Category Archives: Cross Culture Awareness

The 10 best computer science schools in Europe

Thanks;Sam Shead 

Published ;May 22, 2017, 4:23 PM 8,383


Technical University of Munich.

A computer science degree from a top university can help graduates land their dream job at companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook.
But which computer science courses are the best ones to try and to get onto if you want to impress employers?
Using the QS World University Rankings 2017, we took a look at the universities with the top computer science and information systems courses in Europe.
The guide is one of the most reputable sources that students turn to when deciding which universities to apply to, and employers are also likely to refer to it when deciding which candidates to hire.
It is based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact. The full methodology can be read here. We looked at the overall scores, which are out of 100.
View As: One Page Slides

10. Politecnico di Milano — The Politecnico di Milano boasts 74 professors at its computer science and engineering department. The faculty achieved a QS score of 74.6 for its computer science and information systems courses.


9. Lomonosov Moscow State University — Founded in 1755 by Mikhail Lomonosov, this university is home to more than 40,000 students. The university’s computer science and information systems courses scored an impressive 74.7


8. Technical University of Munich — With its giant slides, it’ll barely feel like you’re a university student at Technical University Munich. The school achieved a score of 77.2 for its computer science and information systems courses.


7. UCL (University College London) — With strong links to cool new AI startups like DeepMind, UCL is home to one of the UK’s best computer science departments. The university scored 78.9 for its computer science and information systems courses.


6. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) — This Swiss university specialises in physical sciences and engineering. Its computer science and information systems courses received a QS score of 80.7


The Rolex Learning Centre at the EPFL campus

5. The University of Edinburgh — Founded in 1582, the university is the 6th oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland’s ancient universities. The institution is close to billion dollar businesses like Skyscanner and FanDuel and its computer science and information systems courses scored 81.1 on the QS ranking system.


4. Imperial College London — Not quite up there with Oxbridge, but not far behind either. Imperial’s computer science and information systems courses were given a score of 83.7.


Imperial’s cyber security tuition is as good as you’d expect

3. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology — Twenty-one Nobel Prizes have been awarded to students or professors at EHT and the university’s computer science and information systems courses scored an impressive 85.4.

ETH Zurich


2. University of Oxford — Founded in 1096, the ancient university is still at the forefront of technology, with startups like DeepMind (now owned by DeepMind) having strong links to the institution. Oxford received a score of 87.8.


1. University of Cambridge — The city of Cambridge is one of the UK’s biggest technology hubs thanks in large part to its university, which appears at the top of many global university rankings. The university’s computer science and information systems course received a QS ranking of 88.9


China sparks human rights outcry by ramping up DNA testing in Muslim-dominated region

Thanks;Matthew Brown 

Published ; Wednesday 17 May 2017 07:34 
Police in Xinjiang purchase $8.7m of equipment to analyse genetic material from citizens, prompting fears of state security crackdown

Ethnic Uighurs sit near a statue of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong in Kashgar, Xinjiang Thomas Peter/Reuters 

China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that’s been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said Tuesday.

Police in western China’s Xinjiang region confirmed to The Associated Press that they are in the process of purchasing at least $8.7 million in equipment to analyse DNA samples.
Observers from Human Rights Watch said they’ve seen evidence of almost $3 million in additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned such a collection programme could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control.
The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.

Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It’s experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur Islamic minority.

In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang’s Pishan County, which borders Pakistan.

Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards.

The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang’s Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details.
If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specialising in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
The scale of the purchases raises “a legitimate concern that Chinese authorities could be planning to DNA profile a large fraction, or even all” of the Uighur people in Xinjiang, Moreau said.

How to make money while you sleep

Thanks;Nancy Mann Jackson

Published: May 10, 2017 4:58 a.m. ET

Create passive income streams

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.
“Passive income’s great because it increases your cash flow and allows you to save [more],” says financial adviser Craig J. Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services, LLC in N.Y. “The initial effort in some cases is minimal, and you have the ability to collect money on those efforts over a period of time.”

Of course, investing in the stock market can provide earnings over time through market returns and the magic of compounding. But there are also ways to create steady streams of passive income that pay out at regular intervals.

