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Facebook Inc has told a British parliamentary committee that further investigations have found no new evidence that Russia used social media to interfere in the June 2016 referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner in a letter Wednesday told the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture Media and Sport that the latest investigation the company undertook in mid-January to try to “identify clusters of coordinated Russian activity around the Brexit referendum that were not identified previously” had been unproductive.

Using the same methodology that Facebook used to identify U.S. election-related social media activity conducted by a Russian propaganda outfit called the Internet Research Agency, Milner said the social network had reviewed both Facebook accounts and “the activity of many thousands of advertisers in the campaign period” leading up to the June 23, 2016 referendum.

He said they had “found no additional coordinated Russian-linked accounts or Pages delivering ads to the UK regarding the EU Referendum during the relevant period, beyond the minimal activity we previously disclosed.”

At a hearing on social media political activity that the parliamentary committee held in Washington earlier in February, Milner had promised the panel it would disclose more results of its latest investigation by the end of February.

At the same hearing, Juniper Downs, YouTube’s global head of public policy, said that her company had “conducted a thorough investigation around the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of Russian interference.”

In his letter to the committee, Facebook’s Milner acknowledged that the minimal results in the company’s Brexit review contrasted with the results of Facebook inquiries into alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics. The company’s U.S. investigation results, Milner said, “comport with the recent indictments” Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller issued against Russian individuals and entities.

Following its Washington hearing, committee chairman Damian Collins MP said his committee expected to finish a report on its inquiry into Social Media and Fake News in late March and that the report is likely to include recommendations for new British laws or regulations regarding social media content.

These could include measures to clarify the companies’ legal liability for material they distribute and their obligations to address social problems the companies’ content could engender, he said.


Національна служба здоров’я – це новий орган, створений у рамках медичної реформи


Iran is a major threat to U.S. interests and the long-term stability of the Mideast, the head of U.S. military’s Central Command warned U.S lawmakers Tuesday.

“Iran is generating instability across the region, and the Iranian Threat Network continues to increase in strength, enhancing its capacity to threaten U.S. and partner nation interests,” General Joe Votel said in a 45-page set of prepared remarks he presented to the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on terrorism.

Votel said the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State has made significant gains over the last three years, and the terror group has lost control of more than 98 percent of territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

With these gains, Votel said, the U.S. military’s focus will be to “neutralize, counterbalance and shape the destabilizing impact that Iran has across the region”; complete the campaign to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria; and enforce the implementation of the South Asia strategy in Afghanistan to help the Afghan government consolidate its control.

Iran over the years has attempted to use instability in the Middle East as a springboard to gain power beyond its border. The events subsequent to the Arab Spring in 2011 and the emergence of IS have helped Tehran establish a foothold in several neighboring countries, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen. An assessment by the U.S. intelligence community this month asserted that Iran remained the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism and was trying to expand its influence in those three countries. 

‘Shiite crescent’

The report said Iran could attempt to exploit the fight against IS to translate its battlefield gains into political, security and economic agreements with other actors in the region. It said Tehran was seeking to establish a corridor, or “Shiite Crescent,” across the Middle East.

U.S. officials have said they intend to keep troops in Iraq and Syria even after IS is completely defeated, not only to prevent the re-emergence of the militant group but also to disrupt an Iranian dominance and threat to the U.S. allies in the region.

“U.S. disengagement from Syria would provide Iran the opportunity to further strengthen its position in Syria,” said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month as he laid out a U.S. strategy in Syria after the removal of IS. 

“As we have seen from Iran’s proxy wars and public announcements, Iran seeks dominance in the Middle East and the destruction of our ally, Israel. As a destabilized nation and one bordering Israel, Syria presents an opportunity that Iran is all too eager to exploit.”

Israel and Iran are already in a standoff over Tehran’s presence in Syria and Lebanon.

The tension further escalated this month after Israel’s military shot down an Iranian drone and bombed a control unit in Syria. The Syrian government responded by shooting down an Israeli jet involved in the operation.

While things have calmed down, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, warned Tuesday that Lebanon could soon become a battlefield between Israel and Iran over a Hezbollah rocket factory on Israel’s border.

“Southern Lebanon is where the next war is coming,” Graham told reporters Tuesday at a news conference after a trip last week to the Middle East.


The Russian Embassy in Washington has a new address, at least symbolically.

A one-block section of Wisconsin Avenue directly in front of the embassy was officially renamed Boris Nemtsov Plaza on Tuesday, in what amounts to a D.C.-sponsored effort to troll the Russian government.

A former deputy prime minister, Nemtsov became an opposition activist and vocal public critic of President Vladimir Putin. He was shot dead while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin three years ago.

The move to rename the street started in the U.S. Congress at the urging of Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and others.

