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Former British PM says calling the Brexit vote was the right thing to do

“I made a promise to the British people — I kept that promise,” he told CNN's Christiane Amanpo..

"I made a promise to the British people — I kept that promise," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in his first major broadcast interview since resigning in 2016, to mark the release of a report on development in fragile states by a committee he co-chairs.Cameron's fateful decision to call the referendum led to his political downfall and left his successor, Theresa May, with a diplomatic tangle that has plagued her shaky government. Brexit negotiations have been fraught, and key sticking points remain outstanding less than a year before Britain is due formally to leave the EU.Cameron, who campaigned to stay in the EU, continues to believe the outcome of the vote was a mistake. "I think we've taken the wrong course," he said.But the former prime minister said that, after more than two decades of EU membership during which the bloc had acquired greater powers in successive treaties, a referendum was the right thing to do. "I don't think you can belong to these organizations and see their powers grow and treaty after treaty and power after power going from Westminster to Brussels and never asking the people whether they're happy governed in that way."Related: UK government loses key Brexit vote

On Syria air strikes: 'May was right'

Like his successor, Cameron faced a decision on whether to retaliate against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He asked the UK Parliament to back his plans for air strikes in 2013, but lost the vote and was forced to withdraw a plan to allow UK fighter jets to bomb targets in Syria. This time, May did not seek prior parliamentary approval to join the US in striking at the Syrian regime.Cameron told Amanpour that he supported the air strikes, launched by British, American and French forces last weekend. May "has done the right thing," he said."This is not about regime change in Syria, although God knows we need it. It's not about intervening in the civil war. It is about making a point that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable."The US assessed that sarin and chlorine were used in an attack on a rebel enclave in the Damascus suburb of Douma earlier this month. Cameron said that the world could not allow the use of chemical weapons "to become normalized."Cameron told Amanpour that he wished the House of Commons had supported him five years ago. "I deeply regret that Parliament didn't vote for similar action in 2013," he said. "I think I know why — a lot of people were so unhappy about what had happened in Iraq, and they were so bruised by that."

On his legacy: 'People will make up their own minds'

Until now, Cameron has said little in public about the Brexit vote, which fulfilled a pledge he made to voters ahead of the UK election in 2015. He was caught on a hot microphone in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, telling a steel magnate that Brexit was "a mistake not a disaster," and that it had "turned out less badly than we first thought."'Just get on with it': Brexit voters want out -- for better or worseCameron unexpectedly resigned a day after the vote, when Britons voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU.Peter Mandelson, a former British trade minister, told the Financial Times recently that history would remember Cameron for nothing more than taking the UK out of the EU: "A man who took this tactical risk, which then turned into a strategic blunder," he said.When Amanpour put that quote to Cameron, he was diplomatic. "I think people will make up their own minds," he said. "I obviously believe that I was right to hold a referendum."He touted the economic growth, job creation and boosted budget for development aid over which he presided."People say this is all about politics. And of course there's always politics involved in these decisions." But the British people, he said, saw "with the development of the single currency the beginning of decisions being made about us without us, and we needed to fix our position.""I wanted to fix it inside the European Union. The British public chose that we would fix it from outside the European Union.""And I wish my successor well with her work in being what I hope will be a good and friendly and close neighbor to the European Union rather than as we were — perhaps we were a slightly unhappy tenant."

On 'fragile states'

Since leaving office, Cameron has focused his concerns on governance abroad.A key proposal from the Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development, which is backed by the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford, is to simplify the goals that Western countries and international organizations often set for fragile sates."We need to strip that back and say actually the most important things are basic security, and basic economics," he told Amanpour.That means being realistic about the pace of democratic reform."If you go straight to the election, you may find you get one person, one vote — but it might be one person, one vote, once — and one of the parties to the conflict wins the election, and then really overrides the system and you don't get the genuine democracy."For a country like Iraq, where power is divided between a large swath of groups, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims, he advocated a period under a provisional government during which norms of power sharing would be established, before multiparty elections are held."We've got to be realistic," he said. "Sometimes we look at a country like Somalia… and the international community almost says, 'Right, we've got this great plan to turn you into Denmark, this model of democracy, in a very short period of time.' It's totally unrealistic."Fragile countries become "unfragile" only when "the people in those countries look to those governments and institutions and say, 'Yes, they're mine.'"


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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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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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‘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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