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palestine

States In The EU Announce Official Recognition Of Palestinian State 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez made a formal announcement recently stating that “the establishment of a Palestinian state is the only route to peace.” The statement was made as a part of Spain, Norway, and Ireland formally recognizing Palestine as a state. 

Sanchez spoke this week before a cabinet vote that approved their already announced plan to recognize a Palestinian state. 

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“[The cabinet has] adopted an important decision to recognize a Palestinian state [with] one objective: to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace,” said Pilar Alegria, a spokesperson for the Spanish government. 

Prime Minister Sanchez said this declaration was “a matter of historical justice”.

“The only route towards establishing peace is the establishment of a Palestinian state, living side by side with the state of Israel. The state of Palestine must be viable with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a corridor and with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Madrid stated they will not recognize any shifts to borders that existed before 1967 when the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip became a part of Israel’s territory in the Arab-Israeli War.

According to reports, leaders in Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Slovenia stated back in March that they were considering recognizing Palestine as a state as a means of ending the war in Gaza. 

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“For more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognises Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine,” Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement

Ireland’s cabinet approved of the formal recognition in what they say is “an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said.

In total, Palestine has been officially recognised by 144 other countries. Of the EU, Sweden, Cyprus, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have recognised a Palestinian state.

The United Kingdom and Australia have said they are considering recognition, France has said now is not the time while Germany joined Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States, in rejecting a unilateral approach, insisting that a two-state solution can be achieved only through dialogue.

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EU Launching Formal Investigation Into Meta Regarding Election Misinformation Before June Polls Open 

The European Union (EU) is set to launch a formal investigation into Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The investigation was prompted over the EU’s concerns that the tech giant isn’t doing enough to counter Russian disinformation ahead of the EU elections in June, according to reports

The EU is also likely to express their concerns regarding the lack of effective monitoring of election content, and the inadequate tools they use for flagging illegal content. 

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Lisa O’Carroll, a correspondent for The Guardian, wrote that the European Commission is worried about Meta’s moderation system, claiming that it is not extensive enough to combat the presence of misinformation, and even suppresses voting. 

The Financial Times revealed that government officials are worried about how Meta is handling Russia’s specific efforts to undermine the upcoming elections. 

Meta’s plan to discontinue its CrowdTangle tool also has officials concerned. CrowdTangle is a public insights tool that allows researchers, journalists, and others within the EU to monitor in real time the spread of misinformation and any attempts to suppress voting. 

The EU currently has new laws in place that require tech companies to regulate their content and have systems in place to guard against any and all systemic risks involving election interference. 

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“We have a well-established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms. We look forward to continuing our cooperations with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work,” a spokesperson for Meta stated

The commission recently carried out “stress tests” on all the major social media platforms as a means of determining if there were proper safeguards in place to prevent the spreading of misinformation. The tests involved a series of made-up scenarios that are based on past attempts at election manipulation, such as using deep fakes and speech suppression.

“The aim was to test platforms’ readiness to address manipulative behavior that could occur in the run-up to the elections, in particular the different manipulative tactics, techniques and procedures,” the commission stated.

This past Monday, parliament released official tips for voters in the upcoming elections, which will be taking place between June 6th and 9th. They cited previous voting issues such as the specific pen colors needed for a ballot to be valid, and warned citizens to be diligent about spotting disinformation. 

palestine

European Union Leaders Pushing For Palestinian Statehood To Bring Peace To Middle East 

European Union foreign ministers have made the argument this week that the creation and implementation of a statehood for Palestine could be the “only credible way to achieve peace in the Middle East,” according to reports.

iphone

France To Allow Apple To Sell iPhone 12s Again After Meeting Radiation Standards

France may now allow Apple to sell their 12th generation iPhone model after weeks of the nation citing the device’s alleged high levels of electromagnetic radiation. Now, Apple has apparently met France’s electromagnetic radiation standards, allowing the company to start selling the phone again. 

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France’s L’Agence Nationale des Fréquences, or ANFR, confirmed this week that the iPhone 12 met the standards after Apple issued a new software patch for the phone.

According to Gizmodo, the agency stated they tested the phone’s specific radiation absorption rate, which measures the level of radio waves emitted by the device, and found that the iPhone 12 was back in compliance with the nation’s standards after the patch. 

Once Apple patches all iPhone 12s, they will be able to sell the devices in France again. 

