Syria: UN Inspection Delayed Amidst Rising Signs Of Western Intervention



DAMASCUS - As the United States appeared to toughen its stance against Syria, United Nations inspectors were forced Tuesday to postpone their investigation into the sites of the alleged chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus, according to the AFP.

The Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Walid Muallem said his counterparts among the rebel forces could not guarantee security for the UN inspectors in the rebel-controlled area. The 20-member UN team had come under sniper fire on Monday while on their way to the West of the city.

Meanwhile, in the strongest language thus far from the US administration, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Syrian government on Monday for using chemical weapons against its own people. In an emotional statement, he described the August 21 attack that allegedly killed at least 300 people as a "moral obscenity", according to Al Jazeera.

Kerry seemed to signal Washington's intentions of a military intervention in Syria, according to the BBC. He added that Bashar al-Assad's government must be held accountable. The Syrian authorities have continued denying the use of chemical weapons, blaming the rebel forces for the reported attacks.

According to the New York Times, the inspectors still managed to visit two hospitals on Monday, talk to witnesses and doctors, and collect patient samples. The next inspection is now set for Wednesday.

Other declarations and actions over the past 24 hours appear to signal a growing likelihood of a Western intervention in Syria:

- According to the Guardian, UK warplanes and military hardware have begun arriving at Britain's Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.

- According to Reuters, the British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria was "absolutely abhorrent" and necessitated action from the international community.

- According to Russia Today, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cast doubts on the veracity of Western claims about the incident. He said that the US and European countries have engineered a media campaign to facilitate a military incursion in Syria. He warned that such an intervention would be a "terrible mistake". Lavrov said Russia had no plans of going to war.

- Following Kerry's statement on Monday, Iran warned the US that military intervention will lead to a conflict which would engulf the region, according to the Guardian.

- The Syrian National Coalition called off the long-delayed peace summit in Geneva after the alleged chemical attack, Russia Today said.

- The US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Twitter on Tuesday:

Haunting images of entire families dead in their beds. Verdict is clear: Assad has used CWs against civilians in violation of int'l norm.

— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) August 27, 2013
John Kerry on August 13 in Brasilia - Photo: O Globo - ZUMA

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How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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