Facebook Bans Private Firearm Sales on its flagship social network & Instagram

Facebook is banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions.

Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs for sale, and the company said on Friday that it was updating its policy to include guns. The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram.

Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks. The social network, with 1.6 billion monthly visitors, had become one of the world’s largest marketplaces for guns and was increasingly evolving into an e-commerce site where it could facilitate transactions of goods.
Photography by Dado Ruvic | Reuters

The ban thrusts Facebook into the center of another major societal debate. Discussions over gun control have flared anew after the mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, Calif., and a community college in Oregon, among others. In January, President Obama gave a speech promising to tighten enforcement of laws governing unlicensed gun sales. In response, some individual sellers said they would turn to sites like Facebook, which allowed them to freely advertise guns for sale.

Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report any violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy. Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someone’s life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement on the situation.
Facebook will also rely on user reports of private gun sales that occur between members via Facebook Messenger, the company’s private messaging service. Facebook does not scan the content of those messages.

”Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, said in a statement. ”We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”

New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, who has pressed for restrictions on illegal gun sales on Facebook and other sites, praised the company’s move.

”Today’s announcement is another positive step toward our shared goal of stopping illegal online gun sales once and for all,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Facebook plays host to scores of online groups that cater to gun enthusiasts, with members posting pictures and details about an individual gun, or a gun they might be looking to buy. Many of the groups are private, meaning that Facebook users may need to be approved by an administrator before they can see or write posts.

Unlike professional gun sellers, hobbyists who sell or trade a few guns a year are not typically required to be licensed by the federal government. Some, like Scott Schmoke of Florida, say that Facebook helps them sell just a handful of weapons a year. Mr. Schmoke said in an interview this month that he always insisted on meeting potential buyers face-to-face, to feel them out.

”I go to a secure location, and I say, ‘Can I see your driver’s license? Do you have a concealed-weapons permit?’ ” Mr. Schmoke said. If he gets a bad feeling, he does not sell, he said.

But as an unlicensed seller, Mr. Schmoke is under no obligation to perform any kind of background check. Federal authorities have expressed worries that the Internet has fueled the sale of guns to felons and others who might normally be blocked from buying firearms.
Facebook has taken some steps to regulate gun sales over the years. In 2014, it said it would limit gun sales on its site and on Instagram, including by shielding minors from Facebook pages that advertised guns for sale.

But since then, Facebook has been inching toward facilitating e-commerce transactions. In December, the company introduced a project that directs users to local businesses and services that are well-reviewed on Facebook. Facebook can also store users’ credit card information. And in recent months, Facebook made it possible to send peer-to-peer payments through Messenger.

Facebook’s progression toward on-site payments underscored the need to update the company’s content policy, a Facebook spokeswoman said.

The company has also been pushed by gun safety groups including Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella group that united the efforts of two separate organizations of mayors and mothers to promote gun safety. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, one of those two advocacy groups, said she met with senior Facebook officials repeatedly over the last two years.

Everytown for Gun Safety presented Facebook with research connecting unlicensed gun sales on the site to gun violence. For example, Ms. Watts said, in December 2014, an Ohio man, Brian Harleman, shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend and killed her 10-year-old daughter before killing himself. Although prohibited from buying firearms because of a felony conviction, he was able to buy the weapon in an unlicensed sale on Facebook.

”We were saying, ‘Please stop the unfettered access to guns on Facebook,’ ” Ms. Watts, a mother of five in Colorado, said in an interview.

Because of Facebook’s tremendous influence, she said, its decision to ban person-to-person sales of guns will have ripple effects on gun policy nationwide.

”What they’re doing is sending such an incredibly strong, sentinel signal to the world that America is working in the right direction on guns,” she said. ”For them to take a stand and do the right thing gives cover to other businesses to do the right thing.”

–The New York Times’ Rachel Abrams contributed reporting.

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Bernie Sanders went from political to musical With Vampire Weekend Ahead Of Iowa Caucus

Bernie Sanders Rocks Out With Vampire Weekend Ahead Of Iowa Caucus.
The song is actually part of the Democratic presidential hopeful’s musical repertoire.
The Democratic presidential hopeful joined headliners Vampire Weekend onstage during their rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Sanders may have been slightly off beat, but the tune is actually part of the Vermont senator’s repertoire. In 1987, Sanders and 30 folk artists from Vermont recorded the album “We Shall Overcome,” which included a version of the song.

Vampire Weekend was among several artists showing support for Sanders in the hours before the all-important Iowa caucus Monday.