It was about two weeks ago that France initially put a stop to the sales of iPhone 12s throughout the country after the ANFR claimed the device didn’t meet radiation standards. Other nations such as Belgium and Germany followed suit and began testing the devices themselves as well. 

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Apple has consistently claimed that the issue isn’t actually with their phones, but instead with France’s, and the EU in general’s, testing standards. They stated that the new software patch simply “accommodates” the testing protocols. 

According to Gizmodo, “The ANFR said the tests were performed by an accredited laboratory and found the SAR was 3.94 W/kg (watt per kilogram) after the update compared to 5.74 W/kg before the update. The measurements were taken when phones are kept close to the body, such as inside a user’s pocket.”

“France and other EU countries have placed limits on the amount of electromagnetic radiation that can be absorbed by a body. According to the French regulatory agency, the country monitors all waves between 100 kHz and 10 GHz,” the publication explained

According to the World Health Organization, there isn’t any definitive science that proves there are major health consequences to exposure from low-level electromagnetic fields and waves. However, the recent wave of 5G conspiracy theories spreading online hasn’t helped when it comes to people worrying about radiation in their personal devices. 

military

Top European Union Diplomat Says Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Mutiny Was ‘The Monster Acting Against His Creator’

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Luxembourg that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny in Russia was “the monster acting against his creator.”

tiktok

European Union Bans TikTok From Official Government Devices 

This Tuesday, the European Parliament announced that they’re banning TikTok from all government staff devices due to cybersecurity concerns. The video-sharing app is now banned in all three of the European Union’s (EU) main government institutions. 

“In view of cybersecurity concerns, in particular regarding data protection and collection of data by third parties, the European Parliament has decided, in alignment with other institutions, to suspend as from 20 March 2023, the use of the TikTok mobile application on corporate devices,” it said in a statement reported by CNN

The parliament also “strongly recommends that members and staff remove TikTok from their personal devices.”

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TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, told CNN “it’s disappointing to see that other government bodies and institutions are banning TikTok on employee devices with no deliberation or evidence.”

“These bans are based on basic misinformation about our company, and we are readily available to meet with officials to set the record straight about our ownership structure and our commitment to privacy and data security,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“We share a common goal with governments that are concerned about user privacy, but these bans are misguided and do nothing to further privacy or security. We appreciate that some governments have wisely chosen not to implement such bans due to a lack of evidence that there is any such need.”

A senior EU official working out of the European Council also told CNN that the General Secretariat of the Council, which is responsible for assisting the representatives of each of the 27 countries in the EU, “is in the process of implementing measures similar to those taken by the Commission.”

“It will be uninstalling the application on corporate devices and requesting staff to uninstall it from personal mobile devices that have access to corporate services,” the official added.

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“The Secretariat continuously keeps its cybersecurity measures under review in close cooperation with the other EU institutions. The ban on TikTok applies only to devices overseen by the EU’s executive branch. This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” it said in a statement.

A TikTok spokesperson discussed how at this time they were working to contact the commission as a means of “setting the record straight, and explaining how we can protect the data of the 125 million people across the EU who come to TikTok every month.” 

In America, government agencies have had similar restrictions, with the White Horse directing federal agencies to remove the app from all government-issued devices over cybersecurity concerns. 

Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, stated that “the ban of TikTok on US federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments.”

“We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.”

Russian Flag

EU Agrees On Partial Ban Of Russian Oil Imports

According to European Council president Charles Michel, the European Union has agreed to enact a partial ban of as much as 90% of Russian crude oil imports and petroleum products delivered into member states over the next six months.

Michel announced the news on Twitter. “This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war,” he said.

According to Michel, the package also includes de-swifting Russia largest bank, Sberbank, banning three more Russian state-owned broadcasters, and sanctioning individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

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As the Associated Press notes, this kind of action against Russia was unthinkable months ago. World leaders have worked to increase the difficulty of the Kremlin’s ability to finance the war by targeting Russian officials and oligarchs.

However, the energy industry was seen as a last resort and the hardest to conquer, since the European bloc relies on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas. Some countries, like Germany, rely on Russia for nearly half of its gas needs. According to Ukraine, the sanction could cost Russia tens of billions of dollars.

Oil prices saw jumps following the agreements. U.S. crude features rose to $119.42 per barrel, a 12-week high. Brent crude oils rose up 1.44% at $123.42 (a change of +1.34%), while WTI crude jumped 1.72% to $116.18 (a change of +1.49%).

