Obama Sibling Gets Clobbered In Kenya Race, Most NYC Grads Can’t Read, Billy Bob Says SCOTUS Should Strike Down His DOMA, Obamacare Means IRS Can Pick And Choose Audits, Tax On Email To Prop Up USPS?, TSA Succeeds At Failing: Friday Morning News Roundup 3-8-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.


  • Abong’o Malik Obama — yes, the President’s paternal half-brother — got owned in newly established county elections held in Kenya this week. He finished third. Maybe he was too conservative.


  • Just graduate from a New York City public school? Good luck reading this post. College officials told CBS 2 in New York they had to remediate 80 percent of local graduates before they could begin college level work. Thank God for Pell Grants.


  • As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, none other than Bill Clinton has weighed in with a guest spot at The Washington Post. His message? Overturn the Act I signed in 1996 and allow same-sex marriage.


  • IRS, the Enforcer: The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act means at least 47 new Federal taxes to fund the mandates. So the Internal Revenue Service is preparing to expand its powers — something one inside official says it has no business doing — in order to start going after the biggest delinquent fish.


  • Another novel way to grab revenue for failing Federal programs: Put “a very tiny tax” on email and give the U.S. Postal Service the money. Jurisdiction, schmurisdiction. At least the idea hasn’t (yet) been circulated beyond the California city where a council member thought it up.


  • Watching the watchers: The Transportation Security Administration let an undercover inspector walk right through two airport screening checkpoints in New Jersey last month. He had a “bomb” down his pants that the pat-down fellas failed to catch.


Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.


Sign The White House Petition To Support Rand Paul On Drone Strikes — But First, Tell Them Who You Are

A new petition went up Wednesday on “We The People,” the White House website created by President Barack Obama as an ostensible direct conduit between individual Americans and the Oval Office.

The petition is a challenge to the President, requesting an answer to Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) call for clarity on whether the Commander In Chief can authorize drone strikes against U.S. citizens, without due process, on U.S. soil.

The petition has a goal of 100,000 signatures. As of Thursday afternoon, it had a long way to go.

One of the staffers here at Personal Liberty went to the page, intending to sign the petition, but was stopped dead in his tracks when he realized he’d first have to create a whitehouse.gov account and fill out an online form requiring his full name and a valid email address (with an optional field for ZIP code).

That’s a standing requirement; one that isn’t unique to the Paul petition. Some (certainly not all) petitioners may find that step innocuous enough, if they’re visiting the site to sign a petition calling for an end to Daylight Savings Time.

But there’s irony in requiring a handover even of basic personal information — information that offers a reasonable chance of revealing to the Executive Branch the way in which your identity and your views on public policy entwine — when the very topic under discussion essentially seeks an assurance from the President that he won’t violate the Constitution and have you killed.

Since its September 2011 launch, We The People has twice raised the 30-day signature threshold needed before the White House would acknowledge or respond to a petition. The threshold originally stood at 5,000 signatures but was raised to 25,000 within a month of launching. It was raised to 100,000 in January.

The Obama Administration, through Attorney General Eric Holder, did respond to Senator Paul Thursday in a snarky two-sentence letter, assuring him that “no,” the President doesn’t have “authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.” But at the time of this writing, the petition remained active.

A Porn-Free Europe? The EU Is Considering It

A Swedish member of the European Parliament blogged Wednesday that he’d be voting against a resolution that would call on 27 countries to legislate a ban on pornography across all media in the European Union.

The proposed resolution, the “Report on Eliminating Gender Stereotypes in the EU,” notes the pervasiveness of pornography throughout much of European commercial culture and “[c]alls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action” to begin enforcing a 1997 resolution that would place a “ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism.”

According to the proposal, the ban is necessary to protect both men and women from comfortably associating European women with social roles that are defined primarily by sex. It makes several presumptions about the extent to which that’s happening in its long laundry list of qualifiers:

…[w]hereas young women and men are most affected by pornography’s new cultural status; whereas the ‘mainstreaming of pornography’, i.e. the current cultural process whereby pornography is slipping into our everyday lives as an evermore universally accepted, often idealised, cultural element, manifests itself particularly clearly within youth culture: from teenage television and lifestyle magazines to music videos and commercials targeted at the young…

And so on.

