Japan cabinet approves Russia sanctions after deadly missile strikes in Ukraine

Representational image. AFP

New Delhi: Japan’s government on Friday decided to impose additional sanctions on Russia in response to its latest wave of missile attacks in Ukraine. The decision was approved in a cabinet meeting.

The new sanctions include freezing the assets of 36 individuals and 52 organizations linked to Russia. The sanctions will come into effect on 3 February.

“In light of the situation surrounding Ukraine and to contribute to international efforts to secure peace, Japan will implement export bans in line with other major nations,” the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry said in a release.

According to reports, the sanctions, which include asset freezes and prohibitions on exports by Japanese companies, target a variety of individuals and organisations, including politicians, military officers, businesspeople, and companies in Russia.

Medical supplies, vaccines, radioactive components, and robots are prohibited from being exported to Russia under the sanctions.

Assets of several banks were also frozen, including Rossiya Bank, VTB, Novikombank, VEB.RF, Sovcombank, Promsvyazbank, and Otkritie Bank.

According to NHK World-Japan, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kihara Seiji said that in order to preserve peace and order, the G7 countries and the larger international community must unite and take decisive action.

He further stated that Japan would continue to collaborate with other nations to advance sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine.

With inputs from agencies

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Lockheed Martin ramps up F-16 production for possible supply to Ukraine

US F-16 fighter plane. File/AP.

New York: US fighter jets F-16 which was once denied by India for its less efficient primary long-range air-to air weapon, the AMRAAM, may be used by Ukraine for fighting Russia. Anticipating rise in demand, manufacturer Lockheed Martin is ramping up production of the aircraft.

The F-16 was built under an unusual agreement creating a consortium between the United States and four NATO countries: Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

A Financial Times report quoted chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin, Frank St John saying that the company was “going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville [South Carolina] to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict.”

The US’ largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, said that there was “a lot of conversation about third party transfer of F-16s” — whereby countries would re-export their US jets to war-torn Ukraine to defend its airspace.

The statement comes after some of the Ukraine’s closest European allies are considering providing fighter jets to Kyiv, where the war has entered its twelfth month.

Ukraine that has secured dozens of high-end battle tanks from NATO allies including Leopard 2, now pushes for Western fourth-generation fighter jets including F-16.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to Kyiv’s allies war tanks, but said he had asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for more assistance.

“We have to unlock the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important for us to expand our cooperation in artillery, we have to achieve the supply of aircraft to Ukraine. And this is a dream. And this is a task,” he said in his nightly address.

For the unversed, F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole fighter aircraft developed for the US Air Force. A report by CNBC quoted Yuriy Sak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, saying: “We will get F-16s”.

However, the White House turned down appeals of Ukraine for its modern fighter out of fear that they could be used to strike Russian territory.

Also, the US government must give its approval on sale, transfer to third countries, of fighter jets made in America.

“Along with our international allies and partners, we are in regular communication with the Ukrainians on their needs and requests. At this time, we have nothing to announce regarding F-16s,” a US defence official said.

As per reports, EU member are mulling re-exporting F-16s directly to Ukraine. European officials said that the US-made jets could also be sent by western states to former Warsaw Pact countries that could then send their Soviet-designed aircraft to Kyiv.

According to the US government, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft, but according to F-16.net, there were five accidents involving these fighter jet in 2022 alone, two of which were during training.

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Russia slams Poland for not inviting its envoy to commemorate liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp

A man pays his respects at an event to commemorate the closing down of the Auschwitz camp. Image courtesy- Reuters

New Delhi: The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Thursday slammed Poland’s decision to not invite the Russian ambassador to the events commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

Maria Zakharova said on Telegram: “No matter how our European ‘non-partners’ contrived in their attempts to rewrite history in a new way, the memory of the Soviet heroes-liberators and horrors of Nazism cannot be erased.”

“In January 2022, Russian diplomats were not given the floor for the first time. … This year, representatives of the successor state of the USSR, whose soldiers saved the world from the fascist plague, on the anniversary of the liberation of the camp … not invited at all,” Zakharova said.

Meanwhile, as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, historians, activists, survivors and their families are all preparing for the time when there will no longer be living witnesses to share first-person accounts of the horrors of the Nazi genocide during World War II. In the Holocaust, 6 million Jews were wiped out by the Nazis and their allies.

Israel, which was established as a refuge for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust, has gone to great lengths over the years to recognize thousands of “Righteous Among the Nations” — non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Accounts of Jewish resistance to the Nazis, such as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, are mainstays in the national narrative but rescue missions by fellow Jews — such as the Hungarian resistance — are less known.

