Max Pastukhov Tue, 10 May 2022 18:50:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Max Pastukhov 32 32 Putin could use nukes if he felt the war was lost – US intelligence chief | Vladimir Poutine Tue, 10 May 2022 18:50:00 +0000

Vladimir Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering its recourse to nuclear weapons, the senior US intelligence official has warned.

Tuesday’s warning came in an assessment of intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on global threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long and grueling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation by Putin, including full mobilization, the imposition of martial law and – if the Russian leader felt that the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead.

The grim forecast came on a day of continued fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine and Russian missile attacks on the port of Odessa, with the UN admitting the civilian death toll from the war is likely to be much higher than the current official estimate. of 3,381.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Putin would continue to wield Russia‘s nuclear arsenal in an attempt to dissuade the United States and its allies from continuing to support Ukraine. Shifting focus east and south is most likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent reduction in war aims, she said.

The Russian leader would not use a nuclear weapon until he saw an existential threat to Russia or its regime, Haines explained. But she added that he could see the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as such a threat.

“We think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine and that NATO is in fact intervening or about to intervene in this context, which would obviously help to look like he’s about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines said during the committee hearing.

She added that the world would probably be warned that nuclear use was imminent.

“There are a lot of things he would do in the context of escalation before he gets to nuclear weapons, and also he would be likely to engage in signals beyond what he has done. so far,” Haines said.

This signaling could include a new large-scale nuclear exercise involving the substantial dispersal of mobile intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers and strategic submarines.

The assessment that US intelligence chiefs presented to senators suggested that Ukraine faced the prospect of a war of attrition. They said Putin intended to conquer Luhansk and Donetsk regions and a buffer zone around them, to secure a land bridge to Crimea. He wanted to hold Kherson, north of the Crimea, to secure the peninsula’s water supply.

However, his ambitions do not stop there. Haines said there were “indications” that Putin wants to extend the land bridge to Transnistria, the Moscow-occupied region of Moldova, thus controlling all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. Haines said, however, that Putin would face an arduous task and that extending the land bridge to Transnistria, including the capture of Odessa, would not be possible without full mobilization. She added that the capture of Donbass plus a buffer zone was unlikely in the coming weeks.

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, said the United States believed between eight and 10 Russian generals had been killed so far in the conflict.

Like Haines, Berrier predicted a stalemate, with neither side able to achieve a breakthrough. But a decision by Putin to order total mobilization in Russia, preceded by a formal declaration of war, could alter the military balance.

“If they mobilize and declare war, it will bring thousands more soldiers into battle,” Berrier said. “And while they may not be as well trained and proficient, they will still bring mass and a lot more ammunition.”

Despite all the setbacks, Haines said Putin was likely convinced Russia ultimately had more stamina than Ukraine and its supporters.

“He is likely counting on US and EU resolve to falter as food shortages, inflation and energy prices worsen,” she said.

Given Putin’s belief that he might ultimately prevail and the fact that Ukraine shows no signs of backing down, Haines said US intelligence agencies “don’t see a viable path to negotiation, at least in short term”.

Meanwhile, as the war of attrition continued, the conflict risked taking “a more unpredictable and potentially escalating trajectory”.

“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including the imposition of martial law, the redirection of industrial production or potentially escalating military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his goals. goals as the conflict drags on, or if he perceives that Russia is losing in Ukraine,” Haines said.

The most likely flashpoint in the coming weeks, she added, would be an escalation of Russian attempts to bully the West into stopping arms supplies to Ukraine and possible retaliation. for Western economic sanctions or perceived threats to Putin’s regime at home.

Reviews | Bongbong Marcos win in the Philippines sends warning of authoritarian nostalgia Mon, 09 May 2022 20:01:55 +0000
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When Filipino dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos landed in Hawaii in 1986 after being overthrown in Manila’s “people power” revolution, he and his entourage brought with them whatever was left to plunder.

They came with $300,000 in gold bars, bearer bonds worth an additional $150,000, countless strands of pearls, a $12,000 jewelry bracelet with the price tag still attached and 22 cases of freshly minted Philippine pesos, at the time valued at around $1 million. On top of that were documents – a 2,000-page treasure trove detailing the extent of Marcos’ massive looting, including hidden ownership of at least four Manhattan skyscrapers and properties on Long Island and around New Jersey.

One of the New Jersey properties, in Cherry Hill, was where his son, namesake and likely next president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., lived while attending the University of Pennsylvania.

These documents became the roadmap for me and my Post colleague Dale Russakoff in trying to unravel the confusing maze of shell companies and holding companies that controlled the hundreds of millions of dollars – some put the figure as high as $10 billion. – that Marcos and his wife, Imelda, flew to the Philippines for two brutal decades.

Massive corruption was only part of his sordid legacy. There was martial law, suspension of due process, widespread imprisonment of opposition leaders and dissidents, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions known as “rescue”.

When I moved to Manila later in 1986 to open the post office there, I found a new democracy struggling to take root and a people still trying to overcome the trauma of the Marcos years. A handful of his red-shirted stalwart followers showed up for a weekly protest near the US Embassy, ​​demanding the dictator’s return from exile. Some of his buddies have retained positions of influence. But Filipinos seemed ready to embrace their democratic rights and move on from Marcos’ mismanagement.

