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Business Insider – Politics

  • Saudi Arabia's Oil Strategy Is About More Than Destroying The US Shale Business
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 12:15 PM:)
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    putin saudis

    Saudi Arabia may not be aiming at the US in its hands-off policy toward falling oil prices. 

    At a panel discussion Wednesday hosted by the Overseas Press Club and Control Risks (the latter a global risk consultancy), the speakers seemed skeptical of the idea that Saudi Arabia was refusing to prop up oil prices because it wanted to force American producers out of the market. (US shale basins are among the most expensive sources of oil to tap.)

    There may be better political reasons for this move, with a reduction in American shale supply on the market just being the icing on the cake. 

    The more obvious losers in the current oil climate are Iran and Russia — the former of course being Saudi Arabia's archrival in the region, and the latter being no great friend of the Saudis' either.

    The pinch to shale may just be "a wonderful byproduct to screwing the Iranians and the Russians," said Michael Moran, Control Risk's managing director for global risk analysis. Further, he said, doing nothing has actually been a really smart move by the Saudis. With every move further down in price, the actions of the Saudis become more closely watched, reinforcing the country's position as the world's oil superpower. 

    fiscal breakevens oil globalWhile this hurts the Iranians and the Russians, neither is likely to be crippled by it, budget-wise (Venezuela is a different story). Michael Levi, the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that many of the countries who rely on substantially higher oil prices to balance their budgets nevertheless have huge reserves that will help them weather low prices for quite a while (Iran). Those countries that don't have huge reserves, he says, generally have floating currencies. As we've seen in the past few days, Russia now has a currency crisis, not a budget crisis.

    As for the impact of low prices on US shale, Levi says, even if the market figures out a breakeven price for American producers (which is hard, because it varies from well to well), that's going to change in two years and even more in five years, as the technology continues to develop.

    All of the above said, Levi cautions against thinking of Saudi Arabia as some sort of mastermind of the global energy story. It's unclear how many steps ahead the Saudis actually are. 

    "Don't overestimate the strategy of OPEC," he says.


    NOW WATCH: This Animated Map Shows How European Languages Evolved

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    SEE ALSO: Here's How Global Growth And Inflation Are Affected By Big Swings In Oil

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  • North Korea Says They Want To Help Find The Sony Hackers
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 11:56 AM:)
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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stands on the conning tower of a submarine during his inspection of the Korean People's Army Naval Unit 167 in this undated photo released June 16, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA

    A North Korean official said on Saturday that the secretive regime wants to mount a joint investigation with the United States to identify who was behind the cyber attack against Sony Pictures.

    An unnamed spokesman of the North Korean foreign ministry was quoted by the country's state news agency, KCNA, describing US claims they were behind the hack as "slander."

    "As the United States is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident," the official said, according to Agence France-Presse.

    After they began publishing leaked Sony movies, internal correspondence, and company employees' personal data last month, the hackers released statements indicating they objected to the portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Sony's movie "The Interview." Both the FBI and President Barack Obama have said evidence was uncovered linking the hack to to North Korea. However, some experts have questioned the evidence tying the attack to Pyongyang

    The official who proposed the joint probe in KCNA also mocked recent revelations about the CIA's torture programs and suggested North Korea had more effective means of finding criminals

    "Without resorting to such tortures as were used by the US CIA, we have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us," they said. 

    They also warned there would be "grave consequences" if Washington refused to agree to the joint probe and continued to accuse North Korea of being behind the attack.

    After the hackers released statements indicating they could attack movie theaters on "The Interview's" planned Dec. 25 release date, Sony announced a decision to cancel the movie on Thursday. However, in subsequent statements made on Friday, the company indicated the movie may still come out.

     

    (Reuters reporting by Jack Kim; Reuters editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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  • Meet The 5 Wildcard Politicians Who Could Throw Europe Into Chaos In 2015
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 11:00 AM:)
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    Flag burningEurope is in a bad place right now.

    Deflation is looming and growth is nowhere to be seen. There's conflict in Ukraine, unemployment is still eye-wateringly high, and it doesn't seem like much of that is going to change any time soon.

    So insurgent opposition parties are popping up all over the continent, promising an end to crisis or a return to how things used to be.

    Here's what Citi's researchers had to say about Europe's political developments in their outlook for 2015:

    Future developed country elections will likely continue to see the popularity of new — and not so new — anti-establishment parties, from France’s National Front to Greece’s Syriza to Spain’s up-and-coming far-left Podemos, increasing the risk of fragile multi-party coalitions and reducing the already limited political capital of leaders. In our view, the appetite for political alternatives will endure for many years to come, and their public support could increase in the event of a triple-dip European recession, a non-negligible risk.

    Here's a look at the five leaders most likely to cause an upset in the year ahead:

    Berndt Lucke, Alternative fuer Deutschland

    Bernd Lucke

    Lucke often doesn't get a look-in when people are talking about Europe's fresh new populist movements. AfD is comparatively poorly supported and, unlike the emergent centre-right and right-wing parties in other parts of Europe, AfD and Lucke are less prone to inflammatory rhetoric. 

    But that shouldn't undermine Lucke's potential impact. Germany is a colossal, irreplaceable lynchpin in the European project.

    AfD support Germany's membership of the EU, but wants it to stop using the euro. Standard & Poor's went as a far as to say that the group posed a risk to the stability of the eurozone

    Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats enjoy widespread support for now, but some disgruntled voters are heading to the AfD. If more follow them as the German economy slows down, the Christian Democrats could be forced to pursue more anti-European policies in an attempt to get them back. German voters are overwhelmingly opposed to Europe-wide stimulus projects and a more stern stance from Berlin could worsen Europe's already achingly-slow growth. 

    Latest polling support: 6% (5th place)

    Alexis Tsipras, Syriza

    Alexis Tsipras

    There's not much that Germany's Berndt Lucke has in common with Greece's Alexis Tsipras. Syriza have become the darlings of Europe's anti-austerity left, and look likely to triumph in the snap elections that could come at the start of 2015.

