Lebanon is experiencing a crisis in its relations with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab supporters, whose trade and financial aid it desperately needs. Criticism by a Lebanese Cabinet minister over Saudi military involvement in Yemen is at the heart of a diplomatic dispute that is playing into a regional competition for supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia expelled the Lebanese ambassador, recalled its envoy to Beirut and banned imports from Lebanon after comments were broadcast by Lebanon’s information minister, George Kordahi. Just before Kordahi became a Cabinet member in September, he defended Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who receive training from Hezbollah. He said Yemen was subjected to what he described as foreign aggression - an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia. Gulf allies have responded by recalling their ambassadors from Lebanon and expelling Beirut’s envoys. The Arab League has expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of relations. Kordahi is a member of a small Christian party allied with Shiite Hezbollah. Knowing his government is fragile, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged Kordahi to “put his patriotic sense above all else” to defuse the crisis. Meanwhile, influential Catholic Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi and others view Kordahi’s comments and refusal to resign as damaging Lebanon’s national interests. Kordahi says the remarks were made before took up his government position. Political analyst Dania Koleilat Khatib, with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, told VOA that the Gulf states have had enough of Hezbollah’s stranglehold on Lebanon. “Mikati was hoping so much that the French would be able to like twist the Gulf’s arm and get money from them. It’s not Kordahi only, it’s about dealing with this government that’s controlled by Hezbollah. Hezbollah won’t let Kordahi resign, unless they get something. If Kordahi just resigns, they will look weak,” Khatib said. Analysts say Mikati faces an uphill task trying to reset relations with Gulf countries. Trade and financial aid from the Gulf once tallied in the billions of dollars. Lebanon cannot expect the same from Iran. A shipment of Lebanese pomegranates bound for Saudi Arabia in spring, stuffed with more than 5 million amphetamine-type pills known as captagon, produced in the Hezbollah-run Bekaa Valley, put a stop to that lucrative trade, with Saudi Arabia banning all Lebanese fruit and vegetables. Veteran Lebanese Druze politician Walid Jumblatt has warned that Iran-backed groups stood to gain from Saudi Arabia’s pulling away from Lebanon, which is suffering from severe economic and political crises. “Abandoning” Lebanon will make Hezbollah stronger, he recently told Dubai’s The National. Observers say that Tehran’s regional proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, are also jeopardizing a possible thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The European Union’s General Court has rejected Google’s appeal of a $2.8 billion European Commission fine for giving its own shopping suggestions an illegal advantage in search results. The commission fined the American technology giant in 2017 for wrongfully directing visitors to its Google Shopping service at the expense of smaller European competitors. The General Court ruled that it “largely dismisses” Google’s appeal and is upholding the fine after “finding that Google abused its dominant position by favoring its own comparison-shopping service over competing” services. Google, which is also appealing two other EU antitrust penalties totaling $9.5 billion, said in a statement it amended its practices in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision. “Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,” the statement said. Earlier this year, the commission launched antitrust probes into whether Google and Facebook are suppressing competition in the classified and digital advertising sectors. The commission is also investigating Apple over payments and Amazon, another U.S. tech giant, over concerns it is unfairly competing with independent retailers on its platform with its own products. Google said it has not decided whether to appeal Wednesday’s ruling in the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court. Some information in this report also came from The Associated Press and Reuters. SOURCES REUTERS LUXEMBOURG, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Alphabet unit Google lost an appeal to a 2.42-billion-euro ($2.8-billion) European antitrust decision on Wednesday, a major win for the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager in the first of three court rulings that will strengthen the EU's push to regulate big tech. Vestager sanctioned the world's most popular internet search engine in 2017 for favoring its own price-comparison shopping service to give it an unfair advantage against smaller European rivals. The shopping case was the first of a trio of decisions that has seen Google rack up a total of 8.25 billion euros in EU antitrust fines in the last decade. The company could face yet more defeats in the other two cases involving its Android mobile operating system and AdSense advertising service, where the EU is seen to have stronger arguments. The court ruling will strengthen Vestager's hand in her investigations into Amazon, Apple and Facebook. "The General Court largely dismisses Google's action against the decision of the Commission finding that Google abused its dominant position by favoring its own comparison shopping service over competing comparison shopping services," the Court said. "Google departed from competition on the merits," judges said. The court said the Commission correctly found that Google's practices harmed competition and swatted away the company's argument that the presence of merchant platforms showed there was strong competition. The court backed the EU fine, citing the serious nature of the infringement and the fact that "the conduct in question was adopted intentionally, not negligently." Google said it would review the judgment and that it has already complied with the Commission's order to ensure a level playing field for rivals. It did not say if it would appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe's top court. The Commission welcomed the ruling, saying it would provide legal clarity for the market. "The Commission will continue to use all tools at its disposal to address the role of big digital platforms on which businesses and users depend to, respectively, access end users and access digital services," the