China suspends bank tech restrictions: U.S. Treasury officialMon, 30 Mar 2015 21:57:27 GMT BEIJING (Reuters) - China has agreed to delay implementing new bank technology restrictions that Washington has complained represent unfair regulatory pressure on foreign firms, a senior U.S. Treasury official said in Beijing on Monday.
Tesla CEO Musk's upbeat tweets about China boost stockMon, 30 Mar 2015 18:50:29 GMT DETROIT (Reuters) - Elon Musk, the widely followed chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc, tweeted several optimistic statements about the company's sagging China operations on Monday, sparking a sharp rebound the company's stock.
Amaya to sell Cadillac Jack subsidiary to Apollo for $375 millionMon, 30 Mar 2015 18:00:50 GMT TORONTO (Reuters) - Amaya Gaming Group Inc said on Monday it has agreed to sell its Cadillac Jack subsidiary that makes slot machines and electronic bingo games for casinos to an affiliate of private equity firm Apollo Global Management for C$476 million ($375 million).
Taiwan seeks stronger cyber security ties with U.S. to counter China threatMon, 30 Mar 2015 13:31:23 GMT TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan wants to join a major anti-hacking drill conducted by the United States to strengthen cyber security ties with its staunchest ally, its vice premier said on Monday, a move which would help safeguard against constant targeting by hackers in rival China.
German firms embrace start-ups to catch up with digital worldMon, 30 Mar 2015 12:16:19 GMT DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Latecomers to the digital age, big German companies have started teaming up with start-ups to shake up their conservative business culture and keep pace with a world increasingly dominated by nimble tech giants.
Japan's Sharp won't exit solar business as part of bank bailout: executiveMon, 30 Mar 2015 11:57:17 GMT SAKAI, Japan (Reuters) - Loss-making Japanese electronics firm Sharp Corp said it plans to keep making solar cell products at a high-tech factory in western Japan, dismissing talk it may sell or exit the unprofitable business as it seeks backing from lenders for plans to revive the company.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused lasting damage, report says <p>NSU's three-year study will help determine the impact of submerged oil and of chemical dispersants used to break up the giant slick. The results have implications for the Atlantic side of Florida because powerful currents bring fish and pollutants through the Florida Straits and north along the coast.</p>
Court hearing on Williams' estate postponed until June <p>Susan Schneider Williams filed a petition in December, saying his three children are claiming memorabilia that was bestowed to her. She also claimed some of her husband's belongings were taken from their Tiburon, Calif., home without permission.</p>
1 of 2 victims of NYC explosion is officially identified <p>The mayor's office said Monday that one victim has been officially identified as 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa. The bowling alley worker was on a date at a restaurant when the explosion and fire leveled three buildings.</p>
Study: Kids' fast food consumption on the decline <p>According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, in 2003, almost 39 percent of U.S. kids ate fast food on a given day, which dropped to less than 33 percent by the 2009-2010 survey.</p>
The cold war that's making the Middle East even more dangerous Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, was incensed enough over what was happening in Syria that, in a 2013 press conference alongside Secretary of State John Kerry, he declared, "I consider Syria an occupied land." The occupier, he said, was Iran, which had sent military forces to fight alongside of those of besieged Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. "How can a neighboring country that’s supposed to uphold good relationships get involved into a civil war and help one side over the other?" he asked. It's amazing that Prince Saud managed to ask his question with straight face. Saudi Arabia was also taking sides, providing large amounts of weapons to rebels in Syria, some of them Islamist extremists who have contributed to the conflict's downward spiral. Syria had become more than just a civil war: it was a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which were escalating the war in their effort to combat each other. Over the past decade, the Saudis and Iranians have supported opposing political parties, funded opposing armies, and directly waged war against one another's proxies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. While they did not create the crises in those places, they have exacerbated them considerably. Driven by power politics, and fueled by Sunni-Shia sectarianism, the conflict between the two powers — often called the Middle East's Cold War — has become one of the most dangerous elements defining Middle Eastern politics today. As the 2003 Iraq invasion and the uprisings of the Arab Spring have upended status quos across the region, both Saudi Arabia and Iran have rushed in to shape events to their benefit — often at the cost of worsening instability and violence. The more the Iranian-Saudi rivalry escalates, the worse the region is likely to get. Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting for supremacy of the Middle East An pro-revolution Iranian woman in Tehran in 1979. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images) The Saudi-Iranian rivalry is, at its core, a competition going back years for power and dominance across the Middle East. "The new Middle East cold war predates the Arab Spring by at least half a decade, but increased Iranian influence in the Arab world dates back even longer." F. Gregory Gause III, a professor of international affairs at Texas A&M, writes. After Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah, the new Islamic Republic established an aggressive foreign policy of exporting the Iranian revolution, attempting to foment Iran-style theocratic uprisings around the Middle East. That was a threat to Saudi Arabia's heavy influence in the Middle East, and perhaps to the Saudi monarchy itself. "The fall of the shah and the establishment of the militant Islamic Republic of [founding leader] Ruhollah Khomeini came as a particularly rude shock to the Saudi leadership," University of Virginia's William Quandt writes. It "brought to power a man who had explicitly argued that Islam and hereditary kingship were incompatible, a threatening message, to say the least, in [the Saudi capital of] Riyadh." In response, Saudi Arabia and other ultra-conservative Gulf monarchies formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organization initially designed to counter and contain Iranian influence. Iran, weakened by the Iran-Iraq war, backed off of its more aggressive attempts to remake the Middle East in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the groundwork for conflict was already laid: Saudi Arabia and Iran had come to