So when I returned to the country a decade later, it was with some shock that I found a sort of rekindled nostalgia for the strong old man.

The economy was growing, foreign investment was flowing in, democratic institutions had been restored, and the country had achieved a peaceful transition of power. President Corazon C. Aquino, whose “People Power” movement overthrew Marcos in 1986, was replaced by Fidel V. Ramos, the former commander of the armed forces who had previously led the military mutiny that allowed popular protests to to succeed.

But the country was still steeped in abject poverty, corruption remained endemic, and promises of land reform and a fairer distribution of wealth had proved futile. Little of Marcos’ stolen wealth had been returned. Foreign correspondents like me praised the country’s successful transition from dictatorship to democracy. For many ordinary Filipinos, very little had changed – and many worried about having enough to eat and were already longing for the good old days when things seemed to be better.

Misplaced nostalgia coupled with amnesia seems to be what caused a sizable majority of Filipino voters to turn to Marcos’ son, known as “Bongbong” Marcos, for what now amounts to something like a family catering. With most votes counted early Tuesday morning, he had a two-to-one lead over his closest rival, according to unofficial results.

Most young voters today have no vivid memories of the horrors of the martial law era or the massive nationwide looting of the country’s resources. What their parents or grandparents tell them, or what they see on the candidate’s whitewashed social media accounts, is that the Philippines under Marcos was a golden age.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I have already seen it.

In Indonesia, Prabowo Subianto – the former son-in-law of the late autocratic President Suharto – was the head of the army’s special forces unit called Kopassus, which was implicated in human rights abuses including kidnappings and torture. He is now the country’s defense minister and a likely presidential favorite for the next election in 2024. In the last election, in 2019, he finished second with 44.5% of the vote, despite his checkered past and being banned the United States. for 20 years.

In Egypt, the Arab Spring toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Shortly after, Egyptian friends complained to me about rampant crime and chaos under his short-lived successor, Mohamed Morsi. And the collapse of the Soviet Union briefly turned Russia into a messy and noisy democracy under Boris Yeltsin. But Russians today only remember the economic chaos, the collapse of the currency and the rise of the oligarchs who plundered the spoils of the state.

First a foreign correspondent, I often saw popular uprisings bringing democracy as the end of the story. What I learned is that for many people, democracy means nothing if it does not bring significant changes in their daily lives.

In difficult economic times, nostalgia and amnesia may be more powerful motivators than concerns about democratic institutions and safeguards. This is what propelled Bongbong Marcos to his overwhelming lead in the crowded presidential race in the Philippines.

Americans worried about a return of Donald Trump have better watch out.

]]> Byline brings intelligence and insight to a new urban location Mon, 09 May 2022 11:49:41 +0000

There is something substantial satisfying about Byline. It’s a smart festival – intellectually stimulating – full of insight, interest and intrigue. Although the latter I added just for the sake of alliteration.

Let’s be clear, I’m a big fan of the Byline Festival. Each year, I leave with the feeling of having learned a lot about our world, with a refined and polished understanding and a swollen brain.

Nestled somewhat claustrophobically below the Portobello Road flyover, this was the festival’s first year in London after three years in beautiful Ashdown Forest (with a gap of a few years for reasons you may know) . As a result, things seemed more subdued and utilitarian than usual, which inevitably rather reduced Byline’s previous bucolic charm.

This was not helped by numerous discussions broadcast live on Byline TV. It opened the event up to more people (a good thing), but at times it made me feel like I was more of a studio audience than a weekend festival wild child. -end lost.

I needed to adjust my expectations.

After recovering from the near-hypothermia of Friday evening, I confirm that the end of April can be extremely cold, I began to indulge enthusiastically in the great feast of discussions and entertainment offered. I mainly focused on the über urban-chic Media Circus venue rather than the Flyover Forum, mainly because the sound outside was a bit dodgy, but also because there was a lot to enjoy inside . And it was warmer.

I must mention in the dispatches Lord Adebowale who, as well as engaging in a number of inspiring discussions, opened the proceedings and set a relaxed and inclusive tone for the weekend with charismatic aplomb. Other highlights for me include discussions: Empire and the Culture War, Black Lives Matter, Post Trump America, Problems with Policing and the Rise of the Far Right.

The Bad Press Awards – this year hosted by the inimitable Jonathan Pie – are a generally accepted annual feature of the event. I had mixed feelings about it this time around; yes, it was slick and clever, but it was hard not to feel like I had fallen on an exclusive love of the journalism industry in London. It’s not that surprising, of course, because Byline is mostly about journalism. The clue is in the name.

Usually, in addition to the intellectual stuff, I’m also a big fan of the music and comedy on offer. Indeed, Pussy Riot‘s two wild and frenetic sets in Sussex remain the highlights of my gigging life.

It wasn’t due to the quality, but this year the music and comedy left me a bit cold. To some extent literally because it was mostly evening, but also I think because of the location. Central London has no shortage of fantastic attractions, so there wasn’t the rare, haunting juxtaposition of a secluded forest and first-class entertainment. Also, without staying put, the temptation was to leave early to come home as soon as things got colder.

