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Business Insider – Politics

  • The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
    (Politics - November 24 2014 - 7:41 AM:)
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    titanic sinking

    Good morning! Here is what you need to know before your first meeting today:

    1. We have only seen "the tip of the iceberg" in the Westminster child abuse scandal. Home secretary Theresa May says 40 detectives are investigating whether a Conservative MP murdered a boy at a pedophile sex party in London in the early 1980s.

    2. Asian markets really liked that Chinese interest rate cut. The Shanghai and Hang Seng indexes both jumped in early trading, according to the FT.

    3. Observers say China's interest rate cut is merely the first of more to come. The country appears to be going into an economic slowdown.

    4. The UK government wants to keep Prince Charles' "black spider memos" a secret. The Guardian has been fighting a years-long freedom of information lawsuit to unveil the letters the future king has written to cabinet members promoting his policy views.

    5. The Israeli cabinet has approved a bill that defines Israel as a nation state of the Jews, and reserves some rights for Jewish people that non-Jews would not have. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is completely happy about that. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to amend the bill so that it provides equal rights for all.

    6. Negotiators are trying to get Iran to agree to a pact that would stop its nuclear power programme from being militarized. The two sides are still talking but they are far apart.

    7. The British woman jailed in Iran for watching a volleyball match has been released. She's out on bail but is not allowed to return to the UK.

    8. Forty-five people were killed by a suicide bomber at a volleyball match in Afghanistan. Volleyball had previously been banned by the Taliban.

    9. The UK High Court will hear a case against Google in which a man claims the search engine must remove links to 3,600 web sites that have posted defamatory information about him. The case is not about the EU's "right to be forgotten." It goes further than that - it's about whether Google has a legal duty to stop links to defamatory material posted anonymously.

    10. Samsung is contemplating a huge shakeup that could cost co-CEO J.K. Shin his job. Shin oversees the mobile division of Samsung, which has recently seen sales and profits collapse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    And finally ...

    Yik Yak is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The localized bulletin board app heavily used by teens took a $62 million round of investment.

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  • It's Deadline Day For The Best Shot To Resolve The Iran Nuclear Standoff In Years
    (Politics - November 24 2014 - 4:29 AM:)
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    The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months to turn an interim deal struck in Geneva that expires on Monday into a lasting accord

    Vienna (AFP) - Time runs out Monday for the biggest chance in years to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff, as Tehran and world powers make a final push for a deal but with a risky extension looking likely.

    The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months, seeking to turn an interim deal that expires at midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday into a lasting accord.

    Such an agreement, after a 12-year standoff, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition it hotly denies.

    But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in recent days involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers to secure a deal appears to have failed to bridge the remaining major differences.

    As a result, late Sunday a senior US State Department official said for the first time that the powers and Iran were now discussing putting more time on the clock.

    The official said it was "only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options ... An extension is one of those options."

    This came after US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif for the sixth time since Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock. 

    British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said however that the parties would still make a "big push tomorrow (Monday) morning to try and get this across the line".

    "Of course if we're not able to do it, we'll then look at where we go from there," he said.

    "We're still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with".

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was expected in the Austrian capital early Monday, completing the line-up of all the six powers' foreign ministers.

    This included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks. Earlier in the week he said all the elements were in place for a deal with just "political will" missing.

     

    - Gaps -

     

    Diplomats on both sides say that despite some progress, the two sides remain far apart on the two crucial points of contention: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

    Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power but also, at high purities, for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

    Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges -- in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors -- while the West wants them dramatically reduced.

    Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period of time to ensure Iranian compliance with any deal.

    "What a deal would do is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change," US President Barack Obama in an ABC News interview aired Sunday.

     

    - Extension -

     

    In view of the difficulties -- and of the dangers posed by the alternative of a complete collapse -- many experts have long believed that the negotiators would put more time on the clock. 

    An Iranian source told AFP earlier Sunday, while stressing at that point that adding time was not yet on the table, that the extension "could be for a period of six months or a year." 

    Another extension -- as happened with an earlier deadline of July 20 -- however carries risks of its own,including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

    Pushing back the cut-off point will also fuel accusations from Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, that its arch foe Iran is merely buying time to get closer to the bomb.

    Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP that an extension of six months to a year "would not fly" with the other parties.

    Any extension "will have to be very short because there are too many hardliners, particularly in Washington and Tehran, that want to sabotage this deal," she told AFP.