Christian Engstrom, the Swedish delegate who’s among a handful opposed to the resolution, expects that it will pass when voted on next week. Even if it does, the resolution is a first-step “own initiative report” and won’t automatically become law across the EU. Rather, it paves the way for the parliament to develop a more technical, crafted piece of legislation at a later date — or, perhaps, to do nothing.

Engstrom explains:

[T]he purpose of these own initiative reports are [sic] to serve as the basis for the Commission when it decides to present legislative proposals to the parliament. If this own initiative report is adopted by the parliament, it will strengthen the Commission’s position if and when it wants to propose various ”self-regulation” schemes in the future.

Although I completely agree that eliminating outdated gender stereotypes in the EU is a worthwhile goal, I will be voting against this resolution next week.

We see the threat our current gun-grabbing President and Congressional leaders are mounting to the 2nd Amendment. The next time 1st Amendment issues flare up into a National controversy, whether porn or some other so-called gray area of “free speech” is at issue, will our elected leaders in Congress and the White House use the moment as an opportunity to further legislate the Bill of Rights into irrelevance?

Rand Paul’s Filibuster, Preserved For Posterity

Still can’t get enough Rand Paul (R-Ky.)?

An hour-by-hour transcript of all 13 hours of the Senator’s epic filibuster Wednesday is now available at his website’s press release page.

The unaffiliated Daily Paul website also links to the transcript, in an easier-to-access list. Each link includes both the text and video of the filibuster, which Paul himself described Thursday afternoon as evincing a “major victory for American civil liberties.”

Perhaps Paul’s filibuster will start a movement among young libertarians; perhaps some erudite young scholars are already studying every word, culling salient statements of principle for codification into an abridged version. Watching the filibuster unfold in real time lent that sort of historic, “something’s happening here” kind of feel to the proceedings.

Then again, maybe it will all be forgotten amid tomorrow’s tangle of headline-grabbing fights, gaffes and grandstanding on Capitol Hill.

If so, at least The Atlantic has already codified the filibuster’s high points into Cliff’s Notes — you know, for posterity.



Rand Masterstroke Moves Even Liberals To Damn Obama Drones; Al Gore And Al-Jazeera — A Sour Deal; Iowa School Plays Into President’s Sequestration Snare; North Korea Plans ‘Pre-emptive Nuclear Attack’ On America; IF The Superbug Doesn’t Get Us First: Thursday Morning News Roundup 3-7-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Rand Paul’s well-played filibuster Wednesday drew kudos from The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and had liberal actor John Cusack calling on Democrats to stand with the Republican Senator against President “regressive corporate warlord” Barack Obama.


  • Al Gore. Al-Jazeera. All kinds of screwed up. Gore faces a $5 million lawsuit after selling his half-billion-dollar TV network to Al-Jazeera, then allegedly leaving a key player with his pockets inside out.


  • More sequester PR hijinks: Iowa kids make the Internet rounds with a heart-wrenching plea to the President to not cancel their White House tour. These are the moments Obama has longed for since sequestration started. Boo hoo.


  • North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un is pledging a nuclear attack on the United States — a pre-emptive one. Is there really such a thing? North Korea recently tested an underground nuke and caused an earthquake.


  • No fear — if the hermit kingdom doesn’t kill us, the superbugs will. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that new “untreatable” bacteria are spreading in the United States at an accelerated rate. Not much advice, though — just malaise.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Sequester Email: ‘Make Sure You Are Not Contradicting What We Said The Impact Would Be’

An administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was cautioned by superiors this week not to distribute reduced funding from last week’s sequestration spending cuts in a way that mitigates the measure’s supposedly dire effects.

The Washington Times reports that Charles Brown, APHIS eastern regional director of wildlife services, instead was told, in so many words, to bring the pain.