Foster The People, folk singer Michelle Lewis and Hunger Games actor Josh Hutcherson were among the half-dozen artists who turned out to drive support for Sanders. Rapper and scholar Killer Mike, one of Sanders’ most dedicated surrogates, was scheduled to appear but did not attend due to a loss in his family.
In between performances, Sanders re-upped his message on police brutality, income inequality, criminal justice reform and decriminalization of marijuana. After his mention of marijuana drew a few whoops, Sanders turned serious to talk about harder drugs.

“There are two ways out with heroin: Number one, you’re going to get arrested and go to jail, number two, you’re going to die,” Sanders said. “Stay away from heroin.”

Watch all the performances from the Sanders rally below:

Microsoft Decides To Kill Windows Phone

The death of Windows Phone is not a sign of Microsoft’s weakness, it’s one of the most promising signs that CEO Satya Nadella has turned the company around to a new way of thinking.
With only 4.5 million Lumia devices sold in Q4 2015, Microsoft’ mobile hardware reached the heady heights of a 1.1 percent market share. The guiding principle of ‘cloud-first mobile-first’ is evident in Microsoft’s approach – and the key takeaway is that it says ‘mobile’ and not ‘Windows Phone’ (or even ‘Windows 10 on s smartphone’).
Of course Microsoft’s mobile hardware ambitions (then with Windows Phone, now with Windows 10, but always with the Lumia brand name) have been on the slide for some time. The appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO brought a renewed focus on getting everyone to use Microsoft’s cloud-based software platform, moving away from the blinkered view of using only Microsoft’s own hardware platforms.

In theory Windows Phone could be licensed, but in practice Windows Phone was all about running Microsoft’s code on Microsoft’s hardware. Consumers had to want Microsoft’s services and be prepared to buy and use Microsoft approved hardware. For smartphones that meant living with Steve Ballmer’s view of mobility: ‘if you want to use Microsoft you have to buy everything from us.’

That’s no longer the case. If you want a Microsoft service and you have an iOS or Android device, then you’ll have access to Microsoft’s cloud, you can use your music subscription, you can sync OneNote, you can use all of Microsoft Office. The cloud is no longer limited by your hardware or operating system choices.
It’s far more accessible for Microsoft to offer its services and software on iOS and Android than the old strategy of ignoring the dominant mobile platforms to force people into Windows Phone. Nadella’s move to put the cloud first, no matter the device the consumer has, is not only commendable, but has given Microsoft a long-term strategy that doesn’t rely on wishful thinking.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
Microsoft continues to lose money on every Lumia device sold, but it makes a profit on the users in its cloud-based system. It has lifted the average revenue per Windows 10 user significantly compared to the income from Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. Minimzing losses, pursuing ongoing revenue from users, and maintaining a presence on mobile is the key to its future.

Windows Phone bridged a gap and kept Microsoft involved in the mobile space as it worked on a new company-wide (and arguably internet-wide) strategy. With Windows 10 coming on-stream on the desktop that mobile that bridge is no longer needed. Hence the drop in numbers on Lumia sales witnessed in Q4 2015.Microsoft makes money from users. It’s making more money from them on Windows 10 than on other platforms. But if a user is not on a Windows-based OS, Microsoft can still offer them services and find the profit. Windows 10 is one gateway to its cloud, no matter if it is in a smartphone, an OEM laptop, or the latest Surface tablet (or even Surface Phone). Nadella has made sure that Windows 10 is not the only gateway.

Windows Phone is dead. Lumia can fade away. But Microsoft has already moved on.

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Massive Leak Reveals Of The New Apple iPhone 7

Yesterday numerous reports picked up on leaks regarding radical new iPhone 7 camera technology. As interesting as that news was, however, the coverage skated over what for me was by far the greatest consequence of the story: Apple expanding the iPhone 7 range with a third model.

iPhone 7 concept. Image credit: Marek Weidlich

All we know at this point is this third iPhone 7 model will be a variation of the massive 5.5-inch Plus edition and that it uses dual rear cameras which work together to offer both optical zoom and “DSLR-quality” photos. Would that be the only change? Given Apple would need to accommodate two camera modules, I doubt it and noticeable internal and external changes would be necessary.
Furthermore this dual camera technology (attained via the acquisition of optical specialist LinX in 2015) would strongly suggest the dual camera iPhone 7 Plus would become the new flagship of the iPhone range. This would result in a four model strategy starting with the exciting new iPhone 5SE/iPhone 6C at the (relatively) budget end, followed by the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with the dual camera iPhone 7 Plus at the top (‘iPhone 7 DC’?).

