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Twitter places fact-checking label on Trump tweets for first time
« Reply #16020 on: May 27, 2020, 05:19:57 PM »
Twitter on Tuesday placed fact-checking labels on a pair of President Donald Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots, saying they contain "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes." This is the first time the company has used the labels on the president's tweets.

Twitter placed labels indicating potentially harmful or misleading information on a pair of President Donald Trump's tweets for the first time Tuesday since introducing the feature.

The social media site placed the notice on two tweets in which Trump alleged the widespread use of mail-in ballots in the 2020 election will be "substantially fraudulent." The notice directs users to "get the facts about mail-in ballots."

Clicking on the warnings directs users to a page with a text box titled "What you need to know," which features notes describing times Trump has previously made false claims about mail-in ballots and information verified by fact-checkers about their current implementation. It also includes links to articles from various news outlets and other tweets discussing Trump's past comments on the practice, background about the discussion and issues with Trump's claims.

Twitter representative Katie Rosborough told The Washington Post that Trump's tweets "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots."

Trump responded to the action in a series of tweets directed at Twitter, accusing the social media company of interfering with the elections, calling the legitimacy of the fact-checks into question and saying he would take action in response.

"Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President will not allow it to happen!" Trump wrote.

Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, accused Twitter of political bias in a statement shared by CNN's Jim Acosta.

"We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters. Partnering with the biased fake news media 'fact checkers' is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some incredibly false credibility," Pascale said.

Twitter introduced the labels and warnings in a blog post on May 11 in response to misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic on the site, with the goal of providing "additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information."

In the blog post Twitter identifies three types of misleading content that may be flagged on the platform:

    Misleading information -- which Twitter describes as statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts
    Disputed claims -- statements or assertions in which the accuracy truthfulness or credibility of the claim is contested or unknown
    Unverified claims -- information which may be true or false but is not confirmed at the time it is shared

All three categories can also be classified as "moderate" or "severe" resulting in different actions.

Moderate instances of misleading information and disputed claims will be labeled, while severe instances of misleading information will be removed and severe disputed claims will receive a warning. Twitter stated it will take no action in response to unverified claims.

The post also stated that labels could be applied to tweets retroactively.

The action on Tuesday comes after Twitter said it would not remove several tweets by Trump alleging that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in foul play in the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis while he worked in Congress.

Lori Klausutis' widower, Timothy Klausutis, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking the social media company to remove the tweets linking Scarborough to her death. Medical authorities said her death stemmed from a heart condition that caused her to hit her head on a desk while working in Scarborough's congressional office.

"My request is simple: Please delete these tweets," wrote Timothy Klausutis. "I'm a research engineer and not a lawyer, but reviewed all of Twitter's rules and terms of service. The president's tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered without evidence and contrary to the official autopsy is a violation of Twitter's community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed."

A Twitter representative said the company would make changes to its policies but did not say the tweets would be removed.

"We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family," said the representative. "We've been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward and we hope to have those changes in place shortly."
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Glenn Fine, Pentagon's former top watchdog, submits his resignation
« Reply #16021 on: May 27, 2020, 05:25:28 PM »

Department of Defense Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn Fine submitted his resignation Tuesday.

 Glenn Fine submitted his resignation as the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general Tuesday, his new post after being removed as acting inspector general last month.

The resignation will be effective as of June 1, Department of Defense inspector general spokesperson Dwerna Allen said.

"It's been an honor to serve in the Inspector General community, both as the inspector general of the Department of Justice and the DoD acting inspector general and principal deputy inspector general performing the duties of the DoD inspector general," Fine said in a statement. "The role of Inspectors General is a strength of our system of government. They provide independent oversight to help improve government operations in a transparent way."

"They are a vital component of our system of checks and balances, and I am grateful to have been part of that system," he added. "After many years in the DoJ and DoD OIGs, I believe the time has come for me to step down and allow others to perform this vital role. I wish the men and women of the DoD OIG and the Inspector General Community continued success in these important responsibilities."

Fine stepped into the position of the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general after President Donald Trump removed him from leading the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee in April. This essentially removed him from the acting inspector general post he had been in since 2016 because the post was reserved for inspectors general. Trump named Sean O'Donnell, the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general, to take over as acting Department of Defense inspector general along with staying in the EPA role. Fine previously served as Department of Justice inspector general for 11 years.

Trump nominated last month Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to assume the inspector general role permanently.

The removal of Fine last month from the accountability committee and the acting inspector general role has been seen as part of larger set of removals of inspectors general in a short time.

On Friday, House Democrats introduced legislation to protect inspectors general from retaliation after Trump fired five watchdogs within a few months.

Earlier this month, Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick upon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's request after he began an investigation into allegations that Pompeo had an aide run personal errands for him. Pompeo told The Washington Post that he had asked Trump to fire him, but said that it was not a retaliatory move because he did not know about the probe beforehand.

Critics said the move was also to shield Pompeo from other potential political harm. The issue involving Pompeo included efforts to fast-track a Saudi arms deal along with using the staffer for personal errands, CNN, NBC News and USA Today reported.

After firing Linick, the Trump administration also ousted Mitchell Behm as acting Transportation Department inspector general the next day, prompting an investigation by House Democrats.

