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Apple to Cut App Store Fees as Legal Scrutiny Intensifies

Apple to Cut App Store Fees as Legal Scrutiny Intensifies

Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services. FILE - In this June 16, 2020, file photo, the sun is reflected on Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York. Apple will cut its app store fee in half from 30% to 15% for most developers beginning Jan. 1, the biggest change in its commission rate since the app store began in 2008. The fee reduction will apply to developers who made up to $1 million from the app store in 2020, which is the “vast majority” of developers in the store, Apple said. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Apple will cut its app store commissions in half for most developers beginning next year amid an intensifying debate about whether the iPhone maker has been using the fees to unfairly fatten its profits and stifle rivals competing against its own music, video, and other subscription services. The concession announced Wednesday will lower Apple's commissions for in-app subscriptions and other purchases from the 30% rate that has been in place since 2008 to 15%, effective Jan. 1. But the discount will only apply to developers with app store revenue up to $1 million annually — a threshold that excludes the makers of some of the most popular apps downloaded on iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. That group includes two of Apple's fiercest critics, music streaming service Spotify, and Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game. Both those companies have helped spur increasing scrutiny of Apple's app store practices among lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Apple sells music streaming and video services that have been helping to offset a slowdown in iPhone revenue in recent years. The app store commissions feed Apple's services division, which saw its revenue climb 16% to nearly $54 billion during the company's last fiscal year ending in September. Only iPhone sales generate more revenue for Apple than services. Apple is framing its fee reduction as a way to help most of the companies that make the roughly 1.8 million apps in its store during the tough economic times brought on by the pandemic. About 98% of the app developers generate less than $1 million in revenue annually, according to the mobile analytics firm SensorTower. But the reduced commission probably won't leave much of a dent in Apple's revenue. That's because the small developers in line to qualify for the cut only contribute about 5% of Apple's app store revenue, based on SensorTower's estimates. That's probably one reason investors seemed unfazed by Apple's forthcoming fee cut. The company's shares were up slightly during early afternoon trading. Spotify scoffed at Apple's lower commissions as “window dressing" designed to discourage regulators from cracking down on its practices. “This latest move further demonstrates that their app store policies are arbitrary and capricious," Spotify said in a statement. Epic is continuing to pursue a lawsuit it filed against Apple earlier this year in an effort to win the right to sell products within its apps without having to pay Apple's fees.

‘We’re hurt, but we’re not broken’: Buffalo’s Black community vows to emerge stronger

‘We’re hurt, but we’re not broken’: Buffalo’s Black community vows to emerge stronger

"To be targeted like this, it speaks to a lot of bigger issues around guns and race in the country," said one Buffalo native. "Something has to change." Charles Gilbert was only a few blocks away from the Buffalo, New York, supermarket when a white 18-year-old allegedly opened fire and spread terror among the local Black community, killing 10 and injuring three on Saturday. Like countless other Black Buffalo residents, Gilbert, a podcaster, said he is mired in pain, devastation and anger, but he and many in east Buffalo say they are also resolute to come together and forge a stronger community. Pleazant Davis, 22, is comforted by Tasha Dixon, 35, at a memorial across the street from the store in Buffalo where Saturday's shooting occurred.Libby March “We’re hurt, but we’re not broken,” Gilbert said. “We, as a people and a community, will get past this. It will take some time. The spotlight is on us for the wrong reason, unfortunately. But we will show everyone that the community will come together.” The alleged assailant, Payton Gendron, drove more than three hours in his parents’ car from Broome County, specifically to the Black neighborhood of Jefferson Avenue, to carry out a racist plot that is now the largest mass killing in the city’s history. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black. But through the tears and agony, many insist a stronger Jefferson Avenue community will emerge. Gilbert’s cousin, Buffalo native Adrianne Murchison, a journalist in Atlanta, said she felt the heartache of the shootings hundreds of miles away, but the depths of the community connections will be a factor in the neighborhood’s recovery. “That’s the way the Black culture is,” she said. “There’s a lot of resiliency in general and in Buffalo in particular. Being so small, people are very connected. There are generations of families in Buffalo that are connected, and so the community is very much together. It still hurts. It really hurts. Who would think that something like that would happen? In the end, that community will manage it and come back strong. It’s what we, as Black people, do.” In 2018, the Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank, published a report that called the Buffalo-Niagara region “one of the most racially segregated metropolitan regions in the nation.” It added that “of all people who identify as Black within the city of Buffalo, roughly 85 percent live east of Main Street,” which is the area where the store is located. Officials have classified the mass shooting as a racially motivated hate crime. The N-word was scrawled on the rifle used by the gunman. A lengthy manifesto Gendron posted two days before his attack talked of "the great replacement theory," which is a false ideology that there is a covert faction that is moving to replace white Americans with nonwhites through violence, interracial marriage and immigration. Gendron was arraigned Saturday evening on first-degree murder charges after being arrested at the scene without incident. He pleaded not guilty. As one of the community leaders who also worked in the mayor’s office, Jamil Crews watched the unedited video of the killings recorded by the alleged shooter with a camera on his helmet. “I wish I could erase what I saw,” Crews said. “It literally just broke me to my core. I’m getting emotional now just thinking about it. Those innocent people. These are people’s grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles and, and young people working in the store. This was very deliberate and what we need to see happen now is for people who consider themselves allies to step up. We don’t want to see this happening anymore in our communities. It’s senseless. Completely senseless.”

