Monthly Archives : October 2019

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Fiat Chrysler, PSA Peugeot Boards Approve Merger

31
Oct,2019

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The boards of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot announced Thursday fast-moving plans to merge the two companies creating the world’s fourth-largest automaker with enough scale to confront “the new era in mobility.”The merger would bring together Italian-American Fiat Chrysler, with its strong footprint in North America where it makes at least two-thirds of its profits, and France’s PSA Peugeot, the No. 2 automaker in Europe. Both lag in China, despite the participation of the Chinese shareholder Dongfeng, in PSA Peugeot, and are catching up in the transition to electrified powertrains.The 50-50 merger is expected to create synergies of 3.7 billion euros ($4 billion), a figure that the automakers said they expect to achieve without any factory closures – a concern of unions in both France and Italy where the carmakers have more model overlap.The new company would have combined revenues of 170 billion euros, an operating profit of over 11 billion euros and produce 8.7 million cars a year – behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan alliance. The combined market capitalization would be around $50 billion.Once a merger is finalized, PSA Peugeot CEO Carlos Tavares will be chief executive of the new company with Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann taking the role of chairman.  Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley would have a senior executive role and work closely with Tavares.“This convergence brings significant value to all the stakeholders and opens a bright future for the combined entity,” Tavares said in a statement.Manley called it “an industry-changing combination,” and noted the long history of cooperation with the Groupe PSA in the industrial vehicle sector in Europe.The 11-member board will be made up of five members from each company plus Tavares, who is locked in as CEO for five years.The automakers said that the new company would be able to meet the challenges of powertrain electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving “with speed and capital efficiency.”The combined company will be able to share in the cost of developing those technologies with their “strong global R&D footprint,” they said, adding that will also save on investments in vehicle platforms and save money with greater purchasing power.Both companies “share the conviction that there is compelling logic for a bold and decisive move that would create an industry leader with the scale, capabilities and resources to capture successfully the opportunities, and manage effectively the challenges in the new era in mobility,” the statement said.The merger decision comes about five months after a similar deal with French automaker Renault fell apart, mostly over French government concern about the role of Renault’s Japanese alliance partner Nissan. There were no signs of resistance to this deal, beyond concerns for jobs.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire answers reporters, Oct. 31, 2019 in Paris.French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a statement that he “favorably welcomes” the proposed merger.“This operation responds to the automobile sector’s need to consolidate to face the challenges of future mobility,” Le Maire said, adding that the government would be vigilant about preserving French factories and the location of company headquarters.He also is seeking that the new group will create a European electric battery industry, something the French government has pushed for to ensure that European carmakers can reduce their dependence on U.S. and Asian battery technology.The companies said head offices would continue to operate in France, Italy and the United States, and that shares would be traded in the main exchanges in those three countries. The parent company would be based in the Netherlands, as is currently the case with Fiat Chrysler.European automakers have been eyeing consolidation for years in a bid to share the costs of new technology and tackle the issue of overproduction on the continent. Fiat gains some of the advantages that Peugeot has developed in electrified powertrains that should help ease its transition in the face of tough new EU emissions standards. And PSA gains access to North America, which it has long sought.The prospective FCA-PSA tie-up with Peugeot “follows intensive discussions between the senior managements of the two companies.” Both have strong shareholder participation by the founding families – the Peugeots in France and the heirs to the Agnelli family in Italy, represented by Elkann.As part of the agreement, the main shareholders – the Peugeots, the Agnelli family investment arm Exor, as well as the Chinese investor Dongfeng and the French state investment bank – agree to maintain their stakes for seven years. The only exception is that the Peugeots could increase their stake by up to 2.5% during the first three years by buying shares from Dongfeng and the French investment bank.The next step in the deal is expected to be a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which could come before the end of the year. 

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Рада підтримала виділення мільярда гривень шахтарям

31
Oct,2019

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Верховна Рада України 31 жовтня розглянула правки до державного бюджету і підтримала урядову ініціативу про виділення 1 млрд гривень шахтарям. Про це повідомляє пресслужба уряду.

