Oct 30, 2015

Germany tightens asylum rules from today to cope with record migrant influx | euronews, world news

Germany is tightening asylum rules from Saturday – a week earlier than planned – to try to better manage the unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees.
The tighter regulations aim to speed up asylum and extradition procedures for migrants from southeastern Europe, in order to focus on refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We want to get better and faster this year at the deportation of rejected applicants who have no claim to remain here,” said Peter Altmaier, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff.
Support for Merkel’s conservatives is falling due to concern over the refugee crisis, with many Germans feeling the country cannot cope.
Government figures show that while many arriving in Germany are fleeing war in the Middle East, at least a third are economic migrants from the Balkans who can have little hope of staying legally.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said: “Those who must leave our country and have been given a deadline for doing so will have their benefits reduced to nothing, only receiving what is immediately necessary until they have left.”
Volunteer doctors and dentists treating newcomers are struggling to cope.

Red and processed meats cause cancer | euronews, science

Following the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that processed and red meat can causecancer, Euronews explores the facts behind the media frenzy.
Sabine Rohrmann is a professor for cancer epidemiology at the University of Zurich, in Switzerland: “Firstly, processed meat contains a lot of iron as does red meat. And iron is an important nutrient, but if absorbed in large amounts it can damage DNA. That is one point, and it’s the same with both red and processed meats. Additionally with processed meats are the processing aids for meat and sausage products, for example nitrite salting mix. This forms so-called N-Nitroso compounds, which especially in combination with iron, can causeDNA damage.”
According to WHO, epidemiological studies show that consumption of 50 grams of processed meat per day increases cancer risk by about 18%. So, should we stop eating red and processed meats?
Sabine Rohrmann: “The fact is of course, that not everyone who is eating sausage with bread every day necessarily develops colon cancer, but neither does everyone who smokes cigarettes get lung cancer. However, what we see is that those people who eat sausage every day have an increased risk of bowel cancer.”
So even if the risk is smaller than the risk from smoking for example, or being overweight, or regularly drinking alcohol, the link of red and processed meats with cancer is certain.

Men With Facial Hair Tend To Value Traditional Gender Roles - Forbes

Men With Facial Hair Tend To Value Traditional Gender Roles - Forbes

Diagnosis positive for automated medical analysis | IDM Magazine

Software startup Enlitic says a new alliance with Australian radiology provider Capitol Health will allow its machine learning technology to transform medical diagnostics.
Enlitic’s tools are used to map the entire human body and its afflictions spanning a wide range of ailments, from lung cancer to bone fractures.
Founded by Melbourne serial entrepreneur Jeremy Howard, Enlitic has created computer learning systems that can take millions of scans, tests and medical records and learn from them to help doctors rapidly diagnose problems.
“This is the beginning of a transformation of global health services,” says Jeremy.       
Radiologists view hundreds of X-rays and other medical images every week looking for the unusual. Sometimes they’re looking for something they’ve never actually seen before. Sometimes they’re looking at something that’s just four pixels in a two-million-pixel image.
“The new system will learn from a million scans held by Capitol.
“And it will keep learning from every ultrasound, CT, MRI, PET, and X-ray we perform,” says Capitol Managing Director John Conidi.
“Within a year this system will be implemented across our clinics. Our radiologists will be able to work faster, provide more accurate results and save more lives. Many unnecessary, expensive and dangerous procedures will be avoided,” he says.
“This system will transform Western healthcare,” says Jeremy Howard. “The more data and computing time it gets, the more it learns and the more accurate it becomes. Eventually it will handle lab tests, patient histories, and genomic information. It will take much of the guess work out of medicine.
“In developing countries our impact will be even more profound. Most medical images are never seen by a doctor. Our system will enable a remote health worker to do an ultrascan and get a result in minutes.

