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Business Insider – Politics

  • Russia claims that the search for its submarines by the Swedish military last year was based on a 'myth'
    (Politics - April 19 2015 - 9:36 AM:)

    Novorossiysk submarine

    Over the weekend, Swedish Rear Adm. Anders Grenstad confirmed to the media that the apparent Russian submarine spotted in Swedish waters on October 31 was just a civilian working boat. The conclusion was reached after close examination of pictures taken by a former naval officer.

    But the Swedish military remain steadfast in its claim that Russia was indeed sailing submarines around Swedish waters last year: "The assessment that Swedish territory was violated in October 2014 remains correct in its entirety."

    In an extraordinary retort, the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement decrying "anti-Russian hysteria and propaganda" in Sweden's response to the mistaken submarine sighting. Russia apparently wants Sweden to believe its subs weren't off the Swedish coast last year:

    We could not help but notice the article in the Swedish media quoting Navy Rear Admiral A. Grenstad Sweden concerning the large-scale operation in Swedish territorial waters last Autumn to search for an unidentified foreign object underwater — allegedly a Russian submarine. In fact, as the Swedish Rear Admiral admitted, this object was a "technical ship."

    We would like to remind you that the representatives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation from the outset rejected all insinuations Swedish side of the presence of Russian naval ships in the territorial waters of Sweden.

    The unprecedented scale of the hunt for the Russian submarine was, therefore, nothing but a mindless waste of Swedish taxpayer money. This was done, it should be understood, for the sake of promotion of anti-Russian hysteria and propaganda "pumping" the myth of the "military threat" from the East.

    While the individual sighting on October 31 was dismissed, the Swedish military remains convinced that incursions by a reconnaissance submarine into Swedish territorial waters did occur on October 17 and 24.

    More than 200 service personnel took part in the search for the submarine as the military deployed minesweepers, helicopters, and an anti-submarine ship. At the time, Swedish intelligence reported intercepting encrypted messages that appeared to confirm the presence of at least one vessel, with another located in Kaliningrad, the base of Russia's Baltic Fleet.

    Moreover, the retired Swedish naval officer who took a picture of what he believed to be a Russian submarine in the waters around Stockholm has rejected claims that it was just a "civilian boat." Sven Olof Kviman told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that it was "completely impossible that we have got this wrong." He said:

    I saw the submarine above water: the bow, stern and tower. It is always difficult to determine the size, but it was around 20-30 metres long.

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  • HANK PAULSON: 'That's bulls--t'
    (Politics - April 19 2015 - 1:20 AM:)

    Hank Paulson

    Hank Paulson has some colorful thoughts on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

    First, here's tiny bit of context: Earlier this month, some commentators — notably Harvard professor Larry Summers — said the formation of the AIIB, a new international financing consortium headed by China, marked a moment that could be remembered as "the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system."

    In an interview with Bloomberg's Peter Cook on Tuesday, Paulson said simply: "That's bulls--t."

    Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs who also served as Treasury secretary during the financial crisis, said the Obama administration's handling of the AIIB's formation "wasn't their finest hour."

    As we've noted, the major embarrassment for the US here was that major economic allies like the UK, France, and Germany were willing, in exchange for closer economic ties with China, to go against the Obama administration's request that they not join the AIIB.

    But that this marked a "watershed" moment declaring the end of US global economic dominance was not something Paulson was willing to consider.

    In his interview with Cook, Paulson also said China was "running out of steam" and risked a "day of reckoning" unless the country's leaders adopt a new model for municipal finances.

    SEE ALSO: Larry Summers has a major warning about the US economy

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  • Rand Paul's wife could be his secret weapon on the campaign trail
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 7:58 PM:)


    Since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced his presidential campaign on April 7, his wife Kelley has emerged as one of his top surrogates and defenders. 

    Kelley has been stepping into the spotlight to promote her new book about the importance of female friendship. Inspired by a close knit circle of friends from her college days, she collected a selection of essays in "True and Constant Friends," that celebrates the bonds between sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers.

    With a female-centric project in hand, Kelley is now well-positioned to combat charges of sexism that have been leveled against her husband.

    In the first few days of his campaign, Paul was criticized after a testy interview last week with "Today" host Savannah Guthrie. He also has been reticent thus far to speak out and clarify his position on a key women's issue: abortion.

    During the exchange with Guthrie on April 8, one day after the launch of his presidential campaign, a humorless looking Sen. Paul appeared annoyed when Guthrie listed off perceived changes in his foreign policy views as part of her question on his platform.

    "Before we go through a litany of things you say I've changed on, why don't you ask me a question, 'Have I changed my opinion?' That would sort of a better way to approach an interview," he told Guthrie.

    Some accused the Republican politician of having patronized Guthrie, but Kelley Paul fired back in support of her husband.

    "Frankly, it offends me, because that's not who he is," she told the New York Times on Monday, when asked about the sexism allegations. 

    "He's the last person in the world who would ever be dismissive of someone because they're a woman. I mean the last person," she continued, adding that he worked for years with a female surgical partner at his ophthalmology practice.

    However, she did concede that her husband, the father of three boys, could learn to be gentler.


    "Someone could make the argument that perhaps he should be more poised, he needs to be smoother with this. And that's legitimate," she added.

    To publicize her book, Paul returned to her husband's stomping ground and was a guest on "Today" Tuesday. But she was interviewed by Hoda Kotb and not Guthrie.

    On the criticism of her husband, she said, "It's hard for me sometimes to see him being criticized because that's not who he is in terms of his relationships with women."

    Kelley, who has moved with the couple's youngest son from Kentucky to Washington DC to be close to her husband, seems ready and willing to hit the trail to promote Paul 2016. 

    She introduced her husband at his campaign launch rally last Tuesday and starred in a heart warming campaign video that introduces Rand Paul in "Kelley's words."

