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Sustainabale Orban

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Katy Perry Pleads For An End To Deadly Shootings: I'm 'Scared' - Music, Celebrity, Artist News |

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:36

On the eve of the Grammys, Katy Perry is speaking out against the recent rash of public shootings in the past week.

On Monday, a student was shot and critically injured at Widener University in Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, a student at Purdue University was shot at killed. On Friday, a South Carolina State University student was shot and killed. And just today (January 25), a Maryland mall shooting resulted in the death of three, including the gunman.

"Is anyone else really sad about the constant stream of shootings and how normal it's becoming to see these headlines on a weekly basis?" Perry tweeted this afternoon, continuing on. "Scared to go to school? Scared to go to the mall? Scared to go to the movies? Me too. When will there be ACTUAL change? How many more?!"

The Prism singer went on to say that the gun violence is "embarrassing," calling for change. "You and I both know this is getting embarrassing...My heart goes out to ALL the victims & their families this week. I pray for change."

Katy's Twitter spill comes one day before the 2014 Grammys, where the singer is up for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Roar." She is scheduled for the red carpet and festivities, and may very well comment on the string of shootings again.

When MTV News spoke with President Barack Obama in 2012 after the Colorado movie theater shooting, he posed his thoughts on the ongoing gun violence, specifically the rate of gun-related deaths in Chicago.

"What I've said is that we've got to have an 'all-of-the-above' approach," Obama said. "We have to enforce our gun laws more effectively. We've got to keep them out of the hands of criminals. We've got to strengthen background checks."

Other celebrities who have stepped up against gun violence include Snoop Dogg, Beyonc(C), Jamie Foxx and John Legend. Snoop launched his own line of bracelets made from repossessed guns and released his song "No Guns Allowed" to create awareness. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, stars like Bey, Selena Gomez, Cameron Diaz, Paul Rudd and many more created a PSA against the violence.

Russian teen charged with possessing weapon of mass destruction, Pennsylvania authorities say

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:10

Fox News

A teenage Russian national was arrested late Friday on charges of possessing a weapon of mass destruction, police in Altoona, Pa. said.

Blair County Prison confirmed to Fox News that Vladislav Miftakhov, 19, is in custody.

Altoon Mayor Matthew Pacifico said Miftakjov is a student at Penn State University Altoona.

He is charged with possessing a weapon of mass destruction, risking a catastrophe, possessing instruments of crime, prohibited offensive weapons, incendiary devices, recklessly endangering another person, and several drug-related charges.

Read more



Our Leadership | Freedom House

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 13:22

Freedom House is led by David J. Kramer, the organization's president. The daily work of the organization is conducted by its approximately 150 staff members in Washington, New York, and field offices around the world.

The organization's Board of Trustees, which includes Democrats, Republicans and Independents, is composed of a mix of business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars and journalists who agree that the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad is vital to America's interests abroad and to international peace.

William H. Taft IV, ChairRuth Wedgwood, Vice-ChairThomas A. Dine, Vice-ChairDavid Nastro, TreasurerJohn Norton Moore, Secretary, Governance & Ethics OfficerBette Bao Lord, Chairman Emeritus

Carol C. AdelmanKenneth AdelmanZainab Al-SuwaijGoli AmeriStephen E. BiegunDavid E. BirenbaumEllen BlacklerDennis C. BlairJames H. CarterLee CullumCharles DavidsonKim G. DavisPaula J. DobrianskyEileen C. DonahoeJames C. DuffAlan P. DyeAlison B. FortierAnne GarrelsSusan GinsburgRebecca G. HaileD. Jeffrey HirschbergKenneth I. JusterKathryn Dickey KarolJim KolbeJay MazurTheodore N. MirvisAlberto MoraJoshua MuravchikAndrew NathanDiana Villiers NegroponteDouglas E. SchoenFaryar ShirzadScott SiffWendell Willkie IIJennifer L. Windsor


War gear: Weaponry & armor of rioters in Kiev (PHOTOS)

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 10:21

While thousands of people take part in anti-government protests in Kiev, a small group of radical fighters were at the core of the last days violent clashes. And judging by their looks and actions, they are armed, trained and prepared for war.

The hallmark of the Ukrainian riots on Wednesday and Thursday morning was the smell of burning tires. Opposition fighters started the fires as the riot police moved in to disperse the crowds in the most brutal action seen in weeks.

By nightfall a huge barricade of rubber and flames separated the rioters from police, who returned to their original positions, blocking approaches to governmental buildings. Activists were tossing new tires into the fire in their dozens, as large plumes of black smoke filled the air.

There may be no machine-gun fire or tanks in Kiev, but the city looks like a warzone. And soldiers of the opposition appear to be a close match to officers of the law, if not in terms of discipline, than certainly in terms of equipment.

AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky

January 23, 2014 (Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili)

Riot police have helmets, shields and body armor. So do the rioters.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

The radicals are easily distinguished by the orange construction workers' helmets many of them wear.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

January 21, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

But there are also motorcycle helmets, military helmets and even replica knight helmets.

The rioters are armed with homemade shields. Though they may look amateurish compared to police officers' metal ones, they are actually quite effective at blocking rubber bullets. Some have also obtained riot police shields.

January 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

And they know how to use them to form a tight, well-defended line.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

January 23, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

Other protection gear includes gas masks that render police tear gas useless.

Apart from individual gear, the rioters know urban guerrilla tactics, like stretching nets over barricades to catch police stun grenades.

RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin

Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko

The protesters are also well-prepared for offensive. They have a wide assortment of melee weapons.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

Unlike police batons, their home-made maces and spears have spikes and are designed to draw blood.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters / Gleb Garanich)

January 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

The most popular projectiles are stones taken from the pavement and Molotov cocktails. Petrol bombs were extensively used in the initial clashes with the police on Sunday.

Some officers hit by the Molotovs were badly burned.

And some police vehicles burned out completely.

January 23, 2014 (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

January 22, 2014 (Reuters/ Vasily Fedosenko)

Fireworks were also extensively used against the police, which made the confrontation look hauntingly jubilant at times.

January 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

The protesters erected a catapult (or more precisely a miniature trebuchet) to launch their projectiles a great distance.

January 23, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

January 23, 2014 (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

The machine proved to be ineffective and was eventually destroyed in a police raid. The rioters replaced it after with a giant sling.

January 20, 2014 (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

The rioters also have pneumatic and low-lethality firearms.

(L-R) (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko), (AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov), (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko), (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

Only mildly-effective against protected police, they may look like real firearms from distance.

Where the police beat the opposition is with stun and tear gas grenades. But in one episode the rioters said they intercepted a box of 340 stun grenades meant for police. It's not clear whether the claim was true.

The radical activists stockpiled irritant chemicals like ammonia to use against the police as a sort of tear gas.

January 22, 2014 (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

There were also unconfirmed reports that they planned to use Molotov cocktails with concentrated alkaline drain cleaner added, so that the bombs not only set their victims on fire, but also left severe chemical burns.

It's true that Ukrainian riot police are not beyond criticism. They were involved in deplorable actions, including vicious brutality against unresisting protesters, as footage from the Wednesday crackdown clearly shows.

However, many of the people they stand against are far from peaceful and non-violent. They are geared for a guerrilla action, and they are conducting one.

Behind the Uprising in the Ukraine: Could It Mean War in Europe? (As McCain Visits to Stir Up More Trouble)

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 19:16

By Eric MargolisAs violence and mayhem surge in Ukraine's capitol, Kiev, fear is growing that Europe, the United States and Russia may be on a collision course.

Ukraine's latest crisis began last November after Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an economic cooperation/integration pact with the European Union. Instead, near bankrupt Kiev accepted a Russian offer to supply heavily discounted natural gas and a pledge to buy billions worth of its shaky bonds.

Demonstrations erupted in Kiev and, later, Lvov. The Russian-backed Yanukovich government reacted with brutal police repression. Violence has mounted in recent days, with at least two demonstrators killed and scores injured on both sides. Moscow is making warnings.

This spreading crisis is of utmost geopolitical importance. It will determine the fate of 46 million Ukrainians, Russia's future, and the stability of Eastern Europe.

Ukrainians are bitterly divided: western Ukraine, which mostly speaks Ukrainian, looks to the west and borders on Poland, a member of the EU. Predominantly Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine looks east to neighboring Russia. The Crimea was Russian until Nikita Khrushchev gave it in 1954 on a whim (some say fuelled by vodka) to Ukraine. Crimea's large Muslim population was destroyed or exiled by Stalin.

Ukrainian and Russian speakers understand one another's tongue. The problem is more about economic and mentality than language, ethnicity or religion.

Read the rest here.




Why Was Iran Nixed From Syria Talks?

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Source: Real Jew News

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 10:07

Jewish Agenda Articles

B/C 300

Why Was IranNixed From Syria Talks?By Brother Nathanael KapnerJanuary 25, 2014 (C)

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Or Send Your Contribution To:The Brother Nathanael Foundation, PO Box 1242, Frisco CO 80443E-mail: brothernathanaelfoundation@yahoo.com___________________________________

TO UNDERSTAND WHY IRAN was nixed from the Syria peace talks is to discern the underlying foundation of US foreign policy.The fulcrum upon which US foreign policy turns is the worldview which American Jewry envisions, formulates, and drafts into legislation for its Jew-bought hacks on Capitol Hill to implement.

With events in the Middle East so dear to American Jews vis a vis the hegemonic program of Israel, the emerging influence of Iran strikes dread into the heart of the Jewish psyche.

While many are perplexed by Jew-owned Kerry's insistence that ''Assad must go'' '-- a virtual non-starter for solving the Syria crisis '-- the more astute see the conflict in wider terms than an internal scenario limited to Syria alone.

The Syrian conflict is a battle for Middle East hegemony between the Israel-Saudi-America Axis and the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah Axis.

The Jewish lie that ''Assad is a torturer'' or ''democracy must replace a dictatorship'' is pure Jewish bulls##t designed to deceive the Goyim masses.

Jewry's aim is to deny Iran the ''strategic prize'' of the Middle East, namely, Syria's strategic value that geopolitically reaches from Iran to Lebanon.

And powerful Jewish Lobbies throughout the Western world have shills like Kerry to mouth their ''Assad must go'' mantra in order to reach their own strategic goals.


JEWISH SUPREMACY is hitting a brick wall with the emergence of Iran as an economic world power.

At Davos this week, Iranian president Rouhani announced his country's goal of becoming one of the world's top ten economies.

Iran's economic goals hinge on it pursuing a ''Greater Middle East'' of its own. And Israel doesn't like the competition.

To Jewry's chagrin, Iran's trajectory for the region was summed up by its National Security Council in 2012:

''What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue but an ongoing conflict between the Axis of Resistance and its enemies in the region and the world.

Iran will not tolerate, in any form, the breaking of the axis of resistance, of which Syria is an intrinsic part.'' View Entire StoryHere.

In Patrick Seale's, The Struggle for Syria, he argues that those who aspire to control the Middle East must first win over Syria.

''Whoever controls Syria or enjoys her special friendship could isolate other Arab states and bow to no other combination of Arab states,'' says Seale.

WE CAN EITHER have a stabilized Middle East with broader Iranian influence OR chaos and bloodshed that Israel and its Saudi ally bring to the region.

But here in Jewmerica we're stuck with a skewed & jewed foreign policy that bows to Jewish supremacy leaving us the laughing stock of the world.

___________________________________Support The Brother Nathanael Foundation!

Or Send Your Contribution To:The Brother Nathanael Foundation, PO Box 1242, Frisco CO 80443E-mail: brothernathanaelfoundation@yahoo.comScroll Down For Comments

Brother Nathanael @ January 25, 2014


Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:48

Iran-Iraq-Syria pipelineIranian oil and gas facilities, with the South Pars gas field in red

LocationCountryIran, Iraq, Syria[1]General directioneast''westFromAsalouyeh, IranPasses throughDamascus, SyriaGeneral informationTypeNatural gasTechnical informationLength3,480 mi (5,600 km)Maximum discharge3.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day[1]Diameter56 in (1,422 mm)The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline (called the Friendship Pipeline by the governments involved and the Islamic gas pipeline by some Western sources[2]) is a proposed natural gaspipeline running from the Iranian-Qatari South Pars / North Dome Gas-Condensate field field towards Europe via Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to supply European customers as well as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.[1] The pipeline is planned to be 3480 miles long and have a diameter of 56 inches.[1] A previous proposal, known as the Persian Pipeline, had seen a route from Iran's South Pars to Europe via Turkey; it was apparently abandoned after the Swiss energy company Elektrizit¤tsgesellschaft Laufenburg halted its contract with Iran in October 2010 in the face of pressure over US sanctions against Iran.[3][4]

In July 2011 Iran, Iraq and Syria said they planned to sign a contract potentially worth around $6bn to construct a pipeline running from South Pars towards Europe, via these countries and Lebanon and then under the Mediterranean to a European country, with a refinery and related infrastructure in Damascus.[1][5][6][7] In November 2012 the United States dismissed reports that construction had begun on the pipeline, saying that this had been claimed repeatedly and that "it never seems to materialize."[8] A framework agreement was to be signed in early 2013, with costs now estimated at $10bn;[9] construction plans were delayed by the Syrian civil war.[10] In December 2012 the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said that the project "remains doubtful. It is not clear how such a project will be financed given that both Iran and Syria are subject to strict financial sanctions."[11]

The pipeline would be a competitor to the Nabucco pipeline from Azerbaijan to Europe.[1] It is also an alternative to the Qatar-Turkey pipeline which had been proposed by Qatar to run from the South Pars field (which Qatar shares with Iran) to Europe via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.[12] Syria's rationale for rejecting the Qatar proposal was said to be "to protect the interests of [its] Russian ally, which is Europe's top supplier of natural gas."[12]

^ abcdefUPI, 25 July 2011, 'Islamic pipeline' seeks Euro gas markets^, 11 February 2013, Some Reasons to Materialize Iran, Iraq, and Syria's Gas Pipeline^SRF Tagesschau, 29 October 2010, EG Laufenburg legt Gas-Deal mit Iran auf Eis^Jerusalem Post, 26 January 2011, Swiss adopt EU sanctions on Teheran^Mansour Kashfi, Asia Times Online, 7 June 2012, Iran's Islamic pipeline a mad man's dream^Iran, Syria Finalize Agreement on New Gas Pipeline^Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2011, Iraq, Iran, Syria Sign $10 Billion Gas-Pipeline Deal^UPI, 20 November 2012, U.S. brushes off Iran-Iraq-Syria gas line^Agence France-Presse, Hurriyet Daily News, 19 February 2013, Iraq greenlights gas pipeline deal with Iran, Syria^Christian Science Monitor, 27 August 2013, US destroyers near Syria. Oil market likely to shrug off a strike.^Hakim Darbouche, Laura El-Katiri and Bassam Fattouh (2012), Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, East Mediterranean Gas: what kind of a game-changer?, NG17, December 2012, p17^ abNafeez Ahmed,, 30 August 2013, Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

Natural Gas: What the War in Syria is Really About

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:48

The US President is currently undertaking a massive sales pitch for war. We heard on the radio this morning that President Obama was set to front about six different media outlets today to make his case for war with Syria.

He'll be out perpetuating the lie that it's all about chemical weapons and defending the national interest and blah blah blah.

The more plausible story is that it's about natural gas. A Middle East conflict is always about energy...or religion. But this upcoming war over Syria is about energy. We don't pretend to know what it's all about, but we do think you'll find all this a little more convincing that the West's 'do-gooding' rhetoric about chemical weapons and humanitarianism.

The West (and Saudi Arabia) clearly wants regime change in Syria...probably because Syrian President Assad counts Russia and Iran amongst his mates.

But it's more than that. As far as we can tell, it's about the politics of natural gas. And it starts in the largest natural gas reservoir in the world - the South Pars/North Dome field in the Persian Gulf, a resource shared by Qatar and Iran.

Now, Qatar and Iran are hardly allies. Qatar is Sunni and Iran is Shiite. Qatar hosts the US and British military presence in the region.

A few years ago there was talk of a new gas pipeline running through Iran and Iraq to Damascus...and then possibly onto Europe via LNG ports off the Syrian coast. Coincidentally enough, this was around the time when the Syrian civil war started.

Qatar, for one, didn't like the sound of this. It was more interested in sending its share of the South Pars field into Europe via a gas pipeline through Syria and into Turkey, where it could link up with the major Eastern European gas pipelines. It's no surprise then to see that Qatar is a major supplier of funds to rebel groups in Syria, reportedly funnelling in US$3 billion to support the overthrow of Assad since the conflict began.

But this doesn't explain why Saudi Arabia wants Assad out too. The Saudis are not on friendly terms with the Qataris. They rejected a Qatari plan to put a gas pipeline through their territory and they bankrolled the Egyptian's military's recent overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Qatar supported.

But we know Russia wouldn't like the prospect of a gas pipeline linking with Europe, as it supplies over one-third of Europe's gas needs and draws a great deal of strategic influence via its energy supply dominance. The prospect of suddenly having Persian Gulf gas competing with Russian gas is not appealing for them.

Hence Russian President Putin's lack of support for a US attack. Interestingly, China seems to be on Russia's side.

So where does all this leave the US? Why is it so eager to attack Syria and bring down Assad's regime, opening up the possibility of a power vacuum and destabilising violence in the region?

We can only guess. Once elected, politicians deem certain things too delicate to tell their electors. And the real reason behind war is certainly too delicate to tell the people about.

So we guess that perhaps the US are acting on behalf of long term ally the Saudis, who see this as a real opportunity to consolidate their power in the region.

Having just put the military back in power in Egypt, the Saudis now have a chance to dictate who the next ruler of Syria will be, and perhaps obtain a strategic position in the energy of the 21st century - natural gas.

But we don't really know. The only thing we can say confidently is that this upcoming war is not about chemical weapons or morality. It's about politicians taking actions that 'we the people' are too simple to understand and too passive to endorse.

That's why democracy is a farce. We elect 'smiling faces', who in the end are just puppets for darker forces to control and manipulate. The upcoming debacle in Syria will confirm just that.Regards,

Greg Canavan+for The Daily Reckoning Australia

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Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Qatar: Pipelineistan at work '-- RT Op-Edge

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Archived Version

Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:46

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

Construction is nearing completion on a natural gas pipeline linking Iran and Pakistan, a project that portends a huge geopolitical shift. As regional powers strengthen ties in this key energy market, they're looking to China, and away from the West.

Since the early 2000s, analysts and diplomats across Asia have been dreaming of a future Asian Energy Security Grid.

This '' among other developments '' is what it's all about, the conclusion of the final stretch of the $7.5 billion, 1,100-mile natural gas Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline, starting from Iran's giant South Pars field in the Persian Gulf, and expected to be online by the end of 2014.

Nobody lost money betting on Washington's reaction; IP would put Islamabad in ''violation of United Nations sanctions over [Iran's] nuclear program.'' Yet this has nothing to do with the UN, but with US sanctions made up by Congress and the Treasury Department.

Sanctions? What sanctions? Islamabad badly needs energy. China badly needs energy. And India will be extremely tempted to follow, especially when IP reaches Lahore, which is only 100 km from the Indian border. India, by the way, already imports Iranian oil and is not sanctioned for it.

All aboard the win-win trainWhen Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Zardari met at the Iranian port of Chabahar in early March, that was a long way after IP was first considered in 1994 '' then as Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI), also known as the 'peace pipeline.' Subsequent pressure by both Bush administrations was so overwhelming that India abandoned the idea in 2009.

IP is what the Chinese call a win-win deal. The Iranian stretch is already finished. Aware of Islamabad's immense cash flow problems, Tehran is loaning it $500 million, and Islamabad will come up with $1 billion to finish the Pakistani section. It's enlightening to note that Tehran only agreed to the loan after Islamabad certified it won't back out (unlike India) under Washington pressure.

IP, as a key umbilical (steel) cord, makes a mockery of the artificial '' US-encouraged '' Sunni-Shia divide. Tehran needs the windfall, and the enhanced influence in South Asia. Ahmadinejad even cracked that ''with natural gas, you cannot make atomic bombs.''

Zardari, for his part, boosted his profile ahead of Pakistan's elections on May 11. With IP pumping 750 million cubic feet of natural gas into the Pakistani economy everyday, power cuts will fade, and factories won't close. Pakistan has no oil. It may have huge potential for solar and wind energy, but no investment capital and knowhow to develop them.

Politically, snubbing Washington is a certified hit all across Pakistan, especially after the territorial invasion linked to the 2011 targeted assassination of Bin Laden, plus Obama and the CIA's non-stop drone wars in the tribal areas.

Moreover, Islamabad will need close cooperation with Tehran to assert a measure of control of Afghanistan after 2014. Otherwise an India-Iran alliance will be in the driver's seat.

Washington's suggestion of a Plan B amounted to vague promises to help building hydroelectric dams; and yet another push for that ultimate 'Pipelineistan' desert mirage '' the which has existed only on paper since the Bill Clinton era.

The Foreign Office in Islamabad argued for Washington to at least try to show some understanding. As for the lively Pakistani press, it is having none of it.

The big winner is'... ChinaIP is already a star protagonist of the New Silk Road(s) '' the real thing, not a figment of Hillary Clinton's imagination. And then there's the ultra-juicy, strategic Gwadar question.

Islamabad decided not only to hand over operational control of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, in ultra-sensitive southwest Balochistan, to China; crucially, Islamabad and Beijing also signed a deal to build a $4 billion, 400,000 barrels-a-day oil refinery, the largest in Pakistan.

Gwadar, a deepwater port, was built by China, but until recently, the port's administration was Singaporean.

The long-term Chinese master plan is a beauty. The next step after the oil refinery would be to lay out an oil pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang, parallel to the Karakoram highway, thus configuring Gwadar as a key Pipelineistan node distributing Persian Gulf oil and gas to Western China '' and finally escaping Beijing's Hormuz dilemma.

Gwadar, strategically located at the confluence of Southwest and South Asia, with Central Asia not that far, is bound to finally emerge as an oil and gas hub and petrochemical center '' with Pakistan as a crucial energy corridor linking Iran with China. All that, of course, assuming that the CIA does not set Balochistan on fire.

The inevitable short-term result anyway is that Washington's sanctions obsession is about to be put to rest at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, not far from Osama bin Laden's corpse. And with IP probably becoming IPC '' with the addition of China '' India may even wake up, smell the gas, and try to revive the initial IPI idea.

The Syrian Pipelineistan angleThis graphic Iranian success in South Asia contrasts with its predicament in Southwest Asia.

The South Pars gas fields '' the largest in the world '' are shared by Iran and Qatar. Tehran and Doha have developed an extremely tricky relationship, mixing cooperation and hardcore competition.

The key (unstated) reason for Qatar to be so obsessed by regime change in Syria is to kill the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which was agreed upon in July 2011. The same applies to Turkey, because this pipeline would bypass Ankara, which always bills itself as the key energy crossroads between East and West.

It's crucial to remember that the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is as anathema to Washington as IP. The difference is that Washington in this case can count on its allies Qatar and Turkey to sabotage the whole deal.

This means sabotaging not only Iran but also the 'Four Seas' strategy announced by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2009, according to which Damascus should become a Pipelineistan hub connected to the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The strategy spells out a Syria intimately connected with Iranian '' and not Qatari '' energy flows. Iran-Iraq-Syria is known in the region as the 'friendship pipeline.' Typically, Western corporate media derides it as an 'Islamic' pipeline. (So Saudi pipelines are what, Catholic?) What makes it even more ridiculous is that gas in this pipeline would flow to Syria and then Lebanon '' and from there to energy-starved European markets close by.

The Pipelineistan games get even more complicated when we add the messy Iraqi Kurdistan/Turkey energy love affair '' detailed here by Erimtan Can '' and the recent gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean involving territorial waters of Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria; some, or perhaps all of these actors could turn from energy importers to energy exporters.

Israel will have a clear option to send its gas via a pipeline to Turkey, and then export it to Europe; that goes a long way to explain the recent phone call schmoozing between Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan and Israel's Netanyahu, brokered by Obama.

Terrestrial and maritime borders between Israel and Lebanon remain dependent on a hazy UN Blue Line, set up way back in 2000. Damascus '' as well as Tehran '' supports Beirut, once again against Washington's will. And Damascus also supports Baghdad's strategy of diversifying its means of distribution, once again trying to escape the Strait of Hormuz. Thus, the importance of the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline.

No wonder Syria is a red line for Tehran. Now the whole of Pipelineistan will be watching how far Qatar is willing to go following Washington's obsession.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Who will be main beneficiary of Iran sanctions lift?

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Source: ynet - News

Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:35

Iranian sanction relief, as part of nuclear agreement made with world powers, will bring about significant increase in its petrochemical materials exports. Who will stand to gain the most?Reuters

One of the chief beneficiaries of this week's easing of Iranian sanctions is the country's ruler '' Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei controls a massive business empire known as Setad that has invested in Iran's petrochemical industry, which is now permitted to resume exports. Under a six-month deal between Iran and world powers, Tehran has promised to scale back its nuclear development program in exchange for the suspension of certain economic sanctions, including curbs on the export of petrochemicals.

On Monday, the day the suspension of the restrictions took effect, the US Treasury Department published a list of 14 Iranian petrochemical companies that previously had been sanctioned but are now permitted to do business abroad. The list includes three firms that the department said last year are controlled by Setad '' Ghaed Bassir Petrochemical Products Co, Marjan Petrochemical Co and Sadaf Petrochemical Assaluyeh Co.

Related stories:

In an emailed statement to Reuters, a spokesman for Setad said it only held shares in Ghaed Bassir Petrochemical. "Our investment ... in the petrochemical sector is minimal," the spokesman said.

The easing of sanctions comes less than seven months after the Treasury Department added Setad and 37 companies the department said Setad oversees '' including the three petrochemical firms - to a lengthy list of sanctioned Iranian entities. The Treasury described the action last June as an effort to target Iran's leadership, and it accused Setad of being part of a scheme to circumvent US and international sanctions.

In November, Reuters published a three-part series that detailed for the first time how Setad had become one of Iran's richest and most powerful institutions, largely through the systematic seizure and sale of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians. By the time Washington sanctioned Setad, it had morphed into a multi-billion-dollar business conglomerate that now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil and telecommunications.

Iran's state news agency denounced the Reuters reports as "disinformation" intended to undermine public trust in the Islamic Republic's institutions.

The conglomerate's full name in Persian is Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam. Khamenei, who appoints its board of directors, is Iran's top cleric and has final say on all governmental matters, including the preliminary nuclear accord. Iran and six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - will try to reach a final agreement over the next six months. The West believes Iran wants to build atomic weapons. Iran has long said its nuclear program is for peaceful energy development.

Setad stands to profit from the preliminary agreement in ways besides the export of petrochemicals. The agreement makes it easier for Iran to import humanitarian goods, including medicine. Setad controls numerous Iranian pharmaceutical companies.

Washington targeted Iran's petrochemical industry last year, with an Obama administration official saying the sector had become a significant source of Iran's foreign earnings.

In an interview with Reuters this week, a Treasury Department official estimated that Iran would generate at most $1 billion in revenue from petrochemical exports over the next six months, and possibly much less, since it would not be in a position to sign any long-term contracts.

Dozens of petrochemical products are no longer under sanctions, including ammonia, methanol and chlorine. The suspension does not include finished products, such as plastic bags or tires. US citizens and American-owned companies are still prohibited from doing most business with Iran.

The website of Ghaed Bassir Petrochemical, which makes plastic products, states that it has exported material to numerous countries, including South Africa, Italy, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, South Korea and China. A Setad subsidiary, Tadbir Energy Development Group, states on its website that it owns 80 percent of Ghaed Bassir.

An employee at Ghaed Bassir said company officials were not immediately available for comment.

Last June, the Treasury Department said Setad also controls Marjan Petrochemical, which is investing in methanol production, and Sadaf Petrochemical Assaluyeh, which makes rubber.

An official with Marjan told Reuters that "the sanctions didn't hurt us very much." He said the company plans to continue discussions it has had in the past with companies in Italy and Denmark. "We're still in the planning phase," he said.

Syria 'Peace Summit' turns into 'regime change' ambush, staged by US and its allies

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Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:31

JANUARY 22, 2014 BY 21WIRE LEAVE A COMMENTJust in time for the 'Syrian Peace Conference' in Montreux, Switzerland this week'...'Foreign Secretary said the images are 'compelling and horrific!'It gets better. This latest 'breathtaking' report of 'Assad's systematic torture operation', hand-delivered by the new Curveball,named 'Caesar', was prepared and put on lay-away in order to influence opinions in favour of regime change in Syria. Even if it were true, blowing the international whistle on institutional torture is just a bit rich '' coming from the United States and Great Britain. Indeed, after 12 years Guantanamo Bay is still open for business.But it gets worse '' we discover that the 'report' was commissioned by the Qataris and authored by Carter Ruck law firm in London, solicitors who just happen to also represent Saudi clients accused of, wait for it'... funneling money to al Qaida terrorists. Yes, like those same terrorists who happen to have flooded into Syria over the last two and a half years.Here's where the super-spin cycle begins. In order to try and conceal the fact that the Saudis and Qataris have been bank-rolling some of the most savage Jihadi mercenary fighters the world has ever seen in Syria, spin doctors have come up with this latest bit of counter-propaganda:''Rebels and defectors said the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it, the intelligence report claims.''Tidying up loose ends? You might laugh, but this bit of spin is making the rounds in the western media and political circles. in time for the 'Syrian Peace Conference' in Montreux, Switzerland this week'...'Foreign Secretary said the images are 'compelling and horrific!'It gets better. This latest 'breathtaking' report of 'Assad's systematic torture operation', hand-delivered by the new Curveball,named 'Caesar', was prepared and put on lay-away in order to influence opinions in favour of regime change in Syria. Even if it were true, blowing the international whistle on institutional torture is just a bit rich '' coming from the United States and Great Britain. Indeed, after 12 years Guantanamo Bay is still open for business.But it gets worse '' we discover that the 'report' was commissioned by the Qataris and authored by Carter Ruck law firm in London, solicitors who just happen to also represent Saudi clients accused of, wait for it'... funneling money to al Qaida terrorists. Yes, like those same terrorists who happen to have flooded into Syria over the last two and a half years.Here's where the super-spin cycle begins. In order to try and conceal the fact that the Saudis and Qataris have been bank-rolling some of the most savage Jihadi mercenary fighters the world has ever seen in Syria, spin doctors have come up with this latest bit of counter-propaganda:''Rebels and defectors said the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it, the intelligence report claims.''Tidying up loose ends? You might laugh, but this bit of spin is making the rounds in the western media and political circles.




Is it an orchestrated financial collapse?

Qatar gets pipline up north to Turkey

In quid pro quo, Iran gets to export more as sanctions are eased


RIGHTS - Freedom and rights in Turkey declining, US think tank says

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 18:44


A recent report by the US think tank Freedom House says heavy-handed police crackdowns on Gezi Park protests areconflicting with the freedoms of association and assembly, which are protected in the Turkish Constitution.

Turkey is declining in terms of freedoms and rights, according to the annual report from U.S. think tank Freedom House. The report made particular reference to the harsh police crackdown on protesters during the nationwide Gezi Park protests and the increase in political pressure exerted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).This year's ''Freedom in the World'' report ranks Turkey among the ''partly free'' countries with a rating of 3.5 out of 7, placing it in the same category as countries such as Libya, Pakistan, Mexico, Ukraine and Indonesia.

The report noted a visible deterioration in associational and organizational rights and the exercise of individual rights, particularly due to the government's response to this year's unprecedented mass demonstrations.

Criticism on police crackdowns

''Freedoms of association and assembly are protected in the Constitution, and Turkey has an active civil society. However, the police have forcibly broken up public gatherings, with the government justifying its actions by citing the need to maintain order and alleging the presence of violent hooligans and radical groups among the protesters,'' the report said. It emphasized that not only the Gezi demonstrations but almost every mass protest met with brutal police methods throughout 2013.

The report also voiced concerns about the reports of ill-treatment that emerged last year. ''During the Gezi protests, the media and human rights groups documented harsh beatings, threats of and actual sexual assault by police, and widespread use of unofficial detention,'' it said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. think tank gave a positive assessment of the Kurdish peace process launched by the government over a year ago. The cease-fire declared by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in March has improved the security situation in the country, the report said, also adding that a ''democratization package'' announced late September had given further rights to Kurds.

''Many past restrictions on the Kurdish language have been lifted, and as a result of the September 2013 democratization package, Kurdish-language education in private schools is now allowed, Kurdish names have been restored to several villages and provinces, and a mandatory pledge by schoolchildren that affirms their Turkishness and was viewed as offensive by many Kurds is no longer conducted,'' it said, while adding that the implementation of the proposals were still to be seen.The report also noted that measures towards Alevis, such as the recognition of Cemevis as official places of worship, were omitted in the same package. ''The Alevis, a non-Sunni Muslim group, lack protected status,'' it said.

It noted with concern the pressure being exerted on media outlets, judges, scholars and business groups that are critical of the government or have displeased the ruling AKP.

Corruption was referred as a ''major problem in Turkey'' in the light of the massive graft probes that emerged in December 2013. ''There is also concern over the awarding of government contracts, as major projects have allegedly benefited AKP party officials and the armed forces,'' the report also said.

Former envoys: US needs to tell Turkey to change waysFormer U.S. ambassadors to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelman, called on the U.S. policymakers to urge Turkey about the importance of political stability and democracy, in their joint Washington Post column.''U.S. policymakers should lay aside their reluctance to confront the disastrous impact of [Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdog's dictatorial tendencies and remind the Turkish leader of the importance the United States attaches to Turkey's political stability and democratic vitality.Particularly as their influence is greater than it appears: While Turks do not trust the United States, neither do they like to be at odds with it.''

The two former ambassadors accused Erdan of ''exploiting'' Turkey's partnership with the U.S. and his close personal relationship with President Obama to ''burnish his legitimacy.'' ''U.S.

condemnation of his recent actions '-- publicly and even more strongly in private '-- might temper his posturing. However significant U.S. interests with Turkey are, neither silence nor platitudes will help halt its political descent,'' they wrote in their joint column.

They also claimed Erdon is doing ''great harm to Turkey's democracy.''


Our Leadership | Freedom House

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 13:22

Freedom House is led by David J. Kramer, the organization's president. The daily work of the organization is conducted by its approximately 150 staff members in Washington, New York, and field offices around the world.

The organization's Board of Trustees, which includes Democrats, Republicans and Independents, is composed of a mix of business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars and journalists who agree that the promotion of democracy and human rights abroad is vital to America's interests abroad and to international peace.

William H. Taft IV, ChairRuth Wedgwood, Vice-ChairThomas A. Dine, Vice-ChairDavid Nastro, TreasurerJohn Norton Moore, Secretary, Governance & Ethics OfficerBette Bao Lord, Chairman Emeritus

Carol C. AdelmanKenneth AdelmanZainab Al-SuwaijGoli AmeriStephen E. BiegunDavid E. BirenbaumEllen BlacklerDennis C. BlairJames H. CarterLee CullumCharles DavidsonKim G. DavisPaula J. DobrianskyEileen C. DonahoeJames C. DuffAlan P. DyeAlison B. FortierAnne GarrelsSusan GinsburgRebecca G. HaileD. Jeffrey HirschbergKenneth I. JusterKathryn Dickey KarolJim KolbeJay MazurTheodore N. MirvisAlberto MoraJoshua MuravchikAndrew NathanDiana Villiers NegroponteDouglas E. SchoenFaryar ShirzadScott SiffWendell Willkie IIJennifer L. Windsor


Turkey to collapse, Germany in recession, CAC 40 drops 40% - outrageous predictions from Saxo Bank - ABC.AZ

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:41

Turkey to collapse, Germany in recession, CAC 40 drops 40% - outrageous predictions from Saxo Bank

Baku, Fineko/ Saxo Bank, famous for its 'Outrageous Predictions' has released its annual set of predictions for the year ahead. This year's predictions range from an EU wealth tax and the Bank of Japan's cancellation of all its government debt to a nasty hangover for the tech sector's 'Fat Five' and a plummeting Brent crude price as the market becomes awash with oil. Another outrageous claim is that US deflation will loom large following Act II of Congress's political morass in January, while Germany may be dethroned as the Eurozone's outperformer and fall back into recession.

Prospects for Brazil, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey will also look grim if QE tapering in the US leads to higher marginal costs of capital from rising interest rates, exposing those with current account deficits and eroding the value of their currency. Meanwhile, Europe could face renewed political and economic turmoil when an anti-EU transactional alliance becomes the largest group in the European Parliament.

Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank, comments:

''This isn't meant to be a pessimistic outlook. This is about critical events that could lead to change '' hopefully for the better. After all, looking back through history, all changes, good or bad, are made after moments of crisis after a comprehensive failure of the old way of doing things. As things are now, global wealth and income distribution remain hugely lopsided which also has to mean that significant change is more likely than ever due to unsustainable imbalances. 2014 could and should be the year in which a mandate for change not only becomes necessary, but is also implemented.

''We emphasise that the Outrageous Predictions are not Saxo Bank's official calls for 2014, but rather an exercise in feeling out the major risks to capital preservation, and intended to encourage investors to prepare for the worst case scenario before trading or investing.''

Saxo Bank 10 Outrageous Predictions for 2014

1. EU wealth tax heralds return of Soviet-style economy

Panicking at deflation and lack of growth, the EU Commission will impose wealth taxes for anyone with savings in excess of USD or EUR 100,000 in the name of removing inequality and to secure sufficient funds to create a ''crisis buffer''. It will be the final move towards a totalitarian European state and the low point for individual and property rights. The obvious trade is to buy hard assets and sell inflated intangible assets.

2. Anti-EU alliance will become the largest group in parliament

Following the European Parliamentary elections in May, a pan-European, anti-EU transnational alliance will become the largest group in parliament. The new European Parliament chooses an anti-EU chairman and the European heads of state and government fail to pick a president of the European Commission, sending Europe back into political and economic turmoil.

3. Tech's 'Fat Five' wake up to a nasty hangover in 2014

While the US information technology sector is trading about 15 percent below the current S&P 500 valuation, a small group of technology stocks are trading at a huge premium of about 700 percent above market valuation. These 'fat five' - Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, Pandora Media and Yelp '' present a new bubble within an old bubble thanks to investors oversubscribing to rare growth scenarios in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

4. Desperate BoJ to delete government debt after USDJPY goes below 80

In 2014, the global recovery runs out of gas, sending risk assets down and forcing investors back into the yen with USDJPY dropping below 80. In desperation, the Bank of Japan simply deletes all of its government debt securities, a simple but untested accounting trick and the outcome of which will see a nerve-wracking journey into complete uncertainty and potentially a disaster with unknown side effects.

5. US deflation: coming to a town near you

Although indicators may suggest that the US economy is stronger, the housing market remains fragile and wage growth remains non-existent. With Congress scheduled to perform Act II of its ''how to disrupt the US economy'' charade in January, investment, employment and consumer confidence will once again suffer. This will push inflation down, not up, next year, and deflation will again top the FOMC agenda.

6. Quantitative easing goes all-in on mortgages

Quantitative easing in the US has pushed interest expenses down and sent risky assets to the moon, creating an artificial sense of improvement in the economy. Grave challenges remain, particularly for the housing market which is effectively on life support. The FOMC will therefore go all-in on mortgages in 2014, transforming QE3 to a 100 percent mortgage bond purchase programme and '' far from tapering '' will increase the scope of the programme to more than USD 100bn per month.

7. Brent crude drops to USD 80/barrel as producers fail to respond

The global market will become awash with oil thanks to rising production from non-conventional methods and increased Saudi Arabian ouput. For the first time in years hedge funds will build a major short position, helping to drive Brent crude oil down to USD 80/barrel. Once producers finally get around to reducing production, oil will respond with a strong bounce and the industry will conclude that high prices are not a foregone conclusion.

