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Facebook's unveils its new digital cryptocurrency, Libra

Despite being heavily criticized over the past few years over its handling of personal data and privacy, Facebook says its new global digital currency, Libra, will be a currency that “works for everyone” and that people may be able to use it as early as 2020.

Some say the move into cryptocurrency could be a way to offset advertising losses. Facebook is also creating a subsidiary company, Calibra, that will offer digital wallets to spend the new currency. The wallets will be connected to other applications such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be based on real assets, or what's known as a ‘stable coin’ that has either a traditional currency or government debt backing it, making it less volatile than, for example, Bitcoin. The independent association governing the currency from Geneva, Switzerland will be made up of representatives from an initial group of 28 companies including Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Uber, Vodafone, Thrive Capital, and Spotify to name a few. Those companies will also contribute to the currency and each run a part of the currency's network.

The idea behind cryptocurrencies is to create a politically independent currency that would not be printed by any existing government. There are currently thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the world. A cryptocurrency is a type of virtual or digital currency designed to be secure for financial transactions, and isn’t run by a single bank or institution but instead by a computer network. It is built on a blockchain which is a distributed database, or ledger, that keeps track of who owns what that runs on, in some cases, thousands of computers.

Vladimir Putin says liberalism is "obsolete"

In an interview with the Financial Times prior to leaving for the G20 summit in Japan this weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "the liberal idea” that has underpinned Western democracies for several decades had "outlived its purpose" as the public turned against immigration, open borders, and multiculturalism, calling these ideas "no longer tenable".

The four term President pointed to the waves of immigration from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East which had fostered crime and social strains, in turn fuelling an anti-establishment backlash in Europe, saying, "[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone," and that liberalism conflicted with "the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population."

He criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing large numbers of refugees to settle in Germany as a “cardinal mistake” saying, "This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected."

President Putin said, “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Likewise, President Putin praised United States President Donald Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs coming through and from Mexico.

President Putin praised President Trump as a "talented person" who knew how to relate to voters. Regarding the US-China trade war and geopolitical tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, President Putin said the situation had become “explosive” and stem from American unilateralism and the lack of rules underpinning world order.

Despite a struggling economy, President Putin has sought to establish Russia as a counterweight to the liberal Western order. His remarks carry weight since the liberal order that was established in the wake of the World War Two is starting to crack apart. Western nations have experienced the failures of liberalism in a rapid succession of events over the last decade from an ongoing financial crisis, Brexit and the undemocratic nature of the European Union, the rise of China as a major economic force, and an American President who wants his nation to prioritize its own citizens.

President Putin said liberal governments had not acted to reassure citizens but instead pursued a mindless multiculturalism embracing, among other things, sexual diversity. “I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish,” he said. “But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.” The President added, “Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Facebook gives user data to French courts over ‘hate speech’

In the first instance of a social media company formally collaborating with governments, Facebook has agreed to hand over to judges the identification data of French users who are suspected of so-called ‘hate speech’ on its platform.

According to Parliamentary Undersecretary for Digital Affairs Cedric O, the decision by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and French President Emmanuel Macron, who want to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online. Last week, Undersecretary O met with Facebook’s head of global affairs, former Deputy Prime Minister for the United Kingdom Nick Clegg. In a following interview, Undersecretary O said, “This is huge news, it means that the judicial process will be able to run normally. It’s really very important, they’re only doing it for France.”

Prior to this, Facebook had cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

Undersecretary O, whose father is South Korean, was formerly an aide to socialist Minister Dominique Strauss-Khan. He is one of President Macron’s earliest followers and has been influential in shaping the President’s thinking on Big Tech as an advisor at the Elysee in the first two years of Mr. Macron’s presidency. Since his appointment in March, Undersecretary O has made the fight against hate speech online a key priority through regular contacts with Facebook’s top executives, including founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Last year, the discussions began on how to best regulate tech giants with a meeting between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Macron, which was followed by a report on tech regulation last month that Facebook’s founder considered could be a blueprint for wider EU regulation.

France’s parliament, where President Macron’s governing party has a comfortable majority, is currently debating legislation that would give a new regulator the power to fine tech companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue if they don’t do enough to remove hateful content from their network.

Undersecretary O also supports French startups being bought by larger American companies, saying, “My only goal is to spur the creation of a lot of companies. I have no problem with the fact that some of them are bought by U.S. companies, as long as they don’t have critical technology.” Undersecretary O is against the idea of breaking up Big Tech monopolies of companies such as Facebook or Google, whose size, weight on the Internet, and financial firepower have turned them into systemic players just as much as big banks.

Sonia Cisse, a counsel at law firm Linklaters, said, “It is a strong signal in terms of regulation. Hate speech is no longer considered part of freedom of speech, it’s now on the same level as terrorism.” With Facebook’s latest move, France is now a clear frontrunner in the quest to regulate big social media outlets, and other platforms might follow suite, Ms. Cisse said.

YouTube now censors political parties, starting with Spain’s Vox

In Spain’s national election in April, the new nationalist Vox Party (translated, ‘vox’ means ‘voice’) earned record gains and YouTube's parent company Google noted search enquires for Vox were three times higher than searches for the both left wing Socialists and Popular Party. In its latest purge this week, YouTube deleted the Spanish Vox Party’s entire channel as the Google-owned platform continues to target and censor right-leaning and conservative political content.

Vox demanded an explanation YouTube as to why their account has been closed or suspended without any explanation. The party tweeted, “The decision to remove the channel is a serious attack on the freedom of expression and dissemination of a political party.”

Later, they tweeted, “The three people who have denounced us are left-wing activists… We have found that other political parties and progressive channels use the same audiovisual resources without being denounced for it.

