In Suu Kyi’s Myanmar, Concern Rises Over Press Freedom


 

 

 

 

 

In the old, military-ruled Myanmar, it would not have been a surprising scene: three journalists, bound together in chains, raising shackled hands in unison and speaking out against their repressive government.

But this moment, captured on video by a local news organization, the Democratic Voice of Burma, was not from another era. It was recorded Tuesday, and it underscores how little has changed in the Southeast Asian country since the party led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and longtime opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won elections a year and a half ago.

“Just look at these chains. This is what we get for being journalists,” said Lawi Weng, one of three reporters detained by the military on June 26 for covering a drug-burning ceremony organized by an ethnic rebel group in the northeast.

“How can we say this is democracy?” Weng asked before entering a police van headed back to jail after a brief court hearing in Shan state’s Hsipaw township.

The reporters each face three years in prison for violating the nation’s Unlawful Associations Act, which was designed to punish people who associate with or assist “illegal” groups –  in this case, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, one of more than a dozen small rebel armies that control patches of territory in the north and east. The rebels burned a cache of narcotics to mark the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse.

Members of various rebel groups, along with their sympathizers and some aid workers, have been prosecuted under the Unlawful Associations Act. But rarely, if ever, have journalists – many of whom travel regularly to zones controlled by the Ta’ang and other insurgent groups.

It’s unclear why these journalists were singled out. Suu Kyi’s government, which is struggling to broker a nationwide cease-fire with the country’s rebel armies, simply says they broke the law and should have informed security forces before visiting a conflict zone.

The arrests, combined with the prosecution of critics who have spoken out against the nation’s military and civilian authorities, have surprised many who thought Suu Kyi’s rise would herald a new era of freedom of expression.

Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during the nation’s long era of military rule, and she was praised worldwide for leading the struggle for democracy. Although her administration is officially in charge, the military still wields most power.

Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Suu Kyi’s administration continues to use “antiquated laws to threaten and imprison journalists.”

“Reporters are still being targeted for reprisals and imprisoned for their reporting,” Crispin said. “Frankly, that’s not what we thought an Aung San Suu Kyi-led government would condone or promote. It’s been massively disappointing.”

The New York-based press freedom group, which has called for the reporters to be released, had hoped the administration would “prioritize amending or scrapping these draconian provisions,” Crispin said. “To our dismay, they’ve chosen to use them to suppress criticism instead.”

Since Suu Kyi’s party swept elections in November 2015, at least 67 lawsuits have been filed under the controversial Telecommunications Law, which had been employed by the former military governments to punish dissent and prosecute those who took part in the pro-democracy struggle.

The law targets anyone “extorting, coercing, restraining, wrongfully defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person.”

At least a dozen people have been charged so far, according to the Telecom-Law Research Team, an independent research group. Several suits have involved alleged insults against Suu Kyi, among them a woman now serving a six-month jail term for criticizing her on social media.

In addition to Lawi Weng, who works for the Irrawaddy media outlet, the two other journalists detained after crossing into rebel territory in Shan state are Aye Nai and Pyae Bone Naing, both from the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Their court appearances have repeatedly been changed without notice, fueling speculation authorities want to minimize media coverage.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who chairs the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said that “covering developments in conflict areas is already dangerous work.”

“Journalists shouldn’t have to add to their list of worries the possibility that the military might imprison them based on a century-old law that clearly wasn’t intended to apply to them and should have been repealed altogether long ago,” he said.

Speaking after their court appearance Tuesday, journalist Aye Nai said Democratic Voice of Burma reporters had traveled repeatedly to other rebel zones controlled by insurgent groups like the Kachin, the Karen and other minorities fighting for greater autonomy.

They had not been charged before, and should not be now, he said.

The government has reached provisional cease-fires with many of the rebel groups. The Ta’ang are among several still fighting, however, along with allies Kachin Independence Army and the Shan State Army-South.

“The government that was elected by the people should … amend these laws,” Aye Nai said. And even though they have detained us, “the belief we have in media will never fade away. We (will) do our job.”

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

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Nobel Winner Malala, in Nigeria, Speaks Out Against Boko Haram


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Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai was greeted with cheers Tuesday by dozens of young women in northeastern Nigeria, where she spoke out for the many girls abducted under Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency.

The Pakistani activist, 20, told The Associated Press she was excited by the courage of the young women who are undaunted as they pursue an education amid one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“This is part of my girl power trip, visiting many parts of the world,” said Yousafzai, who also met with the freed Chibok schoolgirls taken in a mass abduction by Boko Haram more than three years ago. “I am here now because of the Nigerian girls, fighting for them and speaking up for them.”

Yousafzai visited internally displaced camps in and around Maiduguri, where thousands have sheltered from Boko Haram’s violence. The extremist group continues to carry out deadly attacks there, often using young female suicide bombers.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, center right, visits a school in Maiduguri, Nigeria, July. 18, 2017. The Nobel Peace laureate spoke out for the many girls abducted under Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency.

“They have lived in the period of extremism,” Yousafzai said of the young women around her. Many have seen family members killed.

Shot by Taliban

Yousafzai was 15 when she shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012, targeted because of her advocacy for women’s education.

The Nobel winner said her Nigeria visit was significant because it was the partial fulfillment of what she advocated the last time she was there. In 2014, she pressed then-President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure the rescue of the more than 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

On Monday, Yousafzai met with more than 100 who have since been rescued and now stay in the capital, Abuja, for what the government calls rehabilitation.

While she told the AP she shared their joy at being freed, she said she was not happy that the girls haven’t been allowed to reunite fully with their families.

She said she hoped they would “live with their family, live a normal life.”

Many others remain in Boko Haram captivity, “and the government must unite so that they should make sure that these girls are released,” Yousafzai said.

“Boko Haram themselves should learn that in Islam, such things are unacceptable,” she added. “This is against humanity, this is against Islam.”

Nigerian activist Amina Yusuf, left, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and acting Nigerian President Yemi Osinbajo are pictured at the presidential villa, in Abuja, July. 17, 2017.

Yousafzai also met Monday with acting President Yemi Osinbajo, speaking up for the more than 10 million children displaced by Boko Haram and pressing for the declaration of a state of emergency for education in Nigeria.

She also urged the international community to address the crisis in the country’s northeast.

Inspired by visitor

Girls at the internally displaced camps said the Nobel winner’s story of courage gave them inspiration for a brighter future.

