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Israel weighs counterattack options on Iran as US urges restraint

Israel is considering how to respond to Iran’s weekend missile and drone strikes, as the United States and its allies urge the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to escalate and risk igniting a wider regional conflict. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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Ukraine at War Update for April 17: Donetsk Region Still Main Russian Focal Point as Nation’s Civilians Take More Hits


Washington’s bi-cameral legislature still wavers on more funding for Ukraine amid a full-scale invasion.

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At 12, China-central and eastern Europe group faces growing pains

Vienna, Austria — Next week, China will mark the 12th anniversary of a group for central and eastern European countries it established to grow its influence in the EU. But when it does, there will be no high-level activities or celebrations to mark the group’s creation.

Since 2019, the frequency of meetings between China and central and eastern European leaders has decreased, and one after another, members have withdrawn.

Matej Simalcik, executive director at the Central European Institute of Asian Studies, told VOA Mandarin that when the China-Central and Eastern European Countries Cooperation Mechanism was launched on April 26, 2012, central and eastern European, or CEE states “were largely motivated as a reaction to the global financial crisis. Cooperation with China was seen as a means to provide new stimuli for economic growth.”

Since its inception, however, the initiative has been riddled with problems. 

“From the very beginning, agenda-setting within the format was largely dominated by the Chinese side. At the same time, CEE capitals often failed to not just promote, but also come up with their own ideas about what kind of cooperation with China would best serve their interests,” Simalcik said.

“With this, the format’s annual summits were reduced to mere talk shops, which also served Chinese domestic propaganda purposes.”

Also known as the 16+1, the group has included Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. When Greece joined in 2019, it was renamed 17+1.

From 2013 to 2019, seven meetings were held: six in the capitals of Romania, Serbia, Latvia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Croatia and one in Suzhou, China.

Members have not held an in-person leadership meeting since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, and it has been three years since Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a video conference.

During that same period, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced their withdrawal, while China’s relations with the Czech Republic and other central and eastern European countries deteriorated.

Ja Ian Chong, associate professor of the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, tells VOA’s Mandarin service that many central and eastern European states have grown more cautious — even suspicious — of Beijing and its projects, “especially after seeing Moscow’s aggression toward Ukraine and Beijing’s continuing support for Russia.”

China’s outward investment projects have started to decline and the economic incentives for cooperation are now no longer as great, Chong adds. 

China’s “transnational repression within Europe and diplomatic spats with Czechia and Lithuania that came with economic punishment further reduced appetite for cooperation with Beijing,” he said.

Simalcik said China’s sanctions of members of the European Parliament over the Xinjiang issue and its interference in central and eastern European states’ interactions with Taiwan, especially Taiwan-Czech Republic relations, have also made cooperation between the two sides more difficult.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has not ruled out the use of force to unify it with the mainland.

Xinjiang is a region of China where Beijing is accused of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims. Beijing denies the accusations.  

Filip Sebok, a China researcher at the Association for International Affairs in Prague, told VOA Mandarin that much has changed since China initiated the 16+1 mechanism in 2012. 

While China could present itself at that time as a mostly economic actor, “It is now clear for most European nations, including those in CEE, that China also presents certain security and geopolitical challenges,” he said.

“At the same time, the authoritarian turn within China, human rights abuses, and the spillover of its authoritarian outreach abroad have also changed perceptions of China,” he added. 

However, cooperation between China and CEE countries has not been fruitless, Chong said.

“In essence, CEE states that are more authoritarian and have friendlier ties with Russia tend to be more positive about the cooperation with the PRC,” he said.

Sebok said if Beijing wants to win the support of CEE countries, it should meet these countries’ expectations for economic cooperation. The mismatch between expectations and results led to the decreasing profile of the China-CEE cooperation format. 

“However, we might yet see a reinvigoration of the format in some form. An important factor is the rising Chinese investment in electromobility supply chains, which we are seeing mainly in Hungary, but also in Slovakia and Poland. This might give the cooperation a new impetus,” he said.

Changes in the political situation in Europe and the United States may also create opportunities for restarting cooperation. 

Sebok said that Slovakia, after parliamentary elections in 2023 and presidential election this year, “is exhibiting signs of seeking a closer relationship with China, which might enlarge the group of China-enthusiastic countries.”

If the United States elects a new president and changes its approach to the EU, that “might also create new opportunities for China to take advantage of the uncertainty in the region and increase its influence,” he said.

The United States holds its presidential election this November.

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

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Почему кыргызстанцы стремятся получать высшее образование в России


Почему кыргызстанцы стремятся получать высшее образование в России

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Цены на новостройки в столицах начали отставать от инфляции


Цены на новостройки в реальном выражении не меняются, а в Москве – снижаются. Аналитический центр ДОМ.РФ опубликовал Индекс цен на первичном рынке жилья за март нынешнего года. По данным нового сервиса Института развития, в марте рост цен на новостройки замедлился и составил лишь 0,5% (после 1% в феврале и 0,7% в январе). Всего за первый квартал цены на первичное жилье в России увеличились на 2,2%, то есть стабилизировались практически на уровне инфляции (1,95%), отмечают аналитики.