Disillusioned Russian Troops Killing Ukrainians for Their Cellphones: Official

Disillusioned Russian Troops Killing Ukrainians for Their Cellphones: Official

This photograph taken on March 4, 2022 shows a school building damaged by shelling in the city of Chernihiv.(DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s information-starved fighting force in Ukraine employs new forms of violence as bloody conflict grinds on, according to an official on the ground. Russian troops fighting in Ukraine are seizing local civilians’ cellphones en masse – and in some cases killing them if they refuse – in what several officials describe as a systematic attempt to gain access to outside information and exact brutal punishments against Ukrainians. A Ukrainian army officer overseeing operations in the northern city of Chernihiv detailed to U.S. News the violent encounters he and his troops have witnessed perpetrated by the Russian invaders. That force loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be composed almost entirely of young men pressed into service as conscripts and starved of any information outside what they receive from their commanders. The violence on the ground and shelling from the air remains high even as Moscow begins retreating from that city and others, including Kyiv, after more than a month of grinding combat. “The Russian military is trying in every way to seize the mobile phones of Ukrainian citizens,” Ukrainian army Lt. Col. Eduard Rodionov says, “resorting to physical violence and sometimes murder.” Though the accusations could not be independently confirmed, several current and former officials in the U.S. and in Europe speaking on the condition of anonymity affirm that these actions match how Moscow manages its fighting forces as well as the tactics they employ against their perceived enemies. Both Ukraine and Russia had previously enacted strict bans on their troops having access to cellphones while in the field, though Kyiv relaxed this policy for its troops in some cases following the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and the forced annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Moscow, however, has maintained particularly tight control on the sources of information it allows its troops to access, officials and analysts say, leaving many of them confused and angry about the realities that confront them on the ground in Ukraine. “Russia’s heavy-handed restrictions on information access for conscripts is likely intended to prevent demoralization and morale problems by insulating them from information,” says Mason Clark, lead Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, which has fastidiously documented the movements and tactics of Russian forces operating in and around Ukraine. “But it has made the problem worse,” he adds, “particularly in the early days of the war when Russian forces apparently had little knowledge of the overall Russian plan.” The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The use of cellphones in the month-long conflict in Ukraine has taken on particular significance this week. Both sides have warned their forces against using them in battle for fear of accidentally revealing their positions through embedded GPS software, through connections to a local network tower or even through sensitive information divulged by a careless social media post.

‘A radiant expectant mother’: Rihanna and the rise of the power bump

‘A radiant expectant mother’: Rihanna and the rise of the power bump

ihanna said she was ‘pushing into the idea of sexy’. Photograph: Scott Garfitt/Rex/Shutterstock Pop star challenges perceptions of pregnancy by wearing black negligee to Dior show at Paris fashion week It was a moment of pure joy at a Paris fashion week sobered by the shadow of war. Rihanna sailed into the Dior show like a galleon in full sail, pregnancy bump lightly veiled in a sheer black negligee of lace-trimmed dotted Swiss tulle. The veteran fashion critic Tim Blanks, who quizzed the pop star backstage as to whether she was expecting a boy or a girl – she wasn’t telling – described her as “the most radiant expectant mother … a real ray of light on a dark day.”

In the month since the unofficial new “Queen of Barbados” announced her pregnancy by posing for the paparazzi photographer Miles Diggs on a snowy New York street with a vintage Chanel pink coat unbuttoned to reveal a naked bump crowned with a cascade of gold and gemstone jewellery, Rihanna has done more than push the boundaries of maternity wear. In characteristic form, she is challenging expectations of how women in the public eye should look and behave.

Rihanna, who wore a fluffy lavender coat over a black latex crop top at Gucci and a peach leather mini dress for the Off-White show, has not been the only expectant mother in the spotlight at this month of fashion shows. At the young designer Nensi Dojaka’s London fashion week show, the tissue-thin sequined slip worn by the model Maggie Maurer celebrated her four-month pregnant shape. “I think it’s quite shocking – in a good way,” Maurer told Vogue. “Women’s bodies are like superpowers.”

