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Friday, December 30, 2016

Italy Urges Europe To Begin Censoring Free Speech On The Internet

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First it was the US, then Germany blamed much of what is wrong in society on "fake news", and not, say, a series of terrible decisions made by politicians. Now it is Italy's turn to call for an end to "fake news", which in itself would not be troubling, however, the way Giovanni Pitruzzella, head of the Italian competition body, demands the European Union "cracks down" on what it would dub "fake news" is nothing short of a total crackdown on all free speech, and would give local governments free reign to silence any outlet that did not comply with the establishment propaganda. 
In an interview with the FT, Pitruzzella said the regulation of false information on the internet was best done by the state rather than by social media companies such as Facebook, an approach taken previously by Germany, which has demanded that Facebook end "hate speech" and has threatened to find the social network as much as €500K per "fake" post. 
Pitruzzella, head of the Italian competition body since 2011, said "EU countries should set up independent bodies — co-ordinated by Brussels and modeled on the system of antitrust agencies — which could quickly label fake news, remove it from circulation and impose fines if necessary." 
In other words, a series of unelected bureaucrats, unaccountable to anyone, would sit down and between themselves decide what is and what isn't "fake news", and then, drumroll, "remove it from circulation." On the other hand, coming one week after Obama give Europe the green light to engage in any form of censorship and halt of free speech that it desires, when the outgoing US president voted into law the  "Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act", it should come as no surprise that a suddenly emboldened Europe is resorting to such chilling measures.
So with Europe on the verge of rolling out unbridled censorship, here is the strawman used to justify it.
“Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Pitruzzella told the FT. “We have reached a fork in the road: we have to choose whether to leave the internet like it is, the wild west, or whether it needs rules that appreciate the way communication has changed. I think we need to set those rules and this is the role of the public sector.”
Translation: it will soon be up to Brussles to decide what content on the Internet is appropriate for broad European consumption, because unless a bureaucrat intervenes "fake news" will lead to even more populism and not, say, years of failed political reform, and central bank decisions. 
In short, it's all the internet's fault that Europe's legacy political system is reeling from an unprecedented anti-establishment backlash, which has nothing to do with, well, anything else. 
As the FT notes, Pitruzzella’s call comes amid growing concern over the impact of fake news on politics in western democracies, including in this year’s UK Brexit vote and the US election. In Germany, which faces parliamentary elections in 2017, the government is planning a law that would impose fines of up to €500,000 on social media companies for distributing fake news. 
Allies of Matteo Renzi, the former prime minister, have also complained that fake news contributed to his defeat in the December referendum on constitutional reform, which led to his resignation, even though he lost by a wide 20-percentage point margin. At least they haven't blamed Russian hackers... yet.
So even assuming limiting free speech is the answer, why not force potential offenders to companies to police themselves?  
Well, according to Pitruzzella it would be inappropriate to leave this task to social media self-regulation. “Platforms like Facebook have created great benefits for people and customers: they are doing their part as an economic entity in adopting policies to modify their algorithms to reduce this phenomenon”, he said. “But it is not the job of a private entity to control information. This is historically the job of public powers. They have to guarantee that information is correct. We cannot delegate this completely.”
We know of at least one Italian who would agree.
And just like the person shown above, Pitruzzella dismissed concerns that setting up state agencies to monitor fake news would introduce a form of censorship, saying people could “continue using a free and open internet”... as long as all the members of the "open" internet agreed with what the agencies determined to be true and undisputed. But he said there would be a benefit in that there would be a public “third party” — independent of the government — to “intervene quickly if public interests were harmed”. 
At the moment, the only way that fake news can be tackled — at least in Italy — is through the judicial system, which is notoriously clunky. “Speed is a critical element,” Pitruzzella said, so what is the solution? Why a Ministry of Truth of course.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement is often labelled as the main facilitator of fake news in Italy, through the blog of its founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo, and a network of other websites affiliated to the party. But Pitruzzella declined to cite them as the main culprits. “I don’t know if this is true, I would not want to criticise anyone, not even the Five Star Movement. But I believe that if there aren’t any rules then many can take advantage of this.”
Of course, once free speech is censored, Pitruzzella will have no problem with no only criticizing anyone who disagrees with him, but promptly shutting down their freedom of speech on the net.

