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  • Here's what it was like to get high with Jeb Bush
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 10:40 PM:)
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    A new profile of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), published in The Boston Globe on Friday, contains several stories of his years at the elite Andover boarding school in Massachusetts.

    Apparently, young Bush liked to party.

    Bush admitted his youthful indulgences to the paper.

    "I drank alcohol and I smoked marijuana when I was at Andover," he said. "It was pretty common."

    The story included several interviews with Bush's classmates that shed light on what it was like to get stoned with the potential 2016 presidential candidate:

    Bush liked to rock out. Peter Tibbetts, one of Bush's Andover classmates who talked to the Globe, said the future politician made sure there was a soundtrack on one occasion when they smoked hashish together.

    "He had a portable stereo with removable speakers. He put on Steppenwolf for me," said Tibbetts, who specified that Bush played the group's 1968 hit "Magic Carpet Ride."

    He had a hashish connection. Tibbetts said he first smoked marijuana with Bush. He also claimed Bush once sold him hashish.

    "Please bear in mind that I was seeking the hash, it wasn’t as if he was a dealer; though he did suggest I take up cigarettes so that I could hold my hits better, after that 1st joint," Tibbetts wrote in an email to the paper. 

    Bush didn't philosophize. Though Bush was at Andover during the height of national debate about the Vietnam War, his classmates said he didn't engage in much political discussion.

    "He was just in a bit of a different world," said Phil Sylvester, who roomed with Bush at the school.

    He wore many hats. One student said the students at Andover mainly split into three cliques: "jocks, freaks, and zeros." Bush, who was captain of the tennis team during some of his high-school career, was described as a cross between a freak and a jock

    Bush allegedly bullied a fellow student. Tibbetts said he and Bush teased a fellow classmate including one incident where they sewed the bottoms of the other student's pants to prevent them from being worn. Tibbetts described this as "cruel."

    Bush denied taking part in the teasing, but admitted it would be difficult to know for certain.

    "I don’t believe that is true," Bush said. "It was 44 years ago and it is not possible for me to remember."

    He eventually sobered up. According to multiple classmates, Bush became far more serious and stopped partying as much after spending a trimester in Mexico when he was 17 as part of one of his courses. During that trip, Bush met his future wife, Columba.

    Harry Chandler, another ex-classmate, said Bush became less of a "party guy" after the trip.

    "He seemed pretty transformed by the Mexico experience. He was more serious," Chandler said. 

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  • Putin is playing out his childhood nightmare
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 7:40 PM:)
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    putin

    The Russian president is stepping up both the war in Ukraine and his confrontational rhetoric against NATO and the West.

    In a book of interviews published when he first became Russia's president, Vladimir Putin told a story of his early scares: a rat he had cornered had nowhere to go and jumped out at him. Having pushed himself into a corner, Mr Putin is now playing out his childhood nightmare.

    After several months of relative quiet in Ukraine and at home, he has raised the stakes. In Ukraine, he has shattered a fragile ceasefire, along with last September's Minsk peace deal. The rebels are advancing and Mr Putin has called the Ukrainian Army a NATO foreign legion.

    At the same time, he is building up his defences at home by mobilising paramilitary brigades to fight potential Maidan-style protests. The latest violence in Ukraine is, in many ways, a sign of Mr Putin's desperation.

    Five months ago, Russian troops moved in to stop the Ukrainian army clearing out rebels in the Donbas region. Ukraine's defeat soon become apparent. Its trade agreement with the European Union was put on ice and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law granting broad autonomy to the parts of the Donbas controlled by the separatists.

    Talk of Ukraine joining NATO stopped. America was cut out of discussions between Russia, Ukraine and Europe. Mr Putin's goal of creating a separatist zone within Ukraine seemed within reach.

    Ukraine Separatist

    Yet hybrid wars can breed hybrid results. Since Russia never admitted to its military involvement, it could not claim victory and impose its will by keeping soldiers on the ground. Once its troops withdrew from eastern Ukraine, Mr Putin's victory started to look shaky.

    The rebels refused to lay down their arms, and Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, would not admit defeat. Ukraine has not, so far, recognised Donetsk and Luhansk or abandoned its NATO aspirations. Indeed, on December 29th Mr Poroshenko signed a law scrapping Ukraine's neutral status.

    The West has continued to press Mr Putin to stop supplying arms to the rebels before engaging in further talks about the make-up of Ukraine. In a sign of clear mistrust, European leaders called off a planned summit with Mr Putin in Astana. So Mr Putin decided to show his resolve.

    Russian-backed separatists relaunched their offensive on Donetsk airport, which had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Alexander Zakharchenko, the rebels' leader, also attacked the port of Mariupol.

    A missile barrage missed its target and instead hit a residential area, killing 30 civilians. As soon as this became clear, Mr Zakharchenko was instructed by Moscow to change his story and blame the Ukrainians and their Western backers for provocation — a narrative swiftly backed up by Mr Putin.

    ukraine skitch map mariupol

    Ukraine, Mr Putin declared, was in a state of civil war. But he added that the Ukrainian army was a "foreign NATO legion which doesn't pursue the national interests of Ukraine but wants to restrain Russia."

    This statement was carefully prepared by a Russian television display of mysterious English-speaking soldiers in Ukrainian uniform and footage of American military commanders in Kiev. "After each such visit by American military, the fighting in Ukraine starts anew," the main news programme explained.

    This ratcheting up of anti-Western rhetoric is in part a response to a deteriorating economy. Indeed, Mr Putin upgraded the war into a Russia-NATO conflict just as Standard & Poor's, a rating agency, was downgrading Russia's credit rating to junk.

    The fall in oil prices and continued pressure on the rouble is driving up prices, causing much grumbling among ordinary Russians. While the government is carefully avoiding the word crisis, it has started to talk of anti-crisis measures. So is the opposition. Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, and Boris Nemtsov, a veteran liberal, have called for an anti-crisis rally. "Putin is crisis and war. No Putin--no crisis and no war," wrote Mr Nemtsov.

    Mr Putin has also planted new defences within Russia. On the day the rebels launched their attack on Donetsk airport, an "anti-Maidan" movement was launched, consisting of tough-looking Cossacks, Russian veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, black-leather-clad bikers called night wolves and professional sportsmen trained to fight any sign of liberalism. (This is on top of several thousand Chechen fighters under Chechnya's president Ramzan Kadyrov, who swear personal loyalty to Mr Putin.