In the age of optics, announcing a pregnancy via the medium of fashion has established itself as a power move. A timeline shift toward ever more daring takes on bump-dressing can be tracked via the maternity fashion of a thought leader in this field, Beyoncé. When Beyoncé revealed her first pregnancy in 2011 at the MTV Video Music Awards during her performance of Love on Top – by unbuttoning her sequined blazer and turning to give the audience a profile view – the bump was demurely covered-up in a white shirt and high-waisted trousers. By the time Beyoncé was pregnant with twins in 2017, the rules of engagement had altered. This time around, Beyoncé made the reveal wearing only a bra and satin knickers, cradling her bump in front of a flower arbour with a veil falling over her shoulders as softly as the hair of Botticelli’s Venus, in an image that set a new record for Instagram likes. Last year, Cardi B leaned into the performative, bespoke-outfitted pregnancy reveal while on stage at the BET awards, in a black bodysuit which was barnacled all over with rhinestones, except for a porthole-shaped window of sheer black mesh which framed her swelling tummy.

Rihanna is highly strategic about which elements of her private life she shares – she lived in London for a full year without alerting the paparazzi to the fact until an eagle-eyed fan spotted a Sainsbury’s Bag for Life in the background of one of her social media posts – and the high-visibility wardrobing of her pregnancy is deliberate. “I’m really pushing into the idea of sexy,” she told the Refinery29 website. “When you get pregnant, society tends to make it feel like you hide […] you’re sexy and that you’re not sexy right now [but] you’ll get back there and I don’t believe in that shit.”

The new hot take on maternity wear is a refreshing inversion of popular culture’s obsession with narrow female bodies. Glorifying a woman’s body during the months when it is gets bigger broadens the Overton window around which female bodies are considered aspirational and worthy of celebration. Wearing sheer lingerie and black patent spike heels while pregnant bumps up against ingrained expectations not just about what women wear, but about how they should behave. Traditionally, maternity wear has regressed the wardrobe of grown women into childlike pastels and twee Peter Pan collars, as if to suggest that expectant mothers should be seen and not heard. When a heckler berated Rihanna for holding up Dior’s show this week, repeatedly shouting “You’re late” as the star was ushered to her front row seat, an unhurried Rihanna shot an unsmiling glance over her shoulder and deadpanned: “No shit.”

Five James Bond guns stolen from north London property

Five James Bond guns stolen from north London property

One of the stolen deactivated firearms was the Walther PPK - the last gun used by Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. One of the five firearms stolen at the Enfield property. Pic: Met Police Police are appealing for information after five deactivated guns used in James Bond movies were stolen from a property in north London. Officers were called to a property in Aldersbrook Avenue in Enfield at around 8pm on Monday to a report of a burglary. The suspects fled the scene before officers arrived after being disturbed by neighbours, who described the intruders as three white males with Eastern European accents. It is believed the suspects forced entry into the rear of the premises and stole five firearms used in James Bond films, estimated to be worth more than £100,000. Beretta "Cheetah" and Beretta "Tomcat" pistols from Die Another Day and the Walther PPK handgun used in A View to a Kill were reported to have been taken. The other stolen weapons are understood to be a Revolver Smith and Wesson 44 Magnum featured in Live and Let Die and a Llama 22 calibre handgun from Die Another Day. The release date for new James Bond film No Time To Die has been pushed back seven months due to coronavirus. The film, which will featureDaniel Craigin his final outing as 007, was set to be released in UK cinemas from 2 April. It will now come out in November. Detective Inspector Paul Ridley, of North Area Crime Investigation Department (CID) said: "The firearms stolen are very distinctive and bespoke to particular James Bond movies. They will almost certainly be recognised by the public and to anyone offered them for sale. "Many of these items are irreplaceable. For example, the Magnum is the only one in the world ever made in which the whole gun is finished in chrome. It has a six and a half inch barrel and wood grips. He added that the Walther PPK was the last gun used by Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. "The owner is very upset that his address has been violated and he truly hopes to be re-united with these highly collectable items," he said. "I would urge any members of the public that may have witnessed the burglars arriving and leaving, or who know where the firearms are, or may have been offered these stolen items for sale, to come forward to my investigation team as a priority."

