Sputnik International – Breaking News & Analysis – Radio, Photos, Videos, Infographics
Sputnik International – Breaking News & Analysis – Radio, Photos, Videos, Infographics
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By Robert P. Murphy*
Wise alecks on social media noted with amusement how Beto O’Rourke recently claimed humans had only ten years to act on climate change, thus one-upping Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who had previously gone out on a limb by putting the deadline at twelve years.
Snark aside, it’s important to point out that the “consensus science”
as codified, for example, in the periodic reports from the United
Nations do not support such a cliff-hanger mentality at all.
The quickest way to make this point is to reproduce something I highlighted several years ago in an IER post where I caught Paul Krugman just making up stuff about climate change. Specifically, the following table comes from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the AR5 (Table SPM.2):
To make it easier to read, I’ll excerpt the relevant left and right portions of the table below:
There’s a lot of information in the table, but let me summarize the
important elements vis-à-vis the recent claims from O’Rourke and
Ocasio-Cortez. The beige cells in the adapted table above show the
percentage increases in the total (undiscounted) mitigation costs
necessary to achieve the far-left (white cells) atmospheric
concentrations of greenhouse gases in the year 2100, for the years
2030-2050 and also for 2050-2100, for two different scenarios of total
emissions (either below 55 gigatons of CO2-equivalent, or above).
In other words, the beige cells show us how much a delay of government action through the year 2030 will increase the
cost necessary to achieve the specified atmospheric concentrations for
the year 2100 (white cells). Specifically, the beige cells show that by
“doing nothing” about climate change until the year 2030, even in a
high-emission baseline scenario, the IPCC’s best guess of the cost of
achieving the aggressive outcome rises by 44 percent in the years
2030-2050 and 37 percent in the years 2050-2100.
Now to be sure, the rhetorical point of the above table in the AR5 was to encourage support for climate mitigation policies.
The people who put together this table for policymakers wanted to show,
“Hey, since we’re obviously going to have to deal with climate change
eventually, we might as well get going, because the longer we delay, the
more expensive it will be.”
My modest point here, however, is to show that this table now poses an awkward stumbling block for those—like O’Rourke and Ocasio-Cortez—trying
to scare people into supporting ludicrously expensive and aggressive
proposals to “fight climate change.” If O’Rourke and Ocasio-Cortez were
anywhere close to being correct when issuing their ever-shrinking
windows for action, then in the IPCC table above, the beige cells should
have all had infinity signs, and in a footnote it would explain: “If we
wait until 2030 to begin mitigation efforts, we will all die.”
But that’s not what the UN report told us. Instead, it
reported that yes, the costs of achieving various climate targets (as
measured by atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in the year
2100) would be higher due to delay, but even in a pessimistic scenario,
the best-guess of the cost increase was 44 percent.
In this article, I highlighted one particular table from the most recent UN report on the science of climate change in order to show just how baseless are the recent claims that humans have x years to act on climate change. Over at Reason, Ronald Bailey marshals more evidence—again, from the very “consensus science” documents we are supposed to rely on—to show that these claims are nonsense.
This whole episode is yet another example demonstrating the farce of
the climate change policy debate. Whenever a critic disagrees with the
most radical proposals that would—according to their own
proponents—transform Western society, the critic is berated as a science
denier. And yet, even a cursory examination of the actual technical
reports shows that the prophets of doom are the ones who are spouting
forth unsupported claims.
About the author: Robert P. Murphy is a Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute and Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. He is the author of many books. His latest is Contra Krugman: Smashing the Errors of America’s Most Famous Keynesian. His other words include Chaos Theory, Lessons for the Young Economist, and Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015) which is a modern distillation of the essentials of Mises’s thought for the layperson. Murphy is co-host, with Tom Woods, of the popular podcast Contra Krugman, which is a weekly refutation of Paul Krugman’s New York Times column. He is also host of The Bob Murphy Show.
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute
The US-China truce is broken, and the threat of a trade war has returned. The USA alleges that China has backtracked from its previous offers. USA activated a new 25 percent duty on US$200 billion worth of exports from China , effective from 1st June. China upped the retaliation ante. Can India afford to retaliate?
India is not far from the pounce of a USA high tariff trade war. President Trump slammed India for high tariffs, tweeting that it is a “tariff king” and accused the country for trade deficit with USA. During the recent bilateral trade meeting, the visiting US Commerce Minister Willbor Ross blamed India for “overly restrictive” tariffs, which brought a jolt to USA’s exports to India, and eventually caused a trade deficit with India. He said that India ranked 13 of USA’s exports because of high tariff. Whereas, USA is the biggest export destination for India.
India hogged a blemish for “ unjust trade” and fell in the warrant list of the USA’s high tariff cudgel. The USA fixed India in watch list of 301 and threatened to withdraw GSP benefits as a counter attack on India’s price cap on medical devices, such as cardiovascular stent and knee implants. It also threatened to drag India in WTO Dispute Settlement Body on export subsidies. India lost the entitlement for subsidies after crossing the cap of US$ 1000 per capita income level. In retaliation , India threatened to impose high tariff on 29 items from USA.
The slugfest between India and USA will linger as no side bows for adjustment. Against this backdrop, the FTA ( Free Trade Agreement) could be a recourse to resolve the trade dispute. US Ambassador to India Kennth Juster mulled for FTA between USA and India . A top American business advocacy group , US-India Strategic Partnership Forum ( USISPF) , asserted for FTA. It believed that FTA would be key to resolve the trade irritants. The President of USISPF believed that “ Once you have FTA, all the issues of tariff will go away”.
The USA is the second biggest trade partner of India, after China. In 2017-18, USA accounted for 9.7 percent of India’s total trade. Incidentally, India’s trade relation with China and USA countries are diagonally opposite to each other. While China is the trigger for trade deficit, USA is a pivotal for export growth , yielding trade surplus. It helped in offsetting a chunk of trade deficit, triggered by China.
In 2017-18, USA’s trade surplus offset 13 percent of India’s total trade deficit. Against this backdrop, a lesson can be drawn for India before vying for retaliation against USA .
In trade and investment relation, USA is more significant to India than vice–versa. USA is the biggest export destination for India and a major foreign investor. To this end, any retaliation by India means opening a Pandora Box.
The USA is the backbone for India’s export growth. In 2017 – 2018, it shared one sixth of India’s export , accounting for 15.8 percent. It is a gear to India’s export growth. For example, in 2017-18 India’s a total export surged by 10 percent and USA was the main gear to this growth. It shared 13.4 percent of India’s export.
In the basket of exports also, USA has been playing an important role. It is the biggest importer of ready made garments, marine products, diamonds and pharmaceutical , which are the major components s of India’s exports. Incidentally, besides earning foreign exchange and reducing trade deficit , exports to USA paves the way for generating employment opportunities in the India. This is because garments and diamonds are labour intensive industries.
Both World Bank and Peterson Institutes studies have predicted significant gains for both USA and India, if a free trade agreement is concluded. Before Trump, USA was believer in low tariff and opposer to protectionism. With an overturn d in trade policy under Trump regime, USA and India are in the same boat of protectionism with their aim for America First and Make in India respectively.
Given this, ethical wisdom suggests that India should advocate FTA with USA , which will not only bring two countries closer to each other, but will also quell Trump’s ire on India’s high tariff.
With tariffs done away under FTA, trade potential between the two countries will increase through trade related investment. USA has the advantages of technology and financial muscles and India has an edge in providing low cost of production base and big domestic demand. FTA will encourage US investors to invest in India in lure of low cost production, while importing high tech products duty free as inputs. Eventually, it will help in reducing trade deficit.
Manufacturing of mobile phone by USA investors can be a case in point. Currently more than 85 percent of component and material costs for making a mobile phone is imported. India produces only 5 – 10 percent of the billing cost ,which include casing, plastic and box packaging. Most of these components and materials are imported from China because of low price advantages. With basic duties on components and materials waived off under FTA, which are around 10 -12 percent, USA manufacturers will have an edge over the manufacturers, who are dependent on imports from China.
India is on the trend for heading towards a new manufacturing dynamism after digitization and automation , which embraces component base industries. These industries require technology and skilled manpower. FTA with USA will leverage a benefit of technology transfer through import of components and materials at low cost.
This will have a dual impact. On the one hand, on the behest of FTA, USA’s exports of inputs and capital goods will increase and will gear up US investment in India. On the other hand, USA’s exports will pose a big challenge to China’s low coat dumping of goods in India. FTA will bring win-win situation for both countries.
Views expressed are personal
Millions of Indian citizens are relieved that election campaign for 2019 parliamentary poll has now concluded. Most people felt that it has been a horrible experience for them to constantly read and hear about the abusive language used by various politicians against one another. The obnoxious terms like thief, Ravan, Duryodhan to describe the Prime Minister were liberally used.
