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NATO says Greece and Turkey agree to de-escalation talks, but Athens denies a deal

Issued on: 04/09/2020 – 00:35

NATOs chief said Thursday that alliance members Greece and Turkey ha..

Issued on:

NATOs chief said Thursday that alliance members Greece and Turkey have agreed to start “technical talks” to reduce the risks of military “incidents and accidents” in the eastern Mediterranean, where the two are locked in a tense standoff over offshore energy rights.

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But Athens quickly denied any such agreement, saying neighboring Turkey must first withdraw its ships from the area where it is carrying out gas and oil prospecting. Ankara, on the other hand, said it backs NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenbergs initiative for military and technical talks and called on Greece to do the same.

Relations between the historic regional rivals have hit their worst point in 46 years — when their militaries briefly fought in Cyprus — after Ankara sent a research vessel, escorted by warships, in July into waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. Turkey says it has every right to prospect there.

Greece placed its armed forces on alert and sent its own warships to the area, between the islands of Crete and Cyprus and Turkeys southern coast, while simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

Stoltenberg announced the possible diplomatic opening on NATOs website Thursday, the same day Turkey announced that Russia plans live-fire naval exercises this month in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two Allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction, to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that “Greece and Turkey are valued Allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”

A Greek official told The Associated Press that talk of “alleged technical talks” at NATO “does not correspond with reality.”

“De-escalation would only be achieved with the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf,” he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment on the record.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said Turkey was ready for a dialogue to resolve disputes.

“We would like to take this opportunity to remind that our country is ready for a dialogue with Greece, without preconditions, in order to find permanent solutions that are just and fair to all issues between us within the framework of international law,” the statement read.

Germany has already launched a diplomatic effort for Ankara and Athens to engage in talks. Both insist they want to talk, but each on its own terms.

It is rare for members of NATO to require “de-confliction mechanisms” to avoid collisions or exchanges of fire. While often at loggerheads, the alliance has often urged Russia to continue to use military dialogue to avoid “incidents and accidents”, mostly between war planes or ships.

Still, its not the first time that Turkey has appeared close to a confrontation with one of its allies.

>> Troubled waters: Greek-Turkish escalations in the Mediterranean

On June 10, the French frigate Courbet was illuminated by the targeting radar of a Turkish warship that was escorting a Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel. The French navy, acting on NATO intelligence, suspected the cargo ship was violating the arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish officials said a NATO probe into the incident was “inconclusive”. NATO has not made its findings public.

Earlier, Turkey announced the Russian naval exercises in a navigational notice that said they would take place Sept. 8-22 and Sept. 17-25 in areas where the Turkish energy exploration is being carried out. Greek and Turkish armed forces held their own exercises in the same area last month.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the exercises, which Turkey announced after the United States said it was partially lifting a 33-year-old arms embargo against ethnically divided Cyprus.

Its unclear why NATO-member Turkey announced such drills on Russias behalf, but the two countries have in recent years significantly strengthened their military, political and economic ties. They are coordinating closely on their militarRead More – Source

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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..

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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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