Australian parliament passes law requiring Big Tech to pay media after last-minute changes prompted by Facebook news ban

Posted by RT on February 25, 2021  |   Comments Off on Australian parliament passes law requiring Big Tech to pay media after last-minute changes prompted by Facebook news ban

Australian lawmakers have passed a law that forces tech giants like Facebook and Google fork out money for the media content. Critics argue the bill was watered down after Facebook imposed a week-long ban on Australian news.

The much-anticipated bill, which is widely expected to serve as a precedent other nations such as Canada might soon follow, seemingly puts an end to the heated row between Facebook and the Australian government that forced last-minute changes to the bill. The changes provided the tech firms with extra time to thrash out the deals with publishers to avoid being subjected to the new rules. The tech companies can potentially skirt the new media bargaining code if they make “significant financial contributions to the sustainability of the Australian news industry.”

While some criticized the amendments as a de-facto surrender to Big Tech’s arm-twisting tactics, the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Rod Sims, praised the legislation, saying he was “extremely pleased” with the outcome of the negotiations while calling the final result a “significant step in maintaining” the diversity of Australian media.

Sims sought to downplay the alterations as minor tweaks, arguing that “the changes the government has done are things that either don’t matter much or are just to clarify things that, at least in Facebook’s mind, were unclear.”

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Google and Facebook logos, words "media, news, media" and Australian flag are displayed in this illustration taken, February 18, 2021.  © REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Facebook to lift ban on Australia's news after standoff as Canberra agrees to amend law forcing Big Tech to pay media

Facebook, in turn, has welcomed the changes, noting that Australian authorities addressed its concerns with the amendments to the media code, which has itself been the subject of debate for three years.

On Tuesday, Facebook struck an even more conciliatory tone, admitting it was overzealous in imposing its week-long blackout on news content. A host of non-news pages, including those of charities, fire services and groups providing information about the Covid-19 pandemic were swept up in the wide-ranging crackdown in an apparent error.

“We erred on the side of over-enforcement,” Facebook said as it apologized for the blunder.

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Facebook says it 'inadvertently' blocked some content in Australia. (FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Facebook says it ‘erred on the side of over-enforcement’ when blocking news content in week-long standoff in Australia

In the meantime, Facebook has already held negotiations with several Australian news agencies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. 

On Wednesday, Facebook said it planned to channel at least $1 billion into the global news industry over the next three years.

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Israeli PM urges Biden to maintain sanctions on International Criminal Court to stave off war crimes investigation – media

Posted by RT on February 24, 2021  |   Comments Off on Israeli PM urges Biden to maintain sanctions on International Criminal Court to stave off war crimes investigation – media

Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly urged US President Joe Biden to maintain his predecessor’s sanctions against the International Criminal Court, arguing that even if he disagrees with them, the US and Israel must stick together.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu personally called up Biden last week to request he keep the Trump administration’s sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, lest the court launch its long-threatened war crimes investigation into Tel Aviv’s atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank, Axios reported on Wednesday.

A failure to maintain those sanctions could be interpreted by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as a sign Washington isn’t “firmly opposed” to such an investigation, Israeli officials have argued, apparently concerned that an ICC probe would produce international arrest warrants against a multitude of Israeli officials and military personnel. Such a development could also add fuel to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to exert economic pressure on Israel in the manner of the anti-apartheid campaigns against South Africa. Besides that, Tel Aviv also argued it could green light the next step in the ICC’s prosecution of the US’ own alleged war crimes.

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Previously, Israel has leaned heavily on its allies, reportedly asking “dozens” of countries to convey a “discreet message” to Bensouda advising her against opening war crimes probes in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Israeli ambassadors around the world were sent classified cables earlier this month ordering them to begin lobbying against the ruling, asking host governments to issue “public statements of opposition” to the judge’s decision. However, only the US and Australia have done so.

The Israeli diplomats were also asked to plead with their hosts to pressure Bensouda not to move forward with the investigation. “You are instructed to tell the highest levels of government that if an investigation against Israel starts it will create a continuous crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that will not allow any diplomatic progress to take place between the parties,” the cables read.

The ICC ruled last month that it has jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, despite Israel’s long-declared illegal claim to those territories, noting that while Israel isn’t a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC in 1998, Palestine is. While the US recognized Israel’s claim over its illegal West Bank settlements last year, the United Nations does not recognize its authority there – just like in Gaza or the Golan Heights.

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The court began seeking to prosecute Israel and Hamas over alleged war crimes during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza and its illegal construction of settlements in the West Bank in December 2019, triggering immediate US opposition.

The ICC has also made it clear it wishes to begin an investigation into US war crimes during the war in Afghanistan, concluding a preliminary investigation in 2017 with the finding that “reasonable grounds” existed to believe that war crimes had been committed between the period of 2003 to 2014. While Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, the court’s announcement last March that such a probe was forthcoming led an enraged Trump administration to slap sanctions on Bensouda and threaten the court’s other judges as well. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had specifically threatened further sanctions on the court should it follow up on a probe into Israel.

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Police pelted with stones, garbage dumpsters set alight in Catalonia’s 9th night of riots over jailed rapper Pablo Hasel (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on February 24, 2021  |   Comments Off on Police pelted with stones, garbage dumpsters set alight in Catalonia’s 9th night of riots over jailed rapper Pablo Hasel (VIDEOS)

Riots have continued in the Spanish region of Catalonia for a ninth consecutive night as demonstrators voice their anger over the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel for insulting the monarchy and glorifying terrorism on Twitter.

