Brexit at last or is it?

brexit latest
Brexit latest: Boris Johnson has launched an astonishing attack on Theresa May(Image: GETTY )

Brexit: the storm makes land

|GARY GIBBON, CHANNEL 4 NEWS|

AIWA! NO!|We have two documents in Downing Street being read tonight: the Withdrawal Agreement (500 pages or so) and the outline political declaration (some four pages or so).
That tells you how much work is still to be done in working out the future relationship. The negotiators haven’t even been able to hand in half their homework. The EU always said it would be like this. Brexiteers sometimes suggested the whole thing – settling the past and mapping the future – could be set out and agreed by now.

There is talk that the plans laid out for the U.K. wide temporary customs arrangement could operate like a sliding scale. You want truly friction-less trade? You have to go for extra rules from Brussels which have a single market flavour. So if you don’t do that, the logic runs, and go for something a little more light touch, that leaves Northern Ireland more subject to checks with east/west trade across the Irish Sea. This might look to some Brexiteers like an EU plan to suck the U.K. into its magnetic and regulatory orbit. And it will look to the DUP, who are sounding very war-like this evening, like the kind of betrayal they were complaining about in the letter to Theresa May – which The Times got its hands on last week.

Ministers now have the challenge of making sense of the detail while not being allowed to take the documents away from No 10. If they choose to resign do they go big picture or hit on a detail? Or do they, as happened at Chequers, go along with sullenly only to walk out a couple of days later?

The storm that has been out at sea for months has started making land. Theresa May has decided this is as good as it gets in the time available. If she can bring the Cabinet onside without major casualties she will take it to the country and her MPs and the Commission will take it to the member states. There will be pained faces and arguments for changes to the text amongst the EU27. There will be much hotter discourse here and it started with a vengeance as the news flashed up of a “technical deal.”

The ERG leadership is deploying lines about betrayal that must box those using them into a rebellion if we get to a Commons vote you would think. And if the DUPs rhetoric is a guide to its actions, inflicting defeat would be like pushing over a house of cards.

But this is day one and the vote, if we get there, could be end of November or beginning of December under government plans.

France tells Theresa May to FORGET backstop review clause – EU will DECIDE

French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, has warned the Prime Minister that MPs would not support any deal that would keep Britain locked in a backstop arrangement with Brussels.

She told BBC Radio 5 Live the UK “cannot be held against its will” in a possible customs union with the EU, adding: “It cannot be a decision that can be overturned by the European Union, it must be capable for the United Kingdom to decide to leave that customs arrangement.”

|AIWA! NO|French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau said any decision taken to end the backstop arrangement cannot be made by the United Kingdom alone and must involve the remaining 27 European Union countries.
Brexiteers in Mrs May’s Cabinet have demanded the inclusion of the mechanism that would unilaterally trigger a UK exit from any customs union arrangement in the backstop, the insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

EU negotiators rejected this and reportedly told their UK counterparts that the European Court of Justice would have to be involved in the arbitration of any potential mechanism.

Ahead of the meeting, Ms Loiseau rejected the possibility of an independent mechanism being included in the backstop to help the Prime Minister with her domestic negotiations.

The French Europe minister told reporters: “If we end any sort of temporary arrangement this is to be bilateral decision from the EU27 and from the UK at the same time and we have to know in that moment what sort of solution there is for the Irish border.”

Technical-level negotiations will continue between the British and EU teams as they move “closer and closer” to seal a Brexit deal, according to one EU diplomat.

A technical deal is once again within days of conclusion but Mrs May is struggling to win political backing from her Cabinet as further splits emerge in her Conservative Party.

International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

– International Declaration on Information and Democracy –

In a historic step in the context of the Paris Peace Forum today, 12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – a process based on the declaration issued last week by an independent commission that was created at the initiative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

|JAVIER PALLERO, accessnow|AIWA! NO!|On November 2, an independent commission set up by Reporters Without Borders published a new declaration on issues relevant for human rights in the digital era. The “International Declaration on Information and Democracy: principles for the global information and communication space“ addresses difficult and pressing issues such as misinformation, privacy, and the role of tech intermediaries in ensuring freedom of expression.