Відповідний законопроєкт підтримав 291 депутат.

«Парламент підтримав пропозицію уряду про виділення 1 млрд грн на вирішення гострих проблем вугледобувної галузі, виплати заробітної плати шахтарям», – мовиться у повідомленні.

15 вересня у Верховній Раді зареєстрували проєкт державного бюджету. Парламент схвалив його у першому читанні. Остаточно законопроєкт про державний бюджет мають ухвалити до 1 грудня.

 

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Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Intercepted Text Messages

31
Oct,2019

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Chinese hackers with a history of state-sponsored espionage have intercepted the text messages of thousands of foreigners in a targeted campaign that planted eavesdropping software on a telecommunications provider’s servers, a cybersecurity firm said.FireEye said in a report issued on Thursday that the hackers belong to the group designated Advanced Persistent Threat 41, or APT41, which it says has been involved in spying and cybercrime for most of the past decade. It said some of the targets were “high-value” and all were chosen by their phone numbers and unique cellphone identifiers known as IMSI numbers.
 
The cybersecurity firm would not identify or otherwise characterize the victims or the impacted telecoms provider or give its location. It said only that the telecom is in a country that’s typically a strategic competitor to China.The spyware was programmed to capture messages containing references to political leaders, military and intelligence organizations and political movements at odds with the Chinese government, FireEye said.FireEye’s director of advanced practices, Steven Stone, said that none of the known targets was a U.S. government official.The discovered malware, which FireEye dubbed MESSAGETAP, was able to collect data on its targets without their knowledge but could not read messages sent with end-to-end encrypted applications such as WhatsApp and iMessage.“If you’re one of these targets you have no idea your message traffic is being taken from your device because your device hasn’t been infected,” Stone said.FireEye said the hackers also stole detailed calling records on specific individuals, obtaining the phone numbers they interacted with, call durations and times.
A government representative at China’s embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.FireEye did not identify the maker of the equipment that was hacked or specify how the hackers penetrated the telecom provider networks.It said APT41 began using MESSAGETAP during the summer, which is around when pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong. The firm said since its discovery, it has found “multiple” telecoms targeted by the malware.FireEye said it has observed APT41 targeting four telecoms this year as well as major travel services and healthcare providers in countries it did not identify.Details of the espionage operation come as the U.S. tries to persuade allied governments to shun Chinese telecom equipment providers led by Huawei as they build next-generation wireless networks known as 5G, claiming they represent a risk to national security.The U.S. government already has banned government agencies and contractors from using equipment supplied by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company. It is now seeking to bar their use in telecom projects that receive federal funding.Huawei vehemently denies that it has allowed China’s communist rulers to use its equipment for espionage, and Washington has presented no proof of such. U.S. officials say a 2017 Chinese law requires organizations and citizens to help the state collect intelligence.

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Turkey Says Its Forces Captured 18 Syrian Soldiers in Syria

31
Oct,2019

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 Turkey’s defense minister said Thursday its forces captured 18 Syrian government soldiers in northeastern Syria, including two who are wounded.
 
Hulusi Akar said the soldiers were captured during Turkish reconnaissance southeast of Ras al-Ayn, but didn’t say when. Ankara was already in talks with Russia to hand over the Syrian soldiers, he added, according to the official ministry website on Thursday. Akar was speaking during a visit to Turkish troops at the border.
 
A Syrian Kurdish official said the soldiers were captured Tuesday during an intense battle between Syrian government forces and Turkey-backed fighters. Kurdish fighters were fighting alongside the Syrian troops. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.
 
The town of Ras al-Ayn has been a flashpoint in Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria that has sought to drive back Kurdish fighters from its borders.Darbasiyah and Ras al-Ayn, Syria
 
Turkey agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Russia on Oct. 22. Under the deal, Kurdish fighters would withdraw to 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border and Syrian government forces would take positions along the frontier. Joint Turkish-Russian patrols are due to begin Friday.
 