    Syriza has a political platform that puts it on a collision course with Europe's most important institutions. That prospect sent Greek stocks into the ground last week, seeing their worst sell-off in more than 25 years. Syriza is at the heart of Europe's far left: four Italian politicians were even elected to the European Parliament this year on a "Tsipras List".

    Greece was at the centre of the euro crisis from 2010 onwards, and it could still be the crux of European politics in 2015.

    Latest polling support: 24.3% (1st place)

    Nigel Farage, UKIP

    Nigel Farage

    Farage, the long-time leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), poses a threat to Europe from outside of the currency union.

    UKIP aren't likely to win the UK's upcoming general election in May 2015. They're not even necessarily going to get any seats, owing to the UK's electoral system. But their shadow is hanging over British politics at the moment.

    The Labour party has hastily assembled its own strategy for dealing with UKIP, and the Conservative party have promised a 2017 referendum on the UK's EU membership which London's financial giants are dreading.

    Even with relatively little concrete political power, just a few seats in parliament for Farage's UKIP could be crucial. No party seems likely to get majority support from the country, so alliance-building will be unavoidable after 2015. If UKIP's handful of MPs held the balance of power, they could push for an EU referendum almost immediately.

    Latest polling support: 16% (3rd place)

    Pablo Iglesias, Podemos

    Pablo Igelsias

    Spain's anti-austerity insurgents, Podemos, have surged from nothing to become the most popular party in Spain right now.

    If this list was ranked, Iglesias would be a serious contender for the man most likely to upturn the European political system in 2015. Iglesias is a fan of Greece's Alexis Tsipras, but unlike Greece, Spain is too big to be isolated by European authorities.

    There's now a real chance that the eurozone's fourth biggest economy might vote for a guy who refers positively to Vladimir Lenin in his political speeches. Even if the rest of 2015 goes well, Spain's election in December could prompt a huge crisis.

    Similarly to Syriza, Podemos would seriously clash with the eurozone's economic and political orthodoxy, particularly on the issue of fiscal policy. The eurozone has agreed to rules that try to limit the deficit spending of its members, which Podemos would not abide by.

    Latest polling support: 29.6% (1st place)

    Marine Le Pen, Front National

    Marine Le Pen

    Marine Le Pen is the most obvious representative of Europe's hard right. Le Pen leads Front National that her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, led before her. A long-time presence in French politics which came in second place in France's 2002 Presidential election.

    Like Germany, France doesn't have elections this year, but Le Pen and FN are making their presence felt in France. The country has municipal elections next year, when FN are likely to make gains, adding to their victory (by more than four percentage points) in the European parliament elections in France.

    As in Germany, it's very unlikely that FN will enter a formal position of power. The country's two-round presidential elections make it functionally impossible for them to win at the highest level, but they will continue to have an effect on the mainstream parties of the French left and right, as they scramble to please its voters.

    Latest polling support: 27-32% (1st-2nd place)

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  • See How Many Of 2014's Biggest Events You Can Spot In This Poster
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 2:56 AM:)
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    This year has seen a ton of watershed moments, from Scotland's historic vote for independence to the moment humans landed a probe on a comet for the first time ever. 

    In 2014, we also celebrated the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient, poured buckets of ice water over our heads, watched Kim Kardashian try to break the internet, and saw Alex from Target became an online sensation.

    Some of the news from 2014 was incredibly sobering. Ebola wreaked havoc in West Africa, Ferguson, Missouri became an epicenter for racial tension, Sony Pictures got hacked in what's been described as an act of cyber warfare by North Korea. 

    See how many of 2014's biggest events you can spot in the infographic below. For a complete list, check out Beutler Ink's blog

    Beutler_2014_Collage v2

    Here are a few of our favorites:

    A Polar Vortex blasted the nation with arctic air.

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.19.18 AM

    Thousands protested the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were both black, unarmed, and killed by police officers. (Brown was shot, and Garner died after being put in a chokehold.)

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.41.59 AM

    Hackers backed by North Korea launched a cyberattack against Sony Pictures in retaliation for "The Interview," which portrayed the assassination of that country's dictator.

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.43.12 AM

    Gay marriage bans were struck down in a number of states, including South Carolina and Kansas

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.19.05 AM

    Scotland voted against becoming an independent nation

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 10.00.37 AM

    Malala Yousafzai became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winnerEmma Watson gave a sensational UN speech on feminism. 

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 10.03.12 AM

    Ellen DeGeneres took the most popular selfie of all time.

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.16.48 AM

    Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto denied being the creator of Bitcoin

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 10.08.44 AM

    And South Park character Randy Marsh revealed he is actually singer-songwriter Lorde.

    Screen Shot 2014 12 19 at 9.19.44 AM

    SEE ALSO: 55 Amazing Moments From 2014

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  • No One Knows What's Going On With The $50 Billion Nicaragua Canal Being Built By A Chinese Magnate
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 2:49 AM:)
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    ON DECEMBER 22nd an odd couple —Nicaragua's left-wing government and a Chinese-born telecoms magnate — say they will begin the realisation of a dream that has captivated Nicaraguans for generations: the construction of an inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama's.

     




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  • The US Just Sanctioned Putin's Favorite Biker Gang
    (Politics - December 20 2014 - 1:36 AM:)
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    Vladimir Putin Night Wolves Biker Gang

    The US has expanded Russian sanctions to a massive biker gang known as the "Night Wolves," which took part in armed fighting in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    Those sanctions will prevent members of that gang — whose leader is tight with Vladimir Putin — from traveling to the US or doing business with people and businesses tied to the US, according to the Journal.

    Other groups and people that were sanctioned include separatists in eastern Urkaine, the Donetsk People’s Republic, and a man who's blamed for financing Crimean separatists, the Journal reported.

    The "Night Wolves" are an incredibly patriotic, 5,000-member biker club, and Putin has become friends with its leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, a guy known as "The Surgeon," The Telegraph reported earlier its year.

    Putin, who's known for showing off his macho credentials, met the group in 2009 and has very close ties to them, according to The Telegraph. Last year, Putin even gave "The Surgeon" an "Order of Honor" for “active work in the patriotic upbringing of the young,” The Telegraph reported.

