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Politically Strange & Frivolous

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  • Politically Strange & Frivolous

    A thread just for political topics that aren't important, but are rather of a strange and frivolous nature, from both around the world and the US.

    I'll start with this:

    Full article:

    Macrons' new dinner plates spark French cash row

    France's presidential couple are the centre of allegations that the Élysée Palace is shelling out a fortune on a new dinner service while complaining about the scale of the welfare budget.

    The 1,200-piece set, chosen by First Lady Brigitte Macron, cost €50,000 (£44,000; $59,000), the state said.

    But a leading satirical magazine says the real cost is nearer €500,000.

    The claim surfaced as a video emerged of President Emmanuel Macron talking of "shedloads of cash" spent on benefits.

    The video, posted on Twitter by the president's communications spokesman, went viral and prompted accusations of contempt for the poor, feeding into perceptions of a privileged president aloof from how the public live.
    Why are the Macrons changing the plates?

    Some of the Élysée crockery dates back to Jacques Chirac's time as president over a decade ago, and some even from René Coty's time in the 1950s.

    Officials say it has to be replaced because it is getting old and is no longer complete.

    Enter the Sèvres porcelain factory that has historically supplied the Élysée with its ceramics since 1848. The Bleu Élysée design by Évariste Richer is a sketch of the presidential palace itself.

    The Élysée said the bill for producing the 900 plates and 300 side plates came out of the factory's annual budget. So the cost of €50,000 was for paying the artists involved in creating the design.

    But Le Canard enchaîné magazine calculated the real cost of hand-painting 1,200 plates was far higher, at least €400 a plate. That would be almost 10 times the official estimated cost.

    Others have put the bill at closer to €200 a plate and pointed out that the factory is 60% funded by the culture ministry to the tune of €3.6m a year. The head of the porcelain factory supervising the project said the price of the dinner service had not yet been worked out, but the bill would not be charged to the presidential palace.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

  • #2
    Full article:

    Boris Becker claims diplomatic immunity in bankruptcy case

    Former tennis champion Boris Becker is claiming diplomatic immunity against an attempt to sue him.

    The three-time Wimbledon winner claims his appointment as a diplomat by the Central African Republic affords him protection from any legal claims.

    Mr Becker was declared bankrupt in 2017 over money owed to private bank Arbuthnot Latham. He is now being pursued for "further assets".

    His defence has been lodged in the High Court.

    The Central African Republic made Mr Becker a sport and culture attache to the EU in April 2018.

    His legal team said: "This means he cannot be subject to legal process in the courts of any country for so long as he remains a recognised diplomatic agent."

    Mr Becker said the proceedings were "unjustified and unjust" and being declared bankrupt "inflicted a whole heap of damage on me".

    He said he was asserting diplomatic immunity to "bring this farce to an end" and stop "the gravy train for the suits".

    He added: "I am immensely proud of my appointment [by] the Central African is incredibly important in Africa and is fast becoming a universal language."
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


    • #3
      He added: "I am immensely proud of my appointment [by] the Central African is incredibly important in Africa and is fast becoming a universal language."
      Bwahaha, Boris you are a funny guy...


      • #4
        Hmmm, i'am confused about where all the trump content should go..


        • #5
          This is a surprising read for me. Never knew there was a political angle here. I like jazz for one reason only. It's pretty damn good

          How the US government used jazz to “save India” from the communists | QZ | Jun 11 2018

          From the late 1950s, successive administrations sought to use jazz as a vehicle for disseminating American influence in the Third World. As a popular art stemming from the world of African Americans, jazz seemed ideally suited both to revise notions of American racism in the decolonized countries and to showcase the vigour and creativity of American democracy
          Last edited by Double Edge; 15 Jun 18,, 15:59.


          • #6
            St Mary’s, Maldon, scraps plans for new organ as costs due to soar with Brexit VAT

            THE congregation of an 11th-century church in Essex are struggling to cope with a consequence of Brexit: the PCC of St Mary’s, Maldon, have been forced to abandon plans for a new organ because Britain is leaving the European Union.

