Kosovo offers Israel an embassy in Jerusalem in exchange for recognition

By ethan / September 22, 2018

The leader of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, has offered to place the embassy of his self-proclaimed state in Jerusalem, if Israel would recognize the renegade Serbian province as an independent country.

“If Kosovo were recognized by Israel, I would place the Kosovo embassy in Jerusalem,” the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reported Friday, citing KosovaPress. Thaci made the offer during an interview with Albania’s Vizion Plus TV.

Kosovo was an autonomous province of Serbia that NATO occupied in 1999, after a 78-day airstrike campaign on behalf of the ethnic Albanian ‘Kosovo Liberation Army’ (KLA), led by Thaci. In February 2008, the provisional government unilaterally declared the region’s independence. It has been recognized by the US and most of its allies, though five EU and four NATO members still refuse to follow suit.

Israel is among half of the UN member states that have declined to recognize Kosovo’s independence, something Thaci is likely hoping to change with this offer. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been keen to have more countries relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing Israel’s exclusive claim to the city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.

So far, only the US, Guatemala and Paraguay have done so – and Paraguay’s new government announced this month it would move back to Tel Aviv in the interest of peace. US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, and opened the new embassy in May this year.

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Flags of Kosovo, Albania and the US during celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Kosovo's declaration of independence © Hazir Reka

Thaci himself offered a hint of what might be driving his proposal, by telling Vizion Plus that his government is “100 percent” supported by the US. “The Republic of Kosovo’s ties with the US are excellent. I met with President Trump, and his approach to us is the same as the previous president,” Thaci said.

This echoes the comments made by Ramush Haradinaj, another KLA leader turned politician, and rival to Thaci, who currently serves as prime minister in Kosovo’s government.

“We are part of Europe and cooperate with Brussels and Berlin,” Ramush Haradinaj told Serbia’s Happy TV in a three-hour recorded interview in April “However, when it comes to foreign policy we’re part of a club of countries led by America. We don’t have a problem with admitting that. We don’t have time for the world’s problems.”

The Israeli government has not yet responded to Thaci’s offer.

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Foreign critics of Philippines drug war will be ‘human live targets’ to military – Duterte

By ethan / September 21, 2018

The controversial president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has told his military that his foreign critics will make great ‘live human targets’ for home troops, as only his countrymen have the right to question his policies.

Duterte, who has two complaints filed against him at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his brutal war on drugs, attacked his opponents abroad as he addressed the military in the central city of Capas on Friday.

“If I fell short, then as a Filipino, that is your right to criticize and even slam me if you want. I would never, never [hold] it against you,” the President said, as cited by GMA website.

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© Czar Dancel

But his foreign critics should keep their mouth shut, he warned, promising a grim fate to the investigators and human rights activists who would come to the Philippines to look into accusations against him.

“Someday when you’re out of targets… as well as live human target, I can just bring [the foreign critics] to you,” Duterte told the troops.

Back in March, the Philippines’ leader already promised to feed international investigators to crocodiles if they dare arrive in the country.

After taking office two years ago, Duterte launched a massive war on drugs, with Human Rights Watch claiming that more than 12,000 have been killed by police or “unidentified gunmen” since then.

The Philippine leader has denied all accusations, saying that his law enforcers only used force in self-defense.

In February, the ICC started a preliminary examination of claims against Duterte; he responded by unilaterally withdrawing the Philippines from the court in March.
He argued that the ICC gave up on the ‘presumption of innocence’ principle and only wanted to portray him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights”.

READ MORE: ‘Stage a mutiny!’ Duterte dares Philippine military to act if they don’t like his leadership

Later, the president went even further, by saying that the Philippines never formally acceded to the Rome Statute, as its text wasn’t published in the country’s official gazette. He vowed to persuade other counties to also quit the ICC.

Duterte also instructed the Filipino police to ignore the investigators if they come, and threatened ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda with arrest.