One politician went to the extent of saying that Prime Minister should be slapped, should be made to do sit ups and forced to leave the country, without any sense of care and responsibility and unmindful of the responsible position held.
While politicians of various parties used such abusive language, many concerned citizens have been wondering whether India is condemned to have such politicians in large number. Some people went to the extent of thinking as to whether such electoral democracy, where politicians of all sorts have no entry barrier , doing good to India at all.
Certainly, the esteem for the politicians in the views and perspectives of millions of Indian citizens have taken a beating and some sort of hatred and contempt for politicians in the mindset of common man have developed.Now, the concern and question in the mind of many people is as to whether India would be same again after the conclusion of the 2019 parliamentary election campaign, which was marked by hatred, bitterness and use of foul language.
The next Government of India has huge task of restoring the confidence of the people in the political set up and the on going democratic practices. It will not be an easy task, since the political parties who lose the election are likely to continue their bitter behavior by accusing the Election Commission and Judiciary of not being impartial. These two important constitutional bodies who have the responsibility to conduct themselves with highest level of dignity in their actions and statements cannot respond to the politicians, who would make deliberate attempts to create suspicions about the constitutional bodies in the minds of the people. One cannot expect the politicians , who have exhibited such low level of conduct and behavior during the course of election campaign , to behave better immediately after the election.
The problem in India is that both the print and visual media, most of which have gone under the control of politicians or business houses or religious bodies keep on focusing on the actions and statements of politicians all the time and they are likely to do so in the post election period too.
In the debates and discussions, the politicians and the journalists and political analysts with fixed and prejudiced views would continue to have the prominent place.. Certainly, they will vitiate the atmosphere further. The media seem to think that the politicians are their bread and butter and media can run their business only by focusing on them.
There are lakhs of Indians who have excelled themselves in the field of science, technology, medical practices, literature etc. and who hold sane views and can express themselves in a dignified manner without rancour and create progressive climate. Their views are not heard and publicized in the print and visual media. With several media houses having allegiance to one view or the other, only those who share their perspectives are given prominence. In the process, one gets an impression that politicians represent the mood and spirit of India and their standards are what the standards of India as a whole. This is an extremely uncharitable description of Indians .
If India were to grow prosperous with high happiness index , all round growth is necessary in the economy and social life. For achieving this end, developments in technology and science and several other areas including literature etc. are vitally needed. Such positive elements would certainly create a climate of growth in the country, which is needed for the progress of India. In other words, the voice of responsible and cultured citizens should be heard and the irresponsible and counter productive voice of the politicians should be ignored.
Can this happen in the post 2019 election in India ? Who will bell the cat ? Obviously, the next government that should be headed by a Prime Minister with long term vision and clear understanding of the strength and glory of India and who has pride in Indian traditional and cultural value with balanced outlook, can only achieve this by creating a wave of positiveness in India.
Millions of Indians are hoping for such possibility , with the fervent hope that India will be blessed with such leadership in the post 2019 election in India, so that the hard and sustained work by individuals and groups will be recognized and become the focus of the country and not the climate of chaos and uncertainty that politicians are likely to create. It appears that less importance for the current kind of politicians is the pre requisite for India’s march towards better future.
While any long-term resolution to the Afghan problem must directly engage the Taliban on the details of a comprehensive ceasefire as well as the group’s status and role in the post-conflict system of governance, the Taliban have been insistent on a date for US withdrawal along with the release of all Taliban detainees in Guantánamo and Afghanistan before any agreement is materialized.
However, many complicated issues are to be addressed if any sustainable plan on the resolution of the conflict has to be on the table.
The Taliban’s commitments to human rights including women’s rights specifically, to containing the illegal production and trafficking of opium and to help rehabilitate almost 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan as a result of the prolonged conflict must be ensured before any steps at removing military, financial and diplomatic restrictions placed on the group by the international community are undertaken.
The Taliban’s aspiration of establishing a “pure Islamic government” must be deliberated and common ground must be developed as a way to accommodate the principles of pluralism, power-sharing and election-based politics and the achievements made in the areas of state-building, democratization and pluralism must be strengthened further if the peace process has to succeed.
Further, it is also believed that any comprehensive dialogue process must involve the complicated exercise of discussing the political future of the group’s local commanders and foot soldiers apart from that of the leaders. Ignoring this may lead to endless fragmentation of the group which in turn would generate ceaseless concerns of insecurity and instability.
Meanwhile the Taliban’s chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas is reported to have remarked in an April 28 speech to an “internal gathering” in Doha, Qatar, that the US is on the verge of defeat and will quit Afghanistan soon “either of their own accord or they will be forced out.”
This remark while the talks are going on between the Taliban and the US interlocutors point to the fact that the group believes that it can prolong and circumvent the talks and let the war-weary US withdraw.
On the other hand, the US representative Zalmay Khalilzad is seeking guarantees that the Taliban will not provide safe haven to terrorist groups and work toward ensuring that Afghan territory is not be used to launch strikes against the US by transnational groups such as al-Qaeda, the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and ISIS in future.
The US State Department has referred to Russia, and China joining with the US calling for intra-Afghan talks which urged a ceasefire as well as supported “an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process.”
It must be noted while the regional powers have been stressing on an “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” peace process, their specific geopolitical concerns propelled them to assume roles that were at odds with the US peace moves. For instance, Russia hosted Afghan peace talks separate from the American format and China, Pakistan, Iran including Russia conducted a number of meetings and expressed their Afghan concerns implicating the US for a unilateral role.
While Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed Islamabad’s willingness to see the Taliban give up their refusal to talk to the Afghan government and participate in the political settlement of the long-drawn Afghan conflict, Pakistan’s sincerity in seeking a stable and peaceful Afghanistan has been questionable.
On the other side, Pakistan’s Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, asserted that Pakistan was taking action according to a National Action Plan formulated in 2014 and decisions taken by the National Security Committee of the country in its efforts to fulfill the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a body that works to combat money laundering and terrorism financing and comply with the UN Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism measures.
However, reservations regarding Pakistan’s sincerity in taking on terrorism have been expressed in several quarters. The US and the Afghan government have held Pakistan responsible for continuing insurgencies and instabilities in Afghanistan on several occasions.
The Trump administration has so far been unable to deal with Islamabad in a way that could help it achieve breakthroughs in Afghan peace efforts. The US continues to depend on Pakistan’s ground and air supply routes to supply goods to American forces in Afghanistan despite its apparent offensive gesture towards Pakistan.
Although the deterioration in Islamabad’s relations with Washington did not lead to blocking of the ground and air routes through Pakistan for ferrying supplies to the US-led international forces stationed in landlocked Afghanistan, it was believed any further deterioration in US-Pak relations could lead to blocking of these channels.
Islamabad very often rebuffed Washington’s frequent charges that it has not been serious in taking on terrorism. For instance, foreign minister Qureshi said Pakistani security forces have dismantled “the safe havens” and anti-Pakistan “safe havens” that exist today in Afghanistan “under your [U.S] watch” are a concern for Islamabad.
On the other side, bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were marred by mutual suspicions despite their apparent willingness to move ahead with the peace process. Kabul not only blamed Islamabad very often on the charges of sabotaging Afghan peace process and interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to the extent of appointing hard-line opponents of Pakistan to two top security posts which was believed to complicate US efforts at reviving peace talks with the Taliban ahead of withdrawal of American troops.
Further, Pakistan perceived India’s non-military and developmental role in Afghanistan as a policy of New Delhi’s strategic encirclement and viewed India’s enhanced diplomatic presence in the country with suspicion and alleged it with involvement in promoting anti-Pakistani elements. Thus, the peace efforts must address security concerns of Pakistan in order to register its unambiguous support.
The US strategy of containing Iran and Russia has not only prevented Washington from working on alternative routes other than supply routes made available by Pakistan, Moscow and Tehran have reportedly maintained contacts with the Afghan Taliban to safeguard and promote their interests in Afghanistan.
Washington cannot hope to move ahead with the peace process only by courting Islamabad’s support while simultaneously pursuing containment strategies toward Moscow and Tehran.
The far-reaching sway of the Taliban in Afghanistan has enabled it to move in the peace process with relative flexibility. For instance, the Taliban have been refusing to deal directly with the internationally recognized government in Kabul considering it an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime.
