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The latest news from Business Insider

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    orgasm self love days

    • Swedish sex toy brand LELO is giving its employees four extra days off every year to let them have more orgasms.
    • The idea is that staff who are more sexually fulfilled will be more productive.
    • Studies show that orgasms make people happier, which could make them better workers.

    From encouraging lunchbreak strolls to installing nap pods, businesses have all sorts of different approaches to boosting employees' productivity.

    One Swedish brand, however, is going one step further than others.

    Premium sex and intimacy brand LELO has introduced the concept of "self-love days" for its staff, giving all employees four extra days off every year for the sole purpose of having more regular orgasms.

    The initiative stems from the company's "Economy of Orgasms" research, which it says found that almost four in five (78%) of people say they feel happier and less stressed after having an orgasm and almost two thirds (65%) say they are more productive at work the next day.

    The "self-love days" are being trialled in the UK with the potential of rolling out to all of LELO's 600 employees across the globe.

    The company told INSIDER the four days are in addition to the existing annual leave allowance, meaning staff will have 24 days off in total every year.

    "Self-love days follow the format of duvet days, but with a twist: employees are encouraged to take the day to fulfil themselves sexually and have plenty of orgasms," the company explained.

    "Whether it's alone or with a partner, LELO believes that offering employees the chance to take days off dedicated to sexual pleasure will improve happiness, reduce stress and ultimately improve the productivity of its workforce."

    The company's findings are based on an analysis of external research (by Warwick University, the Lord Ashcroft International Business School of Anglia Ruskin University, the College of Business at Oregon State University and the Department of Social Science at UCL), as well as a survey of 2,006 adults conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of LELO this year, and a report entitled Happiness and Productivity.

    Read more: 9 orgasm myths you need to stop believing

    LELO claims its research showed that regular climaxes could help add £90.445 billion to the UK economy, a figure which it says was calculated by analysing the monetary uplift of a sustained 10% increase in productivity per working adult and then calculating the subsequent increase to quarterly GDP figures.

    The brand, whose products are sold in upmarket London department store Selfridges, hopes that other companies will follow their lead.

    It's not just about boosting output, though. The report also suggests that Brits' happiness levels could increase by 10-20% were they able to climax more, and other studies have shown that a happier workforce is a more productive one.

    There are plenty of ways sex is good for the body and brain.

    Orgasms increase our happiness because of the hormones they release into our bodies — our brains are flooded with dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins which leave us feeling good, and these feelings last.

    Research has shown how sex also helps people cope with stress and relax, improves sleep, boosts memory, and reduces anxiety.

    An impressive 40% of the adults surveyed in LELO's research said they were still more productive up to five days after orgasming.

    "Having an orgasm will definitely translate into the workplace as you will be happier, less tense, and less stressed," said sex therapist Valerie Tasso in LELO's report. "Also we spend a lot of time at work and come home stressed.

    "We need to channel all that bad energy into something pleasurable — an orgasm, which in turn makes us feel better about going back to work as we are happier and more relaxed, so our relationships with people at work will be better and our productivity will be better.

    "Feeding your body with all the neurohormones produced by the orgasm on a daily basis has long term benefits. As erotic human beings we need orgasms like we need food and drink."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A sex expert reveals the 3 traits every couple needs for a happy relationship

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    • Uber detailed 21 new categories of sexual misconduct and assault it is going to adopt in its reporting.
    • The report outlining the categories contains a "mix-and-match" exercise in which readers match creepy stories of misconduct and assault to the company's new categories.
    • Uber has come under fire in the past for it attitude toward sexual misconduct and assault.

    Uber released a document on Monday laying out how it is going to categorise reports of sexual misconduct and assault in readiness for a 2019 transparency report.

    The report, which it calls a "taxonomy" of sexual misconduct and assault, was released in partnership with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Urban Institute.

    Included in the 53-page document is a "mix and match exercise" designed to show how reports of inappropriate behaviour might be filtered into these new categories.

    Stories from the perspective of riders and drivers are given to be matched with one of the 21 new categories. The stories themselves are fictional, but are "informed by the authors' experience reviewing actual reports." In other words, they're rooted in real-life cases.

    Here is the Uber exercise in full:

    Uber report

    A Medium article, penned by Uber's Chief Legal Officer Tony West and NSVRC executive Kristen Houser, explained why Uber believes these categories are necessary for combatting sexual misconduct and assault.

    "Clear categories lead to counting consistently, which allows companies to respond more effectively to each report of sexual misconduct," it said.

    Uber has previously been criticised for its approach to sexual misconduct and assault.

    Fourteen women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Uber drivers are currently suing the company, and in April demanded that Uber release them from private arbitration, which they said was silencing them. Uber got rid of forced arbitration for sexual misconduct in May.

    Prior to having its licence revoked and then temporarily restored in London, Uber argued it was under no obligation to report allegations of rider or driver sexual harassment, violence, or other crimes to the police, but changed this policy in February.

    Furthermore, the ride-hailing company received 47 complaints of sexual harassment as part of its investigation into inappropriate workplace incidents last year.

    Read more: Uber court document reveals the scale of sexual assault and dangerous driving allegations against its drivers

    West told Bloomberg that releasing the report was not an easy decision to make as the company's top lawyer. "The chief legal officer is usually the guy that is minimizing risk, not courting it, but I feel very strongly that this was the right decision," he said.

    Tina Tchen, cofounder of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund and an adviser to Uber, also told Bloomberg that Uber is expecting to see an increase in reporting because it is tracking misconduct and assault more carefully.

    "Reports are going to rise because right now this is vastly under-reported... You will see more people reporting. That counter-intuitively will be a good sign," she said.

    SEE ALSO: Uber and Lyft confirm drivers can’t broadcast videos of passengers after a string of privacy incidents

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's the reason most new console video games cost $60

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    neck scan

    • There are about 50 million people in the world living with dementia.
    • It's the umbrella term given to the symptoms caused by various diseases — most commonly Alzheimer's.
    • A new neck scan could help determine those most at risk, according to a new study.
    • The test measures pulse intensity, which is a risk factor for mini-strokes.

    Scientists have come up with a five minute test that they say could help predict a person's risk of dementia ten years before they develop symptoms.

    Researchers from University College London (UCL) presented their study at the American Heart Association's annual scientific conference last weekend.

    The research involved 3,191 patients, all 58 to 74 years old, who had ultrasound scans on their necks in 2002. Then, their cognitive functions were monitored for 14 years until 2016.

    The scanners were detecting pulse, as a more intense pulse can cause damage to small vessels in the brain, causing minor bleeds called mini-strokes. The damage of mini-strokes may build up over time, potentially causing dementia symptoms.

    Results of the study showed people with more intense pulses were up to 50% more likely to suffer reduced cognitive functions than the other participants — tested with memory and problem-solving experiments.

    Cognitive decline is sometimes a precursor to dementia, but not everyone who struggles with cognitive decline will go on to develop a dementia-causing disease.

    Dementia is a term used for symptoms like confusion, memory loss, mood changes, and personality changes. There are a whole range of conditions that can cause dementia, the most common being Alzheimer's Disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia.

    Read more:15 common misconceptions and surprising realities about dementia and Alzheimer's disease

    The researchers said the test could identify people who are at risk of developing dementia up to decade earlier, which could help with prevention methods such as lifestyle changes and treatments.

    For instance, people can actively control their blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise regularly, eat healthily, and not smoke.

    "Dementia is not an inevitable cause of aging," said Scott Chiesa, a post-doctoral researcher at UCL, according to CNN. "How you live your life has a real impact on how quickly your condition can decline."

    He added that dementia is the end result of decades of damage, so by the time you get it it's too late to do anything. That's why a test which could identify those at the highest risk could be incredibly significant for the field.

    However, the study doesn't have any data on which study participants went on to develop dementia. The team want to next use MRI scans to determine whether participants' brains changed in ways to explain their cognitive decline.

