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Russia spreading disinformation about coronavirus: US officials | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Russian intelligence operatives are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to exploit a crisis that the United States is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November, US officials said Tuesday.

Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service, known as the GRU, have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort directed at US and Western audiences, US government officials said. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

The information had previously been classified, but officials said it had been downgraded so they could more freely discuss it. Officials said they were doing so now to sound the alarm about the particular websites and to expose a connection between the sites and Russian intelligence.

Between late May and early July, one of the officials said, a trio of websites published about 150 articles about the pandemic response, including coverage aimed at propping up Russia and denigrating the US.

The websites published about 150 articles about the coronavirus pandemic between late May and early July [Chris Pizzello/AP] 

Among the headlines that caught the attention of US officials are “Russia’s Counter COVID-19 Aid to America Advances Case for Detente,” which suggested that Russia had given urgent and substantial aid to the US to fight the pandemic, and “Beijing Believes COVID-19 is a Biological Weapon”.

The disclosure comes as the spread of disinformation, including by Russia, is an urgent concern heading into November’s presidential election as US officials look to avoid a repeat of the 2016 contest, when Russia launched a covert social media campaign to divide US public opinion to favour then-candidate Donald Trump. The chief US counterintelligence official warned in a public statement Friday about Russia’s continued use of internet trolls to advance its goals.

Even apart from politics, the twin crises buffeting the country and much of the world – the pandemic and race relations and protests – have offered fertile territory for misinformation or outfight falsehoods.

Officials described the disinformation as part of an ongoing and persistent Russian effort to cause confusion. They did not say whether the effort was directly related to the November election, though some of the coverage on the websites appeared to denigrate Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. The stories call to mind Russian efforts from 2016 to exacerbate race relations in the US and drive corruption allegations against US political figures.

US officials on Tuesday singled out a news agency, InfoRos.ru, that operates a trio of websites – InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld.press – that they say have leveraged the pandemic to promote anti-Western objectives and to spread disinformation.

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The sites also carry stories about US politics including ones about presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

The sites promote their narratives in a sophisticated but insidious effort that officials liken to money laundering, where stories in well-written English – and often with pro-Russian sentiment and anti-US sentiment – are cycled through other news sources to conceal their origin and enhance the legitimacy of the information.

The sites also amplify stories that originate elsewhere, the government officials said.

The sites focus on contemporary politics as well. A headline Tuesday on InfoRos.ru about the unrest roiling major US cities read “Chaos in the Blue Cities”, accompanying a story that lamented how New Yorkers who grew up experiencing the tough-on-crime approach of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg “must adapt to life in high-crime urban areas”.

Another story carried the headline of “Ukrainian Trap for Biden”, and claimed that “Ukrainegate” – a reference to stories surrounding Biden’s son Hunter’s former ties to a Ukraine gas company – “keeps unfolding with renewed vigors”.

Two individuals who have also held leadership roles at InfoRos, identified Tuesday as Denis Valeryevich Tyurin and Aleksandr Gennadyevich Starunskiy, have previously served in a GRU unit specialising in military psychological intelligence and maintain deep contacts there, the officials said.

InfoRos and One World’s ties to the Russian state have attracted scrutiny in the past from European disinformation analysts.

In 2019, a European Union task force that studies disinformation campaigns identified One World as “a new addition to the pantheon of Moscow-based disinformation outlets”. The task force noted that One World’s content often parrots the Russian state agenda on issues including the war in Syria.

A report published last month by a second, nongovernmental organization, Brussels-based EU DisinfoLab, examined links between InfoRos and One World to Russian military intelligence. The researchers identified technical clues tying their websites to Russia and identified some financial connections between InfoRos and the government.

“InfoRos is evolving in a shady grey zone, where regular information activities are mixed with more controversial actions that could be quite possibly linked to the Russian state’s information operations,” the report’s authors concluded.

On its English-language Facebook page, InfoRos describes itself as an “Information agency: world through the eyes of Russia”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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