Daily: 29/09/2022

Зеленський у зверненні: маємо нові результати на передовій, додаткову допомогу від партнерів

«Завтра відбудеться спеціальне засідання РНБО, яке я скликав. Будуть рішення. І ми знаємо, як реагувати на будь-які російські дії»

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Кулеба про новий пакет санкцій ЄС: не відповідає «масштабам ескалації Путіна»

Напередодні Єврокомісія запропонувала новий пакет санкцій проти Росії через проведені нею псевдореферендуми на окупованих українських територіях

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NATO Vows Retaliation for Attacks on Infrastructure, Blames Sabotage for Pipe Blasts 

NATO vowed retaliation Thursday for attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member nations, while strongly suggesting the rupture of two Baltic Sea pipelines meant to send natural gas from Russia to Germany was the direct result of sabotage.

Ambassadors to NATO, the West’s key military alliance, said in a statement, “Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.” They said four ruptures in the pipelines were of “deep concern.”

NATO did not accuse anyone of damaging the pipelines but said that “all currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage. These leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that the ruptures in the Nord Stream pipelines would not have been possible without a state actor’s involvement.

“It looks like a terror attack, probably conducted on a state level,” Peskov told reporters.  Russian President Vladimir Putin later told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that “international terrorism” was to blame.

“Judging by the amount of destruction of the Nord Stream, it’s hard to imagine that such action could have been taken without a state involvement,” Peskov said. “It’s a very dangerous situation that requires a quick investigation.”

Some European officials and energy experts have suggested that Russia likely carried out the attacks, to benefit from higher energy prices and to create more economic chaos in Europe for its support of Ukraine in fending off Russia’s seven-month invasion. But other officials urged caution in assessing blame until investigators determine what happened.

Peskov characterized media reports about Russian warships being spotted in the area of the damaged pipelines as “stupid and biased,” adding that “many more aircraft and vessels belonging to NATO countries have been spotted in the area.”

The Swedish Coast Guard confirmed a fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines off southern Sweden.

“We have leakage at two positions” off Sweden, coast guard spokesperson Mattias Lindholm said, with two more off Denmark.

Two of the leaks are on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, where the flow of gas was recently halted, while the other two are on Nord Stream 2, which has never been opened. Although they weren’t running, both pipelines were filled with methane gas, which has escaped and is bubbling to the surface, probably until Sunday, according to energy experts.

The Danish and Swedish governments said they believed the leaks off their shores were the result of “deliberate actions.”

Before the leaks became obvious, explosions were recorded. Swedish seismologists recorded a first explosion early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, with a second, stronger blast northeast of the island that night, one that was equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake. Danish, Norwegian and Finnish seismic stations also registered the explosions.

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Turkey Cracks Down on Pop Music as Elections Loom

Turkish pop star Gulsen faces jail as a crackdown on popular music broadens. Some see the crackdown as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to court his religious base as elections loom and young people voice dissatisfaction with the economy. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

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Під час часткової мобілізації в Росії призвали понад 100 тисяч осіб – Генштаб ЗСУ

«Ми розуміємо, що оголошена цифра у 300 тисяч не кінцева»

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Авіація завдала 7 ударів по силах РФ, ракетні війська поцілили у 4 російські командні пункти – Генштаб ЗСУ

За поточну добу підрозділи сил оборони відбили атаки військ РФ в районі 11 населених пунктів

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КПП на кордоні РФ з Грузією закрили для пішого переходу – ЗМІ

Раніше стало відомо, що на КПП «Верхній Ларс» на російсько-грузинському кордоні найближчим часом розгорнуть мобілізаційний пункт військкомату

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«Рамштайн» збереться на наступне засідання 12 жовтня – місія США при НАТО

Попереднє, п’яте засідання контактної групи з питань оборони України у форматі «Рамштайн», відбулося на авіабазі «Рамштайн» у Німеччині 8 вересня

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Nations Must Work Together to Fight Online Fraud, UN Official Says

A top U.N. official last week said the syndicates running Asia’s massive online fraud industry will rotate operations among lawless areas of Southeast Asia unless governments cooperate to bring them down, after Cambodia said it was cracking down on cybercrime compounds.

The networks have swindled hundreds of millions of dollars, regional police have told VOA, setting up fake profiles offering romance, moonshot investment schemes with huge returns or posing as police officers to solicit payoffs. They target residents of countries from China to Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States and Australia.

