European Parliament website affected by cyberattack

European Parliament website affected by cyberattack
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in a twitter statement that the parliament “is under a sophisticated cyberattack” and that a “pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility.” (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2022

European Parliament website affected by cyberattack

European Parliament website affected by cyberattack
  • President Roberta Metsola said in a twitter statement that the parliament “is under a sophisticated cyberattack"
  • A “pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility”

BRUSSELS: The European Parliament’s web site came under a cyberattack by a pro-Moscow group only hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, the legislature’s president said Wednesday.
President Roberta Metsola said in a twitter statement that the parliament “is under a sophisticated cyberattack” and that a “pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility.”
The legislature’s spokesman Jaume Duch said that the website “is currently impacted from outside due to high levels of external network traffic.” He added that “this traffic is related to a DDOS attack (Distributed Denial of Service) event.”
In distributed denial of service attacks, the instigators render web sites unreachable by bombarding them with junk data packets. DDoS attacks do not damage networks because they do not penetrate them. But they can be a major nuisance, especially when targeting sites the public depends on for vital information and services.
Metsola said that the EU’s “IT experts are pushing back against it & protecting our systems.”
She note that it came “after we proclaimed Russia as a State-sponsor of terrorism.”
In a lopsided 494-58 vote with 48 abstentions, the EU legislature sought to increase pressure on Moscow to bring anyone responsible for war crimes committed from the Feb. 24 start of the invasion before an international court.
The 27-nation EU has condemned in the harshest terms the invasion and repeatedly said that several Russian actions over the past 9 months have amounted to war crimes.
Sometimes, state-backed hackers have used DDoS attacks as a smokescreen for more serious attacks, as occurred in Ukraine prior to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. But mostly they are used as a “noisy” political tool by hacktivists whose affiliations may be murky.


Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official
Updated 15 sec ago

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official
  • China’s growing assertiveness on Taiwan and its claims over the disputed South China Sea have given fresh impetus to Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership

MANILA: The United States and the Philippines are expected to announce a deal Thursday that will give US troops access to another four military bases in the Southeast Asian nation, as the longtime allies seek to deter Chinese aggression in the region.
The agreement to expand cooperation will be announced during a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a senior Philippine official told AFP, and comes as the countries seek to repair ties that were fractured in recent years.
China’s growing assertiveness on Taiwan and its claims over the disputed South China Sea have given fresh impetus to Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership.
Given its proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, the Philippines’ cooperation would be key in the event of a conflict with China, which a four-star US Air Force general has warned could happen as early as 2025.
“There’s been an agreement to designate four new additional sites,” the Philippine official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Talks were ongoing for a potential fifth base, the official added.
The two countries have a decades-old security alliance that includes a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 pact, known by the acronym EDCA, which allows US troops to rotate through five Philippine bases, including those near disputed waters.
It also allows for the US military to store defense equipment and supplies on those bases.
EDCA stalled under ex-president Rodrigo Duterte, who favored China over his country’s former colonial master, but the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos has been keen to accelerate its implementation.
Under the EDCA expansion to be unveiled Thursday, the United States will have access to at least nine military bases across the archipelago.
It has been widely reported that most of the new bases will be on the main island of Luzon, the closest Philippine landmass to Taiwan, where the US already has access to two sites.
The fourth will reportedly be on the western island of Palawan, facing the Spratly Islands in the hotly contested South China Sea, taking the number of sites there to two.
Ahead of the announcement, Austin was to hold talks with Marcos at the presidential palace.
A senior US defense official told reporters Wednesday that the Philippines was under “day-to-day pressure from (China) in ways that contravene international law.”
The United States aims to ensure “they have the capability to defend their own sovereignty,” the official said.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored a ruling at the Hague that its claims have no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.
China also claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reclaimed one day, by force if necessary.
“Looking at the location of the proposed sites, it seems pretty clear that these sites are in relation to a Taiwan contingency,” said Greg Wyatt of PSA Philippines Consultancy.


UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing
Updated 53 min 26 sec ago

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing
  • Special investigator Tom Andrews told Arab News frustration and anger among Rohingya at lack of accountability for atrocities in Myanmar is “pervasive” 
  • He presented his report to the UN’s Human Right Council on the eve of the second anniversary of the military coup in the country

NEW YORK CITY: The independent UN expert tasked with investigating the situation in Myanmar has called on the international community to “do a lot more” to protect the vulnerable Rohingya population in the country’s Rakhine State.

Tom Andrews, whose official title is UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, warned that “not to do so is to risk seeing another 2017.”

This referred to the brutal persecution of the Rohingya that began with a military crackdown on their community about six years ago, during which thousands were killed and more than a million were ultimately forced to flee to other countries.