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  • SONY FIRES BACK AT OBAMA: 'We Are Still Looking Into Release On Other Platforms'
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 10:20 PM:)
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    sony michael lynton

    President Obama addressed the Sony hack Friday, telling reporters the studio "made a mistake" by canceling the Christmas Day premiere of "The Interview," which depicted the assassination of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un.

    "I wish [Sony] had spoken to me first," he said. "I would have told them do not get into a pattern where you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

    Sony CEO Michael Lynton responded to Obama's comments by saying that the studio "did not cave" and that "The president, the press, and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened."

    Barack Obama sadSony is continuing to fight back against the president's remarks, saying that it did, in fact, speak with the White House before pulling the film, which spurred North Korean hackers to expose the studio's sensitive internal documents to the world.

    Sony had "many conversations both before and after the movie was pulled Wednesday," a source told The Hollywood Reporter. 

    Sony also just released another statement, explaining "the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it."

    The company expressed that it is "surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform" and "It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so."

    amy pascal seth rogen

    Read Sony's full statement below (via The Wrap):

    Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment. For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.

    The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.

    Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

    After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.

    Today's statement has Sony singing a different tune than it was earlier this week.

    On Wednesday, Sony Pictures told Deadline it has "no further" release plans for "The Interview."

    Sony canceled the theatrical release of the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy "The Interview" on Wednesday after major theater chains pulled out of showing the film following scary threats from hackers.

    But even if major theater chains refused to play the movie, there were still plenty of independent theaters, like George R.R. Martin's  Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, that would have been happy to show the controversial flick.

    The FBI said Friday that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hacks.

    SEE ALSO: OBAMA: Sony 'Made A Mistake'

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  • A 24-Year-Old Executive Created An Alarming New Model For Online Jihadists
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 10:01 PM:)
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    shami witness

    Until a week ago, the most influential English-speaking Jihadist on social media was Shami Witness, a Twitter account with 17,000 followers — a group that included scores of western analysts and journalists along with an estimated 2/3rds of all Islamist foreign fighters active on the social media site.

    The account combined an insider's view of the dynamics within Syrian and Iraqi jihadist groups with apologetics for some of their worst atrocities, including the rape and enslavement of Yazidi women in Iraq.

    But at times during Shami's remarkable 2-year-long Twitter career, it was an unclear if he was a troll, a jihadi, or a serious analyst — or some nearly unprecedented combination of the three.

    These questions lurched towards a definitive answer last week. Britain's Channel 4 unmasked Shami as Mehdi Biswas, a 24-year-old office executive from Bangalore, in southern India. Biswas's prominence and English language skills made him something of a jihadist facilitator, though possibly an unwitting one.

    Hassan Hassan put it in Foreign Policy, "his account served in many ways a 'virtual inn,' where jihadist travelers linked up." And what he came to represent is an an alarming step forward in jihadist public outreach.

    As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained to Business Insider, Shami Witness gained much of his initial prestige from his usefulness: The account was a readily available source of granular information about the conflict in Syria that was of obvious interest to western analysts and journalists.

    "He came into following Syria at a a time when there were fewer Syria watchers," says Gartenstein-Ross. "The value of a Syria watcher with good information was higher than it is now." 

    His inside track on an increasingly important aspect of the Syria conflict earned "follow Friday" endorsements from prominent terrorism analysts. Even top-level experts occasionally grouped Shami with serious academic analysts and other observers with no appreciable pro-jihadist agenda.

    #FF @p_vanostaeyen @RomainCaillet @ShirazMaher @azelin @raffpantucci @Charles_Lister @aron_ld @ajaltamimi @ShamiWitness fr jihadis in Syria

    — Thomas Hegghammer (@Hegghammer) April 25, 2014

    Shami Witness first appeared on Twitter in November of 2011, early into the Syria conflict. He proved his worth as an observer of the war. "He followed this stuff obsessively and tweeted about it obsessively," recalls Gartenstein-Ross. "Sometimes he had ahead-of-the-curve analysis. He often had some inside baseball musings."

    His scoops included a determination of which militant group was responsible for rocket fire into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights — a finding tweeted before the attackers themselves had publicly claimed responsibility. As Hassan Hassan writes in Foreign Policy, Shami was also talking about the Khorasan Group — the Al Qaeda sub-group accused of using Syrian territory to plot attacks on western targets — in November of 2013, nine months before the organization became a focus of US airstrikes in Syria.

    Aymenn al-Tamimi, who corresponded with Biswas and published a guest post of his on his website, credits Biswas with anticipating the rupture between Al Qaeda and ISIS, which split in February of 2014, before most western observers had caught on to it.

    In a tweet Tamimi highlights, Shami explains that ISIS was "no longer al Qaeda" some four months before the groups' official break:

    People need to stop calling ISIS as al Qaeda.It's not.There's no bayah to Dr.Zawahiri.Maybe 'post-Qaeda'

    — Shami Witness (@ShamiWitness) October 22, 2013

    But his usefulness came along with a gradual transformation from a seemingly detached observer to a supporter of the most radical groups on the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields.

    The biggest galvanizing event was the violent conflict between Jabat al-Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, and ISIS that developed throughout 2013.

    The rivalry between the groups anticipated an upcoming break within global jihadism between followers of Al Qaeda — a transnational organization committed to waging attacks against western targets abroad — and ISIS, whose brutal and sectarian Caliphate project represented a compelling alternative to al Qaeda's well-worn model.

    Biswas, like the thousands of foreigners who have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS, sided with the the Caliphate and its vision of a single political entity that would rally the world's Sunnis under a vision of pure Islamic rule.

    shami

    "As the rift between Al Qaeda and ISIS became more pronounced, that's when we really started to see him taking sides and really becoming pro-ISIS," author and terrorism researcher JM Berger told Business Insider.

    Tamimi describes this as "'Phase 2' of Shami's development: he's lost faith in [Muslim Brotherhood]/gradualist Islamist-strategy but not a hardline ISIS partisan like Arabic tweep @zhoof21 [a jihadist account that Twitter has suspended]."

