Twitter Makes Global Changes to Comply with Privacy Laws

Twitter is updating its global privacy policy to give users more information about what data advertisers might receive and is launching a site to provide clarity on its data protection efforts, the company said on Monday.

The changes, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, will comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The California law requires large businesses to give consumers more transparency and control over their personal information, such as allowing them to request that their data be deleted and to opt out of having their data sold to third parties.

Social media companies including Facebook and Alphabet’s Google have come under scrutiny on data privacy issues, fueled by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which personal data were harvested from millions of users without their consent.

Twitter also announced on Monday that it is moving the accounts of users outside of the United States and European Union which were previously contracted by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland, to the San Francisco-based Twitter.

The company said this move would allow it the flexibility to test different settings and controls with these users, such as additional opt-in or opt-out privacy preferences, that would likely be restricted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe’s landmark digital privacy law.

“We want to be able to experiment without immediately running afoul of the GDPR provisions,” Twitter’s data protection officer Damien Kieran told Reuters in a phone interview.

“The goal is to learn from those experiments and then to provide those same experiences to people all around the world,” he said.

The company, which said it has upped its communications about data and security-related disclosures over the last two years, emphasized in a Monday blog post that it was working to upgrade systems and build privacy into new products.

In October, Twitter announced it had found that phone numbers and email addresses used for two-factor authentication may inadvertently have been used for advertising purposes.

Twitter’s new privacy site, dubbed the ‘Twitter Privacy Center’ is part of the company’s efforts to showcase its work on data protection and will also give users another route to access and download their data.

Twitter joins other internet companies who have recently staked out their positions ahead of CCPA coming into effect.

Last month, Microsoft said it would honor the law throughout the United States and Google told clients that it would let sites and apps using its advertising tools block personalized ads as part of its efforts to comply with CCPA.


Pro-European Parties Retain Hold On European Parliament Despite Losses

European political leaders met Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the results of the EU elections and possible candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. Overall, the centrist parties have lost some ground while far right and populist, anti-immigration parties, have made gains in major EU nations, such as Britain, Italy and France. But green and liberal parties have seen the biggest growth. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

Thrill-Seekers Can Zip Down Eiffel Tower

Daredevil visitors to Paris will be able to leap off the second-floor balcony of the Eiffel Tower, albeit for a limited time. 

A zipline will allow some of the visitors to travel 800 meters in a minute at speeds of 90 kilometers an hour from the iconic tower to the 18th-century military complex of Ecole Militaire.

The zipline was set up by the French mineral water brand Perrier to celebrate the French Open and to coincide with the 130th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower.

The free ride will be available to thrill-seekers picked by an online lottery on social media and a select few who manage to get some spots set aside for an onsite drawing. 

One visitor to the tower posted a video of one of the zipline riders on Twitter saying, “Don’t try this at home.”

The zipline will be in place until June 11. 


EU Leaders Starting to Pick Bloc’s Top Chiefs

European leaders are in Brussels to choose their preferred candidates for top European Union positions after last week’s parliamentary elections, but already are divided on who should be the next president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation bloc.

The term of Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the commission ends in October. But Germany and France, two of the biggest economic forces on the continent, are at odds on who should replace him, a choice that must be ratified by the 751-member parliament when it assumes power in July.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel favors fellow countryman Manfred Weber, who has led the conservative European People’s Party group, the biggest in the EU assembly, since 2014. The EPP, even as it lost seats in the parliamentary elections, still constitutes the largest bloc of lawmakers and her support for Weber is in line with past practice in picking a European Commission president from the leading party in the parliament.

But the big centrist blocs in parliament will lose their majority in the new legislature, with nationalists and Greens gaining ground, leading to a more fragmented assembly and possibly more difficulty in picking a consensus nominee for president of the commission, which proposes EU laws and enforces them.

French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters he favors a nominee with “experience either in their country or in Europe that allows them to have credibility and savoir faire,” an apparent attack on the 46-year-old Weber, who has never served in government or a major institution like the commission.

Macron suggested two alternative nominees, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition since 2014, and Frenchman Michael Barnier, who has led the EU’s so-far unsuccessful negotiations with Britain over London’s Brexit effort to divorce itself from the EU.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez suggested a fellow socialist, Dutchman Frans Timmermans, saying he “has the qualities and the experience.”

The European leaders are also picking a new leader of the EU Council, a body that defines the European Union’s overall political direction and is now headed by Poland’s Donald Tusk; the European Central Bank, now led by Italian Mario Draghi and a new foreign policy chief, currently Italian Federica Mogherini.