Sunny Saturday was the highlight of the weekend for me. The warmth of the welcome meant I could stroll over a beer in hand in the small outdoor area of ​​the site (surely one of the delights of any festival?), while diving into the proceedings whenever the envy came to me. Didn’t hang around all day, mind you the proximity to Portobello Road meant there were plenty of great food options in addition to the meat options on site.

All in all, this year’s festival was a success, although the Sussex venue is of course more magical than central London. Attendance – the majority age of participants is over 30 – seemed quite healthy to me, if a little thin on the pitch in the early morning and late evening. The queues at the bars and toilets – clean – were short, there were always places to chat, etc . What’s not to like? I definitely plan to go back next year.

Neil del Strother

Putin’s actions in Ukraine shame Russia, G7 says | Russia Sun, 08 May 2022 18:05:00 +0000

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has shamed Russia and the sacrifices made by its people to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II, leaders of the G7 group of major Western economies said in a landmark statement the 77th anniversary of the end of the world war. conflict.

The statement, made Sunday after a videoconference between G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was intended as a rallying call for liberal democracies ahead of Russia’s Victory Day parade on May 9 in Moscow.

The G7 statement said: “Through its invasion and actions in Ukraine since 2014, Russia has violated the rules-based international order, in particular the United Nations Charter, designed after World War II to spare generations successive scourge of war.

President Putin and his regime have now chosen to invade Ukraine in an unprovoked war of aggression against a sovereign country. His actions bring shame to Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people. »

The leaders also accused him of “an attack on feeding the world” if he did not comply with international law and end the blockade of Ukrainian food exports.

The G7 said it had collectively provided Ukraine with $24bn (£19.5) in financial and material support since the start of the war.

Separately, in a televised address to the German people, Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, vowed that Germany would not be paralyzed by fear or allow Russia to dictate the terms of any peace deal in Ukraine.

In the joint statement, the G7 leaders said they would collectively end their dependence on Russian energy “in a timely and orderly manner”, but no specific timetable was set, reflecting the divisions persistent in Europe about how quickly such an elimination can be achieved. .

In a clarification of war aims, the G7 statement said: “Ukraine’s ultimate goal is to ensure the complete withdrawal of Russian military forces and equipment from all Ukrainian territory and to guarantee its ability to protect themselves in the future.”

Downing Street said that in his contribution to the G7 discussion, Boris Johnson urged his counterparts to provide Ukrainians with “military equipment that has enabled them not just to hold ground in Ukraine, but to take it back”.

Johnson “agreed with G7 leaders that the world must step up economic pressure on Putin in any way possible, and said the West must not let the war turn into a stalemate that would only amplify the suffering,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Johnson also urged his G7 partners to “step up their diplomatic lobbying of their counterparts who are not pressuring President Putin’s war machine”, the No 10 said.

Talks between diplomats in Brussels continued on Sunday to try to secure EU-wide unanimity on a timetable for phasing out Russian energy, but talks were described as difficult. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been offered permission to continue importing Russian oil until the end of 2024, but they also want help securing new oil sources and retooling their refineries.

Budapest wants a five-year period to wean itself off Russian oil and says it will need a new pipeline connection with Croatia, which has access to the sea.

The diplomatic activity came as US First Lady Jill Biden detoured from her trip to Slovakia and Romania to visit refugees. during an unannounced visit to Ukraine, where she met her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska.

On a busy day of VIP visits to Ukraine, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Irpin, a suburb of kyiv and the scene of some of Russia’s worst early attacks. German Bundestag President Bärbel Bas and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met with Zelenskiy in kyiv on Sunday.

In the kyiv metro, The Edge and Bono of U2, at the invitation of Zelenskiy, performed alongside a Ukrainian soldier.

‘Stand by Ukraine’: U2’s Bono and the Edge perform a surprise concert in the Kyiv metro – video

Bas is the highest ranking German politician to visit the capital. She participated in commemorative events on the anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as discussions on the controversial issue of German arms exports to Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Annalea Baerbock, a surprise supporter of arms exports, is expected to visit Ukraine soon.

Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn posted photos on an official social media channel with Trudeau, writing that the Canadian Prime Minister “came to Irpin to see with his own eyes all the horror the Russian occupiers had done to our city”.

Markushyn said Trudeau “saw – not military installations – but burned down and completely destroyed homes of Irpin residents, who until recently enjoyed life and had their own plans for the future.”

On Monday, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will travel to Berlin for talks with Scholz and to deliver an important speech.

Man City right to avoid Abramovich’s approach – Pep will banish the curse at the end | Soccer | sport Sun, 08 May 2022 09:53:00 +0000

He’s back in the black polo neck and into the cruel seas of football management for Pep Guardiola today. The Premier League title races offer no room for self-pity and Manchester City have to face Newcastle United today. Another game so soon after the trauma at the Bernabeu is an intrusion into the wake that followed on Wednesday night, but bolstered by Liverpool’s stutter against Spurs, it’s also a chance to change the depressing mood music of Guardiola. Failing with City in the Champions League may be an annual event, but few of his near-misses will have stung so much.

There has been a lot of hindsight after Real Madrid’s semi-final exit, most of it wrong. This latest setback cannot be blamed on Guardiola who over-thought his selections or tweaked his formations. Nor on his replacements in the night. He was on the money with his decisions.

Sometimes in sports things happen and what happened in those amazing last minutes of normal time was a hellish reworking of Alex Ferguson’s “football, goddamn it” moment. It was Guardiola’s dark fate to be the recipient.

