Thursday, January 22, 2015

Microsoft Unveils Windows 10, HoloLens

Microsoft impressed its audience Wednesday, not with the unveiling of Windows 10, but with its newest product: Microsoft HoloLens.

HoloLens is a headset that allows interaction with a computer without a physical screen. Instead, the headset "projects" the screen into your visual field, like a hologram only the person using it can see.

On the Windows 10 front, Microsoft has promised to deliver its newest OS free as an upgrade first to Windows 8.1 users, followed by Windows 7 users. The option would be available for one year after Windows 10's release.

Windows 10 features a redesigned start button, taking away the much-hated start screen in Windows 8.

Windows 10 redesigned start button
Credit: CNET

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brothers Killed and Other Suspect Killed, Fugitive Still at Large in French Terrorist Attack

Coulibaly, the suspected accomplice of the
Kouachi brothers. He was killed in the standoff
at the Jewish supermarket.
Credit: AP Photo/Prefecture de Police de Paris
The hunt for the two brothers suspected of perpetrating the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, were killed in a standoff at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday. An accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, a Muslim convert and longtime criminal, who is believed to have killed a French female police officer was also killed in the standoff. Four hostages were also killed in the supermarket, bringing the total victim count of days of terror to 17 (12 at Charlie Hebdo, 1 other police officer, and 4 hostages).

Twenty others have been injured in attacks perpetrated by terrorists.

The two brothers were revealed to be French nationals of Algerian descent.

Though the main terrorists in the attacks are now dead, Coulibaly's partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, is still at large. The 26-year-old is suspected of aiding Coulibaly in the murder of the French policewoman and may have had some part in the hostage situation. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Credit: AFP/French Police

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Islamist Terrorists Strike Satirical Newspaper in Paris

A police officer was killed by gunman after raising his hands
and begging for mercy. He was first shot and then killed after
falling to the ground.
Islamist terrorists claiming to be part of al-Qaeda attacked Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for its criticism of religion, especially Islam. The magazine was known for publishing drawings of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, whose likeness in drawing is prohibited in some circles of Islam. Charlie Hebdo's offices were firebombed during the 2012 protests in North Africa and the Middle East against the film Innocence of Muslims, soon after the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

According to a person who worked at the magazine, Corine Rey, who was with her daughter, gunmen rushed into Charlie Hebdo's offices and held her at gunpoint while asking her the code to let them upstairs where the other cartoonists were. After acquiring the codes, the gunmen rushed upstairs and murdered the prominent cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo,  including Cabu (Jean Cabut), Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the magazine), Tignous (Bernard Velhac), and Georges Wolinski. The gunmen also killed the police bodyguard of Charbonnier and another police officer on the street, who was first shot and wounded and then shot fatally in the head after falling to the ground.

Rey also said that the terrorists spoke perfect French without an accent, which could signal that the terrorists are French nationals rather than foreign nationals.

The gunmen were reported to say chants such as, "Allahu Akbar!" and “We’ve avenged the honor of the prophet!”

Chalie Hebdo, a left-wing magazine, had been a target of Islamic extremists in the past because of the magazine's controversial stance on religion, especially its anti-Islamic publications. In 2006, the magazine republished controversial depictions of Mohammed from the Danish publication, Jyllands-Posten. Many Muslims, especially extremists, were offended by the publication of the drawings, with one person or group starting a Facebook page with the title, "Execute Stephane Charbonnier."

The magazine also faced legal challenges in France under the country's anti-racism laws. However, it did not lead to the shutdown of the magazine or its end of its controversial publications.

French President Francois Hollande called for "national unity" after the terrorist attack, and France has raised its terror alert level to the highest level in wake of the attack.

World leaders, from President Obama to Prime Minister Cameron to President Putin have condemned the attack.

Involvement by international terrorists such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have been suspected but not confirmed.

2012 photo of Stéphane Charbonnier, who was murdered in the attack
The gunmen, who number about three or four, are as of 11:02 Eastern Time still on the run and have not been identified. Updates will be posted as more news becomes available.

UPDATE 11:35 EST: Economist Bernard Maris was also killed in the attack.
UPDATE 12:01 EST: At least 12 are confirmed dead in the attack.
UPDATE 4:00 EST: The Metro, a French newspaper, has reported that two of the assailants, aged between 18 and 32, were brothers and had fought in Syria. Both are French-born according to the paper. Another one of the assailants is reported to be homeless and of unknown nationality.
UPDATE 7:41 EST: French police named the following suspects: Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, two brothers in their thirties. Eighteen year old Hamyd Mourad is also is a suspect; his nationality is unknown. Though the men claimed al-Qaeda in Yemen were responsible for the attack, al-Qaeda in Yemen told the Associated Press that they were not directly responsibility but might have given inspiration for the attack.

