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  • The US Significantly Escalates Airstrikes Against ISIS

    air strike

    The US and partner nations conducted 22 airstrikes against targets held by the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq on Friday and Saturday, marking the most for a single 24-hour stretch since the US began airstrikes against the group in August.

    US Central Command said Saturday that the US military and partner nations conducted the strikes in six different areas of Iraq against the group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. A breakdown:

    • Three airstrikes near the northern city of Bayji, which is home to a large oil refinery, hit a large and small ISIS unit, destroyed an ISIS-held building, damaged another ISIS-held building, and destroyed two of the group's fighting positions.

    • 11 strikes total near the key strategic Mosul Dam struck four small ISIS units, two large ISIS units, destroyed an ISIS building, six ISIS fighting positions, and four ISIS staging locations.

    • Four airstrikes near the city of Fallujah hit two small ISIS units, destroyed an ISIS vehicle, and destroyed an ISIS fighting position.

    • Two strikes near Qurayat al Hajjaj struck a small ISIS unit and destroyed an ISIS building.

    • One strike near Hayy Al Arabi destroyed an ISIS building.

    • One strike near Aynzalah destroyed an ISIS building.

    Central Command said all aircraft exited the areas safely. 

    The US also conducted an airstrike in Syria on Saturday, near the battle-heavy town of Kobani. Earlier this week, the US boosted Kurdish forces fighting ISIS militants in the key town on the Syria-Turkey border, resupplying them with weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies.

    Combined, the 23 airstrikes in total were the most since late last month, shortly after airstrikes began against the group in Syria.

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  • Woman Quarantined In New Jersey Tests Negative For Ebola

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    A woman who was quarantined at a New Jersey airport on Friday has tested negative in a preliminary test for Ebola, state officials said Saturday morning.

    The woman, a healthcare worker who had treated patients with Ebola in affected countries in Africa, was quarantined at Newark Liberty International Airport after arriving in the US on Friday. She showed no symptoms upon arrival, but later developed a slight fever.

    "A healthcare worker with a recent history of treating Ebola patients in West Africa who was quarantined from Newark Liberty International Airport yesterday has tested negative in a preliminary test for Ebola," the New Jersey Department of Health said in a statement.

    "The patient continues to be quarantined and remains in isolation and under observation at University Hospital in Newark."

    The department added that physicians at the hospital would continue to monitor the patient and keep in close contact with officials at both the New Jersey Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The woman was the first traveler to be quarantined under new protocols announced Friday by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governors said there will now be a mandatory 21-day quarantine for health workers and any other passengers who had contact with Ebola-stricken people.

    "I think the action you see us taking today is based upon experience that we’ve had on the ground both in New York and in New Jersey. And that’s our responsibility," Christie said. "Our responsibility is to make sure we protect the public health of the people of our state." 

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  • Iran Hangs Woman For Killing Alleged Rapist

    A picture taken on December 15, 2008 at a court in Tehran shows Reyhaneh Jabbari speaking in her defence during her trial for the murder of a former intelligence official

    Tehran (AFP) - Iran executed Saturday a 26-year-old woman who had spent five years on death row for the murder of a former intelligence official, defying international pressure to spare her life.

    Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn, the official IRNA news agency quoted the Tehran prosecutor's office as saying.

    A message posted on the homepage of a Facebook campaign that was set up to try to save her, but which now states "Rest in Peace," confirmed the report.

    Amnesty International said in a statement issued late Friday that Jabbari, an interior designer, was due to be executed for the 2007 stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi.

    A UN human rights monitor had said the killing of Sarbandi was an act of self-defence after he tried to sexually assault Jabbari, and that her trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed. In a statement on Saturday, the US State Department condemned the execution.

    "There were serious concerns with the fairness of the trial and the circumstances surrounding this case, including reports of confessions made under severe duress," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

    "Iranian authorities proceeded with this execution despite pleas from Iranian human rights activists and an international outcry over this case. We join our voice with those who call on Iran to respect the fair trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran’s own laws and its international obligations."

    Iranian actors and other prominent figures had appealed for a stay of execution, echoing similar calls in the West.

    Efforts for clemency had intensified in recent weeks. Jabbari's mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran.

    According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014.

    The UN and international rights groups had said Jabbari's confession was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and she should have had a retrial.

    Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's human rights rapporteur on Iran, said in April that Sarbandi had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office and took her to an apartment where he sexually abused her.

    However, Sarbandi's family insists that the murder was premeditated and that Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing.

    According to Jalal Sarbandi, the victim's eldest son, Jabbari testified that a man was present in the apartment where his father was killed  "but she refuses to reveal his identity".

    He told Shargh and Etemad, two of Iran's reformist daily newspapers, in April that his family "would not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed."

    "Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy," he said at the time.

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  • The Failure Of A Major Mission In Afghanistan In Two Charts

    Opium poppy cultivation sprawled to more than a half-million acres in Afghanistan last year, a record according to a report by the Inspector General responsible for overseeing Afghanistan's reconstruction.

    Two charts in the report convey the sheer depth of the US's failure to end a globally illegal industry that directly funds the Taliban.

    One of the report's charts used UN data to show how market forces appear to hold sway over the country's opium production levels.

    That market paid amazingly little heed to over a decade of external efforts to crush it.

    The US has spent $7.6 billion to date in Afghanistan to eradicate poppy crops and incentivize farmers into growing alternatives. But as the chart shows, the troughs in Afghanistan's total poppy production follow low opium prices while opium yields exploded after a crop disease destroyed half of the country's poppy fields in 2010.

    When poppy yields declined, it was because of market forces and a literal act of God — not US efforts. And the overall level has risen substantially since 2002.

    SIGAR Graph Afghanistan Opium Production and Events


    A map created for the report gives an additional, national-level picture of where opium production has actually increased.

    Taken as a whole, the Afghan poppy industry is worth $3 billion in opium and its derivative products (such as morphine and heroin). This is actually a $1 billion increase since 2012, according to the Inspector General's report.