Even Carlo Ancelotti, who orchestrated Real Madrid’s Pogo-stick move to Paris through the most eventful tournaments, couldn’t believe it. Maybe it was the African curse after all.

The scapegoat spotlight has since picked out Kevin De Bruyne’s no-show, Jack Grealish’s finish and the City defense’s collective descent into panicked chaos after Real’s opening goal – all of which have some merit. But if there was one overriding reason City missed out on a place in the final, it was the chances they missed in a first leg at the Etihad, which could have ended 8-3. Not even Madrid could have climbed, Tyson Fury-style, out of this canvas.


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If City had managed to sign Harry Kane last summer, the picture could have been very different, but that die had been cast for a long time.

Six years into his City project, Guardiola has yet to look back on his Barcelona days to recall the sensation of the Champions League trophy. It must be hugely frustrating for Sheikh Mansour who, despite Kane’s absence, has backed the Catalan to the tune of £1billion in the transfer market since his arrival with Europe being the ultimate prize. Other owners would have been less forgiving of Guardiola by repeatedly missing him.

After Roman Abramovich – what happened to him? – moved to Stamford Bridge in 2003, Chelsea embarked on a similar journey with new money from close but cigar-less campaigns in Europe, with four semi-final appearances and a final penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester United before winning gold under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012.

The managerial master key favored by Abramovich meant that the Italian goalkeeper was the seventh manager in this period. He left six months later and a long succession of managers followed before Thomas Tuchel brought the trophy back to the Blues again last season.


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The Etihad ejection seat takes much longer to activate, but amid Madrid’s panicky backlash, the city’s greats will have heard the reflex theory. It is in a way Guardiola, who created the system, who is his blockage; that his presence is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom in Europe. Under no circumstances should they allow their thinking to be influenced by this wandering nonsense.

If they need a history lesson, take the case of Ottmar Hitzfeld. Ferguson’s counterpart, when he coined that unforgettable phrase after Manchester United scored twice late to beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 final, could have paid the price for the late capitulation.

Instead, the Munich hierarchy remained loyal and two seasons later Hitzfeld’s side lifted the Champions League trophy at the San Siro.

If City win three and draw one of their four remaining league matches, the Premier League title will be guaranteed. Guardiola will have delivered four in five seasons. He has built a team that plays some of the most advanced and aesthetically pleasing football ever seen on these shores.

City are expected to leave no stone unturned to persuade him to extend his contract when it expires at the end of next season – and not just for his own constituency. The prospect of a few bonus years for Guardiola against Jurgen Klopp is alluring for English football as a whole.

If Erling Haaland arrives, as expected, this summer, Guardiola will have a new toy to play with and, most likely, the missing piece of the City puzzle. Add to that the continued development of Phil Foden and he will have two of Europe’s most exciting young players to develop. These are tempting reasons to stay, not to mention finally scratch the Champions League itch.

If Guardiola stays the course with City and City does the same with Guardiola, they will eventually reach the end of the rainbow.

]]> The ex-security chief is set to become Hong Kong’s next leader Sun, 08 May 2022 02:08:18 +0000

Published on: Amended:

Hong Kong (AFP) – A former security chief who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement is expected to be named the new chief business center on Sunday by a small committee of Beijing supporters.

John Lee, 64, was the only candidate in a Beijing-backed one-horse race to succeed incumbent leader Carrie Lam.

His elevation will put a security official in the top job for the first time after a tumultuous few years for a city battered by political unrest and debilitating pandemic controls.

Despite the city’s mini-constitution promising universal suffrage, Hong Kong has never been a democracy, the source of years of frustration and public protests since handover to China in 1997.

Instead, its leader is chosen by an “electoral committee” currently made up of 1,461 people, or about 0.02% of the city’s population.

This committee, made up of political and business elites whose loyalty has been verified, began voting on Sunday morning at an exhibition center on the city’s port.

Lee must secure a simple majority, but with no rivals his rise is all but guaranteed. Results are expected later Sunday.

Strong police presence

Demonstrations have been largely banned in Hong Kong, with authorities using an anti-coronavirus ban on public gatherings of more than four people as well as a new national security law.

Police surrounded the fairgrounds with security, and 6,000 to 7,000 officers had been put on standby, according to local media.

The League of Social Democrats – one of the only remaining pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong – staged a three-person protest before the polls opened, chanting “Power to the people, universal suffrage now”.

“This is what John Lee’s new chapter looks like, a narrowing of our civil liberties,” protester Vanessa Chan said as dozens of police watched.

“We know this action will have no effect, but we don’t want Hong Kong to remain completely silent,” she added.

Under President Xi Jinping, China is reshaping Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image after huge and sometimes violent democracy protests three years ago.

Beijing has rolled out a sweeping security law to stamp out dissent and introduced a new “patriots-only” political system for Hong Kong to ensure anyone running for office is seen as suitably loyal.

Insiders say Lee’s unwavering commitment to this campaign won China’s trust at a time when other Hong Kong elites were seen as insufficiently loyal or competent.

“He is a man who has stood the test,” former security minister Lai Tung-kwok told AFP recently.

A troubled city

Lee, who spent 35 years in the Hong Kong police force before joining the government, inherits a troubled city.