    Vladimir Putin Night Wolves Biker Gang

    The group, whose launch was advertised in the state media, seems to have a licence to carry out extra-judicial violence. Their first action was to attack supporters of Mr Navalny who had gathered in a Moscow café.

    The annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine have thus helped Mr Putin to consolidate power at home. But as the economy deteriorates, he cannot afford to let go of eastern Ukraine and seems trapped by the logic of escalating conflict.

    As Carl Bildt, a former Swedish foreign minister and longtime Russia watcher, puts it, Mr Putin now has an explicitly revisionist agenda under which he is seeking to change the post-cold-war settlement of Europe through an information war and, if need be, by military force.

    An explicit threat of a bigger war in Ukraine has been aired by Sergei Markov, a Kremlin propagandist, who suggests that Russia needs to topple the government in Kiev and occupy Odessa and Kharkiv. Only then, he writes, "will sanctions be lifted, the junta driven out of power and Ukraine become democratic and federal--in exchange for not taking Kiev."

    This warmongering is clearly aimed at the West, which is considering new sanctions, including cutting Russia out of the SWIFT banking system, something that could have a devastating impact on the economy. Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Putin's prime minister, has warned that this would trigger unrestricted retaliation — and not just economically.

    The danger is not that Russia declares war on NATO, but that its recklessness could have unintended consequences. There is also a risk that Ukraine, a country of 45m people with a will of its own, despite what Mr Putin thinks, could be provoked into full-scale war.

    All this may make the situation in some ways even more perilous than in the cold war. Igor Ivanov, a former foreign minister, has even suggested, one hopes with some exaggeration: "In the absence of political dialogue, with mutual mistrust reaching historical highs, the probability of unintended accidents, including those involving nuclear weapons, is getting more and more real."

    Click here to subscribe to The Economist.

    This article was from The Economist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

    SEE ALSO: Russia warns west of 'catastrophe' over Ukraine

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  • China is building a string of artificial islands to fortify its position in the disputed South China Sea
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 5:41 PM:)
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    China disputed reef

    China is constructing five man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea in an apparent effort to secure its sweeping territorial claims in the region, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    The largest island is being constructed at the Fiery Cross Reef close to the Spratly Islands, an island chain whose territory is partially claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

    US officials estimated that the Chinese construction at Fiery Cross Reef could accommodate an airstrip long enough for most of Beijing's military aircraft. Beijing is also believed to be constructing a small port on the island.

    China is also expanding man-made islands on Johnson South Reef, Johnson North Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Gaven Reef around the Spratlys.  

    "China appears to be expanding and upgrading military and civilian infrastructure — including radars, satellite communication equipment, antiaircraft and naval guns, helipads and docks — on some of the man-made islands," the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in a staff report from Dec. 2014.

    Once the airstrip is operational, the staff report states, the Chinese military would likely use the airstrip as a launching point for aerial defense operations in support of Chinese naval vessels in the southern reaches of the South China Sea.

    The airstrip's presence is only likely to further tensions and distrust in the region, which is the site of several complex and overlapping territorial claims:

    South China Sea Map_05

    Aside from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines already have airstrips on islands within the South China Sea.

    The threat of Chinese superiority in the region has driven countries with oftentimes cold relations towards each other in an attempt to counter Beijing's growing reach — Vietnam and the Philippines have recently agreed to increase military ties in the region. 

    "We already have joint training and exercises with the US military every year and we are looking forward to hold exercises with the Vietnamese navy," an unnamed Philippine navy officer told Reuters.

    Vietnam will be the the Philippines' third strategic partner in the region after the US and Japan. 

    The US is also looking towards Japan to play a larger role in air patrols in the South China Sea. Japanese aircraft currently conduct regular patrols in the East China Sea but the US would like Japan to expand its surveillance flights towards the Spratly Islands. 

    "I think that JSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces) operations in the South China Sea makes sense in the future," Admiral Robert Thomas, the top US Navy officer in Asia, told Reuters.

    China and Japan are currently in the midst of their own maritime disputes over the Senkaku Islands. China has also begun the construction of an island military base close to the disputed territory. 

    SEE ALSO: This epic map shows the border disputes that could tear Asia apart

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  • Romney's exit is great news for Jeb Bush and Chris Christie
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 5:11 PM:)
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    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) most likely just saw their 2016 chances improve with Mitt Romney's departure from the race.

    Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee, suddenly announced Friday morning that he would not launch another White House bid in 2016. His exit opens up more space for establishment-oriented contenders with similar constituencies to Romney's — particularly Christie and Bush. 

    Indeed, Christie and Bush were already competing over the same Wall Street donors as they explore potential campaigns. And one top Romney booster, hedge-funder Anthony Scaramucci, proclaimed in December that Romney would not run if another "establishment front-runner" like Bush entered the race.

    "If he does announce, my guess is that Gov. Romney will not run," Scaramucci said of Bush. "I'm a Romney guy. I do not think Romney's going to run." 

    Some of the more firebrand presidential candidates previously appeared to salivate at the concept of facing Romney, Christie, and Jeb together. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) openly declared this week that the trio would "divide up the moderate vote" to the benefit of conservative contenders like himself.

    "The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. I think we have place in the party for moderates like Christie, and Bush, and Romney," Paul said in a Fox News interview Tuesday. "Hopefully — at least from a conservative point of view — we hope the moderates will divide up the moderate vote and maybe allow a conservative to be the nominee."

    Bush seems particularly well positioned to benefit from Romney's exit. The former Florida governor reportedly hired a top Romney operative to be his campaign manager on Thursday, and he has been actively poaching many of Romney's biggest donors. And Bush and Romney reportedly met together in Utah last week. (According to The New York Times, Romney is also set to have a dinner with Christie on Friday.)

    In a statement issued shortly after Romney's Friday announcement, Bush showered Romney with praise.

    "Mitt Romney has been a leader in our party for many years. There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has," Bush wrote. "Though I'm sure today's decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense. Mitt is a patriot."

     Correction (1:35 p.m.): This post initially stated that Romney and Bush reportedly met Thursday of this week instead of Thursday of last week.