“Her story gives us hope. That’s why we, too, want to go to school and become something in life,” said Fatima Ali, 15. “We have to bear all pains like hunger to go to school. We barely eat once a day here. We have not eaten since morning because government people no longer bring us food for about two months now.”

Three million children in Nigeria’s northeast are in need of support to keep learning, according to the U.N. children’s agency. Nearly 1,400 schools have been destroyed during Boko Haram’s insurgency, which began in 2009, and more than 2,295 teachers have been killed, the agency says.

Ali said she was in school when Boko Haram attacked her town three years ago. “I want to become a soldier so that I could help my community to fight and kill Boko Haram, because they are not good people,” she said.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, far right, speaks with schoolgirls in Maiduguri, Nigeria, July. 18, 2017.

Another student, Fatima Grema, 15, said she saw herself in Yousafzai.

“Boko Haram abducted me and wanted to marry me,” she said. After being taken from the town of Baga to a location near the Cameroon border, “I later managed to escape,” she said. “I was not in school until I came to the camp here.”

Grema said she now wants to become a teacher.

UNICEF’s country representative, Mohamed Malick Fall, said Yousafzai’s visit was a symbol of hope, and “we will do everything in our power to make sure all children can keep learning.”

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Netflix Still Piling Up Viewers — and Big Programming Bills


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Netflix is pulling in new viewers and award nominations in droves, but the online video service still faces a long-term problem: Its acclaimed programming line-up is costing far more money than what subscribers pay for it.

That hasn’t been a big issue so far, thanks to investors’ willingness to accept scant profits in exchange for robust subscriber growth.

Netflix delivered on that front again Monday, announcing that it added 5.2 million subscribers in the second quarter covering April to June. That’s the largest increase ever during the period, which has always been the company’s slowest time of year.

Wall Street rewarded Netflix by driving up its stock by more than 10 percent to $178.30 in extended trading, putting the shares on track to hit a new high in Tuesday’s regular trading.

International Costs

The Los Gatos, California, company now has 104 million subscribers worldwide. For the first time in its history, most of those subscribers (slightly more than 52 million) are outside the U.S.

That milestone could further complicate Netflix’s cost issues, since the company will need to keep creating more shows that appeal to the unique interests of viewers in countries such as Japan, India and Indonesia.

“It is going to be imperative for them to have more locally produced content,” says CFRA Research analyst Tuna Amobi. “They can’t afford to pursue a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy.”

As part of its efforts to boost its profits, Netflix is becoming more aggressive about dumping shows that aren’t drawing enough viewers to justify their costs. In the second quarter, Netflix jettisoned both the high-concept science fiction show “Sense 8” and the musical drama “The Get Down.”

In a Monday letter to shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made it clear that the company plans to exert more discipline in the future. “They are becoming more like any other Hollywood studio and paying more attention to the economics of their shows,” Amobi said.

Programming Coups

The subscriber growth further validates Netflix’s decision to expand into original programming five years ago. Two of its longest running shows —  “House of Cards” and “Orange Is The New Black” — recently launched their latest seasons.

Those two series, along with new hits like “Master of None” and “13 Reasons Why,” helped Netflix easily surpass the average 1.8 million subscribers it has added in the second quarter over the past five years.

This fall, new seasons of two other hits, “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” are due. Those two series accounted for about a third of the 91 Emmy nominations that 27 different Netflix programs received last week — more than any other TV network except its role model, HBO, which landed 111 nominations.

Cash Burn

But the success hasn’t come cheaply.

Netflix is locked into contracts requiring it to pay more than $13 billion for programming during the next three years, a burden that has forced the company to borrow to pay its bills.

After burning through $1.7 billion in cash last year, Netflix expects that figure to rise to as much as $2.5 billion this year. It’s continuing to invest in more original programming amid increasing competition from the likes of Amazon, Hulu and YouTube.

Netflix expects to be spending more money than it brings in for several more years. It posted a more detailed explanation about its negative cash flow to give investors a better grasp of its programming expenses.

The company is still profitable under corporate accounting rules, although its earnings remain puny by Wall Street standards. It earned $66 million on revenue of $2.8 billion in revenue during its latest quarter.

Funding international operations remains Netflix’s biggest financial drag, although the overseas losses are narrowing. The company now expects its international operation to produce a small operating profit for the full year.

Netflix also could make more money by raising its prices closer to the $15 per month that HBO charges for its streaming service, but the company has said no increases are planned in the near future. Netflix’s U.S. rates currently range from $8 to $12 per month.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

After Mosul: The IS Family Dilemma


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Outskarts of Mosul Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager.  “He now has two other wives.”

In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case.  He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college.  He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested or in hiding.  But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty?  How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?
Medics at this collection point for fleeing families treat a baby for malnutrition, which they say is widespread among children in Mosul, Iraq, on July 12, 2017

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children.  Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS.  Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected.  And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad.  If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

Appearances

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplused and strolled away.  A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp.  Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.  “We are exposed to danger.  They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Distrust on all sides

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat.  Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains.  Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages.  The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three.  Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled.  “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement.  For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter.  “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true.  However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.
In Old Mosul, dead IS militants are scattered in houses and on the streets and the smell is overwhelming in 45-plus degree Celsius weather on July 13, 2017 in Mosul.

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from.  IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes.   Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said.  “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival.  Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS.  Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered.  “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Liu Xiaobo’s Body Cremated in Private Ceremony


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Photo Courtesy: Flickr

China says the body of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died this week after a battle with liver cancer, has been cremated.

The government of the city of Shenyang in northeastern China, where Liu was treated, said in a briefing that the cremation took place Saturday morning in a ceremony attended by family and friends.

The wife and other family members of China’s best-known political prisoner have been closely guarded by Chinese authorities and largely out of contact with the outside world.

Liu died Thursday from multiple organ failure. Foreign governments and Liu’s supporters had urged China to release Liu and his wife to allow them to seek treatment abroad, but Beijing dismissed those requests.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Featured Image Courtesy: Svaboda.org

Moon Dust Collected by Neil Armstrong to be Auctioned in New York


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Photo Courtesy: Flickr

Moon dust that Neil Armstrong collected during the first lunar landing was displayed Thursday at a New York auction house — a symbol of America’s glory days in space now valued at $2 million to $4 million.