While the democracy movement has been crushed, much of the population still resents Beijing’s regime and resents the city’s entrenched inequality.

Hong Kong is also facing economic hardship thanks to two years of tough pandemic restrictions that have damaged its reputation as a business hub and cut off its residents as rivals reopen.

Under the slogan “Starting a new chapter for Hong Kong together,” Lee pledged to establish “results-oriented” governance, forge unity and revive the city’s economy.

A 44-page manifesto it released last week stuck to broad goals and offered few concrete policies or targets.

Lee said he would reveal more details during his first political speech.

Hong Kong’s business leaders find themselves caught between the democratic aspirations of the city’s residents and the authoritarian demands of Beijing’s rulers.

They are rarely popular and none have managed to complete two terms since the handover.

Outgoing leader Carrie Lam is set to leave office with record approval ratings.

According to a March poll by the Public Opinion Research Institute, around 24% of the public trust Lee, compared to 12% for Lam.

Lee will take office on July 1, the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China.

China has agreed that Hong Kong could retain certain freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after regaining control from Britain under a “one country, two systems” formula.

Beijing and Lee say the formula is still intact.

Critics, including many Western powers, say it was shredded.

Lee is one of 11 senior Hong Kong and Beijing officials sanctioned by the United States over political repression.

Roe vs. Wade activism meets Web 3 NFT era Sat, 07 May 2022 11:01:34 +0000
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Less than 24 hours after the Roe vs. Wade draft leaked opinion, Molly Dickson was on her laptop, passionately advocating for the transformative power of cowgirl imagery.

“You can donate today or anytime to your local organization,” the artist told two dozen people in a virtual forum on Twitter as she described a plan to sell digital art to worth millions of dollars. “What we’re really focused on is the magic of Web 3,” referring to the loose agglomeration of people who say concepts like cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the metaverse are the future of American public life.

Dickson, 38, intends to ensure abortion rights groups stay strong even if the Supreme Court overturns the 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade. So she and a few partners form Cowgirl DAO, a new decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that meets quickly online and uses a proportional voting structure based on buy-ins. One of the most famous DAOs lured many people for a $47 million bid to buy the US Constitution last year; it failed but sent an unexpected message about the financial might of the system.

Cowgirl DAO will be selling digital art of cowgirls to fund abortion rights groups, and organizers had quickly set up the Twitter meeting to talk about it.

Forget distributing flyers downtown; it’s so 1995. Don’t even mention Kickstarter; you might as well try teleporting to 2015. Instead, it’s the DAOs and NFTs, according to Dickson and his partners, that might really move the needle. Web 3 seeks to harness the speed and finesse of new digital tools to raise funds for causes they believe wouldn’t otherwise see it, though skeptics might ask if it’s just fundraising. traditional funds with a more sophisticated computer code.

Dickson is a photographer, animator and videographer working out of her home studio in the Cedars neighborhood of Dallas. his sensibility is a kind of pop art intertwined with subtle social commentary. This winter, she found herself angered by Texas abortion law that prohibits abortions in cases of fetal heartbeat and whose path was smoothed by the Supreme Court. So she created “Computer Cowgirls”, a set of 201 pieces of NFT art to negate her power. The kitsch-dressed cowgirls moved with a swagger of empowerment, subverting the clichés of farmers and cheerleaders.

They resonated. In a very short time in February, Dickson sold out, raising $30,000 in the cryptocurrency Ethereum, or ETH. She paid a company to convert the crypto into dollars and sent them to Fund Texas Choice, an Austin nonprofit that funds transportation for women seeking abortions.

Now the goals are more ambitious.

“We just sprang into action as soon as the news broke yesterday to say what we can do to support the organizations working for IRL to fight this,” Audrey Taylor-Akwenye, a coding specialist who works with Dickson and goes by the @0xoddrey handle, told the group, using an acronym for “in real life.” “What we’ve come up with is we’re going to do a 10K NFT drop.”

She described a 10,000-piece set of a new Dickson cowgirl design that would hopefully fetch $3 million. Coins would be offered at one of three price points – $80, $240, and $2,400, depending on current values. The DAO would then decide who will receive the funds. They’ve set the sale for next week.

“There was an emergency before,” Dickson said. “But there is an increased urgency now.”

“We just need to identify the organizations that are doing the work,” added Madison Page, an online fitness entrepreneur in Los Angeles who guided Dickson’s strategy. “And then encourage them or find ways for them to accept crypto as payment. If anyone has any thoughts on that, please raise your proverbial hand,” she said. “Please contact the Discord.” A lot of Web 3 is going on one platform to talk about talking on another platform.

The group admits that it will not be easy to convince mainstream clinics and charities to accept crypto. Page suggested “computer cowgirl parties,” where people can create wallets and be “embedded.”

“I really think the barrier is more psychological than practical,” she said.

The model for this is UkraineDAO. Led by activist Alona Shevchenko and Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova, he raised over $6 million after the Russian invasion by selling simple NFTs of the Ukrainian flag. In Web 3 compressed timelines, it’s already become something of a historical marker, even though it only happened in March.

As a speaker icon fluctuated with their voices, Twitter Space attendees noted how tech tools could be deployed for social causes, with everyday people transforming into nonprofit leaders overnight.