8. Germany in recession

Germany's sustained outperformance will end in 2014, disappointing consensus. Years of excess thrift in Germany has seen even the US turn on the euro area's largest economy and a coordinated plan by other key economies to reduce the excessive trade surplus cannot be ruled out. Add to this falling energy prices in the US, which induce German companies to move production to the West; lower competitiveness due to rising real wages; potential demands from the SPD, the new coalition partner, to improve the well-being of the lower and middle classes in Germany; and an emerging China that will focus more on domestic consumption following its recent Third Plenum.

9. CAC 40 drops 40% on French malaise

Equities will hit a wall and tumble sharply on the realisation that the only driver for the market is the greater fool theory. Meanwhile, the malaise in France only deepens under the mismanagement of the Hollande government. Housing prices, which never really corrected after the crisis, execute a swan dive, pummeling consumption and confidence. The CAC 40 Index falls by more than 40 percent from its 2013 highs by the end of the year as investors head for the exit.

10. 'Fragile Five' to fall 25% against the USD

The expected tapering of quantitative easing in the US will lead to higher marginal costs of capital from rising interest rates. This will leave countries with expanding current account deficits exposed to a deteriorating risk appetite on the part of global investors, which could ultimately force a move lower in their currencies, especially against the US dollar. We have put five countries into this category '' Brazil, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey.

To see more please go to the Outrageous Predictions website:

The View From Falling Downs: Yankee meddlers have Erdogan in their sights

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 10:24

Freedom House is but one of the plethora of American NGOs tasked with promoting democracy, Yankee style, in those benighted lands wherein democracy is not up to US standards.Which is not to say that those countries are undemocratic. But it takes more than free and fair elections to get the stamp of approval from the big dogs in Washington. It takes grovelling subservience to the American agenda.

Thus, when the dimwitted voters in Gaza or Honduras or Paraguay or Egypt foolishly elect the wrong party, America's respect for the democratic process vanishes even more quickly than that democratically but erroneously elected leader. Ukraine is now "in play" thanks in no small part to the efforts of American democracy activists. Ukraine has been such a high priority for Freedom House that the NGO has a permanent field office in the country.

The "NGO" label is as fraudulent as the brand of democracy promoted by these democracy promoters. The acronym stands for Non Governmental Organization which traditionally meant they were independent of government. In America these democracy promoters are financed in their entirety by the US government, but all concerned maintain the fiction that they are somehow independent.

The not-actually-independent thinkers at Freedom House have revealed their grave concerns over the state of democracy in Turkey. Indeed, they are alarmed at the precipitous decline of freedom and democracy under Erdogan. One could well argue that freedom is losing ground far more quickly in Obama's America than in Erdogan's Turkey, but that would be missing the point.

Not coincidentally, the Freedom House report was followed up with unseemly haste by a Washington Post opinion piece titled The United States needs to tell Turkey to change course. This is of course the sort of hubristic attitude that the world sees as the norm for the bully on the world stage. Why is it up to the US to tell anybody anything? Why can the US not, at least just for a while, concentrate on getting its own house in order?

Turkey Companies See Lira Ruin After Basci Miss, Onatca Says - Bloomberg

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:42

The lira's plunge has left Turkish companies struggling to service their foreign-currency debts as banks refuse to rollover loans, according to Suleyman Onatca, chairman of the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation.

''Companies indebted in foreign currency are ruined,'' Onatca said in a phone interview from Istanbul yesterday. ''This is an approaching disaster for small companies.''

The Turkish currency weakened as much as 2 percent against the dollar to a record low of 2.3029 yesterday. It slumped 2.6 percent against the euro. The central bank sold dollars in its first unannounced intervention in two years, citing ''unhealthy price formations.'' The amount sold was about $3 billion, HSBC Portfoy AS strategist Ali Cakiroglu said yesterday citing market participants.

A weakening lira is weighing on Turkish businesses, which had net foreign-currency debt of $166.7 billion as of October, central bank data show. The currency has depreciated 11 percent since a corruption scandal engulfed the government on Dec. 17, the worst performance among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, after Argentina's peso.

Turkish companies took on foreign currency debt because it was ''less costly,'' Onatca said. ''We're businessmen and we need cheap loans,'' he said, criticizing the central bank for providing a forecast last year on the level of the lira that it couldn't achieve.

In an Aug. 27 interview with state-run Anatolia news agency, Central Bank Governor Erdem Basci said the lira could reach 1.92 per dollar at the end of 2013. ''We'll defend the lira like lions,'' Basci said. The currency ended the year 12 percent weaker than that prediction at 2.1482 per dollar and has depreciated a further 6 percent since then.

''Banks aren't willing to roll over loans,'' Onatca said. They also have started to ask for more collateral from our members.''

The Istanbul-based organization, known as Turkonfed, represents about 40,000 companies, mostly small- and medium-sized that Onatca says are ''the arteries of the Turkish economy.''

The lira's depreciation accelerated after a group of suspects including sons of cabinet ministers and the head of a state-run bank were arrested in a corruption probe last month. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed a ''parallel state'' within the police and the judiciary for attempting to overthrow him. Since then, thousands of police officers and dozens of judges and prosecutors have been removed from their posts.

The central bank kept its three main interest rates unchanged on Jan. 21, while saying it will raise funding costs for lenders on so-called ''extra tightening days'' to 9 percent from 7.75 percent.

Turkey ''should not fear raising interest rates,'' Onatca said. ''We never thought political instability would go as far as this.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Taylan Bilgic in Istanbul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Samuel Potter at


Istanbul staring at water crisis

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:14

Istanbul, Jan 23 (IANS): Turkey's largest and most well known city of Istanbul is confronted with a serious threat of drought with water reserve now being sufficient for only 100 days due to lack of rain and snow, a senior water expert has revealed.

"Having only 100 days of water reserve means that very tight measures should be taken,"Xinhua quoted Tugba Maden, a water expert in the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, as telling over phone.

With a population of 14 million, Istanbul tries to obtain the city's needs of water from 10 dams built in the Marmara and the Black Sea regions. Water levels in these dams have been decreased to the lowest point in six years with 35 percent in total. Three dams have already run short of water.

Istanbul's dams have capacity of holding 868 million cubic metres of water. Currently the water reserve is around 300 million cubic metres. Most seriously, the Melen streamlet has reduced its water reserve to 35 per cent of the total, sending the alarm signals.

Melen streamlet, located in the Black Sea province of Sakarya, provides Istanbul with 676,000 cubic metres of water a day via Omerli dam.

If the condition deteriorates, the authorities should begin transporting water to Istanbul from different water basins, said Maden.

Turkey's Forestry and Water Minister Veysel Eroglu tried to calm down the public, saying: "It is true that drought threats Istanbul in 2014. But we are taking all the necessary preconditions."

"We will build a new dam in Melen, which will bring a release to Istanbul people."

The minister also announced that two other giant dams would be built in Agva, 100 km from Istanbul at the Black Sea coast.

The concerns related with the water shortage is not only limited with Istanbul. Experts foresee serious threat of drought in overall Turkey in general.

Turkey's government sees US hand in anti-corruption probes | The Sofia Globe

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 04:31

The deepening corruption scandal in Turkey is putting strains on its relationship with the United States. The Turkish government claims the corruption probe is an international conspiracy and suggests Washington is involved, with pro-government media pointing fingers at the U.S. ambassador and calling for his expulsion.

Ever since prosecutors launched probes into alleged high-level government corruption last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted they are part of an international plot. Pro-government media have even called for the expulsion of the U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, accusing him of playing a role in the corruption probes but providing no specifics. Observers point out the government has done little to distance itself from such calls.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Forum claims such language is putting a severe strain on relations between the close allies.

''The U.S. is very unhappy with U.S. bashing that is widespread in this country. Ankara is bashing almost the entire world about what is happening in this country, accusing the Jewish lobby and this lobby and that lobby,'' said Aktar.

The government accuses Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen, a one-time close ally who lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S., of being behind the corruption probes. His movement, known as the Cemaat, is suspected of having many followers in the judiciary.

Kadri Gursel, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet and Al-Monitor website, claims Ankara's suspicions of Washington are being fueled by existing foreign policy differences.

''If the AKP [Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party] policymakers would be on the same page with the Obama administration, starting with Egypt, Israel and Syria and Iraq, the Cemaat people would not have the free hands to attack the government so bitterly. The center of the movement is the United States, not Turkey,'' said Gursel.

Ankara has criticized Washington over what it sees as its failure last year to oppose the Egyptian military's overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, a close ally of Prime Minister Erdogan.

While observers say Washington is increasingly concerned over persistent reports that Ankara is providing at least tacit support to jihadists fighting in Syria, political analyst Aktar says bilateral tensions can be quickly normalized.

''The government follows their interest; a U-turn would make things forgotten very quickly. For the time being, the government is insisting on this direction,'' he said.

Observers point out that, given its common borders with countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria, Turkey has always sought to exploit its strategic location in its relations with Washington. But Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, says Ankara's importance to Washington maybe on the wane.

''Compared to years past, both on Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is much readier to pull back, and therefore that also reduces the Turkish leverage on the U.S. And I think this is a calculation that Turkish policymakers are increasingly being made aware of, '' said Ulgen.

But with the Turkish government still battling corruption allegations, there is little reason to believe its rhetoric of international plots will end any time soon. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to visit Turkey before the end of January. Ankara's intention to buy Chinese missiles, another point of tension between the allies, is expected to be on his agenda.

Observers note that with the ruling AK Party entering an 18-month election cycle, a tough stance towards Washington usually plays well with its conservative grassroots supporters.

(Photo of Erdogan: Randam)


24 businessmen sue Erogan over insulting remarks against Hizmet Movement -

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:39

Latest HeadlinesTR_ISTA - 24.01.2014 13:35:04Twenty-four businessmen intanbul filed a libel suit against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdon for his insulting remarks against the Hizmet Movement members.

The group made a press statement in front of court building after they submitted their petitions to the court. Speaking on behalf of the group, Serkan -Ö¬ûen said the prime minister deems the Hizmet Movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah G¬ºlen, as a ''parallel state'' without any concrete evidence and removed large numbers of police officials undeservedly after the far-reaching graft probe which began on December 17.

''We would like to remind that ones, who were involved with corruption and covered something not to damage their ruling party, were erased from political stage,'' stated -Ö¬ûen. The businessman added that some sentences uttered by the prime minister lead to polarizations and fractures in the society since the minister targets a specific group while speaking which insults directly the Hizmet Movement.

The prime minister drew great criticism while addressing a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) meeting. Erdo compared members of a certain group to ''hashashin.'' This was perceived as a thinly veiled reference to the Hizmet movement, which he has accused of orchestrating a sweeping corruption investigation that has implicated members of his inner circle.

SHOT LISTFriday, January 24, 2014Court buildingPress statementDuration: 04: 10

Department of State: US not to become involved in Turkey's domestic politics - Trend.Az

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:38

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 24

By Rufiz Hafizoglu - Trend:

The United States is not and will not become involved in Turkey's domestic politics, U.S. Department of State said in its statement, Turkish Anadolu news agency reported on Jan.23.

According to the agency, the statement said that the U.S. is following the developments in Turkey and the conduct of investigations.

Turkish police conducted special operations in Istanbul and Ankara on Dec.17, 2013, resulting in the arrest of several dozens of people that include businessmen and sons of some ministers. The detainees are accused of corruption, smuggling and selling drugs.Mayor of Istanbul's Fatih Municipality, Mustafa Demir, Director General of Turkish Halkbank Suleyman Aslan and well known entrepreneur Ali Agaoglu were arrested during the same operation by police. Searches were also conducted at Halkbank's office.After a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in late December, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a new cabinet of ministers.

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Global economy nervous about Turkey

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:37

Jitters about China, the meltdown in the Turkish lira, violent protests in Ukraine and the plummeting Argentine peso'--underlaid with continuing nerves about the withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus'--have all combined to hit risk appetite. The problems aren't particularly new and don't have much in common, but the combination is proving toxic.The biggest repercussions have been in the foreign-exchange markets, where even currencies of countries with relative fundamental strengths, such as the Polish zloty and the Mexican peso, have started to show signs of strain. Pressures have also emerged in asset classes that have so far remained resilient, such as U.S.-dollar-denominated emerging-market bonds. That will understandably make investors nervous.But some of the concerns may ease. China is seeking to shift from an economy led by investment to one driven by consumption. This is such a vast and complex process that worries about how it is progressing will be with us for a long time yet. The small dip in China's manufacturing purchasing managers index that some cite as a key reason for the market turmoil seems just a pretext.Ukraine and Argentina both look worrying, but their impact on global financial markets should be limited. If other Latin American or Eastern European currencies get hit, but are supported by relatively strong economies, that could make them look good value in time.Turkey bears watching closely. The solution to the continuing selloff in the Turkish lira'--which Friday hit a fresh record low of 2.33 to the dollar'--seems clear: the Central Bank of Turkey needs to raise interest rates. But political turmoil means it is unwilling to do so; its interventions in support of the lira are inadequate in the meantime.This could cause larger problems. Turkish companies have large foreign-debt exposures, and the lira's slide could cause balance-sheet strains. That suggests that the central bank will ultimately have to hike rates to avoid a bigger crisis. But the situation could get much more uncomfortable before that happens.Meanwhile, the risk aversion in developed markets smacks of using the situation to exit some very popular and profitable bets. Southern European government bonds and stocks, hybrid securities that blend features of equity and debt and subordinated bank bonds have all had a strong start to the year; but they are also volatile. No wonder investors might take the chance to step back.Read more: Heard on the Street: Emerging Mix Rattles Nervous Markets -

Erdogan's Son Ready to Testify Over Graft Probe - ABC News

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:15

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday hit back at critics who have alleged that he has been stalling a corruption investigation reaching his family, while a lawyer says the leader's son was ready to give testimony to prosecutors.

Erdogan last month dismissed four government ministers implicated in a vast corruption and bribery scandal surrounding alleged illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects. He then quickly moved to replace police officials involved in the investigation, an action which news reports said thwarted a second corruption probe that sought to question his son, Bilal Erdogan, among others. Police allegedly refused to bring Erdogan's son for questioning on prosecutors' orders.

Erdogan insists the corruption investigation targeting people close to him has been orchestrated by an Islamic movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan says Gulen's followers have risen to key positions in Turkey's judiciary and police, and that they want to harm the government ahead of local elections in March.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the probe but hundreds of police officials, prosecutors and judges '-- either directly involved in the investigations or believed to sympathize with the religious movement '-- have been removed from posts and reassigned to other positions.

"If you are honest and honorable, you'll come and show the evidence," Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Friday, responding to opposition party accusations that the government was trying to cover up a corruption inquiry focusing on his son.

He then threatened to reveal a corruption file on the opposition party's strong candidate for the mayor of Istanbul in the March local elections, unless the opposition party releases the file by Sunday.

In a more conciliatory gesture, Erdogan said that some articles of much-criticized draft legislation '-- which critics say aims to tighten government control over the judiciary '-- could be put on hold. Opposition parties say the measure would allow the government to block corruption investigations, and the European Union expressed concerns, calling on Turkey to respect the principles of rule of law and the separation of powers.

The state-run Anadolu Agency quoted lawyer Ahmet Ozel as saying late Thursday that 33-year old Bilal Erdogan was prepared to give testimony but he had not received any papers summoning him to testify.

"My client is ready to go and testify to prosecutors upon reception of an official notification," Anadolu quoted Ozel as saying.

The statement came following a brawl in parliament where opposition legislators accused the prime minister of obstructing the investigation and of "harboring" a man wanted for questioning. An opposition deputy was briefly hospitalized after being punched by a legislator from Erdogan's party.

Erdogan on Friday refused to apologize to the opposition legislator who was hurt in the scuffles in Parliament, saying opposition deputies had provoked the fight by insulting him and his family.

"Whoever insulted me and my family to such an extent should apologize first," Erdogan said.

turkey removes another 470 police members

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:15


Wed Jan 22, 2014 5:8

TV: Turkey Removes another 470 Police in Ankara

TEHRAN (FNA)- Turkey on Wednesday sacked or reassigned hundreds of police officers in the capital Ankara, the latest fallout from a wide-ranging corruption scandal rocking the government, local media said.

A total of 470 police officers, including department chiefs, have been removed from their posts, in the latest purge of judicial and other state institutions since the anti-graft investigation became public last month, NTV television said, AFP reported.

AFP: Alcohol ban final nail in coffin for ancient Turkey hotel

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:13

Alcohol ban final nail in coffin for ancient Turkey hotel

By Fulya Ozerkan (AFP) '' 1 day ago

Ankara '-- A 400-year-old Turkish hotel that has long been a favourite of movie stars and VIPs from around the world has been forced to close its doors... because of a government ban on alcohol.

The Okuz Mehmet Pasa Caravanserail, a stunning Ottoman-era inn in the Aegean seaside resort of Kusadasi, simply cannot afford to keep running, its manager Ali Acundas told AFP.

"We have already made losses over the past years due to changing economic circumstances," Acundas said.

"But the latest ban on alcohol sales dealt a fatal blow to our business that we cannot survive."

Turkey's ruling Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced controversial legislation last May restricting consumption and advertising of alcohol in the predominantly Muslim but traditionally secular country.

Establishments in Turkey such as hotels and restaurants with licences to sell alcohol are not usually affected by the ban.

But Acundas said the Okuz Mehmet Pasa -- a spectacular stone building which dates back to 1618 -- was hit by new restrictions introduced this month by a foundation which oversees historic monuments in Turkey.

All establishments under the General Directorate of Foundations, a body linked to the prime minister's office, must abide by the ban.

Acundas said this made it impossible to operate as a hotel and restaurant for foreigners.

"We cannot advise a French guest to give up on sipping wine and instead drink fruit juice," he said.

The ancient hotel has played host to a variety of movie stars and political dignitaries in the past, media reports said.

"Former US president Jimmy Carter, former Greek prime minister George Papandreou, as well as foreign diplomats and NATO commanders were among our guests," said Acundas.

The 26-room hotel, which once employed around 30 staff, is now having to get rid of the final six, he said.

'Creeping religious conservatism'

But Acundus said he hoped there would still be a future for the hotel at some stage.

"What we are currently facing today is temporary. I am sure mistakes will be fixed. There will be definitely be a way out," he said.

The hotel is an original turreted caravansary built during the Ottoman era and still preserves the traditional characteristics -- two floors, two entrances and a spacious courtyard.

Caravansary were roadside inns where travellers could rest after long journeys and played a key role in the flow of trade.

The AKP's alcohol restrictions, believed to be the toughest in the history of modern Turkey, were one of the major concerns raised by anti-government protesters during mass street demonstrations in June.

Critics say it is an ominous sign of creeping religious conservatism promoted by Erdogan's AKP and argue that the legislation intrudes on private life.

But Erdogan, a devout Muslim who does not drink or smoke, has defended the law and urged people to drink ayran, a non-alcoholic beverage made from yoghurt

He has described it as the "national drink" of Turkey rather than beer, or the aniseed-flavoured raki.

After ruling the country for more than a decade, Erdogan is accused by opponents of forcing Islamic values through an authoritarian and conservative agenda -- charges he vehemently rejects.

In September, the Turkish premier introduced a package of reforms, using lifting a long-standing ban on headscarf, raising the ire of secularists.

In 2004, the AKP attempted to ban adultery but had to back down amid criticism from opposition parties and the European Union, which the country has long sought to join.

Copyright (C) 2014 AFP. All rights reserved. More >>




Fined Billions, JPMorgan Chase Will Give Dimon a Raise


BBC News - HSBC imposes restrictions on large cash withdrawals

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 15:19

24 January 2014Last updated at 14:59 ET By Bob HowardReporter, Money BoxSome HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it, the BBC has learnt.

Listeners have told Radio 4's Money Box they were stopped from withdrawing amounts ranging from £5,000 to £10,000.

HSBC admitted it has not informed customers of the change in policy, which was implemented in November.

The bank says it has now changed its guidance to staff.

New rulesStephen Cotton went to his local HSBC branch this month to withdraw £7,000 from his instant access savings account to pay back a loan from his mother.

A year before, he had withdrawn a larger sum in cash from HSBC without a problem.

But this time it was different, as he told Money Box: "When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved."

Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: "So I wrote out a few slips. I said, 'Can I have £5,000?' They said no. I said, 'Can I have £4,000?' They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, 'OK, we'll give you that.' "

He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day.

Continue reading the main story''Start QuoteAs this was not a change to the Terms and Conditions of your bank account we had no need to pre-notify customers of the change''

End QuoteHSBC customer letterHe wrote to complain to HSBC about the new rules and also that he had not been informed of any change.

The bank said it did not have to tell him. "As this was not a change to the Terms and Conditions of your bank account, we had no need to pre-notify customers of the change," HSBC wrote.

Frustrated customersMr Cotton cannot understand HSBC's attitude: "I've been banking in that bank for 28 years. They all know me in there. You shouldn't have to explain to your bank why you want that money. It's not theirs, it's yours."

Peter from Wiltshire, who wanted his surname withheld, had a similar experience.

He wanted to take out £10 000 cash from HSBC, some to pay to his sons and some to fund his long-haul travel plans.

Peter phoned up the day before to give HSBC notice and everything seemed to be fine.

The next day he got a call from his local branch asking him to pay his sons via a bank payment and to provide booking receipts for his holidays. Peter did not have any booking receipts to show.

The following day he spoke to HSBC again and this time, having examined his account, it said he could withdraw the £10,000.

Belinda Bell is another customer who was initially denied her cash, in her case to pay her builder. She told Money Box she had to provide the builder's quote.

Customer protectionHSBC has said that following customer feedback, it was changing its policy: "We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for."

"The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimise the opportunity for financial crime. However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologise to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced."

Continue reading the main story''Start QuoteIn a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent''

End QuoteDouglas CarswellMP for ClactonMoney Box asked other banks what their policy is on large cash withdrawals.

They all said they reserved the right to ask questions about large cash withdrawals.

But none of them said they would require evidence of what the money was being used for before paying out.

Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, is alarmed by the new HSBC policy: "All these regulations which have been imposed on banks allow enormous interpretation. It basically infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent."

But Eric Leenders, head of retail at the British Bankers Association, said banks were sensible to ask questions of their customers: "I can understand it's frustrating for customers. But if you are making the occasional large cash withdrawal, the bank wants to make sure it's the right way to make the payment."

Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12:00 BST on BBC Radio 4 and repeated on Sundays at 21:00 BST. You can listen again via the BBC iPlayer or by downloading Money Box podcast.

HSBC Bank may Collapse

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 03:07

Concerns about an imminent bank crash were further fueled today by news that HSBC are restricting the amount of cash that customers can withdraw from their own bank accounts. Customers were told that without proof of the intended use of their own money, HSBC would refuse to release it. This, and other worrying signs point to a possible financial crash in the near future.

HSBC Collapse

HSBC is scrambling to manage a seemingly terminal liquidity crisis (a lack of hard cash) that could see the bank become the next Northern Rock '' and trigger a bank crash. The analyst's advice is for shareholders to sell HSBC investments, and for customers to move their accounts elsewhere before the crash.

This from the Telegraph:

Forensic Asia on Tuesday began its coverage of Britain's largest banking group with a 'sell' recommendation, warning the lender had between $63.6bn (£38.7bn) and $92.3bn of ''questionable assets'' on its balance sheet, ranging from loan loss reserves and accrued interest to deferred tax assets, defined benefit pension schemes and opaque Level 3 assets.

Citing a report by the BBC's MoneyBox Program, HSBC customers are withdrawingn cash from their accounts, simply because HSBC would not release the funds. Customers were told to make a bank transfer instead, unless they supplied documentation showing the planned use of their money. Stephen Cotton tried a withdrawal and told the program:

''When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved.''

Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: ''So I wrote out a few slips. I said, 'Can I have £5,000?' They said no. I said, 'Can I have £4,000?' They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, 'OK, we'll give you that.' ''

He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day.

As this was not a change to the Terms and Conditions of your bank account we had no need to pre-notify customers of the change''

He wrote to complain to HSBC about the new rules and also that he had not been informed of any change.

The bank said it did not have to tell him. ''As this was not a change to the Terms and Conditions of your bank account, we had no need to pre-notify customers of the change,'' HSBC wrote.

Mr Cotton is not alone, while other customers are seeking to withdraw cash amounts over £3,000 are they facing the same obstacles. While HSBC argues that their customer's well being comes first, the story simply doesn't add up. Customer identification is required for large withdrawals, not a customer's intentions '' a person's cash is theirs to withdraw and place wherever they wish to so. Instead, HSBC has been found to have a capitalized upon a black hole (gap between actual cash and obligations) of $80bn. The message is simple, get your money out now.

The Gold Rush

The major banks and financial super powers appear to be preparing for an impending crisis, while pretending that the economic situation is improving.

There is a gold rush underway, with Banks and institutions frantically buying up as much gold reserves as they can, stoking fears that confidence in currency is at an all-time low. Recently, banks like HSBC and JP Morgan, and countries such as the US, Germany and China have joined the gold rush, making vast purchases of stocks.

Investment analysts at Seeking Alpha have been monitoring the strange activity on the COMEX, stating:

''keeping track of COMEX inventories is something that is recommended for all serious investors who own physical gold and the gold ETFs (SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), PHYS, and CEF) because any abnormal inventory declines may signify extraordinary events behind the scenes.''

Another Bank Crash? Why?

The US dollar is a fiat currency (so are the pound sterling, the euro and most other major currencies). This means that it's monopoly money. There are no gold reserves that its values are imbedded into, it's simply made up. So how does money get made? A private, for profit central bank prints it and lends it to the government (or other banks) at an interest rate. So the Central Bank prints $100, and gives it to the government on the basis that it returns $101. You may have already spotted the first flaw in this process. The additional $1 can only come from the Central Bank. There is never enough money. The second issue is that all money is debt.

This used to be the way pretty much all of the money in circulation came to be. That is, until Investment and Retail Banks got tired of this monopoly on debt based currency, and kicked off the commercial money supply. You might assume that when you take out a loan or other form of credit, a bank gives you that money from its reserves, and you then pay back that loan to the Bank at a given interest rate '' the Bank making its profit on the interest rate. You would be wrong. The Bank simply creates that loan on a computer screen. Let's say you are granted a loan for $100,000. The moment that loan is approved and $100k is entered on the computer '' that promise from you to the bank creates $100k for the bank, in that instant. This ledger entry alone creates the $100k, from nothing. Today, over 97% of all money that exists, is made this way.

This is what drove the dodgy lending practises that created the last crisis. But since then, the failure to regulate the markets means that while bailouts hit public services and the real economy '' banks were free to continue the same behaviour, bringing the next crash.

The world's second richest man, Warren Buffet warned us in 2003 that the derivatives market was 'devised by madmen' and a 'weapon of mass destruction' and we have only seen the first blast in this debt apocalypse.

The news that should have us all worried is: the derivatives market contains $700trn of these debts yet to implode.

Global GDP stands at $69.4trn a year. This means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.

Not only can the Bankers not pay it back, the combined earning power of the earth could not pay it back in less than ten years if every last cent of our productive power went solely to pay off this debt.

This is why answering the issues with our currencies, our banking practices and economic system are not theoretical or academic '' they are a matter of our very survival.


HSBC imposes restrictions on large cash withdrawals

Credit revenues collapse at HSBC's investment bank

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Bank Bailout Chief Kashkari Will Run for California Governor

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Source: WT Newsfeed

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 03:07

Neel Kashkari, who managed the $700 billion rescue of the U.S. banking system, said he's running for governor of California in a bid to unseat Democrat Jerry Brown.

Kashkari, 40, joins state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite, in the Republican race to oust Brown, 75. Brown has yet to declare his candidacy. If he does, all three would compete in an open primary June 3, where the top two vote-getters advance to the general election in November, regardless of party.

''Today, the gift of a good education and the opportunity it creates are out of reach for millions of struggling Californians,'' Kashkari said in a speech to a business group in Sacramento. ''That's why I'm running for governor, to create jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education. That's it. That's my platform.''

Public opinion polls show Brown may be difficult to beat in a state where Democrats hold a 15 percentage-point advantage over Republicans. Brown has been credited with piloting the world's 10th-largest economy from a $26 billion deficit when he took office three years ago to the biggest surplus in more than a decade.

TARP ChiefA former Goldman Sachs (GS) vice president in San Francisco, Kashkari was 35 years old when then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asked him to manage the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. The U.S. banks were on the brink of collapse after investing in risky derivatives, a disaster that could have led to a meltdown of the U.S. economy.

He left the Treasury Department in 2009 and took a job running the global equities division at Pacific Investment Management Co., the world's biggest bond fund, based in Newport Beach, California. He quit a year ago.

Kashkari's announcement came the same day that the San Francisco Chronicle reported he failed to vote in 10 of 23 elections in which he was eligible since registering to vote in California in 1998. A spokesman, Aaron McLear, said Kashkari voted in seven of the eight most recent general elections since moving to California.

''He should have done better,'' McLear said in an interview.

Kashkari spent the past year meeting with almost 700 potential donors from around the U.S. and sought policy advice on prisons, education and the economy from such Republican luminaries as former president Bush, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Ohio Governor John Kasich, ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Gay RightsKashkari, who has said he voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, favors the right of women to choose abortion and backs same-sex marriage. He is critical of Brown's support for building a $68 billion high-speed rail line and opposed Brown's 2012 voter initiative that temporarily raised income and sales taxes. He called Brown's latest spending plan a ''lazy man's budget.''

Brown, who has raised more than $15 million for a possible re-election run, defeated Meg Whitman, the former EBay Inc. (EBAY) chief executive officer who now runs Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), in 2010.

Brown's approval rating was 55 percent in a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll released Nov. 11, his highest since returning to the governor's office after two terms more than 30 years earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at


Money Honey Starts at Fox Business Feb. 1

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:58

The financial television news reporter, Maria Bartiromo, who has never found a power elitist she doesn't like [See: Maria Bartiromo: I Would Like to Thank the Power Elite (And only the Power Elite)] , starts at Fox business on February 1.Bartiromo will anchor a daily program for the Fox business network, plus a weekly business-oriented show for the Fox News Channel. She begins at the network next month, but both programs will be launched by April, the network said, according to NyPo.




Who The Hell Is-Ban Ki-moon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 20:32

Ban Ki-moon (Hangul: -´¬ƒ-¬½¬ƒ-´¬¨¬½; hanja:orn 13 June 1944) is the eighth and currentSecretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before becoming Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he graduated from university, accepting his first post in New Delhi, India. In the foreign ministry, he established a reputation for modesty and competence.

Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006. In February of 2006 he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of Korea, however, he was able to travel to all the countries on the United Nations Security Council, a maneuver that turned him into the campaign's front runner.

On October 13, 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On January 1, 2007, he succeeded Kofi Annan. Ban struggled in his first month to adjust to the culture of the United Nations, but quickly found his bearings and passed several major reforms on peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with U.S. President George W. Bush, and on the Darfur conflict, where he helped persuade Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan.

Early life and education[edit]Ban was born in a small farming village in North Chungcheong Province, in June 1944. His family then moved to the nearby town of Chungju, where he grew up.[3] During Ban's childhood, his father had a warehouse business, but the warehouse went bankrupt and the family lost its middle-class standard of living. When Ban was six, his family fled to a remote mountainside for much of the Korean War.[1] After the war ended, his family returned to Chungju. Ban has mentioned meeting American soldiers at this time.[4]

In secondary school (Chungju High School), Ban became a star student, particularly in his studies of the English language. In 1962, Ban won an essay contest sponsored by the Red Cross and earned a trip to the United States where he lived in San Francisco with a host family for several months.[5] As part of the trip, Ban met U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[1] When a journalist at the meeting asked Ban what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "I want to become a diplomat."[4]

He received a bachelor's degree in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970, and earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1985.[4] At Harvard, he studied under Joseph Nye who remarked that Ban had "a rare combination of analytic clarity, humility and perseverance."[5] Ban was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of Malta on 22 April 2009.[6] He further received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Washington in October 2009.[7]

In addition to his native Korean, Ban speaks English and French. There have been questions, however, regarding the extent of his knowledge of French, one of the two working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.[8]

Diplomatic career[edit]After graduating from university, Ban received the top score on Korea's foreign service exam. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1970, and worked his way up the career ladder during the years of the Yusin Constitution.[5]

Ban's first overseas posting was to New Delhi, India, where he served as vice consul and impressed many of his superiors in the foreign ministry with his competence. Ban reportedly accepted a posting to India rather than the more prestigious United States, because in India he would be able to save more money, and send more money home to his family.[9][10] In 1974 he received his first posting to the United Nations, as First Secretary of the South Permanent Observer Mission (South Korea became a full UN member-state on 17 September 1991).[11] After Park Chung-hee's 1979 assassination, Ban assumed the post of Director of the United Nations Division.

In 1980 Ban became director of the United Nations' International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul.[10] He has been posted twice to the South Korean embassy in Washington, D.C. Between these two assignments he served as Director-General for American Affairs in 1990''1992. In 1992, he became Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, following the adoption by South and North Korea of the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.[9] From 1993''1994 Ban was Korea's deputy ambassador to the United States. He was promoted to the position of Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and International Organizations in 1995 and then appointed National Security Advisor to the President in 1996.[10] Ban's lengthy career overseas has been credited with helping him avoid South Korea's unforgiving political environment.[12]

Ban was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia in 1998, and a year later he was also elected as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom). During the negotiations, in what Ban considers the biggest blunder of his career, he included in a public letter a positive statement about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, not long after the United States had decided to abandon the treaty. To avoid anger from the United States, Ban was fired by President Kim Dae-jung, who also issued a public apology for Ban's statement.[1]

Ban was unemployed for the only time in his career and was expecting to receive an assignment to work in a remote and unimportant embassy.[1] In 2001, during the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, South Korea held the rotating presidency, and to Ban's surprise, he was selected to be the chief of staff to general assembly president Han Seung-soo.[13] In 2003, incoming president Roh Moo-hyun selected Ban as one of his foreign policy advisors.[10]

Foreign Minister of South Korea[edit]In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young-Kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun.[4] At the beginning of his term, Ban was faced with two major crises: in June 2004 Kim Sun-il, a Korean translator, was kidnapped and killed in Iraq by Islamic extremists; and in December 2004 dozens of Koreans died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Ban survived scrutiny from lawmakers and saw an upturn in his popularity when talks began with North Korea.[10] Ban became actively involved in issues relating to North-South Korean relationships.[9] In September 2005, as foreign minister, he played a leading role in the diplomatic efforts to adopt the Joint Statement on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue at the Fourth Round of the Six-party talks held in Beijing.[2][14]

As foreign minister, Ban oversaw the trade and aid policies of South Korea. This work put Ban in the position of signing trade deals and delivering foreign assistance to diplomats who would later be influential in his candidacy for Secretary-General. For example, Ban became the first senior South Korean minister to travel to the Republic of the Congo since its independence in 1960.[15]

United Nations career[edit]Campaign for Secretary-General: 2007[edit]In February 2006, Ban declared his candidacy to replace Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General at the end of 2006, becoming the first South Korean to run for the office.[17] Though Ban was the first to announce a candidacy, he was not originally considered a serious contender.[5]

Over the next eight months, Ban made ministerial visits to each of the 15 countries with a seat on the Security Council.[4] Of the seven candidates, he topped each of the four straw polls conducted by the United Nations Security Council: on 24 July,[18] 14 September,[19] 28 September,[20] and 2 October.[21]

During the period in which these polls took place, Ban made major speeches to the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.[22][23] To be confirmed, Ban needed not only to win the support of the diplomatic community, but also to be able to avoid a veto from any of the five permanent members of the council: People's Republic of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ban was popular in Washington for having pushed to send South Korean troops to Iraq, and had the support of the Bush administration as he pursued the position.[24] But Ban also opposed several U.S. positions: he expressed his support for the International Criminal Court and favoured an entirely non-confrontational approach to dealing with North Korea.[4] Ban said during his campaign that he would like to visit North Korea in person to meet with Kim Jong-il directly.[14] Ban was viewed as a stark contrast from Kofi Annan, who was considered charismatic, but perceived as a weak manager because of problems surrounding the UN's oil-for-food program in Iraq.[25]

Ban struggled to win the approval of France. His official biography states that he speaks both English and French, the two working languages of the UN Secretariat. He has repeatedly struggled to answer questions in French from journalists.[8] Ban has repeatedly acknowledged his limitations at French, but assured French diplomats that he was devoted to continuing his study. At a press conference on 11 January 2007, Ban remarked, "My French perhaps could be improved, and I am continuing to work. I have taken French lessons over the last few months. I think that, even if my French isn't perfect, I will continue to study it."[26]

As the Secretary-General election drew closer, there was rising criticism of the South Korean campaign on Ban's behalf. Specifically, his alleged practice of systematically visiting all member states of the Security Council in his role as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade to secure votes in his support by signing trade deals with European countries and pledging aid to developing countries were the focus of many news articles.[27] According to The Washington Post, "rivals have privately grumbled that Republic of Korea, which has the world's 11th-largest economy, has wielded its economic might to generate support for his candidacy." Ban reportedly said that these insinuations were "groundless." In an interview on 17 September 2006 he stated: "As front-runner, I know that I can become a target of this very scrutinizing process," and "I am a man of integrity."[28]

In the final informal poll on 2 October, Ban received fourteen favorable votes and one abstention ("no opinion") from the fifteen members of the Security Council. The one abstention came from the Japanese delegation, who vehemently opposed the idea of a Korean taking the role of Secretary-General. Due to the overwhelming support of Ban by the rest of the Security Council, Japan later voted in favor of Ban to avoid controversy. More importantly, Ban was the only one to escape a veto; each of the other candidates received at least one "no" vote from among the five permanent members. After the vote, Shashi Tharoor, who finished second, withdrew his candidacy[29] and China's Permanent Representative told the UN told reporters that "it is quite clear from today's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly."[30]

On 9 October, the Security Council formally chose Ban as its nominee. In the public vote, he was supported by all 15 members of the council.[31] On 13 October, the 192-member General Assemblyacclaimed Ban as Secretary-General.[13]

First term as Secretary-General[edit]When Ban became Secretary-General, The Economist listed the major challenges facing him in 2007: "rising nuclear demons in Iran and North Korea, a haemorrhaging wound in Darfur, unending violence in the Middle East, looming environmental disaster, escalating international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of HIV/AIDS. And then the more parochial concerns, such as the largely unfinished business of the most sweeping attempt at reform in the UN's history."[32] Before starting, Kofi Annan shared the story that when the first Secretary-General Trygve Lie left office, he told his successor, Dag Hammarskj¬ld, "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth."[13]

On 23 January 2007 Ban took office as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ban's term as Secretary-General opened with a flap. At his first encounter with the press as Secretary-General on 2 January 2007, he refused to condemn the death penalty imposed on Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi High Tribunal, remarking that "The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member State to decide".[33] Ban's statements contradicted long-standing United Nations opposition to the death penalty as a human-rights concern.[34] He quickly clarified his stance in the case of Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar, two top officials who were convicted of the deaths of 148 Shia Muslims in the Iraqi village of Dujail in the 1980s. In a statement through his spokesperson on 6 January, he "strongly urged the Government of Iraq to grant a stay of execution to those whose death sentences may be carried out in the near future."[35][36] On the broader issue, he told a Washington, D.C., audience on 16 January 2007 that he recognized and encouraged the "growing trend in international society, international law and domestic policies and practices to phase out eventually the death penalty."[37]

On the tenth anniversary of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's death, 15 April 2008, Ban Ki-moon appealed for the senior leaders of the regime to be brought to justice. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia-tribunal, which was established by both the United Nations and Cambodia and which became operational in 2006, is expected to continue until at least 2010.[38]

Ban has received strong criticism from OIOS, the UN internal oversight unit, stating that the secretariat, under Ban's leadership, is "drifting into irrelevance".[39]

Cabinet[edit]In early January, Ban appointed the key members of his cabinet. As his Deputy Secretary-General, he selected Tanzanian foreign minister and professor Asha-Rose Migiro '' a move that pleased African diplomats who had concerns of losing power without Annan in office.[40]

The top position devoted exclusively to management, Under-Secretary-General for Management, was filled by Alicia Brcena Ibarra of Mexico. Brcena was considered a UN insider, having previously served as Annan's chief of staff. Her appointment was seen by critics as an indication that Ban would not make dramatic changes to UN bureaucracy.[41] Ban appointed Sir John Holmes, the British Ambassador to France, as Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and coordinator of emergency relief.[41]

Ban initially said that he would delay making other appointments until his first round of reforms were approved, but he later abandoned this idea after receiving criticism.[35][42] In February he continued with appointments, selecting B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, to become Under-Secretary-General for political affairs. Jean-Marie Gu(C)henno, a French diplomat, who had served as Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations under Annan, remained in office. Ban selected Vijay K. Nambiar as his chief of staff.[43]

The appointment of many women to top jobs was seen as fulfilling a campaign promise Ban had made to increase the role of women in the United Nations. During Ban's first year as Secretary-General, more top jobs were being handled by women than ever before. Though not appointed by Ban, the president of the General Assembly, Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa, is only the third woman to hold this position in UN history.[44]

Reform agenda[edit]During his first month in office, Ban proposed two major restructurings: to split the UN peacekeeping operation into two departments and to combine the political affairs and disarmament department. His proposals were met with stiff resistance from members of the UN General Assembly who bristled under Ban's request for rapid approval. The proposed merger of the disarmament and political affairs offices was criticized by many in the developing world, partially because of rumours that Ban hoped to place American B. Lynn Pascoe in charge of the new office. Alejandro D. Wolff, then acting American ambassador, said the United States backed his proposals.[35][42]

After the early bout of reproach, Ban began extensive consultation with UN ambassadors, agreeing to have his peacekeeping proposal extensively vetted. After the consultations, Ban dropped his proposal to combine political affairs and disarmament.[45] Ban nevertheless pressed ahead with reforms on job requirements at the UN requiring that all positions be considered five-year appointments, all receive strict annual performance reviews, and all financial disclosures be made public. Though unpopular in the New York office, the move was popular in other UN offices around the world and lauded by UN observers.[46] Ban's proposal to split the peacekeeping operation into one group handling operations and another handling arms was finally adopted in mid-March 2007.[47]

Key issues[edit]The Secretary-General of the United Nations has the ability to influence debate on nearly any global issue. Although unsuccessful in some areas, Ban's predecessor Annan had been successful in increasing the UN peacekeeping presence and in popularizing the Millennium Development Goals. UN observers were eager to see on which issues Ban intends to focus, in addition to reform of the United Nations bureaucracy.[32]

On several prominent issues, such as proliferation in Iran and North Korea, Ban has deferred to the Security Council.[47] In 2007, the Republic of Nauru raised the issue of allowing the Republic of China (Taiwan) to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Ban referenced the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, and refused the motion. On 19 July 2007, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian wrote to request admission into the UN by the name Taiwan. Ban rejected the request.[48]

Global warming[edit]Ban early on identified global warming as one of the key issues of his administration. In a White House meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in January, Ban urged Bush to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. On 1 March 2007 in a speech before the UN General Assembly, Ban emphasized his concerns about global warming. Ban stated, "For my generation, coming of age at the height of the Cold War, fear of nuclear winter seemed the leading existential threat on the horizon. But the danger posed by war to all humanity '-- and to our planet '-- is at least matched by climate change"[49] (referring to Global Warming, see P:GW portal). On 3 September 2009 he further emphasized his concerns at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, when he stated, "Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss".[50]

Middle East[edit]On Thursday, 22 March 2007, while Ban was taking part in the first stop of a tour of the Middle East, a mortar attack hit just 80 meters (260 ft) from where the Secretary-General was standing, interrupting a press conference in Baghdad's Green Zone, and visibly shaking Ban and others. No one was hurt in the incident.[51] The United Nations had already limited its role in Iraq after its Baghdad headquarters was bombed in August 2003, killing 22 people. Ban said, however, that he still hoped to find a way for the United Nations to "do more for Iraqi social and political development."[52]

On his trip, Ban visited Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, where Ban attended a conference with leaders of the Arab League and met for several hours with Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who had resisted UN peacekeepers in Darfur.[47] While Ban met with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, he declined to meet with Ismail Haniya of Hamas.[53]

Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel on 10 March 2008 for planning to build housing units in a West Bank settlement, saying the decision conflicts with "Israel's obligation under the road map" for Middle East peace.[54]

During a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, 7 January 2009, Ban called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip. He criticized both sides, Israel for bombarding Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.

