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Per Siden
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A way forward for victims of big tech data hoarding?
A decentralised internet sounds offputtingly complicated. But our lives, online and off, now depend upon it.
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Another year of Facebook integrity failures
If you’re still on Facebook after everything has happened this year, you need to ask yourself why. Is the value you get from the platform really worth giving up all your data for? More broadly, are you comfortable being part of the reason that Facebook is becoming so dangerously powerful? Are you comfortable being on a platform that has, among other things, helped incite genocide in Myanmar?
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+J. von Hettlingen is one of the voices I’ll be missing to read on Google+. Always manages to find an interesting topic and pinpoint the essence of it.
In the light of unexplained disappearances of a few high-profile persons across the globe in recent months Nina L. Khrushcheva reminds of the disturbing rise of state-sponsored, extra-territorial kidnappings, abductions and murders. China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are “reviving” this tradition which had been dormant for a while.
China kept the world in suspense, when Interpol President Meng Hongwei and movie star, Fan Bingbing went missing and re-appeared. At least they did not meet the same fate as the Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi. The Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who in November resigned suddenly while visiting Saudi Arabia, is said to have been kidnapped. He was handed a prewritten resignation speech and forced to read it on Saudi television. The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), only let him leave Riyadh, after Emmanuel Macron’s intervention. MBS has critics abducted abroad and returned to Saudi Arabia. He also had hundreds of fellow princes and businessmen detained and jailed, in what he cast as an anticorruption drive.
This “sinister” routine of silencing and even liquidating detractors and enemies has been embraced by totalitarian regimes who seek to make their enemies disappear. Much too often have basic rules governing relations between states been wilfully, blatantly and frequently disregarded. Now the international community can no longer stand idly by and let the perpetrators get away with murder.
The UN classifies one country’s abduction of another country’s citizens as a crime against humanity. North Korea had abducted Japanese citizens between 1977 and 1983, and Japan has been demanding for their release. The author calls Xi Jinping a “serial” kidnapper, abducting “all sorts of people” – some of whom carry foreign passports – only to let them emerge in China, showing ruefulness in public.
History shows that no regime has had to answer for its crimes. In 1940 the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin tracked down his archenemy, the exiled revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who was fatally wounded by an ice-ax-wielding assassin in Mexico. At home Russian dissidents often disappeared in prisons or gulags after being arrested by the KGB. In Chile and Argentina under the junta tens of thousands were killed during the “Dirty War” waged by the military.
Russia’s overseas operations against exiled opponents and turncoats have a habit of turning lethal. The attempted poisoning in Salisbury of Sergei Skripal, the former Russian intelligence agent who Putin denounced as a “scumbag” and “traitor”, reminded of the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London. Critics say, there have been dozens of unexplained, unnerving disappearances since 2014 in occupied Crimea as well.
That oppressive regimes are increasingly willing to launch extra-territorial operations is not simply a matter of murderous leaders emulating the CIA. It reflects a more general loss of respect for international law and for the much-battered global rules-based order. Just imagine all the negative consequences of a collapse of the current collective security system! Instead of helping to uphold it, Trump and other irresponsible populist-nationalists are actively dismantling it.
The author says “autocrats’ contempt for borders or sovereignty in silencing opponents” will pay a high price for it. “In the majority of the Western world, Putin is regarded as an outcast, Xi is flirting with a similar loss of credibility, and Prince Mohammed’s reputation as a reformer has been severely damaged, perhaps beyond repair.” Sooner or later they will learn what Joseph Fouché, Napoleon’s police chief, realised: “It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake.” after the “abduction and sham trial” of the Duke of Enghien.
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Personally I cannot enough stress the importance of a good app to go with any viable alternative.

I encourage anyone that suggest alternatives to Google+ to include information about its app (or even lack there of if they have none).

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What migrants crisis?
So far this year, just 40,000 "undocumented migrants" have arrived in Europe. Almost too few to measure, yet media and politicians are still talking about a "crisis". Why? A study suggests there's a strong correlation between the number of migrants in a country and attitudes towards them: "Countries with a negligible share of migrants are the most hostile, while countries where migrants’ presence in the society is large are the most tolerant." There also seem to be a correlation with trust: "People are fearful in countries where people don’t trust each other or the state’s institutions, and where social cohesion and solidarity are weak."

As one might have guessed, anti-migrant attitudes haven't got anything to do with migrants. And the "crisis" itself is a made-up one: [The] migration crisis has little to do with migration itself. Politicians talk constantly of Europe being “under siege”, of millions streaming over the borders. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/03/europe/europe-record-refugees/index.html. But that was an exceptional year, the numbers driven up by the Syrian war. The figures were much lower in the years before and after. Even taking into account the extraordinary numbers of 2015, Europe faced fewer asylum seekers in the five years from 2011 to 2015 than it had in the last five years of the 20th century.

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The insect Armageddon is under way
"[Insects] are 'the little things that run the world' according to the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson, who once observed: 'If all humankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.'"

Over the last three decades, the insect biomass has declined by almost 75% in rural Germany, the UK and other European countries.
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The brave new world
Until now, global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. However, with latest projections pointing to an increase of 3.2C by 2100, these goals seem to be slipping out of reach.

The regional impact of these changes is highly uneven, with four out of five people affected living in Asia.
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May's Florence speech venue represents European unity, not division
Europe is an idea, not just a geographical accident.

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On skill gaps in the UK and how EU migrants contribute to the British economy
A small exposé by Jack Graham. Widely shared but a good read for understanding the background to the immigration debate that proved so decisive in the Brexit debate.

The government opened borders to eastern European workers in 2004 because it was in the country's clear economic interest - not because Brussels told them to.

EU migration was a blessing for the UK economy. From 2004 to 2014, EU migrants contributed £5bn more in tax than they took in benefits, and there is very little evidence of wages being depressed or jobs being taken from native-born people. Britain has received young, skilled workers contributing to the public purse and taking little from it.

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On sovereignty in the 21 century
Chris Grey, Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, blog on "Brexit", i.e. the UK leaving the EU and giving up it's position in Europe.

Sovereignty, the right of a governing body over itself, without interference from outsiders, were one of the key arguments in the "Brexit" debate for leaving the EU. In his latest post "What the OECD aid rules row tells us about Brexit" Professor Chris Grey takes the latest row in British politics, that OECD air rules prevent the UK from counting aid efforts after Hurricane Irma in overseas British territories as foreign aid, as an example of how countries that do participate in any form of international collaboration pool sovereignty with each other.

What does the row over the OECD aid rules tell us?
Typically, Theresa May has played to the Brexiters’ gallery by announcing her ‘frustration’ with the OECD. But when a Prime Minister does that it makes it a matter of international moment rather than just a domestic [tabloid story]. [Only a year ago] Britain helped to draft these rules that she [now] objects to, so what is she saying about Britain? Convulsed in a nationalist frenzy which now makes central what were once just fringe voices, Britain, long considered the most reliable of international partners and the most stable and pragmatic of countries, is becoming absurd and flaky.

And she does that during what could very well be the most important international negotiations in a century for the UK.

Brexit will leave Britain less sovereign, not more
[Brexit] will not much diminish the need for Britain to conform to many EU regulations. The inevitable regulatory pull of a much larger nearby market makes that inevitable, and not just in relation to trade but also, for example, air travel and nuclear safety. [Brexit] is largely about recreating in new form all kinds of agreements and rules – such as those on data protection – to conform with EU standards and systems. The main difference is that, post-Brexit, ‘sovereign’ Britain will have less, not more, control over these than it had as an EU member.
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