The declaration, endorsed by a number of important figures in journalism and human rights, has valuable references to freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, and it calls for a better technological ecosystem for information exchange. Today at the Paris Peace Forum,12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – an initiative based on the declaration.

While we share that goal, our analysis offers a word of caution with regard to the recommendations on the role of internet information intermediaries. We explain why this part of the declaration may be problematic for the freedom of expression online if poorly implemented or interpreted by decision-makers.

A necessary call for better conditions for journalism
At the request of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Eiffel Tower’s lights were turned off for a minute at 6:30 p.m. today on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists to pay tribute to Saudi newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi and all the other journalists in the world whose murders have so far gone unpunished.

The declaration takes stock of the current challenges for the free press, which are shared by traditional and digital journalism. It reinforces the key role that journalists play in democratic societies, and makes a call to increase their safety. From our point of view, this clearly includes strengthening digital security, a challenge that journalists face in light of the illegal eavesdropping by both governments and private actors. Journalists need to be able to rely on technology that works for them and protects their sources. That’s why we view the protection of strong encryption as fundamental for the work of journalists, and we commend the declaration’s call for privacy for those participating in the public debate.

Privacy facilitates the exercise of the freedom of expression, which comprises the right to impart and receive information. Both technology and the press play an important role in facilitating our access to information in the public interest. The declaration recognizes this and stresses the social function of the press. We add that our ability to access the internet in times of political and social unrest is also essential in fulfilment of that role. Therefore, states should abstain from ordering internet shutdowns or blocking applications. Despite growing public awareness of such network interference, this dangerous trend is nevertheless escalating, as we recently indicated in a joint report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also call for increased attention to the wave of repressive legislation that is targeting online expression and putting journalists’ work and lives at risk.

Another laudable inclusion in the declaration is its call for further transparency. This includes transparency as a means of improving the quality of information but also as a way to understand more about how the content curation algorithms in digital platforms work.

Cautions and considerations regarding free expression

The declaration raises concerns about issues including liability for content dissemination, bias in digital platforms, and the proliferation of misinformation on the internet. We acknowledge and share those concerns. However, we worry that some parts of the declaration may be misinterpreted by decision-makers to adopt solutions that, without further analysis, could harm free expression.

Liability for expression — some important distinctions

The declaration makes note of liability for those participating in the public debate, particularly for content they disseminate or “help to disseminate.” There are critically important distinctions to be made in this area in order to avoid ill-informed implementations of this idea. First, there are technical intermediaries on the internet that help disseminate content, but, as a general rule, should not be held liable for third-party expressions. That is the case with regard to hosting and domain name providers, for instance, which do not participate in the curation or prioritization of content and merely provide technical infrastructure to web pages and apps to function. Legal sanctions for these intermediaries for the content they host would represent a disproportionate measure at odds with internationally recognized human rights principles.

When we consider social media platforms, there is no clear solution and any efforts in the area must be evidence-based. When platforms use algorithmic curation of content, it implies making a decision about the dissemination of information, but that decision is typically informed not only by the creators of the algorithm but also by the conduct of users. Further, design choices and decision-making for curation that rewards user engagement may create an incentive for companies that use these platforms for advertising to track and surveil users, which implicates other rights. The bottom line is that we need more information to understand how content consumption and dissemination really works. Before we engage in any public policy consideration of liability for digital intermediaries on content, which raises clear and significant risks for free expression, we must have clarity on the extent to which different actors in the information ecosystem exert influence over content creation and dissemination.

Neutrality — what kind?