            When the church’s old organ was last played in 1987, the 80-strong congregation commissioned a firm in Bavaria to build a new organ. They spent ten years raising the funds for the €245,000 instrument.

            Now, they have had to abandon hopes of buying it, because of fears that VAT may be placed on the sale after Brexit. “The builders can’t complete the organ before March 2019,” the director of music at St Mary’s, Colin Baldy, said.

            “We can’t take the risk of being slapped with 20-per-cent VAT. We could claim that back currently, but we won’t be able to after Brexit.” The church feared that Brexit would mean an extra £50,000 on the cost of the new organ. “That’s a lot of money,” Mr Baldy said.

            Concerns were raised that the PCC members would become responsible for finding the extra money. “We couldn’t take the risk,” Mr Baldy said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this has happened to us because of the decision to leave the EU. The blame must lie at the feet of David Cameron, who called the referendum.

            “It shouldn’t affect our church, but it already is. I’m extremely disappointed. It’s totally disastrous.”

            Now, the church, which is known for its choral tradition, has opted to buy a second-hand organ instead.

            The chairman of the British Institute of Organ Studies, Dr Alan Thurlow, said that he was “sorry” for the church. “There’s a continuing love of organs in Britain. There are lots of people who love hearing the organ.” But Brexit might create “healthy competition” between British and European firms of organ builders, he said.

            There is still a thriving organ-building industry in the UK, where between ten and 15 organs are built annually.


            • #7
              Originally posted by tbm3fan View Post
              Bwahaha, Boris you are a funny guy...
              Gets funnier.

              A spokesman for the foreign ministry of the Central African Republic says that the diplomatic passport used by Bobbele is one of a number stolen in 2014, and the Foreign Minister of the CAR says he never signed any documents making him a diplomat.

              Becker has announced that he'll be flying to Bangui to clear up the situation.


              • #8
                Actor Steven Seagal appointed Russian ministry's 'special representative'

                Russia appointed actor Steven Seagal as a "special representative" on US-Russian humanitarian ties, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in statement on its official Facebook page Saturday.

                According to the statement, the action star's role will be to promote US-Russia relations "in the humanitarian sphere," adding that the role will include collaboration "in the sphere of culture, public and youth exchanges."

                The foreign ministry said the unpaid role will be similar to the United Nations' goodwill ambassador positions.

                Seagal, who became a Russian citizen in 2016, is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He attended Putin's recent swearing-in ceremony in May.
                "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


                • #9
                  AsiaTimes: “Taiwan’s Tsai stops in LA, then Houston, on visit to allies”

                  “Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has been in Los Angeles on her first stopover in the US after embarking on a nine-day trip to Central and South America in a bid to shore up ties with the island’s remaining democratic allies.

                  She will also touch down in Houston on August 18 before going back to Taipei. The flights to the two US cities and Paraguay and Belize will be part of a 50-hour, 43,000-kilometer marathon journey, according to Tsai’s office.
                  “We only need to be firm [in reaching out to the world and conducting diplomatic ties] so that no one can obliterate Taiwan’s existence,” Tsai said at the airport before heading for Los Angeles, when almost at the same time the People’s Liberation Army had just wrapped up an anti-missile drill in the East China Sea while holding another war game in the Yellow Sea.”

                  VOA: “Warming US-Taiwan Ties on Display as President Tsai Visits LA ”

                  “This week Taiwan's president is in Los Angeles, marking the first time in 15 years that a Taiwanese leader is speaking publicly in the United States, in another sign of growing ties between Washington and Taipei.

                  President Tsai Ing-Wen met with U.S. lawmakers and Taiwanese Americans on Monday and Tuesday, drawing an official protest from China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.”
                  Trust me?
                  I'm an economist!


                  • #10
                    Germany: No Preparations Made in Case of Alien Landing

                    By The Associated Press
                    Aug. 18, 2018

                    BERLIN — The German government says it has made no preparations for the possibility that aliens might land in the European country.