    And he became a partisan himself. Berger characterizes him as "easily the most influential English-speaking supporter of ISIS" on Twitter. The credibility he had picked up from western analysts and journalists turned him into a semi-revered figure within the ranks of aspiring jihadists. Shami Witness was widely followed among pro-jihadist accounts in Great Britain and Tamimi even recalls one British-Kurdish ISIS recruit tweeting at Biswas immediately after arriving in Syria. 

    "I think they looked up to him," Berger, who closely analyzes jihadist activity on social networks as part of his research, told Business Insider. "They saw him as being very bold and outspoken ... and as someone who spoke truth the power. The fact that he deleted his account and begged not to have his name revealed makes that status a little harder to maintain."

    According to The Hindu, Biswas exchanged as many as 14,000 Twitter direct messages with jihadists in Iraq and Syria. And at the same time, he was quoted in the Telegraph, published on prestigious terrorism analysis websites, and recommended as a "follow Friday" on Twitter by a host of respected observers — including Hassan.

    ISIS Islamic StateThe experts who legitimized Biswas weren't necessarily being duped. Biswas's views emerged gradually, and at a time when he was an objectively useful resource on what was probably the most important foreign affairs story on earth.

    At the same time, Shami Witnesses highly varied cast of followers and admirers succeeded in elevating an obscure, anonymous, and even somewhat pathetic figure to a position of alarming prominence.

    Gartenstein-Ross believes that Twitter and the level of expertise around the Syria conflict have significantly changed since Biswas's emergence in late 2011. Study of Syrian Islamist groups has advanced far beyond the point where a figure like Biswas could be considered necessary or even all that helpful to researchers and journalists. And Twitter users has become better at rooting out at a Shami Witness-type character — a detached and anonymous amateur with uncertain motivations and highly suspect sympathies.

    "Twitter becomes massively more professionalized all the time," says Gartenstein-Ross. "The barriers to credibility thus go up and people's ability to ferret out Islamic State supporters and recognize them in their early stages also goes up."

    But that doesn't mean another Shami Witness couldn't emerge. It was apparent to many by the end of 2013 where Biswas's sympathies lay. But he provided something that few other sources on the conflict could: a vantage point outside the community of western experts, journalists analysts following Syria and Iraq — a perspective backed with information that that community could occasionally use.

    "People saw him as an interesting voice because he seemed to be coming from a perspective that was outside our sort of Beltway academic circle," says Berger. "What he had to say was kind of interesting at one point. And everybody comes to analysis whit their own biases and you don't always know what those biases are. It can take time to sort that out."

    Future jihadist sympathizers could exploit this structural weakness in how expertise is vetted online. Shami Witness might not have had the courage of his jihadist convictions in the end. But with nothing more than an internet connection, he gained a respectability, and a level of influence, that few on of his peers battlefields of Iraq and Syria could achieve. 

    SEE ALSO: One of the most popular Twitter sources on Syria happens to be a jihadist supporter

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  • Watch Obama Slam Sony For Pulling 'The Interview'
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 8:29 PM:)
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    President Obama is not happy with North Korea - but he's also not happy with Sony for not coming to the government before pulling "The Interview."

    Produced by Matthew Stuart

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  • REPORT: US Considers Putting North Korea Back On Terror List
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 8:07 PM:)
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    North Korea

    The US is reportedly considering placing North Korea back on the state sponsors of terror list, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

    An unnamed senior Obama administration official had told the WSJ that the US was seriously considering adding North Korea back onto the terror list. 

    North Korea had been listed as a state sponsor of terror for almost 20 years until 2008. The administration of president George W. Bush removed Pyongyang from the list in an attempt to jumpstart flagging negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. 

    If added back onto the terror list, North Korea would find itself in the company of Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Being on the terror list limits a country's ability to secure international financing and credit through organizations such as the World Bank. 

    The FBI released a statement today naming North Korea as the primary culprit for the Sony hack. The hack was followed by threats to carry out terror attacks against theaters that screened "The Interview." In his end of the year press conference, president Barack Obama stated that the US was not looking at any other state sponsors involved in the attack, and has singled out North Korea for the incident.

    Secretary of State John Kerry has also released a press statement condemning North Korea's role in the attacks.

    "Freedom of expression is at the center of America’s values and a founding principle of our Bill of Rights," Kerry noted. "We’re a country where artists openly mock and criticize the powerful, including our own government." 

    Kerry went on to state that the attack signals North Korea's indifference to international norms. 

    "We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this state sponsored cyber-attack targeting a commercial entity and its employees in the United States," Kerry said. "These lawless acts of intimidation demonstrate North Korea’s flagrant disregard for international norms."

    Kerry also called upon "our allies and partners to stand with us as we defend the values of all of our people in the face of state-sponsored intimidation." 

    The threats of attacks led to cinemas declining to screen the film. Ultimately, Sony decided to pull "The Interview" from all outlets and has no current plans to release the movie in any form. 

    SEE ALSO: Here's what the US could do in response to the Sony hack

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  • OBAMA: Sony 'Made A Mistake'
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 7:03 PM:)
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    obama computer

    President Obama said in a news conference Friday that Sony made a mistake pulling "The Interview" following a series of hacks from a group called Guardians of Peace.

    A reporter asked Obama if Sony was right to pull the movie. Obama responded:

    "I’m sympathetic to the concerns they faced. Having said all that, I think they made a mistake."

    Obama continued:

    "I wish [Sony] had spoken to me first. I would have told them do not get into a pattern where you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

    He said other companies shouldn't cave to pressure from hackers, like Sony did, in order to avoid setting a precedent.

    When Sony decided to pull the movie Wednesday night, pundits exploded. The fear is that caving to hackers sends a message that companies and people can be controlled simply by the threat of the hack.

    Obama agrees with that.

    The FBI on Friday said it has enough evidence to link the Sony hacks to North Korea. In short, the FBI says the methods and tools used to hack Sony have been linked to North Korea before. However, the FBI's statement wasn't too detailed because it needs to protects its "sensitive sources."

    "They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond," Obama told reporters at the press conference.

    The Guardians of Peace sent another threatening email to Sony executives on Friday saying that no more attacks will happen as long as Sony never releases "The Interview" in any form. 

