Israeli airstrikes kill 5 in Damascus, Syrian state media says
Israeli airstrikes targeted a residential neighbourhood in the Syrian capital of Damascus early Sunday, killing at least five people and wounding 15, Syrian state news reported.
Loud explosions were heard over a central area of the capital around 12:30 a.m. local time, and SANA reported that Syrian air defences were “confronting hostile targets in the sky around Damascus.”
Syrian state media agency SANA, citing a military source, reported that five people had been killed, among them a soldier, and 15 civilians wounded, along with “destruction of a number of residential buildings.” The news agency also reported that the strikes had damaged buildings connected to a medieval citadel in central Damascus and an applied arts institute housed there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor, reported that 15 people, including a woman, were killed in strikes targeting sites connected with Iranian militias and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. They took place in the Damascus countryside and on an Iranian school in the neighbourhood of Kafr Sousa in the capital, it said.
Samer Abdo, an engineer living in an apartment building that was struck in Kafr Sousa on an upscale residential street, was picking through shattered glass and broken wood in his apartment Sunday morning. Abdo told The Associated Press that his family had woken up in terror to the building shaking.
“We thought at first that it was an earthquake like the one that happened two weeks ago,” he said.
Mohamad Dulo, another resident of the neighbourhood, said, “All the windows fell into the street, and people ran down to the streets as well.”
Dulo said he did not understand why the area was targeted. “It’s a residential area,” he said. “There is nothing (military) here.”
Director General of Antiquities and Museums Mohamad Awad told the AP that the damaged buildings around the Damascus Citadel were arts and heritage institutes, as well as the offices for managing the citadel.
“It’s without a doubt that it will cost a lot to rebuild or restore some of the buildings that were destroyed in the attack,” Awad said, adding that the strike destroyed “rare and expensive” equipment and machinery that has been hard to obtain due to sanctions and the country’s economic crisis.
There was no immediate statement from Israel on the attack. A spokesperson for the Israeli military declined to comment.
An official with an Iran-backed group denied media reports that the strike on Kafr Sousa targeted Iranian or Palestinian officials.
The strike hit a parking garage under a building and killed 10 civilians and troops all of them Syrians, he said. He denied that there had been any Iranians or Hezbollah members killed.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Israeli airstrikes frequently target sites in the vicinity of Damascus, but it is rare for them to target residential areas in the city. The Saturday night strikes were the first since a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6.
Syria’s foreign ministry condemned the attack, coming “at a time when Syria was healing its wounds, burying its martyrs, and receiving condolences, sympathy, and international humanitarian support in the face of the devastating earthquake.” It called on the United Nations Security Council to condemn it.
Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency Sunday said no Iranian nationals were harmed in Israel’s strike on Damascus. It said one of the rockets hit the same place where former Hezbollah commander Imad Moghnieh was killed in 2008.
The last reported attack on Damascus was on Jan. 2, when the Syrian army reported that Israel’s military fired missiles toward the international airport of Syria’s capital early Monday, putting it out of service and killing two soldiers and wounding two others.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses the operations.
Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The Israeli strikes come amid a wider shadow war between Israel and Iran. The attacks on airports in Damascus and Aleppo were over fears they were being used to funnel Iranian weaponry into the country.
While he did not directly mention the strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday that Israel would continue to defend itself from what it sees as Iran’s aggression.
“Iran’s attacks will not discourage us. We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and we will not allow it to entrench itself along our northern borders. We are doing everything and we will do everything to protect our citizens and we respond with intensity to the attacks against us,” he said.
Associated Press journalists Abdelrahman Shaheen in Damascus, Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.
Media Keep Stifling the Covid Debate – WSJ – The Wall Street Journal
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Facebook users consume more fake news than users of Twitter, other social media sites: Study – CTV News
When it comes to election misinformation on social media, Facebook takes the cake, according to a new study which found heavy Facebook users were far more likely to consume fake news than Twitter or other social media sites.
The study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Government Information Quarterly, found Facebook users read the most fake news about the 2020 U.S. presidential election and reported the most concern about votes not being counted properly.
They also found the biggest factor in whether a person reported being suspicious about the election results was their level of fake news consumption, not their method of casting their vote.
According to the study, a big part of the problem with relying on social media for news is that these sites have algorithms designed to keep you scrolling and engaged, meaning that they’re likely to keep serving you the same content you’re engaging with and make it harder to climb out of a disinformation hole once you are in it.
“What we saw in this study is that if you aren’t careful, the bias that you bring into your news consumption can be absolutely confirmed and supported if you are in a place like Facebook where the algorithms feed into that,” Robert Crossler, study co-author and an associate professor in the WSU Carson College of Business, said in a press release.
Those who got their news about the 2020 election primarily by navigating directly on a news website were less likely to consume fake news, the study found, and were more likely to believe that the election had unfolded the way it did.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s win in 2020 was accompanied with unproven allegations pushed by former U.S. President Donald Trump that the election had been stolen from him and that many votes for him had gone uncounted. Allegations of voter fraud with mail-in ballots and with Dominion voting machines were spread after the election, but none of these claims stood up in court, and few legal experts supported this position.
However, the lack of factual support didn’t stop the story from spreading widely on social media.
It’s not new that Facebook and other social media sites can be drivers of disinformation and fake news, but it’s trickier to measure how consuming fake news affects a person’s perception of reality.