Turkey launched its cross-border operation earlier in the month to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters who had partnered with U.S. forces against the Islamic State group. The invasion came after President Donald Trump ordered American forces to step aside. The U.S. negotiated an initial cease-fire. Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey.  
 
Largely abandoned by their U.S. allies, the Kurdish fighters have leaned on Russia and the Syrian government forces to fend off Turkey’s invasion.
 
But the truce has been marred by accusations of violations from both sides.
 
For days now, Turkey-allied fighters have been fighting Kurdish forces near Abu Rasein, a village between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Tamr, despite the deployment of Syrian government forces. Syrian state media also reported some government soldiers clashed with the Turkey-backed forces.
 
The Kurdish official said the Syrian government forces withdrew from the area after their soldiers were captured.
 
A war monitor group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported that Syrian troops pulled out from the Tal Tamr area on Wednesday, amid a Turkish-backed advance with air cover. The Syrian withdrawal left empty the border post in Darbasiyeh, west of Ras al-Ayn, which Kurdish forces had handed over just days before, according to the Rojava Information Center, an activist group.
 
Fighting in the area continued Thursday, the Kurdish official said.
 
Separately, a car bomb went off in a town administered by Turkey-backed forces in northwestern Syria, killing at least eight people.
 
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said another 14 people were wounded in the attack in a vegetable market in Afrin. It said the explosives were packed into a refrigerator truck.
 
Turkish-led forces captured Afrin from Syrian Kurdish fighters early last year. The area is controlled by Syrian fighters allied with Turkey, who have been accused by rights groups of seizing land and property . The area sees sporadic attacks and other violence.
 
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency also reported the attack, saying nine people were killed and 20 wounded. It said the blast ignited a nearby patrol station and caused damage to surrounding homes and shops.
 
No one has claimed the attack.
  

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На міжбанку переважають продавці валюти, гривня посилюється

31
Oct,2019

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Торги в парі гривня-долар на українському міжбанківському валютному ринку 31 жовтня розпочалися з активного продажу іноземної валюти, що на тлі низького попиту призводить до просідання котирувань. «Основна частина угод не перевищує поріг 500 тисяч доларів», – відзначає сайт «Мінфін».

«У гривні знову є шанс зміцнити свої позиції щодо долара, а основними драйверами поведінки учасників торгів будуть завершення місяця у клієнтів та банків та поведінка готівкового ринку і стан ліквідності в системі», – відзначили експерти сайту «Мінфін».

За даними сайту Finance.ua, станом на 12:00 котирування склали 24 гривні 81 – 84 копійки за долар, це нижче рівня відкриття торгів на 13 копійок.

Національний банк України опівдні оприлюднив довідкове значення курсу 24 гривні 83 копійки за долар, це на 17 копійок менше за офіційний курс на 31 жовтня.

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India Asks WhatsApp to Explain Privacy Breach

31
Oct,2019

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India has asked Facebook-owned WhatsApp to explain the nature of a privacy breach on its messaging platform that has affected some users in the country, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.A WhatsApp spokesman was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper on Thursday as saying that Indian journalists and human rights activists were targets of surveillance by an Israeli spyware. The company said it was “not an insignificant number” of people, but did not share specifics.WhatsApp’s comments came after the messaging platform sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents including diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and government officials. NSO denied the allegations.“We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Prasad said in a tweet.WhatsApp said it had no comment on Prasad’s tweet, but referred to a previous WhatsApp statement that the company believes people have the fundamental right to privacy and no one else should have access to their private conversations.Facebook’s WhatsApp Allows Users to Control Who Can Add Them to Group Chats

        Facebook Inc on Wednesday changed the privacy settings on its WhatsApp messaging platform, allowing users to decide who can add them to chat groups, as it tries to revamp its image after growing privacy concerns among users.

WhatsApp, which has about 1.5 billion users, has been trying to find ways to stop misuse of the app, following global concerns that the platform was being used to spread fake news, manipulated photos, videos without context and audio hoaxes, with no way to monitor their origin or…
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with 400 million users. Globally, the platform is used by some 1.5 billion people monthly and has often touted a high level of security, including end-to-end encrypted messages that cannot be deciphered by WhatsApp or other third parties.In its lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Francisco, WhatsApp accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries, calling it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.” 