Also, this month, Trump moved to replace another watchdog in the Department of Health and Human Services. Trump removed Christi Grimm as principal inspector after her office issued a report in April, finding "severe shortages" of COVID-19 testing kits, frequent testing delays of seven days or longer, along with "widespread shortages" of proper protective equipment in hospitals.

Last month, Trump fired intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who told lawmakers about the whistleblower complaint that led to his impeachment inquiry. The House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18, but the majority of the Senate voted to acquit him in February.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Fauci: Hydroxychloroquine not effective against coronavirus
« Reply #16022 on: May 27, 2020, 05:30:48 PM »
However, Fauci stopped short of calling for an outright ban of the drug.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci on Wednesday became the first Trump administration official to say definitively that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for the coronavirus, based on the available data.

"The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy," Fauci — the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert — said on CNN.

But he stopped short of calling for an outright ban of the drug, which President Trump said he was taking last week as a preventative measure after a top White House aide was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Fauci's comments come days after the Lancet published a 96,000-patient observational study that concluded that hydroxychloroquine had no effect on Covid-19 and may have even caused some harm.

France decided this week to ban the use of hydroxychloroquine, even in clinical trials, and the WHO has paused its clinical trials of the drug.

There is no data yet from randomized, controlled clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine — the gold standard for evaluating potential treatments. But Fauci was unequivocal on Wednesday, saying that "the data are clear right now."
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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The much-heralded joint launch between NASA and Elon Musk's SpaceX was postponed on Wednesday due to light rain in Florida. It was a disappointing anticlimax for the first manned space launch from American soil since 2011 — all systems were "go" just an hour before astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were scheduled for 4:33 p.m. liftoff — but there was a silver lining to the clouds above Cape Canaveral: the world got to see, for the first time, NASA and SpaceX's alarmingly cheesy spacesuits, which looked something like man-sized Mentos dispensers topped off with garden galoshes.

While many on Twitter hailed the gear as looking "soo cool" and "so f—ing dope," the correct reaction came from one commenter who said the suits "make [the astronauts] look like stunt extras in a low budget space movie." Whether or not Behnken and Hurley find themselves menaced by rubbery Venus ghouls in some misbegotten Roger Corman epic, the suits might lead to an even graver danger: not being able to extract their heads from the two-sizes-too small helmets that Musk looks to have grabbed from his local Spirit Halloween.

If the spacemen are fortunate enough to somehow wrench the helmets from their skulls, NASA and SpaceX will give it another go on either Saturday or Sunday — probably not enough time to raid NASA's old closets for some real spacesuits.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Court conduct committee said he had ‘displayed a lack of integrity that is unworthy of judicial office’Court conduct committee said he had ‘displayed a lack of integrity that is unworthy of judicial office’

A New Jersey judge who said closing your legs could prevent sexual assault has been barred from presiding over a courtroom and dismissed from the State Supreme Court bench.

The unanimous decision on Tuesday cited “repeated and serious acts of misconduct” by state superior court judge John Russo Jr.

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote that it would be “inconceivable” for Mr Russo to preside over domestic violence or sexual assault matters after making those comments.

The justices had recommended last summer that Russo be removed from the bench, and a three-judge advisory panel agreed in January.

It came after he presided over a case in 2016 in which a woman was seeking a restraining order against a man she said sexually assaulted her.

According to the court transcript, when the woman described her encounter with the man, Mr Russo asked her: “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”

When the woman answered yes and said one method would be to run away, Mr Russo suggested, “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

Mr Russo had been on unpaid suspension while appealing his suspension, and had expressed remorse for his previous comments to the woman at a hearing in December 2019.

His attorney, Amelia Carolla, declined to comment on Tuesday.

Mr Russo has argued that the Supreme Court’s penalty is excessive because an advisory panel on judicial conduct had last year recommended a three-month unpaid suspension.

The now former-judge also made joking comments about his exchange with the woman in 2016, according to a report issued by the judicial conduct committee.

The report by the three-judge panel noted four instances of misconduct — including a matrimonial matter for which he did not recuse himself even though he knew someone involved.

The panel added that he had “lacked candour, fabricated after-the-fact explanations for events, and displayed a lack of integrity that is unworthy of judicial office”.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Hong Kong police arrest hundreds and fire pepper pellets amid fresh unrest
« Reply #16025 on: May 27, 2020, 06:02:30 PM »
Police in Hong Kong have arrested about 300 people and fired pepper pellets amid new anti-mainland unrest.

Protesters were rallying against a bill on China's national anthem and Beijing's planned introduction of a national security law.

Police said most arrests were on suspicion of unauthorised assembly.

Protesters oppose the anthem bill, which would criminalise insulting it, and the security law, which they fear will strip Hong Kong of basic freedoms.

Meanwhile in the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has certified to Congress that Hong Kong no longer merits special treatment under US law.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said in a statement.

How did the protests play out?

The initial call by demonstrators had been to gather at the Legislative Council (Legco) building in the Central district. But it had been surrounded by riot police and blocked off by water-filled barriers and large protests there failed to materialise.

MPs there have been debating the second reading of the national anthem bill.

Protesters were rallying against a bill on China's national anthem and a national security law

Protesters took to the streets, blocking traffic in both Central and Causeway Bay. Police said on a Facebook post they had arrested 180 people there.