The late astronaut brought the dust and some tiny rocks back to Earth in an ordinary-looking bag.

It’s one of 180 lots linked to space travel that Sotheby’s is auctioning off July 20 to mark the 48th anniversary of the pioneer lunar landing on that date in 1969.

The moon dust is the first sample of Earth’s satellite ever collected.

The bag has had a storied existence, a decades-long trajectory during which it was misidentified and nearly landed in the trash. About two years ago, it appeared in a seized assets auction staged on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service. The owner, whose name has not been made public, purchased the treasure and sent it to NASA for testing.

After a legal tussle, a federal judge granted the owner full rights over the curiosity.

A print of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s photograph of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin standing on the moon, to be offered at auction at Sotheby’s, is displayed in New York, July 13, 2017.

Other items on the block are Armstrong’s snapshot of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin standing on the moon, with an estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000.

A documented flight plan astronauts used to return to Earth is valued at $25,000 to $35,000.

In a photo valued at $2,000 to $3,000, astronaut Gene Cernan from Apollo 17 is seen rolling around in the lunar rover through a valley on the moon.

Capping the sale is a touch of humor: The Snoopy astronaut doll that was the mascot of the Apollo 10 crew, at an estimated pre-sale price of $2,000 to $3,000.

Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. He died in 2012 in Ohio.

The first human to venture into outer space was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited Earth in a spacecraft in April 1961.

Gagarin’s description of the planet — translated from Russian — is being offered as part of his observations on being in space, at an estimated price of $50,000 to $80,000.

Calling it “a magnificent picture,” he wrote: “The Earth had a very distinct and pretty blue halo. This halo could be clearly seen when looking at the horizon. It had a smooth transition from pale blue to blue, dark blue, violet and absolutely black.”

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Indian Lab Develops Rapid ‘Beef Detection Kits’


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Photo Courtesy: Kim Newberg

A government-run laboratory in India announced Monday that is has developed a portable kit which can determine whether a sample contains beef in 30 minutes.

The technology will be used in a number of police departments to minimize arrests and detentions of people suspected of selling or eating beef, which is banned in several states as cows are considered sacred by many members of India’s Hindu majority.

Currently, it can take days for laboratory results to determine the presence of beef in a sample, often leaving innocent people in jail awaiting results.

The new portable devices developed by the Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratories, are priced at roughly $120 each.

The announcement comes as vigilante murders of suspected beef traders has risen sharply in India.

“Not in My Name” demonstrations denouncing rising intolerance and calling on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to condemn increased attacks against Muslims and low-caste Hindus for trading or eating beef were held across India last month.

Prime Minister Modi has since condemned the violence, saying that killing people on the pretext of protecting cows is illegal. But many fear that vigilantes have been empowered by his right-wing Hindu nationalist party since its election in 2014.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

UNESCO Adds to List of World Heritage Sites


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Yazd, Iran World Heritage Site Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

A remote Iranian desert city, Ice Age-era caves in Germany and a stone wharf in Brazil built for arriving African slave ships are three new additions to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

The World Heritage Committee spent a week meeting in Kraków, Poland, to consider 34 significant historical and cultural sites to add to the list.

This year’s selections include the Iranian city of Yazd, which UNESCO describes as a “living testimony to the use of limited resources for survival in the desert.”

The city has managed to avoid so-called modernization that destroyed many similar Iranian towns, and has preserved its traditional homes, bazaars, mosques and synagogues.

Another site UNESCO added to the list is in the Swabian Jura in southern Germany, one of the areas in Europe where humans first arrived more than 40,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. They settled in caves, first discovered in the 1860s, and where they created some of the oldest known figurative art.

The U.N. cultural organization said the ancient musical instruments and prehistoric carved figures of animals and humans found in the caves help shed light on the origins of human artistic development

UNESCO also placed the Valongo Wharf in central Rio de Janeiro on the World Heritage List. The stone wharves were built in the early 1800s for slave ships sailing from Africa to Brazil. UNESCO called the wharves “the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent.”

UNESCO added the World Heritage designation to more than 22 sites during its weeklong meeting in Poland, including choices that were controversial.

They include the Hoh Xil area in the China’s Qinghai province, a traditionally Tibetan area. By designating this a World Heritage site, the International Camnpaign for Tibet, an advocacy group critical of China’s administration there, said UNESCO endorses the forced relocation of Tibetan nomads by Chinese authorities.

China has promised to preserve the traditions and cultural heritage of the Tibetan region.

UNESCO also designated the Old City and Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site, angering Israel.

The city is split between Israeli and Palestinian control with the Old City and tomb in the Israeli sector. The tomb is sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Israel accuses UNESCO of trying to hide Jewish ties to Hebron, while Palestinians contend Israel is seeking to undermine their history.
News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

 

Japan Flooding Leaves at Least 15 Dead, 14 Missing 


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File Footage Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons only for representational purposes

The death toll from heavy rain and flooding in southern Japan this week has risen to 15, officials said Saturday, as rescue workers reached isolated villages where at least 14 others are missing and feared dead.

Heavy rain warnings are still in place for parts of the southern island of Kyushu Saturday, days after Typhoon Nanmadol swept across Japan, triggering floods and mudslides that wrecked hundreds of homes, roads and rice terraces.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Saturday that 12 dead have so far been found in Fukuoka prefecture and three others in neighboring Oita prefecture.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said 12,000 troops, firefighters and other rescuers continued searching for the missing, clearing debris off roads and delivering fresh water and food for the displaced at a school gymnasium. They have reached most of the previously inaccessible villages, Suga said.

Nearly 1,000 residents were rescued over the past two days, but dozens are still believed to be stranded. The operation has been slowed by mudflows and floodwaters as the rain continued.

In the hardest-hit Asakura city in Fukuoka, the bodies of a woman, her daughter and a grandson were found late Friday on the first floor of their house that was crushed by a mudslide, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said.

Footage showed inundated rice fields and collapsed homes. Roads and bridges were damaged, covered with broken trees washed down from the mountainside. Hundreds of people in remote villages were being airlifted by military helicopters while soldiers waded through floodwater carrying elderly people on their backs.
Japan’s royal family postponed the formal announcement of Princess Mako’s engagement to a college classmate Saturday out of consideration for the suffering of people in the affected areas, palace officials said. A new date has yet to be decided.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said Fukuoka and Oita experienced unprecedented amounts of rain.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Asia’s Performing Elephants Abused, Rights Group Finds


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Picture Courtesy: http://www.schriever.af.mil

An animal protection group wants tourists to know that the elephant they are thinking about riding during their vacation in Thailand is probably a miserable victim of abuse.