    More on the Sony hacks:

     

    NOW WATCH: Obama Slams Sony For Pulling 'The Interview'

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  • Here's The Full FBI Statement Calling Out North Korea For The Sony Hack
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 4:52 PM:)
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    The US has officially named North Korea as the primary culprit in the Sony hack, which is the most destructive hacking attack on US soil ever. 

    From the FBI:

    Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

    The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications. The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.

    After discovering the intrusion into its network, SPE requested the FBI’s assistance. Since then, the FBI has been working closely with the company throughout the investigation. Sony has been a great partner in the investigation, and continues to work closely with the FBI. Sony reported this incident within hours, which is what the FBI hopes all companies will do when facing a cyber attack. Sony’s quick reporting facilitated the investigators’ ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.

    As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

    · Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

    · The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. Government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.

    · Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

    We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States. Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt – whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise – to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.

    The FBI stands ready to assist any U.S. company that is the victim of a destructive cyber attack or breach of confidential business information. Further, the FBI will continue to work closely with multiple departments and agencies as well as with domestic, foreign, and private sector partners who have played a critical role in our ability to trace this and other cyber threats to their source. Working together, the FBI will identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests.

    SEE ALSO: US Official: North Korea Hacked Sony And 'Chinese Actors' May Have Helped

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  • What The US Could Do In Response To The Sony Hack
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 4:23 PM:)
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    Kim Jong Un

    The FBI released a statement on Friday saying that the North Korean government was responsible for the unprecedented Sony breach.

    "They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond," President Obama told reporters in an end-of-year news conference.

    This malicious intent and apparent state sponsorship have forced the US to respond to the incident as a matter of national security, instead of treating it simply as an instance of cybercrime.

    This distinction has opened up a wide variety of responses that the US could conduct against those responsible for the Sony hack. 

    Declare North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism. The US is reportedly considering this option.

    Evans Revere, a former State Department official and specialist on Korea, has suggested that Pyongyang could be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, joining Sudan, Iran, and Cuba. This designation would be warranted because of the attack and the threat of carrying out violence against theaters that screened "The Interview." 

    Risks: North Korea was on the state sponsors of terrorism list until 2008, when it was removed by the Bush administration during nuclear negotiations. Putting it back on would be nothing more than a return to the status quo. 

    Declare the hackers terrorists.

    According to Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity, one option is "declaring certain cyberattacks terrorist acts and the groups behind them terrorists," which would "set in motion a wider range of legal authority, US government/military resources, and international options."

    This designation would "set in motion a wider range of legal authority, US government/military resources, and international options."

    Risks: Designating North Korea a terrorist sponsor could hamper any future nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang (the US removed the country from the state sponsors of terror list in 2008 to make headway on the nuclear issue). The label would also be precedent-setting and raise all sorts of incredibly thorny legal, diplomatic, and practical questions.

    Would China and Russia be labeled state supporters of cyberterror for their distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against American companies and sabotage of US government systems? And what would this designation even mean in practicality — which people or entities would be affected, and how might an expanded legal regime complicate other US economic and political interests? For starters, sanctioning cyberterrorists or companies that assist them could conceivably complicate some US firms' business dealings in China.

    military cyber security

    Engage in counterhacks.

    If it is conclusively proved that North Korea carried out the attacks against the Sony, the US could engage in retaliatory hacks against Pyongyang. This hacking could target North Korean and a variety of North Korean websites, affiliated sites, or internal networks. The US could take North Korean government infrastructure offline as a warning of the potential consequences of a future hack.

    Risks: Any cyber engagement against North Korea runs the risk of escalating a conflict into a full-blown cyberwar between the two nations — and the US wouldn't have much to gain from it, considering the deep asymmetry in the wealth and development of each country. "You can turn out the lights in Pyongyang, and they could turn out the lights in New York. Who loses more? There's no way for us to win a trade," Jim Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Reuters.

    If North Korea feels it is under attack, it could physically respond with kinetic strikes against South Korea. 

    north korea cyber

    Go after Chongryon.

    The organization for Japan-based supporters of the North Korean regime once ran a miniature business empire in the country and served as Pyongyang’s chief means of acquiring foreign currency.

    Chongryon has fallen on hard times, and been forced to sell off much of its business holdings and property. But the group answers directly to the Liaison Department of the North Korean government. And according to an HP Security report from August 2014 on North Korean cyber capabilities Chongryon's "'study group' ... gathers intelligence for North Korea and helps the regime procure advanced technologies.” The report concluded that Chongryon is “critical to North Korea’s cyber and intelligence program.”

    The US could pressure the Japanese government to shut down and expel the organization.

    Risks: Japan has been negotiating with North Korea over the fate of nearly a dozen Japanese citizens kidnapped and taken to North Korea over the past 40 years. Sony is a Japanese company, but Japan may bristle at what could be perceived as American intrusion into its foreign and domestic affairs.

    Expand sanctions.

    The US has the ability to place particularly crippling sanctions upon North Korea. Gordon G. Chang of the Daily Beast notes that financial sanctions put in place under the Bush regime forced Pyongyang to ferry cash in suitcases. This lack of funding led to the closure of certain North Korean weapons programs.

    Reuters notes that the US sanctions "only 41 companies and entities and 22 individuals" relating to North Korea for their involvement with the country's nuclear program. The US could designate additional people and entities for their connections to North Korea's hacking program, as well as its telecommunications and internet infrastructure.

    Risks: High-level sanctions on North Korea could lead to more difficult relations with China. The previous round of sanctions were prematurely lifted at Beijing's desire. And North Korea is tightly sanctioned as it is.

    "The Obama administration has been reluctant to embrace" the sanctions approach, AP reports. "The biggest impact would be felt by banks in China, complicating US efforts to curry better ties with Beijing." 

    And North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned governments in history. "We've already got every sanction known to man against them," Jim Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters.

    North Korea

    Totally end trade.

    The US and North Korea conducted $21.9 million in trade last year, the highest total since 2008. This is a small amount of money, but every bit of external trade is critical in a place as isolated as North Korea, where the elite depends on a steady supply of foreign currency to remain in charge.

