October 15th, 2014
04:39 PM ET

The Taliban's Twitter misstep?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Terrorists and jihadis have embraced social media using the Wild West of the Internet to exhibit bravado and spread their messages of hate. The bad guys have learned how to turn Twitter into a tool of terror. And Twitter is fighting back.

One analyst who monitors such accounts, J.M. Berger, tweeted last month that Twitter suspended 400 accounts linked to ISIS in just seven hours. But social media can also sometimes be a counterterrorism weapon.

Just recently, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, might have made the CIA's job a little easier. Mujahid's Twitter profile says he is in Kabul, but he posted tweets that showed his location, and as many media outlets reported, those tweets showed him to be in neighboring Pakistan, where many believe leaders of his group are in hiding.

He quickly claimed to be the victim of an "enemy forgery," turned off the location feature and showed that it is possible to spoof your location by sending a tweet that made it look like he was in Brian, Ohio, population 8,000.

While it is possible he was hacked, we think the book "Twitter for Dummies" might better explain what happened.

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Topics: GPS Show • Last Look
September 17th, 2014
04:38 PM ET

Geeks vs global policy

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Over the past few years, technology and global affairs have increasingly intersected. Think about when Twitter delayed site maintenance in order to continue to carry tweets during Iran's green revolution. Or about apps like "Red Alert," created this summer to warn Israelis of incoming rocket attacks.

Well, last month, geeks collided with global policy once more. Hack North Korea, organized by the Human Rights Foundation, brought 100 engineers, coders, activists, investors, and designers together in San Francisco to answer one burning question: How can we get information into and possibly out of North Korea?

The attendees divided into eight groups judged by a panel that included North Korean defectors, refugees, and even a computer scientist who once trained the regime's cyber warfare unite. The winner – tiny portable satellite receivers so small and flat they could be hidden on the exteriors of North Korean homes. They would be smuggled in using balloons or across the Chinese border. And they would pull in English and Korean language stations from a South Korean broadcaster.

Think of it as air dropping a different kind of weapon – knowledge.

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Topics: Last Look
August 5th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

Turkey's debate on women no laughing matter

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Laughter can be the best medicine – but can it cure misogyny?

Last week, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç gave a speech that sparked a massive social media reaction. Women, he said, shouldn't burst out laughing in public, should know what is appropriate, and should preserve their "chastity." So women shouldn't laugh out loud, and men, he said, shouldn't be womanizers. (Not really equivalent moral standards…)

Hundreds of women responded by posting pictures of themselves laughing in public. There were more than 160,000 Tweets following the comments, using the Turkish words for "laughter," "resist laugher" and "women defy."

The oppression of women in Turkey isn’t a laughing matter, of course. A 2009 report found that 40 percent of Turkey's female population had suffered domestic violence.

This week, the first round of the presidential election begins, and a top challenger to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (who is a favorite for the presidency) tweeted about the incident, saying women in Turkey needed to laugh more, not less. But Arınç stood by his comments, suggesting people focused too much on that part of his speech.

Well, if you say something absurd, condescending, and demeaning to 50 percent of your population, don't be so surprised if people focus on it!

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Topics: Last Look • Turkey
July 29th, 2014
12:12 PM ET

Extraterrestrial beauty

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Since life on Earth is so tumultuous these days, we think we could all use a little extraterrestrial beauty. Earlier this month, a Japanese artist teamed up with the company J.P. Aerospace and launched a pine bonsai tree and a bouquet of more than 30 types of flowers into the stratosphere. Literally.

The images are stunning. The plants were placed in devices attached to helium balloons that rose roughly 90,000 feet before returning to earth after the balloons burst.

The devices, which had parachutes, were discovered five miles from the launch site. The bonsai and the flowers, however, were never found.

Another mystery of the universe.

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Topics: Last Look
July 23rd, 2014
02:25 PM ET

Video game, movie ruffling dictatorial feathers

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

To add to the world's tumult, the North Korean government threatened military action last month over an upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco movie. It's about television personalities recruited to assassinate Kim Jong Un during an interview. Recently, Pyongyang wrote a letter of complaint to the White House requesting that the movie, which they deemed to be "an act of war," be shut down.

While this seems in keeping with Kim Jong Un's usual antics, he isn’t the only dictator to throw this kind of tantrum.

Remember Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian strongman? He's suing the makers of the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" from his Panamanian prison cell.

Noriega alleges in his lawsuit that the game portrays him as "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state." Perhaps the videogame designers should have had his character stick to drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering – crimes he was convicted of in the United States and France.

Oh, and he was also convicted of murder in Panama.

One would think Kim Jong Un has more important things to worry about than Hollywood comedies. We guess Noriega in his prison cell has more time on his hands.

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Topics: Last Look
July 16th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Apollo too risqué for Russia?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The image in the video shows the world famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A statue of Apollo, the Greek god of music, riding his chariot has sat atop the Bolshoi's portico for more than 150 years. In the 1990s, the statue joined the ranks of princes and emperors when it was added to the nation's currency. It now decorates the front of the 100 Ruble note.

This month, Russian lawmaker Roman Khudyakov requested that the Central Bank remove this iconic image.  It seems he is offended by the Greek god's clothing – or lack thereof. You see, following a recent theater restoration, a more modest version of the Bolshoi statue was unveiled with a strategically placed fig leaf. Khudyakov noted that the bills don’t match the restored statue and finds them unsuitable for children.

This request, unusual as it may be, echoes a growing conservatism in the Russian government. The parliament unanimously passed anti-gay legislation last year banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to youth. Who knows what the law means? But what we do know is that the fine for a person breaking it is steep – up to 100,000 rubles. That's about $3000 dollars.

President Putin has strongly supported this anti-gay legislation. Something tells us, however, that Mr. Putin won’t be as offended by the lack of clothes. Remember the famous image of the bare-chested macho man of the Urals?

