Євросоюз закидає Google, Facebook і Twitter невиконання обіцянок

Пошуковий сервіс Google, соціальні мережі Facebook і Twitter не виконують свої обіцянки щодо боротьби з недостовірними новинами. Про це йдеться в оприлюдненій 28 лютого заяві Єврокомісії.

Відомство зазначає, зокрема, що Facebook, усупереч домовленостям, у січні не надав результати розслідування щодо реклами, яка вводить в оману. Google не роз’яснив, що було зроблено для усунення дезінформації. Twitter не надіслав результатів щодо поліпшення контролю за розміщенням реклами.

У заяві Єврокомісії також наголошується, що напередодні виборів до Європарламенту компанії не продемонстрували прогресу.

Восени 2018 року Євросоюз узгодив із Facebook, Twitter і Google добровільний регламент для боротьби з недостовірними новинами. Документ передбачає маркування політичної реклами, а також змушує корпорації боротися з інтернет-ботами, що поширюють недостовірну інформацію.

Popular Fur-Trimmed Parkas a Boon for Trappers, Not for Coyotes

Those fur-trimmed parkas so common on city sidewalks have become a boon to backwoods trappers.

Coyote fur pelts are in big demand to provide the lush, silvery or tawny-tinged arcs of fur on the hoods on Canada Goose coats and their many global imitators. A good western coyote, prized for its silky, light-colored fur, can fetch more than $100. The top price at a recent Colorado auction hit $170, a 40 percent increase from four years ago.

“Coyotes are hot,” said John Hughes, a longtime buyer at J and M Furs in Roundup, Montana, “and it’s all due to the trim trade.”

Fur market

Late fall and early winter are the prime trapping time, when coyote coats are at their fullest, but a lot of the selling happens in late winter. Fur is sold at big auction houses in Canada, by individual fur buyers across North America and at local auctions near where the animals roam. At one such auction in a VFW hall in the upstate New York town of Herkimer, tables were piled high with the furs of hundreds of muskrats, beavers, fishers, mink, red fox, gray fox, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

“They like the white-belly coyotes, something like this, the whiter belly,” said John Rutherford, a trapper and hunter, showing a lush, long-haired coyotes.

Fur experts say the uptick in coyote demand began with Canada Goose parkas, with their distinctive Arctic Circle patch, a brand that went big in 2013 when model Kate Upton famously wore one over her bikini on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit Issue. Over the years, more celebrities and their fashion-conscious followers began donning the parkas, which now can retail for more than $1,000 each.

“Canada Goose is always the name that people relate to, but there are so many other brands that make similar coats,” said Mark Downey, CEO of Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. of North Bay, Ontario. “Basically, it’s just a coyote trim ruff that goes around the hood of all those kinds of coats.”

Downey suspects the bull market for coyote will continue. North American Fur Auctions was similarly optimistic in a November web posting, saying the trim business continues to be in full fashion with Canada Goose being the major taker.

Toronto-based Canada Goose did not respond to requests for comment.

Trappers face competition

The hot market for coyotes comes as trappers deal with recent economic slumps in China and Russia, competition from ranched fur and the intense ire of animal welfare activists, who consider the popular steel leg-hold traps particularly cruel.

Coyote trappers see themselves as sportsmen helping control populations of a ubiquitous animal often considered a nuisance. Coyotes have been spotted from the streets of Los Angeles to Manhattan’s Central Park. Farmers view them as chicken poachers, and suburban residents see them as threats to their pets.

To trappers, coyotes are one of the few money-making animals, along with bobcats and a few others.

“It is the one bright spot in most of the country,” said Dave Linkhart, of the National Trappers Association.

Hughes will pay trappers an average of $75 to $105 and as much as $120 for a western coyote. He sells to operations that create trim strips, which sells to garment makers.

“The coyotes that we have here in Montana are probably the best coyotes in the world for trim,” Hughes said. “They’re heavy, so the hair stands up for the trim, and they’re pale.”

Western coyotes scarce

He handles an average of 10,000 coyotes annually, though the numbers are down for western coyotes this year. Some blame early-season snow in Canada and the western United States, which made it harder for trappers to get out. Others believe there are simply fewer western coyotes this winter.

Either way, Downey said, “there’s not enough western coyotes to go around,” increasing demand on eastern coyotes, which tend to have coarser fur.

At the Herkimer auction, eastern coyotes tended to sell for $19 to $46. Rutherford made more than $200 for seven coyote furs.

“Coyotes are going to move,” he said. “Good-quality coyotes are going to sell. “

Russia Charges Owners of ‘Whale Prison’

Russian officials have brought charges against four companies in the Far East that have been keeping about 100 whales in small, crowded pools that environmentalists have dubbed a “whale prison.”

The companies, which appear to be affiliated, have previously been fined for illegal capture and have a history of selling the animals to amusement parks abroad. 

Putin ordered investigation

The Border Guards Department said Thursday that it suspects that the four companies captured the whales illegally. It also confirmed the environmentalists’ claims that the belugas and orcas are kept in cramped conditions in a marine containment facility near Vladivostok and that they need to be released. The border guards did not specify, however, when it will happen. 

