submitted 11 months ago by HeapOfDogs@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

I can't seem to find anything in a sidebar or sticky thread that talks about the moderation / rules of the news community. I'm very interested in coming to this community to learn about news, but right now it seems whats being posted tends to be relatively low (lower?) quality.

Examples of common rules

  • Use the same titles as the article itself
  • No blog spam, link to the source
  • Political news, should go to the political community
  • No dupes of same topic

As an example, take a look at other news aggregators that focus on news.

My goal here isn't tell people what to do but its start a conversation on the topic.

submitted 1 hour ago* (last edited 55 minutes ago) by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

Reviving a Mao-era surveillance campaign, the Chinese authorities are tracking residents, schoolchildren and businesses to forestall any potential unrest.

Volunteers from a neighborhood committee keep watching on Beijing's streets. “Stability maintenance” — a catchall term for containing social problems and silencing dissent — has increasingly become a preoccupation in China under Xi Jinping.

The wall in the police station was covered in sheets of paper, one for every building in the sprawling Beijing apartment complex. Each sheet was further broken down by unit, with names, phone numbers and other information on the residents.

Perhaps the most important detail, though, was how each unit was color-coded. Green meant trustworthy. Yellow, needing attention. Orange required “strict control.”

A police officer inspected the wall. Then he leaned forward to mark a third-floor apartment in yellow. The residents in that unit changed often, and therefore were “high risk,” his note said. He would follow up on them later.

“I’ve built a system to address hidden dangers in my jurisdiction,” the officer said, in a video by the local government that praised his work as a model of innovative policing.

This is the kind of local governance that China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, wants: more visible, more invasive, always on the lookout for real or perceived threats. Officers patrol apartment buildings listening for feuding neighbors. Officials recruit retirees playing chess outdoors as extra eyes and ears. In the workplace, employers are required to appoint “safety consultants” who report regularly to the police.

The Chinese Communist Party has long wielded perhaps the world’s most sweeping surveillance apparatus against activists and others who might possibly voice discontent. Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, the surveillance reached an unprecedented scale, tracking virtually every urban resident in the name of preventing infections.

Now, it is clear that Mr. Xi wants to make that expanded control permanent, and to push it even further.

The goal is no longer just to address specific threats, such as the virus or dissidents. It is to embed the party so deeply in daily life that no trouble, no matter how seemingly minor or apolitical, can even arise.

Mr. Xi has branded this effort the “Fengqiao experience for a new era.” The Beijing suburb in the propaganda video, Zhangjiawan, was recently recognized in state media as a national exemplar of the approach.

“Fengqiao” refers to a town where, during the Mao era, the party encouraged residents to “re-educate” purported political enemies, through so-called struggle sessions where people were publicly insulted and humiliated until they admitted crimes such as writing anti-communist poetry.

Mr. Xi, who invokes Fengqiao regularly in major speeches, has not called for a revival of struggle sessions, in which supposed offenders were sometimes beaten or tortured. But the idea is the same: harnessing ordinary people alongside the police to suppress any challenges to the party and uphold the party’s legitimacy.

The party casts this as a public service. By having “zero distance” from the people, it can more quickly gather suggestions about, say, garbage collection or save residents the trouble of going to court over business disputes. Instead, conflicts are hashed out by party mediators.

Mr. Xi frequently points to the Fengqiao experience as proof that the party is responsive to people’s needs and desires, even as he has smothered free expression and dissent.

It is also an effort to assert his political legacy. Top officials have hailed Fengqiao as an example of Mr. Xi’s visionary leadership, while scholars have described it as “a model for showcasing Chinese governance to the world.”

The campaign strengthens Beijing’s repressive abilities at a time of mounting challenges. With China’s economy slowing, protests about unpaid wages and unfinished homes have increased. Tensions with the West have led Beijing to warn of omnipresent foreign spies. The party has also tightened scrutiny of groups like feminists, students and L.G.B.T. rights activists.

In the name of Fengqiao, the police have visited Tibetans, Uyghurs and other minority groups in their homes, promoting party policies. Companies have been required to register their employees in police databases. Government workers have given “anti-cult” lectures at churches. Police officers and judges have been installed in elementary schools as “deputy principals of law,” keeping files on students’ perceived risk levels.

But by blocking even mild or apolitical criticism, the party could also erode the very legitimacy it is trying to project.

A Mao Idea, Repurposed

Mr. Xi’s interest in the Fengqiao experience dates back two decades, to when he was still ascending the ranks of power.

The year was 2003, and Mr. Xi had just been named party secretary of Zhejiang Province in China’s east. China’s economic opening had brought great wealth to the province, but also led to rising crime. Mr. Xi was looking for a solution. According to official media reports, he turned to a small Zhejiang town called Fengqiao.

The town had entered party lore in the 1960s, after Mao exhorted the Chinese people to confront “class enemies,” such as landlords or rich farmers. In the official telling, Fengqiao residents at first clamored for the police to make arrests. But local party leaders instead urged the residents themselves to identify and “re-educate” the enemies.

Ultimately, nearly 1,000 people were labeled reactionaries, according to Fengqiao officials. They and their families had trouble finding work, going to school or even getting married. Mao declared the “Fengqiao experience” a model for the country. Not long after, he launched the Cultural Revolution, another mass movement that led to a decade of bloodshed.

After Mao died, the phrase fell out of favor, as his successors distanced themselves from the chaos of his rule.

Mr. Xi, though, embraced the phrase. His first visit to Fengqiao in 2003 was to the local police station, where he inspected an exhibition about the 1960s. Months later, he visited again and praised the idea of nipping problems in the bud. “Though the situation and responsibilities we face have changed, the Fengqiao experience is not outdated,” he said.

Mr. Xi’s call for more social control was part of a broader shift by the party, amid the rapid change of the 2000s, toward “stability maintenance” — a catchall term for containing social problems and silencing dissent.

After Mr. Xi became top leader in 2012, he redoubled that focus. Mentions of Fengqiao in state media became ubiquitous. Then came the coronavirus pandemic — and the government began tracking individuals’ movements down to the minute.

It did so partly through technology, requiring residents to download mobile health apps. But it also leaned on old-fashioned labor. Using a method called “grid management,” the authorities divided cities into blocks of a few hundred households, assigning workers to each. Those workers went door to door to enforce testing requirements and quarantines, sometimes by sealing people into their homes.

State media hailed China’s early success in containing Covid as proof of the Fengqiao experience’s continued utility. Chinese research papers described Fengqiao-style policing during the pandemic as a model for crisis management around the world.

When people began to chafe at the restrictions — culminating in nationwide protests in 2022 — the granular approach proved its utility in another way, as the police used facial recognition cameras and informants to track down participants.

“The architecture is there,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College who recently published a book about China’s surveillance state. “After three years of lockdowns, seeing how the system works probably gave them a lot of insights.”

A Push to Penetrate Daily Life

The Covid controls are gone. The stepped-up surveillance is not.

It is clear now that the government’s heightened intrusiveness during the pandemic was an acceleration of a longer-term project. Mr. Xi’s goal is to deploy the masses to bolster the party, as Mao had done, but without the turmoil. That is where technology and the police come in, to ensure people never slip out of control.

“This is the next iteration” of the party’s obsession with stifling unrest, said Suzanne Scoggins, a professor at Clark University in Massachusetts who has studied Chinese policing.

And Beijing is pushing to expand it rapidly. It has encouraged local governments to hire many more workers to watch assigned grids. Last month, the party also issued its first-ever top-level guidance on the management of such workers, calling for stronger ideological training and formalized rewards and punishments.

Those new grid monitors will supplement the extensive ranks of China’s surveillance workers, which on top of uniformed police and party workers also include as many as 15 million ordinary people recruited as local government informants, according to Professor Pei’s research.

Volunteer from neighborhood committees watching on streets are especially visible on holidays or during major political meetings, ensuring that public order is maintained.

Beijing also deploys vast numbers of “security volunteers,” mostly retirees, during important political meetings or holidays. They are tasked with ensuring the streets look orderly: steering homeless people into shelters, scolding those who litter and alerting the police if they see suspected protesters.

On a recent Thursday in central Beijing, two residents stood on the sidewalk wearing red vests and name tags. They would be there for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, guarding their assigned grid unit of three apartment buildings, said one of them, Qi Jinyou, 76. Other duos were stationed regularly down the block.