     

     

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  • PUTIN: We're Stronger Than Everybody
    (Politics - November 23 2014 - 5:10 PM:)
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    Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his belief that Russia is the strongest nation, which will lead to — in his eyes — a positive end in Crimea, according to an interview with the state-owned TASS news agency.

    During the interview, Putin stated that everything will "end well" in Crimea because "it's just that we're stronger [than] everybody."

    "We're stronger," he said, "because we're right. When the Russian feels that he's right, he's unstoppable. I'm saying this sincerely, not just to pontificate," he added.

    Right now, there is an ongoing conflict in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine — areas that have had predominantly ethnic Russian populations since the days of the Soviet Union.

    Back in March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, which was previously a part of Ukraine. Since then, there has been conflict between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government — most notably in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

    Certain inhabitants of the region want to join Russia, while others want to remain in Ukraine.

    But the Russian government has its own plan for Ukraine: "federalization."

    "Each region [in Ukraine] would have control of its economy, taxes, culture, language, education, and 'external economic and cultural connections with neighboring countries or regions,'" Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has previously stated about the "federalization" plan, according to The Guardian.

    This would give greater autonomy to the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine — where the conflict is currently going on. In simple terms, these regions would be directly associated with Russia, rather than with Ukraine.

    Noted American political scientist Ian Bremmer recently stated that "the Kremlin is moving towards making Crimea and the Southeast Ukraine a single place" and "there's very little the Ukrainians can do" because their "military will remain badly outgunned, and the local populations in the region remain fairly anti-Kiev."

    Although some people have expressed their beliefs that Putin is just winging it right now in Ukraine, Putin stated in the TASS interview that the current situation — including the actions in Crimea and afterwards — "is a strategic decision."

    "I have developed a certain style over the years. I never make arbitrary decisions — the ones whose outcomes I cannot see," Putin said. "It's like when you're [driving] on the road: if you're not sure, don't pass [the car next to you]... You have to be absolutely clear that there's no upcoming traffic — that you're truly in control of the situation."

    "Those who are trying to compete with us, are on the wrong side of the road. We're on the right side of the road, and we're on cruise control," Putin stated about the current situation.

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  • Japan's Military Is Revving Up To Meet China's Growing Regional Ambitions
    (Politics - November 23 2014 - 3:50 PM:)
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    Japan military exercise

    For a long time, Japan's military force was an exercise in contradiction. The country has ranked among the world's top military spenders, at almost $50 billion in 2013 — despite a constitution that explicitly forbids war (and even the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces").

    But in July, the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a reinterpretation of the pacifist clause called Article 9.

    Without changing the constitution's wording, Abe made clear that Japan intended to step up its military prerogative in the region, allowing it to come to the aid of an attacked ally, for instance.

    The country spends the equivalent of 1% of its GDP on defense, a figure that could grow after a decade of flat-lining; last year Abe's cabinet approved a five-year spending plan on a laundry list of military hardware: Three surveillance drones, stealth aircraft, 52 amphibious troop carriers, 28 next-generation fighter planes (the F-35) and 17 Osprey aircraft units.

    The total expenditure from the plan is estimated to reach $232 billion to $240 billion.

    Aside from foreign purchases, Japan has also undertaken the development of its own advanced fighter. The ATD-X is envisioned as being a stealthy air-superiority fighter that could be deployed to counteract the development of fifth-generation fighters by China and Russia. 

    Japan's Ministry of Defense plans to use the research developed for the ATD-X as a stepping stone to the eventual development of a sixth-generation fighter that would be designed for counter-stealth capabilities.

    Japan also wants to expand its fleet of submarines from 16 units to 22, an asset Japan has much experience leveraging. The National Interest explains that Japan keeps its submarines "at a number of key invasion routes to Japan [...] This concentration is a Cold War holdover, from when Japan expected that Soviet Union might invade during wartime."

    The BBC's Tokyo correspondent agrees that Japan's military was once mainly a foil to the Soviet threat, "designed in the days of the Cold War to protect Japan against an invasion from the north, from Russia."

    Japan military exercise

    The new perceived threat is China, a country with which Japan's relationship has never fully recovered from the latter's imperial aggression before and during World War II. Alongside China's economic growth has come a mushrooming defense budget, which has steadily climbed since 2000 (to $132 billion).

    In 2010, tensions reached a low boil, catalyzed by a territorial dispute over the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea. More recently, China has shifted tactics over the island chain by sending fishermen en masse to the region in an effort to assert de facto control.

    Ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) last week in Beijing — where the two countries' leaders halfheartedly shook hands for the cameras — Japan's prime minister did at least open the door to fielding Chinese claims on the territories.

    But an eventual armed clash in disputed waters is certainly possible.

    South China Sea Map_05

    "All those hotspots, and what's the common denominator? It's China," Gordon Arthur, a journalist focusing on Asian Pacific defense, told Business Insider. "I think they've been very assertive under president Xi Jinping, so I think it's very possible that an accident or escalation could happen."

    That case is the main driver for Japan's renewed defense priorities, and for its move to base its new amphibious capability — including a radar station — in southwestern Japan.

    "In case of various situations, it is essential to respond effectively and minimize damage by achieving air superiority and command of the sea," a document from Japan's Ministry of Defense states.

    Alongside new military spending is the country's cultivation of regional allies, and stronger cultivation of its long-standing alliance with the United States.

    japan army self defense force

    "You can't look at Japan's military as only Japan," said Steven Herman, the Voice of America's bureau chief in Bangkok. "So what Japan has in addition to its own so-called Self-Defense Forces, it has the full weight and might of the United States military behind it."

    If ever there was a formula for world wars, it's minor disputes between countries backed by big allies ("it's likely that there will be a third world war to fight for sea rights," reads one op-ed by a professor at a a Chinese military university). Even Shinzo Abe, a man in leadership rather than academia, this year compared the trade-heavy relationship between China and Japan to that of the UK and Germany before World War I.

    The advent of another great war isn't foregone. The Japanese public, for one, still remains largely opposed to war. In a 2013 Pew research poll, 56% of the Japanese public said they were against any form of military effort other than defense, although there has been a gradual trend towards military action becoming more acceptable within the nation.

    Tensions in China, Japan, and South Korea are greater than they were even in the '80s, when the wounds of World War II were fresher, said Herman. "What we're finding is more liberal voices in all of these countries," voices advocating for an understanding of other countries' perspectives, "are being squelched to a greater degree than they were in the past."

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

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  • OBAMA: Voters Will Want A 'New Car Smell' In 2016
    (Politics - November 23 2014 - 3:11 PM:)
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    President Barack Obama suggested in a Sunday interview that voters have grown a little tired of his presidency and will want a newer, fresher candidate to succeed him.

    "I think the American people, they're gonna want that new car smell," Obama said on ABC's "This Week," according to a transcript. "They wanna drive something off the lot that doesn't have as much mileage as me." 

    Obama made the comments while addressing the potential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the 2016 contest. Though Clinton served in his administration as secretary of state, Obama said voters should expect her to offer some disagreements with his presidency.

    "If she decides to run, I think she will be a formidable candidate and I think she'd be a great president," Obama said. "And she's not gonna agree with me on everything. And one of the benefits of running for president is you can stake out your own positions. You have a clean slate. A fresh start. You know, when you've been president for six years, you've got some dings." 

    Obama stopped short of endorsing her campaign, however, and said other Democrats would also be "terrific" successors.

    "She hasn't announced so I don't wanna jump the gun. I can tell you a couple things. Number one, she was an outstanding secretary of State. Number two, she's a friend," Obama said. "Number three, I think she and a number of other possible Democratic candidates would be terrific presidents."

    Transcript text lightly edited for clarity.

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  • Peter J Solomon Started One Of The First Private Investment Banks— Here's The Advice That Sent Him To Wall Street
    (Politics - November 23 2014 - 3:00 PM:)
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    While at Harvard Business School, a professor told investment bank CEO Peter J Solomon: ‘If you want to do something for society go to Wall Street, make a lot of money. And you’ll do more for society using that money that you make on Wall Street than you ever will in either politics or social welfare'."

    That, he tells OneWire CEO Skiddy von Stade, is part of how he got on the path to building his own shop, Peter J Solomon Company. It was the first private investment bank on Wall Street.

    Solomon also served as Deputy Mayor of New York during the Ed Koch administration, which surprised him more than those who had known him at Harvard.

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  • A Snapshot Of Terrorism In The World Today
    (Politics - November 23 2014 - 1:09 AM:)
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    Within a single year the world has experienced a 61% increase in terrorist attacks, according to the 2014 edition of The Global Terrorism Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace. 

    The index covers 99.6% of the world's population and ranks 162 countries based on the impact of terrorist activities along with analysis of economic and social factors. The IEP defines terrorism as "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation."