In another tweet, Vox said, “We call on these platforms, who claim to fight online abuse, to pursue groups of progressive trolls who report in an organized manner and for ideological reasons to all those accounts that do not conform to their unique thinking.

The Vox party later used the blacklisting to accuse YouTube of bowing to the demands of left-wing activists, saying, “We take advantage of this fact to show our outrage at the arbitrary actions of Twitter, Facebook and Google; hypersensitive to the requests of activists of totalitarian Marxism and the establishment. We show our support to all those who, like us, have been affected by these arbitrary actions by those responsible for these social networks in recent months.

Earlier this month, YouTube announced it was imposing a major crackdown on “hate speech”. Days before the election in April, Facebook removed numerous large pro-Vox pages which had a combined reach of millions at the request of Avaaz, a left-wing non-governmental organization (NGO) that is funded by George Soros.

In April’s general election, the Vox Party won 24 seats in the Spanish parliament, obtaining around 10 percent of the nationwide vote, as well as three MEP’s in May’s European Parliamentary Elections.

The world's largest Ocean Cleanup of garbage and plastic begins

While governments are distracted with the intangibles of climate change and carbon taxes, private innovation is creating positive results in environmental protection. In 2013, then-18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded his start-up called The Ocean Cleanup with the mission to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.” Last weekend, his floating boom system was deployed from San Francisco Bay for testing and is estimated to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within its first five years.

Ocean Cleanup’s USD $20 million system aims to remove 90 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of trash discovered in the mid-1980s that is created from an ocean gyre in the central North Pacific, between Hawaii and California, by 2040. Each boom will trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic per year as they float along the circulating ocean currents between California and Hawaii. The system takes advantage of natural oceanic forces to catch and concentrate the plastic. In terms of creating a system for cleanup, the gyre is a benefit by prevents the further distribution of the garbage patch.

The beta cleanup system of booms are comprised of 600-meter long floaters that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic per month. Following the present testing, the floating boom system will be towed out 1,400 miles to the garbage patch around mid-October and begin collecting trash. The floating boom drifts along with the local currents, creating a U-shaped formation. As the boom floats, it collects trash in the U shaped system, which has 10 feet of netting below it to collect smaller fragments of plastic. Once the boom is full, a vessel will meet the boom to collect the plastic and transport it to land for sorting and recycling. Its 10 feet of netting is not deep enough that fish are unable to swim below it, therefore the hope is the boom will collect trash and not fish.

There are five garbage patches in the world’s oceans, of which the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest. The Ocean Cleanup is backed by investors including Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce. The company will welcome corporations and philanthropists to sponsor their own cleanup system in coming years.

Chief Operating Officer Lonneke Holierhoek said, "We really see the urgency in starting the cleanup because there's so much harm that could happen with this plastic that's floating out there." According to the World Economic Forum, oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish by 2050. As noted on The Ocean Cleanup website, "Research shows the majority of plastic by mass is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, we prevent it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics" that can absorb toxic substances and travel up the food chain.

 

UK comedian ‘jokes’ about throwing battery acid instead of milkshakes on opponents

On an episode of the BBC’s Heresy, British comedian Jo Brand said, “Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate. And I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” She added, “That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.” Ofcom said it had received 19 complaints, as well as the Metropolitan Police about the BBC Radio 4 comedy programme, which has resulted in an investigation being launched.

The BBC defended Ms. Brand’s comments on their panel show, which "challenges established ideas and questions received wisdom", in an episode dedicated to subject of Brexit and the trend of 'milkshaking' politicians such as Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage, Tommy Robinson, a UKIP candidate, and even a war veteran at a polling station had milkshakes thrown over them by protesters leading up to the recent European Parliament elections.

The live audience for Tuesday night’s show reacted with laughter. The host, Victoria Coren Mitchell, said at the end of the broadcast that Heresy was a series set up “to test the boundaries of what it’s ok to say and not say”. A BBC spokesman said: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”

Mr. Farage was not impressed with Ms. Brand’s comments, tweeting, “This is incitement of violence and the police need to act” and “This is way above any norms of free speech - it is appalling and the fact that the BBC spends £177 million a year on light entertainment and comedy… this was a pre-recorded programme which they still chose to put out.” He described the comments as “completely and utterly disgusting. Can you imagine if I was to tell a story like that, about somebody on the other side of me, an Anna Soubry or someone like that? I reckon the police would knock on my door within 10 minutes. I think it’s appalling.”

In response, Ms. Coren Mitchell replied, “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed. We don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes,” and added that “all people should be free to make jokes about anything.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the BBC to explain why it had approved the joke for broadcast, suggesting that it “normalised” violence against politicians, as in the case of Labour MP Jo Cox ‘s murder. There is an increasingly hostile environment for politicians requiring the need for bodyguards, when until recently the only politicians in Britain who required a security detail were the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Mr. Farage has required private bodyguards for at least five years, which says something about the climate of intolerance that he faces.

For several years comedians have refused to have shows for fear of their retribution, pointing to the violent behaviour on college campuses. The far-left have set the standards for what is acceptable to say and think and who receives punishment by way of censorship and harassment. In the case of Ms. Brand’s comments, the tables are turning on them in their own game.

Facebook and Google lose $137 billion as they censor more conservatives

Politicians from both the Republican and Democrat parties face increasing pressure to apply tougher regulation on technology giants and break the companies up. European officials have already been aggressively pursuing antitrust cases against American tech firms, including Google, while until now, the US has been mostly hands-off. The United States Justice Department’s (DOJ) is now preparing to investigate Google and other companies, marking the Trump administration’s first concrete step to scrutinize the potentially anti-competitive conduct of a large technology firm.