Mr. Qi had joined about a year ago, after neighborhood officials called residents at home to recruit. In return, he received gifts like tissues or toothpaste. But he also felt a sense of duty: “We have to protect, right? Safety first.”

In Zhangjiawan, the Beijing suburb held up as a model of Fengqiao’s successes, some residents praised the increase in patrols. Near a billboard depicting a smiling Mr. Xi, a meat seller named Wang Li said that neighborhood officials often inspected for fire hazards like loose electrical wires, or reminded residents to go for health checkups.

Seeing police cars on patrol when she got off work late, she said, “I feel more at ease.”

‘To Grind You Down’

Others have seen how the approach can be used to try and compel obedience.

On the outskirts of Zhangjiawan, the government is demolishing and redeveloping several villages into a tourist attraction. By January, 98 percent of the roughly 1,700 households had agreed to relocate, thanks to village representatives who had visited homes more than 1,600 times, according to a social media post by the local government touting how the Fengqiao experience had “taken root.”

They “won trust with their professionalism, and intimacy with their sincerity,” the government said.

A villager named Ms. Mu was one of the holdouts. Standing outside the low-slung house that her family had lived in for more than 20 years, she surveyed the fields where neighboring buildings had already been flattened.

Party officials and representatives of the developer had repeatedly called and visited her family, urging them to move out, but she felt the compensation was too low.

“They don’t have a proper conversation with you. They just send people to grind you down,” said Ms. Mu, who asked that only her surname be used.

One night, as negotiations dragged on, men were stationed outside their home to intimidate them, she said. Their water supply was also cut off during the demolition of nearby buildings, but local officials did not seem to care about that, Ms. Mu said: “Not a single village official has come to ask, how can we help with this water problem?”

She and her siblings now drive into town to fill bottles with tap water.

The risks of empowering low-level officials to fulfill sweeping political mandates became especially clear during the pandemic. Under pressure to prevent infections, neighborhood workers at times prevented residents from buying groceries or seeking medical care.

Even high-profile political activists, for whom surveillance has long been routine, have felt the controls intensify. Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer who was released from more than four years in prison in 2020, said that 30 or 40 people were watching his home in Beijing at any given time. He shared photographs of groups of men in black clothing sitting inside his building and following him on the street.

Several landlords had forced him to move out, under official pressure, he said. The authorities had also pressured schools not to let his 11-year-old son enroll, he added.

“We didn’t think that when they couldn’t chase us away from Beijing, they would start targeting our child,” he said. “After the epidemic, it’s gotten worse.”

The Cost of Control

The success of this labor-intensive approach hinges upon the zeal of its enforcers. That has often worked to the advantage of the party, which uses financial incentives, appeals to patriotism and sometimes threats, such as to their jobs, to mobilize officials and ordinary people alike.

But the reliance on an army of paid workers could also be the surveillance apparatus’s central weakness, as the slowing economy forces local governments to tighten budgets.

Already, some community workers and police officers have complained on social media of being overworked.

Even propaganda about Fengqiao has acknowledged the toll of making officials responsible for ever-smaller issues. One state media article lauded a police officer who, to resolve a dispute between neighbors, helped unclog a blocked pipe. “Suddenly, a large amount of sewage and feces sprayed onto his head and body,” the article said. The residents, the article continued, “felt both pity and gratitude.”

The party’s tightening grip could also stifle the dynamism that it needs to revive the economy. A fried chicken vendor in Zhangjiawan, who gave only her surname, Ma, said she had not made enough money to pay her rent for three months, in part because constantly patrolling officers prohibited her from setting up her cart on the sidewalk.

“If the economy suffers, then there will be security problems,” she said. “People need to eat. If they get anxious, things will get messy.”

[Edit typo.]

submitted 4 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

Here is the video interview (2 min)

Jens Stoltenberg says the rules on using Western weapons should be eased

NATO Secretaries-General do not normally attack the policies of the alliance’s biggest and most important member country. But Jens Stoltenberg, whose ten-year stint in charge is coming to an end, has done just that.

In an interview with The Economist on May 24th, he called on NATO allies supplying weapons to Ukraine to end their prohibition on using them to strike military targets in Russia. Mr Stoltenberg’s clear, if unnamed, target was the policy maintained by Joe Biden, America’s president, of controlling what Ukraine can and cannot attack with American-supplied systems.

submitted 4 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

In response to the recent wave of long-range missile strikes by Russian forces on targets in western Ukraine, Polish and allied aircraft were deployed in Polish airspace during the night. This intense activity, observed and reported early Sunday morning by the Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces, aimed to ensure the security of Poland’s airspace.

“With the conclusion of the long-range missile strikes by the Russian Federation’s air force on targets in the western part of Ukraine, the operation of military aviation in Polish airspace has been completed, and the deployed forces and resources have returned to standard operational activities,” announced the Operational Command via social media.

The night saw heightened activity from the Russian air force, which conducted missile attacks on various targets, including those in western Ukraine. As a precautionary measure, Polish and allied aircraft were mobilized to operate within Polish airspace, particularly increasing aerial presence in the southeastern regions of the country. This deployment might have led to elevated noise levels in these areas, as noted by the Operational Command.

By morning, the Command confirmed the end of these maneuvers. The last significant activity from the Russian air force in connection with these strikes was recorded during the night of May 7th to 8th.

The Operational Command emphasized that all necessary procedures to ensure the safety of Polish airspace were activated. The situation continues to be closely monitored to respond to any further developments promptly.

submitted 17 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

By Professor Natasha Lindstaedt, Department of Government, University of Essex.

[The island of] Gotland has been a popular holiday destination for decades, but recently Swedish commander-in-chief, Mikael Bydén, claimed that Russian president Vladmir Putin “has his eyes” on the island. Concern was further ramped up, showing Gotland was just one part of Russia’s ambitions in the Baltics, in the last few days when Russia published a document suggesting that it needed to reassess the maritime borders in the Gulf of Finland.

That draft decree by the Russian defence ministry, which has since been removed, proposed that Russia wanted to revise its borders with Finland and Kaliningrad (based on a resolution adopted by the Soviet Union’s council of ministers in 1985) and expand its territorial waters.

Gotland holds a strategically important location of being in the middle of the Baltic Sea (halfway between Sweden and Estonia) and only 300km from where Russia’s Baltic fleet is based. Sweden joining Nato and giving it access to Gotland has significantly increased the alliance’s ability to deploy and sustain its forces in the Baltic Sea region, and this could make a decisive difference in the defence of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Poland.

Because of its strategic importance, for most of the cold war Sweden maintained a large military presence on the island. But Gotland was demilitarised in 2005 in order to promote peace and cooperation in the Baltic region.

This gesture of goodwill was immediately tested by the Russians as, not long after doing so, Russian men who did not fit the usual Gotland tourist profile, began regularly visiting the island.

Then, on March 29 2013, two Tupolev Tu-22M3 nuclear bombers came within 24 miles of Gotland on dummy bombing runs. Sweden’s part-time air force had the weekend off on account of the Easter holiday, emphasising both the country’s military weakness and Gotland’s vulnerability to Russia.

After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Sweden took significant steps to protect itself, reintroducing 150 permanent troops on the island in 2016. By 2018, Sweden had expanded the number of permanently placed troops to 400, equipping them with CV90 armoured vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks. Air defence systems were also reactivated by 2021.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to additional reinforcements, exercises, and investment in Gotland’s defence, totalling US$160 million (£125 million). In April 2023, Sweden held its biggest military exercise in 25 years alongside Polish and British troops on the island.

For Swedish commander-in-chief Bydén, the reasons for increasing its defences in Gotland are clear. Gotland is both a major strategic asset and potential liability, and therefore must be protected in order to prevent greater threats from Russia to Nato countries from the sea.

The geographical distances in the Baltics are small, and if Russia seized Gotland in a crisis, it could dominate the Baltic Sea region. This would make it very difficult for the west to provide reinforcement to the Baltic states by sea or by air.

It’s not only Sweden that is concerned. Lithuania borders both the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (which itself has become increasingly militarised) and Belarus, it is concerned that it could be attacked, and would then be physically isolated from the rest of the Baltics.

