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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.

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.”

France Now Legally Requires Vaccine Pass From Citizens 

The French government passed a bill this weekend that legally requires citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want access to cultural events, theme parks, restaurants, bars, and other public places where social gathering is normalized. 

The bill was passed on Sunday, and will likely begin to be enforced on Friday January 21st. Initially, European countries were using the EU Digital Covid Certificate to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries; similar to the vaccine passes we have on our phones in America depending on where you live. 

Previously any citizen who is fully vaccinated, who has had Covid-19, or who can show proof of a negative Covid test was able to travel across EU borders freely. Each state within the EU, however, is responsible for their own system when it comes to vaccination requirements. 

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The French government has now made it a legal requirement to have a Vaccine Pass in order to go to public spaces or travel in or out of the country; a negative Covid-19 test will no longer be enough. 

The French senate voted in favor of the vaccine passes this past Sunday, which was the final government body that had to approve the bill before it can be made into law, which is expected to happen this Friday. 

90% of French people over the age of 12 are already vaccinated, so this new law will not impact them. Anyone who is not vaccinated, however, will be prohibited from eating out, going to theaters, or traveling long distances. 

There are a couple of exceptions to the new bill as well. Children between the ages of 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass; which is what most vaccinated EU citizens are currently using. This means kids within that age bracket can continue to use a negative test to stay up-to-date on their requirements. 

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Unvaccinated individuals will still have access to long-distance buses and trains if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature,” according to the bill. A negative test result will be allowed in the case of a dying relative or similar health emergency in which travel is required. 

The vaccination pass will not be required in hotels and holiday cottages unless the owners decide to enforce it. Owners have the right to refuse business to anyone and can make it a requirement as well for any traveler trying to stay at their establishment. Any communal spaces within these hotels, such as bars or restaurants, will be required to check for Vaccine Passes regardless. 

France defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” once their at least one week away from their second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one month away from their single Janssen dose. 

If the most recent vaccine dose was over 7 months ago, the individual must get a booster in order to maintain their Vaccine Pass and keep it active. 

For individuals living outside of France, a vaccine is required to enter the country. Travelers arriving from a non-EU country are also required to provide a negative Covid-19 test in addition to being vaccinated. 

New Climate Data Shows Last 7 Years Have Been Warmest On Record For Earth

According to a new analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, the last seven years have been the warmest on record for planet Earth. The Climate Change Service tracks global temperature changes and other climate change indicators as well. 

The analysis also found that Earth’s temperature is continuing to rise due to heat-trapping fossil fuel emissions, and 2021 was the fifth warmest year on record. 

Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist at Copernicus, said that while global temperatures are always expected to fluctuate due to large-scale weather and ocean patterns, – such as El Niño and La Niña – the larger issue of climate change and its impact on annual temperature changes is not to be taken lightly. 

“The really important thing is to not get hung up on the ranking of one particular year but rather kind of see the bigger picture of ever-warming temperatures, and that ever-warming doesn’t mean every year will be warmer than the next. But that was what we’ve seen so far with every decade warmer than the next — and this is quite likely to continue.”

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Copernicus reported that Earth’s average temperature is currently 1.1 degrees Celsius above average pre-industrial levels. Scientists have warned that Earth will feel the worst impacts of climate change if that threshold hits the 1.5 degree Celsius mark.

Kim Cobb, director of the Global Change Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said a “warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius is a conservative estimate.”

“It is very fair to say that 1.1 degrees Celsius is conservative, because the last half of the last decade has been warmer than the first half,” Cobb explained. 

Back in 2015 world leaders agreed that Earth’s temperature must remain under 2 degrees Celsius when compared to pre-industrial levels, with a preferred goal of not exceeding 1.5 degrees. While that level of temperature change may seem small, NASA scientists explained it’s similar to how a 1 or 2 degree increase in our internal body temperature can cause a fever.

Cobb explained that even though “we’ve just barely crossed the 1 degree threshold for warming, we are still reeling from a near-constant series of weather and climate extremes. With rare exceptions, these extremes can now be definitively linked to human-caused warming. Going forward, we should expect the frequency and severity of such extremes to increase, exacting an enormous toll on societies around the world.”

Copernicus also reported how almost every “corner” of the world felt the effects of climate change in 2021. Rain fell for at the summit of Greenland for the first time ever on record, and droughts throughout the Western US have caused a multitude of wildfires and water shortages. Several regions of the world also experienced above average temperatures last year. 

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Last summer in Europe was the warmest on record, and the continent also experienced its share of natural disasters such as flooding in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as wildfires. 

Experts have continued to warn the world about global greenhouse gas emissions, as it’s currently expected that by 2030 emissions will be roughly twice as high as what’s necessary to prevent the planet from warming to that 1.5 degree mark. 

In 2021, emissions from methane, a greenhouse gas that’s about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, rose substantially. 

Vamborg stated that the report should serve as a reminder to the world that the rise in greenhouse gas emissions is “what fuels the planet’s rapid warming. The global temperature curve will continue to grow as we continue to emit greenhouse gases.”