    Other spouses of declared candidates do not seem likely to play such prominent roles.

    Jeanette Rubio, wife of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), appeared on stage at her husband's presidential launch rally in Miami on Monday but did not speak. 

    President Bill Clinton, husband of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was not included in her campaign announcement video and is not accompanying Clinton on her road trip to Iowa. Given his notoriety, the ex-president is reportedly expected to play a "backstage" role in his wife's operation.  

    Heidi Cruz, the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is taking a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs while her husband makes his White House bid. She took the stage with the couple's two daughters at the conclusion of her husband's speech to announce his campaign on March 23. She has appeared on certain campaign stops with her husband and was even caught appealing to female voters in a women's bathroom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

    Kelley Paul, though, is a bona fide politico in her own right. She previously worked for the GOP consulting firm Strategy Group for Media, and she is advising her husband to open up and share from the heart during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The senator's campaign team did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the part she make take in his effort. 

    Her greatest role in may be simply softening the image of the "famously dour senator," as her husband was characterized in a 2013 Vogue magazine profile.

    "Paul is more likable when Kelley's around — and likable still counts in politics ... Kelley's ebullient smile and occasional appeals for restraint balance her husband’s prickly delivery," the fashion glossy concluded.  

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  • Harvard professor reveals why America's infrastructure is so awful, who is to blame, and how we can finally fix it
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 6:33 PM:)

    If there's one thing most Americans agree on, it's that our national infrastructure blows.

    But we never do anything about it.

    Why not? Who's to blame? And how can we finally fix it?

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  • How finance minister Yanis Varoufakis became the face of Greece's anti-austerity rebellion
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 4:30 PM:)

    Yanis Varoufakis

    Greece maybe tumbling towards a messy default on its debt, and it may even have to exit the eurozone. But it will do so in style, thanks to Yanis Varoufakis. 

    The Greek finance minister has taken Europe's economic institutions by storm, found his way onto the front page of every newspaper and (reportedly) into the hearts of plenty of German women. 

    And he's barely been in politics for four months.

    Whether you're in awe or loathe him, there's no avoiding Yanis Varoufakis.

    Before he got into politics, Varoufakis was an academic, and spent some time as chief economist of video game company Valve.

    Varoufakis only announced he would run for election in January 2015, less than three weeks before the government actually came into power.

    A few days after the election Varoufakis had an incredibly awkward back-and-forth with Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, setting the frosty diplomatic tone.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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  • Obama may be smiling today but the Congressional fight over an Iran deal is far from over
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 2:00 PM:)

    obama bob corker golf

    President Barack Obama may have dodged a worst-case scenario when it came to Congress's response to the Iran nuclear deal this week, but the fight is far from over.

    On April 14th, Obama announced that he wouldn't veto a bill, pushed by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and passed unanimously in committee in the Senate, that would give the Senate a 60-day review period on a possible deal in which Obama would not be allowed to suspend sanctions on Iran, and allow Congress to reject a deal through a joint statement of disapproval.

    If the deal is rejected under this statement, Obama would no longer be able to issue waivers on unilateral sanctions in the event of a final agreement. In reality, Obama could just veto the statement, which means it would take the Senate a veto-proof 67 votes to kill an agreement.

    As Yishai Schwartz noted at Lawfare Blog, the Corker bill concedes the president's right to enter into a nuclear agreement without submitting it to the Senate for ratification — and then gives Congress the ability to endorse an agreement's executive enforcement. It also forecloses on other, more serious Congressional measures. It's unlikely that Democrats will endorse additional sanctions legislation or non-nuclear-related sanctions triggers as long as the Corker-brokered bipartisan compromise, which was also endorsed by ranking Foreign Relations Committee democrat Ben Cardin, remains in place.

    As Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put it at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Washington Forum on April 15th, the Corker bill is "not a losing proposition for the president," while opponents of Obama's Iran policy  "shouldn't herald this as a big improvement."

    It adds to Congress's oversight ability — but not by enough to satisfy many Republican critics of a potential deal.

    So there's likely to be a Senate fight over possible amendments. Critics of Obama's Iran policy emphasize that Corker will be treated like any other bill and will be openly debated on the Senate floor, meaning that Senators can legitimately propose any changes to the legislation that they'd like.

    But in an April 17th news conference, Obama said that he promised not to veto the bill because he believes it will remain in something very close to its current state. "My understanding is that it's agreed there isn't going to be a whole bunch of poison pills or provisions or amendments added to it," the president said.

    Iran Nuclear Talks

    The politics are going in Obama's favor.

    The administration doesn't want to connect what it considers to be non-nuclear-related issues to a possible Iran agreement. The Corker bill allows skeptical Democrats to claim that they're endorsing a Congressional role in the process, while staying within limits that the White House has itself accepted. It will make it harder to build bipartisan support for further Congressional efforts, and without greatly expanding Congress's ability to oversee a nuclear deal.

    But that doesn't mean that Obama's critics won't try to introduce amendments when the bill's debated. Here's what they could introduce.

    Sanctions triggers related to ballistic missiles. An amendment would call for the re-imposition of sanctions if Iran is caught developing its missile arsenal past a certain point, or is caught cooperating on ballistic missiles with North Korea, a country alleged to have assisted Iran's nuclear program and that may be importing ballistic missile components to Tehran. A North Korea-related provision may just be narrow enough to actually pass.

    Triggers related to terrorism. There are two potential versions of an amendment: one that snaps back sanctions if Iran is involved in an act of terror against a US target, and one that snaps them back if it's involved in any terror sponsorship, period. The administration has come out against connecting Iranian terror sponsorship to the nuclear talks, but there might be some support for a provision that's directly related to attacks on American citizens or assets.

    Unfreezing Iranian government funds to compensate American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. The Senate could pass an amendment supporting the US's establishment of a fund that uses frozen Iranian assets to compensate Americans injured during Iranian state-sponsored attacks, including the embassy hostage crisis, the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, or the rash of Hezbollah-related hostage-takings in Lebanon in the 1980s.

