Polish border no-go zone will stop tourists as well as migrants, locals fear

A soldier stands guard near the fence on the Belarusian-Polish border in the forest near Bialowieza, Poland, June 4, 2024. (Reuters)
A soldier stands guard near the fence on the Belarusian-Polish border in the forest near Bialowieza, Poland, June 4, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 June 2024
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Polish border no-go zone will stop tourists as well as migrants, locals fear

Polish border no-go zone will stop tourists as well as migrants, locals fear
  • Hoteliers and tour operators said they were particularly worried about the impact on the summer season from the zone

BIALOWIEZA, Poland: Poland’s move to set up a no-go zone to control the number of migrants coming over its borders could also stop thousands of tourists visiting the forested frontier with Belarus, local business owners fear.
Hoteliers and tour operators said they were particularly worried about the impact on the summer season from the zone — which would bar everyone apart from security services from a strip of eastern territory cutting into popular sites.
Parts of the zone cross into Bialowieza forest, potentially stopping visitors entering parts of one of Europe’s last ancient woodlands, traditionally a center of hiking, cycling and nature-watching.
The zone is due to come into force on Thursday. But the alarming talk of security controls is already having an impact, Slawomir Dron, a restaurant owner from Bialowieza, said.
“People cancel their reservations. My friends who run private lodgings here, they already received cancelations. Everyone is asking if it’s safe in here.”
The government says it is having to act after a rise in confrontations between migrants and authorities on the border that has already led to the death of one soldier.
Poland and other European countries have accused Belarus, a Russian ally, of engineering a migration crisis by flying in people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the European Union illegally.
In all, Poland plans to spend 10 billion zlotys ($2.5 billion) on strengthening defenses at the border.
Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz has said local businesses will get a boost from all the army, police and border guards using accommodation.
The presence of security services will also make visitors feel safer, and some businesses may be able to get compensation, he added.
But locals are not convinced.
Tourism took a hit when the crisis on the Belarus border first broke out in 2021 and the previous nationalist government introduced a buffer zone, then stoked people’s fears about security further by erecting a 5-meter high metal barrier.
At least the last government only imposed restrictions outside the tourist season, guide Lukasz Synowiecki told Reuters. But this time authorities will be bringing in restrictions just when visitor numbers usually peak.
“I will probably have to go somewhere else to find seasonal work this summer,” he said. “And I will keep my fingers crossed this ends one day.”


EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation

EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation
Updated 33 sec ago
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EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation

EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation
  • The ICJ’s ruling is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel’s war against Hamas

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The top UN court’s ruling that Israel’s 57-year occupation of Palestinian land was “illegal” is “largely consistent with EU positions,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief said Saturday.
The sweeping opinion on Friday by The Hague-based International Court of Justice — which called for the occupation to end as soon as possible — was immediately slammed as a “decision of lies” by Israel.
But the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs said that the bloc had taken “good note” of the court’s ruling and urged further backing for the court’s opinion.
“In a world of constant and increasing violations of international law, it is our moral duty to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all ICJ decisions in a consistent manner, irrespective of the subject in question,” Josep Borrell said.
He added in a statement that the opinion “will need to be analyzed more thoroughly, including in view of its implications for EU policy.”
The ICJ’s ruling is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel’s war against Hamas sparked by the group’s brutal October 7 attacks, as well as increased tensions in the West Bank.
Its intervention is likely to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza, as will the EU’s backing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the ruling.
“The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land — not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria” (the occupied West Bank), he said in a statement.
In June 1967, Israel seized the then-Jordan-annexed West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in a crushing six-day war against its Arab neighbors.
It then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of seized Arab territory.
The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal, and Cairo regained the Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.
 