Oct 29, 2015

6 Facts: The World’s Heavyweight Nations - The Globalist

6 Facts: The World’s Heavyweight Nations - The Globalist

The “Blame Russia” Line Deflects From U.S. Blunder - The Globalist

The Obama Administration is arguing that Russia’s new Syrian military campaign in support of the Assad regime has not been targeted on the Islamic State, but rather on the non-ISIS Syrian opposition to the Assad regime.
That U.S. response is superficially accurate, but deliberately misleading. Although the Russians are not focusing on targets in ISIS-controlled territory, there is a very good reason for that.
The reason is that it is not ISIS, but the forces aligned with al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra or al-Nusra Front, that pose the most immediate threat to the very existence of the Assad regime.
U.S. statements, from government and media sources alike, strongly imply that it was the U.S.-backed “moderate” Syrian groups opposed to the Assad regime that are being attacked.
But this framing of the issue fundamentally mis-represents the situation in Syria.
First, it conjures up a non-existent powerful U.S.-backed “moderate” force, while diverting attention from the real threat posed by al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.
Second, the Russians are not hitting some imaginary set of “moderate” Syrian armed groups opposing the Assad regime. They are overwhelmingly focused on targeting the military command in which al-Nusra Front is the central strategic force.

Saudi Arabia's New Best Friend: China? | The National Interest

Many observers have argued that the U.S. administration’s willingness to part ways with President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, its sudden reversal on striking Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria after they had crossed President Obama’s self-imposed “red line” by using chemical weapons outside of Damascus in 2013 and the July signing of an agreement with Iran over its nuclear activities have led to a “rift” between Saudi Arabia and the United States. While talk of an even more serious “rupture” in relations should not be taken very seriously—Saudi Arabia and the United States have not sustained a mutually beneficial relationship for seven decades by happenstance—some Saudis have long advocated that Saudi Arabia needs to wean itself off from what they consider to be its overdependence on the United States as a strategic ally and trading partner. That’s where China comes in.

US Official Concerned About Religious Freedom in China

U.S. official testifying before Congress has called for the U.S State Department to re-designate China and other countries that violate human rights and religious freedom as “countries of particular concern” in its annual reports.
Robert George, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal government commission, told a Congressional panel Wednesday he believes China and some other countries have made no progress in safeguarding religious freedoms during the past year.  He urged the U.S. State Department to list the worst offenders of religious rights.
“We’ve recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated: Burma [Myanmar], China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan,” George said.

Saudi Arabia to resume flogging blogger - Independent.ie

Saudi Arabia is to resume the flogging of Raif Badawi, the blogger whose first 50 lashes became the centre of an international outcry, his wife says she has been told.
  • GO TO
Ensaf Haidar (pictured), who is now living in Canada with the couple's children, said the same "informed source" who originally tipped her off to the flogging of her husband in January had told her the punishment was about to resume.

Chinese expert discusses religious sites on South China Sea islands - Xinhua | English.news.cn

BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese expert has found Chinese religious sites on islands in the South China Sea, providing more evidence of China's sovereignty over the area.
With historical documents, archaeological findings and 50 photos from four years of field study, Chen Jinguo of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) believes that Chinese people built a lot of religious sites on the islands, their most important cultural features and the centers of fishermen's everyday life, according to his thesis published in "Religious Cultures of the World."
Chen said claims of sovereignty over the islands are based on historical occupation and so some countries have destroyed religious sites and added "historical" features of their own.
Japanese Yoji Nishizawa occupied the Dongsha Islands in 1906 on the pretext of "discovering" them, changing their name to the Nishizawa Islands and destroying Chinese temples there.
Historical documents, archaeological findings, field studies and oral information have all recorded Chinese religious sites, an important basis for China's claim of sovereignty.
Chen said Chinese religious sites in the South China Sea signify Chinese people's efforts to develop the waters.
He suggested that China pay more attention to rebuilding and protecting religious sites on some islands and developing traditional folk activities to safeguard territorial and cultural sovereignty

