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World

    Only after finding safety in numbers, joining hundreds of other pro-government protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday, did Reddy Lin drum up the courage to slip into her red T-shirt marked, “China, I love you” and glue a heart-shaped Chinese-flag sticker on her face. But for the train ride home, the teacher said she'd be taking all her pro-China garb off again. The risk of running into supporters from the rival camp, those who oppose China's communist rulers, was simply too great, she said. “It's very dangerous. They'll beat you,” she said. “They're brutes.” Lin and hundreds of other protesters waving red Chinese flags packed a Hong Kong park to vociferously denounce what they say is a reign of terror being imposed on the city by months of anti-government demonstrations. The protest highlighted the widening gulf between the pro- and anti-government camps in Hong Kong, with divisions that appear irreconcilable. Compared to the hundreds of anti-government rallies that have gripped Hong Kong since June, the pro-China demonstration was like stepping through a looking glass. The Hong Kong police were praised as saviors, not bullies. China was presented as a country to love, not fear. Hong Kong was described as a city freer than most, instead of a place losing its liberties. Chief among the demonstrators' complaints was that they have grown scared of the black-clad, frequently violent hard core of the anti-government movement. Calling them “rioters,” many said hard-line protesters are destroying Hong Kong's freedoms, rather than protecting them, by resorting to violence. In chants, the crowd called anti-government protesters “cockroaches.” Photos displayed at the rally showed the bloodied faces of people who have been attacked during protests. They have included people who've been deemed by mobs to be unsympathetic to the anti-government movement, including a man who was doused with inflammable liquid and set on fire last month. “They destroy everything,' fumed Tata Tsg, a retiree at the rally who said she is now too scared to go out in the evenings. “Those bastards have freedom, I have no freedom.' Tsg and two friends who joined her, sisters Angie and Winnie Choi, said it marked the first time that any of them, all in their fifties, had ever taken part in a protest. Angie Choi carried a poster marked: “Extreme rioters. Hong Kong suffers.” Lin, the civics teacher who traveled from the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen for the protest in a small square amid Hong Kong tower blocks, collected hundreds of signatures for ‘Thank you’ letters she said she'll mail to the territory's much-maligned police force. “They are working very hard,” she said. Lin said her 20-year-old son, who studies at a Hong Kong university, was too afraid to join her at the demonstration, scared that he might be recognized by classmates and “be beaten.” The police force has become hated by many anti-government protesters, furious over riot officers' liberal use of choking tear gas and thousands of often muscular arrests. A call for an independent probe of police behavior features among the anti-government movement's main demands. Hong Kong's new police commissioner, Chris Tang, said Saturday in Beijing that he'll adopt both 'hard and soft approaches” for policing protests. He spoke after his first meetings with Chinese officials since his appointment last month. Hurling gasoline bombs or stones are “violent actions we will not tolerate,” he said. 'But for other incidents, such as protesters walking off-road or other minor incidents, we will take humanistic and flexible approaches.” Those pledges will be tested by a rally Sunday of the anti-government movement that will offer a fresh gauge of its appeal and ability to continue mobilizing support. At the pro-government rally, some demonstrators said they don't feel great admiration for embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam or her Communist Party bosses in Beijing but feel such great anger about protest violence that they had to turn out. But leaving the rally, many demonstrators furled and put away their Chinese flags and peeled off red stickers they'd been wearing, for fear of running into opponents on their rides home. “Who is more scary: the communists or the rioters?” said retiree Peter Pang. “I don't like the government very much but I don't like rioters even more.”
