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Fri, 24 Jan 2020
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Witness to history: Polish veterans recall childhood memories of Warsaw's liberation - 'We wanted to be Red Army soldiers'

polish soldier WWII memories photos
© RT
Czesław Lewandowski in our days
It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war - and, indeed, when the bombs have stopped falling, the blood has been shed and the troops have stood down, another kind of war begins: A war of memories.

This is perhaps no more apparent than in the case of the experiences of Poland, and Eastern Europe at-large, after the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II, and the decisive role played by the Soviet Red Army.

Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Warsaw from the grip of fascism. A momentous date in history, it is still fraught with controversy - and regularly used as a political football so many decades later.

Comment: What a shame that historical memory is so short that what was once a solemn commemoration of an international tragedy, has now become an occasion for petty political posturing. There is shame for the leaders of every country involved, except Russia.


Ukrainian PM Honcharuk offers resignation amid controversy over leaked audio recordings

Oleksiy Honcharuk

Oleksiy Honcharuk
Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has submitted his resignation amid a scandal surrounding an audio recording where he allegedly disparages the economic knowledge and competence of both himself and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

In a Facebook post on January 17, Honcharuk wrote that "in recent days, you have all witnessed ongoing events around files leaked to social networks that had been mounted from fragments of records from the government's meetings."

Zelenskiy's office acknowledged receiving Honcharuk's resignation letter, but said it will comment later on how it will react to the situation.

"In order to prevent any doubts about our respect and trust to the president, I have submitted my resignation to the president with the right to bring the issue to the parliament," Honcharuk wrote.

Comment: His departure may not be a great loss to Kiev: Nothing to see here: New Ukrainian PM visits neo-Nazi band's gig

Stock Up

Ruble strong, stocks surge after Russian government reshuffle

Russian ruble
© Sputnik / Alexey Sukhorukov
The appointment of a new prime minister has boosted the Russian stock market to new record highs on Friday, with the national currency holding on to gains reached over the past 18 months.

The ruble continued gaining against major currencies on Friday, after accelerating growth on the news of the appointment of Mikhail Mishustin as Russia's new prime minister earlier in the week.

It was up 0.2 percent against the US dollar at 61.39 rubles, while gaining slightly on the euro at 68.29 rubles.The stock market posted solid gains at the beginning of the trading session. The dollar-denominated RTS index added more than one percent, reaching 1,635.58 points, while the ruble-based MOEX Russia Index rose to 3,189.24 points.

2 + 2 = 4

Rooting out Russian-language schools: Ukrainian MPs pass secondary education bill detailing native tongue enforcement

Ukrainian school
© REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
FILE PHOTO: Students file in through the entrance to start their classes in a school in the southern coastal town of Mariupol, September 1, 2014.
Ukrainian MPs have dealt a final blow in Kiev's war on Russian-language schools, voting for a bill which effectively closes them. While seemingly going easy on minorities, it would hit a third of the country's population.

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed the bill 'On Secondary Education' on Thursday. The legislation, which envisions an overhaul of Ukraine's public school system, received an almost unanimous nod from deputies, with 327 lawmakers voting in favor and only three against. Some 54 MPs abstained and 16 were not present during the vote.

Arrow Down

Siri & Alexa might be having a sex change, but why does your phone's voice assistant need to be gender-neutral?

gender neutral
© AFP / Getty Images North America / Sara D. Davis
Projects to develop gender-neutral voice assistants to replace the historically dominant white and Chinese male voices are not solving a real problem - they are creating one.

As products like Alexa and Siri face mounting criticism that the technology behind them disproportionately misunderstands women and ethnic minorities, voice software companies are developing gender neutral voice systems to ensure that the voice tech industry becomes more inclusive - both when it listens and talks.

This might sound positive, but it is absurd in the extreme. What precisely is the problem these companies are trying to solve?


British consultancy firm predicts 'global unrest' to spread from 47 to 75 countries this year

protests global unrest
Almost a quarter of the world's countries witnessed a surge in protest and unrest last year and that figure is set to rise further in 2020, according to a new study.

There are 195 countries in the world, if the Vatican and Palestine are included, and a newly released index of civil unrest has claimed that 47 of those states witnessed a rise in civil unrest in 2019.

The data model, published Thursday by socio-economic and political analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, has also predicted that in 2020, the number will balloon to 75 countries.

Comment: Verisk Maplecroft is a British "data analytics organisation" that "quantifies risk" for financial investors, corporations and govts.

The U.K. consultancy identified Hong Kong and Chile as the two flashpoints suffering the largest increases in unrest since the beginning of 2019. Neither country is expected to find peace for at least two years, according to the research.

