Off the Wires

More Super Bowl Coin-Toss Wagers

February 1st, 2015  |  Source: Bloomberg

Super Bowl gamblers are betting heads, not necessarily with their heads.

“Bettors favor heads so much that some sports books are actually making it cheaper to bet tails in an effort to take even action,” according to RJ Bell, who runs betting information website Pregame.com.

Such is the frenzy surrounding Super Bowl wagering, where betting by recreational gamblers dwarfs professionals. They are investing in any and every possible outcome tied to the most-watched U.S. television event. Bookmakers, however, are usually the big winners.

The New England Patriots are a consensus one-point favorite at Nevada sports books to keep the Seattle Seahawks from successfully defending their National Football League title when the teams square off today at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Sports books move betting lines in an effort to generally take the same amount on both sides of a bet, making money from the fees they charge to place the wagers. They’ve profited during 22 of the last 24 Super Bowls, due in part to the growth of casino-friendly proposition bets -- hundreds of them -- which begin even before the game kicks off and run through the champion coach’s probable Gatorade bath. Most of these bets are not directly tied to the result of the game.

In 48 earlier Super Bowls, the coin tossed to determine which team gets the ball first has landed exactly half the time on heads and half on tails. Heads came up five years in a row until last year, when tails broke the streak.

Gamblers also can wager on whether Idina Menzel will take over or under 2 minutes, 1 second to sing the national anthem before kickoff.

MVP Odds
As for the game, New England quarterback Tom Brady has the best odds to be named Most Valuable Player. A $100 bet on Brady to win his third Super Bowl MVP Award will pay $180 plus the original wager. That same bet on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson would net $350.
Other props being offered include whether New England coach Bill Belichick will smile on camera during the game, whether commentator Al Michaels will refer to the gambling odds during the telecast and what hair color Katy Perry will have for her halftime show.

“I’ve never been betted on before,” Perry said at a news conference this week. “I feel like, ‘Wow, nobody has ever invested in me this much.’ This is exciting.”
The New York Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl win over New England was the last time Nevada casinos lost money on the game, after New York won the title as a 12-point underdog. With 24 years of data available, the only other time casinos lost on the championship was during the 1995 game between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, according to Nevada-based Pregame.com.

Record Handle
Nevada casinos took in a record $119.4 million in bets for last year’s Super Bowl as the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8. The American Gaming Association estimates that $3.8 billion will be wagered illegally on the game in the U.S. Prop bets, such as whether “deflated” balls will be mentioned more or less than three times in the NBC broadcast, will probably make Las Vegas the big winner.

“At some sports books, prop bets are now upwards of 50 percent,” Bell said, noting how much casinos pull in from fees associated with such wagers. “Those bets are so heavy with juice, that it’s going to almost be impossible for the books to lose them in aggregate.’
Bettors, however, aren’t buying into Deflategate.
‘‘The deflated football controversy has had no effect on the betting market,” Bell said.

Patriots Favorites
The game comes two weeks after a conference-championship round that turned the Patriots into Super Bowl favorites, while sullying their reputation after being accused of letting air out of their footballs before the game -- perhaps aiding their offense. They beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7, while Seahawks barely survived the Green Bay Packers, winning 28-22 in overtime after erasing a 16-point halftime deficit.

The NFL has said the footballs will be handled differently during the Super Bowl, though New England remains the popular pick among what will be 90 percent recreational gamblers, the highest percentage for any sports event, according to Pregame.com. Before the conference title games, the Seahawks were 2 1/2-point favorites for a possible matchup with New England at many sports books.

“Just based on the power ranking of the pro bettors I’m talking to, Seattle is the better team and getting points, that seems like the opportunity for a bet,” Bell said.


How does Apple top a record quarter?

January 28th, 2015  |  Source: FT

How do you follow the most profitable quarter in corporate history?
That is the question now hanging over Apple.
The popularity of larger iPhones and success in China helped Apple to post $18bn in net profit on $75bn worth of sales for the three months that ended in December, beating forecasts on almost every metric.

That marks the fourth quarter in a row that Apple has burst through Wall Street’s estimates, a return to the expectation-beating ways that eluded the iPhone maker through much of 2013.

