Monthly: March 2023

Байден відреагував на заяву Путіна про тактичну ядерну зброю в Білорусі

«Це викликає занепокоєння», – сказав Джо Байден

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У Білорусі заступником міністра оборони із озброєння призначили Федіна, який навчався в Харкові – ЗМІ

Раніше Андрій Федін обіймав посаду першого заступника головнокомандувача Збройних сил – начальника штабу Збройних Сил Білорусі

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Ford Battery Plant Using Chinese Tech Raises Alarms in Congress

Ford Motor Company’s plan to create batteries for the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) market could encounter congressional speed bumps because of the carmaker’s plan to use technology created by a Chinese company with ties to the communist government.

Ford executive chairman William Clay Ford Jr. announced in February that the company would spend $3.5 billion to build a new battery plant in Michigan and employ U.S. workers to promote U.S. “independence” in the EV market.

“Right now, many [U.S.] automakers import most of their batteries from abroad,” Ford said at that time. “This is a slow process that makes us vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.”

He added that the U.S.-produced batteries would “charge faster” and be “more affordable” and “incredibly durable.”

But the news did not sit well with some lawmakers, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who opposed President Joe Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included tax credits to encourage domestic EV production.

Earlier this month, Rubio introduced legislation blocking tax credits for producing EV batteries using Chinese technology and called on the Biden administration to review Ford’s partnership with the company, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL).

“Nine billion to help people buy tax credits,” Rubio said. “By the way, with a Chinese battery in it. … I imagine we’ll spend a bunch more money to buy solar panels which are also made in China.”

In a Skype interview last week with VOA, China expert Jonathan Ward said “the White House has already called for a supply chain review that would cover essentially next generation batteries, critical minerals and rare earths, pharma and other biotechs.”

“We’re in the midst of this competition for supply chain security and industrial capacity where relying on our primary geopolitical adversary is really untenable in the long run,” he said.

Ward has authored two books outlining China’s economic, military and political goals. He said decades of outsourcing technology and manufacturing has left the United States with little choice but to work with Chinese companies like CATL to advance domestic EV development.

“Essentially 60% of the battery market is made up of Chinese corporations,” he said. “CATL, the battery maker in question here, is already 34% of global market share. The other companies are Japanese and South Korean, but they are smaller than the aggregate Chinese battery makers. So, we have this contest that we are going to have to deal with.”

Sarah Bauerle Danzman, an associate professor in international studies at Indiana University Bloomington, said since the U.S. currently “doesn’t have the capability” to produce EV batteries, “what is the theory of change that helps us get to that capacity?”

“Then the question becomes, are we becoming overly reliant or staying reliant on technology that ultimately the Chinese government controls rather than the U.S.?” she said.

From 2019 to 2020, Danzman was a policy adviser and case analyst with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) at the State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs. She led the unit that reviews foreign investment transactions for possible national security concerns.

Rubio wants CFIUS to review Ford and CATL’s licensing agreement.

“Rubio is really focused on this idea that we don’t want to be dependent on Chinese technology,” she explained to VOA last week via a Skype interview. “The U.S. government coming in and changing those structures is a big imposition on the private sector, so there really does need to be a strong argument for why it needs to do so.”

“I think a lot of companies are going to find themselves in situations like this where Chinese partnerships [are] coming back to haunt us here,” said Ward. “I think our companies that have been entangled in the China market all have to reassess what they are doing.”

In its response to Rubio’s proposed legislation, Ford said its own subsidiary will build and operate the new battery plant in Michigan, and that “no other entity will get U.S. tax dollars for this project.”

During February’s announcement, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the proposed BlueOval Battery Park Michigan meets goals outlined by the Biden administration.

“We’re growing production of batteries here at home, reflecting the central purpose of the Inflation Reduction Act — that’s why it was passed, for this project,” Farley said.

Ford’s plans for the new Michigan facility come as the auto manufacturer reported more than $2 billion in operating losses in EV-related business in 2022.

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«Рано чи пізно доведеться відповідати» – Верещук до росіян, які усиновлюють незаконно вивезених з України дітей

Ірина Верещук каже, що влада України знає імена незаконних російських усиновлювачів

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Clashes as French Protesters Rally Against Macron’s Pension Bill

Black-clad groups set fire to garbage cans and threw projectiles at police in Paris, who charged at them and threw tear gas in confrontations on the fringes of a march against President Emmanuel Macron and his deeply unpopular pension bill. 

Clashes also erupted on Tuesday at similar rallies in other cities including Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse, with a bank branch and cars set ablaze in Nantes.  