Comment: We haven't seen the full report, but based on the firm's summary and media reports about it, they seem to have omitted the unrest in Western countries.

Depending on how far they go to dethrone Trump, civil war conditions could brew in the US. There has been a 15-month-long insurgency in France. A secessionist movement in Catalonia, Spain, has flared up twice in 3 years. Then there's the acute risk of unrest resulting from Brexit (including, but not limited to, the Scottish secessionist movement and the Irish reunification movement).

And what about the unrest in Europe as a whole if another wave of war refugees results from the US economically-strangling/bombing Iran?

Arrow Down

Man charged with beating driver of school bus full of kids

School bus
A bus driver in North Carolina was transporting kids to school when her ex-boyfriend boarded the vehicle and began beating the woman, who managed to keep her foot on the brake even after being knocked to the floor, police said.

The Scotland County Schools driver had stopped to pick up students along her morning route Tuesday in Laurinburg when 46-year-old Kenneth Latrel Revels boarded unexpectedly, the Laurinburg Police Department said in a statement.

Revels is accused of punching her repeatedly and stomping her head after knocking her to the floor. As many as 20 children were on board, watching while she struggled to keep her foot on the brake to prevent the bus from "moving uncontrollably."


Over nine years - more than 100 billion pain pills saturated the nation

© John Moore/Getty Images
From 2006 through 2014, more than 100 billion doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone were distributed nationwide, according to federal drug data.
Newly disclosed federal drug data shows that more than 100 billion doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone were shipped nationwide from 2006 through 2014 — 24 billion more doses of the highly addictive pain pills than previously known to the public.

The data, which traces the path of every pain pill shipped in the United States, shows the extent to which opioids flooded the country as deaths from the epidemic continued to climb over nine years.

The Washington Post and the company that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia first obtained the data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration, from 2006 through 2012 after waging a year-long legal fight. In July, The Post reported that the data revealed that the nation's drug companies had manufactured and distributed more than 76 billion pain pills.

Comment: Fatal addiction: Chris Hedges reports on America's opioid crisis


"Security incident"? Flights diverted as RAF demands 'unplanned' closure of airspace for operational mission


Dozens of flights including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic services to Heathrow are diverted or delayed as RAF demands 'unplanned' closure of airspace for operational mission
Dozens of flights bound for Heathrow were diverted or delayed this morning after an RAF plane demanded an 'unplanned' use of airspace.

At least four Heathrow-bound British Airways flights and one Virgin Atlantic aircraft were forced to land at other airports such as Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

Meanwhile, many other flights were delayed as a result of planes being 'stacked' above Greater London as they waited for airspace to clear.

The closure of airspace - which began at around 9am on Friday - lasted for approximately 20 minutes.

Comment: Landing at a different airport is quite the inconvenience for travellers, one wonders just exactly what this "sortie" entailed?

See also: Sonic boom wakes thousands of residents, shakes houses, as RAF jets scramble to intercept unresponsive aircraft near London


Glassdoor is broken: Anonymous reviews are a double-edged sword

glassdoor app
Public reviews serve an essential purpose in holding governments and institutions, stores and restaurants, and teachers and employers accountable. I fully and enthusiastically support transparency, including for private companies like my own. The problem is that literally anyone can lob a reputational bomb online, and it can be as devastating (and career-threatening) as any other kind of exploitive or maliciously opportunistic behavior, including those of unsavory leaders who deserve exposure.

Amida Technology Solutions, of which I was a co-founder and where I still serve as CEO, is a 50-person data-management software company, based in Washington D.C. that specializes in health information. I started Amida on my kitchen table in 2013 with two members of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, and raised money from first-tier investors three years later. We grew by 50 percent in 2018 and faster still in 2019. The coming year looks promising. Anyone who has ever started a company from scratch, or made an early-stage investment, would find our nascent success unusual, if not remarkable.

Inevitably, over the years I've occasionally had to make tough decisions about letting people go. In every instance there were detailed discussions about what's missing and how to do better, delivered in a spirit of "hey, we're not on a good path here." But no matter how it is packaged, letting people go sucks. It is rough on the employer (because there are often personal relationships involved, and because the position needs to be re-filled) and it is, tautologically, terrible for the employee. And because these discussions need to be private and discreet, such decisions can be a shock to the rest of the team. In such a situation, a well-intentioned website like Glassdoor — a platform on which employees can post anonymous reviews of their present or former companies and employers — can become a repository for bitterness, resentment, and frustration.