These efforts don’t come without risk. But with careful planning and consideration, you can lower the risks — and initial costs — and increase the potential benefits.

Here are six paths to passive income that may be worth pursuing.

1. High-dividend stocks

When you purchase stock in a company that pays dividends to its shareholders, you’ll start earning a percentage of the company’s profits automatically. For example, if a company pays an annualized dividend of 50 cents per share and you own 500 shares, you’ll get an extra $250 in your pocket — for doing nothing more than being a shareholder. (Most companies pay dividends on a quarterly basis, so you’d earn about 13 cents per share each quarter.)

Certain industries, like public utilities, financial services and oil, tend to pay higher dividends than others, so do your homework with resources like Yahoo! YHOO, +1.31% Finance’s stocks screener or by talking to an adviser.

“If you’re going after dividend income, the sweet spot is not the company that’s currently paying the highest yield, but the companies that are likely to generate growth in dividends in the coming months and years,” says Rob Brown, a Certified Financial Analyst and chief investment officer at United Capital. “Pay attention to what companies and industries are thriving now; they are most likely to raise the dividends they’re paying now in the future.”

You may also choose to reinvest your dividends, which allows you to buy more shares even without spending more money, so you can benefit more when the price rises.

One caveat: Remember that there are risks involved with investing in individual stocks—even ones with high-dividend yield—as the price of the stock can go up or down. You can lower your risk by investing in an index or other low-cost funds, which contains shares of many companies. One option is to look for dividend-paying ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, which are funds that trade like stocks. (Investing apps like Acorns and Betterment use such ETFs and reinvest dividends automatically.)  

2. Bonds

Purchasing bonds can be another good way to earn consistent passive income, though the amount you’ll receive depends on the fluctuating bond market. “Bondholders [usually] receive a check every six months for the interest earned in loaning the entity money, and, in turn, get their principal back at maturity,” Ferrantino explains.

There’s a wide variety of bonds to choose from, including U.S. Treasury bonds, municipal bonds and corporate bonds. Each has its own maturity date, minimum investment, interest rate and payout. For instance, Treasury notes mature in two to 10 years and pay interest semiannually at a fixed rate (currently about 1% to 2%, depending on term lengths, and it is exempt from state and local taxes), while corporate bonds pay taxable interest and can have maturities ranging from a few weeks to 100 years.

Before purchasing bonds, make sure you know what you’re getting into — and what you will get out of it.

Read: How to buy bonds

3. Rental properties

Acquiring and maintaining rental property can require a lot more investment and sweat equity than other types of passive income, both upfront and over the years (if the roof leaks or the boiler breaks down in a rental property, you’re on the hook for it). But rental properties can also provide lucrative, ongoing income for many years to come.

“Rental properties in a market you understand can be a fantastic passive investment,” says Jeffrey Zucker, a seasoned angel investor and property management entrepreneur in Chicago. “I look for large or fast-growing housing markets, where people are clamoring for affordable, nice places.”

Before purchasing a property, Zucker recommends comprehensive due diligence to ensure that you can cover your costs — which likely include insurance, taxes and maintenance — and turn a profit on top of that. You want to invest in a property that will draw continued interest from renters and increase in value.

He also recommends using an experienced property manager. “There are some great property management companies out there that can assist to make leasing out rental properties truly passive mailbox money,” Zucker says. “Having managed our own properties for a few years prior to partnering with a company, we learned the long hours and effort that go into maintaining properties and dealing with tenants — and how much better those who focus solely on this role are at the job.”

4. Rewards credit cards

This might seem like an odd addition — and this is not a strategy to pursue unless you are able to pay off your bill in full each month. However, if you can use credit responsibly and avoid racking up debt, rewards credit cards can provide easy income, thanks to perks like cash-back bonuses. For instance, use a cash-back card for all your household expenses — and pay it off at the end of the month — and you’ll earn money simply by making necessary purchases. (Ferrantino recommends a card like the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa, which gives you 5% cash back on gas purchases and another 3% for groceries and has a low annual fee. NerdWallet also has a ranking of the best cash-back cards, including several with no annual fee.)