As Apple’s marketing tagline for the iPhone 6 puts it, the quarter was “bigger than big”.
Alongside the strong numbers, Tim Cook, chief executive, put paid to investor concerns about how much room was left for iPhone sales to grow, its manufacturing capabilities after September’s spate of complaints about bent devices, and the company’s ability to fend off competition from the likes of Samsung and China’s Xiaomi.

Now, with Apple’s share price heading back towards its all-time highs, it faces the greater challenge of living up to its own raised expectations.

The stock gained 5.7 per cent to $115.40 in after-hours trading following Tuesday’s results. Its record high was $119.75.


Venture Capitalist Draper Bets $400,000 More on Bitcoin Revival

January 27th, 2015  |  Source: Bloomberg

One of bitcoin’s biggest backers, billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, recently wagered about $400,000 that the digital currency will rebound from its recent plunge.

Draper, who co-founded investment firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said in an e-mail that he bought 2,000 bitcoins for “around $200” last week. Draper, one of the biggest buyers in U.S. government auctions of bitcoin last year, is betting that the virtual currency will bounce back after prices dropped 70 percent in the past year.

Bitcoin’s price dipped by more than 30 percent in two days this month to below $200. Skeptics were already questioning the currency’s future amid increasing regulatory oversight and after bitcoin’s slide had made it one of the biggest money-losing investments of 2014, worse than oil or the ruble. Bitcoin was valued at about $272 on Monday, compared with more than $1,100 in late 2013, according to CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index.

Draper bought about 32,000 bitcoins at government auctions last year. He’s been investing them in various startups building on bitcoin technology, which can be used to facilitate cheap international money transfers or buy assets like gold. While he didn’t specify the price paid in either auction, bitcoin was valued on the market at more than $600 at the time of the June auction.


How Kerry Foiled Boehner's Israel Stunt

January 23rd, 2015  |  Source: HuffPo

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared to have pulled off a masterful political victory against the Obama administration Wednesday when he revealed that he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the dangers of the administration's negotiations with Iran.

Coming a day after President Barack Obama threatened to veto new Iran-related sanctions legislation that he said could harm the negotiations, Boehner's move looked like a smart way to reinforce support for such bills -- a priority for the Republican-led Congress -- by showing that the U.S.'s top ally in the region supported them.

Then things started to fall apart.

Secretary of State John Kerry, fresh off his fumbling on the issue of French solidarity, pulled off a diplomatic bank shot by using a different part of the Israeli government against Boehner. Asked about the invitation at a press conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Kerry diplomatically said Netanyahu was welcome in the U.S. any time -- and proceeded to both steal Boehner's thunder and turn news coverage in a different direction.

"In Israel, one of the top intelligence –- one of the top intelligence personnel within the Israeli intelligence field –- I won’t name names, but this person was asked directly by a congressional delegation that visited there over the weekend what the effect of sanctions would be. And this person answered that it would be like throwing a grenade into the process," Kerry said. "So we’re asking people to be responsible here, and then let’s have a good, responsible debate about what the best way to proceed is."

Kerry's comment altered the conversation, making it about whether Republicans want to torpedo nuclear talks with Iran. The Obama administration describes the negotiations as the only way to ensure that Iran cannot gain a nuclear weapon to threaten the very country Boehner says the administration is failing: Israel. Kerry's message: It's Republicans, and the Democrats who support them on new sanctions, who would fail Israel by antagonizing Iran and destroying the chance of a peaceful resolution to the years-long controversy over Tehran's nuclear program.

Within hours of Kerry's comment, Bloomberg View columnists Josh Rogin and Eli Lake were out with an explosive story that said lawmakers present at the briefing with Israeli intelligence and staffers who were informed about it confirmed Kerry's comment. They added that two senior U.S. officials had told them members of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, "shared its view with the administration that if legislation that imposed a trigger leading to future sanctions on Iran was signed into law, it would cause the talks to collapse."

The question of what the Mossad said and how it is being interpreted is important because it forces lawmakers to be open about their intentions. Are they simply worried that Iran will renege on the agreement? Or do they genuinely want to blow up the talks?

Enter Tom Cotton.

The Republican freshman congressman-turned-freshman senator from Arkansas opened up while speaking to a conference at the Heritage Foundation on Jan. 15. In previously overlooked remarks, he had this to say about congressional proposals to threaten Iran with new sanctions: "Certain voices call for congressional restraint urging Congress not to act now, lest Iran walk away from the negotiating table, undermining the fabled yet always absent moderates in Iran. But the end of these negotiations isn't an unintended consequence of congressional action. It is very much an intended consequence -- a feature, not a bug."