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Oops! It took Twitter 2 weeks to tell users of bug that exposes messages to unauthorized developers

By ethan / September 21, 2018

A bug on Twitter has been sending users’ private direct messages to third-party developers, who are unauthorized to view them. The tech has giant informed affected clients of the problem, but almost two weeks after discovering it.

Members of the Twitteratti began receiving notifications from the social networking website on Friday, that their messages and protected tweets have been exposed for more than a year.

The problem, which was building since May 2017, was discovered on September 10 and fixed “within hours,” the company said. But for some reason it took Twitter almost two weeks to relay this information to its users.

The tech giant said that “the bug affected less than 1% of people on Twitter,” but it’s still a significant number, considering that the platform has around 335 million users.

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© Valentin Wolf

The problem occurred in the Account Activity API (AAAPI), used by registered developers to build tools that help businesses to communicate with its customers on Twitter. “The bug may have caused some of these interactions to be unintentionally sent to another registered developer,” the company said.

“A complex series of technical circumstances had to occur at the same time for this bug to have resulted in account information definitively being shared with the wrong source,” it added.

Twitter said that it currently has no reasons to believe that any of the data sent to the wrong developers had been misused.

The tech giant said it has been working with its partners to make sure that they will “delete information they should not have.”

Those users that were affected by the bug will be contacted directly by Twitter staff, it said, adding that the investigation into the issue was ongoing.

READ MORE: ‘Patience reached limit’: EU warns Facebook to comply with consumer rules by end of 2018

It’s the second bug this year involving people’s data on Twitter. In May, many users were asked to change their passwords after it became clear that they were stored in unmasked form on the company’s internal log.

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US sanctions aimed to squeeze ‘main competitor’ out of arms market – Moscow

By ethan / September 21, 2018

The new punitive measures the US imposed on buyers of Russian weapons – China in particular – is just a sign of unfair competition, aiming to get rid of “hyper-competitive” Russian-made arms, the Kremlin says.

Moscow is already “tired” of reacting to every single hostile move from Washington, but will not let the latest batch of restrictions go unpunished, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Friday.

The statement came after the Trump administration added 33 Russian defense and intelligence officials and entities to the sanctions list and also targeted the Equipment Development Department, China’s leading arms acquisition body, for buying Russian arms.

There are two key factors behind the latest restrictions, Moscow believes. Apart from “unfair competition” that actually violates international trade laws and principles, Washington just wants to clear the way for its own arms dealers.

The move is merely an attempt to “squeeze out of the markets the main competitor of American producers,” as Russian arms are often “hyper-competitive,” the Kremlin spokesman said. The “hostile” move will only further harm US-Russian relations, which Peskov characterized as already in a “sorry state.”

Washington’s recent sanctions have already drawn an indignant response from Beijing. On Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry warned that the US will have to bear the consequences unless it drops the restrictions.

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‘Detachment from real life’: Bono talks populism in Europe with Zakaria

By ethan / September 21, 2018

In poverty-stricken Kiev, Ukraine, a millionaire TV host and Washington Post writer sat down with a multimillionaire musician to discuss Europe’s rising tide of populism. Unsurprisingly, readers learned little.

Journalist Fareed Zakaria, a Harvard-educated millionaire with his own CNN show on Sundays wanted to understand how Europe, a continent finally at peace after centuries of conflict, could be succumbing to the rise of “populism and nativism.” What, he wondered, could be fuelling Europeans’ newfound Euroscepticism and “hostility toward strangers, foreigners, anyone who is different.”

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Sankt Petri church in Copenhagen, Denmark © Fabian Bimmer

Rather than ask a Spaniard watching migrant boats plow ashore on his country’s beaches, or a Dutchman whose picture-postcard village now features a mosque and ten kebab shops, Zakaria sat down with U2 frontman Bono, for an article published in the Washington Post on Thursday.

“Europe needs to go from being seen as a bore, a bureaucracy, a technical project, to being what it is: a grand, inspiring idea,” the singer opined. He argued that while the EU has enacted mountains of legislation, it has failed to capture the imagination of Europeans.

