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The scandalous video that has cost the Austrian vice chancellor his job plays into the hands of establishment parties elsewhere in Europe, and at the same time attacks Russia, which is seen as the right-wing’s backer, experts say.

“Such a scandal plays very well into the hands of establishment parties elsewhere in Europe and there’s another element involved in this because they can basically kill two flies with one blow: it’s against the populism in Europe in general, and, of course, against Russia,” Peter Schulze, professor of International Relations at University of Gottingen, told RT. The rise of the right has been a serious thorn in mainstream parties’ sides, he said, calling the video scandal “basically a two-pronged attack.”

The timing of its release is strange, however. It leaves the now-resigned vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party (FPO) with room to regroup and recover in time for the September snap elections at home, which he believes are more important for the party than the European Parliament elections coming up this weekend. In the end, “It may be a kind of an individual revenge act,” Schulze theorized.

The scandalous footage, revealed by the German media last week, showed Strache and another high-ranking FPO member talking to a woman, claimed to be a “niece of a Russian oligarch,” during a drunken get-together in Ibiza. They discuss support for the party’s campaign during the 2017 general election in Austria in exchange for future preferences in getting government construction contracts.

Trick too cheap to fall for?

Potential fallout aside, the video itself looks strikingly like a cheap spy movie, Hugh Bronson from the German party Alternative for Germany (AfD) told RT, arguing that EU voters will never fall for it. Right-wing parties are going strong ahead of the European Parliament elections and the political crisis in Austria won’t change that, Bronson insists.

The leak “will have some effect and, probably, [Strache’s right-wing] Freedom party (FPO) will lose some points when it comes to polling day on Sunday, but it won’t have the big effect that some others hope it will have on the right spectrum of the political agenda,” he said.

The video could actually “backfire against the so-called establishment parties because simply of the way the video was presented,” Bronson argued.

“Lots of vodka; beauties with money to spare; a house on a party island in the Mediterranean; two powerful men intoxicated and ready to talk – all this has the quality of a C-Rated spy movie. I don’t believe that Europeans and voters will fall for this,” Bronson said, adding that it was still just “a singular incident,” involving a major right-wing European figure.

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Facebook has supplied phone companies with customers’ private data without their knowledge or consent, and even helped those companies use Facebook behavior to evaluate users’ creditworthiness, documents reportedly show.

The social network supplied data on location, interests, and friend groupings to phone carriers and manufacturers without users’ permission – data that went far beyond mere technical specs. Users’ activity on Facebook, Instagram and even Messenger was fair game for data-mining, and the platform encouraged and even assisted over 100 global telecoms to use customers’ data for purposes including evaluating their creditworthiness, according to documents seen by the Intercept, which suggest the program is still going on.

Facebook data scientists working on its “Actionable Insights” program developed an algorithm to exclude customers with poor credit history from future promotions by a client, determining creditworthiness through users’ online behavior, according to the document, which presented this case study as an example of what clients could achieve through the program. Such an algorithm, replicated across the platform through a targeting mechanism called “lookalike audiences” that lumps together users who share attributes, could allow Actionable Insights clients to negatively “profile” users, denying them services based on their failure to fulfill metrics they didn’t even know existed, based on behavior they didn’t know was being surveiled.

Actionable Insights was announced in August, at about the same time Facebook’s secretive and possibly illegal data-sharing partnerships with other tech companies were being exposed – and while Facebook was insisting such non-consenting data-sharing was wholly in the company’s past. Like the “trusted partnerships” program, Actionable Insights is ostensibly free, allowing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to continue to claim that Facebook doesn’t “sell users’ data” – but access was provided with the understanding that companies would purchase Facebook ads, now expertly targeted thanks to the user data they could access.