However, while public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment, there was less violence than last week and rallies were otherwise largely peaceful. 

Earlier in the day, the government rejected unions’ demand to suspend and rethink the pension bill, which raises retirement age by two years to 64, infuriating labor leaders who said the government must find a way out of the crisis. 

The government said it was more than willing to talk to unions, but on other topics, and repeated it would stand firm on pensions. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has offered to meet unions on Monday and Tuesday next week. 

Millions of people have been demonstrating and joining strike action since mid-January to show their opposition to the bill. Unions said the next nationwide day of protests would be on April 6. 

The protests have intensified since the government used special powers to push the bill through parliament without a vote.  

One protester in Paris captured the mood, brandishing a banner that read: “France is angry.” 

“The bill has acted as a catalyst for anger over Macron’s policies,” said Fanny Charier, 31, who works for the Pole Emploi office for job seekers. 

Macron, who promised pension reform in both of his presidential campaigns, says change is needed to keep the country’s finances in balance. Unions and opposition parties say there are other ways to do that. 

“We have proposed a way out … and it’s intolerable that we are being stonewalled again,” the head of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, told reporters at the Paris rally. 

Car fires 

In the previous big day of protests on Thursday, “Black Bloc” anarchists smashed shop windows, demolished bus stops and ransacked a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris, with similar acts in other cities. 

That was some of the worst street violence in years in France, reminiscent of protests of the yellow-vest movement during Macron’s first term. 

On Tuesday, rallies were more peaceful, despite some clashes. 

In the western city of Nantes, the boarded-up front of a BNP Paribas bank branch was set on fire. A car was set on fire in the margins of the rally, while some shot fireworks at police. 

Also in western France, protesters blocked the Rennes ring road and set an abandoned car on fire. In Paris and in Marseille, protesters blocked train tracks for a while. 

Rolling strikes in the transport, aviation and energy sectors continued to disrupt travel. 

However, in a move bringing some relief for Parisians and tourists alike, city garbage collectors said they were suspending a weeks-long strike that has left the roads around famous landmarks strewn with piles of trash. 

There were also fewer teachers on strike than on previous days. Union leaders said high inflation made it harder for workers to sacrifice a day’s pay on the picket line. 

The Interior Ministry said 740,000 people had protested across the country on Tuesday, well below the record 1.09 million seen at the March 23 rally. The numbers in Paris were also below last week’s record but higher or equal to earlier demonstrations since January. 

Nonetheless, about 17% of all fuel stations in France were missing at least one product as of Monday night, France’s petroleum association UFIP said, citing energy ministry data. 

Charles de Courson, from the opposition Liot party, said French authorities should learn from the situation in Israel, where the government just hit pause on a controversial justice overhaul. 

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Агресія РФ може закінчитися швидше, якщо світ буде рішучішим – Зеленський

Сьогодні президент Володимир Зеленський перебував з робочою поїздкою на Сумщині, зокрема побував на позиціях прикордонників

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Amnesty Cites ‘Double Standards’ in Global Response to Russia’s War on Ukraine

The global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should act as a blueprint for addressing mass human rights violations, according to Amnesty International in its annual report released Tuesday. However, the organization accuses the West of ignoring other human rights violations.   

Ukraine invasion 

Amnesty International says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 unleashed “military destruction on a people and country at peace.” 

“Within months, civilian infrastructure had been destroyed, thousands killed and many more injured,” the report says. “Russia’s action accelerated a global energy crisis and helped weaken food production and distribution systems, leading to a global food crisis that continues to affect poorer nations and racialized people disproportionately.”

A strong global response began within days of the invasion, according to Philip Luther, a research and advocacy director for Amnesty International, in an interview with VOA this week.

“We saw the U.N. General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s invasion. That was good. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into war crimes and Western countries opened up their borders to Ukrainian refugees. For us, these measures were really a blueprint you could say for how to address mass human rights violations,” Luther noted.

Russia denies committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine, despite widespread evidence documented by United Nations investigators and other human rights groups. 

Amnesty criticism 

Amnesty International was widely criticized last year when it accused Ukrainian forces of endangering civilians by stationing its military in residential areas. Amnesty’s director in Ukraine quit her post, accusing the organization of parroting Kremlin propaganda, while Ukraine’s president said the group had tried to “shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.” 

Amnesty said Tuesday it would continue to highlight human rights abuses by all sides.

“It is extremely clear to all of us that the violations committed by the Russian forces are far more important and lethal than anything else that the Ukrainian militaries may do. That being said, our mandate, our mission is to protect civilians. And for that reason, we will continue to expose violations committed by the Ukrainian military forces,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard told a press conference Tuesday in Paris. 