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    SEE ALSO: Jeb Bush may have just pushed Mitt Romney out of the 2016 race

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  • 10 crazy facts about Russia [Infographic]
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 4:53 PM:)
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    Back in 1939, Winston Churchill famously remarked that Russia was "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

    For most people, his words ring true to this day.

    Although Russia is the largest country in the world and has the eighth-largest GDP, little is widely known about the nation and its culture.

    To help you out with that, we've put together a handy little infographic with 10 of the craziest facts about the Russian language, culture, and politics.

    crazy russia facts

    But if that's not nearly enough crazy facts about Russia for you, you can also check out...

    SEE ALSO:  30 crazy things you didn't know about Russia

    SEE ALSO: 15 unbelievable facts about Russia

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  • This map shows the arms sales race between the US and Russia
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 4:48 PM:)
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    US Russia Arms Sales Race Graphic

    They say the Cold War is over, but Russia and the U.S. remain the leading supplier of weapons to countries around the world and are the two biggest military powers. Lately, tensions have been pretty high, too.

    The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

    Russia supplies other BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

    We took numbers from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for 2012-2013 to see whom the two rivals were supplying with weaponry. The U.S. dealt to 59 nations that Russia doesn't sell or send weaponry to, while Russia dealt to just 15 nations that don't receive U.S. arms.

    Fifteen countries received weaponry from both the U.S. and Russia, including Brazil, India, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

    The country that received the highest dollar amount of U.S. weaponry was the United Arab Emirates, with more than $3.7 billion in arms received over that period. Russia dealt the greatest value of weapons to India, sending more than $13.6 billion.

    Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations, while Russia sent weaponry exceeding $29.7 billion in value around the globe.

    Interestingly, the U.S. actually recieved roughly $16 million worth of weaponry from Russia. This was part of a $1 billion helicopter deal the two nations made so that the U.S. could supply Afghan security forces with equipment they were already more familiar with.

    Importantly, SIPRI's totals don't measure the cost of the transaction but the cost of the weapons' production. The numbers are listed as the production value of the weapons sold rather than the amount they were actually sold for. In addition, SIPRI does not track the transfer of certain small arms.

    SIPRI gives several examples to explain their chosen method. In 2009, six Eurofighters valued at $55 million each were delivered by Germany to Austria. Therefore the delivery was valued at $330 million, even though the actual transaction likely netted a much higher total. For comparison, when The New York Times listed the total of weapons sold by the U.S. at $66.3 billion in 2011, SIPRI came up with a much lower total based off of production cost of $15.4 billion.

    You can read the full explanation of SIPRI's calculations here.

    SEE ALSO: Ukraine is just another proxy war between world powers

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  • How a US housing boom became a global financial crisis
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 4:33 PM:)
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    Crash

    So on Thursday I published an article about why the Clinton-era budget surpluses helped fuel the credit boom that (ultimately) led to the crunch and the recession that followed. It's fair to say not everyone agreed. In fact, some people really didn't agree at all.

    Here's Bloomberg columnist and CIO of Ritholtz Wealth Management Barry Ritholtz's take:

    WRONG The Germans Are Making The Same Huge Mistake Bill Clinton Made http://t.co/DxnsJk6qWS via @bi_politics

    — Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz) January 29, 2015

    In the (good natured) discussion that followed, it emerged that Ritholtz and I have a fundamentally different take in our narratives of the crisis. We both agree that mortgage originators were not forced to provide loans to people with no credit history, nor were financial firms forced to package those loans up, have ratings agencies stamp the resulting securities with an 'A' rating and flog them to credulous institutions around the world.

    However, he followed that up by saying "had the bad loans not been made, there never would have been a problem".

    I couldn't disagree more. Indeed I think the most important lessons of the last few years is that the emergence of the subprime crisis was a symptom, not cause, of the global financial crisis.

    To understand why, you first need to think about the role that housing plays in the economy. When a bank issues a mortgage it simultaneously creates an asset — the mortgage contract — and a liability — the capital that is then used to complete the transaction. In effect, it brings forward the future earnings of the buyer in order to provide a lump sum to the seller.

    The buyer then takes possession of the house with the mortgage obligation, while the seller takes the capital and deposits it in the bank (for the sake of this example). The seller can then use that money to fund current purchases — for example, buying a TV or a car etc. In other words, the housing market can be viewed as the main transmission mechanism for bank-created money into the real economy (your and my pockets in other words).

    How does this apply to the Clinton surpluses?

    Well, the authors of the new paper that spurred my previous post claim that "following the Asian crisis in the late 1990s, a “glut” of global savings flowed towards US safe assets, finding its way into the mortgage market through the purchase of MBS [mortgage-backed securities]". This is based on the work done by former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke in his seminal 2011 paper on the savings glut, in which he asserts that "international capital flows likely played a significant role in helping to finance the housing bubble and thus set the stage for its subsequent bust".

    The theory, in essence, is that following the shock of the Asian crisis, emerging markets started to channel their savings into the US. In particular this money flowed into perceived "safe assets" such as US Treasury securities (Treasuries) and Agency debt (Agencies). This capital inflow showed up as a substantial US current account deficit which increased from $120.2 billion in 1996 to $530.7 billion by 2003.

    Simultaneously, the US government of the day under President Bill Clinton elected to begin running budget surpluses. This had the effect of reducing the stock of US government-issued "safe assets" as the state began to pay down its debt. This created an incentive — though not the obligation — for the private sector to meet this demand for "safe assets" by creating some of its own. Thus we come back to mortgage securities.

    The authors' of the latest paper write that "the boom in securitisation contributed to channel into mortgages a large pool of savings that had previously been directed towards other safe assets, such as government bonds". As Frances Coppola points out, this misstates what was actually going on. The inflow of capital was not "channelled" into the US mortgage market but, rather, it created the secondary market that gave banks a reason to continue extending mortgage loans into the system.

    And here's where the story gets really interesting. The more credit the banks provided through the mortgage market, the more money consumers had available to pay for goods and services (including, for example, clothes and toys produced in China). This spending then fed the current account surpluses in emerging markets, which flooded back into the US in search of safe assets that would provide a steady stream of income.

    So the credit market created what looked like a self-fulfilling cycle where banks issued mortgages, that money was spent on goods and services in the US, which provided the cash for emerging economies to buy the mortgage-backed securities that were then created. Glad that's clear.