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As Economy Slows, New ECB Head Lagarde Faces Big Challenges

31
Oct,2019

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Europe’s economy is losing strength. Top officials at the European Central Bank are at odds over policy. And it’s even unclear whether they can do much to help anyway.It adds up to a full in-tray for Christine Lagarde as she takes over as ECB president on Friday.The former head of the International Monetary Fund succeeds Mario Draghi, who as head of the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro helped keep the currency union together through a financial crisis.While the crisis has abated, the pressures of the job have not diminished, with the ECB president acting as the final backstop for Europe’s economy and global uncertainties on the rise.Here’s a look at the main challenges Lagarde faces.A weakening economyGrowth has dropped significantly even since Draghi announced a big stimulus package on Sept. 12. Analysts think Lagarde may not have to change policy for a while as that stimulus runs, but big risks still loom over the global and European economies. Trade disputes between the U.S. and major economies like China and Europe have hurt manufacturing. Brexit has yet to be resolved, keeping businesses uncertain about how to invest.The ECB’s next move may be to provide even more stimulus, rather than raising interest rates back to where they were before the global financial crisis.Central Bank powerAnd yet providing more stimulus could be complicated, in part because so much has already been spent.The ECB’s benchmark interest rate on deposits left overnight from banks is already at an unprecedented minus 0.5%. Bank officials have said it could be cut further, but at some point the ECB would reach a point where adverse side effects such as the impact on bank profits may outweigh the benefits.Draghi’s plan to have the ECB buy 20 billion euros ($22 billion) a month in corporate and government bonds will continue to help hold down market borrowing costs for companies and governments. Eventually, however, there won’t be enough government bonds to buy up. The ECB has a self-imposed limit of buying no more than a third of any government’s debt.And it’s not clear how much good more rate cuts and bond purchases would do.Rates are already negative, and the ECB already pumped 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion) into the economy through bond purchases from 2015 to the end of 2018. Despite that, inflation has remained below the ECB’s goal of under 2%. Growth has not led to increases in wages and inflation as seen in earlier eras, and not just in Europe; economists say aging populations, digitalization and globalization that can shift jobs to lower wage locations may all play a role.“The workings of the economy are changing,” said Maria Demertzis, deputy director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. “This is a big challenge for the ECB: what can they do to stimulate the economy, both because they have almost exhausted the instruments that they have, but also because the digital transformation implies that the economy simply works differently.”DiplomacyPrecisely that question led to unusually strong criticism from several members on the ECB governing board, including the central bank heads from Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.Lagarde can use her political and negotiating skills honed as French finance minister and head of the IMF to manage the rift.Yet it’s more than a matter of winning people over with diplomacy. The dispute reflects uncertainty about how the economy works and how it will respond, or not, to stimulus.Lagarde, an engaging public speaker, will also need all her communications skills to rebut criticism from German economists and news media that the bank’s low-rate policies are depriving savers of returns and benefitting shaky southern European governments. Draghi has often noted that 11 million jobs were created since the peak of post-crisis unemployment in 2013.Fixing EuropeLagarde repeated as recently as Wednesday Draghi’s plea for governments that are in good financial shape to spend more on projects such as infrastructure that can help economic growth, and to not let the central bank carry the whole burden. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has insisted on running budget surpluses.
 
“After the crisis in 2008 everyone worked together and countries … did their job. But since then … countries that have budgetary space have not made the necessary efforts” in investment to support growth, Lagarde said on RTL radio. “Notably countries like Netherlands, Germany and some others in the world.”“Those that have a margin of maneuver – why not use this budget surplus and invest in infrastructure, which really needs it? Why not invest in education, why not invest in innovation?”The broader question, said Demertzis, is that the eurozone lacks a central budget to stabilize its economic ups and downs but instead relies on budget decisions in 19 member countries. French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed for a central budget, but German skepticism has limited its size and purpose.
 