    Risks: None, really. It’s just too little money to make much of a difference.

    End even the possibility of expanding food or development aid.

    The US cut off much of its food aid to North Korea in 2008. Since then, there have been intermittent discussions about possibly resorting US development projects and humanitarian assistance. The US could freeze those and communicate an intent not to resume them.

    Risks: This would effectively punish ordinary North Koreans for the actions of their government. And it probably wouldn’t do much: The country experienced a debilitating famine in the 1990s, and the Kim regime was still able to hang on to power.

    Try to run the North Korean government off of the internet.

    As the HP report notes, most North Korean websites are hosted on servers in Japan and Thailand; the only internet service provider inside North Korea is a Thai joint venture. Through a combination of cyber activity and diplomacy, the US could probably blacklist North Korean domains from foreign servers. The US Department of the Treasury could sanction any company involved in hosting North Korean websites or providing internet access to the country's government.

    Risks: This wouldn’t have much impact. It’s not as if the Korean Central News Agency is a traffic monster.

    Nothing.

    The US could treat the Sony breach as an attack on a single private company rather than on the US writ large. Even now, the attack doesn't fit NATO's definition of an act of cyberwar since there has been no loss of life or physical damage resulting from it. Even with state backing, the hack wasn't aimed at hospitals, the military, or the electrical grid. "The Interview" isn't vital infrastructure.

    By not acting, the US may have less of a chance of blundering into a larger cyber escalation and wouldn't have to deal with the possible myriad consequences of shifting its entire legal and diplomatic framework in response to a single incident.

    Risks: By doing nothing, the US government would be saying that it doesn't feel obligated to respond to even a highly damaging state-backed attack on an entity in the US. This may embolden future attackers. And it would fail to address any of the alarming issues that the Sony hack raises.

    Diplomacy.

    "There should at least be firm diplomatic repercussions for these types of attacks," Aitel told Business Insider. "After all, what would we have done if they’d blown up the buildings at Sony Pictures but not caused any casualties? That is the context these attacks need to be put in." 

    Risks: Nothing happens.


    NOW WATCH: This Drone Footage Of Desolate Detroit Looks Like Something From 'The Walking Dead'

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    SEE ALSO: Hackers to Sony: if you make any more trouble, we'll destroy you

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  • FBI BLAMES NORTH KOREA FOR THE SONY HACK
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 3:33 PM:)
    <>

    kim jong un north koreaThe FBI officially blamed North Korea for the unprecedented Sony hack in a statement on Friday morning.

    From the statement:

    As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

    · Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

    · The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. Government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.

    · Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

    The FBI's statement follows weeks of rumors and speculation that the rogue state was responsible for targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment in retaliation for Kim Jong-un assassination movie "The Interview," which Sony has agreed not to release in the face of ongoing threats of leaks and further attacks.

    The attack was "far more destructive than any seen before on American soil," intelligence officials have concluded, according to The New York Times.

    But there's still very much we don't know about the attack, as even the FBI statement acknowledges.

    Earlier Friday a US official reported that the North Korean hack may have a Chinese link either through collaboration with Chinese actors or by using Chinese servers to mask the origination of the hack.

    obama, june 2010, computer

    US Options

    As far as US options in response, there are few immediate options, all of which come with risks. In any case, the best course may be through the Chinese government. 

    "The only lever that I can see is China," Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity, told Business Insider in an interview. "And what you may see is that it comes out there were some Chinese resources involves in this, and then pressure them to get on board."

    One option is sanctions against the North Korean regime. But Pyongyang is already heavily sanctioned and additional measures would complicate relations with China.

    "The Obama administration has been reluctant to embrace " the sanctions approach, Associated Press reports. "The biggest impact would be felt by banks in China, complicating US efforts to curry better ties with Beijing."

    Another option is cyber retaliation. But that risks escalation.

    One proactive move the US should consider, Aitel told Business Insider earlier this week, is "declaring certain cyberattacks terrorist acts and the groups behind them terrorists," which would "set in motion a wider range of legal authority, US government/military resources, and international options." 

    In any case, the US will need a new policy when it comes to cyberattacks by state-backed actors.

    "This is not something you say 'President Obama solved this tomorrow,'" Aitel said, noting that "deep down the policy engine of the US is very slow, and this case is very complex and has to do with China as well."

    If China is involved — as opposed to undefined "Chinese actors" — then pressuring Beijing becomes even more difficult.

    China routinely hacks US companies in search of intellectual property such as military technology and "to learn about how a company might approach negotiations with a Chinese company," according to FBI Director James Comey.

    chinese hackers china cyber
    "You have to a cyber policy [and] you have to get the Chinese on board with your policy," Aitel said. "We have to have very clear statement about what lines you cannot cross, and what we're going to do about it."

    The attack on Sony, more than three weeks ago, was conducted by hackers calling themselves "Guardians of Peace."

    The November hack is the second major attack in which hackers targeted American corporate infrastructure on a large scale with the primary goal of destroying it (as opposed to stealing from it or spying on it). 

    Dozens of terabytes of information were taken. Chaos has gripped the entertainment world as hackers dumped information online and news organizations scrambled to cover every possible angle.

    Here's a roundup of some of the leaked information:

    President Barack Obama was expected to address the issue at a 1:30 p.m. (13:30 EST) end-of-year news conference. 

    Here's the trailer for 'The Interview":

    &amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;gt;Please enable Javascript to watch this video&amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;gt;

    SEE ALSO: Expert: The US Needs To Stop Pretending The Sony Hack Is Anything Less Than An Act Of War

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  • Here's How Obama Is Planning To Rate Colleges
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 3:22 PM:)
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    Obama teaching law school

    The Department of Education released a draft framework Friday for a new college ratings system, that will seek to highlight schools that, according to the announcement, "excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds, focus on maintaining affordability, and succeed at helping all students graduate."

    Under the proposed system, federal aid will be tied to the government's ratings.