London-based World Animal Protection looked at almost 3,000 elephants working at entertainment venues in six Asian nations and found three out of four of the animals are living in poor, unacceptable conditions. It said they were chained day and night when not working, received inadequate diets and unsatisfactory veterinary care, as well as undergoing harsh initial training, “that breaks their spirits and makes them submissive enough to give rides and perform.”

The group wants tourists to be aware and counsels tour agencies to shun abusive venues, among other measures. It says it has convinced more than 160 travel companies to stop sales and promotion of venues offering elephant rides and shows.

Cruel trend growing

The report the group released Thursday is part of a broader campaign by World Animal Protection, which has also sought to expose the living conditions of other animals used to entertain, including tigers, macaques and bears.

“If you can ride, hug or interact with wild animals, chances are there’s cruelty involved,” said Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, WAP’s global wildlife and veterinary adviser and author of the elephant report.

Wildlife tourist attractions, including wildlife entertainment, have become increasing popular and hence profitable, meaning the industry is likely to expand, the report warned.

“The cruel trend of elephants used for rides and shows is growing,” said Schmidt-Burbach. “We want tourists to know that many of these elephants are taken from their mothers as babies, forced to endure harsh training and suffer poor living conditions throughout their life.”

Group’s research

The group identified venues by looking at travel guidebooks and similar resources and by visiting tourist areas most likely to offer elephant attractions. It then sent researchers to each venue at least once to document the animals’ situations. It found only 194 elephants at 13 venues to be living in acceptable conditions, the major criteria being that the animals do not perform and are not ridden by people.

“The elephants walked free during most of the day, were able to socialize with other elephants and were fed on natural vegetation at most of these venues,” the report said. “Tourists visiting these venues would observe elephants behaving naturally and direct interaction between visitors and elephants was usually prohibited or limited.”

The report surveyed elephants in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, but identified Thailand as the home of three-quarters of all elephants kept in captivity for entertainment purposes.

Thailand’s first animal cruelty law took effect in December 2015, carrying up to two years in prison for torturing animals. But elephants are not covered by that law or by a separate one on wild animals.

“Elephants used in shows are considered a means of transportation” said Thiradech Palasuwan, an officer of the Thai government’s Wildlife Conservative Office. “They belong to elephant camps and are not under the supervision of the department. Elephant camps do not need permission to use elephants for shows. This is an area where there are no regulations yet.” The approach is an apparent legacy of what used to be the main work of elephants in captivity, to haul timber.

Some elephant lovers remain optimistic
 
Soraida Salwala, founder and secretary general of Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, said the known number of cases of mistreated elephants has been declining, particularly this year.

“I want Thais and foreigners to be aware that we (the government and private agencies) are working on improving the welfare of elephants,” she said.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Afghanistan to Block Terror, Extremist Groups’ Online Activities


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Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Afghanistan says it will begin blocking all online activity and websites linked to terror groups or extremists later this week, under terms of a cybercrime bill the government signed into law last month.

The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology said it is gathering a list of websites linked to terror groups or their supporters, based on information from the National Intelligence Directorate (NDS) and the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Najib Nangyal, a ministry spokesperson, said website-blocking will begin this Saturday, as authorized by the National Cyber Security Strategy of Afghanistan (NCSA) and the new Cyber Crimes Act.

Voice of concern

A dissenting voice has been raised by the nongovernmental organization Nai, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan. The group opposes the new cybercrime law on the grounds that it limits freedom of expression and access to information.

Telecommunications ministry spokesperson Nangyal denied those charges in a statement to VOA’s Ashna radio.

The new criminal law that President Ashraf Ghani signed last Friday contains 27 articles related to prohibited cyberactivities. It is the first comprehensive attempt to catalog cybercrimes and violations in 15 years, a period during which online activity in the country expanded greatly.

Internet services for 6 million

Although parts of Afghanistan are still ravaged by war, the country of 32 million people now has internet services capable of serving 6 million people. A lack of cyber regulations, meanwhile, has allowed terrorists and extremist groups to continue working online, the government said.

Media rights group Nai, established in 2005 with the support of the Internews network, is currently supported by funds from USAID, the U.S. international development agency. Mojib Khalwatgar, head of Nai, said his agency is concerned about vague and undefined terms used in much of the law, and in particular on its potential effect upon journalists.

Nai’s statement of “general beliefs” about the new law says it appears to potentially criminalize any exchange of data or software from one computer to another, and that any normal activity by an organization’s information technology staff could be construed to be a criminal act.

Mohammad Ahmadi contributed to this report

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Featured Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Strange Sea Creatures Near Alaska Baffle Scientists


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Photo Courtsesy: The Juneau Empire , AlasKa, USA

Strange sea creatures that resemble large pink thimbles are showing up on the coast of southeast Alaska for the first time after making their way north along the West Coast for the last few years.

Scientists say the creatures are pyrosomes, which are tropical, filter-feeding spineless creatures usually found along the equator. They appear to be one long pink tube, but in reality, they’re thousands of multicelled creatures mushed together, generally about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.

Pyrosomes have been working their way north, Ric Brodeur, a researcher with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press on Monday.

Brodeur, who is based at the agency’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon, said pyrosomes were first seen on the Oregon coast in 2014 and every year since. More recently, the animals have made their way up farther north on the Washington state coast, Canada’s British Columbia and Alaska.

Jim Murphy, a biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said pyrosomes spotted near Alaska this year marked the first documented presence of the animals that far north, and their appearance is cause for concern.

“It means that we are clearly seeing really big changes in the marine ecosystem,” he told The Juneau Empire.

Researchers have speculated that the bloom is tied to warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean in recent years. But temperatures have nearly cooled back to normal this year, Murphy said, and these pyrosomes started showed up in the middle of winter.

Leon Shaul, a biologist with Fish and Game, has been tracking the appearance of pyrosomes in southeast Alaska. He said he’s “emailed the whole world” about the issue, but hasn’t heard much back.

Brodeur told the AP that it’s also unusual how close to shore the pyrosomes have come, although they are now being found farther offshore again.

