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Russia war: ‘Putin has doubled down, and sees no way out except to continue with the destruction’ | International

William Shakespeare wrote that some men “are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Boris Johnson, 57, has spent his entire life seeking political glory. He tried to achieve it with Brexit, when the United Kingdom left the European Union. But that process left behind a trail of divided citizens. The pandemic steamrollered him, as it did so many other leaders. His Churchill moment may have arrived, however, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Johnson and his ministers have been on the front line of the response to the challenges of Vladimir Putin. The British intelligence services clearly anticipated the Kremlin’s intentions, and Downing Street sent arms to the Ukrainian government well before other states did. “Putin has decided to double down, and he sees no way out of the cul de sac that he’s in except to continue with the destruction, the pulverizing of innocent populations, in innocent European cities,” says Johnson, speaking ahead of this interview with correspondents from the German newspaper Die Welt, the Italian La Repubblica and EL PAÍS, all of them members of the LENA alliance of leading European media outlets.

Question. You received a call last night [in the early hours of Friday morning] from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and you expressed your great concern for the incident in the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia. Are we close to a nuclear war or nuclear incident?

Answer. I think we need to distinguish very sharply between two things. And I think the whole question of a nuclear exchange, as it were, the use of nuclear weapons, this is a distraction from what’s happening in Ukraine, which is, I’m afraid, of a brutal and barbaric attack on innocent people. And I don’t think that we should be sidetracked by some of the rhetoric that we’ve heard. The issue is to do with the safety of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste. So I’m concerned that we work together to think of ways in which we can avert that disaster, because as I said, I do think that this would be a pan-European disaster. And I think the legitimate concerns of all European countries are engaged.

Q. And how can we protect the nuclear plants and Zelenskiy?

A. I think that we have to make clear to the Kremlin that a civilian nuclear disaster in Ukraine, another Chernobyl, is a disaster for Russia as well as for everybody. And therefore, I think that some system of protecting those plants, some system of ensuring that radioactivity levels are monitored by international authorities is going to be extremely important.

Q. Your Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, said that Putin has gone “full tonto”, implying the idea that he’s just gone crazy. Do you agree with that? Is this a cold-blooded strategy, or, as you just said, he’s in a cul-de-sac, and he’s in a desperate and probably nervous state of mind?

A. I think he’s very difficult to read into it, to make a window into his soul, and to try and imagine what he’s thinking, really. Like you, I get all sorts of information about the way his government works, the system or the non-existent checks and balances in his system, the arbitrary way in which he’s able to make decisions, and that’s extremely worrying. But I think the issue is that he’s clearly made miscalculations. I think he probably has a lack of real feel for what life was really like for people in Ukraine and how people in Ukraine really feel about their country. It’s possible that he hasn’t been there for quite a long time, as I’m sure all of us have. There was there was a logical problem, because I knew that the Ukrainians would fight and anybody who’s been there would instinctively have understood that. Maybe he’s allowed himself to become out of touch on that issue. Now he’s made that mistake. There has to be a way out, there has to be solution that doesn’t involve the total destruction, or him continuing on this path of total destruction. But I’m afraid, logically, it’s very, very hard to see what that solution is. That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that he must fail.

Q. French President Emmanuel Macron is the one leader who’s still talking to Putin. Do you think that this is a good thing? What do you hear from the French president makes you very concerned?

A. I think that the unity of the West has been one of the most important things. Before the invasion began, we were working together with Emmanuel to understand what the implications would be. It is very, very important that we continue to work, particularly with the Americans to have a common series of assumptions and priorities, about the conflict. The lesson of history from, you know, 1914, to Bosnia and beyond is that, sadly, the most wretched European conflicts are not solved without some measure of American interest and leadership. That’s going to be very, very important as well.

Q. So is it good that Macron is still talking to Putin?

A. I think it’s important that the unity of the West is preserved. I’m sure that Emmanuel is is not diverging from that unified position.