    This map shows that the increase was a national phenomenon. It's not as if a couple of regions enjoyed a bumper crop. Opium is a growth industry everywhere:


    SIGAR Afghanistan Poppy Cultivation ChangeResponding to the report, an official at the American embassy in Kabul notes that "well over 80 percent of the world's illicit opium" comes from Afghanistan. It's "a windfall for the insurgency, which profits from the drug trade at almost every level."

    It also shows how one of the central US objectives in Afghanistan has failed. After 13 years and over $7 billion, the country's economy, and its armed groups, are as dependent on the narcotics trade as ever.

    Meanwhile, the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan's north, just months before US combat operations are scheduled to conclude at the end of 2014.

    SEE ALSO: Mexico's drug war is entering a dark new phase

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  • A Guy Who Walks Around Dressed As Darth Vader Is Running For Parliament In The Ukraine

    One candidate in Ukraine's parliamentary elections is hoping to bring voters... to the dark side. Meet Darth Alekseyevich Vader.

    Produced by Matt Johnston. Video courtesy of Associated Press.

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  • This Is What A US Airstrike On ISIS Looks Like

    isis strike2

    US Military Central Command released declassified footage of a US airstrike against the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL).

    In a statement sent to reporters along with the clip, CENTCOM described the video as footage of a strike on an ISIS "vehicle-borne improvised explosive device" near the crucial Syrian border town of Kobani.

    "This strike was conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community," the statement said. "The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project power and conduct operations."

    The short clip shows the vehicle driving for a moment before it seems to be taken out by a missile. Watch it below.

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  • Meet The X-18, The Groundbreaking 1950s Ancestor Of One Of The US Military's Most Important Modern Aircraft

    Hiller X 18

    The V-22 Osprey, a heavy aircraft capable of taking off and landing vertically, is a mainstay in 21st century US troop transportation.

    But its tiltrotor technology, which allows the Osprey to take off like a helicopter and then fly like a fixed-wing plane, took decades to develop. One of its key ancestors belonged to the legendary family of Air Force "X" planes, the record-setting experimental aircraft that still represent the cutting edge of American aviation.

    The Hiller X-18 was first built in 1959 and employed a single moving "tiltwing" crossing through the aircraft's body. As the wing shifted, so did the orientation of the plane's engines and blades. The X-18's 16-foot blades gave it the nickname the Propelloplane.

    It wasn't the first aircraft to use this kind of wing, or the first attempt at creating an airplane-helicopter hybrid. Several earlier experimental planes of the '50s and '60s used the same type of tiltwing, starting with the more rickety-looking Vertol VZ-2, built in 1957.

    The plane's shifting wings can be seen in action here:

    Vertol V76 Model Tilt Rotor Wing

    The idea of a tiltrotor aircraft was to marry the maneuverability of a helicopter — which needs far less space to take off and land than any fixed-wing aircraft — with the speed, range, and size of a plane.

    This presents a number of technological challenges for engineers who want to reap the full benefit of a prospective heli-plane. After all, a transport plane is heavier and requires both a larger fuel load and a higher cruising altitude than even the most advanced helicopter. And the aircraft has to be able to tilt its rotors or wings in mid-air while still managing to stay aloft.

    Even so, in the 1950s, engineers realized that it might actually be possible to build a working airplane-helicopter hybrid. And they became aware that helicopters were soon going to hit their technological ceiling. "As helicopters progressed past their World War II infancy, researchers started to run into the expected speed limitations inherent to all rotorcraft that generate 100% of their lift and thrust from a rotor in edgewise flight," an article at Jalopnik on the history of tiltwing aircraft noted. The solution was the build helicopters that looked and behaved more like traditional airplanes — flying machines like the X-18.

    Only one X-18 was ever built, and it was eventually grounded after spinning out and nearly crashing during its 20th test flight in 1961. A historical document from the US Air Force cites the prototype's "susceptibility to wind gusts when the wing was rotating. Also, the turboprop engines were not cross-linked, so the failure of one engine meant a crash."

    But it was a pioneering aircraft despite its short operational lifespan. The X-18 could fly at over 35,000 feet, and weighed over 20,000 pounds. The VZ-2, in comparison, couldn't break 20,000 feet, and weighed only about 3,500 pounds. It pushed the limits of what a heli-plane could do.Hiller_X 18_front

    The X-18 would be used in safer ground tests for several years before being scrapped in 1964. That killed the X-18, but engineers would keep experimenting with some of the concepts the plane employed.

    The true proof of concept would be a long time in coming — the V-22 Osprey was in development for decades, and was nearly killed by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1989. Four separate accidents killed 30 US military personnel before the plane was even officially put into service in 2007.

    But today, the Osprey is one of the US military's workhorse planes. One of them have even been dispatched to West Africa to aid in the American response to the Ebola epidemic.

    It's another sign of how once-distant-seeming technology has now become routine — and it's another contribution that the storied X-plane series has made to aviation.

    SEE ALSO: These are the X-planes, the astounding cutting edge of American aviation

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  • US General: North Korea May Be Able To Build Nuclear Warheads Small Enough To Fit On Ballistic Missiles

    north korea kim jong un

    A top US general has told reporters that North Korea has likely achieved the capability of being able to miniaturize nuclear weapons that could be placed on top of a rocket, Felicia Schwartz reports for The Wall Street Journal. 

    Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of US forces on the Korean peninsula, told reporters at the Pentagon today that he believes that North Korea is likely able to miniaturize a nuclear device. However, the US has not yet seen evidence that North Korea has actually conducted a miniaturized nuclear weapon test. 

    Scaparroti said at the briefing that he believes North Korea has "the capability to miniaturize a device at this point and they have the technology to actually deliver what they say they have."

    Although he is unsure of where North Korea may have acquired the technology necessary to overcome the technological hurdle, the general said that the advance may have been aided by proliferation efforts from Iran or Pakistan.

    “They have proliferation, relationships with other countries, Iran and Pakistan in particular,” Scaparrotti said. 

    The miniaturization of warheads by North Korea could lead to a serious rebalancing of power dynamics in the region.  