Lax enforcement in America has allowed tech platforms to dominate their markets. Earlier this year, the Trump administration set up a task force within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the conduct of tech companies and their past mergers. President Donald Trump and many Republicans have complained that Facebook, Google, and Twitter suppress conservative views. YouTube and Facebook purged and demonetized thousands more mainly conservative accounts this past week, including the accounts of history professors.

Following the recent wave of headlines reporting antitrust investigations against the companies this week, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. lost USD $137 billion in market value. Facebook lost USD $41 billion this week as said the FTC scrutinized whether the companies’ practices harm competition in the digital market under an agreement with the US Justice Department.

A report from the DOJ announced it is preparing an antitrust investigation into Google, leading to the company’s loss of USD $52 billion. Stocks for Netflix and Amazon also sold off sharply. Netflix lost USD $2.5 billion from its market value and Amazon lost USD $41 billion.

The DOJ and the FTC have agreed to split up antitrust oversight of technology giants, with the antitrust division taking over scrutiny Alphabet Inc.’s Google and the FTC getting oversight of Amazon. The DOJ has been given jurisdiction over a potential probe of Apple.

No charges for Julian Assange over CIA WikiLeaks

The United States Justice Department has decided not to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges for his role in exposing some of the CIA’s most secret spying tools. WikiLeaks was responsible for publishing one of the CIA’s most potent arsenals of digital code used to hack devices, called Vault 7. The leak was one of the most devastating in CIA history and both essentially rendered those tools useless for the CIA and gave foreign spies and rogue hackers access to them.

Following the recent decision by the Ecuadorian embassy in London to hand over Mr. Assange to the authorities, for whom there was an arrest warrant for by the US government, prosecutors’ aggressively set upon the WikiLeaks founder on controversial Espionage Act charges. Some legal experts said these charges would not hold up in court.

There were two central factors preventing prosecutors from pursuing the charges against Mr. Assange. The government is running out of time to extradite him to the United States from the United Kingdom, where he is being held. Extradition laws require the US to bring any additional charges against Mr. Assange within 60 days of the first indictment, which prosecutors filed in March, accusing him of helping former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning hack into military computers. Prosecutors were also worried about the sensitivity of the Vault 7 materials and legal experts said broaching such a classified subject in court risks exposing even more CIA secrets. The CIA has never officially confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents, even though analysts widely believe them to be authentic. The Justice Department will instead pursue charges against Mr. Assange on one count for allegedly assisting Ms. Manning and the 17-count Espionage Act indictment. Ms. Manning is in jail over her refusal to testify before a grand jury in the Assange case. Her lawyers have argued that if the Justice Department does not intend to bring further charges against Mr. Assange, the previous need for her testimony should be rendered moot.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for national security at the Justice Department until 2017 Mary McCord said, “There is no question that there are leak cases that can’t be prosecuted against the leaker or the leakee because the information is so sensitive that, for your proof at trial, you would have to confirm it is authentic. So, the irony, often, is that the higher the classification of the leaked material, the harder it is to prosecute.

Press freedom activists have warned that charges against Mr. Assange could criminalize everyday journalistic behavior, such as soliciting sensitive information from government sources. Federal officials insist they have a strong case, arguing that Mr. Assange is not a journalist and intentionally published the names of confidential sources in war zones over the objections of national security officials.

WW2 veterans commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944, the largest ever seaborne invasion that made western Europe's liberation from Nazi Germany in the Second World War possible.

Leaders from every country that fought alongside the United Kingdom on D-Day joined Queen Elizabeth II in Portsmouth for the first day of the anniversary events. The Queen paid tribute to the "heroism, courage and sacrifice" of those who died to 300 veterans, who were then waved off on the cruise ship MV Boudicca as it headed to the Normandy commemorations.

On Thursday, the leaders of France, Britain, and the United States paid tribute to the sacrifice of the veterans and of those who died in the D-Day landings, drawing to a close two days of commemorations. Wreaths were laid, a minute's silence was held, and veterans linked arms and sang, before watching an RAF flypast.

D-Day was the largest combined land, air, and naval operation in history where 156,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy, France across five beaches. Approximately 7,000 ships and 10,000 vehicles comprised the landing that took the lives of 4,400 Allied men, 4,000 to 9,000 Nazi’s, and thousands of French civilians.

58,000 Americans landed on Utah and Omaha beaches, 54,000 British on Gold and Sword beaches, and 21,000 Canadians on Juno beach. The Kieffer commando, a group of 177 French "green berets", also landed on Sword Beach, integrating with the British Royal Marines. The airborne assault included 23,000 men (13,000 Americans and 10,000 British) who landed by parachute or glider in Normandy or on the Cotentin Peninsula. By comparison, the Nazi’s 7th army were outnumbered with 150,000 men spread throughout all of Normandy.

Almost 12,000 tonnes were bombed in one day. By the morning of June 7, there were 3,000 civilians dead in Normandy, by September 1944 the death toll had risen to 20,000, and 150,000 were forced to flee their homes.

VP Pence visits Canada to support new NAFTA agreement

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced Bill C-100, the “Canada United States Mexico Agreement Implementation Act” (USMCA), in Parliament this week to implement the renegotiated NAFTA deal that was reached eight months ago. The legislative amendments apply the new trade rules and leaves flexibility for the government to ensure the text is aligned with the result of the ongoing ratification processes in the United States and Mexico.

