Protestors in Poland demand the release of a Belarusian dissident who was arrested after the government diverted his Lithuania-bound flight

Protestors in Poland demand the release of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich.
Belarusians living in Poland and Poles supporting them hold up a placard reading ‘Freedom to Roman Protasevich’ during a demonstration in front of the European Commission office in Warsaw on May 24, 2021.

  • Protestors gathered in Warsaw, Poland, to demand the release of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich.
  • Protasevich, a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, was taken into custody after the government diverted his Lithuania-bound flight to Minsk.
  • His arrest also drew international outrage as other world leaders said Belarus should be held accountable.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Residents in Poland as well as Belarusians living in the country joined together to protest the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich on Monday. Activists condemned the arrest after Belarus authorities grounded the plane citing a bogus security threat.

Belarusians living in Poland and Poles supporting them take part in a demonstration in Warsaw, Poland, demanding the release of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich.
Belarusians living in Poland and Poles supporting them take part in a demonstration in front of European Commission office in Warsaw on May 24, 2021.

Protasevich, a vocal critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, was taken into custody after the Belarusian government forced his Lithuania-bound flight to land in Minsk.

Belarusians living in Poland and Poles supporting them hold up a placard reading 'Free Roman Protasevich' during a demonstration.
A protester holds up a sign reading “Free Roman Pratasevich” (sic) during a demonstration in front of the European Commission office in Warsaw on May 24, 2021.

Source: Insider

Pilots on flight FR4978 were ordered to “divert to the nearest airport,” citing a potential bomb threat aboard the plane. Belarusian state media reported it was Lukashenko who gave an “unequivocal order” to ground the jet.

People hold banners during a protest against the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich
People hold banners during a protest against the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich in front of the European Commission representative office on May 24, 2021, in Warsaw, Poland.

Source: Insider

Protestors used paper airplanes as a visual prop to symbolize the aircraft being diverted to Minsk.

Belarusians in Warsaw, Poland, hang paper aircrafts during a protest against the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich
Belarusians hang paper aircraft during a protest against the detention of dissident journalist Roman Protasevich in front of the European Commission representative office on May 24, 2021, in Warsaw, Poland.

Protasevich’s arrest drew international outrage as EU leaders condemned the forced grounding of the flight and called for the “immediate release” of Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, who was also escorted off the flight.

Protestors in Poland demanding the release of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich.
A protester holds a sign that says “I’m gravely concerned” during a protest in support of the release of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich in front of the European Commission representative office on May 24, 2021 in Warsaw, Poland.

Source: Insider

The European Union took action to isolate Belarus on Monday, ordering all EU-based airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace. The EU also banned Belarusian airlines from occupying the bloc’s airspace and using its airports.

A protestor holds up an airplane during a demonstration demanding the release of Belarusian dissident Roman Protasevich.
A demonstrator holds up a paper plane that says “Free Belarus” and “Free Roman Protasevich” during a demonstration in Warsaw, May 24, 2021.

Source: Insider

The EU’s move to sever Belarus air ties isn’t the first time the bloc cracked down on the Belarusian government. Late last year, the EU imposed sanctions on several Belarusian officials – including President Aleksandr Lukashenko – in the wake of the contested presidential elections in August.

A woman holds a banner during a protest against the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich
A woman holds a banner calling Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko a terrorist during a protest against the detention of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich in front of the European Commission representative office on May 24, 2021, in Warsaw, Poland.

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Poland is buying 5 cargo planes out of the US Air Force’s ‘boneyard’

US Air Force C-130H
Airmen from the Wyoming Air National Guard prepare a C-130H for a mission out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, February 27, 2019.

  • Poland is buying five C-130H Hercules aircraft out of the “Boneyard” in the Arizona desert.
  • The aircraft will be partially retrofitted with new equipment, made flightworthy, and flown to Poland.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of Defense published a release stating that an intergovernmental agreement has been signed on April 12, 2021, concerning the delivery of five C-130H airlifters to Poland.

The deal is a part of the Excess Defense Articles grant program. The aircraft would be partially retrofitted with new equipment, made flightworthy, and then they would fly to Poland.

The agreement has a relatively low value – USD $14.3 million. The US side, the Polish MoD reports, assumes that five C-130H airframes that the Polish Air Force would receive. They are worth $60 million, as per the US quote. The deliveries would be finalized by mid-2024, with the first aircraft arriving this year.