    The Wall Street Journal

    Such nuclear warheads would be small enough to fit on a ballistic missile and would be a major improvement to Pyongyang’s weapons technology. Gen. Scaparrotti said he believed North Korea also had developed a launcher that could carry an ICBM with a miniaturized warhead. 

    However, successfully fitting nuclear warheads on a missile and carrying out a successful launch is still technologically taxing. Experts believe that an actual launch may be currently beyond North Korea's ballistic capabilities. 

    This announcement comes on the heels of a recent charm offensive carried out by North Korea. Representatives of the Hermit Kingdom have visited South Korea and the EU, and Kim Jong-Un personally ordered the release of imprisoned American Jeffrey Fowle. 

    SEE ALSO: Chinese state-run media has started attacking North Korea over the country's 'flip-flop attitude'

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  • A GOP Congressional Candidate Just Held A Weird Costumed Panda Press Conference

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    A Republican congressional candidate held a rather unique press conference Friday morning accompanied by a supporter wearing a panda suit.

    Nick Di iorio, who is running against veteran New York City Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), said the panda demonstrated he was running a "serious campaign."

    "We're here because this is a serious campaign that has to address, and is addressing, serious issues. But Carolyn Maloney is focused on [other] things," Di iorio began, standing on the steps of New York City Hall. "She wanted to adopt a panda. So, I've taken care of that."

    Di iorio then introduced the panda as it hugged him and did various poses nearby.

    "I've adopted my own panda. This is Kevin. Kevin is here to be the panda that we're going to bring to New York City. And now we can get that off the table and focus on the real issues," he said, citing problems like corruption, the economy, the defense of Israel, and the Ebola virus. "Today we have one of the most important crises in New York City. Ebola has come to New York and we don't have the leadership."

    Maloney drew attention in August when she visited China in a bid to bring a panda to New York City. According to the New York Post, Maloney's heart was "set on bringing back 4-year-old giant panda Han Han and a mate so they can procreate at a Big Apple zoo."

    "I fell in love with Han Han," she told the paper. "He’s the perfect age. He grabbed my hand! He held my hand!"

    But Di iorio scoffed at Maloney's panda plan and said federal lawmakers have no impact on zoo animal policy.

    "She can't even do it. She has no legal authority to bring a panda to New York. It has to come from the mayor's office, here at City Hall. She pretended to do that and the media took the bait. People gave her full-page coverage because of something she couldn't even do. And that's why we're here today: We're making light of the panda because she is not on the job," he said.

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    The Republican also argued Maloney has been ineffective on her other causes. To demonstrate this, the panda slowly rolled out a long list of what Di iorio described as Maloney's unsuccessful legislation on the steps of the City Hall.

    When Business Insider asked if the bear was a campaign volunteer, Di iorio's supporters insisted he was a real panda from China.

    Maloney's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Due to the Democratic lean of her district, forecasters do not expect her to face a close race in November.

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  • RALPH NADER: Hey Apple, Stop Listening To Carl Icahn And Pay Your Workers Instead (AAPL)

    Ralph Nader

    Ralph Nader has a clear message for Apple: pay your workers more money.

    In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Nader, a multiple-time Presidential candidate, wrote that Apple should stop catering to the demands of activist investors like Carl Icahn, and use its cash to pay workers more instead of buyback its stock. 

    In his letter, which was first published by The Wall Street Journal, Nader walks through a scenario where Apple halves the hours and doubles the salary of its Foxconn workers, costing the company $5.4 billion annually. 

    "If instead of buying back stock," Nader wrote, "Apple had used its excess $130 billion to endow a foundation to achieve these reforms, it would have paid out ­­ at a conservative five percent interest ­­$6.5 billion annually, enough to double wages and ensure a 40­ hour workweek for hundreds of thousands of iPhone workers, while leaving a $1.1 billion surplus as an annual budget for ensuring top­notch health, safety and environmental standards at Apple factories... Finally, some of Apple’s Chinese factory workers may become able to buy the iPhones they manufacture."

    "'Designed by Apple in California' has a nicer ring to it than 'Assembled by workers paid about a dollar per hour, working 11 ­hour shifts, and sleeping eight to a room in the Jabil Circuit corporate dormitories in Wuxi, China,'" Nader wrote in his letter. "But, no matter how you spin it on the iPhone packaging, you continue to turn away."

    Nader says the "corporatist" argument regarding pay for factory employees is that that's the price of cheaper iPhones. "This could be the case, if Apple was just barely profitable," Nader wrote. "But, as revealed in a recent letter responding to Carl Icahn's call for more stock buyback (you respond to [a] billionaire's pleas much more often than workers' pleas), Apple is planning to have repurchased $130 billion of its own shares by the end of next year. In short, Apple is so profitable that it does not know what to do with $130 billion except buy back stock from its shareholders to maybe boost its share price."

    Now, admittedly, Apple spends like, a lot of money buying back stock, but it's also sort of hard to take Nader's math and implementation at face value and say that it would definitely work. 

    But as we've highlighted before, even some of the big investors that Nader takes aim at know that the aggressive returning of money to shareholders, rather than employees or for investment in their business, is not advisable corporate behavior.

    And as Business Insider's Henry Blodget has written before, there is no "law of capitalism" that says a company must pay its employees as little as possible. 

    In its latest quarter, Apple took in $42 billion in revenue, sold more than 39 million iPhones, and had $155 billion in cash at the end of the quarter.

    Which, at the very least, seems like a lot. 

    You can read Nader's full letter, embedded below. 

     

     

     

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  • Putin Just Gave One Of The Most Anti-American Speeches Of His Career

    Vladimir Putin globeRussian President Vladimir Putin just gave one of the most stridently anti-Western speeches of his career, a 40-minute "diatribe ... that was reminiscent of the Cold War," according to Reuters.

    Putin was speaking before an "informal group of experts" at a mountain resort outside the former Olympic city of Sochi that included Western specialists critical of his rule. The Russian president held little back rhetorically, blaming the US for military escalations in the former Soviet space and accusing the US and its partners of "pushing [Ukraine] into chaos."