Second, the Taliban argued that the foreign troops must withdraw first to pave way for peace and negotiations.
fully loaded Chinese oil tanker ploughing its way eastwards from two Iranian oil terminals raises questions of how far
Beijing is willing to go in defying US sanctions amid a mounting US military build-up in the Gulf and a US-China trade war.
sailing from Iran of the Pacific Bravo takes on
added significance with US strategy likely to remain focused on economic
rather than military strangulation of the Iranian leadership, despite
to the Gulf of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as B-52 bombers
and a Patriot surface-to-air missile system.
As President Donald J. Trump, backed by Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo, appears to be
signalling that he is not seeking military confrontation, his administration is
reportedly considering a third round of sanctions that would focus on Iran’s
petrochemical industry. The administration earlier this month sanctioned the country’s metals and minerals trade.
The sailing raises the question whether China is
reversing its policy that led in the last quarter of 2018 to it dramatically reducing its trade with Iran, possibly in response to a recent breakdown in US-Chinese trade
question is whether non-oil trade remains
depressed even if some oil sales resume, which I think it will. That’s
the better indicator of where Chinese risk appetite has changed.
Iran’s reprieve will be limited—but
better than zero perhaps,” tweeted Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, head of
Bourse & Bazaar, a self-described media and business diplomacy
and the founder of the Europe-Iran Forum.
A Chinese analyst interviewed by Al Jazeera argued
that “China is not in a position to have Iran’s back… For China, its best to stay out” of the fray.
The stakes for China go beyond the troubled trade
talks. In Canada, a senior executive of controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is fighting extradition to the United States on charges of violating US
sanctions against Iran.
Reports that Western companies, including Kraft Heinz,
Adidas and Gap, wittingly or unwittingly, were employing Turkic
Muslims detained in re-education camps in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, as part of opaque supply chains, could
increase attention on a brutal crackdown that China is struggling to keep out of the limelight.
The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the
crackdown but has stopped short of sanctioning officials involved in the repressive measures.
Bourse & Bazaar’s disclosure of the sailing of the
Pacific Bravo coincided with analysis showing that Iran
was not among China’s top three investment targets in the Middle East even if Chinese investment in the region was on the
The Pacific Bravo was steaming with its cargo
officially toward Indonesia as Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was touring his
country’s major oil clients, including China, in a bid to persuade them to ignore US sanctions.
A second tanker, the Marshal Z, was reported to
unloaded 130,000 tonnes of Iranian fuel oil into storage tanks near the Chinese city of Zhoushan.
Marshall Z was one of four ships that, according
to Reuters, allegedly helped Iran circumvent sanctions by using
ship-to-ship transfers in January and forged documents that masked the
cargoes as originating
The unloading put an end to a four-month odyssey at
sea sparked by buyers’ reticence to touch a cargo that would put them in the US crosshairs.
in China decided that the steep discount
this cargo most likely availed … was a bargain too good to miss,” Matt
Stanley, an oil broker at StarFuels in Dubai, told Reuters.
The Pacific Bravo, the first vessel to load Iranian
oil since the Trump administration recently refused to extend sanction exemptions to eight countries, including China, was recently acquired by China’s Bank of Kunlun.
The acquisition and sailing suggested that Bank of
Kunlun was reversing its decision last December to restrict its business with Iran to humanitarian trade, effectively excluding all other transactions.
bank was the vehicle China used in the past for
business with Iran because it had no exposure to the United States and
as a result was not vulnerable to US sanctions that were in place prior
to the 2015
international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.
willingness to ignore, at least to some
extent, US sanctions could also constitute an effort to persuade Iran to
remain fully committed to the nuclear accord which it has so far upheld
year’s US withdrawal.
Iran recently warned Europe that it
would reduce its compliance if Europe, which has struggled to create a credible vehicle that would allow non-US companies to
circumvent the sanctions, failed to throw the Islamic republic an economic lifeline.
In a letter that was also sent to Russia and China,
Iran said it was no longer committed to restrictions on the storage of enriched uranium and heavy water stocks, and
could stop observing limits on uranium enrichment at a later stage.
president Vladimir Putin warned in response to
the Iranian threat that “as soon as Iran takes its first reciprocal
steps and says that it is leaving, everyone will forget by tomorrow that
the US was the
initiator of this collapse. Iran will be held responsible, and the global public opinion will be intentionally changed in this
By racing to roll-out 5G networks for the sake of being cutting-edge, governments and telecom players are giving little to no consideration of its consequences.
By Trisha Ray
On April 3, 2019, two days ahead of its planned April 5th launch, South Korea became the first country in the world to roll-out a nationwide 5G network.
South Korea is one of the three telecom firms deploying Huawei’s
technology; the early launch was reportedly being a response to rumours
that U.S-based Verizon would plan a roll-out on April 4th.
Given these facts, it seems that the two powers figure prominently in
the cost calculus of most of the world’s aspiring technology leaders.
is making headlines all over the world over for its role in
intensifying the US-China strategic competition. In January, members of
the United States House of Representatives identified
Huawei as an “intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist
Party” and “a growing threat to American national security”. However,
with 40 5G contracts
already under its belt — none of which are in mainland China — the
Chinese telecom appears to be undeterred; it is making headway in both
established and emerging markets.
on the other side of the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Department of Telecom
announced that its 5G trials would begin by early 2020. Alongisde
India’s Airtel and Reliance Jio, Samsung and Huawei, are amongst the firms invited for these trials.
fight for 5G dominance is driven primarily by the exponential growth of
global network traffic. Between 2017 and 2022, global IP traffic is
expected to triple. In most of the developed West, this growth is
considered ‘fixed traffic’ – i.e it is meant for residential or
commercial connections and ISPs. For most of the developing world,
especially India and China, this growth
is driven by mobile connections. In other words, more and more people
are online; their demands for mobile content are mostly video. For
developing countries, therefore, the primary use case for 5G is Enhanced
Mobile Broadband (eMBB) which implies better network capacity,
coverage, and data rates.
is key for countries looking to capitalise on future technology. In the
case of India, high-speed, high-reliability, low-latency mobile
networks could improve the accessibility of services such as mobile
banking and healthcare, and enable exponential growth in opportunities
for unemployed or underemployed people to engage in fulfilling and
productive work. This is especially true in light of the impact of
automation on employment. As the National Digital Communications Policy
2018 states: “[T]he convergence of a cluster of revolutionary
technologies including 5G, the cloud, IOT and data analytics, along with
a growing start-up community, promise to accelerate and deepen its
digital engagement, opening up a new horizon of opportunities.” This is
an optimistic view.
5G is an enabler for critical Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)
technologies. For instance, the Internet of Things (IoT), which requires
ultra high-speed ultra low-latency networks, will need the capacities
enabled by 5G.
With these huge advantages
the network can offer, it is no surprise that 5G is embroiled in a
strategic competition rhetoric. However, the winner-takes-all narrative
is to our collective detriment. The biggest threats to our 5G future are
the roll-out of potentially immature technologies, fraudulent claims to
being “5G,” and a lack of understanding about the effects of the
hyper-connectivity enabled by this technology.
Two high-profile 5G rollouts — namely those in South Korea and the United States — are already plagued by complaints of unstable connections and reports that 5G connections are no faster than LTE networks. The case of AT&T
putting up a 5G logo on its LTE phones was another challenge. In
addition to these short term drawbacks, there is a bigger concern about
the vulnerability of 5G networks and the potential of a large scale
cyber attack. A recent piece by Robert Spalding in the New Yorker highlights
some of these concerns: “5G is not just for refrigerators. It’s farm
implements, it’s airplanes, it’s all kinds of different things that can
actually kill people or that allow someone to reach into the network and
direct those things to do what they want them to do. It’s a completely
different threat that we’ve never experienced before”.
racing to roll-out 5G networks for the sake of being cutting-edge,
governments and telecom players are giving little to no consideration of
its consequences. These must be taken seriously to prevent potentially
The past few months have witnessed more tragedy and violence as extremists continued to target places of worship around the world. Several governments have taken constructive steps to strengthen societal bonds and social cohesion. But in a world of growing diversity and tension, what more can governments do to bridge the divisions within societies?
By Jeanne Louise Conceicao*
Over the past few months, extremists have targeted places of worship around the world – mosques, churches and synagogues. In March 2019, mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques saw over 50 people die at the hands of a lone white supremacist. This was followed closely by a series of bombings in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday with more than 250 dead. A week later, on 28 April 2019, a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in California killing one (earlier in October last year, 11 worshippers died in a mass shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh).
In the aftermath of such violence, the very best of humanity was on
display, manifested in the outpouring of assistance and compassion for
those who were injured and for the loved ones of those killed. There was
universal condemnation of the attacks and the racial and religious
hatred that spawned them. These events also caused disquiet around the
world on what appears to be emerging trends within countries.