The Conservatives are expected to support passing Bill C-100, but Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said, "There is quite literally nothing about this deal that is better than the one before it." Mr. Scheer said that if his Conservative party forms government after the fall election he will work on mitigating the damage he believes this deal will cause. The New Democrats (NDP) voted against a motion that allowed the bill to be tabled and are therefore unlikely to support the bill.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, who made a state visit to Ottawa this week, said he believes that the USMCA will pass in Congress. He met with PM Trudeau and Canada's advisory council on NAFTA, which includes former Conservative minister James Moore, AFN Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

The two leaders spoke positively about the prospect of it being ratified in both Canada and the US by the summer, however President Donald Trump’s announcement to impose a new tariff on Mexican imports as pressure to crack down on Central American migrants might slow USMCA progress in Mexico.

Governments fall in Austria and Israel

In further fallout from the ‘Ibizagate’ scandal, the Austrian Parliament voted in favour of a measure proposed by the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) to oust Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his Austrian People’s Party (OVP) in a vote of no-confidence. President Alexander Van der Bellen has appointed the current President of Austria’s constitutional court Brigitte Bierlein as interim Chancellor until the September election.

A poll last week showed most Austrians did not want to see Mr. Kurz removed from office. In European Parliament elections on Sunday, the FPO finished first in Austria with 35 percent, followed by the SPD at 24 percent, and the FPO at 18 percent. Despite stepping down as leader of the FPO, Heinz-Christian Strache also won his seat with 33,000 ‘preference votes’, in which the system enables voters to specify their preference for a candidate on a particular party list. It remains unclear whether Mr. Strache will accept his seat.

Mr. Strache has filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor's office in Vienna against "three persons identified as possible accomplices" involved in the leaked Ibiza video footage that forced him to resign. It is too early to tell whether the FPO will make gains in the September election, as there are unverified suspicions that Mr. Kurz or the OVP may have had knowledge or involvement in the Ibiza setup, which may impact voter decisions.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed to form a governing coalition by the deadline and on Wednesday the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and hold an election seven weeks after the last. This is the first time in 71 years of statehood that Israel has had to repeat an election due to a failure by the chosen party leader to form a government.

The new election will take place on September 17. Friction between Yisrael Beiteinu (YB) Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and the Hassidic faction of ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism (UTJ) prevented coalition government negotiations from being successful.

Mr. Lieberman submitted a draft bill last term that would require yeshiva students, who are currently exempt from Israel's otherwise mandatory conscription, to draft to the Israeli military. Mr. Lieberman's condition for joining the coalition was that the draft law pass as-is, whereas UTJ would not join if the law was not amended. PM Netanyahu failed to mediate between them before the deadline given to him by the president, making it impossible for him to form a coalition.

PM Netanyahu Likud party put forth a bill to dissolve the Knesset, whose passage enabled the government to circumvent the possibility of President Reuven Rivlin giving the mandate to form a government to a different candidate.

Switzerland refuses to sign EU treaty

Opposition from Switzerland’s four-party, seven-member Cabinet means the Swiss government will not sign a draft treaty with the European Union next month. For a decade, Brussels has sought to pull the economically rich and direct democracy nation into the EU and is applying increased pressure ahead of European Parliament elections. The rapid surge in support for nationalist parties that reject the loss of sovereignty EU membership entails will dominate the future direction of the bloc. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged the Swiss to do a deal while he is still in office, but this looks increasingly unlikely.

The treaty would require non-EU member Switzerland to routinely adopt EU single market rules and have EU citizens in Switzerland enjoy the same rights as in their home countries. It would open the possibility of new trade deals, such as for an electricity union combining Swiss and European utilities. The EU has ruled out renegotiating the treaty.

Opponents range from the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, which calls the treaty an unacceptable infringement of sovereignty, to the left-wing Social Democrats, who reject diluting Swiss rules that protect Europe’s highest wages from cross-border competition. Only Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis of the Liberal party actively supports the treaty, which has been negotiated over four years. A Swiss government spokesman said only that the cabinet discussed the situation regularly and would communicate its decision by summer.

The EU claims the lack of an agreement would risk ties with Switzerland, its biggest trading partner, and potentially disrupt trade and cross-border securities deals. The EU accounts for 60 percent of Switzerland’s foreign trade by volume, but the Swiss appear unconcerned and unwilling to be pushed around.

The Swiss Cabinet is currently focused on a domestic campaign to end the free movement of EU citizens in their country in a referendum next year. Though Switzerland is not part of the EU, it is part of the Schengen Zone. The referendum is considered to be Switzerland’s Brexit.

Unlike EU members states, Switzerland has 120 sectoral accords that govern their ties with the bloc, which would remain in place in the absence of a new treaty. The European Commission has threatened not to extend beyond mid-2019 the recognition of Swiss stock exchange rules that lets EU investors make trades there.

Belgian doctors say parents forcing veganism on children should be criminal

Doctors with the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium published a legal opinion stating it is was unethical to subject children to a vegan diet because it does not include animal proteins and vital amino acids which are vital to growth and development and prevents health problems. After a number of deaths in schools, nurseries, and hospitals, the opinion aims to influence future court judgments by calling for parents who raise their children as vegans to face prosecution. This is the first time a health authority has taken a position on veganism in the country. An estimated 3 percent of Belgian children are forced to follow the strict diet, which rules out any animal products, including dairy and eggs.

The Academy’s opinion was published following a request by Bernard Devos, a regional government official responsible for children’s rights and protection in Brussels and the French-speaking region of Wallonia. Mr. Devos asked for the opinion after children suffered health complications, including a number of deaths, in schools, nurseries and hospitals. The opinion will allow him to more easily enforce the separation of a child from parents who insisted the youngster followed the restrictive diet. 

Professor Georges Casimir, who led the commission that wrote the report, said the vegan diet could only be made safe for growing children if complemented with medical supervision, regular blood tests and vitamin supplements, which most parents were not qualified to provide, and “We must explain to the parents before compelling them, but we can no longer tolerate this endangerment.”