    "We did not start this," Putin said before accusing the US of trying to "'remake the whole world' based on its interests" — an accusation often lobbed at Putin's Russia by its foreign critics.

    But Putin's speech went beyond critiquing American actions or defending his own. He made several statements that don't really fall within the realm of policy disagreement.

    Instead, the Russian president began to attack American society and its system of government, according to tweets from ABC News' Moscow bureau chief.

    Putin also expressed a certain confusion over one of the central pillars of American electoral democracy (although in fairness, a lot of people are baffled about this stateside, as well): 

    Putin's speech included metaphorical appeals to Russian national greatness:

    Putin's speech may dispel the idea that the conflict over Ukraine is simply about legitimate Russian concerns over the persecution of Ukraine's Russian minority or NATO encroachment into Moscow's traditional zones of influence.

    The Russian president instead seems to be going out of his way to say there are larger and more fundamental motivations at play — ones that may have little to do with the politics of the moment and may be more tied to Putin's hostility against the West.

    SEE ALSO: A Newly Declassified CIA Paper Details A Tense Subplot In The Cold War Arms Race

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  • New York Mayor Tries To Stop The City From Freaking Out About Ebola

    Bill de Blasio Ebola press confere

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference at the Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn on Friday to discuss the Ebola patient diagnosed at Bellevue Hospital on Thursday.

    De Blasio stressed there is "no cause for alarm" and people in the city do not need to change their "daily routine."

    "We are fully prepared to handle Ebola," de Blasio said.

    The patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea, one of the three countries in West Africa that has seen an epidemic of the disease. He returned to New York on Oct. 17. Spencer later said he began feeling fatigue on Tuesday. On Thursday, he called an ambulance after checking his temperature and finding a fever of 100.3 degrees and was brought to Bellevue, one of the city's hospitals that has been specially designated for dealing with cases of the virus. 

    Ebola victims are only contagious to others when they begin experiencing symptoms. De Blasio stressed the city's "disease detectives" were working to "retrace" Spencer's steps and evaluate locations he visited after he began feeling ill. They also said his fiancee was under quarantine. According to officials, Spencer visited three locations in Manhattan on Tuesday: the Highline Park, Blue Bottle coffee shop, which is in the park, and the Meatball Shop restaurant on Greenwich Ave. On Wednesday, he went to The Gutter, a bowling alley in Brooklyn. He took the subway to get there and returned home in an Uber cab. De Blasio said all the locations had been "assessed" and cleared apart from the Meatball Shop, which is still be examined. 

    Though Spencer traveled within the city, de Blasio stressed it would be difficult for him to have put others in danger. De Blasio noted it is only "direct" contact with bodily fluids with an infected and contagious person that can spread Ebola.

    "I want to emphasize again, casual contact cannot lead to acquiring this disease," de Blasio said.

    Officials at the press conference also pointed out Spencer was monitoring his temperature twice a day and sought treatment when he found he had a "low grade fever." They said there was "no temperature elevation" prior to Thursday morning when Spencer found himself with a 100.3 degree fever. 

    "The history here is that people have only transmitted the disease when they have a state of fever," de Blasio said. 

    In spite of this, officials said they were attempted to retrace all of Spencer's steps since 7 a.m. on Tuesday, the day he began feeling fatigued, out of an "abundance of caution." 

    Dr. Ramanathan Raju, the chief executive of the New York City Health & Hospitals Cop oration, which operates Bellevue, said Spencer is in "stable" condition.

    "He is talking on the cell phone to a lot of folks," Dr. Raju said. "And I think we cannot tell more than that because of patient confidentiality, but I want to tell you that he's stable."

    De Blasio repeatedly emphasized Ebola can only be spread through direct contact and said misconceptions about transmission of the disease were reminiscent of the early days of the AIDS crisis when inaccurate rumors about that virus ran rampant. 

     

    This post was last updated at 1:27 p.m. 

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  • Americans Are More At Risk For These Contagious Diseases Than Ebola

    This series of maps shows where contagious diseases are concentrated in this country by state. 

    All data is shown per 100,000 people to adjust for the populations of each state.

    Produced by Sara Silverstein

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  • Putin: Europe Can't Stop Buying Russian Gas

    putin

    As the crisis in Ukraine continues to grind along and casualties continue to mount, despite the existence of a ceasefire, Russia holds a trump card.

    Winter is coming and Europe will have little option but to turn to Putin for its gas purchases. 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he did not expect European countries to stop buying natural gas from Russia as there is no real alternative.

    "Can you imagine that this will happen at the desire of our partners in Europe? I can hardly imagine this," Putin said in a response to a question during a meeting with Russian and foreign political experts.

    Russia provides one third of the natural gas that European countries rely upon to heat their homes and drive industry. Any disruption in natural gas flows could be a potential knock against Europe's economy.

    However, a long term shut off of gas would likely be unthinkable. Just as Putin can not imagine a future in which Europe could live without Russia's gas exports, so too is it difficult to imagine Russia surviving without Europe's market. Russia is simply too reliant upon energy exports to completely shut off gas to Europe for a long haul. 

    This reliance means that any disruption in gas to Europe would likely only be a short-term interruption meant to pressure governments. However, Europe's options are limited. Although some countries in Western Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, do not use any Russian gas, other nations such as Bulgaria are completely reliant upon receiving imports to heat their homes. 

    ukraine eu gas russia

    The country most at risk of any potential gas shut off would be Ukraine. In 2013, Russian gas accounted for half of the gas the country used. Russia has said that it will shut off gas to supplies to the country unless it can pay over $5 billion for past expenses. 

    Shutting off gas to Ukraine could have a trickle down effect on the rest of Europe. In 2008, Ukraine siphoned gas from Russian pipelines passing through its territory after Russia stopped supplying the country. Putin has warned that any repeat of this action would lead to him reducing the total volume of gas he would supply to Europe.

    SEE ALSO: Putin's trump card in Ukraine: Winter is coming

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  • The New Snowden Documentary Is Utterly Fascinating — And Critically Flawed

    Snowden

    "Citizenfour" premiered at The New York Film Festival on October 10 and opens in theaters October 24.

