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The Most Important Lesson I Learned From My Father

The Most Important Lesson I Learned From My Father

By Marty Nemko, Ph.D.

The danger of looking back, the power of looking forward.

Republican rift threatens high-tech immigration bill

GOP rift threatens immigration bill

Republican rift threatens high-tech immigration bill

By Sean Lengell

As a Republican-led effort to bring more high-skilled foreigners into the country is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, a GOP rift threatens the proposal as much or more than White House opposition.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced legislation this month that would tweak the nation’s immigration laws, making it easier for high-tech firms in the United States to hire more foreign specialists in so-called “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

The bill, which has several Democratic as well as Republican sponsors, would increase the number of high-tech visas to 115,000 a year from 65,000. That cap could go as high as 195,000 in any one year if there were enough demand for the workers.

Hatch called it a “common-sense approach” to ensuring that immigrants who come to the U.S. to be educated in high-tech fields have the ability to stay and “contribute to the economy and our society.”


But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called such talk a “false claim” and a “hoax” and has been actively pressing his Senate GOP colleagues to oppose the proposal.

“Not only is there no shortage of qualified Americans ready, able and eager to fill these jobs, there is a huge surplus of Americans trained in these fields who are unable to find employment,” the Alabama Republican said in his 2015 “immigration handbook,” a 23-page memo he’s been circulating among Republican senators.

Sessions has accused high-tech firms of manufacturing the “myth” of an American high-tech worker shortage to flood the market with workers to keep wages down. He cites recent Census data showing that three in four Americans with STEM degrees don’t hold a job in one of those fields.

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Forget College For Everyone: Forgive Student Loans And End Further Subsidies

Forget College For Everyone: Forgive Student Loans And End Further Subsidies

Forget College For Everyone: Forgive Student Loans And End Further Subsidies

It’s time for Republicans to channel their inner Jafar and get sneaky about Democrat attempts to buy votes through never-ending college subsidies.

By Daniel Oliver

In his State of the Union message on January 20, President Obama will propose that the federal government pay for two years of community college for every student who wants to go. The estimated cost ($3,800 a year each for nine million possible students) is $35 billion a year. The idea is to jack up the number of people who will vote for the Party of Bigger Government.

A few months ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (PBG, MA), also interested in jacking up the number of Democratic voters, introduced a bill to allow former students to refinance their loans at the current federal rate (about 4 percent), which in some cases would be half of what they are currently paying.

Obama’s proposal has no merit whatever: it makes more sense for most of the people who might go to a community college to take a route more calculated to achieving employment and mobility.

Warren’s proposal has some merit: mortgages can be refinanced; why not student loans? Millions of Americans would benefit from her proposal—40 millionformer students collectively owe $1.2 trillion. That’s upwards of 40 million people (more recent borrowers have loans with post-QE interest rates) who would be more inclined to vote for the Party of Bigger Government.

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Anti-Rape Idea: Drinking at the Sorority

Michelle Deloison-Baum and Yujin Nam are members of Sigma Delta, an unaffiliated sorority at Dartmouth that holds parties with alcohol.

Credit Cheryl Senter for The New York Times

Anti-Rape Idea: Drinking at the Sorority


For decades, national sorority organizations have banned alcohol in their houses. But as debate intensifies over how to address sexual assaults on college campuses, many of them occurring at fraternity house parties, some female students are questioning that rule, asserting that allowing alcohol would give women — not just sorority members — the option to attend Greek house parties that women control, from setting off-limits areas to deciding the content of the punch. The move would by no means eliminate sexual violence on campus, they said, but perhaps provide a benefit.

Fraternity townhouses at George Washington. One female student referred to the parties at Greek chapters as “a home-court advantage.”


“It’s this hard-and-fast rule that you take at face value, but it’s finally sort of surfacing,” said Martha McKinnon, a University of Michigan sophomore who lives in the Delta Gamma house there. “It pushes us into the fraternities. The whole social scene is embedded in the fraternity house, and makes us dependent on them. I find this a dangerous scenario.”

The portion of campus sexual assaults that occurs during fraternity house parties is unknown, several experts said, but a 2007 study financed by the Department of Justice found that women who frequently attended fraternity parties were significantly more likely than others to be sexually assaulted. Multiple studies have found that students in fraternities were significantly more likely to have committed rape than non-Greek men; heavy drinking by both sexes, a characteristic of most fraternity parties, was also strongly tied to the incidence of many forms of sexual assault.

Colleges across the nation are grappling with allegations of sexual assault at fraternity houses. Since September, authorities at California State University, San Marcos; Cleveland State; and Kansas have investigated instances of sexual assault at fraternity parties. Late last year, Brown University suspended a fraternity after a female student drank punch spiked with a date rape sedative, after which she said she was sexually assaulted.

At Texas Tech, Phi Delta Theta was suspended last fall for appearing to encourage rape with a “No Means Yes” banner, and in 2013 at Georgia Tech, Phi Kappa Tau was suspended after a member distributed an email titled “Luring your rapebait,” which ended, “I want to see everyone succeed at the next couple parties.”

At the University of Virginia, where a Rolling Stone article about a gang rape at a fraternity has been discredited, fraternities have nevertheless agreed to new limits to how they serve alcohol, including serving beer only in cans and not from kegs, requiring at least one fraternity member to be sober during parties, and disallowing punch.

George Washington, which has had no recent high-profile episodes, features a fairly typical Greek presence: About a quarter of its 10,000 undergraduates belong to 42 Greek organizations, many with rowhouses on the Northwest Washington campus. While students have options for where to imbibe, from dorm parties to off-campus bars, fraternities have a disproportionate presence in campus social life, some students said, mostly because of the free-flowing alcohol.

“It’s what we know,” Ashley Alessandra, a freshman, said while walking to a Kappa Alpha fraternity party with three friends on Friday night. “We go to frats.”