“That idea of Europe deserves songs written about it, and big bright blue flags to be waved about,” he wrote in a German newspaper recently. To that end, Bono has taken to unfurling a gigantic blue EU flag at U2 concerts, a gimmick he described as “a radical act.”

However, are Europeans interested in Bono’s song-and-dance brand of Europhilia?

Well, the thing about populism is than, by definition, it’s popular. In his article, Zakaria points out that anti-immigrant sentiment runs high in countries like Hungary. Elsewhere, Sweden’s anti-immigration Sweden Democrats took the second-largest share of the vote in elections two weeks ago; Italy’s eurosceptic government enjoys record approval ratings; and Austria’s right-wing government has made strengthening its borders a national priority.

Talking to Zakaria, Bono called for a different type of patriotism, one that seeks “unity above homogeneity.” However, his own acts to heal the divide and foster this new patriotism have planted him firmly in the social justice warrior camp.

As Swedes went to the polls earlier this month, Bono called them Nazis at a concert in Paris. Dressed as a ‘devil clown,’ the singer performed a Nazi salute while shouting “Akesson,” the surname of Jimmie Akesson, the Sweden Democrats’ leader. After calling Swedes “potential Aryans,” he then insulted French populist Marine Le Pen, as part of a wider tirade against the right in general.

On immigration, Bono has gone beyond simply calling for Europeans to accept refugees from war-torn countries. Jamie Drummond, CEO of Bono’s own anti-poverty NGO, ‘ONE’, has argued for mass African immigration to Europe.

“As Africa’s population doubles, a lot of them, whatever the circumstances, will be coming to Europe, as economic migrants or as refugees, they will be coming, and that is a good thing” Drummond told an Irish government committee last year. “We will be senescent demographically. We’ll need their youthful energy.”

Zakaria and Hewson reach no further understanding of European populism in Zakira’s article, other than that it’s bad, and can maybe be stopped with catchy songs and shiny flags. At least that’s the position of a singer with a beachfront villa in Monaco and a $ 700 million fortune who seemingly pays taxes in any country but his own.

Like many of Bono’s endeavors, the article was relentlessly mocked online.

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India calls off meeting with Pakistan over ‘brutal killing’ of policemen in Kashmir

By ethan / September 21, 2018

India has canceled a meeting with Pakistan over what it calls the “brutal” killing of three of its policemen on Friday morning. A Pakistani senator took a swipe at India for “running from talks.”

India had on Thursday confirmed a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers in New York after Pakistani PM Imran Khan wrote to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi calling for the two countries to resume dialogue.

But on Friday, three Indian officers were shot dead by Hizbul Mujahideen militants in south Kashmir.

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The India Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday cited the “brutal killings,” as well as Pakistan’s reported release of postage stamps glorifying terrorism, as reasons for branding any dialogue “meaningless” and calling the meeting off.

“Now, it is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of new Prime Minister Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Pakistan refused to take the blame and lashed back out at India. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India has “once again wasted an opportunity for peace.” He added that the refusal shows India’s government is “facing internal pressures” and that it’s already preparing for elections next year.

Pakistani Senator and former leader of the opposition party Sherry Rehman took to Twitter to condemn the cancellation, saying:

“Shame that on #InternationalPeaceDay India has refused to talk peace with Pakistan in even a routine manner at the @UN on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Running from talks won’t change the fact that this time Indian repression in Kashmir has been noticed in a UN report.”

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Ex-Google CEO: Internet will split in two, with China controlling half

By ethan / September 21, 2018

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts that the internet, as we know it, will split in two within the next decade, with one side led by China. However, Google seems okay with Chinese rule, once it gets to be involved.

“I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America,” Schmidt told tech-heads at a private event in San Francisco on Wednesday, organized by investment firm Village Global VC.