    Documentarian Laura Poitras spent a lot of time with Edward Snowden in his Hong Kong hotel room from June 3 to June 10, and her new film sets the stage for what is arguably the biggest national security leak in American history.

    "Citizenfour" presents fascinating footage from the Mira Hotel, revealing the raw interactions in room 1014 as Snowden, Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and Guardian reporter Ewan MacAskill unravel the first of many stories that exposed National Security Agency spying activities worldwide.

    Unfortunately, the film, while revealing details about Snowden's time in Hong Kong (and Moscow), does little to answer fundamental questions regarding the former NSA systems administrator's alleged theft of more than a million NSA documents.

    'What you know as Stellarwind has grown'

    Snowden, 31, allegedly began copying documents in April 2012 while working as an NSA contractor in Hawaii. He emailed journalist Glenn Greenwald on Dec. 1, and helped run a "Crypto Party" on Dec. 11 that taught people how to could protect themselves online.

    The former CIA technician reached out to Poitras in January 2013 with promises of top secret documents detailing pervasive spying by the US government on Americans and foreign citizens worldwide, and they began communicating. In June 2013, Poitras and Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Snowden.

    "Citizenfour" establishes the context of the Snowden leaks through whistleblowers who have come public about the US government spying on Americans.

    klein decl 18One is Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who revealed that the NSA built a special room at the central AT&T office in San Francisco that allegedly "vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T."

    William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the US intelligence community and one of the best code breakers in NSA history, tells Poitras how he built a program called "Stellarwind" that served as a pervasive domestic spying apparatus after 9/11.

    Snowden told Poitras that "What you know as Stellarwind has grown" into a worldwide spying apparatus that includes an increasing amount of data related to US citizens.

    What is not mentioned in "Citizenfour" is that beyond the estimated 200,000 documents given to Poitras and Greenwald, Snowden also took up to 1.5 million documents detailing NSA operations targeting American adversaries.

    Two days after leaving the Mira Hotel, Snowden provided documents revealing "operational details of specific attacks on computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely" to Lana Lam of the South China Morning Post.

    "I did not release them earlier because I don't want to simply dump huge amounts of documents without regard to their content," Snowden told the Hong Kong paper in a June 12 interview. "I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists."

    'But now he is starting to talk about ... hacking into China and all this kind of thing'

    Poitras, who narrates that she was in Hong Kong until about June 16, has not commented on the SCMP leaks.

    Greenwald subsequently told the Daily Beast that he would not have "disclosed the specific IP addresses in China and Hong Kong the NSA is hacking."

    Binney, another central figure in "Citizenfour," had a clear response after the implications of Snowden's decision to leaking details about operational national security information unrelated to civil liberties.

    BinneyThe mathematician told USA Today in June 2013 that Snowden's disclosures to SCMP went "a little bit too far" and said Snowden "is going a little beyond public service."

    Binney subsequently described Snowden as a "patriot" and supports him in "Citizenfour," but has not retracted his comments about the documents Snowden stole but did not give to Poitras or Greenwald.

    Those disclosures are crucial, and their omission from "Citizenfour" highlights key questions about Snowden's multifaceted theft.

    "He is a whistleblower in the case of some documents, and not a whistleblower in the case of other documents," Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal said in an August interview with Powerline.

    Epstein reported that Snowden quit his job at Dell on March 15, 2013, before joining Booz Allen to "get access to the crown jewels, the lists of computers in four adversary nations — Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — that the agency had penetrated."

    James Bamford of Wired, who met Snowden in Moscow this summer, reported that Snowden went to Booz Allen to steal documents detailing "the highly secret world of planting malware into systems around the world and stealing gigabytes of foreign secrets."

    'I'm not the story here ... [Nail] me to the cross'

    "Citizenfour" presents Snowden's rendezvous with Poitras and co. in vivid human detail, including several segments of him watching CNN and fixing his hair. Consequently, the footage raises questions and contradictions about Snowden's formal introduction to the world.

    "I'm not the story here," Snowden told the camera, emphasizing at another point that he didn't want to personally bias the reporting.

    At the same time, Snowden is effusive about not hiding his identity — on the subject of anonymously leaking, Snowden says "Fuck that." He has subsequently appeared on camera dozens of times since June 2013.

    Edward Snowden"My personal desire is that you paint the target directly on my back," Snowden reportedly told Poitras.

    He added, according to chats featured in "Citizenfour," that the best action to prevent people close to him from falling under suspicion was "immediately nailing me to the cross instead of protecting me as a source."

    Snowden says he wanted the US government to know where he was, but how he spent his time in the first few days after leaving Hawaii are still a mystery.

    He told Vanity Fair that he "used a personal credit card so the government could immediately verify that I was entirely self-financed [and] independent."

    That claim has been refuted. Epstein traveled to Hong Kong this summer and reported for WSJ that while Snowden arrived in Hong Kong on May 20, he didn't check into the Mira Hotel until June 1.

    "Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been 'holed up' in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1," Epstein reported. "I confirmed that date with the hotel's employees. A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card."

    Assange's curious cameo

    While "Citizenfour" also does not go in depth about how Snowden spent his time before and after Poitras filmed him in Hong Kong, his eventual flight to Moscow on June 23 is addressed.

    assange snowdenWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sent his trusted adviser (and former girlfriend) Sarah Harrison to Hong Kong to find the American asylum somewhere out of the reach of the US government.

    The Australian publisher of US secrets makes a brief appearance in "Citizenfour," telling someone on the phone that the organization had helped Snowden leave Hong Kong and that the "CIA agent" was trapped in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since the American government revoked his passport on June 22.

    "We are trying to arrange a private jet to take him from Moscow to Ecuador or perhaps maybe Venezuela, or maybe Iceland, some of these places would be safe," Assange says.

    However, Assange has stated multiple times that he advised Snowden to stay in Russia, as opposed to attempting to obtain asylum in Venezuela and Ecuador.

    "In Russia, he's safe, he's well-regarded, and that is not likely to change," the Australian publisher told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone in December 2013. "That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia."

