Officials have been waiting since July to inspect and repair the FSO Safer, a stricken tanker off the Yemen coast. Houthi rebels have finally given approval, the U.N. said.
While international donors gather in Geneva to discuss a reduced aid package to Afghanistan, intense violence has Afghan officials pleading for continued assistance.
We can all, by now, ascribe to the idea that something has changed in the last few months. Like it or not, business is not as it was. If we were true to ourselves, we would admit that our lives will never be the name again. But parallel to this visceral feeling, is the quite clear and objective truth that the planet that sustains our existence is in trouble. So, surely, is it not beholden upon us to step up? Is this both a moral and a commercial opportunity?
Today Astanor Ventures is launching a $325m ‘Global Impact fund’ concentrating on food and agriculture technology. These are two of the most pressing areas in the climate debate, The aim is to deploy funds across Europe and North America.
Astanor‘s fund is a multi-stage tech investor that unites both knowledge and experience of scaling new technology companies with food, cross-sector expertise and agriculture.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Eric Archambeau, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures said: “There is now an urgent need for an impact investor like Astanor which is using tech and capital to bring about a revolution in food and farming.”
Archambeau told TechCrunch that the fund will rigorously apply the ideas behind the UN’s seventeen SDGs to ints investments.
“There is a new generation coming on board at LPs and family offices today and new funds understand the imperative this generation now raises. It’s time to stop up and be counted for the future,” said Archambeau.
Within its network, Astanor counts entrepreneurs, impact investors, farmers, chefs, policymakers, food scientists and high-profile sector experts, such as Kathleen Merrigan, Professor in the School of Sustainability and Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (an Astanor Venture Partner).
The background opportunities to shift the economy are, by now, obvious. Multiple studies show there are booming greenhouse gas emissions and some 70% of the world’s freshwater resources are consumed by agriculture. The earth’s soil is degrading (fertile soil is being lost at rate of 24bn tonnes a year. Food waste is a huge issue and some 40% of food goes to waste); most fruit or vegetable has 15% less nutrients than it did in 1950.
Since its founding in 2017, Astanor has invested in more than 20 European and US startups that are working to accelerate regenerative agriculture, innovate food production techniques and farming, as well as promote food culture and the enjoyment of food.
Portfolio companies include French insect farming pioneer Ϋnsect, in which Astanor is the lead investor; Infarm, the Berlin -based on-demand vertical farming company; La Ruche Qui dit Oui, a French farm to table supplier; and Notpla, a UK-based company seeking to eliminate plastics by creating a highly functional packaging material from seaweed. California food waste reduction company Apee created plant-based protection for fresh fruit and vegetables, allowing produce to stay fresh twice as long as without it.
An elite commando unit supported by U.S. forces could fall apart, officials say, leaving the country more vulnerable to the Shabab and other terrorist groups.
Blocked roads, cut communications, intensifying combat: Aid groups say they stand ready to help people caught in the Ethiopian fighting, if only they could.
Russia and Turkey brokered an end to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. But they don’t have the region’s best interests at heart.
An Indian-born acolyte of Gandhi, he campaigned for boycotts, divestments and other protests against the South African government.
American drones and U.S. allies killed several Qaeda leaders and operatives in the past week. But the organization has “ingrained itself in local communities and conflicts,” according to the U.N.
The Trump administration is trying to fortify its campaign of maximum pressure against Iran from being reversed by a potential Biden administration.
Fifty countries have now ratified the treaty, so it will become international law. The United States and the eight other nuclear-armed powers reject it but have failed to stop its advance.
What wasn’t said at the debates was as telling as what was.
The two main factions in years of civil war that have drawn in Russia, Turkey and other regional powers signed an accord at the United Nations in Geneva.
Critics say the administration has targeted a human rights lawyer with economic penalties meant for warlords, dictators and authoritarian governments.
The agency was awarded the prize for providing food assistance to millions around the world, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
The penalties, which could effectively lock Iran out of the global financial system, were the latest sign that the Trump administration plans to maintain its maximum pressure campaign against the country.
Even Democrats may find it hard to imagine, but the “leader of the free world” would benefit from United Nations oversight.
David Michaelis’s “Eleanor” describes an unstoppable force who had a profound effect on American politics.
The negotiations will be their first on nonsecurity issues in three decades but officials do not expect them to lead to peace talks.
The U.N. health agency, already grappling with the challenge of leading the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, vowed it would investigate the allegations that women were exploited in return for jobs.
With schools closed and families desperate for income, millions of children are being forced into work that is often dangerous, arduous and illegal.
Starvation again threatens war-afflicted Yemen, where the U.N. has halved food rations for lack of funding. “If we get the money, we still may have famine,” the head of the U.N. anti-hunger agency said.