    And this is what happened — real home prices increasing by roughly 40% to 70% between 2000 and 2006:

    US house prices

    Critically, this system concentrated risk in the US housing market but because demand for the resulting securities was so high nobody foresaw any problems. But there was a big problem. There is a limit to the amount of future earnings that can be brought forward because people actually have to be able to pay off the debt that they take on.

    This poses two related risks — first, once you have a society where as many people who can afford to are already indebted you run out of your source of new assets to sell and; second, if people's expected income in the future fails to materialise then they may fail to be able to service their debt which could wipe out the value of their mortgages.

    The key point that Ritholtz misses is that these risks exist even with non-subprime mortgage lending.

    So what happened?

    Here we have to hypothesise a little. But the majority of subprime mortgages were issued well after the housing market boom was underway at a time when, as the paper puts it, the Great Moderation had led "financial intermediaries to an (ex-post) overoptimistic assessment of the risks faced by their portfolios".

    One theory is that when mortgage originators started running out of high-quality borrowers to lend to, they went in search of a new market — subprime. There was nothing necessary about this, it was greed pure and simple. But the fact that the subprime market became an ever larger share of total lending towards the end of the housing boom suggests that the lack of high-quality borrowers was a genuine constraint.

    The foolish decision to chase the last pennies of the boom, however, was ultimately to prove the trigger for the collapse. In that way it was a sufficient cause of the crash. But there have been plenty of house price crashes before, not all of which can be simply attributed to the quality of the borrowers at the time the lending took place.

    My contention is that the scale of the housing boom had already increased the system's vulnerabilities, and had been exacerbated by the Clinton administration's decision to run budget surplus. In the end as borrowers were maxing themselves out, a hit to future incomes was almost inevitable and with it a correction in the housing market.

    And due to the packaging up and re-sale of those mortgage assets to "safe asset" seekers across the world the crash was almost guaranteed to send ripples through global financial markets.

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  • Mitt Romney is not running for president
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 3:11 PM:)
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    Mitt Romney

    Mitt Romney is expected to announce in a conference call Friday morning whether he is going to make another run for the White House.

    According to influential conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Romney will make a statement announcing he is not going to enter the 2016 race. Hewitt published a copy of what he identified as Romney's prepared remarks on his blog.

    "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," the statement published by Hewitt said. 

    Romney's team did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider about the call. This post is being continuously updated. However, Hewitt's tweet linking the statement was re-tweeted by top Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom

    In an email to supporters on Thursday night, Romney's announced a Friday morning conference call that he would lead. While the email didn't explicitly say whether Romney would announce his decision to seek the Republican nomination, the message promised an "update." 

    The Daily Beast previously reported Romney was going to announce he is in the race. Bloomberg initially echoed that report, but then began to update its story. Shortly after Hewitt's story both Bloomberg and the New York Times reported Romney will run. 

    Bloomberg's Mark Halperin initially reported on the call Friday morning. In that story, Halperin outlined both the reasons Romney and his team thought he had a good chance to win and the reasons he might not want to run. 

    Halperin noted two things that Romney and his camp think he has working against him:

    • Another run would be tough for Romney and his family. Romney alluded to these struggles in the Netflix documentary "Mitt," which was released last year, and he is reportedly worried that another campaign would take too much of a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on him and those close to him.
    • Romney is worried that a tough fight for the Republican nomination would damage the person who ultimately becomes the party's candidate, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would emerged unscathed because she would be running virtually unchallenged for her party's nomination.

    All that aside, Romney and his team reportedly believed that, if he wanted the Republican nomination, he could get it. The statement published by Hewitt echoed that assumption. 

    "Let me give you some of my thinking. First, I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination. Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than competitive. With few exceptions, our field political leadership is ready and enthusiastic about a new race. And the reaction of Republican voters across the country was both surprising and heartening," the statement said. "I know that early poll numbers move up and down a great deal during a campaign, but we would have no doubt started in a strong position. One poll out just today shows me gaining support and leading the next closest contender by nearly two to one. I also am leading in all of the four early states. So I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been difficult test and a hard fight."

    Romney was reportedly planning on making an effort to appear less polished and more "authentic." In addition to his failed 2012 bid, Romney unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2008. Both times he was criticized for appearing stilted and overly managed. This led to Romney's being frequently described as "robotic." 

    Last year, Romney vehemently insisted that he was not going to run again. However, in the past few weeks, Romney admitted to donors he is considering another campaign. 

    Romney's potential presence in the race was seen as a major problem for two other likely candidates – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). All three men are relatively moderate conservatives who would have appealed to the Republican establishment and could have competed for the same donors and votes. Prior to his decision to make an exit, Romney privately met with Bush in Utah. 


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     This post was updated at 11:03 a.m. 

    SEE ALSO: Here's Why Rand Paul Might Be The Front Runner In The 2016 GOP Primary

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  • REPORT: Mitt Romney isn't running
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 3:11 PM:)
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    Mitt Romney

    Mitt Romney is expected to announce in a conference call Friday morning whether he is going to make another run for the White House.

    According to influential conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Romney will make a statement announcing he is not going to enter the 2016 race. Hewitt published a copy of what he identified as Romney's prepared remarks on his blog.

    "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," the statement published by Hewitt said. 

    Romney's team did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider about the call. This post is being continuously updated. However, Hewitt's tweet linking the statement was re-tweeted by top Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom

    In an email to supporters on Thursday night, Romney's announced a Friday morning conference call that he would lead. While the email didn't explicitly say whether Romney would announce his decision to seek the Republican nomination, the message promised an "update." 

    The Daily Beast previously reported Romney was going to announce he is in the race. Bloomberg initially echoed that report, but then began to update its story. Shortly after Hewitt's story both Bloomberg and the New York Times reported Romney will run. 

    Bloomberg's Mark Halperin initially reported on the call Friday morning. In that story, Halperin outlined both the reasons Romney and his team thought he had a good chance to win and the reasons he might not want to run. 

    Halperin noted two things that Romney and his camp think he has working against him:

    • Another run would be tough for Romney and his family. Romney alluded to these struggles in the Netflix documentary "Mitt," which was released last year, and he is reportedly worried that another campaign would take too much of a physical, emotional, and psychological toll on him and those close to him.
    • Romney is worried that a tough fight for the Republican nomination would damage the person who ultimately becomes the party's candidate, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would emerged unscathed because she would be running virtually unchallenged for her party's nomination.