“My rewards have paid for a variety of travel experiences, and I have friends that use their points to pay exclusively for a certain [budget] category, like gas or household bills. It’s nice for them to cross an expense off simply by doing all of their planned spending on the right card,” Zucker says. “Be careful though, as many of the best rewards cards have high interest rates for any carry-over debt.”

5. Peer-to-peer lending

Also known as “marketplace lending,” peer-to-peer lending is the practice of individuals lending money to others in place of a bank or other financial institution. In recent years, platforms like Prosper and Lending Club have made these crowdfunded loans more widely available to borrowers and opened the possibilities for investors.

“New, technology-driven intermediaries have been coming in and replacing banks to make small loans to businesses or individuals, and they offer many comparative advantages,” Brown says.

Remember, though, that while investing through a peer-to-peer marketplace can pay off—Prosper investors, for example, can earn about 5% to 9% annually—there are still risks involved and borrowers may default on their debts. One way to protect yourself, Brown says, is by requiring that borrowers’ credit quality is above a certain level, depending on your appetite for risk. You can also reduce risk by diversifying your investment across many different loans.

6. Renting unused space
The sharing economy is in full force, and if you have extra space in your home or spend a lot of time out of town, you can join in and earn some extra cash. Thousands of people are renting out their homes through Airbnb, and sites like Liquid Space and Breather offer opportunities to place your office or home up for rent during daytime hours. (Airbnb hosts renting a single room in a two-bedroom home cover, on average, a whopping 81% of their rent, according to one report.)

“Any unused space is an asset worth renting out if there is demand in your market,” Zucker says. “[Online marketplaces] offer consumers easy ways to make some extra money on rooms that would otherwise be doing nothing for them.”

5 Things to Know About the Global Coffee Pods Market

Thanks ; 
Published ; May 8th, 2017

Euromointor International discusses five key trends that are shaping global coffee pods, including the growing power of Nestlé and JAB Holdings and the importance of addressing sustainability concerns.

5 Things to Know About the Global Coffee Pods Market

 

 

 

*a coffee pod is a single serving of coffee packed in its own filter (much like a tea bag).

Three Reasons Why Japan Is Falling Behind in Mobile Commerce

Thanks; 
Published; April 22nd, 2017

Many see Japan as a technology leader in various industries and the country is continuing to develop innovative solutions in the digital space. However, if we look at adoption of technology on the consumer side, there is greater inconsistency than might be expected.

Euromonitor International’s 2016 Digital Consumer Index unveiled a remarkable gap between Japan’s advanced digital environment and the slow uptake of digital commerce, particularly with mobile-based purchases that are increasing rapidly in other Asian countries. Whilst mobile digital purchases registered strong 17% value growth in Japan in 2016, other Asian countries registered even stronger growth, at a minimum of 30%. The leader of mobile digital purchases, China, saw an 81% value increase in 2016. This analysis aims to explore major impediments that are keeping Japan from what should perhaps be phenomenal growth in mobile digital purchases.

mobile-purchases-asia-pacific

CHART 1 : MOBILE DIGITAL PURCHASES IN ASIA PACIFIC, TOTAL VALUE SALES, 2013-2021

1. DEMOGRAPHIC CHALLENGE: LOW PENETRATION OF SMARTPHONES AMONG SENIORS

Smartphones are the catalyst for digital disruption in countries. The leading digital commerce marketplaces have developed platforms optimised for mobile apps. However, in Japan, smartphones are not as ubiquitous as one would expect. In Japan, the population aged over 60 accounts for 34% of the total population, and is characterised by low smartphone penetration. Only 28% of respondents aged over 60+ owned personal smartphones, according to Euromonitor International’s 2016 Global Consumer Trends Survey. This is extremely low compared to other Asian countries. Against the backdrop of low smartphone penetration among seniors, there also is a strong presence of feature phones that offer fewer functions in exchange for ease of use. As a result, a sizeable portion of the Japanese population is unable to take advantage of digital innovation.

