The Latest: A Man-Made Famine, Confucius Institute Probe, First National Fur Ban | #relationshipscams | #dating


Welcome to Friday, where an Amnesty International report accuses China of “crimes against humanity,” Israel’s government makes PETA animal activists happy and the Euro 2020 soccer competition kicks off after a one-year delay. Business daily Les Echos also reports on how hackers manage to use fake news to threaten big businesses and influence the stock markets.

• Report alleges Uyghurs victims of “Crimes Against Humanity”: Amnesty International has released a new, detailed report with personal accounts of systematic internment, torture and persecution of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. Over 50 former detainees provided testimony — all referenced torture and mistreatment in the camps set up by Beijing for the Muslim minorities.

• Over 350,000 suffering from famine in Ethiopia: The United Nations reports that at least 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region are experiencing famine, describing it as the worst since the 2011 Somali famine. As violence between the government and Tigrayan rebels continues, this famine is primarily attributable to man-made conflict.

• Pope rejects Cardinal’s resignation over church’s role in child sex abuse: Pope Francis has denied the request to resign of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in an effort to take personal responsiblity for the Catholic Church’s mismanagement and failure to stop generations of child sex abuse. Francis explained his opposition to the attempt to resign by Germany’s leading cardinal, stating that every bishop should take responsibility for the abuse crisis.

• Biden and Johnson sign new Atlantic Charter: President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have signed a revised “Atlantic Charter.” The original document, signed 80 years ago by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, affirmed Western commitment to democracy.

• France ends Sahel military operation: President Emmanuel Macron announced that Operation Barkhane, France’s counterterrorism military mission in the northwestern African region of the Sahel will be replaced by joint military efforts with international partners. The decision comes in light of a second Malian coup, which led the French to temporarily suspend French-Malian military operations.

• Japan to investigate China-funded Confucius institutes: Amid security alerts from allies, Japan will begin investigating Chinese-led Confucius institutes in 14 private universities across the country. Tokyo fears the hardly-regulated cultural centers could be hotbeds for propaganda and espionage, following similar warnings earlier this year in the U.S. and Europe.

• Israel bans sale of fur: Israel has become the first country in the world to ban the selling of fur in fashion commerce, citing concerns over animal rights. The decision was widely supported by the Israeli public, as well as animal rights groups like PETA.

“We are all blue!,” titles Milan-based sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport as Italy’s national soccer team, la squadra azzurra, faces Turkey in the first match of the Euro 2020 competition that kicks off today.

Fake news: a threat to democracy, but also to big business

Bogus press reports are a growing threat — not just for politicians, but also for top CEOs of major multinational companies. These big shots may dominate the stock market, but they’re struggling to limit the spread of fake news that can swiftly undermine their entire businesses. Laurence Boisseau of French business daily Les Echos explains how and why these stories end up in otherwise legitimate press outlets:

On April 1 2021, a phony press release claimed that the Portuguese oil group Galp was giving up its involvement in northern Mozambique to pursue a “100% sustainable future.” In 2019, BlackRock and its leader Larry Fink were also victims of identity fraud. A false letter, supposedly written by the asset manager, stated he would sell his shares to companies that would not meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. This simple email managed to fool several leading media outlets, including the Financial Times.

The hackers behind these scams are pursuing two different kinds of goals. The first is stock market gain: They seek to influence the stock markets after having positioned themselves to capitalize on the market fluctuations provoked by their fake news. The second goal is to undermine the company’s reputation. In this scenario, the perpetrators are political activists, environmentalists and anti-liberals.

These operations are costly to companies, both in terms of stock market impact and reputation. In 2019, a study from the American University of Baltimore estimated the cost of these scams at $17 billion in the United States. French corporations are also taking the situation very seriously. For the past two years, a dozen listed companies from the CAC 40 — a French benchmark stock market index — such as AXA, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Engie, Air Liquide, Schneider, L’Oréal, Renault and Bouygues have purchased a tool that allows them to fight against fake news.

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Apparently the NFT boom is not over … CryptoPunk #7523, a pixelated virtual artwork, sold for $11,754,000 as an NFT (or “non-fungible token”: a digital, blockchain-authenticated item) at an online Sotheby’s auction. The buyer of the artwork, one in a series of nine “alien punk” images, is an Israeli entrepreneur.

South Korean military under fire after suicide of officer who was raped

The suicide of a female officer in the South Korean Air Force who had been sexually assaulted has sent shock waves through the country, finally prompting the government to initiate a reform of the military, The Dong-a Ilbo daily reported this week.

As French daily Le Monde reported, President Moon Jae-in took advantage of the June 6 Memorial Day holiday, which commemorates all the men and women who have died during military services, to remind people that “patriotism also implies protecting those who commit themselves to defend the nation.” He also apologized for what he called “the backward culture in the barracks.” Mr Moon promised reform, the outline of which is expected to be unveiled in August.

In the meantime, the investigation continues following the suicide of Ms. Lee (only her surname has been revealed), as reported by Korean outlet Edaily. The young woman was assaulted by a colleague after a dinner on March 3. The next day, her superiors did everything they could to prevent her from filing a complaint. She requested a transfer instead, but her re-assignment in early May only worsened the situation, ending in her suicide on May 22. Lee’s lawyer says bullying and assaults increase when the suspects realize that the victim could not press charges.

In response to these revelations, a petition was launched on May 31 calling for a full accounting of the tragedy, gathering more than 350,000 signatures. The suspect of the assault was arrested on June 2 and the chief of staff of the air force, General Lee Seong-yong, resigned two days later. The Ministry of Defense also opened a special hotline to hear testimonies about sexual harassment cases fearing that “Ms Lee’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.”

You can call it the ‘deep and meaningful relationship’, whatever you want, the ‘indestructible relationship’.

— After meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of the G7 summit that opens in Cornwall today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the UK-U.S. relations as “indestructible,” avoiding the more commonly used “special relationship” phrase that Johnson had once said made Britain look “needy and weak.” During their face-to-face meeting Thursday, the two leaders discussed topics like Brexit and Northern Ireland, which are also expected to be on the G7 summit’s agenda.

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