LONDON (AP) — A long-awaited report into Russian influence in British politics says it would be “difficult — if not impossible — to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 Brexit referendum, but “the Government was slow to recognize the existence of the threat.”
The report from parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee said it was “astonishing” that no one sought to protect the 2016 EU referendum from Russian interference, and that British officials should have recognized the Russian threat back in 2014. The authors said there had been no assessment of Russian influence.
“What is clear is that the government was slow to recognise the existence of the threat — only understanding it after the ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee, when it should have been seen as early as 2014,” the report said.
“As a result, the Government did not take action to protect the UK’s process in 2016.”
The report’s authors criticized the British government for “actively avoiding” looking into the Russian threat. “Serious questions needed to be asked” why ministers didn’t look into the issue after evidence of interference in the 2014 Scottish referendum and reports of similar activity in the U.S. elections, it said.
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A report on Russian interference in British politics will finally be published Tuesday amid criticism the government delayed its release for more than six months to shield Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party from embarrassment.
An influential committee of lawmakers plans to deliver its findings to Parliament after staving off what many observers saw as a last-minute effort to once again stall the report, which was originally submitted to Johnson on Oct. 17.
The government initially said the report couldn’t be published until it was reviewed for national security issues, which postponed release until after the Dec. 12 general election. Further holdups were caused by delays in appointing new members to the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Finally, Johnson named five Conservative lawmakers to the nine-person panel in hopes his handpicked candidate would be chosen as chairman and block the report. The gambit failed when a renegade Conservative was chosen to head the committee with backing from opposition parties.
“Completely self-defeating act that bears the hallmark of a government so arrogant it really believes it is above scrutiny,” Lisa Nandy, the opposition Labour Party’s spokeswoman on foreign affairs, tweeted. “What is in the Russia report that Johnson doesn’t want to see the light of day?”
Labour has accused the government of failing to publish the report because it would lead to further questions about links between Russia and the pro-Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum on European Union membership, which Johnson helped lead.
Another parliamentary panel — the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee — previously published the results of its own inquiry into disinformation and “fake news,” which called on election regulators and law enforcement to investigate reports that a British businessman with links to Russia donated 8.4 million pounds ($10.6 million) to the Brexit campaign. The National Crime Agency said in September that it found no evidence of criminal offenses related to the donation.
The intelligence committee report covers the full range of the Russian threat to the U.K., including election interference, espionage and targeted assassinations such as the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury two years ago, said Dominic Grieve, who chaired the panel until he left the House of Commons after the election. The government’s explanations for delaying the report “are simply not credible,” Grieve said in an interview with Britain’
“I hope that when it comes out … it will be useful and informative to the public, which is what it was intended it to be when we were trying bring it out at the end of October, early November,” he said.
The report’s release comes only days after Britain, the United States and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies of trying to steal information from researchers working on a potential coronavirus vaccine.
“The government hasn’t been reticent about calling out other cases of Russian influence operations, including attributing cyber-operations to Russia,” Nigel Gould-Davies, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies told The Associated Press.
“Why the reluctance to bring evidence of political funding into the public domain?”
How TikTok got caught in the crosshairs of US-China politics – The Conversation UK
Donald Trump’s threat to ban TikTok, a video sharing app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, on August 1 is only the latest in a series of clashes between the US and China. With each of these events – from the US ban on telecoms company Huawei to the US response to events in Hong Kong and the continuing escalation of the trade war which stretches back formally to 2018 – one has to remember that there are several different conflicts taking place between the world’s largest and second-largest economies. It is important to work out which of these the TikTok issue belongs to.
Ostensibly, the main reason for a ban is national security concerns. Trump administration officials say TikTok could pose a security threat by giving the Chinese government access to vast amounts of US citizens’ data. Yet there is little evidence for these claims, nor how Trump’s proposed solution of selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft would solve the problem.
Similar issues were raised by the ban on Huawei, and the operations of other major Chinese corporates in the US. They even predate the Trump presidency, reaching back to the mid-2000s when Congress vetoed Chinese involvement in energy company Unocal, and raised questions about tech company Lenovo’s purchase of the US IBM ThinkPad brand.
A strange security risk
TikTok seems to pose a strange kind of security challenge, given that most of its content is silly viral video memes. With Huawei there were more complex matters to verify, such as how to check the reliability of its hardware. TikTok doesn’t involve these to such an extent. So why the focus on this company?
Reaching beyond the realm of security, therefore, we must venture into that of trade and technology. TikTok’s greatest problem is that it manifestly demonstrates Chinese success beyond the borders of China. This is not as common as it might seem. Chinese companies which are genuinely internationally successful are few and far between.
In 2020, the app has enjoyed remarkable success, with a staggering 2 billion downloads globally. The US recorded 165 million downloads – the third highest country after India and China – and the app is rapidly rising up the ranks of the most-downloaded app league tables.
It may well be that an achievement like this, at a time like this, is the company’s biggest crime. So moving against TikTok on security grounds may well be an excuse to distract from the reason it is most problematic for the White House, the fact that a Chinese company can succeed so well in the US. The optics of that are very negative for the Trump administration.
That brings us to the third area of conflict – the many calculations and machinations around the imminent presidential election in November. For Trump – criticised for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic domestically and facing very poor economic figures – one area where he can, and is, trying to appeal to voters is by taking a tough line on China. TikTok offers a relatively easy target by which to show his prowess.