    Carol Routledge, the director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said it was not clear if the scan will help improve diagnoses.

    "What we do know is that the blood supply in the brain is incredibly important, and that maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia," she said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Valedictorians rarely become rich and famous — here's why the average millionaire's college GPA is 2.9

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    Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron

    • President Donald Trump mocked France's record in World War I and II in a Tuesday morning tweet that again waved the idea of the US pulling out of, or modifying its relationship to NATO.
    • French President Emmanuel Macron has long pushed for a European army separate from NATO, and recently said that army would need to protect against the US in some capacities.
    • Trump immediately took offense to the suggestion, calling it "very insulting."
    • France fought valiantly in World War I but got steamrolled in World War II. Since then, France's army has emerged as world-class and one of the best in Europe.

    President Donald Trump appeared to mock France's record in World War I and II in a Tuesday morning tweet that again waved the idea of the US pulling out of, or modifying its relationship to NATO.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has long pushed for a European army separate from NATO, the global alliance that includes the US and Canada, and has since the end of World War II sought to secure the continent against Russian aggression.

    Spurred by the US's withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons and almost completely denuclearized the continent, Macron renewed his calls to break away from depending on US military might.

    "We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America," Macron said on November 6. Macron later clarified his comments about protecting Europe from the US, saying they mainly focused on cyber crime and building domestic defense industries that didn't need to buy or invest in US arms.

    But Trump immediately took offense to Macron's suggestion, calling it "very insulting."

    "Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!" Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

    Read more: Trump torches allies, threatens NATO pullout after tense WWI memorial trip to Paris

    France's war records


    While France has long borne shame for coming under German occupation with much of Paris intact during World War II, the French fought an extremely dedicated fight in World War I.

    World War I saw France lose nearly 1.4 million in its military and an additional 300,000 civilians.

    In World War II, France lost just over 200,000 soldiers and another 350,000 civilians after being taken by surprise by Adolf Hitler's Nazi war machine. France began fighting against the Nazi advances in 1939, while the US only joined the fight two years later after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.

    France has long faced ridiculed for its World War II performance, despite a complicated and extremely taxing war effort that consumed nearly the entire continent before US and UK forces made the D-Day landings.

    Once Allied forces landed back on the continent, French soldiers rejoined the war effort and fought shoulder to shoulder to end Nazi occupation across Europe

    Additionally, it was with French help that the US defeated the British during the revolutionary war.

    Today, France's military stands among Europe's best. Only France has a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and has contributed greatly to anti-terrorism and anti-extremist fighting across the Middle East and Africa.

    Germany keeps a relatively small military, and has resisted heavy spending or foreign operations.

    On Monday, Trump also seemed to float the possibility of pulling out of NATO if trade deficits continue while the NATO countries typically spend less than 2% of their GDP on defense.

    Trump and Macron descend into outright confrontation

    trump macron

    Trump and Macron, initially engaged in what the media widely labeled a "bromance," have sharply descended into open confrontation and hostility in the past weeks.

    Trump responded to Macron's calls for a European army as an insult before arriving inParis over the weekend to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

    The pair shared a white-knuckled handshake on Trump's arrival in a sign of things to come.

    Macron openly rebuked Trump's political philosophy in a speech on Sunday, where he called nationalism — something that Trump has embraced — a betrayal of patriotism and moral values.

    But Macron's plan for a European army remains a complete mystery as to how it could possibly work, as European nations have very different foreign policy agendas and interests.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The true story behind Boston gangster Whitey Bulger

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    iPhone XS Max

    There is a moment when you're holding the gold iPhone XS Max in your hands where you'll start doing the mental math. 

    "How much is $1,100, anyway?" you'll ask yourself.

    "If I just financed it, it's not that much money per month," you'll think. 

    You'll start to imagine your life with the phone, mentally calculating whether it will fit in your pocket or purse (it probably won't) and whether you actually need a screen that big (you probably don't).

    You'll want to own the XS Max, not because your life demands a smartphone that costs as much as the average mortgage payment, but because the gold iPhone XS Max is a stop-and-stare type of product. It's the type of thing that elicits squeals of delight from people with good taste; the type of device people can't resist reaching out to touch, even though doing so automatically deposits fingerprints all over its glossy surface. 

    You'll want to own the XS Max, because even holding the XS Max feels luxurious.

    But the thing about the XS Max is that it's supposed to be a tool to make your life easier. It's not supposed to just look amazing, it's supposed work amazingly well. And after spending a week with the device, I can say it does that — mostly. 

    iPhone XS Max

    The large display wasn't a bonus

    There's no getting around it: the iPhone XS Max is huge.

    Its screen is outlandishly large, seemingly fit for the mitts of a giant rather than regular, human hands. If you've owned one of the "Plus" models of Apple's previous iPhone lineups — the iPhone 6 Plus, 7 Plus, or 8 Plus — you'll still notice a change. While the XS Max is basically the same overall size as the "Plus" models, it's as if Apple stretched the screen at the top and bottom to fill in the space previously occupied by the home button and top corners. The result is a bigger screen in the same general form factor, and that change brings its own challenges.

    During my tests of the phone, there was never a circumstance in which I felt comfortable even holding the XS Max with one hand, and one-handed use is downright impossible — I'd estimate that my thumb was able to reach less than a third of the screen.

    For the record, turning on reachability — an accessibility feature that shortens whatever app you're using to half the height of the screen — didn't solve the problem. I still couldn't reach the entire screen, even with reachability enabled, which literally defeats the purpose of the feature. 

    For me, someone with smaller hands, this was a major downside of the XS Max. There are so many situations where I need to use my phone one-handed, and it's neither possible nor smart to try to do that with the XS Max. 

    iPhone XS Max

    Beyond not being able to reach all four corners of the screen, I constantly felt myself wondering what the actual point was of having such an enormous display. Sure, you can see more of an app at a time on the display, and if you have poor eyesight, I imagine having a large font on a large screen would be beneficial.

    But for me, the huge screen was just an annoyance. I could see all the ways it would be cool to have a big screen, but none of them played out during regular use. It would have been great to watch a video that took up the entire display, but that's not possible — every video I watched had large black bars on the top and bottom, and sometimes on the sides. The same went for games, which never took up the entirety of the display. 

    The huge screen didn't help me be more productive, or creative, or even more entertained — it just made me feel frustrated. 

    iPhone XS Max

    The camera really is that great 

    It's true: the camera on the XS Max is better than most other phones on the market. 

    For me, the bar for smartphone cameras is usually set by Google's Pixel lineup — I believe it has the best smartphone cameras on the market, and I've never been disappointed. That remains mostly true of the Pixel 3, which came out last month.

    But in a few situations while using both devices, I felt like the XS Max actually performed better. We'll have a full test of both phones side by side coming soon, but for now, I can say that portrait mode on the iPhone has definitely improved. I was impressed by my portrait mode photos and thought they were better than the Pixel for the first time, maybe ever. 

    Let's not get ahead ourselves, though — if you have the iPhone X, and maybe even the iPhone 8 Plus, I can't imagine the camera on the XS Max is so much better that you need to upgrade. It's great, but it's not life-changing. 

    iPhone XS Max

    The same old iOS

    Since this was an "S year," there's so much about the XS Max that's identical to last year's iPhone X.

    The design is unchanged, apart from the new gold color, and everything else has been refined rather than overhauled. The battery life appears to be slightly better — I typically got well over a full day, although the iPhone X already had great battery life — and some minor features were improved, like less shutter lag when you take a photo. Plus, it's slightly faster overall, thanks to a new chip. 

    But so much about the XS Max is the same as the X, and the XR, and even iPhones from two, three, or four years ago, and that's because of iOS. Once you get over some of the biggest changes of upgrading to a fancy new phone, you're left with the exact same operating system that everyone else has. And no, you probably won't use features like Memoji and Animoji very often — you might even forget about them altogether. 