Oct 27, 2015

SMSFs put pooled funds in the shade | The Australian

Self-managed super funds have never lacked for critics. But for sheer audacity you have got to take your hat off to the industry super fund HostPlus, which uses negative performance numbers in its own self-directed investment option to launch a scathing attack on the more than one million ­people who choose an SMSF to achieve their retirement savings goals. (“The man who shouted stop to DIY fund management”, 13/10.)
The arguments put forward by HostPlus chief investment officer Sam Sicilia in The Australian are as breathtaking as they are flawed:
• He suggest superannuation should be left to the investment experts.
• He also contends that if you give people a self-directed investment option, as does HostPlus, to invest their compulsory super­annuation, then they will fail. ­Miserably.
But to compare self-directed investments inside an APRA-regulated fund to an SMSF is to compare apples and oranges.
Indeed, comparisons between self-directed investments (a choice option product in a fund that has hundreds of thousands of members with low balances of around $10,000) to SMSFs (a trust structure with no more than four members) is erroneous. Here’s why:
Funds offering self-directed investment have a restricted set of strategic investment options; in the case of HostPlus, it provides members a choice of direct investments into a small number of companies from the S&P/ASX 300 index, ETFs and term deposits. It also offers a lesser choice where members can select one or more fund managers from its selected pool of 10 fund managers.
In other words, self-directed investments impose restrictions; they must choose from a limited pool of investments that are specifically chosen by the fund’s expert investment team. It’s a Claytons’ choice.
The contrast with an SMSF could not be starker. Each trustee invests to suit their own personal circumstances, knowledge and risk appetite. Typically SMSF investors are conservative throughout the life cycle, although there is a bigger focus on growth assets in the accumulation phase.
In terms of asset allocation, the only limitations on where they invest are those imposed by the market. Many rightly chose to use professional advice and services to assist in decision making for investment and compliance, and, most importantly, trustees make the final decisions. To quote US president Harry Truman: “The buck stops here.”
It’s not just an issue of investment choice, important as that is. Someone in an APRA-regulated fund who has $10,000 in superannuation (in some instances their total super savings) and opts for self-directed investment simply can’t be compared with an SMSF where the average fund size is a tad over $1 million. (ATO statistics show few SMSFs have less than $200,000 in FUM). That sum of money gives the SMSF trustee options in diversification that are simply not available to their APRA-regulated counterpart.
It also doesn’t take into account the trustee profile. Although the number of SMSF trustees aged less than 40 is growing, they are still in the minority. The majority are 50-plus who ­typically are small business people, professionals, contractors, executives, managers and primary producers.
These are people who not only know how to make financial decisions, but also when to get advice about those decisions.
The investment performance of SMSFs bears no comparison with the figures cited for self-­directed investments:
● At June 30, 2013, ATO figures show that for the previous seven years SMSFs outperformed APRA regulated funds, on average delivering 4.33 per cent a year against 3.69 per cent for APRA-regulated funds.
● What’s more, SMSFs perform better when markets are down. This investment performance stands in stark contrast to APRA-regulated funds post the GFC where the figures demonstrate many trustee boards (to say nothing of the professional fund managers) were off the pace.
● Note, too, that it’s not just the SMSF Association that is wary about comparing the direct investment options of APRA funds with SMSFs. ASIC has announced it is paying close attention to any APRA fund that calls their investment options SMSF “equivalents” or “SMSF-like” investments, rightly placing sanctions on some funds that have misled their members in this regard.
SMSFs are not for everyone; most people will opt to wash their hands of the responsibility for their superannuation to an APRA-regulated fund. But quite clearly there is a sizeable minority who want to take control of their retirement savings — including the investment decisions. And performance of SMSF trustees to date suggests they are more than capable of doing so, as both the Cooper and Murray reports attested. So the question is — why the persistent criticisms of SMSFs and could there just be another agenda in play?