Elton John to host 'living room' gig featuring Billie Eilish and Mariah Carey

Elton John to host 'living room' gig featuring Billie Eilish and Mariah Carey

Stars are staying at home during the coronavirus crisis, but thanks to Elton John that doesn't mean you can't see them perform. Mariah Carey and Billie Eilish are among the stars taking part in Elton John's living room gig Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys are among stars taking part in a fund-raising "living room" gig hosted by Sir Elton John to provide entertainment during isolation. The stars, who are staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, will film themselves performing on their own mobile phone or camera and audio equipment "to ensure the health and safety of all involved", according to a statement. In an hour-long concert, stars will also pay tribute to health workers on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and fans will be able to donate to charities helping victims and key workers. Viewers will be asked to support two of the charitable organisations aiding victims and first responders during the pandemic: Feeding America and First Responders Children's Foundation. The concert will air on Sunday in the broadcasting slot on US network Fox that had originally been reserved for the iHeart Radio Music Awards. The awards show became part of a wave of cancelled events as the virus started to spread. Other musicians set to take part are Backstreet Boys, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Tim McGraw. Sir Elton, who celebrated his 73rd birthday on Wednesday, shared a video of his lockdown birthday celebrations with his family on his Instagram page. Earlier in March, he posted a photograph of himself holding a poster referencing his husband and sons, saying "#IStayHomeFor David Furnish, Zachary and Elijah". The day after Sir Elton's show, Eilish will be taking part in another streamed show, hosted by James Corden. The British presenter will bring celebrities from around the world together for a Late Late Show special, called Homefest, from his garage on Monday. As well as Eilish, acts set to perform include BTS in South Korea, Dua Lipa in London, and John Legend in LA. Scores of music tours, shows and festivals have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including Glastonbury in the UK and Coachella in the US. On the big screen, several films have seen release dates pushed back - including the much-anticipated new James Bond film, No Time To Die, for which Eilish has recorded the theme song. Originally due to launch at the beginning of April, Daniel Craig's last outing as 007 is now scheduled for release in November.

'I felt I had to hide my LGBT identity at work - so I decided to do something about it'

'I felt I had to hide my LGBT identity at work - so I decided to do something about it'

Carl Edwards says he felt "isolated and alone" both in his personal life and at work. Carl Edwards says he felt 'isolated and alone' Stonewall has named its top 100 employers for LGBT inclusion, highlighting workplaces which help people feel accepted. But even now, not everyone feels able to be themselves in the workplace, with a third of LGBT people looking for work worried about being discriminated against or harassed. Carl Edwards, 41, from Coventry, told Sky News he felt isolated at his Severn Trent job, before he made the decision to set up an LGBT network. Now, he has been named Stonewall's Gay Role Model of the Year and wants to encourage other employers to follow suit. December 2015 was a bad year for me, which saw the end of a 15-year relationship that had become abusive and toxic. I won't bore you with the details - let's just say it was complicated and it took me a long while to find myself again. During this difficult time, I sought help at work through employee support services and occupational health. Sadly though, back then, the response wasn't very good. I specifically asked if there was support for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer [LGBTQ+] people, and the reply I got was "Let me just google that!". Not exactly the comforting words you want to hear when you're asking for help. As you can probably imagine, I was already feeling quite isolated and alone in my personal life, and now it looked like this was also the case at work. I didn't know there were any other LGBTQ+ people in my office. I felt a bit like I was 'the only gay in the village', so to speak. Being LGBTQ+, if you don't feel comfortable being yourself, you have to spend a massive amount of energy and time hiding crucial parts of who you are. Everyday office questions like 'What did you do on the weekend?' can become huge sources of anxiety, if you can't answer honestly that you spent it with your same-sex partner. Because of this experience, I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever I could to make sure no other person in my community would have to go through the same thing. So, I hatched a plan to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in my workplace. I wanted to show people in my organisation not just that LGBTQ+ people were here, but that we needed to seriously improve diversity and inclusion throughout the business. The first thing I did was to create an LGBTQ+ network. While this might seem like a small or obvious thing, it meant a great deal to me and to many of my colleagues. We finally had a space to come together, talk about our experiences and see that we weren't alone. For those of us who felt like we didn't have a voice or were the only ones, there was an immense amount of power in that moment of coming together - and there still is every time we meet. I didn't just stop there with the network. In my work to increase visibility for LGBTQ+ people in the office, I helped create a trans toolbox for trans colleagues. As well as this, the network was able to work with our employee support and occupational health programmes to ensure that they were inclusive of LGBTQ+ people and our needs. Our network has grown to a place where our HR know to come to us for advice and suggestions, whether that's about changing policies to be more LGBT-inclusive or to get involved in Prides across the country. Together with my co-chairs, we're seeing the network constantly grow, people are understanding who we are and what we're doing and we're a helping create an environment to be proud of. I'm lucky to work for somewhere like Severn Trent. They are an organisation that immediately responded to my calls for greater inclusion, but I know this isn't the case for every workplace and I think that's a real shame. Outside of work, this journey has led me to create an inclusive rugby team, the Coventry Corsairs RFC. It was about making an inclusive space in sport for individuals who have not felt welcomed or comfortable in mainstream arenas. Now, more than ever, we need our role models to be seen. For me, being a role model is about being visible, so that others who felt like I did back in 2015 know they are not alone. If we have more employers who nurture LGBTQ+ staff and role models, we can create better workplaces where people feel free to be themselves.