According to the Polish MoD, the aircraft procured rolled off the production line in 1985 and then were decommissioned in 2017. After that, they were stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group facility (AMARG) in Tucson, Arizona. The above makes them 15 years younger than the C-130s currently operated by the Polish Air Force.

The technical status of the aircraft was assessed during the so-called Joint Visual Inspection procedure. It took place at AMARG in Tucson, stated the Inspectorate. The cost of the transfer to Poland was also a subject of this process.

C-130 Hercules takeoff landing gear
An Illinois Air National Guard C-130 Hercules takes off at Fort Carson in Colorado, September 12, 2016.

Then, after the transfer, the aircraft would undergo the periodic, scheduled maintenance (Programmed Depot Maintenance – PDM) at the WZL Nr 2 S.A. facility in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Bydgoszcz is also going to be the place where extra equipment, as required by the Polish Air Force, would be fitted onto the aircraft. Then the airframes are expected to become a part of the inventory of the 33rd Airlift Base in Powidz.

It has been pointed out by the experts that both the engines, as well as the propellers, along with the avionics, may need to be upgraded. What upgrades would be done within that scope remains unclear. However, to make the acquisition reasonable, the AMARG restoration work should also include an upgrade similar to the ones carried out in case of the ANG aircraft: a set of new T-56 Rolls Royce 3.5 engines and NP2000 eight-bladed propellers with electronic controls.

The PGZ Group’s WZL facility in Bydgoszcz provides the Polish Air Force with a relevant maintenance capability regarding the Hercules.

The Polish MoD was putting the airlift capability enhancements in the modernization plans – the procurement was designated as the Drop program. It involved Leonardo S.p.A., Airbus Defence & Space, Embraer, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, but it was ultimately suspended in July last year. It seems that Poland went with second-hand airframes to serve as an intermediary gap-filler solution.

Krzysztof Płatek, spokesman for the Armament Inspectorate told us that the Drop program is to follow a schedule that is confidential. Procurement of the AMARG C-130s would diminish the pressure caused by deadlines and time.

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A top Facebook exec told a whistleblower her concerns about widespread state-sponsored disinformation meant she had ‘job security’

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg
In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Facebook let dictators generate fake support despite employees’ warnings, the Guardian reported.
  • Whistleblower Sophie Zhang repeatedly raised concerns to integrity chief Guy Rosen and other execs.
  • But Rosen said the amount of disinformation on the platform meant “job security” for Zhang.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook allowed authoritarian governments to use its platform to generate fake support for their regimes for months despite warnings from employees about the disinformation campaigns, an investigation from the Guardian revealed this week.

A loophole in Facebook’s policies allowed government officials around the world to create unlimited amounts of fake “pages” which, unlike user profiles, don’t have to correspond to an actual person – but could still like, comment on, react to, and share content, the Guardian reported.

That loophole let governments spin up armies of what looked like real users who could then artificially generate support for and amplify pro-government content, what the Guardian called “the digital equivalent of bussing in a fake crowd for a speech.”

Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist on the company’s integrity team, blew the whistle dozens of times about the loophole, warning Facebook executives including vice president of integrity Guy Rosen, airing many of her concerns, according to the Guardian.

BuzzFeed News previously reported on Zhang’s “badge post” – a tradition where departing employees post an internal farewell message to coworkers.

But one of Zhang’s biggest concerns was that Facebook wasn’t paying enough attention to coordinated disinformation networks in authoritarian countries, such as Honduras and Azerbaijan, where elections are less free and more susceptible to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, the Guardian’s investigation revealed.

Facebook waited 344 days after employees sounded the alarm to take action in the Honduras case, and 426 days in Azerbaijan, and in some cases took no action, the investigation found.

But when she raised her concerns about Facebook’s inaction in Honduras to Rosen, he dismissed her concerns.

“We have literally hundreds or thousands of types of abuse (job security on integrity eh!),” Rosen told Zhang in April 2019, according the Guardian, adding: “That’s why we should start from the end (top countries, top priority areas, things driving prevalence, etc) and try to somewhat work our way down.”

Rosen told Zhang he agreed with Facebook’s priority areas, which included the US, Western Europe, and “foreign adversaries such as Russia/Iran/etc,” according to the Guardian.

“We fundamentally disagree with Ms. Zhang’s characterization of our priorities and efforts to root out abuse on our platform. We aggressively go after abuse around the world and have specialized teams focused on this work,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told Insider in a statement.