    That's what makes Apple so great, and also so frustrating. If you bought an iPhone 8, for example, you still have a fantastic phone that mostly works like the brand-new phone. But that also makes it hard for me to justify the XS Max's high price tag — you're shelling out at least $1,100 for a beautiful design with incremental improvements. 

    So yes, go ahead and buy the iPhone XS Max (in gold!) if you're obsessed with design, if you have an old iPhone and now want the very best and very biggest of what Apple makes, have big hands, or you're just super rich.

    Apple's biggest-screen iPhone ever commands its biggest price tag yet for an iPhone, but it also demands the attention of everyone around it — it will make you look very, very fancy.

    SEE ALSO: The 6 biggest differences you need to know about when switching from an older iPhone to the iPhone XS Max

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: First impressions of the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

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    Ruth Porat

    • Google's Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat is one of the most senior women at the company.
    • She told a conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal that she joined employees walking out two weeks ago in protest at how the firm deals with sexual harassment.
    • The protest ended in Google ditching its requirement for forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment.
    • Porat claimed Google had created a culture that lets employees voice issues and effect change. 

    One of Google's most senior female executives has revealed that she joined a mass protest at the firm's handling of sexual harassment.

    Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech D.Live conference on Monday, chief financial officer Ruth Porat said she walked out with her finance team from Google's Mountain View headquarters in California. 

    Porat said: "Many of us were out with Googlers and speaking with Googlers... I was out with my finance team."

    Reflecting on management's response, she added: "What we did was [take] in a lot of information, step back, and think about the breadth of policies we could put in place that would up our game on something we feel is really important, which is ensuring diversity and equity in the workplace."

    Read more: Facebook won't force employees to settle sexual harassment claims privately thanks to the Google walkout protests

    The global Google walkout protest involved employees around the world leaving their desks at 11.10 a.m. on 1 November in response to an explosive New York Times article revealing that senior male Google executives had been paid off after accusations of sexual misconduct.

    The demo involved around 20,000 employees, with protesters listing five demands. These included ending forced arbitration, where victims can't take their cases to court but must resolve them privately, and commitments to pay equality.

    google walkout

    Porat sought to portray a company that gave its employees "voice" and listened to their demands. Googlers, like most white-collar workers in Silicon Valley, do not have union representation thanks to their decent pay and conditions.

    "You know the company from inception was built with the concept that we should give employees voice, and if you give employees voice and there's transparency, things will percolate up and will make you stronger," she said.

    She suggested that the 2008 financial crash might have been prevented if Wall Street employees were empowered in a similar way. Porat has a Wall Street pedigree and was chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley before joining Google in 2015.

    "[I] firmly believe that if employees in Wall Street back in 2006 felt they had voice and could percolate up issues they saw, it may have helped prevent some of the things that unfolded," she said.

    The employee walkout triggered not only changes at Google, which dropped its forced arbitration requirement, but also resulted in Facebook and Airbnb taking similar action. 

    Porat acknowledged that treating victims of sexual harassment better and tackling wider diversity problems should be simple for a company that has the collective brainpower of Google. 

    "One part of it is, if you can get cars to self-drive... why can't we solve this? We should do better," she said.

    SEE ALSO: PHOTOS: Google employees all over the world left their desk and walked out in protest over sexual misconduct

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How to train the last days before a marathon

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    Binny Bansal

    • Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal has resigned following "an allegation of serious personal misconduct," according to a press release.
    • The release did not elaborate on the allegation but said Bansal "strongly denies" it.
    • An independent study did not corroborate the allegation but found Bansal made lapses in judgment, according to the release.
    • In May, Walmart agreed to buy a 77% stake in Flipkart for $16 billion.

    Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal has announced his resignation, effective immediately, following an independent investigation into "an allegation of serious personal misconduct,"Walmart said in a press release out Tuesday morning.

    The release did not elaborate on the allegation but said Bansal "strongly denies" it.

    The investigation, which was conducted on behalf of Flipkart and Walmart, did not find evidence corroborating the accuser's claims but did find Bansal to have made lapses in judgement, including a lack of transparency, in his response to the situation, the release said.

    Kalyan Krishnamurthy will remain the CEO of Flipkart, which now includes the Indian fashion and lifestyle e-commerce portal Myntra and Jabong, which will continue to operate as a separate platform within Flipkart Group, according to the release. Myntra and Jabong's CEO will report to Krishnamurthy, the release said.

    In August, Walmart acquired a 77% stake in Flipkart for $16 billion in an effort to keep pace with Amazon in India.

    Walmart shares were little changed following the news. They were up 5% this year through Monday.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 places you can't find on Google Maps

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    Explosion is seen during an Israeli air strike on Hamas's television station, in Gaza City

    • An escalating battle between Israel and Hamas threatens to become a major war.
    • Hamas responded to a botched Israeli undercover operation which killed seven Palestinians fighters with hundreds of rockets fired at Israel.
    • Israel responded with air strikes and tank fire, making the fighting between Gaza and Israel the heaviest since their 2014 war.
    • The UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process warned on Monday that Gaza needed to step "back from the brink"— "The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all!"

    An overnight rocket battle between Israel and Hamas is the latest in a conflict escalation that threatens a major war and worries those working for peace in the region.

    Simmering tensions were brought to a head and fighting to a level not seen since 2014 after a botched intelligence mission by undercover Israeli commando raid killed seven Palestinian fighters, including a Hamas commander, on Sunday.

    Hamas said it was retaliating when it and other armed groups launched more than 400 rockets or mortar bombs across the border into, killing one civilian, and carried out a surprise missile attack on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier, Israel's military said, according to Reuters.

    "In response to yesterday’s crime, the joint command of Palestinian factions announce the beginning of bombardment of the enemy’s settlements with scores of rockets," Hamas said in a statement on Monday.

    Videos taken overnight showed Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system knocking out ballistic missiles in flight while other rockets completed their run in explosions within Israel. 

    Israel retaliated with airstrikes and tank fire in attacks that continued into Tuesday.

    Read more: Trump has his cake and eats it too with sanctions tanking Iran's economy and oil staying low

    It hit military posts, a Hamas television station, radio station, and office building, and a Hamas military intelligence headquarters, The New York Times reported. Israel's pre-warned of its strike on the Hamas broadcasting station.

    Israel gaza air strikes

    Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East security director at security and defense policy nonprofit Center for a New American Security, tweeted on Tuesday that"alarm bells need to be going off."

    "This is on the precipice of becoming the next major Israel-Hamas war."

    Goldenberg was echoing an earlier warning from Nickolay Mladenob, the UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process, who warned on Monday that he was working with Egypt and other concerned countries to ensure that Gaza "steps back from the brink."

    "The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence."

    Egypt has been mediating peace talks that have aimed to prevent violence at the Israel-Gaza border, where at least 170 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israel forces in protests.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Navy SEALs explain the dangers of overplanning in both the military and business

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    robert mueller

    • Special Counsel Robert Mueller plans to issue new indictments as early as Tuesday, CBS reported.
    • Since Mueller started probing the Trump campaign's ties to Russia last May, his team has charged Americans once affiliated with President Donald Trump's presidential campaign or administration, as well as Russian nationals and intelligence officers.

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue new indictments as part of the Russia investigation as soon as today, CBS reported on Tuesday, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the probe.

    The news comes as acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, plans to consult with Department of Justice ethics officials about whether he should recuse himself from Mueller's investigation into the Trump presidential campaign's ties to Russia.

    Since Mueller started his probe last May, his team has charged four Americans once affiliated with Trump's campaign or administration, 13 Russian nationals, 12 Russian intelligence officers, three Russian companies, and two other people.

    They include Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, and Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

    Manafort is reportedly halting his cooperation with Mueller.