Schmidt warned that a Chinese-controlled internet would be subject to the Chinese government’s censorship.

READ MORE: Google admits it lets hundreds of third party apps read your emails

“I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China,” Schmidt fawned, before warning: “There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.”

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Sergey Brin, Google co-founder © Ruben Sprich

Whatever measures China decides to adopt at home, Beijing’s efforts to construct a 21st Century Silk Road could see these measures exported. The Belt and Road initiative, a move by Beijing to link around 60 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia with land, sea, and digital connections, could see countries adopt Chinese internet infrastructure.

“It’s perfectly possible those countries will begin to take on the infrastructure that China has with some loss of freedom,” Schmidt predicted.

But is he worried about the impending death of the ‘open’ internet, or just bitter that the Chinese got there first?

The ex-CEO’s warning came hours before the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google employees discussed tweaking the company’s search functions to counter negative and ‘Islamophobic’ results for terms like ‘Islam,’ ‘Muslim,’ ‘Iran,’ etc, as a response to President Trump’s controversial travel ban last January. It didn’t happen, according to a Google spokeswoman, but the news adds further weight to the argument that Google, and other Silicon Valley tech giants, discriminate against conservative speech.

In addition, video emerged last week of an internal meeting, in which Google’s top officials discussed using AI to fight populism and correct “low information voters.”

Crossing the great firewall

While Google seems content to enforce left-coast liberalism at all costs at home, it apparently has no problem enforcing different ideologies abroad. Schmidt may have bemoaned a censored internet on Wednesday, but the internet giant is reportedly planning to launch a censored, Chinese-compliant version of its ubiquitous search engine in China.

The project, codenamed ‘Dragonfly,’ has been in the works for over a year, and will reportedly toe the Chinese government’s line in censoring information about free speech, political opponents, and books like George Orwell’s ‘1984’ which negatively portray authoritarian governments.

READ MORE: Trump’s new cyber strategy seeks global dominion over internet

It is unclear when, if at all, ‘Dragonfly’ will be launched. Chinese officials told Reuters that the project does not yet have approval from authorities, and the current trade spat between the US and China could put it on the back burner. American politicians and activists have slammed Google for the move.

Google pulled out of China in 2010, citing the Chinese government’s alleged human rights violations. Why then would the company, a supposed paragon of liberalism, return now?

With over 700 million internet users in China, Google’s new approach could be, quite simply, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

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Germany to resume arms sales to Saudis despite own Yemen-related ban – reports

By ethan / September 21, 2018

The German government is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies despite a domestic agreement not to deliver weapons to countries involved in the bloody Yemen conflict, local media report.   

The Saudi kingdom may soon take delivery of four German-made artillery positioning systems, which help detect and respond to enemy fire. This is according to Spiegel magazine, citing a letter Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has sent to lawmakers.

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FILE PHOTO. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes a photograph with a member of the military in Afghanistan. © Andrew Harnik/Pool

Aside from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan are also mentioned on the list. The former is poised to receive 48 warheads and 91 target acquisition sensors for vessel-mounted anti-aircraft systems, while the latter will procure 385 anti-tank missiles.

All three Gulf countries are involved in the ongoing war in Yemen, which has to date seen thousands of civilians killed and many more forced to flee their homes. In addition, Saudi Arabian and Emirati jets frequently fly combat sorties against Iran-backed Houthi militias.

The bombardments have been lambasted by human rights group for having caused collateral damage and civilian casualties. The UN even said that some of the actions by Riyadh may amount to war crimes. 

Berlin has tried to justify the move, saying the armaments it wants to sell are part of weapons systems supplied by other countries. Also, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE as close partners in the fight against international terrorism, Spiegel said.

The weapons sales appear to be the first since March of this year, when a ruling coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats agreed to halt arms deliveries to all countries involved in Yemen conflict.

Experts warn Western-made arms systems will eventually land in the hands of Saudis fighting in Yemen. “You can’t be sure that [these weapons] are not being used in Yemen, absolutely not. I mean, you may get an end-user certificate by the government,” Rainer Rupp, German publicist and former intelligence officer, commented on RT.