Cotton is a member of the Senate committees on intelligence and the armed services.

In December 2013, when The Huffington Post first reported that backers of new sanctions were hoping to blow up the negotiations and would push the region closer to war, charges of anti-Semitism were leveled by the Anti-Defamation League and two other national Jewish groups.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Germany, Britain and France published an extraordinary joint op-ed in The Washington Post, pleading with Republicans to back off the effort before the sensitive talks are derailed.

Kerry's comment indicated that some elements within Israel share that view. His suggestion that Israeli officials were advising U.S. lawmakers as to how to save the diplomatic process presented the Mossad as out of step with Netanyahu's stated skepticism about how Obama is handling the nuclear negotiations. In fact, the Mossad comments gave the administration a new talking point in convincing lawmakers to oppose sanctions, Lake and Rogin claimed. The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli officialscalling Kerry's revelation "Obama's revenge" for the Boehner invite.

Israeli officials scrambled. The Mossad's leader issued a statement Thursday denying that he was opposed to sanctions, calling them "the sticks necessary for reaching a good deal with Iran." He said that he spoke about "throwing a grenade," as Kerry had said, he meant that new sanctions would mean "creating a temporary crisis in the negotiations at the end of which talks would resume under improved conditions" -- seemingly giving pro-sanctions lawmakers the ability to once again call themselves supporters of smart nuclear diplomacy.

Back in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was left to explain away the discrepancy Kerry had exposed -- and to try to sustain the image of solidarity between Israel and the sanctions supporters that Boehner had hoped to project.

“There’s always been some differences, because Mossad is sort of autonomous, and the way that the Israeli system works, I’m not surprised that there are some differences,” McCain told HuffPost. “But both Mossad and Bibi are together on a major aspect of this -- they’re against the Iranian deal. They are in agreement in that. The question is what do they feel about actions here in Congress? And there are some differences about the sanctions regime between Mossad and Bibi.”

Still, the story had shifted as Kerry boxed the Republicans into admitting their possible true intentions -- and all Boehner was left with was a promise for a Netanyahu address at the time of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in early March, by which point the administration has said it hoped to already have a framework for the deal.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu got his own rebuke as the White House revealed that it would not meet with him during that March trip. "We do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country," said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.


Resurgent Housing Seen Buffering U.S. From Slowing Global Growth

January 22nd, 2015  |  Source: Bloomberg

Real estate developer Crescent Communities in CharlotteNorth Carolina, expects to sell 1,000 new homes this year across the Southeast U.S. and Texas, double the number of two years ago.

“Demand is the strongest since the recession” that ended in June 2009 and stemmed from the collapse in housing, said Chief Executive Officer Todd Mansfield. “The economy is getting better and the labor market is getting better.”

Mortgage rates near record lows, an improving job market and gradually easing credit standards will converge to make it the best year for home construction since 2007, say economists includingMark Zandi, who has testified to Congress on the topic. That will help the economy weather slowing global demand for U.S. exports and a drop in energy prices that is curbing purchases of oilfield equipment, he said.

“Housing will be pivotal to growth this year and next,” said Zandi, chief economist at West Chester, Pennsylvania-based Moody’s Analytics Inc. “Stronger housing is needed to offset the ill effects of a deteriorating trade balance and less investment in energy.”

For 2015, the industry may add 1 percentage point to economic growth, which could boost the pace of expansion above the Federal Reserve’s forecast of 2.6 percent to 3 percent, according to Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York.

His estimate includes construction as well as related services, such as insurance, and goods like appliances and furniture. Last year, housing added 0.3 percentage point to growth, he estimates.

Economic Outlook

Stronger housing could also bolster the Fed’s faith in the economic outlook, said LaVorgna. Policy makers, who meet Jan. 27-28, have forecast they will raise interest rates this year for the first time since 2006 as unemployment declines.

“Housing will give the Fed more confidence” in the success of its efforts to stimulate interest-rate sensitive parts of the economy, he said. When the central bank eventually decides to lift rates, it will do so gradually to ensure it doesn’t derail the recovery, LaVorgna added.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen in December indicated rates are unlikely to be raised “for at least the next couple of meetings,” or not before late April.