    And in May, the official WikiLeaks Twitter account (which Assange runs) stated that they "advised Snowden to take Russia. Not safe elsewhere."

    snowden

    A very important film

    "Citizenfour" is an engrossing account of Edward Snowden's collaboration with US and UK journalists to expose pervasive surveillance activities by the American government and its allies.

    What is left unmentioned — including details about Snowden's time in Hawaii, why he took a cache of documents unrelated to civil liberties, his first 11 days in Hong Kong, the fate of documents he didn't give to journalists, and the circumstance of his asylum in Russia — is equally fascinating.

    The film is well constructed and disciplined, and Poitras presents a never-before-seen side of Snowden.

    But crucial questions remain, and the work does little to address the unflattering choices that the American icon made.

     

    SEE ALSO: We Now Know A Lot More About Edward Snowden's Epic Heist — And It's Troubling

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  • New York Officials Want Everyone To Chill Out About The Ebola Case

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    New York's top officials have a message for those concerned about the Ebola virus: relax.

    "This is not a virus that lives for a long period of time outside of the human body," Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Friday morning. "We're erring on the side of caution but we feel good that we were fully prepared. There's no reason for New Yorkers to panic or feel that they have anything to worry about on the subway system, et cetera. Everything that had to be done was done."

    A New York doctor who had treated Ebola patients in Africa tested positive for Ebola Thursday night. Three people, his fiancee and two friends, have since been quarantined, according to the Associated press. 

    But, speaking on CNN's "New Day," Cuomo vowed to ride one of the subway lines that the doctor recently took in order to demonstrate there is no reason for commuters to be alarmed.

    "We have to separate sometimes … the fear from the reality — or the irrational fear if you will from the reality. And we have a dose of irrational fear. Being in New York, a little anxiety can keep you safe, right?" Cuomo said. "But undue anxiety is unproductive and there's no reason for undue anxiety in this situation."

    New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D) also took the subway Friday morning. One of her aides tweeted a photo of the ride:

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) similarly urged calm.

    "But we emphasize again, Ebola is very difficult to contract. Being on the same subway car or living near a person with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk. We are working very closely with our state and federal partners to ensure that we protect the health of all New Yorkers," he said at a press conference Thursday night, according to a transcript.

    In a readout of calls between President Barack Obama, de Blasio, and Cuomo, the White House also praised "the extensive preparations that New York City and, in particular, Bellevue Hospital Center, where the patient is being treated, have undertaken to prepare for this contingency."

    Updated (8:45 a.m.): Included a tweet about Mark-Viverito.

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  • Hillary Clinton Blasts Wall Street

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    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton struck a populist tone in a campaign pitch Thursday night.

    According to Politico, the former secretary of state took multiple shots at "big banks" as she urged voters to support Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota).

    "Al has pushed for more and better oversight of the big banks and risky financial activity," Clinton reportedly said. "And there's more work for him to do."

    Clinton, whom some liberals accuse of being too cozy with Wall Street, proceeded to tick off a laundry list of financial reforms where there's still "a lot of unfinished business."

    "Even before the big [economic] meltdown, a lot of us were calling for regulating derivatives and other complex financial products, closing the carried-interest loophole, getting control of skyrocketing CEO pay, addressing other excesses, and we’ve made progress," she said. "But there's a lot of unfinished business to make sure we don't end up once again with big banks taking big risks and leaving taxpayers holding the bag."

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  • BREMMER: Here's the Thing About Obama's ISIS Strategy ...

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    Anonymous senior US officials began to criticize elements of President Barack Obama's strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But some analysts believe it's the best possible option.

    Some limitations of the strategy were revealed by officials in The Washington Post on Thursday. The Syrian opposition force that the US will help train and arm in the fight against ISIS will be trained only to defend territory. It will not go on the offensive, because operations of that magnitude would require US ground troop commitments, something Obama has explicitly ruled out.

    But that defensive-minded strategy could also be a significant, if unintentional, boost to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who helped foster the rise of ISIS. The Free Syrian Army, which is made up of the more moderate opposition forces the US will train and equip, is being squeezed by both Assad and ISIS in Syria's largest city of Aleppo.

    "Assad clearly benefits from a US-led coalition fighting against his mortal domestic foe," Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider in an email. "But Assad was already winning on the ground before the US bombing started, and there was neither a credible plan nor international willingness to remove him."

    The key limitation of the coalition's strategy has been a general unwillingness to become more involved in Syria's still-deepening, three-plus-year long civil war. The US and other partners backed off airstrikes on Syrian regime targets last September, and they have been unwilling to help the moderate rebels in their fight against Assad.

    Some former administration officials — like Fred Hof, a former special adviser for transition in Syria under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — have argued that the reluctance to get involved contributed to the eventual vacuum that has been filled by jihadists.

    Meanwhile, Assad has used the breathing room allotted by the focus on ISIS to intensify his bombing campaign against Free Syrian Army-held territory, including a campaign of "200 air force strikes"' in 36 hours in recent days. 

    isis militant syria assad

    But given the political constraints and the general unwillingness of partner nations, it might be the best workable strategy. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 55% of Americans oppose sending ground troops to fight ISIS — just 39% support it.

    Bremmer is skeptical the strategy as it stands will accomplish the mission of "degrading and ultimately destroying" ISIS. But he argues there isn't a strategy out there that's both realistic and a better option at this point. The danger, of course, is that by the time Syrian rebels are vetted and trained by late 2015 at the earliest, they may not have much territory to defend.

    "I think the overall US strategy on ISIS is sensible — given the domestic political constraints (a key caveat)," Bremmer said. "Support for US boots on the ground is limited and would quickly grow into opposition over time and given casualties. And if you’re not planning on an actual substantial ground force, you’re left with a strategy that’s part pushback (where you have workable ground forces — for now, the Kurds in Iraq), part containment (west Iraq and Syria). 

    "So if you’re asking is [the] present Obama strategy going to defeat ISIS — the answer is no. If you’re asking is there realistically a better, more workable strategy out there — the answer is also no." 

