Monthly Archives: December 2016



Published; 12/26/16 AT 10:24 AM

Cyber attacks took down government websites following strict online surveillance legislation being passed.

Hackers Hijack ISIS Twitter Accounts, Post Gay Porn
Thai police have detained nine people suspected of hacking government websites to protest against amendments to a cyber security law that critics say strengthens the authorities’ oversight of the internet.

Parliament passed legislation this month amending a cyber crime law, which rights groups said would likely to lead to more extensive online monitoring by the state.
In response, hackers launched a wave of cyber attacks last week, shutting down dozens of government websites.

The government said the websites were only down temporarily and the attacks caused minimum disruption.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters nine people had been arrested in connection with the hacking.
One of those arrested has been charged with breaking the cyber crime law, police said.
“The rest remain in custody and are being processed in accordance with the law,” police spokesman Dejnarong Suthicharnbancha told Reuters.
Thailand’s military government has increased online censorship since it seized power in a 2014 coup, in particular to block perceived insults to the royal family.
Criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir is a crime known by the French term lese majeste, which carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.
Since the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13 and the ascension of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn on December 1, authorities have shut down hundreds of websites carrying what they consider to be material critical of the monarchy.
The military government is also sensitive about criticism of the 2014 coup, and a new constitution subsequently drawn up.

The government has promised to hold an election in 2017. 


The 6 most corrupt countries in the world

Thanks;Michelle Coffey
Published: Jan 31, 2016 7:35 a.m. ET

Six billion people live in countries where corruption is entrenched

The site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, earlier this year that left 33 people dead and injured more than 100.

No country is completely free of corruption, but some are cleaner than others.

Last year, corruption was rife in 68% of the world’s countries, including half of the Group of 20 nations, based on Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index. On the plus side, most countries’ scores improved from the previous year.
The Berlin-based organization’s gauge, which measures widespread corruption in the public sphere, factors in instances of abuses of power, secret dealings, bribery, child labor, human trafficking, environmental destruction and terrorism, among other factors.

Taking a longer perspective, Greece, Senegal and the U.K. showed the biggest improvements since 2012 while Brazil, which is engulfed by the Petrobras corruption scandal, Australia, Libya, Spain and Turkey saw their scores skid sharply.

The countries that landed at the bottom of the list are ones that continue to be rocked by open conflict and disastrous levels of poverty and inequality: Angola, South Sudan, Sudan and Afghanistan. North Korea and Somalia tied for the dubious honor of most corrupt country in the world. Other countries in the bottom 10 are Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Iraq and Venezuela.
Source: Transparency International

A girl sits in front of a tent in a makeshift camp for people displaced in Angola’s brutal 27-year civil war which ended one year ago.


Roughly 70% of the people living in Angola lives on $2 a day or less. It’s also considered the deadliest country for children, ranked No. 1 in terms of places where kids are most likely to die before turning 5. Bribery runs rampant, and despite legislation being passed in 2014 forbidding money laundering, the practice continues to prop up business activity.

A South Sudanese soldier.

South Sudan

As oil revenue declines, South Sudan’s economy has gotten crushed and corruption has spiked, according to a report by The Sentry, an organization co-founded by actor George Clooney. The report says the oil sector is greatly mismanaged, and the overall financial system is exploited by a small group of elites to gain power and profits. Fighting for control continues to erupt around key oil sites across the country.

Children flock with containers hoping to collect food at a village in Sudan.

Decades of civil war have left Sudan with limited government and deteriorating infrastructure, opening the door to widespread corruption. Government authorities continue to be linked to corrupt practices such as embezzlement, cronyism and bribery.

The site of a suicide car bombing near the international airport in Kabul in December.


In Afghanistan, millions of dollars intended for the war-torn country’s reconstruction have either been wasted or stolen. Conflict in the country continues to flare up as attacks from the Taliban have escalated this past year, undermining the government’s efforts to rein in systemic corruption.