Although the 2009 Iranian presidential election was widely disputed, Ban Ki-moon sent a traditional congratulation message[55] to the Iranian president upon his inauguration. He kept silent over the request of Shirin Ebadi to visit[56] Iran after the crackdown on peaceful post-election protests by the Iranian police '' an event that was perceived by some as a crime against humanity .[57] More than 4000 people were arrested and nearly 70 were killed, some while being held in prison.[58] In another incident, several prominent intellectuals including Akbar Ganji, Hamid Dabashi, Noam Chomsky went on a three-day hunger strike in front of the UN. The incident was followed by an official request[59] by more than 200 intellectuals, human rights activists and reformist politicians in Iran for the UN reaction. Ban Ki-moon however did not take any action to stop the violence in Iran.

The Libyan Civil War began in 2011, the last year of Ban's first term, and dominated his attention and public statements that year. Throughout the conflict, he lobbied for peaceful solutions to the crisis. He frequently spoke out against military action in Libya, believing that a diplomatic solution would be possible and preferable. However, he conceded that if then leader Muammar Gaddafi refused to abide by a cease fire agreement, the international coalition of military forces would have no choice but to intervene to protect the human rights of Libyans.[60] The Gaddafi government was eventually overthrown and Gaddafi killed in the conflict.[61]

Darfur[edit]Ban took the first foreign trip of his term to attend the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2007 as part of an effort to reach out to the Group of 77.[32] He repeatedly identified Darfur as the top humanitarian priority of his administration.[47] Ban played a large role, with several face-to-face meetings with Sudanese PresidentOmar Hassan al-Bashir, in convincing Sudan to allow UN peacekeepers to enter the Darfur region. On 31 July 2007 the United Nations Security Council approved sending 26,000 UN peacekeepers into the region to join 7,000 troops from the African Union. The resolution was heralded as a major breakthrough in confronting the Darfur conflict (although the United States labeled the conflict a "genocide," the United Nations has declined to do so). The first phase of the peacekeeping mission began in October 2007.[62]

Myanmar[edit]Ban Ki-moon flew to Myanmar on 25 May 2008 to guide a conference with international agencies aimed at boosting donations for the nation, which was struck by Cyclone Nargis on 2 May 2008. The conference was initiated after Ban had met with Than Shwe, the leading figure of Myanmar's government 23 May 2008. Ban toured the devastation'--especially in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta'--23 May 2008 and 24 May 2008. Myanmar officials agreed to allow the Yangon International Airport to be used as a logistical hub for aid distribution.[63]

Campaign for second term as Secretary-General: 2011[edit]On 6 June 2011, Ban Ki-moon formally announced his candidacy for a second consecutive term[64] as Secretary-General of the United Nations. He announced his candidacy at a press conference, following a meeting with the Asian group of countries at the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon's first mandate as the Secretary-General was set to end on 31 December 2011.[65] The five permanent Security Council members supported his candidacy. There was no declared rival for the post.[66]

Second term as Secretary-General[edit]On 17 June 2011, he received the recommendation of the Security Council by a unanimous vote,[67] and, on 21 June, his nomination was confirmed by a unanimous[68] acclamation vote at the United Nations General Assembly.[69] His new five-year term as Secretary-General commenced on 1 January 2012[70] and will end on 31 December 2016.[64]

Cabinet[edit]Ban appointed Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson as his new Deputy Secretary-General on 2 March 2012. He also named Susana Malcorra of Argentina his chief of staff. The appointments were part of Ban's commitment to replace top positions in his group for his second term.[71]

Key issues[edit]Since beginning his second term in January 2012, Ban has focused his public statements and speeches on peace and equality in the Middle East and on equality issues.

Middle East[edit]The aftermath of the Libyan Civil War and other events of the Arab Spring continued to commanded Ban's attention with the start of his second term. He focused in 2012 on what he termed "intolerance" in the Arab world. After traveling to Vienna to participate in the opening of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre to foster interreligious dialogue, Ban commented, "Many countries in the Arab world including Saudi Arabia are changing. Since the Arab Spring, the leaders have begun to listen to the voice of their people." He was however criticised in the Austrian press for associating himself with a project of Saudi King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia being a location of perceived religious intolerance.[72]

Throughout 2012, Ban expressed his concern about the continuing Israeli''Palestinian conflict, in particular the condition of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons[73] and the movement restrictions imposed on Gaza Strip residents.[72] On 30 August 2012 Ban criticized the Iranian leadership due to their statements regarding Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust.[74]

LGBT rights[edit]On 7 March 2012 Ban delivered a speech titled 'The Time Has Come' to the United Nations Human Rights Council urging the Council to place greater emphasis on combating homophobia and LGBT rights around the world. The speech was met by a protest by the committee, with delegates organizing a walk-out protest during the speech.[75]

During a speech at the U.N. headquarters commemorating Human Rights Day, Ban condemned countries with anti-gay laws, mentioning 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality. He said:

"It is an outrage that in our modern world, so many countries continue to criminalize people simply for loving another human being of the same sex."Ban has told senior managers that homophobia will not be tolerated. He pointed to countries such as Ukraine which has proposed criminalizing public discussion about homosexuality as threatening basic human rights. He further stated that government has a duty to defend vulnerable minorities.[76] In April 2013, he described LGBT rights as one of the great neglected human rights of our time. He also said that religion, culture or tradition can never justify denial of basic rights.[77]

Syrian conflict[edit]Ban has been organizing and moderating the Geneva II Conference on Syria[78]

Personal life[edit]Family[edit]Ban Ki-moon met Yoo Soon-taek in 1962 when they were both high school students. Ban was 18 years old, and Yoo Soon-taek was his secondary school's student council president. Ban Ki-moon married Yoo Soon-taek in 1971. They have three adult children: two daughters and a son. His elder daughter, Seon-yong, was born in 1972 and now works for the Korea Foundation in Seoul. She is married to an Indian.[79][80] His son, Woo-hyun was born in 1974 in India.[79] He received an MBA from Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles, and works for an investment firm in New York.[81] His younger daughter, Hyun-hee (born 1976), is a field officer for UNICEF in Nairobi.[1] After his election as Secretary-General, Ban became an icon in his hometown, where his extended family still resides. Over 50,000 gathered in a soccer stadium in Chungju for celebration of the result. In the months following his election, thousands of practitioners of geomancy went to his village to determine how it produced such an important person.[3] Ban himself is not a member of any church or religious group[82] and has declined to expound his beliefs: "Now, as Secretary-General, it will not be appropriate at this time to talk about my own belief in any particular religion or god. So maybe we will have some other time to talk about personal matters."[83][84] His mother is a Buddhist.[3]

Personality[edit]During his tenure at the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Ban's nickname was jusa, meaning "the Bureaucrat" or "the administrative clerk". The name was used as both positive and negative: complimenting Ban's attention to detail and administrative skill while deriding what was seen as a lack of charisma and subservience to his superiors.[25] The South Korean press corps calls him "the slippery eel", for his ability to dodge questions.[4] His peers praise his understated "Confucian approach."[12] and he is regarded by many as a "stand-up guy"[5] and is known for his "easy smile".[1]

Honors and awards[edit]This article incorporates information from the German Wikipedia.This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Italian Wikipedia.This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.Honorary degrees[edit]Criticism[edit]According to The Washington Post, "some U.N. employees and delegates" expressed resentment at Ban's perceived favoritism in the appointment of South Korean nationals in key posts. Previous U.N. chiefs such as Kurt Waldheim (Austria), Javier P(C)rez de Cu(C)llar (Peru) and Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt) brought small teams of trusted aides or clerical workers from their country's Foreign Ministry. But according to "some officials" in the Post story, Ban has gone further, boosting South Korea's presence in U.N. ranks by more than 20 percent during his first year in office. In response, Ban and his aides have claimed that allegations of favoritism are wrong, and that some of the harshest criticisms against him have undercurrents of racism.[92] He said that the South Korean nationals he had appointed '-- including Choi Young-jin, who has served as a high-ranking official in the United Nations' peacekeeping department '-- are highly qualified for their positions. Others such as Donald P. Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea say the complaints are driven by envy, "I think being from South Korea, and people have growing respect for South Korea, that's a great enhancement for the secretary general. If he brings along talented people who (whom) he knows very well, I think that's also a plus." U.N. records show that South Korea, the organization's eleventh-largest financial contributor, had 54 South Korean nationals assigned to its mission six months before Ban took over the top U.N. post.[92]

Former U.N. Under Secretary General for Oversight Services Inga-Britt Ahlenius denounced Ban Ki-moon after resigning her post in 2010, calling him reprehensible.[93] Ahlenius's critique was based on the grounds that the Secretary-General consistently made efforts to undermine the Office of Internal Oversight Services mandate and challenge its operational independence.[94] In particular, the two disputed Ahlenius's plans to hire a former prosecutor, Robert Appleton, who had carried out aggressive investigations into corruption in U.N. peacekeeping missions from 2006 to 2009.[95] Ban's staff explained that Appleton's appointment was rejected because female candidates had not been properly considered, and said that the final selection should have been made by Ban, not Ahlenius.[95] However, Ahlenius countered in her End of Assignment memo that "for the Secretary-General to control appointments in OIOS is an infringement of the operational independence of OIOS," and further stated, "There is no transparency, there is lack of accountability. Rather than supporting the internal oversight which is the sign of strong leadership and good governance, you have strived to undermine its position and to control it. I do not see any signs of reform in the Organization."[96]

During the ROKS Cheonan sinking events, he took the step of demanding action against North Korea for the alleged sinking of a vessel from his country. This was reported by U.N. Dispatch as being unusual, because it is rare for any Secretary-General'--and particularly Ban Ki-moon'--to comment on the Security Council taking action on an issue as his office had tended to be extremely deferential to the Security Council.[97]

Former U.N. corruption fighter, James Wasserstrom has also been critical of Ban Ki-moon for attempting to limit the jurisdiction of the U.N. dispute tribunal following his dismissal from his post in Kosovo and lengthy appeal.[98] Ban had refused to hand over confidential documents relating to the case to the U.N. personnel tribunal, despite repeated orders by the court to do so. In relation to another case, Ban was admonished by Judge, Michael Adams for "wilful disobedience" for again failing to hand over key documents in an internal promotions dispute.[99]


French President Hollande to separate from partner: report

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Source: Reuters: World News

Sat, 25 Jan 2014 18:54

By Emmanuel Jarry and Leila Abboud

PARISSat Jan 25, 2014 1:36pm EST

TweetShare thisEmailPrintValerie Trierweiler, companion of France's President Francois Hollande (C), attends a welcoming ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, December 12, 2013 file photo.

Credit: Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande announced his separation from first lady Valerie Trierweiler on Saturday following a media storm over allegations he is having an affair with an actress.

"I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valerie Trierweiler," he told the state-backed Agence France Presse news agency.

Hollande sought to put an end to turbulence that began two weeks ago when celebrity magazine Closer published a report that he was having an affair with film actress and Socialist Party supporter Julie Gayet.

Questions over Hollande's personal life - and whether Trierweiler was still first lady - have diverted public attention from a shift the president made this month towards more business-friendly policies aimed at reviving the euro zone's second-biggest economy in the face of high unemployment.

A press conference to unveil the economic plans was overshadowed by questions over Hollande's private life, as was a trip to Rome to meet the pope on Friday.

Announcing the separation, Hollande said he was speaking as an individual and not as head of state since it concerned his private life.

Trierweiler, a 48-year old arts columnist for weekly magazine Paris Match, was not married to Hollande but they had been together since 2006. She assumed the role of first lady at official functions following his election in May 2012.

Trierweiler did not immediately respond to the announcement, but planned to travel to India on Sunday for a charity trip.

French media reports said Trierweiler, who was hospitalized for eight days for fatigue after news of the affair broke, may speak at a press conference in India on Sunday.

Hollande, 59, is the most unpopular president in modern France, according to polls. He has struggled to live up to a promise to get unemployment, currently stuck near 11 percent, firmly on a downward trend.

He has four children from a previous relationship with Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist Party and a 2007 presidential candidate. Royal announced their separation just after she lost the 2007 election to Nicolas Sarkozy.

(Editing by Pravin Char and Alister Doyle)

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why ABC evening news blurry/ why not credit people... - Comcast Help and Support Forums

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:44

If it's only her face, and nobody else's, and the rest of the picture looks fine, then it's almost certainly some form of post-processing by ABC. Either way, it's extremely unlikely to be a Comcast issue, but is with either ABC or your local broadcaster.

A few months ago, here in Chicago, "Roger Ebert Present At The Movies" had a similar issue with faces on a few shows that aired on WTTW (PBS). It wasn't just on Comcast, as antenna users were also complaining.

Back in the analog days, this softening was actually common. You just look for flesh-tones, and soften the video in that area.




Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 10:02

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) is an independent agency within the executive branch of the United States government, established by Congress in 2004 to advise the President and other senior executive branch officials to ensure that concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of all laws, regulations, and executive branch policies related to terrorism.[1]

Role and operations[edit]The purpose of the board is two-fold: to analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and to ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of law, regulations and policies related to efforts to protect the nation against terrorism.

The Board has two main functions: (a) advice and counsel on policy development and implementation and (b) oversight. Its functions include reviewing proposed legislation, regulations and policies; advising the President and the departments and agencies of the executive branch; and continually reviewing the implementation of the regulations, policies, and procedures of the executive branch relating to terrorism to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected. In addition, the Board is specifically charged with responsibility for reviewing the terrorism information sharing practices of executive branch departments and agencies to determine whether they adhere to guidelines designed to appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties are being followed.[2][3] In the course of performing these functions, the Board shall coordinate with the privacy and civil liberties officers in the relevant departments and agencies.

The Board is authorized to have access to all relevant information necessary to fulfill its role, including classified information consistent with applicable law. The Board is required to report to Congress not less than semiannually.

History[edit]Recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report issued on July 22, 2004, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was initially established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.[4] It consisted of five members appointed by the President. The Board was part of the Executive Office of the President and was supported by an Executive Director and staff.

The original Board members were Carol E. Dinkins, of Texas, Chairwoman; Alan Charles Raul, of the District of Columbia, Vice Chairman; Theodore B. Olson, of Virginia; Lanny Davis, of Maryland, and Francis X. Taylor, of Maryland. The Chairwoman and Vice Chairman were confirmed by the Senate on February 17, 2006. All Board members were sworn in and had their first meeting on March 14, 2006. On May 14, 2007, one of the Board members, Lanny Davis resigned, charging that the White House had sought to control the content of a Board report.[5]

H.R. 1 ("Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007"), introduced on January 5, 2007, included provisions reconstituting the board as an independent agency, composed of 5 members serving staggered six-year terms, with all five members subject to Senate confirmation. H.R. 1 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 9, 2007. The Senate companion bill, ("Improving America's Security Act of 2007", S. 4), passed on March 13, 2007. When the bills were reconciled in conference, the House language prevailed. President Bush signed the legislation, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, into law on August 3, 2007.[6] The changes took effect in January 2008, at which time the original Board ceased to exist.

Criticism of PCLOB[edit]Many people[who?] view PCLOB as a propaganda arm of the US government. The board was convened to protect the American public against privacy intrusions by their own government, such as the NSA electronic surveillance program and PRISM (surveillance program). In the wake of the Edward Snowden security breach, it has been discovered that PCLOB, while being establish in 2004, had never held a substantive hearing until 11/4/2013.[7]

Nominations[edit]President George W. Bush's first three nominations to the revamped PCLOB were received in the Senate on February 27, 2008. They were Daniel W. Sutherland, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, to serve a six-year term as chair of the board; Ronald D. Rotunda, professor of law at George Mason University, to serve a four-year term as a member of the PCLOB; and Francis X. Taylor, a former member of the board, to a serve a two-year term. On September 8, 2008, President Bush made a fourth nomination, of James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, to serve a five-year term. The nominations were referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. No further action was taken on those nominations by the 110th Congress.[5]

In December 2010, President Barack Obama nominated two persons to the Board: Dempsey, and Elisebeth Collins Cook, a former Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice and, at the time, a partner in a Chicago lawfirm.[8][9][10] Those nominations expired at the end of the 111th Congress.

In January 2011, President Obama re-nominated Dempsey and Cook.[11] In December 2011, the Obama administration announced an effort to revitalize the Board as a check against its proposed cybersecurity policies and measures.[12] The President made three additional nominations: David Medine, a former associate director of the Federal Trade Commission, as Chairman; Rachel L. Brand, Chief Counsel for Regulatory Litigation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a former Assistant Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice, as a Member; and Patricia M. Wald, a former federal appeals-court judge, as a Member.[13]

On August 2, 2012, the Senate confirmed four of the Board members: Dempsey, Brand, Cook and Wald.[14] The Senate did not act upon the nomination of David Medine to be chair that time.

The White House renominated Medine in January 2013,[15] and the Senate confirmed him on May 7, 2013 in a 53-45, party-line vote.[16]

Proposed CISPA Effect on Board Responsibility[edit]The House bill H.R. 3523: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, known as CISPA, would make PCLOB responsible for reporting on privacy and civil liberty intrusions under its information sharing program. Specifically, CISPA proposed that the PCLOB issue annual reports on the civil liberties and privacy impact of CISPA's provisions for the sharing of "cyber threat" information and intelligence between the government and private companies.[17]

See also[edit]General references[edit]Public Law 110-53, Title VIII (August 3, 2007)."Dempsey Nominated for Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board". Benton Foundation. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2008-12-01.External links[edit]


Tor Anonymity Software vs. the National Security Agency - Businessweek

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 01:57

Behind this week's cover

Last year, Edward Snowden turned over to the Guardian, a British newspaper, some 58,000 classified U.S. government documents. Just a fraction of the files have been made public, but they outline the National Security Agency's massive information-collection system. They've thrown light onto the methods of an arm of the government used to working in the shadows and started an intense debate over national security and personal liberty. One of the earliest and most explosive revelations was the existence of Prism, a top-secret program giving the NSA direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, and other U.S. Internet companies.

Snowden himself remains something of a mystery even as the U.S. government attempts to obtain his return from Russia, where he's in hiding, and very possibly jail him for the rest of his life. As an infrastructure analyst for the NSA, he came to understand at a high level how information moves around the Internet. Snowden almost certainly relied on one very specific and powerful tool to cover his tracks. In photographs he's often with his laptop, and on the cover of his computer, a sticker shows a purple and white onion: the ''o'' in the word ''Tor.''

Tor, an acronym for ''the onion router,'' is software that provides the closest thing to anonymity on the Internet. Engineered by the Tor Project, a nonprofit group, and offered free of charge, Tor has been adopted by both agitators for liberty and criminals. It sends chat messages, Google (GOOG) searches, purchase orders, or e-mails on a winding path through multiple computers, concealing activities as the layers of an onion cover its core, encrypting the source at each step to hide where one is and where one wants to go. Some 5,000 computers around the world, volunteered by their owners, serve as potential hop points in the path, obscuring requests for a new page or chat. Tor Project calls these points relays.

Its users are global, from Iranian activists who eluded government censors to transmit images and news during the 2009 protests following that year's presidential election, to Chinese citizens who regularly use it to get around the country's Great Firewall and its blocks on everything from Facebook (FB) to the New York Times. In addition to facilitating anonymous communication online, Tor is an access point to the ''dark Web,'' vast reaches of the Internet that are intentionally kept hidden and don't show up in Google or other search engines, often because they harbor the illicit, from child porn to stolen credit card information.

It's perhaps the most effective means of defeating the online surveillance efforts of intelligence agencies around the world, including the most sophisticated agency of them all, the NSA. That's ironic, because Tor started as a project of the U.S. government. More than half of the Tor Project's revenue in 2012, or $1.24 million, came from government grants, including an $876,099 award from the Department of Defense, according to financial statements available on the project's website.

Yet because of Snowden, we now know that the NSA has been working to unpeel the protective layers built by the Tor system. Along with evidence of the NSA's mass data collection, Snowden leaked an agency presentation that demonstrated just how surveillance-proof the software is. It was titled ''Tor Stinks.'' The spooks, according to the slide deck, were thwarted by the software at every turn. Gaining access to some Tor relays, for example, didn't work, because they had to control all three computers in a circuit to defeat the encryption. ''We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time. With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users,'' one slide reads. NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in an e-mailed statement: ''It should hardly be surprising that our intelligence agencies seek ways to counteract targets' use of technologies to hide their communications. Throughout history, nations have used various methods to protect their secrets, and today terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers, and others use technology to hide their activities. Our intelligence community would not be doing its job if we did not try to counter that.''

Countering Tor is clearly frustrating for the NSA, and Internet users have taken note. Hits to Tor's download page almost quadrupled last year, to 139 million. ''Encryption works,'' Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity expert who helped the Guardian analyze the Snowden documents, said at a talk in New York in January. ''That's the lesson of Tor. The NSA can't break Tor, and it pisses them off.'' Tor's world headquarters occupies one room of a YWCA in Cambridge, Mass. Its neighbor is Transition House, which helps survivors of domestic abuse. Of 33 ''core people'' listed on Tor's website, nine are full-time employees, and the majority work remotely. For the most part, the project is crowdsourced: Hundreds of volunteers around the world work on improving Tor's software and solving technical challenges like staying ahead of censors in China, which has devoted enormous resources to shutting down anti-censorship tools, including Tor. A request to visit the office in person provoked some mild skepticism from Kelley Misata, who handles press for the group. ''The Tor team is primarily virtual (and spread around the world),'' she e-mailed, ''so our office is made up of only a few members of the team working there on a regular basis.''

On a Friday in December, Executive Director Andrew Lewman, Misata, and a researcher named Sarah Cortes showed up to talk at the office, which has the air of a temporary camp, with little d(C)cor other than an enlarged Tor logo stuck between two windows and one Ikea run's worth of furniture. We sat at a tall table surrounded by stools that required an awkward perch.

Photograph by Harry Gould Harvey IV for Bloomberg Businessweek''What most of the world takes away is this privacy stuff exists, there's this thing called Tor, and the NSA doesn't like it.'''--Lewman

Lewman, 43, has longish dark hair threaded with gray and pulled back by a headband, accentuating heavy eyebrows and large dark eyes. He swallows audibly and speaks quickly. He says he first came across Tor in 2003, when he was working for a large international company with employees in China'--he won't say which one'--who needed to get around Beijing's increasing Internet controls. Tor was an effective and inexpensive solution, and he began volunteering as a code developer, eventually designing the software's user interface. He's been executive director since 2009. ''People now know about Tor. They've heard the name,'' he says.'‰''What most of the world takes away is this privacy stuff exists, there's this thing called Tor, and the NSA doesn't like it.''

Lewman seems, if not tired of talking about the NSA, at least eager to shift discussion to the many uses of Tor that are totally unrelated to three-letter agencies. When the Chinese government clamped down on the Internet in 2009 to ensure a triumphant 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Republic, Tor saw a spike in use in the country. Teenagers in the Boston exurb of Natick installed it on school-issued laptops so they could get on Facebook, to the school district's displeasure.

Lewman also works with victims of domestic violence, teaching them to get online without revealing to abusers their location and activities. Tor and Transition House are developing guidelines for women at the shelter regarding technology use and online safety.

For Lewman'--as with other people behind Tor'--the cause has a personal side. When he worked for an Internet marketing firm in the mid 2000s, a consumer, irritated by marketing e-mails, found Lewman's name on the website and began to threaten him, and then his family, online. The stalker eventually showed up at the office, requiring intervention by the police.

Photograph by Harry Gould Harvey IV for Bloomberg Businessweek''A lot of the conversations that I have in D.C., when they stand on their soapbox and say, 'Tor is only used by bad guys,' it's very easy for me to step back and say, 'Here's why it's so important to keep the network open for those who need it.''‰'''--Misata

Misata has also had her privacy invaded online. A former colleague cyberstalked her for five years, she says, including posting nasty allegations that topped Google results, complicating job applications. She became an advocate and motivational speaker against cyber harassment. When she heard Lewman speak in 2012, she decided Tor was the safest place for her to work. ''A lot of the conversations that I have in D.C., when they stand on their soapbox and say, 'Tor is only used by bad guys,' it's very easy for me to step back and say, 'Here's why it's so important to keep the network open for those who need it,''‰'' says Misata, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at Purdue University and researching the use of technology in human trafficking.

Lewman's message is the same, whether he's talking to teenagers, Fortune 500 companies, or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, whose agents must maintain deep cover as they infiltrate smuggling and production networks: Everything on the Internet is tracked and recorded, and you might not want that. ''A simple question I ask companies is, 'What do you Google for?''‰'' Lewman says. ''A number of firms are starting to realize, when we are doing sensitive things, we shouldn't be doing it 'naked' on the Internet.''

Companies routinely use Internet traffic analysis to track what's coming from competitors' IP addresses. Searches for patents on specific technologies can lead to hints about what another company is planning. What if a company wants to research a competitor's pricing? Chances are, Lewman says, if they're doing it without cloaking their identity, they'll get answers tailored for them, not the answers a real customer would get.

Living up to its credo of anonymity online, Tor doesn't have detailed data on its users. They're clearly not all noble political dissidents, though. Tor had a cameo in October in the FBI takedown of the online drug market, Silk Road, an operation that took years for the Feds to crack because it operated exclusively on the network. Tor estimates that users currently number about 300,000 a day, down from a peak of more than half a million a day over the summer.

''Tor's biggest problem is press. No one hears about that time someone wasn't stalked by their abuser. They hear how somebody got away with downloading child porn,'' says Eva Galperin, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties advocacy group in San Francisco. ''The reason bad guys use Tor is because it works better than anything else. But at the same time, if there was no Tor, bad guys would still find a way of maintaining their anonymity and everyone else would be left out in the cold.'' Paul Syverson at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington is one of the world's foremost researchers on encrypting and routing data and one of Tor's creators. He works in the lab's Center for High Assurance Computer Systems, where a joke nameplate outside his office reads ''cryptologicist.'' I meet him in December in an all-purpose room stuffed with detritus, including a vacuum cleaner, half-dead plants, some battered cardboard boxes, and shelves crammed with old journals. White dust from a chalkboard scrawled over with formulas covers the floor and chairs.

Syverson, 55, has a Ph.D. in philosophy and looks distinctly unmilitary in an oversize flannel shirt and cargo pants. ''The thing we had in mind when we started working on it was to protect government workers going on the public Internet,'' he says, specifically analysts doing open-source intelligence gathering. That was in 1995, the Internet's infancy. By 1996 the research lab had a publicly accessible onion routing system in place, hosted on a Navy server with virtual relays, to demonstrate the concept.

In 2000, Syverson met Roger Dingledine, whose graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had focused on the creation of an anonymous online publishing system. Syverson persuaded Dingledine, and eventually another MIT graduate named Nick Mathewson, to help him develop an onion router that could be deployed on the wider Internet. (Dingledine is now project leader of the Tor Project and a researcher and advocate for privacy-enhancing technologies; Mathewson, a director and researcher, continues to help develop the software.)

''The basic notion of onion routing is that you have a distributed collection of computers that are scattered around, and you build a cryptographic circuit,'' Syverson says. ''We wanted it to work with parts of the Internet that don't know anything about onion routing.''

The group developed the system as it works today, creating a routing process in which the cryptographic keys for each leg of the path are separate and ephemeral, so that no one can go back and decrypt old traffic. It's one of the elements that has frustrated the NSA'--in the original design, a single hostile node could record traffic and compromise the rest of the system.

For the onion router to work properly, the Navy needed to step back from running it. A cloaking system is not useful if all the cloaks say ''Navy'' on them. ''If you have a system that's only a Navy system, anything popping out of it is obviously from the Navy,'' Syverson says. ''You need to have a network that carries traffic for other people as well.'' Tor Project was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2006 to manage operations.

In technical terms, Tor provides privacy by separating identity from routing online. In a normal session online, you're browsing from your computer or a router that's assigned its own IP address. Every request you send out carries that address, and information is returned there. When you use Tor, instead of your chat message, or the URL you type going directly to its destination, it's routed through Tor's network of volunteer nodes, moving through at least three of them, before exiting the network and proceeding to the endpoint. The website that receives it doesn't know what your IP address is, nor does any point in the Tor circuit except for the entry relay. For most users, a Tor session does not feel different from going on the Web with the Firefox browser. But all the winding through relays does slow things down, and the default settings disable some functions for security reasons'--including plugins that allow videos'--but they can be turned back on.

Despite being designed to enable secrecy, Tor's methods are almost totally transparent. From the start, Tor has been built on open-source code, meaning the software's building blocks are freely available. Anyone with the skill to read code can look at how it's built and how it works'--and help improve it.

Photograph by Barton Gellman/Getty ImagesA sticker on Edward Snowden's laptop shows a purple and white onion

Such transparency is one of the organization's key tenets. The Snowden documents have revealed the NSA's effort to undermine encryption techniques and insert ''back doors,'' or deliberate vulnerabilities, into hardware and software that the NSA can then use to get into and spy on systems. In December, the German magazine Der Spiegel revealed the existence of vulnerabilities for commercially developed systems from the likes of Juniper Networks (JNPR) and Cisco Systems (CSCO). (When contacted by Der Spiegel, both companies denied having knowledge of such back doors or collaborating with the government; Juniper reiterated this to Bloomberg Businessweek.) With Tor's code open for all to see and examine, flaws can't remain hidden'--or as easy to exploit.

Syverson and other researchers have written voluminously about Tor's weaknesses. The network operates within the wider Web, and the way users behave and configure their computers outside Tor is one of the biggest sources of insecurity. One way the NSA found to get around Tor's software and spy on users was an attack called ''EgotisticalGiraffe,'' exploiting a vulnerability in the Firefox browser. Another approach was to try to reconstruct the encrypted path to find the identity of a Tor user by monitoring relays, according to the ''Tor Stinks'' presentation. Success with this approach was ''negligible,'' because all three hops in the circuit had to be part of the set NSA could monitor, and the agency had access to few of them.

Tor exerts little control over who volunteers to host traffic, and researchers have found evidence of abuse, such as cases where an operator is snooping on traffic. The group has worked on solving that problem by ranking some relay points as more trusted than others, and giving users the ability to choose a set of trusted computers for the first relay.

Tor has evolved in other ways to stay ahead of what are sometimes referred to on its website as adversaries. Because Tor keeps a public list of all its relays'--the IP addresses that volunteer to route Tor users' requests'--the Chinese government has tried blocking all of those IP addresses. To get around that, Tor in 2009 invented ''bridges,'' relays provided upon request to users who are blocked from regular Tor relays. Bridges aren't listed in a public directory, making them more difficult to block.

There is a deeper layer of Tor, where information is hosted, called hidden services. These sites are tagged with the extension ''.onion'' and can only be accessed using Tor. A regular Internet user's traffic goes through at least three hops; hidden services traffic goes through at least six. Iranian activists during the Green Movement protests in 2009 maintained blogs and websites using hidden services, according to Lewman. The drug bazaar Silk Road operated as a hidden service. You couldn't find and use Silk Road with a Google search'--its IP address was hidden from users. Those who wanted to buy drugs on the site had to use Tor as their browser, type in Silk Road's .onion address, and use Bitcoins to pay for their purchases.

There is naturally suspicion that the NSA has in fact cracked Tor. In September a security researcher, Robert Graham of Errata Security, analyzed almost 23,000 connections to a relay he'd set up, and concluded that the majority were vulnerable to NSA decryption. Three-quarters of the traffic he monitored used an older version of Tor based on encryption keys that ''everyone seems to agree'' the NSA can break, he wrote. Version 2.4 of Tor's software uses a different form of encryption keys, based on something called elliptic curves, which are more difficult to decode'--but according to Graham's analysis only a small subset of users have upgraded to that software version.

Conspiracy theories abound. On one Reddit discussion about Tor's links to the government, an anonymous poster asked: ''How can we be sure that TOR isn't a front for the CIA or FBI? I mean, it's too easy to just download, install, and be on your merry way browsing in 'anonymity.''‰''

Lewman's job, as he tries to drum up more funding and more volunteers to host relays, is to counter such thinking, which the Snowden revelations have, ironically, added to. ''People have such fear of the NSA and the CIA and all these other three-letter organizations,'' he says, ''that they're just like, 'Whoa, I don't want anything to do with that whatsoever.''‰''

More bandwidth, Lewman says, is what Tor needs most. He says he wants to increase Tor's capacity by getting universities to run it and work out all the kinks before business puts in real money'--citing the example of Facebook, which also started on campus. Major corporations are interested in using Tor, but they expect a ready-made product that's already incorporated into the big enterprise packages provided by companies such as Cisco. So far, few large corporations have offered to host relays, he says.

It's the kind of thing the Tor developers might discuss at their next meeting. Asked how often the ''virtual team'' gets together in person, Misata says she's in the midst of organizing one of two such annual get-togethers for February. The core group of 30-plus spends the first half of the week discussing current and future initiatives and ''bonding'' and the second half hosting public meetings to spread the word of Tor. For privacy reasons, some in the developers group refuse to come to the U.S. For the gathering, Misata ended up choosing Iceland. She's looking for hotels that don't require guests to provide their passport.


Holder: Clemency for Snowden 'too far,' but open to resolution - NBC Politics

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 05:04

By Pete Williams and Michael O'Brien, NBC News

Attorney General Eric Holder says the U.S. ''would engage in conversation'' about a resolution with Edward Snowden if the former government contractor accepted responsibility for leaking government secrets but said granting clemency "would be going too far."

Holder made his comments in an interview with MSNBC's Ari Melber, scheduled to air later. The attorney general said any idea of amnesty for Snowden, "where we say, no harm, no foul" would be going too far.

Holder mirrored those comments during a public event Thursday at the University of Virginia: ''We've always indicated that the notion of clemency isn't something that we were willing to consider. Instead, were he coming back to the U.S. to enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. ''

Asked by Melber whether Snowden is a whistleblower, Holder said, "I prefer the term defendant. That's the most apt title."

Uncredited / AP

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong.

President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that Snowden should stand trial in the U.S., and sidestepped a question last week about whether he should be eligible for clemency.

''I do not have a yes/no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden," he told the New Yorker magazine's David Remnick. "This is an active case, where charges have been brought.''

Obama also addressed the leaks during his speech last week on National Security Agency reforms, a speech prompted in part by Snowden's initial disclosures.

"If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy," Obama said. "Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come."

A CBS News poll released Wednesday found that 61 percent of Americans -- including clear majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike -- believe that snowden should stand trial in the U.S. Just 23 percent of Americans support some sort of amnesty for Snowden.

Holder also declined to respond to a question about the claims by some in Congress that Snowden might be a spy, saying he could not discuss any aspect of the criminal case. Snowden himself denied being a spy for the Russian government or any other government, declaring that he had acted alone.