They later added that another 60 had been arrested in the Mongkok district for blocking traffic, and 50 more in Wan Chai.

Other arrests were made for suspicion of possessing offensive weapons, including petrol bombs.

Marches and protests have taken place in a number of other districts.

One protester in Central told the South China Morning Post: "We want to protect our freedom of speech. It will no longer be Hong Kong, but will become just another Chinese city."

Another demonstrator told Reuters: "Although you're afraid inside your heart, you need to speak out."
What is the anthem bill?

If it becomes law, anyone who misuses or insults China's national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, would face a fine of up to HK$50,000 (£5,237; $6,449) and up to three years in prison.

If it passes the second reading in Legco on Wednesday, it could go to a third reading and a vote early next month.

Hong Kong does not have its own anthem and so the Chinese anthem is sometimes played at events like football matches.

In recent years, the anthem has been booed frequently. A 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier, for example, saw thousands booing.
What is the security law about?

Beijing has proposed imposing it in Hong Kong.

It would ban treason, secession, sedition and subversion and China says it is needed to combat violent protests that have grown in the territory.

The anti-mainland sentiment was fuelled last year by a proposed - and later scrapped - bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China.

Critics say the security law is a direct attempt to curtail the freedoms given Hong Kong in the mini-constitution that was agreed when sovereignty was handed back to China in 1997.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that the law, which is set to go to a vote this week and could be in force as early as the end of June, will curtail the rights of Hong Kongers.

A group of 200 senior politicians from around the world have issued a joint statement criticising China's plan.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US would announce a "very powerful" response to the proposed legislation before the end of the week. China's plans had already been condemned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who described them as a "death knell" for the city's freedoms.

The UK, Australia and Canada have also expressed their "deep concern".
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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But it won’t explain what caused the deletions in the first place

YouTube says it’s begun fixing an error in its moderation system that caused comments containing certain Chinese-language phrases critical of China’s Communist Party (CCP) to be automatically deleted.

The issue meant that comments containing the phrases “共匪” (“communist bandit”) and “五毛” (“50-cent party”) were removed from the site in a matter of seconds. The former phrase is an insult dating back to China’s Nationalist government, while the latter is derogatory slang for internet users paid to defend the CCP from criticism online. It originates from the claim that these users are paid 50 Chinese cents per post.

YouTube told The Verge that the issue that caused comments containing these phrases to be deleted had been fixed for a number of these terms, but that it was still investigating the deeper causes of the error — suggesting other terms may still be affected. In The Verge’s tests, comments containing the two phrases above are no longer deleted from the platform.

The deletions were flagged by users as early as October last year, but YouTube only offered an official response to the problem after it was reported on yesterday by The Verge.

Although the company has blamed the deletions on an error in its “enforcement systems,” it has not explained how this error came to be. A spokesperson told The Verge only that the deletions were not the result of any change to YouTube’s moderation policy, and that the company has been relying on its automated systems more than ever recently as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, implying that the automatic deletions are connected.

However, an increasing reliance on automatic comment filters wouldn’t explain why comments containing these phrases were being deleted six months ago, long before the pandemic began. The deletions also seem particularly strange given YouTube is banned in China, giving the company no incentive to censor anti-CCP comments.

One hypothesis is that the terms in question were added to YouTube’s automated filters as a result of coordinated action by pro-CCP users, who may have mass-reported these terms, triggering some sort of automated response that added them to the platform’s filters.

There have been similar examples of mysterious errors with a pro-CCP bias appearing in Google’s automated systems before. Last year during the Hong Kong protests, Google Translate briefly translated the English phrase “So sad to see Hong Kong become China” into simplified Chinese that read (in English) as “So happy to see Hong Kong become China.” Google quietly fixed the issue without offering any details on the cause.

Without official explanation, politicians in the US including President Donald Trump have leapt on the story and used it to accuse YouTube’s parent company Google of a pro-China bias. For months, now, the White House has pushed a message that US tech companies censor conservative voices and are biased against Republican policies.

Google itself has a long and complicated history with China, with the company showing it’s happy, at times, to censor information in a way that complies with the wishes of the CCP. Most notably, the company developed a censored prototype search engine known as Project Dragonfly for the Chinese market. It was never launched and Google told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year that it had terminated the project.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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NSA warns of ongoing Russian hacking campaign against U.S. systems
« Reply #16027 on: May 28, 2020, 01:19:44 PM »
The U.S. National Security Agency on Thursday warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used by industrial firms to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA. “We really want… the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”

The notice is part of a series of public reports by the spy agency, which is responsible for both collecting foreign intelligence and protecting Defense Department systems at home, to share actionable cyber defense information.

Cress declined to discuss which business sectors had been most affected, how many organizations were compromised using the Russian technique, or whether the cyber espionage operation targeted a specific geographic region.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied directly to a specific unit within Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, also known as the GRU, named the Main Center for Special Technologies. The cybersecurity research community refers to this same hacking group as “Sandworm,” and has previously connected it to disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

A security alert published by the NSA on Thursday explains how hackers with GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, are leveraging a software vulnerability in Exim, a mail transfer agent common on Unix-based operating systems, such as Linux. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems to close the security gap.