                    In a response to questions from opposition Green Party lawmaker Dieter Janecek, the government said "there are no protocols or plans for a possible first contact with alien life."

                    Justifying that stance, the government added it believes "a first contact on German territory is extremely unlikely, based on today's scientific knowledge." Janecek linked the government's responses to a media article Saturday.
                    ... which is of course all a fabrication of the Springer publishing house, as usual. But it's started making the rounds across the globe, so you might stumble on it.

                    What is true about it is that Dieter Janecek - along with other Greens - posed a catalogue of questions to the government two weeks ago that it answered this week. In total 39 questions regarding the planned national space law and commercialization of space. None of which has to do with aliens.

                    The questions that Springer connects to it there were actually posed in 2009 by another Green, Peter Hettlich; three questions, namely "how high does the government estimate the probability of intelligent extraterrestrial life and how high does it estimate the chance of such extraterritorials landing in Germany?" (along with two questions regarding whether there are any prepared plans for such). The answer was: "The government does not have any information reliably allowing to estimate such probabilities. The chances of aliens landing on German soil are considered to be zero based on current scientific knowledge."


                    • #11
                      UK PM announces ban on sale of new petrol and diesel fueled automobiles by 2030

                      Published on Nov 18, 2020


                      • #12
                        March 5th, in China, is “Learn From Lei Feng” Day.
                        Trust me?
                        I'm an economist!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bloomberg_Politics

                          Belarus Forces Down Commercial Flight,
                          Detains Reporter Critical of Lukashenko

                          Bloomberg Politics
                          Published on 23 May 2021

                          Belarus ordered a Ryanair Holdings Plc flight transiting its airspace to land and arrested a journalist on board. The journalist covered protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, whose election to a sixth term last year was internationally disputed. The forced landing drew sharp and unified condemnation from across the European Union.




                          • #14

                            Originally posted by BBC

                            AI emotion-detection software tested on Uyghurs
                            by Jane Wakefield - BBC Technology reporter
                            26 May 2021

                            A software engineer claimed to have installed such systems in police stations in the province.

                            A human rights advocate who was shown the evidence described it as shocking.

                            The Chinese embassy in London has not responded directly to the claims but says political and social rights in all ethnic groups are guaranteed.

                            Xinjiang is home to 12 million ethnic minority Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim.

                            Citizens in the province are under daily surveillance. The area is also home to highly controversial "re-education centres", called high security detention camps by human rights groups, where it is estimated that more than a million people have been held.

                            Beijing has always argued that surveillance is necessary in the region because it says separatists who want to set up their own state have killed hundreds of people in terror attacks.

                            Xinjiang is believed to be one of the most surveilled areas in the world

                            The software engineer agreed to talk to the BBC's Panorama programme under condition of anonymity, because he fears for his safety. The company he worked for is also not being revealed.

                            But he showed Panorama five photographs of Uyghur detainees who he claimed had had the emotion recognition system tested on them.

                            Data from the system purports to indicate a person's state of mind, with red suggesting a negative or anxious state of mind

                            "The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories," he said.

                            And he outlined his role in installing the cameras in police stations in the province: "We placed the emotion detection camera 3m from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology."

                            He said officers used "restraint chairs" which are widely installed in police stations across China.

                            "Your wrists are locked in place by metal restraints, and [the] same applies to your ankles."

                            He provided evidence of how the AI system is trained to detect and analyse even minute changes in facial expressions and skin pores.

                            According to his claims, the software creates a pie chart, with the red segment representing a negative or anxious state of mind.

                            He claimed the software was intended for "pre-judgement without any credible evidence".

                            The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to questions about the use of emotional recognition software in the province but said: "The political, economic, and social rights and freedom of religious belief in all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are fully guaranteed.

                            "People live in harmony regardless of their ethnic backgrounds and enjoy a stable and peaceful life with no restriction to personal freedom."

                            The evidence was shown to Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch.

                            "It is shocking material. It's not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it's people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that's taken as an indication of guilt, and I think, that's deeply problematic."