Oct 23, 2015

Vladimir Putin accuses US of backing terrorism in Middle East

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has launched a stinging attack on US policy in the Middle East, accusing Washington of backing terrorism and playing a “double game”.
In a speech on Thursday at the annual gathering of the Valdai Club, a group of Russian and international analysts and politicians, Putin said the US had attempted to use terrorist groups as “a battering ram to overthrow regimes they don’t like”.
He said: “It’s always hard to play a double game – to declare a fight against terrorists but at the same time try to use some of them to move the pieces on the Middle Eastern chessboard in your own favour. There’s no need to play with words and split terrorists into moderate and not moderate. I would like to know what the difference is.”
Western capitals have accused Moscow of targeting moderate rebel groups during its bombing campaign in Syria, which Russia says is mainly aimed at targets linked to Islamic State. However, Putin’s talk of “playing with words” and other statements by government officials suggest Moscow believes all armed opposition to Bashar al-Assad is a legitimate target.
Putin received Assad at the Kremlin on Tuesday, and on Thursday he underlined that he considered the Syrian president and his government to be “fully legitimate”. He said the west was guilty of shortsightedness, focusing on the figure of Assad while ignoring the much greater threat of Isis.
“The so-called Islamic State [Isis] has taken control of a huge territory. How was that possible? Think about it: if Damascus or Baghdad are seized by the terrorist groups, they will be almost the official authorities, and will have a launchpad for global expansion. Is anyone thinking about this or not?”
He added: “Fifty years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me that if a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first.”
Putin said it was “incorrect” to discuss whether or not Assad should step down, but said there was a need for dialogue.
“As far as I understand from my discussion with Assad, he’s ready for this,” said the Russian leader.
Putin said he asked Assad how he would react if Russia “found armed opposition groups who are really ready to fight terrorists” in Syria and decided to support them. Assad responded positively, according to Putin.
Asked how he saw the future of Syria and whether partition of the country could be an eventual solution, Putin said: “This would be the worst and most unacceptable option, and will not lead to the conflict being solved. It will make it worse and give it a permanent character. If you split the country into different parts they will fight among themselves forever, it will be unavoidable.”
This year the Valdai Club met at a luxury hotel in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana, one of the venues for last year’s Winter Olympics. Putin arrived at the venue in a bright green Lada, part of an effort to promote the domestic car industry. He arrived late, keeping the assembled delegates waiting for nearly two hours before speaking.
A survey released on Thursday suggested that Putin’s approval rating had hit a record high of almost 90%, boosted by the Syrian airstrikes. His rating was 58.8% in January 2012 before a crackdown on opposition and the annexation of Crimea.
“Such a high level of approval for the work of the Russian president is linked, in the first instance, to events in Syria, to Russian airstrikes on terrorist positions there,” said the stat-run polling agency VTsIOM.
On the sidelines of the Valdai Club conference, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said the “only logical way” to explain Britain’s behaviour in Iraq and Syria was a desire that Isis would depose Assad.
“The idea was to remove Assad using force, and to use force to seize Damascus. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but this is the only way to explain why de facto neither Britain nor the US has ever properly fought against Isis,” Yakovenko said.
He said with the number of airstrikes Britain had carried out in Iraq, “you could have destroyed the whole region”, but instead Isis had only grown in strength.
An analysis by Reuters of Russian defence ministry data showed this week that almost 80% of Russia’s declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Isis. Yakovenko said he had a meeting at the Foreign Office in London last week in which he asked for intelligence to be shared on the location of Isis targets in Syria, but was rejected. He also asked for information on the Free Syrian Army.
“We are looking closely at the Syrian Free Army. We understand there is not a single command centre, and that some of these divisions have different goals. But if among the FSA there are divisions that are really ready to fight with Isis, who is our main enemy in Syria, and if you think there are people or commanders or other contacts which could be useful and to cooperate with them, we would be grateful for such information,” he said. “We were again rejected.

