Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over forced consent

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation( GDPR ), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four grievances relating to( certain) companies” take it or leave it’ posture when it comes to consent.

The complaints have been filed on behalf of( unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android.

Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of” forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service.( And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting .)

” It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not require consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real option to tell’ yes’ or’ no’ ,” Schrems writes in a statement.

” Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent ,” he adds.” In the end users merely had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process .”

We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Facebook has now sent the following statement, attributed to its chief privacy policeman, Erin Egan:” We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we gratify the requirements of the GDPR. We have induced our policies clearer, our privacy decideds easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their datum. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25 th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us datum when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward .”

Schrems most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb( aka’ none of your business ‘).

As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation may be required for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights is an important one, with the health risks to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organisations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the power imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights.

That told, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member Country can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection bureaux in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record of defending privacy rights.

Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection bureau will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation as a data protection rights champion.

But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint subjects of concern and where a service crosses perimeters — so noyb’s action seems are aiming to exam this element of the new framework too.

Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract penalties as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, connotes they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue.

That told, devoted how freshly fixed in place the regulation is, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/ or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards.

However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud.

” We likely will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally contravened the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR ,” writes Schrems.

Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new permission flow.

” We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the great majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads ,” said Zuckerberg.

He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new permission flow Facebook uncovered ahead of GDPR only offers the’ choice’ of ceasing Facebook solely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a option dedicated how powerful the network is.( Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data .)

Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change –” because dedicating people control of how their data is employed has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning “.

” The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past ,” he claimed.” I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to set a bunch of work into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things.

” In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build community a lot of doctrine that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve was just thinking about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and enforce but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive deviation in how we’ve was just thinking about this stuff .”

Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail.

So EU regulators are essentially facing a first exam of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image.

Privacy statutes are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at the least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard.

Schrems also stimulates the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm’ take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to unilaterally apply and extract’ consent’ as a consequence of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s an underlying competition concern that GDPR has the potential to help to redress.

” The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent ,” he writes.” This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small and medium-sized companies .”

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US on brink of trade war with EU, Canada and Mexico as tit-for-tat tariffs begin

Jean-Claude Juncker pledges retaliation as EU companies face 25% tariffs on steel and 10% on aluminiumTrump imposes tariffs business live

The United States and its traditional allies are on the brink of a full-scale trade war after European and Canadian leaders reacted swiftly and angrily to Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium producers.

The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, promised immediate reprisal after the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, told EU companies would face a 25% responsibility on steel and a 10% responsibility on aluminium from midnight on Thursday.

Europe, along with Canada and Mexico, had been granted a temporary reprieve from the tariffs after they were unveiled by Donald Trump two months ago.

However, Ross sent shudders through global financial markets when he said insufficient progression had been constructed in talks with three of the US’s traditional allies to reduce America’s trade deficit and that the waiver was being lifted.

Wall Street slumped as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 250 points as investors sold off shares in manufacturers and corporations with global reaching. Shares across Europe also declined.

The move from Washington- which comes at a time when Trump is also threatening protectionist action against China- triggered an immediate and angry response from Canada, Brussels and from individual European capitals.

Juncker “ve called the” US move ” unjustified” and said the EU had no choice but to hit back with tariffs on US goods and a case at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

” We will defend the Union’s interests, in full compliance with international trade statute ,” he added. Brussels has already announced that it would target Levi’s jeans, Harley-Davidson motorbikes and bourbon whiskey.

The UK, which has hopes of agreeing a trade liberalisation deal with the US after Brexit, carried alarm at Ross’s announcement.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, told Britain would not rule out countermeasures or taking Washington to the WTO, which arbitrates on global trade disputes.

Speaking to Sky News he attacked the tariffs as “patently absurd” and recommended the US to think again.” It would be a great pity if we ended up in a tit-for-tat trade dispute with our closest friends .”

A spokesman for Number 10 said the government was ” profoundly disillusioned” the US had decided to apply the tariffs and that Theresa May would raise the issue with Trump at next week’s meeting of the G7 industrial nations in Canada.

” The UK and other European Union countries are close allies of the US and should be permanently and fully exempted from the American measures on steel and aluminium .”