see each other as dangerous threats. Saudi Arabia sees Iran as bent on overturning a Middle Eastern political order that's quite friendly to Saudi interests; the Iranians believe the Saudis are actively attempting to keep Iran weak and vulnerable. This creates what political scientists call a security dilemma: one side, fearing attack, ramps up defense spending or supports a regional proxy in order to guard against a perceived threat. The other side sees that as threatening — what if they're planning to attack? — and feels compelled to respond in kind. This creates a self-sustaining cycle in which both countries to take actions that are designed to make their country more secure, but end up scaring the other side and thus raising both the chances and the potential severity of conflict. "It's what the US and the Soviet Union were involved in" during the Cold War, Daniel Serwer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, explains. Serwer believes the security dilemma "is what really brings us to this point." The Saudis and Iranians see regional power in zero-sum terms: the more powerful Iran is, the more vulnerable the Saudis feel. And, again, vice-versa: "the rationale [the Iranians] give themselves is very heavily defensive," he says. That's why proxy struggles in countries such as Syria and Yemen start to seem so important: Saudi Arabia sees Iran backing the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, and believes it's an initial step toward not just creating chaos in Yemen but overturning the entire regional order that is so important to Saudi Arabia's security. Iran, meanwhile, sees Saudi Arabia arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria and believes the Saudis want to deprive Tehran of an important ally, with the ultimate goal of isolating Iran and surrounding it by hostile regimes. Neither wants the other to gain in influence, so they intervene and counter-intervene. For both, the stakes seem high, so they respond with measures that feel appropriately severe to them: for Saudi Arabia, bombing Yemen's Houthi rebels and threatening to invade; for Iran, sending more troops and military advisers to Syria. This ends up escalating both conflicts further, heightening the mutual fears and, of course, increasing the suffering of Yemenis and Syrians. The Iraq war and the Arab Spring set the stage for today's proxy conflict Iraqi army fighters, with US-support, clear out territory held by Shia militias in Baghdad in 2008. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry was fairly quiet. According to both Gause and Serwer, that's because Iran's opportunities to challenge the Saudi-led political order were fairly limited. Tehran was just too focused on the threat from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Then the US led the 2003 Iraq invasion that toppled Saddam and changed everything. Iran saw an opportunity to strengthen reliable, pro-Iran Shia militant groups (Iraq is majority Shia) and to replace Saddam a more friendly Shia-led regime — which is exactly what happened. "Until the American invasion of Iraq," Serwer says, "the door wasn't really open [for Iran to challenge the regional order], except in limited ways like supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. "What the United States did in Iraq, by opening the door to the Shia majority, is part of the story for the Saudis," Serwer says. Then the Arab Spring, by toppling governments or inspiring uprisings throughout the region, created a whole new set of openings in which Iran could seek to expand its influence — and Saudi Arabia would struggle to maintain the status quo. When a Saudi-friendly regime was threatened, the Iranians supported the opposition while the Saudis tried to prop them up. When it was an Iranian ally on the brink of collapse, Saudi Arabia tried to push it over the edge while Iran tried to pull it back. In Syria, Saudi Arabia funded and supplied the rebels fighting Iran's ally Bashar al-Assad; Iran sent troops into the country to defend the monarchy and showering Assad with military aid. In Bahrain, the country's Shia majority staged pro-democracy protests against the Sunni monarchy; Saudi Arabia, fearing Iranian influence, sent in soldiers to crush the protests. In Yemen, Iran stepped up its financial and military aid for the Houthi rebels; after the rebels seized the capital Sanaa in early 2015 and began moving to take the rest of it, Saudi Arabia launched a bombing campaign to stop them. "The retreat of the state made it possible for Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other regional states to play an increasing role in the civil conflicts of Lebanon (for some time), Iraq (since 2003), and Syria (since 2011)," Gause writes. "This is the core, bottom-up dynamic driving the new Middle East cold war." Though the conflict isn't driven by Sunni-Shia hatred, sectarianism makes it especially dangerous A Syrian rebel mourns the death of a comrade. (John Cantlie/Getty Images) Even though Iran is a Shia theocracy, and Saudi Arabia is a Sunni theocracy of a different sort, their struggle isn't really motivated by religion or theology. "I don't think that the Saudis and Iranians are engaged in a sectarian war with each other; I think they're engaged in a balance of power conflict for regional influence," Gause told me in July. "But," he says, "they use sectarianism." In fact, the Saudi-Iranian struggle is a significant reason for why sectarianism has gotten as bad as it has in the Middle East. Shared sectarian identities make political alliances easier. Sunni governments and rebels are more likely to turn to Saudi Arabia for help; same for Shia groups turning to Iran. And as conflicts go on, their sectarian cast tends to intensify — inviting Saudi and Iranian intervention, which further polarizes countries on sectarian lines. "The retreat of the state ... drove people in these countries to look to sectarian identities and groups for the protection and material sustenance that the state either could or would no longer provide," Gause writes. "As sectarianism increasingly defined their struggles, it was natural that they look to co-religionists — Iran for Shia and Saudi Arabia for Sunnis — for that support." Take Syria, for example. The country's crisis began, in 2011, as a non-sectarian mass uprising against the Assad dictatorship. But the Assad regime, which is Alawite Shia and backed by Iran, very explicitly targeted Sunnis in an attempt to make the conflict sectarian, and force Syria's Shia and Christian minorities to rally behind Assad. Saudi backing of Sunni militant groups helped intensify this sectarian divide, ironically playing into Assad's hands. The danger of the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is that they'll replicate Syria's experience across the Middle East, by intervening and counter-intervening to support Sunni and Shia proxies. The longer this goes on, the more entrenched and violent the regional Sunni-Shia divide will become. In Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq — and who knows where could be next.