Archive for November, 2020

Not quite the monopoly-slayer, but… Apple fined by Italian watchdog over false claims about ‘waterproof’ iPhones

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Not quite the monopoly-slayer, but… Apple fined by Italian watchdog over false claims about ‘waterproof’ iPhones

Italy's antitrust regulator has scored another victory against tech giant Apple, fining it €10 million for misleading the public about “waterproof” iPhones.

It's not the sweeping anti-monopoly case the US wants to bring, but this one was easier to win. The Italian Competition and Market Authority has fined Apple Distribution International and Apple's Italian arm a total of €10 million ($12 million) for making false claims about the water resistant properties of eight different iPhone models, according to a statement the agency released on Monday.

When unsuspecting iPhone owners damaged their devices by getting them wet, Apple added insult to injury by refusing to provide warranty assistance.

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Apple falsely advertised its iPhone 8 through to iPhone 11 Pro Max as being water resistant for one to four meters and 30 minutes of submersion, the statement notes, without explaining that “this property is found only in the presence of specific conditions” – in a laboratory using pure water – that are unlikely to be encountered in the field by real live iPhone users.

The watchdog accuses Apple of deceiving customers by pushing the water resistance claims with a deliberately vague disclaimer warning its “guarantee does not cover damage caused by liquids,” a cavernous loophole that allowed Apple to get out of fixing customers’ soaked phones even if they were still under warranty.

It's not the first victory for Italy's antitrust regulator against Apple. The watchdog forced Apple and Samsung to cough up €10 million in 2018 for deliberately throttling the performance of older phones with software updates in an apparent effort to nudge customers into upgrades they didn't need. France, too, fined Apple over what has become known as “batterygate,” and the US settled a related class action lawsuit against the company earlier this year for $500 million.

While the tech giant remains under multiple investigations for antitrust violations in the US, many of the probes also target the other three Big Tech monopolies – Facebook, Amazon and Google. A recent House Judiciary Committee report examining anti-competitive practices at all four companies took 16 months to write and weighs in at 450 pages – ensuring any prosecution of these influential firms will drag on for years.

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(L) Facebook logo © Reuters / Dado Ruvic; (R) Apple logo © Reuters / Brendan McDermid
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The antitrust subcommittee declared last month that Apple has “monopoly power” over software distribution on iPhones and suggested the company be barred from entering “adjacent lines of business” or privileging its own software and other products. Their report found Apple promotes its own apps in the App Store and exiles competitors when they attempt to sell similar products. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, however, said he believed that Apple could “sort of unpeel” from the monopoly investigations of its fellow tech behemoths, pleading that his company, with “just” 45 percent of market share, does not dominate the smartphone business.

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Senior Iranian commander killed in drone strike on his car near Iraqi-Syrian border – reports

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Senior Iranian commander killed in drone strike on his car near Iraqi-Syrian border – reports

A senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in a drone strike near the Syrian-Iraqi border Sunday night, according to reports, just two days after the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist.

The IRGC commander and three of his escorts reportedly died after his car was struck by an unmanned aerial vehicle near the border, according to multiple media outlets citing Iraqi officials.

The drone strike is said to have targeted the senior commander after he had entered Syria via the Al Qaim border crossing from Iraq. 

There were also reports that the men’s bodies had been transferred to the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Iran has not confirmed or denied any of the reports.

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A handout photo made available by Iran state TV (IRIB) on November 27, 2020, shows the damaged car of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after it was attacked near the capital Tehran.
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The alleged attack comes after leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was shot dead on Friday north of Tehran, with Iranian officials blaming Israel for his assassination.

Speaking at a funeral procession for Fakhrizadeh on Monday, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami said the crime would not go unanswered.

On January 3, the US killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force, in a drone strike shortly after he left Baghdad Airport, claiming that he had plotted attacks against America.

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The incident marked the start of a severe escalation in tensions between Tehran and Washington, and Iran retaliated by launching a series of strikes on US forces based in Iraq. 

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Put down your pipes: Erdogan urges Turks to ditch shisha as he outlines Covid curfews amid record death surge

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Put down your pipes: Erdogan urges Turks to ditch shisha as he outlines Covid curfews amid record death surge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged his country to cut down on cigarettes and shisha pipes as he outlined new weekday curfews and full lockdowns at weekends in a bid to halt coronavirus spread amid record deaths.

Under new rules, which begin on Tuesday for an unspecified duration, Turks will be banned from leaving their homes between 9pm and 5am during the week, and then from 9pm on Friday until 5am on Monday. 

The new curfew and weekend lockdown comes as Turkey's Covid-19 death toll hit a record high on Monday for the eighth day in a row, with the Health Ministry reporting a further 188 fatalities in the last 24 hours. There was also a record high of 31,219 new cases. 