“Being able to gain root access to a bridge point into a network gives you so much ability and capability to read email, to navigate across and maneuver through the network,” said Cress, “so it’s more about the danger we’re trying to help people understand.”
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UK will extend HK visa rights if China pursues security law
« Reply #16028 on: May 28, 2020, 01:22:33 PM »
LONDON (AP) — The British government said Thursday that it will grant hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents greater visa rights if China doesn’t scrap a planned new security law for the semi-autonomous territory.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said about 300,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) passports would be able to stay in Britain for 12 months instead of the current six if China does not rethink its plan. Raab said the length of stay also would be extendable and provide “a pathway” to U.K. citizenship.

When Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 after 150 years as a British colony, its residents were not granted the right to live in the U.K.

China’s proposed national security law aims to reinforce Beijing’s control over Hong Kong in a bid to prevent a return of often-violent protests seen for months last year.

Raab and the foreign ministers of the United States, Canada and Australia said in a joint statement the proposed law “would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”
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Thunberg criticizes Danes for dumping wastewater into strait
« Reply #16029 on: May 28, 2020, 01:28:23 PM »

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg lashed out at authorities in the Danish capital on Wednesday because Copenhagen has for the last six years pumped large amounts of wastewater into the strait separating Sweden and Denmark.

Danish media, citing the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, say that since 2014, over 35 billion liters (9.1 billion gallons) of unfiltered sewer water have been pumped into the Oresund Strait during heavy rains because Danish treatment plants could not handle the large volume of water.

The information has surfaced recently because the capital had planned to allow the Greater Copenhagen Utility HOFOR to flush 290,000 cubic meters (10 million cubic feet) of unfiltered wastewater into Oresund starting Sunday. That decision has been postponed till October.

Thunberg said on Facebook that these actions are coming from “the same Copenhagen who claim they’ll be climate neutral by 2025.” The Danish capital aims to become carbon neutral by 2025, possibly the first world capital to do so.

The 17-year-old has encouraged students to skip school to join protests demanding faster action on climate change, a movement that has spread beyond Sweden to other European nations and around the world. She founded the Fridays for Future movement that has inspired similar actions by other young people.
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COP26 climate talks set to be pushed back a year
« Reply #16030 on: May 28, 2020, 01:30:34 PM »
Critical UN climate talks at which nations were expected to ramp up plans to combat global warming are to be pushed back a full year to November 2021, observers to the negotiations have told AFP.

Current national pledges submitted in annex to the 2015 Paris Agreement would allow the planet's surface to warm three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, far above the ceiling of "well below" 2C -- and 1.5C if feasible -- agreed to in the landmark treaty.

Host nation Britain proposed the new dates for the 12-day meet in Glasgow, Scotland in a letter to the UN climate forum, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, and saying more time was needed to prepare the 30,000-strong meet.

An executive committee will vet -- and mostly likely approve -- the revised schedule during a meeting Thursday night.

An internal briefing note laying out the implications of the delay, obtained by AFP, listed several possible drawbacks.

"A broadly shared concern relates to the potential loss of momentum in the UNFCCC process," the note said, using the acronym for the UN climate body.

A key 2020 deadline in the original schedule, for example, was the submission of revised -- and hopefully more ambitious -- "nationally determined contributions", each country's plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN's climate science advisory panel, the IPCC, has made it clear that every year counts, especially if global warming is to be capped at the safer level of 1.5C.

The amount of CO2 pouring into the atmosphere must go down 50 percent by 2030, and to "net zero" by mid-century, if that more ambitious goal is to be met, the IPCC concluded.

The pandemic -- which slowed economies to a crawl -- is projected to reduce global CO2 emissions this year by 4 to 7 percent, but will have scant impact on global warming's long-term trajectory, according to a recent study in Nature Climate Change.

- Climate not on hold -

Most observers endorsed the postponement, but cautioned against inaction.

"Shifting the date of COP26 is understandable, but there can be no let-up in tackling the climate crisis," said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute in Washington DC.

Trillion-dollar recovery packages across Europe, North America and East Asia offer a "once-in-a-generation moment to rebuild societies to be more sustainable, equitable, resilient and healthy," he said in a statement.

Global warming continues to gather pace, other experts pointed out.

"The coronavirus pandemic has not placed the climate crisis on hold, as the continuing spate of extreme weather across the world makes clear," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC.

Last week, south Asia's first super cyclone in two decades ravaged eastern India, including Kolkata, while northern India was hit by searing heatwaves and locust swarms linked to climate change.

Scientists in the United States, meanwhile, warned of a more severe-than-usual Atlantic hurricane season.

Other important environmental conferences have also been pushed back.

The critical COP15 UN conference on biodiversity, originally slated for October this year, will almost certainly "not happen before May," a source involved in its organisation told AFP.

A quadrennial meeting in Marseille of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which manages the Red List of endangered species, was postponed from June to January 2021.
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Ambitious goal requires us to ‘get over the political roadblock’ says Malcolm Turnbull, who backed climate change thinktank’s report

 Australia could be home to new zero-emissions industries and create more than 100,000 jobs in the electricity industry alone within the next five years, according to climate change thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions.