Oct 22, 2015

Every Day's a Crisis for Europe as Merkel Heads Back to Brussels - Bloomberg Business

Welcome to Europe, where almost every problem is a crisis.  
If it’s not Greece’s debt threatening to topple a currency or the largest influx of refugees since World War II, it’s Russian aggression toward its neighbors. The EU’s response: hold another summit.
Over the past 10 months, leaders and government finance chiefs have trudged to Brussels for 19 summits and emergency meetings -- with a 20th planned for Sunday -- as they wrangled over a financial lifeline for Greece, the surge of migrants and Russia’s violent inroads in Ukraine. That tally compares with eight meetings last year and nine in 2013.
While summit inflation illustrates the proliferation of crises on Europe’s doorstep, it also underscores the difficulty of doing business when 28 leaders with 28 sets of domestic concerns talk through the night and then blame the EU when they fail to make progress.
“These summits are happening almost permanently because the European Union is in the middle of an existentialist crisis,” said Drew Scott, a professor of EU studies at the University of Edinburgh who argues that only national leaders have the legitimacy to take on major challenges. “In a world of euro-skepticism, we’ve seen a major return to domestic politics that we haven’t seen since the sixties.”
As the refugee crisis worsens, the next gathering -- little over a week after the last fractious summit -- will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel join leaders from eight countries in central and southeastern Europe gather in Brussels to focus on the flow of migrants through the Western Balkans.
“The EU decision-making itself has become so infuriatingly complex that it becomes a source of crisis itself,” said Fredrik Erixon, director of the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy.
European decision-making has never been straightforward, of course, and there were arguments and crises before -- the lifting of the Iron Curtain posed a threat to the EU’s very rationale. The bloc’s last-minute success in preventing Greece’s euro-area exit in July and leaders’ willingness to at least discuss a common solution to the refugee crisis show the system still has enough resilience to avoid a major breakdown.
With more than a million migrants set to reach the EU this year, that system faces further tests. Leaders at last week’s summit in Brussels clashed over sharing the cost of refugees from countries riven by violence in the Middle East and Africa and how to police the bloc’s borders.

Meeting After Meeting

Sunday’s talks, announced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, come after countries along the Western-Balkan route resorted to unilateral decisions such as closing borders, shutting transport links and shifting migrants to neighboring nations. Merkel has pledged to grant asylum to genuine refugees.
Leaders are “trapped between on the one hand their own idea of what they’d like to do and on the other hand an increasingly skeptical population that holds them back,” Erixon said. “In that trap the only thing you can do is defer problems and hope they’re going to be easier to deal with later.”
Last week’s meeting was a scheduled summit -- one of four per year, spaced about three months apart. Yet it came just three weeks after leaders rushed to Brussels for their first attempt to thrash out a plan to calm the refugee chaos. That meeting in turn was just two months after presidents and prime ministers stayed up until 9 a.m. disagreeing and then agreeing to bail out Greece’s economy for a third time.

‘Knee-Jerk Reaction’

It was never supposed to be like this.
In the old days before the fall of Communism, the EU was a bloc of no more than 15 nations and summits were grand affairs. Leaders would assemble in Europe’s most picturesque cities and set political direction on broad issues like establishing a currency union or allowing people to live and work in each other’s country. That meant officials in Brussels and ministers from national capitals could do the more technical work.
Now, with an expanded EU of 28 national governments and the rise of anti-EU parties, the old model of edging toward disaster before conjuring up a last-minute consensus is more difficult, and more risky, than ever.
Calling so many summits is “a problem of knee-jerk reaction,” said Richard Whitman, associate fellow at Chatham House in London. “It reinforces a view that the EU is a bit dysfunctional and it doesn’t really solve the problems.”

Holocaust controversy: Netanyahu suggests grand mufti convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate Jews - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has provoked a Holocaust controversy, saying the Muslim elder in Jerusalem during the 1940s convinced Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews.