EU executive said in a statement. Rivals such as U.S. search Yelp and those in the travel, restaurant and accommodation industries will be hoping that Vestager's victory will revive other dormant investigations triggered by their complaints. The EU watchdog is currently focusing its energies on Google's use of data and its digital advertising business. The company is now seeking to settle the latter case, a person familiar with the matter has told Reuters. Separately, on Tuesday, the UK Supreme Court blocked https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-supreme-court-blocks-43-bln-google-class-action-over-iphone-tracking-2021-11-10 a planned $4.3 billion British class action against Google over allegations the internet giant unlawfully tracked the personal information of millions of iPhone users. To augment her antitrust powers, Vestager last year proposed new landmark tech rules that will force U.S. tech giants to change their business models to ensure a level playing field for rivals. AP LONDON (AP) — A top European Union court on Wednesday rejected Google's appeal of a 2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine from regulators who found the tech giant abused its massive online reach by giving its own shopping recommendations an illegal advantage in search results. The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc's top competition watchdog, punished Google in 2017 for unfairly directing visitors to its own shopping service, Google Shopping, to the detriment of competitors. The EU's General Court ruled that it “largely dismisses” Google’s appeal of that antitrust penalty and is upholding the fine. “The General Court thus rules that, in reality, Google favors its own comparison shopping service over competing services, rather than a better result over another result," it said in a press release. Google said it made changes in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision. “Our approach has worked successfully for more than three years, generating billions of clicks for more than 700 comparison shopping services,” a Google statement said. The fine was part of an effort by European regulators to curb the online giant’s clout on the continent. It was followed by two other blockbuster antitrust penalties against Google, totaling 8.25 billion euros ($9.5 billion), which the company also is appealing. The penalties were early salvos in the EU’s crackdown on tech companies, which has expanded to include other Silicon Valley digital giants. The commission this year launched fresh antitrust investigations into whether Google and Facebook are stifling competition in digital and classified advertising markets. It’s also investigating Apple over payments and Amazon over concerns it’s unfairly competing against independent merchants on its platform with its own products. Meanwhile, the EU and U.K. are drafting new rules to make social media companies more accountable for illegal and harmful content on their platforms, with the threat of fines worth up to 10% of global annual revenue if they don’t comply. Wednesday's ruling can still be appealed to the European Court of Justice, the bloc's highest court, but only on points of law, not the facts. Google hasn't decided whether to do so, saying it will closely review the decision. The case began after the commission received a complaint in 2009 that led to an investigation, with EU regulators demanding Google change the way it provides search results in Europe.
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'Persistent Engagement' Strategy Paying Dividends, Cybercom General Says > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department Newsby David Vergun, 9 months ago
The U.S. and its allies need to be proactive and in constant contact with their adversaries to better defend themselves in the cyber domain, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Wednesday with his Ukrainian counterpart in Washington as the Biden administration seeks to demonstrate support for the country in the face of Russian aggression while also pushing its leaders to carry out Western-backed reforms. Blinken's talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other high-ranking officials follows on an agreement reached between President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in September to relaunch the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said it had been an important mechanism for the United States and Ukraine "to communicate and collaborate on shared priorities across a broad range of issues." Price said the meeting on November 10 and other meetings were an "important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to -- and support for -- Ukraine's independence, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity, including in the face of ongoing Russian aggression." Washington has provided diplomatic and political support and arms for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia's increasingly aggressive stance in the region. The United States has at the same time pressed Kyiv on the importance of Ukrainian efforts to tackle corruption and carry out reforms. During the commission's one-day meeting, high-level delegations will work on the three most important tracks of the strategic partnership: security and counteracting Russian aggression, democracy and rule of law, and economic transformation, a Ukrainian official told RFE/RL. Kubela is the head of the delegation, which includes Deputy Economic Minister and Trade Representative Taras Kachka, Deputy Minister of Justice Valeria Kolomiets, and Deputy Minister of Defense for European Integration Anatoliy Petrenko. "Ukraine is facing two challenges: aggression from outside, coming from Russia, and in effect aggression from within, coming from corruption, oligarchs and others who are putting their interests ahead of those of the Ukrainian people," Blinken said during a trip to Ukraine in May. Blinken at the time told Kuleba that Washington will "work with you and continue to strengthen your own democracy, building institutions, advancing your reforms against corruption." One of Zelenskiy's reform priorities is ridding the country of the influence and corruption surrounding oligarchs, and last week signed a new law that provides a definition for an oligarch based on several criteria, including wealth in the tens of millions of dollars, monopolistic-like control of an industry, possession of media assets, and political activity. The legislation is aimed at preventing oligarchs from using their power to wield undue influence over Ukraine’s government and economy or to stymie Ukraine’s reform progress and democratic potential.