The declaration also calls for “political, religious, and ideological neutrality.” It states that platforms should be neutral on those issues when “structuring the information space.” While we understand the concerns regarding possible bias in the curation of content, public policy actions based on the call for neutrality in the ”structuring” of the information space may leave room for abuse if important questions are not answered first. There is no doubt that arbitrary discrimination is an obstacle for the exercise of free expression. But, what could neutrality mean in the digital information context? Would that mean equal treatment for different kinds of information that are fed into a curation algorithm? Or would that mean striving for an ideal of a balanced output in search results or social media feeds? The definition of neutrality, as we can see, can be tricky. It implies a neutrality of information input, treatment, and output that is hard to achieve across diverse information systems. Take a search engine, for instance, and compare it with a social media service. A search engine indexes a broader range of information not directly influenced by the user, but its processing and presentation of search results is indirectly influenced by user behavior. That’s how search services offer personalized results. Should a search engine’s neutrality efforts be focused on non-discriminatory crawling of sources? Or should it be non-discriminatory in the processing and presentation of results? How is neutrality in a search engine compatible with user personalization? If this is a matter of degree, how much personalization or neutrality is enough, and who gets to decide that?

The question of “neutrality” for social media platforms is perhaps even more complicated. Users themselves input content, and users tend to follow the people and pages that they like. The choices they make reflect their own ideas, religious beliefs, and more. Should companies or governments intervene in the choices of users? To what degree? Should some content or user posts be sponsored to promote “neutrality” or diversity of opinion? Who makes that decision?

The information ecosystem today has characteristics that appear to be promoting polarization and reactivity, which in turn can have a negative effect in democracy. However, confronting this challenge will take much more than asking companies for “neutrality.” It requires addressing business models, information literacy, design for user choice, and social and educational problems. Consider the reports about the use of WhatsApp, a closed communication channel, to spread misinformation in Brazil before the recent elections. This could be considered a “neutral” channel since there is no algorithmic prioritization of the messages that run through the platform. Yet in the broader context of the information ecosystem in Brazil, including the dominance of this channel because WhatsApp is often “zero-rated” and therefore free to use, its use may also have increased the challenges for information diversity and fact-checking.

We agree with the declaration’s emphasis on the idea that with the greater influence, there is more responsibility and a corresponding need for increased transparency. However, given the considerations outlined above, assigning editorial responsibility or possible liability may not be an appropriate answer in all cases. Platforms should, instead, provide users with effective tools to exert the maximum amount of control over their information experience. By default. This could include options such as giving users the capacity to turn off prioritization in a news feed, or adjust it with their own preferences, for example, or to disable tracking and behavioral advertisements. This might represent the type of “neutrality” for platforms that would benefit users.

“Reliable” information — a difficult quest in the digital space

Finally, the declaration’s call for platforms to favor reliable information also raises complex issues for free expression. The declaration recommends as tools in this endeavor transparency, editorial independence, verification methods, and journalistic ethics. In addition to the challenges we explore above related to editorial responsibility, there are also challenges when it comes to a platform’s use of verification methods and journalistic ethics. The expression of opinion is protected as a fundamental human right, and opinion pieces are not necessarily “verifiable.” Speculation, theorizing, satire, and opinion present challenges to fact checking, online or off. It is also vital that neither states nor companies define journalistic ethics. On a number of social media platforms, one’s news feed contains a mix of personal opinion, news items, editorials, and advertising. Although journalistic ethics could play a role in the design of a news feed or help inform the development of a content curation algorithm, independent and human rights based human intervention is essential to mitigate the spread of misinformation on communication platforms.

Conclusion: in assigning responsibility, take care not to deputize platforms as guardians of truth or neutrality

All the issues we have explored are difficult, and a thorough analysis of all their implications would exceed the bounds of this post. The challenges the declaration seeks to address are only starting to be adequately researched and there is a need for more information from internet platforms.

However, we can start with one initial recommendation to those seeking to apply the content of the declaration to public policy decisions: avoid deputizing social media companies or any internet intermediary as a guardian of the truth or neutrality, as this risks consequences for free expression and other protected human rights. Social media platforms, and the dominant players in particular, must take heed of their responsibility to consider the human rights impacts of their products. If by encouraging them to take more responsibility, we also make them the arbiters of truth, however, we put those same rights at risk. And we transfer even more power from the people to dominant platforms.