Q. Prime Minister, you said that Putin must fail. But shouldn’t he also fall, I mean losing power, to end all this? How can the West make it happen? Should we, as the West, encourage the Russian opposition to revolt?

A . Number one: I think it’s absolutely vital that there are two things we must frame strictly. We must not be trapped into framing this as in any way a conflict between the Russian people, or Russia, and the West, or even between Putin and NATO, or Putin and the West. That is not what this is about that. So that’s one category we must not fall into. This is about helping the Ukrainian people to protect their themselves, to protect their lives, their families and their independence. Number two: I think it’s very, very important that people see that this is the sum-total of the agenda. There is no further agenda. We can’t think like that. Events in Moscow or Russian politics are simply unforeseeable. In fact, that would be a total, a total distraction. Let me be very clear: this is not about trying to do anything to shorten the political career of anyone in Moscow. On the contrary, this is about simply trying to protect the people of Ukraine, and give them the help that they need. If we think in that way, we will damage our chances of achieving what we need to do.

Q. You said in the House of Commons that Putin is a war criminal. Should the West aspire to put this war criminal in front of an International court, like Milosevic or the Nuremberg trial?

A. What I certainly believe is that there is a close analogy between Putin’s behavior and the last years of Slobodan Milosevic. It’s very interesting that both leaders had been in power for a long time, both increasingly autocratic, both seeking to shore up their domestic position, and found a great nationalist cause. Slobodan Milosevic identified the birthplace of Serbian nationalism, indeed the Serbian nation, in Kosovo Poljie, and he inspired his people with this misbegotten idea that it needed to be rescued and liberated. There’s a very close sort of analogy between that catastrophic mistake, and what the president of Russia has been saying about Kyiv and the origins of Russian religion and culture and civilization and his objectives in Ukraine. When it comes to the International Criminal Court, that’s a matter for them. There would have to be the gathering of evidence. If there is evidence of the use of illegal munitions, cluster bombs, barrel weapons, this clearly will have to be brought to the Netherlands.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the interview.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the interview. Martin U. K. Lengemann

Q. Who’s going to enforce that?

A. I think we must be quite limited in what we’re setting out to do. Because I’ve never seen in a long time, such a clear difference between right and wrong in international politics, or such a clear difference between good and good and evil. The minute we start to introduce all sorts of other political considerations in Moscow, or whatever geostrategic considerations, then we lose the sharpness and the focus.

Q. How many deaths and how much brutality from Putin can we allow? What’s the red line until the west decides to act?

A. If you just think back a few weeks, I don’t think anybody would have imagined a few weeks ago, that so many European countries, would now be following what the UK did, and sending weapons in the way that they are. I don’t think anybody would have imagined that [the German chancellor] would have made a speech like the one he did. And that Germany would be in the position that it now is. Things are changing. And that’s because of people’s outrage and disgust at what is happening in in Ukraine. So what I’m trying to say is that the West has already moved a long way. And it’s very, very united. But it is still a long day’s march, as they say, to the idea of any kind of direct confrontation between Western forces… between UK, Italian, German, Spanish armed forces and Russian forces. And the reason for that is that the consequences of such engagements would be very, very hard to control and to manage. We wouldn’t know where it would end. And the risks of miscalculation are huge. And I think that we have to talk about a red line, we have to keep a boundary, we have to keep a conceptual boundary in what we’re doing. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care passionately, or that we won’t do everything that we can within the parameters that we’ve set to try to change the odds in favor of the victims. And we will try to change the odds in favor of the victims. But I think that there is no… let me put it this way… there is no Western country that I know of that is currently considering sending combatants to that theater of conflict. That’s just the reality. And I think that it’s not on the agenda.

Q. The Ukraine crisis, in some sense, has mended a lot of wounds and a lot of broken relations between the UK and the European Union. Would you say that? After all that happened after Brexit?

