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In 2013, U.S. critical infrastructure companies reported about 260 cyberattacks on their facilities to the federal government. Of these attacks, 59 percent occurred in the energy sector. A new report proposes that energy companies should create an industry-led organization to deflect cyber threats to the electric grid. Modeled after the nuclear industry’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the proposed organization, to be called the Institute for Electric Grid Cybersecurity, would oversee all the energy industry players that could compromise the electric grid if they came under a cyberattack.

In 2013, U.S. critical infrastructure companies reported about 260 cyberattacks on their facilities to the federal government. Of these attacks, 59 percent occurred in the energy sector.

A new report, co-authored by former CIA and NSA director, Gen. (Ret.) Michael Hayden, proposes that energy companies should create an industry-led organization to deflect cyber threats to the electric grid. The organization would extend membership to power companies across North America, including large generators as well as local distribution utilities. Modeled after the nuclear industry’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the proposed organization, to be called the Institute for Electric Grid Cybersecurity, would oversee all the energy industry players that could compromise the electric grid if they came under a cyberattack.

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As Washington and the Europeans – and especially the UK – continue to decry Russian military aggression, the US and Russians have quietly entered into intense negotiations on a compromise for resolving their dispute over Ukraine, DEBKAfile’s Washington and Moscow sources report. 

Moscow insists on keeping in place the military forces which took control of Crimea over the weekend, but is ready to discuss terms for restraining the Russian army from advancing into the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

The exchanges between the two powers are going through Berlin. The German government is making every effort to dispel the winds of war coming in from the east. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin conferred Sunday night by phone and decided to talk again about ways of promoting the negotiations.

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The mass surveillance carried out by the US National Security Agency means that governance of the internet has to be made more international and less dominated by America, the European Union's executive has declared.

 

Setting out proposals on how the world wide web should function and be regulated, the European commission called for a shift away from the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which is subject to US law, is contracted by the US administration and is empowered to supervise how digital traffic operates.

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Far-right Israeli MPs stormed out of the Knesset in protest on Wednesday as the German president of the European parliament pledged that the EU would always support Israel but highlighted Palestinian suffering and the "siege" of the Gaza Strip.

 

Naftali Bennet, the economics minister and leader of the religious-nationalist Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, led a walkout in response to what he condemned as Martin Schulz's "lies".

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India's parliament erupted in chaos on Thursday over a bill to create a new state, with angry MPs coming to blows, pulling out a microphone and pepper-spraying the chamber.

 

Holding banners and shouting slogans, lawmakers disrupted the lower house of parliament as the Congress-led government introduced the contentious bill to carve a new state out of the existing Andhra Pradesh.

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The world footballing authority conceded on Thursday that there was little it could do to remedy the ordeal for migrant workers in Qatar reduced to slave labour conditions in creating the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. But a Fifa board member dismissed all talk of reversing the decision to hold the tournament there even if conditions were not improved.

 

A European parliament hearing on the scandal, first revealed by the Guardian last year, was told that Qatar was a slave state for migrant workers, scores of whom had died in appalling conditions while or after working on the building sites of the Gulf country.

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An Iranian opposition leader who was being held against his will in a safe house belonging to the intelligence services has been transferred to his own home but remains under house arrest.

 

Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate in Iran's 2009 disputed election, returned home but a judicial official made clear on Monday that his house arrest has not been lifted.

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Dusk was gathering around the date palms of Ein Hijleh when the Israeli police 4x4 roared past the protest village, sending up clouds of white dust that obscured the view of the golden cupola of the nearby monastery of Saint Gerassimos.

"Look at that," a Palestinian activist shouted. "They're just doing it to remind us that they're here and to say, 'F**k you.'"

Only hours later, hundreds of police and troops returned on Friday morning to force some 250 Palestinians off the site, close to Jericho and the Dead Sea, after a week of peaceful direct action designed to dramatise their claim to the land and to protest against peace talks they fear will consolidate rather than end the 46-year occupation by Israel.

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In a close vote, the House of Representatives has passed a "clean" suspension of the nation's debt limit through March 15, 2015.

The final tally was 221-201, with Democrats carrying the vote. Twenty-eight Republicans joined 193 Democrats in voting for the measure. Meanwhile, 199 Republicans and two Democrats voted against it.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) cast a rare vote in favor of the legislation. In a surprising vote against leadership, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) voted "no."

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Armed forces chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi has warned the Islamic republic's arch-foes that Iran is prepared for a "decisive battle" if attacked, Fars news agency reported on Wednesday.