Microsoft on Safety and Defense Blog

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Thu, 23 Jan 2014 21:49

As criminal organizations become increasingly borderless, law enforcement agencies are turning to intelligence and analysis operations to help address the challenges presented by new trends such as oceans of social media data and volatile cyber attacks.

This intelligence-led policing model relies heavily on the ability of agencies to collect and analyze large volumes of structured and unstructured data, such as social media and video surveillance, in order to make well-informed decisions that can help reduce crime, minimize disruptions, and prevent incidents by developing and enforcing strategies that target prolific and serious offenders. Central to this philosophy is the ability for agencies to collaboratively share information in order to detect risks earlier at the local, regional, national and international levels.

Robust intelligence and analysis solutions provide a foundation for effective, end-to-end intelligence lifecycle and investigation models that can help knowledge workers, intelligence professionals, and public safety leaders investigate criminal activity more effectively than ever before. Microsoft's CityNext initiative is helping to address these needs through on-premises and cloud offerings such as surveillance capabilities, source intelligence feeds, digital and lab forensics, crime pattern analyses, geographic information systems (GIS), cyber-patrolling search capabilities and much more to help global agencies gain deeper insight into multiple, complex, and multi-structured streams of information.

Alongside innovative partners like Bangkok-based Betimes Solutions and Melbourne, Australia-based Hardcat SaBRe, Microsoft has supported law enforcement agencies and related organizations with intelligence solutions that can mine large sets of structured and unstructured data quickly and effectively. Olton, a trusted partner based in the UK, provides software, global intelligence, and analytical services based on Microsoft's Intelligence Framework and Big Data technologies, specializing in open source data analysis that enables informed and timely decision-making.

Recently, Microsoft and Betimes worked together to deliver intelligent and collaborative big data solutions to Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI), a division of the country's Ministry of Justice. Before implementing the business intelligence tools in Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (with Apache Hadoop technology), Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, it could take DSI officers up to two years to search for tips and gather and analyze data. With the Microsoft Big Data solution, it takes as little as 15 days '' dramatically improving the efficiency of the agency's investigating officers and the safety of the community.

Check back often to read more examples of how intelligence and analysis solutions are revolutionizing law enforcement efforts around the world. To ask questions, share ideas, or receive more information, please contact us at or @MicrosoftPSNS.

Dr. Andrew HawkinsManaging Director, Public Safety and Justice, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation


Slave Training

Computing At School :: News

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:16

One of the UK's biggest companies is highlighting the need to prepare the future's workforce by supporting a new course, aimed at developing teaching of the new Computing curriculum.

BT has teamed up with Computing at School (CAS - which is supported and endorsed by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) to offer teachers a free, open, online course in 'Teaching Computing'.

Computing is being introduced as a new subject in schools from September 2014 and many schools are considering how best to prepare staff for this change.

BT will be previewing a trailer for the course - known as a MOOC (massive, open, online course) - at BETT, the annual education technology conference being held in London on Jan 22-25.

The eight week course, running in two parts, will help prepare teachers to deliver the new curriculum effectively to children in Years 5 to 8. Key themes include vocabulary and terminology, assessing pupil learning, and subject knowledge of computing languages.

Tim Whitley, managing director for research & innovation at BT, said: "Schools are educating the workforce of tomorrow and it is vitally important to companies like BT that young people start to develop a better understanding of computers and computing early in life.

"The new curriculum meets that need, and pupils will learn not just about how to write code but how computer systems work, as well as how to use them safely and appropriately. By collaborating with UEA and Computing at School to support the 'Teaching Computing' course for teachers, we aim to provide a valuable resource that will help teachers support the implementation of the new curriculum."

With a mixture of subject knowledge and pedagogical advice, the course is aimed at both ICT specialists and primary teaching non-specialists. Expert 'master teachers' from Computing at School have designed the course to make sure that teachers have the most up-to-date information which they can take into their classrooms and teach great Computing lessons.

Simon Humphreys, National Coordinator CAS, said: "From September 2014, children from primary school onward will be taught how to program and how computers work as part of the new computing curriculum. CAS has been at the forefront of the curriculum change for computing and is delighted to collaborate with UEA to help them prepare for this change. The MOOC is able to reach a much larger audience providing a different opportunity for teachers to acquire the knowledge and understanding they need."

At BETT, BT will be showing the trailer for 'Teaching Computing' at their two stands. Also speaking on a panel at the show about MOOCs will be Helena Gillespie, associate dean for learning and teaching in the Faculty of Social Sciences at UEA. Helena said: "The UEA School of Education and Lifelong Learning has an exceptional reputation in providing teacher education and we are excited about moving into the 21st century with this open online course."

The course will be offered via the FutureLearn platform '' the first UK-based provider of free, open, online courses.

For more information about the 'Teaching Computing' MOOC, view the trailer:

Choppers to scan background radiation as Super Bowl security measure starting tomorrow |

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 15:33

Residents in northern New Jersey and New York City will see a low-flying helicopter in the upcoming days as it surveys naturally occurring background radiation as a security measure for the upcoming Super Bowl, officials said today.

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration will use a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter equipped with radiation sensing technology, flying in a grid covering about 10 square miles at altitudes of 150 feet or higher at about 80 miles per hour, according to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.

The flights will start on Jan. 21 and continue through Jan. 25.

''If sometime in the future you have a reason to be looking for something radiological, it's very necessary to have the original background,'' Joseph Krol of the National Nuclear Security Administration told the Associated Press in a recent article.

''The measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a routine security and emergency preparedness activity,'' according to the state OEM alert on the upcoming helicopter flights. ''The NJ State Police are partnering with the NNSA to make the public aware of the upcoming flights and insure that citizens who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.''

The New Jersey State Police confirmed the helicopter background radiation survey is directly related to security for Super Bowl XLVIII which will kick off on Feb. 2 at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Obama Nation


David Remnick: On and Off the Road with Barack Obama : The New Yorker

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 05:05

On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent'--lower than George W. Bush's in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that ''turned out to be wrong.'' Also, Obama said thickly, ''I've got a fat lip.''

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described ''shellacking'' in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn't invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed ''For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn't get arrested. Barack.''

This time, the injury was slighter and no assailant was named'--''I think it was the ball,'' Obama said'--but the President needed little assistance in divining the metaphor in this latest insult to his person. The pundits were declaring 2013 the worst year of his Presidency. The Republicans had been sniping at Obamacare since its passage, nearly four years earlier, and, a Web site that was undertested and overmatched, was a gift to them. There were other beribboned boxes under the tree: Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency; the failure to get anything passed on gun control or immigration reform; the unseemly waffling over whether the Egyptian coup was a coup; the solidifying wisdom in Washington that the President was ''disengaged,'' allergic to the forensic and seductive arts of political persuasion. The congressional Republicans quashed nearly all legislation as a matter of principle and shut down the government for sixteen days, before relenting out of sheer tactical confusion and embarrassment'--and yet it was the President's miseries that dominated the year-end summations.

Obama worried his lip with his tongue and the tip of his index finger. He sighed, slumping in his chair. The night before, Iran had agreed to freeze its nuclear program for six months. A final pact, if one could be arrived at, would end the prospect of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and the hell that could follow: terror attacks, proxy battles, regional war'--take your pick. An agreement could even help normalize relations between the United States and Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. Obama put the odds of a final accord at less than even, but, still, how was this not good news?

The answer had arrived with breakfast. The Saudis, the Israelis, and the Republican leadership made their opposition known on the Sunday-morning shows and through diplomatic channels. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, called the agreement a ''historic mistake.'' Even a putative ally like New York Senator Chuck Schumer could go on ''Meet the Press'' and, fearing no retribution from the White House, hint that he might help bollix up the deal. Obama hadn't tuned in. ''I don't watch Sunday-morning shows,'' he said. ''That's been a well-established rule.'' Instead, he went out to play ball.

Usually, Obama spends Sundays with his family. Now he was headed for a three-day fund-raising trip to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, rattling the cup in one preposterous mansion after another. The prospect was dispiriting. Obama had already run his last race, and the chances that the Democratic Party will win back the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections are slight. The Democrats could, in fact, lose the Senate.

For an important trip abroad, Air Force One is crowded with advisers, military aides, Secret Service people, support staff, the press pool. This trip was smaller, and I was along for the ride, sitting in a guest cabin with a couple of aides and a staffer who was tasked with keeping watch over a dark suit bag with a tag reading ''The President.''

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins''Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair. As we talked, mainly about the Middle East, his eyes wandered to the game. Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn't feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn't.

''I would not let my son play pro football,'' he conceded. ''But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We're sort of in the same realm.''

The Miami defense was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. ''At this point, there's a little bit of caveat emptor,'' he went on. ''These guys, they know what they're doing. They know what they're buying into. It is no longer a secret. It's sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?''

Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. ''I'm not a purist,'' he said.


When Obama leaves the White House, on January 20, 2017, he will write a memoir. ''Now, that's a slam dunk,'' the former Obama adviser David Axelrod told me. Andrew Wylie, a leading literary agent, said he thought that publishers would pay between seventeen and twenty million dollars for the book'--the most ever for a work of nonfiction'--and around twelve million for Michelle Obama's memoirs. (The First Lady has already started work on hers.) Obama's best friend, Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman, told me that, important as the memoir might be to Obama's legacy and to his finances, ''I don't see him locked up in a room writing all the time. His capacity to crank stuff out is amazing. When he was writing his second book, he would say, 'I'm gonna get up at seven and write this chapter'--and at nine we'll play golf.' I would think no, it's going to be a lot later, but he would knock on my door at nine and say, 'Let's go.' '' Nesbitt thinks that Obama will work on issues such as human rights, education, and ''health and wellness.'' ''He was a local community organizer when he was young,'' he said. ''At the back end of his career, I see him as an international and national community organizer.''

Yet no post-Presidential project'--even one as worthy as Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs or Jimmy Carter's efforts to eradicate the Guinea worm in Africa'--can overshadow what can be accomplished in the White House with the stroke of a pen or a phone call. And, after a miserable year, Obama's Presidency is on the clock. Hard as it has been to pass legislation since the Republicans took the House, in 2010, the coming year is a marker, the final interval before the fight for succession becomes politically all-consuming.

''The conventional wisdom is that a President's second term is a matter of minimizing the damage and playing defense rather than playing offense,'' Obama said in one of our conversations on the trip and at the White House. ''But, as I've reminded my team, the day after I was inaugurated for a second term, we're in charge of the largest organization on earth, and our capacity to do some good, both domestically and around the world, is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.''

In 2007, at the start of Obama's Presidential campaign, the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband, Richard Goodwin, who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, visited him in his Senate office. ''I have no desire to be one of those Presidents who are just on the list'--you see their pictures lined up on the wall,'' Obama told them. ''I really want to be a President who makes a difference.'' As she put it to me then, ''There was the sense that he wanted to be big. He didn't want to be Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce.''

The question is whether Obama will satisfy the standard he set for himself. His biggest early disappointment as President was being forced to recognize that his romantic vision of a post-partisan era, in which there are no red states or blue states, only the United States, was, in practical terms, a fantasy. It was a difficult fantasy to relinquish. The spirit of national conciliation was more than the rhetorical pixie dust of Obama's 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, in Boston, which had brought him to delirious national attention. It was also an elemental component of his self-conception, his sense that he was uniquely suited to transcend ideology and the grubby battles of the day. Obama is defensive about this now. ''My speech in Boston was an aspirational speech,'' he said. ''It was not a description of our politics. It was a description of what I saw in the American people.''

The structures of American division came into high relief once he was in office. The debate over the proper scale and scope of the federal government dates to the Founders, but it has intensified since the Reagan revolution. Both Bill Clinton and Obama have spent as much time defending progressive advances'--from Social Security and Medicare to voting rights and abortion rights'--as they have trying to extend them. The Republican Party is living through the late-mannerist phase of that revolution, fuelled less by ideas than by resentments. The moderate Republican tradition is all but gone, and the reactionaries who claim Reagan's banner display none of his ideological finesse. Rejection is all. Obama can never be opposed vehemently enough.

The dream of bipartisan co¬peration glimmered again after Obama won relection against Mitt Romney with fifty-one per cent of the popular vote. The President talked of the election breaking the ''fever'' in Washington. ''We didn't expect the floodgates would open and Boehner would be Tip O'Neill to our Reagan,'' Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the President, said. But relection, he thought, had ''liberated'' Obama. The second Inaugural Address was the most liberal since the nineteen-sixties. Obama pledged to take ambitious action on climate change, immigration, gun control, voting rights, infrastructure, tax reform. He warned of a nation at ''perpetual war.'' He celebrated the Seneca Falls Convention, the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and the Stonewall riots as events in a narrative of righteous struggle. He pledged ''collective action'' on economic fairness, and declared that the legacy of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid does ''not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.'' Pfeiffer said, ''His point was that Congress won't set the limits of what I will do. I won't trim my vision. And, even if I can't get it done, I will set the stage so it does get done'' in the years ahead. Then came 2013, annus horribilis.

Obama's election was one of the great markers in the black freedom struggle. In the electoral realm, ironically, the country may be more racially divided than it has been in a generation. Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a margin greater than any victor in American history. The popular opposition to the Administration comes largely from older whites who feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained in a globalized economy and in an increasingly diverse country. Obama's drop in the polls in 2013 was especially grave among white voters. ''There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black President,'' Obama said. ''Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I'm a black President.'' The latter group has been less in evidence of late.

''There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it's hard to disentangle those issues,'' he went on. ''You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government'--that it's distant, that it's bureaucratic, that it's not accountable'--and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what's also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states' rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There's a pretty long history there. And so I think it's important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there's some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it's important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states' rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.''

Obama's advisers are convinced that if the Republicans don't find a way to attract non-white voters, particularly Hispanics and Asians, they may lose the White House for two or three more election cycles. And yet Obama still makes every effort to maintain his careful, balancing tone, as if the unifying moment were still out there somewhere in the middle distance. ''There were times in our history where Democrats didn't seem to be paying enough attention to the concerns of middle-class folks or working-class folks, black or white,'' he said. ''And this was one of the great gifts of Bill Clinton to the Party'--to say, you know what, it's entirely legitimate for folks to be concerned about getting mugged, and you can't just talk about police abuse. How about folks not feeling safe outside their homes? It's all fine and good for you to want to do something about poverty, but if the only mechanism you have is raising taxes on folks who are already feeling strapped, then maybe you need to widen your lens a little bit. And I think that the Democratic Party is better for it. But that was a process. And I am confident that the Republicans will go through that same process.''

For the moment, though, the opposition party is content to define itself, precisely, by its opposition. As Obama, a fan of the ''Godfather'' movies, has put it, ''It turns out Marlon Brando had it easy, because, when it comes to Congress, there is no such thing as an offer they can't refuse.''


At dusk, Air Force One touched down at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Obama and his adviser Valerie Jarrett stood for a moment on the tarmac gazing at Mt. Rainier, the snow a candied pink. Then Obama nodded. Moment over. They got in the car and headed for town. Obama's limousine, a Cadillac said to weigh as much as fifteen thousand pounds, is known as the Beast. It is armored with ceramic, titanium, aluminum, and steel to withstand bomb blasts, and it is sealed in case of biochemical attack. The doors are as heavy as those on a Boeing 757. The tires are gigantic ''run-flats,'' reinforced with Kevlar. A supply of blood matching the President's type is kept in the trunk.

The Beast ascended the driveway of Jon Shirley, in the Seattle suburb of Medina, on Lake Washington. (Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates live in town, too.) Shirley earned his pile during the early days of high tech, first at Tandy and then, in the eighties, at Microsoft, where he served as president. Shirley's lawn is littered with gargantuan modern sculptures. A Claes Oldenburg safety pin loomed in the dark. The Beast pulled up to Shirley's front door.

One of the enduring mysteries of the Obama years is that so many members of the hyper-deluxe economy'--corporate C.E.O.s and Wall Street bankers'--have abandoned him. The Dow is more than twice what it was when Obama took office, in 2009; corporate profits are higher than they have been since the end of the Second World War; the financial crisis of 2008-09 vaporized more than nine trillion dollars in real-estate value, and no major purveyor of bogus mortgages or dodgy derivatives went to jail. Obama bruised some feelings once or twice with remarks about ''fat-cat bankers'' and ''reckless behavior and unchecked excess,'' but, in general, he dares not offend. In 2011, at an annual dinner he holds at the White House with American historians, he asked the group to help him find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class warfare.

Inside Shirley's house, blue-chip works of modern art'--paintings, sculpture, installations'--were on every wall, in every corner: Katz, Kline, Klein, Pollock, Zhang Huan, Richter, Arp, Rothko, Close, Calder. The house measures more than twenty-seven thousand square feet. There are only two bedrooms. In the library, the President went through a familiar fund-raiser routine: a pre-event private ''clutch,'' where he shakes hands, makes small talk, and poses for pictures with an inner group'--the host, the governor, the chosen.

Down the hall, in a room scaled like an airplane hangar, about seventy guests, having paid sixteen thousand dollars each to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kitty, ate dinner and waited. Near some very artistic furniture, I stood with Valerie Jarrett, Obama's most intimate consigliere. To admirers, Jarrett is known as ''the third Obama''; to wary aides, who envy her long history with the Obamas and her easy access to the living quarters of the White House, she is the Night Stalker. Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe, and many others in the Administration have clashed with her. They are gone. She remains'--a constant presence, at meetings, at meals, in the Beast. While we were waiting for Obama to speak to the group, I asked Jarrett whether the health-care rollout had been the worst political fiasco Obama had confronted so far.

''I really don't think so,'' she said. Like all Obama advisers, she was convinced that the problems would get ''fixed'''--just as Social Security was fixed after a balky start, in 1937'--and the memory of the botched rollout would recede. That was the hope and that was the spin. And then she said something that I've come to think of as the Administration's mantra: ''The President always takes the long view.''

That appeal to patience and historical reckoning, an appeal that risks a maddening high-mindedness, is something that everyone around Obama trots out to combat the hysterias of any given moment. ''He has learned through those vicissitudes that every day is Election Day in Washington and everyone is writing history in ten-minute intervals,'' Axelrod told me. ''But the truth is that history is written over a long period of time'--and he will be judged in the long term.''

Obama stepped up to a platform and went to work. First ingratiation, then gratitude, then answers. He expressed awe at the sight of Mt. Rainier. Being in Seattle, he said, made him ''feel the spirit of my mom,'' the late Ann Dunham, who went to high school nearby, on Mercer Island. He praised his host's hospitality. (''The only problem when I come to Jon's house is I want to just kind of roam around and check stuff out, and instead I've got to talk.'') Then came a version of the long-game riff: ''One thing that I always try to emphasize is that, if you look at American history, there have been frequent occasions in which it looked like we had insoluble problems'--either economic, political, security'--and, as long as there were those who stayed steady and clear-eyed and persistent, eventually we came up with an answer.''

As Obama ticked off a list of first-term achievements'--the economic rescue, the forty-four straight months of job growth, a reduction in carbon emissions, a spike in clean-energy technology'--he seemed efficient but contained, running at three-quarters speed, like an athlete playing a midseason road game of modest consequence; he was performing just hard enough to leave a decent impression, get paid, and avoid injury. Even in front of West Coast liberals, he is always careful to disavow liberalism'--the word, anyway. ''I'm not a particularly ideological person,'' Obama told Jon Shirley and his guests. ''There's things, some values I feel passionately about.'' He said that these included making sure that everybody is ''being treated with dignity or respect regardless of what they look like or what their last name is or who they love,'' providing a strong defense, and ''leaving a planet that is as spectacular as the one we inherited from our parents and our grandparents.'' He continued, ''So there are values I'm passionate about, but I'm pretty pragmatic when it comes to how we get there.''

Obama said he'd take some questions'--in ''boy, girl, boy, girl'' order. He tried to rally the Democrats and expressed dismay with the opposition. (''There are reasonable conservatives and there are those who just want to burn down the house.'') He played both sides of the environment issues, rehearsing the arguments for and against the Keystone pipeline and sympathizing with the desire of China and India to lift millions out of poverty'--but if they consume energy the way the United States has ''we'll be four feet under water.'' This is the archetypal Obama habit of mind and politics, the calm, professorial immersion in complexity played out in front of ardent supporters who crave a rallying cry. It's what compelled him to declare himself a non-pacifist as he was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, and praise Ronald Reagan in a Democratic primary debate.

And that was the end of the performance. A few minutes later, the motorcade was snaking through the streets of suburban Seattle'--kids in pajamas holding signs and sparklers, the occasional protester, Obama secured in the back seat of the Beast. He could hear nothing. The windows of his car are five inches thick.


The next morning, a Monday, I woke early and turned on CNN. Senator Lindsey Graham, who is facing a primary challenge from four Tea Party candidates in South Carolina, was saying with utter confidence that Iran had hoodwinked the Administration in Geneva. Next came a poll showing that the majority of the country now believed that the President was neither truthful nor honest. The announcer added with a smile that GQ had put Obama at No. 17 on its ''least influential'' list'--right up there with Pope Benedict XVI in his retirement, the cicadas that never showed up last summer, and Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend.

In the hotel lobby, I met Jeff Tiller, who works for the White House press operation. In college, he became interested in politics and later joined Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign. From there, he volunteered at the White House, which led to a string of staff jobs, and eventually he was doing advance work all over the world for the White House. The aides on the plane were like Tiller'--committed members of a cheerful, overworked microculture who could barely conceal their pleasure in Presidential propinquity. I'm twenty-seven and this is my thirty-second time on Air Force One. ''I pinch myself sometimes,'' Tiller said. Dan Pfeiffer, who has been with Obama since 2007, was so overworked last year that he suffered a series of mini-strokes. ''But no worries,'' he told me. ''I'm good!''

We arrived in San Francisco, and the motorcade raced along, free of traffic and red lights, from the airport to a community center in Chinatown named after Betty Ong, a flight attendant who perished when American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center. Obama was to give a speech on immigration. Out the window, you could see people waving, people hoisting their babies as if to witness history, people holding signs protesting one issue or another'--the Keystone pipeline, especially'--and, everywhere, the iPhone clickers, the Samsung snappers.

The Beast pulled under a makeshift security tent. Obama gets to events like these through underground hallways, industrial kitchens, holding rooms'--all of which have been checked for bombs. At the Ong Center, he met with his hosts and their children. (''I think I have some Presidential M&M's for you!'') People get goggle-eyed when it's their turn for a picture. Obama tries to put them at ease: ''C'mon in here! Let's do this!'' Sometimes there is teasing of the mildest sort: ''Chuck Taylor All-Stars! Old style, baby!'' A woman told the President that she was six months pregnant. She didn't look it. ''Whoa! Don't tell that to Michelle. She'll be all . . .'' The woman said she was having a girl. Obama was delighted: ''Daughters! You can't beat 'em!'' He pulled her in for the photo. From long experience, Obama has learned what works for him in pictures: a broad, toothy smile. A millisecond after the flash, the sash releases, the smile drops, a curtain falling.

A little later, Betty Ong's mother and siblings arrived. Obama drew them into a huddle. I heard him saying that Betty was a hero, though ''obviously, the heartache never goes away.'' Obama really is skilled at this kind of thing, the kibbitzing and the expressions of sympathy, the hugging and the eulogizing and the celebrating, the sheer animal activity of human politics'--but he suffers an anxiety of comparison. Bill Clinton was, and is, the master, a hyper-extrovert whose freakish memory for names and faces, and whose indomitable will to enfold and charm everyone in his path, remains unmatched. Obama can be a dynamic speaker before large audiences and charming in very small groups, but, like a normal human being and unlike the near-pathological personalities who have so often held the office, he is depleted by the act of schmoozing a group of a hundred as if it were an intimate gathering. At fund-raisers, he would rather eat privately with a couple of aides before going out to perform. According to the Wall Street Journal, when Jeffrey Katzenberg threw a multi-million-dollar fund-raiser in Los Angeles two years ago, he told the President's staff that he expected Obama to stop at each of the fourteen tables and talk for a while. No one would have had to ask Clinton. Obama's staffers were alarmed. When you talk about this with people in Obamaland, they let on that Clinton borders on the obsessive'--as if the appetite for connection were related to what got him in such deep trouble.

''Obama is a genuinely respectful person, but he doesn't try to seduce everyone,'' Axelrod said. ''It's never going to be who he'll be.'' Obama doesn't love fund-raising, he went on, ''and, if you don't love it in the first place, you're not likely to grow fonder of it over time.''

Obama has other talents that serve him well in public. Like a seasoned standup comedian, he has learned that a well-timed heckler can be his ally. It allows him to dramatize his open-mindedness, even his own philosophical ambivalences about a particularly difficult political or moral question. Last May, at the National Defense University, where he was giving a speech on counter-terrorism, a woman named Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the group Code Pink, interrupted him, loudly and at length, to talk about drone strikes and about closing the American prison at Guantnamo Bay. While some in the audience tried to drown her out with applause, and security people proceeded to drag her away, Obama asserted Benjamin's right to ''free speech,'' and declared, ''The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.''

At the Ong Center, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea named Ju Hong was in the crowd lined up behind the President. Toward the end of Obama's speech, Ju Hong, a Berkeley graduate, broke in, demanding that the President use his executive powers to stop deportations.

Obama wheeled around. ''If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so, but we're also a nation of laws,'' he said, making his case to a wash of applause.

At the next event, a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee at a music venue, the SFJAZZ Center, Obama met the host's family (''Hold on, we got some White House M&M's'') and then made his way to the backstage holding area. You could hear the murmur of security communications: ''Renegade with greeters'''--Renegade being Obama's Secret Service handle.

Obama worked with more enthusiasm than at the midday event. He did the polite handshake; the full pull-in; the hug and double backslap; the slap-shake; the solicitous arm-around-the-older woman. (''And you stand here. . . . Perfect!'')

The clutch over, the crowd cleared away, Obama turned to his aides and said, ''How many we got out there?''

''Five hundred. Five-fifty.''

''Five-fifty?'' Obama said, walking toward the wings of the stage. ''What are we talking about? Politics? Can't we talk about something else? Sports?''

The aides were, as ever, staring down at their iPhones, scrolling, tapping, mentally occupying a psychic space somewhere between where they were and the unspooling news cycle back in Washington.

''We're off the cuff,'' Pfeiffer said. No prepared speech.

''Off the cuff? Sounds good. Let's go do it.''

Obama walked toward the stage and, as he was announced, he mouthed the words: ''Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.''

Then it happened again: another heckler broke into Obama's speech. A man in the balcony repeatedly shouted out, ''Executive order!,'' demanding that the President bypass Congress with more unilateral actions. Obama listened with odd indulgence. Finally, he said, ''I'm going to actually pause on this issue, because a lot of people have been saying this lately on every problem, which is just, 'Sign an executive order and we can pretty much do anything and basically nullify Congress.' ''

Many in the crowd applauded their approval. Yes! Nullify it! Although Obama has infuriated the right with relatively modest executive orders on gun control and some stronger ones on climate change, he has issued the fewest of any modern President, except George H. W. Bush.

''Wait, wait, wait,'' Obama said. ''Before everybody starts clapping, that's not how it works. We've got this Constitution, we've got this whole thing about separation of powers. So there is no shortcut to politics, and there's no shortcut to democracy.'' The applause was hardly ecstatic. Everyone knew what he meant. The promises in the second inaugural could be a long time coming.


For every flight aboard Air Force One, there is a new name card at each seat; a catalogue of the Presidential Entertainment Library, with its hiply curated choices of movies and music; baskets of fruit and candy; a menu. Obama is generally a spare eater; the Air Force One menu seems designed for William Howard Taft. Breakfast one morning was ''pumpkin spiced French toast drizzled with caramel syrup and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Served with scrambled eggs and maple sausage links.'' Plus juice, coffee, and, on the side, a ''creamy vanilla yogurt layered with blackberries and cinnamon graham crackers.''

The most curious character on the plane was Marvin Nicholson, a tall, rangy man in his early forties who works as the President's trip director and ubiquitous factotum. He is six feet eight. Nicholson is the guy who is always around, who carries the bag and the jacket, who squeezes Purell onto the Presidential palms after a rope line or a clutch; he is the one who has the pens, the briefing books, the Nicorette, the Sharpies, the Advil, the throat lozenges, the iPad, the iPod, the protein bars, the bottle of Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. He and the President toss a football around, they shoot baskets, they shoot the shit. In his twenties, Nicholson was living in Boston and working as a bartender and as a clerk in a windsurfing-equipment shop, where he met John Kerry. He moved to Nantucket and worked as a caddie. He carried the Senator's clubs and Kerry invited him to come to D.C. Since taking the job with Obama, in 2009, Nicholson has played golf with the President well over a hundred times. The Speaker of the House has played with him once.

A fact like this can seem to chime with the sort of complaints you hear all the time about Obama, particularly along the Acela Corridor. He is said to be a reluctant politician: aloof, insular, diffident, arrogant, inert, unwilling to jolly his allies along the fairway and take a 9-iron to his enemies. He doesn't know anyone in Congress. No one in the House or in the Senate, no one in foreign capitals fears him. He gives a great speech, but he doesn't understand power. He is a poor executive. Doesn't it seem as if he hates the job? And so on. This is the knowing talk on Wall Street, on K Street, on Capitol Hill, in green rooms'--the ''Morning Joe'' consensus.

There are other ways to assess the political skills of a President who won two terms, as only seventeen of forty-four Presidents have, and did so as a black man, with an African father and a peculiar name, one consonant away from that of the world's most notorious terrorist. From the start, however, the political operatives who opposed him did what they are paid to do'--they drew a cartoon of him. ''Even if you never met him, you know this guy,'' Karl Rove said, in 2008. ''He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a Martini and a cigarette, that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.'' The less malign version is of a President who is bafflingly serene, as committed to his duties as a husband and father'--six-thirty family dinner upstairs in the private residence is considered ''sacrosanct,'' aides say'--as he is to his duties as Cajoler-in-Chief.

Still, Obama's reluctance to break bread on a regular basis with his congressional allies is real, and a source of tribal mystification in Washington. ''Politics was a strange career choice for Obama,'' David Frum, a conservative columnist, told me. ''Most politicians are not the kind of people you would choose to have as friends. Or they are the kind who, like John Edwards, seem to be one thing but then turn out to have a monster in the attic; the friendship is contingent on something you can't see. Obama is exactly like all my friends. He would rather read a book than spend time with people he doesn't know or like.'' Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who was elected to the Senate three years ago, said recently that Obama's distance from members of Congress has hurt his ability to pass legislation. ''When you don't build those personal relationships,'' Manchin told CNN, ''it's pretty easy for a person to say, 'Well, let me think about it.' ''

Harry Truman once called the White House ''the great white jail,'' but few Presidents seem to have felt as oppressed by Washington as Obama does. At one stop on the West Coast trip, Marta Kauffman, a Democratic bundler who was one of the creators of ''Friends,'' said that she asked him what had surprised him most when he first became President. ''The bubble,'' Obama said. He said he hoped that one day he might be able to take a walk in the park, drop by a bookstore, chat with people in a coffee shop. ''After all this is done,'' he said, ''how can I find that again?''

''Have you considered a wig?'' she asked.

''Maybe fake dreads,'' her son added.

The President smiled. ''I never thought of that,'' he said.

Obama's circle of intimates is limited; it has been since his days at Columbia and Harvard Law. In 2008, Obama called on John Podesta, who had worked extensively for Bill Clinton, to run his transition process. When Clinton took office, there was a huge list of people who needed to be taken care of with jobs; the ''friends of Bill'' is a wide network. After Podesta talked to Obama and realized how few favors had to be distributed, he told a colleague, ''He travels light.''

Obama's favorite company is a small ensemble of Chicago friends'--Valerie Jarrett, Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard, an obstetrician, and Eric and Cheryl Whitaker, prominent doctors on the South Side. During the first Presidential campaign, the Obamas took a vow of ''no new friends.''

''There have been times where I've been constrained by the fact that I had two young daughters who I wanted to spend time with'--and that I wasn't in a position to work the social scene in Washington,'' Obama told me. But, as Malia and Sasha have grown older, the Obamas have taken to hosting occasional off-the-record dinners in the residence upstairs at the White House. The guests ordinarily include a friendly political figure, a business leader, a journalist. Obama drinks a Martini or two (Rove was right about that), and he and the First Lady are welcoming, funny, and warm. The dinners start at six. At around ten-thirty at one dinner last spring, the guests assumed the evening was winding down. But when Obama was asked whether they should leave, he laughed and said, ''Hey, don't go! I'm a night owl! Have another drink.'' The party went on past 1 A.M.

At the dinners with historians, Obama sometimes asks his guests to talk about their latest work. On one occasion, Doris Kearns Goodwin talked about what became ''The Bully Pulpit,'' which is a study, in part, of the way that Theodore Roosevelt deployed his relentlessly gregarious personality and his close relations with crusading journalists to political advantage. The portrait of T.R. muscling obstreperous foes on the issue of inequality'--particularly the laissez-faire dinosaurs in his own party, the G.O.P.'--couldn't fail to summon a contrasting portrait.

The biographer Robert Caro has also been a guest. Caro's ongoing volumes about Lyndon Johnson portray a President who used everything from the promise of appointment to bald-faced political threats to win passage of the legislative agenda that had languished under John Kennedy, including Medicare, a tax cut, and a civil-rights bill. Publicly, Johnson said of Kennedy, ''I had to take the dead man's program and turn it into a martyr's cause.'' Privately, he disdained Kennedy's inability to get his program through Congress, cracking, according to Caro, that Kennedy's men knew less about politics on the Hill ''than an old maid does about fucking.'' Senator Richard Russell, Jr., of Georgia, admitted that he and his Dixiecrat colleagues in the Senate could resist Kennedy ''but not Lyndon'': ''That man will twist your arm off at the shoulder and beat your head in with it.''

Obama delivers no such beatings. Last April, when, in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, eighty-three per cent of Americans declared themselves in favor of background checks for gun purchases, the Times ran a prominent article making the case that the Senate failed to follow the President's lead at least partly because of his passivity as a tactical politician. It described how Mark Begich, a Democratic senator from Alaska, had asked for, and received, a crucial favor from the White House, but then, four weeks later, when Begich voted against the bill on background checks, he paid no price. No one shut down any highway lanes in Anchorage; no Presidential fury was felt in Juneau or the Brooks Range. The historian Robert Dallek, another guest at the President's table, told the Times that Obama was ''inclined to believe that sweet reason is what you need to use with people in high office.''

Yet Obama and his aides regard all such talk of breaking bread and breaking legs as wishful fantasy. They maintain that they could invite every Republican in Congress to play golf until the end of time, could deliver punishments with ruthless regularity'--and never cut the Gordian knot of contemporary Washington. They have a point. An Alaska Democrat like Begich would never last in office had he voted with Obama. L.B.J., elected in a landslide victory in 1964, drew on whopping majorities in both houses of Congress. He could exploit ideological diversity within the parties and the lax regulations on earmarks and pork-barrel spending. ''When he lost that historic majority, and the glow of that landslide victory faded, he had the same problems with Congress that most Presidents at one point or another have,'' Obama told me. ''I say that not to suggest that I'm a master wheeler-dealer but, rather, to suggest that there are some structural institutional realities to our political system that don't have much to do with schmoozing.''

Dallek said, ''Johnson could sit with Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, kneecap to kneecap, drinking bourbon and branch water, and Dirksen would mention that there was a fine young man in his state who would be a fine judge, and the deal would be cut. Nowadays, the media would know in an instant and rightly yell 'Corruption!' ''

Caro finds the L.B.J.-B.H.O. comparison ludicrous. ''Johnson was unique,'' he said. ''We have never had anyone like him, as a legislative genius. I'm working on his Presidency now. Wait till you see what he does to get Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act through. But is Obama a poor practitioner of power? I have a different opinion. No matter what the problems with the rollout of Obamacare, it's a major advance in the history of social justice to provide access to health care for thirty-one million people.''

At the most recent dinner he attended at the White House, Caro had the distinct impression that Obama was cool to him, annoyed, perhaps, at the notion appearing in the press that his latest Johnson volume was an implicit rebuke to him. ''As we were leaving, I said to Obama, 'You know, my book wasn't an unspoken attack on you, it's a book about Lyndon Johnson,' '' Caro recalled. L.B.J. was, after all, also the President who made the catastrophic decision to deepen America's involvement in the quagmire of Vietnam. ''Obama seems interested in winding down our foreign wars,'' Caro said approvingly.

When Obama does ask Republicans to a social occasion, he is sometimes rebuffed. In the fall of 2012, he organized a screening at the White House of Steven Spielberg's film ''Lincoln.'' Spielberg, the cast, and the Democratic leadership found the time to come. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and three other Republicans declined their invitations, pleading the press of congressional business. In the current climate, a Republican, especially one facing challenges at home from the right, risks more than he gains by socializing or doing business with Obama. Boehner may be prepared to compromise on certain issues, but it looks better for him if he is seen to be making a deal with Harry Reid, in the Senate, than with Barack Obama. Obama's people say that the President's attitude is, Fine, so long as we get there. Help me to help you.

When I asked Obama if he had read or seen anything that fully captured the experience of being in his office, he laughed, as if to say, You just have no idea. ''The truth is, in popular culture the President is usually a side character and a lot of times is pretty dull,'' he said. ''If it's a paranoid conspiracy-theory movie, then there's an evil aide who is carrying something out. If it's a good President, then he is all-wise and all-knowing'''--like the characters played by Martin Sheen in ''The West Wing,'' and Michael Douglas in ''The American President.'' Obama says that he is neither. ''I'll tell you that watching 'Lincoln' was interesting, in part because you watched what obviously was a fictionalized account of the President I most admire, and there was such a gap between him and me that it made you want to be better.'' He spoke about envying Lincoln's ''capacity to speak to and move the country without simplifying, and at the most fundamental of levels.'' But what struck him most, he said, was precisely what his critics think he most avoids'--''the messiness of getting something done.''

He went on, ''The real politics resonated with me, because I have yet to see something that we've done, or any President has done, that was really important and good, that did not involve some mess and some strong-arming and some shading of how it was initially talked about to a particular member of the legislature who you needed a vote from. Because, if you're doing big, hard things, then there is going to be some hair on it'--there's going to be some aspects of it that aren't clean and neat and immediately elicit applause from everybody. And so the nature of not only politics but, I think, social change of any sort is that it doesn't move in a straight line, and that those who are most successful typically are tacking like a sailor toward a particular direction but have to take into account winds and currents and occasionally the lack of any wind, so that you're just sitting there for a while, and sometimes you're being blown all over the place.''

The politician sensitive to winds and currents was visible in Obama's coy talk of his ''evolving'' position on gay marriage. Obama conceded in one of our later conversations only that it's ''fair to say that I may have come to that realization slightly before I actually made the announcement'' favoring gay marriage, in May of 2012. ''But this was not a situation where I kind of did a wink and a nod and a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn.'' The turn may not have been a sudden one-eighty; to say that your views are ''evolving,'' though, is to say there is a position that you consider to be more advanced than the one you officially hold. And he held the ''evolved'' position in 1996, when, as a candidate for the Illinois state senate, he filled out a questionnaire from Outlines, a local gay and lesbian newspaper, saying, ''I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.''

When I asked Obama about another area of shifting public opinion'--the legalization of marijuana'--he seemed even less eager to evolve with any dispatch and get in front of the issue. ''As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol.''

Is it less dangerous? I asked.

Obama leaned back and let a moment go by. That's one of his moves. When he is interviewed, particularly for print, he has the habit of slowing himself down, and the result is a spool of cautious lucidity. He speaks in paragraphs and with moments of revision. Sometimes he will stop in the middle of a sentence and say, ''Scratch that,'' or, ''I think the grammar was all screwed up in that sentence, so let me start again.''