Greta Thunberg: Girl, 9, on what inspired her to join Bristol climate change protest

Greta Thunberg: Girl, 9, on what inspired her to join Bristol climate change protest

Eliza Armstrong, nine, tells Sky News why she is going to the protest and why adults need to listen to Greta Thunberg. Hamish and Eliza Armstrong, seven and nine, are going to the climate change protest in Bristol where Greta Thunberg is speaking. Climate change activist Greta Thunberg is appearing at a protest in Bristol on Friday, where tens of thousands are expected to join her. Nine-year-old Eliza Armstrong, from Bristol, will be attending with her brother Hamish, seven, friends and parents. I'm really excited about going to the climate change protest with Greta Thunberg. I've done some local demonstrations in Bristol before but nothing as fantastic as this - I've been wanting to go for a while and we're making placards to hold up. I'll definitely see Greta but I don't think I'll be able to meet her unfortunately. There's going to be so many other kids there, although I'm kind of anxious to see how many people are aware and see how many have decided to come. It will be amazing to see all the people who have stopped their work to fight against climate change. I hope Greta's going to do quite a convincing speech so lots of people get what she's trying to do and what her aim is. I hope it's really powerful and that everyone's amazed by her. I think adults who look down on her are underestimating her. She's already written lots of books about climate change, but they're still underestimating her and not using what she's done to realise how much she's achieved. Greta's definitely done the right thing by standing up for climate change and she's proving nobody is too small. Quite a few of my year are going to the protest, we've been talking about it all week. It's meant to be raining but the weather isn't going to stop anyone, it would be a bit strange if Greta didn't come because of the weather. Lots of people have been planning to come it would be silly if they didn't just because of the weather, this is why we're fighting for climate change awareness. My year, year four, is probably the most aware of climate change at my school. Maybe because we're the oldest and have an eco-council and we talk a lot about Greta and her actions. With my parents, I think I've had an influence on them, you try to make them understand. I've taught them that maybe you should drive a bit less and I've taught them to not buy so much single-use plastic. When they found out about Greta they stopped using so much plastic and I influenced them to get more recyclable things.

History replays like a half-forgotten song, but once we remember, it’s far too late

History replays like a half-forgotten song, but once we remember, it’s far too late