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Tea party reeling

MYRTLE BEACH, SC - JANUARY 18:  Dr. Ben Carson speaks at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention on January 18, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A variety of conservative presidential hopefuls spoke at the gathering on the second day of a three day event.  (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Tea party reeling

After a rough midterm, conservative activists are struggling to find their way.

Five years into its existence, the tea party is a movement adrift, interviews with conservative activists at this weekend’s South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention show. Its members are at odds over what went wrong in the 2014 election and on how to move forward in 2016; there’s even disagreement over how to define success. Is it enough to nudge the Republican Party to the right, as it has indisputably done, even if its candidates lose to people backed by the party establishment?

Perhaps, suggested Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)., the tea party’s recent struggles are just the nature of a sprawling, loosely defined grass-roots effort.

“The tea party gets [factionalized] in primaries a lot because the tea party is just really a large group of average Americans who believe in limited government, free markets and are frustrated with Big Government,” said Duncan, a member of the House Tea Party Caucus who was first elected during the 2010 tea party wave election.

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ISIS executes 13 teens for watching soccer

ISIS executes 13 teens for watching soccer

ISIS executes 13 teens for watching soccer

By Yaron Steinbuch and Jamie Schram

ISIS jihadists publicly executed 13 teenage boys for watching a soccer match.

The young fans were reportedly watching an Asian Cup match between Iraq and Jordan on TV last week when they were caught by the militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which ISIS, or the Islamic State, controls.

The group of teens was executed in public by a firing squad that used machine guns, according to Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, an activist group that exposes ISIS atrocities.

Before the kids were killed, their “crime” was announced over a loudspeaker, reports said.

“The bodies remained lying in the open and their parents were unable to withdraw them for fear of murder by the terrorist organization,” RIBSS posted on its website.

The boys were slaughtered because they were said to be violating Sharia law by watching the game.

Iraq beat Jordan 1-0 in the Jan. 12 match, which took place in Brisbane, Australia.

A few days earlier, the Islamic State released a gruesome video showing two men being flung off a tower in Mosul.

Before the execution, a masked fighter using a hand-held radio announced to a crowd of onlookers that the condemned duo had been found guilty of engaging in homosexual activities.

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Obama’s Half-Assed Tax Hike Populism

Obama’s Half-Assed Tax Hike Populism

The president is expected to finally take a big stand against wealth inequality tonight, but he still won’t touch the tax loophole that benefits some of his biggest donors.

Eight years after launching his campaign, and six years after being inaugurated, President Obama is finally living up to the greatest fears of his detractors in a significant way. Tonight, he’s expected to propose a plan to tax the rich and banks more, and distribute the proceeds to those on the lower rungs of the income ladder through tax credits. But he still won’t do much to address a glaring tax loophole that exists only to help the rich get richer.

Obama’s faith in progressive taxation—hyped to a large degree by critics over the years—has of course always been apparent. Obamacare included extra Medicare taxes on the wealthy, the proceeds of which are being used to subsidize health care for the poor and middle-class.

Additionally, the denouement of the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012 wound up partially reversing the Bush-era tax cuts, taking the top rate on income from 35 percent to 39.2 percent, and the top rate on long-term capital gains from 15 to 20 percent. (Since Obamacare adds an additional 3.4 percent tax on capital gains for highest earners, the top rate for long-term capital gains is now 23.4 percent.)

But considering the rampant income inequality and the vast distortions in the tax code enacted in favor of the wealthy in the aughts—and the fact that mere inaction would have eliminated all of them—those fixes were remarkably mild. 

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Well Before Scandals, Cosby’s Wife Faulted Media Treatment of Blacks

Well Before Scandals, Cosby’s Wife Faulted Media Treatment of Blacks

Bill Cosby’s public defenders have not been numerous of late, but they have included some serious, credible people like Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Vereen and, most recently, Phylicia Rashad — his wife on television for more than a decade — who expressed her full support for him as he confronted accusations that he was a serial sexual predator.

In an online interview on Jan. 6, Ms. Rashad made a point of mentioning that her faith in Mr. Cosby was bolstered by the unflinching loyalty of his actual wife, Camille O. Cosby.

“This is a tough woman, a smart woman,” she said. “She’s no pushover.”

As Mr. Cosby continued his comedy tour last weekend in Colorado and California, his most important character witness remained his wife. When she spoke out last month in his defense, Mrs. Cosby said her support was based on the integrity of her husband, with whom she will celebrate a 51st wedding anniversary this weekend and with whom she has shared multiple triumphs and the pain of a child’s death.

But it was also clear from her statement that Mrs. Cosby’s reaction to the allegations was influenced by a longstanding view that the news media trumpeting them was routinely wrong, even dishonest at times, in the way it portrayed African-Americans.

“There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers,” Mrs. Cosby, 70, said in her statement, “before stories are published or aired.”

To review Mrs. Cosby’s life and accomplishments — running a business, amassing a world-class art collection, producing films — is to see that perhaps nothing has motivated her more than her interest in addressing what she views as glaring lapses in the media’s treatment of blacks.

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Obama’s ‘Hail Mary’ State of the Union

Obama’s ‘Hail Mary’ State of the Union

President Obama will ask for a number of impossible tasks in his second to last State of the Union address, but the speech is about more than policy requests.

With his second to last State of the Union, President Obama will be slinging a Hail Mary towards the end zone.

Sadly, no one will be there to receive it.

The biggest proposals that he will present to Congress and the country will be non-starters with the newly-minted Republican Congress whose support Obama will need to pass legislation.

Taxes that target the wealthy and a plan to assist students with two years of tuition-free community college  will be particularly DOA with both chambers controlled by the GOP.

“Proposing a tax hike to a Republican House and Senate is a non-starter,” Mary Kate Cary, who wrote speeches for President George H.W. Bush, told The Daily Beast. “There are so many other proposals [Obama] could have started with instead—what a wasted opportunity to reach across the aisle and secure a better legacy for himself.”

For the president, there aren't many options left. It’s late in the fourth quarter. The short game is not an option. It's legacy time and the second-to-last-opportunity where he’s guaranteed the country’s attention.