Less dangerous, he said, ''in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It's not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.'' What clearly does trouble him is the radically disproportionate arrests and incarcerations for marijuana among minorities. ''Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,'' he said. ''And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.'' But, he said, ''we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.'' Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that ''it's important for it to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.''

As is his habit, he nimbly argued the other side. ''Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that's going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.'' He noted the slippery-slope arguments that might arise. ''I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We've got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn't going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?''


By Monday night, Obama was in Los Angeles, headed for Beverly Park, a gated community of private-equity barons, Saudi princes, and movie people. It was a night of fund-raisers'--the first hosted by Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers to five N.B.A. championships, in the eighties. In the Beast, on the way to Johnson's house, Obama told me, ''Magic has become a good friend. I always tease him'--I think he supported Hillary the first time around, in '08.''

''He campaigned for her in Iowa!'' Josh Earnest, a press spokesman, said, still sounding chagrined.

''Yeah, but we have developed a great relationship,'' Obama said. ''I wasn't a Lakers fan. I was a Philadelphia 76ers fan, because I loved Doctor J.'''--Julius Erving'--''and then became a Jordan fan, because I moved to Chicago. But, in my mind, at least, what has made Magic heroic was not simply the joy of his playing.'' Obama said that the way Johnson handled his H.I.V. diagnosis changed ''how the culture thought about that'--which, actually, I think, ultimately had an impact about how the culture thought about the gay community.'' He also talked about Johnson's business success as something that was ''deeply admired'' among African-Americans'--''the notion that here's somebody who would leverage fame and fortune in sports into a pretty remarkable business career.''

''Do you not see that often enough, by your lights?'' I asked.

''I don't,'' Obama said.

The Obamas are able to speak to people of color in a way that none of their predecessors could. And the President is quick to bring into the public realm the fact that, for all his personal cool, he is a foursquare family man. He has plenty of hip-hop on his iPod, but he also worries about the moments of misogyny. Once, I mentioned to him that I knew that while Malia Obama, an aspiring filmmaker, was a fan of ''Girls,'' he and Michelle Obama were, at first, wary of the show.

''I'm at the very young end of the Baby Boom generation, which meant that I did not come of age in the sixties'--took for granted certain freedoms, certain attitudes about gender, sexuality, equality for women, but didn't feel as if I was having to rebel against something,'' Obama said. ''Precisely because I didn't have a father in the home and moved around a lot as a kid and had a wonderfully loving mom and grandparents, but not a lot of structure growing up, I emerged on the other side of that with an appreciation for family and marriage and structure for the kids. I'm sure that's part of why Michelle and her family held such appeal to me in the first place, because she did grow up with that kind of structure. And now, as parents, I don't think we're being particularly conservative'--we're actually not prudes. . . . But, as parents, what we have seen, both in our own family and among our friends, is that kids with structure have an easier time of it.''

He talked about a visit that he made last year to Hyde Park Academy, a public high school on Chicago's South Side, where he met with a group of about twenty boys in a program called Becoming a Man. ''They're in this program because they're fundamentally good kids who could tip in the wrong direction if they didn't get some guidance and some structure,'' Obama recalled. ''We went around the room and started telling each other stories. And one of the young men asked me about me growing up, and I explained, You know what? I'm just like you guys. I didn't have a dad. There were times where I was angry and wasn't sure why I was angry. I engaged in a bunch of anti-social behavior. I did drugs. I got drunk. Didn't take school seriously. The only difference between me and you is that I was in a more forgiving environment, and if I made a mistake I wasn't going to get shot. And, even if I didn't apply myself in school, I was at a good enough school that just through osmosis I'd have the opportunity to go to college.

''And, as I'm speaking, the kid next to me looks over and he says, 'Are you talking about you?' And there was a benefit for them hearing that, because when I then said, You guys have to take yourselves more seriously, or you need to have a backup plan in case you don't end up being LeBron or Jay Z . . . they might listen. Now, that's not a liberal or a conservative thing. There have been times where some thoughtful and sometimes not so thoughtful African-American commentators have gotten on both Michelle and me, suggesting that we are not addressing enough sort of institutional barriers and racism, and we're engaging in sort of up-by-the-bootstraps, Booker T. Washington messages that let the larger society off the hook.'' Obama thought that this reaction was sometimes knee-jerk. ''I always tell people to go read some of Dr. King's writings about the African-American community. For that matter, read Malcolm X. . . . There's no contradiction to say that there are issues of personal responsibility that have to be addressed, while still acknowledging that some of the specific pathologies in the African-American community are a direct result of our history.''

The higher we went up into Beverly Hills, the grander the houses were. This was where the big donors lived. But Obama's thoughts have been down in the city. The drama of racial inequality, in his mind, has come to presage a larger, transracial form of economic disparity, a deepening of the class divide. Indeed, if there is a theme for the remaining days of his term, it is inequality. In 2011, he went to Osawatomie, Kansas, the site of Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 New Nationalism speech'--a signal moment in the history of Progressivism'--and declared inequality the ''defining issue of our time.'' He repeated the message at length, late last year, in Anacostia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., this time noting that the gap between the rich and the poor in America now resembled that in Argentina and Jamaica, rather than that in France, Germany, or Canada. American C.E.O.s once made, on average, thirty times as much as workers; now they make about two hundred and seventy times as much. The wealthy hire lobbyists; they try to secure their interests with campaign donations. Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: ''I need help. I can't imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don't get some type of relief soon, I'm afraid that's what may happen.'' ''Copy to Senior Advisers,'' Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. ''This is the person we are working for.''

In one of our conversations, I asked him what he felt he must get done before leaving office. He was silent for a while and then broke into a pained grin. ''You mean, now that the Web site is working?'' Yes, after that. ''It's hard to anticipate events over the next three years,'' he said. ''If you had asked F.D.R. what he had to accomplish in 1937, he would have told you, 'I've got to stabilize the economy and reduce the deficit.' Turned out there were a few more things on his plate.'' He went on, ''I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or F.D.R. faced. So I think it's unrealistic to suggest that I can narrow my focus the way those two Presidents did. But I can tell you that I will measure myself at the end of my Presidency in large part by whether I began the process of rebuilding the middle class and the ladders into the middle class, and reversing the trend toward economic bifurcation in this society.''

Obama met last summer with Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist who became famous for a book he wrote on social atomization, ''Bowling Alone.'' For the past several years, Putnam and some colleagues have been working on a book about the growing opportunity gap between rich and poor kids. Putnam, who led a Kennedy School seminar on civic engagement that Obama was in, sent the President a memo about his findings. More and more, Putnam found, the crucial issue is class, and he believes that a black President might have an easier time explaining this trend to the American people and setting an agenda to combat it. Other prominent politicians'--including Hillary Clinton, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush'--have also consulted Putnam. Putnam told me that, even if legislation combatting the widening class divide eludes Obama, ''I am hoping he can be John the Baptist on this.'' And Obama, for his part, seems eager to take on that evangelizing role.

''You have an economy,'' Obama told me, ''that is ruthlessly squeezing workers and imposing efficiencies that make our flat-screen TVs really cheap but also puts enormous downward pressure on wages and salaries. That's making it more and more difficult not only for African-Americans or Latinos to get a foothold into the middle class but for everybody'--large majorities of people'--to get a foothold in the middle class or to feel secure there. You've got folks like Bob Putnam, who's doing some really interesting studies indicating the degree to which some of those 'pathologies' that used to be attributed to the African-American community in particular'--single-parent households, and drug abuse, and men dropping out of the labor force, and an underground economy'--you're now starting to see in larger numbers in white working-class communities as well, which would tend to vindicate what I think a lot of us always felt.''


After the event at Magic Johnson's place'--the highlight was a tour of an immense basement trophy room, where Johnson had installed a gleaming hardwood basketball floor and piped in the sound of crowds cheering and announcers declaring the glories of the Lakers'--the Beast made its way to the compound that the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers built. Haim Saban, who made his billions as a self-described ''cartoon schlepper,'' was born in Egypt, came of age in Israel, and started his show-business career as the bass player in the Lions of Judah. His politics are not ambiguous. ''I am a one-issue guy,'' he once said, ''and my issue is Israel.'' His closest political relationship is with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and he was crushed when she lost to Obama, in 2008. Saban publicly expressed doubts about whether Obama was sufficiently ardent about Israel, but he has come around.

The main house on Saban's property is less of an art museum than Jon Shirley's, though it features a Warhol diptych of Golda Meir and Albert Einstein over the fireplace. The fund-raiser was held in back of the main house, under a tent. Addressing a hundred and twenty guests, and being peppered with questions about the Middle East, Obama trotted around all the usual bases'--the hope for peace, the still strong alliance with Israel, the danger of ''lone wolf'' terror threats. But, while a man who funds the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution may have warmed to Obama, there is no question that, in certain professional foreign-policy circles, Obama is often regarded with mistrust. His Syria policy'--with its dubious ''red line'' and threats to get rid of Bashar al-Assad; with John Kerry's improvised press-conference gambit on chemical weapons'--has inspired little confidence. Neither did the decision to accelerate troop levels in Afghanistan and, at the same time, schedule a withdrawal.

Obama came to power without foreign-policy experience; but he won the election, in part, by advocating a foreign-policy sensibility that was wary of American overreach. If George W. Bush's foreign policy was largely a reaction to 9/11, Obama's has been a reaction to the reaction. He withdrew American forces from Iraq. He went to Cairo in 2009, in an attempt to forge ''a new beginning'' between the United States and the Muslim world. American troops will come home from Afghanistan this year. As he promised in his first Presidential campaign'--to the outraged protests of Hillary Clinton and John McCain alike'--he has extended a hand to traditional enemies, from Iran to Cuba. And he has not hesitated in his public rhetoric to acknowledge, however subtly, the abuses, as well as the triumphs, of American power. He remembers going with his mother to live in Indonesia, in 1967'--shortly after a military coup, engineered with American help, led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. This event, and the fact that so few Americans know much about it, made a lasting impression on Obama. He is convinced that an essential component of diplomacy is the public recognition of historical facts'--not only the taking of American hostages in Iran, in 1979, but also the American role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, in 1953.

The right's response has been to accuse Obama of conducting a foreign policy of apology. Last year, Republican senators on the Foreign Affairs Committee, including Marco Rubio, of Florida, demanded to know if Samantha Power, Obama's nominee for U.N. Ambassador and the author of ''A Problem from Hell,'' a historical indictment of American passivity in the face of various genocides around the world, would ever ''apologize'' for the United States. (In a depressing Kabuki drama, Power seemed forced to prove her patriotic bona fides by insisting repeatedly that the U.S. was ''the greatest country on earth'' and that, no, she would ''never apologize'' for it.) Obama's conservative critics, both at home and abroad, paint him as a President out to diminish American power. Josef Joffe, the hawkish editor of Die Zeit, the highbrow German weekly, told me, ''There is certainly consistency and coherence in his attempt to retract from the troubles of the world, to get the U.S. out of harm's way, in order to do 'a little nation-building at home,' as he has so often put it. If you want to be harsh about it, he wants to turn the U.S. into a very large medium power, into an XXL France or Germany.''

Obama's ''long game'' on foreign policy calls for traditional categories of American power and ideology to be reordered. Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser for strategic communications, told me that Washington was ''trapped in very stale narratives.''

''In the foreign-policy establishment, to be an idealist you have to be for military intervention,'' Rhodes went on. ''In the Democratic Party, these debates were defined in the nineties, and the idealists lined up for military intervention. For the President, Iraq was the defining issue, and now Syria is viewed through that lens, as was Libya'--to be an idealist, you have to be a military interventionist. We spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and had troops there for a decade, and you can't say it wielded positive influence. Just the opposite. We can't seem to get out of these boxes.''

Obama may resist the idealism of a previous generation of interventionists, but his realism, if that's what it is, diverges from the realism of Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft. ''It comes from the idea that change is organic and change comes to countries in its own way, modernization comes in its own way, rather than through liberation narratives coming from the West,'' Fareed Zakaria, a writer on foreign policy whom Obama reads and consults, says. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who worked at the State Department as Hillary Clinton's director of policy planning, says, ''Obama has a real understanding of the limits of our power. It's not that the United States is in decline; it's that sometimes the world has problems without the tools to fix them.'' Members of Obama's foreign-policy circle say that when he is criticized for his reaction to situations like Iran's Green Revolution, in 2009, or the last days of Hosni Mubarak's regime, in 2011, he complains that people imagine him to have a ''joystick'' that allows him to manipulate precise outcomes.

Obama told me that what he needs isn't any new grand strategy'--''I don't really even need George Kennan right now'''--but, rather, the right strategic partners. ''There are currents in history and you have to figure out how to move them in one direction or another,'' Rhodes said. ''You can't necessarily determine the final destination. . . . The President subscribes less to a great-man theory of history and more to a great-movement theory of history'--that change happens when people force it or circumstances do.'' (Later, Obama told me, ''I'm not sure Ben is right about that. I believe in both.'')

The President may scorn the joystick fantasy, but he does believe that his words'--at microphones from Cairo to Yangon'--can encourage positive change abroad, even if only in the long run. In Israel last March, he told university students that ''political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.'' Obama, who has pressed Netanyahu to muster the political will to take risks on his own, thinks he can help ''create a space'''--that is the term around the White House'--for forward movement on the Palestinian issue, whether he is around to see the result or not.

Administration officials are convinced that their efforts to toughen the sanctions on Iran caused tremendous economic pain and helped Hassan Rouhani win popular support in the Iranian Presidential elections last year. Although Rouhani is no liberal'--he has revolutionary and religious credentials, which is why he was able to run'--he was not Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's favored candidate. Khamenei is an opaque, cautious figure, Administration officials say, but he clearly acceded to Rouhani as he saw the political demands of the population shift.

The nuclear negotiations in Geneva, which were preceded by secret contacts with the Iranians in Oman and New York, were, from Obama's side, based on a series of strategic calculations that, he acknowledges, may not work out. As the Administration sees it, an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and a threat to the entire region; it could spark a nuclear arms race reaching Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. (Israel has had nukes since 1967.) But the White House is prepared to accept a civilian nuclear capacity in Iran, with strict oversight, while the Israelis and the Gulf states regard any Iranian nuclear technology at all as unacceptable. Obama has told Netanyahu and Republican senators that the absolutist benchmark is not achievable. Members of Obama's team believe that the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states, who are now allied as never before, want the U.S. to be their proxy in a struggle not merely for de-nuclearization in Iran but for regime change'--and that is not on the Administration's agenda, except, perhaps, as a hope.

Republican and Democratic senators have expressed doubts about even the interim agreement with Iran, and have threatened to tighten sanctions still further. ''Historically, there is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people,'' Obama said, adding that ''members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues.'' He went on, ''I don't think a new sanctions bill will reach my desk during this period, but, if it did, I would veto it and expect it to be sustained.''

Ultimately, he envisages a new geopolitical equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle. ''It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren't intent on killing each other,'' he told me. ''And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion'--not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon'--you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there's competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.

''With respect to Israel, the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states.'' As Saudi and Israeli diplomats berate Obama in unison, his reaction is, essentially, Use that. ''What's preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that's developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that's increased inside of Israel based on seeing buses being blown up,'' Obama said. ''If you can start unwinding some of that, that creates a new equilibrium. And so I think each individual piece of the puzzle is meant to paint a picture in which conflicts and competition still exist in the region but that it is contained, it is expressed in ways that don't exact such an enormous toll on the countries involved, and that allow us to work with functioning states to prevent extremists from emerging there.''

During Obama's performance under Saban's tent, there was no talk of a Sunni-Israeli alignment, or of any failures of vision on Netanyahu's part. Obama did allow himself to be testy about the criticism he has received over his handling of the carnage in Syria. ''You'll recall that that was the previous end of my Presidency, until it turned out that we are actually getting all the chemical weapons. And no one reports on that anymore.''


Obama's lowest moments in the Middle East have involved his handling of Syria. Last summer, when I visited Za'atari, the biggest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, one displaced person after another expressed anger and dismay at American inaction. In a later conversation, I asked Obama if he was haunted by Syria, and, though the mask of his equipoise rarely slips, an indignant expression crossed his face. ''I am haunted by what's happened,'' he said. ''I am not haunted by my decision not to engage in another Middle Eastern war. It is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which our involvement in Syria would have led to a better outcome, short of us being willing to undertake an effort in size and scope similar to what we did in Iraq. And when I hear people suggesting that somehow if we had just financed and armed the opposition earlier, that somehow Assad would be gone by now and we'd have a peaceful transition, it's magical thinking.

''It's not as if we didn't discuss this extensively down in the Situation Room. It's not as if we did not solicit'--and continue to solicit'--opinions from a wide range of folks. Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn't come up with much. We have looked at this from every angle. And the truth is that the challenge there has been, and continues to be, that you have an authoritarian, brutal government who is willing to do anything to hang on to power, and you have an opposition that is disorganized, ill-equipped, ill-trained, and is self-divided. All of that is on top of some of the sectarian divisions. . . . And, in that environment, our best chance of seeing a decent outcome at this point is to work the state actors who have invested so much in keeping Assad in power'--mainly the Iranians and the Russians'--as well as working with those who have been financing the opposition to make sure that they're not creating the kind of extremist force that we saw emerge out of Afghanistan when we were financing the mujahideen.''

At the core of Obama's thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone's mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been ''decimated.'' I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.

''The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant,'' Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. ''I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

''Let's just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn't lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.''

He went on, ''You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement'--all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we're not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we're not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.''

This wasn't realism or idealism; it was something closer to policy particularism (this thing is different from that thing; Syria is not Libya; Iran is not North Korea). Yet Obama's regular deployment of drones has been criticized as a one-size-fits-all recourse, in which the prospect of destroying an individual enemy too easily trumps broader strategic and diplomatic considerations, to say nothing of moral ones. A few weeks before Obama left Washington to scour the West Coast for money, he invited to the White House Malala Yousafzai, the remarkable Pakistani teen-ager who campaigned for women's education and was shot in the head by the Taliban. Yousafzai thanked Obama for the material support that the U.S. government provided for education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and among Syrian refugees, but she also told him that drone strikes were ''fuelling terrorism'' and resentment in her country.

''I think any President should be troubled by any war or any kinetic action that leads to death,'' Obama told me when I brought up Yousafzai's remarks. ''The way I've thought about this issue is, I have a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe. That's my most important obligation as President and Commander-in-Chief. And there are individuals and groups out there that are intent on killing Americans'--killing American civilians, killing American children, blowing up American planes. That's not speculation. It's their explicit agenda.''

Obama said that, if terrorists can be captured and prosecuted, ''that's always my preference. If we can't, I cannot stand by and do nothing. They operate in places where oftentimes we cannot reach them, or the countries are either unwilling or unable to capture them in partnership with us. And that then narrows my options: we can simply be on defense and try to harden our defense. But in this day and age that's of limited'--well, that's insufficient. We can say to those countries, as my predecessor did, if you are harboring terrorists, we will hold you accountable'--in which case, we could be fighting a lot of wars around the world. And, statistically, it is indisputable that the costs in terms of not only our men and women in uniform but also innocent civilians would be much higher. Or, where possible, we can take targeted strikes, understanding that anytime you take a military strike there are risks involved. What I've tried to do is to tighten the process so much and limit the risks of civilian casualties so much that we have the least fallout from those actions. But it's not perfect.''

It is far from that. In December, an American drone flying above Al Bayda province, in Yemen, fired on what U.S. intelligence believed was a column of Al Qaeda fighters. The ''column'' was in fact a wedding party; twelve people were killed, and fifteen were seriously injured. Some of the victims, if not all, were civilians. This was no aberration. In Yemen and Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, American drones have killed between some four hundred and a thousand civilians'--a civilian-to-combatant ratio that could be as high as one to three. Obama has never made it clear how the vast populations outraged and perhaps radicalized by such remote-control mayhem might figure into his calculations about American security.

''Look, you wrestle with it,'' Obama said. ''And those who have questioned our drone policy are doing exactly what should be done in a democracy'--asking some tough questions. The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it's not complicated and there aren't some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren't complicated questions. Listen, as I have often said to my national-security team, I didn't run for office so that I could go around blowing things up.''

Obama told me that in all three of his main initiatives in the region'--with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria'--the odds of completing final treaties are less than fifty-fifty. ''On the other hand,'' he said, ''in all three circumstances we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn't roll back on us. And all three are connected. I do believe that the region is going through rapid change and inexorable change. Some of it is demographics; some of it is technology; some of it is economics. And the old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes, What's next?''


On his last day in Los Angeles, Obama romanced Hollywood, taking a helicopter to visit the DreamWorks studio, in Glendale. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Obama's host and the head of DreamWorks Animation, is one of the Democrats' most successful fund-raisers. But it is never a good idea for the White House to admit to any quid pro quo. When one of the pool reporters asked why the President was going to Katzenberg's studio and not, say, Universal, a travelling spokesman replied, ''DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California. And the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg's support for the President's policies has no bearing on our decision to visit there.''

That's pretty rich. Katzenberg has been a supporter from the start of Obama's national career, raising millions of dollars for him and for the Party's Super PACs. Nor has he been hurt by his political associations. Joe Biden helped pave the way with Xi Jinping and other officials so that DreamWorks and other Hollywood companies could build studios in China. (In an awkward postscript, the S.E.C. reportedly began investigating, in 2012, whether DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox, and the Walt Disney Company paid bribes to Chinese officials, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.)

A flock of military helicopters brought the Obama party to Glendale, and, after a short ride to DreamWorks Animation, Katzenberg greeted the President and gave him a tour. They stopped in a basement recording studio to watch a voice-over session for a new animated picture called ''Home,'' starring the voice of Steve Martin. Greeting Martin, Obama recalled that the last time they saw each other must have been when Martin played banjo with his band at the White House.

Martin nodded. ''I always say the fact that I played banjo at the White House was the biggest thrill of his life.''

Katzenberg explained that ''Home'' was the story of the Boov, an alien race that has taken over the planet. Martin is the voice of Captain Smek, the leader of the Boov.

''Where did we go?'' Obama asked Tim Johnson, the director. ''Do they feed us?''

''Mostly ice cream.''

Katzenberg said that, unlike dramatic films with live actors, nineteen out of twenty of DreamWorks' animated pictures succeed.

''My kids have aged out,'' Obama said. ''They used to be my excuse to watch them all.''

Katzenberg led Obama to a conference room, where the heads of most of the major movie and television studios were waiting. There would be touchy questions about business'--particularly about the ''North versus South'' civil war in progress between the high-tech libertarians in Silicon Valley and the ''content producers'' in Los Angeles. The war was over intellectual-property rights, and Obama showed little desire to get in the middle of these two constituencies. If anything, he knows that Silicon Valley is ascendant, younger, more able to mobilize active voters, and he was not about to offer the studio heads his unqualified muscle.

Finally, the subject switched to global matters. Alan Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, raised his hand. ''First,'' he said, ''I do recommend that you and your family see 'Frozen,' which is coming to a theatre near you. ''

Then he asked about climate change.


On the flight back to Washington, Obama read and played spades with some aides to pass the time. (He and his former body man Reggie Love took a break to play spades at one point during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.) After a while, one of the aides led me to the front cabin to talk with the President some more. The week before, Obama had given out the annual Presidential Medals of Freedom. One went to Benjamin C. Bradlee, the editor who built the Washington Post by joining the Times in publishing the Pentagon Papers, in 1971, and who stood behind Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they began publishing the Watergate expos(C)s that led to the fall of the Nixon Presidency. I asked Obama how he could reconcile such an award with his Administration's aggressive leak investigations, which have ensnared journalists and sources, and its hostility to Edward Snowden's exposure of the N.S.A.'s blanket surveillance of American and foreign communications.

After a long pause, Obama began to speak of how his first awareness of politics came when, as an eleven-year-old, he went on a cross-country bus trip with his mother and grandmother and, at the end of each day, watched the Watergate hearings on television. ''I remember being fascinated by these figures and what was at stake, and the notion that even the President of the United States isn't above the law,'' he said. ''And Sam Ervin with his eyebrows, and Inouye, this guy from Hawaii'--it left a powerful impression on me. And so, as I got older, when I saw 'All the President's Men,' that was the iconic vision of journalism telling truth to power, and making sure our democracy worked. And I still believe that. And so a lot of the tensions that have existed between my White House and the press are inherent in the institution. The press always wants more, and every White House, including ours, is trying to make sure that the things that we care most about are what's being reported on, and that we're not on any given day chasing after fifteen story lines.''

Then Obama insisted that what Snowden did was ''not akin to Watergate or some scandal in which there were coverups involved.'' The leaks, he said, had ''put people at risk'' but revealed nothing illegal. And though the leaks raised ''legitimate policy questions'' about N.S.A. operations, ''the issue then is: Is the only way to do that by giving some twenty-nine-year-old free rein to basically dump a mountain of information, much of which is definitely legal, definitely necessary for national security, and should properly be classified?'' In Obama's view, ''the benefit of the debate he generated was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it.'' Once again, it was the President as Professor-in-Chief, assessing all sides, and observing the tilt of the scales. (The day before his speech last week on reforming the N.S.A., he told me, ''I do not have a yes/no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden. This is an active case, where charges have been brought.'')

The coverage of the leaks, Obama complained, paints ''a picture of a rogue agency out there running around and breaking a whole bunch of laws and engaging in a 'domestic spying program' that isn't accurate. But what that does is it synchs up with a public imagination that sees Big Brother looming everywhere.'' The greater damage, in his view, was the way the leaks heightened suspicions among foreign leaders. Obama enjoyed a good relationship with Angela Merkel, but he admitted that it was undermined by reports alleging that the U.S. tapped her cell phone. This, he said, felt ''like a breach of trust and I can't argue with her being aggravated about that.''

But, he said, ''there are European governments that we know spy on us, and there is a little bit of Claude Rains in 'Casablanca''--shocked that gambling is going on.'' He added, ''Now, I will say that I automatically assume that there are a whole bunch of folks out there trying to spy on me, which is why I don't have a phone. I do not send out anything on my BlackBerry that I don't assume at some point will be on the front page of a newspaper, so it's pretty boring reading for the most part.''

Obama admitted that the N.S.A. has had ''too much leeway to do whatever it wanted or could.'' But he didn't feel ''any ambivalence'' about the decisions he has made. ''I actually feel confident that the way the N.S.A. operates does not threaten the privacy and constitutional rights of Americans and that the laws that are in place are sound, and, because we've got three branches of government involved and a culture that has internalized that domestic spying is against the law, it actually works pretty well,'' he said. ''Over all, five years from now, when I'm a private citizen, I'm going to feel pretty confident that my government is not spying on me.''

Obama has three years left, but it's not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. The State of the Union speech next week will be a catalogue of things hoped for, a resumption of the second inaugural, with an added emphasis on the theme of inequality. But Obama knows that major legislation'--with the possible exception of immigration'--is unlikely. And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.

''One of the things that I've learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history,'' he later told me. ''You don't start with a clean slate, and the things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable. But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant. I suspect that Ronald Reagan, if you'd asked him, would not have considered the earned-income-tax-credit provision in tax reform to be at the top of his list of accomplishments. On the other hand, what the E.I.T.C. has done, starting with him, being added to by Clinton, being used by me during the Recovery Act, has probably kept more people out of poverty than a whole lot of other government programs that are currently in place.''

Johnson's Great Society will be fifty years old in 2014, but no Republican wants a repeat of that scale of government ambition. Obama acknowledges this, saying, ''The appetite for tax-and-transfer strategies, even among Democrats, much less among independents or Republicans, is probably somewhat limited, because people are seeing their incomes haven't gone up, their wages haven't gone up. It's natural for them to think any new taxes may be going to somebody else, I'm not confident in terms of how it's going to be spent, I'd much rather hang on to what I've got.'' He will try to do things like set up partnerships with selected cities and citizens' groups, sign some executive orders, but a ''Marshall Plan for the inner city is not going to get through Congress anytime soon.''

Indeed, Obama is quick to show a measure of sympathy with the Reagan-era conservative analysis of government. ''This is where sometimes progressives get frustrated with me,'' he said, ''because I actually think there was a legitimate critique of the welfare state getting bloated, and relying too much on command and control, top-down government programs to address it back in the seventies. It's also why it's ironic when I'm accused of being this raging socialist who wants to amass more and more power for their own government. . . . But I do think that some of the anti-government rhetoric, anti-tax rhetoric, anti-spending rhetoric that began before Reagan but fully flowered with the Reagan Presidency accelerated trends that were already existing, or at least robbed us of some tools to deal with the downsides of globalization and technology, and that with just some modest modification we could grow this economy faster and benefit more people and provide more opportunity.

''After we did all that, there would still be poverty and there would still be some inequality and there would still be a lot of work to do for the forty-fifth through fiftieth Presidents,'' he went on, ''but I'd like to give voice to an impression I think a lot of Americans have, which is it's harder to make it now if you are just the average citizen who's willing to work hard and has good values, and wasn't born with huge advantages or having enjoyed extraordinary luck'--that the ground is less secure under your feet.''

In the White House, advisers are resigned by now to the idea that some liberal voters, dismayed by a range of issues'--drones, the N.S.A., the half measures of health care and financial reform'--have turned away from Obama and to newer figures like Elizabeth Warren or Bill de Blasio. ''Well, look, we live in a very fast-moving culture,'' Obama said. ''And, by definition, the President of the United States is overexposed, and it is natural, after six, seven years of me being on the national stage, that people start wanting to see . . .''

''Other flavors?''

''Yes,'' he said. '' 'Is there somebody else out there who can give me that spark of inspiration or excitement?' I don't spend too much time worrying about that. I think the things that are exciting people are the same things that excite me and excited me back then. I might have given fresh voice to them, but the values are essentially the same.''


Obama came home from Los Angeles in a dark, freezing downpour. The weather was too rotten even for Marine One. He hustled down the steps of Air Force One and ducked into his car.

A few weeks later, I was able to see him for a last conversation in the Oval Office. The Obamas had just had a long vacation in Hawaii'--sun, golf, family, and not much else. The President was sitting behind his desk'--the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford B. Hayes'--and he was reading from a folder marked ''Secret.'' He closed it, walked across the room, and settled into an armchair near the fireplace. ''I got some rest,'' he said. ''But time to get to work.''

Obama has every right to claim a long list of victories since he took office: ending two wars; an economic rescue, no matter how imperfect; strong Supreme Court nominations; a lack of major scandal; essential support for an epochal advance in the civil rights of gays and lesbians; more progressive executive orders on climate change, gun control, and the end of torture; and, yes, health-care reform. But, no matter what one's politics, and however one weighs the arguments of his critics, both partisan and principled, one has to wonder about any President's capacity to make these decisions amid a thousand uncertainties, so many of which are matters of life and death, survival and extinction.

''I have strengths and I have weaknesses, like every President, like every person,'' Obama said. ''I do think one of my strengths is temperament. I am comfortable with complexity, and I think I'm pretty good at keeping my moral compass while recognizing that I am a product of original sin. And every morning and every night I'm taking measure of my actions against the options and possibilities available to me, understanding that there are going to be mistakes that I make and my team makes and that America makes; understanding that there are going to be limits to the good we can do and the bad that we can prevent, and that there's going to be tragedy out there and, by occupying this office, I am part of that tragedy occasionally, but that if I am doing my very best and basing my decisions on the core values and ideals that I was brought up with and that I think are pretty consistent with those of most Americans, that at the end of the day things will be better rather than worse.''

The cheering crowds and hecklers from the West Coast trip seemed far away now. In the preternaturally quiet office, you could hear, between every long pause that Obama took, the ticking of a grandfather clock just to his left.

''I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,'' he said. ''But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we're on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.'' The long view again. ''But I think our decisions matter,'' he went on. ''And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn't been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn't diminish Lincoln's achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we're part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.''

A little while later, as we were leaving the Oval Office and walking under the colonnade, Obama said, ''I just wanted to add one thing to that business about the great-man theory of history. The President of the United States cannot remake our society, and that's probably a good thing.'' He paused yet again, always self-editing. ''Not 'probably,' '' he said. ''It's definitely a good thing.'' '...


Q&A: Does This Explain Obama's Phony Birth Certificate; Who's Your Daddy!? - Birther Report: Obama Release Your Records

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 15:15

Adrien Nash @ ObamaRelease YourRecords:Mohammed Subud & Barry Obammy...related? His mother as well as Loretta Fuddy were both members of the Subud cult. The question is "when did Dunham first meet Muhammed? 1960? or later?

I copied and reversed Subud's eye and replaced Obama's which was squinting. (the middle version is a different photo) '-- ...


Jesse Mimsreplied:I agree with your assessment of the required time frame. I have also done considerable research on the photo in question, the history of Pak Subuh, and his movement known as Subud.

The photo on the far left is of Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (AKA Pak Subuh by his followers). After looking through hundreds of photos of Pak Subuh I finally found an independent source for that particular photo of him. See

So, that photo appears to be authentic; although there remains SOME possibility that it could have been altered. ASSUMING it IS 100% authentic, the resemblance is certainly uncanny. Personally, I see no reason to doubt its authenticity, but.., who knows in today's world of falsehoods.

Regardless... the resemblance could be moot. A meeting between Pak Subuh and Stanley Ann Dunham PRIOR to Obama's conception has to be proven for it to even be considered as possible that he is Obama's father. Since Obama was supposedly born August 4, 1961, such a meeting would've had to occur during or before November of 1960 for Pak Subuh to have impregnated Stanley Ann nine months before Obama was born.

Based on my research on Subud and Pak Subuh's efforts to grow his movement, the only reason he would have been in Hawaii would be to "open" new members there.

However, the reports I have seen say Subud was introduced to Hawaii "IN THE SIXTIES." Since the official storyline is that Obama was born in August of 1961 (others claim an even earlier date of birth), it would have to be proven that Subud was actually introduced to that state during or before 1960, not "in the sixties," which implies mid-sixties. Additionally, it would have to be proven that Stanley Ann met and became pregnant by Pak Subuh almost immediately upon Subud's arrival there.

The best estimate I can find as to when Stanley Ann became involved with Subud (IF she actually did...) is reported by Wayne Madsen; and, he says that happened in the LATE sixties, far too late for Pak Subuh to have fathered Obama.

So, in summary, to prove Pak Subuh can even be considered to have POSSIBLY fathered Obama, the following things have to be proven:

1. Subud was introduced to Hawaii AT LEAST nine months BEFORE Obama was born (during or before November of 1960).2. Subud was introduced by Pak Subuh personally and not by one of the movement's helpers who often did that job.3. Assuming Pak Subuh personally introduced Subud to Hawaii, he met Stanley Ann during or before November of 1960 (nine months prior to Obama's birth).4. Assuming Pak Subuh personally introduced Subud to Hawaii, Stanley Ann became pregnant by him almost immediately upon his arrival and the introduction of Subud to that state.

I'm not yet fully convinced either way. I am only trying to find the truth. Please remember that in order to fully prove that something is true one has to prove that all other alternatives are not true; and, only very careful consideration of ALL the available facts can result in the right conclusion. That is the scientific approach and even though we cannot always prove or disprove a thing scientifically, we should always strive to come as close to that goal as possible. If we do that, the end result will be as close to the absolute truth as we can possibility get.

BR/ORYR Note: Above related to Dr. Kissner's blockbuster report published at American Thinker.RELATED: Dr. Corsi: My Guess Obama Had Indonesian Passport; Talks Subud Cult - DETAIL HERE.

RELATED: Freedom Friday: Obama / Soebarkah; Sheriff Joe Case; Subud Cult Ties? - DETAILS HERE.

RELATED: CSU Criminology Professor Dissects Obama's Manufactured Background - DETAILS HERE.RELATED: CSU Criminology Professor Tackles Obama Indonesian Name Soebarkah - DETAILS HERE.

FLASHBACK:As first reported here;


Future US envoy displays total ignorance of Norway - The Local

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Archived Version

Sat, 25 Jan 2014 20:13

George Tsunis speaking to the US senate on Tuesday - Source: Screen Grab

Published: 23 Jan 2014 08:47 GMT+01:00Updated: 23 Jan 2014 08:47 GMT+01:00

The US's next ambassador to Norway has committed a jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder before he even begins, describing politicians from the Progress Party, which has seven ministers, as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred" in a US Senate hearing.

Asked by Senator John McCain what he thought it was about the "anti-immigration" Progress Party that appealed to Norwegian voters, Greek American businessman George Tsunis seemed unaware of the party's role in the ruling coalition.

"You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred," he said in the pre-appointment hearing. "And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them."

McCain interrupted him, pointing out that as part of the coalition, the party was hardly being denounced.

"I stand corrected," Tsunis said after a pause. "I would like to leave my answer at... it's a very,very open society and the overwhelming amount of Norwegians and the overwhelming amount of people in parliament don't feel the same way."

The blunder came after a faltering, incoherent performance from Tsunis, in which he made a reference to Norway's "president", apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy.

Tsunis founded the hotel management company Chartwell Hotels, which operates properties for InterContinental Hotels, and other major hotel groups. He is one of the leading figures in the Greek-American establishment, and is heavily involved in the Greek Orthodox Church.

He donated $267,244 to the Democratic party in the 2012 election cycle, and $278,531 in 2010, making him one of the party's top individual donors.

Fuel filmed pouring from Dreamliner wingNorwegian Airlines' nightmare with its Boeing Dreamliner planes continued on Monday as passengers filmed and photographed fuel pouring out of ...

School uses zombie game to teach ethicsA secondary school in Norway is using a zombie computer game rated 'mature' for its "blood and gore" and "extreme ...

Norwegian artist's 'racist chair' causes a stirA chair designed by the controversy-hungry Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard has riled anti-racism and women's rights groups, after Roman Abramovich's ...

Jail for trashing brother's house with fork-liftA man in Norway was last week sentenced to 14 months in prison for demolishing his elder brother's house with ...

Fifty injured as Norway heritage village burnsOver 20 houses have been destroyed and 50 people injured after a fire broke out in the heritage village of ...

'Obama must apologise for envoy gaffe'Norway's Progress Party has demanded a personal apology from US President Barack Obama after his nomination for Norway's new ambassador ...

PM's own party demands gay lapel pin at SochiNorway's Prime Minister is under pressure from her own party youth group to wear a rainbow-coloured, gay pride lapel pin ...

Woman rescues baby seal lost in the woodsSusanna Jensen was surprised to find a baby seal floundering amongst the trees while she was out walking her dog ...

Temperatures hit -42 in Norway cold snapThe people of Karasjok at the northern tip of Norway woke up to temperatures of -42 degrees on Monday morning ...

Norway to replace f¬€rik¬€l as national dishF¬€rik¬€l, a humble pottage of boiled lamb and cabbage, has been Norway's official national dish for more than 40 years. ...

Today's headlines

Romanian beggar Ioan Bandac - Photo: Virkelig Magazine

A beggar became so popular in the four years he spent on the streets of Troms¬½, northern Norway, that when he died locals raised 100,000 kroner ($16,000) to ship his body back home to Romania for burial. READ () >>

Jens Johan Hjort Source: Troms¬½ Kommun

The mayor of Norwegian town Troms¬½, in the strategic Arctic region, said on Friday he had been "invited" to meet Norway's secret services following repeated encounters with the Chinese ambassador. READ () >>

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit looking relaxed at the luncheon at the Hotel Belvedere in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Lise ¬Öserud / NTB Scanpix

Some go to Davos to strike billion-dollar back-room deals and bend global politicians to their wills. But not apparently Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, who instead attended a meditation session led by US actress Goldie Hawn. READ () >>

The ice floe at Gudbrandsdalsl¬€gen - Source: Trond Stordal

On the river Gudbrandsdalsl¬€gen north of Lillehammer, a large, perfectly circular ice floe, which spins quietly around and around on the river, has been caught on video. READ () >>

George Tsunis speaking to the US senate on Tuesday. Source: Screengrab

Norway's Progress Party has demanded a personal apology from US President Barack Obama after his nomination for Norway's new ambassador described its members as "fringe elements" who "spew out their hatred" (PLUS VIDEO). READ () >>

Bill Gates takes on the mental might of Magnus Carlsen in the Skavlan Studio - Photo: Screen Grab from NRK.