    All that aside, Romney and his team reportedly believed that, if he wanted the Republican nomination, he could get it. The statement published by Hewitt echoed that assumption. 

    "Let me give you some of my thinking. First, I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination. Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than competitive. With few exceptions, our field political leadership is ready and enthusiastic about a new race. And the reaction of Republican voters across the country was both surprising and heartening," the statement said. "I know that early poll numbers move up and down a great deal during a campaign, but we would have no doubt started in a strong position. One poll out just today shows me gaining support and leading the next closest contender by nearly two to one. I also am leading in all of the four early states. So I am convinced that we could win the nomination, but fully realize it would have been difficult test and a hard fight."

    Romney was reportedly planning on making an effort to appear less polished and more "authentic." In addition to his failed 2012 bid, Romney unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2008. Both times he was criticized for appearing stilted and overly managed. This led to Romney's being frequently described as "robotic." 

    Last year, Romney vehemently insisted that he was not going to run again.

    He told The New York Times last January when asked if he would consider another presidential campaign:

    "Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. People are always gracious and say, ‘Oh, you should run again.’ I’m not running again. I will say this: It was a great experience. I loved it. ... But look, I want to make sure that we take the country in a different direction. I think that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, and the list goes on, have a much better chance of doing that, and so I will support one of them as they become the nominee."

    However, in the past few weeks, Romney admitted to donors he is considering another campaign. 


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  • Al Franken goes after Uber again, and he's pressing for better answers about customer privacy
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 2:13 PM:)
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    al frankenSen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, issued a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on Tuesday calling for the company to provide better answers about Uber's customer privacy policies.

    This isn't the first time Franken has sent Uber such a letter. Franken first formally contacted Uber (as well as Lyft, in a separate letter) in November, asking a series of questions about how the car-hailing companies handle consumer privacy.

    In December, Uber responded to Franken's original letter, saying the company would improve its privacy policies — but the senator said he wasn't pleased with the response

    “While I'm pleased that I received a reply, I was — and still am — concerned about the lack of detail in the response,” Franken said in his second letter.

    Franken is calling for added clarification of Uber's privacy policies. He wants to know how many Uber employees have access to Uber's "God View" program — an internal tool that lets employees track the exact locations of customers and riders in real time — and why Uber's employees need access to God View at all.

    Back in November, Uber came under scrutiny when the company's top New York City executive, Josh Mohrer, was investigated for breaching Uber's privacy policy by tracking a journalist without her permission. He was later "disciplined," according to the company, and kept his job. Mohrer used a tool called "God View" to track BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan's location without asking her for permission, an action that violates the company's privacy policy. 

    In September, a venture capitalist named Peter Sims wrote a post on Medium called "Can We Trust Uber?" Sims says three years ago, he was taking an Uber SUV through Manhattan when an acquaintance texted and asked whether he was in an Uber vehicle at 33th and 5th. He confirmed that he was, and the acquaintance later revealed she was at an Uber Chicago launch, and at the party Uber had a screen showing where certain people in New York were riding around in Uber vehicles, presumably using the God View tool.

    Franken asked in the new letter whether customers have any control over how their data is shared, and what business needs the company has to keep customer data after customers cancel their accounts. 

    “I remain interested in understanding what, in your view, constitutes a legitimate ‘business need’ after a cancelled account is fully settled,” Franken said in the letter.

    You can read the full letter here.

    SEE ALSO: Sen. Al Franken Blasts Uber For Tiptoeing Around His Questions About The Company's Privacy Policy

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  • The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 10:17 AM:)
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    Winston Churchill

    Good morning! Here's what you need to know for Friday.

    1. Japan and Jordan are still working to secure the release of two of their nationals held by Islamic State militants after the deadline passed for Jordan to release an Iraqi prisoner in exchange for the captives.

    2. Greece's new radical government will hold its first talks with eurozone finance ministers and begin negotiations on reducing the debts on its bailout deal.

    3. British fighter jets intercepted Russian bombers over the English Channel on Wednesday.

    4. Russia announced plans to modernize its armed forces, saying it would not allow other countries to gain "military superiority" over it.

    5. South Africa has granted parole to an apartheid death-squad leader.

    6. A woman who was allegedly raped by an Uber driver in India's capital of New Delhi is suing the company.

    7. McDonald's franchisees want new CEO Steve Easterbrook to get rid of the chain's huge menu and focus on burgers and fries again.

    8. An Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for attacks in Egypt's North Sinai province that killed at least 26 people.

    9. Malaysia has officially declared the disappearance of flight MH370 in March an "accident."

    10. Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's funeral.

    And finally ...

    A rare fox was spotted on camera in California's Yosemite National Park for the first time in 100 years.

    Join the conversation about this story »








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  • Two Senators Have Proposed A Tax Holiday Tech Companies Would Love (AAPL, GOOG)
    (Politics - January 30 2015 - 12:42 AM:)
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    Tim Cook

    Tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google have tons of cash, but there's a catch: most of it is offshore.

    That means they can either spend their cash abroad or bring it home and hand over up to 35% to Uncle Sam, according to Bloomberg.

    Companies can defer paying taxes on revenue earned abroad, so there's not much incentive to bring it back to the states.

    But Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a plan on Thursday that could have Silicon Valley grinning ear-to-ear.

    The "Invest In Transportation Act," would create a repatriation tax holiday allowing companies to pay just 6.5% on cash they bring home — a huge discount.

    The tax holiday would go towards the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for state and local infrastructure projects across the country.

    The bill, which hasn't been introduced yet, stipulates that repatriated cash would have to go towards initiatives like R&D, public-private partnerships, and acquisitions. None of it could be used for executive compensation increases or stock buybacks.

    The Boxer-Paul plan stems from Congress' opposition to raising the gas tax, which has traditionally gone towards the Highway Trust Fund.

    Fuel-efficient cars and ballooning infrastructure costs have run the Highway Trust Fund dry. It will run out of money in May without Congressional action.

    Though tech companies would love it, the idea of a tax holiday has already faced skepticism from Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

    “Tax holiday proposals designed to pay for the transportation bill sound great until you look at the details," Hatch said in a statement to The Hill.