A dramatic expansion of renewable energy over the next five years could establish Australia as a home for new zero-emissions industries, cut electricity costs and create more than 100,000 jobs in the electricity industry alone, a new analysis suggests.

The briefing paper by Beyond Zero Emissions, a climate change thinktank, presents an alternative vision to the Morrison government’s gas-fired recovery plan, arguing the shift to a clean electricity grid is inevitable and there are opportunities in accelerating it, rather than slowing it down. Renewable energy investment in Australia fell 50% last year.

The work is backed by the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who described the central thesis of the report as “compellingly right”.

“That is, we have the opportunity to have zero emissions and cheap energy in Australia if we get over the political roadblock that has bedevilled the debate for so long,” Turnbull told Guardian Australia.

The report is the first stage of a “million jobs plan” being developed by the thinktank. Turnbull is a member of an advisory board supporting the project.

It recommends Australia aims to build 90 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity and 20GW of batteries over five years, a project it estimates would create 22,000 ongoing and 124,000 construction jobs. It describes the goal as ambitious, but “an evolution, not a revolution” given 11GW was installed in 2018 and 2019. It cites a report by consultants Rystad Energy that found 133GW of large-scale solar, wind and battery projects are in development. About a quarter have planning approval.

The report says reaching the target would require governments to send investors “an unequivocal signal” of support for large-scale renewable projects. Its three main recommendations include underwriting new “renewable energy industrial zones” with long-term fixed electricity prices of $50-55 per megawatt-hour in regional centres such as Gladstone, the Hunter Valley, the Latrobe Valley and Whyalla to support new clean industries, such as green hydrogen and zero emissions metals.

It says transmission lines around the country, many of which are already proposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator, would need to be fast-tracked, with governments intervening to overcome regulatory hurdles. It calls for local content requirements for wind turbines, batteries and transmission components, saying it could create 15,000 manufacturing jobs.

The report says a wind energy manufacturing industry could be created quickly by converting disused factories, as has happened in Geelong, where part of an old Ford construction site is being used to make wind farm components. “Leading turbine-maker Vestas has indicated that, given sufficient demand, it would expand manufacturing in Australia,” it says.

Beyond Zero Emissions’ chief executive, Eytan Lenko, said the shift to at least 100% renewable energy was inevitable, having been flagged more clearly than any technological transition in history, with only the timeframe in question.

Lenko said the group supported the government and the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission’s (NCCC) goal of expanding manufacturing through cheaper energy costs, but evidence suggested renewable energy was a cheaper and more sustainable path to recovery than gas.

“We want to end up in the same space, it’s just the underlying technology that’s different,” Lenko said. “To us, it’s completely obvious. We don’t have a competitive advantage with gas – America has a cheaper gas industry than we do – but we do have unlimited renewable energy capacity. That’s the future, and the trend is unstoppable in terms of costs.”

The report is part of a growing global call for governments to respond to the economic shock of the coronavirus crisis with policies that also help tackle the climate crisis.

Assessments before the pandemic found solar and wind backed by storage were likely to be the cheapest source of new electricity in many cases, but the government and the NCCC have emphasised gas, a fossil fuel, as the key to driving economic recovery. The government continues to reject international and domestic calls to set a target of net zero emissions.

Beyond Zero Emissions released a report calling for 100% renewable energy a decade ago. It now says this goal is uninspiring, and that Australia could reach it simply by maintaining the installation rate of the past two years.

It quotes Darren Miller, chief executive of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, who has suggested the country could and should aim for a six-or-seven fold increase in electricity generation to power new clean industries. Bloomberg New Energy Finance found the cost of solar panels had fallen 85% over the past decade and onshore wind energy 49%.

Lenko said in 10 years nobody would be talking about building too much solar. “It’s on such a fast cost decline, it will be completely non-controversial to make use of it to power industry,” he said.

Turnbull, who launched Beyond Zero Emissions’ first report while an opposition backbencher in 2010, cautioned against a system that “picked winners” but said there were real opportunities in clean manufacturing.

He acknowledged there had been criticism of the government’s latest energy policy, a technology investment roadmap, as being a plan without a destination, and said there should be a clear objective of creating a “green, cheap and reliable” energy system.

He said some people were yet to grasp that the marginal cost of running a renewable energy plant was zero. “The price we are paying for our devotion to fossil fuels is higher electricity prices,” he said. “It honestly beggars belief.”
« Last Edit: May 28, 2020, 01:52:01 PM by knarf »
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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Twitter has added a fact-check warning to tweets promoting a conspiracy theory about the origins of the coronavirus which were sent by China's foreign ministry spokesperson.

The retroactive decision comes a day after similar labels were placed on tweets sent by President Donald Trump, in response to queries from media organizations including Newsweek.

Twitter said it had added labels to the tweets sent two months ago by spokesman Lijian Zhao who warned, "It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan." Another tweet from him linked to an article claiming the virus originated in the United States.

Under the tweets now there is a message directing readers to a page of tweets outlining the World Health Organization's research that the disease originated in animals.

The New York Post broke the story, accusing Twitter of a double standard in its treatment of Zhao and Trump.

In a statement to Newsweek Thursday, a Twitter spokesperson said: "The tweets in question contain potentially misleading content about COVID-19 and have been labeled to provide additional context to the public.

