By Mark Sparkman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mark Sparkman, a former senior officer with the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, is a senior international affairs analyst with the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. The views expressed are his own.
The announcement by prosecutors that charges had been filed against suspected cyber thieves believed responsible for stealing $45 million in a matter of hours from ATM’s in two dozen countries should send a stark message to governments around the world – banks could be the most vulnerable front in cyber space.
Plenty of people have been warning us these days to worry about cyber attacks, but generally we have been worrying about the wrong things. Most “cyber Armageddon” scenarios focus on gaps in our physical infrastructure and even far-fetched scenarios such as infant incubators in hospitals being turned off. But major swathes of the United States have routinely gone without electricity and water for days following natural disasters. Soon enough, life gradually gets back to normal. Want real chaos? Destroy confidence in the banking system (or even a part of it), and just stand back and watch.
Since last fall, a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on financial institutions have temporarily denied customers access to their bank accounts, and U.S. officials have pointed an accusatory finger at Iran. Although the attacks were not devastating, U.S. officials are rightly weighing their response options. The fact is that the United States needs to gear up for the coming era of cyber threats – and start by ensuring its financial flank is not catastrophically compromised.
By Anas El Gomati, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anas El Gomati is a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, and director of Sadeq Institute, Libya’s first think tank. The views expressed are his own.
Libya may want to move on from its past, but a law passed earlier this month with the backing of more than 90 percent of lawmakers is the wrong way to go about it.
The “Political Isolation” law would be sweeping enough if it just stuck to the provisions barring anyone that held a senior position in the Gadhafi regime from holding office again for a decade. But it also states that intellectuals, academics, civil servants, security and army officials and leading media personnel should also be barred from doing so. Even exiles and defectors in opposition during Gadhafi’s reign who held senior positions in the distant past could also be barred from serving again for 10 years.
The law, which will effectively be policed by an “Isolation Commission” tasked with vetting officials, was pushed through in the wake of increased activism by Libyan militias. Indeed, militias were quick to seize on the aftermath of the bombing of the French Embassy on April 23, one of a string of attacks in the past year on foreign interests, to help further their agenda. And, even as Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s cabinet attempted to draw up a response for the international community, revolutionary and rogue militias seized four key ministries at gunpoint, demanding that the law be passed.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Economists have always been fascinated by the link between income and happiness. In the 1970s, we learned of the Easterlin Paradox. The economist Richard Easterlin argued that more money does not always lead to more happiness. Instead, more money often means more demands and desires.
Well, a new paper by the economist Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers turns that thesis on its head. Look at the graph in the video plotting satisfaction against income. If you were in a relatively poor country like China, India or Iran, the study found that more money meant more satisfaction. But even if you were in a rich country – and this is what is new – the results hold up.
Look at France, Germany or the U.S. on the chart. What we also found interesting was that Americans hit the highest levels of satisfaction among the 25 most populous countries in the world.
It looks like you can get satisfaction – as long as you can pay for it.
By Fareed Zakaria
“One of the bigger ironies about the IRS imbroglio is that it had nothing to do with taxes,” writes Steve Rattner in the New York Times. “These newly formed entities didn’t seek 501(c)(4) status to avoid taxes – these groups don’t earn profits and therefore don’t pay any taxes, regardless of their status. The important benefit that came from achieving 501(c)(4) status was freedom from having to disclose the names of any of their donors.”
“That’s right, what the I.R.S. was really deciding in these cases is which organizations have to disclose their funders and which don’t. And what it was trying to do – however dumbly it went about it – was to reduce the abuse of the campaign-finance rules, not the tax laws.”
“In most democracies, the press holds the government accountable. That is no longer so in Turkey,” argues Michael Rubin in National Review Online.
“Erdogan’s security forces arrest journalists with impunity; in ten years, according to Reporters without Frontiers, Erdogan has transformed his country into “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.” After first stacking once-independent banking boards with functionaries trained exclusively in Saudi Arabia, Erdogan has used their financial pronouncements to justify seizure of opposition newspapers. Turkey now ranks below even Russia, Palestine, and Venezuela in press freedom.”
“Instead of launching effective education and training programs to prepare Southern European youth for a professional life after the crisis, the Continent’s political elites preferred to wage old ideological battles,” a new Der Spiegel commentary argues. “There were growing calls for traditional economic stimulus programs at the European Commission in Brussels. The governments of debt-ridden countries paid more attention to the status quo of their primarily older voters. Meanwhile, the creditor nations in the north were opposed to anything that could cost money.”
“In this way, Europe wasted valuable time, at least until governments were shaken early this month by news of a very worrisome record: Unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds has climbed above 60 percent in Greece.”
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Zanny Minton Beddoes, the economics editor for 'The Economist,' responds to readers' questions on recent economic data, the national minimum wage and gridlock in Washington.
Figures out this week suggest groundbreaking declined at home construction sites, factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region dipped. How concerned should we about these kinds of numbers?
I think we’ve had a fairly mixed crop of numbers, some of which are worrying, and some of which are quite positive. You have to be careful not to draw too much from any individual number. But broadly, my sense is that the private side of the U.S. economy is recovering at a reasonable, but not terribly dramatic, pace. The housing market, in particular, is on the mend.
