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Business Insider – Politics

  • Obama's Middle East Dilemma Is Now Clear
    (Politics - November 28 2014 - 1:21 AM:)


    The Obama administration's current strategy for defeating the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) is doomed to fail, International Crisis Group Syria analyst Noah Bonsey writes in Foreign Policy.

    Bonsey argues that America's Iraq-first outlook is emboldening Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and marginalizing mainstream Syrian rebel factions fighting both ISIS and the regime.

    Obama recently said that the US is not actively discussing ways to remove Assad from power. The main US-backed rebel group was recently routed by al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate.

    Meanwhile, ISIS is consolidating power in Sunni Arab areas in Iraq and increasingly trying to capture areas in Syria from the mainstream rebels. The US continues to bomb ISIS positions near the Turkish border.

    "The crux of the American dilemma in Syria is thus clear: Degrading jihadi groups requires empowering mainstream Sunni alternatives, but doing so may prove impossible unless Damascus (or its backers in Tehran) can be convinced or compelled to dramatically shift strategy," Bonsey writes, noting that Assad facilitated the rise of ISIS.

    "For now, the regime treats the Western-, Arab-, and Turkish-backed opposition as the main threat to its dominance in Syria and treats the Islamic State as a secondary concern that the United States is already helping to deal with. Iran has done nothing to suggest that it objects to the regime's strategy; instead, it is enabling it."

    ISIS iraq
    The Obama administration has said that empowering Sunni tribes in Iraq and the mostly-Sunni opposition in Syria is crucial to their strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS.

    At the same time, the US just extended nuclear talks with Iran for another seven months while Tehran backs Assad with men, money, and weapons against a Sunni uprising. Iran also directs brutal government-backed Shia militias in Iraq while pushing Baghdad to refrain from arming Sunni tribes.

    So as the US works to combat ISIS and secure a nuclear deal, Iran-backed governments in Iraq and Syria stifle the empowerment of Sunni Arabs needed to defeat ISIS.

    Consequently, Bonsey concludes that the Obama administration must "find ways to change calculations in Damascus and Tehran." 

    Check out Bonsey's full argument >

    SEE ALSO: Obama's Policy On Assad, In One Word

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  • How The Navy's Latest Anti-Submarine Aircraft Sees Under The Waves
    (Politics - November 27 2014 - 11:32 PM:)

    Poseidon P-8A Boeing Graphic

    Boeing's P-8A Poseidon has been a part of the US Navy for a year this month. The converted airliner brings the latest in anti-submarine capabilities, reaching greater altitude and speed than its predecessor (without the nausea factor for its crew).

    At the front of the plane, the P-8A sports an exclusive radar system supplied by Raytheon. In certain detection modes, the 408-pound radar system has a range of 200 nautical miles and provides ultra-high resolution images. A shorter-ranged setting offers enough precision to pick up on "small targets with limited exposure time in high sea states," according to Raytheon's fact sheet on the product.

    The P8-A also has a refueling receptacle for missions that go beyond the 20 hours it can fly on a full tank.

    The back half is dedicated to the storing and launching of sonar buoys from on high, which allow members of the nine-person crew to measure the sound propagation around these underwater units — just as a submarine or warship typically would. The P-8A can send out more than 100 of these yard-long "sonobuoys" in a single flight.

    And in the middle, "any operator can control and monitor any sensor from their station," a Boeing representative wrote in an email to Business Insider. Each of five operator stations is equipped with two 24-inch high resolution displays, which were designed to work seamlessly with Raytheon's radar system.

    P 8A PoseidonUnlike some vehicles contracted from private manufacturers, the P-8A's militaristic features "are incorporated in sequence during fabrication and assembly" rather than being tacked on in post-production. It's built from the fuselage of Boeing's 737-800 and the wings of its 737-900.

     The US Navy currently owns 13 units of the P-8A, with plans to eventually expand its stable to 117.

    Already the plane has played a role in the South Asian theater, where China's confidence in laying claim to disputed islands and waters meets a US presence meant to strengthen ties with nervous allies.

    In August a Chinese fighter jet performed several passes — and even a barrel roll — near and above an American P-8A flying some 135 miles east of Hainan, home to a Chinese submarine base. At the time, China said the pilot had kept a safe distance, while the US described the event as dangerous.

    In talks that raised the incident earlier this month, China and the US agreed to new guidelines aimed at avoiding further friction, including notification requirements and rules of behavior for future encounters.    

    The P-8A doesn't just make spy flights; in addition to its primary function as an intelligence-gathering asset, it can carry various payloads: cruise missiles, naval mines, and even torpedoes.

    Boeing has also created the P-8I, a variant on the Poseidon designed for foreign markets. The Indian Navy has purchased eight of these, the last two of which will be delivered next year, to replace their Russian Tu-142 aircraft.

    Screen Shot 2014 11 27 at 6.26.28 PM

    According to Boeing, the company is fielding interest from other countries as well; Australia has moved to acquire eight of its own.

    India's P-8I, per their contract request, is equipped with a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) eschewed by the plane's parent version.

    The tailpiece picks up on variances in the Earth's magnetic field created by large metal objects (like submarines).

    India's own group of planes may go towards monitoring the same rival its American cousin does. "Indian strategists speak in alarmist, geopolitical terms about a Chinese footprint in India’s sphere of influence and a possible encirclement," the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute wrote in March. "They call for a speedy and forceful investment in a blue water navy." For that, Boeing's latest surveillance aircraft could make a strong complement.

    This post has been updated from an earlier article on the P-8 series, which drew inaccurate information from the Reuters graphic.