With the trade talks between Washington and Beijing largely halted, this area is one he can demonstrate activism and make a show of strength. Here he can try and build a narrative of the man people can trust to be tough on China while highlighting the perceived faults of his opponent, Joe Biden, who he will paint as being tarred by the Obama administration’s policy of engagement with China.
Ultimately, the boundary between legitimate security concerns, political calculations that only have domestic issues at their heart, and good old-fashioned protectionism is a very faint one. With TikTok, the sense of deliberately distorting and manipulating facts to suit an agenda, rather than devising an agenda to respond to facts, is palpable – as it is in so many other areas of the Trump presidency.
But we must be clear. The evidence strongly suggests that TikTok is an issue because the US – particularly at the moment, and particularly under Trump – cannot countenance Chinese commercial and technological success without searching for security or competition grounds to combat it.
The great pity about this approach is that it means the genuine issues and concerns get diluted to the point that they are missed. China presents many problems in the area of security – nobody denies that. People watching brief, often mindless videos, though, isn’t one of them.
Political parties comparing election year highs to pandemic lows to justify wage subsidy – National Post
Article content continued
The Conservatives are currently in a leadership race, an event that normally siphons funds away from a party’s main operations, with dollars now going to leadership contenders Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan.
In the second quarter of 2017, when the party’s last leadership race was underway it raised $4 million.
This year’s total is a historic low for the Conservative party, and spokesperson Cory Hann said the wage subsidy has allowed them to cover approximately 60 full-time and part-time total staff across Canada during a difficult time.
The eligibility spanned from March 15th until July 4th, and Hann said the party hasn’t yet decided if it will apply again.
“No decision has been taken yet whether we will re-apply – the timing of the next application isn’t for several more weeks.”
Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said this is further proof political parties should not have been eligible for the wage subsidy.
“I don’t think anyone envisioned when they came up with this program that it was for political parties,” he said.
He said they also shouldn’t be basing their eligibility by comparing revenue declines this year to 2019.
“Everyone knows, and it has always been historically the case, that parties raise more money in an election year.”
Parties receive rebates on election campaign expenses and political donations are eligible for generous tax write-offs, Wudrick said.
“They are already subsidized up the wazoo and yet now they are coming back for another form of subsidy,” he said. “It does not seem reasonable to me that they wouldn’t have the resources to tie themselves over for six months.”
Women and credit: In the 1990s, women made strides in politics, and pop culture rewrites what it means to be a girl – MarketWatch
This series examines the financial progress made by women in the U.S. since the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974. In this installment: the 1990s, when “third-wave” feminism began.
Strides in the workplace
By the end of the 1990s, women’s participation in the workforce had grown to 60% — while men’s participation shrank to 74.7% — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women’s income continued to rise in relation to men’s income, moving up to 76.5 cents on the dollar by 1999.
While the steady rise of women’s wages during the ’80s and ’90s is great, it’s less uplifting when you look at the income gap between women of different races. White women were earning just 75.7 cents to every dollar white men earned in 1999, but they still made more than Black and Latina women, who made 64.1 cents and 54.5 cents, respectively.
In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act made it illegal for many women to be ejected from the workforce for going on medical leave for pregnancy. Today, maternity and paternity leave remains unpaid, but the FMLA requires employers to hold employees’ jobs for up to 12 weeks until they return from leave for qualified medical and family reasons. Such reasons include pregnancy, adoption and foster care placement. Coverage eligibility is limited to those who have worked for a qualified company with 50 or more employees for at least one year (putting in at least 1,250 hours during that year) and live within 75 miles of that company.
In order to show the next generation of women their career potential, Take Our Daughters to Work Day was created in 1992 and celebrated for the first time in 1993. It was founded by the Ms. Foundation for Women and its president, Marie Wilson, with help from famed feminist Gloria Steinem. It has since been renamed Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Advances in political power
Women also made great strides in politics in the ’90s. In 1992, dubbed “The Year of the Woman” by the news media, four women were elected to the Senate — Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois (the first Black woman elected to the Senate) and Patty Murray of Washington — and 24 were elected to the House of Representatives. A year later, Janet Reno became the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general.
While pop culture in the 1970s and 1980s featured middle-aged women who had to do “men’s work” to feed themselves and their children, the shows of the ’90s hit a different demographic: girls. With shows like “Clarissa Explains It All,” “Pepper Ann” and “Moesha,” pop culture began to focus on intelligent, outspoken feminists-in-the-making.
“Clarissa Explains It All” — focusing on Clarissa Darling, a sarcastic teen computer-game programmer — helped debunk the myth that boys could never enjoy a TV show with a female protagonist. Pepper Ann was a sporty, independent 12-year-old with a feminist mother who brought her to a women’s weekend to learn that women are as capable as men. Moesha, who always stood up for what she believed was right, fought against racism and sexism in her school and community while getting into teenage hijinks. And this isn’t an exhaustive list of ’90s television shows with awesome girls. You don’t have to do much digging to find positive female role models in ’90s pop culture.
What these leading ladies did for us as a society is this: They showed the next generation of women that being a girl means whatever they want it to mean. Girls who grew up in the ’90s weren’t told they should exclusively be teachers, nurses or moms. Instead, they learned that every career opportunity was theirs for the taking, even in the face of adversity.
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Erin El Issa is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Erin_El_Issa.
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