  • Iran and the U.S. conducted a prisoner exchange Saturday that saw a detained Princeton scholar released for an Iranian scientist held by America, marking a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions. In a trade conducted in Zurich, Switzerland, Iranian officials handed over Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, detained in Tehran since 2016, for scientist Massoud Soleimani, who had faced a federal trial in Georgia. While the exchange represents a rare win for both countries, it comes as Iran still faces crushing American sanctions and the aftermath of nationwide protests that reportedly saw over 200 people killed. Meanwhile, Western detainees from the U.S. and elsewhere remain held by Tehran. They are likely to be used as bargaining chips for future negotiations amid Iran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. Wang's release had been rumored over recent days, with one lawyer involved in his case tweeting out a Bible verse about an angel freeing the apostle Peter just hours before Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif broke the news in his own tweet. “Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly,' Zarif wrote. “Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government.” President Donald Trump shortly after acknowledged Wang was free in a statement from the White House, saying the Princeton scholar would be “returning to the United States.” “Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016,” Trump said. “We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang’s release with Iran.” The Swiss Embassy in Tehran looks out for America's interests in the country as the U.S. Embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, accompanied the Iranian scientist Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be released. Hook and Wang were en route to Landstuhl hospital at Ramstein Air Base in Germany where Wang will be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook is expected to return to the U.S. from Germany alone, as Wang is expected to be evaluated for several days. Although Hook was present for the swap, the official said Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien played the lead role in the negotiations dating from his time as the special representative for hostage affairs at the State Department. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency later reported that Soleimani was with Iranian officials in Switzerland. Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours. Zarif later posted pictures of himself on Twitter with Soleimani in front of an Iranian government jet and later with the two talking on board. Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad. His family and Princeton University strongly denied the claims. Wang was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton. Hua Qu, the wife of Xiyue Wang, released a statement saying “our family is complete once again.” “Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.” Princeton University spokesman Ben Chang said the school was aware of Wang's release. “We are working with the family and government officials to facilitate his return to the United States,” Chang said. Iran’s Revolutionary Court tried Wang. That court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. Soleimani — who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine — was arrested by U.S. authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the U.S. to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home. Tensions have been high between Iran and the U.S. since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. In the time since, the U.S. has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran's economy. There also have been a series of attacks across the Mideast that the U.S. blames on Iran. Zarif in September said in an interview with NPR that he had pushed for an exchange of Wang for Soleimani. “I have offered to exchange them, because as foreign minister I cannot go to our court and simply tell them, ‘Release this man,’” Zarif said then. “I can go to the court and tell them, ‘I can exchange this man for an Iranian,’ and then ... have a legal standing in the court.” However, it remains unclear whether this exchange will have a wider effect on Iranian-U.S. relations. Iran has accused the U.S. without evidence of being behind the mid-November protests over gasoline prices. Meanwhile, the U.S. has said it seized Iranian missiles bound for Yemen, where Tehran backs rebel forces there that have been fighting a yearslong war with Saudi Arabia. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out direct talks between the nations. In June, Iran released Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. The U.S. deported Iranian Negar Ghodskani in September, who had been brought from Australia and later sentenced to time served for conspiracy to illegally export restricted technology from the U.S. to Iran. Other Americans held in Iran include the octogenarian businessman Baquer Namazi who has been held for over two years and diagnosed with epilepsy. Both Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, also a dual national who has been held for over three years, are serving a 10-year sentence after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power. An Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Also held is U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who is serving a 10-year sentence. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while saying Wang would soon be able to go home to his family, acknowledged other Americans remain held by Iran. “The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones,” Pompeo said in a statement. ___ Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
  • For Anna Sergeyeva, rebuilding her life after surviving a week of captivity and torture in Ukraine was often more of a struggle. She was snatched from her apartment in May 2014, when the conflict between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine had just erupted. The city where she lived, Donetsk, was controlled by the rebels. They found a Ukrainian flag at her home and detained her for being a Ukraine supporter. For a week, Sergeyeva’s kidnappers beat her and stabbed her, threatened her with rape and murder. She thought she would die in captivity, when all of a sudden her captors let her go. “If you come back, we will shoot you,” they said. Haunted by memories of torture and pain, Sergeyeva had to flee from the only life she knew and start anew — with no place to live, no job and no support from the government. “The hardest part was when the euphoria (about being released) wore off. When it dawns on you that you have no place to return to, you don’t want to do anything at all,” Sergeyeva said in an interview earlier this year. “In many ways, life after captivity is a much bigger challenge than life in captivity.” Sergeyeva’s situation is hardly an isolated case. In the five years that eastern Ukraine has been embroiled in bloodshed, between 3,000 and 10,000 people, according to different estimates, survived unlawful detentions and captivity. Almost half of them were civilians. Armed groups from both sides of the conflict held them in underground dungeons and often used them to extort ransom from or somehow leverage the other side. Hundreds of people still remain locked up. Civilians who went through captivity say that there is effectively no support system for them — once released, they are on their own with their injuries, psychological traumas and financial hardships. Occasionally, Ukrainian authorities offer survivors help with health care and financial support, but aside from standard social benefits for those who served in the military, there aren't any state programs to help former captives. For many, helping other former captives is often a way to advance their own recovery. They form support groups, nongovernmental organizations and raise money for other survivors. “After captivity everyone who went through this hell became my family,” Anatoly Polyakov, a Russian national who survived 288 days in captivity, said in an interview last year. Soon after he was released, he founded Ukrainian Association of Prisoners of War and dedicated his life to helping former captives. “I consider it my duty to do everything in my power for these people not to feel discriminated against in their own country,” said Polyakov, who has been living in Ukraine since 2013. ___ Shu set out in August to take portraits of some of the former captives in an effort to shed light on their situation. She eventually became friends with the people she photographed — getting them to open up required Shu to open up to them in turn. “To do this work, you should be open, sincere and warmhearted,' Shu said.