Norwegian chess phenomenon Magnus Carlsen took just one minute and eleven seconds to checkmate Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, when the two met on the Skavlan chat show on Thursday. READ () >>

The demolished house in Etne. Source: Private

A man in Norway was last week sentenced to 14 months in prison for demolishing his elder brother's house with a fork-lift truck. READ () >>

The meat on sale illegally at Green Week. Photo: WDC

Customs officials confiscated illegal whale meat which was being sold as marinated bite-sized snacks at Berlin's Green Week trade fair on Wednesday. READ () >>

Bjarne Melgaard and the offending picture of Dasha Zhukova sitting on his 'racist chair'. Photo: Screen grab from Buro 24/7 website

A chair designed by the controversy-hungry Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard has riled anti-racism and women's rights groups, after Roman Abramovich's girlfriend was photographed sitting on it. READ () >>

Ski-jumper Maren Lundby, one of 19 graduates of Norwegian College of Elite Sport to compete at Sochi - Photo: Geir Olsen / Scanpix NTB

No fewer than 19 students and graduates of the Norwegian College of Elite Sport in Lillehammer have been selected to compete for Norway at next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia. READ () >>


ObamaCare death debt? States can seize assets to recoup Medicaid costs | Fox News

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 19:59

Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments.

He wanted no part of the government's so-called free health care. "It's supposed to be a safety net program. It's not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill," he said.

And after reading the fine print, Gialanella had another reason to flee Medicaid -- the potential death debt.

Though many may not realize it, states are allowed to recover the cost of health care after someone's death by seizing their assets. It applies to Medicaid recipients who are between the ages of 55 and 64. The law has been in place since 1993, when Congress realized states were going broke over rising Medicaid expenses.

But under ObamaCare, Medicaid eligibility has expanded dramatically along with the promise that the federal government will pick up the cost of the higher tab -- at least for the first few years, after which states will be on the hook for a portion of the increase.

Millions more are entering the system, perhaps without knowing that their assets could be at risk.

However, just like Gialanella, others are opting out.

A Washington state couple in their early 60's actually got married recently so their combined income would keep them out of Medicaid and allow them to purchase a plan on the health exchange. Filing as individuals, their incomes had been low enough that they qualified for Medicaid.

They married primarily because Sophia Prins owns a home and wants to will it to her children without any worry that the government will attach a lien for the cost of her medical care. Prins doesn't think it's fair to go after the assets of people who get government assistance through Medicaid, but not those getting taxpayer subsidies through the exchange plans.

The story prompted Washington's Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, to issue an emergency rule change. It says the state may only recover the cost of nursing home care provided to Medicaid recipients in that 55-64 age group. That's the minimum allowable under the 1993 law.

"We have this population that we want to make sure they have access to health care," said state Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad. "We want them to get in so they can get the kinds of services that keep them healthy."

Oregon followed suit. But the 23 other states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare have not changed their estate recovery policies. A lot of money is at stake.

In 2004, California collected $44.6 million through estate recovery. It's a number that is certain to rise dramatically. MediCal officials tell Fox News they expect 1 million-2 million additional enrollees by 2015.

Minnesota, a much smaller state than California, managed to collect $25 million in 2004. It, too, is keeping its estate recovery policy in place.

Critics see a money grab.

"I think that people are maybe in for a shock when they find out their heirs are going to be paying for their care, because they got into a system under false pretenses," said Dr. Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group opposed to the Affordable Care Act.

The estate recovery law is so under the radar right now that interest groups like the AARP are still studying how it will play out under ObamaCare for seniors.

Dan Springer joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in August 2001 as a Seattle-based correspondent.


Conservative filmmaker behind anti-Obama documentary indicted for violating election law | Fox News

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:30

Published January 23,

This publicity image released by Rocky Mountain Pictures, shows an undated film clip of director, Dinesh D'Souza, interviewing George Obama in "2016: Obama's America."AP

The conservative filmmaker behind a hit anti-Obama documentary was indicted Thursday night on charges he violated federal campaign laws, in what a close colleague is calling a ''selective prosecution.''

Dinesh D'Souza, whose ''2016: Obama's America'' is the second-highest grossing political documentary of all time, will appear in U.S. District Court in New York Friday.

The indictment states the 52-year-old best-selling author and activist will be charged with one count of illegally donating to a Senate campaign and one count of causing false statements to be made to authorities in connection with the contributions. has confirmed that the donation in question was made to Republican Wendy Long, who lost a 2012 Senate bid against New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

D'Souza is accused of directing various donors to give contributions to Long's campaign totaling $20,000, and then reimbursing them. Individuals are only allowed to donate a maximum of $5,000 to a candidate per election cycle.

''Trying to influence elections through bogus campaign contributions is a serious crime,'' George Venizelos, the assistant director in charge of the New York FBI office said in a statement. ''Today, Mr. D'Souza finds himself on the wrong side of the law.''

D'Souza's co-producer in ''2016'' Gerald Molen told he believes D'Souza is being singled out by federal authorities.

The 2012 film examined President Obama's past and early influences that may have shaped his political ideology and was a surprise hit, making over $33 million at the box office.

The duo is teaming up again for a new film ''America,'' which Molen said will be released on schedule in July 2014 regardless of what happens in the case.

''Neither the filmmakers nor the American public can allow this prosecution to deter us from the film's release, and I am calling upon the American people to show their elected officials that this kind of selective prosecution will not stand, by joining us at the box office,'' Molen said. ''I look forward to my good friend Dinesh being vindicated for what appears to be nothing more than a misunderstanding."

Molen, who won an Oscar as a co-producer for ''Schindler's List'' said the charges against D'Souza deeply disappoint him, as D'Souza is a ''great American.''

The indictment states the alleged illegal contributions came to light during the FBI's routine examination of campaign contributions filed with the FEC during the 2012 election year.

D'Souza faces a maximum of two years in prison for the illegal contributions charge and a maximum of five years in prison for the false statements charge.

The indictment was announced by Venizelos and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was appointed by President Obama in 2009.



The WSJ Weekend Interview with Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China -

Link to Article

Archived Version

Sat, 25 Jan 2014 05:09

Jan. 24, 2014 6:28 p.m. ET

Hong Kong

Erik Prince '--ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater '--calls himself an "accidental tourist" whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was "blowtorched by politics." To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he's a patriot who has repeatedly answered America's call with bravery and creativity.

Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China's largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa's resources'--including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025'--and Mr. Prince wants in.

With a public listing in Hong Kong, and with Citic as its second-largest shareholder (a 15% stake) and Citic executives sitting on its board, Frontier Services Group is a long way from Blackwater's CIA ties and $2 billion in U.S. government contracts. For that, Mr. Prince is relieved.

"I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next," says the crew-cut 44-year-old.

Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he "kept saying 'yes' as the demand curve called'--Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11." In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad's Nisour Square.

At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was "completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer"'--the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to "churn up the entire federal bureaucracy" and sic it on Blackwater "like a bunch of rabid dogs." According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had "never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince," and congressional staffers promised, "We're going to ride you till you're out of business."

Amid several federal prosecutions involving Blackwater employees, most of which fizzled, Mr. Prince resigned as CEO in 2009 and now feels "absolutely total regret in every way, shape and form for ever saying 'yes' " to a State Department contract.

Which brings him to Hong Kong and his new firm. "This is not a patriotic endeavor of ours'--we're here to build a great business and make some money doing it," he says. Asia, and especially China, "has the appetite to take frontier risk, that expeditionary risk of going to those less-certain, less-normal markets and figuring out how to make it happen." Mr. Prince says "critics can throw stones all they want" but he is quick to point out that he has "a lot of experience in dealing in uncertainties in difficult places," and says "this is a very rational decision'--made, I guess, emotionless."

Mr. Prince aims to provide "end-to-end" services to companies in the "big extractive, big infrastructure and big energy" industries. Initially focused on building a Pan-African fleet of aircraft, his firm will expand into barging, trucking and shipping, along with "remote-area construction" as needed for reliable transport. A company'--Chinese, Russian, American or otherwise'--may have "an extremely rich hydrocarbon or mining asset," he explains, "but it's worth nothing unless you can get it to where someone will pay you for it." His investor prospectus notes that with today's transportation infrastructure, "it costs more to ship a ton of wheat from Mombasa, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda than from Chicago to Mombasa."

Such high costs also reflect the dangers of piracy and civil conflict, but Mr. Prince plays down his firm's plans in the security realm. "We are not there to provide military training. We are not there to provide security per se. Most of that security"'--say, if an oil pipeline or mining camp needs protection'--"would be done by whatever local services are there," including police and private firms. "We don't envision setting up a whole bunch of local guard services around the continent."

So the former Blackwater chief won't employ guys with guns? Well, he says, "that would be the exception, certainly not the rule."

He says his attention is on "expeditionary logistics" and "asset management." If a company needs to build a dam, he muses by way of example, "how do you deliver an extremely high-dollar turbine into a very remote part of the world? . . . Do you sling it with a helicopter? There's all sorts of interesting challenges like that that we'll be endeavoring to face."

Mr. Prince won't share any revenue projections, but his prospectus notes that "China is Africa's largest trading partner," with annual flows of $125 billion. Most estimates put that figure closer to $200 billion, a meteoric increase from $10 billion in 2000 and $1 billion in 1980. The U.S., which was Africa's top trade partner until 2009, registered $100 billion in annual African exchange at last count. China-Africa trade could reach $385 billion by 2015, according to Standard Chartered Bank.

"The U.S. has been fixated on terrorism the last 10 or 15 years," says Mr. Prince, "and American companies by and large haven't had the appetite for Africa." In 2010 the African Development Bank found that Chinese firms signed 20 contracts in Africa for every one signed by an American firm. But does post-9/11 distraction really explain this discrepancy?

A better explanation would begin with China's state-directed investment strategy, which funds opaque state-owned firms to operate across Africa with little regard for trifles such as financial transparency, environmental degradation or human rights. When a tyrant like Sudan's Omar al- Bashir can't get Western financing for a mega-dam across the Nile River, China arrives with an easy loan, some state-owned firms to build the dam and some others to claim oil or mineral concessions elsewhere in the country. Beijing's approach has helped boost African economic growth'--projected at 6% this year by the International Monetary Fund'--but it has also helped entrench some of the world's most oppressive governments.

Mr. Prince prefers to look on the bright side. "Developing good investments in Africa is by and large the best for the people of Africa that have a job, that have electricity, that might have clean water, that might have those things that we in the West take horribly for granted."

It's Capitalism 101, he argues. "When someone needs copper, or wood or an ag product, and they invest capital somewhere to make that happen, and people get jobs from that, and that good gets introduced to the world stage and it gets traded and moved, the whole world benefits."

As for Chinese patronage of presidents-for-life like Sudan's Bashir, Mr. Prince's CEO, Gregg Smith '--a former U.S. Marine and Deloitte executive'--offers this observation: "There's thousands of tribal conflicts in Africa every decade that have nothing to do with anyone from the outside. It has everything to do with tribal conflicts that have been going on for centuries, and the fact that the economies cause folks not to have jobs," says Mr. Smith. "It's not about who backs Omar al-Bashir."

Nor, adds Mr. Prince, does China's expanding commercial empire come at the expense of American interests. "The United States and China are among each other's largest trading partners," he notes, "and I think countries that trade goods together tend not to trade lead," meaning to shoot at each other.

This historically questionable reassurance notwithstanding, Mr. Prince certainly isn't complacent about America's global standing. U.S. policy in Africa, he says, "is just nonexistent. It's about as coherent as U.S. Middle East policy'--incoherent."

Americans, he says, "are at a competitive disadvantage because of their government. . . . It's amazing how many countries run their embassies as commercial outposts to promote businessmen from their country. I think the U.S. has forgotten about that one."

At this point in the interview, Mr. Prince begins speaking more sharply, even bitterly, not simply as a critic of Washington policy but as a man betrayed. Which he was, in 2009, when he was outed publicly as a CIA asset.

For years while running Blackwater, it turns out, Mr. Prince was also using his personal wealth and expertise to recruit and deploy a world-wide network of spies tracking al Qaeda operatives in "hard target" locations where even the CIA couldn't reliably operate. This work remained secret until June 2009, when then-CIA Director Leon Panetta mentioned it in classified testimony to Congress. Within weeks, leaks hit the front pages.

"The one job I loved more than any other was ripped away from me thanks to gross acts of professional negligence at the CIA," Mr. Prince wrote in his memoir, "Civilian Warriors," published in November.

This background comes to mind as Mr. Prince makes the surprising claim that "there's very little advantage to being an American citizen anymore. They tax you anywhere in the world you are, they regulate you, and they certainly don't help you, at all."

His advice for Washington: "Stop committing suicide." Lawmakers should "get out of their heads this idea that they can recklessly spend money that they don't have," he says. "The United States government is too big in all areas. . . . It's time to make the entire thing a lot smaller." That would include doing everything from allowing Americans to buy incandescent light bulbs to reining in domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.

At no point does Mr. Prince address the irony of making these arguments days after going into business with a state-owned firm founded as part of Communist China's Ministry of State Security.

"Look," he says, grasping to end our talk on an optimistic note, "America can pull its head out at any time. That happens at the ballot box. Ballot boxes have consequences still in America." He continues: "But the American electorate has to actually pay attention, has to turn off the Xbox long enough to pay attention. Otherwise they're going to continue to elect the government they deserve."

Mr. Feith is an editorial-page writer at The Wall Street Journal Asia.


Kenya: ICC Witness Asked for Sh60,000 to Testify

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Archived Version

Source: AllAfrica News: Latest

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:08

THE ninth prosecution witness in the ICC case against deputy President William Ruto was cornered into contradicting his own evidence on financial dealings with the court and details of Ruto's homes.

Ruto's defence counsel Karim Khan tabled receipts showing that witness P-0356 had placed demands for Sh50,000 per night for hotel accommodation in Eldoret.

At first the witness denied knowledge of the receipts, denied ever buying a receipt book, denied the hand writing in the receipt was his and denied demanding the amount from the court. When the court retreated to a private session and was shown more evidence, he owned up partially.

"I now remember the receipts. I accept the one for Sh4000 because I paid that myself, but for the other ones of Sh50,000 a representative of the court paid. I did not write those receipts and if we were in a private session I would tell who wrote them," he said.

He also denied he ever fell into trouble with the ICC over monetary claims but admitted that he was convicted for stealing. Although he told the prosecution that he spent the proceeds of the theft on drink, the witness denied this until he was shown the recordings and admitted.

The witness also admitted he messed up on his description of Ruto's Sugoi home. He had told the prosecution in his statement that the house had a white-painted exterior but when showed the pictures of his houses changed tune.

The picture showed to him had a red-tiled stone house and only the entrance has white. Khan insisted that the reason why the witness was unable to properly describe the house is because he had never been there in the first place.

"I agree I messed up on the description. But I have been there severally," he said.

The witness also clashed with Khan on the number of rooms in the Sugoi house. The witness had told the prosecution that the house was 15 to 20 rooms but when asked yesterday said it had 10 to 15 rooms.

"If I put to you that you have never been into any of Ruto's homes what would you say? Khan posed to which the witness responded: "That's a lie. I have been to his Eldoret Town and Sugoi homes."

Khan said the Sugoi home was only four bedrooms but the witness held his ground that it has 10 to 15 rooms. Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji asked for the plans of the Sugoi house to settle the matter. Khan said the plans were available but not for "this particular witness."

He was showed another photo of Ruto's Eldoret Town house which Khan said was "one and a half bedroom" and not bigger than the ICC courtroom. The witness denied it is the house he testified about. He said the house he had testified about was one-storey building along Old Nairobi road.

The witness however agreed that the house he was showed was Ruto's and even said he had been there severally. He however stuck to his line that there was another house which he visited prior to the 2007 elections and whose photo was not availed at the court.

"Mr Ruto has never lived in a storey building in Eldoret ever," Khan said.

Lagarde Warns Officials to Fight Deflation 'Ogre' Decisively - Bloomberg

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Archived Version

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 04:41

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde urged policy makers in advanced economies to fight risks of deflation that would threaten a global recovery she called ''feeble.''

Less than a week before the Washington-based fund releases its new global growth forecasts, Lagarde said momentum in the second half of last year should strengthen in 2014 as developed economies gain pace. While the fund plans to raise its forecast for the global economic expansion on Jan. 21, it remains below potential of about 4 percent, she said.

Central banks in the U.S., Japan and the euro area face inflation levels under their targets while trying to accelerate growth with policies including benchmark interest rates near zero and bond-buying programs. Lagarde said that while ''the deep freeze is behind,'' world growth remains ''too low, too fragile and too uneven,'' with some 200 million people needing employment.

''The world could create more jobs before we would need to worry about the global inflation genie coming out of its bottle,'' Lagarde said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington today. ''With inflation running below many central banks' targets, we see rising risks of deflation, which could prove disastrous for the recovery.''

Fight 'Decisively'''If inflation is the genie, then deflation is the ogre that must be fought decisively,'' she said.

Lagarde's call for the leading economies to act to prevent a prolonged, broad decline in prices was her most pointed warning on the subject in speeches delivered since she became IMF chief in July 2011.

She recommended that central banks in the most developed economies wait until ''robust growth is firmly rooted'' before ending unconventional monetary policies such as asset purchases. In the U.S. ''it will be critical to avoid premature withdrawal of monetary support and to return to an orderly budget process, including by promptly removing the debt ceiling threat,'' she said.

In the U.S., the personal consumption expenditures index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation measure, rose 0.9 percent in November from a year earlier, below the central bank's 2 percent objective. The Fed's trimming of its monthly bond buying to $75 billion from $85 billion, which starts this month, has been met with calm by investors so far, she said, adding that ''there still could be some rough waters ahead.''

Under TargetIn the euro area, inflation was at 0.8 percent in December and has been below the European Central Bank's 2 percent ceiling for 11 months. While it's forecast to continue to undershoot the target through next year, ECB President Mario Draghi said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel released on Dec. 28 that ''at the moment there's no immediate need to act.''

Lagarde said ECB monetary policy could do more, including with more targeted lending.

''The euro area is turning the corner from recession to recovery, but growth is still unbalanced, and unemployment is still worryingly high,'' she said. ''Some countries are doing well, but others are still burdened by high debt and credit constraints.''

She praised strides Japanese officials have made to boost their economy and said more can be done. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda have taken steps to end 15 years of deflation in the world's third-largest economy.

Japan's DeflationJapan's challenge is ''to agree on medium-term fiscal adjustments and social and economic reforms needed to strengthen growth,'' including those to increase the share of women working, to help overcome deflation, she said.

While advanced economies recover, emerging markets must pay particular attention to risks of financial excesses, such as asset bubbles or rising debt, Lagarde said. Their less developed counterparts, which have become a ''bright spot,'' need to build defenses for potential shocks, she said.

Responding to questions after the speech, Lagarde said the IMF doesn't see exchange rates between emerging and developed economies fueling a so-called currency war, a debate she said Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega started about three years ago.

''We don't see the currency war and clearly in our models, we see a much better alignment of currencies relative to fundamentals of the economies,'' she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at

War on Weed

Starbucks Weed shops bullcrap email

On Thursday's show, you pointed out that there are more dispensaries than Starbucks in Denver. I'm calling BS on

that, not because it's not true but because it's not a fair comparison. A more fair comparison would be that

there is more dispensaries than coffee shops or that there are more "Jimmy's Pot Shop"s than Starbucks, but

neither of those would be true.

Keep up the great work and thank you for your courage.



Sources: Card Breach at Michaels Stores '-- Krebs on Security

Link to Article

Archived Version

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 13:59

Multiple sources in the banking industry say they are tracking a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at Michaels Stores Inc., an Irving, Texas-based arts-and-crafts retailer that maintains more than 1,250 stores across the United States.

On Friday morning, I put a call in to SPM Communications, the public relations company listed as the press contact on After explaining why I was calling, I was referred to a Michael Fox of ICR Inc. When asked what line of business ICR was in, the SPM representative replied that it was a crisis communications firm. Mr. Fox replied via email that he would inquire with Michaels, but so far the company has declined to comment.

Update 1:34 p.m. ET: The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that it is investigating a potential data breach at Michaels. Also, Michaels has just issued a statement stating that it ''recently learned of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards that had been used at Michaels, suggesting that the Company may have experienced a data security attack.''

The statement continues:

''The Company is working closely with federal law enforcement and is conducting an investigation with the help of third-party data security experts to establish the facts. Although the investigation is ongoing, based on the information the Company has received and in light of the widely-reported criminal efforts to penetrate the data systems of U.S. retailers, Michaels believes it is appropriate to let its customers know a potential issue may have occurred.''

''We are concerned there may have been a data security attack on Michaels that may have affected our customers' payment card information and we are taking aggressive action to determine the nature and scope of the issue,'' said Chuck Rubin, CEO. ''While we have not confirmed a compromise to our systems, we believe it is in the best interest of our customers to alert them to this potential issue so they can take steps to protect themselves, for example, by reviewing their payment card account statements for unauthorized charges.''

Their full statement is here (PDF).

Original story:

Sources with four different financial institutions have over the past few days said hundreds of customer cards that recently had been used for fraudulent purchases all traced back to Michaels stores as the common point of purchase.

On Friday, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a fraud analyst at a large credit card processor that was seeing fraud on hundreds of cards over the previous two days that all been recently used at Michaels. The fraudulent purchases on those cards, the source said, took place at the usual big box stores like BestBuy and Target.

''What's interesting is there's another [arts and framing] store called Aaron Brothers, and within past week or two there was a lot of activity talking about Aaron Brothers,'' said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. ''One of the things I learned the other day is that Aaron Brothers is wholly owned by Michael's. It really does look like kind of the way we saw the Target breach spin up, because the fraud here isn't limited to one store or one area, it's been all over the place.''

Assuming my sources are correct and Michaels did have some kind of breach involving payment cards, this would not be the first time. In May 2011, Michaels disclosed that crooks had physically tampered with some point-of-sale devices at store registers in some Chicago locations, although further investigation revealed compromised POS devices in stores across the country, from Washington, D.C. to the West Coast.

It remains unclear what type of compromise may have prompted several banks to identity Michaels as the breached entity. But recent breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus both involved highly sophisticated malicious software that stole credit and debit card information from point-0f-sale registers at those stores. Target has said the breach may have affected more than 40 million customer credit and debit cards, and name, address, email address and phone numbers for at least 70 million customers. Earlier this week, Neiman Marcus revealed that the breach at its stores extended from July 16, 2013 to Oct. 30, 2013, and may have impacted more than 1.1 million customer cards.

According to Fox, ICR Inc. was brought in by Michaels to handle the retailer's planned transition to a public company. Last month, the company filed paperwork for a potential public offering of its common stock. According to those filings, Michaels generated revenue of $4.41 billion in 2012. Michaels has said the timing, number of shares to be sold and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined.

Tags: Aaron Bros, ICR Inc., Michael Fox, Michaels Stores, Neiman Marcus breach, SPM Communications, target breach

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 25th, 2014 at 1:25 pm and is filed under A Little Sunshine. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Bulgaria, Turkey agree new gas interconnector

Link to Article

Archived Version

Source: WT Newsfeed

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 03:07

SOFIA - Agence France-Presse

AP Photo

Bulgaria and Turkey agreed on Friday to set up a joint company and build a gas pipeline to link their networks and enable imports, Bulgaria's economy and energy minister said. "We took a concrete decision for building an interconnector Bulgaria-Turkey that will be a key source of diversification of natural gas deliveries for our country," Dragomir Stoynev said after talks in Sofia with his Turkish counterpart Taner Yildiz. Bulgaria is largely dependent on Russian gas supplies via troubled Ukraine. The small Balkan state was among the worst hit by repeated Moscow-Kiev price spats that resulted in cuts to deliveries. The EU state began looking several years ago for supplies from its neighbours -- Greece, Romania, Serbia and especially Turkey, which imports Iranian and Azerbaijan gas. "It is important that we now have concrete actions and not only political intentions as we saw over the past years," Yildiz said on Friday. Sofia and Ankara expect to sign in March a deal about the concrete parameters and the cost of the gas link and set up a joint company to plan and operate it. The 191 kilometre (119 miles) pipeline would then take about two years to build, the ministers said. The ministers did not disclose the possible capacity of the pipeline, nor its cost. Bulgaria consumes some 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year.January/24/2014

Out There

China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has 'abnormality'

Link to Article

Archived Version

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 02:18

China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has 'abnormality'14 hours agoThis screen grab, taken from a CCTV footage, shows a photo of the Jade Rabbit moon rover, taken by the Chang'e-3 probe lander on December 15, 2013

China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has experienced a "mechanical control abnormality", state media said on Saturday, in what appears to be a setback for a landmark mission in the country's ambitious space programme.

The abnormality occurred due to "the complicated lunar surface environment," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

Scientists were "organising an overhaul", the report added, without giving further details.

There were no reports of the abnormality on SASTIND's website.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon's surface on December 15, several hours after the Chang'e-3 probe landed.

The mission is a huge source of pride in China, the third country to successfully send a lunar rover to the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The landing was the first of its kind since the former Soviet Union's mission nearly four decades ago.

Explore further:China moon rover enters lunar orbit

(C) 2014 AFP

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User comments : 13Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PS32.3 / 5 (3)11 hours ago

A crushing defeat as Opportunity just made 10 years on Mars.

antialias_physorg5 / 5 (6)11 hours ago

Will you leave your ultra-nationalism on Earth for cyring out loud?

TheGhostofOtto19231 / 5 (1)11 hours ago

Will you leave your ultra-nationalism on Earth for cyring out loud?

It must pain you to be forced to use English with American idioms in order to communicate in an international forum.Say as far as those lessons go aa, maybe you need some more? Americans have forced you to get rid of those silly umlauts and B-shaped esses. Soon you'll be discarding all the extra letters which resulted. And soon after that you will see the futility of all those gender-based articles and get rid of them as well.

Thanks to the US your medieval language will finally be functional and you won't have to talk so fast any more to convey ideas at comparable speeds. Echt?

Re the little rabbit rover maybe they should have asked us for a design review?

ab3a5 / 5 (2)11 hours ago

I hate seeing endeavors such as this get in trouble.My concern is that lunar dust is very abrasive and that it may have gotten in to places where it did some damage. I hope that the Chinese engineers can think of some work-around and that we can all learn from this.

antialias_physorg5 / 5 (2)10 hours ago

It must pain you to be forced to use English with American idioms in order to communicate in an international forum.

Why should it pain me? I speak/write american as well as I speak/write it doesn't bother me to use either language.Language is like a toolbox: use the tool that works. Each language has its advantages (german can express some things more concise than english and vice versa)

Americans have forced you to get rid of those silly umlauts and B-shaped esses.

The funny thing is: I actually have one of those Ÿs in my name - which is pretty cool, because that way, in international contexts, people have no problem remembering my name.Knowing several languages is always a good thing. It broadens the mind, as a language also is an expression of a certain mindset. being able to compare/contrast mindsets is a good way to learn tolerance. So I'd encourage anyone to learn at least two languages to native speaker level.

Osiris15 / 5 (1)9 hours ago

I too have an 'ess-set' in my ancestral name, but that is beside the point. The point is, we are ALL human, and the Jade Rabbit is ours as well as China's for it is the creation of our species. And it is doing valuable work to further the knowledge of man. ALL men. I would guess the moon dust has something to do with it. China will learn from this experience, and probably share this with us so that other moon rovers and later crew transport vehicles when we colonize the place to mine Helium-3 will not have the same problems. I feel the Jade Rabbit's design might have incorporated some means to deal with dust or whatever is affecting it, so let us watch and see how it is fixed, and learn.

Skepticus5 / 5 (3)8 hours ago

All I can see here that chest-thumping monkey instincts are still going strong and give no signs of abating. Bloody hell! you are not on trees anymore. Homo Sapiens my arse!

nkalanaga5 / 5 (1)8 hours ago

Osiris1: I agree that this setback could be as important as any scientific discovery. If it is something in the Lunar environment, and they can determine what, it could save a manned mission a lot of trouble. on the other hand, if it's a simple design or manufacturing flaw, they can fix it on the next rover.For those rejoicing because it's China's failure, how many missions has YOUR country launched, and how many worked perfectly?

stripeless_zebra3 / 5 (2)7 hours ago

Another one bites the dust! I see a sticker on it "Made in China" :)

big_hairy_jimbo5 / 5 (1)4 hours ago

This is a shame. However, success usually follows a list of failures, especially when it comes to space endeavours. I also can understand Antialias comments, as every article seems to have to beat the chinese pride drum, but I guess they ARE proud, and maybe they should be too!!!A bit of cheek here, but I'm guessing the rover driver rolled it into a crater, so the rover is lying on its back!!! (lol). The moons low gravity and undulating surface is a mine field for rover flipping!!

baudrunner3 / 5 (2)3 hours ago

Chinese Space Agency could take a lesson from NASA here. The Curiosity rover has 17 cameras. There are four hazard avoidance cameras (Hazcams) in front and four in back, to image real estate around the wheels. They are there for the sole purpose of keeping the rover from accidentally backing into a pothole and getting stuck there. Then there are the navigation cameras, used while roving. The one that takes the color images of interesting Martian landscapes is located on a mast, so it can look around, therefore it is called the Mastcam. It's the one that takes the important pictures, although I have a collection of interesting UFO images taken by Hazcams and Navcams. It appears that if you stand (or have a seat) on the Martian surface, and look up into the sky long enough, you'll eventually see a UFO whizzing by in the Martian sky. Especially in the evening. Either some Igigi, or Alalu's exiles. Probably both.

philstacy9not rated yet3 hours ago

I am hoping the quality control on Chinese weapons is even worse.

TheGhostofOtto1923not rated yet31 minutes ago

Chinese Space Agency could take a lesson from NASA here. The Curiosity rover has 17 cameras. There are four hazard avoidance cameras (Hazcams) in front and four in back, to image real estate around the wheels. They are there for the sole purpose of keeping the rover from accidentally backing into a pothole and getting stuck there. Then there are the navigation cameras, used while roving. The one that takes the color images of interesting Martian landscapes is located on a mast, so it can look around, therefore it is called the Mastcam. It's the one that takes the important pictures, although I have a collection of interesting UFO images taken by Hazcams and Navcams.

-But the Japanese wouldn't sell them any cameras and so they were out of luck.More news stories

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Javascript is currently disabled in your web browser. For full site functionality, it is necessary to enable Javascript. In order to enable it, please see these instructions.(C)' 2003-2013, Science X network

China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has 'abnormality'14 hours agoThis screen grab, taken from a CCTV footage, shows a photo of the Jade Rabbit moon rover, taken by the Chang'e-3 probe lander on December 15, 2013

China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has experienced a "mechanical control abnormality", state media said on Saturday, in what appears to be a setback for a landmark mission in the country's ambitious space programme.

The abnormality occurred due to "the complicated lunar surface environment," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

Scientists were "organising an overhaul", the report added, without giving further details.

There were no reports of the abnormality on SASTIND's website.

The Jade Rabbit, or Yutu in Chinese, was deployed on the moon's surface on December 15, several hours after the Chang'e-3 probe landed.

The mission is a huge source of pride in China, the third country to successfully send a lunar rover to the moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The landing was the first of its kind since the former Soviet Union's mission nearly four decades ago.

Explore further:China moon rover enters lunar orbit

(C) 2014 AFP

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User comments : 13Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

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PS32.3 / 5 (3)11 hours ago

A crushing defeat as Opportunity just made 10 years on Mars.

antialias_physorg5 / 5 (6)11 hours ago

Will you leave your ultra-nationalism on Earth for cyring out loud?

TheGhostofOtto19231 / 5 (1)11 hours ago

Will you leave your ultra-nationalism on Earth for cyring out loud?

It must pain you to be forced to use English with American idioms in order to communicate in an international forum.

Say as far as those lessons go aa, maybe you need some more? Americans have forced you to get rid of those silly umlauts and B-shaped esses. Soon you'll be discarding all the extra letters which resulted. And soon after that you will see the futility of all those gender-based articles and get rid of them as well.

Thanks to the US your medieval language will finally be functional and you won't have to talk so fast any more to convey ideas at comparable speeds. Echt?

Re the little rabbit rover maybe they should have asked us for a design review?

ab3a5 / 5 (2)11 hours ago

I hate seeing endeavors such as this get in trouble.

My concern is that lunar dust is very abrasive and that it may have gotten in to places where it did some damage. I hope that the Chinese engineers can think of some work-around and that we can all learn from this.

antialias_physorg5 / 5 (2)10 hours ago

It must pain you to be forced to use English with American idioms in order to communicate in an international forum.

Why should it pain me? I speak/write american as well as I speak/write it doesn't bother me to use either language.

Language is like a toolbox: use the tool that works. Each language has its advantages (german can express some things more concise than english and vice versa)

Americans have forced you to get rid of those silly umlauts and B-shaped esses.

The funny thing is: I actually have one of those Ÿs in my name - which is pretty cool, because that way, in international contexts, people have no problem remembering my name.

Knowing several languages is always a good thing. It broadens the mind, as a language also is an expression of a certain mindset. being able to compare/contrast mindsets is a good way to learn tolerance. So I'd encourage anyone to learn at least two languages to native speaker level.

Osiris15 / 5 (1)9 hours ago

I too have an 'ess-set' in my ancestral name, but that is beside the point. The point is, we are ALL human, and the Jade Rabbit is ours as well as China's for it is the creation of our species. And it is doing valuable work to further the knowledge of man. ALL men. I would guess the moon dust has something to do with it. China will learn from this experience, and probably share this with us so that other moon rovers and later crew transport vehicles when we colonize the place to mine Helium-3 will not have the same problems. I feel the Jade Rabbit's design might have incorporated some means to deal with dust or whatever is affecting it, so let us watch and see how it is fixed, and learn.

Skepticus5 / 5 (3)8 hours ago

All I can see here that chest-thumping monkey instincts are still going strong and give no signs of abating. Bloody hell! you are not on trees anymore. Homo Sapiens my arse!

nkalanaga5 / 5 (1)8 hours ago

Osiris1: I agree that this setback could be as important as any scientific discovery. If it is something in the Lunar environment, and they can determine what, it could save a manned mission a lot of trouble. on the other hand, if it's a simple design or manufacturing flaw, they can fix it on the next rover.

For those rejoicing because it's China's failure, how many missions has YOUR country launched, and how many worked perfectly?

stripeless_zebra3 / 5 (2)7 hours ago

Another one bites the dust! I see a sticker on it "Made in China" :)

big_hairy_jimbo5 / 5 (1)4 hours ago

This is a shame. However, success usually follows a list of failures, especially when it comes to space endeavours. I also can understand Antialias comments, as every article seems to have to beat the chinese pride drum, but I guess they ARE proud, and maybe they should be too!!!

A bit of cheek here, but I'm guessing the rover driver rolled it into a crater, so the rover is lying on its back!!! (lol). The moons low gravity and undulating surface is a mine field for rover flipping!!

baudrunner3 / 5 (2)3 hours ago

Chinese Space Agency could take a lesson from NASA here. The Curiosity rover has 17 cameras. There are four hazard avoidance cameras (Hazcams) in front and four in back, to image real estate around the wheels. They are there for the sole purpose of keeping the rover from accidentally backing into a pothole and getting stuck there. Then there are the navigation cameras, used while roving. The one that takes the color images of interesting Martian landscapes is located on a mast, so it can look around, therefore it is called the Mastcam. It's the one that takes the important pictures, although I have a collection of interesting UFO images taken by Hazcams and Navcams. It appears that if you stand (or have a seat) on the Martian surface, and look up into the sky long enough, you'll eventually see a UFO whizzing by in the Martian sky. Especially in the evening. Either some Igigi, or Alalu's exiles. Probably both.

philstacy9not rated yet3 hours ago

I am hoping the quality control on Chinese weapons is even worse.

TheGhostofOtto1923not rated yet31 minutes ago

Chinese Space Agency could take a lesson from NASA here. The Curiosity rover has 17 cameras. There are four hazard avoidance cameras (Hazcams) in front and four in back, to image real estate around the wheels. They are there for the sole purpose of keeping the rover from accidentally backing into a pothole and getting stuck there. Then there are the navigation cameras, used while roving. The one that takes the color images of interesting Martian landscapes is located on a mast, so it can look around, therefore it is called the Mastcam. It's the one that takes the important pictures, although I have a collection of interesting UFO images taken by Hazcams and Navcams.

-But the Japanese wouldn't sell them any cameras and so they were out of luck.

More news stories

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Rock appears mysteriously in front of Mars Opportunity rover( '--The lead scientist for NASA's Mars rover exploration team (Steve Squyres) has announced that recent images beamed back by the Opportunity rover show a rock sitting in a place nearby where there ...

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Michaels Stores investigating possible data breachMichaels Stores says it is investigating a possible company data security breach that may have affected its customers' payment card information.

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Javascript is currently disabled in your web browser. For full site functionality, it is necessary to enable Javascript. In order to enable it, please see these instructions.(C)' 2003-2013, Science X network


Ethereum whitepaper

Link to Article

Archived Version

Sat, 25 Jan 2014 19:54

Ethereum whitepaperIn the last few months, there has been a great amount of interest into the area of using Bitcoin-like blockchains - the mechanism that allows for the entire world to agree on the state of a public ownership database - for more than just money. Commonly cited applications include using on-blockchain digital assets to represent custom currencies and financial instruments ("colored coins"), "smart property" devices such as cars which track a colored coin on a blockchain to determine their present legitimate owner, as well as more advanced applications such as decentralized exchange, financial derivatives, peer-to-peer gambling and on-blockchain identity and reputation systems. Perhaps the most ambitious of all cited applications is the concept of autonomous agents or decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) - autonomous entities that operate on the blockchain without any central control whatsoever, eschewing all dependence on legal contracts and organizational bylaws in favor of having resources and funds autonomously managed by a self-enforcing smart contract on a cryptographic blockchain.

However, most of these applications are difficult to implement today, simply because the scripting systems of Bitcoin, and even next-generation cryptocurrency protocols such as the Bitcoin-based colored coins protocol and so-called "metacoins", are far too limited to allow the kind of arbitrarily complex computation that DAOs require. What this project intends to do is take the innovations that such protocols bring, and generalize them - create a fully-fledged, Turing-complete (but heavily fee-regulated) cryptographic ledger that allows participants to encode arbitrarily complex contracts, autonomous agents and relationships that will be mediated entirely by the blockchain. Rather than being limited to a specific set of transaction types, users will be able to use Ethereum as a sort of "Lego of crypto-finance" - that is to say, one will be able to implement any feature that one desires simply by coding it in the protocol's internal scripting language. Custom currencies, financial derivatives, identity systems and decentralized organizations will all be easy to do, but more importantly, unlike previous systems, it will also be possible to construct transaction types that even the Ethereum developers did not imagine. Altogether, we believe that this design is a solid step toward the realization of "cryptocurrency 2.0"; we hope that Ethereum will be as significant an addition to the cryptocurrency ecosystem as the advent of Web 2.0 was to the static-content-only internet of 1999.

