cultural products, and our $1.1 trillion in buying power are not given the respect they deserve, regardless of the massive sums of money they result in for people like Amy Pascal.”

“We must hold Pascal accountable here; not just for her horrendous comments, but also for her role at the helm of a corporate agenda that views Black America as one big, lucrative joke,” reads the ColorOfChange letter.

Pascal has apologized for the comments in her leaked email:

“The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,” Pascal said in her apology. “Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”

Here is a copy of the petition:

Dear Sony Pictures Entertainment,

Amy Pascal’s recently-unearthed, racially-charged email exchanges are completely unacceptable.

Her comments which included speculation about President Obama’s taste in films (“Django,” “12 years,” “Or the butler. Or think like a man?,” “Ride Along. I bet he likes Kevin Hart.”) as well as the assertion that TV deals are “the new Black baby” in Hollywood seem to confirm a manipulative, exploitative relationship corporations like Sony have with Black folks.

With so many incredible Black entertainers contributing their time and talents to Sony pictures and Black audiences giving millions of their hard-earned money to your films as well Pascal’s behavior is a truly intolerable slap in the face. 

We demand Amy Pascal be fired from Sony Pictures Entertainment immediately.



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Schumer, Graham to Kerry: Don’t Throw Israel Under the Bus at Security Council

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry received a bipartisan request to stand with Israel and veto any United Nations Security Council resolution that imposes a “solution” on the Jewish state.

The Palestinians have drafted a resolution declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”

“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”

The draft was submitted to the Security Council on Wednesday by Jordan.

“We write to express concern about ongoing efforts to impose the terms of a peace agreement on our friend and ally Israel outside of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote to Kerry. “We urge you to make clear that the United States will veto any United Nations resolution and would oppose any efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council and other international bodies.”

“For decades, the United States has consistently opposed efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council,” the letter continues. “As President Obama said to the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, ‘I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades… Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations… Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them; on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.’”

“We strongly agree with this sentiment.  Yet there are multiple efforts in the United Nations Security Council to set parameters for final status negotiations, effectively imposing terms on our ally Israel in matters that are vital to its security and national interests.”

Graham and Schumer “strongly” urged Kerry “to make clear to all parties that the United States strongly opposes, and if need be will veto, any effort to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations.”

“A failure to decisively announce that we will veto any resolution from the United Nations that dictates the peace process runs counter to decades of American foreign policy and only gives momentum to these counterproductive proposals,” the senators added. “We thank you for your continued dedication to this issue and we look forward to supporting our government’s efforts to bring both parties back to the negotiating table without preconditions.”

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House Chairman Warns of North Korea Hacking Infrastructure Such as Energy Grid

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman warned that there’s a lot more at risk from North Korea’s demonstrated hacking prowess than a movie.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Bureau 121, North Korea’s elite hacking unit, “obviously was involved” in the Sony hacking and threats that led the studio to pull The Interview.

“But we have to remember, Wolf, they’re also good at hacking into infrastructure. The energy grid — I mean there is a lot of infrastructure at risk here. One of the things we did do in Congress, you know, just in the last 24 hours, Congress finally got out those last four cyber cyber security pieces of legislation,” Royce told CNN.

“Now I hope we move instantly to protecting the grid. But secondarily, I hope we take a look again at what we could do to keep North Korea out of the financial system, by passing the types of sanctions we once slapped on them, which almost imploded the regime. We should look at that.”

While still awaiting a “formal announcement” of guilt by the U.S. government, Royce said, “it’s very clear that North Korea did this.”

“And it’s also very clear that North Korea has used its hackers to penetrate or to attempt to get information about our energy grid and other targets in the US,” he added.

“There’s two things I’m worried about. The first is North Korea targeting our energy grid. And second, North Korea finally managing to get that nuclear weapon which they have onto the cone, which they’ve been testing, of a three stage ICBM missile, and obtain that delivery capability.”

In October, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea told reporters at the Pentagon that Kim Jong-un is concentrating on a better developed cyber-warfare program, which “we need to protect ourselves against and be concerned about.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti also said he suspects Pyongyang is at the point of capability to build and deliver a warhead.

Royce believes the threat of another 9/11, made against the movie’s premiere and theaters showing the film, came from North Korea.

“On top of it, not too long ago, maybe a year or so ago, North Korea released an official document, or it was a VCR that they put together in which they showed a missile coming in and hitting Washington, D.C., and the Capitol blowing up. And they put that out on the Net. And that was done by North Korea as a form of a threat,” he said.