  • Floated along by barge , one of the 10-ton barriers designed to relieve Venice’s perennial flooding looks like a giant plaything: an oversized hinged yellow Lego. Central to the plan to protect the city, some or all of the 78 barriers will one day be raised when the sea rises more than 110 centimeters (43 inches), to prevent damaging high tides from pushing into the lagoon city, a world heritage site built picturesquely — but somewhat precariously — upon more than 120 islands. Concerns that high tides are becoming more frequent because of climate change have increased the urgency. While the concept is simple, its realization has been anything but. The system of movable underwater barriers, dubbed Moses, has been beset by corruption, cost overruns and delays. Projected at 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) and meant to be completed by 2011, the project has so far cost 5.5 billion euros and is running a decade behind schedule. In the wake of last month’s flooding of Venice, the worst in 53 years, the consortium that oversees construction of Moses is eager to demonstrate that the project — after years of bad news — is on track and will be fully operational by the end of 2021. Venetians say they cannot afford to be wrong. Skeptics and critics say they may be. A recent test of the deepest expanse of barriers — at the Malamocco entrance to the lagoon — was declared a success by the New Venice Consortium. It was the last of the four sections of barriers to be completely raised — but so far only in calm seas. The real test will come when all four are raised at once, and not only in serene waters, but under flood conditions. That isn’t scheduled to take place until the end of next year. It took six years to test each of the four movable sea walls covering the three openings to the lagoon, partly because work was slowed by a 2014 corruption scandal that implicated the three main contractors and sent 35 people to jail. Work is continuing largely with the original subcontractors now contracting directly with the consortium, which itself has been placed under government control as a result of the scandal. The fact that the barriers have not yet been physically tested in rough seas is a concern to critics. Paolo Vielmo, an offshore marine engineer who has long criticized the project, said that tests carried out in a laboratory in the Netherlands in the 1990s indicated that the barriers, under certain conditions, would oscillate out of control — possibly even breaking apart. 'Its behavior is not predictable,’’ Vielmo said. He said that the trials so far declared successful have been under only modest sea conditions that fail to represent anywhere near the threat of the phenomenon of extreme oscillation called subharmonic resonance. Vielmo and two other offshore engineers have compiled a report for the Codacons consumer and environment protection advocacy group, which is asking officials to run additional calculations to see if the project is indeed viable. And if it is not, Codacons says Moses should be stopped. “We don’t want to delay by one minute the possibility to make Moses operational. But we say we cannot make it operational until we are sure it will work,’’ said Franco Conte, president of Codacons in Venice. “Naturally, the Venetian community is exasperated and they say, 'If we did 95%, let’s do 100% and see if that works.’ But that is unconscionable. If we don’t know if it works, we cannot experiment.” The barrier system is made up of giant flood gates, each 20 meters (66 feet) long. The gates are attached by hinges to giant cement blocks placed on the seabed along the three openings from the sea into the lagoon, Malamocco, Chioggia and the Lido. The gates can be lifted to create a temporary barrier in high tides. Once the water has receded, they can be lowered again — allowing shipping traffic to continue and for the tidal system to flush out the lagoon. The idea behind the project was to create a mobile system that would not impede views of the unique and protected landscape. But Moses has suffered criticism from the start that there were simpler, cheaper systems that could have been deployed. Venetians have been waiting since the record 1.94-meter (6.36-foot) flood of 1966 for a system to protect them from regular inundations. The flooding in November, the second-worst recorded, proved the urgency. In the 150 years that they have been recording the tide levels in Venice, two high tides above 1.5 meters have never been recorded in a year. In November, there were three in one week. Climate scientists note that exceptional tides — those over 1.4 meters — have become much more frequent in the past two decades, with more than half of all recorded occurring since 2000. 'One has to realize the kind of existential question that that serious flooding has given rise to,” said Jane Da Mosto, an environmental scientist and executive director of the non-profit group We Are Here Venice, which is working to defend the city against myriad issues, including depopulation, cruise traffic through St. Mark’s basin and overtourism. “People are asking: will Venice be defendable against these kinds of episodes?’’ It’s not just the still-uncalculated damage to landmarks like St. Mark’s Basilica, where corrosive salt water creeps through porous brick and tile. It’s also the boxes of ruined belongings and piles of soaked mattresses discarded in alleyways and loaded onto motorboats and trash barges for disposal. The relentlessness of the Venetian fall and winter tides make one-third of ground floors uninhabitable in the historic canal city. “I am very old, I cannot say that I want to die, but I certainly do not want to be witness to the fact that it does not work,” 84-year-old resident Paola Scarpa said of the Moses barriers, as she walked to check on a family property in the Canareggio neighborhood on a recent December morning. “It would be a pain too great.” ___ Associated Press journalist Trisha Thomas contributed to this report.