New Ukrainian President Reinstates Saakashvili’s Citizenship

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has reinstated the Ukrainian citizenship of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who served as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region in 2015-16.

In a decree signed and posted on the presidential website on May 28, Zelenskiy annulled a portion of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko’s July 2017 decree that stripped Saakashvili of his citizenship.

Zelenskiy’s decree comes eight days after his inauguration and six days after Saakashvili’s lawyer, Ruslan Chornolutskiy, filed a request seeking restoration of Saakashvili’s citizenship.

Saakashvili was granted Ukrainian citizenship and appointed to the Odesa governor’s post in 2015 by Poroshenko, an acquaintance from their student days.

Authorities in Tbilisi stripped Saakashvili of his Georgian citizenship in December 2015 on grounds that Georgia does not allow dual citizenship.

Then, when relations between Poroshenko and Saakashvili soured over corruption allegations and slow reform efforts, Poroshenko in November 2016 sacked Saakashvili from the Odesa governor’s post.

In July 2017, after Saakashvili created an opposition party called the Movement of New Forces, Poroshenko issued a decree that stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship.

In February last year, Saakashvili was detained in Kyiv, taken to the airport, and flown to Poland.

Days later, Ukraine’s border service banned Saakashvili from entering Ukraine until February 13, 2021.

Saakashvili swept to power in Georgia after helping lead the peaceful Rose Revolution protests there in 2003, when he was mayor of Tbilisi.

His party was dislodged from power by an opposition force in 2012 parliamentary elections and his term as president expired in 2013.

Saakashvili currently resides in the Netherlands, his wife’s native country.



Reports of Putin Fathering Twins Test Free Speech in Russia

Normally the delivery of twins is a cause for celebration — and when the head of government is one of the parents and the other is an aspiring politician it opens up the possibility for cute photo-opportunities. Not so in Russia under the command of Vladimir Putin, it would seem, where the private life of Russia’s leader is apparently off-limits, say analysts.

Rumors have been swirling for days in Moscow that the Russian leader’s reputed 36-year-old girlfriend, former Olympic gold medal-winning rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva and now a media executive, gave birth to twin boys earlier this month in the Russian capital.

Nicknamed “the secret first lady,” Kabaeva, three decades younger than Putin, was rumored in 2008 to have given birth to a daughter at a private Swiss clinic recommended by Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi.

Then, as now, the Kremlin has moved to scotch reports of the births. Putin, who guards his private life fiercely — possibly a habit from his days as a KGB agent — has long denied he is in a relationship with Kabaeva.

Asked once daringly about a possible romance, Putin responded: “I’ve always had a negative feeling about people poking their snotty noses and erotic fantasies into other people’s lives.”

In 2013, Putin announced the end of his 30-year marriage to wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva, with whom he has two grown-up daughters. He appeared in public for the announcement with his estranged wife, a former Aeroflot flight attendant and languages teacher, during the interval of a performance by the Kremlin Ballet. During their marriage, Shkrebneva, who since her divorce with Putin has remarried, kept a low public profile and her appearances were kept to a minimum.

The Kremlin moved swiftly last week to stop news stories of the delivery of twins, say media insiders — a further example of their strict management of top newspapers and news-sites, especially when it comes to coverage of Putin. In 2016, three editors at Russia’s RBC media group, were fired over an article on the sources of Putin’s wealth in what media watchdogs feared would mark the demise of investigative reporting in Russia.

The website of newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, which is owned by one of the Russian leader’s oligarch friends, Arkady Rotenberg, reported the alleged Kabaeva births. But the report was quickly removed. Russian officials decline to comment.

But reports here and there on Kabaeva, an Uzbek by birth, have continued amid accusations by Putin loyalists that they are being encouraged by Ukrainian enemies of the Russian leader. One site,, announced in a headline: “Alina Kabaeva gave birth to twins and disappeared.” A showbiz website, Dom2Life, which is owned by another oligarch close to Putin, Alexander Karmanov, first reported the births on May 12, Kabaeva’s 36th birthday.

And according to Russian investigative journalist, Sergei Kanev, Kabaeva gave birth to twin boys by Caesarean at the Kulakov maternity clinic, where the VIP floor had been cleared in advance. He told Britain’s Daily Mail a doctor from Italy helped with the C-section delivery.