In usual Moscow fashion, when the online document about changing Russian maritime borders was spotted in the west, the Kremlin denied that it had any plans to do so. But there was no explanation from Russian officials as to why the ministry proposal was removed from the government’s portal.

As leaders of the Baltic countries sought clarification, Lithuania warned that this was, at the very least, another Russian intimidation tactic. Estonia’s prime minster, Kaja Kallas, went further, claiming that Russia is engaging in a “shadow war” with the west.

Shadow war in the Baltic

The Baltic Sea has already been an area of heightened tensions this year. Russian ships have stoked hostilities due to their increasingly brazen and careless behaviour, breaching maritime rules and sailing old and uninsured oil tankers, which could potentially cause an environmental catastrophe.

Russian shadow tankers (which are ships that are used in countries that have been sanctioned) have been present in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone off the eastern coast of Gotland, and have loitered off Gotland’s east coast. Russia’s fleet consists of about 1,400 ships that are not officially part of Russia’s military.

Many of these shadow tankers refuse pilotage, the practice of directing the movement of a ships by using visual or electronic observations, even when navigating Denmark’s narrow Great Belt. It appears they are engaging in forms of brinkmanship.

These provocations all take place just outside the 12 nautical mile limit (a country’s territorial waters), making it impossible for Sweden to do anything about it, as these commercial tankers are not part of Russia’s official navy. The Swedish navy has warned that Russia is likely to be using these oil tankers to engage in sabotage, reconnaissance and espionage.

Because of these developments, the Swedish prime minister informed citizens in March that they needed to be prepared for war.

In the past, Gotland was a deterrent against Soviet expansion. But Russia today under Putin seems less easily deterred and more risk-acceptant. What’s not clear is if these provocations are part of a Russian shadow war to psychologically divide and terrorise the west, or if this is a prelude to an actual war, which would certainly begin if Russia attacked Gotland.

As Sweden is now a member of Nato, this means that all members must come to Sweden’s defence should it face an attack. On its own, Sweden has a world-class and modern submarine fleet and air force and a technologically advanced defence industrial base.

Given Sweden’s military capabilities, it’s hard to predict if this is enough to deter conflict with Russia. For now, it seems, Russia is determined to create suspense around its intentions in the Baltics — a region that holds both Nato’s greatest assets and vulnerabilities. As a result, the Baltic region has become a playground in Russia’s shadow war.

submitted 1 day ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

- Gazprom posted a loss of $7 bln in 2023, first since end-1990s - Gazprom's pipeline gas sales to Europe slump - Russia banks on business with Asia - Price of Russian gas for China seen gradually declining

Kremlin-owned energy kingpin Gazprom, once Russia's most profitable company, could face a long period of poor performance as it struggles to fill the gap of lost European gas sales with its domestic market and Chinese exports.

The company recently announced an annual net loss of $7 billion, its first since 1999, following a steep decline in trade with Europe.

Gazprom's troubles reflect the deep impact the European sanctions have had on Russia's gas industry, as well as the limitations of Moscow's growing partnership with China.

The impact of international sanctions on oil exports has been easier for Moscow to absorb because Russia has been able to redirect sea-borne oil exports to other buyers.

Gazprom relied on Europe as its largest sales market until 2022, when Russia's conflict with Ukraine prompted the EU to cut Gazprom gas imports.

Russia supplied a total of around 63.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to Europe by various routes in 2022, according to Gazprom data and Reuters calculations. The volume decreased further, by 55.6%, to 28.3 bcm last year.

That's compared to a peak of 200.8 bcm Gazprom pumped in 2018 to the EU and other countries, such as Turkey.

Mysterious blasts at Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines from Russia to Germany in September 2022 also significantly undermined Russian gas trade with Europe. Russia has turned to China, seeking to boost its pipeline gas sales to 100 bcm a year by 2030. Gazprom started pipeline gas supplies to China via the Power of Siberia in the end of 2019.

It plans to reach the 38 bcm annual capacity of Power of Siberia by the end of this year, while Moscow and Beijing also agreed in 2022 about exports of 10 bcm from the Pacific island of Sakhalin.

Russia's biggest hope is the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline via Mongolia, which is planned to export 50 bcm per year. But that has hit some pitfalls due to the lack of agreement over pricing and other issues.

"While Gazprom will see some additional export revenues when all those pipelines will be up and running, it will never be able to offset completely the business it has lost to Europe," Kateryna Filippenko, a research director on gas and LNG at Wood Mackenzie, said.

Chinese pipedream?

Russia has also struggled so far to establish a gas trading centre in Turkey, an idea first floated by President Vladimir Putin in October 2022. No significant development has been reported since.

Even if Gazprom can get its pipeline supply to China up and running, sales revenues will be much lower than from Europe.

According to Moscow-based BCS brokerage, Gazprom's revenue from gas sales to Europe in 2015-2019 averaged at $3.3 billion per month thanks to monthly supplies of 15.5 bcm.

Taking into account a price of $286.9 per 1,000 cubic metres, as reported by the Russian economy ministry, and Gazprom's gas exports of 22.7 bcm last year, the total value of the company's gas sold to China could have reach $6.5 billion for the whole of 2023.

Gazprom did not reveal its revenue from sales to Europe or China for 2023 separately.

Dr Michal Meidan, head of China Energy Research at Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said China is unlikely to replace Europe for Russia as a highly profitable gas export market.

"China gives Russia an outlet but at much lower prices and revenue than Europe," she said.

In 2023, Russian pipeline gas was sold at $6.6 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) to China and slightly lower than that in the first quarter 2024 at $6.4/mmBtu.

That's compared to an average price of Russian gas in Europe of $12.9/mmBtu last year.

According to a document seen by Reuters last month, Russia expects its gas price for China to continue gradually declining in next four years, while a worst-case scenario does not rule out a 45% fall to $156.7 per 1,000 cubic metres (around $4.4 per mmBtu) in 2027 versus 2023.

It didn't say what might drive prices down, but Russia is facing rivalry from other pipeline gas suppliers to China, such as Turkmenistan, as well as sea-borne liquefied natural gas.

The financials of Gazprom, which also include its oil and power units, showed that the revenue from the natural gas business more than halved last year, to just over 3.1 trillion roubles, while oil and gas condensate sales amounted to 4.1 trillion roubles, up 4.3%, according to BCS brokerage.

Alexei Belogoriyev of Moscow-based Institute for Energy and Finance said it would be impossible for Gazprom to restore profitability relying solely on its gas business. He said strategic shift to production and export of ammonia, methanol and other gas processing products for Gazprom is possible, but it will not give a quick return.

"At the same time, the prospects for the Power of Siberia 2 remain vague: China most likely won't need for so much additional imports in 2030s due to the likely slowdown in demand growth and high domestic gas production rates," he said.

submitted 1 day ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Radosław Sikorski also says he favours deepest possible inclusion of UK in EU defence structures

  • Radosław Sikorski also called for majority voting for EU sanctions as some of them [EU sanctions] "have been delayed by one member state blocking them"

  • Sikorski said Poland backed the right of Ukraine to strike at military targets inside Russia, arguing that the west had to stop constantly limiting itself in what it does to support Ukraine. He said:

“The Russians are hitting the Ukrainian’s electricity grid and their grain terminals and gas storage capacity, civilian infrastructure. The Russian operation is conducted from the HQ at Rostov-on-Don. Apart from not using nuclear weapons, Russia does not limit itself much."

"Always declaring what our own [the EU's] red line is only invites Moscow to tailor its hostile actions to our constantly changing self-imposed limitations.”

  • Poland is spending 4% of its GDP on defence and Sikorski said other countries had catching up to do

  • Sikorski admitted European defence manufacturers still did not feel that the process of rearmament was permanent, and said Vladimir Putin was spending 40% of GDP on defence and would eventually bankrupt his country by making the military so resource hungry

  • Sikorski said that it should be an EU crime to breach EU sanctions and therefore prosecutable by the European prosecution service

  • Sikorski was sceptical about Russian threats to use nuclear weapons, saying:

"The Americans have told the Russians that if you explode a nuke, even if it doesn’t kill anybody, we will hit all your targets [positions] in Ukraine with conventional weapons, we’ll destroy all of them." Adding:

“I think that’s a credible threat. Also, the Chinese and the Indians have read Russia the riot act. And it’s no child’s play because if that taboo were also to be breached, like the taboo of not changing borders by force, China knows that Japan and Korea would go nuclear, and presumably they don’t want that.”