  • Lebanese journalists are facing threats and wide-ranging harassment in their work — including verbal insults and physical attacks, even death threats — while reporting on nearly 50 days of anti-government protests, despite Lebanon’s reputation as a haven for free speech in a troubled region. Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Oct. 17 over a plunging economy. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping aside Lebanon’s entire ruling elite. Local media outlets — some of which represent the sectarian interests protesters are looking to overthrow — are now largely seen as pro- or anti-protests, with some journalists feeling pressured to leave their workplaces over disagreements about media coverage. The deteriorating situation for journalists in Lebanon comes despite its decades-old reputation for being an island of free press in the Arab world. Amid Lebanon’s divided politics, media staff have usually had wide range to freely express their opinions, unlike in other countries in the region where the state stifles the media. The acts of harassment began early in the protests. MTV television reporter Nawal Berry was attacked in central Beirut in the first days of the demonstrations by supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies. They smashed the camera, robbed the microphone she was holding, spat on her and kicked her in the leg. 'How is it possible that a journalist today goes to report and gets subjected to beating and humiliation? Where are we? Lebanon is the country of freedoms and democracy,' Berry told The Associated Press. Outlets like MTV are widely seen as backing protesters’ demands that Lebanon’s sectarian political system be completely overturned to end decades of corruption and mismanagement. Rival TV stations and newspapers portray the unrest — which led to the Cabinet’s resignation over a month ago — as playing into the hands of alleged plots to undermine Hezbollah and its allies. Many of those outlets are run by Hezbollah, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. These media regularly blast protesters for closing roads and using other civil disobedience tactics, describing them as “bandits.” For Berry, the media environment worsened as the unrest continued. On the night of Nov. 24, while she was covering clashes between protesters and Hezbollah and Amal supporters on a central road in Beirut, supporters of the Shiite groups chased her into a building. She hid there until police came and escorted her out. 'I was doing my job and will continue to do so. I have passed through worse periods and was able to overcome them,' said Berry, who added she is taking a short break from working because of what she passed through recently. Hezbollah supporters also targeted Dima Sadek, who resigned last month as an anchorwoman at LBC TV. She blamed Hezbollah supporters for stealing her smartphone while she was filming protests, and said the harassment was followed by insulting and threatening phone calls to her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress. “I have taken a decision (to be part of the protests) and I am following it. I have been waiting for this moment all my life and I have always been against the political, sectarian and corrupt system in Lebanon,' said Sadek, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, adding that she has been subjected to cyberbullying for the past four years. 'I know very well that this will have repercussions on my personal and professional life. I will go to the end no matter what the price is,' Sadek said shortly after taking part in a demonstration in central Beirut. On Friday night, a video was widely circulated on social media of a Shiite cleric harshly criticizing Sadek during a sermon in southern Lebanon, describing her as a person 'fighting God and his prophet.' The cleric then says Sadek is a bandit and that according to Islamic law, she should be either 'crucified' or have her right arm and left leg amputated or be sent into exile. 'I'm speechless,' Sadek said when asked about the video. Protesters have also targeted journalists reporting with what are seen as pro-government outlets. OTV station workers briefly removed their logos from equipment while covering on the demonstrations to avoid verbal and physical abuse. The station is run by supporters of Aoun’s FPM. “The protest movement has turned our lives upside down,” said OTV journalist Rima Hamdan, who during one of her reports slapped a man on his hand after he pointed his middle finger at her. She said the station’s logo “is our identity even though sometimes we had to remove it for our own safety.' Television reporters with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar and Amal’s NBN channels were also attacked by protesters in a town near Beirut, when they were covering the closure of the highway linking the capital with southern Lebanon. In a video, an NBN correspondent is seen being attacked, while troops and policemen stand nearby without intervening. 'This happens a lot in Lebanon because some media organizations are politicized. No one sees media organizations as they are but sees them as representing the political group that owns them,' said Ayman Mhanna, director of the Beirut-based media watchdog group SKeyes. 'The biggest problem regarding these violations is that there is no punishment,' Mhanna said. Authorities usually fail to act even when they identify those behind attacks on journalists, he added. Coverage of the protests also led to several journalists resigning from one of Lebanon’s most prominent newspapers, Al-Akhbar, which is seen as close to Hezbollah, and the pan-Arab TV station Al-Mayadeen, which aligns closely with the policies of Iran, Syria and Venezuela. Joy Slim, who quit as culture writer at Al-Akhbar after more than five years, said she did so after being “disappointed” with the daily’s coverage of the demonstrations. She released a video widely circulated on social media that ridiculed those who accuse the protesters of being American agents. Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East, resigned from Al-Mayadeen last month. He said the reason behind his move was that he was “closer to the people than the authorities.” “The Lebanese media is similar to politics in Lebanon where there is division between two axes: One that supports the idea of conspiracy theory, and another that fully backs the protest movement with its advantages and disadvantages,” Kleib said.