Afghanistan’s Taliban said Wednesday they have rounded up nearly 600 members of the local Islamic State affiliate, known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province, since returning to power in mid-August. A spokesman for the General Directorate of Intelligence, the new name of the Afghan spy agency under Islamist Taliban rule, told reporters in Kabul that “high-ranking” commanders of IS-Khorasan were also among the detainees. “These men linked to Daesh are now being held in jails under tight security,” Kahlil Hamraz told a news conference in Kabul, using a local, derogatory name for IS-Khorasan. He said ongoing security operations against the group have also killed almost 40 militants. Hamraz accused the former Afghan government of releasing some 1,800 IS-Khorasan militants along with other criminals from detention facilities just before the Taliban took over Kabul in August. He said the freed prisoners were behind a recent uptick in car bombings and other violent activity in parts of Afghanistan. IS-Khorasan has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks across the country, including suicide bombings. The violence has killed and injured hundreds of Afghan civilians and Taliban forces. The Taliban released details of their purported successes against IS-Khorasan amid growing criticism of their ability to effectively deal with an increasing terrorist threat. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West said this week the rise in IS-Khorasan attacks and al-Qaida’s ongoing presence in the South Asian nation was a matter of deep concern for Washington. The U.S. envoy, however, told reporters in Brussels on Monday the Taliban were undertaking “a very vigorous effort” against the terror group. “We condemn the innocent loss of Afghan lives that have taken place in recent weeks at the hands of vicious ISIS-K attacks across the country…I think we’re worried about the uptick in ISIS-K attacks and we want the Taliban to be successful against them,” West said. He used an acronym for Islamic State. U.S. officials have warned that IS-Khorasan could develop the ability to strike outside Afghanistan within a year and that al-Qaida could do the same within one or two years. The 2020 U.S.-Taliban deal that ended the two-decade U.S.-led foreign military presence in Afghanistan requires the Islamist group prevent transnational terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, from recruiting, fund-raising, training or planning attacks. "When it comes to other groups, look, al-Qaida continues to have a presence in Afghanistan that we are very concerned about, and that is an issue of ongoing concern for us in our dialogue with the Taliban,” said West, who assumed office last month.