“The response needs to be strategic and regional, because today it might be a location in Cambodia but tomorrow a group uproots under pressure and shifts to Myanmar, Laos or the Philippines,” Jeremy Douglas, the Bangkok-based regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime told VOA.

“Until governments across the region address, disrupt and police the places organized crime groups are using to run online casinos, scams and other illicit businesses, and in particular special economic zones and autonomous regions, the situation won’t fundamentally change,” he said.

Compounds for industrial-scale scamming in are operated in converted casinos in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, as well as special economic zones in Myanmar and Laos by Chinese gangsters who dominate regional gambling but lost their main income source during the pandemic, according to Douglas and victims who spoke to VOA.

The foot soldiers of the operations are young Chinese and Southeast Asians. Some joined willingly, many others thought they had obtained high-paying overseas work in call centers or online sales.

Malaysian, Taiwanese and Thai officials have said hundreds of their citizens remain trapped in a Myanmar border zone tied to scam operations, run by ethnic militias and beyond the law, despite its location a few hundred meters from Thailand.

Chou Bun Eng, vice chair of Cambodia’s National Committee for Counter Trafficking in persons, said Cambodia is a victim of sophisticated criminal gangs and is doing everything it can to put the syndicates out of business.

“We began an operation on August 22 throughout the kingdom,” she told VOA by phone.

“We are aware that there are victims all over the kingdom in what is a new form of crime committed by foreigners. … Cambodia does not serve criminals,” she said.

Social media videos since the crackdown have shown thousands of people apparently leaving several Sihanoukville megacompounds, in images shared by Douglas.

State media in China, the source of most of the workers and the biggest target, said the country is barring its citizens from traveling to Cambodia without good reason and warned telecommunications companies that they could be held responsible for scams carried out over their networks.

On Sept. 23, however, Cambodian authorities said at least one person had died after a boat carrying dozens of Chinese people sank on its way to Sihanoukville. Cambodian  state media Fresh News said they had traveled from, Guangdong, hundreds of kilometers away. The incident is suspected of being tied to scam operations and now under investigation.

Ransoms and beatings

Disturbing testimony has emerged from scam agents who tried to leave the compounds, including reports of routine torture, sale to other networks and ransom payments required to gain freedom.

A 26-year-old Thai mother of three, told VOA she asked to quit her job in Manila after six days when she was forced to swindle women online.

She said she took an online sales job in early August, desperate for the $1,000 salary plus commissions. She said she soon realized her real job was to steal the identity of wealthy Thai men and persuade women looking for love to transfer money.

When she refused to work, she was taken to a room with others who had also refused.

“One by one, they took us out to kick, punch, claw our hair and zap us with electric wire,” she said, asking that her name not be used, out of fear of reprisal.

“They forced the head of one of the older women underwater in the bathroom and then beat her some more.”

It took another 14 days for her to get free with a $3,000 payment to break her verbal agreement and she returned to Bangkok on Aug. 27.

Once back, her boyfriend had to sell the equipment for his T-shirt business, sinking them further into money troubles, which had led to her leave Thailand in the first place.

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Report Calls Switzerland, US, Sweden World’s Most Innovative Economies

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) cites top-ranked Switzerland, followed by the United States and Sweden, as the world’s most innovative economies. 

WIPO uses some 80 indicators to rank the innovative performance of 132 economies. These include measures on the political environment, education, infrastructure, business sophistication and knowledge creation of each economy.

The latest annual report shows some interesting moves in the rankings and the emergence of new powerhouses. Switzerland, once again, comes out on top. The United States moves up one position in the rankings to second place, followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

A co-editor of the Global Index, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, said 11th-ranked China is the only middle-income country to have made it this far. He said other emerging economies, such as Turkey and India, have put in strong performances, and countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have made some significant upward moves.

“Several developing countries are performing above expectations relative to their level of development,” Wunsch-Vincent said. “So, these are, of course, countries which have GDP capita which are lower. Eight of [the] innovation over-performers, and that is good news, are from sub-Saharan Africa, with Kenya, Rwanda and Mozambique in the lead.”

The Global Index also focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on innovation. The report shows that research and development, as well as other investments that drive worldwide innovative activity, continued to boom in 2021. This despite the pandemic.

WIPO Director General Daren Tang said this result defied expectations. He noted that after the dot-com bust in 2001, the 2008 global financial crisis, the matrix for innovation dropped, but that was not the case for the last two years.