So what should we make of this?

Personally speaking, I think it sounds like a terrible idea. Yes, Apple already treats the ‘Plus’ as the top tier model both in terms of features (battery, display and camera) as well as price but splitting it into two variants merely creates confusion. Traditionally simplicity is at the heart of Apple’s hardware and software and an iPhone 5SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and ‘iPhone 7 DC’ wrecks that. If the new camera is great put it in both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus or even just the 7 Plus, but don’t split the Plus into two.

And yet this report can’t easily be dismissed.
The reason for this is it comes from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, dubbed“the best Apple analyst on the planet”. Kuo has a remarkable track record and over the last 18 months broke news of the radical 12-inch MacBook, iPad Pro (including launch), the shift to 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen sizes with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and nailed every major feature of the iPhone 6S four months ahead of its launch.
Consequently the notion that Apple may be considering the creation of a third iPhone 7 model has to be taken seriously. Kuo isn’t wrong often, but for Apple’s sake this time I hope he is.

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Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children ! See why.

American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics state infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day (AAP 2001/13, CPS 2010). Children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012). Handheld devices (cell phones, tablets, electronic games) have dramatically increased the accessibility and usage of technology, especially by very young children (Common Sense Media, 2013). As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’m calling on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the age of 12 years. Following are 10 research-based reasons for this ban. Please visit zonein.ca to view the Zone’in Fact Sheet for referenced research.

1. Rapid brain growth
Between 0 and 2 years, infant’s brains triple in size, and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).

2. Delayed Development
Technology use restricts movement, which can result in delayed development. One in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting literacy and academic achievement (HELP EDI Maps 2013). Movement enhances attention and learning ability (Ratey 2008). Use of technology under the age of 12 years is detrimental to child development and learning (Rowan 2010).

3. Epidemic Obesity
TV and video game use correlates with increased obesity (Tremblay 2005). Children who are allowed a device in their bedrooms have 30% increased incidence of obesity (Feng 2011). One in four Canadian, and one in three U.S. children are obese (Tremblay 2011). 30% of children with obesity will develop diabetes, and obese individuals are at higher risk for early stroke and heart attack, gravely shortening life expectancy (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Largely due to obesity, 21st century children may be the first generation many of whom will not outlive their parents (Professor Andrew Prentice, BBC News 2002).

4. Sleep Deprivation
60% of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2010). 75% of children aged 9 and 10 years are sleep deprived to the extent that their grades are detrimentally impacted (Boston College 2012).

5. Mental Illness
Technology overuse is implicated as a causal factor in rising rates of child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar disorder, psychosis and problematic child behavior (Bristol University 2010, Mentzoni 2011, Shin 2011, Liberatore 2011, Robinson 2008). One in six Canadian children have a diagnosed mental illness, many of whom are on dangerous psychotropic medication (Waddell 2007).

6. Aggression
Violent media content can cause child aggression (Anderson, 2007). Young children are increasingly exposed to rising incidence of physical and sexual violence in today’s media. “Grand Theft Auto V” portrays explicit sex, murder, rape, torture and mutilation, as do many movies and TV shows. The U.S. has categorized media violence as a Public Health Risk due to causal impact on child aggression (Huesmann 2007). Media reports increased use of restraints and seclusion rooms with children who exhibit uncontrolled aggression.

7. Digital dementia
High speed media content can contribute to attention deficit, as well as decreased concentration and memory, due to the brain pruning neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex (Christakis 2004, Small 2008). Children who can’t pay attention can’t learn.

8. Addictions
As parents attach more and more to technology, they are detaching from their children. In the absence of parental attachment, detached children can attach to devices, which can result in addiction (Rowan 2010). One in 11 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology (Gentile 2009).

9. Radiation emission
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization classified cell phones (and other wireless devices) as a category 2B risk (possible carcinogen) due to radiation emission (WHO 2011). James McNamee with Health Canada in October of 2011 issued a cautionary warning stating “Children are more sensitive to a variety of agents than adults as their brains and immune systems are still developing, so you can’t say the risk would be equal for a small adult as for a child.” (Globe and Mail 2011). In December, 2013 Dr. Anthony Miller from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health recommend that based on new research, radio frequency exposure should be reclassified as a 2A (probable carcinogen), not a 2B (possible carcinogen). American Academy of Pediatrics requested review of EMF radiation emissions from technology devices, citing three reasons regarding impact on children (AAP 2013).