According to the report, an internal email exchange between Brown and the APHIS Budget and Program Analysis office (BPAS) began when Brown asked whether he could equitably distribute sequester-mandated spending cuts throughout his region in order to ensure none of the programs under his administration would experience any undue operating hardships.

He was advised not to do anything that would make the White House’s predictions about the harmful effects of sequestration look foolish:

“We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Senator Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) coaxed some backtracking out of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack when she grilled him Tuesday about the email and its sinister implications:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wzST-BBtQs&w=420&h=315]

And so the Administration of President Barack Obama continues its casting about for high-profile illustrations of how badly sequestration hurts regular people — even if it has to manufacture them. CBS News notes three instances in the past 10 days of White House officials putting their foots in their mouths (i.e., lying) when pressed to describe how not spending Federal money as quickly as Obama wishes translates into real moments of doom and gloom.

Nevertheless, a poll CBS released Monday revealed that 53 percent of Americans who responded feel the sequestration cuts will affect them personally. To the Obama Administration’s undoubted relief, most of them blame Congressional Republicans’ intransigence in agreeing to a deficit-reduction package.

Proof: Obama’s Always Wanted To Grab Your Guns

A former academic peer occasionally used to talk public policy with President Barack Obama, back when the two were faculty members at the University of Chicago in the mid-1990s.

Now he writes books about the President’s cataclysmic foreign, economic and social policies, reflecting what he says is a more-populist evolution of deeply liberal views Obama held, with more extremity and conviction, before Oprah Winfrey ever introduced him on a national stage.

In At The Brink, John Lott Jr.’s new book, the President’s former colleague reveals how quickly his efforts to engage Obama in genial academic discussion about their differing 2nd Amendment views were always dismissed — with prejudice.

CNS News reports that Lott, who’s used his publishing career to assiduously carry the flag for the protection of Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights, was flatly rejected when he asked Obama to swap ideas on the topic over lunch.

Obama reportedly “grimaced and turned away,” a typical response coming from a man Lott said “preferred silent, scowling disdain to collegiality.”

One day, Obama told Lott, “I don’t believe people should be able to own guns.”

There it is, short and sweet.

As Commander in Chief, clearly the President does believe that governments should be allowed to own guns. He certainly has some experience in instructing agents of our government to use some pretty big ones.

The CNS report breaks down a segment of Lott’s book that tracks Obama’s on-record gun control stance over the years:

  • In 1996, Obama supported a ban on handguns
  • In 1998, he supported a ban on the sale of all semi-automatic guns
  • In 2004, he advocated banning gun sales within five miles of a school or park, which would have shut down nearly all gun stores

Lott also noted the President could exert greater long-term influence over 2nd Amendment policy though his power to appoint Supreme Court justices who make free with revisionist interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

“The greatest threat is in his power to reshape the federal courts,” he writes. “Each appointment to the Supreme Court could determine whether the people are allowed to keep their guns.”

Trending: Don’t Get Mad, But You Could Need Anger Management To Buy Bullets In Florida

If a Florida State Senator gets her way, residents will need to prove they’ve conquered an anger management class every decade before the State will allow them to buy bullets from stores.

The Florida Times-Union is reporting a bill filed over the weekend by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) would make it a second-degree felony to purchase ammo without having completed a two-hour anger management course every 10 years.

The bill would also force residents to sit out a three-day waiting period before buying a handgun.

Gibson said the proposed law “encourages introspection before purchasing ammunition.”

No word on whether the Senator did any soul-searching before writing a bill that could make felons out of thousands of current law-abiding gun owners.