Kyiv hospital strike highlights Russia’s sanctions evasion

Kyiv hospital strike highlights Russia’s sanctions evasion
Updated 40 min 23 sec ago
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Kyiv hospital strike highlights Russia’s sanctions evasion

Kyiv hospital strike highlights Russia’s sanctions evasion
  • The July 8 Kh-101s missile attack, which killed two people and damaged large portions of the surrounding buildings of the clinic treating about 600 patients, provoked international outrage
  • Russia is now producing eight times as many Kh-101s missiles as before its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, says report

WARSAW: The Kh-101 cruise missile that struck a children’s hospital in Kyiv in early July perfectly illustrates the ability of the Russian defense industry to overcome Western efforts to cut its supply of key components.
The July 8 attack, which killed two people and damaged large portions of the surrounding buildings of the clinic treating about 600 patients, provoked international outrage.
Yet “just since the beginning of this week, Russia has used more than 700 guided aerial bombs, more than 170 attack drones of various types and almost 80 missiles against Ukraine,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Long gone are the days when Western military officials would report that Russian military production capacity was insufficient to sustain the war in Ukraine, or when a Ukrainian official said Russian strikes would soon stop because of a lack of ammunition.
The Financial Times reported, without naming its sources, that Russia is now producing eight times as many Kh-101s as before its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Experts consulted by AFP would not confirm the figures, but all underscored Russia’s increased capacity to build more of these crucial cruise missiles.
“I would say the real number might be even higher,” said Vladislav Inozemtsev, a Russian economist who lives in exile. He estimates that Russia will make 700 to 750 this year and that production could reach 1,000 units in 2025.
“In April 2024, Ukrainian sources reported monthly production of 40 Kh-101 missiles,” much higher than the 56 produced over the whole of 2021, said a Western source in the arms sector.
However, the operating systems of these missiles require many components that are made in countries that support Kyiv and have imposed sanctions on Russia.
US-made AMD memory cards, Texas Instruments microcircuits and Dutch-made Nexperia buffer chips have all been found in the debris of Kh-101 strikes, according to the official site war-sanctions.gur.gov.ua.
“Not all the electronic components inside of Russian missiles are military grade. Many of them if not most are consumer-grade or industrial-grade and still available for Russia on the global market,” said Pavel Luzin, a specialist in Russian defense policies.
“Moreover, there was a storage of electronic components in Russia made before 2022.”

With the help of friendly countries, Russia has set up trading companies and “shows no signs of vulnerability in its supply chains,” said an industrial source.
“First, there are the Chinese who supply the Russians with many kinds of dual-use products which are successfully used by the military industry,” Inozemtsev said.
The industrial source added: “The main foreign components found on the Kh-101 wrecks today are American or Taiwanese commercially available processors, purchased by Russian trade missions in embassies abroad or through shell companies.”
Some countries have become important hubs.
In a report published in late 2023, British research institute Rusi said that “faced with losing access to essential supply lines, Russia adapted, rerouting trade flows through friendly jurisdictions and bordering countries, often using complex front-company networks to evade scrutiny.”
“For example, in 2022, Armenia’s microelectronics imports from the US and EU increased by over 500 and 200 percent, respectively, with most of these later re-exported to Russia.”
Rusi also noted that the value of Kazakhstan’s microelectronics exports to Russia increased from around $250,000 in 2021 to over $18 million in 2022.
But sometimes these sales pass directly through Western countries, Rusi said, such as purchases by Russian company Compel JSC from Germany.
A Stuttgart court sentenced a 59-year-old Russian-German man on Wednesday to almost seven years in prison for having supplied 120,000 components and other pieces of equipment to Russia between January 2020 and May 2023.
“There is little that can be done to stop these flows,” Inozemtsev said.
“The only efficient thing would be to consider sanctions against Western semiconductor producers to force them to better vet their clients. But such measures would be too painful for Western companies.”
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Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog

Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog
Updated 21 July 2024
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Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog

Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog
  • Says the Democratic Party is being undemocratic for annointing Biden as its presidential nominee, only to try and yank it away from him
  • With Biden's poll numbers falling after his debate debacle, Trump and his supporters want Biden to stay on in the race

