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China foreign minister in rare call with Ukraine counterpart

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BEIJING (AP) — In a rare phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Thursday, China’s foreign minister says Beijing is concerned about the year-old grinding conflict with Russia spinning out of control and urged talks on a political solution with Moscow.

Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that China has “always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin “discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity.”

“I underscored the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s)’s Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine,” wrote Kuleba, who spoke the same day with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In 2022, China declared it had a “no-limits” friendship with Russia and has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion — even while declaring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries be respected. Beijing has also condemned Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.

China and Ukraine have retained diplomatic ties but their top officials are believed to have had only sporadic contact.

Beijing has also accused the West of “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with weaponry to fend off the Russian invasion.

A Chinese peace proposal for Ukraine issued in February urged a cease-fire and peace talks, drawing praise from Russia but dismissals from the West. U.S. officials have repeatedly accused China of considering the provision of weapons to Russia for use in the war.

At a March 7 news conference, Qin insinuated America was undermining efforts for peace in Ukraine in order to extend the conflict for its own benefit, saying, “There seems to be an invisible hand pushing for the protraction and escalation of the conflict and using the Ukraine crisis to serve a certain geopolitical agenda.”

The Foreign Ministry made no mention of Qin repeating such remarks to Kuleba or of raising the peace proposal.

“We hope that all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained, resume peace talks as soon as possible, and push for a return to the track of political settlement,” Qin was quoted as saying.

“China will continue to play a constructive role toward reaching a cease-fire, ending warfare, mitigating the crisis and restoring peace,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Russia, possibly as early as next week, although neither side has confirmed dates.

China has also sought to play up its credentials as a good-faith independent mediator after hosting talks last week at which longtime antagonists Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore full diplomatic relations.

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With AI, jets and police squadrons, Paris is securing the Olympics – and worrying critics

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PARIS (AP) — A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be “ the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.

France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.

Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.

Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.

The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.

Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.

“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.

“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.

Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,

France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.

Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks

Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.

Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former U.S. president.

“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.

In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services for suspected Islamic radicalization.

With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.

Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.

“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.

Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.

He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”

Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games

Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.

Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.

“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?”

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The world is on the brink. Canada is not ready – National Post

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The world is on the brink. Canada is not ready  National Post

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Kayaker dies after accident in Quebec’s Mauricie region on Saturday

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MONTREAL – A kayaker has died after capsizing in Quebec’s Mauricie region on Saturday.

Quebec provincial police says emergency services were called at about 12:15 p.m. to a site on the Matawin River near Trois-Rives, about 110 kilometres west of Quebec City.

They say the initial call described a person in distress.

The kayaker, a man in his 50s, is believed to have capsized while paddling on the river.

He was missing for a period of time before being pulled from the water by other kayakers.

The victim was taken to hospital, but police confirmed late Saturday that he had died.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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