    Here are the key findings from the report (and here is the full report):

    Iraq Breeds The Most Terrorism Along With These 4 Nations

    iraq car bomb

    Approximately 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, and of those deaths 82% occurred in just 5 nations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. 

    Of the 162 surveyed nations, Iraq holds the deplorable top spot with approximately 2,492 terrorist attacks in 2013,  which killed 6,362 people.

    Combined, these nations accounted for nearly 15,000 fatalities. Since 2000 only 5% of these crimes were suicide attacks.

    The four terrorist groups responsible for the most destructive acts are Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda. The report notes that radical variants of Islam was “the key commonality for all four groups.” However, the study does not take into account the recent attacks from ISIS since the research tapers off at the end of 2013. 

    Although terrorism is on the rise, the report notes that the figures are still relatively small when compared to the 437,000 people killed by homicide in 2013. For example, in the US an individual is 64 times more likely to die from a homicide than terrorism.

    The overwhelming method of carrying out a terrorist attack was by way of explosives. Since 2000, only 5% of these crimes were suicide attacks.

    At Risk Countries

    According to the report, more than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.

    Central African Republic fighters gun poverty

    IEP identifies the following 13 countries with a high risk potential of terrorism activity. 

    These nations either have violent ongoing conflicts or notable social and economic setbacks. 

    Angola, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote D' Ivory, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. 

    Causes Of Terrorism

    From the report, the following are the 3 main factors associated with terrorism:

    Greater social hostilities between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups, lack of intergroup cohesion and high levels of group grievances.

    Presence of state sponsored violence such as extrajudicial killings, political terror and gross human rights abuses.

    Higher levels of other forms of violence including deaths from organized conflict, likelihood of violent demonstrations, levels of violent crime and perceptions of criminality.  

    SEE ALSO: The World Is Becoming More Violent — Here Are The Most And Least Peaceful Countries

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  • The FBI Just Arrested Two Guys Accused Of Buying Explosives To Use In Ferguson
    (Politics - November 22 2014 - 4:05 AM:)
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    The FBI arrested two men for allegedly buying explosives intended for upcoming protests in Ferguson, Missouri, reports CBS News.

    The two men are allegedly members of the Black Panthers and live in the greater St. Louis area.

    Tensions in Ferguson have risen in recent days as the community prepares for a verdict from the grand jury on whether or not officer Darren Wilson will be charged for the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed at the time.

    The two men were arrested in an undercover operation and reportedly intended to use the explosives to build pipe bombs.

    The suspects' names were not released. Both were arraigned in federal court on Friday.

    SEE ALSO: Michael Brown's Official Autopsy Reportedly Seems To Support The Story Of The Cop Who Shot Him

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  • Hillary Clinton's Top Supporters Insist She Could Lose In 2016
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 11:03 PM:)
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    Hillary Clinton seems to have a very clear path to the White House in 2016. A slew of polls have shown her leading all her likely Democratic primary rivals.

    While that kind of prime positioning obviously has its advantages, being the front-runner hasn't worked for four Democrats in recent races — including Clinton in 2008. In a recent piece, the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza spoke to experts who warned Clinton could fall into this "inevitability trap" once again in the next election.

    On Friday, top Clinton supporters gathered in New York City for a meeting of the finance council of "Ready For Hillary," a super PAC dedicated to backing her potential candidacy. Many of them shot down the notion Clinton has the White House locked up.

    Ready For Hillary Executive Director Adam Parkhomenko devoted much of his sitdown with reporters at the event to batting down the idea Clinton is inevitable.

    "In terms of inevitability, I wouldn't have been doing this since Jan. 2013 if I thought she was inevitable," Parkhomenko said at the event, which was held at the Sheraton Times Square hotel.

    Political consultant James Carville, a veteran Clinton ally, put things in even more blunt terms. 

    "It's stupid. It's a stupid perception. There's no such thing as inevitability in politics," Carville told Business Insider. "I just think it's coming from inexperienced people that don't know what they're talking about."

    Lanny Davis, another longtime Clinton loyalist, concurred with Carville and blamed the media for creating a false sense of Clinton's inevitability.

    "This is only a problem when the press is interviewing the press. It's a media non-story that the media creates into a story," Davis told Business Insider. "I think she has to work hard and earn the nomination. This is a media invention when they have nothing to write about. Blaming a candidate for being inevitable is like blaming the sun for rising in the east."

    Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY's List, a group dedicated to supporting pro-choice Democratic women, argued those who see Clinton as inevitable are ignoring the fact voters have desire for change after eight years of President Barack Obama.

    "I think the biggest challenge we have is that history says that Americans don't really like to go with the same party for three terms. So we've got our work cut out for us under the best of circumstances," Schriock said at a briefing with reporters. "This is not going to be an easy election. ... She's going to have to make the case if she decides to run."

    Schriock is rumored to be one of the leading candidates to manage Clinton's White House bid. However, she declined to discuss whether she could play a role on Clinton's campaign.

    "I'm not going to talk about any conversations I may or may not be having with any candidate who may or may not be running," she said.

    For his part, Parkhomenko pointed to the fact history making nature of a potential Clinton candidacy as evidence she should not be seen as a lock.

    "She's not inevitable," he repeated. "It's not going to be easy. A woman's never won the Iowa caucuses. A woman's never won a major party nomination. A woman has never become president."

    Parkhomenko also pointed out she hasn't officially entered the race.

    "Hillary Clinton hasn't made up her mind," he said.

    Parkhomenko also reminded reporters at the event of Clinton's loss in 2008, when she was widely seen as inevitable before being upset by Obama.

    "It's important to note that, if you go back and you look at a lot of the stories that some of the folks in this room wrote at this time in the 2008 cycle, it was 'Hillary Clinton vs. Rudolph Giuliani' — and we know how that turned out," he said.

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  • Teens Are Tweeting Unappealing Photos Of Their School Lunches With The Hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 10:39 PM:)
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    Lunch Michelle Obama

    A new trending topic #ThanksMichelleObama is popping up all over Twitter, but the sentiment is anything but gracious.

    Teenagers who are unhappy with their school lunches are snapping pictures of the food and tweeting them along with the hashtag.

    "Hunter Whitney, a student at Wisconsin’s Richmond Center High School, said this dish is called “Spanish rice” and that students aren’t supplied with salt," Buzzfeed reports.

    Had a very #healthylunch today. The apple definitely made up for the "mystery mush" #ThanksMichelleObama pic.twitter.com/RWCnQRCxJK

    — Hunter Whitney (@huntwhitney4) November 13, 2014

    Other teens have chimed in with their own photos.

    #ThanksMichelleObama pic.twitter.com/MZdrjm363i

    — I hate winter (@izzysmardz07) November 21, 2014

    This is a hot dog bun with cheese on it. #ThanksMichelleObama pic.twitter.com/Ifs0Cp46DV

    — Zoë (@zoesappingfield) November 21, 2014

    #ThanksMichelleObama just what a 16 year old girl needs pic.twitter.com/yFtk2BQao1

    — Amber Schroeder (@aureviorlune) November 21, 2014

    The lunches comply with new USDA regulations which Michelle Obama has largely supported in her quest to end childhood obesity. 

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  • Thousands Of Refugees Fled Cuba On Rafts In 1994 — Here's How They Are Faring 20 Years Later
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 8:35 PM:)
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    Since the rise of the Fidel Castro in 1959, millions of Cuban citizens have tried to illegally gain entrance to the United States, seeking refuge from the regime. Many of these people have attempted to enter the US using makeshift rafts to travel the treacherous 332 miles of water between Cuba and Miami. A great many have died along the way.

    The emigrations reached a fever pitch in 1994 when Castro heightened restrictions on leaving, and the US Coastguard intercepted more than 31,000 Cubans during August and September of that year. Yet large numbers of exiles were not discovered and successfully made it Miami. Many of them still live in the city to this day.

    Now, 20 years after one of the largest influxes of Cubans to the US ever, Reuters photographer Enrique de la Osa visited Miami and tracked down many of those refugees, photographing them and seeing what became of them after their perilous journeys.

    Hanoi Lopez, 39, is seen here in the yard where he works as mechanic at a public school bus company in Miami.



    Luis Soler, 53, is seen here with the two Emmy awards he won as creative director at the Univision TV network. Soler said he spent five days adrift with other migrants in 1994 before being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard.



    Faustino Jose, 60, now owns his own jewelry store. Faustino, who was an industrial engineer in Cuba, said he studied all of Thor Heyerdahl's books about rafting before building his own and leaving Cuba.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider






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  • The Senate Hearing On Goldman's Alleged 'Merry-Go-Round' Deals Was Very Uncomfortable
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 8:18 PM:)
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    Carl LevinThe Goldman Sachs Senate hearing on commodities got nasty yesterday, The New York Times reported.