In order to get a better understanding of this, the Washington State University-led study designed three surveys relating to how political alignment, fake news consumption and voting method each individually impacted a person’s perception of the election.
In the study, “fake news” was defined as articles and sites spreading disinformation that was provably incorrect, not articles or sites with information perceived to be false from a partisan standpoint.
The first two surveys were given to different groups of voters prior to the election, both containing hypothetical scenarios for participants to react to.
The first posited a scenario where the participant would either be voting in-person, through the mail or online. Once the participant had read the scenario of their voting method, they were asked questions about how concerned they were about votes being counted properly, and how much news they got from various news organizations.
The second survey gave the scenario of all voters needing to use mail-in ballots that would be counted either by a government official, a neutral party or by a voting machine. They were then asked again about their concerns regarding votes being counted and their news sources.
The third survey was presented to a group of actual voters after the election. Participants filled out what their voting method had been, and then answered the same questions presented in the previous two surveys. They then reported what percentage of their news they got from direct navigation, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sites.
Researchers were surprised to find the voting method — whether people voted by mail or in-person — had no measurable impact on how likely participants were to be worried about votes not being counted properly.
Instead, the more a person reported receiving their news from social media, particularly Facebook, the more likely they were to be heavily concerned about votes not being counted.
This suggested to researchers that Facebook, more so than other social media sites, was elevating sources spreading these fears.
“I don’t think that Facebook is deliberately directing people towards fake news but something about how their algorithm is designed compared to other algorithms is actually moving people towards that type of content,” Stachofsky said. “It was surprising how hard it was to find the websites Facebook was directing people to when we looked for them in a web browser. The research shows that not all social media platforms are created equal when it comes to propagating intentionally misleading information.”
The study also found there was no age group more likely to read fake news, which is different from other studies, suggesting that there could be a higher proportion of younger adults consuming fake news than had been previously thought.
Authors noted that more research needs to be done to understand how disinformation spreads and how it can be combatted, particularly in a political climate where the partisan divide in the U.S. is increasing the distrust in mainstream media. They’re hoping that this study could spur social media sites to think more about how their algorithms impact their users.
“This supports the argument that people need to be encouraged to be information or news literate,” Crossler said. “Right now, we are talking about the elections, but there are a lot of other issues, such as the war in Ukraine, that directing people to misinformation is not only misleading but also potentially dangerous.”
2023 Media Layoff Tracker: Rough Year For Journalism Marked By Increasing Layoffs
Board members of the Texas Democracy Foundation reportedly voted to put the progressive Texas Observer on hiatus and lay off its 17-person staff following prolonged economic woes and shrinking readership, marking the latest in a brutal series of closures and layoffs rocking the media industry in 2023.
reportedly heard about the impending layoffs from a Texas Tribune article, writes a letter to the Foundation’s board asking them to reconsider the decision to close the paper and sets up an emergency GoFundMe page in a last ditch effort to find funding.The Texas Observer’s staff, who
cancels four podcasts—Invisibilia, Louder Than a Riot, Rough Translation and Everyone and Their Mom—and begins laying off 100 employees as part of a push to reduce a reported budget deficit of $30 million.NPR
tells Boston public radio.NPR affiliate New England Public Media announces it will lay off 17 employees—20% of its staff—by March 31 after facing “serious financial headwinds during the last three years,” New England Public Media management
lay off 34 people and close a printing press in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as part of Gannet’s efforts to reduce the number of operating presses and prioritize digital platforms.Sea Coast Media and Gannett, a media conglomerate with hundreds of papers and Sea Coast Media’s parent company,
told NPR.Three Alabama newspapers—The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Press-Register—become fully digital publications and reportedly lay off 100 people following a prolonged decrease in print paper circulation, Alabama Media Group President Tom Bates
reportedly became too expensive to produce amid a declining audience—an unspecified number of people are laid off.New York public radio station WNYC cancels radio show The Takeaway after 15 years on air after the show
reportedly told investors following compounding declines in profit.News Corp, which owns the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins publishers, among others, expects to lay off 1,250 people across all businesses by the end of 2023, Chief Executive Robert Thomson
stops publishing its video game and kids sections, leaving 20 people unemployed a little over a month after publisher Fred Ryan foreshadowed layoffs in 2023—executive editor Sally Buzbee reportedly tells employees the layoffs were geared toward staying competitive and no more are scheduled.The Washington Post
reportedly tells staff.Vox Media, which owns The Verge, SB Nation and New York Magazine, lays off 133 people—7% of the media conglomerate’s staff— in anticipation of a declining economy, chief executive Jim Bankoff
reports, mere months after Fandom acquired the four outlets, among others, for $55 million.Entertainment company and fan platform Fandom lays off less than 50 people at affiliated GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Metacritic and TV Guide, Variety
according to publisher and chief executive Steven Saslow—an undisclosed number of people are laid off and severance packages depend on signing a non-disclosure agreement, the Oregonian reports.The Medford, Oregon-based Mail Tribune shuts down their digital publication after hiring difficulties and declining advertising sales,
lay off 75 employees as part of a broader corporate reorganization.NBC News and MSNBC
closes a printing press in Greece, New York, as part of an increased focus on online journalism, resulting in the layoffs of 108 people.Gannett
lays off 50 employees at an Indiana printing press to “adapt to industry conditions,” a spokesperson told the Indiana Star—the press remains open and the layoffs aren’t expected to affect newspaper employees.Gannett
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