Key points

  • Netanyahu says a Palestinian mufti told Hitler to kill the Jews
  • Germany says Holocaust was its responsibility
  • Historians discredit Netanyahu's version of history
In a speech to the Zionist Congress late on Tuesday (local time), Mr Netanyahu referred to a series of Muslim attacks on Jews in Palestine during the 1920s that he said were instigated by the then-mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Husseini famously flew to visit Hitler in Berlin in 1941 and Mr Netanyahu said that meeting was instrumental in the Nazi leader's decision to launch a campaign to annihilate the Jews.
"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," Mr Netanyahu said in the speech the day before he left for a visit to Germany.
"And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here [Palestine]. So what should I do with them?'," Mr Netanyahu said Hitler asked the mufti, who responded: "Burn them."
Mr Netanyahu, whose father was an eminent historian, was quickly criticised by opposition politicians and experts on the Holocaust who said he was distorting the historical record.
They noted the meeting between Husseini and Hitler took place on November 28, 1941.
More than two years earlier, in January 1939, Hitler had addressed the Reichstag, Nazi Germany's parliament, and spoke clearly about his determination to exterminate the "Jewish race".
"To say that the mufti was the first to mention to Hitler the idea to kill or burn the Jews is not correct," Dina Porat, a professor at Tel Aviv University and the chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial museum, told Israel Radio.
"The idea to rid the world of the Jews was a central theme in Hitler's ideology a long, long time before he met the mufti."
It is not clear why Mr Netanyahu decided to launch into the issue now, but his remarks came with tensions between Israelis and Palestinians at a new peak, particularly over a Jerusalem holy site overseen by the current mufti.
Asked about the controversy, German chancellor Angela Merkel said: "We do not see any reason to change our view of history on this particular question. We stand by German responsibility for the Holocaust."
Responding to the criticism, Mr Netanyahu said on Wednesday there was "much evidence" to back up his accusations against Husseini, including testimony by a deputy of Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II.
Mr Netanyahu, in a statement issued by his office, did not name the aide but he seemed to be referring to Eichmann assistant Dieter Wisliceny, who has been quoted in news reports dating back to the late 1940s as having told the war crimes court that Husseini repeatedly suggested the extermination of European Jews to Nazi leaders.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), accused Mr Netanyahu of using the human tragedy of the Holocaust to try to score political points against Palestinians.
"It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews," Mr Erekat said.

Netanyahu denies exonerating Hitler of Holocaust blame

Mr Netanyahu dismissed any such notion.
"It's absurd. I had no intention of absolving Hitler of his satanic responsibility for the annihilation of European Jewry. Hitler is the one who made the decision," he said.
But he added, "at the same time, it is absurd to ignore the role the mufti ... played in encouraging and motivating Hitler" and other Nazi leaders to take such action.
Husseini was sought for war crimes but never appeared at the Nuremberg trials and later died in Beirut.
Mr Netanyahu's defence minister, close ally Moshe Yaalon, said the prime minister had got it wrong.
"It certainly wasn't [Husseini] who invented the Final Solution," he told Israel's Army Radio. "That was the evil brainchild of Hitler himself."