“If the president is in that kind of position where he's dealing with an opposing party in Congress, there's often a wish list, pie in the sky element to [the State of the Union],” said David Greenberg, who teaches history at Rutgers University.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband: a CROOK!!

Senator’s husband profits for 15 years from federal funds

Senator’s husband profits for 15 years from federal funds

By Richard Johnson

My report Sunday on the lucrative deal Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband has to sell 56 post office buildings barely scratched the surface of her conflicts of interest.

The California Democrat’s financier husband, Richard C. Blum, is estimated to be a billionaire from his shrewd investments in companies that profit from federal policies.

“For at least 15 years, Feinstein has appeared to support government contracts that push federal funds toward companies co-owned or governed by her powerful, billionaire husband, Richard C. Blum,” Breitbart News reported.

CBRE, the global commercial real estate company Blum co-owns, took issue with my report that CBRE stood to make $1 billion in commissions from the sale of the post office buildings.

“CBRE won the USPS assignment in a competitive bid process. The revenue that CBRE stands to earn from the USPS account — if we are successful in selling the buildings — is de minimis,” a CBRE spokesman told me. “Mr. Blum personally does not earn any compensation from this or any other account.”

Blum has bigger deals with the University of California.

“After Mr. Blum was appointed to the Board of UC Regents in 2002, UC invested $748 million in seven private equity deals in which he or his firm, Blum Capital Partners, was a major investor,” investigative reporter Peter Byrne said.

CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, invested more than $5 billion in Blum’s funds.

Blum’s representative had no comment on the California deals.

Byrne said, “It almost goes without saying that the Blum-Feinstein family fortune is founded upon its uncanny ability to command billions of dollars in publicly owned capital.”

Humans Have Not Evolved To Handle Modern Dating

Humans Have Not Evolved To Handle Modern Dating

Humans Have Not Evolved To Handle Modern Dating

What’s expected dating policy today dooms us all to a life of happily never after.

By Teresa Mull

Serious serial dating is, after all, a relatively new phenomenon. Sixty years ago, people dated casually. “Casually” meaning they’d go get ice cream in groups. Not “casually” meaning they’d sleep with each other until someone decided to try to DTR. A person started “going steady” when he found a partner he intended to marry, and marriage was a way to stay ‘til death did you part.

For preceding generations, when one often had less choice in the matter of a life-long lover, and with happiness in marriage being “entirely a matter of chance,” practical compatibility was the priority rather than romance. Marriages were more or less arranged. Hearts, I am sure (and Jane Austen assures me), did inevitably break, but much romantic longing was kept reasonably in check by demands imposed by a society which made simply speaking to someone without a formal introduction something of a scandal.

The digital age has made the process of dating and mating easier than ever. There have never before been so many ways to find, connect with, and woo a potential beau. But the haystack may have gotten a little too big: with so much more variety, there’s also a lot more room for things to get complicated.

And complications have consequences.

The dramatic and damaging fluctuating of emotion that the Bennett sisters go through in “Pride and Prejudice” would make for an average chapter in the plot of the modern woman’s dating story. Hello, Taylor Swift. A study commissioned last year found that the average woman will “kiss 15 men, enjoy two long-term relationships, have her heart broken twice, suffer four disaster dates, be stood up once, have been in love twice, have lived with one ex-partner, and have four one night stands” before settling down with “the one.”

That’s a lot for one heart to go through, especially considering how emotional turmoil affects the mind and body. Increased blood pressure and heart rate, indigestion, weight gain (and loss), a weakened immune system, depression, and anxiety are all effects of heartbreak.

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What Hillary, Jeb, Rand and the rest could learn from past campaign catchphrases.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., looks out at the crowd during a campaign fundraiser in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Search for a Slogan

What Hillary, Jeb, Rand and the rest could learn from the history of campaign catchphrases.

Oh, the superficiality of it all! That’s what the sophisticates say. Yet a well-chosen phrase can power a candidate if the words ring true and connect to the theme of the election. Slogans are simplistic and manufactured, but the best ones fire up the troops and live on in history.

Even candidates as well-known as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush can benefit from a defining catchphrase. The last time she ran for president, then-Sen. Clinton used “The Strength and Experience to Bring Real Change.” That was workmanlike—and boring. At least for the ’16 Democratic contest, she’d be better off with “Let’s Make History Again” coupled with the Helen Reddy tune “I Am Woman.” Don’t forget, about 57 percent of Democratic presidential primary voters are women. For the general election, if President Barack Obama continues his recent climb in the polls, Clinton might adopt “Keep a Good Thing Going” or—to drive Republicans nuts—she might steal the 1982 Ronald Reagan midterm mantra, “Stay the Course.” If Obama’s popularity nosedives again, Hillary might want to revamp Bill Clinton’s 1992 anthem from Fleetwood Mac: “Don’t Stop Thinking About the Nineties.”

As for Jeb, he might want to try out “Not My Brother’s Keeper”—at least subliminally. He truly needs to be more Jeb than Bush as he attempts to achieve a historically unprecedented family three-peat. The word “conservative” needs to be prominent, given that so many voters in the GOP base think he isn’t. Terms to be avoided at all costs: immigration, common, and core.

More ideological candidates probably have an advantage in sloganeering since they can use hot-button terms with less risk. Should Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren challenge Clinton in the Democratic primary, her slogan writes itself: “Main Street, Not Wall Street.” If she wants to be bolder, there’s the tried-and-true “Keep the Big Boys Honest,” which was a favorite of populists from Virginia to Washington state in the 1960s and ’70s. (“Boys” is sexist, perhaps, but a woman could get away with it, especially considering that a large majority of Wall Street moguls are male.)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s anti-interventionist foreign policy might lead him to “America First!” Of course, he’d have to distinguish his more nuanced views from those of the America First Committee, which formed in 1940 to keep the United States out of World War II and had 800,000 dues-paying members (including two future presidents, John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford). The committee was disbanded three days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

If outsiders could write a few whimsical slogans for the contenders, we might pick “Never Give Up,” should Mitt Romney follow through on his musings and run for a third time. Like so many politicians before him, Romney proves that the only cure for White House fever is a cozy underground pine cabin.