This sanctions package is now the sixth levied by the EU against the Kremlin as the invasion of Ukraine enters its 96th day with no signs of a resolution in sight. The attack has resulted in at least 46,000 deaths and 13,000 non-fatal injuries, while displacing 15 million Ukrainians.

Meeting at a summit in Brussels, EU leaders had previously failed to find common ground on an oil ban Sunday before reconvening Monday. Doubt that a deal would be reached by the summit’s end was expressed by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

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The package needed the approval of all 27 EU members, and has yet to be formally ratified. A press release by the EU stated that an exception to the oil ban would be crude oil delivered by pipeline so that Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic can continue to receive crucial fuel.

The European Council will revert to the issue of the exemption “as soon as possible.” Given the magnitude of the role Russian oil plays in the bloc, emergency measures will be enacted to ensure a security of supply in the event of “sudden interruptions of supply.”

“This is a topic where we will come back to and where we will still have to work on, but this is a big step forward, what we did today,” von der Leyen said. In response to the ban, Russia — the world’s third-largest oil producer behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — has promised to find other importers for its oil.

“As [von der Leyen] rightly said yesterday, #Russia will find other importers. Noteworthy that now she contradicts her own yesterday’s statement. Very quick change of the mindset indicates that the #EU is not in a good shape,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, said on Twitter.

EU, U.K. To Open Antitrust Investigations Into Ad Bidding Agreement Between Meta, Google

EU and U.K. regulators have opened parallel antitrust investigations on tech titans Google and Meta for a possibly illegal ad bidding agreement that took place back in September of 2018, which eliminated competition between the two and allowed for a controlling of the market.

According to a press release by the European Commission (EC), through the agreement — known as “Jedi Blue” — “a competing technology to Google’s Open Bidding may have been targeted with the aim to weaken it and exclude it from the market for displaying ads on publisher websites and apps.”

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“If confirmed by our investigation, this would restrict and distort competition in the already concentrated ad tech market, to the detriment of rival ad serving technologies, publishers and ultimately consumers,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stated their own concern that Meta and Google put obstacles in the way of “competitors who provide important online display advertising services to publishers.” Like the EC, the CMA emphasized that the agreement could significantly damage the industry, particularly when it comes to smaller businesses.

“If one company has a stranglehold over a certain area, it can make it hard for start-ups and smaller businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice.”

As The Verge notes, the Jedi Blue agreement is already under investigation in the U.S., where 15 state attorney generals have filed lawsuits against Meta and Google. The Verge also detailed the traces of Jedi Blue, which go back to 2017, when Meta (then Facebook) made a decision to support an adtech system that would rival Google.

The lawsuits claim Meta dropped that technology when Google offered them special access to its online ad bidding system. Meta was then able to be the first in line when buying real estate ads from Google, and proceeded to stop investing into rivaling ad technology or use any header bidding.

The probes could take years to complete, as the EC stated there is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The length depends on a number of factors, from the complexity of the case to the extent of Google and Meta’s cooperation. Appeals by the companies could also draw out the process.

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If found guilty of breaking the law, the companies could be subject to a fine up to 10% of worldwide turnover, along with legally binding directions to bring the breach to an end. In 2021, Meta saw a $117 billion annual revenue while Google reached $258 billion, so 10% wouldn’t exactly be chump change.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing, and labeled the allegations as false. “This is a publicly documented, pro-competitive agreement that enables Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to participate in our Open Bidding program, along with dozens of other companies,” Google said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Meta explained the agreement has helped to not only increase competition for ad bidding, but enables them to bring more value to advertisers and publishers, resulting in a “better outcome for all.”

For Meta, the probe is just one of numerous messy situations currently occurring to the company in Europe. Russia wants them to be labeled as an “extremist organization” and have all their activities banned in the country following claims that they broke laws on terrorist propaganda while inciting hatred.

Ukraine Flags

Ukraine Pushing For Cease-Fire In Talks With Russia As Fighting Continues 

Russian and Ukrainian officials met on Monday as violence continues around the cities involved in the conflict. Ukraine is pushing for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country ahead of the talks.

Kyiv is currently coming under attack from heavy Russian shelling. The city has been resistant to invasion with the help of military assistance from countries across the world and global sanction efforts. In addition to the violence, the Russian military has also stated that its nuclear deterrent forces have been put on high alert after Putin’s orders. 

Russian forces are now being accused of carrying out massive shelling and attack operations inside of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, after graphic videos were posted to social media showing the assault and its devastating aftermath. 