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submitted 2 days ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday issued new provisional measures that order Israel to immediately end military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza and to open the governate’s border crossing for urgent aid deliveries.

This follows a request from South Africa in a pending case accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

Reading the new provisional measures in an open session at the court in The Hague, ICJ Justice Nawaf Salam announced that Israel must abide by its obligations under the Genocide Convention to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governate which may inflict upon the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole and in part”. Tweet URL

The court issued that decision by 13 votes in favour to two against.

The new provisional measures came in response to South Africa’s request made on 10 May related to its initial accusations in December that Israel is violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention during the war in Gaza, which broke out after Hamas-led attacks on Israel in October that killed more than 1,200 people and left another 250 taken hostage.

Israel’s military response has, to date, killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians and caused widespread destruction and a looming famine in the besieged and bombarded enclave.

Court orders opening of Rafah border crossing

Given the worsening conditions on the ground since Israel’s incursion into Rafah on 7 May, the court decided, also by votes of 13 in favour to two against, the new provisional measures shall require Israel to open the Rafah crossing for the unhindered delivery of urgent humanitarian aid and ensure unimpeded access for fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of genocide.

The Rafah border crossing, which has been the main entry point for aid to the enclave, has been closed since 7 May.

“The court is not convinced that evacuation efforts and related measures that Israel has affirmed to have undertaken to enhance the security of civilians in the Gaza Strip, and in particular those recently displaced from the Rafah governate, are sufficient to alleviate immense risks to which the Palestinian population is exposed as a result of the military offensive in Rafah,” Mr. Salam said.

In addition, the ICJ ordered Israel to submit a report within one month on steps taken to implement these provisional measures.

Deteriorating conditions

Mr. Salam said the ICJ had noted that the situation in Gaza has deteriorated since it last issued provisional measures in March, adding that since Israel’s incursion into Rafah, the Najjar Hospital was no longer functioning and aid efforts have been impacted.

The court also noted that Israel’s evacuation orders for Rafah residents had led more than 800,000 people to flee to places like the coastal area of Al Mawasi, which lacked the basic essentials and services to accommodate them.

Since taking up South Africa’s case in January, the ICJ had already issued provisional measures in January and March by which Israel must, among other things, take all steps to ensure sufficient humanitarian aid enters Gaza.

However, UN agencies are reporting that scant aid is currently entering Gaza.

Court reiterates call to release hostages

On Friday, Mr. Salam recalled that in the two previous orders for provisional measures “the court expressed its grave concern over the fate of the hostages abducted during the attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 and held since then by Hamas and other armed groups, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.”

He said “the court finds it deeply troubling that many of these hostages remain in captivity and reiterates its call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

What’s the difference between the ICJ and the ICC?

There is frequent confusion between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Both courts have open cases against Israel related to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The simplest way to explain the difference is that ICJ cases involve countries, and the ICC is a criminal court, which brings cases against individuals for war crimes or crimes against humanity. While the ICJ is an organ of the United Nations, the ICC is legally independent of the UN, although it is endorsed by the General Assembly.

The ICJ is currently considering South Africa’s accusations that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention.

On Monday, the ICC sought arrest warrants related to possible war crimes against three Hamas leaders and Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. The request for the warrants are now being considered by the court’s judges.

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By Elaine L Ritch, Reader in Fashion, Marketing and Sustainability, Glasgow Caledonian University

Fast-fashion brand Shein expressed interest last year in listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). But, having met some opposition from US politicians, including Republican Florida senator Marco Rubio, it has now reportedly turned its attention to London.

While this would be a boost for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which has lost several organisations to other international exchanges over the last five years, it raises the question of why Shein has not been successful with its application to the NYSE.

Shein has gained a significant global market share in online fast fashion since launching in China in 2008. It found success accelerating the already lucrative fast-fashion business model to become an ultra-fast fashion retailer.

That Shein is the second most popular fashion retailer for American generation Z is unsurprising, given the vast choice of up to 10,000 new garments uploaded daily at significantly lower prices than fast-fashion competitors like Zara and H&M.

Yet those strategies that have enabled Shein’s international expansion are now likely hindering its application to the NYSE. The low cost of fast fashion in general has long been linked to potential labour exploitation, and the precariousness of outsourcing fashion production to the cheapest supplier within a global supply chain was evident during the pandemic. And as awareness of unethical and unsustainable practices in the wider industry grows, activists may yet have the power to disrupt Shein’s growth.

Swiss NGO Public Eye has reported on alleged exploitation at factories said to be used by Shein, which itself recently issued a comprehensive response saying it has made “extensive progress” in improving conditions. In the US, Rubio introduced a law in 2021 blocking imports made by Chinese Uyghur slave labour and has since ordered an investigation into Shein and fellow Chinese low-price retailer Temu to see if their goods fall foul of the law.

Climate emergency

The US is going further in regulating the fashion industry. In New York, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act will, if passed, legislate that fashion and footwear brands with more than US$100 million (£79 million) in revenue must map 50% of their supply chain to ensure transparency. They will also have to develop plans to reduce their social and environmental impact.

Similarly, in 2019 the European Parliament declared a climate emergency, and the European Commission responded by developing the European Green Deal. This includes planned legislation forcing the fashion industry to address sustainability issues, meaning that by 2030 fashion and textiles will have to become more durable, repairable and recyclable. Businesses will also need to have strategies in place from the design process through to the end of life to maximise resources and avoid contributing to landfill.

French politicians are also “legislating to limit the excesses of ultra-fast fashion”, with a surcharge from 2025 of €5 (£4.29) per item, rising to €10 by 2030. This is recognition that ultra-fast and fast fashion does not only exploit labour, but also the environment. In being seen as disposable, fast fashion has been shown to encourage constant consumption.

While listing Shein on the LSE could improve the company’s respectability and profits, it could backfire for the brand in the long term. Shein could become more visible to a wider audience and with more understanding of sustainability and business practices that contribute to the climate emergency, activists could begin targeting shareholders and other organisations and people with connections to the company.

There is precedent for this – activists who targeted museums and galleries over their sponsorship from energy companies, as well as campus protests in the US and Europe calling for universities to divest from Israeli companies over its war in Gaza.

This trend of publicly criticising brands for exploitative or unethical practice has been levied at fast fashion retailers on social media for years. In particular, influencers who promote “fashion hauls” have been criticised for encouraging unsustainable fashion consumption.

The fashion industry may appear to be unfairly scrutinised for failing to address sustainability. After all, it’s hardly the only industry that damages the environment. But the scrutiny appears to be valid; the United Nations now believes that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

What’s more, as an industry it makes an overt display of its cheap prices and rapid turnover, with marketing tactics claiming “last chance to buy” or “low in stock”, along with discounts that encourage frequent impulsive purchases. Our research has found that fast fashion marketing on social media is “in your face” and encourages mindless consumption of clothing that often languishes in wardrobes with the tags still on.

Fast-fashion retailers frequently make sustainability claims to alleviate consumer “eco-guilt”, which are often ambiguous and can’t be readily substantiated. But fast and ultra-fast fashion can never be sustainable due to the speed of turnover and items that are often binned after one wear.

So, although the marketing entices customers through social media, the messages consumers see as they scroll are increasingly competing with stories of activism and protests about fast fashion’s harmful effects.

As moves to regulate the fast-fashion industry spread to more regions, the effects will almost certainly affect the profits of those in the sector. While a London listing for Shein might be a shot in the arm for the LSE, it could spell trouble for the retailer as it finds itself – and its practices – under increasing scrutiny.

Shein was approached about the claims made in this article but declined to comment.

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Cash-strapped Pakistan is moving to restructure more than $15 billion in power-plant debt owed to Chinese energy producers, in a move that threatens to dampen Beijing’s appetite for future investment.

The South Asian nation is already on the hook for about $1.9 billion in unpaid operating bills at 20 China-backed power plants across the country. Most were built under the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of Beijing’s globe-spanning Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But Islamabad announced this weekend that it was seeking to restructure $15.4 billion in loans linked to the construction of those China-funded plants.