Today, people access, create, share, comment on, and react to information in complex ways. In the challenges that this poses for our democracies, we must find solutions that empower us to deal with information in a constructive, but also fundamentally free way. This means putting users in control, by giving them more options for how they find, consume, and share content free from manipulation. It also means providing more transparency, especially with regard to ads, including political advertising. Finally, it means looking at the bigger picture and developing business models that do not reward poor quality information that increases “engagement” by playing on basic human instincts of fear, alarm and discord.

Continue reading International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

Zimbabwe aims to undo some land grab mistakes, says minister

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa  aims to undo some land grab mistakes, says minister

Zimbabwe' unidentified farmers who were facing eviction from their farms which were targetted for seizure under controversial government land reforms walk into Harare's magistrate's court in 2008.
Zimbabwe’ unidentified farmers who were facing eviction from their farms which were targetted for seizure under controversial government land reforms walk into Harare’s magistrate’s court in 2008. 
Image: DESMOND KWANDE / AFP

|AIWA! NO!|Zimbabwe’s government has started a land audit to cut farm sizes, flush out multiple farm owners and correct some of the mistakes from its chaotic land reform programme. The effort is an attempt by the government to redress the damage caused by its land seizures that started in 2000.

Recently lands, agriculture, rural resettlement, water and climate minister Perrance Shiri said his country regrets some of the injustices of its land reform programme and is taking corrective measures, including compensating white farmers and working with them.

Analysts on Wednesday confirmed the move is a realisation by Zimbabwe’s government of the folly of forced land grabs.

An informal audit by authorities exposed irregularities in the allocation of farms, with children as young as 10 years old reportedly getting land.

Once seen as the bread basket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s food production has plummeted, forcing it to import basic foodstuffs because of dire shortages of wheat, soya beans and other crops. The already desperate situation has been worsened by a huge budget deficit of $3bn (R41.94bn) and crippling shortages of foreign currency.

Agriculture accounts for 15% of Zimbabwe’s GDP and provides about 70% of its formal employment. Zimbabwe’s land reform resulted in a huge displacement of 6,000 white farmers, with about 300,000 black families benefiting.

But the programme has been abused by top Zanu-PF officials.

Former president Robert Mugabe reportedly owns at least 21 farms, which is against the government’s one-person-one-farm policy. His wife and children are also said to have benefited from the programme.

Addressing the senate in Harare, Shiri said the land audit will help flush out multiple farm owners. “The land commission is currently on the ground carrying out land audits where they want to establish the occupants, production levels as well as eliminate multiple farm ownership,” he said.

“The issue of the resizing of the farms to the recommended standards will be pursued in earnest. In a bid not to step on each other’s toes, our ministry officials are not currently pursuing the resizing of the farms up and until the completion of the land audit.”

Shiri said the land audit will also deal with ownership and boundary disputes.

Northern Irish lawmakers tell Prime Minister Theresa May: Don’t betray the United Kingdom

Northern Irish politicians tell PM May: Don’t betray the United Kingdom

LONDON (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party which props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Friday cast her Brexit negotiation as a betrayal and cautioned it could not support a deal that divided the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Theresa May at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Theresa May remembers ‘staunch to the end’ troops on Belgium Armistice visit
Prime Minister Theresa May at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The warning underscores the travails that May faces in getting any Brexit divorce deal, which London and Brussels say is 95 percent done, approved by both her fractious party and by the Northern Irish lawmakers who keep her in power.

Less than five months before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, negotiators are still haggling over a backup plan for the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland should they fail to clinch a deal.