Countering the white supremacist far-right and Islamist extremists
must be a major priority of all governments. Politicians from the left
and right of the political spectrum play an important role in promoting
peace and harmony between different social and ethnic groups.
Unfortunately, some have acted indifferently, even irresponsibly,
towards the increasingly apparent racial, religious, and cultural
divisions within their borders. Instead of attempting to bridge such
divides, these politicians deepen the chasms with divisive rhetoric and
In Europe and elsewhere, some politicians have increasingly given
voice to extremist rhetoric in their quest for votes and popular
support. Such tactics are cause for alarm, especially since studies have
shown that leaders have a direct impact on setting the political tone
for the country (and sometimes the world) and implementing policies on
race and religion.
Some countries have taken an exclusive approach towards the minority
groups within their territories, instead of being inclusive and
culturally sensitive to them. As a result, some who feel marginalised
and discriminated leave the country to support extremist causes.
Many governments also struggle with the proliferation of hate speech on the Internet on platforms such as Facebook.
What can governments do to create a more harmonious coexistence in
our increasingly heterogeneous societies? Harmonious coexistence may
have been a given in societies that for generations were largely
homogeneous, whether for reasons of ethnicity, such as in the countries
of East Asia or Scandinavia, or for reasons of beliefs, such as in the
United States or Europe.
But homogeneity may be a thing of the past.
In today’s globalised setting, homogeneity is progressively giving
way to plurality as a result of increased people-to-people exchanges,
immigration, and digital technology. The resultant greater diversity of
peoples, beliefs, and opinions can easily become a crucible for racial,
religious, and cultural tensions and divisions, if not managed
As such, harmonious coexistence is no longer a luxury but a
necessity, and one that must be consistently embraced by the highest
levels of government and across every sector of the population. If we
want a garden to be filled with healthy plants, we have to tend it with
deliberate love and care.
Singapore is an interesting case study for the fostering of
harmonious coexistence — one of the fundamental guiding principles of
the country’s governance is respect for pluralism and diversity of race,
religion and culture. This cardinal principle has been followed through
in law, policy and practice since the country’s independence.
The government has secured common spaces for all religious and
non-religious groups to coexist and flourish. To protect the sanctity of
this negotiated space, special laws have been enacted against hate and
attempts to incite enmity and ill-will between different racial and
religious groups. This is extended to the online world.
Singapore’s multi-cultural efforts have been recognised. In March
2019, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a US-based inter-faith group
announced that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will receive
the 2019 World Statesman Award for “fostering a society that embraces
multiculturalism in which communities maintain their unique way of life
at the same time living harmoniously”.
So what more can governments do?
There are many constructive steps governments can take to strengthen
societal bonds and social cohesion. They include encouraging politicians
to refrain from using divisive rhetoric, promoting greater dialogue and
interaction between different racial and religious groups to foster
mutual respect and understanding, nurturing shared values across
communities, and working with Big Tech to better regulate social media
and remove postings advocating hate and violence.
There are other innovative ways to work more positively towards
long-term harmonious co-existence, not just within but also across
borders. “People all over the world think of themselves as peace loving
and tolerant of other groups, yet enmities and conflict exist. There is
an urgent need for better communication and dialogue among different
communities,” said Singapore President Halimah Yacob in an interview on
14 May 2019 in Beijing where she was to deliver a speech at the
inaugural Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations.
To this end, President Halimah announced that the first International
Conference on Cohesive Societies will be held in Singapore from 19-21
The conference will serve as a platform to bring together local and
international thought leaders to share their experiences and ideas on
how to encourage collective action to bridge the widening divides within
societies and strengthen social cohesion.
Cross-border influences are likely to grow as the world becomes more
interconnected, thanks to technology and the movement of peoples across
borders. At the same time, according to the 2018 Report by the Centre
for Strategic and International Studies, instances of xenophobia,
intolerance, and terrorism are on the rise, with right-wing violent
attacks in Europe increasing at least three-fold in four years.
Governments have to be vigilant and take serious note of such
phenomenon. Some governments are already dealing with it through policy,
legislation and community efforts. The exploitation of race and
religion may be politically expedient, but it also encourages dangerous
sentiments that can lead to conflict and chaos.
There has to be an acknowledgement by governments that societies
today are under extreme pressure from centrifugal forces. Unless
decisive action is taken to encourage tolerance and cohesion within
societies, these forces can tear societies apart. It is therefore
imperative that governments take active measures to promote harmonious
relations between racial, religious and cultural groups to ensure a
peaceful and better future for all.
*Jeanne Conceicao is a Visiting Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
A new book called Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby adds significantly to our understanding of Lyme disease, while oddly seeming to avoid mention of what we already knew.
Newby claims (in 2019) that if a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer had
not made a confession in 2013, the secret that Lyme disease came from a
biological weapons program would have died with him. Yet, in 2004
Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on NBC’s Today Show, where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection. Lab 257 hit the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list soon after its publication.
Newby’s book reaches the same conclusion as Carroll’s, namely that
the most likely source of diseased ticks is Plum Island. Newby reaches
this conclusion on page 224 after mentioning Plum Island only once in
passing in a list of facilities on page 47 and otherwise avoiding it
throughout the book. This is bizarre, because Newby’s book otherwise
goes into great depth, and even chronicles extensive research efforts
that lead largely to dead ends, and because there is information
available about Plum Island, and because Carroll’s best-selling book
seems to demand comment, supportive or dismissive or otherwise.
In fact, I think that, despite the avoidance of any discussion of
Plum Island, Newby’s research complements Carroll’s quite well,
strengthens the same general conclusion, and then adds significant new
understanding. So, let’s look at what Carroll told us, and then at what
Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island,
where the U.S. government makes or at least made biological weapons,
including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped
from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is
the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the
Soviets, and the Americans.
Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies
in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species.
“Ticks,” Carroll writes, “find baby chicks irresistible.”
In July of 1975 a new or very rare disease appeared in Old Lyme,
Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. And what was on Plum Island? A
germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi
germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a
different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare
program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was
a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors. After
all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor
experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s (when we know that the
United States was using such weaponized life forms in North Korea).
Even Plum Island’s indoors, where participants admit to experiments
with ticks, was not sealed tight. And test animals mingled with wild
deer, test birds with wild birds.
By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest
concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of
the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the
Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.
Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at
the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and
Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them. The
Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
If Newby agrees or disagrees with any of the above, she does not inform us. But here’s what she adds to it.
The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound
actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme
arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S.
bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with
discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into
ticks 30 years earlier. And his report on the cause of Lyme disease may
have involved a significant omission that has made it harder to diagnose
or cure. The public focus on only one of the three diseases has allowed
a disaster that could have been contained to become widespread.
Newby documents in detail Burgdorfer’s work for the U.S. government
giving diseases to ticks in large quantities to be used as weapons, as
they have been in Cuba in 1962, for example. “He was growing microbes
inside ticks, having the ticks feed on animals, and then harvesting the
microbes from the animals that exhibited the level of illness the
military had requested.”
Burgdorfer published a paper in 1952 about the intentional infecting
of ticks. In 2013, filmmaker Tim Grey asked him, on camera, whether the
pathogen he had identified in 1982 as the cause of Lyme disease was the
same one or similar or a generational mutation of the one he’d written
about in 1952. Burgdorfer replied in the affirmative.
Interviewed by Newby, Burgdorfer described his efforts to create an
illness that would be difficult to test for — knowledge of which he
might have shared earlier with beneficial results for those suffering.
Newby, who has herself suffered from Lyme disease, blames the profit
interests of companies and the corruption of government for the poor
handling of Lyme disease. But her writing suggests to me a possibility
she doesn’t raise, namely that those who know where Lyme disease came
from have avoided properly addressing it because of where it came from.
Newby assumes throughout the book that there has to have been a
particular major incident near Long Island Sound, either an accident or
an experiment on the public or an attack by a foreign nation. Burgdorfer
reportedly claimed to another researcher that Russia stole U.S.
bioweapons. Based on that and nothing else, Newby speculates that
perhaps Russia attacked the United States with diseased ticks,
coincidentally right in the location where the U.S. government
experimented with diseased ticks.
“What this book brings to light,” Newby writes, “is that the U.S.
military has conducted thousands of experiments exploring the use of
ticks and tick-borne diseases as biological weapons, and in some cases,
these agents escaped into the environment. The government needs to
declassify the details of these open-air bioweapons tests so that we can
begin to repair the damage these pathogens are inflicting on human and
animals in the ecosystem.”