Pakistan wants to extend the maturity of the loans by five years to save roughly $2 billion in debt-servicing costs over the next several years, according to an official involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Delaying payment could give the government some wiggle room to avoid raising electricity prices in the midst of soaring summertime demand. An energy price hike last year triggered widespread protests.

The surprise announcement came as Pakistan negotiates another bailout package in the range of $6 to $8 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has called on Islamabad to stop subsidizing the energy sector

“It reduces the [debt] burden [of Pakistan] when it comes to negotiating with the IMF,” Aadil Nakhoda, an assistant professor of economics at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, said of the restructuring plan.

Pakistan is aiming to get the restructuring approved before Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visits China next month. But observers said convincing Beijing could be difficult. The request comes amid tensions between the two countries after a series of deadly militant attacks on Chinese nationals and economic interests in Pakistan.

Abdul Rehman, a Pakistan-based energy market expert, said Chinese officials will not agree to restructure the multibillion-dollar loans.

“China will give new loans, which can be used to repay the existing loans of power projects,” Rehman said. “In this way, the debts will not be restructured and Pakistan’s forex accounts will also get a breather.”

Chinese companies have repeatedly called on Pakistan to settle its outstanding power bills, stoking fears that producers could suspend their operations to force Islamabad’s hand. Pakistan is paying some of the operations’ variable costs, such as fuel, and it is unlikely the Chinese companies would take such a drastic step, Rehman said. But “Chinese power producers’ payment problems will surely affect future Chinese investment in Pakistan,” he added.

This month, Chinese investors called for Pakistan to place funds in a foreign bank account to ensure that debts owed to power producers are paid on time. Pakistan has not accepted this demand, but it is under mounting pressure to placate them before next month’s Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting. The body makes decisions for the broader China-Pakistan investment framework, including about future funding and the suspension of existing projects.

“Given its burgeoning economic problems, Pakistan expects major investments from China at the next JCC meeting,” another government official told Nikkei on condition of anonymity. “We fear that Pakistan’s failure to honor commitments to pay Chinese power producers has made our investment pitch to China a very hard sell.”

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***Written by Amy Maguire, Associate Professor in Human Rights and International Law, University of Newcastle ***

The request by Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders is a significant step in the effort to bring justice to the victims of international crimes in Israel and Palestine.

Khan has asked ICC judges to issue warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against Yahya Sinwar (head of Hamas in Gaza), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (also known as Mohammed Deif, the commander of the military wing of Hamas) and Ismail Haniyeh (head of Hamas’ political bureau, based in Qatar).

They are alleged to bear responsibility for international crimes on Israeli and Palestinian territory at least since October 7 2023.

Khan has also requested arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, again for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are alleged to be responsible for crimes in the Gaza Strip since October 8 2023.

What have they been accused of?

Sinwar, Al-Masri and Haniyeh are charged in relation to the attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, in which an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed and at least 245 taken hostage.

In addition, the Hamas leaders are accused of other crimes in the context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. These include:

  • extermination
  • murder
  • hostage taking
  • rape and other acts of sexual violence
  • torture
  • cruel treatment

Khan said in his statement:

I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today. Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability.

Khan noted his office conducted extensive investigations, including site visits and interviews with victim survivors, and relied on evidence relating to the conditions in which Israeli hostages have been held in Gaza.

Netanyahu and Gallant are alleged to be criminally responsible for a number of international crimes since Israel launched its military action against Hamas in Gaza on October 8, including:

  • starvation of civilians as a method of warfare
  • wilfully causing great suffering
  • wilful killing
  • intentional attacks against a civilian population
  • extermination and/or murder
  • persecution.

The prosecutor said the alleged crimes:

.... were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to state policy. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.

Noting the horrific suffering of civilians in Gaza, including tens of thousands of casualties and catastrophic hunger, Khan alleged that the means Netanyahu and Gallant chose to pursue Israel’s military aims in Gaza

… namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.

What does this mean in practice?

The next step in this process is for three judges in the ICC pre-trial chamber to decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. If so, they will issue arrest warrants. It could take months for the judges to make this assessment.

If arrest warrants are issued, however, they are very unlikely to be executed. And if none of the accused can be arrested, then no trial will take place because the ICC does not try people in absentia.

So, why is it unlikely the accused will be arrested? There are several reasons.

First, none of the accused will hand themselves in for prosecution. Netanyahu was outraged by Khan’s decision, calling it “a moral outrage of historic proportions” and accusing him of antisemitism.

Hamas has issued a statement strongly denouncing the issuing of arrest warrants against its leaders, claiming it equates “the victim with the executioner”.

Second, none of the accused are likely to put themselves in a position to be arrested and turned over to the ICC. Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. Its chief ally, the United States, is also not a member. This would guarantee Netanyahu and Gallant could travel to the US without fear of arrest.

Meanwhile, Haniyeh is based in Qatar, which is also not an ICC member state. He may need to curtail travel to other states to avoid risk of arrest. The other two accused Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding in Gaza – they appear more at risk of being killed by Israeli forces than arrest.

However, Palestine is an ICC member state, so technically it is obliged to cooperate with the court. In practice, though, it is hard to see how this will happen.

Third, the ICC relies on its member states to enforce its actions. It has no independent police force or capacity to execute arrest warrants.

The ICC has 124 state parties, while the United Nations has 193 member states. This disparity makes clear the gap between what the ICC seeks to achieve – namely, universal accountability for international crimes – and what it can practically achieve when it lacks the support of implicated or nonaligned countries.

What does this mean for the ICC?

Khan’s move is unprecedented in one respect. This is the first time the prosecutor’s office has brought charges against a head of state who is supported by Western nations.

The move triggered a predictable response from the US. President Joe Biden called it “outrageous” and added:

[…] there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.

But Khan emphasised the importance of the ICC’s independence and impartiality, as well as the equal application of law.

No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity.

The ICC has previously confirmed its jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed by the five leaders this week. The prosecutor will be confident the pre-trial chamber will issue the arrest warrants, based on the highly visible nature of the alleged crimes and the volume of evidence available to show reasonable grounds for prosecution.

The request for arrest warrants undoubtedly complicates relations between Israel and its allies that are ICC member states. In such a politically charged context, it is fair to describe this effort as a test of the international community’s commitment to the goal of ending impunity for international crimes.

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The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office has filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down two pro-Russian paramilitary groups that have been particularly active on social media, with calls to change the country’s constitutional order.

The two groups are working against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the nation and towards the incitement of ethnic or religious enmity,” the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

Both the Bulgarian National Movement “Shipka” and the Bulgarian Military Union “Vasil Levski” are registered in Varna, Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea coast, just 300 kilometres from Ukraine.

The Bulgarian media first raised the alarm about the activities of both organisations in their investigations, as did the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. So far, the prosecutor’s office has ignored calls to intervene and demand the banning of the paramilitary groups, which openly boasted of preparing armed self-defence units and threatened to revise the country’s constitutional structure.

Now, however, investigating authorities have found that the leaders of the two associations had contacts with representatives of groups in Germany known for their far-right views, prosecutors said, without naming the German extremists.

Euractiv Bulgaria requested additional information from the prosecutor’s office about the German links of the Bulgarian paramilitary groups, but no response had been provided by the time of publication.

Pro-Russian organisations registered in Bulgaria have used calls for religious and ethnic hatred in their propaganda, as well as calls for action against foreign citizens and representatives of different ethnicities and religions.

“The investigation has gathered evidence that the associations have organised training sessions for their sympathisers to acquire certain combat skills. It was also found that organised visits were made to the border with Turkey in order to catch illegal migrants,” the prosecutor’s office said.

These groups attracted the attention of some independent Bulgarian media in the spring of 2016, when they announced the launch of Operation Liberation of Bulgaria and presented themselves as the “transitional common Bulgarian people’s government”.

Even then, the organisations’ websites publicly announced that they were discussing the creation of paramilitary structures, including their own “detachments, platoons, companies and battalions”.

Vladimir Rusev led Operation Liberation and introduced himself as Walther Kalashnikov, a combination of the German Walther pistol and the Russian AK-47 (Kalashnikov).

Rusev claimed to be a lieutenant colonel, but he only reached the rank of sergeant major in the Bulgarian army.