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, called the US tariffs illegal and a mistake, while the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, issued an immediate like-for-like reaction- announcing tariffs of up to 25% on US importations worth up to 16.6 bn Canadian dollars( PS9. 6bn ), which was the total value of Canadian steel exportations to the US last year. The tariffs will encompass steel and aluminium as well as orange juice, whiskey and other food products.

With the White House having used national security legislation to introduce the tariffs, Trudeau called the measures an “affront” to Canadians who had opposed alongside their American comrades in arms.” That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the US is inconceivable .”

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, went further calling her country’s $16.6 bn retaliatory tariffs” the strongest trade action Canada has taken in the postwar era. This is a very strong response. It is a proportionate reply, it is perfectly reciprocal … this is a very strong Canadian action in response to a very bad US decision .”

Mexico also denounced the move, saying it” deeply regrets and disapproves” the US decision.

The economics minstry said it would adopt equivalent measures on a variety of products, including flat steel, lamps, pork legs and shoulders, sausages and food preparations, apples, grapes, cranberries, various cheeses, and other products,” up to an amount comparable to damage caused by the United States’ action “.

It added:” This measure will be in force for as long as the US government preserves the imposed tariffs .”

Hopes remain that the fallout could be contained. Analysts at the research firm Oxford Economics said the economic hit for Europe would be well below 0.1% of GDP, as steel and aluminium merely make up a small part of the bloc’s overall exports around the world. However, they warned a tit-for-tat escalation leading to tariffs on other goods, such as vehicles, would have dire repercussions for global trade.

Last week, the Trump administration launched a national security investigated by car imports on national security grounds that could lead to tariffs on automobiles from Europe, Japan and South Korea, should trade tensions spiraling further out of control.

For the struggling UK steel industry, the news of US tariffs inspired fresh alarm. The director of UK Steel, Gareth Stace, told:” President Trump had already loaded the gun and today, we now know that the US administration has unfortunately fired it and potentially started a damaging trade war.

” Since President Trump stated his plans to impose blanket tariffs on steel imports nearly three months ago, the UK steel sector had hoped for the best but still dreaded the worst. With the expiration of the EU exemption now confirmed to take effect tomorrow[ Friday, 1 June ], unfortunately our cynicism was justified and we will now find damage not only to the UK steel sector but also the US economy .”

Representatives for the US metal industry also expressed disappointment.” Make no mistake: restricting the raw material render in the U.S. and imposing tariffs on imports from our closest trading partners places American producers directly in harm’s style ,” said Paul Nathanson of The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users.

The CBI cautioned the EU against overreacting to Washington’s move. Ben Digby, international director at the employers’ organisation, told:” The president’s measures are deeply concerning for firms in the UK, for close trading partners and across supplying chains .”

Trump announced his tariffs in March as a route of protecting US firms from inexpensive imports but Digby said the problem was caused by global overproduction of the metals and needed to be tackled jointly by Brussels and Washington.

” There are no winners in a trade war, which will damage prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. These tariffs could lead to a protectionist domino effect, damaging firms, employees and consumers in the US, UK and many other trading partners. Now is not the time for any disproportionate escalation, and we urge the EU to consider this when initiating its response .”

But neither side showed any immediate sign of being willing to defuse the tension. Cecilia Malmstrom, the European trade commissioner, said the Brussels response would be proportionate and in accordance with WTO rules. Ross shrugged off the threat of EU retaliation, saying it would have little impact on the US economy.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s party, the largest group in the European parliament and a key ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel, warned that treating the EU as the “enemy” would damage US consumers.

” Europe does not want a trade conflict. We believe in a fair trade regime from which everybody benefits ,” he told.

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” We have tried everything to build dialogue and mutual understanding predominate. If President Trump decides to treat Europe as an adversary, we will have no choice but to defend European industry, European jobs, European interests .”

Ross blamed insufficient progress in talks with Mexico and Canada over changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement( Nafta) for the US’s decision to slap tariffs on its two neighbours.

Mexico’s under-secretary of foreign trade, Juan Carlos Baker, tweeted:” Mexico categorically rejects any unilateral, protectionist measures that distort trading in North America .”

China, too, warned that it would respond with tit-for-tat action of its own.