‘Double standards’

Amnesty says the strong international response to Moscow’s invasion exposes the double standards of many countries, which condemned Russia but fail to act on other human rights crises. 

“Solidarity is owed to the Ukrainian people, but it is also owed to the people of Palestine, to the people of Eritrea, to the people of Myanmar. And that did not happen in 2022,” Callamard told The Associated Press on Tuesday. 

European nations have taken in about 8 million Ukrainian refugees since the invasion. Amnesty says policies toward other nationalities seeking asylum have hardened. 

“They didn’t exhibit the same or show the same treatment to those fleeing war and aggression in other places — war in Syria or in Afghanistan, or violence in Haiti when it came to the U.S.,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther told VOA.

Deadly conflicts 

2022 saw the outbreak of new wars, while existing conflicts became deadlier, according to the Amnesty report. 

It highlights the war in Ethiopia, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people according to some estimates. “Much of this carnage was hidden from view, meted out in a largely invisible campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans in western Tigray,” the report says. 

Amnesty says 2022 was the deadliest year in a decade for Palestinians in the West Bank, with at least 151 people, including dozens of children, killed by Israeli forces. Israel claims it is targeting terrorists and says 23 of its citizens were killed in terror attacks last year. 

Amnesty also highlights Myanmar’s continuing oppression of the Karen and Karenni minorities, with hundreds killed and at least 150,000 displaced. 

“The people of Haiti, Mali, Venezuela, Yemen, and many other places too, were plagued by armed conflicts or systemic violence and associated human rights violations,” the report adds.

In Iran, anti-government protests erupted in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. Amnesty says security forces fired live ammunition to crush the demonstrations, killing hundreds of men, women and children and injuring thousands more.

China’s coercion

Amnesty accuses China of using coercion to silence international criticism of its human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in August that China had committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities, accusations Beijing denies.

“The U.N. Human Rights Council failed to order follow-up action because essentially China was allowed to use its strong-arm tactics to prevent further scrutiny or accountability,” said Amnesty’s Luther.

The report says human rights protections have advanced in some countries, in areas such as women’s rights and the abolition of the death penalty. “The Central African Republic, Kazakhstan, Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone all fully abolished the death penalty last year,” Luther said.

Turning point 

2023 is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — adopted by the United Nations in the wake of World War II. In its report, Amnesty says this year must be a turning point for upholding human rights.

“We’ve witnessed iconic acts of defiance, including Afghan women taking to the streets to protest Taliban rule and Iranian women posting videos of themselves cutting their hair in protest against the country’s abusive and forced veiling laws,” the report says.

“We can take some comfort in knowing that in the face of such repression, thousands of people still came together to write letters, sign petitions, and take to the streets. It should be a reminder to those in power that our rights to demand change, and to come together freely and collectively, cannot be taken away,” it states. 

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Близько 40 людей загинули в пожежі в центрі тримання мігрантів на кордоні США та Мексики

Генеральна прокуратура Мексики розпочала розслідування обставин інциденту. Причини пожежі поки не встановлені

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У Туреччині опозиція вимагає зняти Ердогана з виборів

Вибори президента Туреччини відбудуться 14 травня. Їх не стали переносити, попри недавній землетрус, жертвами якого стали понад 50 тисяч людей

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В епіцентрі бойових дій залишаються Білогорівка, Бахмут, Авдіївка, Мар’їнка та околиці – Генштаб

Триває триста дев’яносто восьма доба широкомасштабної збройної агресії РФ проти України

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Війська РФ завдали ракетного удару по Богодухову на Харківщині, постраждав літній чоловік

Постраждав 73-річний чоловік, у нього контузія

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Polish, Romanian PMs Ask EU for Mechanism to Trace Ukraine Grain Exports

Romania and Poland are in talks with the European Commission over export tracing mechanisms for Ukrainian grains to ensure local farmers are not hurt by a flood of cheap imports, the Polish and Romanian prime ministers said on Tuesday. 

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, has seen its Black Sea ports blocked since Russia invaded more than a year ago and has been forced to find alternative shipping routes through European Union states Poland and Romania. 

But logistical bottlenecks mean that large quantities of Ukrainian grains, which are cheaper than those produced in the European Union, have ended up in central European states, hurting prices and sales of local farmers. 

Romanian and Polish Prime Ministers Nicolae Ciuca and Mateusz Morawiecki told a business conference in Bucharest their governments were working on solutions with the EU. 

“Together we are engaged in a process to discuss with the European Commission about what the mechanisms should be to enforce the traceability of Ukrainian exports and final destinations,” Ciuca said. 