Another product of U.S. bio-weapons tax dollars at work, of course,
was the anthrax mailed to politicians in 2001. While Newby speculates
that perhaps someone was trying to demonstrate the danger for our own
good, I don’t think we should forget that one purpose served — whether
or not intended — by the “anthrax attacks” was a significant
augmentation of the Iraq war lies. The attacks were falsely blamed on
Iraq, and even if people have forgotten that, they fell for it long
enough for it to matter. The one bit of truth in current public
understanding of Lyme disease is that it has not been falsely blamed on
some country the United States is eager to bomb. Let’s keep it that way!
Conservatives favor consumer choice. Consumer information is vital to
make that choice meaningful. Corporatists, masquerading as
conservatives, do not care about informed consumer choice. Donald Trump
is a corporatist, as are the vast majority of Republicans in his Cabinet
and in Congress. Corporatists do not even want you to know where
products are made. Today, producers and retail sellers do not have to
tell you the “country of origin” for meat and pork products. Before
2015, when Congress bowed to the dictates of the World Trade
Organization (WTO), Congress had enacted a law that required country of
origin labels on meat products.
People wanted to know whether the beef and pork sold in their local
stores was from the U.S., or Canada, Brazil, China, Mexico, or South
Africa, among other importers. But after the WTO judges in Geneva,
Switzerland decided, bizarrely, that “country of origin” labeling was an
impermissible non-tariff trade barrier, Congress meekly passed a bill
that repealed the labeling law and President Obama signed this
legislation into law.
While Donald Trump claims to reject “free trade” treaties, he has
been silent on country of origin regulations. State Cattlemen’s
Associations want laws mandating country of origin labels, believing
that consumers are more trusting of the U.S. meat industry than the meat
industries in most other countries. These associations know that the
U.S.D.A. Food Safety and Inspection Service has a much less rigorous
inspection process for imported meats. Unfortunately, the rest of the
meat industry likes to import meat, without labeling, and mix it up with
the U.S. products. Trump – a prodigious meat eater has yet to tweet in
favor of the American cattle industry, even though many people in this
part of the U.S. meat industry voted for him in 2016.
Even worse, we cannot tell where our drugs are being manufactured.
Rosemary Gibson, author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s
Dependence on China for Medicine thinks American patients are endangered
by imported medicines. Gibson is about to testify before Congress on
her very disturbing findings regarding importation of medicines from
China. I’ve been trying to get the attention of Donald Trump, his
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the Secretary of
Agriculture, Sunny Perdue, regarding risks with importation of food and
drugs. Letters, emails, and calls have been met with silence. By not
responding, they’re telling us who they primarily support—corporate
profiteering interests. That is one reason why Trump has broken his
promise to the American people to bring down staggeringly high drug
It will be harder for the Trump administration to ignore journalist
Katherine Eban . Eban provides us with a terrifying glimpse of her new
book, Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom, in a
New YorkTimes article published on Sunday May 11, 2019. The article,
“Americans Need Generic Drugs, But Can They Trust Them?” exposes the
widespread unsafe conditions in many Indian and Chinese labs and plants
that manufacture generic drugs for the U.S. market (generics amount to
90 percent of the U.S. supply of drugs). One of her sources was an
intrepid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector, Peter Baker (he
has since left the agency).
Baker was a bold and honest auditor. He refused to announce lab
inspections in advance, as is FDA’s lackadaisical practice. From 2012 to
2018, Baker discovered “fraud or deceptive practices in almost
four-fifths of the drug plants he inspected” in India and China. Indian
and Chinese manufacturers engaged in data manipulation that could prove
At one firm, the Wockhardt plant in India, Baker caught the company
knowingly releasing insulin vials containing metallic fragments from a
defective sterilizing machine into Indian and foreign markets. Eban
reports that “[Baker] learned that the company had been using the same
defective equipment to make a sterile injectable cardiac drug for the
American market.” Two months later, the FDA banned imports from that
Eban continues, shockingly: “In some instances, deceptions and other
practices have contributed to generic drugs with toxic impurities,
unapproved ingredients and dangerous particulates reaching American
patients.” This is nothing new. In 2008, at least 81 American patients
died in hospitals after being given heparin, a blood thinner that
contained a contaminated ingredient from China.
You’d think that the FDA would demand from Trump more inspectors
abroad and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would ask the White House
for more U.S.D.A. Food and Safety inspectors, along with tougher laws
and penalties on unsafe imports to transmit to Congress. After all, the
sheer scope of U.S. drug companies going to China and India to produce
drugs cheaply, so as to swell their already swollen profits, is simply
Another chilling statistic from Eban is that “Nearly forty percent of
all our generic drugs are made in India. Eighty percent of active
ingredients for both our brand and generic drugs come from abroad, the
majority from India and China… America makes almost none of its own
antibiotics anymore” (My emphasis). The outsourcing of the production of
drugs to foreign countries presents vast challenges for health and
One would think this surrender to imports, whose sole purpose is to
fatten U.S. drug companies’ profits, would be considered both a consumer
safety threat and a national security matter. Why isn’t Trump doing
anything to keep Americans safe from dangerous foreign products, as he
crows about tariffs?
Of course the FDA responds with their usual phony assurances about
its reliable inspections, putting out a statement that reads: “The
F.D.A. inspects all brand-name and generic manufacturing facilities
around the world which manufacture product for the U.S. market.”
Is that why the FDA, which has largely conducted unannounced
inspections of U.S. plants, still allows pre-announcement of the vast
majority of its foreign inspections? Eban reports, the FDA investigators
are treated as “the company’s guests and agree on an inspection date in
advance…Plant officials have served as hosts and helped to arrange
Messrs. Trump, Azar, and Perdue better wake up before innocent
Americans lose their lives due to corporate indentured government
officials failing to properly do their jobs. Do they want a major
disaster to land on their derelict desks?
Years ago, tobacco companies discovered the link between their
products and lung cancer. Did they warn their customers? No — they
denied the link entirely, misleading the public for decades while
killing their customers.
Similarly, ExxonMobil scientists made startlingly accurate predictions about climate change as early as 1982 — and then spent millions of dollars on a misinformation campaign to sow public doubt about climate change.
They didn’t need to convince the public that the climate crisis wasn’t happening. They just had to muddy the waters enough to prevent us from doing anything.
They provoked uncertainty: Maybe the climate crisis isn’t happening.
And even if it is, maybe it’s not caused by humans burning fossil fuels.
(Of course, it is happening and it is caused by humans.)
The result was inaction.
If we aren’t even sure that a human-caused climate crisis is afoot,
why should we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels? It would be highly
inconvenient and very expensive to go to all of that trouble unless
we’re absolutely certain that we need to.
After all, the argument went, “only” 97 percent of scientists believe that human are causing a climate crisis.
I’m a scientist. Let me tell you, when 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, the evidence must be overwhelming.
Scientists are trained to critique and argue with one another. We
make our careers by pulling apart other scientists’ theories and
exposing the flaws in them and then supplanting them with better
theories of our own.
You couldn’t get 97 percent of scientists to agree that puppies are cute or chocolate is delicious.
What about other 3 percent? You can always find one or two nutty
so-called scientists with inaccurate, fringy theories out there. There’s
probably a scientist somewhere attempting to publish a study asserting
that Bigfoot exists — or that climate change isn’t happening.
Science is a community endeavor in which we try to collectively
discover and advance the truth. The goal is that the community as a
whole achieves a consensus or near-consensus that is as accurate as
If 97 out of 100 scientists agree that humans are causing catastrophic climate change, that’s a consensus.
The difference between lying about the deadliness of tobacco and
lying about the deadliness of fossil fuels is who gets harmed by those
Tobacco is deadly — I’ve lost two grandparents to its ill effects —
but tobacco is most harmful to those who use it. The climate crisis is
deadly to everyone, whether they are responsible for causing it
or not. It will continue to hurt people for generations, even after
humans stop polluting at such alarming levels as they do now.
The Exxon Mobil executives who’ve profited from fossil fuels did so
while knowing that they were trading a few decades of profits for the
entire future of the planet and all of the species on it.
We’re beyond the point where we tell ourselves that changing our
light bulbs can help. The fix for the climate crisis must come from the
highest levels. It requires large-scale systemic changes and not a few
insufficient individual actions.
And it could start with consequences for the industry that caused the crisis on purpose.
*Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego
A limiting factor in projecting where coral reefs will survive under
21st century climate change is a lack of quantitative data on the
thermal thresholds of different reef communities.
Researchers studied skeletal stress bands on corals to reconstruct
the history of bleaching on eight reefs in the central equatorial
Pacific and use this information to better understand the thermal
thresholds of their coral communities.
Results showed the most thermally tolerant reefs in the study
(Jarvis and Kanton Islands) experienced 50 percent bleaching at seven to
nine times more thermal stress than did the least resistant reef in the
study (Maiana Island).