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Caruana Galizia family ‘at war with Malta’ after journalist’s murder

Paul Caruana Galizia says his father and brothers have not had chance to mourn the death of their mom, Daphne

The family of the murdered Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have had little chance to mourn her death because of continuing intimidation, menaces and lies, according to her son.

Paul Caruana Galizia, told the Hay literary festival in Wales that it felt like the family was at war with the country seven months after his mother was killed by a car bomb near her home.

Caruana Galizia worked for 30 years as an investigative journalist looking into high-level corruption cases.

At the time of her death, there were almost 50 lawsuits against Caruana Galizia, five of them criminal libel lawsuits. The remainder were civil libel suits. Some of these have been dropped but 34 remain against her estate.

Daphne
Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/ Reuters

Paul Caruana Galizia told the celebration that threats and misinformation had continued after her demise, including one rumor that the bomb was planted by his brother.

All three of Caruana Galizia’s sons have left Malta and continue to highlight the occurrence.” It is a war ,” Paul told.” It really should not be like this, but we can’t rely on the investigation to be run properly. We merely can’t sit back and think that things are moving .”

Another story being circulated in Malta was that Caruana Galizia was analyse criminal gangs , not the government, which was nonsense, he said.

He was joined on stage by the Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat.” What the family has had to face is absolutely horrendous ,” she said.” They have not even had the time to mourn the loss .”

Muscat said the government continued to intimidate and threaten journalists who were investigating and publishing things it did not like.” The only truth is that of the government … If anything it has redoubled its efforts.

” Criticism of the government in Malta has become a very dangerous thing. We have a situation where there is an almost complete dominance of public discourse and narrative by the government. Anyone who continues to fight the hell is discredited, dehumanised … and Daphne is the culmination of all that is wrong with this system .”

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How was Daphne Caruana Galizia murdered?- video

Rachael Jolley, the editor of Index on Censorship, said she was shocked by what was going on in Malta, a country in the European union and the Commonwealth, and where so many British people go on holiday.

” Outsiders have got no notion that this is all happening underneath ,” she said.

Muscat fostered visitors to Malta to go to Caruana Galizia’s memorial at the law courts to light a candle,” speak to people[ and] challenge ideas. We have a certain absence of awareness and education on what our rights are .”

The BBC Europe editor, Katya Adler, who chaired the discussion, said the Maltese government denied allegations of threats and intimidation.

Three humen have been arrested on suspicion of exploding the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia. They have all pleaded not guilty. The Maltese government has said the investigation into the murder has continued. Questions about the motive for the attack remain to be answered.

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Support for Ireland’s abortion ban appears to have melted away

No campaign counted on rural votes but early exit poll suggest they didnt swaying their way

Ruth Shaw was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Irish voters who flew home or bided home, cancelled vacations or came back early, so they could cast a vote to end Ireland’s decades-old prohibition on abortion.

They supposed their votes might be needed to tip the balance. In the end, though, they joined what seems to be an unforeseen landslide of support for change.

The first exit poll, from the Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI, showed that Dublin, as expected, had voted overwhelmingly for yes. But so too did rural areas, which the no vote had counted on to kind a bulwark of conservative is supportive of Ireland’s restrictive status quo.

” It’s great for this country, we need to step into the next century ,” said teacher Caroline Ryan, one of the first to referendum but confident even at 7am that the repeal would pass.” Every other country in Europe has access to abortion .”

The vote was a reminder, she said, of the church’s loosening grip on a country where a series of scandals, involving child abuse and mistreatment of pregnant, unmarried women and their children, have enormously undermined the clergy’s authority.” Women have been treated so badly in this country by the Catholic church ,” she added.

Voters had to help Ireland decide whether to keep a clause in its constitution, known as the 8th amendment.

Since 1983, it had set the” right to life of the unborn” on an equal status with the life of a pregnant girl, underpinning a near-total ban on abortion in Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality. It is one of the strictest defined of rules in the western world.

For Shaw who, along with 20 family and friends had flights lined up to go to a wedding in New York when the date was defined, there was no question about what to do.

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” We changed our flights ,” she said.” It’s really important; I’ve got two daughters .” So at 6.55 am she was waiting with nine-year-old Simi outside Our Lady’s Clonskeagh Parish secondary school, second in line to cast her vote before heading to the airport.

On a day of glorious sunshine and heightened feelings, polling stations across Ireland reported high turnouts for a ballot that politicians and campaigners concurred would determine a hugely emotional issue for at least a generation.