Cobb explained how humanity still can stop the planet from crossing the 1.5 degree mark. “Choosing to limit fossil fuel emissions to that point could potentially cool the planet in the second half of this century.” 

“The idea that we might live to see a reversal of global warming is inspiring, as generations that have witnessed decade after decade of warming. It’s a future worth fighting for, and bringing to life, one energy choice at a time.”

Europe’s Proposed Artificial Intelligence Law Could Cost Its Economy $36 Billion 

A new law proposed for the European Union designed to regulate artificial intelligence could cost the nation up to 32 billion euros; about $36 billion. The payments would be spread out over five years according to a report from the Center for Data Innovation, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Artificial Intelligence Act is a proposed law put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The act is said to be the :world’s most restrictive regulation of AI” according to the center. 

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“It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers.”

The Center for Data Innovation argued that a small or midsize enterprise with a turnover of 10 million euros will face compliance costs of up to 400,000 euros if it was to deploy an AI system deemed “high risk.” These systems are ones that the commission defines as “affecting people’s fundamental rights or safety.” 

“That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.

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The center argues that “compliance borders” will cost European businesses 10.9 billion euros per year by 2025, or 31 billion euros over the next five years. Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report suggested that this would be more harmful than helpful to many sectors of the economy. 

“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best.”

“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” he added, explaining that AI is already being used by major companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but lawmakers in Europe aren’t even aware of the impact this new law could have. 

Mueller explained that the technology has the potential to improve healthcare and climate modeling for the nation, however, it can also be used to give every citizen a “social score.” The law is still in the works and the debates over its actual benefits are ongoing.

US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

AstraZeneca Vaccine

European Union Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delivery Delays 

The European Union (EU) announced this week that it will be launching legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after claims that it repeatedly under-delivered on its Covid-19 vaccine shipments throughout the continent. 

The 27 nations within the European Union have all reported a relatively slow rollout of vaccinations for citizens due to delays in delivery from AstraZeneca. The union claims that tens of millions of doses have fallen through, and the company has barely upheld their end of the contract with the EU to get every citizen vaccinated. 

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The EU initially ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, with an optional 100 million doses, of which the union has gone without. 

AstraZeneca released a statement in which they claimed that they “regret” that the European Commission is choosing to take action against the company, but it would be strongly defending itself in a court setting. 

AstraZeneca and the EU in general have already been dealing with some major tensions as many citizens refused to get vaccinated, so that combined with the company’s own failures to deliver the agreed upon doses has led to a major feud between the government and pharmaceutical company. 

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Stefan De Keersmaecker, health spokesperson of the European Commission, was the one who initially announced that a lawsuit had been launched, arguing that “the terms of the EU-AstraZeneca contract had not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract. All 27 countries support this legal action.”

AstraZeneca released their own statement this Monday: “Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast.”

The company added that “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

France Is Testing Digital Covid Travel Certificates For Vaccinated Individuals

France has become the first member state of the European Union to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as a part of Europe’s larger plan to allow people to travel between countries more easily once they’re vaccinated.  

The TousAntiCovid app is a part of the nation’s overall contact tracing program, which has recently been updated to store negative Covid-19 test results on travelers’ mobile phones. The app is now being trialed on flights to Corisca and overseas to accommodate for vaccinated individuals as well. 

The trial is being extended from April 29th in order to include vaccination certificates as more citizens receive them. If the trial runs end up being successful, the application could eventually be used for entry into public events like concerts, festivals, and sporting events; officials did mention that the technology would not be used for entry into bars and restaurants. 

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Cedric O, the minister for digital transition discussed how the trial in France will become one part of a larger more standardized system to be used all throughout Europe. Several other EU member states are already in talks with France over expanding the technology to reach more countries. 

The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected “the EU’s digital green certificate to be operational by June 21st because the certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic.”

The program has not been referred to as a “vaccine passport” so that citizens know its not being created to discriminate against those who haven’t been vaccinated yet, especially since it’s original purpose was to carry negative Covid tests for travelers. 

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Ideally, those who have a certificate of approval will be able to travel without quarantining, and will have proof of vaccination, negative testing, or antibodies all on their phone. Those in France being vaccinated this week, and the weeks after this, will receive a text message or email that will give them access to a state-certified online document that can be downloaded or printed out, or stored in the TousAntiCovid app. 

According to reports “the app will generate a secure QR code containing a range of information including the traveler’s name, the date and type of their test or vaccine, and details of the relevant doctor or laboratory, all of which can be checked against a national database.”

Several EU member states are already working on similar programs for their citizens, which has some experts concerned over how well multiple systems will work together. Data security and privacy is also being viewed as top concern. 

So far every app and digital proof of vaccination/negative Covid tests is in its trial phase, and they will likely continue to advance as vaccinations continue throughout the world.

Europe Facing Another Easter Full Of Covid Restrictions

Despite the rollout of multiple vaccines, European nations are about to endure another holiday weekend full of restrictions to combat the spreading of Covid-19 and its variants.