Kabaeva became a model on leaving competitive sport and was a Russian lawmaker until 2014. She now heads the National Media Group.

The mystery surrounding Kabaeva coincides with a further crackdown on the media in Russia amid rising complaints about shrinking press freedom and the Kremlin’s increasing determination to manage coverage.

Earlier this month, nearly a dozen journalists quit their posts at Kommersant, a liberal business-focused newspaper, and at one time a trailblazer for press freedom, in protest at the firing of two star reporters, Ivan Safronov and Maxim Ivanov. They co-wrote an article that ran afoul of the Kremlin, they say.

The newspaper is owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, another oligarch with close ties to Putin. One of the sacked reporters, Maxim Ivanov said on his Facebook page: “I’m no longer employed at the Kommersant publishing house. To avoid waxing lyrical: formally, my resignation from Kommersant is a mutual agreement between parties, but the decision to terminate my employment was made by the publishing house’s stakeholder.”

In March, another Kommersant journalist, Maria Karpenko, was fired over her reports on political developments in St. Petersburg.

The unfolding events at Kommersant have prompted the condemnation of the media watchdog and NGO Reporters Without Borders, which said in a statement  May 20 that it is “dismayed” but the firings, dubbing them a “terrible blow to what is left of journalistic independence” in Russia.

According to The Bell, an independent news outlet, Kommersant had been accorded by the Kremlin some independence, unlike many rival outlets, “but is subject to censorship on political topics. The mass resignation of journalists will now call this arrangement into question.”

It added that “it is not entirely clear why the article [by Ivanov and Safronov] upset the authorities so much.” The story reported that Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, would resign soon and be replaced by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service.

Russian journalists fear the curtailing of editorial independence will only get stricter. In March, Putin signed new laws against the spreading “fake news” and showing “blatant disrespect” to the state with fines or jail sentences for offenders. Observers warned that the laws’ vague language could be abused to stifle free speech.


75 Years After D-Day, Normandy’s US Cemetery a Vivid Reminder of Sacrifices

On June 6th, heads of state including President Trump will gather at a beach in northern France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. In this military operation, thousands of American and other allied soldiers lost their lives in the first phase of a final push to liberate France and the continent from Nazi occupation. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial represents a unique place to pay tribute to the fallen warriors. Nicolas Pinault report.

Serbian Troops on Full Alert After Kosovo Police Arrests

Serbia put its troops on full alert Tuesday after heavily armed Kosovo police entered Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, firing tear gas and arresting about two dozen people.

It was the latest flare-up in long-simmering tensions between Serbia and its former province, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008 after a bloody 1998-99 war that ended only with NATO intervention. Ninety percent of population in northern Kosovo are Serbs who don’t want to be part of independent Kosovo. Action by Kosovo special police there is rare and always triggers Serb anger.


Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Kosovo police arrested 23 people, including Serbs, Bosnians and a Russian, after “bursting” into several northern villages and the town Mitrovica with armored vehicles. Vucic said he had seen video of the police firing “live ammunition” over the heads of unarmed Serbs, and said the operation was designed to intimidate minority Serbs in Kosovo, whose population is mostly ethnic Albanians.


Vucic said he has ordered soldiers near the border to be on “combat alert” to protect Serbs if tensions escalate.


“Serbia will try to preserve peace and stability, but will be fully ready to protect our people at the shortest notice,” Vucic told parliament.


He later said that the Kosovo policemen were withdrawing.


The U.N. mission in Kosovo said those detained included two of its staff members, one of them Russian. It said both employees were hospitalized for injuries, and called for all parties to help restore calm and security.


Russia, a Serbian ally, called Kosovo’s actions a “provocation” and demanded the immediate release of the Russian U.N. employee.


Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said earlier that the Russian “was camouflaged under a diplomatic veil to hamper the police operation.”


Serbian state TV reported movements of Serb troops stationed near the border. Any Serbian armed incursion into Kosovo would mean a direct clash with NATO-led peacekeepers there.


Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, confirmed on Twitter that police had carried out “an anti-smuggling and organized crime operation.” Thaci called on the ethnic Serb minority to remain calm and support the police.


“Those involved in illegal activities will go behind bars,” he wrote on his Facebook page, insisting that the police operation was not targeting people from specific ethnicities.


The spokesman for the NATO peacekeeping mission, Col. Vincenzo Grasso, said the force is monitoring the situation and coordinating with authorities.