Hungary was home to around 900,000 Jews before the Nazi invasion. Its government was allied with Nazi Germany, but as the Soviet Red Army advanced toward Hungary, the Nazis invaded in March 1944, to prevent its Axis ally from making a separate peace deal with the Allies.

Over the 10 months that followed, as many as 568,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies in Hungary, according to figures from Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial.

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Watch: Hot air balloons spotted gracing sky in this Swiss town during International Balloon Festival

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Every country is known for hosting a series of events and festivals which invites a large number of tourists from around the world. Besides some amazing tourist spots, the country is also known for its music and festivals. One such popular festival – the International Balloon Festival – is celebrated in Switzerland where hundreds of people gather to fly their hot air balloons. Held in January every year, the festival dates back to 1979, and this year too, thousands gathered to observe the ongoing festival from 20-29 January. Called the capital of Swiss hot air balloons, this year as well, the Swiss hot air balloon festival is being held at Ch?teau-d’Oex.

As a part of this, thousands have gathered in the Swiss town while over 60 balloons from different countries are being witnessed soaring high in the sky. Tourists including men, women and even children along with pilots and flying enthusiasts from around the world have gathered for the festival. With that said, the beautiful clear blue sky filled with colourful balloons gives a picturesque view.

A video of the same has also been shared by ‘Now This News’ which shows several colourful hot air balloons soaring in the sky.


Speaking about the same, Thomas Spildooren, an hot air balloon pilot said, “It just seems so small when you go up in the air. The nicest thing is also you go with the wind, you go with the flow. The special thing about flying in Ch?teau-d’Oex is that we can take up in the morning, fly in one direction and come back in the afternoon due to the anabatic and katabatic winds.”

It is pertinent to note that the festival was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Counted among some popular festivals in Switzerland, the nine-day-long International Balloon Festival attracts a lot of people and should be on your wishlist for the next time you visit Switzerland.

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Mexico intercepts over 50 unaccompanied children from Guatemala in migrant truck

The truck driver was referred to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, while the family and unaccompanied children will be handed over to state authorities for the protection of children and teenagers. File Photo.

Mexico City: A crowded truck transporting nearly 70 migrants from Guatemala, mostly unaccompanied children, was intercepted by Mexican authorities on Thursday, the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM) said in a statement.

The INM said federal Mexican agents spotted the truck at a checkpoint in Mexico’s northern Chihuahua state, which shares borders with the United States.

There were 67 migrants from Guatemala travelling in the truck, including 57 unaccompanied children, mostly boys, aged between 14 and 17, pointing to large-scale human trafficking, according to the INM statement.

The group also included a mother and daughter, it added, all without proper migration permits.

The truck driver was referred to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, it added, while the family and unaccompanied children will be handed over to state authorities for the protection of children and teenagers.

Earlier in January, Mexican immigration agents had found three unaccompanied Salvadoran children stranded on an islet on the Rio Grande, which straddles the US-Mexico border.

Last year, December saw a near record number of apprehensions at the border, according to US Customs and Border Protection, though this number plummeted in January in the wake of new migrant restrictions imposed by US President Joe Biden.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter troubles continue, gets sued for failing to curb holocaust deniers, anti-Semitic speech

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are serious crimes in Germany. That is why the European Union of Jewish Students has sued Elon Musk’s Twitter for not taking down such content, despite such content being flagged regularly.

It seems that being a “free-speech absolutist” is doing Elon Musk no good. The Tesla CEO and Twitter owner is a fresh new lawsuit in Germany over how the platform deals with holocaust deniers and antisemitic hate speech, mainly for failure to remove such content from the platform.

The European Union of Jewish Students and the digital rights group HateAid launched the complaint, claiming the social media platform broke its own guidelines on the publication of antisemitic material.

The group asserts that Twitter received complaints about the allegedly offensive posts but did not remove them. Even one comment apparently tied to Holocaust denial, was allegedly denied to be deleted by the site.

The Holocaust is a very sensitive topic in Germany because of the nation’s past, and denying that the Holocaust never happened, are a serious offence and a crime in the nation. Germany also has severe rules forbidding antisemitic hate speech, making the Berlin court an appealing venue to consider such a claim.

In an interview with Euronews, Avital Grinberg, the president of the European Union of Jewish Students, called these tweets “hugely upsetting.”

“The tweets are truly disgusting, very scary, and saddening to read. We are not just talking about discriminatory speech. We are talking about hate speech that is illegal by German law,” explained Grinberg.

