The Great Debate

From democrat to autocrat: NATO ally turns back on group’s ideals

By Andrew Finkel
December 22, 2014

RTR4ISVE.jpg

Police stage a dawn raid on a large-circulation newspaper armed with warrants to take the editor-in-chief into custody. There can be no image quite so potent of a government that has lost its democratic legitimacy or one that has something to hide. It’s happened in Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Somaliland. Last Sunday, it happened in Turkey.

Prediction: Obama will decide to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016

December 22, 2014

U.S. Marines prepare to board a plane at the end of operations for U.S. Marines and British combat troops in Helmand

In 2015, I predict that President Barack Obama will rethink his plan to have all operational U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Sony hack reveals Hollywood’s bitter civil war

By Neal Gabler
December 19, 2014

Jodie Foster poses with co-chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal at the 16th annual Women in Entertainment breakfast in Beverly Hills

Nobody ever plunked down 14 bucks to see a movie executive on screen.

That may be an odd takeaway from the Sony hacking scandal that has been wracking the company and the film studio it owns, Sony Pictures Entertainment. But the relative invisibility of these executives vis-a-vis their talent — and what looks like the executives’ anger about this — are among the biggest revelations in the document dumps.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

The reason oil could drop as low as $20 per barrel

By Anatole Kaletsky
December 19, 2014

An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary

How low can it go -- and how long will it last? The 50 percent slump in oil prices raises both those questions and while nobody can confidently answer the first question (I will try to in a moment), the second is pretty easy.

U.S.-Cuba deal: What the two sides get out of it

By Peter Hakim
December 18, 2014

A vintage car drives by a mural showing Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro in Havana

President Barack Obama has inverted U.S. policy on Cuba. His Wednesday speech adopted the proposals of those who have spent a half-century arguing for a rethinking of Cuba policy. The president recognized Washington’s failure to achieve its goal of bringing political and economic openness to Cuba.

Vladimir Putin in jeopardy on all sides as Russia’s economy stumbles

By John Lloyd
December 18, 2014

Russian President Putin is seen on a screen during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow

MOSCOW – What a difference a plunging ruble makes. A few short days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a strategic genius, outplaying Western leaders everywhere – in the Middle East, in China, and especially in Ukraine. Today, he’s the destroyer of his country and his political life could be in jeopardy.

How to pay North Korea back for Sony hack? Hit Kim’s cronies where it counts – their wallets

By Kent Harrington
December 18, 2014

North Korean leader Kim visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the 61st anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War

Moviemakers strive to outdo themselves with fantastic plots, super-heroes and special effects. But the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment this month proves that, even in Hollywood, reality is still stranger than fiction.

from Breakingviews:

Sony email shareholders would like to see

December 17, 2014

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Relax, North Korea isn’t going to nuke the U.S. over a movie

By Paul French
December 17, 2014

A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film "The Interview" in Los Angeles

Okay, it’s official. Some people may be getting a little overwrought about North Korea’s possible reaction to the release of “The Interview,” that much-hyped movie where Kim Jong Un is (fictionally) assassinated by the CIA, via bumbling patsies played by James Franco and Seth Rogen. Since news of the comedy’s plot leaked, there have been some typically, and not all that surprising, strong words from Pyongyang.  Then Sony Pictures got hacked, possibly by North Korea or possibly by someone else entirely. Incidentally, a major corporation being hacked by an unknown assailant that’s either a dictatorial rogue state, or some teenagers who want to watch movies for free, is a much better plot idea than that of “The Interview.” Cue much outpouring of punditry and comment (this commentator and pundit included) on what’s going on.

Secret meetings with Cuba finally pay off

By William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh
December 17, 2014

A rainbow is pictured in the sky over Havana

 

Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.