"This restrictive regime requires ongoing monitoring of children to avoid deficiencies and often irreversible growth delays," the legal opinion said, "It is unsuitable for unborn children, children, teenagers and pregnant and lactating women." Additionally, "It is not medically recommended and even forbidden to subject a child, especially during periods of rapid growth, to a potentially destabilising diet, requiring frequent supplementation and control,” and “This concept of nutrition is similar to a form of treatment that it is not ethical to impose on children.

Professor Casimir warned that such a strict regime would now legally qualify as “non-assistance to a person in danger”, a crime which carries a sentence of up to two years and fines in Belgium. The pediatrician said, “When we are children, the body manufactures brain cells. This implies higher requirements for protein and essential fatty acids. The body does not produce them, it must be brought in via animal proteins. We are talking here about stunted growth and psychomotor delays, undernutrition, significant anemia. Some developments must be done at a specific time in life and if they are not done, it is irreversible.”

In 2017, a couple from Beveren, Belgium were sentenced to a suspended six month sentence after their seven-month-old baby died of malnutrition and dehydration. The infant’s death was blamed by doctors on the parents’ choice to only feed it vegetable milk.

A survey published last year found that 44 percent of Belgians had cut their meat consumption, despite the country’s fondness for Flemish beef stew and frites cooked in beef, horse or goose fat. 16 percent of Belgians said they eat mostly vegetarian.  The reflects the trend across Europe, as concerns over climate change and animal welfare grow.

George Soros gives funding to controversial Vice Media news

Open borders proponent and billionaire George Soros, who has earned a reputation for funding far-left extremist organizations, including paying protestors to create ‘viral moments’, and human trafficking networks from Africa and the Middle East into Europe, has invested in the controversial left-wing news company Vice Media. This latest investment by Mr. Soros in news media was completed through his fund management company, though he has personally funded more than 180 media-related groups and is connected to many prominent mainstream news journalists. 

A group of investors including Soros Fund Management LLC, 23 Capital, Fortress Investment Group LLC, and Monroe Capital financed USD $250 million in debt for the failing news brand as part of its “turnaround strategy” according to new CEO Nancy Dubuc, who has been heading the company since 2018. As the investment was announced, Vice Media combined several of its websites including Vice News, Munchies, and Motherboard altogether into Vice.com.

In late 2018, Vice Media was reported to shrink its workforce by 10-15 percent through a hiring freeze and reduce its digital sites because growth had stalled and some advertisers ended sponsorships. Founded in 2013 in New York City, Vice is known for overtly provocative and inflammatory choices of content coverage from the left-wing perspective. Their editorial choices include heavy emphasis on drugs, profane sex and transgenderism, political far-right conspiracies, and convey suggestive racial undertones. In the past, Vice proposed to “Blow Up Mount Rushmore,” criticized the Catholic Church’s policy on abortion and contraception, promoted false claims that Planned Parenthood videos were deceptively edited, and encouraged children to find their inner drag queens.

What was once a USD $6 billion global media company, its boundary-pushing agenda cultivated an internal "toxic sexual-harassment culture”, which led to multiple lawsuits and the suspension and firing of lead filmmaker Jason Mojica. Last year, two Vice executives - President Andrew Creighton and Chief Digital Officer Mike Germano – were put on leave from the company over sexual harassment scandals. Additionally, Vice reporters are generally not well regarded among the global network and mainstream and freelance, particularly in terms of their conduct in conflict zones.

Funding for the MSM’s Far-Left News Coverage

Mr. Soros’ influence has been integral to the fake news epidemic of the mainstream new media. As Media Research Center writes: 

George Soros is arguably the most influential liberal financier in the United States, donating more than $8 billion just to his Open Society Foundations. In 2004, he spent more than $27 million to defeat President George W. Bush and has given away millions more since to promote the left-wing agenda. But what goes almost without notice is Soros' extensive influence on and involvement with the media.

Since 2003, Soros has donated more than $52 million to all kinds of media outlets - liberal news organizations, investigative reporting and even smaller blogs. He has also been involved in funding the infrastructure of supposedly "neutral" news, from education to even the industry ombudsman association. Many other operations Soros supports also have a media component to what they do.

His media funding has helped create a liberal "echo chamber," in the words of one group he backs, "in which a message pushes the larger public or the mainstream media to acknowledge, respond, and give airtime to progressive ideas because it is repeated many times." The goal is "Taking Down Fox News," as the Soros-supported "Mother Jones" described it.

Despite his denials, Soros has extensive reach into the media. The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute conducted a detailed analysis of George Soros and his influence on the media. It found:

Soros Spends More Than $52 Million on Media: Since 2003, Soros has spent more than $52 million funding media properties, including the infrastructure of news - journalism schools, investigative journalism and even industry organizations. That's a low estimate because many organizations have a media component to what they do but it is impossible to separate the operations.

Ties to Major Media: Soros has connections to more than 30 mainstream news outlets - including The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, CNN and ABC.

 Mr. Soros funds the likes of Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post Media Group, Olivia Ma, who manages the news and politics team at YouTube, Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, the CBC’s Radio-Canada, and anti-oil Tides Foundation, in addition to the Center for Public Integrity, Center for Investigative Reporting, Investigative News Network, and the journalism programs at eight American universities. 

Breach of Ethics: Prominent journalists like ABC's Christiane Amanpour, New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson and former Post editor and now Vice President Len Downie serve on boards of operations that take Soros cash. But according to the Society of Professional Journalists' ethical code, journalists should 'avoid all conflicts real or perceived.' Reporters and editors serving on boards of groups funded by Soros openly violate both aspects of this guideline.

Reaching More Than U.S. Population: Every month, reporters, writers and bloggers at the many outlets Soros funds - from big players like NPR to the little known Project Syndicate and Public News Service, both of which claim to reach millions of readers - easily reach more than 332 million people around the globe. The population of the entire United States is less than 310 million.