“This serves as an enduring reminder to Vladimir Putin and those who support him that they cannot use murder and intimidation to suppress dissent,” Rubio said.

Such politicized street-naming games are not new to Washington. In recent years, there have been moves to name the street on which China’s embassy is located after famed Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in prison in 2017. Members of Congress have also supported a similar effort to rename a portion of the road that is home to Cuba’s embassy after Oswaldo Paya, a pro-democracy activist who died in a 2012 car accident that some believe may have been set up by the Cuban government.

Tribute to Sakharov

And this isn’t even the first time that Russia has been targeted by provocative street naming. Back in the Cold War days, when what was then the Soviet embassy was located on 16th Street, the city named a portion of the street after famed dissident Andrei Sakharov.

The United States is not alone in such trolling. There is a long history of both national and municipal governments trying to score political points by renaming streets to irritate other countries.

During the Vietnam War, India renamed the street where the U.S. consulate in Kolkata is located after North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. Iran and Egypt had no diplomatic ties for decades, and restored them only after Iranian officials agreed in 2004 to change the name of a Tehran street that had been named after the man who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. 

More recently, some Russian politicians have suggested retaliating for the Nemtsov change by renaming a street outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow “North American Dead End.”

The decision to create Boris Nemtsov Plaza also represents a rare moment of harmony between Congress and Washington’s city government, which normally chafes under the federal government’s oversight power over all District of Columbia decisions.

Turned to D.C. Council

When the original street-renaming bill stalled in the Senate, Rubio turned to the D.C. Council for help. Councilwoman Mary Cheh agreed to sponsor the bill, which breezed through the council in January after public hearings that included testimony from Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova.

Cheh on Tuesday noted that Moscow police have prevented Nemtsov supporters from maintaining a shrine at the site of his killing, repeatedly clearing away candles and flowers from the bridge.

“This commemoration will not be removed,” Cheh said. “Let them steal the candles. Let them steal the flowers. They can never steal his memory.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the nonvoting representative of Washington in Congress, noted with satisfaction that the council was able to quickly accomplish what the Senate couldn’t.

“We might have been here in time for next year’s anniversary [of Nemtsov’s killing] if we were dependent on the Congress,” she said.

Several speakers, including Rubio, took the opportunity to criticize Putin, not only for his repression of dissent but also for Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Rubio condemned both Putin’s “aggressive policies inside Russia” and his “effort to interfere in the democratic process inside the United States.”


A California man has been charged with trying to travel to Libya to join Islamic State, New York federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

In a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors said that Bernard Augustine, 21, traveled to Tunisia in February 2016 and from there attempted to reach Islamic State-controlled territory in Libya.

Augustine, of Keyes, California, has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Augustine could not immediately be identified.

Prosecutors said that Augustine was arrested and imprisoned in Tunisia before Tunisian authorities turned him over to the United States.

In March 2016, U.S. authorities searched Augustine’s laptop and found that he had viewed Islamic State videos in the months leading up to his trip and made online postings supporting the group.

Authorities also interviewed a person who lived with Augustine, who told them Augustine was constantly on the internet and that he had no legitimate reason to travel to Tunisia, according to the complaint.

As of January, 157 people had been charged in the United States in connection with Islamic State, according to the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. The militant group has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.


Ford Motor Co. is making Miami-Dade County its new test bed for self-driving vehicles.

The automaker and its partners — Domino’s Pizza, ride-hailing company Lyft and delivery company Postmates — are starting pilot programs to see how consumers react to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. Self-driving startup and Ford partner Argo AI already has a fleet of cars in the area making the highly detailed maps that are necessary for self-driving. Ford also will establish its first-ever autonomous vehicle terminal in Miami, where it will learn how to service and deploy its test fleet.

More services will likely be introduced as the partnership goes on, including Chariot, an app-based shuttle service owned by Ford. It’s all part of Ford’s effort to find viable business models for fully autonomous vehicles and get them on the road by 2021.

“This is, I think, the future of any automotive company or mobility company. If a majority of the world’s population is going to be living in cities, we need to understand how to move those people around,” said John Kwant, Ford’s vice president of city solutions, who inked the deal with Miami-Dade.

Ford isn’t the first automaker to run test fleets of autonomous vehicles. General Motors Co. will start testing autonomous vehicles in New York City this year, while Nissan Motor Co. is launching an autonomous taxi service in Yokohama, Japan, next week. Technology companies like Waymo — a division of Google — are also testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, San Francisco and Singapore, among other cities.

But the partnership with a specific metropolitan is less common. Both sides envision a deep relationship where Ford can help Miami-Dade solve specific issues, like how to most efficiently move people from its suburbs to its downtown monorail, and Miami-Dade can offer solutions like dedicated lanes for automated vehicles or infrastructure projects like advanced traffic lights that can send signals to connected cars. 