    This wouldn't be the first time Congress passed a repatriation tax holiday — in 2004, companies were able to bring overseas cash home and suffer only a 5.25% rate. However, a study by a congressional subcommittee found that the 15 companies who brought the most money home cut jobs and spent slightly less on R&D from 2004 through 2007.

    SEE ALSO: 15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Apple's Latest Quarter

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  • Watch John McCain Blow Up At Protesters Heckling Henry Kissinger — 'Get Out Of Here, You Low-Life Scum'
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 11:35 PM:)
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    Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain kicked protesters out of his budget hearing Thursday, calling them "low-life scum."

    The upheaval came after members of an anti-war group calling itself Code Pink approached the witness table, where former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and George P. Shultz were testifying.

    The protesters carried signs calling Kissinger, 91, a war criminal.

    "Get out of here, you low-life scum," McCain said.

    Capitol Police removed the protesters from the room. The hearing was the third in a series in which the Arizona Republican has called luminaries from the foreign policy world to share their experiences with the panel.

    Produced by Jason Gains. Video courtesy of Associated Press.

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  • Greece's New Finance Minister Is A Loose-Lipped Blogger And A Snarky Media Critic
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 9:47 PM:)
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    Yanis Varoufakis

    Yanis Varoufakis is the new finance minister of Greece, after the far-left party Syriza won a resounding victory in Greece last week. 

    Before being elected to parliament and named finance minister, Varoufakis was an economics professor and regular blogger.

    His site is called "Thoughts for our post-2008 world," and it generally focuses on the economics of Europe in, predictably, a post-2008 world.

    His new role has not kept him from blogging. On Thursday, he took on the media's reporting of Syriza's stance on Russian sanctions.

    Here's a little background: On Tuesday, Greece refused to sign on to new sanctions against Russia that the EU wants to implement. This is a problem because the vote requires unanimity. "Greece’s new government questioned moves to impose more sanctions on Russia, adding a foreign-policy angle to its challenge to the status quo in Europe," according to Bloomberg

    This unnerved a lot of people in Europe, and was taken by some to mean that Syriza is using Russian sanctions as a bargaining chip in its quest to get Greece's debt restructured (which is its stated goal, in general). 

    But according to Varoufakis's post today, that's not what happened at all. In his words:

    Our Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, briefed us that on his first day at the job he heard in the news bulletins that the EU had approved new sanctions on Russia unanimously. The problem was that he, and the new Greek government, were never asked!

    So, according to Varoufakis, it's not about foreign policy brinksmanship, it's about demanding a seat at the table before agreeing to something. To be fair, Bloomberg does address that in its article. Here's the third paragraph:

    “Greece doesn’t consent,” the government said in a statement. It added that the announcement violated “proper procedure” by not first securing Greece’s agreement."

    But Varoufakis thinks that, in general, the media didn't do a very good job with this story. And here comes the snark at the end: 

    Could journalists the world over try to draw this important distinction between protesting our being neglected from protesting the sanctions themselves? Or is this too complicated?

    Completely earnestly, I say, we should have more blogging finance ministers. This is going to be fun.

    SEE ALSO: The Era Of City-Dwelling Millennials Is Coming To An End

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  • Greece Is Quickly Turning Into Europe's Worst Nightmare
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 9:02 PM:)
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    greece Tsipras

    Greece is quickly turning into a nightmare for Europe.

    Syriza, the radical left-wing political party that won the Greek parliamentary elections over the weekend, surprised the EU by challenging economic reforms and the sanctions imposed on Russia.

    Berlin and its European partners insist on reforms as a condition for receiving more aid that Athens desperately needs by next month to service its debt.

    The new Greek finance minister, radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, once likened German austerity policies to "fiscal waterboarding." And this week Greece halted two big privatizations without consulting EU officials and pledged to raise pensions and rehire fired public sector workers.

    On Thursday, the EU managed to extend the existing sanctions against Russia by six months, but Reuters reports that they dropped language about drawing up "further restrictive measures" that had been in a premeeting draft.

    "It is no secret that the new stance of the Greek government has not made today's debate any easier," Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said.

    Since the sanctions can't be imposed without all 28 EU countries agreeing, and Greece is ultimately after a debt write-off, some noted that Greece might have taken this stand order to have a bargaining chip against the EU. In other words, Greece could offer to trade the vote needed to pass an additional round of sanctions against Russia in exchange for debt relief.

    Ian Bremmer, who earlier flagged the politics of Europe as one of the biggest risks going into 2015, told Business Insider that "even if they don’t block sanctions, there are broader implications of their voiced discontent."

    In any case, Greece's stands against the reforms and the sanctions reveal three major issues:

    1. The biggest and immediate problem: Greece's veiled stand against new sanctions on Russia reveals how splintered the EU is becoming.

    "The issue is that politics and economics in Europe are going to get worse," Bremmer told the Council of Foreign Relations. "The issue is that the perception of crisis is taking roots once again. The issue is that other parties of similar alignment are going to make gains, and the political cohesion of Europe is going to deteriorate even further."

    That deterioration would also drive a wedge between the US and the EU.

    "Many Europeans would love to have Greece take the flak for stepping out of line — and then get right behind them," Bremmer told BI. "Greek disapproval (even if it falls short of a veto) is one more pressure that could slowly pull apart European member states’ alignment on sanctions — and distance Europe further from the United States."

    2. A breakdown in Germany-Greece talks and the consequent possibility of a Grexit would distract the EU from its bigger problems.

    "Greece’s debt is absolutely not sustainable. And the haircut that [Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] suggests is absolutely a non-starter," Bremmer said. "As a result, the two parties are on a collision course. Ultimately, to reach a deal, Tsipras is going to have to bend much more from his present positions than the Europeans. The issue is whether he is willing and able to do so.

    "If his party refuses — or more likely, if they miscalculate — they could severely threaten the prospects for a deal. That would make Grexit a credible possibility, and usher in all sorts of economic turmoil. The result could be a Europe that is heavily distracted from—and less united in — dealing with Russian aggression, instead focusing on bigger worries at home."