Tom Andrews warned that the same forces who committed “those genocidal attacks” are now in control of the country and “their priority is not the human rights of the Rohingya people.”

Rohingya Muslims have suffered decades of violence, discrimination and persecution in Myanmar but the largest exodus began on Aug. 25, 2017, after Myanmar’s military launched brutal operations targeting them in northern Rakhine State.

Amnesty International said the subsequent wave of violence resulted in grave crimes under international law. The junta torched entire villages and forced more 700,000 people, half of them children, to flee to Bangladesh, where almost 1 million Rohingya now live in crowded refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.

Andrews, who had just returned from a fact-finding trip and presented to the UN in New York his report on the situation in the South Asian country, told Arab News that more than 600,000 Rohingya continue to live in Rakhine State, 130,000 of them in makeshift internment camps.

“Even those who are living in the villages, those villages are surrounded,” he said. “The people are prisoners in their own home villages. They have virtually no rights whatsoever. It’s very, very oppressive to be living under these conditions.”

INNUMBERS

700,000 Number of people who fled Myanmar after government soldiers torched entire villages

600,000 Number of Rohingya who continue to live in Myanmar's Rakhine State, 130,000 of them in makeshift internment camps.

1 million Number of Rohingya now living in crowded refugee camps at Bangladesh's Cox’s Bazar.

2,900 Number of people who have died since the Myanmar military ousted the democratically elected government

The special rapporteur said the frustration and anger among the Rohingya community at the lack of accountability for the atrocities that have been committed against them “is pervasive.”

“Many would argue that the lack of accountability for the genocide that occurred in 2016 and 2017 was not lost on the military leaders that committed (the February 2021) coup,” said Andrews.

“You know: If you could get away with one, why not get away with another? If the international community is not willing to bring justice to bear in one, perhaps they’ll just forget about what happens as a result of the coup.

“So, failure to bring accountability is not only tragic, and an injustice for the people who suffer, but it’s an injustice and a tragedy for those who will suffer at the hands of the very same forces who are receiving the message that the international community simply doesn’t care.”

A human rights organization and a group of people from Myanmar this month filed a criminal complaint in Germany seeking punishment of Myanmar’s generals for the genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity that they allege were committed during the crackdown on the Rohingya minority in 2017 and after the military coup in 2021.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan has said that an investigation being conducted by his office into the crimes against the Rohingya will be a priority during his tenure. 

Andrews lamented the fact that such legal mechanisms are “slow and cumbersome, and they are no comfort to the people who have lost loved ones in the most horrific of ways.” He called on the international community to do the “very least” it can and fully support them.

“We need to create the kind of pressure on those who are responsible for these tragedies, namely the SAC (the State Administration Council that currently rules Myanmar), so that they understand that there’s a price to pay (and) that what they’re doing now is not sustainable — and unless and until they receive that message from the international community, impunity will continue to reign,” he said.

In his report to the Human Rights Council, published on the eve of the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, Andrews described the coup as “illegal” and the military’s claim to be the country’s legitimate government as “illegitimate.”

He called for nations that support human rights to recognize the National Unity Government, the main underground group coordinating resistance to the military rule, as the legitimate representatives of the people of Myanmar. It was formed by elected politicians prevented from taking their seats when the military seized power.

Andrews said UN member states “have an important responsibility and role to play in determining whether Myanmar’s military junta will succeed in achieving its goal of being accepted as legitimate and gaining control of a nation in revolt.”

He described the situation in Myanmar as “the forgotten war” and accused the international community of failing to properly address the crisis and “the junta’s systematic crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Since the military came to power, he said at least 2,900 people, and probably many more, have died, 17,500 people are political prisoners and at least 38,000 homes, clinics and schools have been burned to the ground.

In addition, a total of 1.1 million people have been displaced, more than 4 million children do not have access to formal education, and 17.6 million people are expected to need humanitarian aid this year, up from 1 million before the coup.

Andrews, a former US congressman, said a new, coordinated global response to the crisis is crucial.

He added in his report that the military’s hold on the country “is weakening” and his investigation found international sanctions have made it difficult for the junta to move and access the funds it needs to maintain its operations.

But “the problem is that the sanctions are not coordinated,” he added.