The border guards appear to be taking a cue from President Vladimir Putin who last week ordered authorities to investigate the case and release the animals.

Whales are worth a fortune on the black market, and the activists believe that they were captured for sale to amusements parks in China. Russian law only allows for the capture of whales for scientific purposes.

Activists raised the alarm late last year when the whales were captured off the Pacific Coast. 

About 100 whales

Ninety belugas and 12 orcas were originally reported to have been kept in a marine containment facility in Srednyaya Bay, near Vladivostok, but local prosecutors said Thursday that three belugas appear to have escaped. Environmentalists also reported the disappearance of one orca earlier in February.

The whales are kept at one location off the Pacific Coast but are owned by four separate companies. Company records and court filings, however, indicate that they are connected. In an interview with Russian state TV last year, a representative for the facility rejected reports of poor treatment of the animals.

One of the companies unsuccessfully sued the Federal Fishery Agency in 2017 over its refusal to issue it a quota for capturing unidentified marine mammals. The 2017 ruling shows that the company had a standing contract with a company in China’s northeast and that the company was unable to prove that the whales would be kept in good conditions and used for educational purposes. The city of Weihai in the Shandong province hosts an ocean amusement park.

Walmart Is Eliminating Greeters, Worrying Disabled Workers

As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar blue-vested “greeters” at 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being ill-treated by a chain that styles itself as community-minded and inclusive. 

 

Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound (11-kilogram) packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods. 

 

That came as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other physical disabilities. For them, a job at Walmart has provided needed income, served as a source of pride and offered a connection to the community.  

Customer backlash

 

Now Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain’s most highly visible employees. 

 

Walmart says it is striving to place greeters in other jobs at the company, but workers with disabilities are worried.  

 

Donny Fagnano, 56, who has worked at Walmart for more than 21 years, said he cried when a manager at the store in Lewisburg, Pa., called him into the office last week and told him his job was going away.  

 

“I like working,” he said. “It’s better than sitting at home.” 

 

Fagnano, who has spina bifida, said he was offered a severance package. He hopes to stay on at Walmart and clean bathrooms instead. 

 

Walmart greeters have been around for decades, allowing the retail giant to put a friendly face at the front of its stores. Then, in 2016, Walmart began replacing greeters with hosts, adding responsibilities that include helping with returns, checking receipts to deter shoplifters and keeping the front of the store clean. Walmart and other chains have been redefining roles at stores as they compete with Amazon.  

The effect of the greeter phase-out on disabled and elderly employees — who have traditionally gravitated toward the role as one they were well-suited to doing — largely escaped public notice until last week, when Walmart launched a second round of cuts. 

 

As word spread, first on social media and then in local and national news outlets, outraged customers began calling Walmart to complain. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions. Facebook groups sprang up with names like “Team Adam” and “Save Lesley.” A second-grade class in California wrote letters to Walmart’s CEO on behalf of Adam Catlin, a disabled greeter in Pennsylvania whose mother had written an impassioned Facebook post about his plight. Walmart said it has offered another job to Catlin. 

 

In Galena, Ill., hundreds of customers plan to attend an “appreciation parade” for Ashley Powell on her last day of work as a greeter. 

 

“I love it, and I think I’ve touched a lot of people,” said Powell, 34, who has an intellectual disability. 

‘What am I going to do?’

 

In Vancouver, Wash., John Combs, 42, who has cerebral palsy, was devastated and then angered by his impending job loss. It had taken his family five years to find him a job he could do, and he loved the work, coming up with nicknames for all his co-workers. 

“What am I going to do — just sit here on my butt all day in this house? That’s all I’m going to do?” Combs asked his sister and guardian, Rachel Wasser. “I do my job. I didn’t do anything wrong.” 

 

Wasser urged the retailer to “give these people a fair shake. … If you want to make your actions match your words, do it. Don’t be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

 

With the U.S. unemployment rate for disabled people more than twice that for workers without disabilities, Walmart has long been seen as a destination for people like Combs. Advocacy groups worry the company is backsliding.  

“It’s the messaging that concerns me,” said Gabrielle Sedor, chief operations officer at ANCOR, a trade group representing service providers. “Given that Walmart is such an international leader in the retail space, I’m concerned this decision might suggest to some people that the bottom line of the company is more important to the company than inclusive communities. We don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.” 

 

The greeter issue has already prompted at least three complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as a federal lawsuit in Utah alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the federal law, employers must provide “reasonable” accommodations to workers with disabilities. 

 

Walmart did not disclose how many disabled greeters could lose their jobs. The company said that after it made the change at more than 1,000 stores in 2016, 80 percent to 85 percent of all affected greeters found other roles at Walmart. It did not reveal how many of them were disabled. 

 

This time, Walmart initially told greeters they would have 60 days to land other jobs at the company. Amid the uproar, the company has extended the deadline indefinitely for greeters with disabilities. 

 

“We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in a statement. The extra time, he said, will give Walmart a chance to explore how to accommodate such employees. 

Offers made

 

Walmart said it has already made offers to some greeters, including those with physical disabilities, and expects to continue doing so in the coming weeks.  

