February 15th, 2014
Press freedom in the United States has suffered “one of the most significant declines” in the last year after sacrificing information to national security, with the NSA surveillance scandal topping the list of wrongdoing.
That’s according to The World Press Freedom Index for 2014 from Reporters Without Borders (RWB), which put the US in 46th place out of 180 countries, a 13-place drop from last year.
This time American misdemeanors were in the report’s chapter on “Information sacrificed to national security and surveillance,” which says: “Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law” too often sacrifice the freedom of speech to “an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs.”
“Investigative journalism often suffers as a result” of a “disturbing retreat from democratic practices,” the RWB report said.
World’s best countries for press freedom*
9. New Zealand
World’s worst countries for press freedom*
171. Lao People’s Democratic Republic
173. Islamic republic of Iran
177. Syrian Arab Republic
179. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
*Source: Reporters Without Borders, The World Press Freedom Index for 2014.
The RWB recalled all recent major assaults on the freedom of press in the US, be it the conviction of US Army whistleblower Bradley (Chelsea) Manning or the manhunt for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations about pervasive worldwide surveillance conducted by the US intelligence’s made WikiLeaks publications of Manning’s files pale by comparison.
Another notorious attack on journalism mentioned by the RWB was the seizure of “thousands and thousands” of Associated Press phone calls by the US Justice Department, which was searching for a leak in the CIA.
The RWB recalled scandalous cases of freelance digital journalist Barrett Brown, who now faces 105 years in prison for sharing a link to stolen classified data, and New York Times reporter James Risen, who also faces a term in jail if he does not testify against CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.
Throughout 2013 a number of US journalists have been issued with subpoenas and pressured to reveal off-the-record sources they relied upon, which prompted some activists to call for a media shield law to protect journalists’ sources and thousands of internet-involved organizations to organize protest against massive electronic surveillance.
In 2012, the US fell even lower, to 47th position, after tumbling 27 positions – a result of a series of arrests of high-profile journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Freedom of speech in Britain, a close US ally, by comparison, was viewed as less restricted, with the country in 33rd place. The UK fell back three places after the exposure of deep collaboration between American and British security and intelligence services in suppressing the freedom of the press.
While UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) agency actually taught American NSA how to conduct online espionage, Britain has been evaluated quite mildly, only suffering a minor decline in the index. The only incident mentioned by the RWB was the detention of David Miranda, the partner of ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who revealed NSA spy programs.
Also, Glenn Greenwald’s revelations about UK and US mainstream media being “devoted servants” of the intelligence agencies seemingly have not affected the rating.
Meanwhile WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, with the freedom of information campaigner still being pursued by UK and Swedish justice.
In the 2014 RWB index, Russia was placed 148th, the same as in last year's ranking. Though praising "the resistance of civil society" in the country, the report still accuses Moscow of "using UN bodies and regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its efforts to undermine international standards on freedom of information."
February 14th, 2014
By Barry Secrest'
A 4.1 magnitude quake shook homes in Georgia and South Carolina, at 10:23 pm this evening, near Evans, Georgia.
The epicenter was officially measured at 7.45 miles West -Northwest of Edgefield, South Carolina, placing the quake very near the Georgia-South Carolina Border.
"It's a large quake for that area," said USGS geophysicist Dale Grant. "It was felt all over the place."
No damage has been reported as of yet, however, according to the website earthquaketrack.com, the quake was felt by over 2, 561 people thus far, as reports continue to come in from Western Georgia and South Carolina.
According to available data, the 2/14/14 quake is the strongest to have hit the region in over 25 years.
There have been over 9 earthquakes measured above magnitude 1.5 in Georgia over the past 12 months, while South Carolina has reported approximately 12 quakes over the past year.
February 13th, 2014
The Google warmers are indicating that the reason for the temperature drops are due to trade winds having driven all the warmth into the oceans....Apparently, our augmenting theory that UFO aliens had transported the warmth to Ceti Alpha 6, didn't go over very well...
Snow is on the ground in 49 out of the 50 states — only the Sunshine State of Florida is completely snow-free, according to a map produced Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
(This doesn't mean that those 49 states are snow-covered, of course, only that some part of each state has snow.)