Table of ContentsWhy A New Platform?PhilosophyBasic Building BlocksContractsFeesConclusionReferences and Further ReadingWhy A New Platform?When one wants to create a new application, especially in an area as delicate as cryptography or cryptocurrency, the immediate, and correct, first instinct is to use existing protocols as much as possible. There is no need to create a new currency, or even a new protocol, when the problem can be solved entirely by using existing technologies. Indeed, the puzzle of attempting to solve the problems of smart property, smart contracts and decentralized autonomous corporations on top of Bitcoin is how our interest in next-generation cryptocurrency protocols originally started. Over the course of our research, however, it became evident that while the Bitcoin protocol is more than adequate for currency, basic multisignature escrow and certain simple versions of smart contracts, there are fundamental limitations that make it non-viable for anything beyond a certain very limited scope of features.

Colored CoinsThe first attempt to implement a system for managing smart property and custom currencies and assets on top of a blockchain was built as a sort of overlay protocol on top of Bitcoin, with many advocates making a comparison to the way that, in the internet protocol stack, HTTP serves as a layer on top of TCP. The colored coins protocol is roughly defined as follows:

A colored coin issuer determines that a given transaction output H:i (H being the transaction hash and i the output index) represents a certain asset, and publishes a "color definition" specifying this transaction output alongside what it represents (eg. 1 satoshi from H:i = 1 ounce of gold redeemable at Stephen's Gold Company)Others "install" the color definition file in their colored coin clients.When the color is first released, output H:i is the only transaction output to have that color.If a transaction spends inputs with color X, then its outputs will also have color X. For example, if the owner of H:i immediately makes a transaction to split that output among five addresses, then those transaction outputs will all also have color X. If a transaction has inputs of different colors, then a "color transfer rule" or "color kernel" determines which colors which outputs are (eg. a very naive implementation may say that output 0 has the same color as input 0, output 1 the same color as input 1, etc).When a colored coin client notices that it received a new transaction output, it uses a back-tracing algorithm based on the color kernel to determine the color of the output. Because the rule is deterministic, all clients will agree on what color (or colors) each output has.However, the protocol has several fundamental flaws:

Simplified Payment Verification in Bitcoin

Left: it suffices to present only a small number of nodes in a Merkle tree to give a proof of the validity of a branch.Right: any attempt to change any part of the Merkle tree will eventually lead to an inconsistency somewhere up the chain.

Difficulty of simplified payment verification - Bitcoin's Merkle tree construction allows for a protocol known as "simplified payment verification", where a client that does not download the full blockchain can quickly determine the validity of a transaction output by asking other nodes to provide a cryptographic proof of the validity of a single branch of the tree. The client will still need to download the block headers to be secure, but the amount of data bandwidth and verification time required drops by a factor of nearly a thousand. With colored coins, this is much harder. The reason is that one cannot determine the color of a transaction output simply by looking up the Merkle tree; rather, one needs to employ the backward scanning algorithm, fetching potentially thousands of transactions and requesting a Merkle tree validity proof of each one, before a client can be fully satisfied that a transaction has a certain color. After over a year of investigation, including help from ourselves, no solution has been found to this problem.Incompatibility with scripting - as mentioned above, Bitcoin does have a moderately flexible scripting system, for example allowing users to sign transactions of the form "I release this transaction output to anyone willing to pay to me 1 BTC". Other examples include assurance contracts, efficient micropayments and on-blockchain auctions. However, this system is inherently not color-aware; that is to say, one cannot make a transaction of the form "I release this transaction output to anyone willing to pay me one gold coin defined by the genesis H:i", because the scripting language has no idea that a concept of "colors" even exists. One major consequence of this is that, while trust-free swapping of two different colored coins is possible, a full decentralized exchange is not since there is no way to place an enforceable order to buy or sell.Same limitations as Bitcoin - ideally, on-blockchain protocols would be able to support advanced derivatives, bets and many forms of conditional transfers. Unfortunately, colored coins inherits the limitations of Bitcoin in terms of the impossibility of many such arrangements.MetacoinsAnother concept, once again in the spirit of sitting on top of Bitcoin much like HTTP over TCP, is that of "metacoins". The concept of a metacoin is simple: the metacoin protocol provides for a way of encoding metacoin transaction data into the outputs of a Bitcoin transaction, and a metacoin node works by processing all Bitcoin transactions and evaluating Bitcoin transactions that are valid metacoin transactions in order to determine the current account balances at any given time. For example, a simple metacoin protocol might require a transaction to have four outputs: MARKER, FROM, TO and VALUE. MARKER would be a specific marker address to identify a transaction as a metacoin transaction. FROM would be the address that coins are sent from. TO would be the address that coins are sent to, and VALUE would be an address encoding the amount sent. Because the Bitcoin protocol is not metacoin-aware, and thus will not reject invalid metacoin transactions, the metacoin protocol must treat all transactions with the first output going to MARKER as valid and react accordingly. For example, an implementation of the transaction processing part of the above described metacoin protocol might look like this:

if tx.output[0] != MARKER: break else if balance[tx.output[1]] < >The advantage of a metacoin protocol is that the protocol can allow for more advanced transaction types, including custom currencies, decentralized exchange, derivatives, etc, that are impossible to implement using the underlying Bitcoin protocol by itself. However, metacoins on top of Bitcoin have one major flaw: simplified payment verification, already difficult with colored coins, is outright impossible on a metacoin. The reason is that while one can use SPV to determine that there is a transaction sending 30 metacoins to address X, that by itself does not mean that address X has 30 metacoins. What if the sender of the transaction did not have 30 metacoins to start with and so the transaction is invalid? Ultimately, finding out any part of the current state requires scanning through all transactions since the metacoin's original launch to figure out which transactions are valid and which ones are not. This makes it impossible to have a truly secure client without downloading the entire, arguably prohibitively large, Bitcoin blockchain.

In both cases, the conclusion is as follows. The effort to build more advanced protocols on top of Bitcoin, like HTTP over TCP, is admirable, and is indeed the correct way to go in terms of implementing advanced decentralized applications. However, the attempt to build colored coins and metacoins on top of Bitcoin is more like building HTTP over SMTP. The intention of SMTP was to transfer email messages, not serve as a backbone for generic internet communications, and one would have had to implement many inefficient and architecturally ugly practices in order to make it effective. Similarly, while Bitcoin is a great protocol for making simple transactions and storing value, the evidence above shows that Bitcoin is absolutely not intended to function, and cannot function, as a base layer for financial peer-to-peer protocols in general.

Ethereum solves the scalability issues by being hosted on its own blockchain, and by storing a distinct "state tree" in each block along with a transaction list. Each "state tree" represents the current state of the entire system, including address balances and contract states. Ethereum contracts are allowed to store data in a persistent memory storage. This storage, combined with the Turing-complete scripting language, allows us to encode an entire currency inside of a single contract, alongside countless other types of cryptographic assets. Thus, the intention of Ethereum is not to replace the colored coins and metacoin protocols described above. Rather, Ethereum intends to serve as a superior foundational layer offering a uniquely powerful scripting system on top of which arbitrarily advanced contracts, currencies and other decentralized applications can be built. If existing colored coins and metacoin projects were to move onto Ethereum, they would gain the benefits of Ethereum's simplified payment verification, the option to be compatible with Ethereum's financial derivatives and decentralized exchange, and the ability to work together on a single network. With Ethereum, someone with an idea for a new contract or transaction type that might drastically improve the state of what can be done with cryptocurrency would not need to start their own coin; they could simply implement their idea in Ethereum script code. In short, Ethereum is a foundation for innovation.

PhilosophyThe design behind Ethereum is intended to follow the following principles:

Simplicity - the Ethereum protocol should be as simple as possible, even at the cost of some data storage or time inefficiency. An average programmer should ideally be able to follow and implement the entire specification, so as to fully realize the unprecedented democratizing potential that cryptocurrency brings and further the vision of Ethereum as a protocol that is open to all. Any optimization which adds complexity should not be included unless that optimization provides very substantial benefit.Universality - a fundamental part of Ethereum's design philosophy is that Ethereum does not have "features". Instead, Ethereum provides an internal Turing-complete scripting language, which a programmer can use to construct any smart contract or transaction type that can be mathematically defined. Want to invent your own financial derivative? With Ethereum, you can. Want to make your own currency? Set it up as an Ethereum contract. Want to set up a full-scale Daemon or Skynet? You may need to have a few thousand interlocking contracts, and be sure to feed them generously, to do that, but nothing is stopping you with Ethereum at your fingertips.Modularity - the parts of the Ethereum protocol should be designed to be as modular and separable as possible. Over the course of development, our goal is to create a program where if one was to make a small protocol modification in one place, the application stack would continue to function without any further modification. Innovations such as Dagger, Patricia trees and RLP should be implemented as separate libraries and made to be feature-complete even if Ethereum does not require certain features so as to make them usable in other protocols as well. Ethereum development should be maximally done so as to benefit the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem, not just itself.Agility - details of the Ethereum protocol are not set in stone. Although we will be extremely judicious about making modifications to high-level constructs such as the C-like language and the address system, computational tests later on in the development process may lead us to discover that certain modifications to the algorithm or scripting language will substantially improve scalability or security. If any such opportunities are found, we will exploit them.Non-discrimination - the protocol should not attempt to actively restrict or prevent specific categories of usage. All regulatory mechanisms in the protocol should be designed to directly regulate the harm and not attempt to oppose specific undesirable applications. A programmer can even run an infinite loop script on top of Ethereum for as long as they are willing to keep paying the per-computational-step transaction fee.Basic Building BlocksAt its core, Ethereum starts off as a fairly regular memory-hard proof-of-work mined cryptocurrency without many extra complications. In fact, Ethereum is in some ways simpler than the Bitcoin-based cryptocurrencies that we use today. The concept of a transaction having multiple inputs and outputs, for example, is gone, replaced by a more intuitive balance-based model (to prevent transaction replay attacks, as part of each account balance we also store an incrementing nonce). Sequence numbers and lock times are also removed, and all transaction and block data is encoded in a single format. Instead of addresses being the RIPEMD160 hash of the SHA256 hash of the public key prefixed with 04, addresses are simply the last 20 bytes of the SHA3 hash of the public key. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, which aim to offer a large number of "features", Ethereum intends to take features away, and instead provide its users with near-infinite power through an all-encompassing mechanism known as "contracts".

Modified GHOST ImplementationThe "Greedy Heavist Observed Subtree" (GHOST) protocol is an innovation first introduced by Yonatan Sompolinsky and Aviv Zohar in December 2013. The motivation behind GHOST is that blockchains with fast confirmation times currently suffer from reduced security due to a high stale rate - because blocks take a certain time to propagate through the network, if miner A mines a block and then miner B happens to mine another block before miner A's block propagates to B, miner B's block will end up wasted and will not contribute to network security. Furthermore, there is a centralization issue: if miner A is a mining pool with 30% hashpower and B has 10% hashpower, A will have a risk of producing stale blocks 70% of the time whereas B will have a risk of producing stale blocks 90% of the time. Thus, if the stale rate is high, A will be substantially more efficient simply by virtue of its size. With these two effects combined, blockchains which produce blocks quickly are very likely to lead to one mining pool having a large enough percentage of the network hashpower to have de facto control over the mining process.

As descrived by Sompolinsky and Zohar, GHOST solves the first issue of network security loss by including stale blocks in the calculation of which chain is the "longest"; that is to say, not just the parent and further ancestors of a block, but also the stale descendants of the block's ancestor (in Ethereum jargon, "uncles") are added to the calculation of which block has the largest total proof of work backing it. To solve the second issue of centralization bias, we go beyond the protocol described by Sompolinsky and Zohar, and also provide block rewards to stales: a stale block receives 87.5% of its base reward, and the nephew that includes the stale block receives the remaining 12.5%. Transaction fees, however, are not awarded to uncles.

Ethereum implements a simplified version of GHOST which only goes down one level. Specifically, a stale block can only be included as an uncle by the direct child of one of its direct siblings, and not any block with a more distant relation. This was done for several reasons. First, unlimited GHOST would include too many complications into the calculation of which uncles for a given block are valid. Second, unlimited GHOST with compensation as used in Ethereum removes the incentive for a miner to mine on the main chain and not the chain of a public attacker. Finally, calculations show that single-level GHOST has over 80% of the benefit of unlimited GHOST, and provides a stale rate comparable to the 2.5 minute Litecoin even with a 40-second block time. However, we will be conservative and still retain a Primecoin-like 60-second block time because individual blocks may take a longer time to verify.

Ethereum Client P2P ProtocolP2P Protocol

The Ethereum client P2P protocol is a fairly standard cryptocurrency protocol, and can just as easily be used for any other cryptocurrency; the only modification is the introduction of the GHOST protocol described above. The Ethereum client will be mostly reactive; if not provoked, the only thing the client will do by itself is have the networking daemon maintain connections and periodically send a message asking for blocks whose parent is the current block. However, the client will also be more powerful. Unlike bitcoind, which only stores a limited amount of data about the blockchain, the Ethereum client will also act as a fully functional backend for a block explorer.

When the client reads a message, it will perform the following steps:

Hash the data, and check if the data with that hash has already been received. If so, exit.Determine the data type. If the data is a transaction, if the transaction is valid add it to the local transaction list, process it onto the current block and publish it to the network. If the data item is a message, respond to it. If the data item is a block, go to step 3.Check if the parent of the block is already stored in the database. If it is not, exit.Check if the proof of work on the block header and all block headers in the "uncle list" is valid. If any are not, exit.Check if every block header in the "uncle list" in the block has the block's parent's parent as its own parent. If any is not, exit. Note that uncle block headers do not need to be in the database; they just need to have the correct parent and a valid proof of work. Also, make sure that uncles are unique and distinct from the parent.Check if the timestamp of the block is at most 15 minutes into the future and ahead of the timestamp of the parent. Check if the difficulty of the block and the block number are correct. If either of these checks fails, exit.Start with the state of the parent of the block, and sequentially apply every transaction in the block to it. At the end, add the miner rewards. If the root hash of the resulting state tree does not match the state root in the block header, exit. If it does, add the block to the database and advance to the next step.Determine TD(block) ("total difficulty") for the new block. TD is defined recursively by TD(genesis_block) = 0 and TD(B) = TD(B.parent) + sum([u.difficulty for u in B.uncles]) + B.difficulty. If the new block has higher TD than the current block, set the current block to the new block and continue to the next step. Otherwise, exit.If the new block was changed, apply all transactions in the transaction list to it, discarding from the transaction list any that turn out to be invalid, and rebroadcast the block and those transactions to the network.The "current block" is a pointer maintained by each node that refers to the block that the node deems as representing the current official state of the network. All messages asking for balances, contract states, etc, have their responses computed by looking at the current block. If a node is mining, the process is only slightly changed: while doing all of the above, the node also continuously mines on the current block, using its transaction list as the transaction list of the block.

Currency and IssuanceThe Ethereum network includes its own built-in currency, ether. The main reason for including a currency in the network is twofold. First, like Bitcoin, ether is rewarded to miners so as to incentivize network security. Second, it serves as a mechanism for paying transaction fees for anti-spam purposes. Of the two main alternatives to fees, per-transaction proof of work similar to Hashcash and zero-fee laissez-faire, the former is wasteful of resources and unfairly punitive against weak computers and smartphones and the latter would lead to the network being almost immediately overwhelmed by an infinitely looping "logic bomb" contract. For convenience and to avoid future argument (see the current mBTC/uBTC/satoshi debate), the denominations will be pre-labelled:

After 1 yearAfter 5 yearsCurrency units1.9X3.5XFundraiser participants52.6%28.6%Fiduciary members and early contributors11.8%6.42%Additional pre-launch allocations2.63%1.42%Reserve11.8%6.42%Miners21.1%57.1%1: wei103: (unspecified)106: (unspecified)109: (unspecified)1012: szabo1015: finney1018: etherThis should be taken as an expanded version of the concept of "dollars" and "cents" or "BTC" and "satoshi" that is intended to be future proof. Szabo, finney and ether will likely be used in the foreseeable future, and the other units will be more . "ether" is intended to be the primary unit in the system, much like the dollar or bitcoin. The right to name the 103, 106 and 109 units will be left as a high-level secondary reward for the fundraiser subject to pre-approval from ourselves.

The issuance model will be as follows:

Ether will be released in a fundraiser at the price of 1000-2000 ether per BTC, with earlier funders getting a better price to compensate for the increased uncertainty of participating at an earlier stage. The minimum funding amount will be 0.01 BTC. Suppose that X ether gets released in this way0.225X ether will be allocated to the fiduciary members and early contributors who substantially participated in the project before the start of the fundraiser. This share will be stored in a time-lock contract; about 40% of it will be spendable after one year, 70% after two years and 100% after 3 years.0.05X ether will be allocated to a fund to use to pay expenses and rewards in ether between the start of the fundraiser and the launch of the currency0.225X ether will be allocated as a long-term reserve pool to pay expenses, salaries and rewards in ether after the launch of the currency0.4X ether will be mined per year forever after that pointLong-Term Inflation Rate (percent)

Despite the linear currency issuance, just like with Bitcoin over time the inflation rate nevertheless tends to zero

For example, after five years and assuming no transactions, 28.6% of the ether will be in the hands of the fundraiser participants, 6.42% in the fiduciary member and early contributor pool, 6.42% paid to the reserve pool, and 57.1% will belong to miners. The permanent linear inflation model reduces the risk of what some see as excessive wealth concentration in Bitcoin, and gives individuals living in present and future eras a fair chance to acquire currency units, while at the same time retaining a strong incentive to obtain and hold ether because the inflation "rate" still tends to zero over time (eg. during year 1000001 the money supply would increase from 500001.5 * X to 500002 * X, an inflation rate of 0.0001%). Furthermore, much of the interest in Ethereum will be medium-term; we predict that if Ethereum succeeds it will see the bulk of its growth on a 1-10 year timescale, and supply during that period will be very much limited.

We also theorize that because coins are always lost over time due to carelessness, death, etc, and coin loss can be modeled as a percentage of the total supply per year, that the total currency supply in circulation will in fact eventually stabilize at a value equal to the annual issuance divided by the loss rate (eg. at a loss rate of 1%, once the supply reaches 40X then 0.4X will be mined and 0.4X lost every year, creating an equilibrium).

Data FormatAll data in Ethereum will be stored in recursive length prefix encoding, which serializes arrays of strings of arbitrary length and dimension into strings. For example, ['dog', 'cat'] is serialized (in byte array format) as [ 130, 67, 100, 111, 103, 67, 99, 97, 116]; the general idea is to encode the data type and length in a single byte followed by the actual data (eg. converted into a byte array, 'dog' becomes [ 100, 111, 103 ], so its serialization is [ 67, 100, 111, 103 ]. Note that RLP encoding is, as suggested by the name, recursive; when RLP encoding an array, one is really encoding a string which is the concatenation of the RLP encodings of each of the elements. Additionally, note that block number, timestamp, difficulty, memory deposits, account balances and all values in contract storage are integers, and Patricia tree hashes, root hashes, addresses, transaction list hashes and all keys in contract storage are strings. The main difference between the two is that strings are stored as fixed-length data (20 bytes for addresses, 32 bytes for everything else), and integers take up only as much space as they need. Integers are stored in big-endian base 256 format (eg. 32767 in byte array format as [ 127, 255 ]).

A full block is stored as:

[ block_header, transaction_list, uncle_list ]Where:

transaction_list = [ transaction 1, transaction 2, ... ] uncle list = [ uncle_block_header_1, uncle_block_header_2, ... ] block_header = [ parent hash, sha3(rlp_encode(uncle_list)), coinbase address, state_root, sha3(rlp_encode(transaction_list)), difficulty, timestamp, extra_data, nonce ]Each transaction and uncle block header is itself a list. The data for the proof of work is the RLP encoding of the block WITHOUT the nonce. uncle_list and transaction_list are the lists of the uncle block headers and transactions in the block, respectively. nonce and extra_data are both limited to a maximum of 32 bytes, except the genesis block where the extra_data parameter will be much larger.

The state_root is the root of a Merkle Patricia tree containing (key, value) pairs for all accounts where each address is represented as a 20-byte binary string. At the address of each account, the value stored in the Merkle Patricia tree is a string which is the RLP-serialized form of an object of the form:

[ balance, nonce, contract_root, storage_deposit ]The nonce is the number of transactions made from the account, and is incremented every time a transaction is made. The purpose of this is to (1) make each transaction valid only once to prevent replay attacks, and (2) to make it impossible (more precisely, cryptographically infeasible) to construct a contract with the same hash as a pre-existing contract. balance refers to the account's balance, denominated in wei. contract_root is the root of yet another Patricia tree, containing the contract's memory, if that account is controlled by a contract. If an account is not controlled by a contract, the contract root will simply be the empty string. storage_deposit is a counter that stores paid storage fees; its function will be discussed in more detail further in this paper.

Mining algorithmOne highly desirable property in mining algorithms is resistance to optimization through specialized hardware. Originally, Bitcoin was conceived as a highly democratic currency, allowing anyone to participate in the mining process with a CPU. In 2010, however, much faster miners exploiting the rapid parallelization offered by graphics processing units (GPUs) rapidly took over, increasing network hashpower by a factor of 100 and leaving CPUs essentially in the dust. In 2013, a further category of specialized hardware, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) outcompeted the GPUs in turn, achieving another 100x speedup by using chips fabricated for the sole purpose of computing SHA256 hashes. Today, it is virtually impossible to mine without first purchasing a mining device from one of these companies, and some people are concerned that in 5-10 years' time mining will be entirely dominated by large centralized corporations such as AMD and Intel.

To date, the main way of achieving this goal has been "memory-hardness", constructing proof of work algorithms that require not only a large number of computations, but also a large amount of memory, to validate, thereby making highly parallelized specialized hardware implementations less effective. There have been several implementations of memory-hard proof of work, all of which have their flaws:

Scrypt - Scrypt is a function which is designed to take 128 KB of memory to compute. The algorithm essentially works by filling a memory array with hashes, and then computing intermediate values and finally a result based on the values in the memory array. However, the 128 KB parameter is a very weak threshold, and ASICs for Litecoin are already under development. Furthermore, there is a natural limit to how much memory hardness with Scrypt can be tweaked up to achieve, as the verification process takes just as much memory, and just as much computation, as one round of the mining process.Birthday attacks - the idea behind birthday-based proofs of work is simple: find values xn,i,j such that i < >Dagger - the idea behind Dagger, an in-house algorithm developed by the Ethereum team, is to have an algorithm that is similar to Scrypt, but which is specially designed so that each individual nonce only depends on a small portion of the data tree that gets built up for each group of ~10 million nonces. Computing nonces with any reasonable level of efficiency requires building up the entire tree, taking up over 100 MB of memory, whereas verifying a nonce only takes about 100 KB. However, Dagger-style algorithms are vulnerable to devices that have multiple computational circuits sharing the same memory, and although this threat can be mitigated it is arguably impossible to fully remove.As a default, we are currently considering a Dagger-like algorithm with tweaked parameters to minimize specialized hardware attacks, perhaps together with a proof of stake algorithm such as our own Slasher for added security if deemed necessary. However, in order to come up with a proof-of-work algorithm that is better than all existing competitors, our intention is to use some of the funds raised in the fundraiser to host a contest, similar to those used to determine the algorithm for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) in 2005 and the SHA3 hash algorithm in 2013, where research groups from around the world compete to develop ASIC-resistant mining algorithms, and have a selection process with multiple rounds of judging determine the winners. The contest will have prizes, and will be open-ended; we encourage research into memory-hard proofs of work, self-modifying proofs of work, proofs of work based on x86 instructions, multiple proofs of work with a human-driven incentive-compatible economic protocol for swapping one out in the future, and any other design that accomplishes the task. There will be opportunities to explore alternatives such as proof of stake, proof of burn and proof of excellence as well.

TransactionsA transaction is stored as:

[ nonce, receiving_address, value, [ data item 0, data item 1 ... data item n ], v, r, s ]nonce is the number of transactions already sent by that account, encoded in binary form (eg. 0 -> '', 7 -> '\x07', 1000 -> '\x03\xd8'). (v,r,s) is the raw Electrum-style signature of the transaction without the signature made with the private key corresponding to the sending account, with 0 2^256 - x). If S[-1] = 0, halts execution.(6) MOD - pops two items and pushes S[-2] mod S[-1]. If S[-1] = 0, halts execution.(7) SMOD - pops two items and pushes S[-2] mod S[-1], but treating values above 2^255 - 1 as negative (ie. x -> 2^256 - x). If S[-1] = 0, halts execution.(8) EXP - pops two items and pushes S[-2] ^ S[-1] mod 2^256(9) NEG - pops one item and pushes 2^256 - S[-1](10) LT - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] < >(11) LE - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] S[-1] else 0(13) GE - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] >= S[-1] else 0(14) EQ - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] == S[-1] else 0(15) NOT - pops one item and pushes 1 if S[-1] == 0 else 0(16) MYADDRESS - pushes the contract's address as a number(17) TXSENDER - pushes the transaction sender's address as a number(18) TXVALUE - pushes the transaction value(19) TXDATAN - pushes the number of data items(20) TXDATA - pops one item and pushes data item S[-1], or zero if index out of range(21) BLK_PREVHASH - pushes the hash of the previous block (NOT the current one since that's impossible!)(22) BLK_COINBASE - pushes the coinbase of the current block(23) BLK_TIMESTAMP - pushes the timestamp of the current block(24) BLK_NUMBER - pushes the current block number(25) BLK_DIFFICULTY - pushes the difficulty of the current block(26) BLK_NONCE - pushes the nonce of the current block(27) BASEFEE - pushes the base fee (x as defined in the fee section below)(32) SHA256 - pops two items, and then constructs a string by taking the ceil(S[-1] / 32) items in memory from index S[-2] to (S[-2] + ceil(S[-1] / 32) - 1) mod 2^256, prepending zero bytes to each one if necessary to get them to 32 bytes, and takes the last S[-1] bytes. Pushes the SHA256 hash of the string(33) RIPEMD160 - works just like SHA256 but with the RIPEMD-160 hash(34) ECMUL - pops three items. If (S[-2],S[-1]) are a valid point in secp256k1, including both coordinates being less than P, pushes (S[-2],S[-1]) * S[-3], using (0,0) as the point at infinity. Otherwise, pushes (2^256 - 1, 2^256 - 1). Note that there are no restrictions on S[-3](35) ECADD - pops four items and pushes (S[-4],S[-3]) + (S[-2],S[-1]) if both points are valid, otherwise (2^256 - 1,2^256 - 1)(36) ECSIGN - pops two items and pushes (v,r,s) as the Electrum-style RFC6979 deterministic signature of message hash S[-1] with private key S[-2] mod N with 0 = 5000 * 10^18: mktx([1003],5000 * 10^18,0,0) else if block.timestamp >[1002]: mktx([1003],ethervalue,0,0) mktx(A,5000 - ethervalue,0,0)More advanced financial contracts are also possible; complex multi-clause options (eg. "Anyone, hereinafter referred to as X, can claim this contract by putting in 2 USD before Dec 1. X will have a choice on Dec 4 between receiving 1.95 USD on Dec 29 and the right to choose on Dec 11 between 2.20 EUR on Dec 28 and the right to choose on Dec 18 between 1.20 GBP on Dec 30 and paying 1 EUR and getting 3.20 EUR on Dec 29") can be defined simply by storing a state variable just like the contract above but having more clauses in the code, one clause for each possible state. Note that financial contracts of any form do need to be fully collateralized; the Ethereum network controls no enforcement agency and cannot collect debt.

Identity and Reputation SystemsThe earliest alternative cryptocurrency of all, Namecoin, attempted to use a Bitcoin-like blockchain to provide a name registration system, where users can register their names in a public database alongside other data. The major cited use case is for a DNS system, mapping domain names like "" (or, in Namecoin's case, "bitcoin.bit") to an IP address. Other use cases include email authentication and potentially more advanced reputation systems. Here is a simple contract to provide a Namecoin-like name registration system on Ethereum:

if tx.value < >One can easily add more complexity to allow users to change mappings, automatically send transactions to the contract and have them forwarded, and even add reputation and web-of-trust mechanics.

Decentralized Autonomous OrganizationsThe general concept of a "decentralized autonomous organization" is that of a virtual entity that has a certain set of members or shareholders which, perhaps with a 67% majority, have the right to spend the entity's funds and modify its code. The members would collectively decide on how the organization should allocate its funds. Methods for allocating a DAO's funds could range from bounties, salaries to even more exotic mechanisms such as an internal currency to reward work. This essentially replicates the legal trappings of a traditional company or nonprofit but using only cryptographic blockchain technology for enforcement. So far much of the talk around DAOs has been around the "capitalist" model of a "decentralized autonomous corporation" (DAC) with dividend-receiving shareholders and tradable shared; an alternative, perhaps described as a "decentralized autonomous community", would have all members have an equal share in the decision making and require 67% of existing members to agree to add or remove a member. The requirement that one person can only have one membership would then need to be enforced collectively by the group.

Some "skeleton code" for a DAO might look as follows.

There are three transaction types:

[0,k] to register a vote in favor of a code change[1,k,L,v0,] to register a code change at code k in favor of setting memory starting from location L to v0, v1 ... vn[2,k] to finalize a given code changeNote that the design relies on the randomness of addresses and hashes for data integrity; the contract will likely get corrupted in some fashion after about 2^128 uses, but that is acceptable since nothing close to that volume of usage will exist in the foreseeable future. 2^255 is used as a magic number to store the total number of members, and a membership is stored with a 1 at the member's address. The last three lines of the contract are there to add C as the first member; from there, it will be C's responsibility to use the democratic code change protocol to add a few other members and code to bootstrap the organization.

if tx.value < >(6) MOD - pops two items and pushes S[-2] mod S[-1]. If S[-1] = 0, halts execution.(7) SMOD - pops two items and pushes S[-2] mod S[-1], but treating values above 2^255 - 1 as negative (ie. x -> 2^256 - x). If S[-1] = 0, halts execution.(8) EXP - pops two items and pushes S[-2] ^ S[-1] mod 2^256(9) NEG - pops one item and pushes 2^256 - S[-1](10) LT - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] < >(11) LE - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] S[-1] else 0(13) GE - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] >= S[-1] else 0(14) EQ - pops two items and pushes 1 if S[-2] == S[-1] else 0(15) NOT - pops one item and pushes 1 if S[-1] == 0 else 0(16) MYADDRESS - pushes the contract's address as a number(17) TXSENDER - pushes the transaction sender's address as a number(18) TXVALUE - pushes the transaction value(19) TXDATAN - pushes the number of data items(20) TXDATA - pops one item and pushes data item S[-1], or zero if index out of range(21) BLK_PREVHASH - pushes the hash of the previous block (NOT the current one since that's impossible!)(22) BLK_COINBASE - pushes the coinbase of the current block(23) BLK_TIMESTAMP - pushes the timestamp of the current block(24) BLK_NUMBER - pushes the current block number(25) BLK_DIFFICULTY - pushes the difficulty of the current block(26) BLK_NONCE - pushes the nonce of the current block(27) BASEFEE - pushes the base fee (x as defined in the fee section below)(32) SHA256 - pops two items, and then constructs a string by taking the ceil(S[-1] / 32) items in memory from index S[-2] to (S[-2] + ceil(S[-1] / 32) - 1) mod 2^256, prepending zero bytes to each one if necessary to get them to 32 bytes, and takes the last S[-1] bytes. Pushes the SHA256 hash of the string(33) RIPEMD160 - works just like SHA256 but with the RIPEMD-160 hash(34) ECMUL - pops three items. If (S[-2],S[-1]) are a valid point in secp256k1, including both coordinates being less than P, pushes (S[-2],S[-1]) * S[-3], using (0,0) as the point at infinity. Otherwise, pushes (2^256 - 1, 2^256 - 1). Note that there are no restrictions on S[-3](35) ECADD - pops four items and pushes (S[-4],S[-3]) + (S[-2],S[-1]) if both points are valid, otherwise (2^256 - 1,2^256 - 1)(36) ECSIGN - pops two items and pushes (v,r,s) as the Electrum-style RFC6979 deterministic signature of message hash S[-1] with private key S[-2] mod N with 0

Bitcoin Backed by Sberbank's Gref as Russia Plans Curbs - Bloomberg

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:58

By Lyubov Pronina and Stepan KravchenkoJanuary 24, 2014 9:03 AM ESTA Twenty-Five Bitcoin

Advocates of Bitcoin gained support from OAO Sberbank (SBER) chief Herman Gref, who's urging the Kremlin to stop Russian lawmakers from curbing the use of virtual currencies in a bill designed to cut funding for terrorists.

''It's a very interesting global experiment that breaks the paradigm of currency issuance,'' Gref said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. A ban would be a ''colossal step backward,'' said Gref, who was economy minister during President Vladimir Putin's first two terms.

Gref, who's run state-run Sberbank, eastern Europe's largest lender, since 2007, said he'd sent letters to the Kremlin, central bank and Finance Ministry asking officials to intervene with parliament to avert possible restrictions. That runs counter to the views of many of his western counterparts, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, who told CNBC in Davos that governments will eventually get ''really upset'' with Bitcoin and force it to become just a payment system regulated like all others.

Speculators, FeesBitcoin was introduced in 2008 by a programmer, or group of programmers, known as Satoshi Nakamoto. There are 21 million possible Bitcoins that can be mined by a peer-to-peer network harnessing computers to complete complicated mathematical calculations. About 12.2 million units are currently in circulation, according to

Enthusiasts say they are building a system to move money across the Internet securely and at a lower cost than existing wire transfers, bank debits or remittances -- sources of billions of dollars in fees for banks such as JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

The price of Bitcoins soared in November, topping $1,000 for the first time, as speculators anticipated broader use of digital money. The price has since dropped to about $790 on Bitstamp, one of the more active online exchanges where Bitcoins are traded for dollars and other currencies. One Bitcoin cost about $15 a year ago.

''It definitely shouldn't be banned, it must be studied and maybe regulated properly,'' Gref said today.

Andrei Kostin, chief executive officer of VTB Group, Russia's second-largest lender, said he's much more wary of virtual currencies.

''They're quite dangerous for the money market and therefore we have no plans to get involved,'' Kostin said in an interview in Davos yesterday. ''Our monetary authorities are only now formulating their opinion about this.''

Hiding PlacesThe U.S. government is still studying the Bitcoin ''phenomenon'' to ensure the digital currency isn't used for unlawful purposes, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in an interview with CNBC in Davos. ''It is an anonymous form of transaction and it offers places for people to hide,'' Lew said.

The security committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved a draft bill on Jan. 15 that seeks to curb anonymous transactions as a means to counter terrorism.

It's not clear how Russia will be able to regulate virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, though, since they don't have issuance or processing centers, according to Viktor Dostov, president of the Russian Electronic Money Association. The only ''control point'' is an exchange center where Bitcoins can be sold for real money, Dostov said by phone from Moscow.

'Gray Zone'''It's a gray zone,'' Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said in an interview in Davos on Jan. 22. ''We know regulators in some countries such as China and Japan are implementing restrictions. We'll monitor that carefully.''

Lawmaker Shamsail Saraliev of the pro-Putin United Russia party, who co-wrote the bill, said the law would counter terrorism, the illicit drug trade and contract killings.

''The topic is very specific and many issues in the draft are new and require revisions to settle all the technical details,'' Saraliev said by e-mail, without elaborating. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the draft law immediately.

Putin has called for increased security across Russia as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month in the Black Sea (BKSA) resort of Sochi. Attacks last month on a train station and bus in the southern city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, killed more than 30 people.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lyubov Pronina in London at; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at


Level 3 are now hijacking failed DNS requests for ad revenue on 4.2.2.x | James's web home

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 18:09

As I was getting ready to leave the office today, I started to google for a movie to go to with my wife tonight. I'd been testing sites in chrome and firefox all day, so without thinking I typed my search term into the firefox address bar. What I got back astounded me:

Yep. Instead of responding with NXDOMAIN as a good DNS resolver should, it redirected me to their ultra-spammy ''search page.'' I'm running debian, so the chances of there being a virus are pretty low, and some research confirmed my suspicions:

jbert@vps:~$ dig cinetopia; DiG 9.8.4-rpz2+rl005.12-P1 cinetopia;; global options: +cmd;; Got answer:;; ->>HEADER

Agenda 21

Breaking: New Climate Data Rigging Scandal Rocks US Government

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 05:12

A newly-uncovered and monumental calculating error in official US government climate data shows beyond doubt that climate scientists unjustifiably added on a whopping one degree of phantom warming to the official "raw" temperature record. Skeptics believe the discovery may trigger the biggest of all ''climate con'' scandals in Congress and sound the death knell on American climate policy.

Independent data analyst, Steven Goddard, today (January 19, 2014) released his telling study of the officially adjusted and ''homogenized'' US temperature records relied upon by NASA, NOAA, USHCN and scientists around the world to ''prove'' our climate has been warming dangerously.

Goddard reports, ''I spent the evening comparing graphs'...and hit the NOAA motherlode.'' His diligent research exposed the real reason why there is a startling disparity between the ''raw'' thermometer readings, as reported by measuring stations, and the ''adjusted'' temperatures, those that appear in official charts and government reports. In effect, the adjustments to the ''raw'' thermometer measurements made by the climate scientists ''turns a 90 year cooling trend into a warming trend,'' says the astonished Goddard.

Goddard's plain-as-day evidence not only proves the officially-claimed one-degree increase in temperatures is entirely fictitious, it also discredits the reliability of any assertion by such agencies to possess a reliable and robust temperature record.

Goddard continues: "I discovered a huge error in their adjustments between V1 and V2. This is their current US graph. Note that there is a discontinuity at 1998, which doesn't look right. Globally, temperatures plummeted in 1999, but they didn't in the US graph."

Climate at a Glance | Time Series

It doesn't look right, because they made a gigantic error (possibly intentional) going from USHCN V1 to V2. In V1 they adjusted recent temperatures upwards (thin line below) and made no adjustment to older temperatures.

GHCN Global Gridded Data

"But when they switched to V2, they started adjusting older temperatures downwards, and left post-2000 temperatures more or less intact, " says Goddard. This created a huge jump (greater than one degree) downwards for all years prior to 2000. You can see what they did in the animation below.

Blue line is thermometer data. Thin red line is V1 adjusted. Thick red line is V2 adjusted. They created more than 1 degree warming by reversing polarity of the adjustment in the pre-2000 years. This created a double downwards adjustment for the pre-1998 years, relative to the post 1998 years.

NOAA made a big deal about 2012 blowing away all temperature records, but the temperature they reported is the result of a huge error. This affects all NOAA and NASA US temperature graphs, and is part of the cause of this famous shift.

According to USHCN 1 docs, the total adjustment is supposed to be about 0.5F, and upwards.

ts.ushcn_anom25_diffs_urb-raw_pg.gif (650¬ó502)

But in USHCN2, the adjustments are much larger, and downwards. The USHCN2 adjustments are supposed to be approximately the same adjustments as USHCN1.

Here is an animation of the complete set of USHCN adjustments, which turn a 90 year cooling trend into a warming trend.

Visualizing How USHCN Hides The Decline In US Temperatures | Real Science

But does this evidence prove an intentional fraud? Goddard certainly thinks it possible and only a full examination of all the files will show that, one way or the other. Goddard wants backing from others to compel the Administration to come clean on this massive story, using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules. The ramifications are that hundreds of bilions of tax dollars have been misallocated to "solve" a non-problem, all due to willful malfeasance and/or incompetence in data handling.

Judging by recent history, the bureaucrats should be worried. Just last month (December, 2013), John Beale, the senior EPA policy advisor, was convicted and jailed for defrauding taxpayers out of $1 million in salaries and expenses. Does a culture of corruption extend throughout departments associated with climate policy? The public will certainly demand their right to know whether they have been deliberately and systemically lied to.

Basic Income in a Nation of Start-ups?