    Other measures. Even if this bill passes without any major amendments, Congress could pass another law calling for a concurrent resolution that would put every member of Congress on record as either supporting or opposing a final Iran deal, freeing members of Congress to oppose a deal without endorsing any binding legislation. And Congress could always threaten to pass additional sanctions if the talks go past their current, June 30th deadline.

    SEE ALSO: Iraq's prime minister doesn't want to talk about how Iran is taking over his country

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  • The Supreme Court's big gay-marriage case could rock the 2016 presidential race
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 11:30 AM:)


    The upcoming Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage could shake up the 2016 race for the White House.

    The nation's highest court is reviewing the constitutionality of states' gay-marriage bans and is expected to issue a ruling by June.

    This means gay marriage will be making headlines throughout the summer, and that's likely to lead to uncomfortable questions for candidates who have stumbled on the issue. 

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign, for example, is working to defend allegations of flip-flopping on the issue, and two of her likely opponents are already trying to gain traction by calling her out on it.

    "I'm glad Secretary Clinton's come around to the right positions on these issues," former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) jabbed Thursday evening. "I believe that we are best as a party when we lead with our principles and not according to the polls."

    Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) also piled on.

    “I would argue that when Democrats look at my record on all the issues, that they’re going to see that I have been very, very consistent," he said the same day on MSNBC. "In fact, a lot more consistent than Sen. Clinton. Just today we're learning more about her flip-flopping on marriage equality." 

    O'Malley and Chafee were referring to an NPR interview Clinton gave in 2014, in which she suggested the same-sex marriage question should be dealt with on a state-by-state basis. 

    "For me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states," Clinton said at the time, according to a transcript.

    After the Clinton campaign told BuzzFeed on Wednesday that she wants the Supreme Court to strike down gay-marriage bans, reporters accused her of "shifting" her position. However, Clinton's campaign later told Business Insider that her position hasn't changed since 2013, when she came out in support of same-sex marriages.

    Their argument was based on the idea she has supported same-sex marriage, so backing a pro-gay-rights Supreme Court ruling is perfectly consistent with her prior support for individual state laws. 

    Now, there isn't much daylight between Clinton and her Democratic opponents on this issue, but Chafee's and O'Malley's comments make it clear they believe her past positions are a vulnerability that can be used against her. 

    Of course elected officials flip-flopping on gay marriage is nothing new. From President Barack Obama on down, a wide swath of Democratic politicians have had to adjust to the huge shift in public perceptions in favor of additional rights for gays and lesbians. 


    Republican White House contenders have also been struggling to strike a balance on the same-sex marriage issue, in which there has been a seismic shift both in the general election electorate and even Republican primary voters. 

    According to The Washington Post, a recent Marist College poll indicated that about half of Republican primary voters in key early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — think opposition to gay marriage is unacceptable.

    Accordingly, the GOP presidential hopefuls are attempting to thread the needle: All have stated their opposition to gay marriage, but most of them have done so while simultaneously trying to maintain an inclusive tone. 

    Some are having more success than others.

    When a judge ordered the Sunshine State to issue same-sex marriage licenses earlier this year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) called for "respect for the good people" on both sides of the issue. Shortly after, Bush, whose campaign includes a number of pro-gay-rights staffers, had to defend some of his past comments opposing gay rights.

    BuzzFeed reported that in 1994 Bush said he was against letting "sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion." He further said the government is expected to treat some citizens less favorably, including "polluters, pedophiles, pornographers, drunk drivers, and developers without proper permits." 

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has also had to reconcile his libertarian beliefs with the more socially conservative Republican base. After Indiana and Arkansas attracted controversy in March for their allegedly discriminatory "religious freedom" laws, Paul conspicuously refused to comment. This was despite the fact that he weighed in on plenty of other issues at the time

    Other candidates have even been tripped up by seemingly simple questions, such as whether they would be willing to attend a friend or family member's gay marriage. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dodged when asked, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he's never been in that situation.

    For his part, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who is presenting his campaign as a forward-looking vision for the future, said he would attend a gay wedding.

    "Ultimately, if someone that you care for and is part of your family has decided to move in one direction or another or feels that way because of who they love, you respect that because you love them," Rubio told Fusion host Jorge Ramos. "If someone gets divorced, I'm not going to stop loving them or having them a part of our lives."

    However, it's likely that Rubio would prefer to talk about something else. Another potential GOP contender, former New York Gov. George Pataki (R), was unequivocal about whether this issue was a winner for the Republican field.

    "It's simple: If we allow social issues to dominate the conversation," former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) said in a campaign ad, "we will elect Hillary Clinton president."

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  • TRUMP: 'I'm going to surprise a lot of people' in 2016
    (Politics - April 18 2015 - 10:35 AM:)


    Republican businessman Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.

    This step is the closest Trump has come to officially launching a White House bid, and, in a conversation with Business Insider on Wednesday, he suggested it should serve as notice to those who doubt he's seriously considering the 2016 race. He decided not to run in 2012 after a lengthy, public flirtation with the prospect.

    "This time, I'm very far down the line, so we'll see what happens," Trump said. "I'm going to surprise a lot of people."

    In fact, Trump pointed to his doubters as proof of the strength of his candidacy.

    "I'm doing well in polls and people think I'm not running!" he said.

    Now that Trump is one step from an official campaign launch, he said he would make a final decision by the summer.

    "I would say June or July," Trump said, adding, "For an announcement one way or the other."

    Establishing the committee will allow Trump to hire campaign staff and travel to early primary states.

    "We have a big staff and a lot of other things, too," Trump said. "We have a staff of people in Iowa, South Carolina, and also, very importantly, in New Hampshire."

    Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, launched her campaign on Sunday, and her team has indicated her initial effort will be designed to appear "grassroots" rather than as a large operation. Trump said he would employ the opposite strategy.

    Donald Trump smile"I'm going big," he said. "I get the biggest crowds. I get standing O's when I speak because people like that they know that I'm not going to let China rip us off, I'm not going to let Mexico continue to rip us off ... Japan is doing a big number and nobody knows it."

    While Clinton seems eager to show Americans she's not out of touch despite her massive fortune and years in politics, Trump is confident his background as a real-estate mogul should actually help him appeal to voters.

    "I've done so many things and so many deals. I've had such success and a lot of people may view that not as positive as it should be viewed," Trump said, adding, "But that's the kind of mind that you need when you're negotiating with Russia, when you're negotiating with Iran ... You need somebody that knows how to make deals."

    Furthermore, Trump isn't convinced Clinton's rebranding efforts will work.

    "I don't know if she's going to pull it off," Trump said. "People know Hillary. I don't know if you can change 30 or 40 years of history by going small in Iowa."

    In her early appearances on the campaign trail, Clinton has also struck a populist tone with comments criticizing high executive salaries; student debt; and low tax rates for hedge fund managers. Trump said he did not believe Clinton would really take on big-business interests because of her relationships with donors.

    Donald Trump Mitt Romney"Hillary's not going to do this. Hillary's getting most of her campaign contributions from people on Wall Street," Trump said. "She's got some of the biggest fat cats in her camp."

    Along with Clinton, Trump weighed in on his potential Republican rivals in his conversation with Business Insider. Trump complimented Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who launched his campaign last month, for focusing on the religious right.

    "I think it's a great base, certainly a base that should be thought of very highly," Trump said of conservative Christians. "It's certainly something that a lot of people are going after."

    Trump had harsher words for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who kicked off his presidential bid on April 7.

    "He's becoming less libertarian," Trump said. "He was very libertarian, now he's becoming less libertarian. I think that might hurt his base. He's got a very fine line to toe. He's changed his views quite a bit, and he's got to be careful ... His libertarian views are not so libertarian any more."

    While Trump isn't ready to officially say he's entering the presidential race — there's one office it seems he's definitely not pursuing. Business Insider asked Trump whether he would consider running for vice president if one of the other Republicans tapped him as a running mate.

    Trump seemed decidedly uninterested in the idea of running in another candidate's shadow.

    "It would be something that would be very difficult for me to do," Trump said.

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  • The man who designed Obama's 'O' doesn't like the 2016 campaign logos
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 9:41 PM:)

    Obama in 2008

    Sol Sender, the graphic designer who created then-Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Illinois) iconic "O" logo in the 2008 presidential election, had some tough feedback for the current designs unveiled in the 2016 race.

    "Overall the quality is poor — bad typography, weak compositions, undifferentiated symbol," Sender told Business Insider on Friday in reaction to the images released for the campaigns of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The logos varied quite a bit. Cruz and Paul both chose flame symbols. Clinton selected the letter "H" with a red arrow. And Rubio opted for a map of the continental US to replace the dot in the "i" in Rubio.

    Sender wouldn't say whether he would praise or pan Clinton's "H." But he did find that her "mark looks to leverage the ground we broke with the Obama 'O' … a stand-alone symbol that can function independent of the candidate's name."

    "I do think it's wise to aspire to that, though difficult to pull it off," he said. Collage of logos 4

    Sender didn't have any further reaction to Clinton's choice of symbol, but he noted that if he had been hired to design it, he would have tried to understand the core message of her campaign platform.

    "Visually and conceptually there is a limited palette of elements here: her first name, the first letter of her name, the year '2016.' In the past, the use of her last name 'Clinton' has been minimized — which I understand, though the Bushes don't seem to have an issue using theirs over and over again," he said.

    Though he found the 2016 presidential logo collection somewhat lacking, Sender did empathize with designers who are commissioned to develop campaign branding because of the quick turnaround.

    For a consumer brand, designers are given anywhere between eight and 12 weeks to work on iterations of a brand identity.

    "When you're working with a campaign team, you typically don't have that leisure. With the Obama work, we were on a one- to two-week week turnaround with very sparse direction of what was expected," he said.

    Sender, who is now a graphic designer and brand strategist at VSA Partners in Chicago, reflected on the role he played in design history with the creation of his "O."

    "It's 15 minutes of fame that repeats every four to eight years. I'd like to think that I'll someday lead a team that will do something that will overshadow it," he said of his legacy.

    "I did always think that the election of the first female president had the potential for the same level of design energy as the Obama campaign. Perhaps that will still be the case," he added. "It will be interesting to see the rollout and the effectiveness of the 'H.' Should she be the Democratic nominee, the general election would be an easy opportunity to enhance and explore the identity some more."

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  • There are some intense procedures for having coffee with Hillary Clinton
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 8:15 PM:)

    Hillary Iowa

    In the first week of her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her team sought to have a "grassroots" effort with a road trip to Iowa, where she focused on small, intimate roundtables with voters.

    But it takes extensive planning and cloak-and-dagger maneuvering to stage simple events for a former first lady and Democratic front-runner, who has a Secret Service detail and media circus following her every move.

    Clinton started the final day of her first campaign trail trip on Thursday by having coffee with a group of five local leaders in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

    Business Insider spoke with most of the attendees, and they explained the high level of secrecy that surrounded the event one of them dubbed "the thrill of a lifetime." There were warnings about leaks, drives to undisclosed locations, and a campaign staffer who confiscated the guests' cellphones ahead of the sitdown.

    For Pottawattamie County Democratic Party Chairwoman Linda Nelson, her meeting with Clinton began "a couple weeks ago" with a phone call from Troy Price, a veteran Iowa operative who's working on the campaign. Nelson said Price asked her to join him and Matt Paul, another Iowa-based Clinton campaign staffer, for breakfast on Thursday.