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Topics: Last Look • Russia
July 8th, 2014
02:55 PM ET

Can other countries tap into Obama campaign success?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Last week, Turkey's Justice and Development Party – the AKP Party – announced that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be its presidential candidate in the August elections.

His campaign began immediately, and his logo caught our eye. Take a look at the video – it’s a red rising sun. The party said it symbolizes hope, the birth of a new Turkey, unity and togetherness. The winding road, they say, symbolizes Erdogan's "journey of life."

But people quickly pointed out that the logo looks a bit familiar. Yes, it’s very similar to President Obama's campaign logo. At the time, Obama's logo was chosen as a symbol of hope and a new day, and of course because it has an "o."

This isn't the only logo people have compared to Obama's. In 2008, South Africa's Democratic Alliance party unveiled its logo.

FULL POST

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Topics: Last Look • Politics
July 2nd, 2014
04:33 PM ET

Why Bolivia reversed its clock

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Take a look at the picture in the video of the Bolivian congress. Does something look amiss?

Look closely and you'll see the numbers on the clock are reversed...on purpose. You see, modern day clocks reflect the way that a sundial's shadow travels in the northern hemisphere. This clock was reversed to reflect Bolivia's position in the southern hemisphere. The foreign minister said that this "clock of the south" was installed so that Bolivians would embrace creativity and question the status quo.

A symbolic change like this isn't unique to Bolivia of course. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez changed his country's 200 year old flag by adding an 8th star in tribute to Simon Bolivar. He changed the direction the horse in the coat of arms faces from right to left, declaring that the horse had been "freed." (Critics at the time pointed out it was costly to "free" the horse from passports, currency and other government documents.) In Africa, Malawi's former president changed the flag's rising sun to a sun that had fully risen. He wanted the flag to imply Malawi wasn't developing, it had developed.

These may be clear symbols, but what doesn’t seem clear to these leaders – you can change a horse's direction, a sun's position, a date on the calendar or even what clockwise means – but your country's successes will still be based on the substance of your policies, not the style of your symbols.

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Topics: Last Look
June 23rd, 2014
06:04 PM ET

An austere coronation in Spain

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Last week, Prince Felipe became Felipe VI, King of Spain.

Rather than the big "to do" one normally sees in European coronations, Prince Felipe opted for a more muted ceremony. It felt a little like a second marriage rather than a big first wedding ceremony.

There was a military procession and then a simple proclamation. There were no horse drawn carriages; the royals arrived by car. There were no foreign royals or heads of state in attendance. King Juan Carlos himself didn't even attend the ceremony. Instead of a seated banquet, guests were served tapas while standing. The crown was displayed next to Felipe, but he didn’t wear it.

Ardent royalists criticized the austere event as a missed opportunity to project a positive image of Spain to the world. But the occasion was reflective of Spain's economic situation and mood. Still recovering from the recession the country's unemployment rate is roughly 26 percent. For youths that number is north of 50 percent.

That didn't stop other from adding pomp to the event – commemorative souvenirs reminiscent of a royal wedding are being sold all around the country. Of course that could be a nice stimulus that the Spanish economy needs.

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Topics: Last Look
June 18th, 2014
12:17 PM ET

Thai government wants citizens to be happy

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The Thailand national team may not be in the World Cup, but thanks to the military government that was installed after the recent coup, Thai citizens in that nation will be able to watch the tournament for free.

Since the coup, the junta has increased surveillance, censored TV and radio stations, cracked down on protests and detained critics.

Despite all this, they also have a message for the Thai people – be happy! And free broadcasts of all 64 World Cup games is just part of this attempt to "return happiness to the people." They're also giving away movie tickets, throwing free concerts in Bangkok with singing soldiers and scantily clad women, and even brought horses with bales of hay downtown for people to pet.

The Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha wants to return happiness to Thailand so much he wrote a ballad about it.

It's set to music by the Royal Thai Army Band. With lyrics like "We offer to guard and protect you with our hearts" and "To bring back love, how long will it take? Please, will you wait?" it isn't quite as catchy as that other happy song.

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Topics: Last Look
June 4th, 2014
04:58 PM ET

Should U.S. measure the black market?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The government announced last week that the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter. That's the first quarter in the red in three years. It's certainly not catastrophic, but it got me wondering whether the mafia might be able to help on this one. No, I'm not suggesting that organized crime make offers that American CEO can't refuse. Instead, I'm suggesting that the U.S. might want to take a page from Italy's book. Let me explain.

Italy's GDP has essentially the opposite track record of the U.S. until recently. The fourth quarter of 2013 was the first time Italy's economy grew in two years. So Italy dipped into the shadows this past week, the shadow economy, that is.

Starting in 2014 and going retroactively, Italy has said it will add the mafia's dealings to its GDP. And not just like Cosa Nostra, but anyone who makes money in the black market, drug dealing, prostitution, smuggling. Analysts expect this accounting change to boost Italy's GDP a good percentage point or two.

FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Last Look
May 25th, 2014
01:49 AM ET

What is humanity's biggest challenge?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

In 1714, the British government passed the Longitude Act, which offered a prize to anyone who solved a great challenge of the time  accurately determining a ship's longitude. Navigation problems caused wrecks and trade disruption, so the prize was large  20,000 pounds, $3.5 million by today's standards. A working class clockmaker eventually won after years of developing reliable marine clocks, or "chronometers," that allowed sailors to pinpoint their position at sea.

Fast forward 300 years and Britain is offering the Longitude Prize again  this time it's $17 million for solving one of humanity's biggest problems. And a group in the U.K. is letting citizens pick the problem this time. Asking them through a BBC poll if it should be:

FULL POST

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Topics: Last Look
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