Like many nations hit by COVID-19, South Africa has seen rising unemployment and hunger since the onset of the pandemic. One school - the Green Business College - is tackling those issues in innovative ways, giving people the skills to not only grow their own produce but make money to help their families and build their careers. At a community center east of Johannesburg, more than two dozen students are learning skills that would have been common among their grandparents’ generation. The Green Business College is teaching them the basics of organic gardening and food preservation by making jams and sauces. For some, it is expanding on hobbies they discovered while in pandemic lockdown. It is also feeding their entrepreneurial aspirations. Onkgopotse Seleka founded the company Uncle OG’s Jams. “It's a lost art completely. Most of my peers around my age. They would rather buy than make. I want to see myself in top retailers, I want to probably get to a point where that I can make a sustainable living from preserving Marula fruit,” said Seleka. Making an empire of his late grandmother’s jam recipe would be a major career change for the 32-year-old, who currently works for a sporting apparel retailer. Other students are hoping the skills will simply get them into the workforce. More than 30 percent of South Africans are jobless. College CEO Matshepiso Makhabane believes the school’s courses, which include bee keeping, can inspire people to create their own employment opportunities while addressing issues that come with poverty. “They say, give a man a fish, you've fed him for the day, teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. It's all about power, take back your power and use it well, invested in your soil. It’s going to benefit you so that people can come and buy from you – and buy health,” said Makhabane. South Africa suffers from what experts call a “double burden of malnutrition,” experiencing extremes of both hunger and obesity. Small farms like the one set up by the college are viewed as part of the solution to providing healthy food to communities. Lise Korsten is a plant pathology professor at the University of Pretoria. “We believe in shifting people, their whole diet to consuming more fresh produce, to produce more food within the communities,” said Korsten. “And then obviously, look at food gardens that to us will be a very important critical element of South Africa's mindset. Produce your own food as well, and not only rely on the food system,” Korsten added. More than 120 students have studied at the main college in downtown Johannesburg in the past year, while many more have participated in workshops around South Africa. Graduates have used their creativity to expand beyond selling vegetables and jams. Tsepiso Moloi’s line of hot sauces include a pineapple-infused variety and a ghost pepper sauce with an extreme kick. “It starts as a hobby. And then, how do you then graduate that hobby into a business that you can live out of? I wouldn't have been able to have had the knowledge around preservation that I got from the school. I wouldn't have had the momentum to keep it going. Because that mentorship and coaching keeps you on the alert,” said Moloi. And in less than four months since launching, she has had two butcher shops request her products for their shelves.
India hosted senior officials from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to discuss the regional security implications of the country’s takeover by the Taliban, but New Delhi’s rivals China and Pakistan did not attend the meeting. China cited “scheduling reasons” for not coming but conveyed that it is open for dialogue with India on Afghanistan multilaterally and bilaterally. Noting last week that he did not plan to attend the talks, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said “a spoiler cannot become a peacemaker,” in an apparent reference to India. Officials from Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan participated in the conference on Wednesday. Political analysts say the dialogue aimed at highlighting India’s security interests in Afghanistan, where it has been sidelined since the Taliban takeover even as Pakistan, which has deep ties with the Islamist group, has emerged in a dominant position. Security concerns arising from the Taliban control of Afghanistan weigh heavily on New Delhi, which wants to build a regional consensus, amid worries Afghanistan will become a haven for militant groups. A “Delhi declaration” released after the conference underlined the need to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a “safe haven for global terrorism” and called for “collective cooperation against the menace of radicalization, extremism, separatism and drug trafficking in the region.” It also underlined the need for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. "We all have been keenly watching the developments in that country. These have important implications not only for the people of Afghanistan, but also for its neighbors and the region," India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said. He emphasized the need for “close consultations” and greater coordination to enhance the region’s collective security. New Delhi worries that the Taliban victory will embolden anti-India terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which have been at the forefront of a three-decade-long separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir. India’s position in Afghanistan, where it invested billions on development projects in a bid to build “soft power,” suffered a huge blow with the withdrawal of the U.S. troops. New Delhi has no diplomatic presence in the country although it held its first official meeting with a Taliban representative in Qatar on August 31. Officials in India’s Foreign Ministry told media that Pakistan’s refusal to attend the meet was “unfortunate but not surprising” and “reflects its [Islamabad’s] mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate.” New Delhi’s meeting came a day before Pakistan is scheduled to host talks on Afghanistan that are to be attended by the United States, China and Russia. According to Reuters, a Taliban spokesman in Kabul, Zabihullah Mujahid, has expressed optimism about the series of meetings in Moscow, Tehran, New Delhi and Islamabad. "We are optimistic because the whole region needs stability and security in Afghanistan ... the meetings that are going to happen pave the way to understanding, and they are hopefully in the benefit of Afghanistan," Mujahid said. Pakistan will host the United States, China and Russia this week for talks on Afghanistan under what is known as the “troika plus” process. Officials in Islamabad confirmed to VOA that Amir Khan Muttaqi, the foreign minister of the Afghan Taliban, also has been invited to the meeting, scheduled for Thursday, describing his participation as an “important” development. Newly-appointed U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and his Russian, Chinese and Pakistani counterparts will lead their respective delegations at the talks.