                            Suspicious behaviour

                            According to Darren Byler, from the University of Colorado, Uyghurs routinely have to provide DNA samples to local officials, undergo digital scans and most have to download a government phone app, which gathers data including contact lists and text messages.

                            "Uyghur life is now about generating data," he said.

                            "Everyone knows that the smartphone is something you have to carry with you, and if you don't carry it you can be detained, they know that you're being tracked by it. And they feel like there's no escape," he said.

                            Most of the data is fed into a computer system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, which Human Rights Watch claims flags up supposedly suspicious behaviour.

                            "The system is gathering information about dozens of different kinds of perfectly legal behaviours including things like whether people were going out the back door instead of the front door, whether they were putting gas in a car that didn't belong to them," said Ms Richardson.

                            "Authorities now place QR codes outside the doors of people's homes so that they can easily know who's supposed to be there and who's not."

                            There has long been debate about how closely tied Chinese technology firms are to the state. US-based research group IPVM claims to have uncovered evidence in patents filed by such companies that suggest facial recognition products were specifically designed to identify Uyghur people.

                            A patent filed in July 2018 by Huawei and the China Academy of Sciences describes a face recognition product that is capable of identifying people on the basis of their ethnicity.

                            Huawei said in response that it did "not condone the use of technology to discriminate or oppress members of any community" and that it was "independent of government" wherever it operated.

                            The group has also found a document which appears to suggest the firm was developing technology for a so-called One Person, One File system.

                            "For each person the government would store their personal information, their political activities, relationships... anything that might give you insight into how that person would behave and what kind of a threat they might pose," said IPVM's Conor Healy.

                            Hikvision makes a range of products including cameras

                            "It makes any kind of dissidence potentially impossible and creates true predictability for the government in the behaviour of their citizens. I don't think that [George] Orwell would ever have imagined that a government could be capable of this kind of analysis."

                            Huawei did not specifically address questions about its involvement in developing technology for the One Person, One File system but repeated that it was independent of government wherever it operated.

                            The Chinese embassy in London said it had "no knowledge" of these programmes.

                            IPVM also claimed to have found marketing material from Chinese firm Hikvision advertising a Uyghur-detecting AI camera, and a patent for software developed by Dahua, another tech giant, which could also identify Uyghurs.

                            Dahua said its patent referred to all 56 recognised ethnicities in China and did not deliberately target any one of them.

                            It added that it provided "products and services that aim to help keep people safe" and complied "with the laws and regulations of every market" in which it operates, including the UK.

                            Hikvision said the details on its website were incorrect and "uploaded online without appropriate review", adding that it did not sell or have in its product range "a minority recognition function or analytics technology".

                            Dr Lan Xue, chairman of China's National committee on AI governance, said he was not aware of the patents.

                            "Outside China there are a lot of those sorts of charges. Many are not accurate and not true," he told the BBC.

                            "I think that the Xinjiang local government had the responsibility to really protect the Xinjiang people... if technology is used in those contexts, that's quite understandable," he said.

                            The UK's Chinese embassy had a more robust defence, telling the BBC: "There is no so-called facial recognition technology featuring Uyghur analytics whatsoever."

                            Daily surveillance

                            Hu Liu feels his life is under constant surveillance. China is estimated to be home to half of the world's almost 800 million surveillance cameras.

                            It also has a large number of smart cities, such as Chongqing, where AI is built into the foundations of the urban environment.

                            Chongqing-based investigative journalist Hu Liu told Panorama of his own experience: "Once you leave home and step into the lift, you are captured by a camera. There are cameras everywhere."

                            "When I leave home to go somewhere, I call a taxi, the taxi company uploads the data to the government. I may then go to a cafe to meet a few friends and the authorities know my location through the camera in the cafe.

                            "There have been occasions when I have met some friends and soon after someone from the government contacts me. They warned me, 'Don't see that person, don't do this and that.'

                            "With artificial intelligence we have nowhere to hide," he said.




                            • #15
                              More war crimes by these bastards...
                              “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                              Mark Twain