    SEE ALSO: China doesn't like being buzzed by US spy planes, but we're going to keep doing it anyway

    SEE ALSO: Another look at the military base china is building on a disputed reef

    SEE ALSO: This massive Navy plane is the most advanced search aircraft in the world

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  • The Creepiest White House Thanksgiving Ever
    (Politics - November 27 2014 - 5:41 PM:)

    Richard Nixon Turkey

    The tradition of the White House turkey pardon supposedly dates back to 1947 and President Harry Truman. However, one year it went horribly awry. 

    In 2011, the Washington Post tracked down a longtime rumor that a turkey presented to President Richard Nixon had to have its feet nailed to a table for the occasion.

    According to the newspaper, the turkey was subdued this way because it was a "particularly rambunctious" bird. This tale was confirmed by an unnamed former Nixon administration staffer

    "Regarding the effort to restrain the White House Thanksgiving turkey, it is my understanding that at least one year, they nailed its feet to the table," the staffer wrote.

    Luckily for all involved, apart from a pair of apparently bored first daughters, this year's ceremony went off without a hitch. 

    (via Peter Schorsch

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  • Google Only Has Itself To Blame If Europe Succeeds In Breaking Up The Company (GOOG)
    (Politics - November 27 2014 - 3:39 PM:)

    nuclear explosion larry page

    If Google gets broken up because it's a monopoly, it will be mostly Google's fault.

    Today, the European Union took the first step in that extraordinary process: EU parliament members voted in favour of breaking up Google in order to end its monopoly in search. In Europe, 90% of search results come from Google.

    To be clear: We are a long, long way from actually seeing any part of Google hived off into a competing entity. It probably won't happen.

    But the fact that regulatory bodies here are even considering it tells you just how many enemies Google has made over the years, and how obvious its monopoly is.

    Google is more dominant in Europe than in the US, even though it is an American company with a towering stateside presence. Everyone admits that Google is a de facto monopoly. Peter Thiel, the libertarian tech investor, has said so. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thinks Google is a monopoly. Yelp has lobbied the EU, arguing the same. The US FTC has investigated Google for monopoly practices, although it has concluded no significant antitrust action needs be taken.

    Even Google chairman Eric Schmidt has admitted "we're in that area." Schmidt and Page once declined to testify to Congress on the topic of their monopoly status.

    The fact that it monopolises search is not in itself a bad thing. Merely being a monopoly is not a transgression, even in Europe. (It's often a sign of natural success.) Rather, EU antitrust law applies when companies abuse their monopoly to manipulate markets around them unfairly.

    On that measure, Google has more than qualified for scrutiny over the way it distorts markets that have nothing to do with search.

    google yelpThe best evidence for that came from Yelp and a coalition of companies it has formed who believe they are being screwed out of their natural, "organic" ranking in search results because Google simply dumps its own — often unhelpful — content on top of the "real" search ranking of which sites are best.

    Yelp's evidence was elegant and simple: It used Google's own search API to create a browser extension that displayed Google search results without results that include promo boxes generated from Google+, the unpopular identity/social network product that Google launched to counter Facebook. The extension shows you the "real" result generated by Google's algorithm, without the self-promotional fluff that Google layers on top of it.

    google yelp 2The difference is alarming. Hotel review sites like Tripadvisor — which have hundreds of reader reviews per hotel, and are thus good quality search results if you're looking for hotels — get buried under Google's own Google+ review boxes, in which only a handful of people have written reviews. It's difficult to argue that Google is serving the "best" hotel results if its own algorithm is being crammed down under auto-generated promo boxes for Google's own properties.

    You should take this argument with a punch of salt: Yelp is an avowed enemy of Google.

    Yet ... it's compelling. Yelp is not alone. Dozens of companies believe Google uses its search might to dictate terms in industries that Google itself does not compete in. Expedia, TripAdvisor, Microsoft and a bunch of smaller companies have complained that Google sets competition rules within their industries.

    Even adultery website AshleyMadison has a case: It cannot advertise on certain Google properties, but Match.com can. Google doesn't run dating sites, but it sets the rules through which they can advertise against each other.

    Over the years, all these complainers have piled up into a veritable tidal wave of discontent against Google. The company, because it is so successful and so dominant, has created an army of enemies that want to see it brought down.

    In Europe, they're making progress.

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  • Iran's Supreme Leader Says Ferguson Shows What's Wrong With America
    (Politics - November 27 2014 - 1:46 PM:)

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

    Nuclear talks with Iran were extended for seven months this week amid signs Tehran may be moving closer to making a deal, but the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hasn't tempered his fiery rhetoric against the US. 

    In a stream of messages published on his official English-language Twitter account Thursday, Khamenei criticized America for being "ill-mannered" in the nuclear talks. He also invoked the situation in Ferguson, Missouri as proof of the US government "isn't honest" with its people.

    Khamenei's tweets were a summary of remarks he made on Thursday at the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran where he indicated he was not opposed to continuation of the nuclear talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany). In that speech, Khamenei, who has authorized every step taken by Iran during the talks, indicated he supported an extension "for the same reasons I wasn't against negotiations."

    According to  his tweets, Khamenei then criticized America as "arrogant" and accused US negotiators of being impolite while their Iranian counterparts were "diligent," "serious," and "caring."

    Leader in a visit w Basij members talked about #NuclearTalks, #Ferguson& #Israel which is going to be published here. pic.twitter.com/1PDHqBEle2

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    Those who threaten IRI should know that #Iran is invincible thanks to Basiji thinking.US gov is arrogant& rapacious;that's our problem w US.