He said that believing the Saudis will not use the weapons against civilians is similar to “believing in Father Christmas.” Rupp also dismissed Berlin’s justification of the prospective weapons sales, claiming “[Riyadh’s] fight against terrorism is exemplified, for instance, in Syria by massive Saudi financial and military support for ISIS and other Islamist hitch hoppers.”

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Russophobia Digest Part 10: Boy scouts, anonymous sources and a new Salisbury 'poisoning'

By ethan / September 21, 2018

In just a few days Russia has been accused of planning to hack American boy scouts, kill an Instagram “model” with rat poison, and help Julian Assange escape. All stories high in Russophobia and low in evidence.

Here’s a look at the last seven days or so of Russophobia.

Scouts dishonour

Salon.com picked up a story that can only be described as peak Russophobia. Computer Science and Cybersecurity professor Susan Landau wrote an article warning that those mysterious malicious Russian hackers could soon be turning to a new target … the Boy Scouts.

Landau warns it’s “extremely likely” the scouts and other clubs could be targeted because “they are the groups that knit together a community.”

Extremely likely” is one of those familiar Russophobic tropes which means there’s no proof but we’ll say it anyway. She also describes one incident of alleged hacking in Texas before admitting “there’s no indication this specific incident was Russian-made, but the example illustrates the type of activity they use to create discord.” So if it’s so common, why not use an actual example.

Chronic Russophobia has many victims though. Landau ends by saying “I suggest taking sharp political disagreements offline …” Yep, see you later freedom of speech!

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© missannawebb

Model story unravels

The Sun newspaper couldn’t resist this week when a self-labelled Russian born model claimed she and her British husband had been poisoned in a Salisbury (yes, that Salisbury) pizza restaurant (no, not that pizza restaurant), because ‘Putin wants me dead‘. It was all too much for Murdoch’s tabloid men, and they splashed it all over the front page along with a racy picture of the ‘model’ in question.

Of course, it all soon started to unravel and the story was deleted, as it became clear that Anna Shapiro and her husband Alex King, a known hoaxer, may not be the most trustworthy of sources afterall, and probably weren’t the next Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

So why was it possible for a national newspaper to print such a fishy smelling story all over its front page? Because Russia was the bad guy of course, and when Russophobia reigns you can say whatever you want!

Anonymous sources

Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK‘ screamed a headline in the Guardian. In the best traditions of Russophobia though, the newspaper was able to reveal the alleged plan in intimate detail, but none of the names of the actual sources that told them about it.

Where would the world of Russophobia be without all those anonymous sources.

Defending against non-aggression .. again

The Digest doesn’t enjoy being repetitive, but Russophobia does have a habit of being more than a little samey. Britain’s Air Force has been using its tried and trusted tactic of boasting that it sent up its planes to escort Russian airplanes through international air space.

READ MORE: UK boasts of securing its skies from ‘aggression’… by peeking at Russian bombers in int’l airspace

We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression” mumbled Britain’s potty-mouthed Russophobic Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

That’s fair enough, but why does the RAF keep trying to protect other people’s skies from acts of non-aggression, then boasting about it? Must be Russophobia.

Like 9/11 but …. not

Missed this cracking bit of Russophobia last week, but it’s definitely worth returning to.

Angus King, an independent US Senator for Maine claimed that Russia’s alleged ‘meddling’ in the 2016 US election was “the same kind of attack” that took place on 9/11.

They used airplanes into towers,” King said “Now people can use the click of a computer key in St. Petersburg, Russia to attack“.

READ MORE: ‘Same as 9/11’: Edgy senator compares ‘Russian meddling’ to murder of 3,000 Americans

Even worse, he was talking to a crowd of firefighters and first responders who one suspects can probably fill him in on the differences if he’s interested. Risk of actual death being the first one that springs to mind.

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