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  • Three Major Nations Skipped China's Launch Of A World Bank Rival In Asia

    China's President Xi Jinping (R) meets with the guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Pool

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Australia, Indonesia and South Korea skipped the launch of a China-backed Asian infrastructure bank on Friday as the United States said it had concerns about the new rival to Western-dominated multilateral lenders.

    China's proposed $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is seen as a challenge to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, both multilateral lenders that count Washington and its allies as their biggest financial backers.

    China, which is keen to extend its influence in the region, has limited voting power over these existing banks despite being the world's second-largest economy.

    The AIIB, launched in Beijing at a ceremony attended by Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei and delegates from 21 countries including India, Thailand and Malaysia, aims to give project loans to developing nations. China is set to be its largest shareholder with a stake of up to 50 percent.

    Indonesia, where President Xi Jinping first spoke of the AIIB during an October visit last year, was not present and neither were South Korea and Australia, according to a pool report.

    Media reports said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put pressure on Australia to stay out of the bank.

    However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "Secretary Kerry has made clear directly to the Chinese as well as to other partners that we ‎welcome the idea of an infrastructure bank for Asia but we strongly urge that it meet international standards of governance and transparency.

    "We have concerns about the ambiguous nature of the AIIB proposal as it currently stands, that we have also expressed publicly."

    The Australian Financial Review said on Friday that Kerry had personally asked Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to keep Australia out of the AIIB.

    "Australia has been under pressure from the U.S. for some time to not become a founding member of the bank and it is understood Mr Kerry put the case directly to the prime minister when the pair met in Jakarta on Monday ­following the inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo," the paper said.

    South Korea, one of Washington's strongest diplomatic allies in Asia, has yet to say it will formally participate in the bank.

    "We have continued to demand rationality in areas such as governance and safeguard issues, and there's no reason (for Korea) not to join it," South Korean Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said in Beijing on Thursday. 

    STRATEGIC CHOICES

    Earlier this month, commenting on reports that was pressure from Washington to stay out of the AIIB, the South Korean finance ministry said: "South Korea has not delayed its participation but has been negotiating with China because it thinks more consideration is necessary on details of the planned bank such as the AIIB's governance and operational principles."

    The Seoul-based JoongAng Daily quoted a South Korean diplomatic source as saying: "While Korea has been dropped from the list of founding members of the AIIB this time around, it is still in a deep dilemma on what sort of strategic choices it has to make as China challenges the U.S.-led international order."

    The AIIB is expected to begin operations in 2015 with senior Chinese banker Jin Liqun, ex-chairman of investment bank China International Capital Corp, expected to take a leading role.

    Last month, China's finance ministry said Australia and South Korea had expressed interest in the AIIB.

    On Thursday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) chief said he doesn't welcome a China-backed rival bank that will have a virtually identical aim.

    "I understand it, but I don't welcome it," said bank president Takehiko Nakao. "I'm not so concerned."

    The ADB, created in 1966, offers grants and below-market interest rates on loans to lower to middle-income countries. At the end of 2013, its financing operations amounted to $21.02 billion.

    China has a 6 percent stake in the ADB, and the major shareholdings are held by the United States and Japan.

    (Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Sonali Paul, Jake Spring, Choonsik Yoo and Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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  • The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now

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

    1. The US military said Thursday that forces in Iraq were "months away from being able to start waging any kind of sustained ground offensive against the Islamic State," while a similar campaign in Syria would take even longer, Reuters reports.

    2. A doctor who traveled to the Ebola-stricken country of Guinea and then returned to New York has been placed in isolation after testing positive for Ebola

    3. Canadian authorities said the gunman who killed a solider at Ottawa's war memorial before being shot dead in the Parliament building was not identified as a threat, "despite his criminal record in three cities, embrace of extremist ideas, and intent to travel to Syria," The New York Times reports.

    4. The 58-year-old guard credited with killing the man who opened fire in Canada's parliament on Wednesday morning received a hero's welcome when he returned to work the following day.

    5. North Korea has barred tourists from entering the country over concerns about the spread of Ebola

    6. The UK has been ordered to pay an extra €2.1 billion to the EU budget by December "because the UK economy is doing better relative to other European economies," The Guardian writes.

    7. Venezuela has placed fingerprint scanners in grocery stores to ration food as shortages of basic goods, like cooking oil and milk, worsen. 

    8. Following a four-day plenary meeting, China's Communist Party unveiled a blueprint for legal reforms as part of its push to stamp out government corruption. 

    9. The European Central Bank will release stress-test results for 130 eurozone banks on Sunday, with many banks expected to fail

    10. Chinese housing prices fell for the fifth consecutive month in September, continuing the country's real estate decline.  

    And finally ...

    These seven innovations will radically transform sex.

    SEE ALSO: The 10 Most Important Things In The World Archives

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  • Researchers At Harvard Discovered A Potential New Treatment For Ebola

  • A Newly Declassified CIA Paper Details A Tense Subplot In The Cold War Arms Race

    nuclear artillery mushroom cloud explosion

    It's one of the great paradoxes of nuclear power politics.

    Strategic missile defense was meant to make inter-continental nuclear warfare obsolete, creating a protective shield that negates an enemy's first strike advantage. The idea is that one side won't even bother launching nukes if they know their missiles can be shot out of the sky en-masse. And the deadly logic of nuclear warfare hopefully collapses once a first-strike becomes an impossibility for one side.

    But that might not actually leave the world any safer. It's impact can be just the opposite. It's conceivable that missile defense could actually make the world less safe.

    A recently declassified paper from Studies in Intelligence, the CIA's internal journal, looks at how Moscow reacted to US missile defense efforts during the Cold War and the decade or so following the breakup of the Soviet Union. The paper's author, whose name is redacted, found that the Soviets, and then Russia, were desperate to undercut the advantages of a future US missile defense system — an objective that led them to act in potentially destabilizing ways. The paper's publication date is redacted as well, but it includes a quotation from Russian President Vladimir Putin from 2000, so it must have been written after that date.