"We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel)," Fars quoted Firouzabadi as saying.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine last July, U.S. diplomats got a private recap of the message he delivered behind closed doors to the country's leaders. Ukraine, Putin warned, would not be allowed to stray from Moscow's orbit.

Putin's blunt talk was an unexpected sign of how hard Moscow would fight Western influence on Ukraine, U.S. officials say, prompting Washington and European capitals to step up their engagement with Ukrainian government and opposition forces.

Seven months later, the United States and Russia are locked in a Cold War-style test of wills over the strategically located country of 45 million that has been racked by anti-government protests and sporadic violence.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will sue President Barack Obama and others over National Security Agency surveillance programs, according to a statement distributed by his political action committee.

Paul will announce the suit Tuesday with Matt Kibbe, the president of the conservative grassroots group FreedomWorks. The lead counsel is Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor. Along with Obama, they are suing National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and NSA Director Keith Alexander.

"I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment," Paul said in a statement.

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Scores of alleged Taliban fighters walked free from jail in Afghanistan on Thursday, triggering condemnation from the United States which said they were responsible for killing NATO and Afghan soldiers as well as civilians.

The release of the prisoners further worsened the bitter relationship between Kabul and Washington as US-led foreign troops prepare to withdraw after 13 years fighting the Islamist militants.

"The 65 prisoners were freed and walked out of the Bagram prison compound this morning," Abdul Shukor Dadras, a member of the Afghan government's review body, told AFP.

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Civil rights lawyers expressed concern this week that judges reviewing the contempt of court case brought against Lavabit, an email service that was used by the National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, were dismissing privacy concerns raised by the case as a “red herring” that had been “blown out of proportion”.

 

The founder of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, is challenging a contempt of court order brought against him when he initially refused to hand over the encryption keys to his secure email service. The case is now with the fourth US circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Judges Roger Gregory, Paul Niemeyer and Steven Agee presided over a hearing on Tuesday.

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Paul Ryan, a key player in the debate over immigration reform, said on Sunday it was not certain that a broad immigration bill would reach President Barack Obama's desk by the end of the year. Appearing elsewhere on the Sunday talk shows the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said the Obama administration “feel pretty good that we will get a bill this year".

 

Immigration reform legislation, which the Democratic-controlled Senate has already passed, has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.

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A man took more than 20 children hostage at a Moscow school in a short-lived siege that ended with all the children freed, according to early reports.

 

However, one Russian news agency reported that a police officer and a 36-year-old geography teacher were killed during the confrontation on Monday.

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The scandal engulfing the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, could deepen on Monday when the state legislative committee investigating allegedly politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington bridge, which happened in September, receives its first tranche of subpoenaed documents.

Speculation over whether Christie knew about the closures intensified on Friday, when a key figure in the controversy alleged that the Republican governor had lied to the public. On Sunday, it was confirmed that a member of Christie's administration who was one of 17 people subpoenaed resigned on Friday.

Christina Genovese Renna reported to deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, who apparently set the lane closings in motion and who was fired by Christie last month. Renna confirmed her resignation through a statement to the Associated Press from her lawyer. She said she had been considering leaving since after the November gubernatorial election, which Christie won decisively.

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Germany has signalled it is preparing a third rescue package for Greece – provided the debt-stricken country implements "rigorous"austerity measures blamed for record levels of unemployment and a dramatic drop in GDP.

 

The new loan, outlined in a five-page position paper by Berlin's finance ministry, would be worth between €10bn to €20bn (£8bn-16bn), according to the German weekly Der Spiegel, which was leaked the document.

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In the last week or so much of the international business press has been focused on the problems of financial stability in developing countries, some of whom have recently become more vulnerable to capital outflows. The main cause is that investors are trying to get the jump on possible moves by the US Federal Reserve to allow interest rates to rise, which will draw capital from developing countries and cause their borrowing costs to rise.

 

Argentina has gotten some of this attention, as it allowed the peso to fall by 15% in one day and increased some access for Argentines to dollars on the official market. Venezuela is not as affected by these market developments, but is always negatively portrayed in the international media, and more so since its exchange rate system problems have caused its inflation to rise to an annual rate of 56% over the past year.

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Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential heir apparent, has urged her former Senate colleagues not to pass new sanctions on Iran, even as she called the Islamic Republic a “threat to global security”.

 

The intervention from Clinton, who holds a commanding lead in a 2016 Democratic primary contest she has not formally entered, represents both a new opportunity for the Obama administration to rescue its major diplomatic overture from a Congress that largely loathes it and a threat of being undermined by a potent and independent force within the Democratic Party.

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