The U.S. insisted that new international guidelines on combating drug resistance omit any mention of fungicides — a demand that the industry made but that ran counter to science.
The Trump administration targeted Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs after the U.N. refused to enforce international penalties that the U.S. said it had triggered over the weekend.
As world leaders meet for the 75th United Nations General Assembly this week, the gatherings are virtual, but the challenges all too real.
A public scolding of the C.D.C. chief was only the latest but perhaps the starkest instance when the president has rejected not just the policy advice of his public health officials but the facts and information that they provided.
E.U. leaders are still learning to navigate a world ever more dangerous for them, while relations with the United States grow more and more awkward.
Countries have made insufficient progress on international goals designed to halt a catastrophic slide, a new report found.
The organization created in the wake of one world war was aimed at preventing another. But a celebration of its accomplishments has been overshadowed by a pandemic and rising world tensions.
Former and current employees accuse Dr. Lucica Ditiu, leader of Stop TB, of harassment and bullying. The complaints threaten to slow prevention efforts worldwide.
President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko seems set on relentless repression, while protesters think peaceful defiance will win in the end.
Yesterday the four employees (pictured) of US-headquartered enterprise startup PandaDoc were arrested in Minsk by the Belarus police, in what appears to be an act of state-led retaliation, after the company’s founders joined protests against the 26 year-long regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko is widely believed by international observers to have rigged the country’s recent elections in his favor, preventing the election of opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
PandaDoc — which has raised $51.1M and is now headquartered in San Francisco after debuting at a TechCrunch Meetup in Berlin in 2013 — issued a statement saying their Minsk development office was raided by police and the ‘Financial Investigation Department’ yesterday morning.
PandaDoc has released a statement on a new web site, SavePandaDoc, outlining the incident, saying employees had been prevented from leaving the office, refused access to lawyers, and a director was taken away by Police.
Four of the arrested PandaDoc employees have been charged with embezzling 107,000 BYR ($41,000) from company and therefore avoiding tax. The employees have been detained for two months.
However, PandaDoc released a statement saying: “We declare that this accusation is completely untrue and has no basis whatsoever. All activities of the company were carried out in full compliance with the legislation, which is confirmed by repeated international audits and inspections.”
Now held in custody are (also pictured):
Yulia Shardiko, Chief Accountant
Dmitry Rabtsevich, Director
Victor Kuvshinov, Product Director
Vladislav Mikholap, HR
Although the company HQ is in San Francisco, it has a large office on the Belarusian High Technologies Park, which was set up by the government supposedly to support the tech industry.
PandaDoc said the police raid was likely linked to the fact that the founders of PandaDoc, in particular Mikado, have protested publicly against the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Lukashenko, but have done so strictly in a personal capacity.
Mikado recently became a leading voice in the protest movement. He set up an initiative, ProtectBelarus.org, offering Belarusian police officers who had decided to disobey orders to beat and torture protesters financial aid and re-training in the tech industry.
Belarussian police officers are effectively ‘indentured employees’ because they are paid in large sums at the beginning of their contract, but this immediately becomes a debt to the state the moment they decide to break leave their contract.
In a statement, Mikado said that as of August 29th, the platform had received more than 6,000 messages and almost 600 requests for help. The platform is run by volunteers and has no relation to PandaDoc, the company.
Mikado said in a statement: “We are asking international tech community to support PandaDoc by sharing this message and reaction to it with a #SavePandaDoc tag.”
“There is no more law. The authorities do not even try to act according to the law, they simply fabricate cases for political orders that come from above. And if you thought that this would not affect you, then we can safely assure you of the opposite – it has already affected everyone,” the statement reads.
“We will not be silent anymore! The country is full of legal chaos. The actions of the authorities cannot be called anything except genocide and repression. The further it goes, the longer the road back. And soon there will be a cliff. We demand to immediately release our colleagues, close the criminal case, let the company work normally and bring benefits and income, including to the state.”
The company now says it will be forced to close the company in Belarus and “will begin to establish an alternative to the Park of High Technologies outside the Republic of Belarus.”
PandaDoc only recently raised $30 million in a Series B extension from One Peak, Microsoft Venture Fund M12 and EBRD Venture Fund.
After the Belarusian presidential election on August 9th (which was not recognized as free and fair by the EU, the UK and the US due to widely reported and documented vote-rigging in favor of Lukashenko) the police violently cracked down on peaceful protests, leading to six reported deaths and 450 UN-documented cases of police torture.
A confidential report sent to the Security Council details extensive breaches of the international arms embargo on Libya by eight countries since the beginning of the year.
He was not charged with any of the alleged assaults, but rather with two counts of lying when he was questioned by the F.B.I.