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in northern Nicosia, Cyprus, November 15, 2020. © Reuters / Mustafa Oztartan / Presidential Press Office
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On Monday afternoon, as Turks prepared to lock down at home, they were also urged to “stop smoking hookah” by Erdogan as he outlined not only the new measures, but also the health risks associated with tobacco use. 

“Please, you have to stop smoking,” Erdogan said, warning them of its negative impact on the lungs and adding that he had “no business” with either cigarettes or hookahs – the water pipes used to smoke tobacco or shisha which are used widely across Turkey.

Under the new measures, some schools will be forced to close as will restaurants, apart from takeaways, as well as Turkish baths and other leisure facilities. 

Workplaces with over 50 staff will be strictly monitored by health officials, while the over-65s and under-20s will be banned from taking public transport. 

Some sectors, like manufacturing, will be exempt from the new restrictions, while supermarkets may open during specified hours at the weekend. 

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©Sputnik / Kirill Braga
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Erdogan added that Turkey had secured 50 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, and that healthcare workers would start receiving the jab from next month. 

Turkey, which has a population of 82 million, has registered at least 638,847 coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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South Korea culls 19,000 ducks after highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu outbreak strikes farm

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on South Korea culls 19,000 ducks after highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu outbreak strikes farm

Some 19,000 ducks have been culled in South Korea after a farm was hit by an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu - the same strain which has afflicted Europe in recent weeks and led to the culling of millions of birds.

The outbreak first took hold on Thursday in the southwestern town of Girin-ri, near the city of Jeongeup-si, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in an alert on Monday.

Tracing, disinfection and a clampdown on movement are among the actions that health authorities have taken to stem the spread of disease, the OEI said. 

In separate measures, the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture said it had also culled 292,000 chickens on five other farms and 100,000 ducks at another site.

News of the outbreak in South Korea comes after another bout of the highly contagious H5N8 strain was reported at a turkey farm in Yorkshire, northern England at the weekend, resulting in the culling of all of its 10,500 birds.

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FILE PHOTO
English farm to cull 10,500 turkeys as concern grows over wave of bird flu from Europe

More than a dozen European nations have registered H5N8 outbreaks in the second half of 2020, with Belgium, the Netherlands and Russia among those hardest hit.

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Educators must be able to show Prophet Mohammed cartoons to students if they find it necessary – Norwegian teacher to RT

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Educators must be able to show Prophet Mohammed cartoons to students if they find it necessary – Norwegian teacher to RT

Freedom of speech classes are possible without displaying cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, but educators must be able to decide if they need to do it or not, a Norwegian teacher behind an influential article on the issue told RT.

One in three teachers in Norway were afraid to show the cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammed in class after their French colleague, Samuel Paty, was beheaded for doing exactly that in October, according to a local poll. 

Norwegian teacher Kjersti Marie Heldaas, who among other things holds classes on freedom of speech, has confirmed to RT that the results of the survey reflected reality quite accurately.

“After the murder of Samuel Paty, I decided not to show Prophet Mohammed cartoons at all because I felt vulnerable.”

I felt that my profession was attacked at that moment and the freedom of speech; freedom of expression was attacked.

Last month, Heldaas wrote an article in a Norwegian paper on the effect that Paty's beheading had on her profession. The piece, which attracted a lot of attention, was intended to give teachers a voice and reflect on ways to keep studies effective in the new circumstances.  

“I wanted to find other ways to express myself and to achieve the goal with my teaching because the caricature drawings aren't the goal,” but just one of the examples of materials critical toward religion, she pointed out.

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FILE PHOTO. Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg visits the Ellingsrudasen school in Oslo. ©NTB Scanpix via REUTERS / Hakon Mosvold Larsen
Teachers in Norway say they’re afraid to show Prophet Mohammed cartoons to students, and worry about personal consequences

Freedom of speech classes in Norway were always about maneuvering between hate speech law and human rights, allowing for self-expression, Heldaas explained. She said she always started her course with older texts that took a shot at Christianity to make it clear to her students that criticism of Norway's own culture was possible. Only after that, contemporary materials with anti-religious motives were introduced to the group.

If I wanted I could show the students the [Prophet Mohammed] caricatures… but I find it quite easy to talk about this without actually showing them.

But Heldaas still believes that it's “really important that teachers all around the world are allowed to make those choices by themselves” and without fear.

Showing Prophet Mohammed cartoons to students is “appropriate if you have a good plan behind it… when you've thought about what the goal of teaching is,” she insisted.

Samuel Paty was beheaded last month outside Paris, in what is believed to be a revenge attack carried out by an Islamist extremist. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to crack down on radical Islam and endorsed the cartoons as an example of freedom of speech. All this led to a massive backlash from majority-Muslim countries.