    The DOE announcement appears to have less concrete details than was initially expected for the system, which has been in development for over a year. Rather than a strict ranking, as many critics feared this would become, the DOE plan notes that the government is considering sorting colleges into three broad categories — high-performing, low-performing, and schools in the middle.

    "For consumers, policymakers, and the public, the Department feels that identifying extremely high- and low-performing institutions using a simple set of key measures is the most valuable action the Department can take," according to the DOE announcement.

    As Inside Higher Ed reporter Michael Stratford notes, "Over all, the department's approach in the outline appears to be moving away from a system that lets students and families draw comparative value judgments between colleges and closer to something that resembles a set of minimum standards for institutions."

    The DOE included 11 potential metrics for evaluating colleges, which look at qualities such as affordability, first-generation student enrollment, and graduation rate. Here are all the metrics being considered:

    • The percentage of students receiving federal Pell grants, which offers "a simple, clear measure of access for low-income students."
    • The expected family contribution gap is "generally considered to be a strong measure of whether a student comes from a low socio-economic status or high socio-economic status background."
    • Family income quintiles is "another possible measure of the institution's enrollment of low- to moderate-income students."
    • The percentage of first-generation students enrolled "would reflect the extent to which institutions serve underrepresented populations in ways not measured by metrics based on EFC or family income."
    • The average net price is being considered to determine affordability and "comes closer to approximating the amount that students actually pay to attend an institution than published tuition and fees."
    • The net price by quintile "offers a more accurate measure of the actual price paid by students of various family income backgrounds than average net price but is only available for those students who are federal student aid recipients."
    • Completion rates — "College completion rates including the IPEDS Graduation Rate measure – which includes only first-time full-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduates – aims to capture of how well institutions support students in persisting and achieving their educational goals."
    • Transfer rates — "Since, for many students, a two-year college is a step toward completion of a bachelor's degree, ED is exploring the viability of measuring transfer rates as a positive outcome for students."
    • Labor market success, such as short-term "substantial employment" rates and long-term median earnings — "The Department is considering looking short-term at measures that would determine if former students are making above an established threshold, such as 200 percent of the federal poverty line, while also stressing the importance of an individual's potential lifetime earnings. In either case, the Department is committed to establishing measures that recognize the important contributions of relatively low-paying fields, such as public service, make to society."
    • Graduate school attendance — "In addition to completion and earnings, the Department is considering including a measure of graduate school attendance rates of former students within a period, like ten years, from entry into a school's undergraduate program."
    • Loan performance outcomes — "Relatively simple metrics like the percentage of students repaying their loans on time might be important as consumers weigh whether or not they will be able to handle their financial obligations after attending a specific school."

    See more information about the new proposed college rating system at the Department of Education >>

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  • A Greek MP Says A Bank Consultant Tried To Bribe Him With €700,000 To Avoid Snap Elections
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 2:44 PM:)
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    Independent Greeks

    Greek markets went through the floor when prime minister Antonis Samaras announced that he was pushing ahead a vote to approve the country's President to this month.

    On Monday Dec. 8, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced that the vote (which is conducted among legislators, not the wider population) would go ahead this month. By Thursday, the resulting chaos had wiped 20% off the Athens Stock Exchange.

    There's a huge amount of speculation about whether the current government will be able to get enough support. It needs 180 of 300 MPs, and it only has 155. So the vote will come down to a handful of small parties, one of which is the Independent Greeks. Unlike some of Greece's other anti-austerity parties, several are former members of the governing New Democracy party who may vote in favour of presidential candidate Stavros Dimas.

    Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Haikalis made the shocking allegation this morning that a consultant who's worked for Deutsche Bank and Greece's Piraeus Bank tried to bribe him to vote with the government. The implied allegation is that if the banks new they had his vote, there might not be a general election and the stock market would see a sudden upward pop. Banks would also avoid being targeted by the hard left Syriza coalition, which is the current frontrunner in the polls.

    Haikalis says he has recordings of the conversations, adding: “They gave me 700,000 euros in cash as a first instalment and following this an agreement for bank loans, as well as contracts with an ad agency." Despite the attempt, it doesn't sound like he was persuaded. He added, "it goes without saying that I wouldn't vote for Stavros Dimas".

    Whether the Independent Greeks MPs vote with or against the government will likely determine whether there's a snap election, which would likely be won by radical leftists Syriza, who have investors pretty terrified. A poll just released has Syriza at 36.5%, seven points ahead of governing New Democracy.

    Join the conversation about this story »








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  • Here Are All The Major Crises Russia Has Seen Over The Last 150 Years
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 2:29 PM:)
    <>

    The Russian economy has been through a lot.

    Over the last year, Western sanctions and crashing oil prices bruised the Russian economy.

    And this week was particularly bad. In an attempt to stabilize the ruble and inflation, the central bank raised rates up to 17%. Instead, the ruble plummeted to new lows reaching as low as 80 rubles to the dollar on Tuesday.

    But this isn't the first time Russia's seen economic problems.

    Over the last 150 years, the Russian economy experienced some serious blows in line with political upheavals: the Russian Civil war, WWII under Stalin, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the 2008-09 financial crisis.

    Check out the what's being going on over the last century and a half below (and if you need it bigger, just click on the image.)

    russia

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  • A Stunning Number Of Things I Use Everyday Are Made By Slaves
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 2:01 PM:)
    <>

    child labor

    Apple made news this week for its deplorable working conditions, forcing children to dig in mud pits for the tin used in iPhones.

    But Apple's tactics aren't an anomaly. At least 27 million people across the globe are enslaved. Earlier this year, I learned 43 of them work for me, making products most of us use daily.

    In collaboration with the US State Department, Made In A Free World, a company dedicated to raising awareness about global servitude, launched Slavery Footprint — an interactive website that reveals how you personally contribute to the tragic phenomenon. 

    After answering questions about my location, food consumption, and technology use, among other lifestyle choices, I learned that my actions forced 43 people to work for me without pay or the opportunity to stop. 