“As a result, we’ve already taken down more than 100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior. Around half of them were domestic networks that operated in countries around the world, including those in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and in the Asia Pacific region. Combatting coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority. We’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue before taking action or making public claims about them,” she said.

However, Facebook didn’t dispute any of Zhang’s factual claims in the Guardian investigation.

Facebook pledged to tackle election-related misinformation and disinformation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russia’s use of its platform to sow division among American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections.

“Since then, we’ve focused on improving our defenses and making it much harder for anyone to interfere in elections,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post.

“Key to our efforts has been finding and removing fake accounts – the source of much of the abuse, including misinformation. Bad actors can use computers to generate these in bulk. But with advances in artificial intelligence, we now block millions of fake accounts every day as they are being created so they can’t be used to spread spam, false news or inauthentic ads,” Zuckerberg added.

But the Guardian’s investigation showed Facebook is still delaying or refusing to take action against state-sponsored disinformation campaigns in dozens of countries, with thousands of fake accounts, creating hundreds of thousands of fake likes.

And even in supposedly high-priority areas, like the US, researchers have found Facebook has allowed key disinformation sources to expand their reach over the years.

A March report from Avaaz found “Facebook could have prevented 10.1 billion estimated views for top-performing pages that repeatedly shared misinformation” ahead of the 2020 US elections had it acted earlier to limit their reach.

“Failure to downgrade the reach of these pages and to limit their ability to advertise in the year before the election meant Facebook allowed them to almost triple their monthly interactions, from 97 million interactions in October 2019 to 277.9 million interactions in October 2020,” Avaaz found.

Facebook admits that around 5% of its accounts are fake, a number that hasn’t gone down since 2019, according to The New York Times. And MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao reported in March that Facebook still doesn’t have a centralized team dedicated to ensuring its AI systems and algorithms reduce the spread of misinformation.

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Here are 9 countries sacrificing the holidays and locking down over the festive period

18 December 2020, Saxony, Bautzen: Christmas lights hang over the empty Reichenstraße in front of the Reichenturm. So far, there has been no sign of a turnaround in new infections in the state of Saxony. According to the Ministry of Health in Dresden, the seven-day incidence climbed to 415 on Thursday (17.12.2020). On Wednesday, the value was still at 407. Saxony thus continues to be well ahead of all other federal states. Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Christmas lights hang over an empty street in Bautzen, Germany, on December 18, 2020.

  • A number of countries have announced strict lockdown measures spanning Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Coronavirus cases are still rising in many countries, with holiday travel and celebrations providing a breeding ground for the virus. 
  • Here are 9 countries enforcing new measures. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A number of countries have chosen to drastically curtail Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. 

The trend is particularly apparent in mainland Europe, where curfews, lockdowns, and limits on private and public  gatherings have been reintroduced.

Here are 9 countries where Christmas 2020 and New Year’s 2021 will be like never before.

Germany

14 December 2020, Hamburg: Passers with nose-mouth-guards walk through the Christmassy decorated shopping street "Spitalerstraße" in the city centre. From 16.12.2020, Hamburg is stepping up its measures to contain the corona pandemic in view of the continuing high infection figures. Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa (Photo by Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)
People seen in Hamburg, Germany, on December 14, 2020.

Germany entered a new Christmas lockdown on Wednesday, with only food shops and essential services like gas stations, chemists, and post office allowed to stay open.

Singing Christmas carols and drinking outdoors is banned, but Christmas tree vendors have been allowed to remain open.

From Christmas Eve to Boxing Day only, families are allowed to be visited by four other adult family members.

Precautions have also been put in place for New Year’s Eve. Any and all public gatherings have been banned, as has the sale of fireworks.

The lockdown began on the same day that Germany reported 952 deaths: a new daily record.

Source: Deutsche Welle, BBC

Denmark

Hundreds of Danish farmers and fishermen demonstrate with tractors against a government decision to cull their minks to halt the spread of a coronavirus variant on November 21, 2020. - More than 500 tractors, many decked out with the Danish flag, drove past the government's offices and parliament in Copenhagen to the port. (Photo by Thibault Savary / AFP) (Photo by THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Danish farmers and fishermen demonstrate against a government decision to cull their minks on November 21, 2020.