Polls constricted in the run-up to voting, with the outcome widely expected to depend on the one in six voters who were still undecided on the eve of the poll. Many in the no camp were convinced they had a groundswell of quiet support.

” So many no voters are shy ,” said Fidelma, 45, a Dubliner who said she was wearing a no badge for the first time and was astonished to determine more than half her office of 10 people offering her support.

She had kept her positions private until the working day of the referendum because there was so much social pressure in the capital to support a repeal.” People attain us feel like we are backwards and don’t count ,” she said.

Anti-abortion
No advocates campaign from a bridge in Dublin. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/ Getty Images

At the ballot box, ultimately, there were not enough no voters to count. Two thirds of men, and an even higher propotion of women, opted for change, in agreement with the Irish Times.

Among the young in particular, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of ending the ban. Nearly nine out of 10 voters between 18 and 24 voted yes, the Irish Times exit poll found.

Riodhna Mackin, 18, voting for the first time, was one of them.” I am a young woman in Ireland and I would like to have a tell over my own body, and for my friends to have the same ,” she said after casting her ballot.

The
The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, poses with colleagues from his Fine Gael party in Dublin before the referendum. Photo: Niall Carson/ PA

The official vote count begins on Saturday morning, with the first indications of whether the exit poll is right expected by mid-morning.

The scale of the projected victory was so immense though that resulting no campaigners conceded defeat within minutes.

The split over abortion, which reflects deep divisions about what kind of country Ireland wants to be as it reassesses its Catholic heritage and becomes more ethnically and religiously diverse, has reached profoundly into communities and families.

Elizabeth McDonald, 58, told:” I voted no because I believe I regard it as murder. We don’t need abortion in this country .”

Her son Stephen, 33, thinks the near-ban on abortion is cruel and puts women’s health in jeopardy. It is not illegal to go abroad for an abortion, so about nine females a day travel to England trying therapy. Others order abortion pills online and take them at home, risking up to 14 years in prison.

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My budget flight to get an abortion: the story no one in Ireland wants to tell- video

” I’m her son and I voted yes ,” he said, as they left the polling station together.” Abortion do happen in Ireland and I’d rather they were in a situation where it was safer for women .”

The journeys for abortions were the reason Ian Sewell, 26, travelled back from England to vote yes.” I don’t think we are voting on whether people can have abortions; we are voting on whether poor women can have abortions, because rich people already travel to England ,” he said as he left a polling station.

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MH17: Australia and Netherlands accuse Russia of complicity

Foreign minister tells Australia will seek financial compensation from Moscow

Russia is facing international calls to accept responsibility for the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which caused the deaths of all 298 people onboard.

Australia and the Netherlands on Friday accused Moscow of complicity in the incident, while Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said the Kremlin” must now answer for its actions “.

” The Kremlin believes it can act with impunity. The Russian government must now answer for its actions in relation to the downing of MH17 ,” told Johnson in a statement.

A Downing Street spokesman used to say during a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, Theresa May said the alleged actions” fit into a well-established pattern of Russian aggression “.

Despite longstanding mistrust and a mounting body of proof pointing to Russia’s involvement, this is the first time governments have officially accused Moscow over the incident.

” Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under international law for its role in the bringing down of MH17 ,” said Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, on Friday.

She called on Russia to” enter into negotiations to open up a dialogue about its conduct and to try reparations “.

The call is likely to bring about a diplomatic standoff, with Russia continuing to deny complicity and refusing to cooperate with investigators.

On Thursday, a team of international researchers said they had hard proof that the missile system to participate in shooting down the Malaysia Airline airplane came from a Russian military brigade.

The plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in July 2014. More than half of the victims were Dutch, and there were also 44 Malaysians and 28 Australians onboard.

Bishop said her country seeking ways financial compensation from Russia for the families of Australian victims.” They want to see closure but they also deserve justice and we will be seeking reparations for the cruelties caused by this conduct ,” she said.

Johnson said the MH1 7 incident was ” an egregious instance of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life” and he offered his support for the Dutch and Australian demands.

” The UK fully supports Australia and the Netherlands in their request to the Russian Federation to accept state responsibility and to cooperate with them in their efforts to deliver justice for the victims of this tragedy ,” he said.