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How to Develop the Next Generation of Innovators

How to Develop the Next Generation of Innovators

By Jeff DeGraff, Ph.D.

With time and a little luck, we will gain momentum and begin to re-establish our creative culture and become more inclusive. Who knows? Our best and brightest might just prove old Joe Schumpeter wrong and find a way to balance democracy and meritocracy here in America.

Schumpeter's most famous and controversial work is his disjointed and rambling classic, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. In it, he warns that as capitalism advances, it becomes more efficient and seeks better and cheaper ways of getting the work done even if it means replacing jobs with machines or sending them abroad. In other words, corporations use innovation to do more with less. But he warns that capitalism is not sustainable because, in a democratic society, majorities vote for the creation of a planned economy where the wealth is distributed equitably by the state. You need only look to the current European economy as a whole to see what Schumpeter saw 75 years ago. No friend of socialism, Schumpeter cautioned that democracy taken too far will destroy meritocracy, where the best and brightest advance through personal initiative, resourcefulness, and innovation--the essential attributes of entrepreneurism. Schumpeter has a Darwinist view of innovation where only the fittest excel.

Romney and Obama reflect the phoniness of modern American politics.

One Empty Suit, One Empty Agenda

Romney and Obama reflect the phoniness of modern American politics.

By Ron Fournier

One man is an empty suit. The other has an empty agenda. One man says he'll be the champion of the poor – and nobody believes him. The other says he'll be the champion of "middle-class economics" – and nobody thinks he'll get it done.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. These two decent and ambitious men are linked by sad circumstance: Both squandered their opportunities to transform the American political system – and now represent the utter phoniness of it.

Start with Romney: The former Massachusetts governor once represented the big-tent, can-do middle of the political spectrum, combining the GOP ethic of responsibility and the Democratic ethos of compassion to expand health insurance coverage in the liberal-leaning state.

He reinvented himself for the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, changing positions on many issues to appeal to a GOP primary electorate moving rightward. In 2012, his general election campaign against Obama was a disaster.


Romney wants to run again. The 3.0 version would focus on three areas: foreign policy, social mobility, and eradicating poverty. "Under President Obama," Romney told GOP leaders on Friday night, "the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty than ever before."

Right on those particular facts, Romney is the wrong candidate for a 2016 message aimed at the 47 percent of Americans he infamously dismissed in 2012. His private charitable work is laudable, but voters will look to his public record. "For the former Massachusetts governor, the question that will come quickly is whether he has the credibility, given his past campaigns, to persuasively deliver that message," Washington Post columnist Dan Balz wrote. "In other words: Is this the authentic Mitt Romney?"

Obama's authenticity problem is different in kind. Voters are less concerned about whether the president has an ideological core – he's a liberal – as they are about his ability to get things done.

Moderate Democrats and independent voters were drawn to Obama's promise to change the culture of Washington – to rid the capital of pettiness and gridlock in order to address big problems. He abandoned that promise early in his presidency, blaming the intransigence of Republicans who, before his elevation, had made no secret of their intransigence. Liberal voters thought he tried too hard to accommodate Republicans. Beyond the Affordable Care Act, they saw few big gains in the progressive agenda.

Across the board, voters don't doubt Obama's sincerity as much as they do his effectiveness. He makes promises he can't keep. He's a weak leader, a majority of voters tell pollsters, and he can't be counted on to unite Congress and the country behind a sensible agenda.

That is the context behind Obama's latest legislative flourish to be unveiled in the State of the Union address Tuesday. He wants Congress to raises taxes on the wealthy by $320 billion over the next 10 years to pay for new program aimed at the lower- and middle-class families, a plan the White House public relations team calls "middle-class economics."

Obama knows it won't pass Congress, but that's not the point for him. The president's singular mission is to frame the 2016 election in a way the hurts Republicans and helps his legacy.

Tiger Woods missing a tooth at Vonn’s big win

Woods missing a tooth at Vonn’s big win

Woods missing a tooth at Vonn’s big win

With a single missing tooth, Tiger Woods snagged much of the attention away from his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, during her big moment on Monday.

The golfer, 39, surprised his ski-champion gal pal after her victory in the super-G in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.

Despite Vonn, 30, earning her record-breaking 63rd World Cup victory, all eyes appeared to be on the disaster in Woods’ mouth.

Woods hid underneath dark sunglasses, a black hat and a skeleton mask, which had all of its teeth. But Vonn, who planted a kiss on Woods after spotting him in the crowd, “knew it was him immediately.” “He loves that stupid mask,” she told reporters.

It’s unclear if the tooth fell out, was knocked out or was removed.

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‘American Sniper’ Divides Hollywood

‘American Sniper’ Divides Hollywood: Seth Rogen, Michael Moore, and Other Stars Take Sides

The Clint Eastwood-directed war drama has broken box office records and divided audiences—and Hollywood celebrities—along political lines.

 “For me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier,” said Cooper. “The guy that I got to know, through all the source material that I read and watched, and home videos—hours and hours—I never saw anything like that. But I can’t control how people are gonna use this movie as a tool, or what they pick and choose whatever they want. But it would be short-changing, I think. If it’s not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets. It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even…It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.”

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Oxfam Study: Richest 1% Is Likely to Control Half of Global Wealth by 2016

Oxfam Study Finds Richest 1% Is Likely to Control Half of Global Wealth by 2016

The richest 1 percent are likely to control more than half of the globe’s total wealth by next year, the charity Oxfam reported in a study released on Monday. The warning about deepening global inequality comes just as the world’s business elite prepare to meet this week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own $1.9 trillion, the report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world’s income scale. (Last year, it took 85 billionaires to equal that figure.) And the richest 1 percent of the population, who number in the millions, control nearly half of the world’s total wealth, a share that is also increasing.