10. Unsustainable
The ways in which children are raised and educated with technology are no longer sustainable (Rowan 2010). Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology. A team-based approach is necessary and urgent in order to reduce the use of technology by children. Please reference below slide shows on www.zonein.ca under “videos” to share with others who are concerned about technology overuse by children.

Problems – Suffer the Children – 4 minutes
Solutions – Balanced Technology Management – 7 minutes

The following Technology Use Guidelines for children and youth were developed by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and author of Virtual Child; Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and author of Hooked on Games; and Dr. Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program and author of Video Games and Your Kids, with contribution from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society in an effort to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

Technology Use Guidelines for Children and Youth
Please contact Cris Rowan at info@zonein.ca for additional information. © Zone’in February
Follow Cris Rowan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zoneinprograms for more.

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Microsoft co-founder’s yacht destroys protected coral reef in Cayman Islands

A yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder and marine conservationist Paul Allen has ploughed into a sensitive reef in the Cayman Islands, destroying the majority of coral on the protected ecosystem.
An aerial view of Grand Cayman, showing West Bay at the top centre of the image. Photograph: David Doubilet/National Geographic/Getty Images

-Paul Allen’s 330ft vessel destroys 80% of reef in protected zone
-Allen’s foundation supports marine conservation and tackles overfishing

The MV Tatoosh, a 300ft yacht owned by the billionaire Allen, ripped up 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the West Bay replenishment zone, according to local officials. About 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain. It is thought that Allen was not on board at the time.

According to a statement from Allen’s investment firm Vulcan, the incident occurred on 14 January. “When [the MV Tatoosh] crew was alerted by a diver that her anchor chain may have impacted coral in the area, the crew promptly, and on their own accord, relocated their position to ensure the reef was protected,” it said, adding that the crew was aiding investigations into the damage.

The incident is particularly embarrassing for Allen given his foundation’s work supporting marine conservation and tackling overfishing. The damage to the reef could prompt a fine of up to $600,000, although Allen is likely to be able to easily foot the bill, given his net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $17.4bn.
Allen will have to dig a little deeper to match the $2.5m that Napster founder and tech investor Sean Parker paid to remediate damage caused to a redwood grove in California. Parker’s unauthorized development activities, undertaken for his wedding in 2013, involved constructing a stone bridge, pond, staircases and ruins to create the appearance of a ruined castle.

The Cayman Islands has had several run-ins with large vessels in recent years. Carnival Cruise made a one-off donation after one of its cruise ships damaged part of the George Town harbor in 2014. Last year, a large tract of coral reef was destroyed by the Zenith, a Pullmantur cruise ship, but no fines or donations were paid.

A spokesperson for the Cayman Island’s department of environment said it was “paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts”.

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Apple iPhone users angered by Safari browser crash! Here’s the Solution

Apple’s native web browser, Safari, is crashing for users around the world. Many angry iPhone and Mac users have taken to social media to report that typing into the address bar is causing the application to suddenly close.
MichaelaRehle_Reuters_FollowingApple users are experiencing issues with the Safari browser. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters


The bug, which doesn’t appear to be a problem for all users, seems to be connected to Apple’s Safari suggestions function, which responds to search requests and Url queries.

A temporary fix for the issue is for users to access settings on their Apple device, and under Safari, disable the suggestions function.

An alternative workaround is to enter private browsing mode. This can be done when opening a new tab in Safari. Browsing in private mode will turn the background of the browser black.
The other option is to download a separate browser application altogether, such as Google’s Chrome.

The Guardian has tested iPhones that are both unaffected and affected by the bug.

When a user types into the address bar, the text is sent to servers, which respond with autocomplete search terms, popular sites and other information.
This would suggest the bug’s origins are with the servers. Apple reports no current issues and has yet to respond to the Guardian’s request for comment, but is promising an explanation in due course.

It is unclear whether the bug is related to the 9.2.1 iOS update released earlier this month but it appears not, as all operating systems – various OS and desktop iterations – seem to be experiencing the issue.

Reports of the problem have spread across Reddit, Twitter, Apple forums and social media around the globe, with “Safari” trending on Twitter in various locations.

One user on a Mac forum wrote that: “70% of our Macs in our office have this issue, kind of wiped us out this morning.”

The Safari bug comes just days after a prank website, CrashSafari.com, was set up to reboot users’ devices. The website causes the browser to overload with a self-generated string of text, causing devices to shutdown.