Morawiecki said they “are fighting together for this grain to leave our countries, for the European Union to effectively help us in the implementation of trade policy, which is in the best strategic interest of Ukraine and Central Europe, but also in the best economic interest of Poland and Romania.” 

Earlier this month, Romanian Agriculture Minister Petre Daea said the European Commission has estimated farmers from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia have lost $451.15 million overall from the inflows of cheaper Ukrainian grains on their markets. 

Daea also said the Commission aimed to hand out compensation worth 56.3 million euros to Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian farmers, with a final decision expected on March 30. 

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Portugal: 2 Dead, Several Injured in Muslim Center Stabbing

Portuguese police shot and injured a man suspected of stabbing two women to death Tuesday at an Ismaili Muslim center in Lisbon, authorities said. 

The women were Portuguese staff members at the center, Ismaili community leader Narzim Ahmad told Portuguese TV channel S.I.C. 

Police were called to the center late Tuesday morning where they encountered a suspect “armed with a large knife,” a police statement said. 

Police ordered him to surrender but he advanced toward them and was “neutralized,” the statement said. The suspect was taken to a Lisbon hospital where he was in police custody. 

Several other people were wounded, according to the statement, but it provided no further details. 

Prime Minister António Costa said police shot the suspect and told reporters the attack was “a criminal act.” 

“Everything points to this being an isolated incident,” Costa said, without elaborating. 

There was no immediate word on the identity of those killed. 

Armed police from a special operations unit could be seen forming a perimeter outside the building. 

Costa said police were investigating the attack and it was too soon to speculate about a motive. 

The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, generally known as the Ismailis, belong to the Shia branch of Islam. The Ismaili Muslims are a culturally diverse community living in more than 25 countries around the world.

Portugal hasn’t recorded any significant terror attacks in recent decades, and religious violence is virtually unheard of. 

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У Кремлі прокоментували відмову Радбезу ООН в розслідуванні вибуху на Nord Stream

Росія буде продовжувати вимагати міжнародного розслідування вибухів, сказав Дмитро Пєсков

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Росія: під Санкт-Петербургом померли троє курсантів, причину встановлюють

Їм стало погано в казармі рано-вранці, врятувати їх не вдалося

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Botswana, Belgian Diamond Trader Strike Deal

The government of Botswana said Monday it will buy a 24% stake in Belgian diamond company HB Antwerp. The deal comes amid uncertainty over Botswana’s long-standing sales agreement with industry giant De Beers.   

Officially opening HB Antwerp’s cutting and polishing plant in Gaborone, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said Botswana must gain more from its diamond resources, for the “simple reason that the returns that come with having control to sell our diamonds with value addition, are much, much, higher than the returns on the sales of rough diamond stones.” 

To that end, Masisi said that, “It is time for Botswana to participate not only in the process of extracting diamonds and selling them as rough stones without having processed them into value-added commodities across the diamond trade value chain.” 

Last month, Masisi indicated his unhappiness with a 54-year-old sales deal with De Beers, in which Botswana is allocated 25% of rough diamonds mined under a joint venture. That deal is due to expire June 30.  

Masisi said Monday that as part of Botswana’s bond with HB Antwerp, his government will make a significant investment in the three-year-old company. According to Masisi, both parties “have agreed to a strategic partnership whereby the government of Botswana will invest in HB by acquiring a 24% equity stake in HB Antwerp.”  

“In addition,” Masisi said, “The government of Botswana, through its rough diamond trading company, Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), will supply rough diamonds to HB Botswana, which is HB Antwerp’s local subsidiary, for a period of five years, with all the value addition to take place in Botswana.”            

No dollar figure for the total revenue expected to be generated from the 24% stake was given. 

HB Antwerp co-founding director Rafael Papismedov, who was also at the ceremony, said the polishing and cutting factory opened in Gaborone is the world’s most advanced diamond facility.  

According to Papsimedov, HB Antwerp will ensure Botswana gets a fair value for its precious stones, which are the main pillar for the southern African country’s economy.        

“We are not here to nibble around the edges; we are all in,”  Papsimedov emphasized. “Our success has come and will continue to come from our fearless willingness to challenge every aspect of the way things have been done to date and to recognize value where others overlooked it.”    

Botswana’s Minister of Minerals and Energy Lefoko Moagi said that HB Antwerp will help the country extract more revenue from its stones through value addition.        

“Today we break ground on many frontiers, as we seek to expand and grow meaningful participation in the entire diamond value chain,” said Moagi. “This investment is a step in the right direction, to ensure we increase our stake. In addition, we are breaking ground in our participation in the downstream, which currently, has not much footprint in the country.”           