He said the creatures have a low nutritional value, and that raises concerns on how they will affect the fish that eat them.

“They’re not the greatest food for the animals out there, compared to the things they normally have,” he said.

Pyrosomes aren’t harmful to humans, but they have puzzled those who’ve encountered them.

Angler Don Jeske was fishing for king salmon in February when he said he found himself surrounded by “millions” of the tube-shaped creatures and he’d never seen anything like it in his 50 years of trolling around Sitka, a fishing town about 90 miles southwest of Juneau.

“They were all over out there, they were everywhere. … I would say millions, not hundreds of thousands,” he said. “This is a weird organism, man.”

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Disclaimer: All pictures (sometimes website links) which not owned by Shanthanubh’s Desk that appear on this site are the property of their respective owners, who may or may not be affiliated with, connected to, or sponsored by Shanthanubh’s Desk. However,most of the pictures are royalty free/Public Domain.We use photographs for representational purposes.It is only for to create awareness and educational purposes.

Facebook Drone Could One Day Provide Global Internet Access


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Photo Courtesy: Flash Alexander

A solar-powered drone backed by Facebook that could one day provide worldwide internet access has quietly completed a test flight in Arizona after an earlier attempt ended with a crash landing.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s long-term plan for the drone, called Aquila, is to have it and others provide internet access to 4 billion people around the world who are currently in the dark.

“When Aquila is ready, it will be a fleet of solar-powered planes that will beam internet connectivity across the world,” he wrote on Facebook.

The drone’s second flight was completed in May at Yuma Proving Ground, The Yuma Sun reported.

The drone flew with more sensors, new spoilers and a horizontal propeller stopping system to help it better land after the crash in December. It was in the air for an hour and 46 minutes and elevated 3,000 feet (910 meters).

The drone flew with the engineering team watching a live stream from a helicopter chasing the drone, said Martin Luis Gomez, Facebook’s director of aeronautical platforms.

The team was thrilled with the outcome, Gomez said.

“The improvements we implemented based on Aquila’s performance during its first test flight made a significant difference in this flight,” he said.

The drone weighs about 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) and has a longer wingspan than a Boeing 747.

The drone runs mostly on autopilot, but there are manned ground crews to manage certain maneuvers.

“We successfully gathered a lot of data to help us optimize Aquila’s efficiency,” Zuckerberg said. “No one has ever built an unmanned airplane,”

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

India Launches New Economic Era With Sales Tax Reform


India early on Saturday introduced its biggest tax reform in the 70 years since independence from British colonial rule.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) replaces more than a dozen federal and state levies and unifying a $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into one of the world’s biggest common markets.

The measure is expected to make it easier to do business by simplifying the tax structure and ensuring greater compliance, boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic credentials before a planned re-election bid in 2019.

At a midnight ceremony in parliament’s central hall Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee together launched the new tax by pressing a button.

“With GST, the dream of ‘One India, Great India’ will come true,” Modi said.

For the first midnight ceremony in the central hall in two decades, Modi was joined by his cabinet colleagues, India’s central bank chief, a former prime minister and major company executives including Ratan Tata.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event a day ahead of the implementation of the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Ahmadabad, India, June 30, 2017.

The launch, however, was boycotted by several opposition parties including the Congress Party, which first proposed the tax reform before it fell from power three years ago.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – the architect of India’s economic reforms – also gave it a miss.

Complex Structure

It has taken 14 years for the new sales tax to come into being. But horse trading to get recalcitrant Indian states on board has left Asia’s third-largest economy with a complex tax structure.

In contrast to simpler sales taxes in other countries, India’s GST has four rates and numerous exemptions.

The official schedule of rates runs to 213 pages and has undergone repeated changes, some taking place as late as on Friday evening.

Many businesses are nervous about how the changes will unfold, with smaller ones saying they will get hit by higher tax rates.

Adding to the complexity, businesses with pan-India operations face filing over 1,000 digital returns a year.

While higher tax rates for services and non-food items are expected to fuel price pressures, compliance is feared to be a major challenge in a country where many entrepreneurs are not computer literate and rely on handwritten ledgers.

“We have jumped into a river but don’t know its depth,” said A. Subba Rao, an executive director at power firm CLP India.

‘One Tax, One Market, One Nation’

Poor implementation would deal a blow to an economy that is still recovering from Modi’s decision late last year to outlaw 86 percent of the currency in circulation.

In a bid to mitigate the impact on the farm sector, the GST rates for tractors and fertilizer were slashed on Friday to 18 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

HSBC estimates the reform, despite its flaws, could add 0.4 percentage points to economic growth.

An end of tax arbitrage under the GST is estimated to save companies $14 billion in reduced logistics costs and efficiency gains.

As the GST is a value added tax, firms will have an incentive to comply in order to avail credit for taxes already paid. This should widen the tax net, shoring up public finances.

“The old India was economically fragmented,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. “The new India will create one tax, one market for one nation.”

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Top Vatican Cardinal Charged With Sex Offenses in Australia


Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal Thursday with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offenses, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See.
 

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Picture Courtesy: Kevin Casper

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ chief financial adviser and Australia’s most senior Catholic, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.

Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said police have a summons for Pell to appear in an Australian court to face multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” meaning offenses that generally occurred some time ago. Patton said there are multiple complainants against Pell, but gave no other details on the allegations against the cardinal. Pell was ordered to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court July 18.

Allegations denied 

Pell, 76, has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations made against him. The Catholic Church in Australia, which issues statements on Pell’s behalf, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges.

“It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet,” Patton told reporters in Melbourne. “Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process.”

The charges are a new and serious blow to Pope Francis, who has suffered several credibility setbacks in his promised “zero tolerance” policy about sex abuse.

Mishandled cases

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.

His actions as archbishop came under intense scrutiny in recent years by a government-authorized investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the nation’s highest form of inquiry, has found shocking levels of abuse in Australia’s Catholic Church, revealing earlier this year that 7 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades.

Last year, Pell acknowledged during his testimony to the commission that the Catholic Church had made “enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests. He conceded that he, too, had erred by often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse. And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued church abuse victims in his Australian hometown of Ballarat.

Cardinal himself accused

But more recently, Pell himself became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican last year to interview the cardinal. It is unclear what allegations the charges announced Thursday relate to, but two men, now in their 40s, have said that Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s, when Pell was a senior priest in Melbourne.

Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, but the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney issued a statement on behalf of Pell, saying he would return to Australia to clear his name.

When Francis was asked last year about the accusations against Pell, he said he wanted to wait for Australian justice to take its course before judging.

“It’s true, there is a doubt,” he told reporters en route home from Poland. “We have to wait for justice and not first make a mediatic judgment — a judgment of gossip — because that won’t help.”

Given Francis’ credibility is on the line, any decision to keep Pell on as prefect while facing charges would reflect poorly on Francis, given he remains one of the pope’s top advisers.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

 

Ready or Not, Indian Businesses Brace for Biggest-ever Tax Reform


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Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Comnmons

Businessman Pankaj Jain is so worried about the impending launch of a new sales tax in India that he is thinking of shutting down his tiny textile factory for a month to give himself time to adjust.

Jain is one of millions of small business owners who face wrenching change from India’s biggest tax reform since independence that will unify the country’s $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into a common market.

But he is simply not ready for a regime that from July 1 will for the first time tax the bed linen his 10 workers make, and require him to file his taxes every month online.

On the desk in his tiny office in Meerut, two hours drive northeast of New Delhi, lay two calculators. Turning to open a metal cabinet, he pulled out a hand-written ledger to show how he keeps his books.

“We will have to hire an accountant – and get a computer,” the thickset 52-year-old told Reuters, as a dozen ancient power looms clattered away in the ramshackle workshop next door. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says that by replacing several federal and state taxes, the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) will make life simpler for business.

To drive home the point, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has appeared in a promotional video in which he weaves a cat’s cradle between the fingers of his hands – symbolizing

India’s thicket of old taxes. With a flourish, the tangle is gone and Bachchan proclaims: “One nation, one tax, one market!”

Not so simple

By tearing down barriers between India’s 29 states, the GST should deliver efficiency gains to larger businesses. HSBC estimates the reform could add 0.4 percent to economic growth.

Yet at the local chapter of the Indian Industries Association, which groups 6,500 smaller enterprises nationwide, the talk is about how to cope in the aftermath of the GST rollout.

“In the initial months, there may be utter confusion,” said chairman Ashok Malhotra, who runs one firm that manufactures voltage stabilizers and a second that makes timing equipment for boxing contests.

A big concern is the Indian GST’s sheer complexity – with rates of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent, and myriad exceptions, it contrasts with simpler, flatter and broader sales taxes in other countries.

The official schedule of GST rates runs to 213 pages and has undergone repeated last-minute changes.

“Rubber goods are taxed at 12 percent; sporting goods at 18 percent. I make rubber sporting goods — so what tax am I supposed to pay?” asks Anurag Agarwal, the local IIA secretary.

Grace period?

The top government official responsible for coordinating the GST rollout rebuts complaints from bosses that the tax is too complex, adding that the IT back-end that will drive it – crunching up to 5 billion invoices a month – is robust.

“It is a technological marvel, as well as a fiscal marvel,” Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told Reuters in an interview.

The government will, however, allow firms to file simplified returns for July and August. From September they must file a total of 37 online returns annually – three each month and one at the year’s end – for each state they operate in.

One particular concern is how a new feature of the GST, the input tax credit, will work. This allows a company to claim refunds on its inputs and means it should only pay tax on the value it adds.

The structure will encourage companies to buy from suppliers that are GST-compliant, so that tax credits can flow down a supply chain.

That spells bad news for small firms hesitating to shift into the formal economy. The government estimates smaller companies account for 45 percent of manufacturing and employ more than 117 million people.

Adhia played down the risk of job losses, however, saying this would be offset by new service sector jobs.

Demonetization 2.0

The prospect of disruption is drawing comparisons with Modi’s decision last November to scrap high-value bank notes that made up 86 percent of the cash in circulation, in a bid to purge illicit “black money” from the system.

The note ban caused severe disruption to India’s cash-driven economy and slammed the brakes on growth, which slowed to a two-year low in the quarter to March.

“It could throw the business out of gear – it can affect your volumes by at least 30 percent,” said the head of one large cement company in the Delhi region.

Back in Meerut, Pankaj Jain worries that hiring an accountant and charging 5 percent GST on his bedsheets could eat up to two-thirds of his annual profits of 400,000-500,000 rupees ($6,210-$7,760).

“I know my costs will go up, but I don’t know about my income,” he said. “I might even have to shut up shop completely and go into trading.”

Test Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Media Watch:US, India Leaders Pledge to Boost Security, Trade Ties


 

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Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons( Top) and Flickr ( Bellow)/File

U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are pledging to work together to boost security and trade ties.

The two countries “look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States,” according to a White House statement issued Monday evening.

Declaring his talks with the president “very successful and very fruitful,” the visiting Indian prime minister gave his host a trademark bear hug in the White House Rose Garden when the two finished reading their respective statement. They did not take questions from the dozens of White House correspondents and the visiting Indian reporters.

Modi also announced increased cooperation on fighting terrorism, including enhanced sharing of intelligence.

“The top priority for both President Trump and I is to protect our societies from global challenges like terrorism, and our aim is to strengthen India and the United States, the two great democracies of the world,” Modi said alongside Trump.
The U.S. president said New Delhi and Washington can set an example for many other nations and make great strides in defeating common threats.

“We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” said the president.

Indian officials expressed appreciation for the U.S. designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Trump and Modi, according to the White House statement, called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries and requested Islamabad “expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

Combining both the security and economic relationship, an expected multi-billion-dollar deal for American surveillance drones for the Indian Navy will make a dent in the $24 billion trade imbalance in India’s favor.

The manufacturer of the drones, General Atomics, said it received clearance to sell the unmanned aerial vehicles to the Indian military – a deal estimated to be worth between $2 billion and $3 billion.

The White House Monday evening said the drones had been offered for consideration of sale to enhance “India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.”

Meanwhile, the State Department has approved a possible sale of C-17 transport aircraft to India’s government. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency says it delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible $366 million sale on Monday.

The president on Monday did not specifically mention the drones or the cargo planes, but in a delegation meeting in the White House Cabinet Room Trump, flanked by his vice president and secretary of state, expressed appreciation for India ordering American defense equipment.

“There’s nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment. Nobody even close. So, we want to thank you very much,” Trump said sitting across a conference table from Modi.