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Merkel warns economic consequences of Covid pandemic could last years

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Merkel warns economic consequences of Covid pandemic could last years

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Monday that she fears the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will reverberate for years to come. 

Merkel praised improved coordination between EU member states during the pandemic, but called on nations to recognize the critical importance of EU instruments in repairing the financial damage it has caused, as the bloc “will have to deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19 for several years.”  

The remarks follow the German parliament’s decision to extend lockdown measures in the country over concerns that the health system could be overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. Defending the proposal, Merkel affirmed that the federal government would need to spend billions of euros to mitigate the economic consequences.  

Merkel has previously warned that the economic situation is being underestimated by the EU, fearing that the bloc could sink into the deepest recession since the Second World War. Some states expect to see their economies contract by up to 10 percent this year.  

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The chancellor was speaking today at an event held by the German EU Council presidency to discuss the ongoing stalemate over the EU budget, after Hungary and Poland vetoed it following the inclusion of the ‘rule of law’ provision. The veto doesn’t just block the passage of the EU budget, it also prevents the passing of a €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund, which is tied to the package. 

Germany has been clear that for the EU to weather the ongoing pandemic, the coronavirus recovery fund is crucial. However, Merkel said during her remarks on Monday that the EU will not back down from its position that the budget must embrace the bloc’s common values of democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law and solidarity. 

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US sanctions Chinese tech firm for doing business with ‘illegitimate Maduro regime’ in Venezuela

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on US sanctions Chinese tech firm for doing business with ‘illegitimate Maduro regime’ in Venezuela

The US has hit Chinese tech company China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation with "Venezuela-related sanctions," according to the Treasury Department, which issued a license authorizing a winddown of transactions.

The Treasury announced the new sanctions on Monday, without specifying what provoked the measures on the state-owned enterprise. CEIEC trades in a high volume of electronics, including equipment used for military and construction purposes.

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FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is seen at Jose refinery cargo terminal in Venezuela © Reuters / Jorge Silva
Venezuela continues selling oil to China despite US sanctions – report

"The illegitimate Maduro regime's reliance on entities like CEIEC to advance its authoritarian agenda further illustrates the regime's prioritization of power over democratic values and processes," US Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in relation to the restrictions.

According to the statement, CEIEC provided software, training, and technical expertise to Caracas, which "was then used against the people of Venezuela."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on Twitter, scolding CEIEC for “enabling the Maduro regime’s efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela.”

The Trump administration has been issuing rapid-fire sanctions in what appear to be its last months in power. Last week, the State Department sanctioned four Chinese and Russian companies for supposedly supporting Iran's missile program. Chengdu Best New Materials Co. Ltd and Zibo Elim Trade Co. Ltd in China, as well as Nilco Group and Joint Stock Company Elecon in Russia were accused of "transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran's missile program."

Special envoy to Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams has urged Joe Biden, who has proclaimed himself the next president, and his future administration to keep up the "maximum pressure" on Iran.

The sanctions may be seen as a message for China, which has resumed accepting direct oil shipments from Venezuela after officially pausing trade for over a year following the US’ imposition of stricter sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

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In the meantime, the regime change strategy for Venezuela appears to have declined in importance for the Trump administration after its pick for Maduro’s replacement, Juan Guaido, repeatedly failed to seize power despite Washington’s backing. Even Abrams, previously appointed special envoy to Venezuela, has seen his remit expanded more to Iran, towards which the US has been acting more aggressive of late.

However, the State Department recently demanded from Caracas the return of the ‘Citgo 6’, six US oil executives sentenced to prison on corruption charges, and Maduro fingered Washington among those responsible for a failed mercenary raid earlier this year. The Trump administration had just a few months earlier put a $15 million bounty on his head, a ‘reward’ for information that could be used to arrest Maduro on ‘narco-terrorism’ charges.

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French govt DROPS controversial bill curbing filming of police in major u-turn, new version to be written

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on French govt DROPS controversial bill curbing filming of police in major u-turn, new version to be written

The speaker of French President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party has said the government is dropping part of a controversial bill curbing the right to film on-duty police – which drew huge public anger – and will re-draft it.

Christophe Castaner, president of La Republique en Marche in the National Assembly, told the press on Monday that the government recognized "misunderstandings" around article 24 of the global security bill.  

Castaner said article 24, which prohibits the filming of on-duty police officers, of the law on comprehensive security would be removed and rewritten for future submission. 

"In no case do we want to prohibit the filming of security forces in intervention."

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Cars burn during a demonstration against the so-called Global Security Bill in Paris, France, November 28, 2020
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The legislation was given the green light by the French parliament last Tuesday, when France's lower house backed the complete global security bill by a majority of 388 votes to 104, with 66 abstentions.