    In the early 1980s, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a centerpiece of Ronald Reagan's defense policy. It would have relied upon technologies that are still unproven, like space-based Star Wars missile interceptors. The Soviets were worried about what such a tilt in the balance of global power could mean for them.

    "In response to SDI, Moscow threatened a variety of military countermeasures in lieu of developing a parallel missile defense system," the paper states.

    Moscow wanted to improve its negotiating position with the US in order to force Washington to suspend the project. And according to the paper, Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov considered several options for countering SDI, like "increasing the number of missiles, reinforcing missile silos to increase their survivability, using decoys on missiles to make intercepts more difficult," and "developing and deploying an underwater missile that would not be affected by the space-based missile shield."

    Most worryingly, Andropov considered employing a "'forgotten division' concept, whereby Moscow would secretly forward-deploy an SS-20 intermediate-range missile unit only to allow it to be 'discovered' and bargained away in SDI negotiations." 

    All of these potential Russian responses to an SDI would have brought dangerous uncertainty to the Cold War's ever-fragile balance of power.

    A 1987 CIA assessment cited in the paper concluded the Soviets had in fact been researching technologies in preparation for an operational SDI of their own. The SDI never became a reality and the paper implies that one of the initiative's more tangible consequences was forcing a cash-strapped and slowly-collapsing Soviet Union to dedicate scarce resources to an as-yet conjectural problem.

    Though it turns out Moscow might not have had the resources to make missile defense a reality, the dilemma the paper identifies is still a real one: by trying to make itself more safe the US might have altered the strategic environment in a way that actually made the country less safe. Strategic defense didn't end the arms race and instead it threatened to begin another and radically different one, only with dynamics and an internal logic that were unknowable to both sides.

    This was most starkly on display during the US-Soviet "war scare" of 1983, when concerns over SDI might have caused the Soviet military to go on a heightened and possibly quite dangerous state of alert.

    "The argument against [missile defense] is that it disrupts the balance of deterrence," Nate Jones, a scholar at George Washington University's National Security Archive and an expert on the 1983 war scare told Business Insider. "Russia was worried that if there's nuclear parity and one side is suddenly at a disadvantage because of so-called missile defense, it would upsets the decades of money and resources that they put into deterrence."

    This disruption wouldn't even come with the advantage of added security for the US, given how unproven strategic missile defense technology still is.

    "These systems don't provide absolute security," says Jones "and the destabilizing effects quite possibly outweigh the stabilizing effect."

    The Studies in Intelligence paper closes with a quote from Andropov that gets at the troubling flip-side of the advantages that missile defense could offer.

    "All attempts at achieving military superiority over the USSR are futile," the Soviet leader said in March of 1983. "The Soviet Union will never allow them to succeed."

    On SDI, the Soviet Union of the 1980s didn't have the means or the initiative to follow through on this kind of threat. But that doesn't make the mindset behind it any less alarming.

    SEE ALSO: THE EUROPEAN CHESSBOARD: Here's a map of the confrontation between Russia and NATO

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  • Madeleine Albright Had The Perfect Response To Conan's Dirty Joke About Her

    Madeleine Albright

    Don't mess with Madeleine Albright unless you can take the heat right back. 

    Conan O'Brien made a joke at the former U.S. Secretary of State this afternoon, and Albright had the perfect biting response.

    Business Insider reached out to a rep for O'Brien who said he wasn't immediately available to respond to request for comment. 

    "He is in rehearsals for tonight's show, won't get to him for a few hours," the spokesperson said. 

    Update (6:51 p.m.): O'Brien made another joke about his "twitter war" with Albright.

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  • MSNBC Says GOP Candidate Is Helping 'Disseminate ISIS Propaganda'

    tom cotton ad

    MSNBC is running a hard-hitting story on Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), a leading Republican Senate candidate, after he released a campaign ad that seemed to use footage from a propaganda video made by the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS).

    According to a BuzzFeed report published Wednesday, Cotton's ad uses video from a propaganda film called "Flames of War." In the ad, Cotton narrates over the footage, warning voters of the jihadist threat.

    In a blog post Thursday, MSNBC producer Steve Benen said this amounted to helping the terrorists "disseminate" their message.

    "The right-wing congressman claims in the ad that he'll 'make America safer' – and apparently he’ll do so by paying money to help disseminate footage from a terror video that ISIS is desperate to disseminate," his post on "The Rachel Maddow Show" blog said. "I honestly never thought I’d see the day. Far-right politicians, eager to seem 'tough' on terror, are deliberately putting terrorists’ propaganda on the air, on purpose, to advance their personal ambitions.

    The post, which was subsequently circulated by the Arkansas Democratic Party,  said the ad displayed a lack of "basic human decency."

    "Cotton instead used ISIS propaganda, putting the same footage on the air that the terrorists want to see on the air," it continued. "Forget basic human decency for a moment. Which strategic genius in Cotton Campaign HQ decided this was a good idea with the election season nearly over?"

    Cotton is running in a highly competitive race against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas). The Cotton campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about criticism of the ad.

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  • HILLARY CLINTON: Women In America Are Owed Money

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    Hillary Clinton suggested women are owed money due to gender income disparities in a fiery campaign speech on Tuesday.

    "Ask yourself why ... we still act as if it's 1955," Clinton said. "The fact that women still get paid less than men for the same work costs them and their families thousands of dollars every year."

    Clinton went on to envision what women could do with the additional income when they are paid as much as men. 

    "Imagine what a working mom could do with the money she is owed. That extra money, she could use it to rent or even buy a better home for her kids and herself. Those groceries she could buy. That car payment she could make," Clinton said.

    Clinton was speaking in a packed hotel ballroom in Manhattan to endorse New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who appears to be easily coasting to re-election and likely does not need Clinton's support to win. However, the two have close ties: Cuomo once served in former President Bill Clinton's administration and Hillary Clinton represented New York in the US Senate from 2001 through 2009.

    Clinton, whose 2008 presidential campaign was unsuccessful, poked fun at herself and said she knows not to expect a win in any race, even when a candidate has a wide lead like Cuomo's.

    "We can't take anything for granted in an election," she said. "I know that from firsthand experience."

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