“It really needs to be a fiscal capacity at the eurozone level,” said Demertzis.
“Politically, that is a very, very difficult thing to do. If Lagarde has the political acumen, which I think she does, she may be able to move that conversation in that direction, which would be extremely welcome.” 

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Миколаївська митниця заявляє про обшуки через можливу втрату 160 млн гривень

31
Oct,2019

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Миколаївська митниця Державної фіскальної служби заявляє про обшуки через можливу втрату 160 мільйонів гривень. На території митниці працюють співробітники Служби безпеки України та Державного бюро розслідувань.

«Мною особисто була подана інформація до ДБР щодо можливих неправомірних дій тодішнього керівництва митниці. Зокрема, мова йде про те, що через митницю було пропущено 17 партій з мінеральними добривами без начислення антидемпінгового мита. Внаслідок цього є підозра, що держава понесла збитки на суму 162,7 мільйона гривень», – заявив начальник Миколаївської митниці

За його словами, наразі правоохоронці проводять обшуки за ознаками правопорушення, передбаченого статтею 364 Кримінального кодексу України «Зловживання владою або службовим становищем».

Служба безпеки України та Державне бюро розслідувань наразі не коментували обшуки.

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Germany: 30 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

31
Oct,2019

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Thirty years ago the Berlin Wall fell, ending the divide between the communist East and the democratic West.  The fall of the wall symbolized the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe that was imposed by the then- Soviet Union after World War II. It also paved the way for the eventual re-unification of Germany so that today, what was once East Germany, is now part of Western Europe. But right wing parties are gaining strength in former East Germany, threatening the country’s stability, as Michael Scaturro reports from Berlin.
 

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Global Trafficking Networks Behind British Migrant Tragedy

31
Oct,2019

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British and Belgian police are continuing their investigations into the people-smuggling networks that transported 39 migrants who were found dead in the back of a refrigerated truck near London on October 23.Suffocation is the suspected cause of the migrants’ deaths in the sealed container. Many of the victims are believed to be Vietnamese and appeared to have traveled across the border to China and into Russia and Europe, before crossing the English Channel from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Purfleet on the River Thames.The truck was reportedly registered in Bulgaria. The driver, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland, has been charged with manslaughter, people trafficking and money laundering.Police are seeking two brothers in the deaths — 40-year-old Ronan Hughes and 34-year-old Christopher Hughes, also from Northern Ireland.The migrants’ journey reportedly began 9,000 kilometers away in the remote Nghe An and Hanoi provinces in northern Vietnam.On the doorstep of a family home in the village of Ha Tinh, Bui Phan Chinh comforted his grandson as they waited for further news. Chinh believes his son, — the boy’s father, Bui Phan Thang — was among the victims.“Many people in this village have gone abroad to work, so my son wanted to go abroad like others to earn money,” Chinh explained. “No one could imagine that he ended his life there forever, leaving behind his wife and the young kids.”Signs and candles on a wall were placed at a vigil for the 39 truck victims, outside the Home Office in London, Oct. 24, 2019.Demand for travel The growing demand to travel to Britain and other wealthy Western countries is well-suited for people-trafficking gangs, says Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.“These are groups, gangs, that operate with impunity in Vietnam. In many cases, they have connections to official authorities, so there’s that corruption element going on that allows them to offer to get people to places in Europe,” he said.Family members say they paid these gangs up to $38,000 to reach Europe. Criminologist Paolo Campana, an expert on people-smuggling networks at the University of Cambridge, says different gangs compete with each other.“What we see is a fragmentation and a compartmentalization of the smuggling. So in a sense, you don’t have a ‘Mister Big’ controlling everything, but you have fairly small rudimentary organizations that might take care of each stage in the journey,” Campana said.“In some cases,” he told VOA, “smugglers advertise services such as a VIP service, and they charge more. In other cases, you just have a very basic service in the sense that you have to cover your own accommodation while you are en route. And the smuggling group might only try to find you a way to get across the English Channel.”Each leg of the journey isolatedThe human cargo is transferred at handover points en route, he explained.“Migrants have to make incredibly difficult decisions of whether to trust Smuggler A or Smuggler B. Word-of-mouth plays a very large role. In other cases, for instance, with the Syrians or the Iraqi (migrants), you also have Facebook groups, or forums on the internet, where smugglers advertise their services, and migrants can question, can try to get more information, about the service provided by these smugglers,” he said. “I would be very surprised if the people who were involved in the last leg of the journey, whoever they be, would have any knowledge about what has happened in China or in Russia or in Eastern Europe.”“We have people coming into the country, either being trafficked or as asylum-seekers. And we know that the borders are very tight and complicated, and there are more and more chances being taken,” Martin Pasmore, detective chief inspector, told reporters this week.Robertson warned that it’s not only Europe’s responsibility to seek justice.“There has to be some real pressure on Vietnam also to end these kind of people-smuggling arrangements,” he said.Experts say clamping down on people-trafficking gangs requires better cross-border cooperation. They warn that as long as there’s demand, the gangs will continue to prosper.

