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The US and North Korea have escalated their rhetoric, but there's still some question about North Korea's responsibility for the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. Is the so-called "hermit kingdom" as sophisticated as the FBI says it is?  How does it compare to Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, which is so far the world's leader in cyber-warfare?

Also, results are mixed in Tunisia's first free election. On today's Talking Point, Pope Francis today accused top Vatican staff of "ailments," including "seeking worldly profit, showing off" and "feeling immortal immune or indispensable." We hear about this year's Christmas message.

Photo: Michael Donovan

Results Are Mixed in Tunisia's First Free Election 6 MIN, 30 SEC

The "Arab Spring" began in Tunisia, with the ouster of one-party rule.  Yesterday's presidential run-off election was seen as the final step in the transition to democracy. Today it was announced that the winner is a former member of the old regime with 55% of the vote. Robin Wright is in Tunis. The veteran reporter on the Middle East is joint fellow at the US Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center and author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World.

Robin Wright, US Institute of Peace / Woodrow Wilson Center (@wrightr)

Rock the Casbah

Robin Wright

North Korea Emerges as Cyber-Hacker Power 33 MIN, 24 SEC

The US and North Korea are exchanging threats and counter-threats in the aftermath of the hacking of Sony Pictures. The FBI has not released all its evidence, but it's blamed North Korea for the hacking with an unusual degree of certainty.  North Korea denies the vastly expensive attack -- but says whoever was responsible did a "righteous" thing. President Obama and Republicans disagree over whether to call it "cyber-warfare" or "cyber-vandalism" and what the response should be. Some security experts question the FBI's conclusion that North Korea was responsible in the first place.

Michael Hirsh, Politico Magazine (@michaelphirsh)
James Lewis, Center for Strategic and International Studies (@james_a_lewis)
Kim Zetter, cyber-security writer and author (@KimZetter)
Patrick Cronin, Center for a New American Security (@PMCroninCNAS)

Dyn Research on North Korea Internet outage
Hirsh on North Korea succeeding in finally being taken seriously

Pope Francis Sees "Spiritual Diseases" in the Church 9 MIN, 40 SEC

After less than two years as the first Pope from Latin America, Francis today listed 15 "ailments" of the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Roman Catholic Church — beginning with "feeling immortal, immune or indispensable." This has been "a tumultuous year for the Vatican," with divisions about Pope Francis becoming "glaringly apparent among senior leadership."  The Pope himself has become "more emboldened" about a reform agenda.  That's according to John Allen, veteran Vatican reporter now with the Boston Globe.

John Allen, Boston Globe (@JohnLAllenJr)

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