In another setback for Apple, the company announced a slowdown in growth after its top-selling device, the iPhone, flatlined in sales. Sales grew by just 0.4% over the Christmas period – compared with 46% the previous year.[yasr_visitor_votes size=”medium”]

Cher Destroys Donald Trump In Just One Tweet

Cher was doing as Cher does on Twitter and tweeting up a storm about the Republican debate last night.
That’s when she destroyed Donald Trump.

Twitter: @cher

Cher definitely doesn’t want Donald Trump to be President.
The singer, who at 69 is the same age as The Donald, took to Twitter to disparage the wealthy businessman and reality star’s announcement Tuesday that he’s seeking the Republican nomination for America’s top job.
‘Donald Trump can’t come up with a hairstyle that looks human, how can he come up with a plan to defeat ISIS,’ the Grammy winner wrote, according to US Weekly.

Cher_Twitter_MNLS_FollowingTwitter: @cher

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Schools Rapper B.o.B, Claims The Earth Is Flat

Welcome to the year 2016: A time where astrophysicists and musicians have rap battles over Twitter debating whether the Earth is spherical or flat. Neil deGrasse Tyson has gotten into a Twitter feud with rapper B.o.B, which peaked yesterday with both releasing “diss tracks” aimed at each other.
photo credit: Pictured is B.o.B. Just in case you hadn’t heard of him. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for BMI

B.o.B, a 27-year-old American rapper, has gained Internet notoriety with his recent tweets about the flat Earth theory. He tweeted numerous times about how the horizon never appears to be curved. He also frequently refers to the idea that if Earth was spherical, then the buildings on the horizon should be out of sight, as they’d curve around with the Earth.

He also attacked NASA as being “the edge of the world gatekeepers for over 50 years,” claiming all of their images of Earth are actually photoshopped. His Twitter account also features talk of human cloning factories, although that’s another issue.

The whole saga came to a head on Monday, January 25, when Tyson pointed out some of the flaws in B.o.B.’s argument.

To the rapper’s claim that the New York City skyline shouldn’t be visible from 97 kilometers (60 miles) away at Harriman State Park’s Bear Mountain, Tyson responded that Earth’s curve does indeed block around 46 meters (150 feet) of the Manhattan skyline from this point, however most of the buildings are a lot taller than that.

B.o.B.’s quick rebuttal came in the form of a diss track – a three-and-a-half minute rap aimed at Tyson called “Flatline.” Flat, line. Like the horizon – get it? Along with samples of Tyson talking, the track features lyrics including “Globalists see me as a threat. Free thinking, got the world at my neck,” “Indoctrinated in a cult called science. And graduated to a club full of liars,” and “Aye, Neil Tyson need to loosen up his vest. They’ll probably write that man one hell of a check.”

B.o.B’s, uh, interesting rap is above.

By Tuesday afternoon, Tyson replied with a diss track of his own, with the help of his hip-hop musician nephew Steve Tyson. The rap features and finishes with the line: “Dude, to be clear: Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn’t mean we all can’t still like your music.”

Enjoy Tyson’s track below. And for the record: No, the Earth isn’t flat. Just to be clear.

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Anxious Dictators, Wavering Democracies: Global Freedom under Pressure


The world was battered by crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

The number of countries showing a decline in freedom for the year—72—was the largest since the 10-year slide began. Just 43 countries made gains.
Over the past 10 years, 105 countries have seen a net decline, and only 61 have experienced a net improvement.
Ratings for the Middle East and North Africa region were the worst in the world in 2015, followed closely by Eurasia.
Over the last decade, the most significant global reversals have been in freedom of expression and the rule of law.

The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

The democracies of Europe and the United States struggled to cope with the Syrian civil war and other unresolved regional conflicts. In addition to compounding the misery and driving up the death toll of civilians in the affected territories, the fighting generated unprecedented numbers of refugees and incubated terrorist groups that inspired or organized attacks on targets abroad. In democratic countries, these stresses led to populist, often bigoted reactions as well as new security measures, both of which threaten the core values of an open society.

The year also featured the slowdown of China’s economy and a related plunge in commodity prices, which hit profligate, export-dependent authoritarian regimes especially hard. Anticipating popular unrest, dictators redoubled political repression at home and lashed out at perceived foreign enemies.

However, in several important countries, elections offered a peaceful way out of failed policies and mismanagement. Voters in places including Nigeria, Venezuela, and Myanmar rejected incumbents and gave new leaders or parliaments an opportunity to tackle corruption, economic decay, and corrosive security problems. These fresh starts suggest that democratic systems may ultimately prove more resilient than their brittle authoritarian counterparts.
by Arch Puddington and Tyler Roylance/Freedomhouse.

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