The west fell asleep on Cold War sentry duty and thought Putin couldn’t be serious, but he was. The question remains, is Nato? Russian President Vladimir Putin, ‘a psychopathic dictator swaddled from reality in fantasies of geopolitical revenge’. Photograph: Andrey Gorshkov/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images ar comes very early to the theatre,” said the Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg. “Then he stands around waiting in the wings.” This time too. For a few years, there has been something, somebody, moving in the shadow of the stage curtain. Only a few people felt they recognised it. But language noticed. Even 10 years ago, big-power war in Europe was “unthinkable these days. Do try and keep up!” Then, somehow, it became “well, in theory, but just utterly unlikely”. So, thinkable again. Hard to say when that mental border was crossed; perhaps after the Yugoslav wars, perhaps in 2014 when Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and sponsored proxy war in the Donbas region. And now they ask: “What sort of European war is this going to be? And how nuclear? And where will the next one start?” History doesn’t repeat itself. It just tries to remember an old song it heard once. It may be that Putin’s 24 February 2022 will turn out to be like Hitler’s 22 June 1941 – the day he invaded Russia, doomed himself and Germany to destruction and made inevitable a divided Europe whose Cold War and barbed wire would last for half a century. But Putin isn’t Hitler. He will die a disappointed old nuisance in exile somewhere, rather than by Heldentod suicide in his bunker. Both men qualify as psychopathic dictators, swaddled from reality in fantasies of geopolitical revenge. But Putin’s grip on the Russian imagination is weaker than Hitler’s on the Germans. And his use of police terror against his own people, though horrifying, is distinctly less effective. All the same, that wise historian Margaret MacMillan sees one desperately important parallel. Both men have meant what they said. And in both cases they were not taken seriously until it was too late. Hitler raved on in public about getting rid of the Jews and conquering Lebensraum in eastern Europe. But the “other Hitler”, in private, could sometimes talk quite charmingly and constructively about possible agreements. Obviously, foreign visitors concluded, the public stuff was just for show while the “serious” Hitler was revealing his real mind. Diametrically wrong! The crazy speeches gave his true intentions; the sober reflections over coffee were all lies. With Putin, the west wrote off his increasingly wild talk about breaking Nato’s encirclement and restoring Russia’s dominion over post-Soviet space. He couldn’t be serious. Under the bluster, wasn’t there still that shrewd, cautious Putin with whom one could do business? But Ukraine proves the opposite. The imperial dream is what he means. The meetings with western leaders across that long table, hinting at terms for a bargain, were all fake. At the moment of writing, Putin’s plan seems to have two stages. First, military victory, achieved mainly by isolating resistance in a few cities and then shelling them to blackened husks, as the Russians did to Grozny in Chechnya. Armed resistance might continue, especially in the hills and forests of western Ukraine. But Putin may recall how Stalin fought Ukrainian nationalist guerrillas for years after the Second World War, without letting those murderous repressions distract the Soviet Union as a whole. Next, regime change. That’s unlikely to mean some temporary junta to supervise complete abolition of Ukrainian independence and annexation by Russia. More probably, it means the installation of a puppet government in Kyiv, to run a cut-down, smaller Ukrainian protectorate pledged to support Russian foreign and defence policies. Suddenly, the world is very dangerous again. And the real danger is not primarily mad dictators. It is uncertainty Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s legal government are already targets. Russian special forces may try to kidnap the president, stuffing syringes into him and flying him to some Russian “psychiatric clinic”. Just possibly, he might not survive “an attempted escape”. In August 1968, Alexander Dubček and his colleagues in Prague were kidnapped and flown to Moscow. But that case was easier. Dubček was held guilty of anti-socialist policy – “socialism with a human face” – rather than of defending the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia. Zelenskiy stands simply for the full freedom and independence of his country. For a Russian mind like Putin’s, that is much harder to forgive. But finding cadres to form that puppet government will unfortunately not be hard. Since independence in 1991, Ukrainian politics have been poisoned by fewer than a dozen billionaire oligarchs and their paid henchmen in the Rada (parliament). Some have even led governments. Most of them, not quite all, are at once corrupt and treacherous. They hold investments and property in both Ukraine and Russia and when in trouble they take cover in Moscow. Given enough bodyguard protection, and assisted by pro-Russian figures imported from th Donbas, such men would willingly slink into government in Kyiv. And here history is indeed trying to remember an old song: Moscow’s obsessive wish to paralyse and subjugate the space between Russia and western Europe. A wish that didn’t begin with Putin, or with Stalin’s ring of satellites, but 300 years ago with Peter the Great and later, above all, with the Empress Catherine. Back then, the space was filled by the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including most of western Ukraine. For many years, threats, intrigues and Russian infantry kept the country submissive. But then Poland rebelled, reclaiming its independence. In 1792, Catherine sent the Russian armies in, supported by a clutch of wealthy pro-Russian magnates in the Confederation of Targowica. They tried to govern. But a huge uprising followed and in 1795 Catherine, with Austria and Prussia, wiped Poland off the map for over a century. Now Ukraine may face its own Targowica. But just as the great partition crime concentrated a new, militant confidence in Polish identity, it looks as if the invasion of 2022 is completing Ukraine’s transition from early self-doubt to a solid faith in Ukraine as an authentic national community. Europe itself, woken by explosions, stumbles out into a different landscape. When we fell asleep, no longer required for Cold War sentry duty, the red lines were faded and in places scuffed away. The tripwires of military pacts hung slack and rusty. Now, suddenly, the world is very dangerous again. And the real danger is not primarily mad dictators attacking their neighbours. It is uncertainty. It is not being sure what will happen, what will be triggered, if somebody marches over the half-scuffed-away line or pushes through the sagging wire. It’s said that the First World War began because there were too many treaties tangled across Europe. The truth, perhaps, is that there were not enough treaties, none unambiguously laying down who would go to war with whom over what. We have to repaint that red line, replace and tauten the tripwire. If Nato governments have private reservations about Article 5 – mutual assistance by all if one is attacked – we are doomed. Die for Estonia? Yes, we must be prepared to die for Estonia and the world must be sure that we are. We know now that Putin “means it”. Do we mean it? In the future, post-Putin, we will need to court Russia into partnership. Perhaps into Mikhail Gorbachev’s dream of a “common European home”, in which all are members of a single defence pact. But that means recognising that not all Russia’s historical grievances are propaganda. At the 1990 Berlin meeting, the Soviet side left believing that it had a statement that Nato would not extend up to its borders – in return for Soviet acceptance that the whole of a united Germany could join the pact. But later the west said that there was never any statement and brought Poland and the other post-communist states into Nato. After the civil war, George Washington was persuaded to give Will Leslie a full military funeral. Photograph: Stock Montage/Getty Images Jacques Faure, once French ambassador in Kyiv, says carefully: “That is not to say that … there were no such statements. But we don’t know, because there are no records or written documents.” Putin’s claim that Nato plans to encircle and strangle Russia is absurd. But many Russians, not just the Kremlin crew, believe that their country was swindled in its hour of weakness. It’s an abscess that needs treatment. Russians and Ukrainians will also have to find their way back together. These are two densely interlaced peoples, who have no business killing each other. A few years ago, I was taken to a graveyard in rural New Jersey, where Will Leslie, a young Scot in the British army, was buried after the battle of Princeton in 1777. Benjamin Rush, the American revolutionary who found his body, had been Will’s best friend; he had lodged for years with the Leslie family in Edinburgh while the two boys attended the university there together. Rush fell in love with Will’s sister, but she was too young for marriage and he had to return to America. When the war of independence came, the two found themselves on opposite sides. After Princeton, Benjamin went looking for Will and discovered him in a cart, where he had died of wounds. He persuaded General Washington to give him a full military funeral, and sat down to write a heartbroken letter to the Leslies in Edinburgh. Scots and Americans were no further apart in 1777 than Ukrainians and Russians are today. Somewhere among the ruins, a silent Serhii is looking down on a dead Vadim, who once shared home and college and friends with him in St Petersburg. This conflict has the special horror of civil war between brothers. But by the time we say “Never again!”, it is always too late.