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Going Its Own Way: Twitter Bans Political Ads from Its Service

31
Oct,2019

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In a major break from other internet companies, Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer accept political ads, a decision that will affect users and political campaigns in the U.S. and around the world.In a series of 11 tweets, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, said that while internet advertising is powerful and effective for advertisers, “that power brings significant risks to politics.”“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally,” Dorsey said. “We believe political message reach should be earned not bought.”We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…?— jack ??? (@jack) October 30, 2019The ban, which will go into effect Nov. 22, will cover candidate ads as well as ads for political issues. Advertisements that encourage people to vote will remain.
 
Technology and elections
 
Twitter’s decision comes as internet firms have struggled with internet-fueled disinformation campaigns both in the U.S. and around the world.
 
Earlier on Wednesday, Facebook said it removed three Russia-backed disinformation campaigns in Africa that they were part of legitimate local organizations.
 
Since the birth of social media, tech savvy political candidates have gained an edge by using internet services – including buying ads on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter- to augment traditional media and talk directly to their supporters.But since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, mixing technology and electoral politics has come under increasing scrutiny. Echoed in Dorsey’s tweets is a darker view that technology’s success at helping candidates target and reach masses can create its own problems.“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” Dorsey wrote. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.— jack ??? (@jack) October 30, 2019 
Fighting against, profiting from misinformationTwitter’s decision will likely have little effect on the firm’s bottom line – less than $3 million was spent on political advertising on the service in the U.S. mid-term election, the firm’s chief financial officer tweeted. Still, it appears to end a struggle between the advertising business and Twitter’s fight against misinformation.“It’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!'”For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: “We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want! ?”— jack ??? (@jack) October 30, 2019That comment is in stark contrast to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing defense of his firm’s decision not to factcheck political ads.Zuckerberg told investors on Wednesday that he stands by that decision, adding that “ads can be an important part of voice — especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates.”Twitter’s across-the-board ban on political ads earned the praise of one Silicon Valley executive.“I think this is the right call by Jack Dorsey and by Twitter,” said Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, chief marketing officer at Mozilla, the parent of the Firefox browser. In 2018, Mozilla stopped advertising across Facebook’s businesses because of Facebook’s data practices.“Accepting money to run ads that contain falsehoods isn’t the right thing to do for people,”Kaykas-Wolffsaid. “We know that the harm from misinformation is very real in political discourse. … You either vet the ads or you don’t run them.”It remains to be seen whether Twitter’s decision will influence other internet firms and how it will be received by people seeking office, who have now lost one way to reach voters.