The program serves up information on demographics, location, personal interests, and “friend homophily,” meaning how similar a user is to their friend groups, in addition to functional data like use of WiFi, cell networks and device information. According to the leaked document, the data is “aggregated and anonymized;” while a Facebook spokesperson told the Intercept that the collection of location data stopped at the zip code level, any phone with location turned on pinpoints its owner’s whereabouts quite precisely, and researchers have demonstrated that a record of a person’s movements over the course of a month can reliably identify that person no matter how “anonymized” they are. 

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Speaking to the Intercept, Ashkan Sultani, one of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) employees who drew up the 2011 “consent decree” forcing Facebook to get permission from users before sharing their data, likens the secretive behavioral algorithms used to denote “good credit” or “bad credit” to redlining, the illegal practice of denying home loans to entire demographic groups. Given that studies have already shown Facebook’s ad delivery algorithms are racially biased – the company has paid out at least $5 million to settle multiple lawsuits regarding ad discrimination in employment, credit and housing ads – the addition of an unaccountable behavioral metric is ripe for abuse.

Facebook insists it does not perform creditworthiness evaluations, though the company notably refused to deny it supplied data to others who performed the checks, a distinction that may not exempt it from relevant laws, according to a legal scholar who spoke with the Intercept. Facebook also claimed that partners were only permitted to use the data for “internal” purposes; for an idea of how enforceable that provision is, one need only look to Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook also said that the data supplied to the phone companies is nothing beyond what the platform was already collecting, a rather disingenuous statement given that Facebook was caught in December sharing users’ data with over 150 companies without their consent, in violation of its 2011 FTC consent decree, and is already under criminal investigation for those “partnerships” in New York. Facebook, it seems, knows its behavior is wrong – it just hopes users don’t know.

Huawei isn’t going away just because the US government has tried to ban it from its markets, company founder Ren Zhengfei has said, declaring that the Trump administration “underestimates our strength.”

Huawei’s 5G will absolutely not be affected” by the Commerce Department’s ban on selling or transferring US technology to the company, Ren told Chinese state media. “In terms of 5G technologies, others won’t be able to catch up with Huawei in two or three years.”

The 90-day grace period before Huawei is officially blacklisted from doing business with US companies does not have much impact on the company, Ren claimed, adding: “We are ready.”

A Huawei spokesperson assured reporters that nothing would change for US residents with Huawei devices, or even those planning to buy a device in the future – possibly because the Chinese firm is already in talks with Google on how to manage the ban.

Huawei has bracing for such a ban after the company watched fellow Chinese telecom ZTE struggle with a similar blacklisting maneuver last year. Unable to do business with US firms and unable to fill the equipment void itself, ZTE closed its doors for four months, throwing itself on the mercy of the US government and reopening its business more than $1 billion poorer. Not so for Huawei: not only has it been developing its own mobile operating system since 2012 to break dependence on Google’s Android, but it already makes half the chips used in its devices.

We cannot be isolated from the world,” Ren boasted, adding that while Huawei was at odds with the US government, it was not the enemy of US companies.

While Trump’s emergency order last week did not mention China or Huawei by name, it clearly targets both, giving the Secretary of Commerce the right to block any activity posing an “unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.” The Commerce Department then moved to blacklist Huawei and 68 related companies from doing business with US firms.

The US has tried to convince its allies that Huawei is an unconscionable security risk, feeding information directly to the Chinese government through backdoors in its equipment. For its part, Huawei has accused the US of discrimination, claiming American telecoms cannot handle competition and pointing out the US’ own record of backdooring allies’ communications. Washington’s efforts to convince the EU and its member nations to bar Huawei from their 5G networks have failed so far – although Australia has agreed to adopt such a ban.

The battle over Huawei reflects the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Both countries have slapped additional tariffs onto the other’s exports after trade talks fell apart earlier this month, and Trump has threatened to dramatically expand the categories of goods taxed this summer.

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An Islamic State offshoot has amassed around 5,000 militants in northern Afghanistan on the border of post-Soviet republics of Central Asia, the director of Russia’s FSB has warned, adding that many of them have fought in Syria.