“In fact, the report shows that investments in global research and development in 2020, two years ago, grew at a rate of 3.3 percent,” he said. “Top corporate R&D spenders — in other words, the most innovative firms worldwide — increased their R&D spending by nearly 10 percent last year, in 2021, which is higher than pre-pandemic growth.”

On a more sobering note, Tang warned that conditions may take a turn for the worse as the pandemic recedes, as high inflation and geopolitical tensions pose new economic and social challenges. He said innovative approaches will have to be developed to help people worldwide navigate through tough times ahead.

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Russia Plans Annexation Ceremony as Ukrainian Allies Ready Sanctions

The Kremlin said Russia will hold a ceremony Friday to officially incorporate four areas of Ukraine into Russia, a process that Ukraine and its allies have dismissed as illegitimate while promising retaliation in the form of new sanctions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday the ceremony will include Russian President Vladimir Putin along with the Russian-appointed heads of the four regions where Russia orchestrated referendums that ended earlier this week.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Thursday that he assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Germany will never recognize the “so-called results.”

“The sham referendums carried out by Putin in the illegally occupied areas of Ukraine are worthless,” Scholz said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that the United States expected Russian “to use these sham referenda as a false pretext to try to annex Ukrainian territory in flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.”

Jean-Pierre said that no matter what Russia claims, the areas remain Ukrainian territory.

“In response, we will work with our allies and partners to impose additional economic costs on Russia and individuals and entities inside and outside of Russia that provide support to this action,” she said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the EU is planning to respond with “sweeping new import bans on Russian products” and to expand its export ban “to deprive the Kremlin’s military complex of key technologies.”

“This will keep Russian products out of the European market and deprive Russia of an additional 7 billion euros in revenue,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. The EU’s 27 member countries would have to approve the sanctions for them to take effect and the bloc has had difficulty in reaching agreement on some previous sanctions.

“We are determined to make the Kremlin pay for this further escalation,” she said. 

The Ukrainian territory includes the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, representing about 15% of the country.

Pipeline leaks

NATO said Thursday that all available information indicates multiple leaks in undersea pipelines that carry gas from Russia to Europe are the result of “deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage.”

A NATO statement said the leaks are a matter of deep concern and that the alliance supports investigations into the origin.

“We, as allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors,” NATO said. “Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.”

Sweden’s Coast Guard said Thursday a fourth leak had been detected, with two total near Sweden and the other two near Denmark.

The leaks are in international waters.

The pipelines are not currently in operation, but still contained gas that escaped into the Baltic Sea.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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На кордоні з Казахстаном найближчими днями РФ розгорне мобільний військкомат

Найближчими днями на кордоні з Казахстаном почнуть видавати повістки до військкомату

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У Кремлі 30 вересня підпишуть документи про анексію чотирьох областей України

Україна та країни Заходу, як і низка інших країн світу, заявили про невизнання псевдореферендумів, влаштованих РФ у чотирьох областях України на захоплених російськими військами територіях

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Rohingya Seek Reparations from Facebook for Role in Massacre

With roosters crowing in the background as he speaks from the crowded refugee camp in Bangladesh that’s been his home since 2017, Maung Sawyeddollah, 21, describes what happened when violent hate speech and disinformation targeting the Rohingya minority in Myanmar began to spread on Facebook.

“We were good with most of the people there. But some very narrow minded and very nationalist types escalated hate against Rohingya on Facebook,” he said. “And the people who were good, in close communication with Rohingya. changed their mind against Rohingya and it turned to hate.”

For years, Facebook, now called Meta Platforms Inc., pushed the narrative that it was a neutral platform in Myanmar that was misused by malicious people, and that despite its efforts to remove violent and hateful material, it unfortunately fell short. That narrative echoes its response to the role it has played in other conflicts around the world, whether the 2020 election in the U.S. or hate speech in India.

But a new and comprehensive report by Amnesty International states that Facebook’s preferred narrative is false. The platform, Amnesty says, wasn’t merely a passive site with insufficient content moderation. Instead, Meta’s algorithms “proactively amplified and promoted content” on Facebook, which incited violent hatred against the Rohingya beginning as early as 2012.