“What’s clear from this visit and the joint statement is that there is a fair amount of policy continuity in U.S.-India relations since the leadership transition in Washington,” the Wilson Center’s South Asia deputy director Michael Kugelman told VOA.

While Modi is touting a “Make in India” campaign, Trump is all about “America First.”

Analysts, such as Kugelman, say it is notable that the two leaders directly referenced such potential tension points.

“Clearly Modi and Trump believe that economic and trade cooperation need not be as tricky as some may assume,” said Kugelman.

Although this was not billed as a state visit, U.S. officials emphasized they rolled out the red carpet for the Indian prime minister. And Modi was the first foreign leader for whom Trump hosted a dinner at the White House.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Muslims in Asia Pray for Peace As Ramadan Holy Month Ends


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Picture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/File

Muslims in Asia celebrated the Eid-al-Fitr religious holiday on Sunday with prayers for peace as they marked the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.

The day begins with early morning prayers and then family visits and feasts.

In Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, residents said they hoped the spirit of Eid would overcome fears about rising militancy in the country with the largest number of Muslims.

A police officer was killed on Sunday in an attack by suspected Islamist militants in the city of Medan.

Islamic State sympathizers have carried out a series of mostly low-level attacks in Indonesia over the past few years.

“I think we need to go back to the basis of Islam which is to give peace to all mankind,” Samsul Arifin told Reuters Television.

In the Philippines, fighting between government forces and Islamist rebels in the southern town of Marawi eased on Sunday as the military sought to enforce a temporary truce to mark the Eid holiday.

Small skirmishes took place early in the day in parts of Marawi, where fighters loyal to Islamic State were clinging on for a fifth week.

Muslims attended prayers at a Marawi mosque in an emotional gathering. The fighting has displaced some 246,000 people, and killed more than 350 people, most of them rebels, and about 69 members of the security forces.

“This is the most painful, the most sorrowful occasion, Eid al-Fitr, that we have experienced for the last hundreds of years,” said Zia Alonto Adiong, a spokesman for the provincial crisis committee.

In Malaysia, the civil war in Yemen was on the minds of two refugees who prayed at the main mosque in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Sisters Sumayah and Nabila Ali said they sought refuge in Malaysia after fleeing Yemen where more than 10,000 people have died in two years of conflict.

“When we say poor people, children who are not safe, are always in danger, we hope that one day it will be safe again and people will be happy again. Inshallah,” said 28-year-old Sumayah.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Landslide Hits China Village; 100 Feared Buried


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Not Origional Picture, Only For Representational Purpose Photo Courtesty: Wikimedia Commons

Around 100 people are feared buried by a landslide that unleashed huge rocks and a mass of earth that crashed into their homes in southwestern China early Saturday, a county government said.

The landslide from a mountain engulfed a cluster of more than 40 homes and a hotel in the village of Xinmo about 6 a.m., the government of Mao County in Sichuan province said.

The landslide also blocked a 2 kilometer (1.24 mile)-section of a river. Wang Yongbo, a local rescue official, told state broadcaster CCTV that an estimated 3 million cubic meters (105 million cubic feet) of earth and rock, equivalent to more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, had slid down the mountain.

Photos posted on the site showed an area buried by earth and massive rocks. Emergency responders helped a woman by the road.

Search and rescue efforts were underway involving more than 400 rescuers, including police. CCTV showed footage of rescuers using a couple of earth movers but also relying on ropes to pull at huge rocks.

A meteorologist interviewed by CCTV said there had been light rains in the area that would continue for a few days.

Mao County, or Maoxian, is home to about 110,000 people, according to the government’s website. Most residents are of the Qiang ethnic minority.

The village is known locally for tourism and Chinese reports said it was unclear if tourists were among the people buried by the landslide.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Indian Man on Death Row in Pakistan Seeks Clemency From Army Chief


Kulbhushan Jadhav. Express photo video grab.

Photo Courtesy: Indian Express

An Indian man on death row in Pakistan after a military court sentenced him on charges of espionage, sabotage and terrorism has appealed to the country’s army chief for clemency.

India had earlier appealed to the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body under the United Nations, in the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav. India said Pakistan had sentenced an innocent Indian citizen without granting him diplomatic access, which is in violation of an international treaty.

The court ordered Pakistan last month to delay Jadhav’s execution until the final verdict.

Pakistan says Jadhav confessed to being an Indian spy working to disrupt the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of railways and roads that is part of the larger One Belt One Road Initiative launched by China.

In a 10-minute video released by the military, the second of its kind, Jadhav said his activities were designed to support separatist groups in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province to “raise the level of insurgency.”

A news release by the Pakistan military’s public relations wing said Jadhav had “expressed remorse” over lives lost and damage caused by his actions and asked for mercy on “compassionate grounds.”

According to authorities, Jadhav claimed to have had a hand in sectarian violence, targeting Shi’ite Muslims, that had plagued Pakistan for a while.

Center of conflict

Balochistan has long been the center of a conflict between separatist insurgents and Pakistan’s military. It is also along the route of China’s planned economic corridor, which involves an investment of upward of $50 billion. The success of the project depends upon securing the routes.

Tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, have been high since a heavily armed group attacked an Indian air force base in Pathankot early last year. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack.

The two sides have also been exchanging intermittent fire along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Media Watch: Fake ISIS Threat


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Web Portal: http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/police-warns-public-vs-unverified-intel-reports-on-isis-threats-in-phl/

Media Watch: Romanian News


Web Link: http://www.nineoclock.ro/prince-charles-visits-drauseni-fortified-church-guided-around-by-only-saxon-left-in-village/

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Screen Shot of the website of Nine 0 Clock, Romania 

Media Watch: Health News


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Screen shot of the website of County Times, Welshpool,Wales

Web Link: http://www.countytimes.co.uk/news/119259/the-dangers-of-cosmetic-surgery.aspx

Venezuela Protesters Pay Last Respects to Teenager Killed This Week


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File Photo of mass opposition protest in Venezuela courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Protesters in Venezuela paid their final respects to a teenager who was killed this week during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro.

Hundreds of protesters stopped Friday and knelt at a makeshift shrine, the site in Caracas where 17-year-old student Neomar Lander was killed Wednesday in clashes with police.

Venezuela’s opposition says the teen was killed by a tear gas canister fired directly at him, while the government says the youth died when a homemade mortar exploded in his hands.

In a news conference, Vice President Tareck El Aissami blamed the opposition for fomenting violence at the protests.

