Who is Alan Gross? (1949 – present)

  • US contractor jailed in Cuba for 15 years for alleged spying.
  • Arrested in 2009 for installing internet networks for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an act which Havana considered subversive.
  • Barack Obama's efforts at better relations with Cuba might ensure his early release.

Why did the oil price fall in 2014?

  • Oil price fell nearly 40% between mid-June and December 2014 due to low demand and high supply.
  • Low demand: Stagnant economy in Europe, slower growth in China, flat gasoline consumption in the U.S.
  • High supply: Continued increased US production + OPEC's decision to not cut output.

Who is Jerry Brown? (1938 – present)

  • American politician (Democrat), currently serving (since 2011) as 39th Governor of California (previously served as California's 34th Governor (1975 - 1983)).
  • Prior political posts include Oakland Mayor (1999–2007) & Attorney General of California (2007–2011).
  • Stated goals for current term (2014 - 2018) include construction of California High-Speed Rail, tunnels to boost the state's water system, & curbing C02 emissions.

What, how and why of the Russian rouble fall December 2014?

  • What: 9% fall of Russian currency (Rouble) against US$ on 01 December 2014, biggest one day decline since 1998.
  • How: Foreigners sell Rouble holdings + Rouble denominated assets. Domestics seek safe haven in US$ by selling Roubles.
  • Why: Recent falls in oil prices escalate fears re health of Russian economy, already fragile by West's sanctions imposed in retaliation for Crimea annexation & support for separatists in E-Ukraine.

Who is Nicholas Sarkozy? (1955 – present)

  • Politician, 23rd President of France (2007 - 2012) and leader of centre-right UMP party (since late Nov. '14).
  • Holds pole position as UMP candidate for 2016 presidential primary contest.
  • Presidency characterised by failure to meet election promises of reform, a 15% rise in public spending, a 30% rise in public debt and closer ties with the US and UK.

What is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)?

  • Regional intergovernmental political and economic union established in 1981.
  • Comprises all Arab states in the Persian Gulf (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirate), except for Iraq.
  • Objectives include economic co-operation (gov't & private level), formulating regional regulations (trade, finance, tourism, customs) and military co-operation.

What is the Gulf States’ Joint Command?

  • Joint military command announced Nov. '14 to be based in Saudi Arabia as a counter to perceived threats from ISIS military jihadis and Shia Iran.
  • Expected to number several hundred thousand soldiers from Gulf member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, & the UAE).
  • Focus is on defensive operations and will co-ordinate with the Gulf Co-operation Council's naval command in Bahrain and its air command in Saudi Arabia.
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