    According to Nelson, she and Price have met before when he was in Council Bluffs, so she didn't think the plan was unusual. However, after Clinton launched her campaign last Sunday and word got out that the candidate would be in the area, Nelson began to suspect this meeting with Price might have a special guest.

    "I texted Troy Price and said, 'Hey, is Mrs. C going to be at breakfast?' And, boy, my phone rang right away," Nelson recounted. "He called me. He said, 'I am authorized to say that you are having breakfast with Matt Paul and Troy Price.'"

    Despite Price's evasiveness, Nelson was convinced she would be meeting Clinton. She teased Price about it and said he responded with a warning: "If the media finds out, it's over."

    Some of the people who had coffee with Clinton only discovered what they were in for on Thursday morning.

    Mike Yowell, a local LBGT activist, said he was expecting to talk with Price about having Clinton speak to his group, the Council Bluffs Community Alliance, at some point during the campaign. When he got to the place where they planned to meet, the Village Inn, Yowell realized Clinton would be in attendance when Price asked him to sign a form.

    "I get there, and the first thing he said was, 'I need you to sign this release.' And I said, 'Why? Who's going to be here?'" Yowell explained. "

    The people who had coffee with Clinton had to sign the release forms because the event was filmed for a video the Clinton campaign released on Friday. However, everyone who spoke to Business Insider said they weren't able to get take their own pictures of the meeting because Price asked to take their phones before the encounter.

    "I was so excited," Yowell said. "But then they took our cellphones and I was, like, 'But I can't call and tell anyone?'"

    "We had to turn our cellphones in to them before we went in," Nelson said. "We all handed them over."

    All the attendees who spoke with Business Insider said they didn't mind being asked to turn over their cellphones before meeting with Clinton as it allowed for privacy.

    "I think they didn't want us saying, you know, emailing our friends while were there," Nelson said. "That place would have been mobbed."

    Yowell pointed to the fact Clinton's first stop on the campaign trail on Tuesday attracted a pack of reporters who chased after her van.

    "I understand because … her first stop in eastern Iowa was like a feeding frenzy for the media and the paparazzi," Yowell said. "So you know, she wanted to meet with us and not have all that extraneous stuff … I understand that, and I'm OK with that."

    The secrecy didn't end with phones being confiscated. After initially meeting at the Village Inn, the guests piled into a two-car convoy.

    "On the way [Price] said 'We're going to an undisclosed location in downtown Council Bluffs," Yowell said.

    Once the cars stopped, the group was still not told where they were going.

    "They wouldn't tell us," Nelson said. "And then we parked about a block and a half away. And it was, like, where in the hell are we going?"

    They walked to the Main Street Café, and Clinton arrived soon afterward.

    "She walks in the room, she gives each one of us a hug, we sit down, we all have coffee, and she said, 'I want to hear from you,'" Nelson said of Clinton.

    hillaryIn addition to Nelson, Clinton, and Yowell, the group included Penny Rosfjord, the chairwoman of Iowa's Woodbury County Democratic Party, and Jennifer Herrington, the chair of the Page County Democrats. Rosfjord's husband was also there.

    According to Nelson, the conversation touched on education, LGBT issues, climate change, and mental-health issues.

    All the attendees who spoke with Business Insider said coffee with Clinton was an extremely positive experience. Rosfjord described it as the "thrill of a lifetime" and said there was "never a lull in the conversation."

    "When we were sitting there, you know, you kind of lose yourself in the conversation, and you just feel like you've been sitting there talking to your best friend," Rosfjord said. "Then you realize, you look over, and you're like, 'Wow, you used to be the secretary of state.' It's kind of surreal."

    All of Iowa's Democratic county chairs have made an agreement not to make endorsements this early in the campaign. Yowell also said he's not ready to back a candidate just yet. Still, the group was clearly impressed with Clinton.

    "When you can personalize a national candidate like that, it's really important," Rosfjord said.

    According to Main Street Café owner Dianne Bauer, Clinton's visit was also a "pleasure" for the restaurant's staff. Despite the secrecy surrounding Clinton's stop, the restaurant was not closed to customers while she was there, Bauer said Clinton spent a good deal of time greeting diners and staff. Clinton also signed a mug at Bauer's request.

    "From what we've heard before, you know, that she wasn't really too sociable with people prior when she ran," Bauer said. "But she was very pleasant. She spoke to everybody."

    In fact, Bauer said Clinton's staff had trouble getting her to leave on schedule.

    "She gets to talking, and I don't think she really cares what time it is," Bauer said, adding, "but that's good."

    Clinton isn't the first presidential candidate to visit the Main Street Café. Republican Mitt Romney held a roundtable there in 2012, and Bauer subsequently said she felt he and his entourage treated the staff poorly. Bauer said she had a far better experience with Clinton, whose staff left a "very generous" tip for the waitress.

    "I've had a few others through here, and I was lucky to get the time of day out of them," Bauer said. "She was very pleasant."

    In the end, all the people who discussed the event with Business Insider said they appreciated the steps the campaign took to ensure the event was an intimate gathering.

    "I think that it was a smart thing to do. Obviously, with the entourage that she has to have, it's going to have to be that way," Rosfjord said. "I really felt, like, because they did it that way, she was able to sit and have a regular conversation."

    Yowell specifically said he was glad they were able to avoid the campaign press corps.

    "I appreciated that fact that I could just talk to her and, no offense, not have any of the news media there," he explained. "That was kind of nice."

    Clinton left Iowa and returned to her home in New York on Thursday afternoon.

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  • This chart shows why China thinks it can take over the South China Sea without triggering a war
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 7:49 PM:)

    China might have plenty of reasons to be confident about its expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea, according to a recent US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) report that lays out China's long-term strategy for dominating its neighborhood.