Commerce Department Goes Against Trump, Rules TikTok Can Continue to Operate

Commerce Department Goes Against Trump, Rules TikTok Can Continue to Operate

The Commerce Department’s decision defies an executive order by the president in his effort to crackdown on Chinese social media companies. The department’s decision on Thursday delayed a previous order that would have prohibited companies from providing TikTok with internet-hosting or content-delivery services.(AARONP/BAUER-GRIFFIN/GC IMAGES) THE VIDEO SHARING social media platform TikTok will not be forced to shut down, the Commerce Department said, announcing it would not enforce its previous order that would have forced the Chinese-owned app to shut down. The department's decision on Thursday delayed a previous order that would have prohibited companies from providing TikTok with internet-hosting or content-delivery services, actions that would make the platform inoperable in the U.S. President Donald Trump issued the order earlier this year in his effort to crackdown on Chinese social media companies, claiming it was a matter of national security. However, in the formal government notice announcing the decision, the Commerce Department cited a judicial ruling in a lawsuit in Philadelphia brought by three TikTok users. The judge in the case said the government's action threatens the exchange of information and exceeds its authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the law the Trump administration had cited to take action against TikTok. The platform also directly sued Trump in federal court in September in Washington, D.C., arguing that his ban was unconstitutional. D.C. followed Philadelphia and ruled in favor of TikTok, a decision the government appealed. While the Commerce Department's notice orders that Trump's executive order "WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT," the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is set to hear oral arguments in TikTok v. Trump on Dec. 14.

More than 4,300 people arrested at anti-war protests across Russia

More than 4,300 people arrested at anti-war protests across Russia

Russian police detain a protestor at a rally held in Moscow to denounce Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA Demonstrators take to the streets in 53 cities to denounce Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine More than 4,300 people have been arrested after demonstrators took to the streets in 21 Russian cities to condemn Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, while protesters in Kazakhstan have followed suit, turning out in large numbers to chant “No to war” and “Putin is a dickhead”. The independent monitoring group OVD-Info – which has already logged more than 7,500 anti-war protest arrests – said it had documented the detentions of at least 4,366 people in 53 cities including Vladivostok and Irkutsk. Opposition activists also posted videos showing protests in other cities. “The screws are being fully tightened – essentially we are witnessing military censorship,” Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info’s spokesperson, told Reuters. “We are seeing rather big protests today, even in Siberian cities where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests.” Russia’s interior ministry said earlier that police had detained about 3,500 people, including 1,700 in Moscow, 750 in St Petersburg and 1,061 in other cities. BBC, CNN and other global news outlets suspend reporting in Russia
Read more The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called for protest across Russia and the rest of the world after the Russian invasion, which began on 24 February. But Russia’s interior ministry warned on Saturday that any attempt to hold unauthorised protests would be prevented and the organisers held to account. Independent reporting from Russia has become increasingly difficult since Friday, when the government cracked down on news outlets by passing a law that made the intentional spreading of “fake” or “false” news about the war in Ukraine a criminal offence punishable by jail terms of up to 15 years. A video posted on social media showed a protester on a square in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk shouting “No to war – how are you not ashamed?” before being arrested by two police officers. Police also used loudspeakers to tell a small group of protesters in the city: “Respected citizens, you are taking part in an unsanctioned public event. We demand you disperse.” Reuters was not able to independently verify the post. Videos posted on social media showed about 2,000 people had attended an anti-war protest in Kazakhstan’s biggest city, Almaty. Activists put blue and yellow balloons in the hand of a Lenin statue towering over the small square where the rally took place, and the crowd shouted slogans such as “No to war” and “Putin is a dickhead” while waving Ukrainian flags. Although Putin has sought to depict the invasion as “a special military operation” to defend Russian-speaking communities against persecution in Ukraine, his claims have been overwhelmingly rejected both abroad and by some in Russia. “Because of Putin, Russia now means war for many people,” Navalny said on Friday. “That is not right: it was Putin and not Russia that attacked Ukraine.” On Sunday the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, urged Putin to declare a ceasefire in Ukraine, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement. What Russians are being told about the war in Ukraine
Read more In a statement released after a hourlong phone call between the two leaders, the Turkish presidency said Erdoğan had told Putin that Turkey was ready to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. “President Erdoğan renewed his call of: ‘Let’s pave the way for peace together’,” his office said. “Erdoğan emphasised the importance of taking urgent steps to achieve a ceasefire, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement.” Despite the international condemnation and sanctions that have met the military attack, Putin’s approval ratings have jumped in Russia since the invasion, according to Moscow-based pollsters. Putin’s rating rose six percentage points to 70% in the week to 27 February, according to the state pollster VTsIOM. The pollster FOM, which conducts research for the Kremlin, said Putin’s rating had risen seven percentage points to 71% in the same week.