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Source: HomeFree America

Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:53

Let's explore something a little nutty. It's worth exploring, as this Economist article points out, because we're increasingly becoming a nation of start-ups.

It's called the basic income. Essentially, every citizen would receive a sum of money every month unconditionally.

It's an idea that has been rattling around in the socialist/libertarian discussion groups for some time now. From what I've read, socialists see it as a way to permanently eliminate poverty. Libertarians see it as a way to reduce the overhead/expense of administering a plethora of social programs already being run.

However, neither of these ''intellectual arguments'' have made any headway against the widely revered American work ethic. Simply, to most people, programs that would reward everyone for doing nothing are unethical. It would undermine any incentive to contribute, impoverishing us all in the process. Up until recently, the resistance to this idea made sense. In the old system, wealth distribution was more akin to a normal curve and the value generated by work corresponded to the number of hours/effort you put in.

That's simply not true anymore.

Increasingly, the companies and projects that are worth the most money don't grow linearly. They grow exponentially (we've even seen this in income distributions '-- income is a power law), and the value created by these companies, isn't correlated with hours put into it, or the effort expended, or even the educational level of the people involved. It's derived from a creative spark that's been nurtured in a supportive environment. It can either flicker out or explode or anything in between. Further, the companies that emerge from this bolt of lightning are usually so leveraged, they don't need to employ many people.

That method of wealth creation is a completely at odds with the traditional economy. It also makes the idea of basic income interesting for a different reason.

Here's some blue sky thinking on this.

In an economy driven by bursts of innovation, the goal is to generate and support as many innovative sparks as possible. The best model we have for that today is how venture capital and incubators work in today's environment. Essentially, this is being done by ''giving'' a little money around to lots of potential innovators in the hope that they zoom (the payback to the investors is equity, which makes it different from those onerous micro-debt ventures getting so much hype). Apparently, this wide and thin investment strategy is working in both software and hardware ventures, since there have been so many successes doing it.

So, what does this suggest for the rest of society?

A basic ''innovation'' income for everyone. Self-funded innovation everywhere.No taxation on income. Waste of time and drag/friction on economic activity. Fast wealth accumulation possible. Fast recovery from failures.Heavy taxation on extreme wealth (wealth over a couple of million $, using today's metric). More innovation = more lightning strikes = more extreme wealth to tax.Still sound nutty?


PS: How long before start-ups generate almost all of our wealth? It may be sooner than later.

24. January 2014 by John RobbCategories: Ideas | 4 comments

Three Mile Island | Radiation Protection | US EPA

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 16:55

Radiation Emergencies

Emergency Response:

Emergency Preparednessand ResponseFor three days beginning on March 28, 1979, a series of mechanical, electrical, and human failures led to a severe meltdown of the reactor core at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant.

On this page:

What happened during the meltdown?A meltdown is the most dangerous type of nuclear power accident. At Three Mile Island (TMI), there was a "loss of coolant" accident, meaning that cooling water that surrounds the core and keeps it cool was lost. The temperature of the core rose so high that the materials actually melted. In the worst-case, a meltdown breaches the containment building resulting in a massive release of radiation. Fortunately, this did not occur during the TMI accident. (Had the reactor at Chernobyl had a containment building, the severity of the accident would have been greatly reduced.)

Some radioactive gases did escape to the atmosphere. The estimated average dose to area residents was about 1 millirem, about 1/6 the exposure from a full set of chest x-rays, and about 1/100th the natural radioactive background dose for the area. The maximum dose to a person at the site boundary would have been less than 100 millirem.

How did EPA Respond to the IncidentOn March 28, EPA arrived and immediately stationed experts with radiation monitoring equipment around the power plant to assess the potential for radiation exposure to people living around the plant. After the accident, EPA remained in the area for eight years, maintaining a field office monitoring the air. EPA operated a continuous radiation monitoring network in the area surrounding the plant to ensure that public health and the environment were protected. EPA transferred this activity to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1989.

What changes were made after the incident?After the core meltdown at Three Mile Island, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other federal agencies moved to correct problems in the areas of staff training, reactor design, and component reliability to prevent recurrence of such an event:

plant design and equipment requirementsoperator training and staffing, instrumentation and controls for operating the plant, and fitness-for-duty programs for plant workers to guard against alcohol or drug abuseemergency preparednesspublic information about plant performanceregulatory controls, inspections, and enforcementself policing by the industryearly detection of problems and sharing lessons learned in U.S. and abroad.*The Three Mile Island experience led to developing the current Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan, which has since been replaced by the National Response Framework.

* Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Fact Sheet on TMITop of page

First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Commitment by Subway® Restaurants to Promote Healthier Choices to Kids

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 08:08

The White House

Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release

January 23, 2014

Following First-Ever White House Convening on Food Marketing to Children, SUBWAY® Announces Strongest Effort Yet to Encourage Kids to Pile on the Veggies

WASHINGTON, DC '' Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and SUBWAY® along with SUBWAY® Famous Fans Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, and Justin Tuck at a local Washington, DC, SUBWAY® Restaurant, to announce a three-year commitment by the chain in support of her Let's Move! initiative to promote healthier choices to kids, including launching its largest targeted marketing effort to date. In addition to strengthening its already nutritious menu offerings to kids, SUBWAY® will launch a new series of campaigns for kids aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and will set new standards for marketing products to families.

''I'm excited about these initiatives not just as a First Lady, but also as a mom,'' said First Lady Michelle Obama. ''Subway's kids' menu makes life easier for parents, because they know that no matter what their kids order, it's going to be a healthy choice.''

Let's Move!, the First Lady's initiative to ensure that all children grow up healthy and have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, works to make the healthy choice the easy choice for American families. SUBWAY® Restaurants' commitment answers the First Lady's call last fall at the first ever White House Convening on Food Marketing to Children, where she urged the private sector to leverage the power of marketing to promote healthier products and decrease the marketing of unhealthy products to kids.

''SUBWAY® restaurant's commitment today builds on the brand's already strong track record of offering healthier choices to kids, for which it has been lauded by families and health advocates alike,'' said PHA Board Chair James R. Gavin, III, MD, PhD. ''The new and significant investment it is making today will not only help make fruits and vegetables fun for kids, it will also offer busy moms and dads easy, healthy choices for their families when they're on the go.''

''Ending childhood obesity is a cause that has been near and dear to SUBWAY® since we introduced the Fresh Fit for Kids Meals in 2007,'' said Suzanne Greco, vice president of R&D and Operations for the SUBWAY® brand. ''With this partnership with PHA, we will now reach millions of kids as part of a healthier eating education campaign, making it our largest outreach campaign to date. From a sign on each restaurant's door that says 'Playtime Powered by Veggies' to a video collaboration with Disney's The Muppets, we will build upon our ongoing efforts to create even better choices for families. We hold ourselves to the highest standards in the industry when it comes to speaking to children and their families. Now we are letting everyone else know what that standard is.''

As part of its commitment, the SUBWAY® restaurant chain will:

only offer items on its kids menus that meet strong nutritional guidelines informed by federal standards for the national school lunch program, including offering apples as a side and low-fat or non-fat milk or water as a default beverage.

deliver $41 million in media value in the next three years to market healthier options to children and families, with a specific focus on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. This is the brand's largest kid-focused marketing campaign to date, and includes general marketing, in-store merchandising, television, social and digital media and public relations.

focus all kid-focused in-store merchandising and marketing on only the healthier options available in its restaurants. This includes training materials which will be updated to teach Sandwich Artists to encourage kids to choose apples.

For complete information about this PHA commitment, visit


2030-11 Signs We're Entering A "Demograpylypse" | Ira Wolfe

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:05

demo ' grap ' y ' lypse n.

1. a disclosure or revelation of demographics

2. an event of great importance resulting from demographic shifts

There are four major demographic shifts that will significantly influence business in the coming decade:

1. The aging population as the "baby boomers"

2 The succession of Generation Y from youngest generation to majority jobholders

3. Expansive technology savvy of the millennials and their successors

4. The increasing proportion of nonwhites (African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and others) in the U.S. is creating a "minority-majority."

The simultaneous blend and integration of these shifts, plus several socioeconomic and technology trends, will collide, creating an event called a "demograpylypse."

Considering many companies have barely budged to accommodate the two biggest demographic changes of the 20th century -- women in the workforce and increased longevity -- that presents a significant challenge for current management and business growth.

What follows is a short-list of imminent changes that will force business to change the way they recruit, hire, and retain employees as well as market and sell services and products in the marketplace:

1. Increased longevity means people will potentially enjoy 20 to 30 or more productive years of life beyond conventional retirement age. A recent study by the Future Workplace claims that 77 percent of Boomers and 82 percent of Gen X'ers are expecting to work into their 70s.

2. By 2030, when the first of the Boomers reach the age of 84, one in four Americans will be older than 65. Unless healthy later-stage adults are kept working productively, business costs will go way up, as every new worker will be working to feed already under-funded pension plans (just as the young and other working adults are starting to feed social security for a growing older population).

3. Pensions aren't the only problem. More than 36 percent of all health care costs are attributed to people 65 and older. We have to invest in prevention, wellness, early detection and therapy of all serious diseases like diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, cardiologic diseases or cancer.

4. An aging population is likely to experience increased absenteeism or force workers into reduced roles due to inherent health care problems, caregiving, and for those fortune enough, travel and other lifestyle preferences.

5. Productivity may suffer as older workers find it harder to cope with physically and mentally demanding manufacturing jobs. An aging workforce puts business at risk if older workers don't obtain the skills needed for the technological shifts we are experiencing.

6. There is a real danger of knowledge shortages within the workplace as technology and automation outpaces the ability of workers (and management) to keep up. (Watch for my article on automation in an upcoming issue.)

7. As for women, it is a no-brainer. Every company should do everything it can to tap female talent and make running a household easy for both women and men, whether it is dry-cleaning on premises, meals to take home, or more sophisticated things we haven't thought of yet for more time with children.

8. An increasing diverse melting pot due to immigration will force new cultural perspectives through every level of the most successful organizations -- from the boardroom to the mail room. Cultural open-mindedness, awareness, and acceptance will be musts for employees and management alike.

9. Businesses will need to address a "changing of the guard," as the baby boomers step down from management and Generations X and Y seek to fill their shoes. Currently 36 percent of the workforce is comprised of Gen Y (also called Millennials). By 2020, the number increases to 46 percent; by 2025, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the world's workforce.

10. In the future, management needs to accept the rise of the majority-minority, an odd concept that shows that we still haven't gotten over the idea that white males are the norm and everyone else is a stranger.

11. Technology has changed the way we think about most everything. Children, neighbors and even parents are using technology in new ways to do everyday tasks like deposit a check or board a plane. The next generation has such a strong connection to things like their mobile devices that they have a completely different outlook and expectation of technology.

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2030-Third of Mississippians to have diabetes by 2030, doctors claim '-- RT USA

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:04

Published time: January 14, 2014 18:55Reuters / Lucas Jackson

As Mississippi continues to struggle in the fight against obesity, a leading state physician estimates that one third of the local population could have diabetes by 2030.

As a result, many citizens could end up with disabilities that require expensive treatment, with big consequences for the state's economy and labor force.

''We're going to have about a third of our population with diabetes by 2030,'' deShazo told the Guardian. "If you look at the economics of that, the downstream disability, it's very difficult to calculate the long-term effects but it's very hard to tell how the state can support itself.''

According to a report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 12.3 percent of Mississippi's population already has type 2 diabetes, the highest in the United States based on data from 2010. Looming over that statistic is the fact that Mississippi is also home to one of the most obese populations in the country, with 34.6 percent of its citizens categorized as obese. Louisiana tops the list at 34.7 percent, but thirteen states all have obesity rates over 30 percent.

Although obesity has a clear impact on human health '' it can lead not just to diabetes, but also to cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and other ailments '' deShazo is also concerned by its potential effect on the economy. If younger people continue to be diagnosed with diabetes and ultimately end up with disabilities, the number of healthy, working individuals could shrink and put a squeeze on Mississippi's finances.

''We're seeing 30- and 40-year-old people getting type 2 diabetes that we used to see in 50- and 60-year-old people,'' deShazo added to the Guardian. ''So now that disability curve is shifting further and further to the left, to a younger and younger under- or unemployable population.''

Ground zero for preventing this kind of future has been efforts to lower child obesity rates, but those attempts have hit their own share of obstacles. There's been a notable dip in child obesity for the state's affluent white population, but not for African Americans or the poor.

To make matters even more difficult, Mississippi does not have the healthcare resources necessary to deal with such a situation. Nearly 20 percent of the population does not have health insurance, and the state declined the Medicare expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act, which would have covered between 200,000 and 400,000 individuals.

As RT reported last year, obesity rates across the United States have continued to climb. In 2012, nearly 29 percent of the country's population was labeled obese, marking the 15th straight year an increase has been noted. The American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease, hoping that putting the health concern in a different context will inspire more action to combat the epidemic.

Obesity isn't just an American problem, though. Earlier this month, a new study revealed that obesity rates in developing countries have tripled since 1980, affecting more than 900 million people around the world. The same report estimated that of the globe's entire population, 1.45 billion are obese or overweight.

2030-U.S. Army general says robots could replace one-fourth of combat soldiers by 2030 - CBS News

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:03

A remote-controlled robot used by the explosive ordnance team at Combat Outpost Meade, puts a bottle of water in a barrel, showing its abilities. Airman 1st Class Hans Metz with the 447th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, controlled the device. Sgt. Mary Phillips, 30th HBCT PAO, MND-B)

The U.S. Army may send robotic soldiers to the battlefield within the next 30 years, General Robert Cone said at the Army Aviation symposium on Jan. 15. It is part of the Army's effort to become ''a smaller, more lethal, deployable and agile force," he explained, according to Defense News.

As the head of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Cone is instrumental in mapping out the Army's future.


Robot tech heads into overdriveA look at efforts to make personal robots an industry and evolve artificial intelligence

''I've got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force,'' he said.The future of the force could see one quarter of the 4,000 soldiers in the Brigade Combat Team replaced with robots and drones. Cone says it will be possible to reduce manpower without reducing firepower. But in order to get there, the Army will "need to fundamentally change the nature of the force, and that would require a breakthrough in science and technology," Lt. Gen. Keith Walker told Defense News.


Sunday MorningThe challenge of feeding an armyWords like ''chow'' and ''mess hall'' don't do justice to the way soldiers eat these days. David Martin reports on how soldiers are eating at Fort Br...

Cone said one way to reduce the force is to use unmanned ground vehicles. Robotic warriors would not be a new addition to the Army force. Right now, though, they are only used in limited activities. A robotic bomb squad disposed of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and soldiers use the RQ-11 Raven drone to scout out danger. DARPA funding has also supported numerous robotics research and development projects.

Reducing manpower could significantly reduce costs, especially in terms of lifelong healthcare and benefits for current and retired soldiers. These costs comprised one-quarter of the Pentagon's proposed budget in 2012.

(C) 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

2030-The world is not enough for all our needs - The Scotsman

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:03

INCREASING consumption levels mean we will need two planets to support us by 2030, says May East. A more sustainable way of living has to be found.

Progress, development, expansion, prosperity, growth '' these words are intrinsically embedded in humanity's aspiration to constantly improve the quality of our existence.

In the pursuit of constant growth, humanity today taps into natural resources at a level never before seen.

Total global resource use has increased from six billion tonnes in 1990 to an unprecedented 60 billion today and per capita levels of resource consumption are at their highest level in history.

Growing demand is outstripping raw material supply. It takes the planet 18 months to replenish the natural resources we consume in a year.

Forecasts suggest that, based on current consumption levels and future population growth, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us by 2030.

These numbers are predicted to increase as income levels rise across the developing world and a new consumerist middle class emerges. The International Labour Organization forecasts that the middle class in emerging economies will grow by 309 million by 2017.

On the face of it, that's good news. Lifting people out of poverty helps power economic growth, but all too often this growth is driven by unbridled consumerism which ultimately leads to resource scarcity.

The seventh session of the UN General Assembly open working group on sustainable development goals, which took place earlier this month in New York, battled with the concept of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the need to decouple living standards and economic growth from unsustainable resource use.

SCP can be broadly defined as having two interrelated objectives: achieving well-being for all people, while keeping the negative environmental impacts of socio-economic activities to within Earth's resource capacity.

In this debate, the question is not to discontinue growth, the challenge is: how do we shift from a society of consumption of products and services to a society based around well-being and sustainable living?

In 2013, a Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda warned: ''To continue on this business-as-usual path would be very dangerous.

''Changes in consumption and production patterns are essential, and they must be led by the developed countries.''

The issue raises important questions about the North-South divide. Does the developed North have the moral prerogative to say to the emerging middle class in India, for example, that they should consume less? No! Why should these consumers pay the price for our over- consumption?

The solution doesn't lie in depriving those emerging economies from enjoying the same standard of living that we've become accustomed to. But it does require a new way of thinking about growth and prosperity. Consumption patterns have to change.

A way forward is to focus the debate on efficiency and design as a common goal for both North and South, which can promote social and economic well-being with less use of resources.

We can do this by reducing packaging, developing guidelines for prolonging the lifespan of manufactured products and imposing sanctions against companies that engage in the ''programmed obsolescence'' of their products so that they become obsolete or unfashionable within a short period of time.

Our desire to have the latest smartphone or tablet is perhaps the starkest example. The likelihood is that your device contains tin '' an essential component for the electronics industry '' from Indonesia, one of the world's largest exporters of the metal.

Studies by Friends of the Earth have discovered that the mining industry is having a devastating impact on forests and farmlands in islands such as Bangka and Belitung, which produce 90 per cent of Indonesia's tin. Sadly, some of the world's most vulnerable communities are paying the price for our consumerism.

Nature itself holds an important card. Through ''biomimicry'', we can harness nature's designs and mimic them to develop new sustainable products.

Velcro is a great example '' it was developed after its inventor observed how prickly burrs (seed pods) stuck to his dog's fur and his clothing.

The year 2014 holds the promise of being a historic year, when we reached a global consensus on a sustainable framework that addresses the critical question facing our generation: how the world economy can continue to develop in a way that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

I hope 2014 marks the year when we decided to engage in a global dialogue on how to do more with less.

Population growth and the explosion of consumerism in the emerging economies means that time is against us. The clock is ticking.

' May East is chief executive of Cifal Scotland, a United Nations institute for training and research sustainability centre based in Edinburgh. See

' More information on becoming a Friend of The Scotsman


Swedish gangster who claimed he had photos of the king in compromising sexual situations is found dead with four bullet wounds to the head | Mail Online

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:01

Former 'porn club king' Mille Markovic shot dead in StockholmFound dead in a car outside his home with four bullet wounds to his headSerbian-Swedish gangster had a long history of criminal activityClaimed to have photos of King Carl XVI Gustaf with naked strippersBy Sara Malm

PUBLISHED: 07:48 EST, 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 07:49 EST, 24 January 2014




Notorious Serbian-Swedish gangster Milo 'Mille' Markovic has been found dead with four bullet wounds to his head in Stockholm.

The 52-year-old was shot dead while sitting in a car outside his home in Ulvsunda, in the western part of the Swedish capital, just after 6pm last night, the engine still running.

Markovic was unofficially credited as one of the sources for the controversial 2010 biography about the King of Sweden in which the monarch was accused of attending strip clubs and having extramarital affairs.

Crime scene: Police and forensic officers investigate the car where gangster Mille Markovic was found shot dead in Stockholm

Gangster: The 52-year-old Serbian-Swede was found dead outside his west Stockholm home, bullet wounds to his head, in his car with the engine still running

'It sounded like fireworks,' a witness told Aftonbladet. 'Then I saw two men in dark clothing from afar.'

'They were standing by a car where the sound of fireworks came from. One of them said "he is dead".'

Markovic gained fame as the owner of 'porn club' Prive and is said to have been one of the main sources for The Reluctant Monarch, a biography of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

The book revealed that the king and his friends had enjoyed the company of 'coffee girls' - women who would 'entertain' the group, consisting of members of the remains of Swedish aristocracy.

It also alleged that the king visited underground strip clubs, and that he had been involved in an extramarital affair with a famous Swedish singer in the 90s.

Reluctant monarch: Markovic claimed to have photographs of King Carl XVI Gustaf with naked strippers, and was one of the sources for a biography which claimed the king visited sex clubs and cheated on Queen Silvia

Following the publication of the book Markovic claimed that he had compromising photographs of the king with naked women, taken at one of his sex clubs in the 1980s.

Markovic had lived under threat for 'a long time' and had been wearing a Kevlar vest as a precaution, a police source told Aftonbladet.

According to the source, the reason why Markovic was shot in the head may have been that his killers knew he was wearing the protective vest.

Today, Swedish tabloid Expressen revealed that Markovic may have caught his own murder on camera as he had at least two CCTV cameras in operation outside his house.

Police are looking for two men said to have left the scene in a white Toyota, but refused to comment on the possible CCTV footage.

In cold blood: Mille Markovic was shot four times in the head while sitting in the front seat of his car, seen here being towed from the scene

Rumours: Stockholm police are still investigating the scene as an inside source told a newspaper that Markovic may have been shot in the head as his killers knew he was wearing a protective vest

Investigation: Police are securing evidence at the scene where witnesses say they saw two men in dark clothes last night following the shots

Markovic, a 70s boxing champion, was born in Serbia but fled to Sweden with his father as a young child, becoming a neutralized citizen in 1982.

The 52-year-old former porn-club owner had a long history of criminal activity, with previous convictions of assault, tax crimes, and preparing to blackmail world-famous tennis ace Bjorn Borg.

Markovic had planned to lure Borg to Club Prive, and there take photographs of him having sex with one of his 'girls'.

Last year he was charged with attempted murder in connection with a shooting at his former club, but the case was dropped after a witness retracted statements during the trial.

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Ryan Loskarn believed to have committed suicide - John Bresnahan and Manu Raju -

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:59

Loskarn was arrested last month on charges related to child pornography. | Courtesy photo

CloseJesse Ryan Loskarn, a one-time star staffer who was the former top aide to Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, was found dead Thursday afternoon following charges he possessed and distributed child pornography, according to the sheriff's office in Carroll County, Maryland. Loskarn, 35, is believed to have committed suicide.

''At approximately 12pm yesterday, Carroll County Sheriff's Deputies responded to a private residence in the 6900 block of Kenmar Lane for a report of an unconscious male, believed to be deceased,'' said a statement from Colonel Phil Kasten of the Carroll County Sheriff's office. ''Family members reported finding 35 year old Jesse Ryan Loskarn unresponsive in his basement where he'd been residing with family since this past December. The preliminary investigation indicates that Loskarn may have taken his own life, and his body has since been transported to the State Medical Examiner's Office for Autopsy. The investigation continues'....''

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Loskarn, who was awaiting the outcome of grand jury proceedings in his case, had been staying with his parents since being released on his own recognizance. He was scheduled to next appear in federal court on Feb. 10. Loskarn had been ordered not to use the Internet and was required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

In a brief statement, Alexander said: ''For everyone involved, this is a sad and tragic story from beginning to end.''

(Earlier on POLITICO: Alexander's former top aide investigated for child porn)

Loskarn's parents, Chuck and Gay, also issued a statement Friday afternoon.

''We loved our son very much, and we're devastated by his death,'' they said. ''Please respect our privacy at this difficult time and let us grieve in peace. Pray for him, his family and friends.''

Loskarn's sharp and sudden downfall stunned Capitol Hill, given his reputation as a well-regarded and savvy operative who was close to GOP senators, powerful political aides and members of the media. Loskarn was arrested last month by U.S. Postal Service investigators on charges that he possessed and distributed child pornography following a raid by federal agents on his D.C. home.

Loskarn, a Maryland native who graduated from Tulane University in 2000, moved to Washington after college and worked his way through the House, including a stint with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. He later moved onto the Senate, working with then-Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 3 Republican at the time running the GOP's messaging operations. After Alexander won the Senate GOP Conference chairman's post in 2007, Loskarn joined the senator's office and later moved on to become his chief of staff.

With Alexander up for reelection in 2014, Loskarn had become a trusted aide and was heavily involved in the GOP senator's efforts to win reelection.

But it wasn't until the news media was alerted to the fact that Loskarn's house was being raided that Alexander learned of the investigation and charges into his former top aide.

Federal prosecutors had argued against Loskarn's release and said that he made statements around the time of his arrest that suggested he could be a potential suicide risk.

But Loskarn's lawyer, Pamela Satterfield, countered that it was ''not a concern'' and pointed out that Loskarn had no prior criminal record and had ''deep ties'' to the Washington community.


New York police chief charged with possessing child pornography

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:24

Journal News/

Mount Pleasant police chief Brian Fanelli pictured in 1999.

By Jim Fitzgerald, NBC New York

A suburban New York police chief who taught sex-abuse awareness classes to children has been charged with downloading child pornography.

Mount Pleasant Chief Brian Fanelli was arrested Thursday by Homeland Security agents.

In a complaint filed with the court, an agent says Fanelli told investigators that he first viewed child pornography as research for the sex-abuse awareness classes he was teaching at two schools.

He then began viewing the pornography "for personal interest," according to the complaint.

Fanelli appeared in federal court in White Plains and was released on $50,000 bond.

No plea was entered. Fanelli's attorney refused to comment after the court session.

Fanelli has been chief for just two months in Mount Pleasant, in Westchester County. He first joined the department in 1981.


VIDEO-Bieber arrested, accused of DUI, drag racing

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Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:13

By Alan Duke, CNN

updated 8:22 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014


Florida case is the first time singer Justin Bieber has been arrestedBieber is also under investigation in felony vandalism case in California(CNN) -- Pop star Justin Bieber was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and drag racing Thursday morning, Miami Beach police Detective Vivian Hernandez said.

Further details about the arrest weren't immediately available.

Bieber, 19, flew to Miami on Monday.

It is the first time the teen singer has been arrested, although he is under investigation on allegations of egging his California neighbor's home.

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Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a felony search warrant to raid Bieber's mansion in the felony vandalism investigation on January 9. They seized Bieber's iPhone and the security camera system, which detectives have been examining for clues about who tossed eggs over a fence that splattered onto the house next door causing an estimated $20,000 in damages.

Bieber is having some issues

Deputies have also investigated reports by Bieber's neighbors that he raced his expensive sports car down the streets of the exclusive Oaks community of Calabasas, California, but no charges ever resulted.

One neighbor accused Bieber of spitting in his face during a heated confrontation last March. Deputies have responded to complaints about loud parties at Bieber's place.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office concluded it couldn't prove the spitting or speeding cases in court, so it declined to prosecute.

Prosecutors also rejected a misdemeanor battery complaint from a photographer who accused Bieber of attacking him in the parking lot of a Calabasas shopping center as he was taking photos of Bieber and his then-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, in May 2012.

"We didn't do this search warrant to send a message," Sheriff's Lt. David Thompson said last week. "That's not what we do, but we hope maybe that understanding the gravity of this will change some of the behavior."

CNN en Espa±ol's Adriana Hauser contributed to this report.

VIDEO-Jamie Dimon: It would "be criminal to subject our company" to a trial | Crooks and Liars

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 15:19

Sorry, I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head about the privilege and sense of entitlement that allows Jamie Dimon to award himself a 74 percent pay raise despite rather large settlements by JPMorgan Chase for the "London Whale" and Bernie Madoff scandals, numbering in the billions of dollars.

And then, to prove that he really is above little plebian trivialities like accountability, Jamie Dimon told an audience of his fellow elites in Davos, Switzerland that it would have been "criminal" to subject JPMorgan Chase to a trial.

Dimon said JPMorgan had "two really bad options" in choosing to settle or fight the cases. Going to court could have taken three or four years and the outcome could have been worse, he said.

"It would really hurt this company and that would have been criminal for me to subject our company to those kinds of issues," Dimon said.

Personally, I think that paycheck is criminal. Clearly, we don't see eye to eye on the notion of personal and fiscal responsibility. I'm proud to say that Elizabeth Warren sees it the same way I do:

Wow. In this interview, JPMorgan head Jamie Dimon explains why it is so important for big banks to settle with regulators after they break the law and avoid going all the way to court. It would be really costly, he says. Well, duh. I hope the banking regulators were listening. If they are never willing to go to trial either - which sure seems to be the case - they have a lot less leverage in their settlement negotiations.

Christie scandal: Lawyer questions whether Zimmer told truth about diary

VIDEO- Obama Donor Picked for Ambassador to Norway Fumbles Basic Questions About Norway - YouTube

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 04:35

VIDEO-Mitchell Breaks for Bieber | MRCTV

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 03:02

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VIDEO- Fmr Dep Dir Of CIA Says He Does NOT Believe Snowden Was Working For The Russians When He Fled - YouTube

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 02:53


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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 02:43

VIDEO- Senator Lamar Alexander's Chief Of Staff Found Dead ONE Month After Being Arrested For Child Porn - YouTube

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 02:26

VIDEO-Oh Yes, She Did: Manager Plugs Her Jewelry Store During CNN Mall Shooting Interview | Mediaite

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Sun, 26 Jan 2014 02:09

There are dedicated employees, and then there are dedicated employees. Case in point: Judy Hoffman, manager of the Fire and Ice jewelry store at the Columbia Mall, scene of a deadly shooting on Saturday, managed to keep her employees and customers safe during the incident, and in a telephone interview with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield, even had the presence of mind to throw in an enthusiastic plug for her shop.

''Judy Hoffman was a shopper in the mall,'' Whitfield said. ''She's on the phone with us now. Where are you now?''

''Actually, I'm not a shopper,'' Hoffman said.

''Okay,'' Whitfield interjected.

''I'm a manager at Fire and Ice at the Columbia Mall, near Nordstrom's'' Hoffman continued, adding ''Fire and Ice is a very unique, fascinating store. We sell jewelry, fossils, a number of different unique things from all over the world'...''

''So what happened? What happened while you were in the store today?'' Whitfield cut in, at which time the promo ended, just short of CNN's audience finding out just how many convenient Fire and Ice locations there are to shelter in place at. Hoffman recounted the incident, which occurred ''on the other side of the mall'' from where she was.

When Hoffman said that Fire and Ice sells ''fossils,'' she wasn't referring to a brand of watch, she meant actual fossils. Currently, they're running a special on a Brazilian Mesosaurus Fossil, which will run you $14,400.00, a 20% discount, and for the economy-minded Jurassic jewelry enthusiast, a pair of Sterling Silver Trilobite Dangle Earrings can be had for $151.20.

Here's the clip, from CNN:

VIDEO-BBC News - Are teachers ready for the coding revolution?

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 23:05

23 January 2014Last updated at 04:09 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

There's a revolution coming to schools across England, one designed to transform a new generation's prospects in the digital age. Come September, a change to the curriculum means the study of computing - and specifically coding - will be mandatory across all state primary and secondary schools.

That also means that something like 16,000 ICT teachers in secondary schools and more than 160,000 primary school teachers face a huge challenge - getting ready to teach the new discipline in time.

Where better to assess their readiness than BETT, the annual education technology fair. I spent yesterday in the vast halls of the Excel exhibition centre talking to teachers, children and even Education Secretary Michael Gove, about what the arrival of coding in the curriculum might mean.

To see two primary school pupils, Ruby and Sienna, working together to make a Raspberry Pi-controlled vehicle move around the floor with a few lines of code, was to understand what's possible. They admitted that coding could be difficult at first - but both were having a lot of fun.

They were benefitting from the work of one of an army of enthusiasts now descending on schools to help prepare for the coding revolution. Tom Stacey, a PhD student, invented the PiBot, the vehicle the girls were controlling. "It's when you combine hardware - something that they can actually touch - with writing lines of code that it actually comes alive," he told me.

Meanwhile, teachers at BETT seemed determined to be upbeat about the arrival of coding. Jonathan Furness, a primary school head teacher, admitted it was "a big ask - we're very much up against it".

With every teacher at primary level having to teach computing, there would need to be resources for staff development, and consultants would be coming into school to help. But he said, "our children are revved up" about coding and the teachers would come with them.

Gary Spracklen, head of digital at an academy in Dorset, said the key was to deal with the fear of learning a whole new language. "Everyone thinks it's a huge step onto a high level - but the message is we need to break it down and start small."

And that was echoed by Carrie-Ann Philbin, a great evangelist for inventive ways of using technology in the classroom, who's just joined Raspberry Pi: "It sounds like a steep learning curve," she admitted when I asked whether older teachers might be intimidated by coding. "But those big words like algorithm and data, when you actually dig deeper you see they're not scary."

So - what of the man who has ordered this revolution in classrooms? Michael Gove told me he accepted that a lot was being asked of teachers. But he insisted, "We're giving teachers all the support they need". He praised "outstanding teachers who understand and get computer science", and said they would be helping colleagues. "And we're making sure we get more talented people from the computing industry who think about teaching and are attracted into the classroom," he said.

And he said there was no alternative to making this work if we didn't want the Googles and Microsofts of tomorrow to be created elsewhere. "Schools will be better places and children will be better prepared for the future if they understand the language of the future - and that is computer programming."

From cabinet ministers pushing a policy and every kind of business promoting their products, to evangelical computing teachers, BETT attracts those with a determinedly optimistic view of the role technology can play in schools.

But in the real world, cynics will point at initiatives from language laboratories to electronic whiteboards to classrooms packed with obsolete desktop computers that have left many teachers underwhelmed. Will the drive to get children coding be different? And will schools be ready? If you're a teacher with a view on your own or your school's readiness for this revolution, please get in touch.

VIDEO-Al Gore on Climate Change: 'Extreme Weather Events Are a Game Changer'

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 22:37

What's This?

Former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore, right, speaking during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday Jan 30, 2009.Image: Virginia Mayo/Associated Press

By Ann-Marie Alcantara2014-01-25 02:22:05 UTC

Climate change made an appearance at the 44th annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, thanks to former Vice-President Al Gore and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. The two world figures commented on how extreme weather events are intensifying global awareness of the climate change phenomenon.

The weather events they mentioned include the likes of the recent typhoon Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy, both of which caused huge economic and human damage.

''I think that these extreme weather events which are now a hundred times more common than 30 years ago are really waking people's awareness all over the world [on climate change], and I think that is a game changer, '' said Gore, as reported by The Guardian.

"Even with business leadership, we will need governmental actions, we need to put a price on carbon, we need to put a price on [climate change] denial in politics," he said.

Bill Gates continued the conversation by raising the issue of how climate change and development are interlinked. When we talk about climate change, development problems around energy use and consumption should also take center stage.

"As the poorest are being lifted up, as they're getting lights and refrigerators, we are going to use more energy," said Gates. "There's not a scenario here where we use less energy. We have to make the energy we use not emit any greenhouse gases, particularly CO2."

Both men were part of a climate change panel at the World Economic Forum, joined by the likes of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Erna Solberg, the Prime Minster of Norway, and other global leaders. The panel, titled "Changing the Climate for Growth and Development," put climate change at the forefront of the nonprofit's annual meeting. The full discussion is embedded below.

2014, increasingly becoming known as the ''Climate Year'' due to a United Nations summit on climate change at the General Assembly later this year, is already having its fair share of climate issues around the world.

California's drought, possibly the worst in 100-years, is shedding new light on water scarcity issues, while the East Coast braced itself for a second polar vortex and snowstorm that showed no mercy with freezing temperatures and at least one death. On the other side of the world, Australia continues to deal with their intense summer heat, now with added risks to their drinking water.

The increased awareness around climate change comes at a time when big profile names like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and various U.S. congressmen are still denying the very existence of any larger environmental pattern. They point to extremely cold weather events like the polar vortex as reasons why climate change appears to be a hoax.

These comments grabbed attention: NASA Earth and the Union of Concerned Scientists responded back, poking holes in their logic.

What people like Trump tend to leave out, the scientists indicate, is a key difference between climate change and weather: the measurement of time (more on that from NASA). Weather is an everyday event over a short period of time, whereas climate change is a larger weather trend over a much longer time-frame.

Gore's suggestion is, as these instances of extreme weather increase, it will likely become harder to deny or ignore their role in a rapidly changing climate.

Topics: al gore, bill gates, climate change, davos, extreme weather, Politics, U.S., US & World, WEF, World, world economic forum

VIDEO-Justin Bieber SHAPESHIFTING At Court Appearance? -

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 18:22

Melissa Gorga Shows Off Banging Bod in SWAT Shirt (PHOTO)SWAT THIS! Melissa Gorga, Star of Real Housewives of New Jersey recently showed off her curves in a sweet low-cut shirt. Arresting! Bookem Danno! On January 23, Melissa post... [View Post]

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Bath Salt Banker LOSES Excessive Force Case Against L.A.P.D.A former banker and movie executive who said police beat him in a motel room while he was raging on designer drug, bath salts, has lost his $20 million excessive force claim agains... [View Post]

Netflix Mitt Romney Documentary Wins Over Viewers #MITTThe new Mitt Romney documentary begs the question, "Did America get it wrong?" Netflix on Friday premiered its exclusive documentary, ''MITT,'' to rave and surprisingly endearing rev... [View Post]

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TaggedAggravated DUI, Celebrity, Drag racing, illuminati, Justin Bieber, Lamborghini, Miami, Miami Beach Florida, reptilian, shape shifter, youtube

VIDEO-Man sent to prison after subjecting female journalist to sectarian abuse

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Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:01


Thursday, 09 January 2014 16:13

By Kevin Welsh Rangers fan and podcaster David Limond has been given a six month jail term after subjecting journalist Angela Haggerty to a torrent of racist and sectarian abuse last September. Mr Limond, 41, was convicted of sending a threatening communication aggravated by racial and religious prejudice in December after a two-day trial, at which Ms Haggerty gave evidence. On Thursday, Sheriff Scott Pattison delivered the prison sentence alongside a three-year non-harassment order.

At the trial, the court heard a recording of Mr Limond's Rangers Chat podcast which was broadcast on September 2012, in which a segment called "Taig of the day" featured Ms Haggerty. The journalist, who works for business magazine The Drum, was targeted by Mr Limond after editing a book about the financial collapse of Rangers Football Club.

In the podcast, Mr Limond sang a jingle in which he repeatedly described Ms Haggerty as "Taig of the day" and "scum of the day". The word 'Taig' is a derogatory term used in the North of Ireland and Scotland to describe an Irish Catholic, or a person of Irish Catholic heritage.

He then gave listeners Ms Haggerty's social media details and encouraged them to abuse and harass her on Twitter, prompting a stream of abusive tweets. "Hit her with everything you've got," Mr Limond said on the programme. "She's got to get bang bang bang."

A short extract from the broadcast

Reacting to news of the sentence, Ms Haggerty said: "I am very happy and relieved that this case has been concluded. I do not think that Mr Limond has any idea of the fear and panic I went through when I heard his podcast. Giving evidence in court was also very stressful. "Mr Limond referred to me as 'Taig of the day' in his podcast last year. I am glad that the court saw that this was similtaneously a racist and sectarian comment. I am proud of my Irish heritage and that seems to irk people like Mr Limond in Scotland. "I hope my case encourages other people who are threatened by online bigots and bullies to come forward and seek justice. I hope Mr Limond, while in prison, will consider his actions and the racial hatred that propelled him to abuse and terrify me. I now consider the matter to be closed."

When Ms Haggerty gave evidence in court, she described how the incident had affected her daily life and later described how she often used fake names for hair or taxi appointments out of fear that her real name would be recognised by someone who felt hostility towards her.

The case first came to national attention after Ms Haggerty appeared in a Channel 4 News broadcast about the intimidation of journalists and other professionals connected to the story of the financial collapse of Rangers.

Mr Limond was arrested by officers from Scotland's counter-terrorism unit following the Channel 4 News segment.

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VIDEO- MSNBC interrupts Congresswoman for report on Justin Bieber - YouTube

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Fri, 24 Jan 2014 23:01