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    I'm not opposed to extension of #NuclearTalks for the same reason that I was not agnst negotiating. #IranTalksVienna pic.twitter.com/a0bs7hpRkh

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    #Iran's nuclear delegation is truly diligent& serious; they do resist agnst being bullied& work hard out of logic& caring. @JZarif @Araghchi

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    US is the most ill-mannered &UK is the most cunning;if talks don't achieve results it's the US that faces loss. #Iran pic.twitter.com/E4LVh5ycrE

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    Khamenei went on to invoke the situation in Ferguson, where there have been violent protests since a police officer shot an unarmed African-American teenager last August. Those demonstrations ramped up again on Monday after prosecutors announced a grand jury decided not to indict the officer. According to Khamenei, Ferguson is proof Americans "do not trust" the US government. He also suggested the US is only engaging in the negotiations to distract from "domestic problems."

    We don't seek to gain the confidence of US; we don't need that. We don't trust you; your ppl do not trust you either. #Ferguson

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    US isn't honest w its nation. The recent US election turnout was so low. At events in #Ferguson US is fighting w its ppl. #BlackLivesMatter

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    Khamenei also criticized America's relationship with Israel, which has been a staunch opponent of any nuclear deal with Iran. He said there is a "Zionist network" that controls the "lifeline" of US officials. Khamenei also suggested "blackmail" by this "Zionist network" dictated how American politicians handled the situation in Ferguson.

    US says that Israel's security must be protected;know that whether or not a deal is achieved,#Israel will get more insecure on a daily basis

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    US concerns abt #Israel's security aren't genuine either.The goal is their interests by satisfying Zionist network that holds their lifeline

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    #Zionist network blackmail US officials &if they act agnst their will, they're forced to resign,face defamation and death threats. #Ferguson

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014


    Khamenei referenced letters about the talks the Iranian government received from President Barack Obama. That correspondence reportedly had a positive impact on the talks. Khamenei accused the US of using a "different" tone in the private letters than in public remarks. 

    US is irrational.They speak different in their #letters than in public. US wants #IranTalks for its domestic problems pic.twitter.com/nvzXScl1yj

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014

    Khamenei's tweets concluded with a vow Iran would accept a "fair" nuclear deal, but would not give in to "bullying."

    We accept fair &reasonable agreements. Where there's bullying& excessive demands all of #Iran, ppl and officials,will not accept. #IranTalks

    — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 27, 2014

    Analysts have two theories about the inflammatory language Khamenei has used during the nuclear negotiations. While they could indicate Iran will eventually refuse to make a deal, the remarks could also be a sign Khamenei is attempting to build public and official support for an agreement. By publicly attacking the US, Khamenei could be building the impression he did not take a soft stance with Iran's longtime arch enemy while pursuing the negotiations. 

    Under the current extension, negotiations will continue until June 30, 2015. During this time, Iran's nuclear program will remain frozen and the current sanctions on the country will not be lifted. 

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  • For Some Nations, Saudi Arabia's Oil Price War Is An Existential Threat
    (Politics - November 27 2014 - 12:57 PM:)

    putin saudis

    Saudi Arabia is risking the economic health of weaker oil producing nations in its fight to see off the threat of the US shale boom.

    Oil prices have fallen by over 30% since June and appear to be continuing their decline. On Thursday Brent fell to a four-year low of just over $76 a barrel, down from $115 a barrel in June, while US WTI crude dropped to around $72 a barrel.

    The collapse has taken a heavy toll on states that rely heavily on exports of the commodity to support their economies.

    Below is a chart from Citi Group of the fiscal break even oil prices (the price at which revenues from oil sales will allow the government to meet its spending commitments) for a selection of oil exporting countries both within and outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

    What should be clear is that, although Saudi Arabia's breakeven point has been creeping higher it remains substantially below some of the more vulnerable members.

    Citi oil breakevens

    Unfortunately for most of the countries on that list, most forecasters now predict that the days of $100 a barrel oil are now over — at least for now. In a recent note Goldman Sachs estimates that Brent crude will hit $90 again by 2016 with US WTI crude bouncing back up to $80.

    Goldman Sachs oil

    This forecast in large part reflects the huge shale boom that the US is experiencing. The country has seen production increase dramatically over the past couple of years, easily overwhelming cuts from OPEC members over recent years. And yet, the Saudi oil minister has been hinting that OPEC may not agree a cut to production at its key meeting on Thursday.

    And here's why that's a problem...

    Already this year Venezuela, Nigeria and Russia have burnt through billions of dollars in efforts to support collapsing currencies and flagging economies.

    Russian international reserves have plummeted by $90 billion since the start of the year spent mostly in foreign exchange markets trying to prop up the rouble. Despite decades of commitments to diversify its economy, oil still accounts for 10% of the country's GDP and around 50% of federal budget revenue.

    Morgan Stanley estimates that "every $10 fall in the oil price means a $32.4 billion fall in oil and gas exports, which is equivalent to about 1.6% of GDP" and around a $19 billion fall in government budget revenues.

    Elsewhere Nigeria finally conceded defeat in defending its currency, with the central bank devaluing the naira by 8% and increasing rates sharply on Wednesday. Investors have turned against the currency as Nigeria imports around 80% of the goods it consumers with 95% of its foreign currency earning coming through oil exports. Falling oil prices means the cost of those imports has become a lot steeper.