 

But some workers say they have been tacitly discouraged from applying for other jobs. 

 

Mitchell Hartzell, 31, a full-time Walmart greeter in Hazel Green, Ala., said his manager told him “they pretty much didn’t have anything in that store for me to do” after his job winds down in April. He said he persisted, approaching several assistant managers to ask about openings, and found out about a vacant position at self-checkout. But it had already been promised to a greeter who doesn’t use a wheelchair, he said. 

 

“It seems like they don’t want us anymore,” said Hartzell, who has cerebral palsy. 

 

Jay Melton, 40, who has worked as a greeter in Marion, N.C., for nearly 17 years, loves church, Tar Heels basketball and Walmart. His sister-in-law, Jamie Melton, said the job is what gets him out of bed. 

 

“He doesn’t have a lot of things he does himself that bring him joy,” she said. Addressing Walmart, Melton added: “When you cut a huge population of people out, and you have written a policy that declares they are no longer capable of doing what they have been doing, that is discrimination.”  

World Bank: Women Have Just 75 Percent of Men’s Legal Rights

Women around the world are granted only three-quarters of the legal rights enjoyed by men, often preventing them from getting jobs or opening businesses, the World Bank said in study published Wednesday. 

 

“If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” Kristalina Georgieva, the bank’s interim president, said in a statement. 

 

While reforms in many countries are a step in the right direction, “2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men,” the statement said. 

 

The study included an index measuring gender disparities that was derived from data collected over a decade from 187 countries and using eight indicators to evaluate the balance of rights afforded to men and women. 

 

The report showed progress over the past 10 years, with the index rising to 75 from 70, out of a possible 100, as 131 countries have agreed to enact 274 reforms, adopting laws or regulations allowing greater inclusion of women. 

 

Among the improvements, 35 countries have proposed laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, granting protections to an additional 2 billion women, while 22 nations have abolished restrictions that kept women out of certain industrial sectors. 

 

Six perfect scores

Six nations — Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden — scored a 100, “meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas,” the World Bank said. 

 

A decade ago, no economy had achieved a perfect score. 

 

On the other hand, too many women still face discriminatory laws or regulations at every stage of their professional lives: 56 nations made no improvement over the last decade. 

 

South Asia saw the greatest progress, although it still achieved a relatively low score of 58.36. It was followed by Southeast Asia and the Pacific, at 70.73 and 64.80, respectively.  

 

Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the second-highest scores among emerging and developing economies at 79.09. 

 

Conversely, the Middle East and North Africa posted the lowest score for gender equality at 47.37. The World Bank nevertheless pointed to encouraging changes, such as the introduction of laws against domestic violence, in particular in Algeria and Lebanon.

Десятки людей провели хвилину мовчання на місці вбивства Нємцова

У столиці Росії Москві десятки людей прийшли пізно ввечері 27 лютого на Великий Москворецький міст, щоб вшанувати хвилиною мовчання пам’ять опозиційного політика Бориса Нємцова. Акція відбулася рівно о 23:31, саме в цей час чотири роки тому був убитий політик.

Удень 27 лютого до місця вбивства Нємцова поклали квіти дипломатичні представники США, Нової Зеландії, Австралії, Швеції, Литви та інших країн. А в Нижньому Новгороді на будинку, в якому жив Борис Нємцов, встановили меморіальну доку з барельєфом політика.

Борис Нємцов був убитий кількома пострілами пізно ввечері 27 лютого 2015 року. У справі про вбивство засуджено п’ятьох уродженців Чечні, які були визнані винними в скоєнні злочину. Замовник вбивства не встановлений.

Venezuela Minister: Maduro,Trump Should Meet to ‘Find Common Ground’

Venezuela’s foreign minister said on Wednesday the United States was trying to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro and suggested talks with U.S. President Donald Trump — an idea the Trump administration immediately rejected.

Jorge Arreaza, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggested that Maduro and Trump meet to “try to find common ground and explain their differences.” He also said his country had lost $30 billion in assets “confiscated” since November 2017 under sanctions.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence ruled out prospects of talks. “The only thing to discuss with Maduro at this point is the time and date for his departure,” Pence said on Twitter.

“For democracy to return and for Venezuela to rebuild — Maduro must go,” Pence said.

Dozens of diplomats, mainly from Latin American countries, walked out as Arreaza began to speak, while some European ambassadors boycotted the speech.

The United States and dozens of other nations have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, but Maduro still controls the military, state institutions and oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA , which provides 90 percent of the country’s export revenue.

Maduro also “stands ready for dialogue” with the Venezuelan opposition, Arreaza said.

“There is an attempt by external powers to overthrow an elected government, this goes against all rules of international law,” Arreaza said.

‘Ilegal pillage’

The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.

The “blockade” against Caracas amounts to “theft of the assets and gold” of Venezuela, Arreaza said.

Some $30 billion in state assets had been confiscated since November 2017, he said, adding: “This is the illegal pillage of the resources of our state oil company in the United States.”