    Read more: Here's everyone who has been charged and convicted in Mueller's Russia probe so far

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Megyn Kelly in 2017: 'I regret a lot' of the controversial stuff I've said on live television

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    mary lou jepsen youtube ted talk

    • A brush with death inspired ex-Facebook and Google executive Mary Lou Jepsen to embark on her latest initiative as the founder of a San Francisco-based startup called Openwater.
    • Jepsen is working on devices that are akin to portable, miniature MRIs which could do everything from observing the effects of a medication in real time to monitoring a breast cancer tumor to decide if surgery is necessary.
    • Her startup is currently running experiments on rats in a lab in the San Francisco area, she told Business Insider.

    Former Google and Facebook executive Mary Lou Jepsen was in her 20s when she went home to die. What began with terrible headaches developed into fatigue so severe she had to use a wheelchair. She'd lost control of movement in half of her face.

    It took several months and a handful of doctors before someone recommended that Jepsen get an MRI — a procedure that that lets clinicians peek inside the brain, but that can cost thousands of dollars and is performed exclusively on a two-ton machine in a special room, often at a hospital. The pricey devices use radio waves and strong magnets to create pictures of organs and structures inside the body.

    Thanks to Jepsen's MRI, she was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor just in time to save her life.

    Jepsen's brush with death drove her to create a startup called Openwater.

    Its mission is to make portable, miniature imaging machines that everyone can afford — machines that she dreams will one day harbor the power to do everything from detect tumors in any organ to allow for brain-to-brain communication. If it works, her technology could disrupt the roughly $6 billion annual MRI market.

    Brain scan MRIOpenwater's existing technology uses a combination of infrared, cell-penetrating laser beams plus two chips — one a camera and one ultrasonic — to look inside the brain and body, Jepsen explained to Business Insider in an interview on the sidelines of a conference held by media group Techonomy in Half Moon Bay, California. 

    The company is currently performing experiments on rats with prototype versions of its technology at a lab space in the Bay Area, said Jepsen. Already, the images they are able to create are more accurate and better defined than what you'd see with an MRI, she claimed.

    Although she has not yet offered a public demonstration of the technology, the company's investors and board of directors suggest strong scientific potential.

    Jeff Huber, the vice chairman and founding CEO of $1.6 billion cancer-detecting Silicon Valley startup Grail, serves on Openwater's board of directors; Brook Byers, a founding partner of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins (which has funded Genentech) is an Openwater investor, along with Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the MIT Media Lab and Michael McCullough, who directs the evolution and human behavior lab at the University of Miami.

    Jepsen's ultimate goal is to get her product in people's homes, where they could be used to observe the effects of a medication in real time or help monitor the progression of a disease like cancer. 

    "I want everyone to be able to buy these machines in the drug store next to the blood pressure cuff," Jepsen said.

    From a storied career at Facebook and Google to her own startup

    mary lou jepsenJepsen pitched her project to tech giants Google and Facebook before deciding to strike out on her own. She said the CEOs of each company expressed an interest in the idea at first but ultimately had her focus on other projects in virtual reality and augmented reality. 

    Her roles at both companies were high-level positions that were heavy on engineering: at Google, Jepsen worked as the head of the company's display division within its secretive "X" division and reported directly to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. At Facebook, Jepsen served as the company's executive director of engineering and the head of display technologies at its virtual reality arm Oculus.

    But Jepsen, an engineer with a PhD in optical sciences from Brown University, wanted to do more. 

    "I like video games just as much as the next person," Jepsen told Business Insider, but their capacity to help people and make a difference is limited, she said.

    So last summer, Jepsen announced she was leaving Facebook to create her own company, called Openwater. 

    'You don't have to biopsy if you can monitor'

    Last year, Jepsen described Openwater's device as a new imaging technology that could help "cure diseases" and could even be worn like a hat to see inside the brain. Such a device could help researchers better understand complex organs like the brain, where some aspects of mental illnesses like depression can currently be observed using an MRI.

    For the process to work, timing is everything, Jepsen explained: the ultrasonic pings are emitted first so that they arrive at the same time as the infrared light, which is turned on shortly after. The light changes color as it moves past various structures in the brain or body — kind of like how the police siren on a cop car changes pitch as it drives past you.

    And the resulting image, which is produced through a combination of the light and the ultrasonic pings, will be able to detect the presence of a tumor, Jepsen said.

    Jepsen's company is also working with a nonprofit organization called the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. to explore the possibility of someday using the technology for non-invasive surgery using lasers, she added.

    On Monday, Jepsen described one potential scenario for someone with breast cancer. First, her mini-MRI could likely diagnose the disease earlier because MRIs have 10 times the resolution of mammograms, she said. Currently, MRIs are recommended in addition to mammograms only for women with a high risk of breast cancer.

    But in addition, if the device could be worn (for example, as part of a bra) it could be used to monitor the disease and any tumors, allowing the patient and her clinician to decide on surgery only when it was medically necessary, such as if the tumor began to grow.

    "You don't have to biopsy if you can monitor," Jepsen said.

    SEE ALSO: A Silicon Valley startup is growing 'mini brains' to create new drugs for schizophrenia and autism — and big pharma is investing millions

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    nurse IV

    • The government's leading food and drug authority recently approved a potent new opioid called Dsuvia that dissolves under the tongue and can be taken without an IV.
    • Several experts strongly opposed the approval, which came amidst an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths and addiction.
    • The CEO of the company behind the drug said she created it to keep people from being "one step away from being killed by a tired nurse or a doctor who ordered the wrong drug."
    • But it's unclear how big of a problem deaths from medication mistakes involving opioids actually are. 
    • More importantly, an easier solution to that problem would involve simple labeling changes, doctors said.

    Throughout Pamela Palmer's career as chief medical officer of a specialty hospital for pain management, she repeatedly served as an expert witness in wrongful death lawsuits involving opioids. In many of those suits, she said, people died because of a simple and avoidable medication error, where a clinician had accidentally given a patient the wrong liquid opioid.

    "The problem is, morphine looks like fentanyl looks like dilaudid," Palmer told Business Insider. "They all look the same."

    An anesthesiologist by training, Palmer created a new formulation of an opioid, called Dsuvia, explicitly to avoid these kinds of accidental deaths.

    The drug was approved by by the Food and Drug Administration on November 2. It's a tiny blue tablet, packaged in a special single-use applicator, that dissolves under the tongue and begins working to relieve pain in under an hour.

    "It dawned on me — what if we could design an oral form of these drugs that worked as quickly as the liquid, but basically you weren’t one step away from being killed by a tired nurse or a doctor who ordered the wrong drug," Palmer said. "You could have almost a fool-proof way of treating someone."

    In addition, Palmer said the new drug would help patients whose pain can't be treated efficiently with an IV or an injection, such as soldiers on the battlefield or patients whose veins are difficult to find.

    In a statement announcing the new drug's approval, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb echoed this reasoning. He also said the Pentagon had "worked closely" with Palmer's company to develop the drug for use on the battlefield, where it would fill what he called a "specific and important, but limited, unmet medical need."

    Many emergency room doctors appear to disagree with the need for yet another opioid, however.

    While some of them aren't necessarily opposed to the approval of a new opioid (thousands of patients need them, even as thousands more are dying from addiction), many of them say Dsuvia aims to solve a set of problems that doesn't exist — at least not at the magnitude in which Palmer presented it.

    More importantly, the experts said, there are easier and simpler ways to prevent mistakes and help make sure that doctors are giving patients the right dose of pain relievers.

    Dsuvia is 'not a game-changer'

    opioid pharma industry 2x1One of the critics is Raeford Brown, an anesthesiologist at the University of Kentucky and the chair of the FDA advisory committee that voted in favor of the drug while he was absent. Brown, who also leads a consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen, told NPR that he was not present for the vote because of a scheduling conflict.

    "We have worked very diligently over the last three or four years to try to improve the public health, to reduce the number of potent opioids on the street," Brown told NPR. "I don't think this is going to help us in any way."

