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“A guy’s gonna go up in space for a year–why?” asked Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe in a discussion of TIME’s Dec. 29–Jan. 5 cover story on an upcoming NASA mission that will send Scott Kelly into space for a year–the longest period ever for an American–while his identical twin Mark is monitored at home on Earth. On Chicago radio, writer Jeffrey Kluger addressed the experiment’s possible physical and mental strain, including “third-quarter effect,” or the fatigue and depression that can set in before the end of such an arduous period of relative isolation. Readers were impressed. “I salute both of these intrepid men,” wrote Mike Moore of Warsaw, Mo. But Thomas McGugan of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., thought NASA could do better by the astronaut: “I was shocked and a bit saddened to see the condition of Scott Kelly’s suit, including rust on the helmet lock ring and connectors that belong on a ’63 Rambler.”


The Kentucky Senator’s TIME.com essay celebrating the Obama Administration’s recent moves toward engagement with Cuba sparked heated debate–not least between Paul and fellow GOP star Marco Rubio, who critiqued Paul as a “cheerleader for Obama’s foreign policy.” On Time.com, commenter MatthewKilburn supported incremental steps toward engagement but wrote that “the manner in which the President–and apparently, Rand Paul–is so willing to wash away any restriction on that country, and in doing so enrich the current authorities while emptying our current tool kit of any future available carrots, is foolish.” RicardoRivera disagreed: “We must move away from outdated policy that harms the Cuban people more than it will harm those in charge of Cuban politics.”


Joe Klein’s annual shout-outs for the politicians who showed the most courage included President Obama for his “moderate, sane and humane” policies (despite some considerable missteps). Critics pounced. “What an ugly 8 years this will have been!” wrote D. Wymard of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “In his own words (‘needless unforced errors,’ ‘negligent foreign policy’) Klein castigates Obama, and yet turns around and awards the Teddy. Rather hypocritical!”


TIME’s picks reflected a “wide spectrum of emotion,” according to Today.com, including Derek Jeter’s jubilant leap after his game-winning last at bat at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles (second row, right) and a haunting closeup of a young Afghan refugee (second row, left). BBC News, in particular, was taken by Massimo Sestini’s “astonishing” aerial photo of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a jam-packed boat (top left): “From a distance it looks like a fish, with colorful scales. But look closely and you see that it is a boat–packed so tightly with people looking up that you cannot actually see the boat … like when a child sprinkles a piece of cardboard with glitter.” Meanwhile, on MSNBC, panelist Ayman Mohyeldin called out a lighter entry–the now famous Oscar selfie–and debated the merits of selfies with TIME’s Belinda Luscombe. “Is it cheating to use a selfie stick?” he asked. To see the full list, visit time.com/photos2014

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