Photos of the suspects
Credit: Mediaite

UPDATE 10:55 EST: Hamyd Mourad, the youngest of the suspects in Wednesday's attack turned himself in at 11PM local time. He has been taken into custody. The Kouachi brothers are still at large.
CORRECTION 12:50 EST 1/8/15: The firebombing of Charlie Hebdo's offices occurred in November 2011, not in 2012. The magazine's decision to publish certain cartoons was criticized by the French government and by then-WH Press Secretary Jay Carney in wake of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.
One of the cartoons that received condemnation from
governments and radical Muslims alike.
Credit: Charlie Hebdo
UPDATE 2:55 EST 1/8/15: The two suspects are widely thought to have committed a robbery at a convenient store about forty miles outside Paris. One of the brother's left his ID card behind in their abandoned car at the crime scene. The current search area is focusing on a French forest geographically larger than the city of Paris. At 51 sq. miles, Forêt de Retz is one of the largest forests in France.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

US GDP Growth Accelerates to 5.0% in Q3

US economic growth accelerated dramatically in the Third Quarter, rising at 5.0% annually. Lower oil costs are believed to have spurred an increase in consumer spending and a rise in the consumer confidence.

Rapid American economic growth in the midst of problems in Russia and Japan is impressive. Some have hailed it as the rise of American economic power in the coming year, and indeed, 5.0% growth is impressive. Though China's GDP is ahead or is soon to be ahead of American GDP by PPP, the United States is still ahead in nominal GDP, and China's recent problem of moving economic growth from exports to consumption may help America keep its claim as the premier economic power of the world.

However, the American economic recovery is still far from complete. Inflation has been low, even in the face of expansionary monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, which could signal that the economy is far below capacity. In addition, tightening of the money supply and thus rising interest rates from the Fed could lead to decreased investment domestically, which could weaken the economic growth.

Russia's Economy Sputters as Oil Falls

Putin's stand to the West may keep him in power in face
of Russia's economic downturn
Credit: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool/Reuters
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development officially announced that the economy of Russia contracted for the first time since 2009. And it only may get worse from there.

Falling oil prices have severely hindered economic growth in Russia, whose economy is widely based on petroleum production. In addition, sanctions from Western nations, such as European countries and the United States, have also limited Russia's ability to achieve economic stability. Sanctions on Russia came after its takeover of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia's economic contraction has been measured at -0.5%.

Craig Botham, an economist at Schroders, predicts it will only get worse for Russia. "I think it's fairly obvious that this is only the beginning of Russia's GDP contraction, and we'll see a much sharper downturn in 2015 as consumption, investment and government expenditure all collapse."

In addition to a decrease in economic output, the Russian ruble has seen a massive decrease in value, about 40% since the start of the year. Russian central bankers have raised interest rates in hopes of stabilizing the currency's value. Though the ruble's devaluation makes Russian exports cheaper, foreign imports have become much more expensive in Russia.

So will Russian President Vladimir Putin change course? Unlikely.

Putin's stand to the West has kept him more popular domestically, and the Russian people are likely to keep supporting him through a economic contraction that does not turn into a complete economic collapse.

Missing AirAsia Plane Found

The Airbus A320-216 involved in the crash of Flight 8501
The wreckage of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 has been found in the Java Sea after a days long search after the plane was reported missing from the radar on Sunday. Bodies and debris are beginning to be recovered from the wreckage site. Though the operation is still listed as a "search and rescue" operation, all 162 people on board are likely dead.

The plane, which was flying from Surabaya to Singapore, is believed to have encountered severe thunderstorms. The storms that it was forced to go through have been initially believed to have been the greatest factor in the plane's crash.

Investigators are searching for the plane's black box, which could shed light on the nature of the plane's demise.

The initial disappearance inevitably drew myriad comparisons to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year. Its wreckage has not yet been found.

AirAsia had never had an accident before this flight. Malaysian Airlines, however, also experienced the destruction of another airplane in Ukraine in July. MH17 (the flight name) is widely believed to have been accidentally shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Both AirAsia and Malaysian Airlines are based in Malaysia.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri Descends into Chaos

After the grand jury’s decision was announced, demonstrators began protesting what they considered a travesty of justice in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Brown was killed in August by police officer Darren Wilson, who says Brown charged him in the street after a scuffle in his police car after Wilson told Brown and his friend to move off the street.

Shortly after, rioters began breaking into shops, looting them, and burning them. Much of the action was captured on live TV. Protesters threw projectiles and cursed out CNN crews, while one looter assaulted a Fox News cameraman while filming  his stolen liquor from a store.

Officials in Ferguson and Missouri have faced intense criticism for the botched handling of the decision. Questions have been raised as to why the decision was announced at night even though news of the decision had been reported throughout the day, giving rioters a chance to plan. The police force on the ground was also inadequate to halt the burnings and the gunfire that was heard during the night.