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China Quickly Closing Gap with US Military, Lawmakers Told

The admiral tapped to command U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific told lawmakers Tuesday the future of the world could come down to how the United States and its allies respond to an increasingly militarized and aggressive China.“Global peace and prosperity depend on our presence in the Indo-Pacific,” Navy Adm. John Aquilino told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.“The United States Navy is the most powerful, greatest navy on the planet, still,” said Aquilino, who currently commands the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.But he cautioned the U.S. advantage is slipping.“The Chinese are increasing their capability and capacity, and closing that gap,” he said. “We’ve seen aggressive actions earlier than we anticipated, whether it be on the Indian border or whether it be in Hong Kong or whether it be against the Uyghurs.”Navy Adm. Philip Davidson testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 17, 2018.Aquilino, selected by U.S. President Joe Biden to take over from current head of Indo-Pacific Command (Indo-PACOM), Adm. Philip Davidson, who is set to retire, is the latest in a series of high-ranking military officials to sound alarms about the Chinese military.Last week, the commander of U.S. forces in Central and South America told lawmakers the Chinese military has become so active in his region that the Americas are now FILE – Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks to reporters Feb. 17, 2021.When asked about the threat at a Tuesday press briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters, “Nobody wants this to result in conflict.””The secretary is concerned at the significant changes that have been taking place in the PRC’s strategic forces,” Kirby said. “We would certainly welcome more transparency about their intentions.”For his part, Aquilino acknowledged there is a growing possibility of China targeting Taiwan.“[The Chinese leadership] view it as their number one priority,” Aquilino told lawmakers Tuesday. “My opinion is that this problem is much closer to us than most think and we have to take this on, put those deterrence capabilities like PDI [the Pacific Deterrence Initiative] in place in the near term and with urgency.”Indo-Pacific Command officials have been pushing the PDI, arguing for $27.3 billion over the next five years — something Aquilino told lawmakers that he supports.#China possibly taking #Taiwan “would extend their reach, would extend the contested environment, it would threaten our allies & partners-think the #Philippines” per Adm Aquilino— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) March 23, 2021Aquilino also acknowledged concerns about China’s growing nuclear weapons capability.The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has said China is likely “to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile” over the next decade. Since then, top officials at U.S. Strategic Command have warned that estimate might be conservative, and that Beijing could triple or even quadruple its nuclear weapons stockpile in that time frame. “We see China increasing at a rate that is faster than anyone previously believed,” said Aquilino.”If you were to look at what they’ve done with their conventional force, I would see no reason why I would expect anything other than to have them continue to increase their nuclear capabilities and aspirations.” 

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Press Freedom Group Sues Facebook Over Misinformation, ‘Hate Speech’

Press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is suing Facebook in France, saying the social media platform spreads misinformation. The suit was filed Monday with the Paris public prosecutor.  “Reporters Without Borders accuses Facebook of ‘deceptive commercial practices’ on the grounds that the social media company’s promises to provide a ‘safe’ and ‘error-free’ online environment are contradicted by the large-scale proliferation of hate speech and false information on its networks,” the group said in a press release. Specifically, the group says Facebook allows “hate speech” against the media, as well as misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. The group said Facebook allowed posts that were insulting and threatening against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as targeting the TV program “Quotidien” and a regional newspaper, L’Union. Facebook said in a statement that it “has zero tolerance for any harmful content on our platforms,” Bloomberg reported. “Over the last few years, we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 35,000 and built artificial intelligence technology to proactively find and remove harmful content,” the statement continued, according to Bloomberg. “While nobody can eliminate misinformation and hate speech from the internet entirely, we continue using research, experts and technologies to tackle them in the most comprehensive and effective way possible.” Should RSF win its case, the decision could have global repercussions for Facebook, as its terms of service are similar worldwide. Any change in France could trigger changes elsewhere. Facebook and other Big Tech companies have been under intense pressure to stop what some call misinformation. In December, the EU proposed new regulations that could hit companies with fines of up to 6% of their global revenue for not complying with orders to remove content deemed violent hate speech, according to Bloomberg. 
 

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На міжбанку суттєво зросли котирування долара

Національний банк України встановив на 24 березня курс 27 гривень 73 копійки за долар

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На півдні України може запрацювати пілотний проєкт з іригації землі – голова ОДА

Проєкт розпорядження Кабінету міністрів схвалять на зустрічі голів трьох областей – Одеської, Миколаївської і Херсонської, яка відбудеться 24 березня

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У США уточнили: питання не до вакцини AstraZeneca, а до використання даних

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Black Women Breaking Barriers

From being Africa’s newest female president, to holding the second highest office in America, to leading the World Trade Organization, Black women are breaking barriers in various fields. Mariama Diallo reports on recent and past history-making moments as the world celebrates women’s achievements in March.  

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Swelling COVID-19 Protest Movement Takes Over French Theaters

After aviation, Europe’s cultural and creative sector has been hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, losing nearly $240 billion, according to a recent study by an accounting firm. Now as France weathers its third lockdown in a year, the creative arts industry is pushing back, with a growing protest movement now occupying dozens of theaters nationwide.It’s been months since the Odeon theater was last open. But these days, Parisians can listen to a bit of live jazz at this Paris Left Bank landmark. Some were dancing on a recent afternoon, despite a chilly rain.A jazz band previews Odeon theatre’s afternoon assembly by occupation protesters. (VOA/Lisa Bryant)This was just a preview to the main act. The Odeon has been holding daily public assemblies— ever since a group of protesters took over the theater earlier this month.  They listed the latest tally of other occupied theaters across France—now about 70 and growing. The occupation movement began with demands the government reopen cultural venues—shuttered for months under coronavirus restrictions.  They also want benefits extended for out-of-work artists and the repeal of an unpopular unemployment reform.  Opera singer Aurelie Magnier, who attended the assembly, says she has been out of work for months. Luckily, she says, her partner has a steady job. Otherwise she wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.  Also here is Monique Pedron, a member of the yellow vest protest movement that sparked a political crisis in France a couple years back. Its presence at the Odeon shows how this latest protest movement is spreading to include students and others hard hit by the pandemic’s fallout.  Pedron says she misses culture, and she’s had it with COVID-19 restrictions. It’s more dangerous to take the metro, she says, than to attend a play. She hopes other French will join the occupation movement.  Europe-wide, revenues from the cultural and creative industries dropped nearly a third last year from 2019, accounting firm EY reported recently. Banners at the Odeon proclaim “Culture Sacrificed” and “Power to the People.”Protesters gather at the Odean theater, which started the nationwide theater protest movement. (VOA/Lisa Byrant)That was also the message at France’s Cesar film awards ceremony, where actress Corinne Masiero stripped naked to demand more government support. She’d written “no culture, no future” on her torso.   Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot visited the Odeon. She says she understands the artists’ concerns but calls the occupations of the theaters useless and dangerous. It’s not clear, however, whether anyone here or elsewhere is listening.  

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У Білорусі затримали опозиціонера, лідера Об’єднаної громадянської партії Миколу Козлова