The Left Cries For Chavez, Feds Take A Snow Day, NY Senator Says Congress Should Be 51 Percent Female, Sequestration Won’t Slow Obamacare Juggernaut, NYSE Says ‘What Sequester?!’: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 3-6-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Sean Penn and Oliver Stone: the Left Isn’t taking the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez well. Shocker.
  • Not a shocker: Real Venezuelans in the U.S. exclaim, “He’s gone!”
  • Possibly the best thing to happen in Washington since 2008? Weather puts a temporary halt to the madness in D.C. today.
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) knows how to fix Congress: Let its demographics favor women.
  • The Sequestration isn’t about to slow the implementation of Obamacare — or hamstring the Federal government’s resources (read: Internal Revenue Service) to collect your money.
  • Last week: sequestration. This week: record day on Wall Street. Investors knew from the start sequestration is “a distraction” that has “no impact other than on the microphones in Washington.” Meanwhile, bashful White House Democrats “don’t comment on markets.”

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Airports Refute Big Sister’s Claim Of Long Delays Following Sequester

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told interviewers at a POLITICO event Monday that the onset of sequestration made for a rough weekend at airport security checkpoints nationwide.

Napolitano told interviewers at a breakfast celebrating the anniversary of the DHS that security lines at airport Transportation Security Administration checkpoints were “150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect” over the first weekend of sequestration.

“Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs; now that we have instituted a hiring freeze… we will begin today sending out furlough notices,” she said. “We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry; some of the big airports, for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend.”

The off-camera interviewer cut in quickly: “Specifically where?”

“I wanna say O’Hare; I wanna say LAX; ahm, I want to say Atlanta but I’d have to check. The New York airports got through OK, but that is gonna be temporary, so we will see these effects cascade over the next week.”

The Daily Telegraph got hold of Napolitano’s comments and called security chiefs at the airports she mentioned.

A Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) spokesman who worked through the weekend said there hadn’t been “any slowdowns at all.”

The director of media relations at Chicago’s O’Hare said there had been “no unusual delays or cancellations” and that the weekend’s lines had been “normal.”

The spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta went into refutation overkill, saying: “There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as a result of sequestration.”

The Telegraph also checked with travel industry representatives to see if anecdotes from actual travelers would uncover information the airport representatives had overlooked. They got the same story.

“I can only tell you what we’ve heard from our members, which is they have not seen any abnormal delays,” said a spokeswoman for airline industry trade group Airlines for America.

“We’re on a mailing list for LAX that tells us whether there are any security delays and we have meet-and-greet people at the airport who tell us if there are any delays and at the moment we haven’t heard anything,” offered a Los Angeles-based travel agent.

Obama Administration Reportedly Draconian And Vile In Efforts To Work The Press

More White House reporters have begun filing through the crack opened by Watergate reporting icon Bob Woodward, who last week claimed he had been threatened by a White House adviser for publishing an unfavorable opinion of the President’s handling of the sequestration fiasco.

Perhaps emboldened by Woodward’s revelation, less-famous White House correspondents have begun relating anecdotes alleging the Administration of President Barack Obama has verbally abused, bullied, retaliated, spoon-fed and marginalized them in a way the press hasn’t experienced under any other President.

In a searing New York Post story this week, a number of Washington reporters — some named, others anonymous — reveal how the Administration has pressured them to report or not report the news; how it has attempted to influence reporters’ judgment in determining whether a topic should be covered; and how, when things don’t go Obama’s way in the press, there are consequences.

One longtime Washington journalist related how he’d assigned a young reporter to cover an Obama cabinet secretary. The reporter was asking “tough, important” questions and got the bully treatment for doing her job.

“…[T]hey were trying to bully her. In an email, they called her the vilest names – bitch, c—t, a—hole.”

After getting the runaround from the email’s author, the senior reporter confronted that person, saying: “From now on, every email you send this reporter will be on the record, and you will be speaking on behalf of the President of the United States.”

Good for him. But that account hints at an underlying problem with the way the press has always dealt with the Obama Administration — or, rather, how it’s allowed the Obama Administration to deal with it. Those emails could have been on the record without that reporter having to make it plain. The author of those emails was already speaking on behalf of the President of the United States. The White House press has handled this President with kid gloves, and, like any classic relationship based on disingenuous and insincere motives, it’s reaping abuse for the service.