“I’m literally browsing the collections and learning more about you,” user Steph Guerrero said. “But I know if we are organized we can do amazing things.”

A woman who goes by the handle @SisterJennTX stepped in. “My question for you guys is how are your needs going to be organized so that those of us newer to Web 3 can help you? Web 3 moves at Mach speed. The rest of the world is a bit slower.

“We have a lot of Web 2 needs in some ways,” assured Dickson, “from people who have nonprofit experience. On the other hand, we want Web 3 help – people who already have DAOs and want to be coached.

The conversation revolved around what would happen if charities could not be “integrated” – should a third party be paid to convert crypto to US dollars? Or find a more willing charity?

The uninitiated might wonder why all this techno-witchcraft is necessary when simple fundraising donations have worked well for decades. Isn’t this all just inflated t-shirt sales?

But tell that to a Web 3 defender and they’ll look at you like you just read Magna Carta in Swahili. They note that the NFT approach isn’t just faster — it collects and gamifies donations to make them more engaging. (Coins are bought and resold as values ​​fluctuate.)

Additionally, Page said, “there is an anonymous aspect that makes people feel safe donating 2 ETH (about $5,400). But it’s also very traceable, so it brings a level of trust – people know that all the money they donate is going directly to the cause. (The blockchain, the code-laden public ledger where all cryptographic transactions take place, is indeed a paradoxical beast: everything is technically visible, but you have to know how to read the blockchain to find it.)

This company is like selling t-shirts like a tricycle is like a Ducati, Dickson said. “It’s just a whole different way of working. Suddenly, I have assets that I never had as a photographer. I could have sold prints until the cows came home and never raised $30,000 in a few weeks.

At the meeting, the discussion turned to exploiting people’s Rolodexes. Sister Jenn suggested a shared document of personalities contacts. “Like, ‘Does anyone know so-and-so, or who knows Reese Witherspoon’s agent?’ “, she said, quoting the NFT-friendly actress.

Another user, @wunksnft, asked about the political process. “So after you’ve launched and the DAO is officially formed, making the decisions about who gets the money – is it all going to be decided by the DAO?”

“You get it,” Page said.

“My concern sometimes would be that a voting mechanism would delay getting the funds in hand,” she said. “I’ve had experience with that.”

Page reassured that everything would be exposed. This, and other objections, she said, should be gently refuted.

“Everyone who is anyone in this space right now,” she said, “put your ETH where your mouth is.”

]]> Russia-Ukraine War News: Live Updates Sat, 07 May 2022 10:05:06 +0000

The UN Security Council, whose five permanent members include Russia, on Friday adopted its first official statement since the start of the war in Ukraine, expressing “its deep concern for the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine”, although he did not use the words “war”, “conflict” or “invasion”.

“The Security Council recalls that all Member States are bound by the obligation under the Charter of the United Nations to settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” the council said in the statement.

The Security Council also backed the efforts of UN Secretary General António Guterres to find a “peaceful solution” to the “dispute”.

“Today, for the first time, the Security Council spoke with one voice for peace in Ukraine,” António Guterres said, referring to the Council’s statement. “As I have often said, the world must come together to silence the guns and uphold the values ​​of the United Nations Charter. I welcome this support and will continue to spare no effort to save lives, reduce suffering and find the path to peace.

Guterres last week met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who agreed to evacuate civilians from the beleaguered Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Although evacuations continued on Friday, the two countries disputed the number of evacuees. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 50 people were evacuated from the steel plant, while Russian state media said 25 Ukrainian civilians were evacuated. The Washington Post could not independently verify the numbers.

Russian netizens are downloading VPNs by the millions to challenge Putin Fri, 06 May 2022 23:25:30 +0000
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RIGA, Latvia — When Russian authorities blocked hundreds of websites in March, Konstantin decided to act. The 52-year-old Moscow entrepreneur has punched a hole in the digital Iron Curtain, which had been erected to control the narrative of the war in Ukraine, with a tool that allows him to surf blocked sites and information taboos.

Konstantin turned to a Virtual Private Network, an encrypted digital tunnel commonly known as a VPN. Since the war began in late February, VPNs have been downloaded in Russia by the hundreds of thousands a day, a massive surge in demand that poses a direct challenge to President Vladimir Putin and his attempt to cut off Russians from the rest of the world. . By protecting users’ locations and identities, VPNs now allow millions of Russians to access blocked content.

Downloading one to his Moscow apartment, Konstantin said, brought back memories of the 1980s in the Soviet Union, when he used a shortwave radio to hear banned news of dissident arrests on Radio Liberty, which is funded by the United States.

“We didn’t know what was going on around us. It’s true again now,” said Konstantin, who, like other Russian VPN users, spoke on the condition that his last name not be released for fear of government reprisals. “A lot of people in Russia just watch TV and eat what the government gives them to eat. I wanted to know what was really going on.

Daily downloads in Russia of the 10 most popular VPNs jumped from less than 15,000 just before the war to 475,000 in March. This week, downloads were continuing at a rate of nearly 300,000 a day, according to data compiled for The Washington Post by analytics firm Apptopia, which relies on insights from apps, public data and of an algorithm to propose estimates.