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Новосибирский завод стройматериалов повысил эффективность за счет нацпроекта


Новосибирский “Завод строительных материалов 7” за полгода участия в национальном проекте “Производительность труда” повысил выработку и снизил объем брака.

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Jerusalem Post: Армия Израиля определилась ответом на атаку Ирана


Израильская армия уже определилась, каким способом отреагирует на атаку Ирана, но пока определяется со сроками. Об этом пишет газета Jerusalem Post, ссылаясь на источники.

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Генерал Кривонос: ВСУ не могут использовать технику у Часова Яра из-за дронов РФ


Массовое применение Вооруженными силами России беспилотников осложнило положение украинских войск под Часовым Яром. С таким заявлением выступил отставной генерал ВСУ Сергей Кривонос в эфире YouTube-канала “Прямой”.

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Ukraine war briefing: Fraught path through US Congress for aid as Russia makes gains

Invaders breaking out and making headway in absence of US help, says thinktank; Zelenskiy signs mobilisation law to boost Ukrainian ranks. What we know on day 784

Russia-Ukraine war: who will finance Ukraine’s defence?

Continue reading…

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Harvard Taps Longtime DEI Advocate To Help Pick University’s Next President

Harvard University on Monday tapped an ex-McKinsey consultant who has criticized meritocracy and published controversial research on the benefits of diversity in business to help select the university’s next president.

Vivian Hunt, who in 2015 co-authored McKinsey’s influential paper, “Why diversity matters,” has been appointed to lead the Harvard Board of Overseers, the head of which has historically sat on Harvard’s presidential search committees along with all 12 members of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s top governing body, according to the Harvard Crimson. The overseers can also veto presidential appointments with a majority vote.

The system means that Hunt—who has argued that meritocracy “isn’t good enough” and urged companies to adopt explicit diversity targets—will likely play a major role in picking former Harvard president Claudine Gay’s successor. Her appointment comes amid plummeting donations and a major drop in applications to the Ivy League school, which has been at the center of a debate about diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in higher education.

Critics of those programs say Hunt’s selection is a red flag as Harvard gears up to find a permanent replacement for Gay—a major champion of DEI—who resigned in January amid allegations of plagiarism.

“Vivian Hunt leading the search for the next president of Harvard perfectly encapsulates the rot in higher education and corporate America,” said Will Hild, the executive director of Consumers’ Research, a nonprofit that has led a campaign against ESG initiatives, including diversity programs, in the business world. “If Harvard was serious about rebuilding their floundering reputation, Hunt would be the last person chosen to lead this search.”

Hunt has been a driving force behind the proliferation of DEI initiatives. Her 2015 paper has been cited by countless companies and institutions, including the Pentagon, to justify their diversity programs, even as more recent research has challenged her findings.

A study in Econ Journal Watch this March found that diversity has no effect on company returns and that Hunt’s results don’t replicate. The findings were a major rebuke of Hunt, now the CEO of Optum Health, who has spent nearly a decade making the business case for diversity—and against meritocracy.

She has argued that a “meritocratic” policy of “treating people evenly isn’t good enough” because it “allows the bias that is in our systems … to perpetuate.”

“You have to proactively stand for an antiracism environment,” she said in a 2020 interview, “to positively include people who have been historically excluded.”

Harvard did not respond to a request for comment.

Hunt’s appointment is likely to raise questions about whether Harvard has learned any lessons from Gay, the university’s first black president, who was hired through one of the shortest presidential searches in Harvard history—one that did not include a review of her scholarly record. Gay stepped down after accusations of plagiarism compounded the fallout from her disastrous congressional testimony in December, when she equivocated about whether calls for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s code of conduct.

Her downfall fueled the perception that she had been hired because, as Sen. J.D. Vance (R., Ohio) put it, “she checked a box.” The decision to elevate Hunt could portend more box-checking as the school seeks to manage a large and growing group of alumni unhappy with their alma mater’s priorities, including those around DEI.

In a write-in campaign to join the Board of Overseers, which advises the Harvard Corporation and has a veto over its members, former Facebook executive Sam Lessin said that “academic excellence” should be the university’s “only goal.” The message resonated: Though Lessin didn’t make it onto the ballot for board elections, he did secure 2,901 nominations from alumni—the most in the history of Overseers write-in campaigns.

“The Overseers are a critical check and balance on making sure that we have the right leadership across the board,” Lessin told the Harvard Crimson in an interview. “They haven’t taken that role seriously enough in modern times.”

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