The EU and Nato also issued statements calling on Russia to accept responsibility.

Witnesses told shortly after the incident that they had ensure a Buk missile system travel through separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine on the day of the downing, while a variety of photo and video proof has pointed to a Buk system that intersected from Russia.

On Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team( JIT) said it had” legal and persuading evidence which will stand up in a courtroom” that the missile system came from Russia’s 53 rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, based in the western city of Kursk.

Russia has vetoed a UN tribunal to decide guilt for the incident, so the JIT intends to issue indictments for a trial to be held in a Dutch court. On Thursday, the Dutch chief prosecutor, Fred Westerbeke, said the investigation was in its “last phase” but he declined to say when a court case might start.

He said the JIT was investigating” several dozen” suspects for complicity in the incident, though he did not say how high up the chain of command they went.

Russia has issued a series of blanket denials over the active involvement, and officials and state-linked media have floated a series of implausible alternative theories suggesting Ukrainian armed forces were to blame.

On Friday, the Russian defence ministry issued a fresh statement indicating all Buk rockets with the serial numbers indicated by the JIT had been destroyed in Russia in 2011, indicating the missile must have come from the Ukrainian armed forces. The foreign ministry complained that” these gratuitous accusations are an attempt to discredit our nation in the eyes of the international community “.

However, the evidence against Russia continues to mount. On Friday, the online investigations group Bellingcat held a press conference to reveal that it had identified a Russian military commandant operating in eastern Ukraine at the time of the crash.

Bellingcat said the military commander, known by his call sign Orion, about whom the JIT had called for information, was in fact Oleg Ivannikov, an officer in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. Bellingcat said Ivannikov, operating under an alias, was responsible for the transfer of Russian weaponry into eastern Ukraine during 2014. The group, which utilizes principally open source research, identified the 53 rd brigade as the potential source of the Buk system virtually two years ago.

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MH17 downed by Russian military missile system, say investigators

International team says proof indicates missile came from a Russia-based unit

A Russian military missile was responsible for shooting down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, an international team of researchers said on Thursday, for the first time pointing the thumb immediately at Moscow.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. All 298 people onboard were killed.

In 2016, examiners announced they had evidence that the BUK system involved in the incident had intersected the border into eastern Ukraine from Russia and returned after the plane had been shot down.

At a press conference in The Hague on Thursday, the investigators presented photo and video evidence that they said proven they had identified the specific BUK missile system responsible.

They said they had” legal and persuading proof which will stand up in a courtroom” that the BUK system involved came from the 53 rd anti-aircraft weapon brigade based in Kursk, in western Russia.

Previously, the investigative website Bellingcat has pointed to involvement of the same brigade using open-source info.

The joint investigation squad( JIT) looking into the incident is made up of Dutch attorneys and police and others from Australia, Malaysia and Ukraine. They proved photos and video of the convoy that carried the missile system over the border from Russia to Ukraine, and a series of distinctive commemorates and serial numbers which they said had were allowed trace the exact system being implemented in the two attacks, and tracing it to the 53 rd brigade.

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Investigators identify Russian military rocket that might have downed MH17 – video

Russian officials have denied all involvement in the incident, and on Thursday the defence ministry repeated these refusals, claiming that no Russian missile had ever crossed into Ukraine. Kremlin-linked media outlets have floated a range of implausible theories indicating Ukraine was responsible for shooting down the plane. Russia has use its veto in the UN to prevent an international court from being set up to determine remorse, meaning any eventual trial would be held in the Netherlands under Dutch law.

Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor, said the investigation was in its last phase but could not say when he would be ready to file indictments. Two years ago, prosecutors said there were about 100 people under suspicion of direct or indirect involvement. On Thursday, Westerbeke said that number had come down to several dozen, but he declined to name them.

He said there was other evidence that would be kept secret until a court hearing began.” We don’t want to tell everything we know because then we are opening our cards to the other side and we do not want to do that .”

The big question will be how a future court will operate, dedicated Russia is likely to continue its policy of stonewalling and denial. Examiners had asked Russian authorities for information about the 53 rd brigade but had been dismissed, said Westerbeke. If specific Russian military personnel or commandants are indicted, Russia is almost certain to refuse their extradition.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said the countries that make up the JIT were now” considering alternatives” about how to proceed.” That a sophisticated weapon are members of the Russian army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern ,” she said.