The type of inequality that currently characterizes the world’s economies is unlike anything seen in recent years, the report explained. “Between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current U.S. dollars had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires,” it said. “However since 2010, it has been decreasing over that time.”

Winnie Byanyima, the charity’s executive director, noted in a statement that more than a billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day.

“Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined?” Ms. Byanyima said. “The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering.”

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Muslims in Europe: the misperceptions, and the facts

Muslims in Europe: the misperceptions, and the facts

By Michael Holtz

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks and virulent rhetoric from anti-immigration groups, Muslims in Europe fear an impending backlash. Basic statistics about the community are at odds with perceptions.

The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and growing support for a weekly anti-Islamization march in Dresden, Germany, have raised fears of an impending backlash against Muslims in Europe, many of whom already feel unfairly discriminated against.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande separately reaffirmed their support for Muslims in an attempt to counter the virulent rhetoric from anti-immigration groups.

Even so, police in Belgium, France, Germany, and Ireland arrested dozens of suspects Thursday and Friday amid fears that European Muslims returning from Middle East battle zones represented a terror threat in their home countries.


More than 20 million Muslims live in the 28 countries that form the European Union. Their share of the population across Europe grew from 4 percent in 1990 to 6 percent in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2030, Muslims are projected to make up 8 percent of the continent’s population.

About 4.7 million Muslims live in Germany and a similar number in France, the most of any countries in the EU. At 7.5 percent, France has the most Muslims as a proportion of its population in all of Western Europe. That figure is expected to increase to more than 10 percent by 2030. Muslims make up 5.8 percent of the population in Germany, 4.8 percent in Britain, and 3.7 percent in Italy. By comparison, Muslims in the United States make up 1 percent of the population.

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Kouachi brothers found their mother's body when 10 and 12

Kouachi brothers found their mother's body when 10 and 12

Children’s worker reveals how mother’s suicide helped turn the Kouachi brothers from ‘sweet young boys’ into infamous Islamist murderers.

By Ted Thornhill for MailOnline

The jihadist brothers behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Cherif and Said Kouachi, experienced the trauma of finding their mother’s body after she’d committed suicide when they were 10 and 12 years old, according to a children’s worker.

In the 1990s volunteer Evelyne worked with deprived children in the area of Paris that the brothers lived in and often involved them in activities. She said she adored both boys.

On one occasion she took them to Eurodisney and described how Cherif, the younger of the two, was spell-bound by Mickey Mouse.

‘I adored that child. You only had to sweet talk him and take him in your arms and he would calm down. I found him quite touching – under the spell of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters, like all children.’

The brothers, who were inseparable, found their mother, who was pregnant at the time with a sixth child, dead in their flat when they came home from school for lunch one day.

Evelyne added: ‘A few months after the trip to Eurodisney Cherif came back from school, accompanied, as ever, by his older brother. They found their mother lying dead in the centre of the flat. Dead from what cause? She had taken too many pills. Most people assumed it was suicide.’

Two years later, in 1994, the brothers were sent to an orphanage in Correze with a their younger brother and older sister.

While there Cherif developed into a promising footballer and Said was remembered as being ‘civilised and respectful’, according to a former classmate, ‘Cedric’.

He told website Modiapart and Swiss newspaper Le Matin: ‘The Kouachi brothers were "respected", because they could "handle themselves".Cherif was very good with his fists but, above all, he was a bit of a lad. He was a fan of [the comedian and actor] Djamel Debbouze and football... He was funny and regarded himself as a good looker. He was a fantastic dancer at 15 and played football as easily as he breathed. He could have made a career of it.’

But he added that the school was very violent, with some teachers plainly scared of the children. He remains convinced that the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which saw several members of the magazine murdered, along with two policeman – and the brothers die in a shootout with police at the ages of 32 and 34 - would never have happened if they’d be supported more.

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Michael Moore slams 'military assassins' as cowards.

'They are cowards not heroes'

Michael Moore slams 'military assassins' as Oscar-tipped movie American Sniper storms box office

Filmmaker Michael Moore has slammed snipers as 'cowards' who 'shoot you in the back' on the same weekend Oscar-tipped movie American Sniper hit cinemas.

Clint Eastwood's biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, starring Bradley Cooper, has become a box office hit since its release last week.

Taking to Twitter in rage, Fahrenheit 9/11 director Moore seethed: 'My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse.'

Anger: Michael Moore took to Twitter with his views on snipers the day after American Sniper came out

American Sniper: The biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, starring Bradley Cooper, has become a box office hit since its release last week. Kyle was credited with the most confirmed kills in American military history: 160

Moore won an Oscar in 2002 for his documentary Bowling For Columbine, exploring gun violence in America and the main reasons for the Columbine High School massacre.

He is outspoken in his views against firearms and has previously described America's national symbol as the gun, not the bald eagle.

Last year Moore wrote on his Facebook page that that while other countries have more violent histories than the U.S., more guns per capita and consume the same violent movies and video games as the U.S., none have anywhere near the rates of mass killings that America does.

He explained: 'The bloodshed is just the latest in what is fast becoming a regular occurrence in the United States, and one that is sure to happen again, says Moore.

'We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time,' he writes.

'When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people - people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people - Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.'

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Who Uses Their Head and Who Listens to Their Heart?

Who Uses Their Head and Who Listens to Their Heart?

By Scott A. McGreal, MSc.

Whether a person identifies with their head or their heart can say a lot about their personality. Are people in their heads really smarter than those in their hearts? The head/heart distinction might reveal something about how personality and intelligence are related. Shifting a person's attention between the head or the heart might change the way they think and behave.

Obama plays Robin Hood

Obama plays Robin Hood

Obama plays Robin Hood

By Justin Sink

The White House wants President Obama to play the part of Robin Hood at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Obama hopes to use the big speech to remove a blemish of his presidency: an economic recovery that has left wage growth behind.

Free community college. A $175 billion tax cut for the middle class. Faster, cheaper broadband internet. A week of paid sick leave. Discounted mortgages.