“Up until now, a lot of it’s been propaganda. But the fact that they’re issuing these threats now, and the fact that they’re moving forward with their weapons program to try to deliver ICBM capability, you know, with a nuclear warhead in the cone, this really takes it to a new level in terms of dealing with the Kim family in North Korea.”

The chairman said sanctions should be levied against financial institutions doing business with North Korea, which has choked the regime in the past.

“My suggestion is that we do exactly what we did when Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury, found North Korea counterfeiting $100 bills. And at that point, he sanctioned the financial banks that were doing business with North Korea,” Royce said. “Within a matter of weeks, the North Koreans — within six weeks, could no longer pay their generals. They had to shut down, shortly after that, their weapons programs, their missile program, because they couldn’t buy parts. They didn’t have the hard currency. And a dictator needs hard currency to stay in power.”

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Sessions Gives Up Challenge for Senate Budget Committee Gavel

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In a Senate chairman race billed as Tea Party conservative vs. GOP establishment, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) backed out and will let Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) have the gavel.

Sessions has been ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee for four years, and wanted to challenge the senior Enzi for the chairmanship in the 114th Congress.

In a statement yesterday, Sessions said he and Enzi, who both came to the Senate 18 years ago, “will long remain good and close friends.”

“We have talked and I am deferring to his seniority so that he can lead the Budget Committee as its Chairman beginning in 2015. Mike graciously deferred to me two years ago after he timed out on HELP as Ranking Member, and it has been my enormous privilege to serve as the panel’s Ranking Member these last four years, as well as to serve as the Judiciary Ranking Member for the two years before that,” Sessions said.

He pitched Enzi as “an accountant and a small businessman who understands the need to balance budgets and tell the truth about the numbers.”

“He is a man of integrity and principle, respected by all of his Senate colleagues. I am eager to assist him next year, and I hope to tackle the important issue of welfare reform,” Sessions added.

The Alabama Republican will serve on four committees come January: Armed Services, Budget, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary.

“My roles in the Senate will give me the opportunity to focus on important issues such as defense, national security, federal debt, EPA reform, crime, and immigration,” Sessions added. “Overall, I remain deeply concerned about falling wages and the lack of good jobs for Americans. Too many of our citizens are either stuck in place or falling behind, and too often their needs are forgotten. Our new GOP Congress must put the needs of Americans first.”

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Sessions has been “a tireless advocate for fiscal responsibility and pro-growth policies” on the Senate Budget Committee.

“I wish to congratulate Senator Enzi on his upcoming chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee,” Price said. “It will be an honor to work together as we address the tremendous fiscal and economic challenges facing our nation in a way that can achieve real, positive results for the American people.”

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A Very Kerry Christmas: On Visions of Sugar Plums in Vietnam

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry tried to cheer up family members of foreign service officers posted alone abroad with a tale from the Vietnam War.

The State Department hosted the officers’ families for holiday reception yesterday. Kerry noted that there’s been a 350 percent jump in the number of FSOs who have to serve in unaccompanied posts — leaving family behind for security reasons — since 9/11.

“And it obviously is a sad commentary on the challenges that we face in the world beyond our control, where countries are in turmoil, places are in transition,” Kerry said.

“…I want to emphasize that as we gather here for what is a celebration, a festive time, we do so mindful that in a lot of vital but troubled places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Yemen, South Sudan, Pakistan, where yesterday’s news was just horrendous, we have people who are working to carry the torch for America and for universal values that go with the presence of these committed public servants.”

Kerry stressed that he knows “personally” that “it is never easy when you are separated by thousands of miles and the office and the home are, in a sense, divided, and employee from family, and it’s complicated.”

“Obviously, this holiday season, a lot of you are yearning for the idea of being together with your loved ones, and we understand that. There are going to be empty seats at a dinner table, which is hard to deal with. There are fewer hands to decorate a tree or more packages that get lugged to the post office instead of being handed over personally. We understand every aspect of what it means to be here, part of this family, this particular family within the family,” he said.