    First of all, I own an absurd amount of jewelry. The website made that clear. 

    jewelry slavery

    I've always avoided diamonds, however, because of the geopolitical damage they cause. Wars funded by the diamond trade have cost an estimated 3.7 million lives in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Sierra Leone, according to Amnesty International

    But I never knew that rubies pose an equally evil threat. The origin of Burma's second-largest import, the government or army-controlled ruby mines commonly run off of forced labor, according to the Made In A Free World site. Silver mining has a tarnished history, too. 

    My next-biggest contribution to the slave trade appeared to be my beauty regimen. I don't even think I use that many products or wear heavy makeup. Nevertheless, my virtual bathroom cabinet was packed. slavery make-up screenshot While I'm dusting bronzer on my face, tens of thousands of Indian children collect mica — the mineral that gives makeup its sparkle — with their bare hands.

    Mica also appears in mobile phones, computers, televisions, and toasters. Based on my answers to this section, some big-name companies could have contributed to my enslavement of 43 humans. Let's break down the electronics.

    Slavery companies screenshot

    I own a Mac computer, on which I use Microsoft Office nearly everyday. My roommate and I regularly play N64 on lazy Saturdays. And General Electric manufactured my microwave. 

    Okay, so no more hot food and video games, right? But boycotting can actually worsen the situation, according to antislavery.org. If consumers stopped buying these products, the lack of business could undermine already dismal economies, forcing countries deeper into poverty, one of the main causes of slavery. 

    While the website doesn't reveal its algorithm for determining slaves per capita, focusing on the numbers misses the point. Slavery creates products that most of us blindly use everyday. By increasing awareness, projects like Slavery Footprint encourage consumers to demand transparency from retailers.

    Thankfully, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a rule, which took effect in May 2014, requiring companies to trace and report many of their raw materials' origins, Quartz reported

    But unless Apple and other retailers engage in fair-trade practices across the board, my 43 slaves will remain in servitude. Click here to assess your own slavery footprint. 

    child labor

    SEE ALSO: These Heartbreaking Photos Show How Slavery Isn't A Thing Of The Past

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  • CHAOS IN RUSSIA: People Are Panic-Buying Furniture And Cars After Ruble Crashes
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 11:57 AM:)
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    Russia Panic Buying

    The collapse of the ruble has forced companies operating in Russia to undertake extreme measures in an effort to remain profitable as the cost of imports skyrockets. And Russians have responded by panic-buying.

    Fear over price hikes has sent demand for foreign goods surging as customers try to buy goods before the stores have a chance to raise the cost further. This has led to scenes not seen in the country since the late 1990s as people queued for hours just to get into some shops.

    Even large multinational companies have had to take drastic action. Well-known brands such as Apple and IKEA have had to suspend sales and increased prices over recent weeks as they struggle to keep up with the falling value of the currency, while car companies including General Motors, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Audi have all suspended shipments to the country.

    Russian shoppers trying to get onto the homepage of the Apple Store over recent days have been met with a "currently unavailable" sign:

    The_Apple_Store

    The suspension came after the company raised the price of an iPhone 6 by around 25% to 39,990 rubles in an effort to offset the currency falls.

    Meanwhile, those looking to do some Christmas shopping at IKEA this week were also disappointed. An attempt to increase prices forced sales of kitchen furniture and appliances on the Swedish retailer's website to be suspended until Dec. 20 "due to a large number of customers orders".

    IKEA

    Shoppers posted pictures of panic-buying by consumers in Moscow on social media as IKEA was forced to close a number of physical stores.

    IKEA-гийн Москва дахь салбар . pic.twitter.com/cI3iKgh6LO

    — Аураг (@Onet_21) December 17, 2014

    #Moscow. #IKEA. Midnight: according to @ZhidoBandera: Москва. Айкиа. Полночь http://t.co/5ArsZ80l3P pic.twitter.com/ziVlqF4OU7 #Russia #TheFall

    — Olga Klymenko (@OlgaK2013) December 17, 2014

    And here are more photos from the Associated Press showing the fevered activity at an IKEA store on the outskirts of Moscow:

    Russia Panic

    Russia Panic

    Russia panic

    McDonald’s has also moved to raise its prices with the cost of a Big Mac up by 2.2% to about 94 rubles, Bloomberg reports.

    Across the country consumer prices having risen around 25% in 2014, due to a combination of the ruble crash and sanctions placed by the Russian government on imports from the European Union. Staples such as pork and sugar have risen by 25%, and the price of fish and seafood has also leapt up by more than 15%.

    The pace of the increases has caused a stampede of nervous shoppers trying to buy up as much as they can before retailers hike up prices even further. Russia's 24-hour news channel RBC TV has been showing the scale of the queues:

    Having touched record-highs of 80 rubles to the dollar and 100 rubles to the euro on Wednesday, the currency has strengthened significantly as the government and central bank appear to finally be coordinating their actions. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to regain people's confidence in the stability of the currency and reverse the panic of the past few weeks.

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  • The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
    (Politics - December 19 2014 - 7:52 AM:)
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    LA Fire

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

    1. Eight children died Friday morning in a mass stabbing in Australia.

    2. The United Nations has requested more than $8.4 billion for 2015 to help nearly 18 million people affected by the war in Syria.

    3. British police are looking into the murders of three young boys as part of an ongoing investigation into child abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s. 

    4. Investigators said arson was the cause of a massive fire in an unfinished Los Angeles apartment building last week that caused an estimated $30 million of damage.

    5. European Union leaders agreed to a new round of sanctions against Crimea, banning all investment in the region as further punishment for Russia's annexation of the region from Ukraine.

    6. Canadians are fretting that renewed relations between the United States and Cuba will ruin their vacation spot, currently free of American tourists. 

    7. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country could bounce back from the current economic crisis within two years during a three-hour news conference on Thursday.

    8. Sierra Leone's leading doctor Victor Willoughby died of Ebola on Thursday, bringing the West African country's death count from the virus to 109.

    9. A new BBC documentary alleges that Apple sources the tin for its iPhones from Indonesian mud pits where children work in dangerous conditions.

    10. Scientists discovered a new fish that sets the record for the world's deepest during an expedition to the Mariana Trench.

    And finally ...

    Brown bears, grey wolves, the Eurasian lynx, and wolverines are making a comeback in Europe, after being driven to near extinction decades ago.

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