Belarusian authorities have carried out concerted attacks on media freedom over the past two years that directly affect the climate in which news media will cover the country before, during, and after the upcoming European Games, Human Rights Watch said. The European Olympic Committees (EOC) should ensure that all journalists, foreign and local, covering the 2019 European Games, from June 21-30, in Belarus, can operate free from harassment.
In the past two years, Belarusian authorities have filed a record
number of criminal charges against journalists and bloggers, carried out
groundless searches of the editorial offices of several news
organizations, introduced tighter state control of the internet, and
expanded grounds for prosecuting speech. On May 8, in response to
concerns about press freedom raised by Human Rights Watch and other
groups, the EOC told Human Rights Watch that it would appoint a
representative to monitor media freedom during the games.
“It’s good news that the EOC has committed to dealing with interference with press freedoms, but it needs to follow up with effective action,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s disturbing that journalists covering the games will need protection from Belarusian authorities’ harassment.”
Andrei Bastunets, chair of the Belarusian Association of
Journalists, Belarus’ top media rights watchdog, has said that “2018 has
become the darkest year for Belarusian journalism since 2011,” when
there was a massive crackdown following elections in December of the
previous year. Bastunets has said that the authorities are trying to
strengthen their control of mass media ahead of parliamentary and
presidential elections at the end of 2019 and 2020.
Legislation adopted in 2014 authorized
the Information Ministry to compel internet providers to block access
to websites without judicial review. Amendments to the Law on Mass Media
in 2018 introduced a burdensome registration procedure
for online media to be able to cover the government. And reporters are
being prosecuted under the 2016 amendments to the country’s
The Belarusian Association of Journalists documented 26 police
searches of journalists’ and bloggers’ homes and of media offices in
2018. In February 2018, a court sentenced three bloggers to five years
in prison and suspended their sentences, after they had spent 14 months
in pretrial custody, for posts that allegedly “questioned Belarus’s
sovereignty” and “insulted the Belarusian nation.” In March 2019, police
arrested two Russian journalists as they were giving a lecture about
operating small online outlets. A blogger who covered environmental
protests is facing dubious “criminal insult” charges.
In April, a court convicted an independent media editor of criminal
negligence on allegations that some of her staff had been accessing the
website of BelTA, the state news agency, without paying a subscription
fee. The charges were wholly inappropriate for the alleged offense,
Human Rights Watch said. In connection with similar cases, police
searched the offices of several independent media outlets, and held
eight journalists in custody for three days. They, along with at least
six others, were also prosecuted and fined.
Authorities have prosecuted bloggers who cover controversial issues
on a range of dubious or trumped-up charges. They have also routinely
detained and fined journalists covering unauthorized protests.
President Aliaksandr Lukashenka will mark his 25th
anniversary in office in July. His presidency has been marked by
entrenched authoritarian rule, Human Rights Watch said. The government
severely restricts independent media and independent organizations and
refuses permission for most human rights groups to register and operate
freely. It is the only country in Europe that continues to allow the
In recent years, the government made some improvements in the human
rights situation. It has downgraded “unregistered” involvement in
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from a criminal offense to an
administrative one and has released most high-profile political
prisoners. The authorities have jailed fewer journalists than in the
past, though they have greatly increased prosecutions that result in
Human rights and media freedom groups have repeatedly urged
the EOC to establish media freedom procedures for the Minsk Games. In a
May 8 letter to Human Rights Watch, the EOC’s leadership wrote that it
had appointed a “contact person to monitor” the rights of journalists
during the games.
The EOC should ensure that the information about the contact person
is made available to foreign and Belarusian journalists alike, and that
the individual has the resources to respond effectively to any
complaints. The EOC, an association of 50 National Olympic Committees,
owns and regulates the European Games. The EOC and its members are part
of the Olympic Movement and governed by the Olympic Charter, which has
explicit guarantees for media freedom.
“The situation for press freedoms in Belarus is alarming,” Denber
said. “The EOC needs to do whatever is required to ensure journalists
can report safely during the games.”
By Samir Kajosevic
A local dispute has turned into became a much larger inter-ethnic row
after unknown perpetrators removed a wooden cross from the foundations
of St. Vasilije Ostroski church in the village of Martinaj and threw it
into a nearby stream.
The incident was reported by Montenegrin
media on Tuesday but escalated when former Albanian Prime Minister Sali
Berisha wrote on Facebook that “Montenegro-Serbian extremists are
restoring the church to provoke Albanian residents”.
“I call on
local and state authorities in Montenegro to intervene and prevent the
illegal activities of extremist groups that cause inter-ethnic and
religious tensions,” Berisha wrote on Thursday.Since 2001, the Serbian
Orthodox Church has been trying to restore the church, of which only the
foundations remain, but the ethnic Albanian majority in the village has
consistently opposed the initiative.
Martinaj is situated in the
mainly Bosniak and Albanian municipality of Gusinje, where locals have
previously asked ethnic Albanian politicians to demand that the
restoration work on the church be halted, calling it a ‘provocation’.
a gathering of priests and Orthodox believers at the church foundations
in 2013, a conflict erupted with local villagers, and police arrested
22 people.Orthodox Christians and priests set up a wooden cross at the
site at end of April, but it was removed two weeks afterwards
Local Serbian Orthodox Church parish priest Bojan Radunovic appealed to ethnic Albanians in the village to show restraint.
is a religion of peace, love and forgiveness, but we also expect
citizens of other religions to behave in such a way and not to try to
deny anyone the freedom of religion, as we do not do that,” Radunovic
told daily newspaper on Vijesti on Wednesday.
Orthodox Church meanwhile called on the Montenegrin authorities to deal
“with people who spread religious and national [ethnic] hatred”.
a meeting on Thursday with the vice-president of the Montenegrin
parliament, Genci Nimanbegu, ethnic Albanians from Gusinje said that the
church was being rebuilt in a village which has no members of the
Orthodox faith.“We do not object to the construction of a religious
building, but only Albanians live in this village, and the church is
being restored on the property of the Prelvukaj family.
should respond,” one of them, Arber Vukaj, told Montenegro’s public
broadcaster.The Prelvukaj family sued the Serbian Orthodox Church in
2011, but a court in the Plav municipality concluded that the land on
which the church is located doesn’t belong to the family.
verdict was confirmed by the High Court in Bijelo Polje and the Supreme
Court of Montenegro.St. Vasilije Ostroski church was built in 1928, but
was destroyed in 1941 during World War II.According to the last census,
the population of the Gusinje municipality is 54 per cent Bosniaks and
Muslims, 22 per cent Albanians and 5.5 per cent Orthodox Christians.
(RFE/RL) — A Russian court has ordered private equity fund Baring Vostok to give up control of a bank that is at the center of a fight that has spooked investors and led to the jaling of the firm’s American founder.
The May 17 ruling by the regional arbitration court in the Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk was the latest twist in a case that has raised questions about the rule of law and the investment climate in Russia.
The court, located on the Chinese border, about 8,000 kilometers east of Moscow, ordered Baring Vostok to sell a 10 percent stake in the bank Vostochny.
The recipent of the stake is a company whose owner, Artem Avetisian, and his partners were accused by Baring Vostok of stripping the assets of Vostochny, according to Russian news agencies.
In a statement, Baring Vostok called the court’s ruling “unfounded,” and accused the court of not reviewing the evidence properly.
“Baring Vostok believes that this entire court process, including today’s ruling, has caused serious damage to the reputation of Russia’s system of arbitration justice,” the company said.
In February, Calvey, a prominent Moscow-based investors, and four others were arrested by Russian security agents, accused of defrauding Vostochny in a related deal.
The arrests stunned many Western investors, and drew complaints from high-level Russian business leaders and government officials, who questioned the motivations of the courts and prosecutors.
A Moscow court in April ordered Calvey out of pretrial detention, and ruled he be placed under house arrest, pending trial.
The issue of Calvey’s arrest has come up in talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Calvey founded Moscow-based Baring Vostok in 1994. The company was an early, major investor in Russia’s dominant search engine, Yandex.
Four protesters arrested inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC have been released pending hearing – but could face up to a year in jail for trying to prevent a takeover of the building by the US-backed opposition.
Members of the Embassy Protection Collective have been released on various conditions after their arrest Thursday afternoon by heavily armed US police. The misdemeanor charge of “interfering with a federal law enforcement agent engaged in protective functions” carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, even though the activists and the Venezuelan government alike insist the US police had no right to enter the building.
The protesters are “looking forward to the trial,” Kevin Zeese told journalist Anya Parampil after his release, adding that they planned to “make the case that there is a legitimate government, that the Vienna convention was violated, that this was an inappropriate and unlawful arrest.”