Protesters pelted police with bottles and stones and torched refuse containers in the town of Vilanova i La Geltrú, in the province of Barcelona, according to a police statement on Wednesday night.  

Police said protesters were brandishing fire extinguishers, and urged locals to stay away from “violent groups” near an art school in the town for their own safety. 

Protests also took place in the Catalan town of Manresa to the north of Barcelona, where crowds gathered near a police station and reportedly hurled firecrackers at officers’ vans.

More protests were held in Barcelona as the city’s football team hosted Elche in La Liga at Camp Nou stadium. 

However, much of Wednesday’s unrest was markedly more peaceful than previous nights in the Catalan capital, with pro-Hasel supporters filmed singing and clapping in videos posted to social media.   

Riots in Barcelona over the last week have seen the fires burning in the streets, police attacked, shops looted and banks broken into, while one woman protester lost an eye after she was reportedly struck by a cop’s rubber bullet. In total at least 110 people have been arrested amid the protests.

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Rioters erect barricades & throw bottles at police during 8th night of Pablo Hasel protests in Barcelona (VIDEO)

Hasel was jailed last week over some 60 tweets in which he praised Spanish terrorist groups, accused the police of torture and insulted the country’s disgraced former king Juan Carlos, who faces corruption allegations. From his jail cell he has continued to call for people to take to the streets to protest his arrest, although the trouble has died down in the last couple of days. 

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72 hours to leave: EU envoy to Venezuela told to pack her bags after Brussels brings new sanctions over elections & rights abuses

Posted by RT on February 24, 2021  |   Comments Off on 72 hours to leave: EU envoy to Venezuela told to pack her bags after Brussels brings new sanctions over elections & rights abuses

The head of the EU's delegation to Venezuela has been told she has just 72 hours to leave after being expelled by Caracas in response to Brussels expanding its sanctions on Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy.”

Venezuela's National Assembly voted earlier this week to expel EU envoy Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, and asked for President Nicolas Maduro to declare her persona non grata.

“She has been given 72 hours to leave Venezuelan territory,” Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters on Wednesday.

Responding to the move, a spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said that the bloc “profoundly regrets this decision, which will only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela,” and calls for its reversal.

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Venezuelan lawmakers back expulsion of EU ambassador after Brussels slaps sanctions on Caracas officials

“Venezuela will only overcome its ongoing crisis through negotiation and dialogue, to which the EU is fully committed but which this decision undermines directly,” she added.

On Monday, the bloc cited human rights violations and “acts and decisions undermining democracy and the rule of law” as it announced sanctions on 19 Venezuelan officials, taking the total number hit by asset freezes and travel bans to 55.

The EU, the US and some South American nations do not recognize Venezuela's December 2020 election, which saw Maduro take majority control of parliament.

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France’s Dunkirk area to join Nice in weekend lockdown amid ‘deteriorating’ Covid-19 situation – health minister

Posted by RT on February 24, 2021  |   Comments Off on France’s Dunkirk area to join Nice in weekend lockdown amid ‘deteriorating’ Covid-19 situation – health minister

From this Friday, the city of Dunkirk and the surrounding area will enter a weekend lockdown similar to that in Nice, France's Health Minister Olivier Veran has announced while warning of an uptick in Covid-19 cases nationwide.

"The epidemic situation is deteriorating in our country," Veran said during a televised news briefing on Wednesday from Dunkirk, where the infection rate has shot up in the last few days.

"We erased in one week the two consecutive weeks of decline that we had recorded so far," the minister added, referring to France's recent progress in halting the spread of the virus.

Dunkirk's new weekend health measures include a ban on consuming alcohol in public and stricter social distancing limits of 15 square meters per customer for essential retail outlets that remain open.

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A medical worker administers a nasal swab to a patient at a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) testing center installed inside in the Kursaal concert hall in Dunkirk, France, (FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
2nd French region set for new Covid-19 restrictions as PM worried by ‘sharp deterioration of health indicators’ in Dunkirk

The policing of the use of face masks will also be toughened, while non-essential travel will be restricted and the city's 10 major shopping centers will switch to click-and-collect service only.

Veran said that the government would also provide the Dunkirk region with an extra 16,700 Covid-19 vaccine doses, as happened in Nice.

Dunkirk in northern France has been hit hard by the spread of the more infectious UK variant of Covid-19.

By Monday its seven-day incidence rate of the virus had surged to more than 900 cases per 100,000 people – worse than Nice's own figure and more than four times the national average of 205.

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FILE PHOTO. A Carnival float depicting the novel coronavirus is seen in Nice, France on February 16, 2021.
France’s health minister considering new restrictions & regional lockdowns as Covid-19 spread continues

On Sunday, officials announced that for the next two weekends, lockdowns would be imposed along the French Riviera, including in Nice and other resorts like Cannes and Antibes.

Under the restrictive new rules, residents in the affected areas are only allowed to leave their homes for one hour within a five-kilometer radius between 6 p.m. on Fridays and 6 a.m. on Mondays.

Mainland France has seen its Covid rates slowly drop since the government imposed 6 o’clock curfews last month, instead of opting for its third nationwide lockdown of the pandemic.

However, around 10 of the country's 102 territorial areas – or departments – are in a "very worrying situation," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters on Wednesday.

Like this story? Share it with a friend! | European stocks climb despite Asia losses

Posted by Fin24 Markets on February 24, 2021  |   Comments Off on | European stocks climb despite Asia losses
European stocks rose Wednesday after Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell sought to allay fears around rising inflation, dealers said.
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