Despite years of warnings, Amnesty found, the company not only failed to remove violent hate speech and disinformation against the Rohingya, it actively spread and amplified it until it culminated in the 2017 massacre. The timing coincided with the rising popularity of Facebook in Myanmar, where for many people it served as their only connection to the online world. That effectively made Facebook the internet for a vast number of Myanmar’s population.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled into neighboring Bangladesh that year. Myanmar security forces were accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of homes owned by Rohingya.

“Meta — through its dangerous algorithms and its relentless pursuit of profit — substantially contributed to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Rohingya,” the report says.

A spokesperson for Meta declined to answer questions about the Amnesty report. In a statement, the company said it “stands in solidarity with the international community and supports efforts to hold the Tatmadaw accountable for its crimes against the Rohingya people.”

“Our safety and integrity work in Myanmar remains guided by feedback from local civil society organizations and international institutions, including the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar; the Human Rights Impact Assessment we commissioned in 2018; as well as our ongoing human rights risk management,” Rafael Frankel, director of public policy for emerging markets, Meta Asia-Pacific, said in a statement.

Like Sawyeddollah, who is quoted in the Amnesty report and spoke with the AP on Tuesday, most of the people who fled Myanmar — about 80% of the Rohingya living in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine at the time — are still staying in refugee camps. And they are asking Meta to pay reparations for its role in the violent repression of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which the U.S. declared a genocide earlier this year.

Amnesty’s report, out Wednesday, is based on interviews with Rohingya refugees, former Meta staff, academics, activists and others. It also relied on documents disclosed to Congress last year by whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist. It notes that digital rights activists say Meta has improved its civil society engagement and some aspects of its content moderation practices in Myanmar in recent years. In January 2021, after a violent coup overthrew the government, it banned the country’s military from its platform.

But critics, including some of Facebook’s own employees, have long maintained such an approach will never truly work. It means Meta is playing whack-a-mole trying to remove harmful material while its algorithms designed to push “engaging” content that’s more likely to get people riled up essentially work against it.

“These algorithms are really dangerous to our human rights. And what happened to the Rohingya and Facebook’s role in that specific conflict risks happening again, in many different contexts across the world,” said Pat de Brún, researcher and adviser on artificial intelligence and human rights at Amnesty.

“The company has shown itself completely unwilling or incapable of resolving the root causes of its human rights impact.”

After the U.N.’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar highlighted the “significant” role Facebook played in the atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya, Meta admitted in 2018 that “we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”

In the following years, the company “touted certain improvements in its community engagement and content moderation practices in Myanmar,” Amnesty said, adding that its report “finds that these measures have proven wholly inadequate.”

In 2020, for instance, three years after the violence in Myanmar killed thousands of Rohingya Muslims and displaced 700,000 more, Facebook investigated how a video by a leading anti-Rohingya hate figure, U Wirathu, was circulating on its site.

The probe revealed that over 70% of the video’s views came from “chaining” — that is, it was suggested to people who played a different video, showing what’s “up next.” Facebook users were not seeking out or searching for the video, but had it fed to them by the platform’s algorithms.

Wirathu had been banned from Facebook since 2018.

“Even a well-resourced approach to content moderation, in isolation, would likely not have sufficed to prevent and mitigate these algorithmic harms. This is because content moderation fails to address the root cause of Meta’s algorithmic amplification of harmful content,” Amnesty’s report says.

The Rohingya refugees are seeking unspecified reparations from the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant for its role in perpetuating genocide. Meta, which is the subject of twin lawsuits in the U.S. and the U.K. seeking $150 billion for Rohingya refugees, has so far refused.

“We believe that the genocide against Rohingya was possible only because of Facebook,” Sawyeddollah said. “They communicated with each other to spread hate, they organized campaigns through Facebook. But Facebook was silent.”

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У Росії повідомляють про нову спробу підпалу військкомату

Майно та приміщення військкомату не постраждали

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Повністю і заздалегідь сфабриковані. США знову заявили, що ніколи не визнають так звані референдуми

«Україна має повне право й надалі захищати свій суверенітет і свою територіальну цілісність. США ніколи не визнають спроби Росії анексувати частину України»

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У Росії складають списки тих, хто виїхав, і хочуть передавати їхні автомобілі військовим

Через черги на кордонах багато хто залишає в Росії свої автомобілі. Голова Держдуми запропонував передавати їх сім’ям військових. «Так буде правильно», – заявив він

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Вірменія заявила про трьох загиблих військових під час нових сутичок на кордоні з Азербайджаном

Обидві сторони знову звинуватили одна одну в початку обстрілів на кордоні

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Oregon Town Hosts 1st Wind-Solar-Battery ‘Hybrid’ Plant

A renewable energy plant being commissioned in Oregon on Wednesday that combines solar power, wind power and massive batteries to store the energy generated there is the first utility-scale plant of its kind in North America.