    And for Venezuela the situation is simply dire. According to state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela the country looses $700 million for each $1 a barrel decline in oil prices, a cost that the ailing state can ill afford. Adjusted for inflation the country's real GDP remains 2% below its 1970 level and, according to US academics Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, it is now all-but-certain to default on its foreign-currency debt.

    Iraq and Iran are also vulnerable to sharp price drops. Production in the former at risk due to the threat of Islamic State militants seizing additional territory, including key oil infrastructure. In November forces loyal to the Iraqi government succeeded in forcing IS militants out of the Baiji refinery in northern Iraq, which the had earlier captured. These risks mean the cost of extraction and refining is high.

    Iran is also vulnerable due to international sanctions imposed over the country's nuclear programme. Last month President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran's oil revenues had dropped 30% as demand slowed in its major export market, China. Rouhani said that the country would have to "deal with the new conditions and the global economic conditions".

    So why isn't Saudi Arabia acting to help its fellow oil producers?

    SAudi oil exportsOne theory is that the Saudis are deliberately allowing prices to fall in order to fight off competition from US shale oil and maintain its share of the US market. Undoubtedly, it has come under pressure in what is a major part of the market and keeping prices below $100 a barrel will put pressure on higher cost US shale producers.

    However, there may be a more fundamental shift going on in the oil market at the moment. The problem for OPEC is that it may no longer be able to control prices (as it has in the past) to avoid these problems.

    Previously, OPEC members would agree to cut oil production if falling prices posed a threat. That may now have changed because of the shale oil boom in the US, which has dramatically increased supply.

    As Goldman Sachs wrote in a recent note (emphasis added):

    [There is a] realisation that the OPEC reaction function has changed and that the US shale barrel is now likely the first swing barrel ... When Saudi Arabia cut prices to Asia for November delivery it was interpreted as a shift in the Saudi reaction function to a focus on market share. This should have not been a surprise in the new world of shale that has flattened the supply curve, as economic game theory suggests that they should not be the first mover and that the US shale barrel should be the new swing barrel given how easily it can be scaled up and down.

    This may explain Saudi Arabia's unusual hints that it is now comfortable with sub-$90-a-barrel oil prices — it doesn't want to admit that its power to shift the price is drying up.

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  • Argentine President Emerges After Yet Another Illness And She Is Not Happy With All The Rumors About Her Health
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 10:19 PM:)

    Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, made her first public appearance on Tuesday since being hospitalized more than three weeks ago with a bacterial infection.  She took the opportunity to address her critics and assure her audience that she would protect her country's interests.

    Produced by Devan JosephVideo courtesy of Associated Press.

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  • The World's Largest Armies From Antiquity To The Present
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 10:15 PM:)

    Mapmaking graphic artist Martin Vargic's has made an amazing graphic tracking the size of the world's largest armies at different points in time. 

    The graphic gives an understanding of the just how mobilized the human race was during World War II — and shows how the size of the wold's largest armies has shunk over time as interstate warfare becomes less common and technology surpasses sheer manpower in military importance. 

    It also gives us a chance to compare the size of some of the largest armies at different points in history with one another: the US had about as many troops in 1950, for instance, as China's Ming Dynasty had in 1400.

    One loaded choice Vargic made is splitting the world between East and West. The graphic doesn't depict the world's single biggest army at any given time, but the biggest armies in two halves of a divided and sometimes antagonistic world.

    In his research, Vargic drew from Encyclopedia Britannica, British think tank IISS, and Wikipedia. The first project listed on his website is a humorous map showing the Internet's biggest traffic drivers as countries drawn to scale.

    Another project of his shows what would be left of the world should sea levels rise by 250 to 300 feet, which the Slovakian artist said is realistic should the polar ice caps melt completely.

    Chart Military Army Size History

    SEE ALSO: This mythical map of the Internet is brilliant

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  • Darren Wilson Doesn't Think There's Any Racial Tension In Ferguson
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 9:02 PM:)

    Darren Wilson

    One of the most troubling things about Darren Wilson's interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired on ABC News this week was his denial of racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb in August, spoke publicly about the incident for the first time this week after a grand jury failed to indict him.

    As The Atlantic points out, Wilson responded Stephanopoulos' questions with virtually no emotion.

    He said that although he never wanted to take someone's life, he did his job properly. Wilson does not think he's responsible for Brown's death in the sense that he said the shooting was the only possible outcome of Brown's actions.

    He insisted the situation would have unfolded the same way if Brown had been white.

    He then went on to deny racial tension even exists in Ferguson. Even more, he implied that police officers in general aren't ever racist.

    "You can't perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you," he said. "I help people. That's my job."

    Here's the back-and-forth between Wilson and Stephanopoulos on the issue of racism in Ferguson:

    Stephanopoulos: What were the relations like in that community every single day as you were working? ... Did you feel any kind of racial tension there?

    Wilson: No. Ferguson loves Ferguson. That community loves its community. When people say it's a diverse community, it is a diverse community. That is a very proactive community. 

    Stephanopoulos: But the police force is overwhelmingly white and the community is predominantly African-American. That didn't create tension?

    Wilson: Not with me.

    Stephanopoulos: Have you ever had any kind of a racial incident?

    Wilson: No.

    Stephanopoulos: And never been accused of acting in a racist manner?

    Wilson: No.

    Wilson's statements stand in stark contrast to the reality in and around St. Louis, which is one of the most racially segregated cities in America.

    There are major income, housing, and educational disparities between Ferguson's white and black residents:

    Ferguson Census

    And there is a stark racial divide in St. Louis and its surrounding suburbs (Ferguson is near Castle Point north of St. Louis):

    St. Louis segregation river

    In addition to all of that, while two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, as of August, the city's police department only had three black officers out of 53, and most of the top city officials are white.

