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What do Rosa Parks, Hank Aaron and Warren Buffett's secretary have in common?

Obama-state-michel_2118933b[1]That's easy.  They are all examples of the Lenny Skutnik phenomenon -- named after the first person to be a special "shout-out" guest at a presidential State of the Union address.  Ronald Reagan recognized Skutnik in 1982 for diving into the icy Potomac to save the life of a passenger after the crash of Air Florida Flight 90.  Bill Clinton introduced civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 1999 and baseball great Hank Aaron in 2000.  Tuesday night, Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanek, sat in First Lady Michelle Obama's box and was mentioned, though not by name, by the president.  She's in the photo at right, just over the First Lady's left shoulder, wearing glasses. 

I've gotten to know Debbie Bosanek over the years because Buffett is chairman of The Buffalo News and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is our owner.   She's always tactful, helpful, smart -- and wisely protective of her boss.  So it doesn't surprise me to see her handling her 15 minutes of fame with aplomb.  Brought to the event to symbolize inequities in the federal tax code (her billionaire boss likes to point out that she is taxed at a higher rate than he is), she deferred to Buffett on policy matters while making it clear she was delighted to be at the president's annual address:
“Warren is the most brilliant man I’ve ever met, so I defer to his judgment,”  Bosanek told the Washington Post before the address.  And she added: “I feel like I’m representing secretaries everywhere tonight.” Here's the Post's photo gallery of Lenny Skutnik and some of his successors through the years. (Photo above is from The Telegraph, of London.)

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Reporters Without Borders has released its 10th annual "Press Freedom Index," a well-documented look at some of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.  Syria, Bahrain and Yemen get their worst-ever ratings, the report says, noting that 2011 was an especially dangerous year, with "crackdown" as its watchword.   “Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements," the report said.
 “Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them."

The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to global free-press issues.  And it gladly takes donations to its worthy cause.

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