“Because of the political sensitivity of the moment, Commander KFOR invites all the parties to deal with the disputes peacefully and responsibly, without any use of force or violence. People should stay calm, they have nothing to fear,” the mission said in a statement.


Serbia, and its allies Russia and China, do not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. The United States and more than 100 other countries do. The lingering dispute has stalled both countries’ efforts to become members of the European Union.


The two sides had been participating in an EU-facilitated dialogue, but Serbia walked away in November after Kosovo slapped a 100% tax on Bosnian and Serbian imports, saying it will be lifted only when the two countries recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty.



D-Day’s 75th Anniversary Renews Interest in Some Classrooms 

Kasey Turcol has just 75 minutes to explain to her high school students the importance of D-Day — and if this wasn’t the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II, she wouldn’t devote that much time to it.

D-Day is not part of the required curriculum in North Carolina — or in many other states.

Turcol reminds her students at Crossroads FLEX High School in Cary that D-Day was an Allied victory that saved Europe from Nazi tyranny and that the young men who fought and died were barely older than they are. She sprinkles her lesson with details about the number of men, ships and planes involved in the landing at Normandy while adding a few lesser-known facts about a Spanish spy and a deadly military practice conducted six months earlier in England.

Losing resonance

In the U.S. and other countries affected by the events on June 6, 1944, historians and educators worry that the World War II milestone is losing its resonance with today’s students.

In France, which was liberated from German occupation, D-Day isn’t a stand-alone topic in schools. German schools concentrate on the Holocaust and the Nazi dictatorship. And despite having been part of the Allied powers, in Russia, the schools avoid D-Day because they believe it was the victories on the Eastern Front that won the war.

“History has taken a back seat” in the U.S. because of the focus on science and math classes, said Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day in College Park, Md. 

In the U.S., teaching about World War II varies from state to state. It’s often up to the teachers to decide how much time they want to give to individual battles like D-Day.

California framework

California’s History-Social Science Framework, adopted in 2016, includes for sophomores an expansive unit on World War II that covers how the conflict was “a total war,” the goals of the Allied and Axis powers and how the fighting was fought on different fronts. The unit also includes a section on the Holocaust. 

In New York, school officials are using the D-Day anniversary to review the curriculum and “make recommendations on how the current average time of 90 minutes of World War II study in a school year can be strengthened, expanded and mandated.” 

There are special programs available to immerse select students in the history of D-Day. 

For eight years, National History Day sent 15 pairs of students and teachers to Normandy to immerse them in the history of D-Day. The high school sophomores and juniors would research individual soldiers close to them — relatives or people from their hometowns — who died. On the last day, the group visited a cemetery where each student read a eulogy for his or her individual soldier. 

Teachers also have outside resources. The National World War II Museum offers an electronic field trip through D-Day and provides suggested lessons plans.

In North Carolina, history is taught through “conceptual design” with connections to themes such as geography, economics and politics, said Meghan Grant, coordinating teacher for secondary social studies in Wake County schools.  

The lessons are based on a method of teaching social studies that was developed in 2013 and used by about half the states, said Larry Paska, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies. Paska said it may focus on asking students a question like, “What makes an event a turning point in the war?” Students then will use difference sources of evidence to back up their answers.

‘This is the moment’

As part of her D-Day lesson, Turcol tells her class of juniors and seniors that the Germans thought an attack from the Allied forces wouldn’t be possible.  

“It’s too stormy. It’s too risky,” she said. “And what do we do? Yeah, we find a glimmer of hope. On June 5th, the skies kind of clear. The moon kind of shines. And we’re like, ‘This is the moment. This is what is happening.’ ”

She tells students that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower kept D-Day plans on the “down low.”  

Turcol plays a few minutes of a documentary about D-Day to “show you the true humanity of the war,” she says.  

“You saw the German praying … asking for his mother, father, asking for this to be over. Not everybody is on the same message in Germany,” she says. “Everybody here is a father, a mother, a brother, a cousin, a friend. So every life matters.”

Students in Europe also receive dramatically different lessons on D-Day depending on where they live.

Because of Germany’s history, any hint of militarism remains a taboo. While battles like D-Day, Stalingrad and the Operation Barbarossa invasion of Russia might be mentioned briefly in schools, they tend to be lumped together in broad overviews of the war. Individual teachers do have leeway, however, to pursue topics that capture the attention of students. 

The curriculum is similar from state to state. In Berlin high schools, for example, curriculum guidelines include the history of the war under the overall focus on “the collapse of the first German democracy; Nazi tyranny,” which includes classes on Nazi ideology, resistance movements, the Holocaust and World War II.

