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French President spoke to Trump before Syria strikes

“Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA's will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him..

"Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA's will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay," Macron said, during a two-hour televised interview with several French media outlets. On Friday, the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched a series of strikes on a research laboratory and two storage facilities associated with Syria's chemical weapons program.Satellite images of the facilities, located west of Homs and near the capital Damascus, before and after the strikes appear to show they suffered extensive damage.Macron said it had also been France which convinced Trump that the strikes had to be limited to suspected chemical weapons sites. Prior to the strikes, there had been reports Trump wanted to see tougher, more extended action in Syria but was talked down by his national security team.The strike has been furious condemned by Syrian ally Russia, who attempted to bring a motion in the United Nations Security Council on Saturday to denounce the "aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the US and its allies."In a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the weekend, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said any further strikes by the United States in Syria could lead to "chaos in international relations," according to a statement from the Kremlin.Both Putin and Rouhani agreed the missiles strikes had "seriously damaged" the prospect for a political settlement in Syria, the statement said.During his interview, Macron said Putin was an "accomplice" to Syria's alleged use of chemicals weapons. "They have not used chlorine themselves, but they have methodically contributed to the international community's powerlessness to prevent the use of chemical weapons by diplomatic means," he said.

Macron: France is not at war with Syria

The strikes were a response to the suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, outside Damascus, where Syrian forces have long been battling rebels.Former residents told CNN Sunday of being overcome by fumes that made it difficult to breathe as they hid in basements from fighting outside. Images taken in the immediate aftermath of the April 7 attack show babies, children and adults, lying on the ground, some foaming at the mouth. During the interview the French President said his country had not declared war on Syria, calling the strikes a "reprisal" for violations of the treaty banning the use of chemical weapons."There has been repeated and proven violations of the treaty," he said.Macron said Sunday that France had proof that chlorine and chemical weapons had been used.Inspectors for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were due to go to Douma Sunday after arriving in Syria shortly after Saturday's strikes, and have yet to report on any findings.The US and its partners have been criticized for acting before inspectors had a chance to examine the site. Politicians in France and the United Kingdom will on Monday seek answers from the countries' leaders about their decision to launch strikes without formal approval.Protests against the strikes were held around the world Saturday, including in major cities in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Greece and the United States.Demonstrators in New York stage an anti-war protest on April 15 after President Donald Trump launched airstrikes in Syria.On Friday, Trump said that the US is "prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents."Despite Macron's statements, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement the US mission in Syria "had not changed.""The President has been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible. We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return," she said.Trump declares 'mission accomplished' in Syria strikePresident Trump said on his official Twitter following the attack it had been a "perfectly executed strike.""Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!" he said. Trump defended his use of the term "mission accomplished" Sunday."The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term 'Mission Accomplished,'" he tweeted. "I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!"

CNN's Kevin Bohn, Ray Sanchez, Laura Smith-Spark, Zachary Cohen, Boris Sanchez and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.



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Europe

Pope expresses support for same-sex civil union laws in new documentary

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 17:54

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals s..

Issued on:

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals should be protected by civil union laws, in some of the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people.

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"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," Pope Francis says in the documentary "Francesco" by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky.

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.

The pope appeared to be referring to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed legislation to approve same sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples.

Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that the pope's comments in the film were some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013.

The pope, who early in his papacy made the now-famous "Who am I to judge?" remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life, spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.

Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the pope said in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.

He told the pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children. It was not clear in which country RuberaRead More – Source

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Europe

Popping the digital filter bubble

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and ..

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and get 2 totally different results? The answer is online echo chambers and digital filter bubbles – social media and search engines that skew our access to information and algorithms that artificially promote content they think should suit us. Those invisible chains shrink our freedom to learn and be confronted with new ideas. Want to break free? France 24 can help you pop the filter bubbles around you!

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Social networks have revolutionised how we access information. In France, over a quarter of people get their news from social networks – second only to television. And for young people, the change is even more drastic: 47% of the under-35s say their primary source of information is social media (Ifop, 2019). And we’re not just passive consumers of information online now – everyone can also generate content, leading to a vast quantity of news and views online.

Sifting through that ever-growing mountain of information forces search engines and social media to use algorithms – to sort the wheat they think will interest us, from the chaff they assume won’t. For Jérôme Duberry of the University of Geneva, it’s a simple calculation: “if a web-user has a given profile, then they will be fed information of a certain type”. Posts that seem to appear at random on our Twitter or Facebook timelines are in fact carefully chosen according to what the platform already knows about us – interests, friends, “likes”. Highlighting content that is tailored specifically to our interests filters out topics from outside our comfort zone – reinforcing our beliefs.

Online rights are human rights

But social networks are only one aspect of the digital echo chambers. Search engines are also key – once again due to their reliance on algorithms. Google’s search results are generated from our own online history, mixed with that of thousands of other users. The goal for the search engine is to maximise user engagement by finding results that are most likely to prompt interest (and sales) from the user – and so generate advertising revenue.

For Jérôme Duberry, those gatekeepers limit our access to knowledge: “it’s as if there was someone standing in front of the university library, who asks you a bunch of questions about who you are, and only then gives you access to a limited number of books. And you never get the chance to see all the books on offer, and you never know the criteria for those limits.”

The consequences of these so-called Filter Bubbles are far-reaching. For Tristan Mendès France, specialist in Digital Cultures at the University of Paris, “being informed via social networks means an internet user is in a closed-circuit of information”.

Blinkered online views, democratic bad news

For many academics, those echo chambers could threaten the health of our democracies, suggesting the algorithms could contribute to the polarisation of society. By limiting our access to views similar to our own and excluding contradictory opinions, our beliefs may be reinforced – but at the expense of a diversity of opinions.

And that could undermine the very basis of our democracies. For Jerôme Duberry, the Filter Bubbles “could lead to us questioning the value of a vote. Today, we lend a great deal of importance to the vote, which is the extension of a person’s opinion. But that individual’s opinion is targeted by interest groups using an impressive array of techniques.”

That isn’t the only distortion that algorithms have created. They have also allowed more radical views to predominate. Youtube’s algorithm is blind to the actual content of a video – its choice of what will be most visible is made according to which videos are viewed all the way to the end. But for Tristan Mendès France, “it is generally the most activist or militant internet users that view videos all the way through”. That provokes “extra-visibility” for otherwise marginal content – at the expense of more nuanced or balanced views, or indeed verified information.

Escaping the echo chamber

So what happens to the spirit of debate in a world where your online habits reinforce your beliefs? Is the echo chamber a philosophical prison? And how easy is it to get back out into the fresh air of contradictory views?

In the US, the movement opposing algRead More – Source

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Europe

‘Well, this is Iceland’: Earthquake interrupts Prime Minister’s interview

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post wh..

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post when her house started to shake, visibly startling the Icelandic leader."Oh my god, there's an earthquake," she said with a gasp. "Sorry, there was an earthquake right now. Wow."But Jakobsdottir quickly pivoted back to the matter at hand, laughing: "Well this is Iceland" and continuing her response to the question."Yes I'm perfectly fine, the house is still strong, so no worries," she later added.Jakobsdottir, 44, has been Iceland's Prime Minister since 2017.The 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon 10 kilometers southwest of Hafnarfjordur, a coastal town near the capital of Reykjavík, according to the United States Geological Survey, which measures quakes worldwide.The tremble led to reports of damage around the capital. Earthquakes are common in Iceland, which boats a sweeping landscape dotted with dozens of volcanoes. Jakobsdottir isn't the first world leader to be interrupted by a quake this year; in May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was discussing lifting coronavirus restrictions

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