Russian customers typically download multiple VPNs, but data suggests millions of new users per month. In early April, Russian telecom operator Yota reported that the number of VPN users was more than 50 times higher than in January, according to state news service Tass.

The Internet Protection Society, a digital rights group associated with imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, launched its own VPN service last month and reached its limit of 300,000 users in 10 days, according to the director executive Mikhail Klimarev. Based on internal surveys, he estimates that the number of VPN users in Russia has risen to around 30% of the 100 million internet users in Russia. To fight Putin, “Ukraine needs Javelin and the Russians need the Internet,” Klimarev said.

By accessing banned Ukrainian and Western news sites, Konstantin said, he came to sympathize deeply with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who the Russian press has sought to portray falsely as a “drug addict”. He was recently compared to Adolf Hitler by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “I loved him as an actor, but now I know Zelensky is also brave because I saw him speaking on Ukrainian news sites with my VPN,” Konstantin said.

Not only does the widespread use of VPN help millions of citizens obtain information describing the true extent of Russian military losses and counteract the official portrayal of the war as a fight against fascists, according to Russian internet experts, but it also limits government surveillance of activists. Russian authorities have sought to limit the use of VPN. A 2017 law resulted in the banning of more than a dozen providers for refusing to comply with Russian censorship rules.

In the days leading up to the war and in the weeks that followed, Russian authorities also stepped up pressure on Google, asking the search engine to take down thousands of websites associated with VPNs, according to the Lumen database. , an archive of legal complaints related to Internet content. Google, which did not respond to a request for comment, still includes banned sites in search results.

The Russian government has been reluctant to ban VPNs altogether. Maintaining such a ban would pose a technological challenge. Additionally, many Russians use VPNs to access non-political entertainment and communication tools, popular distractions from daily struggles. Last month, when asked on Belarusian TV if he had downloaded a VPN, even Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov conceded: “Yes, I have. Why not?”

The mass flight of tech workers is turning the sector into a victim of war

Since the start of the war, more than 1,000 websites have been restricted by Russian authorities, including Facebook, Instagram, BBC News, Radio Liberty and Voice of America, according to to an investigation by a VPN technology tracker. The last independent Russian media have been forced to shut down, and those in exile that offer critical content, such as the popular news site Meduza, have also been banned.

Today, even calling the Russian “special operation,” as Putin forcefully dubbed the invasion, a “war” risks a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Free speech has effectively disappeared, and even teachers who question the invasion are being reported to authorities by their students.

“People want to see banned content, but I think they’re also really scared,” said Tonia Samsonova, a London-based Russian media entrepreneur. “No matter your attitude towards the government or the war, every Russian knows that if the government knows too much about you, it is potentially dangerous. So a VPN is so useful even if they don’t criticize Putin.

Meduza spokeswoman Katerina Abramova said online traffic to the site only declined briefly after it was banned by Russian authorities in March. Traffic began to surge from unlikely countries like the Netherlands, suggesting Russians were using VPNs that made them appear abroad. “VPNs won’t start a big revolution in Russia,” she said. “But it’s a way for people who are against this war to stay connected to the world.”

Natalia, an 83-year-old Muscovite and former computer operator, asked her adult daughter to help her download a VPN to her laptop soon after the war began. She feared the government would ban YouTube, preventing her from watching her favorite program, an online talk show about tech news. The Kremlin has yet to block YouTube, although Russian internet experts say the likelihood remains high.

Yet as the war progressed, Natalia found herself consulting banned news sites, including Radio Free Europe, to stay informed, even as friends around her ‘totally’ embraced the government line that Ukrainians were Nazis and Russia faced an existential threat from the west. “People now believe lie after lie. I feel so isolated,” she said.

Natalia said, for example, that she had been able to read foreign reports suggesting that there had been heavy Russian losses in the sinking last month of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. But the Russian press reported only one official death, with 27 soldiers declared “missing”.

“Parents only get one response from the Ministry of Defense that your son is missing,” she said. “Disappeared? You don’t really mean dead? But they don’t say that. They don’t tell the truth.”

Although downloading a VPN is technically easy, usually requiring just a few clicks, buying a paid VPN has become complicated in Russia, as Western sanctions have rendered Russian credit and debit cards almost useless at home. outside the country. This has forced many people to resort to free VPNs, which can have spotty service and can sell user information.

Vytautas Kaziukonis, chief executive of Surfshark — a Lithuania-based VPN that boosted the number of Russian users 20-fold in March — said some of those customers are now paying in cryptocurrencies or through people they know in third countries.

In a country accustomed to difficulties, Russians are good at creative workarounds. Elena, a 50-year-old tour operator from Moscow, said she managed to gain access to her old Facebook account by repeatedly signing up for free trials with several different VPN providers to avoid paying. “We do what we have to do,” Elena said.

]]> Homophobia: Africa’s Moral Blind Spot | LGBTQ Fri, 06 May 2022 10:06:57 +0000

On April 17, Sheila Adhiambo Lumumba, a 25-year-old non-binary lesbian, was found murdered in Karatina, Kenya. Lumumba had been missing for several days before their bodies were found. An autopsy report revealed that Lumumba had been raped, strangled, stabbed several times in the neck and eyes, and had their legs broken.