Lucas di Grassi is returning to TechCrunch’s stage, and we’re going to talk racing electric vehicles. Again. Because electric is the future of motoring including motorsports.
There’s a lot to talk about with di Grassi. He’s an outspoken proponent of electric vehicles, previously helping to develop Formula E, push forward the AI racing circuit Roborace, and is now developing an international electric race scooter series. He’s seemingly focused on justifying the benefits of electric vehicles in the name of the environment and acts as a Clear Air Advocate for the UN and is organizing a technology and business event for a zero-carbon future in Latin America called Zero Summit.
Di Grassi is a racer in Formula E and a former champion, taking the podium in 2016. Before racing for the series, he helped develop the vehicles used in Formula E. Now, even with his plate full of other projects, he continues to compete in the electric F1 series.
The last time he spoke at a TechCrunch event, he talked extensively on Roborace’s development and arrival. At the time he was the CEO of Roborace, and now, nearly two years later, Roborace still seems like a far-fetched idea.
Di Grassi teamed up with former F1 driver Alex Wurz for a different racing series involving electric scooters. Called eSkootr Championship, the series is said to feature purpose-built scooters that are capable of speeds up to 100 km/h. The pair, along with motorsport entrepreneur CEO Hrak Sarikissian, and COO Khalil Beschir, an F1 broadcaster and former A1 GP racing driver, hope the series’s lower cost of entry will draw racers from different backgrounds and disciplines.
We hope you can join us at our TC: Sessions Mobility event on October 6 and 7 to hear from di Grassi and other icons trying to change the face of mobility. Tickets are currently on sale and available at an Early Bird rate until September 4th, 11:59 p.m. (PDT).
Facebook has offered a little detail on extra steps it’s taking to improve its ability to detect and remove hate speech and election disinformation ahead of Myanmar’s election. A general election is scheduled to take place in the country on November 8, 2020.
The announcement comes close to two years after the company admitted a catastrophic failure to prevent its platform from being weaponized to foment division and incite violence against the country’s Rohingya minority.
Facebook says now that it has expanded its misinformation policy with the aim of combating voter suppression and will now remove information “that could lead to voter suppression or damage the integrity of the electoral process” — giving the example of a post that falsely claims a candidate is a Bengali, not a Myanmar citizen, and thus ineligible to stand.
“Working with local partners, between now and November 22, we will remove verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumors that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the integrity of the electoral process,” it writes.
Facebook says it’s working with three fact-checking organizations in the country — namely: BOOM, AFP Fact Check and Fact Crescendo — after introducing a fact-checking program there in March.
In March 2018 the United Nations warned that Facebook’s platform was being abused to spread hate speech and whip up ethnic violence in Myanmar. By November of that year the tech giant was forced to admit it had not stopped its platform from being repurposed as a tool to drive genocide, after a damning independent investigation slammed its impact on human rights.
On hate speech, which Facebook admits could suppress the vote in addition to leading to what it describes as “imminent, offline harm” (aka violence), the tech giant claims to have invested “significantly” in “proactive detection technologies” that it says help it “catch violating content more quickly”, albeit without quantifying the size of its investment nor providing further details. It only notes that it “also” uses AI to “proactively identify hate speech in 45 languages, including Burmese”.
Facebook’s blog post offers a metric to imply progress — with the company stating that in Q2 2020 it took action against 280,000 pieces of content in Myanmar for violations of its Community Standards prohibiting hate speech, of which 97.8% were detected proactively by its systems before the content was reported to it.
“This is up significantly from Q1 2020, when we took action against 51,000 pieces of content for hate speech violations, detecting 83% proactively,” it adds.
However without greater visibility into the content Facebook’s platform is amplifying, including country-specific factors such as whether hate speech posting is increasing in Myanmar as the election gets closer, it’s not possible to understand what volume of hate speech is passing under the radar of Facebook’s detection systems and reaching local eyeballs.
In a more clearly detailed development, Facebook notes that since August, electoral, issue and political ads in Myanmar have had to display a ‘paid for by’ disclosure label. Such ads are also stored in a searchable Ad Library for seven years — in an expansion of the self-styled ‘political ads transparency measures’ Facebook launched more than two years ago in the US and other western markets.
Facebook also says it’s working with two local partners to verify the official national Facebook Pages of political parties in Myanmar. “So far, more than 40 political parties have been given a verified badge,” it writes. “This provides a blue tick on the Facebook Page of a party and makes it easier for users to differentiate a real, official political party page from unofficial pages, which is important during an election campaign period.”
Another recent change it flags is an ‘image context reshare’ product, which launched in June — which Facebook says alerts a user when they attempt to share a image that’s more than a year old and could be “potentially harmful or misleading” (such as an image that “may come close to violating Facebook’s guidelines on violent content”).