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Prisoners held at an Israeli detention camp in the Negev desert are being subjected to widespread physical and mental abuses, with at least one reported case of a man having his limb amputated as a result of injuries sustained from constant handcuffing, according to two whistleblowers who worked at the site.

The sources described harrowing treatment of detainees at the Israeli Sde Teiman camp, which holds Palestinians from Gaza and suspected Hamas militants, including inmates regularly being kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded and forced to wear nappies.

According to the two sources, the facility, located approximately 18 miles from the Gaza border, consists of two distinct sections: an enclosure where up to 200 Palestinian detainees from Gaza are confined under severe physical restrictions inside cages, and a field hospital where dozens of patients with war injuries are handcuffed to their beds and often deprived of pain relief.

One whistleblower, who has worked in the facility as a prison guard, said detainees were forced to stand up for hours, or to sit on their knees. The source, who spoke out at risk of reprisals, said several detainees were beaten with truncheons and not able to move their heads or to speak at the facility.

“The prisoners are detained in a sort of cages, all blindfolded and handcuffed,” the source said. “If someone speaks or moves, they are immediately silenced or they are forced to stand with their hands raised above their head and handcuffed for up to one hour.

“If they are unable to keep their hands raised, the soldiers attach the handcuffs to the bars of the cage. Many of the detainees had infected wounds that were not being properly treated.”

He added: “The floor is very dirty, and it smells so bad that we were forced to wear face masks. You could hear sometimes the sound of beating and them screaming, and [a] banging sound like against the metal wall.”

The whistleblower said prisoners were given one cucumber, a few slices of bread and a cup of cheese, and that some of them were visibly malnourished.

The source claimed the military had no proof that detainees were all members of Hamas, with some inmates repeatedly asking why they were there. According to the whistleblower, most were considered suspects and some were released. “But they had not been formally charged. It was a kind of filtering camp, a provisional detention,” he said.

According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which demanded the closure of the camp, “since the start of the war, all Gazan residents detained are classified as ‘unlawful combatants’, a classification which deprives them of prisoner of war status, enabling Israel to prohibit lawyers’ visits for prolonged periods, leading to a lack of critical oversight during a time of heightened risk of severe incarceration conditions and torture.”

According to information obtained from the Israeli prison service dating from early April, 849 individuals classified as “unlawful combatants” were being held in its custody.

The source described the field hospital in the detention camp as consisting of tents with an emergency room where patients underwent surgery on a stretcher as there was no operating table. The patients were handcuffed to the beds, they all had nappies and were blindfolded.

He claimed he was told that some patients had come from hospitals in Gaza. “These were patients who had been captured by the Israeli army while being treated in Gaza hospitals and brought here. They had limbs and infected wounds. They were moaning in pain.”

In one case, he said, he learned that a detainee’s hand had been amputated “because the wrists had become gangrenous due to handcuffing wounds.”

The PHR report detailed the case of Izz ad-Din al-Bana, a 34-year-old Gaza resident who relied on a wheelchair before his arrest, and who died at another medical centre in February after being transferred from Sde Teiman to be treated for severe pressure ulcers. Other prisoners alleged that he had been complaining of pain for several days and did not receive an appropriate response or treatment.

The prison guard’s statements are corroborated by a second whistleblower who spoke to the Guardian and who was part of the medical staff operating in the field hospital in Sde Teiman.

“There were about 15 patients in total, they were all handcuffed and blindfolded,” he said. “They were naked, wearing diapers and were covered by blankets. Most of them appeared to have obvious war injuries, some had undergone amputations and others underwent major abdominal or chest surgery. They were practically naked except for a diaper.”

The member of the medical staff added: “I understand that it is difficult to treat a patient accused of heinous crimes, but it is the job we have chosen and as physicians we should recognise that every human being has a right to appropriate healthcare regardless of their backgrounds.”

The source said he witnessed a patient undergoing painful medical procedures without any painkillers.

Responding to the claims, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement: “Among the detainees held at the Sde Teiman facility are skilled military operatives at a very high level of danger. Detainees are handcuffed according to their level of risk and their state of health.

“Routinely procedures are carried out on handcuffing in order to make sure that the handcuffing is carried in a manner that does not harm the detainees … Early in the war and after reports of handcuff injuries, the type of handcuffs in the facility was changed to reduce, as much as possible, possible harm as a result of the handcuffs.”

It added that detainees were allowed regular access to toilets located in the prison complex and that nappies were used only for those who had undergone medical procedures for which their movement was limited, and were intended to maintain their hygiene.

The IDF said it treated detainees “appropriately and carefully” and “any allegation regarding misconduct by IDF soldiers is examined and dealt with accordingly. In appropriate cases, criminal investigations are opened by the military police.”

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A furious China launched "punishment" drills around Taiwan on Thursday in what it said was a response to "separatist acts", sending up heavily armed warplanes and staging mock attacks as state media denounced newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te.

The exercises, in the Taiwan Strait and around groups of Taiwan-controlled islands beside the Chinese coast, come just three days after Lai took office, a man Beijing detests as a "separatist".

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, denounced Lai's inauguration speech on Monday, in which he urged it to stop its threats, saying the two sides of the strait were "not subordinate to each other". On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Lai "disgraceful". Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) said it had started joint military drills, involving the army, navy, air force and rocket force, in areas around Taiwan at 7:45 a.m. (2345 GMT).

The drills are being held in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south and east of Taiwan, as well as areas around the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, the command said in a statement, the first time China's exercises have included areas round these islands.

State media said China sent out dozens of fighter jets carrying live missiles, and conducted mock strikes, along with warships, of high-value military targets. Taiwan's defence ministry said 15 Chinese navy ships, 16 coast guard and 33 aircraft were involved, but no live fire drills were held in any areas close to Taiwan.

The drills, dubbed "Joint Sword - 2024A", are set to run for two days. However, unlike a similar "Joint Sword" exercise in April last year, these drills are tagged "A", opening the door to potential follow-ups.

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- In 10 years, China aims to slash grains, soybean imports - Outlook diverges sharply with US forecasts for China - Lack of arable land, soil damage pose challenges - China needs bigger farms to speed productivity growth

[Linked article provides charts.]

China, the world's biggest agriculture importer, has set targets to drastically reduce its reliance on overseas buying over the coming decade in line with its push for food security, but they will be exceedingly difficult to meet, experts say.

With limited land and water, China will have to sharply increase farming productivity through technology, including genetically modified crops, and expand area under cultivation to meet Beijing's 10-year projections.

The government envisions 92% self-sufficiency in staple grains and beans by 2033, up from 84% during 2021-2023, according to a document released in late April, on a path towards President Xi Jinping's goal to become an "agriculture power" by the middle of the century.

Cutting the country's imports would be a blow to producers from the U.S. to Brazil and Indonesia, who have expanded capacity to meet demand from China's 1.4 billion people, the world's largest market for soybeans, meat and grains.

Over the 10 years to 2033 the agriculture ministry projects a 75% plunge in corn imports to 6.8 million tons and a 60% drop for wheat to 4.85 million tons. For soybeans, the biggest item on a farm import bill that totalled $234 billion last year, Beijing sees imports falling 21% to 78.7 million tons in a decade.

Those targets defy the trends of the past decade in which grains and oilseed imports have surged 87%.

"Forecasting a sharp reversal where in 10 years the country will be importing less than it does today seems questionable," said Darin Friedrichs, co-founder of Shanghai-based Sitonia Consulting.

China will struggle to meet its targets mainly due to a lack of land and water, five analysts and industry executives say.

In stark contrast to Beijing's projections, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sees China's corn imports in 2033/34 roughly in line with current levels and wheat imports declining 20%. In the biggest divergence, USDA expects soybean imports to rise 39%.

The USDA also expects growth in demand for animal feed, a key user of soybeans and corn, to outpace domestic corn output expansion and spur imports of sorghum and barley.

National security

Food security has long been a priority for China, which has a painful history of famine and must feed nearly 20% of the global population with less than 9% of its arable land and 6% of its water resources.

The urgency to cut dependence on imports grew after the country faced supply chain disruptions during the COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

A trade war with the U.S., its No.2 agriculture supplier after Brazil, and climate shocks such as heavy rains last year that damaged China's wheat harvest, have added to the challenge.