And in the Internet Age, the White House is often finding it easier to control its own media through press releases, tweets and Facebook postings than to float information before reporters who can talk back. As a February piece in Vanity Fair explains, it’s essentially a form of state-controlled media:

In a real sense, the most powerful and pervasive news outlet “covering” the White House is the White House itself. That is a legitimate cause for concern. No American wants to live in a world of state television or sanitized photo handouts.

The press corps has been primed since 2008 to remain pliable to the wishes of an Administration it’s wanted to admire, an Administration that issues press releases through social media while dodging questions from the press. It’s hard to say which side deserves more what it’s getting; but Americans who’ve been getting their political news from TV, radio and boilerplate print media are still the biggest losers.

Chavez’ Successor TBD By Elections

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died Tuesday, left behind a nation that holds one of the world’s largest known reserves of oil.

His successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, announced his death on Venezuelan television – likely to many poor Venezuelans accustomed to receiving various subsidies from the redistribution of wealth from the country’s nationalized oil industry.

And, though Chavez helped prime Maduro as his eventual successor, it’s not clear whether circumstances in Venezuela will afford him that opportunity.

Venezuela’s constitution requires that an election be held to replace Chavez within 30 days. Maduro isn’t the only likely candidate; National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who heads the country’s military, may also seek the office. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in the 2012 elections, could also run again.

A February poll conducted by Reuters placed Maduro in front of Caprilles in a hypothetical election. Cabello was not included in the polling.

Farrakhan Says White Americans Using Birth Control To Outnumber Blacks

At times, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan can sound like something of a social engineer.

Last month, he encouraged gang members to learn military tactics and then go serve as resident security guards for rural property the Nation of Islam is buying in Georgia.

In a Michigan speech over the weekend, he criticized white Americans for manipulating society in the hope of continuing as the Nation’s majority racial demographic.

How? Birth control for black women. Apparently, black women knew nothing of birth control until whites decided it was time to introduce it to them, “because they don’t want no more black babies.” By his calculation, blacks will outnumber whites in the United States by 2050, in part because the Nation of Islam plans to revolutionize the role blacks play in American society.

Farrakhan said black people face a defeatist culture in American public schools and universities, one that conditions them only to remain malleable and expendable to what he characterized as the white-controlled status quo.

“Do you think they are really educating and training you to do something with yourself, or are they training you to be subservient?” he admonished.

Like any good ideologue, not all of Farrakhan’s remarks were inflammatory, nor aimed at easy targets. He continued his ongoing general criticism of black Americans for making what he said are bad choices with their diets, relationships and spending habits.

He followed up those exhortations with tweets Sunday urging black people to consider farming their own land as a starting point for economic self-sufficiency.

Biden Regrets Not Being In Selma; Holder Says South Still Needs Voter Law Oversight

Flanked by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (as well as a few people who actually don’t use racial conflict for personal gain) Vice President Joe Biden told Southerners he felt guilty for not having been a part of the original Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches almost 50 years ago.

Biden was in Selma, Ala., Sunday, visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 48th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” police attacks, which helped draw national attention to institutional racism in the South during the late 1960s.

“I regret — and although it’s not a part of what I’m supposed to say — I apologize it took me 48 years to get here… I should have been here,” said a contrite Biden.

This year’s Bloody Sunday anniversary came only a week after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on both sides of a challenge to eliminate a portion of the Voting Rights Act, a piece of civil rights-era legislation that has tasked nine States (seven in the South) with seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Justice anytime their legislatures take up voter redistricting or similar electoral changes.

The Act, including the nine-State “preclearance” provision, was most recently reaffirmed by Congress in 2006. Except for a few individual counties named in the Act, the other 41 racism-free states can change their elections laws without permission from the DOJ.

Biden kept his comments on target, and he never condescended to present-day Southerners by indicating racism is endemic to only one part of the Nation. Neither did he use the occasion to overtly promote any current White House policy agenda.