CHART 2 : POPULATION AND SMARTPHONE OWNERSHIP IN JAPAN, 2016

population-smartphone-owners-japan

2. LIFESTYLE CHALLENGE: HIGH SECURITY CONCERN AMONGST JAPANESE CONSUMERS

In addition to the relatively conservative nature of Japanese consumers, there also has been a lot of media coverage on cybersecurity from the early digital era, which has made consumers concerned. For example, Consumers Affairs Agencies regularly warns against cyber-crimes due to the growing prevalence of e-commerce. As a result, Japanese consumers are highly concerned about the potential risk in online activities. In fact, only 6% of Japanese online respondents answered that they were willing to share personal information online, which was the lowest in 20 responding countries, according to Euromonitor International’s 2016 Global Consumer Trends Survey.

This hesitation toward sharing information online is especially true with mobile users. Many Japanese consumers utilise long commuting time on trains for mobile activities, but still feel uncomfortable entering their credit card information aboard a busy commuting train, afraid that other riders may see their personal information on the screen. Additionally, many are reluctant to let mobile devices store payment information, and would rather use alternative payment options, such as cash on delivery. In general, Japanese consumers are typically risk-adverse, and remain cautious about making payments on websites. Despite the rise of card payments worldwide, Japanese consumers bucked the trend, opting to more often pay for purchases with cash compared to other developed countries. Within Asia, while 85% of mobile remote orders were paid online in South Korea, only 51% were paid in Japan.

CHART 3 : WILLINGNESS TO SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION IN ASIA PACIFIC, 2016

willingness-to-share-personal-information-japan

3. COMPETITION: MATURITY OF EXISTING SHOPPING OPTIONS VERSUS MOBILE COMMERCE

Another reason why mobile digital purchases have struggled to gain wider acceptance in Japan is due to the many other shopping options that Japanese consumers already have. One example of competition for mobile proximity payments is maturity of contactless payments using a physical card. This is because in Japan, consumers prefer to use a physical card to touch an NFC-enabled terminal rather than a device. Therefore, many mobile proximity payment brands such as Suica and Edy also offer consumers physical cards along with the digital payment option. Contactless smart cards, registered a 26% value CAGR during 2011-2016, and in 2016 Japanese consumers held an average of three contactless smart cards per person; far higher than in other Asian countries. Without a compelling reason to switch from contactless smart cards to mobile proximity payments, most consumers are satisfied with using card-based tap-and-go payments in an in-person environment.

SUMMARY

The gap between the advancement of mobile-centric products and actual adoption of mobile commerce amongst consumers is something businesses in Japan need to address. Communication with the customer or data collection made via mobile devices can be valuable, but is currently ineffective due to this gap. Over the forecast period, mobile digital purchases in Japan will continue to face these demographic, lifestyle and competitive obstacles.

However, there are positive developments that can help drive mobile commerce. For example, 2019 will be the first year with production of feature phones planned to be discontinued. Following the increase of low-cost smartphone plans, a switch from feature phones to smartphones can be expected. Moreover, solutions are being introduced in response to the high security concerns among Japanese consumers. For example, the mobile-focused fashion marketplace called ZOZOTOWN, implemented a post-pay product in 2016. GMO post-pay allows ZOZOTOWN customers to make post-pay options by cash, at convenience stores, after safely receiving their products. This is important as in Japan, credit card payments are mostly paid in full each month. Therefore the introduction of post-pay service will lower the hurdle and expand mobile remote purchases for those consumers who can only spend a limited amount of money each month, such as students and housewives. The post-pay options will support expansion of remote purchases while also meeting the demand of the cash-driven society.

Recognising the gap between digital connectivity available and digital commerce uptake, digital innovators and promoters like Suica should make concerted efforts to address concerns among Japanese consumers while promoting mobile digital purchases like Mobile Suica. Although mobile digital purchases in Japan is expected to see a strong 11% value CAGR at constant 2016 prices over the next five years, growth could be even stronger with consumers’ greater acceptance. In fact, other Asian countries are expected to see more than 20% value CAGRs. If Japan wants to remain a digital leader, its wider society needs to be incentivised to adopt mobile technologies. At the moment, it isn’t empowered – or interested enough.