On June 1, China will implement a food security law that calls for absolute self-sufficiency in staple grains and requires local governments to include food security in their economic and development plans.

That will add to other efforts to bolster food production, including stepped up grains insurance cover for farmers to protect their income, announced this week. Last month, Beijing launched a drive to raise grain output by at least 50 million tons by 2030, spotlighting upgraded farmland and investments in seed technology for higher crop yields and quality.

Soil challenges

China increased production of corn, soybeans, potatoes and oilseeds last year after expanding planting on previously uncultivated land and encouraging farmers to switch from cash crops to staples.

However, even as the world's no. 2 corn producer harvested a record 288.84 million metric tons last year, imports surged to a near-record 27.1 million tons, driven by traders' preference for corn from overseas that is often higher quality and cheaper.

Production growth has hit a bottleneck due to insufficient arable land, small production scale and a lack of farmers and agriculture technology, state media reported.

China's arable land per capita is less than one-third the level in Brazil and one-sixth the level of the U.S., World Bank data from 2021 shows.

Degraded and polluted soil in a country where a significant share of land is either rocky mountains or desert leave it with little space for expansion.

The government, which has increasingly called for protection of its fertile black soil, is set to complete a four-year soil survey in 2025. The last survey, in 2014, found that 40% of its arable land was degraded from overuse of chemicals and heavy metal contamination.

To compensate, China is pouring millions of dollars into research of farming water-intensive crops such as rice in the deserts of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. By turning sand into soil and breeding saline-tolerant crops, it aims to develop more farmland, a strategy industry executives say will take time and heavy investments in fertiliser, irrigation and biotechnology.

One obstacle is China's predominance of small farms, run by aging owners who may not be able to afford or operate machinery such as drone sprayers, more productive seeds and technology such as big data and AI.

Farms in China average 0.65 hectares, compared to 187 hectares in the U.S. and 60 hectares in Germany. China is gradually shifting towards a consolidation of its fragmented farms.

After decades of hesitation, it is slowly adopting genetically modified crops, this year approving the planting of corn and soybean varieties that are higher-yielding and insect-resistant, as well as gene-edited disease-resistant wheat in hopes of accelerating production growth.

China's soybean yields at 1.99 tons per hectare lag the 3.38 and 3.4 ton-yields in Brazil and the U.S., which have embraced genetically modified soybeans.

But analysts say the government's target for cutting soybean imports is unrealistic. At best, China could ease its dependence on soybean imports to 70% from more than 80% now, said Carl Pray, an agriculture professor at Rutgers University in the U.S.

Almost all of China's soybeans are high protein varieties to produce tofu, and to replace imports it would need to rapidly expand production of high-oil producing varieties for cooking oil, which he said would be hard, even with research.

"To produce enough soybeans to replace the Brazilian and U.S. imports, there is just not enough land," Pray said.

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The European Uyghur Institute (IODE) said that acts of intimidation stepped up during the visit to France earlier this month of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing is behind “acts of intimidation, harassment and repeated threats towards members of the Uyghur diaspora in France, as well as towards people backing the Uyghurs’ cause,” it said in a statement.

Such acts are “multiplying and growing more systematic at a worrying speed,” it added.

The IODE said that “international repression intensified at the time of President Xi Jinping’s official visit to France” in early May.

Xi’s trip to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations with Paris saw him welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace and treated to a traditional meal in the Pyrennées mountains.

Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen sought to talk Xi down from his close partnership with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, knitted tighter since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The IODE cited specific allegations of Chinese harassment, including disruption of a theatre performance it staged on 5 May as Xi was in Paris.

“Organisers were intimidated by different groups suspected of being orchestrated by Chinese security services,” it said.

It added that on 8 May, Gulbahar Jalilova, a “refugee in Paris since October 2020” was targeted for intimidation or even kidnapping “by Chinese agents” outside her apartment building.

The IODE included photographs of the incident involving Jalilova, a former inmate of a Chinese detention camp.

There are “enormous impacts of these practices on the physical and mental health of members of the Uyghur community in France,” it said.

Newspaper Le Monde reported this week that France’s DGSI internal security service and the Paris police had identified “Chinese state agents belonging to the security services in… a failed ‘intimidation action’ on 8 May against a political refugee of Uyghur background”.

China’s Paris embassy on Wednesday blasted the report as “fake news”, “riddled with errors” and “obvious falsifications” in a post on its website.

The largely Sunni Muslim Uyghurs make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang province in northwest China.

Bloody attacks blamed on Islamists and separatists have long plagued the region.

Since 2017, more than one million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim ethnic groups have been held in “reeducation camps” inflicting widespread human rights violations, according to investigations and Western aid groups.

China describes some of the camps as “vocational training centres”.

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Here is the report (pdf).

During the first quarter of 2024, there have been 655 dissent documented events, a 21 percent increase over the same period in 2023, according to the China Dissent Monitor (CDM) by Freedomhouse, a think tank and research organization.

Labor protests (57 percent) were the most common, followed by those led by religious groups (10 percent), and by home buyers or owners (9 percent). The remainder were led by rural residents, students, parents, investors, consumers, activists, Tibetans, Mongolians, and members of the LGBT+ community. The top regions for protest events were Guangdong (17 percent), followed by Shandong, Henan, Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, and Zhejiang. CDM has logged a total of 5,455 cases of dissent since June 2022.

Increased censorship on video platforms CDM data indicates that protest-related posts on Douyin, China’s version of Tiktok, during the first quarter dropped by approximately 50 percent compared to the previous quarter. This followed an announcement in December 2023 by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) that it would launch a campaign to remove “objectionable content” on video platforms. These restrictions reduced the dissent cases CDM was able to document, especially housing protests.

Protests over inadequate heating CDM has documented 51 demonstrations or sign protests during the past two winters by home owners and buyers over inadequate heating in northern regions of China, such as Shaanxi, Shandong, and Liaoning. These heating issues appear to be linked to energy shortages and rising fuel prices.

Dissent through music In this issue, CDM examines the ways Chinese citizens incorporate music into dissent against authorities. These 29 cases include protests against COVID-19 lockdowns, social benefit cuts, and ethnic assimilation. In 5 cases, people raised rainbow flags at concerts despite restrictions on the public display of this symbol in recent years.

Demanding justice for gender-based violence CDM has logged 29 cases of dissent against sexual assault and sexual harassment, predominantly in the form of women publicly naming alleged perpetrators online. Over the past 12 months, women have increasingly used “real-name complaints,” a kind of symbolic protest that has been used across a range of issues in China. Most of the 29 cases compelled some form of official action, demonstrating the power of public dissent.

The myriad ways citizens dissent CDM has documented more than three dozen types of dissent in the PRC, such as group and solo demonstrations, protest through art, non-cooperation, cyber dissent, and contentious petitioning or lawsuits. For this issue, CDM analyzes the degree to which different groups use multiple methods to voice grievances and challenge power.

submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

It didn't take Russia's misinformation machine long to settle on who was to blame for the first assassination attempt on a European national leader in more than two decades.

When Slovakia's prime minister was shot five times on May 15, pro-Kremlin propaganda blamed Ukraine even before the authorities released any details about the gunman.

At first glance the attack seemed to be a setback for the Kremlin. Robert Fico, who remains hospitalized, is one of a handful of pro-Russian European Union leaders, and he opposed military aid to Ukraine.

But in the through-the-looking-glass world of disinformation, no news is bad news. That’s why pro-Russian social media channels, influencers and state media have seized on the shooting, suggesting that Fico was a victim because of his sympathies toward the Kremlin.

The Cyber Army of Russia Reborn, a hacking and disinformation group that frequently pushes Kremlin narratives, has circulated messages on the Telegram social media app suggesting that the 71-year-old suspect was a member of Progressive Slovakia, a pro-EU party that supports Ukraine. Local authorities have debunked the allegation.

Even so, the misinformation quickly spread on posts on X and Reddit, where anonymous accounts flooded Fico-themed discussions with speculation that the shooter was somehow affiliated with pro-Ukrainian forces. There’s no evidence of a such a link. Slovakian officials have called the shooting politically motivated and are investigating whether the attacker was part of a larger group.

One Telegram post compared the failed assassination to the 1914 killing of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I, the kind of veiled rhetoric that alludes to an imminent global conflict.