U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp is cutting ties with its parent PDVSA to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on the OPEC country, two people close to the decision told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Bank of England has blocked $1.5 billion and Belgium $1.4 billion, Arreaza said. The Bank of England has previously declined to comment on questions about Venezuela’s gold, citing client privacy considerations.

“The humanitarian crisis is being used as a pretext for foreign intervention in my country,” Arreaza said.

In weekend clashes at the Colombian border, Venezuelan security forces acted with “proportionality and caution,” as humanitarian aid was burned, he said.

Earlier, an aide to President Ivan Duque of neighboring Colombia called for action to end Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and bring about a political transition leading to free elections.

Нетаньягу та Путін обговорили роль Ірану в Сирії

Прем’єр-міністр Ізраїлю Біньямін Нетаньягу прибув до Москви 27 лютого в спробі переконати президента Росії Володимира Путіна, що Ірану не можна дозволяти закріпити присутність у Сирії.

«Найбільша загроза стабільності та безпеці в регіоні походить від Ірану та його представників. Ми рішуче налаштовані продовжувати наші агресивні дії проти зусиль Ірану, який закликає до нашого знищення, а також проти його спроб закріпитися військом у Сирії», – сказав ізраїльський прем’єр перед початком переговорів із Путіним.

Російський лідер заявив перед зустріччю з Нетаньягу, що «дуже важливо обговорювати ситуацію в регіоні і питання безпеки».

Ця поїздка Нетаньягу до Москви є першою відтоді, як у вересні 20018 року 15 російських військовослужбовців загинули, коли сирійські війська випадково збили російський транспортний літак, реагуючи на ізраїльський повітряний удар.

Ізраїльський лідер з вересня 2015 року зустрічався з Путіним 11 разів і неодноразово висловлювався за «прямий, відкритий і вірний шлях, яким ми підтримуємо відносини між Росією та Ізраїлем».

Росія є головним міжнародним союзником сирійського президента Башара Асада, Москва також має тісні відносини з Іраном.

UK’s Labor Party to Back Proposal for Public Brexit Vote 

Britain’s opposition Labor Party will put forward or support an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Brexit, the party’s Brexit spokesman said on Wednesday. 

British lawmakers voted 323-240 against a Labor proposal for a permanent customs union with the EU.

“Disappointed the government has rejected Labor’s alternative Brexit deal,” Labor Member of Parliament Keir Starmer said. “That’s why Labor will put forward or support an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit.”

Fed to Stop Shrinking Portfolio This Year, Powell Says 

The Federal Reserve will stop shrinking its $4 trillion balance sheet later this year, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday, ending a process that investors say works at cross-purposes with the Fed’s current pause on interest rate hikes. 

“We’ve worked out, I think, the framework of a plan that we hope to be able to announce soon that will light the way all the way to the end of balance sheet normalization,” Powell told members of the House Financial Services Committee in what were his most detailed remarks to date on the subject. 

“We’re going to be in a position … to stop runoff later this year,” he said, adding that doing so would leave the balance sheet at about 16 percent or 17 percent of GDP, up from about 6 percent before the financial crisis about a decade ago. 

The U.S. gross domestic product is currently about $20 trillion, suggesting the Fed’s balance sheet would be between $3.2 trillion and $3.4 trillion. 

The Fed has been trimming its balance sheet — bulked up by trillions of dollars of bond-buying during the post-crisis years to help keep interest rates low and bolster the economy — by as much as $50 billion a month since October 2017. As recently as a few months ago it had expected to keep shrinking its portfolio for another couple of years. 

New tack

But in a series of meetings that began in November, the Fed has been devising a new approach. With rising demand for currency around the world, and from U.S. banks for reserves held at the central bank, Fed policymakers now believe a big balance sheet is necessary just to ensure it has proper control over the short-term interest rates it sets to manage the economy. 

In addition, Fed policymakers now say balance sheet policy should take financial and economic conditions into account. 

Questions about the plan remain, including whether the Fed will adjust the maturities of its Treasury portfolio, and how it will go about shedding the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) it accumulated during its asset-buying days. 

Powell said the Fed still has a bunch of decisions ahead of it. 

“The one on MBS sales is really closer to the back of the line — really, we have to decide about the maturity composition, things like that, and we’ll be working through that in a very careful way,” Powell said.  “Markets are sensitive to this.” 

Powell’s remarks on the balance sheet came toward the end of more than two hours of testimony before the Democrat-led House panel that includes several new members, including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

But the Green New Deal advocate and Bronx populist asked no questions during the debate, and much of what Powell said on Wednesday repeated comments made Tuesday to the Republican-controlled Senate Banking Committee, including that the economy is on solid ground and the Fed would be patient on raising rates. 

Inflation goal unchanged

Powell was asked, as he was in the Senate, about the Fed’s plan to rethink its policy framework this year. He assured lawmakers that the Fed is merely trying to refine its approach so it can meet its current 2 percent inflation goal. 

“We are not looking at a higher inflation target, full stop,” he said. 

Powell also repeated his warnings against a failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling, saying there would be “bad consequences” should the United States default on its debt payments. 

Powell by law appears two times a year before Congress to brief members of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee on monetary policy and the state of the economy. 