Iran nuclear talks rocked by Russian demand for sanctions exemption

Iran nuclear talks rocked by Russian demand for sanctions exemption

Russia seeks guarantees regarding trade with Iran that would undermine west’s sanctions over Ukraine invasion The revived deal would lift US sanctions in return for Tehran complying with with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Photograph: Majid Asgaripour/AP Russia has been accused of trying to take the Iran nuclear deal hostage as part of its wider battle with the west over Ukraine, after it threw a last-minute spanner into plans for an agreement to lift a swathe of US economic sanctions on Tehran.
After months of negotiations in Vienna, a revised deal was expected to be reached within days, under which US sanctions would be lifted in return for Tehran returning to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation deal.

But diplomatic efforts have been sent into a tailspin by Russia’s unexpected demand for written guarantees that its economic trade with Iran will be exempted from US sanctions imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, at the weekend cited the “avalanche of aggressive sanctions [on Russia] that the west has started spewing out”, and said: “This meant Moscow had to ask the US for guarantees first, requiring a clear answer that the new sanctions will not affect its rights under the nuclear deal.
“We requested that our US colleagues … give us written guarantees at the minimum level of the secretary of state that the current [sanctions] process launched by the US will not in any way harm our right to free, fully fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran.”
In a sign of how sanctions will bite, Aeroflot flights from Moscow to Iran were cancelled on Sunday.
If Lavrov’s demand is to require the US to exempt Russian-Iranian trade from sanctions, the west is almost certain to reject the demand since it would open a huge loophole in the sanctions regime. It would then be up to Moscow whether to veto the nuclear deal altogether.
US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, dismissed Russia’s demands as “irrelevant”, saying that sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal.”
They “just are not in any way linked together, so I think that’s irrelevant,” Blinken told CBS.
The Vienna talks have for months been an oasis of diplomatic cooperation between Russia and the west as they painstakingly crafted a compromise acceptable to both Iran and the US. The Russian ambassador to the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, has been an indefatigable intermediary, but now risks seeing his work being undone by Moscow’s confrontation with the west over Ukraine.
Iranian officials criticised Russia’s intervention, saying “the Russians put this demand on the table at the Vienna talks two days ago. There is an understanding that by changing its position in [the] Vienna talks, Russia wants to secure its interests in other places. This move is not constructive for [the] Vienna nuclear talks”.
Russia also has a short-term strategic interest in scuppering or postponing the deal. Iran produces more than 2m barrels of oil a day, and if these supplies were able to reach the markets, the upward surge in prices would be slowed.
Russia, a large-scale oil producer, wants to drive the oil price up both to turn the screw on western economies, but also to boost its own budget revenues.
Israel, a fierce opponent of a revived nuclear deal, will be the only major country privately welcoming Russia’s actions.
The parties to the deal are Iran, the E3 (France, Germany and the UK), Russia and China. The US is present in Vienna, but Iran will not directly negotiate with the US delegation.
Separately, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, was in Tehran this weekend trying to secure a deal on the future inspection regime. Grossi was hoping to resolve disagreements over the IAEA’s demand for access to four sites where suspicious nuclear activities were alleged to have taken place.
Iran wants the IAEA to close down these investigations, claiming they are based on false Israeli intelligence. Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Iranian atomic energy association, has also sought assurances that what Iran regards as Israeli intelligence will not form the basis of future IAEA investigations into Iran.
The two sides agreed to exchange documents by June, the likely date for the Iran deal to come back into force, but seemed to have left issues about the inspection regime unresolved.
Meanwhile, the IAEA will continue with an inspection regime in which its surveillance cameras remain in place, and the memory cards of the cameras kept under joint seal.