    St. Louis and Ferguson might be "diverse" in the sense that they aren't 100% white, but that doesn't mean there isn't segregation and racial tension.

    There are varying witness accounts of what happened during the altercation that led to Wilson shooting Brown. Wilson has said that he feared for his life because Brown was attacking him, hitting him, and seemed to be undeterred by Wilson's threats to shoot if Brown didn't back off.

    But even if Wilson's version of events is completely accurate, his description of Brown could be seen as racist.

    In his grand jury testimony, Wilson described Brown's demeanor during the altercation, saying: "It looks like a demon; that's how angry he looked." Even assuming that the use of the inhuman pronoun "it" was unintentional, using the word "demon" to describe Brown is reminiscent of racist language from the past.

    Jamelle Bouie writes for Slate: "In so many words, Wilson describes the 'black brute,' a stock figure of white supremacist rhetoric in the lynching era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. ... To the white public, the 'black brute' was a menacing, powerful creature who could withstand the worst punishment."

    Another part of Wilson's testimony that stands out is his comparison of Brown to Hulk Hogan and his description of Brown charging at him through bullets as Wilson was firing.

    Bouie points out that in the Rodney King trial in the 1990s, jurors heard descriptions of King as "a 'Tasmanian devil' and a man with 'hulk-like strength.'" Studies have shown that these stereotypes are attributed to blacks more than any other group, Slate notes.

    It all goes to show that racism can be deeply entrenched and implicit. Just because Wilson might not have noticed racial tension in Ferguson doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Watch the full interview below:

    More ABC US news | ABC World News

    SEE ALSO: These Maps Of St. Louis Segregation Are Depressing

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  • These Surveillance Balloons Are The Hot New Way To Spy On People
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 8:36 PM:)

    Police in Jerusalem have been using sophisticated surveillance balloons to monitor protests and violence in the city.  The balloons, manufactured by an Israeli developer and manufacturer of intelligence systems, can stay in the air for up to 72 hours and carry sensitive cameras.

    Produced by Devan Joseph. Narrated by Graham FlanaganVideo courtesy of Associated Press.

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  • Newly Translated Documents From The '80s Reveal The Peak Of The Soviet Union's Nuclear Fears
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 7:53 PM:)

    kgb 1

    A stockpile of Soviet documents recently translated for the Wilson Center and dating from the '80s reveal new details about the Soviet Union's fear of possible nuclear conflict during the closing years of the Cold War.

    The documents offer insights into Project RYaN, an early-warning system with 300 dedicated KGB employees who monitored the potential for an "imperialist surprise nuclear missile attack" from NATO.

    At a major KGB conference in Moscow in 1981, the agency's chairman, Yuri Andropov, unveiled Project RYaN (Raketno-Yadernoe Napadenie, or “nuclear weapon attack") as a necessity in the face of a US rival that the Kremlin believed was "actively preparing for nuclear war."

    One translated KGB document lists some of the 292 indicators that might signal an impending attack.

    Possible signs of a coming nuclear blitz could be as nuanced as increased production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals beyond "actual needs of the current epidemiological situation," or as seemingly ominous as "significant deviations in travel by diplomats and other privileged persons from NATO states."

    Overall, the list of indicators is meant to keep a pulse on "all areas of society, primarily in political decision-making centers, the armed forces, the civil defense, the intelligence services, and the economy."

    The documents also reveal cooperation between the Soviet KGB and the Stasi — its notorious Eastern German equivalent — in their efforts to monitor signs of an attack.

    Germany didn't contribute to Project RYaN until 1985, but as Nate Jones writes for the Wilson Center, the documents "acknowledge that the Stasi was the KGB’s primary source of foreign intelligence," thanks to its insight into West Germany's tank production and other defense technology, as well as its eye on the heavy US military presence in the western Europe.

    German Tank Reforger Military Exercise 1983A 1986 letter from KGB Chairman Victor Chebrikov to his Stasi counterpart recognizes the "joint efforts on timely recognition of the danger of a sudden attack on the states of the socialist community."

    The translated letters are also an interesting glimpse into the now-antiquated niceties of official Soviet communication: they open with salutations like "Dear Comrade Mielke!," and close with florid well-wishing and "communist greetings."

    Some letters also betray anxiety that false indicators under Project RYaN might lead the Eastern Bloc to jump the gun and take military action. One document from 1984 states that "constant and ongoing assessments have to be made whether certain developments actually constitute a crisis or not."

    The documents give a sense that confidence in the project was shaky at best, and Project RYaN may have generated more fears than assurances — this in the context of a world stage ripe with potential for unintended nuclear conflict. It might have also fed into the Soviet paranoia that resulted in a notorious 1983 war scare and led some in the Soviet hierarchy to wrongly believe that the US was considering a nuclear first-strike against Europe's already-fraying socialist bloc.

    SEE ALSO: Russia now has a $12 billion reminder of its money problems

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  • Here's The New Yorker's Brilliantly Simple New Ferguson Cover
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 5:58 PM:)

    The New Yorker has released the cover of its next issue online, and it brilliantly encapsulates the tension that has taken over Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis that has been racked by protests recently.

    The cover shows St. Louis' major landmark — the Gateway Arch — split at the top with white coloring one side of the city and black coloring the other:

    New Yorker Ferguson cover

    The illustrator, Bob Staake, told The New Yorker he "wanted to comment on the tragic rift that we’re witnessing" in Ferguson and across the country.