“Especially worrying is re-deployment of terrorist groups into northern provinces of Afghanistan,” Alexander Bortnikov told chiefs of ex-Soviet intelligence services in Dushanbe. He warned that ‘Wilayat Khorasan’, a local Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) affiliate, had managed to gather 5,000 fighters in the area.

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Terrorist cells are now infiltrating into former Soviet countries where they are forming ties with organized crime. To keep a low profile, they try to pose as refugees and migrants, according to Bortnikov.

Islamists have suffered a series of defeats in Syria and Iraq, but they still remain a danger. “Now they are trying to regroup in areas which Syrian government doesn’t control, or hide out in refugee camps,” the FSB chief noted.

Another alarming trend is that terrorist groups are relocating their forces to other parts of the world, including Northern Africa and Southeast Asia.

Despite military losses, terrorist organizations are accumulating massive foreign funding to prepare for attacks “all around the world.” Notably, they resort to cryptocurrencies and online payment services to receive money from abroad. Revenues from “illicit oil trade, human trafficking and other criminal activities” also are used by terrorists to stay afloat.

Last month, the FSB director warned of IS militants returning to their countries of origin and creating terrorist cells at home. More than 1,500 of 5,000 jihadists from Europe who earlier joined IS managed to return from the Middle East, Bortnikov said at the time.

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European countries won’t ban Huawei from their markets because they see the firm as a reliable partner, the Chinese tech giant’s vice president has said in response to sweeping restrictions on the company imposed by the US.

“We don’t think this can happen in Europe,” Catherine Chen told Italy’s Corriere della Sera after Huawei was officially blacklisted from doing business with US companies. The company has been working with European partners for “10 or 20 years” developing 5G and other solutions, she stressed.

“I believe they will make decisions independently,” the Huawei official said.

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Last week, the US Commerce Department announced that it would add Huawei and 70 affiliates to its so-called “Entity List,” which bans the telecom giant from buying parts and components from US companies without US government approval. However, the company has been granted a 90-day US general license, allowing the Chinese telecom to maintain its existing networks and provide users with software updates, even as it prepares for its blacklisting to go into effect.

The US continues to claim that Huawei’s products pose national security risks and serve as a mechanism for Chinese espionage through backdoors in its equipment. For its part, Huawei has accused the US of unfair market competition pointing out the US’s own record of backdooring allies’ communications.

Nevertheless, American efforts to convince European nations to bar Huawei from their 5G networks have failed so far – although Australia has agreed to adopt such a ban.

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Ukraine’s US Embassy seems to have gone overboard on scaremongering Russia as it tried to pass off a photo of Jewish Holocaust victims as Crimean Tatars that were being deported by the Soviet Union during WWII.

Kiev’s diplomatic mission took to Twitter on the anniversary of the 1944 deportation uploading a black-and-white photo of multiple people being forced into a wooden boxcar. The emotive picture was obviously to show how cruel the Soviets were towards Crimean Tatars at the time.

The Embassy proclaimed that it was “our duty” not to allow the repetition of “a bitter history.” But it turns out that history per se – or doing proper research, at the very least – isn’t the strongest suit of Ukrainian diplomats.

The photo they used has nothing to do at all with the wartime displacement of Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities. It was in fact taken at a Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland, and the people filmed in and outside the wagon were the ones who perished in one of the Nazi death camps.

The Russian Embassy in the US was apparently the first to spot the offbeat blunder. In doing so, they checked the Ukrainian tweet against an official publication by the American Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

To make matters worse, the Ukrainian embassy’s publication made another appeal to their audience which raises more than a few eyebrows. “It was a day when we couldn’t stop Stalin,” the Embassy wrote while publishing the infamous photo.

The “we” part looks especially odd given that stopping the Soviets at final stages of World War II meant fighting in or alongside Nazi forces.

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The story was met with little praise in Crimea. Seitumer Nimetullaev, leader of a local Crimean Tatar NGO, bemoaned the “unacceptable historical error that was likely made unintentionally.” Nevertheless, he urged Ukraine’s embassy “to become more competent in history issues, especially when it comes to tragedies of entire peoples.”