    Kotzias Dugin greece

    3. A potential Greece-Russia cooperation could become a big problem for the EU in the long run.

    On Thursday, Russia announced that it would consider extending financial aid to Greece if the latter asked. Bremmer notes that Greece gets a lot of money from Russia through trade and tourism, and there’s a long-term gas pipeline deal in the mix as well. Russia would also love warm water port, since Ukraine and Syria haven’t been working out.

    "The new Greek government is cause for concern, especially because Tsipras has voiced his opposition to NATO membership in the past," Bremmer told BI. "And his early actions — these comments regarding sanctions, as well as his meeting with the Russian ambassador to Greece within hours of taking office — demonstrate that he is willing to engage differently with Moscow."

    Bremmer added that Athens will prioritize economics over geopolitics in the near term, but "if Greek negotiations with Europe go off the rails, [which is] very plausible, we would enter a very different dynamic.

    "For its part, Russia would love to leverage Tsipras to sow European disunity on sanctions ... and that's just a starting point. Russia could use a warm water port in the Mediterranean. If things go badly for Greece, that's an interesting geopolitical option, and we could start to see it leveraging its relationship with Russia much more forcefully."

    russia patriarch greek priest

    The bottom line is, as Bremmer noted earlier in January, the friction among the EU states is worsening, and stronger cooperation amongst German, France, and the UK would be the best case for Europe.

    "That [coalition] actually allows for a broader mandate and a level of institution building with a periphery that is not so incredibly polarized, which is the situation that you have right now," Bremmer said.

    "Unfortunately, that means it's going to get worse before it gets better, so there is no solution for this in the near term," he added. "In the medium term, there is, but we have to get lucky."


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  • These Are The 15 Least Free Countries In The World
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 8:33 PM:)
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    kim jong un north korea

    Freedom House released its annual Freedom in the World report this week, rating each of the world's nations according to the political rights and civil liberties of their people. 

    The report found that overall freedom in the world dropped for the ninth consecutive year, with nearly twice as many countries suffering declines in freedom as registering gains.

    The number of countries whose freedom improved is at its lowest point in nine years. 

    The report found a growing disdain for democracy in nearly all regions of the world, with losses in personal freedom often coming in the form of increased state surveillance and restrictions on internet communications. 

    Of the 195 countries assessed, 26% were rated "Not Free," with ratings for the Middle East and North Africa among the worst of the world's regions.

    SEE ALSO: There's one huge reason Mexico is becoming "less free"

    Belarus

    Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka heads an authoritarian regime notorious for crushing any and all forms of political dissent.

    Term limits don't exist and key opposition figures are often prevented from running for office, according to Freedom House. As a result, opposition parties have no representation in the Belarusian National Assembly. 

    Belarusian national television is controlled by the government and dissenting views are not presented. As more and more Belarusians gain access to the internet, the government is trying to expand its control to the web. Social networking sites are blocked, and online opposition activists are regularly harassed and threatened. 



    Somalia

    The political process in anarchic Somalia is largely driven by clan loyalty, according to Freedom House. 

    While Somalia's current parliament is highly regarded by the international community, Somali citizens exercise little power over the system and have limited, if any, access to their representatives.

    Somalia's new government, which took power last December, also controls the media with a heavy hand. Somalia is plagued by lawlessness: though technically illegal, female genital mutilation is still widely practiced on nearly all young Somali girls. 

    The prevalence of armed groups like the jihadist organization al Shabaab, and the government's relatively limited ability to counter them, makes the state of civil and political rights incredibly dire even without an oppressive state apparatus.



    Equatorial Guinea

    Political opposition in Equatorial Guinea is limited and kept under strict control by the regime, according to Freedom House. The ruling party has almost complete control over the media, judiciary, police, and military. Corruption is rampant. 

    Press censorship by the government is authorized under a 1992 law, Facebook is blocked, and libel is a criminal offense. The government engages in arbitrary arrests and frequently detains its political opponents on charges of "destabilization."



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider






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  • South Carolina Senator Looking At 2016 Race To Do Battle With 'Radical Islam'
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 7:48 PM:)
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    AP344267125142

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) says he's throwing his hat into the increasingly crowded field of 2016 contenders. 

    Graham launched a fundraising committee, "Security Through Strength," on Thursday to raise money for the potential campaign. In a Fox News interview, he said his goal is to promote a more aggressive foreign policy.

    "I'm going to take a look at the presidential primary. .... This organization will allow people to donate money and their time and resources to see if there's a pathway forward for me," he said. "So I'm going to look at it." 

    Graham, one of the Senate's leading foreign policy hawks, said his political committee was named after one of former President Ronald Reagan's catchphrases. He went on to argue, however, against "peaceful coexistence" with jihadists abroad.

    "You know Ronald Reagan famously said his goal was to have 'peace through strength.' In my view you can never have peace with radical Islam. They want to destroy us and our way of life. So peaceful coexistence is a nonstarter from their point of view and, quite frankly, from my point of view. But you can have security. You can have a strong military keeping the fight over there so it doesn't come here," he said.

    Graham is a relative moderate on a number of hot-button issues, including immigration, leading many reporters and political operatives to suggest he wouldn't be a viable candidate in a GOP primary and doubt the seriousness of his campaign. But pressed on his intentions Thursday, Graham reportedly touted his re-election victory margin in South Carolina, one of the first states to vote in the presidential contest.

    "How could a guy win in South Carolina by 41 points who voted for [Sonia] Sotomayor, [Elena] Kagan, embraces climate change, Israel, and [thinks] immigration reform is necessary?" Graham asked, according to Talking Points Memo. "My party is center-right, and I'm in the right ditch."

    Correction (5:49 p.m.): This post originally misidentified Graham's committee as "Peace Through Strength" instead of "Security Through Strength."

    SEE ALSO: DELAYED: Hillary Clinton Keeps Pushing Back Her Plan To Run In 2016

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  • Obama's Budget Is Dead On Arrival
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 7:28 PM:)
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    Barack Obama

    David Levine is the author of "If You Give A Donkey The White House."

    Of the few things in life that are certain, one is that the budget sent by a Democratic president to a Republican Congress is dead on arrival.

    It has become an American tradition. Especially in the current political climate, where Obama has managed to build more ill will on Capitol Hill than anyone in recent memory, the likelihood that the Republicans will summarily bin his latest spending requests is much closer to none than slim. We have all seen this movie before.