    Dsuvia is a different formulation of an already available drug called sufentanil, which is used as an anesthetic for surgeries and other invasive medical procedures. While sufentanil must be injected or delivered via an IV, Dsuvia can be taken orally. 

    "We’ve taken a wonderful old drug and delivered it in a way that’s user-friendly. An ER doctor could never have used it before," Palmer said.

    Yet because so many other opioids already exist, Dsuvia is unnecessary, several physicians said. The benefits of a single-use package, and of a new way of giving the painkiller, aren't particularly significant, they said.

    "I agree that patients need to be treated for pain, but I don’t think this solves that problem except maybe in a very incremental way,"Jeremy Samuel Faust, an attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told Business Insider.

    "It’s not a game-changer," he added.

    'Like engineering overkill'

    dsuviaBecause of the wide range of available opioids and the frequency with which they are given, medical dosing errors do happen. Dosing errors include situations where the wrong type or dose of medication is given to a patient and they're either under-treated for their pain or given too much medication, potentially injuring or killing them.

    Good data on just how frequent these errors are and how often they harm or even kill patients is lacking. A 2012 report authored by the nonprofit healthcare accreditation organization the Joint Commission suggested that while the errors were common, they could not determine how frequently they were fatal. 

    "Of the opioid-related adverse drug events — including deaths — that occurred in hospitals and were reported to The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event database (2004-2011), 47% were wrong dose medication errors," the report read.

    If the main problem with current opioids is that they are easily mixed up, physicians say there are much simpler solutions than introducing a more potent oral opioid.

    "If the real concern is the wrong bottle, why not color-code the bottles?" asked Ernest Rasyidi, a psychiatrist in the emergency clinician decision unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California.

    "There are plenty of low-cost solutions out there if this is a systems problem," Rasyidi said. "But this would be a very complicated and round-about way of solving that issue. It’s like engineering overkill."

    Faust agreed.

    "Medication errors are a problem but I wouldn’t say that the solution is adding another medication that’s packaged differently. Why not better labeling?"

    But Palmer believes Dsuvia solves a problem that isn't currently being addressed.

    "The future is Dsuvia. It’s not starting an IV and giving a liquid that even has the remotest possibility of being confused for another drug," she said.

    She compared the need for new and better opioids to the car industry.

    "They’re dangerous but they’re necessary," Palmer said.

    "When you have something dangerous but necessary, you have to innovate."

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    Serena Williams woman of the year

    • Serena Williams was named GQ's "Woman" of the Year.
    • GQ published four separate covers to celebrate it's Men of the Year, with one unusual one for Williams.
    • Twitter users were quick to question why the men's fashion magazine used quotation marks to describe Williams as a "woman."
    • Williams had previously given a heartfelt interview where she admitted she had read internet conspiracies that say she was "born a guy."
    • GQ has responded saying it all comes down to style of the artist who did the cover's handwriting.

    People are questioning why GQ used quotation marks to herald Serena Williams as its "Woman" of the Year on its cover, and the brand has responded.

    The popular men's fashion magazine confirmed its "Men (and Woman) of the Year"in a Twitter post on Monday.

    The winners include the "Black Panther" actor Michael B. Jordan, the "Crazy Rich Asians" star Henry Golding, the Hollywood funny-man Jonah Hill, and the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion Williams.

    Jordan, Golding, and Hill are all lauded as Men of the Year. However, Williams is listed as a "Woman" of the Year, with quotation marks prominently displayed around the word "woman" on the magazine's cover.

    Look at the cover photos below.

    The quotation marks attracted the attention of people on Twitter.

    Twitter user Anna Wagner said: "Okay but why is woman in quotation marks."

    Another Twitter user said: "Why 'woman' and not WOMAN?"

    Perhaps anticipating the negative reaction the Williams cover art might receive, GQ added an annotation to the cover.

    Next to "Woman," on the right-hand side of the second quotation mark, there is an asterisk. A second asterisk is found below the sub-head "The Champion, Serena Williams" on the bottom left-hand corner of the cover. It says: "Handwriting by Virgil Abloh."

    Mick Rouse, the research manager of GQ, explained the significance of this in his own post on the Twitter thread.

    He said Abloh "has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena's US Open apparel that he designed)."

    Rouse added: "It quite literally has tags/quotations around it because that’s Virgil’s own style/branding, including in his partnership with Nike and Serena herself. That’s the only 'message' behind it."

    Williams has had to fend off accusations she was "born a guy" in the past.

    Considered the queen of tennis, she admitted in a May 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar that she had read internet conspiracy theories that she was born a man. In the interview she even wore a jacket that said: "Queen. Don't be afraid to rule like a king."

    Her "strong and muscular" appearance caused people to say such things, Williams said.

    Four months later her appearance was once again headline news when Australian newspaper The Herald Sun published a cartoon that depicted her as an angry baby with grossly-exaggerated weight, lips, and nose. The paper also attempted to discredit her character and call her "no feminist hero."

    Williams' husband, the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, slammed the cartoon for being "racist and misogynistic."

    SEE ALSO: How Serena Williams responds to accusations that she 'was born a guy'

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    UP NEXT: Serena Williams' Reddit co-founder husband Alexis Ohanian slams controversial 'angry baby' cartoon for being 'racist and misogynistic'

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    Alex Morgan USWNT

    • The USWNT wrapped up its 2018 slate with a 1-0 win against 19th-ranked Scotland to remain undefeated on the year.
    • Superstar striker Alex Morgan netted a beautiful volley in the 39th minute for her 98th goal in international play.
    • The U.S. will look to carry the momentum from their 28-game unbeaten streak through the new year and to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.

    Less than two months removed from a World Cup year, the U.S. Women's National Team is riding high.

    The team wrapped up its 2018 slate with a 1-0 win against 19th-ranked Scotland to remain undefeated on the year. They will take a 28-game unbeaten streak into 2019 and look to carry that momentum into the FIFA Women's World Cup in France next summer.

    Superstar striker Alex Morgan netted a beautiful volley off a cross from Mallory Pugh in the 39th minute for her 18th goal in 19 games and her 98th in international play.

    "It's been great this year being undefeated,"Morgan said. "I don't feel like this was our strongest performance by any means, but I do have to give credit to Scotland. I feel like they played very well. They're a pretty physical team and ... it's a team we could very well see in the World Cup."

    Though they have been dominant throughout the 2018 campaign, the USWNT had a few scares in Tuesday's contest. Thirty minutes into the match, Scotland had back-to-back opportunities to score. Morgan barely cleared a deflected corner kick off of the goal line before Scottish star Jane Ross won the ball back from Pugh and chipped a ball just north of the crossbar.

    The U.S. players began to settle in once Morgan scored, and the offensive opportunities poured in from there. In the 53rd minute, midfielder Julie Ertz had a chance to send one home from the top of the box. Carli Lloyd ran on a ball from Pugh and heeled it to Morgan just outside of the six-yard box. Morgan then sent the ball back out to Ertz who blasted a low shot that was deflected on its way towards the corner of the goal.

    Then, in the 62nd minute, Pugh ran onto a pass from Lloyd and was pushed from behind in the box. Lloyd stepped to the line for the penalty kick and powered the ball off of the crossbar.

    Scotland nearly countered, but the U.S. managed to control the pace of the game from there. The USWNT will return to the field January 19 to take on France in Le Havre.

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    tim cook

    The third quarter was a tough one in the tech business.

    Scandalsabounded. Many companies saw their sales growth slow or user numbers falter. Stocks that once seemed to defy gravity, got knocked down. And the president of the United States made a sport out of publicly attacking many companies and executives in the industry. 

    Whether at startups or public companies, tech executives were challenged to show their mettle. Some provided a steady hand at the wheel or a reaped the rewards of a prescient plan of action; others reeled, took cover or acted out. Some were hapless victims of circumstance; others suffered from self-inflicted damage. 