    “What’s the point? Maybe you can help me out here,” the Times quoted a frustrated Senator McCain (R-Arizona) as saying to a panel of Goldman executives.

    It was the first of a 2-day hearing over the bank’s sway in the commodities market. 

    The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations claims that Goldman has been able to drive certain commodities prices higher through its ownership of Colombian coal mines, Detroit aluminum warehouses, and a London-based uranium trading firm.

    Goldman says it doesn't impact the market, and that it should be able to keep these holdings.

    Other banks, including JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, have faced similar allegations and have pledged to cut down their commodities assets. 

    At the hearing, shots were fired. Senators got sassy. At one point, Senator McCain responded to Goldman executives with a sarcastic “Remarkable,” the Times reported. 

    Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), also on the subcommittee, said “Come on … I’m just trying to get you to acknowledge what is obvious.”

    What is obvious, according to the Senators, is that bank regulation dating back to the 1950s prevented banks from owning physical commodities. However, a combination of deregulation in the 1990s, and the chaos of asset purchases after the financial crisis landed some of these commodities on bank balance sheets. Now regulators and legislators alike are trying to go back to something more like the way things were.

    And their worry isn't just price manipulation. The Senate report on Goldman says that the bank was holding commodities valued at 12% of their Tier 1 capital. McCain and Levin wrote that they feared a disaster — a BP-sized oil spill, for example — could blow a massive hole in a systemically important bank's balance sheet.

    Here’s the subcommittee's 400-page report on how Goldman artificially boosted the price of aluminum.

     

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  • The Most Innovative People Under 40
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 5:34 PM:)
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    Oculus Rift CEO Brendan Iribe Palmer LuckeyClick here to see the story >

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  • Astonishing Pictures Of Afghanistan From Before The Wars
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 5:15 PM:)
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    afghanistan blonde

    Operation Enduring Freedom, the US's over-13-year-old campaign in Afghanistan, is just a few weeks away from ending. The next chapter in Afghanistan's modern history — one that's left all but the most remote corners of the country impacted by decades of conflict — is about to begin.

    The country remains deeply troubled, with a resurgent Taliban, a highly suspect military, and an economy where the opium industry remains the largest single employer. But before the US invasion, before the Russian war, and before the country's Marxist experiment, Afghanistan used to be a far different place.

    An astonishing collection of photos from the 1960s came to light in early 2013.

    In the 60s, amateur photographer and college professor Dr. William Podlich took a leave of absence from his job at Arizona State University to work with UNESCO in the Afghan capital of Kabul, bringing his wife and daughters with him.

    Later, his son-in-law Clayton Esterson found the late doctor's photos and put them on the web. The response was amazing.

    Esterson told the Denver Post: “Many Afghans have written comments [on our website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile.”

    This report was originally by Geoffrey Ingersoll.

    On the left is a picture showing the photographer's daughter in a pleasant park. On the right is that same park 40 years later.



    In the 60s, this blonde attracted looks in a still very conservative Afghanistan.



    But many people also wore nice western clothes in the 60s, too.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider






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  • Jon Stewart Reflects On What It Would Be Like To Leave 'The Daily Show'
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 4:55 PM:)
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    For most of the past 15 years, Jon Stewart has been at the helm of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

    The satirical news program with occasional glimpses of brilliance was at its best during the Bush years, when Stewart became more than a comedian and was seen as a trusted news source for the American public.

    He got a taste of what life would be like post-"Daily Show" when he took three months off to shoot his directorial debut "Rosewater" about a journalist who was jailed by the Iranian government.

    Stewart recently spoke with NPR's Terry Gross about what he's been wrestling with as a performer who loves the job that made him famous but has a desire for something more:

    You know, it's always difficult. I do feel like I don't know that there will ever be anything that I will ever be as well suited for as this show. That being said, I think there are moments when you realize that that's not enough anymore, or that maybe it's time for some discomfort.

    ... I think there's a tendency when something's been on the air for a really long time to dismiss it only because of its familiarity. And it's hard to retain that first blush of love that you have when you first find something that takes you, whether it be, you know, artistic, material or music or other things. But I'm still really proud of the work we do day in and day out and hold up some of the bits that we've done recently to anything that we have done in the history of the program.

    And so that is the difficulty — when do you decide that even though it's this place of great comfort and you feel like you're plugged into it like you've never been plugged into anything else that you've ever done, you know ... there are other considerations of family or even in the sense of just not wanting to be on television all the time. You know, you can't just stay in the same place because it feels like you've built a nice house there. And that's really the thing that I struggle with. And it is unclear to me.