    Yet we are watching it again. And not for the last time, for the very simple reason that our federal government has completely lost its way, expanding incessantly, and believing itself entitled to recklessly spend the hard earned money of the people it represents.

    In the real world, when a businessman makes a spending decision, he does so with thoughts of return on investment.  He needs to expend his resources in order to run and grow his business, but his goal is making money. Spending is necessary only as long as it generates results. Sometimes he will incur debt or accept a short term deficit. But at some point, he needs to see value for what he spends. If he cannot turn a profit, his children do not get dinner. It’s actually quite simple. When an employee turns out to be useless, he gets fired. When an advertising campaign proves ineffective, it is done away with.

    In the topsy-turvy world of government, the focus is always on spending money. The complete disregard for return on investment is mind-boggling. If the President of the United States is unable to cogently justify how he spent the last half trillion dollars of which Congress put him in charge, he should not be entitled to repeat the process.

    And if the Republican controlled Congress wants to appear levelheaded and well-intentioned rather than petty and obstructionist, all it needs to do is call Obama’s bluff. If, as word on the street is correct, he wants to increase spending by about fifty billion dollars, Congress should simply ask that he find fifty billion dollars to cut somewhere else, and grant him his wish.

    Of course, going through how each of the 3.9 trillion dollars the president asked for last year could take a while, so let’s focus on one, small, fifty billion dollar segment where our executive branch of government has shined in its ineffectiveness, where there has been absolutely no return on investment – the Department of State. Why not board it up for next fiscal year or turn it into a museum?

    Is there anyone who has kept track of how many times John Kerry has traveled to the Middle East and at what cost? He does not exactly travel alone. In addition to an army of security, he always takes a team of undersecretaries and their assistants and under-assistants and assistant undersecretaries and so forth. And they are neither flying coach nor buying their tickets on Priceline. And what has the American taxpayer received for funding these high profile adventures?

    AP429994901217

    Has Kerry achieved anything? Anywhere? The Israel –Palestine two state solution will always be nothing more than a pipe dream, Iraq remains on the brink, Yemen is in a state of anarchy, Syria is a failed state that is now a practice battleground for radicals, Egypt is ruled by a dictator who collects a billion dollars of American aid annually, and negotiations with Iran about their nuclear program will undoubtedly continue to stall. And has anything been accomplished elsewhere? Is Putin any more predisposed to us? Are the Islamists retreating in Nigeria? Did the State Department do anything useful or productive with the fifty billion dollars it got last year? 

    These questions of course will be neither asked nor answered. Obama will never apologize for choosing such a thoroughly feckless man to spearhead our foreign affairs, the State Department will get its funding, Kerry and his brood of buffoons will continue to rack up miles while accomplishing nothing, and American hegemony will continue to diminish. The shame of it is that this should not cost us fifty billion dollars. At the very least, we should be able to watch the world blow itself up at no charge, and leave this money in the care of the American taxpayer to save, spend or fritter as he sees fit.

    So sit back on the sofa, get a tub of popcorn and a fountain soda, and get ready to watch the annual federal film fest where the President fights with Congress as to how best squander American capital.  It may not be as much fun as fireworks on the Fourth of July, but at least it’s a tradition.

    David E. Levine was educated at Columbia University, graduating in 1993 with a BA in History. He grew up in Los Angeles, CA and currently resides in Teaneck, NJ with his wife and four children. If You Give a Donkey the White House is available for purchase at AmazonBarnes and NobleGoogle Books, and Dog Ear Publishing.
     

    SEE ALSO: The Germans Are Making The Same Huge Mistake Bill Clinton Made

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  • 3 Americans Killed In An 'Insider Attack' At Kabul's Airport
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 7:22 PM:)
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    Afghan police

    Three American contractors were killed and a fourth was wounded by an Afghan soldier at the military airport in the capital Kabul, an Afghan air force official told Reuters on Thursday.

    "It is unclear yet why he shot these advisers and no one else was there to tell us the reason," the official said, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to give statements to the media. "An investigation has been opened."

    The international force in Afghanistan confirmed the shooting took place on Thursday evening. Kabul's airport is a major gateway for the thousands of contractors and aid workers still operating in the troubled country and a number of international carriers fly there, including Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and FlyDubai.

    This would mark only the latest "insider attack" in the country, in which members of the uniformed security services have turned on either their colleagues or people they are supposed to be protecting. In August, an American two-star general was killed in Afghanistan in an insider attack, making him the highest-ranking US officer killed during the 12-year-long operation in the country.

    The US ended its combat operation in Afghanistan in December of 2014. The country's security is now largely the responsibility of Afghan security forces that have taken unsustainable losses in their fight against the Taliban and that are penetrated by the Taliban and its supporters.

    (Reporting by Jessica Donati; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

    SEE ALSO: The CIA agent who saved Hamid Karzai's life is now the agency's top spy

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  • Business Insider Is Hiring Summer 2015 Interns!
    (Politics - January 29 2015 - 6:57 PM:)
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    business insider newsroom

    Business Insider is looking for paid interns to join our editorial team this summer!

    As an intern at Business Insider, there's no getting coffee, filing, or making copies.

    Our interns are an integral part of our team. Many of our current writers and editors started as interns.

    BI Interns spend their time doing meaningful work: researching, writing, pitching and producing features -- even breaking news if the timing's right.

    Interns are encouraged to work full-time (40 hours a week) if their schedule allows.

    Other perks? We have tons of free snacks and drinks, a great office environment, and a ping-pong table where we hold quarterly tournaments.

    When it comes to qualifications, a journalism background and experience writing for a news site always helps, as do copy-editing skills and light HTML and Photoshop experience. Knowledge of social media and previous writing experience are both useful, too.

    If interested, APPLY HERE with your resume and cover letter. Please briefly describe which BI section(s) interest you most and why. We are hiring for all verticals listed on the nav bar, including but not limited to:

    Finance/Markets
    Tech
    Retail
    Science
    Entertainment
    Contributors (also hiring now!)
    Strategy/Careers (also hiring now!)
    Personal Finance
    Life
    Travel
    Lists
    Visual Features (also hiring now!)
    Sports
    Politics

    And, please note: this internship requires that you work in our Manhattan office. The internship term runs from May - September, with some flexibility on start and end dates.

    SEE ALSO:  What's Coming For BI In 2015!

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