    "I lived in St. Louis for seventeen years before moving to Massachusetts, so watching the news right now breaks my heart," he said. "At first glance, one might see a representation of the Gateway Arch as split and divided, but my hope is that the events in Ferguson will provide a bridge and an opportunity for the city, and also for the country, to learn and come together."

    St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in AmericaThroughout the past century, the city has experienced "white flight" — white people progressively moving away from the city's urban center and out into the suburbs.

    The Washington Post notes that while two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, the city's police department only has three black officers (out of 53), and most of the top city officials are white.

    Ferguson has been ripped apart by protests and riots since the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Stores have been looted and buildings and cop cars have been set on fire. The protests have at times turned violent, with riot police firing tear gas into crowds.

    "Hands up, don't shoot" became a slogan and symbol of the protests. The New Yorker illustrated this on the cover of its Sept. 1 issue:

    New Yorker Ferguson cover

    Demonstrations picked up again this week after a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot Brown after stopping him and a friend for walking in the middle of the street.

    Wilson says he shot the teenager in self-defense. He told investigators there was an altercation in his police vehicle and Brown grabbed his gun. However, other witnesses have told a different story and said Brown had his hands up in a sign of surrender and was running away when he was shot.

    SEE ALSO: These Maps Of St. Louis Segregation Are Depressing

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  • These Are America's Secret Elite Warriors
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 5:10 PM:)

    recon marines

    The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees roughly 70,000 operators, support units, and civilians from each of the military's sister service branches.

    America's elite soldiers, work under a shroud of secrecy to carry out high-risk missions with swift precision, laser focus and firm perseverance.

    Operators work in up to 80 countries with sometimes less than 48 hours notice to accomplish assignments in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, capture and assassinations of wanted peoples, and training of foreign forces.

    Working with the military's most advanced technology and weapons, the projected FY2015 budget for US Special Ops forces is approximately $9.9 billion. 

    The following graphic lists the strengths of each unit and how these elite warriors combine their skills to serve the interests of global security.


    SEE ALSO: 18 Things Navy SEALs Never Leave Home Without

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  • POLL: Republicans Like Mitt Romney And Jeb Bush In 2016
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 2:53 PM:)


    A new poll released Wednesday morning found Republican voters are still inclined to back some familiar names in the 2016 presidential race.

    Two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney led the crowded field with 19% support, the Quinnipiac University survey found. The runner-up was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), the brother and son of two recent presidents, with 11%.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Dr. Ben Carson, a prominent conservative activist, each had 8% support in the poll. No other Republican candidate topped 6%.

    Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, said his firm's survey indicates Republicans are still backing "more moderate," establishment candidates over outspoken conservatives. 

    "Remember Mitt? Republicans still have Gov. Mitt Romney top of mind and top of the heap in the potential race for the top job," Malloy said in a statement. "But Jeb Bush looms large in second place. With New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie also in the mix, it looks like Republican voters are favoring more moderate choices for 2016."

    Romney has repeatedly insisted he will not launch a third bid for the White House, but some of his public statements have left his supporters hopeful he'll change his mind. Meanwhile, Bush has been quietly building the framework for a potential campaign while maintaining he has yet to decide whether or not to run.

    Quinnipiac also polled the general election and found Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton narrowly leading all of the Republican candidates except Romney, who holds a 45% to 44% lead in the hypothetical matchup.

    "Hillary Clinton has no real rival from her own party, but there are challengers galore in the Republican lineup, with Romney and Christie looking especially strong against her," Malloy said.

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  • Mexico Is Squandering Its Youth
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 2:17 PM:)


    Mexico appears to be squandering a historic opportunity to take advantage of the "demographic bonus" represented by its surge in working-age citizens.

    The Mexican government estimates that about 32 percent of the Mexican population today is between the ages of 12 and 29 years.

    During this demographic bonus, a disproportionate percentage of the population enters the workforce – compared to those who are retired or nearing retirement – and drives economic growth. 

    Workers passing through this demographic window of opportunity are supposed to generate wealth that will help support a soon-to-be-aging population. 

    These opportunities don’t come around twice: age profiles in developing countries change quickly, and societies need to make the most of those few years during which the economically active population far surpasses that of the economically dependent. The portrayal of Mexico as a young country in the media and the adoption of labor reforms in 2012 brought an initial optimism about its ability to take advantage of this bonus, but the current state of affairs casts a shadow over the potential of its young population.

    According to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance 2014 Report, 22 percent of people between 15 and 29 years old in Mexico are neither employed nor in education or training. These “ni-ni’s” represent a demographic bust because of a lack of jobs.

    The lack of employment also influences young Mexicans’ attitudes toward education.  According to the OECD, even high educational attainment is not a guarantee of employment in Mexico.  A 2012 report by the McKinsey Center for Government found that only half of educated young people in Mexico believe that their post-secondary education has improved their job prospects. 

    According to a National Survey of High School Dropouts in 2012, moreover, many young men leave high school to contribute to their households’ finances, and young women quit to take on family responsibilities related to marriage and pregnancy.  Once out of school, they have no option but to participate in low productivity niches of the informal economy – severely reducing the benefits that their entry into the labor market could bring to the national economy.mexico5

    The fate of young people has profound implications for Mexico’s economic future. Without a comprehensive plan to expand employment opportunities and access to higher education that enables youth to flourish and lead Mexico into a new stage of development, Mexico will find itself a generation from now with the demographic profile of a developed country – with an aging population producing less but needing more care – but with a middle-income level of wealth.  Budgets will be stretched, and social tensions could be great.  Many of the most capable young people will leave the country for better opportunities.