South Korean veterans burn placards of the North Korean flag and its leader, Kim Jong Un, during a protest in August.

North Korea

At the bottom of the list: North Korea, a totalitarian state that remains isolated from the rest of the world. Collecting dat a is nearly impossible in a country where virtually everything is controlled by the state. Dictator Kim Jong Un has even managed to ramp up the country’s combative rhetoric and behavior toward nearby countries and the U.S. since his father’s death in 2011, claiming earlier this year that the country had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.

A body lies in the rubble next to damaged cars near the Jazeera Palace hotel following a suicide attack in Mogadishu.


Somalia turns up at the bottom of the index again, tying North Korea for world’s most corrupt country. Violence and political instability have kept Somalia locked in state of fear and corruption. The country continues to rely on foreign aid, as the government has been unable to provide basic services or a judicial system.
Overall, Sub-Saharan Africa was hit hardest on the list, with 40 of the region’s 46 countries suffering from corruption.

Some colleges are profiting from banks that gouge their students with bad deals

Thanks;Maria LaMagna

Published: Dec 17, 2016 8:58 a.m. ET

Students could find better bank accounts if they shopped around on their own

Many students have financial trouble in college, making overdrafting more painful.

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. received failing grades this week from a government agency that claims the schools are sponsoring bank accounts and credit cards that are costly to their students.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a report Wednesday about the contracts schools enter into with banks, sometimes sponsoring their financial products and allowing them to be marketed with the school’s logo. Not all of those products are ones that students should actually be using, the CFPB found, because they have high or unexpected fees. Students could find better deals if they were just shopping around for those products on their own, the CFPB wrote in its report.
The CFPB found “dozens of deals” that schools have entered into with banks that don’t place any limits on costly account fees — including overdraft fees, out-of-network ATM fees or other common charges. Those deals could be in opposition with regulations the Department of Education announced in 2015 that said colleges must ensure accounts marketed under such agreements are “not inconsistent with the best financial interests of the students opening them.” The schools are required to do “reasonable due diligence reviews” at least every two years to determine whether the fees in those agreements are consistent with or below prevailing market rates. Those rules apply to the schools that participate in the federal financial aid program, which is nearly all schools with agreements.

“Students shouldn’t get stuck with the bill when their school inks a deal for an account that’s not in their best interest,” wrote Seth Frotman, the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman.
The CFPB did not identify which schools have entered into agreements that have unfavorable terms, but said about 10 million students attend colleges or universities that have a deal with a financial institution where the college directly markets financial products. (The Department of Education requires most colleges to publicly disclose their marketing contracts with banks, but schools in contracts that charge high fees aren’t specifically called out. Students can check whether their school has reported a contract with a financial institution by checking the Department of Education’s database.)
This isn’t the first time the government has raised alarm about financial products marketed to young people. U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 signed into law the Credit CARD Act, which required financial institutions to more clearly explain the terms of their credit cards. It also specifically made getting a credit card more difficult for consumers under age 21.
Consumers can hurt their financial futures for the long term if they fall into credit card debt. And the CFPB has found that credit card companies that are targeting consumers with low credit scores (which may apply to college students, who haven’t had the time to establish credit yet) often send promotional mail to borrowers with lower levels of education. And often, cards marketed to these lower-educated and lower-income consumers have undesirable terms, including high interest rates that can make paying back credit card debt difficult. And on top of that, being unable to pay debt hurts consumers’ credit scores, making it harder for them to take out loans with desirable terms in the future.

Also, because college students are often trying to stretch a small amount of money to pay their expenses, overdraft fees could set them back in trying to purchase groceries, books and other important items, said Whitney Barkley-Denney, the policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit based in Durham, North Carolina. Amounts of money that seem small to many adult consumers could actually prevent them from being able to survive and graduate in some cases, she said.