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India has sent thousands more paramilitary troops into its section of Kashmir, already one of the world's most militarized zones, after a string of targeted killings by suspected rebels in recent weeks, officials said Wednesday. New Delhi has for decades stationed at least 500,000 soldiers in the divided Himalayan territory, which is also claimed and partially controlled by arch-rival Pakistan. "Around 2,500 troops have arrived and they were deployed all over Kashmir valley," Abhiram Pankaj, a spokesman for the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), told AFP. More were on their way to the restive territory, he added. Around 5,000 extra paramilitaries in all were being deployed from this week, including from India's Border Security Force (BSF), according to a police officer speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity. Some of the troops are housed in civilian community halls that have been fortified with new sandbag bunkers, reminiscent of the early 1990s when an armed insurgency against Indian rule was at its peak. That rebellion has significantly waned in the years since tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, were killed in the conflict. A dozen people have been gunned down since last month in what appeared to be targeted assassinations, including police, migrant workers from northern Indian states and local members of the Sikh and Hindu communities. Rebel groups, who have since 1989 fought for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan, are believed to be responsible for the attacks. Some of those killed were accused by the Resistance Front, a local rebel group, of being in the employ of security forces. Police and paramilitary troops in bulletproof gear and wielding automatic rifles have intensified frisk searches of residents, including children, on the streets. Newly deployed troops are now visible around many new checkpoints set up in recent weeks across the main city of Srinagar. Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947. Anger has simmered in the region since August 2019 when New Delhi revoked its partial autonomy and brought its section of Kashmir under direct rule.
A coalition of 19 countries including Britain and the United States on Wednesday agreed to create zero emissions shipping trade routes between ports to speed up the decarbonization of the global maritime industry, officials involved said. Shipping, which transports about 90% of world trade, accounts for nearly 3% of the world's CO2 emissions. U.N. shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has said it aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. The goal is not aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and the sector is under pressure to be more ambitious. The signatory countries involved in the 'Clydebank Declaration', which was launched at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, agreed to support the establishment of at least six green corridors by 2025, which will require developing supplies of zero emissions fuels, the infrastructure required for decarbonization and regulatory frameworks. "It is our aspiration to see many more corridors in operation by 2030," their mission statement said. Britain's maritime minister Robert Courts said countries alone would not be able to decarbonize shipping routes without the commitment of private and non-governmental sectors. "The UK and indeed many of the countries, companies and NGOs here today believe zero emissions international shipping is possible by 2050," Courts said at the launch. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the declaration was "a big step forward for green shipping corridors and collective action". Buttigieg added that the United States was "pressing for the IMO to adopt a goal of zero emissions for international shipping by 2050". The IMO’s Secretary General Kitack Lim said on Saturday "we must upgrade our ambition, keeping up with the latest developments in the global community". Industry needs regulatory help Jan Dieleman, president of ocean transportation with agri business giant Cargill, one of the world's biggest ship charterers, said "the real challenge is to turn any statements (at COP26) into something meaningful". "The majority of the industry has accepted we need to decarbonize," he told Reuters. "Industry leadership needs to be followed up with global regulation and policies to ensure industry-wide transformation. We will not succeed without global regulation." Christian Ingerslev, chief executive of Maersk Tankers, which has over 210 oil products tankers under commercial management, said it had spent over $30 million over the last three years to bring their carbon emissions down through digital solutions. "We need governments to not only back the regulatory push but also to help create the zero emissions fuels at scale," he said. "The only way this is going to work is to set a market-based measure through a carbon tax." Other signatory countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Japan, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
The International Space Station will perform a brief maneuver on Wednesday to dodge a fragment of a defunct Chinese satellite, Russian space agency Roscosmos said. The station crewed by seven astronauts will climb 1,240 meters higher to avoid a close encounter with the fragment and will settle in an orbit 470.7 km (292 miles) above the Earth, Roscosmos said. It did not say how large the debris was. "In order to dodge the 'space junk', (mission control) specialists ... have calculated how to correct the orbit of the International Space Station," the agency's statement said. The station will rely on the engines of the Progress space truck that is docked to it to carry out the move. An ever-swelling amount of space debris is threatening satellites hovering around Earth, making insurers leery of offering coverage to the devices that transmit texts, maps, videos and scientific data. The document reaffirms the goals set in Paris in 2015 of limiting warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) preferred because that would keep damage from climate change "much lower." Highlighting the challenge of meeting those goals, the document "expresses alarm and concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 C (2 F) of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region." Small island nations, which are particularly vulnerable to warming, worry that too little is being done