Obama wants to move forward with all of these populist proposals for the poor and middle class, and he wants to do so by taking from the rich in the form of higher taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street.

Few of the proposals are going anywhere with a GOP Congress, but the White House sees Obama’s penultimate State of the Union as the president’s last, best chance to lay down policy markers for the next two years —and to frame the 2016 battle for the White House.

It’s also meant to ensure Obama remains relevant for as long into his presidency as possible.

“I think we should have a debate in this country between middle-class economics and trickle-down economics,” top aide Dan Pfeiffer said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“I think, in divided government, each side should lay out their agenda, what they think is in the best interest of the country,” he added.

Those comments signal another aspect of the emerging White House strategy.

If Obama is casting himself as the hero, he also hopes to cast newly-empowered congressional Republicans as the villains — multiple Sheriffs of Nottingham defending the rich and influential.

“To make it appear that he’s going on offense they need to suggest and put forward a number of proposals s they can say, ‘See? We were trying to do these things,’” said Lara Brown, the Political Management Program Director at George Washington University.

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What male athletes can learn from women about concussions

What male athletes can learn from women about concussions

The sports media has a fascination with concussions. Not only is there a huge volume of stories about the issue, but there’s also an urgency to the tone of the reporting. The heightened coverage has served to increase awareness of the concussion problem and encourage public debate about sport, health and safety.

But what’s often missing from the media’s discussion of the topic is a recognition that the concussion problem is not merely a health issue; it’s also a social issue. We’re generally less inclined to look at how concerns about head injuries influence our understanding of ourselves and the identities of others.

Sport plays a significant role in our culture. It’s used as a lens to discuss what it means to be a man or woman, how to belong to a nation or community or how hard work can overcome long odds.

Shouldn’t our conversations about a topic that could change the very nature of sport also consider these social and cultural issues?

The absence of social commentary stems from a tendency in the mainstream media to frame concussions as a science and technology problem. Scientists have undertaken essential research that has helped us learn about what happens to the brain after a concussion. Meanwhile, groundbreaking investigative reports and documentaries have made the results of this research accessible to the general population to the point where the symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy have become part of everyday dialogue about sports.

The media is also keen to cover the latest technological breakthrough for new “concussion-resistant” helmets, but it is just as quick to report on rulings requiring companies to withdraw claims about the superior protection offered by their products. The bulk of the coverage of concussions in the media seems to be organized around one basic understanding: to solve the “concussion crisis” and make sports safer, we simply need better science.

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Banking Start-Ups Adopt New Tools for Lending

Banking Start-Ups Adopt New Tools for Lending

 When bankers of the future decide whether to make a loan, they may look to see if potential customers use only capital letters when filling out forms, or at the amount of time they spend online reading terms and conditions — and not so much at credit history.

These signals about behavior — picked up by sophisticated software that can scan thousands of pieces of data about online and offline lives — are the focus of a handful of start-ups that are creating new models of lending.

No single signal is definitive, but each is a piece in a mosaic, a predictive picture, compiled by collecting an array of information from diverse sources, including household buying habits, bill-paying records and social network connections. It amounts to a digital-age spin on the most basic principle of banking: Know your customer.

“We’re building the consumer bank of the future,” said Louis Beryl, chief executive of Earnest, one of the new lenders.

And in that bank, whether a customer uses proper capitalization and spends time reading terms and conditions of a loan may make him or her more creditworthy.

Yet the technology is so new that the potential is unproved. Also, applying the modern techniques of data science to consumer lending raises questions, especially for regulators who enforce anti-discrimination laws.

None of the new start-ups are consumer banks in the full-service sense of taking deposits. Instead, they are focused on transforming the economics of underwriting and the experience of consumer borrowing — and hope to make more loans available at lower cost for millions of Americans.

Earnest uses the new tools to make personal loans. Affirm, another start-up, offers alternatives to credit cards for online purchases. And another, ZestFinance, has focused on the relative niche market of payday loans.

They all envision consumer finance fueled by abundant information and clever software — the tools of data science, or big data — as opposed to the traditional math of creditworthiness, which relies mainly on a person’s credit history.

The new technology, proponents say, can open the door to far more accurate assessments of creditworthiness. Better risk analysis, they say, will broaden the lending market and reduce the cost of borrowing.

“The potential is there to save millions of people billions of dollars,” said Rajeev V. Date, a venture investor and former banker, who also was deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Investors certainly see the potential; money and talent are flowing into this emerging market. Major banks, credit card companies and Internet giants are watching the upstarts and studying their techniques — and watching for the perils.


By law, lenders cannot discriminate against loan applicants on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or the receipt of public assistance. Big-data lending, though, relies on software algorithms largely working on their own and learning as they go.

The danger is that with so much data and so much complexity, an automated system is in control. The software could end up discriminating against certain racial or ethnic groups without being programmed to do so.

Even enthusiasts acknowledge that pitfall. “A decision is made about you, and you have no idea why it was done,” Mr. Date said. “That is disquieting.”

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Obama Will Focus on Wealth Inequality—Not Just Income

Obama Will Focus on Wealth Inequality—Not Just Income

The president's plan to raise capital gains taxes brings a long-standing economic issue back to the limelight.

Matt Schiavenza

When President Obama addresses the nation in the State of the Union address on Tuesday, he is likely to boast about the health of the economy, which last year created jobs at its fastest clip since 1999. But the president isn't about to let the economy go on cruise control. Obama is also expected to announce a series of proposals aimed at reducing inequality, which has emerged as a major economic concern among American liberals.

The proposal likely to attract the most attention is Obama's plan to raise the capital-gains tax for Americans earning $500,000 or more from 23.8 to 28 percent. In addition, the president wants to close a loophole allowing Americans to dodge paying taxes on inherited money. These two proposals—alongside a separate plan to tax companies with assets over $50 billion—are expected to raise $320 billion in revenue of the next decade.

Capital gains tax reform has been a Democratic Party goal for years. But its inclusion at the center of Obama's economic agenda signals renewed attention on wealth, rather than income, inequality. And for that, the American president owes a tip of the cap to a person who isn't even American: the French economist Thomas Piketty.