Fox News is Target No. 1: Nearly 30 groups funded by the liberal billionaire have attacked Fox News in the six months since the beginning of December, 2010. Soros-funded media operations claim Fox News has a "history of inciting Islamophobia and racial and ethic animosity" and that it tries to "race bait its viewers."

Germany introduces vaccination requirements following increased measles outbreaks

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who ran for the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) last December, has proposed a 2,500 Euro fine for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children against measles. He said, “In a free country I have to be able to rely on the fact that my counterpart does not endanger me unnecessarily. That, too, is a condition of freedom.”

The proposed kindergarten bans and fines are part of a legislative proposal for mandatory vaccinations and part of an effort to eradicate the disease. Although European countries signed the European Vaccine Action Plan with the goal of stopping measles and rubella from spreading by 2015, the number of cases has only gone up, despite increases in overall immunizations.

Measles is highly contagious, especially for babies and children with weak immune systems. It causes infection with symptoms of high fever and a rash on the body and can also cause blindness, brain swelling, and death. Last year, measles killed 72 children and adults across Europe and cases have increased significantly. According to the World Health Organization, there were 82,596 cases of measles in 2018 compared with 25,863 in 2017. The majority of cases were in Ukraine, and France and Italy also ranked highly.

Vaccine policies in several European countries, including Germany, are changing after a resurgence of the highly contagious disease. Governments are now deciding whether or not to require vaccinations for adults and children. The measles vaccine is only mandatory in 11 EU countries and recommended, rather than required, others. EU countries that do not have any vaccination requirements include Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, and Luxembourg.

France, Italy, and Greece have the highest vaccine requirements and all recently changed their vaccination policies in response to the measles outbreak. In 2018, France’s vaccination requirement increased from 3 to 11, the Italian government began requiring vaccines in 2017, and Greece updated its vaccination policy in 2019.

Countries with mandatory vaccinations often require several common vaccines including for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, and rubella. Babies to required be vaccinated against tuberculosis in addition to several others in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Poland.

Canada sued over plans to build a Google “smart city” by civil rights group

Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has proposed a high-tech ‘smart city’ community, after being commissioned in October 2017 to revitalise Toronto’s rundown waterfront. The proposed development would entail a myriad of sensors embedded in the infrastructure of several blocks of apartments, offices, shops, and a school on a 12-acre site, which would be the first step toward an eventual 800-acre development. Everything from street lights, stretches of pavement, heated roads to melt ice and snow on contact, and sensors to monitor traffic and pedestrians would be wired in.

Considering the series of privacy scandals at Google and Facebook, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is suing the Canadian, local, and provincial governments over the invasion of privacy the smart city project would entail. A spokesman for Canada's infrastructure minister had said the development would be pursued in and "ethical and accountable" way but CCLA Executive Director Michael Bryant said, "Scientists profit from your behavioural data. Canada, Toronto, you are the lab rats." In a meeting two weeks ago, Sidewalk Labs admitted that although it is committed to protecting user identity, other businesses in the project may not be.

Critics of the project have complained since its inception that those behind it have shared few details about their plans and given little explanation for how data will be collected, kept, accessed, and protected. Last summer, an IBM security expert warned that cyber criminals could easily hack European cities in devastating attacks that could "cause loss of life".

Senior privacy expert and former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian recently quit the project saying that her privacy recommendations were ignored. She resigned over concerns that the "treasure trove" of data collected in the CAD $40 million smart city project could identify individuals and leave them open to a cyber attack. Ms. Cavoukian had worked on a privacy by design framework for the project to make sure that citizens' personal data would be protected and said “I felt I had no choice because I had been told by Sidewalk Labs that all of the data collected will be de-identified at source. I imagined us creating a Smart City of Privacy, as opposed to a Smart City of Surveillance.”

TechGirls Canada Founder Saadia Muzaffar also stepped down from her role on the Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory panel citing "deep dismay" and “profound concern” that it had evaded questions about privacy and concerns over vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals, which have become more widespread. In a letter dated October 4 to Waterfront Toronto and her fellow panel members, Ms. Muzaffar said her decision is due to project-backer Waterfront Toronto showing “apathy and a lack of leadership regarding shaky public trust” and dodging questions around privacy and intellectual property, including at a series of roundtables the organization has held to consult the public. “I have yet to see evidence that Waterfront Toronto shares the urgency and concern that has been raised in multiple for a. The most recent roundtable in August displayed a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data and digital infrastructure. Time was spent instead talking about buildings made out of wood and the width of one-way streets, things no one has contested or expressed material concern for in this entire process,” Ms. Muzaffar wrote.

Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System executive John Ruffolo has also resigned. Former BlackBerry chief executive Jim Balsillie called the project "a colonising experiment in surveillance capitalism" earlier this month and accused it of making irreversible decisions that will have major negative effect on all Canadians.

Pope Francis calls for Syrian refugees to return home as Cardinal Sarah issues a warning for Europe

In his Easter address on Sunday, Catholic Pope Francis called for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country as he urged a political solution for the ongoing “humanitarian crisis” in the country. He told the 70,000 pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that “Now is instead the time for a renewed commitment for a political solution able to respond to people’s legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice, confront the humanitarian crisis and favour the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan.”

