Monday, April 24, 2017

UN Watch outraged as Saudi Arabia takes place on UN Women’s Right Commission...

UN Watch, a human rights organization, monitoring the performance of the United Nations, has strongly condemned the appointment of Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), citing Riyadh’s poor women’s rights record and widespread gender inequality.

“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief. It’s absurd,” Hillel Neuer, the UN Watch chief, said.

Every Saudi woman “must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death. Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars,” Neuer said.

Saudi Arabia was elected by a secret ballot last week by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), having 54 nations as members. Full story...

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Milagai podi cheese, anyone? Meet the 2 women making unique, artisanal cheese in Chennai...

Say cheese and imagination takes us straight to farms in France, Switzerland and Germany, among other exotic destinations. Even as Acres Wild in Coonoor and Himalayan Artisan Cheese in Kashmir produce fine-quality cheese, there is much scope remaining in the area of developing Indian varieties of this popular dairy product. In Chennai, entrepreneurs Anuradha Krishnamoorthy and Namrata Sundaresan are not only making artisanal cheese, but also using their initiative to bring about change.

Both Anuradha and Namrata come from diverse fields. Anuradha is the founder of CAN DO, a BPO that focuses on training disabled individuals and employing them in telecalling and data/desk research services. Namrata is the founder partner of a strategy consulting firm that specializes in international trade & investment.

It was Namrata’s personal stint with cheesemaking that started the duo’s journey as food entrepreneurs. “I am passionate about artisan food and a staunch proponent of clean eating,” she says. “Doing something in the area of food was always a grand plan and I had learnt cheese-making while on a vacation.”

Namrata started cheese-making purely as a hobby and not with the idea of starting a venture. Over a discussion between her and Anuradha, the two realised that it could be one of the skills for training Anuradha’s team. Thus, began the process of testing their product before they launched the business and it was no cakewalk. Full story...

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The 'organic' beauty goods not as green as they seem...

Beauty brands including Boots have been accused of misleading customers by falsely labelling products as organic.

Ingredients not certified as organic – and even linked to health problems – were found in a range of cosmetics apparently claiming to be all-natural.

The research for the Soil Association revealed High Street brands including The Organic Pharmacy, Dr Organic and Faith in Nature, were using the word on packaging for shampoos and sunscreens containing potentially harmful ingredients.

A survey for the food charity also revealed more than three quarters of women felt misled by the labelling on the products.

Professor Vyvyan Howard, of the centre for molecular bioscience at Ulster University, studied the contents of a range of beauty products marketed as organic and ranked them on how misleading they were.

He said: ‘I was shocked to find ingredients which could contain human carcinogens in products with labels which could misleadingly suggest that they might be organic.’ Full story...

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Rodrigo Duterte: ‘Give me salt and vinegar and I’ll eat terrorists’ livers’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that he could be “50 times” more brutal than Muslim militants who stage beheadings and said he could even “eat” the extremists if they're captured alive by troops.

Duterte has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death, but he raised his shock rhetoric to a new level as president when he said in a speech during the opening of a national sports tournament what he could do to terrorists who have staged beheadings and other gruesome attacks.

Duterte ordered troops to kill fleeing Muslim militants behind a foiled attack in the central resort province of Bohol and not bring them to him alive, calling the extremists “animals.”

“If you want me to be an animal, I'm also used to that. We're just the same,” Duterte said. “I can dish out, go down what you can 50 times over.” Full story...

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France is now in uncharted territory and the journey is just beginning...

In the end, the sun came out and the French, despite the predictions, turned out in good numbers (around 77%) to vote in the first round of the presidential election. What is more, they voted into first place, not Marine Le Pen, but Emmanuel Macron, by around 24% to a shade under 22% (at the time of writing the final scores have not been announced).

For Le Pen, there has been no Trump effect, but rather a Wilders effect: the far-right hasn’t done as well as expected. Le Pen has often complained that opinion polls are inaccurate and misrepresent her score, but not in the way she thought. And suggestions that she might even get as high as 30% (Russian opinion polls?) have proved to be utterly unfounded.

While the 23rd April 2017 will go down as a historic moment for the French far-right, for Le Pen and within the FN, it’s a disappointment.

 She wanted to go into the second round in pole position, using that as her platform to denounce ‘the system’ for preventing the ‘real’ voice of the people from being heard, even though she knew that she had little chance of beating either Macron or the right-wing candidate, Francois Fillon. Instead she has herself only seen off Fillon by 2%. Full story...

Read also: From teacher to lover to France's next first lady? Meet 'Madame Macron'

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In world first, Singapore court rules parents deserve kids with their genes...

Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes, reflecting the value we put on biological relationships. But is it something the law should recognize?

Singapore’s Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that asks this very question, and it gave a fascinating answer: parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted.

Genetic affinity is an entirely new legal standard. It has no clear precedent in any jurisdiction. But the court made a compelling argument that it has a sound basis in the way we value family and heredity.

Recognizing that value will be particularly important as we advance into the genomic era, which will increase our ability to not only analyze, but also alter our fundamental biological code. Full story...

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France's politicians are uniting against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen...

Two candidates in the French presidential election — centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen — are gearing up to face off against each other in the May 7 runoff for the presidency, and it looks promising for one of them.

The events playing out during this election seem to be mirroring those that occurred during the 2002 presidential election, during which Le Pen's father and then-leader of the National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ran against then-incumbent president Jacques Chirac. Le Pen's controversial views were denounced by many as anti-Semitic and xenophobic.

Jean-Marie Le Pen and conservative Jacques Chirac emerged the two winners in the first round of that election. As the results rolled in, the Socialist party prime minister who came in third place behind Chirac and Le Pen, Lionel Jospin, announced that he would no longer seek political office and endorsed Chirac for the presidency.

 Soon after, politicians from the left began calling for their supporters to — if reluctantly — cast their ballots for Chirac as a vote of opposition to Le Pen. Rallies leading up to the runoff garnered over 1 million protesters who demonstrated against Le Pen's vision. Some held signs comparing him to Hitler. Full story...

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Chinese beggars accept mobile payments using QR codes...

Beggars in Jinan in China’s eastern province of Shandong use QR codes, the technology used by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s  Alipay and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s  WeChat Wallet, in hopes of getting money transferred to them by passersby with smartphones.

One panhandler in Jinan’s Wangfu Chizi held a basket with a QR code on it, China.org.cn report, citing accounts from internet users.

The basket-bearer reportedly suffers from mental illness and the QR code was given to him by his family. When reporters’ search for him failed, local business owners said that the beggars might not be ‘working’ due to the rain, but are always around when the weather is good.

Residents living in areas frequented by tourists, such as Qushuiting Street and Wangfu Chizi, said that some local beggars use WeChat — and some even have a POS (point of sale) machine. Source...

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Why the world needs to sit up and take notice of India's war on meat...

(...)

And yet, it is hard to not to think back to Walter Mondale, or even to Wendy’s. Just as they used the phrase to refer to a lack of substance, so it is in contemporary India. The beef campaign addresses no real or direct threat to Indian society. But used as a symbol of exclusion, it could have lasting effects on the future of a nation founded on secular principles.

The current anti-beef campaign has two origins, both rooted in a conception of Hinduism. The first is the view that because the cow is sacred to Hindus, it should never be slaughtered. The second is a more general proposition: good people are, almost by definition, vegetarians, and all meat eating is fundamentally evil.

As the beef-ban is slowly being recognised as a fact of modern Indian life, it is the vegetarian-only campaign that is gathering momentum.

The anti-cow slaughter campaign has played an annoying if not particularly constructive role in Indian politics over the last century. Observant Hindus do not eat beef because the cow is venerated.

When the Indian constitution was written, a section of Hindus called for a ban on cow slaughter. The demand was opposed by liberals who said that if independent India was to be a Hindu nation then, yes, such a ban would be justified. But the idea of India was that it would be a secular nation where the state played as little a role as possible in religious matters. Every Indian citizen – whether he was a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh – would have exactly the same rights. Full story...

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Parents' mobile use harms family life, say secondary pupils...

An overuse of mobile phones by parents disrupts family life, according to a survey of secondary pupils.

More than a third of 2,000 11 to 18-year-olds who responded to a poll said they had asked their parents to stop checking their devices.

And 14% said their parents were online at meal times, although 95% of 3,000 parents, polled separately, denied it.

The research was carried out by Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. Full story...

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While my guitar gently weeps...

Questions remain over Champs-Élysées attacker’s links to IS group...

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility about two hours after the attack, which took place on Paris’s Champs-Élysées avenue. A statement published by the terrorist group’s progaganda agency identified the attacker as “Abu Yussef the Belgian”.

However, French authorities on Friday identified the attacker, who was killed in the assault, as Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old French citizen who lived in the suburbs of Paris and was known to French authorities.

The discrepancy in the reports led to speculation about who really carried out the attack. Was there a second attacker? If so, were they on the loose?

Rumours had spread on Twitter Thursday night that a Belgian man named Youssouf el Osri, who was wanted by Belgian authorities, had travelled on a Thalys train to Paris. Some Twitter users implied that he was linked to the Champs-Élysées attack. Was this the “Yussef the Belgian” that the IS group later referred to? Full story...