In his 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, released amid great fanfare last year, the economist argued that inequality isn't just about income. It's also about wealth. Applying data gathered across several decades throughout the world, Piketty argued that when income derived from capital exceeds income derived from work, inequality necessarily widens. Or, in non-economics speak: the easiest way to get rich isn't to make a lot of money. It's to have a lot of assets in the first place. Better yet to inherit it.

The solution Piketty proposes for this problem is a global tax on wealth. This, to put it mildly, isn't feasible—something the economist himself concedes. But Obama's more modest plan to raise capital gains taxes—something he has already accomplished in his presidency—could have a significant effect.

Under current tax laws, America's highest earners pay income tax of 39.6 percent. Capital-gains taxes, even after Obama's shift, cannot exceed 23.8 percent. The Center for American Progress characterizes this difference as a government subsidy for investment income, and an expensive one at that. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this subsidy amounts to $1.34 trillion over the next ten years. Sixty-eight percent of that went to the top one percent. Given this situation, it comes as no surprise that the country's 400 top earners, or 0.0003 percent of the taxpaying population, earned 12 percent of capital gains benefitting from lower rates.

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Did Iran Murder Argentina’s Crusading Prosecutor Alberto Nisman?

Did Iran Murder Argentina’s Crusading Prosecutor Alberto Nisman?

Christopher Dickey

An Argentine prosecutor died from a single gunshot wound to the head Sunday, hours before giving evidence about Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.

Since 2005 Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has been crusading for his vision of justice in the horrific 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. He claimed that Iran was behind it and, more recently, that the Argentine government was trying to block his efforts to prove that.

On Sunday night, Nisman was found dead in his apartment, only hours before he was set to testify before an Argentine parliamentary commission about his allegations.

The circumstances revealed thus far by the police suggest a suicide. The history of Iran’s operations overseas inevitably suggest otherwise. And there are disturbing echoes of the world 20 or 30 years ago when Tehran, often in league with its clients in Hezbollah, waged a global war on the enemies of the Islamic Republic, deploying hit teams second only to the Israelis in their skill at assassination.

First, let’s look at the official communiqué about Nisman’s death issued by Argentina’s Ministry of National Security on Monday morning, with the facts of the case as the ministry says they are known:

Nisman’s lifeless body was discovered Sunday night in his apartment on the 13th floor of Le Parc Tower, which is part of a modern high-rise complex in the Puerto Madero neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

Ten members of the Argentine Federal Police force had been assigned to him as bodyguards, but it seems they were not deployed when he was at home. According to the communiqué, members of the team alerted Nisman’s secretary on Sunday afternoon that he was not responding to repeated phone calls. When they learned that he was not answering the doorbell of his house either and that the Sunday newspaper was still on the step, they decided to notify his relatives.

The bodyguards then collected Nisman’s mother at her home and took him to Le Parc. When they tried to enter, they found the door locked with the key on the inside. They called the building’s maintenance staff who then called a locksmith.  Nisman’s mother entered the apartment with one of the bodyguards, and they found Nisman in the bathroom, where his body was blocking the door when they tried to open it. They immediately called police crime scene investigators who entered the bathroom, apparently making as much effort as possible not to disturb the evidence.

Nisman was on the floor with a .22 caliber pistol and one empty shell casing nearby.

The official communiqué does not say explicitly that he died from a bullet wound to the head, but that has been widely reported in Buenos Aires, as has the detail that the documents for his testimony before parliament were arrayed on his desk.

How a murderer might have staged this apparent suicide will doubtless be the subject of speculation and conspiracy theories for years to come, as, indeed, is the case with the investigation into the AMIA bombing itself. That never resulted in a single conviction and was called a “national disgrace” by the late President Néstor Kirchner in 2005. The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was among those who signed a petition ten years ago calling for justice, but to no avail.

Nisman’s eventual focus on direct Iranian involvement, accusing Tehran of planning and financing the attack and Hezbollah operatives of carrying it out, was not universally supported, even by U.S. investigators who followed the case. “The guilt field was painted with a bit too broad a brush,” former FBI agent James Bernazzani told The New York Times in 2009. Bernazzani had led U.S. investigations of Hezbollah throughout the 1990s and said that while he was “convinced” of the group’s involvement, “we surfaced no information indicating Iranian compliance.”

In the world of intelligence, however, as distinct from the world of criminal justice, there has been little question that Iran was behind the AMIA bombing in 1994 and the earlier car-bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people.

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NFL investigating whether Patriots deflated footballs in AFC championship game

NFL investigating whether Patriots deflated footballs in AFC championship game

Hours after the New England Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLIX, the NFL was looking into allegations that the team used deflated footballs in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

One ball, Bob Kravitz of and NBC’s WTHR-TV in Indianapolis reports, was taken out of action to be weighed and the NFL confirmed that it was looking into the matter that some are already calling #DeflateGate on Twitter.

The NFL rule book states that game balls must be inflated with 12.5-13.5 pounds of air. Both teams at each game must provide a dozen balls each to be tested and approved 135 minutes before game time. The home team must also have 12 reserve balls available for testing, with the road team also having that option in outdoor games. The referee, the rules state, “shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.”

An underinflated or deflated ball would be easier to grip, which would have been advantageous in the pouring rain Sunday night. Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception, in the Patriots’ 45-7 crushing of the Colts and LeGarrette Blount had 30 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

If the NFL determines that the balls were deliberately deflated — and proving intent is the key — punishment might involve the loss of draft picks and/or fines. The outcome of the game, obviously, would not be affected. As everyone knows, the Patriots have been here before. They were stripped of their 2008 first-round pick after the league determined they had videotaped signals used by opposing coaches in SpyGate. Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team $250,000.

Belichick, on Sunday night, told fans, “It’s on to Seattle,” but it looks as if it won’t be that simple.