    Young Mexicans appreciate what’s at stake and are using the tools at their disposal to make their voices heard. Lately, student movements have attracted international attention using social media, but it’s far from clear whether the Mexican government and political, economic, and social elites are listening and have the vision necessary to avoid a crisis.

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  • Here's Everything We Know About Facebook's Links To Lee Rigby's Murder (FB)
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 2:11 PM:)

    Lee Rigby

    A report released by the government yesterday accused an unnamed US-based technology company of failing to inform police of a conversation between two extremists that took place in December 2012.

    The report was into the death of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was stabbed to death by two Muslim extremists in London in May 2013. It found that the UK's intelligence agencies could not have prevented the attack, but that "communications services providers" were acting as a "safe haven for terrorists."

    The version of the report, chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, released to the press doesn't identify which company was used to hold the conversation, but reports later claimed that it was Facebook. In the British media, Facebook has largely been blamed for failing to alert security services to the plot being discussed between two terrorists with Facebook accounts. But a close review of the report indicates that Facebook did not in fact know what was going on, and even if it did the law might have prevented Facebook from alerting authorities.

    In other words, Rifkind's assertion that Facebook is providing an "unacceptable" safe haven for terrorists is probably false. Here is what happened:

    Two Extremists Plotted To Kill A Soldier In An Online Chat

    The government report identifies one of the men in the conversation as Michael Adebowale, and the other is an extremist in Yemen known only as "Foxtrot."

    In the online chat, Adebowale reportedly says "let’s kill a soldier," before going on to discuss his choice of weapon in messages described as "graphic and emotive." Foxtrot is said to have encouraged the attack during the conversation.

    If The Government Had Known About The Conversation, The Attack Could Have Been Prevented

    The government report makes it clear that UK intelligence agencies made a series of failures in investigating the people behind Rigby's murder, but concluded that it would not have been possible to prevent his death. However, the report does say that had Facebook turned over the conversation to police, Rigby may still be alive today. 

    The report says "This is the single issue which – had it been known at the time – might have enabled MI5 to prevent the attack."

    It goes on to criticise the Facebook, saying "this company does not appear to regard itself as under any obligation to ensure that its systems identify such exchanges, or to take action or notify the authorities when its communications services appear to be used by terrorists." Business Insider contacted Facebook for comment but the company did not respond.

    Facebook Banned Adebowale Several Times

    Seven of Adebowale's Facebook accounts had been deactivated by Facebook, including five accounts banned for posting extremist content.

    Facebook issued this statement to Business Insider:

    Like everyone else, we were horrified by the vicious murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. We don’t comment on individual cases but Facebook’s policies are clear, we do not allow terrorist content on the site and take steps to prevent people from using our service for these purposes.

    Facebook Hasn't Handed Details Of All His Accounts To Police

    Adebowale is understood to have used 11 different Facebook accounts. But GCHQ says that it was only given information about three accounts from Facebook, while another three came from a partner agency (likely the NSA). That leaves five accounts that police haven't been given access to, meaning that more messages about the planning of the attack could still be found.

    However, Facebook Did Not Know About The Exchange Between Adebowale and Foxtrot Prior To The Murder

    The report details that the exchange between the two occurred in December 2012, five months before Rigby's murder, and had it been referred to security services at the time, the tragedy might have been averted. But the authors acknowledge that Facebook was unaware that the exchange had even taken place.

    Rigby report

    Moreover the remedy that they suggest, that Communications Service Providers "review [closed] accounts immediately" where there are possible links to terrorism, doesn't appear to apply to the case of the particular exchange either. This is because the report states that "shortly after the exchange, Adebowale closed the account himself". Facebook didn't close it, in other words.

    Rigby report

    Under the Wiretap Act, companies based in the US that provide electronic communication services are legally required not to actively monitor or disclose information about users unless there is evidence that a crime is being planned or has been committed. The ISC report accepts that at the time the exchange took place Adebowale "was not under active investigation".

    Unless the exchange was flagged up by an internal monitoring systems, which the report does not mention happened in this case, Facebook would have been unable to a) know of its existence or b) legally divulge it without a warrant.

    Lee Rigby's Family Have Hit Out At Facebook

    In an interview with the Sun, Rigby's sister Sara McClure said that "Facebook have my brother's blood on their hands. I hold them partly responsible for Lee's murder." And his step-father, Ian Rigby, said that Facebook had "failed us all" for failing to notify police of the messages.

    The Prime Minister Has Spoken Out About Terrorists Using Social Networks

    David Cameron said yesterday that "terrorists are using the internet to communicate with each other and we must not accept that these communications are beyond the reach of the authorities or the internet companies themselves." 

    He went on to say that "Their networks are being used to plot murder and mayhem. It is their social responsibility to act on this and we expect them to live up to that responsibility." His government is considering new laws requiring tech companies to divulge more data about their users, such as who is using specific devices to access their services.

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  • UK Papers Are Going After Facebook As Lee Rigby's Family Accuses It Of Having 'Blood On Its Hands'
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 12:35 PM:)

    Sun cover

    Britain's press corps have rounded on Facebook after allegations that the social network failed to report a key conversation on the platform in which one of Lee Rigby's killers, Michael Adebowale, threatened to "murder a soldier."