"These actions are in line with the approach we shared earlier this month."

The social media giant said that the move followed a broadening of its policy guidance which addressed content that contradicts authoritative sources of public health information about the disease.

On May 11, Twitter announced a new policy "to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content," in particular regarding false information about the coronavirus.

The spokesperson said the labels and warning messages would provide additional explanations or clarifications "in situations where the risks of harm associated with a Tweet are less severe but where people may still be confused or misled by the content."

Trump has threatened to take action against social media companies which he has accused of trying to "silence conservative voices," saying that "we will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen."

Social media outlets are protected both by the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows social media companies to moderate what goes on their platforms.

Clay Calvert, First Amendment expert and professor of law at the University of Florida, told Newsweek: "President Trump has no legal authority or standing to close down a social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook on his own."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken aim at Twitter, telling Fox News it would not intervene in censoring public posts unless there was a threat of imminent harm.

"We have a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this," Zuckerberg told Dana Perino, host of the Fox News show The Daily Briefing, in an interview clip.

"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. In general, private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that," Zuckerberg said.
Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'

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As Russia stalks US satellites, a space arms race may be heating up
« Reply #16033 on: May 28, 2020, 01:48:49 PM »

A 1980s US Defense Department artistic rendering of an anti-satellite weapon.

In August 2008, after skirmishes between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in Georgia, Russian forces invaded the former Soviet republic. Russian troops came within a few miles of its capital, Tbilisi, before agreeing to a ceasefire. On the surface, Russia appeared to get what it wanted during the five-day war: de facto independence for two restive regions of a country that overall had been clearly turning toward the West. But the swift victory masked the degree to which the war served as a wake-up call: the Russian military had gone to war in the 21st Century using World War II-era compasses for navigation and outmoded equipment for weapons targeting.

The Georgian conflict proved a far cry from the US military’s GPS-powered assault on Iraqi forces in a 100-hour ground offensive in 1991. For Russia, the conflict signaled the need for a major military upgrade–particularly in the satellite systems critical for navigation, targeting, and communications.

Twelve years and billions of rubles later, Russia is now challenging the United States’ long-standing supremacy in space and working to exploit the US military’s dependence on space systems for communications, navigation, intelligence, and targeting. Moscow is developing counter-space weapons as a part of its overall information warfare strategy. For example, Russia just tested an anti-satellite missile system designed to destroy satellites in low earth orbit. Moreover, military leaders in Russia view US satellites as the key enablers of America’s ability to execute rapid, agile, and global military operations; they are intent on echoing this success and modernizing their own military satellites to more effectively support Russian forces.

Since the end of the Cold War, the number of countries with space programs has markedly increased. Many of them are actively developing space weapons. China, for example, has an operational ground-launched anti-satellite system, according to the US intelligence community. India successfully tested its own space weapon in 2019. France announced that it will launch a series of armed satellites. Even Iran is believed to be able to develop a rudimentary anti-satellite weapon in the near term. Russia is the only country, however, that is reportedly approaching US satellites in an aggressive manner. Space systems are essential for warfighting on Earth and the large growth in the number of countries fielding space weapons means the likelihood that outer space will be transformed into a battlefield has increased.

Today, Moscow is closely tailing US satellites and testing its own anti-satellite weapon, openly engaging in more belligerent action in outer space because the Kremlin recognizes that America’s information advantage in warfare is totally dependent on space capabilities. Moscow’s destabilizing behavior could prompt the United States to take a more aggressive posture in space in the future. Russia’s behavior in space should not be dismissed as insignificant. Rather, this situation poses a grave vulnerability for the United States.

Russia’s space strategy has its roots in the Cold War. Moscow recognized after it shot down a US U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in 1960 that the United States had become completely dependent on satellites to collect intelligence. By then, Soviet military leaders had concluded that satellites had become Washington’s primary source for strategic warning of an impending attack.

Soviet leaders also suspected their American counterparts were using satellites for more than just intelligence gathering. In the 1960s, Moscow viewed a US inspection satellite program—designed to monitor other satellites—as an on-orbit weapons system. The Kremlin believed that the United States was developing satellites and other assets like the space shuttle program as offensive space weapons, ones that would be able to deliver nuclear weapons to Earth. From the Soviet perspective, the US shuttle program could be used to rapidly strike targets anywhere in the Soviet Union. A 1976 Soviet evaluation of the shuttle stated that it could “make a ‘dive’ in its orbit as it passed over Moscow and release a nuclear weapon.” And Ronald Reagan’s 1983 announcement of his Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly called “Star Wars,” further stoked Soviet fears.

Sci-fi fantasies aside, for militaries, satellites are extremely useful in targeting Earth-based weapons against Earth-based targets. By the 1970s, the Soviets had launched the RORSAT ocean surveillance satellites that were designed to locate NATO ships and provide targeting information to Soviet anti-ship weapons. Moscow recognized, therefore, that space systems were invaluable for supporting tactical military operations. RORSAT served as a primary justification for President Gerald Ford to reinvigorate the US anti-satellite weapon program in 1977. The competition between the United States and the Soviet Union had now dangerously extended into outer space; satellites were becoming military targets.
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In the late 1970s, the United States began developing an anti-satellite weapon that could be launched from an F-15 fighter. This program became known as the ASM-135 and the Miniature Homing Vehicle. In 1985, Reagan authorized a test against a US satellite that was successfully completed; this demonstrated to the Soviet Union that the United States possessed the capability to shoot down Soviet satellites in low earth orbit. As the Cold War came to an end, so too did this program.