READ MORE: Familiar symbols? Ukraine’s president poses with ‘elite’ paratrooper sporting…SS insignia (PHOTOS)

Russia, for its part, has never disavowed the 1944 deportation, in which Crimean Tatars were forcibly relocated to Soviet Central Asia en masse by Joseph Stalin after it emerged that some of them collaborated with the Nazis. They began to return to Crimea after the war, but many faced bitter land disputes struggled with a lack of political representation.

Shortly after Crimea chose to cede from Ukraine and join Russia, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree officially rehabilitating Tatars and other ethnic minorities on the peninsula. May 18 is celebrated each year to pay tribute to people deported during the war.

It isn’t the first time images of the notorious Lodz ghetto became the source of a humiliating gaffe in Ukraine. Two years ago, former President Petro Poroshenko landed himself in hot water when he tried to illustrate the 1947 displacement of Western Ukrainians to Siberia by publishing a photograph again showing the Jewish ghetto. The president’s office quietly deleted the post, but not until it was relentlessly mocked online.

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The man accused of carrying out a mass shooting at a New Zealand mosque faces new charges, including one count of engaging in a terrorist act, according to law enforcement officials.

New Zealand police have charged Brenton Tarrant with one act of carrying out a terrorist act. One murder charge and two additional attempted murder charges have also been filed.

The 28-year-old Australian man went on a shooting rampage that left 51 people dead in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15.

Tarrant is now facing 92 charges – 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and one terrorism charge.

He is alleged to have penned a 74-page neo-fascist manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement” where he delves into what had inspired him to carry out the shootings and vows “revenge” against Muslim “invaders.” His weapons bore neo-Nazi inscriptions and slogans, names of extremists, as well as historic figures who waged wars against Muslims.

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Google has reportedly suspended its licenses and product-sharing agreements with Chinese communications giant Huawei, as Washington accuses the company of spying for Beijing.

The Silicon Valley tech giant has cut its business deals with Huawei that involve the transfer of hardware and software, Reuters and the Verge report. Following the move, Huawei will likely lose access to Android operating system updates, and its forthcoming smartphones will be shut out of some Google apps, including the Google Play Store and Gmail apps. The Chinese firm, however, will still have access to the open source version of the Android operating system.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson confirmed in a brief statement. “For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

Washington repeatedly accused Huawei of installing so-called ‘backdoors’ into its products on behalf of the Chinese government. The heads of six US intelligence agencies warned American citizens against using Huawei products last year, and the Chinese company’s phones were banned from US military bases shortly afterwards.

Huawei denies all accusations of spying. Nevertheless, the US Commerce Department added Huawei to its blacklist on Thursday, after President Donald Trump ruled that the Chinese firm could “undermine US national security or foreign policy interests,” particularly in developing America’s 5G network. The ban forbids Huawei from buying parts or technology from US suppliers.

Coupled with the latest development from Google, the ban will likely see Huawei remain in place or tumble in the global smartphone market. The Chinese company overtook Apple at the beginning of the month to become the second biggest manufacturer worldwide, after South Korea’s Samsung.

Although Google has often had an antagonistic relationship with the Trump administration, Sunday’s report comes less than two months after CEO Sundar Pichai met with President Trump at the White House. After the meeting, Trump announced that Pichai’s firm was “totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military.”

The company has indeed shown a willingness to work for the benefit of the US military. Google was contracted in 2017 to create an AI program to analyze video footage from drones using machine learning, a project codenamed ‘Project Maven’ by the Pentagon. Google’s competitors, Microsoft and Amazon, have both lent their cloud computing power to the Pentagon to help the military develop its AI projects.

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Iran is open for talks and diplomacy but those avenues are closed under the status quo, with its economy being strangled by the US, the Iranian president said, adding that Tehran’s only option now is to resist.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, under whose tenure the universally acclaimed 2015 nuclear deal was struck, said on Monday that his country welcomes diplomacy and all sorts of negotiation in principle, but will not be coerced into them by debilitating economic sanctions and military threats.