Botswana is the world’s second largest diamond producer by value, behind Russia.   

The country enjoyed a surge in gem sales last year as buyers shunned stones mined in Russia due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

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Британія і Польща побудують нові тимчасові села в Україні

Лондон пообіцяв виділити на це 10 мільйонів фунтів (12,3 мільйона доларів)

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Розміщення ядерної зброї РФ в Білорусі не стане підставою посилювати мобілізацію – Веніславський

Зараз потреби в додатковій мобілізації немає, заявив член комітету Верховної Ради з питань національної безпеки

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Russia Fires Supersonic Anti-Ship Missile at Mock Target in Sea of Japan

Russia’s navy fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a mock target in the Sea of Japan, the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday. 

“In the waters of the Sea of Japan, missile ships of the Pacific Fleet fired Moskit cruise missiles at a mock enemy sea target,” it said in a statement on its Telegram account. 

“The target, located at a distance of about 100 kilometers, was successfully hit by a direct hit from two Moskit cruise missiles.” 

The P-270 Moskit missile, which has the NATO reporting name or SS-N-22 Sunburn, is a medium-range supersonic cruise missile of Soviet origin, capable of destroying a ship within a range of up to 120 kilometers. 

Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tokyo will stay vigilant against Moscow’s military operations, while adding that no damage had been reported after the missile launches. 

“As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Russian forces are also becoming more active in the Far East, including Japan’s vicinities,” Hayashi told a regular press conference. 

The firing of the missiles comes a week after two Russian strategic bomber planes, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, flew over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours in what Moscow said was a “planned flight.” 

Asked about Russia’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Hayashi said Japan condemned the move and demanded Russia and Belarus to stop “such an action that would further increase tensions.” 

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Twitter Celebs Balk at Paying Elon Musk for Blue Check Mark

William Shatner, Monica Lewinsky and other prolific Twitter commentators — some household names, others little-known journalists — could soon be losing the blue check marks that helped verify their identity on the social media platform. 

They could get the marks back by paying up to $11 a month. But some longtime users, including 92-year-old Star Trek legend Shatner, have balked at buying the premium service championed by Twitter’s billionaire owner and chief executive Elon Musk. 

After months of delay, Musk is gleefully promising that Saturday is the deadline for celebrities, journalists and others who’d been verified for free to pony up or lose their legacy status. 

“It will be glorious,” he tweeted Monday, in response to a Twitter user who noted that Saturday is also April Fools’ Day. 

After buying Twitter for $44 billion in October, Musk has been trying to boost the struggling platform’s revenue by pushing more people to pay for a premium subscription. But his move also reflects his assertion that the blue verification marks have become an undeserved or “corrupt” status symbol for elite personalities and news reporters. 

Along with verifying celebrities, one of Twitter’s main reasons to mark profiles with a free blue check mark starting about 14 years ago was to verify politicians, activists and people who suddenly find themselves in the news, as well as little-known journalists at small publications around the globe, as an extra tool to curb misinformation coming from accounts that are impersonating people. 

Lewinsky tweeted a screenshot Sunday of all the people impersonating her, including at least one who appears to have paid for a blue check mark. She asked, “what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated? a lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door.” 

Shatner, known for his irreverent humor, also tagged Musk with a complaint about the promised changes. 

“I’ve been here for 15 years giving my (clock emoji) & witty thoughts all for bupkis,” he wrote. “Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?” 

Musk responded that there shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities. “It’s more about treating everyone equally,” Musk tweeted. 

For now, those who still have the blue check but apparently haven’t paid the premium fee — a group that includes Beyoncé, Stephen King, Barack and Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Tucker Carlson, Drake and Musk himself — have messages appended to their profile saying it is a “legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.” 

But while “the attention is reasonably on celebrities because of our culture,” the bigger concern for open government advocate Alex Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project, is that impersonators could more easily spread rumors and conspiracies that could move markets or harm democracies around the world. 

“The reason verification exists on this platform was not simply to designate people as notable or authorities, but to prevent impersonation,” Howard said. 

One of Musk’s first product moves after taking over Twitter was to launch a service granting blue checks to anyone willing to pay $8 a month. But it was quickly inundated by imposter accounts, including those impersonating Nintendo, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Musk’s businesses Tesla and SpaceX, so Twitter had to temporarily suspend the service days after its launch. 

The relaunched service costs $8 a month for web users and $11 a month for iPhone and iPad users. Subscribers are supposed to see fewer ads, be able to post longer videos and have their tweets featured more prominently. 

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