Yes, some numbers disappoint, but broadly it’s a good news story. But I think the overall pace of recovery is being held back by the fiscal tightening that is going on. We had quite big tax increases at the beginning of the year. And in the sequester – and we’re getting somewhere in the order of 1.9 percent of GDP in fiscal tightening. So that’s acting as a brake on the economy and so the overall recovery is not as strong as it otherwise would be, which means there’s slower job growth than there otherwise would be.
It is a recovery, but it’s a pretty lackluster one considering how much we have to catch up, and I think that has quite a lot to do with fiscal policy.
By Richard Pearshouse, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Richard Pearshouse is a senior health and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Bangladesh’s Hazaribagh Leather. The views expressed are his own.
Last year, I spoke with a 40-year-old woman working in a Bangladesh leather tannery in the Hazaribagh neighborhood of Dhaka. The Hazaribagh tanneries, which export hundreds of millions of dollars in leather for luxury clothes, shoes and boots around the world, spew noxious pollutants into surrounding communities. They can also make their workers very ill.
Much tannery work involves measuring and mixing chemicals, adding chemicals to hides in drums, or hauling hides saturated in chemicals out of pits. Fungal infections, scabies, hives, and contact dermatitis are common. Others suffer from respiratory illnesses and chest pains.
Asked what she thought of the possibility that Hazaribagh’s tanneries might eventually move out of the city, the woman told me, “It would be very good…They could start garment factories. This would be cleaner work with a better salary.”
By Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Rush Holt, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) are members of the U.S. Congress. The views expressed are their own.
For the first time since hosting Burmese dictator Ne Win nearly 50 years ago, the United States will host another head of state from Myanmar. The historic visit from President Thein Sein on Monday will, no doubt, lead to much discussion of Myanmar’s extremely long road toward democracy and whether there may be a relapse in their recent reform. It is also an opportunity to evaluate America’s new Myanmar policy.
As the U.S. reengages with Myanmar, also known as Burma, some Americans have lost sight of the ongoing, violent war against many of Myanmar's ethnic and religious minorities. This being the case, the U.S. must closely evaluate its policy towards Myanmar and ensure that no action or word from the U.S. government be interpreted as a lack of concern for human rights abuse that continues in Myanmar, some of which Human Rights Watch has gone so far as to call “a campaign of ethnic cleansing.”
The U.S. relationship with Myanmar from 1990 to 2011 was virtually nonexistent, governed by strict sanctions brought about by the military government’s widespread, often brutal, violation of basic rights.
For more What in the World, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
We have been thinking about an idea in the opinion pages of the New York Times to tackle one of the great challenges of our times: cutting carbon emissions to slow down climate change. It would result in the single largest reduction of CO2 emissions globally of any feasible idea out there. But there are a couple of hitches. Let's explain.
Here's the idea: it's time to help China master fracking safely.
By now it's clear that fracking (the process of extracting shale gas) has dramatically lowered America's CO2 emissions. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2006, a fifth of our electricity came from natural gas, while almost 50 percent came from coal. By 2012, natural gas had increased its share to 30 percent of our electricity. Coal's share dropped to 37 percent. The change was because of fracking: over that same period, shale gas production grew 800 percent.
By Fareed Zakaria
Conservatives are, of course, mad at Barack Obama. But they are also mad at a country that isn't outraged enough at him. This frustration is now taking over mainstream and intelligent voices within the movement, and about broader issues than Benghazi.
Bret Stephens, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, laments that President Obama is not paying a price for a foreign policy that he describes as "isolationist." But our isolationism will surely come as a surprise to the diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officers working on American foreign policy. Washington spends more on defense than the next 10 great powers put together – and more on intelligence than most nations spend on their militaries.
We also have tens of thousands of troops stationed at dozens of bases abroad, from Germany to Turkey to Bahrain to Japan to South Korea. We have formal commitments to defend our most important allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The prime minister of which country bordering Syria met with President Obama this week? Tensions have flared between Taiwan and which country? Which country is astronaut Chris Hadfield from?
Take our weekly quiz to find out.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS Sunday: Washington’s week of scandals. How should the White House deal with them? Fareed speaks to a man who might have some ideas: former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, Ken Duberstein.
“You know, every second term president, certainly since Eisenhower, has gone into a ditch,” Duberstein says. “The cardinal rule is when you go into a ditch, you stop digging. And so far, this White House has not stopped digging.”
Then, has America fixed its deficit problem? Fareed convenes an economic panel that includes Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School, and Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor at The Economist.
And later, a journey into the future of technology, with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
By Peter Fragiskatos, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Peter Fragiskatos teaches at Western University in London, Canada. You can follow him @pfragiskatos. The views expressed are his own.
Amidst the horror that continues to plague Syria, a glimmer of hope emerged last week as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced they will try to bring together the Syrian state and its opponents by convening an international peace conference.
In principle, negotiations are the right way to go. Had talks taken place earlier, the bloodshed, which has now claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more, could have been vastly reduced. The only way it can be stopped is if there are some compromises, and this will only happen when the warring sides start talking in earnest. Yet reports that Russia is sending advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria are a reminder that Moscow's commitment to the process remains an unpredictable wild card.
In preparing for the discussions, a division of labor appears to have been set – the Americans are trying to persuade the rebels to take part, while Russia is pressing the al-Assad regime. And there are some promising signs on both fronts. According to Kerry, Salim Idriss – chief of staff for the main opposition Free Syrian Army – has expressed strong interest in negotiations, while reports suggest Lavrov has received a list of negotiators from the Syrian government.