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Declining oil prices and economic sanctions because of Ukraine have Russia's economy close to recession.  Vladimir Putin today reassured Russians about the economy and suggested the possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Crimea.

Also, the US plans to sue New York over civil rights abuses at Rikers Island, and after threats of violence, Sony Pictures has cancelled showings of its comedy about the assassination of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un.  Did Sony acquiesce to terrorism as a business necessity?

Photo: Customers inspect kitchen electronic utensils at a store in Stavropol, southern Russia, December 17, 2014. (Eduard Korniyenko/Reuters)

US to Sue New York over Civil Rights Abuses at Rikers Island 6 MIN, 30 SEC

The Obama Administration is suing New York City over what the Justice Department calls a "deep-seated culture of violence" at Rikers Island, a prison where adolescent inmates are held.  Yesterday, Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that inmates will no longer be held in solitary confinement. Reporter Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times has the story.

Michael Schwirtz, New York Times (@mschwirtz)

Justice Department on Nunez v. City of New York

Russia's Currency Crisis 33 MIN, 32 SEC

The price of oil and economic sanctions have panicky Russian consumers rushing to buy whatever they can as the ruble loses its value, but at today's three-hour, end-of-the-year news conference, Vladimir Putin said, not to worry: the crisis will only last a couple of years.  He blamed the US and Europe, said the Russian bear won't be chained up -- saying he was referring to nuclear weapons.

We look at what might be in store for Ukraine and at the role of Saudi Arabia in Russia's economic decline.

Alec Luhn, Guardian (@ASLuhn)
Michael McFaul, Stanford University, author of “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia” (@McFaul)
Edward Lozansky, American University in Moscow (@EdwardLozansky)
Andrew Kuchins, Center for Strategic and International Studies (@CSISRussia)

AP poll on support for Putin even as Ruble falls
Luhn on Russians frustration over ruble crisis, blaming the west
McFaul on panic that could lead Putin to sack his government
Kuchins on Putin's dilemma

The Fallout from the Sony's Retreat 9 MIN, 50 SEC

After a massive cyber-attack, Sony Pictures received a threat of violence at showings of The Interview — a comedy that shows the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  Tonight's New York premier has been cancelled along with the general release planned for Christmas Day. US intelligence officials now say there is "99% certainty" that hackers working for North Korea conducted the cyber-attack on Sony.  Officials say there are "no good options" for the government to respond.

Bruce Bennett, RAND Corporation (@bwbennett)
Andrew Wallenstein, Variety (@awallenstein)

Bennett on North Korea being behind the Sony hack
Variety on White House considering responses for ‘serious national security matter’

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