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that 102 civilians, including seven children, were killed across Ukraine since Thursday, noting that those figures were likely an underrepresentation of the national death toll. 

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More than half a million of Ukraine’s 44 million citizens have fled the country according to the head of the U.N. refugee agency. Others are being forced to seek shelter inside metro stations and parking garages while missile strikes and gunfire take over the cities. 

A strict 39-hour curfew was in effect in Kyiv this weekend and was lifted this Monday after Russian troops invaded. Residents were able to go out and replenish essential supplies while dodging the violence. 

There’s been a concentrated effort to make Putin pay for the invasion economically as well. Sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have greatly impacted Russia’s economy. Russia’s central bank kept the stock market closed and raised its interest rate to 20 percent from 9.5 percent in an attempt to improve the plummeting national currency. 

The United States has also announced that it would be expanding sanctions on Russia’s central bank, making it so Americans will be blocked from doing any business with it, and freeze any assets the banks may hold in the U.S.. 

“Russia’s economic reality has changed due to the heavy sanctions, but they were prepared and able to handle the damage,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated. 

Russia has also closed its airspace to airlines from the European Union and several other countries as a means of retaliation for the current ban on travel from Russian planes over its airspace. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that he doubted the talks with Russia would actually produce results, but Ukraine’s forces have slowed Russia’s advance and they still hold the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv. 

“The bulk of Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30 km [18 miles] to the north of Kyiv. Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a post on Twitter Monday morning.

“With the operation moving slower than anticipated, Russia was bringing in more troops, weapons and equipment. They underestimated the resistance they were going to meet and that’s why they’re making less progress,” according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“Armed with government-issued machine guns, homemade Molotov cocktails and shovels to build barricades, civilians have helped to reinforce their army’s desperate but for now effective resistance. They will soon be joined by prisoners with combat experience who will now be released,” Zelenskyy stated. 

Zelenskyy has stated that Putin is intending to remove Ukraine’s pro-Western government to potentially replace it with a Moscow-friendly regime. Putin also recently issued a directive to increase the readiness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces. Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads in its arsenal. 

“The move is reckless and dangerous. There’s no reason for that. NATO is no threat to Russia. Although NATO moved to increase its presence in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, it had no intention of becoming involved in the conflict itself. We have a responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t spiral out of control. That will be extremely dangerous,” Stolenberg stated.

Austria Lifts Lockdown For Unvaccinated Individuals As Europe Pulls Back On Covid Restrictions  

Countries throughout Europe have been easing up on Covid-19 restrictions as hospital admissions have begun to level out. Austria has lifted the lockdown that was in place for unvaccinated individuals while Switzerland is preparing for a “turbo” reopening of public spaces. 

The Danish government declared that Covid-19 “should no longer be categorized as a socially critical disease after January 31st.” The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and France have all begun taking steps to ease up on restrictions and return to some sense of normalcy. 

While the Omicron variant is continuing to cause cases to rise in Europe, hospital and intensive care admissions have not been surging in line with new cases, meaning most individuals who are getting it are likely vaccinated and protected from severe disease. 

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Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said that from “next Saturday, shops and restaurants would be able to stay open until midnight and the maximum number of people able to participate in events will rise from 25 to 50.”

The nation also has become the first EU member state to make vaccination legally compulsory for adults. Under this law, individuals who refuse to get their inoculations are liable for fines up to €3,600.

Unvaccinated individuals in Austria can now leave their houses, but are barred from eating in restaurants or shopping for non-essential items as the government continues to try to increase western Europe’s vaccination rates; where the rates are currently lowest. 

In Switzerland, experts who studied both Swiss and German infection rates said “Omicron was significantly more infectious, but seemingly less severe, than the Delta variant and was unlikely to cause record numbers of admissions to ICUs.”

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Around 40% of Swiss companies have previously reported major staff shortages. Alain Berset, the Swiss health minister, has now called for remaining restrictions to be lifted by mid-February as a means of “turbo reopening” the economy. 

Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, also said “the government should be laying the foundations for a smooth return to normal, even though the peak of the Omicron wave may still be several weeks away, business requires a planning horizon.”

Germany initially had the goal of getting 80% of its population vaccinated by the end of January, and currently have 75.8% of the population vaccinated. This puts Germany behind other larger countries such as Italy, France, and Spain. 

The World Health Organization has said it is “plausible that the Omicron variant, which seems to cause less severe symptoms in the fully vaccinated, may signal the pandemic’s transition towards a more manageable phase and eventual endgame, but the situation remains unpredictable.”