Google overhauls its sexual harassment policies after employee walkouts against workplace culture

The company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters.

|SCROLL -IN|AIWA! NO!|Google on Thursday announced a number of changes to its sexual harassment policies a week after thousands of employees walked out of their offices as part of protests against the company’s treatment of women.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that was published on its blog. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Pichai said the company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters. Google will provided enhanced care and resources, including counselling and career support, for complainants and will also dock performance reviews for employees who fail to complete the mandatory sexual harassment training. The company will also provide more details and clarity about the outcome of sexual harassment allegations.

Ending forced arbitration was one of the several key changes that employees had sought. Their other demands included equal pay and opportunity for all, a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, and a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

Alcohol consumption was one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints and the note said that “harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse”. Leaders at the company are “expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged”, it said.

The protests on November 1 began at 11.10 am from Google’s Tokyo office and were organised under the #GoogleWalkout. Employees walked out of their offices in several places including London, Dublin, Singapore, Berlin, Haifa in Israel, and Zurich.

They were organised days after a report published in The New York Times claimed that Android creator Andy Rubin received a $90 million (Rs 660.19 crore at current exchange rate) exit package in 2014 despite facing sexual misconduct allegations. It also alleged that Google protected two other unnamed executives accused of sexual misconduct, removing one with a severance package while retaining another.

While #GoogleWalkout organisers commended the progress, they expressed disappointment that the company had ignored other core demands, including elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on board.

“We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are black and brown women,” organiser Stephanie Parker said in a statement.

The company should also address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment. “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top,” Parker said.

Jamie Oliver Closes Restaurants, Jumps On Financial Tech

Jamie Oliver Closes Restaurants, Joins Financial Tech

Jamie Oliver makes his biggest investment

Chef & Restaurateur – Jamie Oliver, has announced his 100 million dollar investment in Bitcoin Revolution and, he is expecting double the value of investment in just half an year. If you haven’t heard of bitcoin yet, then this is something for you – Bitcoin Revolution.

Before we go into details of Bitcoin Revolution, let us explain who Jamie Oliver exactly is. Jamie Oliver is a visionary chef and businessman, some call him the smartest entrepreneurial chef of our century. He’s a large personality as well and his businesses have amassed him a net worth of over £235 million. Oliver is proving them wrong year after year. He has made it his agenda to nosedive into the financial sector diversifying his businesses. While being a famous chef, he has found his passion in a unique industry, a new one powered by Financial Technology. Bitcoin Revolution is his latest project. ”I want people to acheive financial independence and not be slaves of economy crises” Oliver announced in TEDx talk.

But now, Oliver has decided to close down Barbecoa and Fifteen Restaurant in order to literally take over the bitcoin market. He’s teamed up with Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group to change the definition of money. That’s why they acquired Bitcoin Revolution.

What exactly is Bitcoin RevolutionBitcoin Revolution is a financial technology with the plan to redistribute world wealth. Basically – take from the top 0.1% and give back to 99.9%. Oliver and Branson believe wealth is not distributed well in our age, and although there always will be someone richer and someone poorer, the current situation is not acceptable, where top 0.1% controls almost 90% of world wealth. Oliver believes he can cut that down to around 20% without causing world-wide financial crisis, Oliver goes even further. So what exactly does that mean to you, the regular middle or lower class person? This means you will become 2 – 3 times wealthier, and no one except the super-wealthy will take a hit. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Ok, the theory is there, but how will it work you might ask? Overall, the idea is easy. The top 0.1% keep their wealth invested in stocks, and Wall Street brokers trade these stocks for them. The idea is to beat the Wall Street traders in their own game – make winning trades so Wall Street with their hoards of wealth slowly but surely starts losing money. Just like a poker game, where a new player comes along on the high-stakes table and starts winning.

In order to do this you would need a better stock movement predictions than the Wall Street has. That is Where Bitcoin comes in. With the help of cloud computing, it can be done, and it’s actualy being done now as Bitcoin Revolution has showed! This is exactly the reason why Oliver and Branson jumped on this technology as soon as he heard about it. It’s revolutionary.

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