- National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has weighed in on the situation in Afghanistan, in a digital newsletter addressed to subscribers. He emphasised that the war in Afghanistan, launched nearly 20 years ago in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, was “one of the great cruelties of my generation”. Now, it had unexpectedly reached its “tragic conclusion”, wrote Snowden on Substack online platform, underscoring that it left him with a “profound sense of regret at the error of it all”.
- The Vice-Admiral Kulakov, an Udaloy-class antisubmarine warfare destroyer attached to Russia’s Northern Fleet, has entered the Mediterranean Sea after passing the Strait of Gibraltar, and is now on its way to join the Russian Mediterranean Squadron operating off Syria, the Northern Fleet’s press service reported Wednesday. The ship plans a stopover for resupply at an anchorage point in the Alboran Sea before heading further east.
- Prince Andrew is not expected to sit with US prosecutors in the near future despite being called “a person of interest” in the investigation into the activities of high-profile associates of Jeffrey Epstein, including Ghislaine Maxwell, according to a source familiar with the probe. According to the Reuters source, Prince Andrew “doesn’t seem to want to talk” to US prosecutors and the highly-anticipated interview with the Duke to discuss his unfortunate association with the financier was probably not forthcoming in the near future. The Attorney Geoffrey Berman maintained that the Duke had declined all interview requests from US authorities in the past and had “sought to falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate”.
- US Navy petty officer Anthony Gabriel Ortiz was indicted on federal charges related to both the distribution and possession of child pornography. Ortiz, 23, now awaits sentencing after admitting to the distribution of child pornography – a federal charge that carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and a maximum sentence of 40 years behind bars. “The distribution of child pornography endlessly perpetuates the victimization of innocent children,” said David H. Estes, acting US Attorney General for the Southern District of Georgia. “By admitting to this charge, Anthony Ortiz will be held accountable for his despicable contributions to this exploitive trade.”
- Having escaped a life of hardship by leaving a husband who turned out to be a Taliban fighter, Farzaneh A (name changed) today lives in Delhi. She decided to run away with two of her three daughters after the eldest one was sold off by him to a Talib friend. Presently in her late thirties, Farzaneh arrived in India in 2017 along with her daughters. She stated that Taliban rule should be viewed as a return to a harsh interpretation of Islam for women.
- Over the past 20 years, the Church of Sweden has lost over 1.6 million members. Historian of religion David Thurfjell of Södertörn University argued that the declining number of baptisms may be partly due to the fact that the perception of religion has changed since it ceased to be mandatory to be a member of the Church of Sweden, and Sweden has developed into a more multi-religious country. “Being a state church Lutheran and a Swedish church member has been challenged by other views on what religion is, where religion is a stronger identity. We have changed the view of what religion is, to the point that it must be something more intense. So it is a major statement in our religious landscape today,” Thurfjell argued.
- The Norwegian Reform Resource Centre for Men has set about mapping out the country’s incels (an abbreviation for “involuntary celibacy”) to mitigate the threat the group allegedly represents. What initially started as a kind of internet community for mainly young men who thought they would never experience romance, intimacy, sex or have children is now increasingly being labelled as an extremist hate group, linked to misogyny, suicide and even mass shootings.The number of Norwegian incels remains a mystery, which the research crew seeks to rectify. “We can not know if it’s 12 or 12,000. Therefore, we do not know if it is a marginal problem or a large-scale recruitment among Norwegian youth,” Danel Hammer, advisor at Reform Resource Centre for Men, told national broadcaster NRK.
- A Russian court fined Google 4 million rubles ($54,400) on Tuesday for not deleting banned content online, bumping up the total in owed fines levied this year to 16.5 million rubles.
The US search giant was fined in the past for not deleting calls for extremism and refusing to store data of Russian users in the country under a law on data localization. The court spokesperson said later that Google was fined on five counts on Tuesday, totaling 14 million rubles. The company’s standoff with Russia may thus cost it 26.5 million rubles.
- Twitter has announced a new feature that allows users to flag “misleading” tweets with a press of a button as part of the social media platform’s effort to remove “disinformation” on topics like Covid-19 and election fraud. Once a tweet has been labeled “misleading,” it will go on to be reviewed by artificial and human moderators, who will decide whether further action needs to be taken. Select people in the US, Australia, and South Korea will have access to the feature, though Twitter did not reveal the exact number of people with access to the pilot program.
- Miles Routledge has been safely pulled out of Afghanistan following his bizarre, ill-timed trip to the country, accompanied by numerous social media posts documenting his “pickle” of a situation. “The happy ending: landed in Dubai thanks to the brilliant people at the British Army. All safe!” Routledge wrote in a Facebook post, showing him inside a military aircraft and wearing a flak jacket.
- CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan has criticized Twitter’s policy on deplatforming, arguing there are “clearly some big holes” if the Taliban is allowed to use the social network but former President Donald Trump cannot. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, O’Sullivan pointed out that “the former President of the United States is banned from Twitter but the Taliban is not.”
- The perennial Russian question is as relevant today as any other after the triumph of the Taliban in Kabul, wrongfooting major powers and creating an uncertain gulf. So far, two answers to that question have emerged. One from the West, and one from the Russians and Chinese. It is the latter of the two that looks the most promising. The Western response has largely been one of panic. Diplomats, journalists, aid workers and others are flocking to Kabul airport in order to escape Afghanistan as fast as possible. By contrast, the Russians and the Chinese have remained calm and collected. As near-neighbours of Afghanistan, the Chinese and Russians are primarily concerned with ensuring that the country does not once again became a haven for terrorists, and that instability does not spill over its borders into their own backyards. While demanding that Afghanistan would not be used for “acts detrimental to China,” a Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesperson remarked that his country was prepared to develop “good-neighbourly, friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”
- A brand-new military transport plane currently under development won’t be ditched after a test flight ended in tragedy, defense industry sources say, despite a prototype smashing into the ground outside Moscow, killing its crew. On Wednesday, sources close to the project told RIA Novosti that work on the Ilyushin Il-112V would continue despite the catastrophic crash, which claimed the lives of all three people on board.
- On Tuesday night, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar returned to Afghanistan from his exile in the Qatari capital, Doha. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the people of Kandahar had provided a warm welcome for the delegation of the Islamic Emirate – the unrecognized Taliban state of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In a series of videos posted by the spokesman, the Taliban top brass can be seen disembarking a military aircraft, believed to be a US-made Boeing C-17 Globemaster, and greeting crowds as he journeyed from the airport.
News Burst 19 August 2021