The JIT stopped short of saying it believed the BUK system was deployed as part of a Russian military mission, saying only that they had identified the base from which it came. In a sign that some evidence is still missing, the JIT repeated a call for those with information about the incident to come forward, including information about the 53 rd brigade, promising anonymity.

” The next crucially important step is to identify some members of the military in the 53 rd brigade … who can immediately tell who was involved in the transfer or operation of the BUK ,” told Ukrainian army general Vasyl Hrytsak, a member of the investigation team, in comments to Reuters.

Bellingcat said it would hold a press conference on Friday to present new findings on MH17.

In the weeks before MH17 was shot down, the separatists had shot down a number of Ukrainian military aircrafts over east Ukraine, and intercepted communications between separatist fighters made it clear that they initially believed they had made another military airplane , not a civilian liner.

Russia has repeatedly denied it was militarily active in eastern Ukraine, despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary. In 2014, Russian troops and hardware were introduced at key moments to back pro-Russia separatists fighting against Ukrainian government troops.

After a series of Russian media claims of Ukrainian responsibility were all presented to be false, Moscow appears to have settled on the idea that it was ” impossible to tell” which side was responsible.

This week a group of families of the MH17 victims wrote an open letter to the Russian people before the World Cup begins next month.

” We are painfully aware of the dark irony that the Russian leaders who will profess to welcome the world with open arms are those who are principally held accountable for shattering our world ,” the letter tells.” And that it is these same leaders who have persistently sought to hide the truth, and who have evaded responsibility ever since that dreadful day in July 2014.”

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Irish pro-choice campaigners recount #HomeToVote journeys online

Hashtag has been used by Irish voters travelling home to referendum yes in the abortion referendum

Whether it is boarding 13 -hour flights or thanking the strangers that have funded their journeys, Irish citizens are sharing their tales on social media as they travel home from all over the world to cast their vote in the country’s historic referendum on abortion. The hashtag #HomeToVote has been used across social media channels by those in favour of repealing the 8th amendment as they converge in Ireland to cast their votes.

Many were visibly displaying their supporting through clothing and badges, and noticed is supportive of the campaign on the way. One advocate, who flew home to canvass and vote, tweeted that his flight attendant wore a’ Ta’- the Irish for yes- badge on his flight.

IO for Yes // May 25 th (@ iarlaoh)

The flight attendant checking my ticket on the plane #hometovote this morning was wearing a “Ta” badge. 🙂

May 20, 2018

Not everyone found that fellow travellers understood the significance of their journey, however, and “ve felt it” reverberate the experience of the women who have to travel abroad for abortions under the present constitution.

” Boarding a 13 -hour flight from Buenos Aires to London. London to Dublin tomorrow. No one at airport knows what my repeal jumper means. No one here knows why I’m travelling. If this feels isolating for me, can’t imagine how lonely it must be 4 her, travelling 2 the UK ,” tweeted Ciaran Gaffney. He also posted an image of himself in his repeal jumper in Buenos Aires

The 13 hour flight I’m about to take hasn’t got a patch on the 1hr flight that your sister, your friend, the girl on your street, your mom, your employer, your colleague, individual employees, your girlfriend or any of the women of Ireland might have to take today, or had to take yesterday, or have had to take in the past 35 years. Let’s stop saying that cowardly act of exporting this issue to our neighbouring countries, and let’s #repealthe8th!

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Illegal online sales of endangered wildlife rife in Europe

Exclusive: Study observes 12,000 items worth$ 4m, including tusk, live orangutans and a large number of reptiles and birds for the pet trade

The online sale of endangered and threatened wildlife is rife across Europe, a new investigation has disclosed, ranging from live cheetahs, orangutans and bears to ivory, polar bear scalps and many live reptiles and birds.

Researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare( Ifaw) spent six weeks tracking adverts on 100 online marketplaces in four countries, the UK, Germany, France and Russia. They find more than 5,000 adverts offering to sell nearly 12,000 items, worth$ 4m( PS3m) in total. All the specimens were species in which trade is restricted or banned by the global Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Wildlife groups have worked with online marketplaces including eBay, Gumtree and Preloved to cut the trade and the results of the survey are an improvement compared to a previous Ifaw report in 2014. In March, 21 technology giants including Google, eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Instagram became part of the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, and committed to bring the online illegal trade in threatened species down by 80% by 2020.

