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No EU evacuation plan for Ukraine local staff

Local staff at the EU embassy in Kyiv were not included in recent evacuation plans, posing wider questions on duty of care in the wake of last year’s chaotic Western pull-out from Afghanistan.

EU diplomats in Kyiv were circulated plans in early December about what to do if worse came to worst.

Such plans normally detail where they should gather in the event of an emergency and which member states’ embassies in the Ukrainian city would get them and their families onto flights back home, EU sources said.

They also give practical advice, for instance: what to take in your car when driving to safety and to keep your petrol tank full.

The plans went round after Russia built up an invasion force on Ukraine’s borders — but they also came against the background of the Western evacuation of Kabul in August last year, when international personnel fled in disarray while local people were left to mob the airport in scenes televised worldwide.

In Kyiv, all the EU diplomats have stayed in place for now in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

But in any case, the 54 local staff at the EU embassy, some of whom have worked there for more than 20 years, did not get the evacuation memo, three sources told EUobserver.

Local staff contracts do not oblige the EU foreign service to get them out.

And they do not know where to relocate to in Ukraine if they had to leave Kyiv or what would happen to their incomes if the EU fled.

Ukrainian colleagues were being included in security briefings at staff meetings and there was, in general, good morale at the EU embassy, sources said.

“All our staff … are being regularly informed about contingency planning,” an EU foreign service spokesman in Brussels also told EUobserver.

But the security briefings gave few details. “They said nothing, except: ‘If the situation changes, we’ll let you know what to do’,” an EU contact said.

And the way the foreign service had handled the security arrangements left some local staff feeling “second-class” and “unhappy”, the contact said.

Few in EU circles think that a Russian attack in east Ukraine is imminent and even fewer that Russia might occupy Kyiv.

Nobody imagines that Russian forces would behave like the Taliban if they did.

But a nightmare scenario could see Russia attack Ukraine from Belarus in the north as well as from the east, blocking people in Kyiv from fleeing to Europe.

And regime change in Ukraine could also lead to reprisals against Western “collaborators”, one EU country’s diplomat warned.

“When [Viktor] Yanukovych [a pro-Russian ex-president] took power in 2010, the SBU [Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service] became an instrument of repression almost overnight and this could happen once again,” the diplomat, who was in Kyiv in 2010, said.

Kabul lesson

The fall of Kabul saw Europe scramble together a unique deal to evacuate local people linked to the EU embassy and its police-training mission in Afghanistan.

The EU was taking in not just local colleagues and their families, but also suppliers of EU facilities.

And it was even evacuating “vulnerable officials or other professionals, active in the political or security sectors of Afghanistan, such as judges, prosecutors, police officers, military personnel and journalists, who were trained under, or who have been involved in the implementation of Union policies,” a recent EU memo on the operation, seen by EUobserver, said.

The evacuation covered over 1,000 people and the cost of getting them to safety was modest, the EU memo showed.

“The cost of the evacuation via Qatar is estimated at €2,500 per person. This includes €1,050 for a flight from Kabul to Doha, €1,050 for a flight from Doha to an EU member State, €120 for PCR tests, €150 for accommodation in transit, €100 for food in transit and €30 for transport to the airport,” it said, for instance.

Duty of care

Meanwhile, the lack of an evacuation plan for local staff in Ukraine also covered people at a European Union Advisory Mission on security-sector reform in Kyiv and in Mariupol in east Ukraine.

And the basic evacuation policy was the same in all EU missions around the world.

For some EU politicians, all that posed questions on whether the EU foreign service could do better in its duty of care.

“The EU as an employer or contracting authority has a responsibility toward local staff,” Hannah Neumann, a German green MEP, said.

“As we have security and evacuation plans for international staff, we also need to be clear on how we protect and support our local employees,” she added.

“I’d like to know if we are prepared to help vulnerable local staff in Mali if the EU missions there had to close,” she noted, amid rising tensions in the West African country.

“What happened in Afghanistan was a very specific situation,” the EU foreign service said.

“However, internal reflection was launched in its aftermath to see what might be the lessons learnt,” he added.

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Culture

‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man

The Case Against World’s Richest Man

When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”

The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.

To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.

His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.

He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.

In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.


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Global Affairs

Brazil’s G20 Presidency Kicks Off In Rio With Foreign Ministers Meeting | International

Foreign ministers of the Group of 20 nations were gathering Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro to discuss poverty, climate change and heightened global tensions as Brazil takes on the annual presidency of the bloc.

The ministers and other representatives of the 20 leading rich and developing nations planned to spend two days setting a roadmap for work to accomplish ahead of a Nov. 18-19 summit in Rio.

One of Brazil’s key proposals, set by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is a reform of global governance institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and multilateral banks, where he wants to push for stronger representation of developing nations.

Brazil’s ambassador to the bloc, Mauricio Lyrio, said at a news conference Tuesday that structural reforms of international institutions are urgent because of a proliferation of conflicts around the world — not just in Ukraine and Gaza, but in a total of 183 locations, according to one study, he said.

“We have practically returned to the level of conflicts seen in the Cold War period. This shows that there is a lack of governance to deal with current challenges,” said Lyrio, who is the economic affairs secretary at Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“It is one thing to work for peace in each conflict; another thing is to have a global governance that prevents conflicts from occurring,” Lyrio said. “We’re basically putting out fires.”

After years of diplomatic isolation under former President Jair Bolsonaro, Lula has sought to reinsert Brazil on the center stage of global diplomacy since returning to power in January of 2023.

Lucas Pereira Rezende, a political scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, said Lula was especially well-suited for the role, recalling that during his earlier terms as president from 2003 to 2010 he was once called “the most popular politician on Earth” by then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

The G20 “is a very important international stage, especially at a time when the world is facing two major wars, involving large states, and also at a time when multilateralism is in crisis,” Rezende told The Associated Press.

“But Lula is a very strong international actor and has a very strong multilateral role, especially when presenting himself as a leader of underdeveloped or developing countries.”

G20 finance ministers and central bank presidents are set to meet next week in Sao Paulo, and a second meeting of foreign ministers is scheduled for September.

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