Oct 21, 2015

The new East-West divide: multiculturalism vs sovereignty - Spectator Blogs

We all know that relations with Russia are at their lowest ebb since 1991, when Boris Yeltsin brought down Communism during one of his alcoholic blackouts. What’s becoming increasingly clear, though, is that there is a new ideological cold war – and I’m not sure we’ll win this one.
The German approach to dissent over these past few months has been revealing. Earlier this month, a leading eurocrat chided the Hungarians for refusing to accept that ‘diversity is inevitable’, using that strange Marxist language these people love. Anotheraccused that small central European country of being ‘on the wrong side of history’. Meanwhile Angela Merkel compared those who lock others out to the Communists who once locked their own people in.
It is not just that Germany wants central Europeans to accept refugees for convenience sake, or for humanitarian reasons; it is that the West now defines itself by the ideology of multiculturalism. To be a European is to believe that national borders are a thing of the past and ‘diversity is inevitable’.
In contrast to the West, Russia is increasingly identified by an old-fashioned idea of nationhood, while its foreign policy is based on the Westphalian concept of sovereignty (even if they are not always in practice respectful of their neighbours’ borders). Last month Russia held a ‘sovereignty conference’ in which various separatist groups – some by the looks of it total fantasists – were invited to talk about their plans for the future. So the East-West divide this time is not between capitalism and communism, nor even democracy and authoritarianism, but multiculturalism and sovereignty.
Just as the US led the liberal democracies against Communism, so it is the most idealistically multicultural country. America now identifies itself as a ‘proposition nation’ and being American is not characterised by any historical attachment to the country. Despite what people assume, this a relatively recent idea; ‘nation of immigrants’ did not become a common phrase until JFK’s time.
Across western Europe the establishment now accepts multiculturalism as the state creed, with Merkel employing a task force to arrest people who make disparaging comments about migrants on Facebook, while the current government’s ‘British values’ agenda identifies Britishness not by history, but a set of political beliefs.
This is, of course, how the Soviet Union marked membership of their polity, and ironically it is now the West that has adopted a utopian creed – one in which, rather than possessions being shared by humanity, nations are. I wonder if this has ever occurred to Chancellor Merkel when she tells off the small nations of central Europe.
Who will win this new cold war? The West had a huge head start, but it’s certainly true that multicultural states are more vulnerable than those that believe in older ideas of nationhood. Since the Immigration Act was passed 50 years ago, America has become internally a far weaker country; trust has declined sharply, a sure sign of declining social capital, while politics has become more extreme and bitter. The America of 2015 would be far less equipped to face a major world rival than the America of 1965 or 1941; that, I believe, is a direct product of the idea of a proposition nation.
Likewise Europe is not strengthened by the cult of diversity, as the last few months have illustrated. Central European nations, seeing what has happened in London, Paris and Malmo, are put off by multiculturalism. Meanwhile large minorities – if not majorities – of western Europe still believe in a more traditional idea of nationhood, one not defined by ‘values’ but by the paradoxically more liberal definition of history and borders.
All of this puts western conservatives in a difficult position, being not just out of step with polite opinion but at risk of being identified with our political enemy.
Putin runs a thuggish regime, whose enemies tend to kill themselves accidentally in mysterious circumstances. Its nationalism (not to mention its views on homosexuality) is unpleasant. Russia’s is a conservatism without western political institutions, but in its attachment to tradition, Christianity, sovereignty and posterity, it looks superficially closer to Burkean conservatism than western politics. This is probably bad news for conservatives. After all, if we like Russia so much, why don’t we go and live there?

Sale! Your personal info, cheap | InfoWorld

Data rules the digital economy. Nowhere is that more evident than in the underground economy, where criminals traffic in data stolen through breaches, compromised accounts, and various vulnerabilities.

Based on ongoing work with law enforcement authorities -- and close monitoring of online marketplaces where stolen data is sold -- the Hidden Data Economy report from Intel Security paints a clear picture of how cheap it is to obtain stolen information.

[ Deep Dive: How to rethink security for the new world of IT. | Discover how to secure your systems with InfoWorld's Security newsletter. ]

“As the commercial value of personal data grows, cyber criminals have long since built an economy selling stolen data to anybody with a computer browser and the means to pay,” Intel Security wrote in the report.

To no one’s surprise, there's plenty of payment card information on sale, with the basic packages including the account number, CV2 code printed on the card, and the expiration date selling for between $5 and $8 in the United States. Prices go up for extras that let buyers attempt different types of scams, such as $15 for packages including the bank account number and dates of birth. Buyers can also buy “Fullzinfo” packages, which include the victim’s billing address, PIN, Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and online banking credentials, for a mere $30.