Denmark’s prime minister Mette Frederiksen announced a nationwide Christmas lockdown on Wednesday December 16.

The same day, health authorities reported a record 3,692 daily cases, a new record. 

All businesses, except essential food and medical stores, must close between December 25 and January 3. 

As many as 10 people can gather together for Christmas celebrations if social distancing can be observed. Rules for New Year’s Eve are due to be announced the week beginning December 21.

Source: DR

Poland

FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a memorial concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi death camp Auschwitz at the State Opera in Berlin, Germany, January 27, 2020.     Odd Andersen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki seen in Brussels in February 2020.

On Thursday, Poland announced a national lockdown from December 28 to January 17.

It is also forbidden to travel between towns or cities starting from 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Public gatherings on New Year’s Eve have been limited to five people. Wedding parties are also forbidden. 

Schoolchildren under the age of 16 can’t leave home without adult supervision during the school holidays.

Source: Government of Poland

The Netherlands

Amsterdam reopening
Tourists and locals enjoying on the terrace at the Leidseplen amid the Coronavirus pandemic on June 1, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

On December 14, the Netherlands ordered all non-essential shops to close and told everyone to stay inside if possible until January 19, 2021.

In general, households can only entertain two adult visitors who live elsewhere, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas day three people may visit.

Bars and restaurants had been closed for weeks, and will remain shuttered.

 “We’re not dealing with a simple flu,” prime minister Mark Rutte said. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to swallow the bitter pill.”

Source: Euronews, Sky News

Romania

FILE PHOTO: Romania's President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives for the second day of a special European Council summit in Brussels, Belgium February 21, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Romania’s President Klaus Werner Iohannis

Romania has extended its existing lockdown until January 15.

A daily curfew is in place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., which will apply on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve too.

Face masks are compulsory indoors and outdoors in public areas. Christmas parties are banned in public and private areas both indoors and outdoors.

Anyone found breaching the rules can be fined a maximum of $3,800.

Source: UK Government travel advice 

Hungary

BUDAPEST, Dec. 2, 2020 -- Christmas lights and decorations are seen in downtown Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 2, 2020. (Photo by Attila Volgyi/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Attila Volgyi via Getty Images)
Christmas lights and decorations are seen in downtown Budapest, Hungary, December 2, 2020.

The whole of Hungary has been under a 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew since November 10 and family gatherings are limited to 10 people. This includes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the rules also apply on New Year’s Eve and that all parties are banned.

Source: About Hungary

Czech Republic

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - DECEMBER 05: Members of the Cirk La Putyka troupe entertain people driving through with their cars on the eve of St. Nicholas Day on December 05, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic. On the eve of St. Nicholas, Czechs traditionally celebrate by dressing up as Devils, Angels, and St. Nicholas, and visiting children, handing out little presents. Amid the coronavirus crisis, Circ La Putyka troupe offered a drive-thru celebration as spectators drove a route visiting heaven, hell, and St. Nicholas. Due to the governments restrictive measures, the usual traditions of door-to-door visiting would be impossible. The eager guests formed a long line of cars at the Circ La Putyka base in Prague. (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)
A drive-through Christmas celebration on December 05, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Most non-essential businesses shuttered on December 18 and all gatherings have now been limited to six people.

A nationwide curfew from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. has also been enforced.

“This year’s Christmas will be totally different, but that is the result of the situation we are in,” Jan Blatný, the country’s health minister, said.

Source: Guardian 

Italy

colosseum rome italy tourism
Italy’s Carabinieri police in front of the Colosseum on June 1, 2020.

While not yet officially confirmed, Italian newspapers reported on December 18 that the government is due to announce a national lockdown active between December 24 and 27 and between December 31 and January 3.

“For the period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, whether until the 3rd or 6th of January, the more restrictions there are, the better,” Francesco Boccia, Italy’s Minister for Regional Affairs, said Thursday.

Source: The Local

Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - DECEMBER 17: Surroundings of Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque remain empty after a general curfew imposed every weeknight from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. within measures against a second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Istanbul, Turkey on December 17, 2020. (Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque seen during the curfew in Istanbul, Turkey on December 17, 2020.

Being a majority Muslim country, Turkey does not widely celebrate Christmas, but from 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 5 a.m. on January 4, 2021, the whole country will be under a lockdown. 

However, it only applies to residents, and foreign tourists are exempt from the order, and can sight-see at their leisure.

Source: Independent, The New York Times 

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