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan: Donald Trump held his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago, mocking Democrats and at one point comparing former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a “dog.”
Trump, who called for national unity in a speech on Thursday as he accepted his party’s presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, made no mention of that in his remarks before a raucous crowd of supporters in Grand Rapids.
He frequently mocked Democratic President Joe Biden as feeble. He derided senior Democrats, including Pelosi, for trying to persuade Biden to end his re-election bid.
Referring to Pelosi, Trump said: “She’s turned on him like a dog. She’s as crazy as a bed bug.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Trump comparing Pelosi to a dog.
Fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented, Trump appeared in Grand Rapids with his new vice presidential pick, Senator J.D. Vance from Ohio. They took the stage in their first campaign event together with the Republican Party unified behind them.
In contrast, it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party’s nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden has faced calls from some senior Democrats to end his re-election bid after his poor debate performance last month raised concerns over whether he could beat Trump or complete another four-year term.
Trump attacked Democrats, saying they wanted to kick Biden off the ticket after he won their presidential nominating contest.
“They have a couple of problems. No. 1, they have no idea who their candidate is,” Trump said to laughter and jeers. “This guy goes and he gets the votes and now they want to take it away.”
“As you’re seeing, the Democrat Party is not the party of democracy. They’re really the enemies of democracy.”
He added: “And they keep saying, ‘He’s a threat to democracy.’ I’m saying, ‘What the hell did I do for democracy?’
Last week, I took a bullet for democracy.”
Trump referred to the assassination attempt several times on Saturday. “I hope I don’t have to go through that again. It was so horrible,” Trump said.
Opinion polls show a tight race between the Trump and Biden at a national level but Biden trailing Trump in the battleground states that will likely determine the winner.
Many Democrats fear he may not have a realistic path to victory and that the party needs a new candidate to take on Trump.
There was a heavy police presence at Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids on Saturday, with police on every street corner for several blocks.
US Secret Service officers were positioned on the top balconies in the Van Andel Arena, giving them a bird’s eye view of the crowd inside.
Bag searches for those entering the indoor arena earlier in the day were long and thorough, and the Secret Service sweep of the building took about an hour longer than usual.
The rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, last weekend was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”
Trump’s former physician, Ronny Jackson, said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from the gunshot wound to his right ear, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.
The bullet fired by the would-be assassin
at the July 13 rally in Pennsylvania came “less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head,” said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who had served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.
 


Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city
Updated 21 July 2024
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Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city
  • One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest

MOSCOW: Residents angry over recent power cuts in southern Russia staged a rare public protest on Saturday in the city of Krasnodar, posts on social media said, as the local governor blamed a heatwave for causing the blackouts.
The south of Russia has been affected by unusually hot weather that has caused mass power outages in several regions and led to the shutdown earlier this week of one of four power units at the Rostov nuclear power plant, the region’s largest.
The unit has been put back into operation since then.
“There has been abnormal heat in the Krasnodar region for a week now. The load on the energy system is colossal. I know and understand all the indignation of residents due to power outages,” Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Krasnodar region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said power capacities were not currently sufficient to meet peak demand during the hot summer months.
One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest.
Russian authorities have clamped down on any protest activity, especially politically laced dissent, since the start of the conflict with Ukraine in February 2022, and public protests are very rare given the risk of arrest.


Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’
  • Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.

LAGOS: Nigeria has issued a $220 million fine against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, for “multiple and repeated” violations.
The country’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) on Friday accused Meta of violating the country’s data protection and consumer rights laws on Facebook and WhatsApp.
The FCCPC’s chief executive officer Adamu Abdullahi said the investigations the commission carried out in conjunction with the Nigeria Data Protection Commission between May 2021 and December 2023 showed that it engaged in “invasive practices against data subjects/consumers in Nigeria.”
Abdullahi accused Meta of discriminatory practices, abuse of market dominance, sharing Nigerians’ personal data without authorization and denying Nigerians the right to determine how their data are used.
Apart from the hefty fine, the FCCPC boss insisted that Meta must “comply with prevailing law and cease the exploitation of Nigerian consumers and their market abuse.”
It ordered the company to “desist from future similar or other conduct/practices that do not meet nationally applicable standards.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the fine. But the FCCPC said the company was aware of its 38-month investigation.
About three quarters of the 200 million people in Africa’s most populous country are younger than 24 — a generation that is also hyper-connected to social media.
The country had some 164.3 million Internet subscriptions as of March, according to the figures published by the National Communication Commission (NCC) on its website.
Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.
The minister for communication and the digital economy, Bosun Tijani, said in December that there were “over 51 million WhatsApp users in Nigeria.”
The European Union (EU) accused Meta at the beginning of July of breaching the bloc’s digital rules, paving the way for potential fines worth billions of euros.
The EU said Meta’s new ad-free subscription model for Facebook and Instagram “forced millions of users” in the bloc to pay to avoid data collection or agree to share their data with Facebook and Instagram to keep using the platforms for free.