    Stewart says, however, that when he finally decides that he is going to quit, he's not going to regret his decision and come back for more. He likened the situation to the "Seinfeld" scene where George Costanza won back his ex-girlfriend Susan and the two got engaged:

    And he was all excited, and he did it, and she took him back. And there's that scene of him walking up the stairs with her to the apartment, and the minute he starts walking up the stairs he goes, "What have I done? This is the worst thing I've ever done. I've got to get out of this relationship."

    At least for the foreseeable future, Stewart seems fulfilled behind his "Daily Show" desk as "Rosewater" plays in theaters, but he brings up an important point about a common crossroads many professionals face: How do you know when it's time to move on?

    You can listen to his full interview with Gross at NPR.

    SEE ALSO: Jerry Seinfeld Explains How He's Remained Consistently Successful

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  • That Time China's State Media Ran An Article About Nuclear Strikes Against Los Angeles
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 4:45 PM:)
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    China Nuclear Attack LA

    China has entertained the threat of nuclear strikes against west coast cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle, the annual 2014 congressional report from the US China Economic and Security Review Commission states

    According to the report, a Chinese newspaper sponsored by the Communist Party ran an article in November 2013 about the possibilities of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) strikes against much of the US's Pacific coast. In the scenario imagined by the newspaper, China's new JIN ballistic missile submarine could act as an ultimate deterrent to any hostile US foreign policy. 

    [T]he 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles carried by one JIN nuclear submarine could cause the destruction of five million to 12 million people, forming a very clear deterrent effect. There is not a dense population in the United States' midwest region, so to increase the destructive effect, the main soft targets for nuclear destruction in the United States will be the main cities on the west coast, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

    China has made similar veiled threats against US involvement in their backyard issues before. During the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995 to 1996, Chinese Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai told the US assistant secretary of defense that "Americans care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taiwan." 

    However, threats from China today carry more weight than they did during the 1990s. According to an executive summary of the report, China's nuclear ICBM stockpile capable of reaching the US will likely expand to over 100 missiles within the next 15 years. 

    Simultaneously, China is developing a fleet of road-mobile ICBMs, the DF-41, that could be deployed as early as 2015. The DF-41 will be capable of carrying up to 10 missiles that would each have a maximum range of 7,456 miles. This range would allow China to target the entirety of the continental US. 

    According to the executive summary, these capabilities are being produced to deter any unwanted US military action as Washington pivots its forces towards the Pacific. In practice, these new nuclear capabilities are providing "Beijing with a more extensive range of military and foreign policy options and potentially weakening U.S. extended deterrence, particularly with respect to Japan." 

    Tensions in Asia have been increasing as China attempts to flex its regional muscles. This growth has led to military standoffs between China and US allies Japan and the Philippines. In the event of a war between China and Japan, the US would be treaty-bound to come to Japan's aid. 

    However, any military aid could become severely limited by the possibility of a nuclear strike and the possibility of a new Cold War. 

    SEE ALSO: These Chinese military advancements are shifting the balance of power in Asia

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  • How The Navy's New Anti-Submarine Aircraft Sees Under The Waves
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 4:40 PM:)
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    US Surveillance Plane Boeing Poseidon

    The P-8 Poseidon, the most advanced search aircraft in the world, has been a part of the US Navy for just a year now. This infographic lays out the converted Boeing 737's capabilities in detecting enemy submarines, surface ships, and other aircraft.

    Large metal objects like submarines create variances in the Earth's magnetic field, which the Poseidon P-8 is tuned to thanks to a tailpiece called the Magnet Anomaly Detector (MAD).

    Alternatively, the plane can drop sonobuoys (that's sonar buoys) from on high, allowing the crew inside to measure the sound propagation that surrounds these underwater units, just as a submarine or warship typically would. The P-8 can send out more than 100 of these yard-long sonobuoys in a single flight.

    At the other end of the plane, the P-8 also sports optical and infrared sensors (the latter for heat detection) and a radar system.

    In addition to its primary function as an intelligence-gathering aircraft — it was even used in efforts to find Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 — the P-8 Poseidon carries a few different payloads: cruise missiles, bombs, mines, and even torpedoes.

    The Navy currently owns 13 of these, with plans to eventually own a stable of 117 units.