    China wants to develop a navy that can operate far from the country's coastline, establishing unquestioned military superiority in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and deterring its regional rivals from standing in the way of its expansionist policies in the East and South China Seas. 

    China wants to project its military power deep into the claimed territory of other rising regional military powers, at the same time as the US' "pivot to Asia." And it thinks it can grow its strength in a way that won't trigger a violent crisis and actually reduce the chances of war in the long run.

    Those may be mutually exclusive objectives. The more a country expands its military footprint, the greater a chance that its military rubs up against the territory, personnel, or national prerogatives of rival powers in ways that nobody can control or predict. 

    At the same time, this chart from the ONI report helps explain why China thinks it can deter its neighbors. It just has far more ships and resources than any of its immediate rivals.

    Screen Shot 2015 04 17 at 3.01.52 PM

    This chart shows how many "naval law enforcement vessels" various countries in East Asia have at their disposal. This measures Coast Guard-type ships, rather than combat vessels.

    But China has largely enforced its various claims in the South China Sea — which overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippinesusing its newly reconstituted coast guard. It has over twice as many enforcement ships at Japan and Vietnam, and that's before even counting vessels specifically built for combat. China has a large enough contingent to be able to operate just about everywhere that it is contesting territory, while still having scores of ships in reserve.

    China is counting on being too large and powerful for its rivals to be willing to take on. Whether they're right in the long run, this chart shows that they at least have a major quantitative advantage.

    Read the rest of the ONI report here.

    SEE ALSO: China's arms exports are exploding

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  • A local Republican leader says Jeb Bush could have a problem in New Hampshire
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 7:07 PM:)

    attached image

    According to one influential New Hampshire Republican, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has not emerged as a favorite with local activists in the crucial early primary state.

    In fact, Bruce Perlo, chair of New Hampshire's Grafton County GOP, said it seems like area Republicans prefer other options. 

    Bush is currently campaigning in New Hampshire and Perlo was among the local conservatives who gathered Thursday night in Concord, New Hampshire, for a "Politics and Pie" town hall-style event. Perlo said local Republicans don't have bad things to say about Bush, but they are gravitating towards other candidates.

    "What I haven't heard is people saying, 'I don't like Jeb Bush because he's a Bush or I don't like his policies,'" Perlo told Business Insider. "They've just said nothing. What I'm hearing is that they think Cruz, or Rubio is a better guy. They haven't tried to knock anybody down."

    Jennifer Horn, chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, similarly concluded that while Bush has dominated the fundraising race, he hasn't locked down an advantage in the Granite State. 

    "You don't have to raise $100 million to be heard in New Hampshire," she told the New York Times, adding, "There are no front-runners here right now."

    At the event on Thursday, Bush spoke for 15 minutes and then answered questions for about an hour. Perlo said he thought Bush was impressive. He specifically praised the Floridian for maintaining his cool when one attendee pushed back against Bush's immigrant position. 

    "I thought he handled one rather acerbic objection in a good way," Perlo said, adding that he was pleasantly surprised with Bush's lightheartedness. 

    "He made a bunch of jokes, took shots at the other side, nothing mean, just funny things. He's a very funny guy. I didn't realize he had such a good sense of humor," Perlo said. "People were very positive about him. I didn't hear anybody say, 'wow this guy's a loser.' I think of who I talked to everybody thinks he is certainly one of the top three contenders in the Republican race."

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  • RAND PAUL: There's a secret Hillary Clinton scandal that will derail her campaign 'soon'
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 7:06 PM:)


    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) thinks he knows something that you don't about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

    Bloomberg News' Dave Weigel reported Friday that Paul gave a speech on Thursday to a pro-life group in which he predicted that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation would soon be hit by a major scandal.

    "There's going to be stuff coming out about the Clinton foundation and their donations from different companies that get special approval by the secretary of state. It's coming out in the next couple weeks," Paul said.

    As Weigel noted, Paul has made similar predictions in the past. At an April 8 press conference, Paul told reporters that the coming scandal will "shock people" and undermine her presidential campaign.

    "I think that there are things that went on at the Clinton foundation that are going to shock people. And I think they're going to make people question whether or not she ought to run for president," he said then.

    Pressed for details, however, Paul wouldn't elaborate.

    "Then it wouldn't be a secret!" he jokingly exclaimed. "It's coming soon."

    Former Secretary of State Clinton has been dogged by questions about her foundation's fundraising practices. Paul and others have harshly criticized the $2 billion foundation for accepting donations from oppressive governments, and the foundation broke an agreement it had made with the White House by accepting $500,000 from Algeria when Clinton was secretary of state.

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  • Iraq's Prime Minister doesn't want to talk about how Iran is taking over his country
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 6:32 PM:)

    Abadi Iraq Prime Minister at EU delegation

    One of the issues most critical to Iraq's future is so sensitive and challenging that Iraq's prime minister can't even discuss it without resorting to verbal gymnastics and feigned puzzlement. 

    In Haidar al-Abadi's speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC on April 16, during a visit to Washington that included White House meetings with President Barack Obama, the prime minister adroitly avoided specifics about the role of Iranian militias in the battle to defeat ISIS.

    The Iraqi prime minister is the titular head of state in a place that's split between Kurdish, ISIS, and government control. And the Iraqi state is of dubious actual significance in the part of Iraq that Baghdad still holds, particularly in light of the conspicuous presence of Iranian soldiers and advisors, including Quds Force commander Qassam Suleimani, on Iraqi territory. 

    Abadi rules over a fractious and violent country whose breakup may be inevitable, and there's almost no way for him to spin this dire situation into something even vaguely positive. But even allowing for the difficulty of the task before him, Abadi still showed that there's an issue critical to Iraq's future that he can't or won't speak about honestly: namely the prominent role of Shi'ite sectarian militias and Iran in the ISIS fight, two things that could deepen Sunni grievances while further hollowing out the Iraqi state.