Наступне засідання контактної групи в Мінську відбудеться 13 березня

Наступне засідання Тристоронньої контактної групи (ТКГ) з урегулювання ситуації на Донбасі в Мінську відбудеться 13 березня 2019 року. Про це заявив спецпредставник ОБСЄ Мартін Сайдік, повідомило білоруське інформагентство «Белта».

На засіданні 27 лютого Сайдік закликав до збільшення пропускної здатності контрольних пунктів в’їзду та виїзду на Донбасі, а також розмінування прилеглих до них доріг. За його словами, спостерігається зростання кількості перетинів лінії зіткнення через чинні пункти пропуску.

Представниця України в гуманітарній підгрупі ТКГ, перший заступник голови Верховної Ради Ірина Геращенко заявила, що представники ОРДЛО зірвали переговори гуманітарної підгрупи щодо обміну заручниками.

Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголосила про чергове «безстрокове і стале» припинення вогню, починаючи з півночі 29 грудня 2018 року, цього разу з нагоди новорічних і різдвяних свят. Воно було порушене майже відразу після заявленого початку і відтоді, як і всі попередні перемир’я, порушується постійно.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці». За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.

Michael Jackson Brothers Say Accusers’ Film Neglects Facts

The family of Michael Jackson had a feeling the years-old child molestation allegations against the pop superstar would resurface at some point. So they say they weren’t entirely surprised to learn that a forthcoming HBO documentary would feature two of his accusers.

“I thought, ‘Oh here we go again,’” Jackson’s oldest brother Jackie Jackson said Tuesday of the moment he learned of “Leaving Neverland” while on tour in Australia. “That’s the first thing we said,” Jackie Jackson said during an interview with The Associated Press seated next to his brothers Tito, Marlon and his nephew, Taj.

The documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation , will starting Sunday air the abuse allegations of two men , Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who had previously denied Jackson molested them and supported him to authorities and in Robson’s case, very publicly.

“It was going to be the 10-year anniversary,” Taj Jackson said, referring to his uncle’s June 2009 death. “I remember a year ago I was like, ’This is too appetizing for the media. They’re going to do something. This is the time when everyone comes out of the woodwork, the same cast, the same characters that have been discredited throughout the years. They have a platform now to talk about Michael Jackson.”

It was the latest and most public pushback from the family and Jackson estate, which have repeatedly denounced the documentary in recent weeks through written statements, a lawsuit , and letters to HBO and Britain’s Channel 4, which plan to air the film. HBO announced Wednesday that it will air a special on Monday night in which Oprah Winfrey also interviews Robson and Safechuck.

Their central criticism has been the film’s failure to talk to family members or other defenders of Jackson, whom they insist never molested a child.

The brothers said they would have answered the allegations had the filmmakers asked them.

“Oh, we definitely would have come and talked to them about the situation … to protect our brother,” Tito Jackson said. “He’s not here no more. He’s passed, and, we’re his brothers, we’re supposed to do this.”

Marlon Jackson added, “I look at it as yes, you’re protecting your brother, but you’re telling the truth, and we want people to understand the truth. And I do not understand how a filmmaker can make a documentary and not want to speak to myself or some of the other families that were at Neverland.”

The documentary’s director Dan Reed has repeatedly defended his film, which uses only the voices of Robson, Safechuck and their families.

“It’s the story of these two families and not of all the other people who were or weren’t abused by Michael Jackson,” Reed told the AP the day after the film’s premiere. “People who spent time with him can go, ‘he couldn’t possibly be a pedophile.’ How do they know? It’s absurd.”

Robson, 36, and Safechuck, 40, both came forward as adults, first via 2013 lawsuits and later in the documentary, to talk about the alleged abuse, which Robson says started when he was 7, Safechuck when he was 10.

Both had previously told authorities there had been no abuse, with Robson testifying in Jackson’s defense at the 2005 molestation trial that ended with the superstar’s acquittal.

Jackson family members say they were especially stunned to first hear such allegations coming from Robson, a noted choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears and ’N Sync. Many Jacksons, including Taj, had known Robson and his family since he was a child. Robson had dated Jackie Jackson’s daughter for over seven years.

“I was like ’No that can’t be Wade Robson not the same guy that I knew, They must have got the names wrong,” Taj Jackson said. “Wade was the most adamant person when it came to 2005 and the trial. He was their first defense witness. He was the star witness. He was adamant that nothing ever happened.”

Taj Jackson said he remembers thanking Robson the day he testified, and Robson responding that it was the least he could do for Michael.

“To see that 180, it feels like the biggest backstab that you could possibly feel,” he said.

The film acknowledges and discusses the men’s initial denials of abuse. Both say they experienced trauma that emerged as adults when they started to accept what happened to them.

No one in the Jackson family has any memory of meeting Safechuck. They have focused their criticism on Robson, whose allegations, they say, have coincided with financial problems. They say in particular that being denied a job with a Jackson-themed Cirque du Soleil show prompted him to change his story.

Robson has said it had no bearing on the allegations, and that he actually removed himself from the Cirque du Soleil show because he was having nervous breakdowns. Those prompted him to talk to his therapist for the first time about the abuse.