     

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

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  • OBAMA: 'I Forgot My Blackberry'
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 4:29 PM:)
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    Barack Obama Blackberry

    President Barack Obama almost left behind his cell phone at home on Friday morning before departing the White House for Las Vegas, Nevada where he is set to officially sign his executive actions on immigration.

    According to a press pool report written by Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson, Obama left the White House shortly after 10:30 a.m. and boarded his helicopter, Marine One, which is taking him to the airport for his flight. Shepardson reported that Obama got off the helicopter "almost immediately" and headed back into the White House.

    "I forgot something," Obama said.

    When he returned to the helicopter, the reporters who were there asked him about what he left behind. He revealed that it was his Blackberry. 

    "I forgot my Blackberry," he said while waving the phone in the air.

    Obama also had a question of his own for the reporters who inquired about his lapse.

    "Didn't you guys ever forget something?" he asked.

    Obama announced his executive actions on immigration in a primetime speech last night. He is scheduled to arrive in Nevada at 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. 

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  • BOEHNER: Obama Is 'Damaging The Presidency Itself'
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 2:39 PM:)
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    John Boehner

    The immigration showdown between Congress and the White House is fully underway.

    In a press conference Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) slammed President Barack Obama yet again and vowed that his chamber will move to thwart Obama's new executive actions on immigration reform.

    "He's refused to listen to the American people. The president has taken actions that he himself has said are those of a king or an emperor — not an American president," Boehner said. "He's damaging the presidency itself."

    In a primetime address the previous night, Obama unveiled his plan to unilaterally reform the US immigration system after Congress could not move a bill. Among other things, the new executive actions aim to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. 

    Boehner has repeatedly warned Obama's executive order would "poison the well" and kill any hope of comprehensive immigration reform legislation advancing through the House. Boehner reaffirmed that position at his Friday press conference.

    "As I warned the president, you can't ask the elected representatives of the people to trust you to enforce the law, if you're constantly demonstrating that you can't be trusted to enforce the law," he said. "With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek." 

    Boehner also vowed that the House will do what it can to undermine Obama's new executive action.

    "President Obama has turned a deaf ear to the people that he was elected — and we were elected — to serve. But we will not do that. In the day's ahead, the people's House will rise to this challenge. We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country," he said. 

    However, Boehner would not outline what specific actions the House will take on the issue.

    "We're working with our members and looking at the options that are available to us. But I will say to you: The House will, in fact, act," he told reporters after his statement.

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  • An Intercepted Conversation Led To One Of The Most Prominent People In DC Being Investigated For Espionage
    (Politics - November 21 2014 - 1:34 PM:)
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    AP523990734379

    An intercepted conversation of a Pakistani official spurred the high-profile investigation of a veteran diplomat, according to a front-page New York Times report Friday.

    The report, citing unnamed officials, did not specify the details of that conversation. The diplomat, Robin Raphel, has not been accused of a crime.

    However, the investigation led to an FBI raid last month of her home, where authorities found classified information.

    That development stunned much of the foreign policy establishment in which Raphel is a fixture and one of the highest-ranking female diplomats. A former ambassador and assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Raphel was considered one of the foremost experts on Pakistan.

    "Her longstanding relations with Pakistan's government have also made her an object of scorn in India, the bitter rival of Pakistan, and a country that has grown closer to the United States during both the Bush and Obama administrations," The Times report read. "The Indian news media has aggressively covered the espionage case in recent weeks, with The Times of India describing Ms. Raphel as a 'brazenly pro-Pakistan partisan in Washington' with a 'pathological dislike for India which she did little to conceal.'"

    Meanwhile, the State Department has sought to distance itself from Raphel. According to The Washington Post, which first broke the story of the investigation, Raphel was working for the department at the time of the raid "on renewable, limited contracts that depended in part on her security clearances."

    "We are aware of this law enforcement matter," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Post. "The State Department has been cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues."

    Raphel's spokesman has said that Raphel has not been told by authorities that she is being investigated.

    "Nothing has changed for Ambassador Raphel," the spokesman, Andrew Rice, told The Times. "She has not been told she is the target of an investigation, and she has not been questioned."

    Another strange foreign policy incident is also linked to Raphel's past. In 1988, Raphel's former husband and then-ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Raphel, died in a plane crash with the president of Pakistan, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

    "The cause of the crash was never determined, spawning numerous theories, including that it was an assassination and that nerve gas in a canister hidden in a crate of mangoes had been dispersed in the plane’s air-conditioning system," The Times noted.

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