The case will try to determine whether Twitter is legally obliged to remove such material.

According to Josephine Ballon, head of legal at HateAid, the case is special in that the organisation isn’t just suing Twitter under German law but rather under the terms of service and policies of the site.

“Although Twitter prohibits antisemitic hostilities in its Rules and Policies, the platform leaves a lot of such content online. Even if the platform is alerted about it by users,” the litigants argue. “Current studies prove that 84 per cent of posts containing antisemitic hate speech were not reviewed by social media platforms, as shown in a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. This means that Twitter knows Jews are being publicly attacked on the platform every day and that antisemitism is becoming a normality in our society. And that the platform’s response is by no means adequate,” said a statement issued by the European Union of Jewish Students.

“Every person that sets up a profile on Twitter has a sort of contract with Twitter. But no one is asking why Twitter is not sticking to the rules they gave themselves when it comes to the moderation policies on their platform,” Ballon told Euronews.

Twitter acted on just 11 per cent of antisemitic posts reported, the second lowest rate across major platforms.

If this lawsuit is successful, the organisation hopes it will become easier for users to uphold their digital rights all over the world.

“When we succeed with this case, we will have a meaningful tool to hold Twitter accountable and to increase the pressure on the platforms,” explained Ballon.

“This could enable groups to file lawsuits for their own communities and do this all over the world because the terms of service are the same everywhere.”

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Why ChatGPT is an education aide, and not a threat

ChatGPT has already taken a number of tests, including the US Bar exam, actuarial and medical examinations. In all cases it performed at or near a pass level ‘out of the box’. AFP

Just under two months ago, the US artificial intelligence company OpenAI introduced a program called ChatGPT. Essentially an advanced chatbot, it has been the subject of much debate.

Some commentators have described its answers as very impressive, while others have drawn attention to factual errors in its output. Nevertheless, the product has been hailed as a potentially disruptive innovation for many different industries.

A significant amount of what has been written about ChatGPT so far has focused on its implications for education. The program’s much-vaunted capacity to provide detailed answers to queries on a vast range of topics has raised concerns it could have harmful effects on learning and enable students to “cheat” on exams and homework.

ChatGPT has already “taken” a number of tests, including the US Bar exam, actuarial and medical examinations. In all cases it performed at or near a pass level “out of the box”.

While some work on ChatGPT looks at downsides and concerns, our more optimistic perspective is that ChatGPT could well take the form of a low-cost, or even free, electronic research assistant.

A study published in Finance Research Letters aimed to see whether ChatGPT could be used to write a finance paper that would be accepted for an academic journal.

The program passed the test, but performed better in some areas than in others. Furthermore, adding in our own expertise helped overcome the program’s limitations in the eyes of journal reviewers. The findings suggest that ChatGPT could be an important aide for research and not necessarily a threat.

From good to great

The thinking was: if it’s easy to get good outcomes from ChatGPT by simply using it, maybe there’s something extra we can do to turn these good results into great ones.

We first asked ChatGPT to generate the standard four parts of a research study: research idea, literature review (an evaluation of previous academic research on the same topic), dataset, and suggestions for testing and examination. We specified only the broad subject and that the output should be capable of being published in “a good finance journal”.

This was version one of how we chose to use ChatGPT. For version two, we pasted into the ChatGPT window just under 200 abstracts (summaries) of relevant, existing research studies.

We then asked that the program take these into account when creating the four research stages. Finally, for version three, we added “domain expertise” — input from academic researchers. We read the answers produced by the computer program and made suggestions for improvements. In doing so, we integrated our expertise with that of ChatGPT.

We then requested a panel of 32 reviewers each review one version of how ChatGPT can be used to generate an academic study. Reviewers were asked to rate whether the output was sufficiently comprehensive, correct, and whether it made a contribution sufficiently novel for it to be published in a “good” academic finance journal.

The big take-home lesson was that all these studies were generally considered acceptable by the expert reviewers. This is rather astounding: a chatbot was deemed capable of generating quality academic research ideas.

This raises fundamental questions around the meaning of creativity and ownership of creative ideas — questions to which nobody yet has solid answers.

Strengths and weaknesses

The results also highlight some potential strengths and weaknesses of ChatGPT. We found that different research sections were rated differently. The research idea and the dataset tended to be rated highly. There was a lower, but still acceptable, rating for the literature reviews and testing suggestions.