Although this map doesn't show it, there is snow in Hawaii, where webcams are showing snow on the high peaks of the mountain volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
HAWAII SNOW: Webcam from peak of volcano
The map also doesn't include Alaska, but it's a given that most of that state is snow-covered this time of year. A quick check with the National Weather Service forecast office in Fairbanks found 19 inches of snow on the ground there.There doesn't appear to be much snow on the ground in Texas or Louisiana, and with the forecast of mild temperatures, it doesn't figure to last much longer there, if it even makes it through the day Thursday.
The map shows how sparse the snow is in parts of the West, as only small parts of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are showing snow because of the ongoing drought and warmth.
YOUR TAKE: Your storm photos shared with the nation
YOUR TAKE: Share your snow photos
How dry and warm has it been in the Southwest so far this winter? January 2014 was the driest January ever recorded in New Mexico, while Arizona had its second-driest January on record, according to data released Thursday by the National Climatic Data Center.
As for warmth, both Arizona and New Mexico, along with California, had a top-10 warm January.
February 13th, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO – A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California's concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for the majority.
Judge Sidney Thomas dissented, writing that the good cause requirement limited the number of people carrying concealed handguns in public to those legitimately in need.
"It limits the risk to public safety by reducing the number of guns in public circulation, but allows those who will most likely need to defend themselves in public to carry a handgun," Thomas wrote.
Awarding concealed weapon permits is the responsibility of each of California's 58 counties. Officials are required to follow the state rules requiring applicants to show good cause and moral character.
The San Francisco-based appeals court said those requirements were too strict and ran afoul of a 5-4 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and said law-abiding citizens are allowed to have handguns in their home for self-defense.
The appeals court on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit filed in 2009 by Edward Peruta, who challenged San Diego County's denial of a concealed weapons permit.
The ruling on Thursday also disagreed with three other federal appeals courts that have upheld permit rules similar to the one in California.
The U.S. Supreme Court often takes cases when federal appeals courts issue conflicting rulings.
February 13th, 2014
Talking Points Memo's DYLAN SCOTT
Vs Examiner's Barry Secrest
This post from TPM really caught our eye as we endeavor to completely burn down this particularly silly talking point memo, from Dylan Scott:
So, now we have Statist bureaucratic media stenographers trying to make the case for the White House's latest talking points on the "Greatness of Obamacare."
Scott: Republicans have had a field day with the Congressional Budget Officereport released this week, claiming it shows Obamacare will destroy the American work ethic and force people to rely on the government.
Secrest: Indeed, we have had a bit of a field day, however it's not exactly a news-shattering event to any of us with actual critical thinking skills.
Truly fascinating it is, that Dylan now refers to the CBO reports as "claiming" (when it does not fit with Progressive talking points) and most especially when the earlier CBO reports which promulgated Obamacare as a cost saving measure, were seen as Gospel by Dylan and his cohorts.
(But that was with a dataset which measured 4 years of increased taxes against no immediate Obamacare outlays, by the way, notwithstanding also the fact that this 2.3 million[ less jobs] number is probably low)
Scott: Never mind that reality is a bit more complicated than that. You could argue that the GOP should actually embrace the law because it could do the opposite: give Americans the freedom to start their own businesses.
Secrest: Reality? Dylan, my liberal friend, in your utopian haze, you Sir, would not recognize reality if it walked up to you and bit you in the arse, and then offered to bandage the blasted wound.
Dylan's world finds some form of bizarre reality in the fact that a business man or woman could now start a business because he or she has healthcare.
Dylan, probably not in the history of the world, has anyone ever started a business for the purposes of having, nor for the lack of having, health insurance, you blooming idiot.
Starting a business on the basis of the fact of whether one either has or doesn't have health insurance, would be akin to an individual's deciding to wash their car because lettuce sometimes grows healthily, in Siberia.
Scott: By offering people an alternative to employer-based insurance, the law could reduce what's known as "job lock," when people stay in a job largely because it's the only way they can get health coverage -- a goal that conservatives, too, have advocated for in the past.
Secrest: Aye, God....
Dylan, when one starts a business, one in effect becomes "an employer," with all the duties and respectivities associated with that title, including the ability to procure business health insurance, just like any other employer. Dutifully noted that this fact can easily escape someone who resides firmly with the clutches of Wonderland's blithe embrace.