  • An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire while heading to a court hearing in the case has died in a New Delhi hospital, officials said Saturday. The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year, police said. The two were out of custody on bail. Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack, police said. The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital's burn unit. Yogi Adityanath, the state's chief minister, said that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.” Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP lawmaker of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident. Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India. Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear. Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90% of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts. The burn victim's death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country. The woman's burned corpse was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India's tech hub, after she went missing the previous night. Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim's phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire. The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday. Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India's Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects' bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition lawmakers about the circumstances of the suspects' deaths.
  • Facebook has been fined around $4 million for allegedly misleading its users in Hungary by claiming the use of its services was free, the Hungarian Competition Authority said Friday. The authority called the fine of 1.2 billion forints ($4.01 million, 3.63 million euros) the largest-ever issued in Hungary in a matter of consumer protection. According to the competition authority, Facebook posted slogans such as “Free and anyone can join” on its opening page and help center, claiming that its services were free of charge. While true that users don't pay a fee, they paid for their use of Facebook by driving profits to the company through its collection and use of their detailed data, such as consumer preferences, interests and habits, the authority said. It added that, using that information, Facebook sold advertising opportunities to its clients, with the ads reaching consumers through their insertion among users' Facebook posts. The authority said that the notices about the free use of Facebook “distract consumers' attention” from the compensation they provide the company — the provision and extent of their data and its consequences. The authority said it calculated the fine based not only on the advertising revenues in Hungary of Facebook Ireland Ltd., but also took into account that during the investigation the company made changes globally to the slogans on its opening page about the gratuitousness of the service, and also to the content of the help center. Authorities also noted that similar judgments had been made both in the United States and Europe relating to Facebook's behavior and that, pressured by the European Union, the company refreshed and made clearer its terms of use and services in April 2019. The misleading information about the free services appeared on Facebook between Jan. 2010 and until earlier this year, the authority said.
  • Britain’s Brexit envoy in Washington has quit, saying she no longer wants to “peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust.” Alexandra Hall Hall resigned as the embassy’s Brexit counselor with a letter slamming the British government’s use of “misleading” arguments and reluctance “to address honestly” the challenges and trade-offs involved in the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. Her resignation letter was obtained by CNN, which published it Friday. In it, Hall Hall also accused the Conservative government of “behavior towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern.” Hall Hall, 55, is a 33-year veteran of Britain’s foreign service and a former British ambassador to Georgia. The Foreign Office confirmed she had quit but said “we won’t comment on the detail of an individual’s resignation.” The diplomat's resignation letter is dated Dec. 3 and was made public just six days before Britons vote in a general election dominated by Brexit.
  • Police in Kenya say suspected al-Shabab extremists have stopped a bus in the north near Somalia and killed eight passengers, all of them non-Muslims. A police report seen by The Associated Press on Friday says an unknown number of extremists stopped the bus and singled out non-locals. It says preliminary reports show the majority of those killed were police officers returning to their stations in Elwak and Mandera. The Somalia-based al-Shabab has claimed responsibility. The al-Qaida-linked extremist group has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it. In one of the worst attacks inside Kenya, al-Shabab in 2014 hijacked a bus traveling through Mandera County and killed 28 non-Muslims on board.