US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well
Updated 02 February 2023

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well
  • Republicans are threatening to block the usually rubber-stamp approval for raising the nation’s credit limit if Democrats don’t first agree to steep future budget cuts
  • The White House accuses the Republicans of taking the economy “hostage” in order to posture as fiscally responsible

WASHINGTON: The US took a small step back from the risk of a catastrophic debt default Wednesday after the new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said talks with President Joe Biden went well — even if a deal has yet to be reached.
“The president and I tried to find a way that we can work together,” McCarthy told reporters after an approximately one-hour meeting with Biden at the White House. “I think at the end of the day, we can find common ground.”
McCarthy said that while it was a “good discussion,” he cautioned that there were “no agreements, no promises, except we will continue this conversation.”
The White House also sounded positive, saying in a statement that Biden and McCarty had “frank and straightforward” talks and “agreed to continue the conversation.”
At stake is the stability of the world’s biggest economy.
Republicans are threatening to block the usually rubber-stamp approval for raising the nation’s credit limit if Democrats don’t first agree to steep future budget cuts.
The White House, meanwhile, accuses the Republicans of taking the economy “hostage” in order to posture as fiscally responsible.
Fail to raise the debt ceiling by around June, the Treasury says, and the United States will be forced into default on its $31.4 trillion debt — a historic first that would leave the government unable to pay bills, undermine the US economy’s reputation, and likely panic investors.
McCarthy said Republicans and Democrats have about five months to talk before reaching the debt cliff, but “hopefully it doesn’t take that long.”
There have been other showdowns over the years when Republicans balked at allowing US debt to spiral ever higher. But on most occasions the dispute was quickly smoothed over, Congress extended the ceiling and the economy kept going without a hiccup.
This time, the political heat makes things far riskier.
Two years through his first term, Biden is widely expected to be on the cusp of announcing his bid for a second term in the 2024 election. And Republicans, who have just taken over control of the House, are eager to show their muscle.
Even if McCarthy is minded to show flexibility, his power in Congress depends almost entirely on the desires of a far-right group of Republicans who are more likely to play chicken, regardless of the global financial consequences.

The White House says it won’t allow the current debt ceiling to be part of any negotiation on future government spending because that $31.4 trillion is money already agreed to by Congress. In other words, refusal to raise the debt ceiling would be like refusing to pay an already existing credit card bill.
There could be room for negotiating on changes to future budgets.
McCarthy said he had told Biden that he was against defaulting on the existing debt but that he wanted to see cuts in future spending, because “the current path we’re on we cannot sustain.”
But when it gets down to brass tacks, it’s hard for either party to say where they can find significant reductions — unless they go into the usually politically untouchable Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or other government-subsidized health care.
Biden signalled he wanted to call McCarthy’s bluff by insisting that the Republicans lay out where exactly they’d make cuts. His bet is that the internal divisions in the party will burst into the open as more right-wing members demand cuts to popular spending programs.
“What are House Republicans hiding?” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said.
In a memo Tuesday, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, challenged McCarthy to publish a draft budget. The White House will issue its own on March 9, they said.
 


Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him
Updated 02 February 2023

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him
  • Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., said the shootings highlight the need for serious gun control
  • “This is not a Metro-specific safety issue; it’s an American gun violence issue,” says Metro GM

WASHINGTON: A man “randomly” brandishing a firearm shot three people, killing one, in a Wednesday morning rampage in the nation’s capital that started on a city bus and ended in a Metro tunnel after passengers attacked and disarmed him.
Authorities were still piecing together the chaotic series of events that left two people with gunshot wounds to the leg and Metro employee Robert Cunningham shot dead. The shooter is in police custody and has not been publicly identified.
Metropolitan Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict praised the “heroic actions of our citizens, our community, to disarm this shooter.”
But he added, “The fact that our citizens had to intervene with armed gunmen is disturbing to me.”
The violence began shortly after 9 a.m. when the man began brandishing a weapon and confronting passengers on a city bus in the southeast area of the city. The man pursued one of the passengers off the bus and shot them in the leg, Benedict said.
The man then went down the escalator of the nearby Potomac Avenue Metro stop, confronted someone who was buying a Metro pass and shot that person in the leg as well. Both victims were recovering in local hospitals.
The armed man then went down to the train platform and began confronting a woman there. Benedict characterized his behavior as deeply erratic, saying, “He’s walking around brandishing a firearm and just randomly engaging people in confrontation. He’s clearly agitated about something.”
At that point, Cunningham, a 64-year-old mechanic in Metro’s power department, tried to intervene and was killed by a gunshot. A statement from Paul Smedberg, chair of the Metro board, said Cunningham “acted with extreme bravery to help a customer who was being threatened by the shooter.”
The armed man then attempted to board a Metro train and was apparently confronted and disarmed by the passengers. He exited the train car and was taken into custody by police officers, who recovered his weapon on the train tracks, Benedict said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said the shootings highlight the need for serious gun control. Bowser and the Police Department have recently endured intense public pressure after a city employee shot and killed a 13-year old boy who was part of a group of youth breaking into parked cars on his block. The resident was charged this week with second-degree murder.
“We’re focused on how we get guns out of our city,” Bowser said. “Whether it’s the Metro, it’s the street, it’s in individual homes, we know that we have guns that are creating tragedies in our city and in our nation.”
Metro General Manager Randy Clarke said his administration had recently beefed up security measures, including increased police patrols and video surveillance. But he said the morning’s incident was indicative of a wider issue beyond Metro security.
“This is not a Metro-specific safety issue; it’s an American gun violence issue,” Clarke said.