Housing starts are likely to rise 15 percent to 1.15 million this year with the pace accelerating in coming quarters, according to the median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News from Jan. 9 to Jan. 14.

Residential construction rose more than forecast in December, capping the best year since 2007, figures from the Commerce Department showed Wednesday in Washington.


Why Almost Nobody Wants to Pay for the 'Netflix of Magazines'

January 19th, 2015  |  Source: Business Week

Millions of people are more than willing to pay for steady access to streaming content. Netflix counts 50 million subscribers to its online video library, and Spotify has 12.5 million listeners ponying up a monthly fee for a massive buffet of music. For magazines, however, the idea of paying a flat fee for unlimited access hasn't caught on.

The idea of banding together into a Netflix of magazines isn't untested, just unpopular. Several major magazine publishers joined forces in 2011 to launch Next Issue Media, a company that charges $15 per month for access to about 140 magazines, or $10 for a more limited selection. Even under the most optimistic assessment, the project has so far only been a decent proof of concept. “No one has heard of us,” acknowledges Morgan Guenther, the company’s chief executive officer. He puts the number of subscribers at "well into the hundreds of thousands."

But maybe 2015 will be different. Next Issue just raised $50 million from private equity firm KKR and is preparing for its first big marketing push. "It's the last great white space in streaming media,” says Guenther. “Everyone else has made the jump.” And starting today, there will be a second player vying for the virtual magazine market. Magzter, a startup that offers a newsstand of digital apps, is launching a competing service on Jan. 19 that offers access to 2,000 magazines—including Maxim, ESPN the Magazine, and Fast Company—although not to any of the 25 most popular magazines at U.S. newsstands.

Magzter, which will cost $10 per month, thinks it can gain traction where Next Issue hasn't by offering a larger selection of more obscure titles and by selling subscriptions internationally. Girish Ramdas, CEO of the company, says he's been trying to persuade publishers to participate in a Netflix-like service for several years. Most magazine executives have been wary about undercutting their ability to draw subscribers to their own apps, even though there are only three titles, Game InformerShape, and Star, with more than 200,000 app-based subscribers. 


Obama measures on Cuba trade, travel poke new holes in embargo

January 16th, 2015  |  Source: Reuters

The United States announced sweeping new rules on Thursday that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba, opening up the communist-ruled island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities.

Defying hardline critics in Congress, President Barack Obamamade good on his commitment last month to loosen restrictions on dealings with Cuba as part of an historic effort to end decades of hostility.

The U.S. embargo on Cuba, in place for 54 years, will remain. Only Congress can lift it.

But the package of regulations issued by the Treasury and Commerce Departments, which will take effect on Friday, will allow U.S. exports of telecommunications, agricultural and construction equipment, permit more travel by Americans to the island and open banking relations.

U.S. airlines will also be permitted to expand flights to the Caribbean island, beyond the existing chartered flights that connect Cuba and the United States. United Airlines Inc [UALCO.UL] said on Thursday it planned to serve Cuba from Houston and Newark, New Jersey, subject to government approvals. Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and JetBlue Airways(JBLU.O) said they would look into adding services.

Thursday's moves were the first tangible U.S. steps to implement economic changes Obama pledged on Dec. 17 when he and Cuban President Raul Castro announced plans to restore diplomatic relations between the old Cold War foes.

"Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working, and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

While Castro has welcomed last month's deal, he has made clear that Havana does not intend to abandon single-party rule or the state-controlled economy. Congressional critics of Obama's shift say that Washington should not be rewarding Cuba.

The new regulations will allow Americans to travel to Cuba for any of a dozen specific reasons, including family visits, education and religion, without first obtaining a special license from the U.S. government as was previously the case.

But general tourism will still be banned.

John McAuliff, executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, which has organized trips to Cuba, said that apart from Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, most other Americans would still be corralled into escorted group tours.

Still, U.S. travelers will be allowed to bring home small numbers of the Cuban cigars that are highly rated by aficionados.

It will also be easier for U.S. companies to export mobile phone devices and software as well as to provide Internet services in Cuba.

In an expansion of remittances allowed, Americans will now be able to send up to $8,000 toCuba a year, up from $2,000 previously, and bring $10,000 with them when they travel to the country. They will also be able to use credit and debit cards.

In addition, a changed definition of “cash in advance” payments required by Cuban buyers could help businesses, most notably U.S. agriculture, gain greater access to Cuban markets. The largest U.S. meat processor, Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), which already does some business with Cuba, hailed the changes.