    Here are some of the notable winners and loser in the third quarter:

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    WINNER: Kelly Bennett, Netflix's chief marketing officer

    As the head of Netflix's marketing efforts, it's Kelly Bennett's responsibility to get consumers excited about the company's shows and movies and to convince more people to sign up. He seems to have done a spectacular job in the third quarter. Netflix added nearly 7 million subscribers in the period, which was about 2 million more than Wall Street was expecting.

    That surge helped the company post a profit that blew through analysts' projections, which boosted Netflix's shares as much as 15% immediately after the report.

    But Netflix saw the benefits of Bennett's marketing efforts elsewhere. Thanks in part to his promotions, the company earned 23 Emmy awards in September, tying HBO for the most of any network.

    LOSER: Luca Maestri, Apple's chief financial officer

    If another company had sold fewer of its products than Wall Street was expecting, the management team might talk about how it would increase marketing, cut prices or revamp products to rekindle sales. Not Apple.

    After the company sold fewer iPhones than analysts had expected in its fiscal first quarter, CFO Luca Maestri announced on Apple's earnings call that he would solve the problem by no longer releasing unit sales numbers for its smartphone or any other products.

    Maestri rationalized the decision by saying that unit sales weren't really "representative" of the the strength of Apple's business. But he didn't offer to replace that information with other data that might be more representative.

    The net effect: Apple shareholders will know less about their company. Investors — already unhappy with the disappointing sales numbers and a weaker-than-expected outlook for the fourth quarter — expressed their displeasure that Maestri was curtailing their information by sending Apple's shares even lower than they were before the announcement.

    WINNER: Bob Swan, Intel's interim CEO

    When Brian Krzanich was forced out suddenly in June as Intel's CEO, the company handed the reins — at least for the time being — to Bob Swan. In his first full quarter running the company, Swan, who also serves as the chipmaker's chief financial officer, showed he could provide a steady hand.

    Intel's third quarter revenue and profit both topped Wall Street's expectations, and it offered better-than-expected guidance for the fourth quarter to boot. Investors cheered, sending Intel's stock up 6% after the report. Not bad for an interim CEO.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    thai drug suspects

    • An Australian man and his Thai wife have been sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle a half-ton of crystal meth into Thailand.
    • Luke Joshua Cook, 35, and Kanyarat Wechapitak, 40, were arrested at Bangkok airport in December last year over the plot to smuggle more than $216 million ($AU300 million) worth of drugs through Thailand and then into Australia.
    • High-profile cases of Australian nationals trying to move drugs out of China have grown in recent years. 

    An Australian man and his Thai wife have been sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle over $216 million ($AU300 million) worth of drugs into Thailand, which imposes very strict punishments for drug-related offenses.

    Luke Joshua Cook, 35, and his wife Kanyarat Wechapitak, 40, were arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport in December last year over a plot to smuggle half a ton of crystal meth into Thailand and then into Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported

    Cook, said to be a member of the Hells Angels biker gang, has been accused of masterminding the plot to move the drugs from China to Thailand by boat. The shipment was dumped overboard after being spotted by Thai authorities and about 110 pounds of drugs washed ashore at Mae Ramphueng beach near Pattaya in June 2015.

    Thai authorities claim Cook was paid $10 million by Hells Angels for the drug shipment. Police confiscated several assets, including luxury cars, as part of their investigation, the Herald said. 

    An Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told the Herald that the government was providing consular services to an Australian in Thailand, but declined to comment specifically on Cook. 

    Several high-profile cases of drug trafficking in Asia at the hands of Australian nationals have been reported in recent years. Thirty-nine-year-old Queensland native Schapelle Corby served nine years in prison in Indonesia after drugs were found inside her bag at Bali airport. She returned to Australia in May last year.

    And a group of nine Australians, referred to as the "Bali Nine" were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia into Australia in 2005. Two of the group's leaders were executed by firing squad in 2015, while the others were sentenced to life in prison.

    However, just this week the Bali provincial correction division told Fairfax media that Bali Nine member Renae Lawrence will be released and free to return home on November 21. 

    The 41-year-old will become the first member of the Bali Nine drug trafficking group to be released, more than 12 years after she was put behind bars.

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    South China Sea

    • China has a plan in motion to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Seas.
    • If successful, the move would effectively ban exploration by countries from outside the region, further isolating local powers from US support.
    • China is using drawn-out negotiations over the issue to further divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue.
    • Premier Li Keqiang says he hopes talks will be completed in about three years from now.

    China is preparing to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Sea by effectively banning exploration by countries from outside the region.

    The Nikkei Asian Review reports that China, as part of a longer-term strategy that seeks to divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue, has embedded the proposal in part of a long-awaited code of conduct for the contested waters.

    Beijing's proposal, which is helping drag out tense negotiations over the code with southeast Asian nations, is a likely deterrent targeting US oil interests from securing access to the seas claimed by a host of nearby Asian powers.

    China hopes its talks with southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in about three years, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Singapore on Tuesday.

    Xinhua reports that Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture, titled “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity ("在开放融通中共创共享繁荣") that China reckons it would like to draw a line under talks on the COC by 2021.

    According to a report in the Nikkei on Sunday, people close to the COC negotiations said China inserted the oil exploration ban into a working document proposal in August.

    With officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US vice president Mike Pompeo gathering this week in Singapore, calls have grown for the language's removal, suggesting the ban is at odds with standard international maritime laws.

    The South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for the world’s merchant shipping, and consequently an important economic and strategic flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific.

    Moreover it is the growing focus of several complex territorial disputes that have been the cause of conflict and angst.

    China, as it continues to develop its energy technologies and oil extraction infrastructure has in all likelihood inserted the latest sticking point language knowing full well that any delay suits its long-game strategy.

    Knowing that a bloc of ASEAN members can and will not accept the proposal, secures China more time ahead of a finalized code of conduct while Beijing's power in the South China Sea grows and its influence among sympathetic ASEAN nations grows.

    ASEAN members are already split when it comes to making space for China and on its role in the region, particularly the South China Sea.

    Cambodia and Laos have in recent years fallen further and further under Beijing's dynamic influence as China has invested heavily in supporting public works that secure the regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.

    Meanwhile, firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte, has enjoyed his role as a regional disrupter, at once isolating the US while hedging on Beijing.

    Duterte has embraced the confusion apparent in ASEAN waters as leverage for Manila, leaving a fractured bloc at the table with US and Chinese negotiators ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.

    The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles of Pacific Ocean encompassing an area from the strategically critical passage though Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam.

    Countries as diverse and numerous as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, China are all connected to the South China Seas, which goes some way to explain the waters' inherent dangers to regional security.

    It's quite a minefield.

    map south china sea

    The major contested island and reef formations throughout the seas are the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas, the Natuna Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

    The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never been home to or laid claim by an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a tricky one to resolve - China for example likes to say it has historical roots to the region established sometime back in the 15th century.

    But their are many other aggravating maritime and territorial factors in this increasingly dangerous part of the world.

    As ASEAN's economic intensity has continued to build under the shade of China's decades-long economic boom, so has the waterway become a critical channel for a growing percentage of global commercial merchant shipping.

    China itself still depends heavily on access through the Malacca Straits to satiate its appetite for energy and resources.

    Nearby Japan and South Korea, both net importers, also depend enormously on free access to the South China Sea for unhindered shipments of fuel, resources and raw materials for both import and export.

    On top of that, these are oceans rich and unregulated when it comes to natural resources. Nations like Vietnam and China furiously compete through fleets of private fishing vessels organised with state backing in a rush to exploit fishing grounds in dire need of governance.

    Yet, the source of the most intense friction is the widely held belief that the South China Seas are home to abundant, as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

    China and ASEAN have been discussing changes to a 2002 declaration on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea that would give the rules legal force.

    As it stands, the declaration has proved wholly unable to stop Chinese island-building in the waters.

    south china sea spratly

    South China Sea nations including China, Vietnam and the Philippines seek opportunities to develop the plentiful reserves of energy that the sea is thought to hold.