Demonstrators marched Friday to the headquarters of the Venezuelan Commission of National Telecommunications (CONATEL) to demand that it allow independent media outlets to operate.

The near-daily protests against the government of President Maduro have gone on for more than two months, leading to at least 65 deaths among pro- and opposition demonstrators, bystanders and security forces.

The socialist president has grown increasingly unpopular, as the country suffers crippling shortages of basic goods, however he retains control of the military.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

 

Britain’s Conservative Party Loses Majority; May Faces Calls to Resign


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Photo Couartesy: Flickr

Prime Minister Theresa May faced calls to quit Friday after her election gamble to win a stronger mandate backfired as she lost her parliamentary majority, throwing British politics into turmoil and potentially disrupting Brexit negotiations.

May failed to get the 326 seats her Conservative party needs for an outright majority. She needs 18 more seats, with only 17 more seats left to declare.

The result looks set to trigger a period of political uncertainty and could throw Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, due to start June 19, into disarray. The pound lost more than 2 cents against the dollar within seconds of an exit poll projecting an uncertain result.

With only 17 of the 650 seats still to declare, the results largely bore out the exit poll, which predicted the Conservatives would get 314 of the 650 House of Commons seats, down from 330. The Labour Party was projected to win 266, up from 229.

John Curtice, who oversees the exit poll for a consortium of broadcasters, said Friday that the Conservatives’ final tally might be a bit higher than 314, but it was extremely unlikely they would get a majority.

Minority government likely

As the results piled up, some form of minority or coalition government appeared increasingly likely. That raised the odds that an election called by May to provide “strong and stable government” would bring instability and the chance of yet another early election.

Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waits to make an address after he retained his seat in Islington, London, June 9, 2017.
The results confounded those who said the opposition Labour Party’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.

Calls for May to resign

By Friday morning, pressure was mounting on May, who called the snap election in the hope of increasing her majority and strengthening Britain’s hand in exit talks with the European Union.

“This is a very bad moment for the Conservative Party, and we need to take stock,” Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry said. “And our leader needs to take stock as well.”

As she was resoundingly re-elected to her Maidenhead seat in southern England, May looked tense and did not spell out what she planned to do.

“The country needs a period of stability and whatever the results are the Conservative Party will ensure we fulfill our duty in ensuring that stability so that we can all, as one country, go forward together,” she said.

Others predicted she would soon be gone.

Scottish party suffers as well

Corbyn said the result means “politics has changed” and voters have rejected Conservative austerity. Speaking after being re-elected to his London seat, Corbyn said May should “go … and make way for a government that is truly representative of all the people of this country.”

The result was bad news for the Scottish National Party, which by early Friday had lost about 20 of its 54 seats. Among the casualties was Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland and one of the party’s highest-profile lawmakers.

The losses complicate the SNP’s plans to push for a new referendum on Scottish independence as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

May had hoped the election would focus on Brexit, but that never happened, as both the Conservatives and Labour said they would respect voters’ wishes and go through with the divorce.

May, who went into the election with a reputation for quiet competence, was criticized for a lackluster campaigning style and for a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their care, a proposal her opponents dubbed the “dementia tax.” As the polls suggested a tightening race, pollsters spoke less often of a landslide and raised the possibility that May’s majority would be eroded.

Then, attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London twice brought the campaign to a halt, sent a wave of anxiety through Britain and forced May to defend the government’s record on fighting terrorism. Corbyn accused the Conservatives of undermining Britain’s security by cutting the number of police on the streets.

Eight people were killed near London Bridge on Saturday when three men drove a van into pedestrians and then stabbed revelers in an area filled with bars and restaurants. Two weeks earlier, a suicide bomber killed 22 people as they were leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Reuters contributed to this report.

News Courtesy: VOA NEWS

Media Watch: Pedophile Arrested


sri.jpg

Screenshot of the website of Limerick Leader, Ireland

Web Link: http://www.limerickleader.ie/news/home/253844/man-had-images-and-videos-of-child-porn-at-limerick-city-apartment.html

Media Watch: London Bridge Terror Attack


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Web Link: http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/crime-court/third-london-bridge-attacker-was-from-east-london-1-5050263

Media Watch: Saving Lives


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Screen Shot of the website of The Newberg Graphic, Oregon,USA

Weblink: http://www.pamplinmedia.com/nbg/142-news/361400-241513-armed-with-aeds-officers-are-prepared-to-save-lives

Media Watch: Zim News


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Web Link: http://www.zimtelegraph.com/world-cup-song-group-banned-from-zimbabwe/

Media Watch:Women Trafficking


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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

An Indian charity is using big data to pinpoint human trafficking hot spots in a bid to prevent vulnerable women and girls vanishing from high-risk villages into the sex trade.

My Choices Foundation uses specially designed technology to identify those villages that are most at risk of modern slavery, then launches local campaigns to sound the alarm.

“The general Indian public is still largely unaware that trafficking exists, and most parents have no idea that their children are actually being sold into slavery,” said Elca Grobler, the founder of My Choices Foundation.

“That’s why grass-roots awareness and education at the village level is so important to ending the human traffic trade,” Grobler said in a statement released late Tuesday.

The analytics tool — developed by Australian firm Quantium — uses a range of factors to identify the most dangerous villages.

It draws on India’s census, education and health data and factors such as drought risk, poverty levels, education and job opportunities to identify vulnerable areas.

Red alert

There are an estimated 46 million people enslaved worldwide, with more than 18 million living in India, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index. The Index was compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, a global organization seeking to end modern slavery.

Many are villagers lured by traffickers with the promise of a good job and an advance payment, only to find themselves or their children forced to work in fields or brick kilns, enslaved in brothels and sold into sexual slavery.

Almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016, a rise of nearly 25 percent from the previous year, according to government data.

While India has strengthened its anti-trafficking policy in recent years, activists say a lack of public awareness remains one of the biggest impediments.

In 2014, My Choices Foundation launched “Operation Red Alert,” offering educational programs to inform parents, teachers, village leaders and children about traffickers.

But with more than 600,000 villages across India and limited resources, the charity teamed up with Quantium to build the new data tool and use methods old and new to fight the criminals.

“We are helping to banish human trafficking, one village at a time, through a combination of highly sophisticated technology and grass-roots … education,” said Grobler.

Text Courtesy: VOA NEWS

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