Similarly, Bavaria’s ninth-grade curriculum focuses primarily on explaining how the Nazis came to power and their anti-Semitic ideology and genocidal policies, with the war taught briefly as part of their “expansion and conquest policies.”  In the 11th grade, the focus is even more directly on the Holocaust, and the curriculum guidelines note specific dates to be learned, including the anti-Jewish “Kristallnacht” pogrom in 1938.

The Russian narrative on D-Day has remained almost unchanged since the days of the Soviet Union. Historians and schoolbooks describe the invasion as a long-awaited move, happening after the course of WWII had already been shaped by Soviet victories in the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk and other battles on the Eastern Front.

Even in the country where D-Day occurred, the assault doesn’t have a central place in the teaching of World War II. The history of 20th century conflict is taught in France as a theme and no longer as a chronological list of major battles.

A week of lessons ‘not possible’

“We no longer teach as we did before, what we called ‘the history of battles,’ ” says Christine Guimonnet, who teaches history at a high school west of Paris and is secretary-general of the APHG, a French association of history and geography teachers. “Everyone will, of course, speak about June 6 because it was a major moment in the war, but we’re not going to spend a whole week on it. That’s not possible.” 

As long as they are still teaching the broader themes, French teachers may home in on specific events, like D-Day, to organize study projects and, if they have the budget, trips to Normandy beaches, museums or screenings of The Longest Day, a 1962 film about the events of D-Day. 

As cultural director at Normandy’s Caen Memorial, Isabelle Bournier deals daily with school groups that tour the museum. French children often aren’t familiar with the details of D-Day, partially because fewer families have relatives who lived through the war and can pass on their stories, she said.

Students from Normandy are different from the broader French student population, she said.

“All families are more or less impregnated by this history. It is part of us,” Bournier said. 

Ukrainian President’s Party to ‘Interview’ Candidates for July Elections

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s newly formed political party has appointed campaign adviser Dmytro Razumkov as its head and will interview prospective candidates to fill its party list ahead of snap parliamentary elections in July, party representatives have said.

The announcement was made by Razumkov, who spoke Monday at a press conference along with Oleksandr Korniyenko, head of the Servant of the People party’s election headquarters, and Mykhaylo Fedorov, the party’s chief of digital strategies.

Razumkov, the director of a political consulting company, got his start in politics as a member of the former Party of Regions of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly president who was pushed from power by the Maidan protest movement in 2014 and fled to Russia.

He said that at a recent party congress he was elected in place of Ivan Bakanov, a campaign adviser and lawyer for Zelenskiy’s Kvartal 95 entertainment company whom the new president appointed to be first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) on May 22.

A comic actor with no previous political experience, Zelenskiy beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a large margin in an April 21 presidential runoff. A day after his May 20 inauguration, he signed a decree to dissolve parliament and scheduled new elections for July 21.

The early vote is a chance for Zelenskiy to increase his clout early in a five-year term by getting supporters into the single-chamber legislature in the country of 44 million, which faces constant pressure from Russia as well as economic challenges and problems with corruption.

In line with previous practices by Zelenskiy, who has crowdsourced policies and potential cabinet members, Korniyenko said that Servant of the People will select candidates for the elections from applications submitted to a party website. Successful applicants must then pass a compliance test to ensure their views align with the president’s and undergo interviews with the party’s leaders, he said.

Korniyenko at first said that no current lawmaker would be allowed on the party’s candidate list but then backtracked, saying that some may be considered if they had produced what the party deemed to be “quality work” during their time as lawmakers in the Verkhovna Rada or Supreme Council.

A poll conducted this month by the Rating Sociological Group found that 43.8 percent of Ukrainian voters supported the Servant of the People party, while 10.5 percent supported the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life and 8.8 percent backed the Western-oriented Petro Poroshenko Bloc of the former president, which was recently renamed European Solidarity.

The 450-seat Rada is elected through a mix of party-list voting and voting in direct races between candidates in geographical electoral districts. To win seats in the party-list voting, a party must receive at least 5 percent of the votes cast nationwide.

Also at the press conference, Fedorov displayed the Servant party’s new logo: a silhouette of Zelenskiy riding a bicycle and wielding the presidential mace, or “bulava.” The image is strikingly similar to that of the accidental-president character Zelenskiy played on his hit TV show, also called Servant of The People.