    The exchange with an unidentified individual identified by the codename FOXTROT was highlighted in the Intelligence and Security Committee's report on Rigby's murder, released Tuesday, as the key piece of evidence that could have averted the tragedy. The report says:

    Adebowale's expressed intention to murder a soldier was highly significant. If Adebowale's exchange with FOXTROT had been seen by MI5 at the time, then we believe that the investigation would have increased to Priority 1, unlocking all the extra resources this would have entailed. This is the single issue which — had it been known at the time — might have enabled MI5 to prevent the attack.

    Although the platform on which the exchange happened was missing from the report, and the transcript of the exchange redacted, The Guardian alleged on Tuesday that the unnamed internet company was Facebook.

    Here is how the morning papers covered the story:

    The Sun quoted the Rigby family as saying that the site had "blood on its hands"

    THE SUN FRONT PAGE: Lee Rigby family fury as net giant failed to report murder threat. #skypapers pic.twitter.com/qeAWWrtlEH

    — Sky News (@SkyNews) November 25, 2014

    Meanwhile the Daily Mail led with "Facebook Kept Quiet About Rigby's Killer's Plotting"

    Wednesday's Daily Mail front page: Facebook kept quiet about Rigby killer's plotting pic.twitter.com/wJR4UWNiU2

    — cf (@cfmcfc) November 25, 2014

    Elsewhere, the Telegraph cited Prime Minister David Cameron's comment that the failure to report the exchange amounted to a "lack of moral responsibility"

    Tomorrow's Daily Telegraph front page: "Fury at Facebook over terror note left by Lee Rigby's killer" pic.twitter.com/p1Kk4vyW8A

    — The Telegraph (@Telegraph) November 25, 2014

    NOW WATCH: Your Facebook App Is Quietly Clogging Up Your iPhone

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  • Europe And The US Are At War Over Breaking Up Google (GOOG)
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 8:38 AM:)

    Battle of Long island revolutionary war america britain

    US lawmakers are now weighing in heavily against the motion currently going through the European Parliament which would advise breaking up Google

    Google execs are known to be "furious" at the EU's idea that the search giant — which has a 90% market share in Europe — is a monopoly that needs to be split apart.

    The letter from Washington politicians is the biggest sideswipe yet against the EU proposals, with senior cross-party figures from both the House and Senate lining up to give the EU a kicking. The Financial Times has published some clips from the letter

    A joint letter from the Republican and Democrat leadership of the Senate finance committee and House ways and means committee said “proposals that seem to target US technology companies” raised questions “about the EU’s commitment to open markets”.

    “This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges [and] do not appear to give full consideration to the negative effect such policies may have on the broader US-EU trade relationship,” wrote senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch and congressmen Dave Camo and Sander Levin.

    According to the FT, the chairman of the House of Representatives' judiciary committee also warned against "encouraging antitrust enforcement efforts that appear to be motivated by politics". The letter comes less than a day after the US mission to the EU warned the European bloc not to politicise the probe

    The references to politicisation are probably referring to the EU's tax complaints about Google and other companies. The suggestion that the online giant should be split aren't officially motivated by that, and are to do with allegations that its search engine is too dominant — but US lawmakers seem pretty sceptical. 

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  • Brainwashed North Koreans Hold Huge Parade To Prove The UN Wrong
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 1:31 AM:)

    Thousands of North Koreans gathered in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Tuesday to show their support for their government's rejection of a recent UN resolution on human rights in North Korea.

    Kim Ki Nam, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea told the assembled crowd: "Our army and people will launch their fiercest and most intense battle on record to crush mercilessly the heinous and frenzied human rights racket against Korea."

    Last week North Korea threatened to bolster its war capability and conduct a fourth nuclear test to cope with what it calls US hostility that led to the approval of the landmark UN resolution on its human rights violations.

    A UN committee adopted the resolution last Tuesday - which was drafted by the European Union and Japan - urging the Security Council to refer the North's human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.

    It's the first time a UN resolution included the idea that Pyongyang's absolute leader Kim Jong Un could be targeted by prosecutors.

    Produced by Devan Joseph. Video courtesy of Associated Press.

    Follow BI Video: On Facebook

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  • Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson: 'I Know I Did My Job Right'
    (Politics - November 26 2014 - 12:11 AM:)

    Darren Wilson And George Stephanopoulos

    Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson spoke directly about his experience to the press on Tuesday for the first time in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

    A Missouri grand jury decided on Monday not to indict Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, after he stopped him for jaywalking in August. 

    Transcripts of Wilson's grand jury testimony giving his account of the shooting were released Monday night, but until Tuesday he had not spoken publicly about Brown's death.

    In the ABC interview, Wilson explained why he got out of his car when he stopped Brown. He said Brown punched him while he was in his car, which prompted Wilson to get out of the vehicle.

    "My job isn’t to just sit and wait. I have to see where this guy goes," Wilson said in the interview. 

    Wilson also implied that he feared for his life. 

    "He was a very large, very powerful man," Wilson said while describing his first altercation with Brown, also adding that Brown threw the first punch. "He tried to shoot me with my own gun."

    When Stephanopoulos asked him if he would have done anything differently, Wilson simply replied, "No."

    Wilson said that he has a clean conscience about what happened on that day because he knows he did his job right.

    Some witness accounts of the shooting are inconsistent with what Wilson said happened. Wilson claimed that Brown was charging toward him while he fired the fatal shots, but some witnesses testified that they saw Brown with his hands up in a sign of surrender when he was shot.

    Protests broke out in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, after the shooting. Demonstrations picked up again this week after officials announced the grand jury decision. Buildings and police cars were set on fire, and some stores were looted.

    SEE ALSO: Here Is Cop Darren Wilson's Official Account Of The Michael Brown Shooting

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