“I favor talks and diplomacy but under current conditions, I do not accept it, as today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” Rouhani said, as cited by IRNA news agency.

He added that the Iranian authorities feel the support of ordinary people who did not buy into the idea that Iran is responsible for the spike in tensions, despite attempts by “the enemy” to portray it as such. The unilateral nature of Washington’s sanctions is prime evidence of Iran’s victimhood, Rouhani said.

“If we walked away from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the formal name of the nuclear deal] with the US provocative acts, then, in addition to the US, the UN and world would also impose sanctions on us,” he said.

Rouhani admitted that the US sanctions crackdown on Iran has taken a toll on its economy, having severely impaired the Islamic Republic’s international trade, considering that some 87 percent of global financial transactions are conducted in dollars. That shrunken ability to deal with the outside world and decreasing government revenues are Iran’s two main concerns at the moment, he said.

US President Donald Trump hurled a fresh threat at Tehran on Monday, by vowing to meet any provocation with “great force.” Trump floated the idea of negotiations, but said it’s exclusively up to Iran to take the first step. “If they call, we will certainly negotiate, but this is going to be up to them,” he said. Rouhani, as well as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had all previously rejected Washington’s arm twisting. “Try respect – it works!” Zarif tweeted.

READ MORE: US ‘genocidal taunts’ won’t end Iran – Zarif

The relationship between Iran and the US has been on the rocks ever since Trump came to power. His decision to pull the US out of the nuclear deal sent nearly a decade’s work by diplomats from across the world to the dustbin of history and widened the rift with Iran; and his intransigent rhetoric has sparked concerns of an all-out war. Although that scenario is what both countries say they want to avoid, the US has done nothing to dampen the fears, recently sending a Navy strike group and bomber force to the region citing an Iranian “threat.”

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is set to face a no confidence vote in parliament after several ministers from former coalition partner, the Freedom Party (FPO), resigned following a corruption scandal.

Peter Pilz, an environmentalist MP who leads his own independent group, said he would bring the motion to Austria’s lower house during a special session scheduled for Monday, following European Parliament elections.

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“I am quite certain that it will succeed and that I will manage to ensure that Kurz will no longer be chancellor on Tuesday,” Pilz told Reuters. If his motion is successful, it will end Kurz’s hopes of holding office until the snap elections he had planned for September.

Pilz’s plan to bring down the government early comes following comments from Herbert Kickl, who until Monday had served as interior minister in the coalition government. The senior FPO figure said the party would support any future opposition motion to bring down the government if it was proposed, according to news website Oe24.

“It would be almost naive for Kurz to assume that we, the FPO, have no distrust of him following his distrust in us,” Kickl told the news outlet. “Whenever the extraordinary session happens, those who give trust receive trust and those who give distrust get distrust,” he said without elaborating.

Kickl’s role as interior minister was already in doubt on Monday, as Kurz pushed for his resignation over the weekend. Kurz argued that as an FPO member, Kickl was unfit to lead a corruption probe into his party’s boss and former vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache. After Kickl resigned, FPO ministers followed suit, leaving several ministerial positions vacant. Kurz said he would fill the gaps – which include posts at the defense and transport ministries – with non-political “experts” until fresh polls can be held.

The cull of FPO ministers was accepted by President Alexander Van der Bellen on Tuesday, with the exception of Karin Kneissl, who had requested to stay on as transitional foreign minister. While originally nominated for the position by the FPO as an “independent expert,” she is officially non-party.

The two-year political marriage between the FPO and OVP deteriorated over the weekend, after reports in German media on Friday placed Strache at the heart of an influence-peddling scandal. Video footage from 2017 allegedly shows that Strache offered government contracts to the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch in return for buying an Austrian news outlet and flipping its editorial stance to support to FPO. Strache then resigned on Saturday with Kurz suggesting that new elections could be held in September.

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