The announcement came after the Obama administration said Cuba had fulfilled its promise to free 53 political prisoners and a week before high-level U.S.-Cuba talks in Havana aimed at normalizing ties, including discussions on when to reopen embassies.

'SIGNIFICANT STEP'

Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, called it a "significant step" in delivering on Obama's new Cuba strategy. The president declared last month that decades of trying to force change by isolating the island had not worked.

But Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who has been strongly critical of the policy shift, called the announcement "a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against U.S. national interests."

While Obama is using executive powers to poke holes in trade barriers, Republicans who control Congress have made clear they will not let him entirely dismantle the embargo. Washington imposed economic sanctions as Fidel Castro steered the island along a socialist path that made it a close ally of the Soviet Union, and severed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961.

U.S. officials made clear the new measures do not mean Cuba is now open for business, stressing that while investments in Cuba’s limited array of small businesses are permitted, general investment will still be prohibited.

And while telecommunications firms can export devices, U.S. companies still have to reach an agreement with the Cuban government, which controls all imports and maintains a firm grip on Internet access.

Reaction from the U.S. business community, which had pressed the administration to open up Cuban markets, was positive but tempered with caution.

“The regulations were welcome and they went even farther than was articulated in the president's announcement," said Jake Colvin, vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council. "But now it will depend on the reality on the ground in Cuba."

There was no immediate official reaction from Havana, but some ordinary Cubans welcomed the changes.

“If more Americans can come here, that means more customers, and this will be good for the economy,” said Orlando Veliz, a cook for a private restaurant in Havana.


The Swiss Central Bank Just Made Davos a Lot Pricier

January 15th, 2015  |  Source: Bloomberg

The World Economic Forum in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos, never a budget destination on the conference circuit, just got a whole lot more expensive.

The franc jumped at least 14 percent today after the Swiss central bank decided now was the time to stop capping its value. A dollar today buys a Davos delegate 88 Swiss centimes, down from 97 centimes a month ago.

That means a Johnny Walker Blue at the Belvedere Hotel, the schmoozer’s hostelry of choice during the forum, would set you back the equivalent of $41 today for the 36-franc whisky, about $6 more than a nightcap yesterday. Across town at the Hotel Seehof, a bottle of 2004 Dom Perignon for those in a celebratory mood will cost about $400, up from $343 before the Swiss National Bank’s announcement.

“I’m glad I didn’t plan to stay a few more days to ski this year,” said Lin Boqiang, the director of the energy economics research center at China’s Xiamen University, who will be in Davos for the Jan. 21-24 get-together.

The franc’s sudden jump threatens to make an event that already costs a small fortune to attend more exclusive. The forum’s organizers are preparing to increase the annual fee for its top category of corporate membership to 600,000 francs in July, or $673,000 if you’re still counting.

The golden dome of the new InterContinental hotel Davos, center, sits above snow... Read More

Set Menu

That’s before attendees and their entourages worry about the cost of flights, meals, and hotels. The Belvedere said it charges 1,000 francs a night for a double room during the conference. The evening set menu at the Seehof’s flagship restaurant sets a diner back 135 francs, while sticking to a more modest burger in the bar would be 32 francs.

While the glittering cast ranging from philanthropist Bill Gates to International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde are joined by billionaires like Mukesh AmbaniMichael Dell, and Alisher Usmanov, plenty of delegates are of more modest means.

Some, like Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty, hail from charities, others from cash-strapped governments. Those like Axel Springer AG Deputy Chairman Friede Springer help run companies that have sought to highlight efforts to curb the expenses of executives.

Switzerland was already one of the world’s most expensive countries, thanks to tight regulations and tariffs and high labor costs. Zurich, where most Davos guests first arrive, is the world’s fourth-most expensive city to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, just behind Oslo and well ahead of London and Moscow.

Bargain Sausage

Davos businesspeople are trying to take the surge in the franc on the eve of the conference in their stride.

“All room rates and details have been negotiated beforehand, nothing is going to change about that,” said Peter H. Pedersen, the general manager at the Intercontinental Hotel in Davos. “However, for the time after Davos, the appreciation of the Swiss franc of course affects our competitiveness.”

His counterpart across town at the Belvedere said much the same. “At this point, it’s difficult to evaluate,” said general manager Thomas Kleber. “I wouldn’t expect our guests to spend less money.”