 

CHILD REFUGEES ‘FORCED TO SELL THEIR BODIES’ TO ENTER EUROPE, RESEARCHERS WARN

THANKS:BY  

Published; 4/19/17 AT 7:29 AM

Smugglers are forcing unaccompanied child refugees to sell their bodies in exchange for money to aid their traveling through Europe, a new report from Harvard University has claimed.

There is a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece,” say the report’s co-authors, Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, at Harvard University’s center for health and human rights.

Informants in Greek migrant camps told Digidiki and Bhabha that men prey on unsuspecting child refugees, sexually abusing those without proper adult supervision. The actual number of children who have been abused is unknown as many do not report it, fearing reprisal.

A psychologist in one of the camps told the researchers: “[Many children] do not want to report [the incident], because they are afraid that the offender will take revenge on them. They also do not believe that the police can help them.”

Unable to afford exorbitant fees charged by smugglers to help them reach European nations where they can seek asylum, children who have fled conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are selling sex to fund their journeys.

child-refugees-lesbos (2)

Child refugees at the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 20, 2016.REUTERS/GIORGOS MOUTAFIS

The report includes an interview with a child refugee who told a journalist: “I never thought I’d have to do something like this. When the money ran out I had to learn to do this. He said “it was the first time I did this, I had no experience.”

The average price of a sexual transaction between a child and a smuggler is 15 euros, the researchers say, adding that the majority of those forced into prostitution are Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan boys.

Offenders, primarily men aged 35 or older, target the children who are found in Athens’ Victoria Square and Pedion tou Areos, a park next to departure areas for buses traveling towards Greece’s northern border.

“There is a reason why these two places have been chosen. They have been key centers for the drug and sex trade for years now. The only difference is the age of people involved. Before you wouldn’t see children. Now you do,” one informant said.

Digidiki told The Guardian that the international community cannot ignore the situation of child refugees in Europe: “We can no longer sit idle while migrant children are abused and forced to sell their bodies in broad daylight and plain sight in the heart of Athens simply to survive.”

“It is our responsibility as human beings to face this emergency head on and take immediate action at every level to put an end to this most heinous violation of dignity and human rights,” she said.

 

 

Dozens dead after Coptic Christian churches in Egypt are hit by Palm Sunday blasts

Thanks;Dahlia Kholaif

Published: Apr 9, 2017 9:33 a.m. ET

At least 36 killed in attacks on churches in Tanta and Alexandria

A relative of one of the victims weeps outside church in Tanta, Egypt.

CAIRO—Twin blasts struck Coptic churches in Egypt as worshipers gathered for Palm Sunday services, killing at least 36 people, as violence escalates against the country’s Christian population.

Security officials said an unknown assailant planted a bomb under a seat in the main hall of the Mar Girgis Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, some 60 miles north of Cairo, in the morning.

The ensuing explosion killed 25 people and wounded another 69, an adviser to Egypt’s health minister told state media. Footage aired on official television showed blood stains sprayed over the floor of the church hall, shattered furniture and rubble sprayed on wooden benches.
Separately, a suicide bomber attempted to enter Saint Mark’s Church in the center of the coastal city of Alexandria, blowing himself up at the entrance after being stopped by security, state media reported.

President Trump looms large over stocks despite deluge of earnings

THANKS;Sue Chang

Published: Feb 4, 2017 8:09 a.m. ET

mw-ff152_trumpw_20170203230441_mg

President Donald Trump is keeping investors on their toes.

It may be peak earnings season but the stock market’s main obsession seems to be President Donald Trump. And as investors continue to second guess his next move and decipher what his policies may mean for the economy, equities are likely to continue taking their cue from politics.

In a sign of how large the president looms over the market, an analysis of FactSet data by MarketWatch shows that one out of four companies referenced Trump during their most recent earnings conference calls. Much of the discussion appears to be driven by questions over the impact his policies will have on each company within the context of growth and trade, underscoring the apprehensive mood in the market.

That sense of uncertainty, in part, hobbled the market for much of the week as major indexes languished. The S&P 500 moved less than 0.1% in either direction for three straight days this week, the first such streak since November 2014, according to Dow Jones data.