The project, which will generate enough electricity to power a small city at maximum output, addresses a key challenge facing the utility industry as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels and increasingly turns to solar and wind farms for power. Wind and solar are clean sources of power, but utilities have been forced to fill in gaps when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining with fossil fuels like coal or natural gas.

At the Oregon plant, massive lithium batteries will store up to 120 megawatt-hours of power generated by the 300-megawatt wind farms and 50-megawatt solar farm so it can be released to the electric grid on demand. At maximum output, the facility will produce more than half of the power that was generated by Oregon’s last coal plant, which was demolished earlier this month.

On-site battery storage isn’t new, and interest in solar-plus-battery projects in particular has soared in the U.S. in recent years due to robust tax credits and incentives and the falling price of batteries. The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Oregon, however, is the first in the U.S. to combine integrated wind, solar and battery storage at such a large scale in one location, giving it even more flexibility to generate continuous output without relying on fossil fuels to fill in the gaps.

The project is “getting closer and closer to having something with a very stable output profile that we traditionally think of being what’s capable with a fuel-based generation power plant,” said Jason Burwen, vice president of energy storage at the American Clean Power Association, an advocacy group for the clean power industry.

“If the solar is chugging along and cloud cover comes over, the battery can kick in and make sure that the output is uninterrupted. As the sun goes down and the wind comes online, the battery can make sure that that’s very smooth so that it doesn’t, to the grid operator, look like anything unusual.”

The plant located in a remote expanse three hours east of Portland is a partnership between NextEra Energy Resources and Portland General Electric, a public utility required to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2040 under an Oregon climate law passed last year, one of the most ambitious in the nation.

PGE’s customers are also demanding green power — nearly a quarter-million customers receive only renewable energy — and the Wheatridge project is “key to that decarbonization strategy,” said Kristen Sheeran, PGE’s director of sustainability strategy and resource planning.

Under the partnership, PGE owns one-third of the wind output and purchases all the facility’s power for its renewable energy portfolio. NextEra, which developed the site and operates it, owns two-thirds of the wind output and all of the solar output and storage.

“The mere fact that many other customers are looking at these types of facilities gives you a hint at what we think could be possible,” said David Lawlor, NextEra’s director of business development for the Pacific Northwest. “Definitely customers want firmer generation, starting with the battery storage in the back.”

Large-scale energy storage is critical as the U.S. shifts to more variable power sources like wind and solar, and Americans can expect to see similar projects across the country as that trend accelerates. National Renewable Energy Laboratory models show U.S. storage capacity may rise fivefold by 2050, yet experts say even this won’t be enough to prevent extremely disruptive climate change.

Batteries aren’t the only solution that the clean energy industry is trying out. Pumped storage generates power by sending huge volumes of water downhill through turbines and others are experimenting with forcing water underground and holding it there before releasing it to power turbines.

But interest in batteries for clean energy storage has grown dramatically in recent years at the same time that the cost of batteries is falling and the technology itself is improving, boosting interest in hybrid plants, experts say.

Generating capacity from hybrid plants increased 133% between 2020 and 2021 and by the end of last year, there were nearly 8,000 megawatts of wind or solar generation connected to storage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is managed by the University of California.

The vast majority of such projects are solar power with battery storage, largely because of tax credits, but projects in the pipeline include offshore wind-plus-battery, hydroelectric-plus-battery and at least nine facilities like the one in Oregon that will combine solar, wind and storage. Projects in the pipeline between 2023 and 2025 include ones in Washington, California, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois and Oregon, according to Berkeley Lab.

Many researchers and pilots are working on alternatives to lithium ion batteries, however, largely because their intrinsic chemistry limits them to around four hours of storage and a longer duration would be more useful.

“There is no silver bullet. There’s no model or prototype that’s going to meet that entire need … but wind and solar will certainly be in the mix,” said PGE’s Sheeran.

“This model can become a tool for decarbonization across the West as the whole country is driving toward very ambitious climate reduction goals.”

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