Davos attendees trying to keep the cost down do have at least one option. A grilled sausage with bread and mustard from the street-side stand by the main venue makes a hearty snack, and goes for about 8 francs, or $9.10. That’s only $1.25 more than it cost yesterday.


Charlie Hebdo to Print 3 Million Copies With Muhammad Cover

January 13th, 2015  |  Source: Bloomberg

Charlie Hebdo will print 3 million copies of a special issue of the satirical magazine, depicting the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, a week after an attack at its headquarters left a third of its journalists dead.

In its first post-attack edition, publishers of the weekly magazine will put the copies on newsstands worldwide in 16 languages on Jan. 14. The issue will feature a cartoon of Muhammad, crying, on a green background, holding a board saying “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie.” Above his image is written “All is Forgiven.”

Millions of people in France and across the world rallied in marches in the past week to show support for the Charlie Hebdo victims. A Jan. 7 attack by two men at the magazine left 12 people dead. An associated gunman killed a policewoman and four shoppers in a kosher food store in separate attacks in the following two days. The three gunmen were killed by the police on Jan. 9.

The killings by self-proclaimed jihadists are the deadliest attacks in France in more than half a century. France has been on the highest terrorist alert since the first attack. More than 15,000 special forces are being deployed to protect sensitive sites across the country, including Jewish schools, tourist landmarks and Charlie Hebdo’s new headquarters in Paris.

Falling Circulation

The magazine’s circulation has dropped over the years. While issues with covers depicting Muhammad sold about 100,000 copies, the magazine often printed 60,000 copies and sales sometimes didn’t exceed 30,000.

After the attack, French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin pledged 1 million euros ($1.2 million) of state money to help the publication. Google Inc. (GOOGL) promised to give 250,000 euros, U.K. daily The Guardian 125,000 euros. The French press association opened a bank account which is attracting donations from the public.

Charlie Hebdo has been published every Wednesday for the past 22 years. Religion, sex, death, politicians -- nothing and no one has been off-limits. Five of its best known cartoonists - - who went by the pen names Charb, Honore, Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous -- were among those killed in the shootings. Four members of the magazine’s newsroom are still in the hospital.

Irreverent Covers

In its current form since 1992, Charlie Hebdo has featured irreverent covers including caricatures of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn dancing in a red tutu, the late singer Michael Jackson shown as a skeleton shortly after his death, National Front leader Marine Le Pen shaving her pubic hair to represent Hitler’s moustache and Pope Francis holding up a pink condom and saying “this is my body.”

Over 10 million Twitter messages using the hashtags #JeSuisCharlie or #CharlieHebdo have been published since the attack, among the most used hashtags in the world.

Je Suis Charlie “is not just a slogan, you have to live it,” Malka said, calling on the “right to blasphemy.”

“That’s our fight,” he said, pledging the special issue will mock everything from Charlie Hebdo to the marches to support freedom of speech.

“We won’t give in, or all this would have been useless,” he said

On Jan. 7, when the two gunmen left the magazine’s premises on rue Nicolas Appert in Paris’s 11th arrondissement after the shootings, they screamed, “We killed Charlie Hebdo.”

The magazine will be in newsstands on Jan. 14 to show that’s not true.


Exodus from Syria

January 12th, 2015  |  Source: The Economist

THE statistics on Syria's civil war are horrifying.

Since March 2011 around 200,000 people have been killed and 6.5m people have become internally displaced. A new report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, published on January 7th, brought another grim figure: Syria has overtaken Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees in the world.

More than 3m Syrians, or one in eight of its population, had fled the country by the end of June 2014, the most recent date for cross-country comparisons. In the six months since, another 300,000 have left.

This massive outflow is having a profound impact on the wider region. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries; Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are now among the five main host countries for refugees, according to the UNHCR.

Turkey hosts the most Syrians, according to the latest figures, but relative to its size Lebanon bears the biggest burden. It harbours 1.2m Syrians in 1,700 locations in addition to its own population of 4.5m. In an attempt to slow the influx, since January 5th Lebanon has required all new refugees to apply for a visa at the border.

In December the UN called on the international community to pledge 130,000 resettlement places for the most vulnerable people. Of rich countries, the most welcoming are Germany, which is home to around 29,000 Syrian refugees, and Sweden, with 18,000. 




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