A. I think what all crises do is they reveal the true relationships. Sometimes, if a family goes through some big trauma, then the real strength of the affection between the members of the family and the way they work together can sometimes suddenly be revealed again. And I think that’s probably what’s happening now.

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Africa’s Eswatini, one of the last absolute monarchies, holds an election without political parties | International

The small southern African nation of Eswatini held elections Friday to decide part of the makeup of its Parliament, even as its extremely wealthy king retains absolute power, political parties are banned and elected representatives can merely advise a monarch whose family has reigned supreme for 55 years.

Eswatini, wedged between South Africa and Mozambique, is the last absolute monarchy in Africa and one of the few remaining in the world. King Mswati III, 55, has been the monarch since 1986, when he became ruler days after his 18th birthday. His father was king for 82 years before him, although Eswatini only gained independence from Britain in 1968.

It was formerly known as Swaziland.

Parliamentary elections are held every five years. Candidates for the lower chamber, the House of Assembly, and for the Senate cannot belong to political parties, which were banned in 1973, and are nominated at a local level before they face a popular vote.

Mswati III appoints a minority of House of Assembly members, and the majority are elected. He appoints a majority of the Senate, the prime minister and other key members of the government.

As king, or the “Ngwenyama” — which means lion — Mswati III is sometimes advised by a council but has executive and legislative powers under law in the country of 1.2 million people and makes decisions by decree.

A little over 500,000 people were registered to vote in Friday’s election, the electoral body said. The African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community bloc sent observers.

Mswati has faced increased pro-democracy protests in recent years, but activists demanding reform encountered a harsh crackdown from police and security forces under the king’s control in June 2021, with dozens killed.

The push for reform has continued, focusing primarily on allowing political parties and for the prime minister to be democratically elected.

Two members of parliament were jailed for calling for democratic reforms during the 2021 protests. They were convicted this year under an anti-terrorism law that rights groups say is only designed to suppress criticism of Mswati and halt the push for democracy.

The lawmakers, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, now face up to 20 years in prison, according to CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society groups.

Mswati has been accused of living lavishly while Eswatini’s people struggle with widespread poverty, the world’s highest HIV infection rate per capita and a life expectancy of 57 years, one of the lowest in the world.

A 2008 report by Forbes magazine estimated Mswati’s wealth at $200 million. He owns private jets, a fleet of luxury cars and reportedly wore a suit beaded with diamonds to his 50th birthday celebration. The king has at least 15 wives and has been criticized for using public money to build palaces for them.

In its latest assessment, the World Bank estimated that more than half of Eswatini’s people live on less than $3.65 a day.

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“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

By Cindy Porter

In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.

Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

A Fusion of Genres

Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.

The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.

Edwards’ Cinematic Journey

The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).

“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.

Navigating Complexity

In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.

While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.

In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.

AI: Savior or Peril?

“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.

This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.

“The Creator”

Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.
Genre: Science fiction.
Release Year: 2023.
Duration: 133 minutes.
Premiere Date: September 29.


Top 5 Movies by Gareth Edwards:

1. “Monsters” (2010)

– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.

2. “Rogue One” (2016)

– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.

3. “End Day” (2005)

– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.

4. “The Creator” (2023)

– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

5. Potential Future Project

– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.

“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.

While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.

As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

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From YouTube to TikTok: The electoral weapons that Javier Milei has deployed in Argentina | International

Sergio Massa, Patricia Bullrich y Javier Milei
From left to right, Sergio Massa, Patricia Bullrich and Javier Milei.EFE / Getty

The far-right Javier Milei, 52, has become the favored candidate to win the October 22 presidential elections in Argentina… even though he has barely toured the country.

