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Belarus should be a warning for Moldova ahead of election, says presidential hopeful Maia Sandu

When asked about her vision for the future of Moldova, Maia Sandu is clear — perhaps brutally so.

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When asked about her vision for the future of Moldova, Maia Sandu is clear — perhaps brutally so.

She says only a “cleansing of the political class” will solve Moldova’s problems, which Sandu claims centre on migration, corruption and weak state institutions.

It hasnt been so long since Sandu was part of that political class. She was education minister between 2012 and 2015 and then — between June and November 2019 — prime minister, until she was ousted after a vote of no confidence in the Moldovan parliament.

But the pro-European former World Bank adviser, 48, is attempting a return to politics. On November 1 she is challenging Igor Dodon, president since 2016, for Moldovas top job.

Like many countries of the Balkans and eastern Europe, Moldova is torn between two forces: to its west, Romania and Europe and to its east, Russia. Dodon is unashamedly pro-Russian and has gone out of his way to cultivate ties with Vladimir Putin.

By contrast, Sandu is seen as the pro-Europe candidate, seeing the future path of Moldova to the experience of neighbouring Romania in terms of European integration.

“We are primarily interested in implementing the provisions of the Association Agreement with the EU, which aims to improve the quality of governance, institutions, welfare and security of citizens,” Sandu told Euronews.

‘A free and prosperous European country’

She sees Moldovas future along the same path as Romania, in terms of European integration. Moldova signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 after an economic embargo against the country by Russia. Now, 70 per cent of Moldovan exports go to European markets.

“Moldovan citizens have felt European support over the years; they have seen the EU send aid, funds, and resources. Especially during this pandemic, the Romanian and European support was beneficial,” she said.

“People see the differences, and they want to live in a free and prosperous European country. And we are ready to put our shoulder to this change.”

Even for a small country, Moldovan pro-European parties are well connected in Brussels. In a recent intervention, the EPP leader Donald Tusk vouched for Maia Sandu.

“When someone asks me in Europe if it is worth supporting Moldova, I immediately answer: Yes! And when someone is asked who can lead Moldova to success the fastest, I immediately answer: Maia Sandu.”, said Tusk, in a video message in Romanian.

But since 1991 when Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union, links to the West and particularly to NATO has been used by pro-Russian or nationalists politicians to scare specific categories of citizens in Moldovan society. In reality, Sandu says, Moldovas links with the transatlantic alliance have always been strong, regardless of the party in power.

“Dodon is trying to exploit these fears to mobilise his electorate. However, there is a dose of hypocrisy because Moldova has institutional ties with the North Atlantic alliance. In recent years several governments […] have accepted collaboration with NATO,” she said.

And even if Brussels has had notable failures in the Western Balkans when it comes to its next wave of expansion, Sandu remains optimistic about Moldovas future in Europe.

“We are not Eurosceptics to focus on the alleged failures of the European project in Western Balkans,” she said.

“We understand that the evolution of any political entity, including the EU, has its sinuous periods. Still, we, as an aspiring state, want to look at things in their positive dynamics.”

If elected, Sandu wants to rebuild the relations with neighbouring Romania and Ukraine, which have been damaged by Dodon, who has not visited either country since he was elected in 2016.

“It is time to relaunch a dynamic, responsible foreign policy, for the benefit of the Moldovan citizens. We do not intend to focus only on strengthening relations with development partners in the West, and we will also work on solving problems in relations with the Russian Federation, starting from the interest of our citizens,” she said.

‘Belarus should be a warning for Moldova’

The difference of opinion between Sandu and her rival for the presidency is no less obvious than in their relative reactions to Belarus, with Dodon among very few leaders to congratulate Alexander Lukashenko for his success in recent elections, widely believed to be rigged.

Belarus, which has seen weeks of protests by Belarusians angered by Lukashenkos “win”, also serves as a warning for Moldova, she said.

“The events in Belarus become extremely relevant for Moldova. The message coming from Belarus is that today there is ‘zero tolerance’ for the fraud of the popular will,” she said.

As well as the presidential election on November 1, Sandu has an eye on parliamentary elections that will come soon after.

“The current parliament no longer represents the will of the people and has lost its legitimacy, because the actions of the deputies are dictated by interest groups, and not by the national interest, especially considering a large number of defecting deputies,” she said.

Moldova is currently ruled by a coalition of two centre-left parties, the pro-Russian Socialist Party (PSRM) and the Democratic Party (PDM), formerly led by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who is currently fighting extradition to Moldova from the US on fraud charges.

The ruling coalition has just 51 deputies out of 101, making a change of government likely.

That said, like other countries in the Balkans, Moldova is split down the middle, with half the country looking towards Russia and the other half towards Romania and the EU.

Sandu believes that despite this division, a shared desire for a better life could bring Moldovans together on November 1.

“The divisions in our society have always suited only corrupt politicians,” Sandu said.

“We are convinced that they all want to live better and we rely on the support of all those who are tired of poverty.”

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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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