to stop warming at the 1.5-degree goal — and that allowing temperature increases up to 2 degrees would be catastrophic for their countries. "For Pacific (small island states), climate change is the greatest, single greatest threat to our livelihood, security and wellbeing. We do not need more scientific evidence nor targets without plans to reach them or talking shops," Marshall Islands Health and Human Services minister told fellow negotiators Wednesday. "The 1.5 limit is not negotiable." Separate draft proposals were also released on other issues being debated at the talks, including rules for international carbon markets and the frequency by which countries have to report on their efforts. The draft calls on nations that don't have national goals that would fit with the 1.5- or 2-degree limits to come back with stronger targets next year. Depending on how the language is interpreted, the provision could apply to most countries. Analysts at the World Resources Institute counted that element as a win for vulnerable countries. "This is crucial language,'' WRI International Climate Initiative Director David Waskow said Wednesday. "Countries really are expected and are on the hook to do something in that timeframe to adjust.'' Greenpeace's Morgan said it would have been even better to set a requirement for new goals every year. In a nod to one of the big issues for poorer countries, the draft vaguely "urges" developed nations to compensate developing countries for "loss and damage," a phrase that some rich nations don't like. But there are no concrete financial commitments. "This is often the most difficult moment," Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N. Development Program and former chief of the U.N.'s environment office, said of the state of the two-week talks. "The first week is over, you suddenly recognize that there are a number of fundamentally different issues that are not easily resolvable. The clock is ticking," he told The Associated Press.
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A fossil elephant cranium from Kenya weighs roughly two tons and reveals adaptations that let its species, Loxodonta adaurora, outcompete others.
White House officials are on a development-minded world tour and have been scouting several corners of the globe to identify about 50 projects that focus on topics such as climate, health, digital technology and gender equality. Daleep Singh, the deputy national security adviser for international economics, recently wrapped up a tour of West Africa, visiting Ghana and Senegal as part of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better World initiative, known as B3W. Biden unveiled the plan during the June G-7 summit, with the goal of creating "a values-driven, high-standard and transparent infrastructure partnership" to help finance projects in developing countries. "This was the first B3W listening session in Africa, demonstrating President Biden's commitment to strengthening our ties in the region and to narrowing the global gaps in physical, digital, and human infrastructure that have been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic," National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement this week. These listening sessions in Africa followed a similar trip Singh led in October, when he took an interagency delegation to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. He will turn next to Southeast Asia, a senior administration official said. So far, the official said, the delegation has identified some 50 projects in those five countries alone. The official did not give a cost estimate but described some of the projects. "For example, in climate, we had quite a few discussions about how we could help finance renewable energy projects in solar and hydro and wind," the senior administration official said. "Also projects that could help reduce the rate of deforestation, which creates a carbon sink and helps these countries meet their emission reduction targets." Many analysts see this initiative as a counter to Beijing's multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative. That international development program has financed infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America and has made inroads even in Europe. 'Democracies' only And whereas China takes a firm stance against weighing in on recipient nation politics — making Chinese investments especially appealing for countries with poor human rights records and high levels of corruption — Biden's initiative draws a different line. The president "asked us to build this product with our democratic values front and center," the administration official said. "So transparency, collaboration with the host countries, inclusivity, so that the benefits are spread across all segments, and also sustainability, with no strings attached." But critics say this may be a weakness. "It will be difficult to create a sentiment in international markets that the BBBW is a viable, commercially credible alternative approach to financially supporting projects if it is viewed that only nations which the USG (U.S. government) defines as 'democratic' will be eligible to participate in it," said Marc Mealy, senior vice president of policy at the US-ASEAN Business Council. Dalibor Rohac, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, also said that showing preference to democracies could raise problems. "The emphasis on democracy might be good and valuable in its own right," he told VOA. "But it might not be the best framing if you are trying to build relationships and build some sort of broader coalitions to counter China's influence in say, Southeast Asia, where, by necessity, you need to sort of work with countries that fall short of Western liberal democratic standards." It's all in the details But, analysts say, what mostly hurts the marketing of the American push is its lack of detail. When asked if he had any criticisms of the plan, Mealy simply replied: "Can't criticize a plan which has not been made public." "It's one thing to say, 'Oh, the world needs $40 trillion in infrastructure, and we're going to help out,' " Rohac said. "Like how that maps exactly into specific funding decisions, specific loan decisions, you know, which regions and which countries, which sectors — it's all a bit vague. And most importantly, is this just a gimmick or are there going to be real resources put behind it by countries?" A formal B3W launch event is planned for early next year and will include details about the projects.