Which led to his personal anecdote:

And I know sometimes there’s tension, anxious moments, even tears. Skype has a lot of benefits, but hugging ain’t one of them. So I’ll just share with you, 46 years ago — my staff tells me it was 46 years ago — it was 1968, that I remember — 1968, Christmas, I was in a river in Vietnam up in — near the Co Chien River, for anybody who knows what that means. And I was on a patrol boat. We were out there alone at night. The tracers were flying in the sky, the flares were dropping, sounds of eruptions of machine gun fire and other things here and there, and it was Christmas Eve. And there was supposed to be a truce, but the truce was broken. And I remember thinking how absurd that was, but it was life. And I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, went up and sat on the top of the roof of the boat, and just sat there. And frankly, I had visions of, really, sugar plums, chestnuts, New England in the snow. But what I learned was that the family of people around you make up for a lot. And I also learned that nothing ever makes up for the meaning of the quality of that service, of being able to be there for your country and make a difference.

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Carter: Rubio ‘Absolutely Ridiculous’ for Criticizing ‘Very Courageous’ Obama

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Former President Carter said he’s recently visited Raul and Fidel Castro, and thinks “normal diplomatic relations will be very good” with the dictator brothers.

“When I was a president, as you just mentioned, we started the diplomatic relations process and we established major intersections in both Havana and also in Washington. The last time I was Cuba, just two or three years ago, we had over 300 diplomats serving in the intersection in Havana. And that will continue, I think, no matter what happens,” Carter told CNN.

He added that he hopes Congress ”will go ahead and remove the embargo, all the sanctions, because that doesn’t hurt the Castro brothers.”

“It just hurts the people of Cuba, about 11 million of them, who had to suffer because of our own imposed economic sanctions,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has vowed that in the GOP majority Congress the embargo will stand.

Carter called President Obama’s unilateral actions “a major step forward to bring about more freedom and more democracy and more respect for human rights in Cuba as well.”

“In a country where we impose sanctions, it’s almost impossible to imagine that the dictators themselves or their immediate staff or their top friends are going to be suffering economically. They’ve got all they want,” the former president said.

“I’ve been to the home of both Raul Castro and also Fidel Castro in the last few years and they’re not suffering at all. But the 11 million people of Cuba suffer. We have a lot of farmers in Georgia who have been going down to Cuba under very tight restrictions to sell corn and chickens and other things to the Cuban people.”

He maintained that Obama’s actions “will help American farmers” along with “the average Cuban.”

“And it will also lead towards better respect for human rights, in my opinion, as we have a flood of American citizens going and letting Cuban people know what democracy really means,” Carter continued.

He called Rubio’s criticism of Obama’s policy “absolutely ridiculous” with “no rational or logic to what he had to say.”

“This is a very wise and very courageous thing for President Obama to do. And in my opinion, is long overdue. In my time in the White House, we would have had diplomatic relationships then, if they build on the enormous diplomatic staff, we have maintained ever since 1979 in Havana and in Washington,” Carter said.

“But people in Cuba still really respect and revere almost Fidel Castro. But there’s no doubt that under Raul’s presidency, there have been a lot of openness and reforms implemented in Cuba, particularly, economic in nature. A lot of things are permitted in Cuba now that were not permitted as long as Fidel was in office. So I think with Raul, this is what he told me personally, and what he was told all the visitors is he’s looking for an opportunity to open up Cuba but very carefully step by step. I think that’s what we have to expect.”


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Poll: Majority of New Yorkers Want Protestors Off the Streets

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Liz Sheld

Quinnipiac has released new polling data showing that more than half (57%) of New York City voters want the protestors off the streets of their city. One-third say the protestors should be allowed to block traffic.

Despite the bad press recently, both locally with Eric Garner and nationally with Michael Brown, the police get high marks for the way they’ve been handling the disruptions. “Approval of police handling of demonstrators is 73 – 19 percent, with no group disapproving.”

Although the police get high marks for handling the protestors, 67% disapprove of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who allegedly choked Eric Garner to death.  Staten Island voters, however, are evenly split with a 44/46 breakdown.

“In the Eric Garner case, New Yorkers agree with the protestors, but they don’t agree with their tactics,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.

“The Staten Island grand jury got it wrong, New Yorkers say more than 2-1, white and black alike, and they think the feds should go after the police officer. In deploring the grand jury decision, black and white voters agree – blacks overwhelmingly. There’s a big racial split over asking the feds to act; black voters are all for it; white voters are split.

“But we don’t want the protestors to block the streets. Should you express your disagreement by tying up traffic for other people? Most white voters don’t think so. Black voters are more ambivalent.”

A really frightening number revealed in the poll is that 51% say police should stop someone “selling loose cigarettes illegally on a street corner in your neighborhood… even if it means arresting that person.” And even worse, 57% say the police should use “whatever amount of force is necessary” to arrest someone who is resisting.