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Falling oil prices hit Venezuela, Iran and Russia hard

Falling oil prices hit Venezuela, Iran and Russia hard

As oil prices continued to plunge last week, it was instructive to watch the disparate reactions of three governments whose whopping losses are likely to produce some of the biggest international stories of 2015.

There was the panicked scrambling of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who skipped his own state of the union speech for a desperate world tour in search of loans or promises of $100 oil. He got neither, even as rumors flew back home about whether he would be allowed to stay in office on his return.

There was the cool response of Vladi­mir Putin, whose ministers announced drastic cuts in government spending — except for defense. Russia’s proxy forces in eastern Ukraine meanwhile launched a new offensive.

And there was the energetic engagement by Iran’s foreign minister in negotiations on a nuclear deal that would lead to a lifting of U.N. sanctions. This followed an argument back in Tehran between the country’s president and its supreme leader about whether Iran should pursue an opening to the world or a warlike “resistance economy.”

Those snapshots fairly reflected the betting in Washington about the likely consequences of a sustained drop in oil prices for Venezuela, Russia and Iran, three troublesome nations that depend on energy exports for anywhere between 68 percent and 95 percent of their external revenue. Venezuela appears on the edge of a political chasm. Putin will try to fend off domestic upheaval with more foreign aggression. And Iran will make a fateful choice between forging a lifeline to the United States and Europe and consciously embracing isolation and harsh austerity.

Other countries, of course, will be hurt by the loss of oil revenue. But these three stand out for the way high-priced oil has bloated their geopolitical ambitions and financed their rogue behavior. Putin, attempting to reconstruct Moscow’s Soviet empire, has launched two military invasions of neighbors in six years. Iran, seeking hegemony in the Middle East, is fighting expensive wars in Iraq and Syria even while it builds the infrastructure necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Venezuela’s hopes of creating an anti-American bloc in Latin America have prompted it to deliver 200,000 barrels a day of heavily subsidized oil to 13 countries, including Cuba.

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U.S.-built Ebola treatment centers in Liberia are nearly empty as outbreak fades

U.S.-built Ebola treatment centers in Liberia are nearly empty as outbreak fades

By Kevin Sieff

 Near the hillside shelter where dozens of men and women died of Ebola, a row of green U.S. military tents sit atop a vast expanse of imported gravel. The generators hum; chlorinated water churns in brand-new containers; surveillance cameras send a live feed to a large-screen television.

There’s only one thing missing from this state-of-the-art Ebola treatment center: Ebola patients.

The U.S. military sent about 3,000 troops to West Africa to build centers like this one in recent months. They were intended as a crucial safeguard against an epidemic that flared in unpredictable, deadly waves. But as the outbreak fades in Liberia, it has become clear that the disease had already drastically subsided before the first American centers were completed. Several of the U.S.-built units haven’t seen a single patient infected with Ebola.

It now appears that the alarming epidemiological predictions that in large part prompted the U.S. aid effort here were far too bleak. Although future flare-ups of the disease are possible, the near-empty Ebola centers tell the story of an aggressive American military and civilian response that occurred too late to help the bulk of the more than 8,300 Liberians who became infected. Last week, even as international aid organizations built yet more Ebola centers, there was an average of less than one new case reported in Liberia per day.

“If they had been built when we needed them, it wouldn’t have been too much,” said Moses Massaquoi, the Liberian government’s chairman for Ebola case management. “But they were too late.”

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N.S.A. Tapped Into North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say

N.S.A. Tapped Into North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say

The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth.

Spurred by growing concern about North Korea’s maturing capabilities, the American spy agency drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies, according to former United States and foreign officials, computer experts later briefed on the operations and a newly disclosed N.S.A. document.

A classified security agency program expanded into an ambitious effort, officials said, to place malware that could track the internal workings of many of the computers and networks used by the North’s hackers, a force that South Korea’s military recently said numbers roughly 6,000 people. Most are commanded by the country’s main intelligence service, called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and Bureau 121, its secretive hacking unit, with a large outpost in China.

The evidence gathered by the “early warning radar” of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea’s activities proved critical in persuading President Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong-un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified N.S.A. operation.

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Bush, Clinton and the Fatigue Factor

Bush, Clinton and the Fatigue Factor

Party elites may be fine with dynasty candidates, but rank-and-file voters are warier.

By Charlie Cook

There are some surprising events that warrant being taken very seriously; others, well, not so much. Prior to Thanksgiving, it looked pretty unlikely that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would actually pull the trigger and seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, even though it was obvious that he personally wanted to do it. Since then, things have changed dramatically, to the point that it is now essentially a done deal. It makes you wonder what transpired in the Bush household over turkey, dressing, and cranberries.

Bush's entry is an unexpected event with huge consequences, whether he ultimately wins the GOP nomination or not. He represents the most formidable fundraising network in the party, has candidate skills that are probably better than those of anyone else in the party, and was a highly successful governor of a big-time state, one that is of great significance both in terms of the GOP nomination and the general election. Many others show potential. Jeb Bush's bona fides are more concrete.

On the other hand, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's disclosure that he wants to run is a bit harder to take seriously. In fact, it takes considerable effort not to see Romney's words as anything but a pathetic attempt to stay relevant, a reaction to being all but ignored as those few in the Republican establishment who aren't enthusiastic for Bush instead push for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The fact is that if the 2012 GOP field were stronger, Romney probably wouldn't have been the nominee. The center-right/establishment half of the Republican NCAA-like bracket gets pretty much filled by Bush and, even more so, by Christie, if in fact there is room for two.

Bush's challenges, and for that matter those of Hillary Clinton, were dramatically on display in an Aurora, Colo., focus group of 12 voters conducted last week by renowned Democratic pollster Peter Hart. The gathering was part of a 10-year-old series Hart has conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. While a focus group of just a dozen voters is hardly a cross section of the entire electorate, this kind of qualitative research provides a color and texture that is simply not available through normal quantitative polling that surveys hundreds or thousands of voters. By examining average Americans' actual words, voices, facial expressions, and body language, the "why" becomes more clear. The numbers just give you the "what."

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