 


Discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslim women at all-time high, campaigners say

Discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslim women at all-time high, campaigners say
Updated 02 February 2023

Discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslim women at all-time high, campaigners say

Discrimination against hijab-wearing Muslim women at all-time high, campaigners say
  • The organizers of World Hijab Day, on Feb. 1, said many women face pressure to remove their head scarf to ‘show solidarity’ or make a political statement
  • ‘The theme for World Hijab Day 2023, #UnapologeticHijabi, is bolder and stronger than ever before: Muslim women unapologetically wearing the hijab proudly,’ WHD said

LONDON: “Hijabophobia” is at an all-time high “due to the current political climate,” as a result of which hijab-wearing Muslim women face increasing discrimination in everyday life, the organizers of World Hijab Day said on Wednesday.

“Muslim women are being pressured to remove their hijab to ‘show solidarity’ and make political statements, while parts of the world enact legislation that prevent hijabi women from participating in society,” WHD told Arab News.

It had called on women of all backgrounds to “take a stand against hijabophobia by donning a headscarf” on World Hijab Day, Feb. 1, to help raise awareness of the Muslim tradition and women’s rights.

“The theme for World Hijab Day 2023, #UnapologeticHijabi, is bolder and stronger than ever before: Muslim women unapologetically wearing the hijab proudly,” the organization said.

 

 

“Due to the current climate, Muslim women wearing the hijab are portrayed as oppressed, submissive and backward, and the hijab is used to justify discrimination and abuse against them.

“This can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy toward Muslim women, and can make it harder for these women to fully participate in society and access opportunities.”

WHD said women who choose to wear the headscarf, whether for reasons of modesty or religious observance, face challenges integrating into educational and workplace environments.

“In some cases, there may be religious discrimination, or a lack of understanding and acceptance of the hijab,” the organization said.

 

 

It added that “in schools, some hijabi students may face discrimination or harassment from classmates or teachers, or be barred from getting an education altogether; such is the case in Karnataka, India.”

This was a reference to a decision by the High Court of Karnataka in February last year that banned thousands of Muslim girls from wearing religious garments in school.

WHD also cited examples of discrimination it said hijab-wearing women face in the workplace, and bias during the hiring process.

“Experimental studies suggested that the chances of being hired, and so gainfully employed, were on average 40 percent lower among Muslim women wearing the hijab than they were among otherwise similar Muslim women not wearing the hijab, in the West.

 

 

“For example, a 2022 study found that in the Netherlands, almost 70 percent of job applications that included a photograph of an unveiled woman received a positive callback for jobs requiring high customer contact. But for applications with hijab-clad photographs, the positive rate was 35 percent.”

WHD, which was founded in 2013 in New York by Bangladeshi American woman Nazma Khan, said: “Muslim women in European countries are more likely subjected to hijabophobia in public spaces and the labor market.”

In particular it referred to a December 2020 study by US-based think tank the Pew Research Center, which found: “Women in 56 countries experienced social hostilities — that is, harassment from individuals or groups — due to clothing that was deemed to violate religious or secular dress norms, according to the sources analyzed for a recent Pew Research Center study of 198 nations.”

The study said that women were targeted for violating secular dress norms, including wearing a hijab or other religious garb, in 42 of 56 countries in which sources alleged that social harassment took place between 2016 and 2018.

 

 

However, WHD said: “While there are challenges to the integration of hijabi women in schools and the workplace, there have also been efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of hijabi women in these settings,” including World Hijab Day itself, which aims “to promote integration and acceptance of hijabi women in these settings.”

The organization, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, said it expected thousands of people in more than 150 countries to celebrate World Hijab Day 2023, including in the UK, Japan, Korea and Switzerland.

“Most notably, we see more and more non-Muslims taking part in wearing the hijab on Feb. 1,” It added. “Many of them share their experiences with us, which we believe helps others to learn more about the hijab.”

 

 

WHD said that efforts to raise awareness through its movement have helped to change views on the hijab around the world, with two-thirds of past participants reporting positive experiences that changed their views on wearing the headscarf.

This year, the organization added, it hoped to further raise awareness, grow its platform, increase the confidence of women who wear the hijab, and “welcome those with curiosity and misunderstandings to an open forum and place to ask questions.”

WHD is also a fundraising event and money raised this year will go toward creating diversity and inclusion workshops on Muslim culture for schools, to help foster a safe and healthy educational environment for Muslim students, the organization said.