The men’s lawsuits have been thrown out on technical grounds, but are on appeal.

The Jackson estate’s lawsuit , filed last week, alleges “Leaving Neverland” violates a 1992 contract agreeing the channel would not disparage Jackson in the future. HBO called the lawsuit a desperate attempt to undermine the film.

Jackson’s family urged those inclined to watch “Leaving Neverland” to look deeper into the situation.

“That’s all we’re worried about is just facts,” Marlon Jackson said. “The facts, which are public record, tell a totally different story than what this documentary talks about.”

Boeing Unveils Unmanned Combat Jet Developed in Australia

Boeing on Wednesday unveiled an unmanned, fighter-like jet developed in Australia and designed to fly alongside crewed aircraft in combat for a fraction of the cost.

The U.S. manufacturer hopes to sell the multi-role aircraft, which is 38 feet long (11.6 meters) and has a 2,000 nautical mile (3,704-kilometer) range, to customers around the world, modifying it as requested.

It is Australia’s first domestically developed combat aircraft in decades and Boeing’s biggest investment in unmanned systems outside the United States, although the company declined to specify the dollar amount.

Defense contractors are investing increasingly in autonomous technology as militaries around the world look for a cheaper and safer way to maximize their resources.

Boeing rivals like Lockheed Martin and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions are also investing in such aircraft.

Four to six of the new aircraft, called the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, can fly alongside a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, said Shane Arnott, director of Boeing research and prototype arm Phantom Works International.

“To bring that extra component and the advantage of unmanned capability, you can accept a higher level of risk,” he said.

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in the United States said last year that the U.S. Air Force should explore pairing crewed and uncrewed aircraft to expand its fleet and complement a limited number of “exquisite, expensive, but highly potent fifth-generation aircraft” like the F-35.

“Human performance factors are a major driver behind current aerial combat practices,” the policy paper said. “Humans can only pull a certain number of Gs, fly for a certain number of hours, or process a certain amount of information at a given time.”

In addition to performing like a fighter jet, other roles for the Boeing system early warning, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance alongside aircraft like the P-8 Poseidon and E-7 Wedgetail, said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems.

​”It is operationally very flexible, modular, multi-mission,” she said. “It is a very disruptive price point. Fighter-like capability at a fraction of the cost.”

Robertson declined to comment on the cost, saying that it would depend on the configuration chosen by individual customers.

The jet is powered by a derivative of a commercially available engine, uses standard runways for take-off and landing, and can be modified for carrier operations at sea, Robertson said. She declined to specify whether it could reach supersonic speeds, common for modern fighter aircraft.

Its first flight is expected in 2020, with Boeing and the Australian government producing a concept demonstrator to pave the way for full production.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is home to Boeing’s largest footprint outside the United States and has vast airspace with relatively low traffic for flight testing. 

The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will be manufactured in

Australia, but production lines could be set up in other countries depending on sales, Arnott said.

The United States, which has the world’s biggest military budget, would be among the natural customers for the product.

The U.S. Air Force 2030 project foresees the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter working together with stealthy combat drones, called the “Loyal Wingman” concept, said Derrick Maple, principal analyst for unmanned systems at IHS Markit.

“The U.S. has more specific plans for the wingman concept, but Western Europe will likely develop their requirements in parallel, to abate the capabilities of China and the Russian Federation and other potential threats,” he said.

Robertson declined to name potential customers and would not comment on potential stealth properties, but said the aircraft had the potential to sell globally.

“We didn’t design this as a point solution but a very flexible solution that we could outfit with payloads, sensors, different mission sets to complement whatever their fleet is,” she said. “Don’t think of it as a specific product that is tailored to do only one mission.”

Brazil’s Senate Confirms Campos Neto as Central Bank Chief

Brazil’s Senate confirmed Roberto Campos Neto as central bank governor on Tuesday, after he stressed that controlling inflation and reining in public spending were critical to supporting economic growth.

Much work must still be done to secure Brazil’s economic recovery, Campos Neto told the Senate’s economic committee at his confirmation hearing.

He indicated there would be little change, if any, to monetary policy, echoing the central bank’s current stance that decisions are based on “caution, serenity and perseverance.”

The Senate approved Campos Neto by a vote of 55 in favor to six opposed, following unanimous confirmation by the economic committee.

He will officially assume the role with the signature of President Jair Bolsonaro, likely later this week.

Campos Neto is a former senior executive at Banco Santander Brasil SA. A University of California-trained economist, he has spent his career in banking and market trading and is acutely aware of the impact central bank policy decisions and communications have on markets, analysts say.

In his testimony Tuesday, Campos Neto said the country must keep opening up capital markets to foreign and domestic investors, while avoiding inflationary stimulus or state intervention.

His rhetoric largely mirrored that of several advisers to President Jair Bolsonaro, most of whom are pushing for an overhaul of the nation’s costly public pension system and a broad series of privatizations.

Campos Neto predicted Brazil’s economy would perform better this year than last, thanks in part to reforms the government is promoting.

Brazilian interest rates have been held at a record low 6.50 percent but economic growth has slowed in recent months, weakening what was already a sluggish recovery from the 2015-16 recession.