Milei —an economist and TV panellist by profession— visited 13 of the 24 provinces during the primaries, yet still won in more than half of the provinces he didn’t visit. Among them, the case of Salta was especially surprising. In the northern Andean province – where he achieved his best result – 49.38% of the voters voted for him in the mid-August primaries. Milei has been called the “candidate of television studios,” because he rose from being a talk show host to a member of Congress in less than five years. But you could also call him the YouTube and TikTok candidate, because, if social media is the new public square, Javier Milei is shouting the loudest.

No other candidate for the presidency has managed to dominate the discourse of social media like the far-right economist does – especially with so little effort and even fewer staffers.

Patricia Bullrich —the candidate of the traditional right— remains the most popular on Twitter. Sergio Massa —the current Minister of Economy and the presidential candidate for the left-wing Peronist alliance— is Facebook’s favorite. But Milei dominates Instagram and TikTok, the preferred spaces of voters under the age of 29, who make up a third of the electorate. He’s also the most popular candidate on YouTube… although not because of the content put out by his official channels.

“Around the world, the parties that are linked to the right have a special place in social media. In Argentina, this is the case of La Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances, a far-right coalition) and its leader, Javier Milei,” explains Ana Slimovich, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires. For the researcher, this is because these political forces “construct discourses with simple language, which isn’t technical… it appeals to emotions, both positive and negative ones.” Milei began his campaign by comparing himself to a lion who came “to awaken other lions, not to guide the sheep.” Today, he walks around Buenos Aires with a chainsaw —a symbol of the cuts to the public sector that he intends to implement should he take office.

Milei, Slimovich notes, has grown strong because of the sporadic organization that his followers have built, including those beyond the party’s structure. Accounts like @elPelucaMilei or @MileiPresidente have almost a million followers and act as the most important spokespeople for the libertarian. They have almost four times more followers than Milei’s official channel, getting millions of views from videos that they cut, edit and publish. The most popular ones are the clips of television interviews with titles celebrating how Milei “destroyed” or “annihilated” journalists or political opponents in live debates.

“Even if the candidate isn’t present, they’re reproducing his speech,” Slimovich says. “This explains the [high number of votes] he gets in places where he’s not physically present. His followers on social media are always present, resharing his speeches. And, of course, the mass media also disseminates his content.” The same thing happens on TikTok, Instagram or Twitter, where online libertarian militants churn out viral memes that Milei often shares.

Agustín Romo – director of digital communications and a congressional candidate for La Libertad Avanza – states that only about 15 people work for pay in the libertarian campaign, but that “90% of the content is produced ad honorem.” For Romo, Milei’s victory in places he has never visited “sets the tone for an epochal change in the way of doing politics.”

Milei jumped into politics from the world of TV. With this background, he then imposed his anti-establishment fury on the political debate and amplified it via social media. In the last year, the country began to talk about the dollarization of the economy or the sale of organs —subjects that Milei brought to the table. “We use social media to install our own narrative and our agenda. If we put out a song in the morning, at night, everyone is talking about it,” Romo laughs.

The digital strategist believes that his candidate’s success in getting his agenda out there has two ingredients. On the one hand, Milei projects a message that connects with the electorate. This discourse among candidates —who present themselves as “outsiders” who aren’t really part of the political system— was successful for Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. Milei often says that the “decadence” of the country is the product of a “political caste (or class)” that prioritizes its interests “at the expense of the people.” On the other hand, the consultant continues, the “libertarian movement” has been brewing for “10 years,” but “it had no political representation” until Javier Milei arrived on the scene.

The leading presidential candidate is also advised by Fernando Cerimedo —a major figure in digital communications among the Latin American extreme-right. A report published by the Latin American Center for Journalistic Investigation (CLIP) revealed that the consultant has spread “messages based on lies in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.” Cerimedo was one of the great agitators behind the accusation —presented without evidence— that Lula da Silva won the recent presidential elections in Brazil only because of electoral fraud. Some of this influence has already been seen in Milei’s campaign. On August 13 —despite being the candidate with the most votes in the primaries— Milei insisted that votes had been stolen from him.