” It is great to see we are stimulating genuinely significant inroads into interrupting and dismantling the trade ,” told Tania McCrea-Steele at Ifaw.” But the scale of the trade is still enormous .”

Almost 20% of the adverts were for tusk and while the number had dropped significantly in the UK and France, a surge was seen in Germany, where merchants developed new code words to mask their marketings.” It is a war of attrition and we are capable of never let our guard down ,” said McCrea-Steele. The UK is implementing a stricter ban on ivory sales and the EU is under pressure from African nations to follow suit.

Reptiles for the pet trade were the single biggest group, attaining up 37% of the adverts, with live turtles and tortoises being sold in large numbers. Jeopardized birds were also common, attaining up 31% of the adverts. Parrots were the most frequently advertised, but nearly 500 owls and 350 birds of prey is likewise offered.

Most of the adverts of large, live animals were found in Russia, where big cats or bears are regarded by some as status emblems. Leopards, cheetahs and jaguars were all offered for sale in Russia, as were more than 130 live primates, including orangutans, lemurs and gibbons.

However, seven live primates were also may be in UK adverts and one live bear advert was found in Germany. More commonly offered for sale in the UK were big cat skins from lions, tigers and leopards, as well as polar bear skins.

Some endangered species can be legally traded, for example if they are bred in captivity. But it is often difficult to tell which marketings are legal, as few adverts provide sufficient information, such as credential numbers.” The legal trade can serve as cover for the illegal trade ,” cautioned McCrea-Steele.

The Ifaw researchers selected 327 of the adverts that appeared most clearly illegal and have shared the information with law enforcement authorities. McCrea-Steele said that online wildlife trading has become big business:” I have seen investigations where enforcers walk into a room of someone they have identified as trading online and they have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall animal body parts- rooms of death, which are deeply disturbing .”

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Danish politician says Muslims stay off work during Ramadan

Critics scorn Inger Stjbergs completely absurd idea that daylight fasting is dangerous

A Danish government minister has asserted that Muslims should not work during Ramadan because the month-long daylight fasting period poses safety hazards in some professions and attains the practice” dangerous for us all .”

The integration minister, Inger Stojberg, an immigration hardliner in Denmark’s centre-right government, questioned in a blog post on Monday how” commanding observance to a 1,400 -year-old pillar of Islam” was compatible with modern labour markets.

In her post published by Danish tabloid BT, Stojberg quoth bus drivers as an example of workers whose performance could be affected by foregoing food and drinking during daylight hours of the holy month. She exhorted all Muslims to take leave from work during Ramadan” to avoid negative consequences for the rest of Danish society .”

The Finnish Muslim Union chair, Pia Jardi, called the minister’s suggestion” a completely absurd idea ,” adding:” There’s no information or statistics to show that bus drivers or other Muslim workers would somehow behave dangerously while fasting. In most Muslim countries, stores and industries continue operating as normally .”

Muslims committed to fasting” have the responsibility to make sure that they get proper rest ,” she said.

Millions of Muslims around the world began find Ramadan last week. Denmark’s population of 5.7 million incloudes about 250,000 Muslims.

Stojberg is a member of the conservative Liberal party that alone sorts Denmark’s current minority government, led by the prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, since 2015. In the past few years, she has become the spokesperson for the government’s substantial stiffen of asylum and immigration rules.

Denmark adopted a law in 2016 requiring newly arrived asylum-seekers to hand over valuables such jewellery and gold to assist pay for their stays in the country.

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Germany to roll out mass holding centres for asylum seekers

Anchor camps will undermine countrys reputation for being welcoming, say critics

Mass holding centres that Germany’s interior ministry wants to roll out across the country will stoke social tension between locals and migrants and undermine the welcome image the country has gained in the eyes of the world, assistance organisations have said.

So-called anchor centres- an acronym for arrival, decision, return- are designed to speed up deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers, by containing large groups of people and the authorities concerned who rule on their asserts inside the same holding facility.

Until now, Germany’s policy has been to embed new arrivals in communities across the country. But Angela Merkel’s government is seeking to reverse its strategy, as a populist backlash builds against the chancellor’s handled in the refugee crisis.