    At one point, Abadi described these Shi'ite groups as "popular mobilization forces." In the newly liberated Tikrit, Abadi said, people were returning to their homes "under the protection of the Iraqi security forces." Abadi claimed that he had prohibited government shelling of civilian ares, and called the Tikrit campaign "a case study in how the rest of Iraq can be liberated militarily."

    But the push against ISIS in Tikrit succeeded because of sectarian militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards — at times, the entire campaign seemed like one big photo-op for Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian Quds Force chief. And it involved extensive shelling of the city.

    ISIS Control Pentagon Map


    Abadi can't be expected to tell an influential American audience that he lacks the ability to control government-allied foreign and domestic militia groups. It's unreasonable to expect him to admit this degree of weakness. And it would have sounded absurd for him to herald the role of Shi'ite militias that Human Rights Watch has implicated in abuses against Sunnis, or to admit the extent of Iranian command and control in the ISIS fight.

    But he faces the risk of sounding alarmingly removed from the realities of his own country in attempting to finesse these questions. He was asked whether Suleimani's photo ops in Tikrit were a "good idea," from his government's perspective. "They're a bad idea, and we don't accept it," he replied. As to the photos of Suleimani, Abadi had "been talking to the Iranians. They claim it's not them doing the propaganda and they want to find out who that somebody else is." They wouldn't have to look far: the cult of Hajji Qassem is one of the Iranian propaganda machine's shrewdest creations.

    Later, Abadi expressed concern that non-government armed groups had filled the security vacuum in Tikrit after ISIS was removed from the city. Abadi carefully implied that the Iranians and their proxies were one of the primary obstacles to the re-establishment of state power in the country's contested regions — but did so in a way that, like his answer to the Suleimani question, only highlighted his own hesitation to talk about the issue explicitly.

    When Abadi visited Tikrit after the city's recapture, he was "surprised to see writing on the wall in Persian. Iraqis don't know Persian."

    Kataib Hezbollah

    Even more puzzling to him is the sudden appearance of the pictures of "foreign leaders" in Iraq, although he didn't offer specifics. "There are pictures of foreign leaders," said Abadi. "I'm sure these foreign leaders don't want their portrait in Iraq. Perhaps this is a minority, doing things for their own purposes."

    It doesn't take much imagination to figure out which foreign leaders he's talking about. And it's impossible that Abadi doesn't realize how thrilled the Ayatollah Khamenei must be about his image becoming so ubiquitous in the center of Saddam Hussein's former capital.

    Abadi might have been trying to subtly communicate to a Washington audience that he at least realizes that Iranian capture of the Iraqi state isn't an acceptable outcome for him. Even so, Abadi clearly doesn't think he's an in a position to explicitly identify one of his country's biggest problems: that the most effective ground forces against ISIS are sectarian groups supported by an expansionist foreign power, and that Iraq's Sunni community distrusts and fears both of them.

    Abadi is considered to be a far more responsible leader than his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki's Shi'ite sectarian agenda, overt closeness with Iran, and hostility towards non-state Sunni armed groups — particularly the Sahwa, or anti-jihadist tribal militias that helped the US defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq — triggered the wave of sectarian grievances that created the conditions for ISIS's takeover of western Iraq.

    Despite his own ties to Iran and to Shi'ite sectarian politics, Abadi was relatively free of Maliki's strongman-like delusions. His visit to Washington, DC on the heels of ISIS's expulsion from Tikrit is meant to further cement Abadi's prestige and establish his status as a leader considered to be responsible enough — and receptive enough to American and western incentives — to fight ISIS while pushing Iraq in a more pluralistic and democratic direction. 

    But the fact that Abadi could only hint at the Iran problem by deploying multiple layers of nuance and subtlely shows just how impossible his current position is — and how must trouble Iraq may really be in, even after ISIS is defeated.

    SEE ALSO: The war against ISIS has reached a crucial point

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  • Jeb Bush: Who's Chris Christie?
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 4:49 PM:)

    Jeb Bush at NRA

    Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) threw shade on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), his potential rival in the 2016 presidential race on Thursday evening.

    The exchange began when Christie said in a "Today" show interview Thursday morning that momentum for Bush's presumed presidential bid had waned. 

    "It seems to me that that train has slowed down pretty significantly from what I've seen out and around the country," Christie said.

    But on Thursday night, Bush attended a small gathering of New Hampshire Republicans and was asked about Christie's comment. 

    "Who?" the Florida Republican quipped when he heard Christie's name, according to the Asbury Park Press

    "I'm going to talk about foreign policy a lot and I’m not into the process side of this,"Bush added.

    "I'm excited about the possibility of running, I'm learning, I'm trying to garner the level of support I have, and there will be a long time to talk about the differences should this become an actual campaign." 

    Christie and Bush are among the likely 2016 presidential candidates in New Hampshire this weekend to attend the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua. 

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  • Jack Welch loves Ted Cruz
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 2:30 PM:)

    attached image

    Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is a self-declared "Ted Cruz guy."

    "Love him," the retired businessman said Thursday on FOX and Friends about Sen. Cruz (R-Texas).

    "He says what he's going to do, he does it, he's highly principled. He's a guy you can trust."

    Welch, 79, added that Cruz is "as smart as a whip and he's a good bet on right now," in another interview Thursday with FOX News host Neil Cavuto

    Welch weighed in on players in the 2016 presidential race on Thursday as he promoted his new book, "The Real-Life MBA," which was co-authored with his wife Suzy Welch. 

    She joined her husband in the Cavuto interview but sounded less enthusiastic about jumping on the Cruz bandwagon. 

    "I've met Ted Cruz and I like him. I actually want to see more, I want to see the debates, I want to learn more, I want to learn more about Rubio. I'm not yet where Jack is," she told Cavuto

    The former GE head, who supported Mitt Romney in 2012, did offer Cruz some advice as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination.