We shouldn’t enact any law the public is not prepared to use force to impose and isn’t prepared to kill a citizen for breaking. One would hope people would support fewer laws because of this risk, but apparently not.

And along these lines, the poll reveals a bizarre contradiction. Three-quarters of New Yorkers say police brutality is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem and 64% say police are tougher on blacks. So how can one support an environment that enacts idiot laws that should be enforced with “whatever force is necessary” yet believe there is a problem with the way police interact with citizens? The solution is to have fewer laws and to create fewer occasions where people interact with the police. Total cognitive dissonance from the public on this.

Perhaps some of this disconnect comes from the media’s portrayal of these police encounters.  New York voters view police as tougher on blacks…just not in their own neighborhoods. “Almost everyone agrees that cops are tougher on blacks than on whites, except for cops in their own neighborhood,” Carroll said.

From December 10 – 16, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,374 New York City voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.



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Obama To-Do: Normalize Relations First, Find Out if Cuba Still Sponsors Terror Later

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

This morning I read President Obama’s to-do list under the “normalize relations with Cuba” project.

I’m a big to-do list guy. I have an app on my computer and smartphone to list tasks by project, create dependent sub-tasks, prioritize, and track accomplishment. The sub-task and prioritize features are great, because they help me not just to get things done, but to get them done in a logical sequence. Often, that means completing prerequisite tasks before attempting dependent ones.

Near the bottom of the official White House task list for Cuba Normalizar, we find this:

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism —
The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism. Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.

Now this comes after setting up a new embassy, facilitating travel to-and-from for certain people, opening up financial pipelines, and helping 95 percent of Cubans get on the Internet.

So, just as you’re thinking, “Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1961,” we find that we’re doing all of this for, and with, a nation we currently classify as a state sponsor of terrorism. Furthermore, we’re doing all of this BEFORE determining whether that classification still applies.

Of course, Secretary of State John Kerry and his staff will assiduously investigate all of the Cuban government’s potentially-suspicious international activities. And, no doubt, Cuba’s communist government will throw open the books on their clandestine affairs so we can fully vet where the money, weapons and ‘advisors’ go and what they do. If we discover that Cuba still sponsors terror, then the normalization deal is off, right Mr. President?

That has to happen, otherwise, President Obama has just committed the United States of America to linking arms with a communist dictatorship that, for all we know, is Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

Funny, you’d think that the CIA would already have a pretty good feel (in espionage jargon) for what Cuba is doing regarding international terrorism, but The Agency has been pretty busy lately, defending itself from attacks by Democrats in Congress and the White House. So, we’ll just have to wait six months and see what Kerry finds out.

Maybe it’s just me, but if I had a “Normalize Relations with Cuba” project in my to-do app, “Determine if they sponsor terrorism” would be the number one priority task, with all others dependent upon, and awaiting, the outcome of its accomplishment.

Normalize relations with Cuba to-do list

President Obama’s to-do list for normalizing relations with Cuba.

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Man Dressed as Santa Claus Robs CA Bank

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by The Tatler

A man in a red suit with a white beard robbed a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco during the SantaCon party last weekend.

CBS San Francisco reports that a man dressed as Santa Claus approached the teller Saturday afternoon with a note demanding money.

The robber is described as 40-50 years old and about 5ft 11 inches. No word if he had elves or reindeer with him.

The devious Claus slipped into the streets filled with other merry Santas celebrating at the SantaCon party.

“The suspect decided to take advantage of this event dressed as a Santa,” said SFPD spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan.


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TX Movie Theater Will Show Team America Instead of The Interview

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by The Tatler

The Alamo Draft House in Texas will show Team America: World Police now that the “controversial” movie The Interview has been pulled from theaters.

But instead the theater will host a huge Team America: World Police party on December 27.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about an American attack on North Korea and the late Kim Jung-Il. And it’s told with puppets.

Watch the trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

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Psaki: Kim Jong-un Comedy Totally Different from Mohammed Film Slammed by State Dept.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sony Pictures officially decided not to release The Interview on Dec. 25 as planned, citing the major theater chains that refused to show the movie after hackers made 9/11-style threats against screenings.

“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” the Sony statement said.

“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

The Associated Press reported moments ago that federal investigators have connected the hacking to North Korea.