That said, college students aren’t the only ones paying costly bank fees.
Banks made about $11.2 billion in 2015 just from overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees, according to the CFPB. Just 8% of account holders end up paying about 75% of all overdraft fees, often because they overdraft repeatedly. Many people who make up that 8% are young or low-income consumers, said Thaddeus King, an officer for the consumer banking project at Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia.
Overdraft fees can be confusing for people signing up for accounts for the first time, King said, and since many college students may not be knowledgeable about financial products yet, they are at risk for ending up having to pay them.
(For example, banks are required by law to let consumers opt in to giving their account the ability to overdraft. Once consumers enter into that agreement, merchants can charge their cards, and their accounts won’t reject the charge. As a result, they may be charged up to $35 as an overdraft charge, which can happen multiple times, if they don’t realize they have overdrafted and they continue to use their cards. Choosing not to allow an account to overdraft can actually be a better financial choice because a merchant will reject the charge, and the account will not overdraft. The consumer’s credit score also shouldn’t be affected by having a debit card rejected at checkout. Pew has found that more than half of consumers who overdraft don’t remember opting in to an overdraft agreement.)
If consumers switched to low- or no-fee checking accounts, those who use the “average” checking accounts the CFPB has previously analyzed could save about $670 over a decade on ATM fees, maintenance, overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees, Sean McQuay, an expert at the personal finance company NerdWallet, previously told MarketWatch. Particularly for people with low incomes (including many college students), those fees can add up.
NerdWallet offers a list of the best free checking accounts of 2016, which includes online banks. The online options may work well for college students, so they won’t be limited to using banks located near their campuses. Still, consumers should check what fees are associated with the online accounts; some banks and financial institutions reimburse account holders if they use out-of-network ATMs, since the online banks sometimes don’t have their own ATMs.
McQuay also recommended looking at small community banks and credit unions. They don’t always have the best online services, especially compared with online banks, he said, but they are “catching up.”

This woman spent a year reading a book from every country in the world. What did she learn?

Thanks;Joe Myers, Formative Content

Published;Thursday 8 September 2016

In 2012, author Ann Morgan set herself a very ambitious target. She wanted to read a book from every country, in just one year.

Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

One-hundred and ninety-six books later, she’s written a book and done a TED Talk on her experience. She’s also created a series of interactive maps charting everything she read.
“It’s amazing the breadth of perspective you get,” she said.
‘An intensive course of global reading’
Looking at her bookshelves, Morgan was saddened to see they were dominated by British and North American authors. So, as she explains in her TED Talk, she prescribed herself ‘an intensive course of global reading’.
The challenge was enormous. Reading an average of about four books a week, while also working full-time, was just the first hurdle. Finding an English-translation from every country was also very tricky – just 4.5% of works published in the UK each year are translations.

The power of the internet

She posted an appeal online, and was staggered by the response. From all over the world, people began recommending – and indeed sending her – books. “It turns out, if you want to read the world, if you want to encounter it with an open mind, the world will help you,” she explains.
Towards the end of 2012, however, she got stuck. Having spent months trying to find an English translation of a work from São Tomé and Príncipe – the Portuguese-speaking African island nation – she was left with no choice but to commission a translation. She was doubtful whether anyone would be able to help with this.
But, within days of a Twitter and Facebook appeal, she had nine Portuguese-speaking volunteers all willing to devote their time and effort to translating a book for her. Six-weeks later, she had a collection of short stories to read.
She highlights the role that the internet played in making her goal a reality. “It’s testament to the extraordinary times we live in,” she said. “Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever before for a stranger to share a story, a worldview, a book with someone she may never meet.”
Mapping the world’s books
Morgan has created an interactive map, showing the book she read for every country. The map also includes a teaser on each one.
She hopes others will use the maps to chart their own experiences. For her, the experiment has broadened her understanding of the world. “Cumulatively, the stories I read that year made me more alive than ever before to the richness, diversity and complexity of our remarkable planet,” she said.