“We want to be on the forefront of this because we want to give our people choices,” said Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which is home to 34 cities and 2.7 million people. 

Traffic congestion a concern

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, says the company also intends to work closely with local businesses. The company wants to learn, for example, how a florist might use an autonomous delivery vehicle.

“Autonomous vehicle technology is interesting, but it’s a whole lot more interesting with a viable business model,” he said.

The city of Miami is the fifth-most congested in the U.S., according to a recent traffic study by the consulting firm Inrix. After more than a century of selling people vehicles, Kwant says Ford now wants to figure out ways to move people more efficiently in order to cut down on that time in traffic.

Making money

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst with the consulting firm Navigant Research, says Ford and others must figure out how to make money on self-driving cars.

“If this does take off, if people do adopt automated vehicles and use them for ride-hailing, that’s going to result in a decline in retail vehicle sales,” Abuelsamid said. “They need to figure out, if we’re going to have a decline in the number of vehicles we sell to consumers, how do we keep our business stable?”

Kwant says the testing will also help Ford determine what its future self-driving vehicles need to look like and how they must perform.

“If you don’t have steering wheels, how do you begin to use that package space? How do you begin to look different in terms of carrying more people?” he said.

Ford won’t say how many vehicles it will have on the road in Miami-Dade, but says it will be Ford’s largest test bed for autonomous vehicles by the end of this year. 

Backup safety drivers

All of the vehicles will have backup safety drivers. Domino’s experimental vehicles aren’t even technically autonomous; they’re equipped to be, but for now they have actual drivers. The windows are blacked out so customers can experience how to get pizza from the car without dealing with a person.  

Miami will give Ford new challenges. Previously, it tested Domino’s cars in suburban Michigan, where parking wasn’t an issue. But in busy Miami Beach, the cars will have to figure out where they can go to allow apartment-dwellers to safely retrieve their pizzas. An autonomous delivery vehicle from Postmates might have to switch between Spanish and English commands when it picks up a meal and delivers it to a customer. Self-driving Lyft vehicles will be tasked with mapping out the best places to wait for customers without causing more traffic headaches.

Kwant says Ford will announce more city partnerships as this year progresses. But Miami-Dade was a natural, since it has good weather, lots of different urban and suburban terrain and support from Gimenez and other government leaders.

Cheaper and safer

Gimenez, who began talking to Ford in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says he’s not worried about consumer acceptance of self-driving cars. He thinks his community will embrace them as companies prove that shared autonomous vehicles can be cheaper and safer than regular ones.

Gimenez says self-driving vehicles also can potentially improve traffic flow without significant new investments in roadways. They can travel more closely together, for example, because they’re always watching the car in front of them and can brake automatically.

“That’s why I’m really high on this technology,” he said.

 

 

 


Український режисер Олег Сенцов, як і раніше, перебуває в колонії російського міста Лабитнангі, його нікуди не перевозили, заявив «Крим.Реалії» із посиланням на адміністрацію закладу адвокат Сенцова Дмитро Дінзе.

«Я зв’язався з офіційними представниками колонії. Вони мені сказали, що Сенцов нікуди не перевозився й перебуває зараз у колонії», – сказав адвокат.

Вдень 27 лютого стало відомо, що на лист на адресу Сенцова за останнім відомим місцем перебування ув’язненого (колонія), відправник отримав відповідь про те, що «одержувач не перебуває в цій установі».

В українських ЗМІ з’явилась інформація про можливий швидкий обмін режисера Олега Сенцова й журналіста Романа Сущенка на ув’язнених в Україні. Офіційного підтвердження такої інформації немає.

Представник України в гуманітарній підгрупі Тристоронньої контактної групи, перший віце-спікер Верховної Ради Ірина Геращенко заперечувала наміри обміняти засуджених у Росії громадян України Романа Сущенка й Олега Сенцова на колишніх українських військовослужбовців Олександра Баранова й Максима Одинцова.

Перед цим адвокат засуджених у Києві колишніх українських військовослужбовців Баранова й Одинцова Валентин Рибін заявив, що найближчим часом може відбутися обмін на ув’язнених у Росії українців.

Українського режисера Олега Сенцова затримали представники російських спецслужб у Криму в травні 2014 року за звинуваченнями в організації терактів на півострові. У серпні 2015 року російський Північно-Кавказький окружний військовий суд у Ростові-на-Дону засудив Сенцова до 20 років колонії суворого режиму за звинуваченням у терористичній діяльності на території Криму. Він не визнав свою провину. Правозахисний центр «Меморіал» вніс Сенцова до списку політв’язнів.