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Monday, January 14, 2013

Mali Islamists Retaliate Against French Strikes

After four days of air strikes in Mali by the French military, Islamist militants retaliated, advancing and taking Diabaly, a government-controlled town about 400 km (150 miles) from the capital Bamako.  ”France has opened the gates of hell for all the French,” Oumar Ould Hamaha told French radio station Europe 1. Hemaha is a spokesman for MUJWA, a group that has sought to establish sharia law in rebel-held northern city of Gao. “She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia.” France asked for the United Nations Security Council to convene on Mali, and the U.S. is considering providing France with logistical support, surveillance help and planes.

Hacktivist Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide, DOJ Drops Charges

The suicide of Reddit Founder Aaron Swartz, a young man who actively fought censorship on the internet, prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to drop its charges against him. Twenty-six-year-old Swartz, whose trial was due to begin in April, stood accused  of hacking into subscription-only JSTOR from computers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the intent of distributing millions of scientific and academic papers for free. Swartz faced up to 35 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines, a sentence heavier than those established for slave traders, child pornographers, and genocidal eugenics. The activist’s family blamed “intimidation and prosecutorial overreach” for his death.

Worst of EU Debt Crisis Is Over, Leaders Say

As the sovereign debt crisis eased in Europe, aided by the European Central Bank’s (ECB) promise it would do “whatever it takes” to stop it, leaders of the 17-nation euro area now have more time to focus on issues weighing on their respective economies. The euro is “over the worst of the crisis,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said last week. Even as members of the European Union (EU) argued for more time to agree on a bailout package for Cyprus and upcoming general elections in Italy threatened the nation’s political and economic stability, the ECB’s guarantee appeased markets and lowered borrowing costs, allowing governments across Europe to deal with unemployment, which reached a record high of 11.8 percent for the region in November. While the numbers are dire, ECB President Mario Draghi said last week “a gradual recovery should start” at the end of this year.

Dell in Talks to Become Private

Dell’s stock price soared almost 13 percent today on a Bloomberg report that it is in talks with at least two private equity firms for a buyout. The third-largest computer maker, which lost almost one third of its value in 2012, has been struggling to maintain its market share as tablets and smartphones have become more popular. Should it go through, this would be the largest technology deal since 2007, when KKR bought First Data Corp. for $25 billion. Dell’s market capitalization reached $21.4 billion today. Meanwhile, Apple shares dropped to almost $500 a share, its lowest price in 11 months (and down 26 percent from a record high in September) on news that it’s had to slow production of the iPhone on disappointing demand.

Self-Deception Can Help Procrastinators to Be Productive

Making tasks compete against each other may be the best way to turn procrastination into a productive habit, scholars say. A study carried out around the world showed 95 percent of the 24,000 people interviewed procrastinate occasionally, with 25 percent of them doing it chronically, five times the rate of the 1970s. As the numbers increase, it may become crucial to develop methods to trick oneself into getting work done. Following Raymond Chandler’s model (set aside four hours a day during which 1/ you don’t have to write; 2/ you can’t do anything else) could help, says University of Calgary Psychologist Piers Steel. Creating a list of tasks starting with the most difficult and abstract ones and leaving the small, though important, ones at the end may be a way to trick oneself to do the little ones just to avoid tackling the largest projects.

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