But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who also made the trip, did just that, drafting a speech with a not-so-subtle message from the Administration of President Barack Obama that the Supreme Court shouldn’t strike down the preclearance requirement:

“Let me be clear:  although our nation has indeed changed, although the South is far different now, and although progress has indeed been made, we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act can be deemed unnecessary. The struggle for voting rights for all Americans must continue – and it will.”

Holder’s remarks pleased Jackson, who later said a Voting Rights Act requiring the same electoral diligence from all 50 States would be “terribly damaging to democracy,” and that a Supreme Court ruling invalidating the preclearance requirement would amount to a “judicial scheme” that once again invites racist gerrymandering in the South.

Wealthiest Americans Pay More Tax Than Ever; Would Pay More Under Obama’s Path Out Of Sequestration

As lawmakers continue to argue about whether wealthy Americans should take on a heavier tax burden, it turns out wealthy families are already paying the highest tax bills in three decades — even as the rest of the Nation continues to pay historically low rates.

A new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a research arm of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution , reveals average taxes for wealthy families are higher now than at any time since the Congressional Budget Office began crunching the numbers in 1979. Families from middle and low-income brackets are paying less in Federal taxes than in the past.

According to an Associated Press breakdown of the data, if you’re among the top 20 percent of income earners, you’re in a group that will average 27.2 percent in Federal tax this year. If you earn $1.4 million, you’ll pay an average of 35.5 percent.

Taxes included in the cumulative assessment include income, payroll, corporate and estate taxes.

On the other hand, the bottom 20 percent of income earners will pay no Federal taxes, receiving instead Federal credits that not only zero out all their tax liability, but in fact give them a “negative” tax rate.

The report comes as Congressional Republicans continue fighting Democratic proposals to raise Federal revenues through a package of tax rate increases that affect the highest-earning segment of the population.

Read the full AP story here.

Asian Billionaires Now Outnumber Those In North America

Chinese luxe finance magazine The Hurun Report revealed last week that more billionaires hail from Asia than from North America, a first since the publication was founded in 1999.

In Asia, 608 individuals have a net worth in excess of $1 billion (all figures are adjusted to U.S. dollars), followed by North America with 440 and Europe with 324.

The U.S. still has more billionaires — 409 — than any other country, followed distantly by China, whose 317 billionaires make up just more than half of all those throughout Asia. But Asia’s diverse and burgeoning economies have produced more newly rich individuals, nearly all of whom have made their own fortunes.

That’s a contrast with Europe — where a disproportionate amount of billionaires’ wealth is generational and inherited — and with North America, whose billionaires have found varying paths to fortune.

All of China’s billionaires have become wealthy in their own lifetimes through real estate transactions. Noting the trend reflects “the [Chinese] urbanization boom of the last generation,” Hurun reports seven of the world’s top 10 real estate billionaires reside either in Hong Kong or in China.

With 76 billionaires (every one of them self-made), Moscow is home to more than any other world city, including second-place New York, which has 70. Like the rest of Asia, a significant portion of Russia’s wealthiest residents have ties to real estate, along with manufacturing and energy.

Most European billionaires are either majority owners of industrial or retail concerns, or scions of luxury fashion brands: Louis Vuitton, Hermes, BMW and Patek Philippe, to sample a (very) few. Of the 31 billionaires worldwide whose wealth was made in luxury goods, only seven reside outside Europe. Two more brands — DeBeers and Cartier, both South African — deliver diamonds, a “luxury commodity” with close ties to the European luxury market. A third, the OCTEA mining group, is based in Israel.

Americans who top the list generated their money primarily through investments; technology, media and telecommunications; and the retail market. Berkshire Hathaway primary shareholder Warren Buffett remained the richest man in the United States (second worldwide), followed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates (fourth worldwide).

Mexican investor and diversified shareholder Carlos Slim remained the richest man in the world, with a personal fortune worth an estimated $66 billion.

The United States remains atop the billionaire list in another aspect: combined wealth. The 409 American billionaires on the Hurun list retain a total net worth of $1.712 trillion. Hurun did not disclose a researched figure for the combined wealth of billionaires in second-place China.