    But with the notable exception of China, backed by its heaving state-owned behemoths, like Sinopec and CNOOC these countries independently lack well-developed oil industries.

    Which is where the US enters the frame.

    Beijing has obvious and probably well founded concerns that the US will seek to engage and then use joint oil development projects with ASEAN countries to build a legitimate commercial toehold and thus a greater presence in the sea.

    The Nikkei Review noted that the South China Sea's lack of clear maritime boundaries makes it a difficult place to ban oil exploration by outside countries, according to a specialist in international law.

    As part of the code of conduct, China has also proposed barring outside countries from taking part in joint military exercises with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.

    ASEAN members including Singapore have not agreed to this provision, creating another obstacle to concluding the negotiations.

    ASEAN is moving to strengthen ties with China, as shown by last month's first-ever joint military exercises. At the same time, the Southeast Asian bloc plans to hold naval exercises with the US as early as next year.

    Meanwhile, this week Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to meet with the leaders of the eight Pacific islands that recognise China diplomatically and welcome Chinese investment.

    Beijing this week warned no country should try to obstruct its "friendship and cooperation" with Pacific nations that have already received over $3 billion in Chinese investment.

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    Pike County murders

    • An Ohio grand jury charged four members of the Wagner family with the 2016 murders of eight people on a family farm in Pike County.
    • Ohio Attorney General and governor-elect Mike DeWine said in a press conference on Tuesday that the victims were "killed in cold blood."
    • Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for all four suspects.

    Four members of the same Ohio family could face the death penalty if they are found guilty in the 2016 "execution-style" murders of eight on a family farm in Pike County, Ohio.

    In a press conference on Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General and governor-elect Mike DeWine announced the arrests of suspects George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, his wife Angela Wagner, 48, and their sons George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26.

    The four were indicted by an Ohio grand jury and each was charged with eight counts of aggravated murder "with death penalty specifications," according to the attorney general.

    In addition to aggravated murder, the four were charged with "conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, forgery, unauthorized use of property, interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, obstructing justice, and aggravated burglary," according to a release from DeWine's office. Overall they face more than 80 criminal counts, according to NBC News.

    On April 22, 2016, the bodies of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40, his brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s ex-wife Dana Manley Rhoden, 37, their three children, Hanna May Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20, Frankie Rhoden's fiancée, Hannah "Hazel" Gilley, 20, and a cousin Gary Rhoden, 38, were found in four different homes on the family farm. All eight died of gunshot wounds.

    Three children were left alive.

    Read more:An Australian man and his Thai wife have been sentenced to death for trying to smuggle a half-ton of meth into Thailand

    "We promised the victims' families that the day would come when this case would be solved, and today is that day," DeWine said in a release. "The indictments allege that these suspects developed a calculated plan to execute the victims in the middle of the night and then carefully cover their tracks. Their alleged plan was sophisticated, but not sophisticated enough for our team of investigators and prosecutors."

    Officials said on Tuesday that a key piece of evidence was found on Oct. 30, but did not specify what it was.

    Angela Wagner's mother Rita Newcomb, 65, and Billy Wagner's mother, Fredericka Wagner, 76, were also arrested on Tuesday, for involvement in what DeWine called "the cover up." They were both charged with obstructing justice and perjury. Newcomb was also charged with forgery.

    Prosecutors allege that these murders were connected to a custody issue. Jake Wagner (one of the suspects) had been a long-time boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden (one of the victims); the two had a child, who was 3 years old at the time of the murders, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

    Around 100 marijuana plants were found when officials were searching the crime scene; DeWine called the drugs an "undercurrent" of the case, according to The Dispatch.

    DeWine said the investigation, which included both state and local officials, was the largest in Ohio's history.

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    Jamal Khashoggi crown prince protest

    • A former CIA case officer and intelligence analyst said the Trump administration is helping the Saudi Crown Prince cover up journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. 
    • Bob Baer, who worked as a CIA case officer primarily in the Middle East, told CNN's Jake Tapper that the US has purposely muted its response to Khashoggi's murder, despite mounting evidence including audio recordings  that some suggest implicates the Saudi Crown Prince. 
    • Turkish and US officials, including US National Security Adviser John Bolton, have said that the audio does not conclusively link the killing to Prince Mohammed. But Baer suggested it is unlikely that anyone else in the Kingdom would have the authority to order such an operation.
    • "The chances that Mohammed bin Salman ordered this, we're hitting 100%," Baer said.
    • The Trump administration, by all appearances, is unsure of how to proceed in its response to Khashoggi's murder; while officials have been promising to clamp down hard with possible sanctions, little meaningful action has been taken.

    A former CIA case officer and intelligence analyst for CNN claimed the Trump administration is helping the Saudis cover up Jamal Khashoggi's murder. 

    Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday, Bob Baer, who worked at a CIA case officer primarily in the Middle East, said the US has purposely muted its response to journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. 

    "We've always turned a blind eye to what's going on in Saudi Arabia," he told CNN Tuesday

    Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and US resident, was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly shifted its version of the events that transpired that day, and it has fired five top officials and arrested 18 Saudis it says are connected to the killing.

    Still, Khashoggi's body has not been returned, and audio recordings circulating around government agencies appear to indicate that that someone senior, possibly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had ordered the killing. 

    According to The New York Times, the tape allegedly records Khashoggi's last moments, and catches one of his killers call his superior on the phone and tell the person to "tell your boss" that "the deed was done."

    "The way Saudi Arabia is run today, Mohammed bin Salman is an autocrat," Baer said. "Security services, the rest of the country, he's in control."

    While Turkish and US officials, including US National Security Adviser John Bolton, have said that the audio does not conclusively implicate Prince Mohammed, Baer suggested it is unlikely that anyone else in the Kingdom would have the authority to order such an operation. Bolton has said he has not heard the tape himself. 

    "The Saudis do not have rogue operations ever," Baer said. "It's never occured. The chances that Mohammed bin Salman ordered this, we're hitting 100%."

    Deep ties between Washington and Riyadh 

    Donald Trump Mohammed bin Salman

    The Trump administration, by all appearances, is unsure of how to proceed in its response to Khashoggi's murder; while officials have been promising to clamp down hard with possible sanctions against senior Saudi leaders, little action has been taken, likely due to the deep economic ties between Washington and Riyadh.

    "At this point, the White House doesn't see a way out. Saudi Arabia is a volcano and to try and push the Crown Prince out, we don't have any players [in Saudi Arabia] on our side, so we don't know what to do," Baer said. "So we have a psychopath sitting in Riyadh controlling the country." 

    Prince Mohammed has tightened his grip in the last year since being appointed Crown Prince last June at the age of 31. His massive purge of more than 200 influential Saudi figures, many of whom were members of the Saudi royal family, silenced dissenting voices and cemented his status as Saudi Arabia's most powerful figure.

    "No Saudi prince has ever done this ever in its history," Baer said. "I think what worries the White House is this country could pop, and what would we do then?"

    SEE ALSO: Even if Saudi Arabia is behind Jamal Khashoggi's murder, experts say sanctions against Riyadh could backfire

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    NOW WATCH: The true story behind Boston gangster Whitey Bulger

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    Joaquin El Chapo Guzman Mexico extradition jail Sinaloa cartel

    • Opening arguments in the trial of accused Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman started Tuesday.
    • The prosecution described him as a brutal drug trafficker who built a billion-dollar organization.
    • The defense cast him as a the victim of a conspiracy mounted by fellow cartel members, the Mexican government, and US authorities.

    Opening statements on the first day of accused Mexican cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's trial were delayed by six hours, after two jurors were replaced.

    But both sides came out swinging in a case expected to last up to four months.

    "Money. Drugs. Murder. A vast global narcotics trafficking organization,"said Assistant US Attorney Adam Fels. "That is what this case is about."