Our suspicion here is that ChatGPT is particularly strong at taking a set of external texts and connecting them (the essence of a research idea), or taking easily identifiable sections from one document and adjusting them (an example is the data summary — an easily identifiable “text chunk” in most research studies).

A relative weakness of the platform became apparent when the task was more complex — when there are too many stages to the conceptual process. Literature reviews and testing tend to fall into this category.

ChatGPT tended to be good at some of these steps but not all of them. This seems to have been picked up by the reviewers.

We were, however, able to overcome these limitations in our most advanced version (version three), where we worked with ChatGPT to come up with acceptable outcomes.

All sections of the advanced research study were then rated highly by reviewers, which suggests the role of academic researchers is not dead yet.

ChatGPT is a tool. In our study, we showed that, with some care, it can be used to generate an acceptable finance research study. Even without care, it generates plausible work.

This has some clear ethical implications. Research integrity is already a pressing problem in academia and websites such as RetractionWatch convey a steady stream of fake, plagiarised, and just plain wrong, research studies. Might ChatGPT make this problem even worse?

It might, is the short answer. But there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. The technology will also only get better (and quickly). How exactly we might acknowledge and police the role of ChatGPT in research is a bigger question for another day.

But our findings are also useful in this regard — by finding that the ChatGPT study version with researcher expertise is superior, we show the input of human researchers is still vital in acceptable research.

For now, we suggest that researchers see ChatGPT as an aide, not a threat. It may particularly be an aide for groups of researchers who tend to lack the financial resources for traditional (human) research assistance — emerging economy researchers, graduate students, and early career researchers.

It’s probably the most optimistic possible conclusion, but it’s just possible that ChatGPT (and similar programs) could help democratise the research process.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Will NATO tanks make it in time to Ukraine to be able to make a difference?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stands with German army Bundeswehr soldiers at a “Leopard 2” main battle tank during a training and instruction exercise in in Ostenholz, Germany. File/AP.

New Delhi: This week, the US announced that it would send its M1A2 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, which was followed by Germany’s decision to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. However, this may be too little too late.

Ukraine has said that it needs around 300 battle tanks for its spring offensive against Russia. However, the number of tanks its Western allies may be able to get on the ground by the time may fall too short of that number.

Even with the limited number of tanks that are expected to be on the field by the spring, Ukrainian forces will have a great task at hand to use them optimally.

The broader package of tanks that the West is piecing together is an assortment of different tank models with different delivery times and unique logistical needs.

According to a Washington Post report, military experts are doubtful of any decisive effect of the tanks, which Ukrainian forces are yet to be trained on how to use.

“No single weapons system or platform can be a game changer,” the report quoted Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, as saying.

He said that the effectiveness of the limited number of tanks set to arrive in March will depend on training and how well the Ukrainian forces integrate the new formations on the front line.

Since Germany waited so long to decide on the tanks, he believes that “it is unlikely that the Leopard 2 will play a significant role in any spring offensive.”

Abrams is too late to see action in the coming months

The US pledged Abrams will take a due course of time before the Ukrainian forces can get their hands on them. The US will first acquire the tanks, and train Ukrainian forces on how to use them before they can be a part of the action.

“We are confident that we will be able to provide adequate sustainment and maintenance support after some months,” a US official aware of the deliberations behind the decision to send Abrams to Ukraine was quoted as saying in the Washington Post report.

It also remains unclear where the US will train the Ukrainian forces to use the tanks.

Interoperable Leopards?

Albeit the Leopards in use of NATO armies in Europe are essentially interoperable, there are subtle differences between stocks held by different countries. A Spanish Leopard A4 may have a different fire control or radio system from the ones with the Finnish army. Using all these Leopards together effectively would require Ukrainian forces to train on how to use all the subtly different variants.

The British Challenger 2 tanks, which the Ukrainians are expecting soon, use different ammunition from the NATO standard used in Leopards.

This mishmash of different tanks, and even the same with subtle differences, however valuable firepower, offer additional complications of procuring ammunition, training forces and organising logistics.

This also was the reason the US was hesitant to send in the Abrams so far. US officials had said that they won’t give the Ukrainian forces the equipment they can neither use nor maintain as it will offer more problems than whatever use it may be of.

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Ukraine desperately wants Israeli anti-drone tech, but why is Tel Aviv cagey?

A Russian-launched, Iranian-built suicide drone shortly before impact in Kyiv on 17 October, 2022. AFP

New Delhi: Raking up the old rivalry with Iran, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel said that Russia’s use of Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones should have made the Jewish state help Ukraine with its anti-drone weapons system.