Chinese ambition fuels the publication’s interest in compiling the list, with Hurun Report Chairman and founder Rupert Hoogewerf noting that “China’s entrepreneurs want to see the global context of their recent success. This is why Hurun Report, a media headquartered in Shanghai, China, has set out on this quest to track down and rank the world’s billionaires.”

Interestingly, the publication freely admits it hasn’t succeeded in enumerating every billionaire worldwide, with Hoogewerf estimating there may be twice as many as were listed in this year’s Hurun Report list.

View the complete list as well as supporting statistics and billionaire demographics here.

Pennsylvania County Latest Local Government To Tell Feds ‘Don’t Touch Our Guns’

The three-member, bipartisan County Commission of Susquehanna County, Pa., passed a resolution last week to abrogate any future “Federal act, bill, law, rule or executive order that in any way infringes on our Second Amendment rights by attempting to reduce the private ownership of any firearm, magazine or ammunition,” according to a Times-Tribune report.

Commissioners said the measure was intended to send a message that any potential Federal gun ban or restrictions being pushed by the Administration of President Barack Obama won’t be taken as law in their county.

“The Constitution is in place to protect us from the government,” said Republican County Commissioner Michael Giangrieco, who proposed the resolution after neighboring New York passed unConstitutional gun control legislation. “They’ve got it backwards.”

As in other instances, such ceremonial resolutions lack legal teeth. But the Susquehanna County Commission’s vote is just the latest gesture upholding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights, adding another link to the growing chain of similar acts by local governments across the Nation.

Some States are also getting in on the game, taking up legislation this year that, if passed, will essentially reaffirm powers already enumerated in the 2nd Amendment.

In areas where unrestricted gun ownership enjoys avid support, such moves certainly serve the self-interest of politicians. The recent cavalcade of gun-rights resolutions are easy political scores for State legislators and local elected officials where gun owners dominate the political culture.

Then again, what else would constituents ask of their leaders but for their interests to be mirrored in those whom they’ve elected and their rights represented fairly?

And, while the passing of so many laws and resolutions — as well as defiant pre-emptive strikes from other local officials — may be legally redundant, it does send a signal that there are plenty of individuals throughout the Nation ready to stand in defense of the liberties guaranteed them by the Bill of Rights, even if the threat carries the force of a State or Federal law.

Kerry’s public rebuke of Turkish PM backfires as two meet face to face

After John Kerry used the press as a diplomatic middleman, publicly chiding Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a Feb. 27 U.N. speech allegedly portraying Zionism as a “crime against humanity,” he arrived in Turkey Friday for an already-scheduled face-to-face with the man himself.

It didn’t go well, according to this report in the Washington Post.

Kerry arrived in Turkey, but tarried a little long with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before sitting down with a perturbed Erdogan. Primed with news reports that Kerry wasn’t pleased with his remarks fanning anti-Israeli sentiment, the Prime Minister greeted him by snipping, “You [and Davutoglu] must have spoken about everything, so there is nothing left for us to talk about.”

The report states Kerry wasn’t able to joke his way through Erdogan’s stony reception as the talks continued.

In context, Erdogan’s earlier comments lack the stridency American media outlets had singled out for emphasis. He hadn’t simply lambasted Zionism, as reports like this one imply.

Taken altogether, what Erdogan actually had said comes across a little differently.

Relations between Muslim Turkey and Israel have been in decline, and Erdogan used his U.N. speech to point out that “Islamophobia”  and Zionism are essentially two sides of the same coin.

The BBC provided a detached western perspective Friday on how the U.S. is wooing Turkey, a NATO ally, into a bridge-building role to resolve the ongoing civil crisis in neighboring Syria. Al Jazeera also offered this report.

Colbert Campaigning, Kerry Slapping Turkish Wrists, Harvard’s Liberal Problem And The Sequestration Apocalypse: TGIF Morning News Roundup 3-1-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” served as the main draw last week at a South Carolina fundraising dinner for his Democratic sister, who’s staging a run at a Congressional seat.
  • The Administration of President Barack Obama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban.
  • Austerity means spending more than you ever have in your life, but not as much as you want: The Sequestration clock winds down! To get a taste of how badly it’s gonna hurt, think back to last year’s Mayan apocalypse.