Analysts blamed the market’s lackluster action on the absence of specific details from Trump’s administration even as the president moved quickly to fire off a string of executive orders on everything from a temporary immigration ban to withdrawing from landmark trade pacts.

The lack of clarity is likely to be an ongoing feature, forcing the market to fly blind, at least until April when the budget is released, said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist for Mizuho Securities USA.

In the meantime, Ricchiuto urged investors to think outside of the box when it comes to Trump, adding that he’s smart enough to pull off many of his campaign pledges.

“Making the assumption that he is stupid is wrong,” said Ricchiuto, who believes Trump’s actions, no matter how irrational they appear to some, are governed by his background as a real estate developer.

“He will always start from a position of power and then moderate to a different position,” he said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.94%  advanced 186.55 points Friday, or 0.9%, to close at 20,071.46 but slipped 0.1% for the week while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.73%  rose 16.57 points, or 0.7%, to 2,297.42 for a weekly gain of 0.1%, shrugging off its torpor after Trump took steps to overhaul Dodd-Frank law governing the financial industry.

Market sentiment remains bullish even as “Trump fatigue” sets in with Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Bull & Bear Indicator rising to its highest in 2.5 years, according to the investment bank.

MW-FF149_BAML02_20170203172302_NS.png

Next week, 84 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report quarterly results. The FactSet scorecard on fourth-quarter earnings shows 65% of S&P 500 companies beat mean earnings-per-share estimates and 52% have turned in better-than-expected sales.

Apart from earnings, financial stocks are likely to take center stage as expectations of a watered-down Dodd-Frank will be a boon for the industry, which had been chafing under the restrictions placed in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Under former President Barack Obama, regulators have applied financial rules under the most severe interpretations. Under Trump, they are likely to look for the most lenient, said Ricchiuto.

Trump Discusses Refugees, Iran, Security Ties With Saudi King

Thanks;WILLIAM MAULDIN

Published;Jan. 29, 2017 5:14 p.m. ET

White House says leaders agree on importance of ’rigorously enforcing’ Iran nuclear deal

BN-RV855_2W6bY_OR_20170129170852.jpg

U.S. President Donald Trump, joined by senior adviser Jared Kushner, Communications Director Sean Spicer and national security adviser Michael Flynn, speaks by phone with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

President Donald Trump spoke Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman about refugees in the Middle East, the deal to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and improved security relations between the two countries, the White House said.

Saudi Arabia isn’t among the majority-Muslim countries facing a controversial travel ban from the Trump administration, although the list includes several poorer countries in the region that are mired in conflict and prompting an exodus of refugees.

“The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House said in a statement Sunday.

The new U.S. president and King Salman also agreed on the “importance of rigorously enforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and of addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities,” the White House said. Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal the Obama administration and other world powers struck with Iran over its nuclear activities.

Former President Barack Obama at times had a difficult relationship with Saudi Arabia as he sought to bring Tehran to the table and forge the nuclear deal.

Mr. Trump and King Salman reaffirmed the countries’ friendship and pledged “joint efforts to fight the spread of radical Islamic terrorism” and improve regional security, the White House said.

It’s time to shine a light on Putin’s American propaganda ARM

Thanks;ELENA POSTNIKOVA Publised; 1/16/17 AT 6:10 AM


Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian broadcaster RT, with the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the background in Moscow on October 17. Elena Postnikova writes that RT should be registered as an agent of the Russian government because, as FARA states, it acts under the “direction or control” of its foreign principal, and it engages in “political activities” in the interests of its foreign principal./MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

Why isn’t Russia’s American TV channel RT registered as a foreign agent?

Kurt Eichenwald On MSNBC’s ‘AM Joy’ To Discuss Russia, Trump, And Vladimir Putin

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Russia used RT, its TV channel, to influence the recent U.S. elections.