“Their main objective is to weaken support by creating so many domestic problems that we divide ourselves,” says Bilyana Lilly, cyber chair at the Warsaw Security Forum and the author of the book Russian Information Warfare. “We’ve removed all the levers to stop them from doing this in any way.”

The Cyber Army of Russia Reborn, which has more than 49,000 followers on Telegram, tries to boost its believability by circulating articles from websites that impersonate legitimate news outlets. It took credit for targeting water facilities in the US this year and may have ties to Russian military intelligence, Madiant Intelligence said in April.

The Cyber Army of Russia Reborn couldn’t be reached for comment.

In one example, it linked to a site that mimicked Britain's Telegraph, using a URL only slightly different from the newspaper’s website. Masquerading as local news websites fits within a history of propagandists trying to capitalize on the credibility of legitimate media organizations. Earlier this year, Russian media promoted a deepfake in which a journalist from France 24 seemed to announce that Emmanuel Macron postponed a trip to Ukraine because of an assassination attempt.

The Cyber Army of Russia Reborn also publicized posts from a pro-Russian hacking group, NoName, that called for cyberattacks against Slovakia’s pro-European parties.

Russian state media, meanwhile, have taken a complementary approach. A Sputnik Media article billed as an investigation said Western media, foreign non-governmental organizations and the US Agency for International Development were responsible for “turning up the political temperature” in Slovakia prior to the shooting.

That rhetoric matches that of some of Fico’s political allies, who have blamed the opposition and liberal media. Andrej Danko, the leader of the Slovak National Party that governs in coalition with Fico, last week vowed “to start a political war.”

As with any misinformation or political propaganda, the material effects of Russia’s Fico rhetoric are impossible to measure. Instead, the messaging points to the Kremlin’s commitment to creating even small cracks in international public opinion in a way that could weaken resolve to support Ukraine as a new offensive by President Vladimir Putin’s troops is gaining ground.

Kevin Mandia, founder of the threat intelligence firm Mandiant, announced that he’s stepping down as chief executive officer of the company nearly two years after it was acquired by Google.

Mandia, a former member of the US Air Force, built Mandiant into a leading cyber firm that’s helped clean up breaches at companies including Sony Pictures after North Korea hacked it in 2014. Mandiant researchers also have led the effort among security vendors to report on foreign nation-state cyber-espionage that target US firms. In its latest installment, the company published new details on Wednesday about pro-Chinese hacking.

Mandia has also been active in the cybersecurity venture capital market as the co-founder of Ballistic Ventures. He’ll transition to an advisory role at Google in the coming weeks, he said in an internal memo.

submitted 3 days ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

The High Court in UK rejected the US government assurances that Julian Assange's rights to freedom of expression would be protected. The court gave a brief judgement stating there would be a full appeal on the freedom of expression and nationality discrimination grounds in relation to all charges Assange faces, allowing Mr Assange to appeal against his extradition to the US before the European Court of Human Rights.

This appeal will be legally groundbreaking, writes Holly Cullen, Adjunct Professor in Law at The University of Western Australia. "The European Court of Human Rights has never decided a case arguing extradition would violate freedom of expression, so the High Court will be the first to decide whether a potential violation of freedom of expression could be a bar to extradition," she adds.

Unless either the US or the UK decides to end the judicial pursuit of Julian Assange, legal history will be made in the next decision on his case.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s challenge to the order for his extradition to the United States to face charges of computer misuse and espionage will continue, after the High Court in London rejected US government assurances that his rights to freedom of expression would be protected.

On March 26, the High Court conditionally granted Assange the right to appeal the UK Home Secretary’s order that he be extradited. The High Court granted Assange the right to appeal on three grounds and agreed to hear a full appeal on those grounds only.

The court sought assurances from the US that the risks posed to Assange if he were extradited could be prevented. It decided the assurances were insufficient. So what happens now?

What were the legal arguments?

The first ground of appeal accepted by the court is that extradition would be incompatible with Assange’s right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The second ground, related to the first, is that he would be discriminated against on the basis of his nationality because he could, as a non-citizen of the US, be unable to rely on First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

The final ground of appeal is inadequate protection for the principle of specialty. This is the guarantee in the US–UK extradition treaty, common to many such treaties, that the person subject to extradition may only be tried for crimes listed in the extradition request.

The issue of specialty is significant in this case because the US could have charged Assange with crimes that attract the death penalty. The UK – like many countries, including Australia – will not extradite where there is a real risk the person could be executed. Having accepted these grounds of appeal, the court gave the US until April 16 to provide assurances it would act to prevent the risks arising from the three grounds. The US met that deadline, so the question for the court was whether the assurances were sufficient to remove the potential for violation of Assange’s rights.

Assange’s supporters argued that the assurances, particularly on freedom of expression, were inadequate.

What is meant by ‘assurances’?

Assurances are an important part of contemporary extradition law, but they are controversial.

They are given where extradition could credibly lead to violation of legal protections, usually human rights. Many Western countries will only extradite people to the US if the charges would not lead to the death penalty, or if the relevant prosecution authority agrees not to seek the death penalty.

New Zealand courts grappled with whether assurances given by the Chinese government were adequate. In a long-running case that only ended this year, the courts ultimately decided it would be safe to extradite Kyung Yup Kim, who faces murder charges in China.

At today’s hearing, Assange’s lawyers accepted the assurances on the principle of specialty. They accepted the US provided binding and unambiguous commitments not to increase the charges or seek the death penalty.

The decision came down to whether the assurances on freedom of expression were adequate. Edward Fitzgerald KC, for Assange, argued these assurances offered no guarantee as they only promise Assange can raise the issue and not that he can rely on the First Amendment.

Further, he argued the assurances do not commit the prosecution to support any First Amendment claim by Assange. The assurances as drafted do not bind the prosecution to any position, and even if they did, the trial court could reject the prosecution position. This point was accepted by the US.

The US government argued there was no discrimination based on nationality, because nationality is not the same as citizenship, which is the basis for preventing Assange from relying on the First Amendment. Mark Summers KC, for Assange, argued that nationality is wider than, and inclusive of, citizenship – Assange is therefore both a non-citizen and a non-national of the US.

The court gave a brief judgement stating there would be a full appeal on the freedom of expression and nationality discrimination grounds in relation to all charges Assange faces. He now must wait for an appeal date to be determined, probably in the second half of this year.

This appeal will be legally groundbreaking. The European Court of Human Rights has never decided a case arguing extradition would violate freedom of expression, so the High Court will be the first to decide whether a potential violation of freedom of expression could be a bar to extradition.

Unless either the US or the UK decides to end the judicial pursuit of Julian Assange, legal history will be made in the next decision on his case.

submitted 5 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Norway, Spain, and Ireland will recognize an independent Palestinian state as of May 28.

"There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said. "By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan."

submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Japan has lodged a protest against the Chinese ambassador's "extremely inappropriate" comments about Taiwan, chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Wednesday.

Wu Jianghao, the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo, said on Monday Japanese people would be dragged into the fire if they took part in forces plotting to support Taiwan's independence and "split China", according to Japanese media reports. "We consider it to be extremely inappropriate for an ambassador stationed in Tokyo to make such a comment, and we have immediately lodged a severe protest against it," Hayashi, the top government spokesperson, told reporters at a regular news conference.

Hayashi also reiterated Japan's position that Tokyo expects issues surrounding Taiwan, an island Beijing views as a breakaway province, to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

Taiwan's foreign ministry expressed its support for Japan's reaction to the Chinese ambassador's remarks.

"The foreign ministry welcomes the international community's attention to the situation in the Taiwan Strait and any actions that will help maintain regional peace," it said in a statement.

submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

British defence minister Grant Shapps accused China on Wednesday of providing or preparing to provide Russia with lethal aid for use by Moscow in its war against Ukraine.

Shapps told a conference in London that U.S. and British defence intelligence had evidence that "lethal aid is now, or will be, flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine, I think it is a significant development".

Shapps did not provide evidence to support his assertion.

"We should be concerned about that because in the earlier days of this war China would like to present itself as a moderating influence on Russian President Vladimir Putin", he added.

The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. said last month it had not provided weaponry, adding that it is "not a producer of or party involved in the Ukraine crisis." The Chinese embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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