Among the left-wing Peronist coalition, they admit that they’ve started this campaign with a disadvantage. Their candidate was announced as a surprise: Minister of Finance Sergio Massa —who has been in politics since 1999— was proclaimed “as a unity candidate” on June 23. He opened his TikTok account days later. “This happened to us when [Massa] contested the presidency in 2015 —Mauricio Macri’s campaign (which ultimately won) had a better-developed social media campaign. We balanced it out, but we were far behind. We prioritize other forms, other types of campaigning,” a member of the campaign tells EL PAÍS.

Sergio Massa’s advisors say that they still see a scenario of the vote being divided into thirds, but that “the most stark polarization is with Milei.” Massa’s social media campaign is now being supported by Lula da Silva’s advisors, who have joined the Spanish consultant Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí. “They came to share their experiences with us about the two elections that they had to fight against Bolsonaro: the one that Fernando Haddad lost [in 2018] and the one that Lula won [in 2022]. They’re working with us on the possibility of reaching the runoff [election] in November.”

In Massa’s race to attract young voters, the latest to join the campaign on TikTok has been the current vice president (and former president from 2007 until 2015), Cristina Kirchner. The main representative of the Peronist movement opened her account this past Monday and has already uploaded dozens of videos. Ironically, less than five months ago, she urged young people to not spend more than “20 minutes a day on TikTok.”

Massa’s left wing coalition —made up of traditional parties that are accustomed to large street events and rallies— is beginning to make its presence more known online. The current president, Alberto Fernández —who decided against seeking re-election— recently answered questions with his dog on Instagram. And Massa has begun to announce his economic proposals via short videos tailored to social media. His younger supporters and party members were the ones who encouraged him.

After Milei’s victory in the primaries, a group of young Peronists began to reflect on their poor communications strategy and created a TikTok account —@Indisciplinadxs— to create a “new space” in the campaign. “Social media is a disputed territory where we’re not fighting. And, if we’re fighting, we’re doing so incorrectly,” lament two members of @Indisciplinadxs. A recent video —in which they showed how voters are misinformed on a certain topic— went viral and reached 166,000 people. “The battle on social media shouldn’t be considered lost,” they insist. “The field is wide-open — there are ways to take advantage of it.”

Patricia Bullrich —the candidate for the traditional center-right Together for Change coalition— is also staking out her place in the presidential race. She won her party primaries against the current mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta. Bullrich deployed a “tough-on-crime” rhetoric, while Larreta, a moderate, prioritized dialogue and centrist policies. While Bullrich ultimately emerged triumphant, the question remains whether she can retain the votes of her formal rival, while trying to take on Massa and Milei, who have mostly focused their attacks on each other.

Her social media consultants are taking a careful look at her opposition. “I’m not looking at everything that Massa put out online as much, because what Milei does is more striking,” explains Yasmin Hassan, Bullrich’s principal advisor. The most positive element that Hassan sees in her party is similar to what Milei has going for him: an organic bloc of adherents who, of their own free will, circulate information for the campaign. They call the movement “Bullrichmania” —it consists of groups of self-convened online warriors, who spread information via WhatsApp groups.

Bullrich —who served as security minister under President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019)— has focused on pointing out the corruption that has taken place in the Kirchnerist governments: from 2003 until 2007, when Néstor Kirchner governed, from 2007 until 2015, when his wife, Cristina, governed, as well as the present administration, where she serves as vice president.

The bulk of her interactions on social media are with voters who similarly point out the corruption or bad policies of the ruling party.

Last week, a criminal court reopened two corruption cases against the former president and current VP. Immediately, Bullrich released her latest campaign video: in one minute, she revealed the model of a new maximum security prison for criminals that, she promised, will have a wing that is named after Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The candidate got what she was looking for: on Saturday, while Kirchner was speaking at her first public appearance in months, the video was already trending.

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