“Out-of-context images are often used to deceive, confuse and cause harm. With this product, users will be shown a message when they attempt to share specific types of images, including photos that are over a year old and that may come close to violating Facebook’s guidelines on violent content. We warn people that the image they are about to share could be harmful or misleading will be triggered using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human review,” it writes without offering any specific examples.
Another change it notes is the application of a limit on message forwarding to five recipients which Facebook introduced in Sri Lanka back in June 2019.
“These limits are a proven method of slowing the spread of viral misinformation that has the potential to cause real world harm. This safety feature is available in Myanmar and, over the course of the next few weeks, we will be making it available to Messenger users worldwide,” it writes.
On coordinated election interference, the tech giant has nothing of substance to share — beyond its customary claim that it’s “constantly working to find and stop coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate across our apps”, including groups seeking to do so ahead of a major election.
“Since 2018, we’ve identified and disrupted six networks engaging in Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior in Myanmar. These networks of accounts, Pages and Groups were masking their identities to mislead people about who they were and what they were doing by manipulating public discourse and misleading people about the origins of content,” it adds.
In summing up the changes, Facebook says it’s “built a team that is dedicated to Myanmar”, which it notes includes people “who spend significant time on the ground working with civil society partners who are advocating on a range of human and digital rights issues across Myanmar’s diverse, multi-ethnic society” — though clearly this team is not operating out of Myanmar.
It further claims engagement with key regional stakeholders will ensure Facebook’s business is “responsive to local needs” — something the company demonstrably failed on back in 2018.
“We remain committed to advancing the social and economic benefits of Facebook in Myanmar. Although we know that this work will continue beyond November, we acknowledge that Myanmar’s 2020 general election will be an important marker along the journey,” Facebook adds.
There’s no mention in its blog post of accusations that Facebook is actively obstructing an investigation into genocide in Myanmar.
Earlier this month, Time reported that Facebook is using US law to try to block a request for information related to Myanmar military officials’ use of its platforms by the West African nation, The Gambia.
“Facebook said the request is ‘extraordinarily broad’, as well as ‘unduly intrusive or burdensome’. Calling on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the application, the social media giant says The Gambia fails to ‘identify accounts with sufficient specificity’,” Time reported.
“The Gambia was actually quite specific, going so far as to name 17 officials, two military units and dozens of pages and accounts,” it added.
“Facebook also takes issue with the fact that The Gambia is seeking information dating back to 2012, evidently failing to recognize two similar waves of atrocities against Rohingya that year, and that genocidal intent isn’t spontaneous, but builds over time.”
In another recent development, Facebook has been accused of bending its hate speech policies to ignore inflammatory posts made against Rohingya Muslim immigrants by Hindu nationalist individuals and groups.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Facebook’s top public-policy executive in India, Ankhi Das, opposed applying its hate speech rules to T. Raja Singh, a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, along with at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence — citing sourcing from current and former Facebook employees.
The setback elicited an angry reaction from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who accused her counterparts of standing with terrorists.
The announcement of a cease-fire was a rare positive development in a chaotic conflict plagued by foreign meddling. But skeptics abound.
Allies and adversaries alike have refused to recognize the Trump administration’s demand for sanctions, potentially weakening American authority worldwide.
Kim Jong-un plans to hold a rare Workers’ Party congress in January to chart a new course after the country was hammered by sanctions, floods and the pandemic.
Without European support, it is not clear how the United States alone would enforce U.N. sanctions to punish Iran for violating the 2015 nuclear deal that world powers are trying to save.
The plotters appealed to Malians and foreign powers in a televised address to the nation, and said that new elections would be held to replace the detained president, who had been democratically elected.
Four men were tried in absentia in the Netherlands, accused of carrying out the 2005 bombing that killed Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon.
The defeat underscored America’s deepening global isolation, but for the Trump administration, the vote could open a separate path to try to inflict maximum damage on Iran.
The violence appeared aimed at scaring off protesters who have taken to the streets since Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, an authoritarian, claimed victory in last weekend’s election.
The inspector general also found the State Department avoided congressional review by dividing sales of controversial arms into smaller packages.
Joe Biden doesn’t need a running mate who has shown such poor judgment.
The vow to accelerate help, made during a video call with other heads of state, comes amid furious demonstrations in Beirut against the Lebanese government.
The demonstration was fueled by fury over the corruption and negligence of the country’s ruling elite. Security forces fired tear gas to push back the protesters.
A U.N.-backed court will soon pronounce verdicts in a 15-year-old bombing in Beirut that roiled the Middle East. But critics say the court’s protracted deliberations and huge expense have undermined its original purpose.
The United Nations warning came as President Michel Aoun said the investigation into the deadly explosion in Beirut would examine if “external interference” played a role.