Patriarch Bechara Raï, the head of the Lebanese Maronite Church, had earlier begged for the immediate return of Syrian refugees to their home country in his in his Palm Sunday sermon. The Cardinal said that the refugees have become “the victims of two wars, the one fought with weapons, which destroyed their homes, and the one of the politics of ‘wait and see,’ which will destroy their cultural identity and their history.” Patriarch Raï said it is deplorable that “for political reasons, the international community does not encourage them to return home.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea went further by saying Catholics do not need to support mass migration. He argued that the Western world does not benefit by bringing huge influxes of people with little to no regard for border security or cultural hegemony, saying, "All migrants who arrive in Europe are penniless, without work, without dignity. ... This is what the Church wants?" Cardinal Sarah told French publication Valeurs Actuelles that "The Church can not cooperate with this new form of slavery that has become mass migration. If the West continues in this fatal way, there is a great risk that, due to a lack of birth, it will disappear, invaded by foreigners, just as Rome has been invaded by barbarians."

Pope Francis has consistently promoted mass migration throughout his papacy, repeatedly denouncing the building of walls as a form of imprisonment. Cardinal Sarah, who is head of the Vatican liturgy office, minced no words in his denunciation of the prevailing viewpoint among liberal Catholics, which states that the faithful betray Christ by wanting stricter immigration policies, especially from Islamic countries. Liberal Catholics often speak of migration in romantic terms, but the Cardinal notes there is nothing romantic about people leaving their cultures and homes behind, saying they would best be helped in their culture of origin. "My country is predominantly Muslim," he said. "I think I know what reality I'm talking about."

Cardinal Sarah warned that if Europe were to fall, Islam would prevail as the world religion, altering the course of history and culture as we know it. "If Europe disappears, and with it the priceless values of the Old Continent, Islam will invade the world and we will completely change culture, anthropology, and moral vision," he warned.

In an interview about his new book with American Conservative, Cardinal Sarah did not mince words, saying, "A West that denies its faith, its history, its roots, and its identity is destined for contempt, for death, and disappearance. But I would like to point out that everything is prepared for a renewal. I see families, monasteries, and parishes that are like oases in the middle of a desert. It is from these oases of faith, liturgy, beauty, and silence that the West will be reborn."

Extinction Rebellion climate extremists shut down London public transit

In the latest evolution of the far-left’s extremism, April 15 saw the start of three days of protests that ground London to a halt, affecting more than 500,000 people. Over a thousand Extinction Rebellion (XR) campaigners threatened to bring the British capital city of London to a standstill for up to two weeks.

Extinction Rebellion is the latest in vogue protest movement for climate change activists. It has grown into an international movement backed by left-wing celebrities, academics, and writers by calling for “radical change in order to minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse”. Activists in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries will hold similar demonstrations on environmental issues, campaigners said.

Extinction Rebellion protestors blocked busy London roads and bridges, spray-painted government buildings, glued themselves to a DLR train at Canary Wharf, and chained and glued themselves to buildings, including the gates of Buckingham Palace. Semi-naked activists had previously glued themselves to windows in the public gallery of the House of Commons during a Brexit debate. The following day, two dozen protesters occupied the International Criminal Court in the Hague, in the Netherlands. “Only a peaceful planet-wide mobilisation of the scale of the Second World War will give us a chance to avoid the worst-case scenarios,” and “the world has “run out of the luxury of time to react incrementally” Extinction Rebellion campaigners said.

Police arrested more than 300 Extinction Rebellion protestors while London Mayor Sadiq Khan attempted to ingratiate himself with them, diverting attention from intense and ongoing criticism of his poor response to London’s knife crime epidemic. The former Labour MP and London mayor said that the “climate change emergency” was a “top priority” for City Hall and reiterated his “passion” for peaceful protest as “the cornerstone of our democracy”. West End businesses complained of a GBP 12 million loss in sales while Mayor Khan professed his “full respect” for the anarchists.

Mayor Khan attended last month’s march for a second Brexit referendum, and likened the climate protesters to suffragettes, declaring, “I was at a protest myself a few weeks ago, protesting, campaigning and lobbying on whether the public should have a final say on staying in the union and given the option of what parliament’s voted for.” The upcoming mayoral election takes place in May next year. Mayor Khan’s mayoral rival, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, said, “The Mayor is telling law-abiding Londoners their interests come second to those who shout loudest and disrupt the most.

Despite their claims that they are proponents of non-violent civil disobedience, on Monday, Extinction Rebellion protesters vandalised Shell’s headquarters, gluing themselves to windows and smashing glass revolving doors, causing more than GBP 6,000 of damage and enabling them to have a platform in front of a jury trial in Crown Court. Now, according to Extinct Rebellion’s legal advice, some of the protesters will soon be citing Mayor Khan’s “climate change emergency” rhetoric in their defence.

Extinction Rebellion says direct action is needed to force governments to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”. Their demands include the declaration of an ecological emergency, greenhouse gases to be brought to net zero by 2025, and the creation of a citizens’ assembly to lead action on the environment. Extinction Rebellion says the systems propping up “modern consumer-focused lifestyles” will lead to mass water shortages, crop failures, sea level rises, and the displacement of millions. Extinction Rebellion says it wants “ecocide”, the deliberate destruction of the natural environment, to be listed alongside crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and crimes of aggression.

1,500 people showed up to Extinction Rebellion’s first protest on October 31 last year on Parliament Square in London. The group later claimed that over the next several weeks “Six thousand of us converged on London to peacefully block five major bridges across the Thames.” Extinction Rebellion claims to have chapters in dozens of countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa, and India.

Extinction Rebellion professes to be about climate change but in reality, is the latest rebranding and marketing campaign of Marxism. Their manifesto, published on their website, gives their game away. The tactics, slogans, and the general behaviour of the Marxist protesters exactly echoes that of the anti-globalisation protests of the early 2000s.

