Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Obama says Sony made a “mistake” in cancelling movie over cyber threats

The cyber threats against Sony Pictures have been a top subject in President Obama’s end-of-year speech.

He referred to the scrapping of the release of a comedy on the fictional assassination of North Korea’s leader, saying that although Sony suffered significant damage, he disagreed with the decision.

“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” said Obama. “We can not have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the US.”

Speaking to journalists at the White House before leaving for a 17-day family vacation in Hawaii, Obama confirmed that North Korea was responsible for the Sony attack. America’s response would be proportional and appropriate, he said, but refused to give any further details.

President Obama also defended his shift in policy towards Cuba.

“With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba, or President Castro coming to the United States, is on the cards,” he said.

“I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years. I’m a fairly young man, so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy and interact with the Cuban people.”

Obama also referred to the war against ISIL, the creation of 11 million new jobs, and near record low of people without medical insurance, saying America could be proud of what it has achieved during his six years in office.

Rouble’s drop drives Russian sales surge

The falling value of the rouble has Russians desperately seeking big ticket items to buy, with cars featuring heavily on their shopping lists.

They want to lock in the value of their money before it drops further in an unstable economic climate.

As the Russian currency became worth less and less prices shot up and the sold signs appeared on windscreens.

Vladimir Ryabushko, who is in charge of Moscow’s ‘Avtomir’ car dealership said: “As we see the situation prices will continue to rise. And new shipments of cars will arrive at new prices. For better or worse, right now we can’t know by how much they are going to rise. But I would advise people to buy a car now because the prices are going to go up more.”

But that was easier said than done .. as some carmakers, including General Motors and Land Rover-Jaguar halted delivery of vehicles to Russia until the situation stabilises.

There were signs it might be doing that on Friday as the rouble picked up a little bit against the dollar and the euro, though trading remained thin and volatile.

Analysts said a strengthening rouble would mean ordinary Russians would stop trying to buy foreign currency, not that there is much available in the banks.

On the streets of Moscow some were not that bothered.

An older man said: “We’ve lived through a lot of things, so in comparison with what we’ve been through in the past 25 years it is not very significant.”

But one prospective shopper was unhappy, saying: “It’s very bad that appliances have become so much more expensive. I won’t be able to buy the things I wanted to. I’m sad.”

But for the Russian government and central bank it is much more than the inconvenience of not being able to buy imported gadgets as they try to find ways to stop the economy sliding into recession.

Nyman celebrates Val Gardena hat-trick

Steven Nyman celebrated his third career World Cup victory on Friday at the same venue as his previous two triumphs.

The American three-time Olympian won the the downhill at Val Gardena, Italy.

The 32-year old who was third in a downhill in Beaver Creek, Colorado two weeks ago continued his fine early season form to register his first win since December 2012.

His first career triumph was also at Val Gardena in 2006.

With the win Nyman, who has suffered a series of injuries in the past few years, moves to second in the discipline standings after three of ten races this campaign.

Leading the standings 105 points ahead of the American is Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud.

Jansrud was second on the day at the Italian resort.

He crossed the line 0.31 seconds off the pace.

On form Jansrud won the first two downhill races of the season at Lake Louise and Beaver Creek and as well as leading the discipline standings he also tops of the overall classification.

Dominik Paris gave the home crowd something to celebrate when he crossed over to take third place.

It was his second podium finish of the new season following another third place in a Super G at Lake Louise.

Unemployed Spanish man drives car into ruling party’s headquarters

An unemployed Spanish man has been arrested after driving a car carrying gas cylinders into the headquarters of the ruling Popular Party in Madrid.

The incident happened early on Friday morning.

The driver, 37-year-old Daniel Pérez Berlanga, claimed that the explosives were going to go off within half-an-hour and blamed the government for his financial troubles.

The car did not explode and no-one was hurt. The area was immediately cordoned off and local metro stations closed while police examined the car.

El hombre detenido por #ataquesedePP atentaba contra todos los políticos porque “son iguales” http://t.co/p7O7Ly34Dw pic.twitter.com/7vl6jRlSoY
— La Provincia (@laprovincia_es) December 19, 2014

Police spokesperson Laura Garaboa said:“Two cylinders of butane gas were found in his vehicle, as well as a substance that is being analysed by police and explosives specialists.”

A government spokesperson said Pérez Berlanga was a businessman who had lost his properties. Residents in his home village of Teruel in north-east Spain said he was unemployed and had suffered from psychiatric problems.

Spain has more than five million unemployed – around a quarter of the population – and almost half of these have been out of work for more than two years.

Former France defender Abidal retires

Former France international Eric Abidal has announced his retirement from football citing personal reasons.

The 35-year-old former Lyon and Barcelona defender who underwent a liver transplant in April 2012, won 67 caps for ‘Les Blues’ and ends his career at Olyimpiakos.

Abidal said: “For now I will take a break and enjoy being with my family, after this I will make a decision about the next chapter in my life”

With Barcelona he won the Champions League twice as well as four Spanish La Liga titles.

His final match will be for Olympiakos on Saturday in the Super League.

Vatican Christmas tree lights switched on in St Peter’s Square

There is less than a week until Christmas and the Vatican has switched on the lights on its tree in St. Peter’s Square.

The governor of Vatican City said he hopes the lights “illuminate everyone’s hearts” and explained that the nativity and crib “send a message of love”.

Pilgrims and tourists travelled to the Holy See from Italy and around Europe.

“It is the symbol of Christianity,” said tourist Vanna Bono. “We have both the sacred and the secular here: the Nativity scene is Christian, while the tree is a secular tradition.”

“It is a tradition that unites the family in this moment to celebrate it,” explained Sabina Vargas, who travelled from Barcelona. “It is a tradition, but is also a way to get the family together for this simple act of decorating a tree, which is surely something symbolic.”

What perhaps seems like an ancient tradition of putting a tree in St. Peter’s Square is actually quite a recent custom. It began when Pope Saint John Paul II introduced it in 1982.

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