At the State Department earlier today, Jen Psaki said department officials did meet with studio executives during production, as revealed in leaked emails, but disputed reports that they OK’d the picture. “We’re not in the business of signing off on content of movies or things along those lines,” she said.

“I can confirm for you that [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel] Russel did have a conversation with Sony executives, as he does routinely with a wide range of private groups and individuals, to discuss foreign policy in Asia,” Psaki said. “[Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues] Bob King, contrary to reports, did not view the movie and did not have any contact directly with Sony.”

“As we have — as we’ve noted before, entertainers are free to make movies of their choosing, and we are not involved in that,” she added.

Psaki said she wouldn’t compare the comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un to the Mohammed film initially blamed for the Benghazi attack, a movie heavily criticized by the State Department.

“I would not put them in the same category, which I’m sure does not surprise you,” Psaki said. “We don’t have — it’s a fiction movie. It’s not a documentary about our relationship with the United — with North Korea. It’s not something we backed, supported or necessarily have an opinion on from here.”

After violent reactions to Innocence of Muslims in 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

“We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of other,” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said back then.

While being asked questions about unilateral changes in Cuba policy today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest if they would relax sanctions on North Korea under the same theory.

“That if you open it up, that you put more pressure on them, maybe they’ll change their behavior?” a reporter asked.

“No. OK,” Earnest bluntly responded, drawing laughter.






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Studio Folds, Pulls ‘Interview’ – Norks Win, Sony ‘Saddened’

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

So there you have it:

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.” In announcing the decision to cancel the holiday debut, Sony hit back at the hackers who threatened movie theaters and moviegoers and who have terrorized the studio and its employees for weeks.

“Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,” the statement reads. “We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” it continues. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

That’s telling ‘em! Sony is ”saddened,” the way you might be at the death of a puppy. And they’re “standing by” the filmmakers, although there is that little matter of canceling the movie’s Christmas  opening.

Meanwhile, in other totally unsurprising news, CNN is reporting that, how about that, North Korea really is behind the cyber attack (which as Newt Gingrich notes, the U.S. just came out on the short end of):

The U.S. government is set to name North Korea as the source of the damaging cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to CNN Justice reporter Evan Perez. Anchor Wolf Blitzer announced the news break during a broadcast of The Situation Room. A news chyron on the cable channel read: “Sources: North Korean Leaders Ordered Attack On Sony.”

Following theater chains decision not to screen the film, Sony canceled the release of the North Korea themed assassination comedy on Wednesday.

Not that the U.S. is going to do anything about it, of course. About all that’s left to do now is await the inevitable regime change in Culver City,


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Ban Everything: Squirrels And Beavers Bigger Global Warming Culprits Than Previously Assumed

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

The science is something.

Rodents such as squirrels and beavers are contributing far more to global warming than previously thought, forcing climate scientists to alter the models they use to chart how the world is warming up.

Arctic ground squirrels churn up and warm soil in the Tundra, releasing carbon dioxide, while methane released by beavers contributes 200 times more methane than they did 100 years ago, according to scientists from the American Geophysical Union.

Faeces and urine produced by rodents are speeding up the release of carbon from the permafrost, the vast store of greenhouses spanning the Arctic Circle, researchers found.

Dr Sue Natali, from the AGU, said “We know wildlife impacts vegetation, and we know vegetation impacts thaw and soil carbon.

“It certainly has a bigger impact than we’ve considered and it’s something we will be considering more and more going into the future.”

It is probably a safe bet to say that there are a lot of factors like this that the AGW witch hunters have overlooked when developing computer models. After all, Fuzzy McBeaverton isn’t exactly the face of climate change that is going to sell the public on the tripling of their utility bills, is it?

This also serves to illustrate just how dangerous it can be to legislate based on computer models about climate change when the accuracy of those models depend entirely on the data used to create them.

If you’re wondering whether the data might be “massaged” a bit to have a given model allow its creator adhere to Climate Church orthodoxy, the answer is: definitely.

There’s big money in Big Green.

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Highlights from Longest-Serving Congressman Dingell’s Holiday Jingle

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

This month the House said goodbye to the last World War II veterans serving in Congress: Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the retiring longest serving member of Congress in history, and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), who was defeated in his primary.

Dingell, 88, and Hall, 91, served a combined 46 terms, or 92 years, in the House.