Beyond their climate focus, Extinction Rebellion demands the end of interest-bearing loans and to bring down the global economy with it. They want to disrupt and destroy. global capitalism and know the term ‘Marxism’ isn’t going to get the results they want, so they dress their agenda up as ‘environmentalism’ to tempt useful idiots to join their cause. In fact, Extinction Rebellion don’t admit the obvious fact that renewable energy needs capital and therefore investors who issue interest-bearing loans.

Einstein’s theory proven as astronomers capture the first photo of a black hole

Introduced in 1915, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein’s revolutionary theory of general relativity explains the laws of gravity and their relation to other natural forces. It says that matter warps or curves the geometry of space-time, and we experience that distortion as gravity. The existence of extremely massive black holes was one of the first predictions of Einstein’s theory, and even Einstein wasn’t sure that they actually existed.

Using a massive telescope network, scientists now have data in hand that could vastly broaden our understanding of gravity. Black holes are the most densely filled objects in the universe, giving them enormous gravitational pull. Stellar black holes, formed from the collapse of giant stars, can compact the mass of ten suns to the size of New York City. Supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies can have the mass of billions of suns. Their origin remains a mystery.

Even if the first images are still crappy and washed out, we can already test for the first time some basic predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity in the extreme environment of a black hole,” says radio astronomer Heino Falcke of Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Astronomers have only circumstantial evidence that black holes lie hidden at the heart of every large galaxy in the universe. “They are the ultimate endpoint of space and time, and may represent the ultimate limit of our knowledge,” says Mr. Falcke.

The first-ever photo of a black hole is a milestone in astrophysics and an achievement that validated the pillar of science put forward by Albert Einstein more than a century ago. The somewhat fuzzy photo of the black hole at the center of Messier 87, or M87, a massive galaxy residing in the center of the relatively nearby Virgo galaxy cluster, shows a glowing ring of red, yellow, and white surrounding a dark center.

The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, an international collaboration involving about 200 scientists begun in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole. Capturing the photos took years of planning and cooperation between international partners stretching from the tallest mountain in Hawaii to the frozen terrain of the South Pole to create an electronically linked network of eight observatories and a virtual telescope dish as wide as the planet. Known as the Event Horizon Telescope, the radio-dish network opened its eye on the heavens during a 10-day window that started on April 4.

Black holes, phenomenally dense and coming in various sizes, are extraordinarily difficult to observe by their very nature. A black hole's event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything – stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of electromagnetic radiation – gets swallowed into oblivion. The telescope zeroed in on two supermassive black holes: a beast as massive as four million suns called Sagittarius A, which lies at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, and a black hole about 1,500 times heavier at the core of the nearby galaxy M87. The Event Horizon Telescope has probed the neighborhood of each of these behemoths before, but this is the first time the network has included the South Pole telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a group of 66 radio dishes in Chile. ALMA sharpens the Event Horizon Telescope’s acuity 10-fold, enabling it to spot objects as small as a golf ball on the moon—and thus image the surprisingly small event horizons of the two black holes.

Regulators target social media rules and tech start-ups amid another Facebook privacy leak

A new European Commission research paper titled 'Competition for the Digital Era' says American technology giants should be subject to stricter merger controls where a “heightened degree of control of acquisitions of small start-ups by dominant platforms” will prevent them from purchasing promising European start-ups and stifling competition.

The report suggested a new test could help decide whether mergers should be blocked if they give disproportionate power to the acquiring company over data or prevented the entry of new start-ups. It also suggested changing the revenue threshold for mergers and buyouts of European tech companies so that more deals would be scrutinised by the regulator.

Many of Britain’s hopeful technology start-ups have been bought by Silicon Valley firms, such as Bloomsbury AI bought by Facebook for USD $30 million and artificial intelligence company DeepMind acquired by Google for 400 million GDP in 2014. In the UK, the Government has proposed a new digital tax on the biggest technology firms, while Labour has proposed new regulations such as fines on companies which fail to remove hate speech.

Despite new calls from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to introduce regulation on social media, the report does not appear to support this. These tech giants continue to be criticized for being platforms that spread misinformation and host discriminatory and abusive content. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon are among those that have come under increasing attention from regulators and politicians over their use of data and ability to combat harmful content.

The reports authors said treating technology companies like public utilities with strict regulations would not work and would stifle innovation, stating, “We do not envision a new type of 'public utility regulation' to emerge for the digital economy. The risks associated with such a regime – rigidity, lack of flexibility, and risk of capture – are too high.

Mr. Dorsey said, “It’s the job of regulators to ensure protection of the individual and a level playing field." In an opinion piece in the Washington Post last weekend, Mr. Zuckerberg called for government and regulators to have a “more active role.” He called for regulation in harmful content, elections, privacy, and data portability, and said rules should be drawn up to define political advertisements and more countries should adopt rules based on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Mr. Zuckerberg is currently engaged in a criminal investigation into how political consultants used Facebook's system to improperly harvest data from 87 million people. This was made possible by tasking a developer to create a seemingly harmless personality test app, which when installed by Facebook users was granted access to the Facebook Application Programmer Interface (API) to pool their information, which was later sold to Cambridge Analytica.

Now, in another scandal for the company that has long profited from use of its users’ personal data, cyber security researchers have revealed 540 million Facebook records have been "exposed to the internet". According to Australian IT company UpGuard, two apps that Facebook allowed to access to its users’ data stored personal information on insecure servers without putting security measures in place.

Users’ Facebook IDs, passwords, friend lists, location check-ins, events, comments, likes, reactions, and account names were found on a database uploaded by Mexican digital publisher Cultura Colectiva which was discovered on Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud servers, a popular storage product. A second database belonging to a now defunct Los Angeles-based social network app called The Pool Party which included names, email addresses, photos, friends lists and likes of 22,000 additional users was also found. Both Cultura Colectiva and At The Pool appear to have used Facebook's API to gather information.