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Did Russia kill the sale of Yahoo?

Credit: Niall Carson via AP

Yahoo's fall from grace over the past several years has been well documented, and it led to Verizon agreeing to buy the former industry leader for $4.8 billion earlier this year. While that is still a remarkable sum given Yahoo's recent struggles, it's more than $41 billion less than Microsoft offered in February of 2008. According to recent reports, however, it looks like Russia may have poked a few holes in the Internet giant's golden parachute.

As The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima and Brian Fung report, Verizon is re-evaluating the deal in light of a recent security breach in which information from roughly five hundred million Yahoo user accounts was stolen. The breach was discovered back in August and Yahoo has since concluded that "state-sponsored" hackers were responsible, with the FBI believing that it was the work of the Russian government. While the Russians have not taken credit for the hack, and likely never will, it's in keeping with a recent trend where the foreign power is thought to have breached "the networks of government agencies, defense contractors, media organizations, think tanks and political parties in the United States and Europe."

While that breach in security is troubling for Yahoo, the threat it poses to their deal with Verizon is, perhaps, of more immediate concern. As Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman said of the breach, "We're looking to Yahoo to demonstrate to us the full impact they believe it's not." If Verizon concludes that the breach has altered the value of Yahoo in a material way, then they can either call off the deal or ask for further concessions. Claire Atkinson of the New York Post suggested recently that those concessions could approach $1 billion, though Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam called such rumors "total speculation."

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Wikileaks: New Emails Confirm Old Notions of Clinton

Credit: Jim Bourg via AP

Hillary Clinton might be the modern day Willy Loman. In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller depicts Willy's singular goal to make a name for himself in business. His myopic focus on being well liked and successful at his job causes a slow, tragic demise over the course of the play. He gave his all in business, and business failed to return on Willy's life investment.

"I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. 'Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?"

The death of a salesman sounds eerily similar to the life of a politician.

On Friday, thousands of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, were posted online. Included in these emails were what appears to be excerpts from transcripts of closed-door speeches Clinton gave to Wall Street companies after leaving the State Department. WikiLeaks posted more than 2,000 emails from Podesta and promised to release more from a trove of more than 50,000 the group said it has access to.

The emails appear to only confirm what many already believed about Clinton – that she says whatever that audience wants to hear. She oscillates her positions like a fan. Unfortunately, the Clinton fan often blows air that leaves many hot and frustrated.

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What Japan's rent-a-priest service says about us

Credit: Drobot Dean via AP

We often bemoan the commercialization of religion around Christmas time, but that's nothing compared to Japan's new rent-a-priest service. Buddhists looking for a priest to officiate funerals or deliver other rites can now turn to, rather than their local temple, to find the help they need.

While it may seem strange to us, and troublesome to many religious figures in Japan, it makes sense. Why should religion be any different than other industries if all we really need is someone to perform a service we can't do ourselves? We call a plumber when a drain is clogged and a roofer when we have a leak. For many in Japan's increasingly secularized culture, lighting incense and chanting sutras for the deceased is no different.

And, as Jonathan Soble of the New York Times points out, "The priests and their backers say they are addressing real needs. They assert that obosan-bin [priest delivery] is helping to preserve Buddhist traditions by making them accessible to the millions in Japan who have become estranged from the religion." They may have left the temple, but they still want to keep their heritage. Is our culture much different?

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The Chinese struggle to define homosexuality

Credit: An xin via AP

Is homosexuality a mental disorder? It is according to commonly used psychology textbooks in China. However, that doesn't sit well with one university student who has spent much of the past three years fighting to have that assessment changed. The young woman, who goes by the pseudonym Qiu Bai, first discovered the issue while looking for answers regarding her sexual orientation in medical textbooks as a freshman. What she found instead were descriptions of how therapy, including the use of shock treatments and the inducement of nausea, can help cure homosexuality.

As Julia Zhou of NBC News reports, part of the reason that such suggestions surprised and worried Bai was that the "Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders back in 2001." Roughly forty percent of textbooks published since that date, however, still classify homosexuality as a mental disorder. That hypocrisy gave Bai grounds on which to launch her crusade, and her lawsuit against China's national education department has a hearing in Beijing this week.

While the department doesn't appear to be terribly worried about the case—BBC's Stephen McDonell reports that they "didn't even bother to retain legal counsel"—every chance Bai gets to take her case one more rung up the ladder increases the issue's exposure, both in China and around the world. That exposure, and the global sympathy it might generate, are likely her best chance of seeing real change. So, while she'll be disheartened if the case is once again rejected, it will simply mark the next stop on her journey.

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Obama brushes aside Filipino president's insult

Credit: Carolyn Kaster via AP

President Obama's trip through southeast Asia was supposed to be a time of peace and collaboration with America's allies. Perhaps that can still be the ultimate outcome, as the regional meeting in Laos could certainly benefit relations between the various countries in attendance. However, the conference quickly became secondary to Obama's meeting with Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte after, on Monday, the latter called the US leader a "son of a whore."

President Obama, however, is not the first public figure to feel Duterte's verbal wrath. The Filipino president issued the same insult to the US ambassador last month and to Pope Francis when he visited the country earlier this year. To his credit, Obama brushed off the slur by saying "Clearly, he's a colorful guy."

The comment came after Duterte—who has been compared to a Filipino Donald Trump for his tendency to say what's on his mind with little regard to the repercussions—was asked by a reporter how he would explain the extrajudicial killings of over two thousand suspected drug dealers since he took office on June 30. Putting an end to drug trafficking and crime was a major part of Duterte's platform while seeking election, when he promised his people that he would end all crime and corruption in six months while offering his support for police to use deadly force.

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