Fortunately, the Cold War ended before space could truly be transformed into a theater of military conflict. Soviet ideas about military space operations, nevertheless, continue to shape Russian attitudes about the space environment.

Russia’s military space strategy. Space systems provide rapid and global communication, intelligence gathering, navigation, and precision targeting. In addition to enhancing its capabilities in space, Moscow is simultaneously developing counter-space weapons to destroy America’s space-enabled warfighting advantage. Senior Russian military officers have discussed Moscow’s need to maintain dominance in space. They advocate having the capability to disrupt adversary spacecraft and ground support equipment.

In February, 2018, then US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats presented the annual World Threat Assessment to Congress, highlighting the US intelligence community’s position that “Russia is pursuing a diverse suite of capabilities to affect satellites in all orbital regimes.” In early 2019, Coats said that in the next few years Russia will likely have an operational anti-satellite capability for targeting satellites in low earth orbit.

According to US intelligence, Moscow is developing kinetic weapons, high-powered lasers, and jammers to target the full spectrum of American and allied space systems.

This research and development effort and Russia’s space awakening was spurred by the US military’s use of high-precision weapons and space-based systems during the first Gulf War, during which satellite technology had proved so successful that a seminal battle between American and Iraqi forces is known simply as the Battle of 73 Easting. This is a reference to a point on a north-south line in what was a featureless dessert–the kind of place you’d get to using GPS. Former US Air Force Chief of Staff Merill McPeak even referred to Desert Storm as the “first space war” because of how successfully space systems were integrated into combat operations.

Although the Gulf War prompted Russia to re-think its space strategy, the Kremlin’s short conflict with Georgia more than a decade later would highlight the woeful state of Russia’s space systems. Despite not having space-based navigation and intelligence during the August, 2008 campaign, Russia was able to quickly defeat its much smaller and weaker opponent. But military leaders recognized that other adversaries had significantly more sophisticated warfighting capabilities.

The short war with Georgia prompted Vladimir Putin, who was then the prime minister, to push for the largest modernization of the Russian armed forces since the collapse of the Soviet Union, an initiative that was branded the New Look. The military recognized the necessity of advanced command and control systems and the integration of air and space power for rapid and high-precision strikes.

For Russia to compete with peers like the United States, officials at the Ministry of Defense concluded, the country would need to extensively reorganize and modernize its information systems. During the Georgian war, Russia did not have constellations of satellites that could provide imagery in a timely enough manner to be used for targeting or effectively aid in navigation. The military couldn’t use GLONASS (Russia’s equivalent of GPS), furtherer hampering Russian air and land operations. The New Look program emphasized “efficiency of command structures, the need for more rapid reaction, and the modernization of technology.”

Space and counter-space systems would be essential to achieve information superiority during battle. Since the Georgian war, the Russian military has focused on improving its information systems to more effectively integrate intelligence and strike capabilities. Space systems and electronic warfare have been central to this effort. In many ways the Kremlin has succeeded. By October 2011, GLONASS became a fully functional constellation with global coverage, and Russian ships, aircraft, and tanks are outfitted with GLONASS navigation terminals.
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Russia’s information warfare strategy also calls for the ability to control the information space. To that end, Russia has fully integrated tactical counter-space systems that target GPS and satellite communication satellites into its deployable electronic warfare suite. According to Russian military expert Roger McDermott, “Russian forces do not move or conduct operations without EW [electronic warfare] support.”

US intelligence agencies believe that Russia has gone further than developing systems to disrupt satellite signals and is working on weapons that can actually damage or destroy satellites. Without specifically mentioning types of weapons,  the head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov has  said space systems will be decisive in future conflicts.

To more effectively manage space capabilities, in 2015 Moscow decided to merge the Space Forces, the Air Force, and Aerospace Defense Forces into one organization known as the Russian Aerospace Forces. Major-General Aleksandr Tsymbalov observed that “the creation of the [Russian Aerospace Forces] marks recognition by Moscow that outer space and airspace will be the main spheres of future military operations.”

In order to effectively target adversary satellites, Russia needs accurate information on their location. To achieve this goal, the government has modernized the 821st Main Space Intelligence Center located outside of Moscow. This organization is responsible for using Russia’s echelon of electro-optical and radar space tracking systems to maintain an accurate catalogue of space objects.

Russian space surveillance seeks not only to keep track of satellites, but also to determine their purpose and capabilities. To fulfil this mission, Russia has been modernizing its space surveillance infrastructure. In 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it had finished upgrading its Okno-M electro-optical space monitoring capability located in Tajikistan. According to the Russian military, the system is specifically designed to “collect information on space objects and control the geostationary region of space.” The Russian military has been upgrading its tracking radars to include the installation of a new system in Crimea that greatly expands the military’s space domain awareness.