” We all know how difficult it is to deport people without protected status once they have been spread out across the country and put down roots in our cities and communities ,” the home minister, Horst Seehofer, told the German parliament last week.

” In the future the end of an asylum application will coincide with the start of the deportation procedure ,” said the leader of the CSU and former Bavarian state premier, adding that he wanted to see nations set up the new centres this autumn.

But the transit centre in Seehofer’s home state that is meant to work as a prototype for the strategy has experienced high crime rates, mass protests and rising tensions between asylum seekers and security forces, the Guardian find during a visit to the Max-Immelmann barracks in Manching.

The converted army compound is part of a complex outside Ingolstadt, Upper Bavaria, that holds about 1,100 people, principally from the west Balkans, Ukraine, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

” It is like a prison ,” told Lucky Raphael, 24, from Nigeria, who said inmates were not allowed to lock their rooms, cook their own food, or go outside to seek run or attend school.” We can go outside, but always in the fear that we could be arrested ,” told Raphael, who said he left his home country because of his dire economic and social situations, and arrived in Bavaria via Italy.

Raphael told had been living in the Manching transit centre for 11 months, though authorities say the average length of remain for people who have arrived here since September 2015 is four-and-a-half months.

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Bavarian authorities hope to accelerating the checking process with technology. They analyse metadata on smartphones and operate speech samples through a” voice geometry” programme to determine the travel route and ethnic background of applicants who do not have passports.

They are reacting to an increasingly heated political debate about Germany’s failure to deport asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Anis Amri, a Tunisian who in December 2016 killed 12 people by driving a truck into a mob at a Berlin Christmas market, had been rejected but not deported. In 2017, about half a million unsuccessful asylum seekers remained in the country.

Anchor centres” send out a signal to people who have low chances of being allowed to stay ,” told Daniel Waidelich of the Upper Bavarian government.” It’s not worth coming to Germany, because your claim is processed very quickly here .” Since September 2015, the centre in Manching has carried out 1,000 expulsions, while 2,500 inmates have left voluntarily.

Critics say the new centres create an absurd double-bind on those inmates at the transit centres who have realistic chances of being granted asylum: while they are actively impeded from integrating into German society while their application is pending, they are expected to immediately integrate as soon as they get the all-clear.

Of asylum applications from Nigeria in Upper Bavaria, 17% was successful in gaining the applicants protected status, many of them women who have been forced into prostitution, others Christian minorities persecuted by Boko Haram in the country’s north-east.

” Integration is like a four-legged table ,” told Willi Draxler of the Catholic aid charity Caritas, which has four people doing regular voluntary work at Manching.” Language, contacts in the local community, a chore and a home are all vital ingredients. If you watched off one leg, the table is going to wobble. Within these transit centres, however, integrating isn’t happening at all .”

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A former army base in Manching, utilized a a transit center for asylum seekers Photograph: Philip Oltermann for the Guardian

Inside the centres, frustration with long waits often boils over.” We are not told why we are here ,” said Kelvi Batin, also from Nigeria.” It would be better if they told us straight away when we arrived that we cannot bide “.

While Manching has not seen incidents like the one at a centre in Ellwangen, Baden-Wurttemberg, where 200 asylum seekers tried prevent the deportation of one inmate, police have to intervene at the compound on a daily basis. In 2017 the police were called 355 periods to the Manching transit centre complex.

During a recent media tour of the premises, a group of Nigerians staged an impromptu protest, chanting” We want our liberty” and holding up handmade signs read:” We’re tired of living in camps. Please, we need transfer .”

Draxler told:” Protests about seemingly small issues like food are oftens actually protests about the conditions in these centres as a whole. The main source of troubles is that the people inside have no view and aren’t allowed to work .”

The inability of the migrants inside the centre to engage themselves in the community was also stoking bitternes and racism among the local population, told Gabriele Storkle of the Caritas centre in Pfaffenhofen.” These transit centres are like black boxes; the local population isn’t allowed to go inside, so they project all their greatest fear into what is going on inside them .”

” Three years ago, Germany was globally admired for its welcoming culture- the pictures from train stations in Munich travelled around the world ,” said Draxler.” What has happened to that culture? Now there is only dread of refugees .”

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