A Polish journalist who had accused an Uzbek official of harassment and written critically about the country was denied entry to Uzbekistan on Sunday. The journalist told VOA she was held at the Uzbek border with Kazakhstan for more than a day before state security took her to Tashkent airport, from where she flew to Istanbul. "They took me to Tashkent airport under surveillance," Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska said as she waited for a flight to Poland. "I don't understand why I was banned from entering Uzbekistan, but I will try to get an official response." Uzbek authorities have not commented publicly on the incident. The Uzbek embassy in Washington did not respond to VOA's request for comment, sent late Tuesday. Pikulicka-Wilczewska has worked for international outlets including Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, The Diplomat and Eurasianet, and she was one of the few foreign journalists working in Uzbekistan. But she has run into issues with authorities. Pikulicka-Wilczewska said that earlier this year, the Foreign Ministry rejected several requests to extend her press accreditation. She also alleged that one of the ministry officials was sexually harassing her and pressuring her to write positive articles. The Foreign Ministry apologized and extended her media accreditation for three months. It said it had dismissed the official, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported at the time. But in June, the ministry said it would not extend the accreditation again because of "violations of legislation." The country's Interior Ministry also accused the journalist of bias and not abiding by laws after she reported on an attack against blogger and gay rights activist Miraziz Bazarov. Bazarov was hospitalized with serious injuries after being beaten in Tashkent in March. Pikulicka-Wilczewska interviewed him and later criticized law enforcement on social media. In response, the Interior Ministry issued a statement accusing the journalist of trying to discredit law enforcement through false news and violating the country's media laws. [[ https://tashkenttimes.uz/national/6683-interior-ministry-accuses-foreign-journalist-of-abusing-freedom-of-media ]] Pikulicka-Wilczewska denies any wrongdoing. When she spoke with VOA, she said she had planned to continue her work in Uzbekistan, which included writing a book about the environment under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. When she was stopped at the border, Pikulicka-Wilczewska tweeted, "I came to Uzbekistan over 3yrs ago hoping that change was possible. I'm leaving convinced that under current government no systemic change will ever take place." Uzbekistan has a poor press freedom record, ranking 157th out of 180 countries, where 1 is freest, according to Reporters Without Borders. Freedom of expression is limited, but bloggers and social media users are finding more space to take on issues deemed off limits under the late President Islam Karimov's rule. President Mirziyoyev has said that "many local officials don't like sharp and critical content" in the media but that "openness and freedom of speech are the demand of the times, the demand of the reforms in Uzbekistan." This article originated in VOA's Uzbek Service.
Universal school-based screening for depressive symptoms increases both identification and the start of treatment for adolescent depression, research finds.
An U.S. journalist currently being held in Myanmar on various charges is now facing two new charges of terrorism and sedition filed Tuesday in a Yangon court, according to his lawyer. Danny Fenster, the managing editor of the Yangon-based online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, has been in custody since May 24 when he was detained at Yangon International Airport before he was to board a flight to the United States and was initially charged with incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. Fenster has since been charged with violating the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act for allegedly contacting opposition groups deemed illegal by the ruling military junta and for violating immigration laws. Advocacy groups say the Unlawful Associations Act has been used to arbitrarily arrest political activists in the 1990s and is now being implemented by the current military junta. Fenster’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said the new charges of terrorism and sedition that were filed against his client could have Fenster face a total of 30 years in prison if convicted of both charges. That would be, Than Zaw Aung said, on top of the combined 11 years in prison under the previous three charges. Than Zaw Aung said Fenster’s arrest is based on his brief employment as a copy editor with the online news service Myanmar Now, which he quit last year before joining Frontier Myanmar magazine. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted the civilian government on February 1 and arrested several of its leaders, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. The military junta claimed the election results were fraudulent, an allegation rejected by the country’s election commission. Violent clashes between the military and citizens who have staged mass demonstrations against the junta have left an estimated 1,200 citizens dead, according to a local monitoring group. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.