    Guzman, 61, is accused of leading what prosecutors said became "the largest drug trafficking organization in the world" between 1989 and 2014, smuggling 155 metric tons of cocaine and other drugs and making $14 billion.

    Guzman himself faces 17 criminal counts and, if convicted, a life sentence.

    Recaptured drug lord Joaquin

    Fels said Guzman got a modest start in the 1970s, selling marijuana in Mexico before starting to build tunnels into the US. The tunnels distinguished Guzman, allowing him to move large quantities of drugs with such speed that he earned a new nickname, "Rapido," or the quick one.

    Guzman was soon sending 10 to 15 planes "stuffed with cocaine" a day from Colombia to Mexico, where the drugs could be smuggled into the US, according to Fels. With business booming, Fels said, Guzman started taking aim at rivals, kicking off several bloody turf wars in the 1990s.

    Read also: 'El Chapo' Guzmán has pleaded not guilty — here's the case US prosecutors say they have against him

    After the 1993 killing of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, who was gunned down in Guadalajara in what is believed to have been an attempt to kill Guzman, the rising trafficker fled to Guatemala, where he was captured, returned to Mexico, and convicted on drug and murder charges.

    But he continued to run his cartel for eight years before the first of two successful escapes.

    Mexico Sinaloa marijuana drug trafficking Culiacan homicides crime scene

    Fels told jurors that they would see evidence of enough seized cocaine for each person in the US to try some — "328 million separate, sniffable lines of coke," New York Times reporter Alan Feuer said on Twitter, adding that prosecutors believed for every shipment they caught, Guzman got another 100 by them.

    Fels also said the prosecution would show Guzman paid off Mexico's military and police and bought assault rifles, grenade launchers, and explosives to fight "war after bloody war." He said Guzman personally shot two members of a rival cartel and had their bodies burned.

    Prosecutors have said they would present a vast amount of evidence: 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 recordings. So much that the defense team has said it hasn't been able to review it all.

    'This mythical Chapo figure'

    Joaquin El Chapo Guzman El Guero Palma Arellano Felix Guadalajara Mexico Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo

    Guzman's defense sought to cast the accused cartel chief as a middling member of the vaunted Sinaloa cartel — a "nobody."

    "He’s blamed for being the leader while the real leaders are living freely and openly in Mexico," Jeffrey Lichtman, one of Guzman's lawyers, said on Tuesday.

    "In truth he controlled nothing. Mayo Zambada did," Lichtman said, referring to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, 70, who is thought to have cofounded the cartel with Guzman and is in hiding in Mexico. Zambada was indicted alongside Guzman but has never been arrested.

    Also read: The FBI just put the 'narco of narcos' on its 10 Most Wanted list

    "While the world focuses on this mythical Chapo figure," Lichtman said, "the world is not focusing on Mayo Zambada."

    Guzman's defense team appears to be arguing Guzman was built up by Zambada and the Mexican government, which used him as a "scapegoat" for the killing of Posadas.

    Zambada made Guzman a target through corruption and by working with "crooked" agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Lichtman said, adding that the US only "pretends to want" Zambada.

    Suspected Mexican drug trafficker Vicente Zambada-Niebla

    Zambada remains free because of "hundreds of millions of dollars" in payoffs that "go up to the very top," Lichtman said — including to the current president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

    Both swiftly denied the allegation.

    "The government of [Enrique Peña Nieto] pursued, captured and extradited the criminal Joaquín Guzmán Loera," a spokesman for the current president said. "The affirmations attributed to his lawyer are completely false and defamatory."

    "The affirmations said to be made by the lawyer of Joaquín 'el Chapo' Guzmán are absolutely false and reckless," Calderon said. "Neither him, nor the Sinaloa cartel nor anyone else made payments to me."

    Peña Nieto leaves office at the end of November. Calderon, elected in 20016, left office at the end of 2012.

    Corruption was said to be one of Guzman's main tactics, and allegations of bribes from narcos are nothing new for Mexican politicians. But the accusations made on Tuesday are as yet unsubstantiated.

    Pena Nieto Mexico

    Guzman's lawyers said they would detail them further as other witnesses — many of them convicted cartel figures — testify, according to Feuer.

    Lichtman also took aim at the cooperating witnesses, of whom the prosecution wants to call 16. Like the jurors, their identities are being kept secret for their protection.

    "Why is the government going so far in this case using these gutter human beings as the evidence?" he said. "It's because the conviction of Chapo Guzman is the biggest prize this prosecution could ever dream of."

    El Mayo's son, Vicente Zambada, who pleaded guilty to trafficking conspiracy in Chicago, has agreed to cooperate "in any investigation" as part of his deal and could take the stand as soon as Wednesday.

    "They work together when it suits them, Mayo and the US government," Lichtman said. He told the jury the case would force them to "throw out much of what you were taught to believe about the way government works."

    Judge Brian Cogan excused the jury for the day after the defense presented its theory and asked both sides to provide written briefs on the claims, suggesting the defense's line of argument will face more scrutiny.

    Lichtman's remarks were cut short because of the delay needed to pick new jurors. Opening arguments did not begin until 3:30 pm, and the day closed with Cogan announcing that another juror's mother-in-law had died on Monday, telling both sides to wait for more news.

    SEE ALSO: Mexican troops are in the streets to fight the drug war, and the country's defense chief says legalization may be 'a way out'

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    NOW WATCH: The wives of El Chapo's henchmen reveal how they hid and spent $2 billion

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    trader red screen upset market crash

    • Asset allocators are facing the toughest conditions they've seen in the past 50 years as market segments of all types experience widespread weakness.
    • There's a growing sense that there's nowhere to hide as it becomes increasingly difficult for investors to rotate out of underperforming areas into other corners of the market.

    As stocks have struggled through an ugly few weeks, it's been easy to forget just how poorly other asset classes have done.

    But the market wreckage has been widespread and indiscriminate this year, as everything from Treasury bonds to gold has lost money in 2018.Screen Shot 2018 11 12 at 4.28.34 PM

    As the chart to the right shows, US stocks have lost a large chunk of their year-to-date returns following a difficult October.

    What makes that so sad is that they're among the strongest performers, trailing only commodities, which are leading the way with a largely uninspiring 4% gain.

    The fact that stocks and bonds alike have seen such futile performance is particularly troubling. The two assets should, theoretically, trade inversely to one another.

    When that dynamic is in place, if someone gets wary about owning stocks, they can simply rotate into the relative safety of bonds. But lately, they haven't been afforded that luxury.

    Ultimately, it creates a "nowhere to hide"-type situation, in which investors are left scrambling to avoid spreading market turmoil.

    For money managers tasked with allocating money across asset classes, simply constructing an adequately diversified portfolio can become a tall task. And as it stands right now, the current environment is the most difficult it's been for them at any point in the past five decades.

    "No major asset class has done well," Doug Ramsey, the chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, wrote in a recent client note. "In most respects the opportunity set available to asset allocators this year has been among the worst in the last 50 years."

    It's been particularly tough going for hedge funds designed to recalibrate risk on the fly — otherwise known as risk-parity funds. They lost 5% in October, their most since 2013, as stocks, bonds, and commodities sold off simultaneously, depriving them of safe havens. Under normal circumstances, these asset classes aren't so closely correlated.

    For further evidence of how difficult the plight of asset allocators has been in 2018, consider that a strategy built around owning equal weights of all seven asset classes outlined above is floundering this year. It's headed for a 1.2% loss for 2018, which is a far cry from the 10.2% annualized return it's offered over the past 45 years.

    As the chart below shows, the return for this strategy has rarely been negative. And its all-time low coincides directly with the financial crisis from a decade ago — hardly an encouraging sign for the market as it stands right now.

    Screen Shot 2018 11 13 at 9.03.16 AM

    SEE ALSO: The world's biggest stock bear unloads on the 'stupidity' of Wall Street — and explains why the October meltdown was just a 'drop in the bucket' before the next big crash

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