Credit to Zero Hedge

Putin Stunner: "We Will Not Expel Anyone; We Refuse To Sink To 'Kitchen' Diplomacy"

Vladimir the merciful? 
Following this morning's reports that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would recommend to Russian President Vladimir Putin a retaliation in kind, and expel 35 American diplomats, saying that “we cannot leave such acts unanswered. Reciprocity is part of diplomatic law"  with Putin spokesman Peskov adding that "there is no doubt that Russia's adequate and mirror response will make Washington officials feel very uncomfortable as well", it was ultimately up to Putin to decide how to respond to the US.
Which he did on Friday morning, when in a stunning reversal, the Russian leader took the high road, rejected the Lavrov proposal, and in a statement posted by the Kremlin said thatRussia won’t expel any Americans in retaliation to US moves, in a brutal demonstration of just how irrelevant Obama's 11th hour decision is for US-Russian relations. 
The reversal comes as Russian officials portrayed U.S. sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House in January. Earlier Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev said the Obama administration was ending its term in "anti-Russia death throes."
"It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP," Medvedev, who served as president in 2009 when Obama tried to improve Russia-U.S. relations, wrote on his official Facebook page. 
In the just released statement, Putin laughed off Obama's 11th hour temper tantrum, and said that Russia won’t cause problems to U.S. diplomats or deport anyone, adding that Russia has the right to respond in tit-for-tat manner, but it will not engage in irresponsible diplomacy.
The punchline, however, was saved for what may be Russia's final slam of the debacle that is Obama's administration saying that "It’s a pity that the current U.S. administration is finishing their work in such a manner" saying that Russia refuses "to sink to the level of this irresponsible "kitchen" diplomacy."
Putin ended the statement by congratulating U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and the American people on the New Year and invited the hildren of US diplomats to a holiday celebration at the Kremlin.
From the full statement posted on the Kremlin website:
Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.
And with that one statement, Obama lost the diplomatic war with Russia.   
In other news, the Kremlin said it will send a government plane to the US to evacuate the expelled diplomats and their family members. Earlier, there were reports that the diplomats were having problems buying tickets on such short notice, with airlines already booked by New Year’s travelers.
* * * 
We regard the recent unfriendly steps taken by the outgoing US administration as provocative and aimed at further weakening the Russia-US relationship. This runs contrary to the fundamental interests of both the Russian and American people. Considering the global security responsibilities of Russia and the United States, this is also damaging to international relations as a whole. 

As it proceeds from international practice, Russia has reasons to respond in kind. Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration. 

The diplomats who are returning to Russia will spend the New Year’s holidays with their families and friends. We will not create any problems for US diplomats. We will not expel anyone. We will not prevent their families and children from using their traditional leisure sites during the New Year’s holidays. Moreover, I invite all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin. 

It is regrettable that the Obama Administration is ending its term in this manner. Nevertheless, I offer my New Year greetings to President Obama and his family.
My season’s greetings also to President-elect Donald Trump and the American people. 

I wish all of you happiness and prosperity.

Credit to Zero Hedge


Ukrainian TV shuts down

Jimmy Carter to Obama: Grant Recognition to ‘State of Palestine’ at UN

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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is urging incumbent President Barack Obama to support an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council that would allow the Palestinian Authority to evade its obligation to negotiate a final status agreement and skip directly to independent statehood.

The obligation to negotiate via direct talks with Israel was enshrined in the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s. But the Ramallah government has spent the intervening years working to avoid its contractual obligations — the first of which mandate the abolition of incitement to violence and terror against Jews and Israelis and demand direct talks to negotiate a final status agreement.

Instead, representatives for the Palestinian Authority made monumental and successful efforts to evade those responsibilities via proxies in the United Nations General Assembly who helped the entity to methodically upgrade its status unilaterally at the world body without having to negotiate at all.

Now Jimmy Carter, known for years as an advocate on behalf of Gaza’s terrorist leadership and that of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, is once again intervening to use his influence in the region.

This time, Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times to urge an outgoing president to use his final days to sell out America’s most loyal Middle Eastern ally at the UN.

“It has been President Obama’s aim to support a negotiated end to the conflict based on two states, living side by side in peace,” Carter wrote. “That prospect is now in grave doubt. I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short.

“The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.”

Carter also wrote that security guarantees “for both Israel and Palestine are imperative,” as if that were actually possible. Further measures, he wrote, “should include the demilitarization of the Palestinian state” but did not suggest how that might take place.

Credit to jewishpress.com