Margaret Ann Flowers, Adrienne Pine, and David Vernon Paul were also released. They are due back in court on June 12.
The judge ordered the protesters to steer clear of 10 locations now
controlled by representatives of the Venezuelan opposition and check in
weekly with authorities as a condition of their release. While the US
government asked for their passports to be confiscated, that request was
denied, though they must notify authorities if they plan to travel
The collective had been living in the building for over a month with permission of the Venezuelan foreign ministry, hoping to prevent it from falling into the hands of US-backed “interim president” Juan Guaido, whose operatives have taken possession of other Venezuelan diplomatic buildings after diplomats loyal to President Nicolas Maduro were forced to leave the country.
US authorities had also shut off power and water to the embassy and tried to block food deliveries to the protesters living inside, in a pale echo of the blackouts and sanction-imposed scarcity Washington has inflicted on actual Venezuelans in its ongoing campaign to force regime change in Caracas.
Venezuelan Vice Minister for North American Relations Carlos Ron condemned the raid, calling it an “unlawful breach of the Vienna Convention” and confirming the Venezuelan government did not authorize any US authorities to enter the building, which under international law is considered Venezuelan diplomatic property.
WASHINGTON (WJLA) – “It’s God’s work, you know? ” Stanley Barsch said, smiling, as he sat in a chair in his hospital room at MedStar Georgetown University …
“counterintelligence Mueller Investigation” – Google News
The United States is planning to deploy military forces in the waters of the Arabian Gulf and in a number of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, according to media reports in the region.
The request from Washington was approved by a number of GCC nations,
including Saudi Arabia, according to a report by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat
newspaper, which quoted unnamed Arab diplomatic sources.
The main objective of the move is to allow Washington and Gulf nations
to work together to deter any aggression or military threat from Iran
against its neighbors or US interests in the region, the sources said.
Tensions have escalated following attacks this week on a Saudi oil
pipeline and a number of cargo ships in the Arabian Gulf off the coast
of Fujairah in the UAE.
The sources reportedly said a number of Arab nations also plan to hold a
summit on the sidelines of the Islamic summit scheduled to take place
in Makkah during the last 10 days of Ramadan. They added that the
countries involved “are united by principles and visions that are
consistent with regional and international developments,” according to
E-commerce is sizzling. Last year, consumers spent more than $517
billion online with US merchants, up 15 percent from the year before,
according to Internet Retailer.
However, independent musicians, self-published authors and others
have sometimes found it difficult to participate in the e-commerce
revolution. That’s because they typically must set up an account with a
third party, say a credit card company, to protect against fraud while
simultaneously increasing the comfort level of potential buyers. Those
credit card accounts, though, cost money. That can result in lower
profits for artists and other online sellers and higher prices for
Bhaskar Krishnamachari, a professor at the USC Viterbi School of
Engineering, and Aditya Asgaonkar – a recent undergraduate computer
science alum at BITS Pilani, India who visited and worked with
Krishnamachari at USC Viterbi over several months in 2018 – believe they
have found a way to make the buying and selling of digital goods less
costly, more efficient, and less vulnerable to fraud. Their proposed
solution involves blockchain, “smart contracts,” and game theory.
“Our scheme offers potentially a big improvement over the
state-of-the-art in electronic commerce because it allows buyers and
sellers to interact directly with each other without the need for
third-party mediators of any kind,” said Krishnamachari, a Ming Hsieh
Faculty Fellow in Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of
the Viterbi Center for Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of
“It uses a dual-deposit method, escrowing a safety deposit from both
buyer and seller that is returned to them only when they behave
honestly. And the verification of who is at fault and who is honest is
done automatically by the smart contract,” added Krishnamachari.
On May 15, 2019, Asgaonkar presented the researchers’ joint paper
titled, “Solving the Buyer and Seller’s Dilemma: A Dual-Dual-Deposit
Escrow Smart Contract for Provably Cheat-Proof Delivery and Payment for a
Digital Good without a Trusted Mediator,” at the IEEE International
Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency in Seoul, South Korea.
Asgaonkar and Krishnamachari have created an algorithm that runs on a
programmable blockchain as a “smart contract.” Blockchains allow
multiple stakeholders to transact money or data virtually over linked
peer-to-peer computer networks.
Here’s how it might work.
An author wants to sell her digital masterwork, “The Great American
Novel.” However, she hopes to avoid going through Amazon or some other
company that takes a commission.
Instead, she uses Asgaonkar’s and Krishnamachari’s blockchain-based
solution and lists the book’s price at $20. An interested buyer contacts
her. To ensure an honest deal, both the buyer and seller agree to pony
up a $10 deposit through Ethereum or some other programmable blockchain
The author then sends the digital book to the buyer, who could only
access it by making a verifiable payment for the correct amount. If the
transaction satisfies everybody, then both parties receive their
But what if someone tries to cheat? What happens, for instance, if
the seller intentionally sends the wrong e-book? What recourse does the
aggrieved party have?
This is where the so-called smart contract kicks in.
The contract stores a good’s digital hash code, or “digital
fingerprint,” in Krishnamachari’s words. The buyer has access to that
code before making a purchase. If they receive an item with a different
hash code, however, they can dispute the transaction. In this instance,
the seller would forfeit their deposit after the algorithm determined
that they had attempted to cheat the buyer.
Now, consider a different scenario in which the buyer tries to cheat
by falsely claiming they received the wrong item. If the digital
fingerprint, shows otherwise, the unscrupulous buyer would lose their
Asgaonkar and Krishnamachari call their system “cheat proof.” Their
paper uses game theory to prove mathematically that, in their proposed
protocol, the best option for buyers and sellers is to behave honestly,
lest they lose their deposits or access to desired goods.
“Our solution, a crypto-economic system, disincentivizes malicious
behavior from either party,” said Asgaonkar, now a researcher at the
Added Clifford Neuman, a computer scientist at USC Viterbi’s
Information Sciences Institute: “The significance of this work is that
it changes the structure of incentives for correct behavior in online
transactions so that the optimal benefit to both parties occurs when
they transact fairly.”
At present, Asgaonkar’s and Krishnamachari’s system works only with
digital goods because physical products can’t have a cryptographic hash
associated with them. However, physical goods stored in a safe-box that
can be opened with a digital password could be potentially transacted
using their system.
The researchers’ blockchain-based system, under-girded by algorithms
and smart contracts, solves what’s known as the “Buyer and Seller’s
Dilemma,” all without the need for credit-card companies or legal
adjudications, Krishnamachari said.
“The dilemma is that with a traditional online transaction, either
the buyer or seller will have to go first, either trusting that the
buyer will pay honestly after delivery or that the seller will deliver
honestly after payment. But either party has the incentive and ability
to cheat the other if no other dispute resolution mechanism or trust
third party is involved,” Krishnamachari said.
“By providing for the dual-deposit escrow and an automated
verification process as a piece of software running on a blockchain,” he
added, “we are able to guarantee that neither party will cheat the
What most excites Krishnamachari about this new protocol is its
ability to facilitate microtransactions, “which I see as the future of
digital commerce among individuals and between organizations,” he said.
Made popular in games and mobile apps, microtransactions allow users
to pay small amounts of money for virtual goods like a new sword in
“World of Warcraft” or unlocking hidden levels in a game.
However, with the advent of the Internet of Things, the potential for these tiny microtransactions is far, far greater.
Such automated arrangements, for instance, could include
micropayments to the owner of a sensor-laden car digitally providing
another driver with traffic data or air quality information. These and
other microtransactions, Krishnamachari said, will multiply with the
increased interconnection, via the Internet, of data-exchanging
computing devices embedded in everyday objects.
“Creating these data economies is going to require us to lower the
friction for transactions down to zero. And that’s what we’re trying to
do,” Krishnamachari said. “Millions of transactions could become
frictionless, digitized and monetized, and the Internet of Things would
be more robust.”
When it comes to pitching business ideas to potential investors, an
entrepreneur’s excitement and enthusiasm can be the difference between
dreams taking shape or ultimately falling flat.
But it’s not just the intensity of enthusiasm that’s important,
according to a recent study by a team led by Georgia Institute of
Technology researchers. How long an entrepreneur displays the highest
level of excitement during a pitch also plays a major role in predicting
success in receiving funding.
Basically, too much enthusiasm can be a bad thing.
“The findings suggest that investors may interpret prolonged periods
of high enthusiasm as over-optimistic,” said Dong Liu, an associate
professor in Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business.
“Over-optimistic entrepreneurs are thought to make irrational decisions
and overestimate their products’ profitability.”
In the study, which was published April 8 in the Academy of Management Journal,
the researchers described using artificial intelligence software to
analyze video pitches for 1,460 business funding proposals for products
posted on the crowd funding website Kickstarter.