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Facebook Removes 3 Russian Networks It Says Engaged in Foreign Interference in Africa

31
Oct,2019

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Less than a week after the Africa-Russia Summit, Facebook has suspended three networks of Russian accounts it says were engaging in foreign interference in Africa.Facebook said the accounts targeted Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. The accounts supported select political figures and derided pro-democracy activists in the countries.Russia has had an increasing interest in engaging with African countries on trade and policy as sanctions continue to hurt its economy.Russian President Vladimir Putin organized the first Russia–Africa Summit and Economic Forum, which promoted increased economic relations between Russia and the continent earlier in October in Sochi, Russia.According to documents leaked by The Guardian, companies and groups affiliated with the Russian government have been cooperating with African politicians and interfering in elections. According to the documents, Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina won the election with Russian support. Rajoelina has denied the allegation.The Stanford Internet Observatory also reported that Russia was working with local media organizations on the African continent to spread disinformation.This represents a new tactic compared to what occurred with Russian influence ahead of the U.S. 2016 presidential election.The three networks are among the first subjects of Facebook’s new policies aimed at curbing “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”Facebook defined coordinated inauthentic behavior in an October press release as using fake accounts and deceiving people on the origins of pages and groups.According to The Stanford Internet Observatory, a total of 1.72 million accounts “liked” the now removed Facebook pages. Though some of these “likes” could be from the same account across multiple pages.The removal of the networks demonstrates Facebook’s commitment to prevent manipulation on its platforms, but it also shows the evolving nature of Russian methods since 2016. 

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Hungary’s Orban: Good Relations With Russia Are Necessity

31
Oct,2019

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Hungary’s prime minster said Wednesday after hosting a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that good relations with Russia are a necessity because of his country’s geographical location.Analysts see Prime Minister Viktor Orban as Putin’s closest ally in the European Union and Hungary has long advocated for the end of sanctions against Russia for actions in Ukraine, saying they hurt the Hungarian economy. Trade between Hungary and Russia increased in 2018 for the first time since sanctions were put in place.”It’s a simple geographical fact: No country can change its address,” Orban said during a news conference with Putin about Hungary’s need to cooperate with Russia. “Every country is located where God created it. For Hungary, it means being in a Moscow-Berlin-Istanbul triangle.”A convoy transporting Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in central Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 30, 2019.Orban mentioned Hungary’s membership in the European Union and NATO but said that it did “not rule out establishing political cooperation with Russia on certain issues.”Orban said Hungary, which depends greatly on Russian gas and oil, was trying to cooperate with Russia on issues like preventing migration to Europe, stabilizing the Middle East and aiding Christian communities around the world.TurkStream gas pipeline Orban also said it was a priority for his country to join the TurkStream gas pipeline to increase supply routes to Hungary for Russian gas.Putin said that Russia expects to complete construction of the TurkStream pipeline to Turkey this year and build extensions to Bulgaria and Serbia the following year. He added that an extension to Hungary could be built quickly, and Orban welcomed the prospect.Putin pointed to Hungary’s role as a top customer for Russian natural gas and as a key transit hub.”Russian gas supplies to Western Europe go via Hungary, and its underground depots allow serving European customers when consumption peaks,” Putin said. “We view Hungary as a priority partner in the distribution of Russian natural gas in Europe.”Protecting ChristiansThe Russian leader also praised Orban for organizing a meeting with representatives of Christian communities from the Middle East, saying that Russia sees the protection of Christians in Syria and other conflict areas as a top priority.
 
“The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, and Christians are in peril there, facing persecution, being killed, raped and robbed. Russia will do everything to protect Christians in the Middle East. We must help them restore and preserve their holy sites, preserve their congregations,” he said.Putin added that the Russian military in Syria is also helping restore mosques and assisting Jewish communities.Speaking later at a meeting with Christian leaders from the Middle East, Putin said, “We are concerned with a massive exodus of Christians from the Middle East.””We are watching what’s happening to the Christians in the Middle East with tears in our eyes,” Putin said.
 

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Twitter to Ban Political Advertisements

31
Oct,2019

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Twitter is banning all political advertising from its service, saying social media companies give advertisers an unfair advantage in proliferating highly targeted, misleading messages. 
 
Facebook has taken fire since it disclosed earlier in October that it would not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns, which could allow them to lie freely. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week that politicians have the right to free speech on Facebook. 
 