The government has come under considerable pressure over the inclusion of article 24 within the new proposed security law, and had sought to assure people and bodies – including the European Commission – that the bill would not impact press freedoms.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had previously claimed that the aim of the article is to “protect those who protect us.”

Under the bill, sharing images of on-duty cops “with the aim or harming their physical or psychological integrity” would become punishable with a year’s imprisonment and a maximum €45,000 ($53,360) fine, raising concerns it could be used to hamper freedom of the press and conceal incidents of police brutality.

“Article 24...would not have had any impact on the images we have seen in recent days,” Castaner said on Monday, in reference to incidents of heavy-handed policing caught on camera over the last week. One of the most widely-shared was the brutal arrest of a music producer in Paris last Saturday, during which police forced themselves into his studio and fired tear gas.

The draft bill has been the cause of substantial unrest and multiple protests throughout November, which intensified after footage of the producer being beaten by French cops went viral.

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On Saturday, a reported 46,000 people took to the streets in Paris to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed law. Protesters lit fires across the city and violently clashed with police.

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Beijing sanctions 4 Americans over Hong Kong ‘interference’, warns US not to ‘go further down wrong path’

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Beijing sanctions 4 Americans over Hong Kong ‘interference’, warns US not to ‘go further down wrong path’

China will slap sanctions on four individuals working for US organizations who say they promote democracy abroad, the Foreign Ministry said, in response to what it called “blatant interference” in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs.

From Monday, the four – one of whom works for the National Endowment for Democracy, while the other three are with the National Democratic Institute – will be banned from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and the autonomous region of Macao, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.  

“The US behavior blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and grossly interferes in China's domestic affairs,” she told a regular news briefing.

“It seriously violates basic norms governing international relations, and China firmly rejects and condemns this.” 

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She also warned the US to “stop meddling and not go further down the wrong path,” stressing that former British colony Hong Kong, which was returned in 1997, belongs to China. 

Sino-American relations have deteriorated following a number of disputes between the two powers over issues including coronavirus, Hong Kong and the Trump administration's bid to purge the US of video-sharing app TikTok.  

This month, the US imposed sanctions on four Chinese individuals over Beijing's enforcement of the National Security Law, which clamps down on those dissenting against the government, including protesters in Hong Kong.  

In response, Beijing expelled four Hong Kong opposition MPs from the legislature, which triggered the resignation en masse of their 15 colleagues. 

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Opposition lawmakers join hands at a press conference in a Legislative Council office in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020. © AFP / Anthony Wallace
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Earlier on Monday it emerged that the US was set to blacklist leading Chinese chipmaker SMIC and national oil and gas firm CNOOC, in an attempt to block their access to American investment, according to reports.  

“We hope the US will provide an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses working in the US,” Chunying said in response to the reports.

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101-year-old Italian grandma gets Covid THREE times

Posted by RT on November 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on 101-year-old Italian grandma gets Covid THREE times

Doctors and nurses in Italy are astounded at the resilience of one Maria Orsingher, a 101-year-old who has lived through the Spanish Flu, the Second World War, and who has now survived Covid-19… three times.

Orsingher first tested positive back in the early days of the pandemic in February. 

“In February, mother was hospitalized in Sondalo and then also the doctor of the hospital in Sondalo, where she was treated, told us that she had never had such an elderly person come out of the coronavirus in this way, she was breathing alone and not he had a fever,” says daughter Carla.

Having recovered, the centenarian then celebrated her 101st birthday in July.

https://www.facebook.com/LombardiaNotizieOnline/photos/a.2005210902871472/3683334678392411/?type=3&theater

Unfortunately, she was then hospitalized with a fever in September, at which point she tested positive for the disease a second time and underwent treatment for 18 days. Medical staff were amazed at her resilience and told local media the hospitalization was mostly precautionary. 

Alas, the coronavirus came for her one more time, as she tested positive again last Friday. The third time is apparently the charm, though, as Orsingher is currently asymptomatic.

Orsingher remains bedridden and struggles to communicate with her three daughters as she is deaf, but the family are eagerly awaiting their next reunion with this iron woman.

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FILE PHOTO. © Getty Images / Tang Ming Tung
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Born on July 21, 1919 in the small hamlet of Gaggio in Ardenno, Orsingher lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic, was married during World War II and has now endured three bouts of Covid-19.

“Even the doctors are amazed,” say her daughters, confirming that their mother has tested positive three times and tested negative three times, all in the space of nine months. 

“There have been several episodes of negative tests in recovered patients, which was followed by a new positivity that lasted for a long time for one of the reasons mentioned above,” says Carlo Signorelli, professor of hygiene at the San Raffaele University in Milan.

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