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Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC Has NRA In Its Crosshairs

Since its formation last October, the ironically named Independence USA, the super PAC (political action committee) started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has pledged to support the campaigns of gun-control candidates nationwide as a redress to what it describes as America’s “scourge of gun violence.”

Now that the PAC has actually helped a gun control candidate win an election in Illinois, Bloomberg has ramped up the anti-gun part of the fund’s message with a warning to the National Rifle Association that it won’t win a spending contest when the 2014 congressional and gubernatorial election season heats up.

According to a report from The Hill, Independence USA has plans to aggressively promote candidates who run on a strong gun control platform.

Perhaps taking a bit too much credit for the national implications of Robin Kelly’s victory over Debbie Halvorson in a special Democratic primary election to fill a vacant congressional seat in Illinois this week, Independence USA spokesman Stefan Friedman pointed to the win as an indicator that Bloomberg’s gun control PAC is just getting warmed up.

“If this election proved anything, it is that the NRA is no longer alone in being able to educate voters and have their positions taken seriously,” Friedman said.

Bloomberg himself said after the election that voting in a gun control advocate to represent Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District marked “the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change” from Washington to place heavier restrictions on access to guns.

Never mind the fact that voters in the district already lean heavily in favor of gun control or that Halvorson, who nominally supports 2nd Amendment rights, was playing from behind. The Bloomberg money clearly mattered in helping Kelly to victory, and it will matter in future races. But some districts’ voters, particularly in the rural South, won’t budge anytime soon on gun control for any liberal candidate, no matter how well-funded.

Perhaps the greatest impact Independence USA can have on forthcoming elections is its potential coercive power — that is, the power to seduce candidates who are either on the fence about gun control or would rather keep quiet on the topic — with campaign dollars.

Bloomberg’s PAC spent more than $2 million on the Chicagoland primary. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

NY Governor Exempts Hollywood From State’s Tough Gun Law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t intent on letting the NY SAFE Act, his State’s extremely restrictive and reactionary new gun law, hamstring police and the film industry from access to weapons that are now illegal for residents.

After rushing to pass one of the Nation’s toughest gun laws on Jan. 15 (without public hearings or the three-day waiting period required by the State constitution for any new bill), Cuomo is now telling reporters the Legislature needs to revise its language to accommodate screen productions filmed in New York so they can portray assault weapons.

Also under the “corrections,” as Cuomo describes the revisions, cops would be allowed to continue wielding high-capacity guns now off-limits for regular New Yorkers. They also would be allowed to bring their firearms onto a school campus without clearance from school personnel.

The NY SAFE Act has already banned all kinds of scary-looking guns, forced residents into passing a background check before buying ammunition and dropped magazine capacity from 10 rounds to seven. It requires doctors and mental health specialists to report gun-owning patients whom they consider to be a threat. It permits police — the ones with the high-capacity guns no one else can have — to begin disarming subjects based on probable cause instead of obtaining a warrant.

As for the Hollywood exemption, Cuomo offered this:

“I don’t know that it’s a real issue because they don’t use real guns,” he said. “Apparently, they have blanks or phony magazines or something. So I don’t know that, legally, it would even be classified as an assault weapon if it’s a phony gun. But people want certainty, and there’s no reason not to make a change like that — to give an industry comfort — especially when it’s an industry that we want doing business in the state.”

Well, shoot. In their symbolism, how do phony guns, realistically portrayed on the screen, get a cultural pass not granted the obviously phony cowboy pistols kids get in trouble for bringing out to the playground?

If grown-ups can’t defend themselves to the extent the police can and if kids can’t have some harmless fun with crude toy copies of what the film industry depicts with such realism, the upshot of Cuomo’s message is that institutions and companies are more important than people — that free people, in fact, are the threat.