Human rights groups have mourned Lumumba’s untimely and violent death. The hashtag #JusticeForSheila was trending on Kenyan Twitter for several days after their deaths. The Kenya Human Rights Commission called on the authorities to investigate the horrific murder and pointed out that “too many gay Kenyans are being killed without the perpetrators held to account”. Amnesty Kenya shared similar sentiments and asserted that “no one deserves such cruel treatment. Sheila didn’t have to go through all that pain,” and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission described Lumumba’s death as “part of a pattern of attacks and violence against LGBTIQ+ people in the world. country “.

And sadly, it’s true that this horrific murder was no anomaly – members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination, hate and violence because of who they are and who they love across the world. ‘Africa.

In Kenya – just like the rest of Africa – gay sex is a criminal offence, and it is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. And it’s not just discriminatory laws that criminalize and target LGBTQ people across the continent. Political leaders also stoke the fires of homophobia and act as willing vessels for conservative and religious paranoia.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, for example, dismissed LGBTQ rights as a “non-issue” in a 2018 interview with CNN and said Kenya does not view “homosexuality as a human right”. “It’s not a question, as you would like to say, of human rights,” he said. “It’s a matter of society, of our own base, as a culture, as a people, whatever community you come from.”

And Kenyatta is not the only politician in Kenya to voice anti-LGBTQ views. Presidential aspirant and former prime minister Raila Odinga, for example, called for gay couples to be arrested in 2010. He also claimed it was “madness” for a man to fall in love with another man. when there were “many women”.

Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto is also open about his homophobic views. In 2015 he said, “The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and the like.

Institutionalized homophobia in Kenya is representative of a malaise that is ravaging all of Africa.

In Ghana, for example, security forces raided and closed the office of an LGBTQ rights group in the capital, Accra, after politicians and religious leaders called for it to be closed in February 2021. A few months later, in May 2021, 21 people attending an LGBTQ conference in the southeastern city of Ho were arrested for the crime of “advocating LGBTQ activities”. Last year, a bill proposing up to 10 years in prison for LGBTQ people as well as groups and individuals who defend their rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support was also submitted to parliament. from Ghana.

Meanwhile, clinics in several countries, from Uganda and Tanzania to Kenya, offer highly discredited “conversion therapy” services known to be harmful to LGBTQ people. A survey by Open Democracy last year found that in Uganda such anti-gay “counselling” activities are recommended to LGBTQ people by staff employed in government hospitals.

South Africa is an exception on the continent as LGBTQ rights are enshrined in its constitution. Nevertheless, violence against homosexuals is still rampant in the country. Between February 2021 and April 2022, for example, at least 20 LGBTQ people were murdered in appalling circumstances because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Some optimists in Africa, such as Ugandan lawmaker Fox Odoi-Oywelwo, seem to believe that since “new access to knowledge, information and different viewpoints is having a vast transformative effect on the electorate”, the acceptance LGBTQ numbers across the continent will naturally and inevitably increase over time.

This, however, is not the case.

Homophobia is rooted in eugenics and has always been fueled by fascist and authoritarian regimes. The Nazi regime in Germany, for example, waged a campaign against male homosexuality and persecuted homosexuals between 1933 and 1945. Authoritarian political leaders around the world continue this trend today.

Homophobia – as well as vigilante violence against LGBTQ people – is rampant in Vladimir Putin‘s Russia. A law on gay propaganda unanimously approved by the Duma in 2013 makes it illegal to publicly promote the rights and culture of the LGBTQ community in the country. In the United States, the Republican Party – with support from the far right – is waging a war on LGBTQ rights. Florida’s Republican administration recently signed into law a controversial bill, dubbed “don’t say gay,” that would ban all questions about “sexual orientation and gender identity” in classrooms.

African progressives and human rights advocates should learn from the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ rights around the world and see that things will not change for the better on the continent without immediate action.

LGBTQ repression is often – if not always – part of an authoritarian agenda and a broader, systematic assault on civil liberties. This can be seen easily and clearly in countries like Kenya, Uganda or Nigeria, where homophobia, police brutality and political repression go hand in hand and together serve to silence marginalized and oppressed sections of society and consolidate the power of established political forces.

Thus, the fight for LGBTQ rights should be seen not as a niche issue that concerns only the West, but as part of a larger and universal battle to expand access to social, economic and political rights. and strengthen democracy.

Therefore, across Africa, not only LGBTQ activists, but everyone who cares about human rights and democracy should stand up for the rights of LGBTQ communities. Everyone who dreams of a better future for all Africans, including political parties, should push for fairer and more inclusive laws that would protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Africans, including those of LGBTQ people.

In this fight, the still lethargic African Union could and should lead the way. Although LGBTQ lifestyles and needs are unfairly projected and dismissed as “un-African”, history tells us otherwise: the LGBTQ community is an indelible and ubiquitous reflection of our incredibly diverse and beautiful humanity.

Lumumba was not the first, and sadly will not be the last, a young African life lost to violent homophobia. This wave of “corrective” rapes, beatings and murders of LGBTQ people should no longer be allowed to continue unabated. It is high time for African countries to reassess their positions and take action to protect marginalized, victimized and often criminalized LGBTQ communities.

No matter what Kenyatta and many other politicians like him may try to argue, LGBTQ rights are human rights. Africa cannot move forward and build a better future for all Africans without taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety and acceptance of LGBTQ people.

JThe opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.