“What else would have to happen so that Israel would change its position and start helping us at least with the antimissile and anti-drone system?” asked Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel, in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The envoy, speaking following a conversation with the foreign ministers of both countries, expressed frustration over the lack of appropriate support from Israel, which sees Iran as its arch-nemesis.

The comments came as a call between the countries’ defence ministers is anticipated soon.

Why hasn’t Israel sent anti-drone and anti-missile technology to Ukraine?

Israel has some of the world’s best defence systems when it comes to drones or missiles. The tiny country is often under attack with these kinds of weapons leaving its civilian population and infrastructure vulnerable. Thus, it has developed sophisticated defence technology that can shoot incoming missiles, and drones at a safe distance.

Iran looks at Israel as a state that has no right to exist and often proclaims wiping it off the map as its goal. The Iranian drones being used in Ukraine would give Israel the best opportunity to battle test its defence systems with Iranian drones, which Tehran could one day use in confrontation with Israel.

However, the fear of its technology falling into Russian hands and being transferred to Iran, according to The Jerusalem Post, holds it back from sending the technology to Ukraine. Also, the fear is added to the risk of further alienating Russia.

‘Expect the assistance of our friends and partners now’

The envoy hoped for a change in Israel’s position.

“We do hope this will happen” and “that Israel will start openly to support Ukraine with [defensive] weapons directly or through its partners”, he said.

“At the moment, we are in the middle of the cruellest war since World War II,” he added.

“Our people are dying by the thousands, and we are expecting immediate help from our friends.”

Korniychuk also mentioned that the US National Security Advisor had raised the issue with Israel when he visited there last week.

“I do hope that [US pressure] will help us,” Korniychuk said, adding that “we are suffering every single day, and we do expect the assistance of our friends and partners now – not tomorrow and not six months from now.”

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If Russia did not sabotage Nord Stream, who did?

The release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea. AFP.

New Delhi: Four months on, the West and the EU continue to point finger at Russia for the Nord Stream pipelines attack, but is Vladimir Putin the brain behind it remains inconclusive. Amid this, Nord Stream Chief made a sensational claim and hinted involvement of a NATO member.

In an interview to German newspaper Die Zeit, Matthias Warnig, executive director of Nord Stream 2 AG, ruled out Russia being behind the pipeline sabotage.

Asked about Moscow’s potential complicity in the incident that left both Nord Stream 1 strings and one Nord Stream 2 string severely damaged, Warnig said: “The Russians? No”.

Warnig, who has been with Nord Stream AG since it was founded in 2006, provided no definitive answer to who might be behind the incident. When asked whether London might have been behind it, he called it “speculation”.

When asked if he thought a NATO member was behind the pipelines attack, Warnig nodded his headed and said: “think about it.”

Nord Stream pipelines attack

On September 26, 2022, pressure dropped at both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines running underneath the Baltic Sea. Three separate leaks were recorded off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden, a few dozen kilometers apart.

Both lines of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline were impacted, along with one line of Nord Stream 2.

N?rd Stream AG is formally a Swiss company and soon after explosions ruptured the pipelines, the US and European officials blamed Russia.

As per reports, investigators have confirmed that the blast were deliberate, but the admiral in charge of the Office of Naval Intelligence, earlier this month, acknowledged there are “still some unknowns”, including the perpetrator.

“Obviously, we have a number of investigations underway with different countries taking a look at it,” Rear Adm. Michael Studeman said at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance event on January 11.

“The sabotage is confirmed based on what we know so far, but we haven’t ruled out any guilty party at this stage of the game. So we’re going to have to wait and see what the evidence and where this investigation or series of investigations go, so stand by right now, but we don’t know enough to make any conclusions,” Studeman added.

Why West is blaming Russia for Nord Stream pipelines attack?

The West believe that Russia is capable of interfering with Nord Stream pipelines infrastructure since it has a number of submarined with special-mission capabilities, including the ability to deploy smaller submersibles to meddle with pipelines.

The Nord Stream pipelines were built to deliver increased amounts of gas to EU markets.

The pipelines attack took place off the island of Bornholm, within the economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. Sweden, Denmark, and Germany launched a probe into the incident but refused to share the results with Russia.

Experts from the Russian energy giant Gazprom were only allowed to investigate the blast site once, in late October.

Ukraine called it a “terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards EU.”

Nord Stream chief meets Putin

Warnig has admitted to have held a personal conversation with president Vladimir Putin at start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and asked him about the goal of the operation, but the leader said it was “state secret”.

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