“While his market knowledge could make him adopt a more forceful stance at some point, the need to build credibility, particularly at the beginning of his tenure, would favor prudence,” said a U.S.-based source with first-hand experience of Brazilian markets.

Campos Neto refused to discuss whether Brazil should sell any of its $375 billion reserves, saying it was something that would require more analysis.

International FX reserves serve as an insurance policy in times of crisis, he said.

“The price of that insurance is much lower now,” he said, noting the narrowing of the spread between U.S. and Brazilian interest rates to less than 400 basis points from over 1,200 bps a couple of years ago.

First Iranian-American Woman to Win Oscar Turns to Iran-Themed Films

The first Iranian-American woman to win an Oscar, Rayka Zehtabchi, says she wants to build on Sunday’s triumph of her documentary about menstruation by producing several films with Iran-related themes.

“I’m very interested in telling Iranian stories as well as women’s stories,” the 25-year-old Los Angeles-based filmmaker told VOA Persian in a Skype interview on Monday. “I was raised in Southern California pretty much my whole life, but the older I get, the more I feel like I connect with and learn about my Iranian culture.”

WATCH: Rayka Zehtabchi discusses being connected to her culture

Zehtabchi won the award for best documentary short at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood for “Period. End of Sentence.” The Netflix-produced film is about women in rural India fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation by manufacturing sanitary pads to enable adolescent girls to stay in school while managing their periods.

Los Angeles high school students inspired the film by raising money to buy pad-making machines for the villagers of Hapur district, 90 kilometers east of the Indian capital, New Delhi. “Just seeing that there are these young people who care so deeply about this cause that is affecting women all over the world, and being a young woman myself, I felt compelled to jump on board,” Zehtabchi said.

Zehtabchi directed the film and shared the Oscar with American producer Melissa Berton.

Iranian-born British-American actress Nazanin Boniadi congratulated Zehtabchi on Twitter for being the first Iranian-American woman to achieve such a feat.

Watch: Rayka Zehtabchi, on being first Iranian-American Oscar winner

“It didn’t even cross my mind that I’d be the first Iranian-American woman to win an Oscar, but I feel absolutely incredible,” said Zehtabchi, the daughter of Iranian immigrants to the United States. “My dad passed away three years ago from lung cancer, and I wish he could have been there to see it, because he would have been very proud,” she added as her voice filled with emotion.

Watch: Rayka Zehtabchi, on her family’s journey to U.S.

The filmmaker said one of her next productions will be a narrative feature about her family’s journey to the United States in the early 1990s. “I’m very interested in exploring the immigrant experience and how it could be devastating but also hilarious at times, being a foreigner in a new country and having to learn how to assimilate.”

Zehtabchi said she also is working on feature version of a 2016 short film that marked her directorial debut, “Madaran.” Based on a true story about an Iranian mother who must decide whether to end or spare the life of her only son’s killer at his execution, the original film qualified for Oscar contention in the Live Action Short category that year.

Watch: Rayka Zehtabchi’s message to other young Iranian women

Asked for her message to other young women of Iranian origin who have cheered her success, she said: “You are strong and you are beautiful and you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.

Russia’s Ex-Cybersecurity Chief Gets 22-year Sentence in Jail

A Russian military court convicted a former senior counterintelligence officer and a cybersecurity firm executive of treason Tuesday, concluding a case that initially aroused speculation of a manufactured effort to punish the source of leaks about Russian campaign hacking.

 

Moscow’s District Military Court heard several months of evidence and arguments behind closed doors before it found Col. Sergei Mikhailov, an ex-officer at Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and Kaspersky Lab executive Ruslan Stoyanov guilty.

 

The basis for the charges remains murky given the top-secret nature of the criminal proceedings. Russian media have reported the case centers on accusations that Mikhailov contacted Stoyanov to pass information from an FSB probe of a Russian businessmen Pavel Vrublevsky to an analyst with alleged ties to the FBI.

 

Mikhailov, the deputy head of cyber intelligence at the domestic security agency, also known as FSB, received a 22-year prison sentence and was stripped of his military rank and decorations, which included the elite “For Services to the Fatherland.”

 

The court gave Stoyanov 14 years. The two men listened to the verdicts and sentences from a glass cage inside the courtroom, flanked by masked men.

 

After the pair were arrested and charged in December 2016, the timing led some people to suggest the actions were linked to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a possible mole who tipped off U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian interference.

 

Later news reports said Mikhailov was prosecuted for passing on details about an unrelated case to an American cybercrime analyst.

 

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on the Russian security services and co-author of “Red Web” told The Associated Press on Tuesday he still thinks the criminal case against Mikhailov and Stoyanov was a direct response to U.S. officials investigating election-related hacking.

 

“Their arrest… was a direct follow-up to the outcry in the U.S. over the Russian meddling,” Soldatov said. “Mikhailov was the top FSB officer in charge of maintaining contacts with Western security agencies in the cyber-sphere, something that went out of fashion after the last scandal.”

 

Inga Lebedeva, Stoyanov’s defense lawyer, said secrecy rules prevented her from providing details about the trial. But Lebedeva said after the verdicts were given that allegations involving potential meddling in the U.S. elections did not come up.