    "I want Ted Cruz to smile more because he's a hell of a good guy. He's a great guy .... Ronald Reagan had that touch and Ted Cruz is going to develop it, hopefully."

    Here's what Jack Welch had to say about the declared presidential candidates on FOX and Friends: 

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)"I don't know a lot. I like his ability to articulate issues. I don't know what his position is on, in the book we talk about truth and trust as a leadership issue, people who say what they're going to do and then do it and so, I have some concerns about where he is on immigration and how he feels about it."

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)"Again I don't know her well. I don't know her leadership style. I'm not going to vote for her. I leave the Democratic party to decide whether she qualifies for the truth and trust issue."

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)"Again I don't like the fact that he was one way with the wind on foreign policy and now he's back the other way."

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)"Love him. He says what he's going to do, he does it, he's highly principled. He's a guy you can trust." 

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  • Jon Stewart goes on epic quest with a red balloon to prove Dick Cheney wrong on Iran
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 12:55 PM:)

    Screen Shot 2015 04 17 at 8.32.16 AM

    "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was apparently quite amused by former Vice President Dick Cheney's recent comments on Iran. 

    Cheney went on a conservative talk radio show last week and accused President Barack Obama of being "about to give [Iran] nuclear weapons. I can't think of a more terrible burden to leave the next president than what Obama is creating here."

    That charge did not set well with Stewart, and the comedian devoted a lengthy segment of his Thursday night show to mocking Cheney, whom he replaced with a red balloon with a frowny face drawn on it.

    Stewart noted that Cheney was a key supporter of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which he said was the real reason that neighboring Iran is on the rise.

    "Is there anything else you can think of, over the last say, I don't know, 12 years and 28 days that could also be seen as fundamentally strengthening Iran's position in that region?" Stewart asked the balloon. 

    Assisted by dramatic music and stage props, Stewart proceeded to investigate whether Cheney — and not Obama — was actually responsible for Iran building up its nuclear program.

    "It was you!" Stewart exclaims at one point. 

    Watch the entire spectacle below:

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  • Former IMF chief and ex-Spanish deputy PM just got released from police custody
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 8:24 AM:)

    rodrigo rato

    Rodrigo Rato, the ex-managing director of the International Monetary Fund and former deputy prime minister of Spain, just got released from policy custody.

    Rato was arrested for alleged tax fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering on April 16, but in a statement printed in the Financial Times, he confirmed that he is now home after being detained for seven hours.

    He said "I am home and I am free" while adding that he was co-operating with the authorities and that he had "full confidence" in the Spanish justice system.

    During that time, Rato's home and office were searched by tax investigators.

    Rato is a heavyweight figure in the political and financial world. He served as Spain's Minister of the Economy from 1996 to 2004, as part of the conservative People's Party (PP), and became the First Deputy Prime Minister for one year between 2003 to 2004.

    He then went onto become the IMF's MD for three years and then took up the presidency at Spanish lender Bankia in 2010. However, he was there until Bankia filed for bankruptcy in May 2012. 

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  • This group of people could be the crucial swing vote that decides the next UK Prime Minister
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 6:54 AM:)

    David Cameron looks frustrated

    The latest polls by Populus and Lord Ashcroft this week puts the Tories and opposition party Labour neck and neck at 33%. Only the ICM poll published Monday showed Tories are in a six-point lead ahead of the General Election in May.

    But it looks like Asian voters could potentially be the swing vote for either Prime Minister David Cameron's party, the Conservatives, or the main opposition Labour because nearly a quarter of this demographic are undecided on which way to vote.

    Out of those who have decided on who they will vote for on May 7, some 39% said they may still change their minds, according to an ICM poll of 500 people, commissioned by the BBC Asian Network.

    Political pundits have renewed interest in the "Asian vote" because Labour snapped up 68% of the ethnic minority vote in the 2010 General Election while the Tories gained only 16%.

    The ICM poll also revealed that immigration is a hot topic for Asian voters. The results showed that 50% Asian voters want the next government to be tougher on immigration, mainly based on European Union migration concerns.

    Meanwhile, the televised BBC debate between Labour's leader Ed Miliband, leaders of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, the Greens and UKIP, seemed to have boosted Labour's popularity.

    According to a Survation, commissioned by the Daily Mirror newspaper, 35% thought Miliband won the debate while SNP's Nicola Sturgeon came in second with 31%.


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  • The 10 most important things in the world right now
    (Politics - April 17 2015 - 5:10 AM:)

    Brazilian IndiansHello! Here's what you need to know for Friday.

    1. An estimated 1,500 people, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will attend a state memorial service Friday for the victims of the Germanwings plane crash.

    2. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country is on the road to economic recovery and defended supplying Iran with sophisticated air defence missiles during an hours-long questions-and-answers session Thursday.

    3. A pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist was fatally shot Thursday in Kiev, the latest in a string of mystery deaths among supporters of ousted Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich.

    4. Islamic State militant advances in the capital of Iraq's Anbar province have forced more than 2,000 families to flee from their homes.

    5. Five adults were found dead inside a Phoenix home after a suspected family dispute led to a shooting.

    6. New satellite images suggest China has started building a runway on an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea.

    7. China has jailed a journalist accused of leaking an internal Communist Party document to a foreign website.

    8. Thousands of people marched through the city of Durban in South Africa Thursday to protest anti-immigrant violence, which has recently been responsible for the death of six people.

    9. Time magazine released its 100 Most Influential People list Thursday, with Bradley Cooper, Kanye West, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Misty Copeland, and Jorge Ramos each appearing on one of five covers of the annual issue.

    10. Craft marketplace Etsy made its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, opening at $31 (£20.78) after pricing its initial public offering at $16 (£10.73).

    And finally ...

    A 26-year-old British snowboarder landed the first-ever 1800 quadruple cork, which is five spins and four flips at the same time.

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