As Russia expands its space capabilities, military leaders in Moscow recognize their increasing dependence on satellites could increase their own vulnerabilities. In the event of a war, having the ability to quickly re-constitute (i.e., deploy and replace) destroyed or damaged satellites will be a strategic necessity. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s most important launch facility, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, found itself in a newly sovereign country. The Kremlin leases the property, but has sought to increase the security and autonomy of its own space launch infrastructure in the Russian Federation. To that end, in 2016, Vladimir Putin officially opened Russia’s third launch facility, the Vostochniy Cosmodrome located in the Far East.

What’s next. Russia has been taking advantage of the lack of international consensus on what constitutes acceptable behavior in space. The Russian military has closely tailed US satellites, suddenly approaching them without warning. It has also conducted an anti-satellite weapons test. This system could destroy critical US military satellites in low earth orbit. It seems clear that Russia is likely testing how the United States and its allies might react to aggressive space behaviors and is gaining important insights into American national security space capabilities.

As tensions between the West and Russia increase, so too will Moscow’s aggressive behavior in space. The Kremlin recognizes the qualitative superiority of NATO military forces, but it also knows that the alliance needs space systems for high-precision warfighting. Through its counter-space program, Russia hopes to achieve a means of reducing NATO’s information advantage. Space weapons provide Russia a mechanism for leveling the playing field with its Western adversaries.

Moscow’s aggressive behavior in space could prompt the United States to pursue more assertive policies, like the reinvigoration of Cold War-era anti-satellite weapons programs. In 2019, former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said that at some point, the United States needs the ability to “hit back.” Russia’s destabilizing actions in space could, therefore, fuel a dangerous arms race in space.

The coronavirus pandemic is further eroding the strength of international institutions like the World Health Organization and countries seem to be retreating into nationalist positions. At this critical moment, security challenges that have important implications for the future of humanity must not be dismissed.  The post-Cold War-era  treaty New START has provisions that protect national security satellites from interference. The treaty is set to expire in 2021, and it is not clear if the United States and Russia will successfully negotiate an extension. Even though countries of the world are facing an unprecedented crisis, now is the time to bolster international cooperation beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Neglecting threats in space could transform the unsettling possibility of Star Wars into a dangerous reality.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The protester who hoisted an effigy of Gov. Andy Beshear from a tree at the Kentucky State Capitol has been fired from his job at an auto dealer.

Terry Bush, president of the Kentucky 3 Percenters group, was fired by Neil Huffman Auto Group on Tuesday, his wife Patsy Bush confirmed on Wednesday morning.

The auto dealer had announced Tuesday evening that it had terminated an unnamed employee who was involved in the protest Sunday where the effigy was hanged, saying it did not "condone threats of violence in any form."

Terry Bush has not responded to a request for comment left with his wife.

Patsy Bush is the state secretary of the Kentucky 3 Percenters and was also present at the protest in Frankfort.

"He was fired because this governor is more important than the regular joe out in this state trying to put food on their tables," Patsy Bush said Wednesday morning.

Beshear on effigy: 'I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down'

She said the effigy wasn't her group's idea and that her husband only helped when it came time to hang it.

Ben Kennedy, an organizer behind the rally, did not return a Wednesday phone call from The Courier Journal. On Facebook, an account with the same name posted in a group dedicated to the rally that "As far as what happened at the rally I take full responsibility for everything."

Beshear addressed the effigy hanging during his Tuesday press conference, calling for unity and criticizing the group of protesters who brought a demand that he resign to the door of the Governor's Mansion. He said they were chanting "on the other side of the glass from where I raise my kids" and that it was "an action intended to use fear to get their way."

A man wearing a Three Percenters T-shirt helps hang an effigy of Gov. Andy Beshear at a Patriot Day/2nd Amdendment rally Sunday afternoon at the state capitol in Frankfort. About 125 people attended the rally to protest Gov. Andy Beshear as well as listen to speakers about protecting the 2nd Amendment. May 25, 2020

He called the group a "mob" that carried out "a celebration of assassination on our Capitol grounds."

"I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down," Beshear said.

Patsy Bush, who says her family has been threatened with violence, contends the firing was unjust.

"Neil Huffman let outside influences cause a man who had never been late, always professional and had been an outstanding employee be fired for no good cause," she said. "They fired him for exercising his (First Amendment) right to free speech where no laws were broken, no one was terrorized, no one was threatened and Neil Huffman was never mentioned or involved in any way."

Shannon Huffman, the auto dealer's human resources manager, said in a statement Tuesday night that the unnamed employee was fired following an internal investigation.  "The Neil Huffman Auto Group does not condone threats of violence in any form, whether they be a call to action or an implied threat," she wrote. "... There is no place for hate or intolerance at any of our dealerships."

Patsy Bush told The Courier Journal on Wednesday morning that the whole thing isn't right and lashed out at Beshear.

"When is his iron grip on this state going to end, how many more families is he going to devastate before the people realize how poisonous he really is?" Patsy asked. "I heard him yesterday, he has no intention of lifting his grip on this state, he absolutely loves the fact that he believes he is so big, listen to the way he states things and tell me he isn’t on some warped trip of power."

Beshear officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

Huffman Chevy Buick GMC of Frankfort @NeilHuffmanGM1

A statement from Neil Huffman Auto Group on May 26, 2020.

    6:25 PM - May 26, 2020
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Mark Twain — 'There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.'