 

She alleged the charges were trumped up to appease the Russian businessman Mikhailov was accused of passing on information about, Pavel Vrublevsky.

 

“The case has been concocted at Vrublevsky’s orders” Lebedeva alleged.

 

Vrublevsky, who testified during the long trial, rejected her accusation. It was not the content of the information Mikhailov allegedly passed on to the American analyst that constituted treason, but that he shared information about an active FSB investigation with a foreign citizen.

 

The businessman alleged Mikhailov abused his position at the FSB to go after internet entrepreneurs like him and “turn them into cybercriminals,” thus “whipping up cyber-hysteria around the world.”

Fed’s Powell: ‘No Rush’ to Hike Rates in ‘Solid’ But Slowing Economy

The Federal Reserve is in “no rush to make a judgment” about further changes to interest rates, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday as he spelled out the central bank’s approach to an economy that is likely slowing.

In two hours of testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Powell elaborated on the “conflicting signals” the Fed has tried to decipher in recent weeks, including disappointing data on retail sales and other aspects of the economy that contrast with steady hiring, wage growth, and ongoing low unemployment.

“The baseline outlook is a good one,” Powell said, but slower growth overseas is a drag on the U.S. economy that “we may feel more of” in the coming months.

“We have the makings of a good outlook and our (rate-setting) committee is really monitoring the crosscurrents, the risks, and for now we are going to be patient with our policy and allow things to take time to clarify.”

If anything, Powell’s comments solidified a Fed policy shift last month in which it indicated it would pause a three-year cycle of rate hikes, which had been projected to run well into 2020, until the inflation or growth dynamics change.

The flow of new workers into the labor force, for example, has surprised the central bank and means “there is more room to grow,” Powell said.

Powell, who has led the Fed for just over a year, faced virtually no pushback from Republicans on the Senate panel, as former Fed chief Janet Yellen had in the past, that the central bank was courting inflation or financial risks by leaving rates too low.

After raising rates four times in 2018, and anticipating further hikes in 2019, the Fed in January switched to a “patient” stance as concerns about the global economy took root, and markets voiced doubts about the U.S. economic recovery.

The Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate currently is within a range of 2.25 percent to 2.50 percent.

There was also little said by lawmakers about the Fed’s evolving plan to maintain a balance sheet of perhaps $3.5 trillion, which would be lower than the current $4 trillion but still massive by historical standards. Republican lawmakers generally have pushed the central bank to reduce a financial footprint inflated by crisis-era programs many in the party considered risky.

Financial markets were largely unmoved by Powell’s testimony, which was the first of his two hearings this week in Congress. He is due to appear before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

U.S. Treasury yields were lower in afternoon trading while major U.S. stock indexes were slightly higher. The dollar was weaker against a basket of currencies.

Political Shift

Powell told lawmakers that the Fed expected the U.S. economy to grow solidly but at a slower pace this year than the estimated 3 percent growth for 2018, an outlook that was built into the central bank’s policy statement in January.

The “patient” approach to rate hikes has been a staple of Fed commentary since early last month.

“As long as we have steady growth with no inflation, that should keep the Fed at bay,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

But Tuesday’s hearing did offer a preview of issues the central bank may confront as the 2020 presidential campaign takes shape, and Democrats use their recently-won control of the House to press new economic and political ideas.

Amid a growing debate over whether the U.S. government may have far more room to expand its debt than conventional economics might recommend, or whether the Fed’s own balance sheet might help finance a “Green New Deal” of economic and environmental programs, Powell made clear he was among the traditionalists.

“The idea that deficits don’t matter for countries that can borrow in their own currency I think is just wrong. I think that U.S. debt is fairly high as a level of (gross domestic product) and, much more importantly than that, it’s growing faster than GDP,” Powell said. “To the extent that people are talking about the Fed – our role is not to provide support for particular policies” on environmental, social or other related issues.

Indeed, asked about the upcoming need to boost the U.S. debt ceiling, he said he considered the prospect of a U.S. government default on its obligations “a bright line, and I hope we never do pass it.”

Powell’s appearances on Capitol Hill this week, part of his semi-annual testimony to Congress, are his first since Democrats won control of the House in the November elections. They also follow the kickoff of a number of 2020 presidential campaigns.

Along with questions that ranged from the sources of rural poverty to the impact of climate change on banks, Senate committee members pressed points likely to figure into the Democratic primary battle.

“The Fed works for big rich banks that want to get bigger and richer,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for president. She questioned whether Powell would be adequately aggressive in reviewing a proposed megamerger between U.S. regional lender BB&T and rival SunTrust Banks.

Powell pledged an “open and transparent” review of the deal.

When asked whether there had been any “direct or indirect” communication from the White House about interest rates, Powell deferred, saying he would not comment on private conversations with other officials.

President Donald Trump has castigated the Fed for raising rates, arguing that the monetary tightening was undercutting his administration’s efforts to boost economic growth.

On Tuesday, Powell repeated his oft-heard pledge that the Fed will make policy decisions “in a way that is not political.”