Dingell decided to say farewell with a 2014 Holiday Jingle (the whole poem is on BuzzFeed):

‘Twas just days before Dems lost control of the Senate
Handing over the reins to whoever’s left in it.
But amidst all the partisan clanking and clatter
Thought I’d write you a poem and highlight a few matters
Looking back on my career and the year in reflection
For I’m hanging it up, after 30 elections.

… From Gruber to Ebola, I’ve survived this year’s banter.
Think the Tea Party’s dead? You should ask my friend Cantor.
Cruz’s latest ploy backfired, ushering through nominations
Like a new Surgeon General, and a head of immigration
Made our Cabinet stronger, reaffirmed our world power
If Ash Carter doesn’t work, well there’s always Tim Howard

…So the election’s now upon us, and amidst all the hintin’
There’ll be a line of new choices [and a Bush, and a Clinton]
As folks “actively explore,” and throw their hats in the ring
We must look at their records, and the experience they bring
As for me, I’ve never been one to create a big scene
So Happy Holidays to all, DINGELL 2016!

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No Truer Words: Gross Calls Himself ‘A Trusting Fool’

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas:

Alan Gross has called himself a “trusting fool” for going to Cuba in the first place… His wife, Judy Gross, has called him a humanitarian and an idealist, someone who was “probably naïve” and did not realize the risks of going to Cuba as a subcontractor for the federal government’s U.S. Agency for International Development.

Gross was arrested in 2009 while working in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions and monitoring. Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government. Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Yeah, well, no wonder the Cubans thought he was a spy:

In court in Cuba, Gross called himself a “trusting fool” who never meant any harm to the Cuban government. But reports he wrote about his work showed he knew it was dangerous.

“This is very risky business in no uncertain terms,” he wrote in one report. A 2012 investigation by The Associated Press found he was using sensitive technology typically available only to governments.

Hmmm… remind us again who those Cuban prisoners are?

The three Cubans released in exchange for Gross are part of the so-called Cuban Five — a group of men who were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. Two of the Cuban Five were previously released after finishing their sentences.


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Leadership: Sen. Wyden (D) Objects to Halting Welfare-For-Weed Loophole

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

On Wednesday, Senator Ron Wyden (D) of Washington was having none of Sen. David Vitter’s (R) proposed amendment that would prevent your tax dollars from being spent in weed shops. Lean forward or something:

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Hamas: All Countries Should Follow EU Court Decision and Remove from Terror List

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The leader of Hamas in exile says the European Union General Court decision to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations should pave the way for countries to follow suit.

In a statement to Middle East Monitor, Khaled Mashal said the EU’s “past position was not based on objective facts.”

“In addition to this, it was in violation of and contradictory to international law as well as legal and humanitarian norms that guarantee the right of nations to resist occupation. It would be in the European Union’s best interest to align itself with international law and with legal and humanitarian norms and to refrain from violating these laws under the misguided pressure of Israel and its exploitation of the international community,” Mashal said.

The Hamas leader urged leaders of EU countries “to accept and cooperate with the decision of the Court and to take measures to make a brave political decision to remove Hamas from the European Union’s terrorist list in coordination with the Court’s decision and with the values of justice and law, as well as out of respect of the people’s will and their rights.”

“I also urge the leaders and governments in EU states to avoid stalling or wasting time by taking measures or making appeals attempting to circumvent international law and objective facts,” Mashal added. “I also hope that all international forces, including the United States, take the initiative and right the wrong that has been made in the past, which, as everyone knows, is a result of Israeli pressure and not a result of the facts on the ground.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that the U.S. is reviewing the court’s findings.

“According to a statement by the European Union, this decision was based on procedural grounds. We understand that the E.U. sanctions Hamas remain in effect pending the E.U.’s decision on whether to appeal,” Psaki said. “The U.S. position on has not changed; Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization.”

“Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity and has demonstrated its intentions during this summer’s conflicts with Israel. It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel,” Psaki continued.

“We will continue to work closely with the European Union on Hamas-related issues. We believe that the E.U. should maintain its terrorism sanctions on Hamas.”

Mashal said Hamas “continues to confine its legitimate resistance and struggle to Palestine and exercises this against the Israeli occupation.”

“This is a natural right for the movement and for all nations under foreign occupation and it is in accordance with our religious and international laws, just as the other nations in the East and the West resisted their occupying forces,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “not satisfied with the European Union’s explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations is a ‘technical matter.’”

“The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith given that it is understood by all that Hamas – a murderous terrorist organization, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal – is an inseparable part of this list,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight Hamas with strength and determination so that it never achieves this goal.”

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