This was the finding of the recently declassified U.S. intelligence report. It concluded that Russia implemented a multifaceted campaign involving disclosures of data obtained through hacking, intrusions into state and local electoral boards and propaganda.
While the American elite is debating an appropriate response, they are ignoring an existing tool—the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). As an immediate step to counter the Kremlin’s influence campaign, the U.S. government should enforce FARA against RT to alert the American people to Russia’s efforts and limit the country’s ability to disguise its “information warfare” as legitimate media activity.
This is not the first time a foreign country has directed “information warfare” against the United States. Similar tactics were also used by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

To address Nazi propaganda activities in the 1930s, Congress adopted FARA, which required persons advancing foreign interests to register as “agents of foreign principals,” who were required to disclose their activities and the nature of their employment. The act aimed to ensure the American people would not be misled into thinking they were receiving information from disinterested sources. During the Cold War, representatives of Soviet news outlets (TASS, Pravda, Izvestia and others) were registered agents. There is a lesson here.
Related: How Russia Wages Information Warfare in the U.S. 

 As a disclosure statute, FARA does not prohibit, edit or restrain an agent’s ability to distribute information. Rather, it compels disclosure of the origin and purpose of the information to help its audience develop an accurate understanding of the source. In doing so, it does not suppress freedom of speech; instead, it serves the First Amendment with supplemental information available to the public.

RT should be registered as an agent of the Russian government because, as FARA states, it acts under the “direction or control” of its foreign principal, and engages in “political activities” in the interest of its foreign principal.
RT engages in “political activities” since its reporting intends to influence the U.S. government and public in order to affect U.S. domestic and foreign policy. RT’s coverage of the recent elections and its impact on public discussion is just one such example.
RT denies that it is subject to the Kremlin’s “direction or control” because of its formation as an “ autonomous nonprofit organization,” TV-Novosti. But this assertion is misleading. Even if a media nonprofit could be considered independent in Russia, in the United States such legal formality has little weight if it doesn’t reflect the reality.
In truth, we know of “not very many” occurrences in Russia that take place without President Vladimir Putin’s knowledge—“certainly none that are politically sensitive in other countries,” according to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when testifying before the Senate on foreign cyber threats.
Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, investigated complaints against RT and found nine episodes in the last two years when its reporting was in breach of broadcasting standards on impartiality. Each incident of bias coincided with the Kremlin’s policy goals in Ukraine, Turkey and Syria. No other media outlet was close to having as many violations in such a short period of time.
RT claims it does not qualify as a foreign agent under FARA because it operates in the U.S. through a commercial entity to whom RT “simply transfers funds.” What we know of as RT in the United States are two Washington, D.C.–registered entities—RTTV America, Inc., and RTTV Studios, LLC, both of which are owned and controlled by Russian-born businessman Alex Yazlovsky.
These entities are RT’s contractors, which produce video content, tape shows and provide crew services and studio facilities for RT, as well as transmit content to its audience. RT operates similarly in the U.K., where it contracts its services from a local “ supplier,” Russia Today TV Ltd. It’s hard to believe that RT’s U.S. contractors are fully independent from the client who pays for its custom-made products and services.
According to the law, FARA does not apply to foreign news organizations that engage in “bona fide news or journalistic activities.” Such media are usually not owned, directed, supervised, controlled, subsidized, or financed or have their policies determined by any foreign principal.
For example, the U.K.’s BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle are considered exempt from FARA because their governance structure protects their editorial policies and maintains their independence from government influence; there is no indication that they are “directed or controlled” by their governments. For this same reason, RT would have hard time proving that it qualifies for this exemption.
When former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul suggested last month that perhaps RT’s employees should be accredited as foreign agents rather than journalists, RT responded with personal attacks, threats of retaliation against American journalists, accusations of infringement on press freedom and complaints that the Russian media are treated unfairly. Their fierce response, however, is not a good reason to avoid FARA enforcement.
Registration would require RT to label its information as “distributed by an agent on behalf of the foreign principal.” Such disclosure would alert the public to the purpose of RT’s reporting. But it would have no effect on RT’s ability to continue working in the United States, conduct broadcasting from its Washington, D.C. studio, or otherwise operate as it had prior to registration.
In any case, RT journalists would continue to enjoy more press freedom in the United States than U.S. journalists in Russia.
Elena Postnikova is a JD candidate at Georgetown University Law Center.