The issue arose in September when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.  FILE – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leaves after his talk with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 7, 2019.In response, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran an ad on Facebook taking aim at Zuckerberg. The ad falsely claimed that Zuckerberg had endorsed Trump for re-election, acknowledging the deliberate falsehood as necessary to make a point. 
 
Critics have called on Facebook to ban political ads. CNN chief Jeff Zucker recently called the policy of allowing lies ludicrous and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it can figure out something better.  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted the change Wednesday , saying the company was recognizing that advertising on social media offered an unfair level of targeting compared with other mediums. 
 
The majority of money spent on political advertising in the U.S. goes to television ads. 
 
Twitter’s policy will start Nov. 22. 

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Syria’s Warring Parties Meet to Draft New Constitution

30
Oct,2019

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Syrian government and opposition delegates have begun meeting to draft a new constitution as a prelude to U.N.-supervised elections for their war-torn country.After nearly nine years of war, U.N. mediator Geir Pedersen calls the meeting of Syria’s arch-enemies an historic moment.  At the official launch of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, he welcomed members with words of encouragement and urged them to strive for a durable solution to years of division and suffering.   He said the first gathering of the committee of 150 government, opposition and civil society members brings together diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, as well as a wide spectrum of political leanings.  Pedersen added the varied composition of views and beliefs presents difficulties as well as opportunities for meaningful change.  “I know that it is not easy for all of you to be here together in this room, and I respect that… But the fact that you are here today sitting together face-to-face ready to start a dialogue and negotiations, is, I believe, a powerful sign of hope for Syrians everywhere, both inside and outside the country,” Pedersen said.  The United Nations reports hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Syria’s long-running civil war.  It says 6.7 million people have fled as refugees to other countries and 6.2 million are displaced within Syria.Pedersen said it will be difficult to reconcile so many divergent views, especially when the risks and dangers of military escalation in Syria remain a daily threat.  He advised patience and steadfastness, and promised U.N. help to facilitate the process every step along a difficult path.His words were greeted with professions of good will from the warring parties.  Syrian government co-chair of the committee Ahmad Kuzbari noted that a constitution is the cornerstone and solid building block on which states are built.He said his delegation is prepared to consider possible amendments to Syria’s existing constitution.  But he added that the process must safeguard the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, with no outside interference in internal affairs.Opposition co-chair Hadi Albahra said Syrians seek a nation that respects all people, without discrimination.  He said the only victory that is worth having is one based on justice and peace, not on one side winning the war.  Such a victory, he warned, is not sustainable. 

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«Нафтогаз»: ми стійко пройдемо опалювальний сезон за будь-яких сценаріїв

30
Oct,2019

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Україна стійко пройде опалювальний сезон за будь-яких сценаріїв, заявив перший заступник голови правління НАК «Нафтогаз України» Сергій Перелома.

«Незалежно від погодних умов, незалежно від сценарію, який може розвиватися з транзитом природного газу, групою «Нафтогаз» за участю оператора газотранспортної системи і «Укртрансгазу» неодноразово проводились навчання, на яких моделювалися різні сценарії як погодних умов, так і різні сценарії споживання. Також ми моделювали і відсутність транзиту, і обмеження імпорту природного газу з європейських країн. Будь-який сценарій підтверджує, що ми стійко проходимо опалювальний сезон», – сказав Перелома.

За даними «Нафтогазу», Україна накопичила понад 21 мільярд кубометрів газу у своїх підземних сховищах. У компанії раніше наголошували, що для стабільного проходження нового осінньо-зимового сезону Україна потребує не менш ніж 20 мільярдів кубометрів газу в підземних сховищах газу.

До початку минулого опалювального сезону Україна накопичила в підземних сховищах 17,2 мільярда кубометрів газу, що було рекордним показником за шість років.

Ризиком для України перед початком нового опалювального сезону є ймовірне припинення або суттєве скорочення російського транзиту газу через українську газотранспортну систему (ГТС) з січня 2020 року, коли завершується дія довгострокової угоди на транзит.

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