Prices also vary by region: Stolen credit and debit cards sell for between $20 and $35 in the United Kingdom, $20 and $40 in Canada, $21 and $40 in Australia, and $25 and $45 in the European Union. Prices are even higher for "dump tracks," or account information stored on the card’s magnetic stripe; they go for between $110 for U.S. cards and $190 for European Union cards.

Login credentials for online banking sites and payment services are available for sale as well. Prices depend on a number of factors, such as the online payment service’s account balance. For example, an account with a balance between $400 and $1,000 can cost between $20 and $50, but a balance of $2,500 to $5,000 would cost between $120 and $200.

Stolen bank accounts and payment cards are only the starting point. “This underground marketplace has evolved to include almost every conceivable cyber crime product for sale or rent,” the researchers wrote in the report.

Not only financial data

Whole identities are available online, including account credentials for social media and email. Some sellers make it easier for buyers to look at available identities by providing a graphical interface. Medical records, which generally include health-related information, Social Security numbers, and insurance details, are available, although they aren’t as easy to buy as payment card data, the researchers said.

Think of the underground forums and markets as the digital equivalent of Home Depot: Attackers can find whatever they need to launch cyber attacks against large corporations and critical infrastructure systems. There's no need to craft phishing campaigns to steal network credentials when, odds are, they're already on sale.

The report showed an example of network credentials from a university offered for sale. Researchers also found vulnerabilities that allow potential buyers access to bank and airline systems located in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

“This ‘cyber crime as a service’ marketplace has been a primary driver for the explosion in the size, frequency, and severity of cyber attacks,” said Raj Samani, CTO for Intel Security EMEA. Recent data breaches have been so huge, numbering in millions of records, because the individual per-record prices are so low. Sellers need more inventory to stay in business.

What was surprising was the demand for login credentials for online streaming services. Since the services themselves aren’t expensive, it would make sense to assume the accounts wouldn’t be worth much on the marketplace. The report found otherwise. While account information for video streaming services and premium comic book services are available for pennies, with prices starting at 55 cents, premium cable channel streaming services such as HBO Now and HBO Go sell for $7.50. Professional sports get the big bucks in the underground economy, too: Login credentials for professional sports streaming cost $15.

Even loyalty accounts are available for sale. Buyers can get 100,000 points in a hotel loyalty account for only $20. “Customers legitimately open these accounts at no cost, and yet there is a market for them, resulting in the loss of accumulated perks that sometimes take years to accrue,” the report said.

Like the legitimate economy, but underground

The criminal underground functions according to the same basic economic principles as the regular economy. Sellers slash prices on inventory to undercut other sellers and attract buyers. Some employ “sophisticated sales and marketing efforts” and advertise their wares to potential customers on YouTube.

“The videos often attempt to provide some degree of visual confirmation for prospective buyers that they can be trusted, although such approaches can backfire through comments associated with the videos,” the researchers wrote.

There's no real way to verify whether or not a seller will actually deliver on the advertised goods, since buyers can’t exactly file complaints through the usual channels. Some sellers offer guarantees, however, with replacement policies for unsatisfied customers. The marketplaces provide forums and other methods for social feedback to name and shame disreputable sellers, as well as rank sellers who are good to work with.

To access the underground, you don’t need to dig around anonymized networks with Tor. Many markets are easy to find and often a search query away. “It certainly does not require prior knowledge of a secret public house and its hidden courtyard,” Intel Security wrote in the report.

The breadth, depth, and open nature of the criminal underground suggests a mature, nearly glutted market whose participants have little fear of reprisal. With law enforcement far behind the curve, the real hope of mitigation remains better enterprise security -- and greater vigilance by individuals. Either that, or expect to find your credentials on sale somewhere.