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Conflict in Ukraine: Volodymyr Zelenskiy: The unlikely hero of the Ukrainian resistance | International

With a serious-but-exhausted look on his face, a two-day beard, and wearing a military shirt and green fleece jacket, Volodymyr Zelenskiy looks straight into the camera. “Tonight, on all fronts, the enemy will use all available forces to break our resistance,” he says, in a message to the nation recorded after the first day of attacks launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine.

Some 24 hours before, when the worst predictions had yet to come true, he addressed the Russian people and called on them to stand in the way of the assault on his country. “Listen to the voice of reason,” he said in Russian. “The Ukrainian people want peace.”

The strategy was unsuccessful. Over three days, the head of the Kremlin ordered an offensive against Ukraine via land, sea and air, on the basis that the country is fictitious, the result of historical and diplomatic stitches.

A former comedy actor and self-made businessman, Zelenskiy debunks much of the Kremlin’s propaganda about Ukraine and its government, which has been described as a “bunch of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” as well as being a place where talking Russian is forbidden and the citizens of the Donbas region are the victims of “genocide.”

Zelenskiy was born 44 years ago in Kryvyi Rih, a city in the Dnipro region. He was part of a “Soviet Jewish” family, as he described it once – that’s to say, not so religious in a regime where religion was repressed.

He spoke about this to Russian citizens this week in another of his emotional messages, in which he called for the attack to be called off. He also spoke about his grandfather, Semyon Ivanovich Zelenski, a veteran of the Red Army during the Second World War.

Since the outset of Russia’s invasion, Zelenskiy, who had lost popularity among voters due to his sometimes-erratic policies and corruption cases among his allies, has grown as a leader. The former actor, who is an expert when it comes to managing the language and staging of television and social media, has taken a major step in terms of the information he is conveying to Ukrainians, the emotional videos that he has been publishing online, and the patriotic messages that have seen his popularity return. “We will fight for as long as is necessary,” he said on Saturday, after the Kremlin threatened to step up its attacks.

He has also repeatedly highlighted the fact that European leaders have abandoned Ukraine to their fate in the face of Putin’s threats. “If you, my beloved world leaders, leaders of the free world, do not help Ukraine forcefully now, tomorrow the war will be on all of your doorsteps,” he warned in one of these speeches.

The Ukrainian president has presented the opposite arguments to the narratives from the Kremlin, and has compared Russia with Nazi Germany. “Our countries are on different sides of world history,” he said. “Russia is on the path of evil.”

Zelenskiy was initially perceived as a political lightweight and an easy target for Putin. But now he embodies the commander of a country at war, who is resisting a tough offensive by a nuclear state and whose troops and resources easily outrank his own.

Ukrainian and American secret services have been warning that one of the main objectives of the Kremlin is to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with a puppet regime from Moscow. And to do that, Zelenskiy must be ousted. The United States advised him to leave the country, or at least, the capital. But the Ukrainian leader has insisted that he and his family will be staying in Kyiv.

Zelenskiy was victorious in the presidential elections of 2019 throughout the country when he ran against Petro Poroschenko, a businessman who had taken an unwavering stand against Moscow. He did so with anti-corruption policies and a certain anti-establishment attitude. He promised to bring an end to the war in the east, against the pro-Russian separatists being supported by the Kremlin. Poroschenko, his predecessor, had promised to win the conflict.

Zelenskiy came up with some brilliant policies at the start of his term in office. His government, which had a comfortable majority, opened the market of agricultural land, executed a huge digitalization campaign, and inaugurated a massive road-building program to renew rural routes, which were in a very bad way all over the country.

However, his problems with the media, the lack of organization among his teams and a number of controversies saw the confidence that the public had in him erode. Despite the reforms put in place, Ukraine is still the third-most-corrupt country in Europe, after Russia and Azerbaijan, according to Transparency International.

Zelenskiy also got caught up with the policies of Donald Trump. The then-US president made a call to the Ukrainian leader that led to the impeachment of the former. Trump, who had for some time put the sending of defense material to Ukraine on hold, called on his opposite number for the favor of opening an investigation into Hunter Biden and his father, Joe Biden, who was then the Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential race.

A ‘weak’ president

At the time, Zelenski appeared weak, and the episode worried many at the start of the Russian crisis, when Putin began to send troops to the Ukrainian borders and ramped up the threats against Kyiv given its intentions to enter NATO.

The Ukrainian president has also been harshly criticized by part of the political opposition due to his management. These criticisms, however, have been shelved for now – apart from a group of pro-Russians – and have made way for support in a bid to force more sanctions against Russia from allies as well as the supply of weapons.

Meanwhile, Zelenski has been addressing his citizens, whom he has been encouraging to come out onto the streets to defend the country – whether they use Molotov cocktails, weapons or whatever they have at their disposal. “Be prepared to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities,” he said.

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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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