The software used facial expression recognition and big data
analytics to measure the intensity of enthusiasm in more than 8 million
frames of video, then recorded how long the presenters stayed at their
maximum level of excitement, which the researchers described as the
point of “peak joy.”
They found that, generally speaking, the higher the peak level of
enthusiasm, the more likely the entrepreneur was to receive funding,
after controlling for differences in the products and business ideas.
But there was a bell curve in the results, where the likelihood of
funding tended to fall as “peak joy” levels went on for too long.
“Although a higher level of peak joy displayed by entrepreneurs
during their pitches leads to better funding performance over time,
prolonged display of peak joy seemed to undermine funding performance,”
Liu said. “Another possible interpretation is that investors may believe
the entrepreneur is acting and the pitch is manipulative. Maybe they
feel the entrepreneur is using his or her excitement to manipulate the
investors’ perceptions in hopes of increasing the odds of getting
The facial recognition software analyzed when the presenters made
expressions linked to joy, such as raising the cheek, drawing the
corners of the mouth into a smile, and the movement and position of the
eyes. The researchers noted that the software, called FaceReader, was
even more accurate in recognizing emotions than real people analyzing
those video frames.
The researchers also found another factor that influenced funding
success was at what point during the presentation “peak joy” happened.
They found the most effective times to display enthusiasm was at the
beginning of the pitch and near the end.
“The results of our research could be broadly applicable to
different kinds of audiences, not just those funding projects through
crowd funding websites,” Liu said. “Venture capitalists are looking for
good business ideas on these websites too. But in general these findings
could help inform any business pitch.”
By Jeff Seldin
While Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq have largely been forced underground, the terror group’s other fighters along with its media operatives appear intent on surging, combining an increase in attacks with ramped-up output on social media.
The strategy comes as little surprise to U.S. officials who have long warned the fight against IS would not end with the collapse of its self-declared caliphate in March.
But the wave of propaganda, following the deadly Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka and the release of a new video from IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to be making an impact.
“ISIS media, like Nashir News, has upped its production,” according to Chelsea Daymon, a terrorism and security researcher at American University, using an acronym for the terror group.
“Among supporters, there’s been a lot of chatter about the [Islamic] state being back,” she said. “The Sri Lanka attacks as well as the Baghdadi video have provided a lot of moral support for them.”
Analysis by the SITE Intelligence Group shows that in the past
several weeks IS has claimed responsibility for attacks in at least 13
countries, not including Syria and Iraq.
Additionally, it has announced new provinces in Pakistan and India, both of which had previously been categorized under the Afghan-centered IS-Khorasan province.
Just a few weeks earlier, IS announced the creation of a Central African province, praising an attack on army barracks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing three soldiers.
Analysts say the heavy focus on areas outside the terror group’s collapsed caliphate is no accident.
“It seems ISIS, via its propaganda approach, are trying to convince that they are far from physically defeated,” Raphael Gluck, co-founder of Jihadoscope, a company that monitors online activity by Islamist extremists, told VOA.
Gluck said much of the terror group’s online activity appears to be picking up on the themes laid out by IS leader Baghdadi in his video, released April 29, when he called on followers to exhibit “steadfastness” in what he described as a “battle of attrition.”
“Editorials and articles in its weekly newspaper suggest a newer
guerrilla-style approach, wearing down enemies by carrying out smaller
attacks,” Gluck said, adding there are also lots of suggestions that the
self-declared caliphate is “gone but not forever.”
“Photo essays that used to appear more frequently are appearing less
often but nevertheless showing daily life — marking the end of a day of
Ramadan fasting, executing enemies — perhaps the sort of propaganda that
makes some wonder: Are they really all that defeated and so landless?”
IS and IS-affiliated outlets have likewise played up Baghdadi’s call for vengeance.
“There’s a big uptick in execution images,” said American University’s Daymon, talking about both official and semiofficial sources of IS propaganda.
“For a long time, there was a lack of photo reports on executions, but stuff has gotten more gruesome,” she said. “Violent images send a message of power and vengeance.”
IS supporters are likewise trying to project their strength on venues like Telegram.
One poster shared by the IS-linked Muharir al-Ansar showed French President Emmanuel Macron handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit as an executioner with a knife looms behind him.
Others showed Russian President Vladimir Putin dead and promised imminent attacks against the U.S. and Britain, seemingly minimizing IS’s losses in Syria, Iraq and in places like Libya and Afghanistan, where its cells have been repeatedly targeted by the U.S. and coalition partners.
But even if IS followers are not capable of making good on such threats, analysts say it may not matter because the target audience is not the West but rather potential IS adherents.
All of this, said Michael S. Smith II, a terrorism analyst and teaching fellow in Johns Hopkins University’s Global Security Studies program, “can have a cumulative effect of demonstrating Islamic State is a viable enterprise that remains worthy of support.”
Tropical forests are being deforested at an alarming rate to make way for agriculture and pastureland; the good news is that they can regrow naturally when the fields are abandoned.
An international research team including participation from the University of Göttingen has found that regenerating wet and dry forests actually show opposite pathways. This implies a fundamental change in our understanding of how tropical forests change over time, with consequences for forest restoration, biodiversity, and ecology.
Their results were published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Eighty-five researchers from 16 different countries collected
original data from 50 sites, 1,400 plots and more than 16,000 trees in
tropical forests across Latin America. The scientists tracked the
recovery of tropical forests to understand how the regrowing process
They found that tree species that produce expensive and durable wood can persist for a very long time, especially under adverse climatic conditions but this strategy comes at the expense of a reduced and slow growth.
Early in regeneration, light and water resources are in abundant supply, which leads to the dominance of “fast” pioneer species with soft wood. Whereas late in succession, the availability of resources declines, leading to the dominance of “slow” late-successional species with hard wood. This information is crucial to improving initiatives to restore forests and to select the best species for planting.
“Our study shows how tropical forests regenerate on cattle pastures and agricultural fields,” says Dr Dylan Craven from Göttingen University, who measured wood density in central Panama. “It is extraordinarily variable, mostly due to differences in climate. Understanding how tropical forests regenerate in different contexts will be essential for developing effective native species reforestation programmes and conservation areas for biodiversity and climate mitigation across Latin America. Hopefully similar studies from the African and Asian tropics will be forthcoming, and will strengthen similar programmes with a data-driven approach.”
New discoveries made at the Klasies River Cave in South Africa’s
southern Cape, where charred food remains from hearths were found,
provide the first archaeological evidence that anatomically modern
humans were roasting and eating plant starches, such as those from
tubers and rhizomes, as early as 120,000 years ago.
The new research by an international team of archaeologists, published in the Journal of Human Evolution,
provides archaeological evidence that has previously been lacking to
support the hypothesis that the duplication of the starch digestion
genes is an adaptive response to an increased starch diet.
“This is very exciting. The genetic and biological evidence
previously suggested that early humans would have been eating starches,
but this research had not been done before,” says Lead author Cynthia
Larbey of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.
The work is part of a systemic multidisciplinary investigation into the
role that plants and fire played in the lives of Middle Stone Age
The interdisciplinary team searched for and analysed undisturbed hearths at the Klasies River archaeological site.
“Our results showed that these small ashy hearths were used for
cooking food and starchy roots and tubers were clearly part of their
diet, from the earliest levels at around 120,000 years ago through to
65,000 years ago,” says Larbey. “Despite changes in hunting strategies
and stone tool technologies, they were still cooking roots and tubers.”
Professor Sarah Wurz from the School of Geography, Archaeology and
Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in
Johannesburg, South Africa (Wits University) and principal investigator
of the site says the research shows that “early human beings followed a
balanced diet and that they were ecological geniuses, able to exploit
their environments intelligently for suitable foods and perhaps
By combining cooked roots and tubers as a staple with protein and
fats from shellfish, fish, small and large fauna, these communities were
able to optimally adapt to their environment, indicating great
ecological intelligence as early as 120 000 years ago.
“Starch diet isn’t something that happens when we started farming,
but rather, is as old as humans themselves,” says Larbey. Farming in
Africa only started in the last 10 000 years of human existence.
Humans living in South Africa 120 000 years ago formed and lived in small bands.
“Evidence from Klasies River, where several human skull fragments
and two maxillary fragments dating 120 000 years ago occur, show that
humans living in that time period looked like modern humans of today.
However, they were somewhat more robust,” says Wurz.
Klasies River is a very famous early human occupation site on the
Cape coast of South Africa excavated by Wurz, who, along with Susan
Mentzer of the Senckenberg Institute and Eberhard Karls Universit?t
Tübingen, investigated the small (c. 30cm in diameter) hearths.