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Chances of imminent war with North Korea ‘wildly overblown,’ U.S. experts say...

The cartoon on the cover of this week’s Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, captures the prevailing public mood. It depicts Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un as shouting babies in diapers, teetering on an atomic bomb.

The mercurial new president of the United States and the belligerent leader of North Korea are engaged in a war of words. These exchanges, and their respective personalities, have stoked international fears of an imminent shooting war.

Yet three U.S. experts on North Korea say not much has changed between the Obama era and the Trump era. The widespread perception that there is a dramatically elevated possibility of imminent conflict, they said, is not supported by the facts.

“Wildly overblown,” said William Brown, a Georgetown University adjunct professor who worked on Korean issues for the CIA, the National Intelligence Council and the Commerce Department. “There’s an incredible amount of hype here.” Full story...

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Angela Merkel reportedly had to explain the 'fundamentals' of EU trade to Trump 11 times...

President Trump did not understand that the US cannot negotiate a trade deal with Germany alone and must deal with the European Union as a bloc, a senior German official told The Times of London.

"Ten times Trump asked [German chancellor Angela Merkel] if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany. Every time she replied, 'You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU,'" the official said.

They continued: "On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, 'Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then.'"

Merkel reportedly told her cabinet members that Trump had "very basic misunderstandings" on the "fundamentals" of the EU and trade. Full story...

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

New round of repression in Malaysia...

Malaysian authorities have increased the pace of their harassment of critics, according to human rights organizations in Kuala Lumpur, which political analysts view as a prelude to early elections.

Ominously, five people have been kidnapped or disappeared and people are being arrested over Facebook postings and held for three or four days, critics say. Opposition websites and independent news publications have been warned to mute their criticism or faced being shut down. The Chinese-language newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau was warned over a cartoon satirizing the Speaker of Parliament as a monkey and told to suspend the staff involved.

A general election must be held before August 23, 2018. However, parliament is expected to be dissolved sometime in August or September of this year in preparation for the polls, to allow time for slippage in case unexpected events take place, such as the possible prosecution in the United States of the scandal-scarred Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit on suspicion that as much as US$1 billion from the Malaysian state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd. investment fund found its way into his personal accounts.

“They have been warning people, there have been many arrests over Facebook postings, things deemed to be critical, not only of government but of government leaders,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, one of Malaysia’s most prominent lawyers and civil rights advocates. “There is a general feeling that the government is not going to tolerate dissent.” Full story...

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France: this vote, she is very serious...

I watched the final French presidential debate last Thursday night with fascination and even a measure of admiration. France has some very intelligent, well-educated politicians. They are fine until they get into office but then must begin pleasing France’s fractious voters.

And they must deal with the rising tide of jihadist violence in France, as witnessed by the shooting of police officers on the Champs Elysée on Thursday. This could help far right candidate Marine Le Pen.

One is reminded of Charles De Gaulle who asked how anyone could run a nation that had 246 different varieties of cheese. France’s outgoing president, poor Francois Hollande, could not even deal with a single camembert. He leaves office with a less than 4% approval rating.

There are eleven aspirants in the presidential race though only four are considered serious candidates: former Prime Minister Francois Fillon; newcomer Emanuel Macron; firebrand leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon; and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Full story...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Violence in India as mobs defend cows

Diet drinks TRIPLE your risk of stroke and dementia - and are FAR more dangerous than drinks sweetened with sugar...

Adults who have at least one diet drink a day are three times more at risk from a stroke or dementia, research shows today.

Scientists say they should no longer be regarded as the healthier alternative and urge the public to stick to water or milk.

Their study of almost 4,400 adults also suggests diet drinks are more likely to cause strokes and dementia than those full of sugar.

There was no link between sugary beverages and either of the illnesses - although the researchers aren't encouraging us to drink them either.

The team of scientists from Boston University believe the artificial sweeteners including aspartame and saccharine maybe affecting the blood vessels, eventually triggering strokes and dementia. Full story...

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It’s time to stop pretending North Korea is a threat to the United States...

North Korea is a threat, goes the narrative. And we, as loyal Americans, should fear the potentiality of that fact.

That’s why U.S. aircraft carriers, accompanied by fighter jets and warships, are currently steaming toward the Korean Peninsula.

That’s why the best soldiers the United States military has to offer are currently in South Korea, training — goes the narrative — to take out Kim Jong-un.

That’s why Japan, staunch U.S. ally, is considering deploying troops to South Korea — in preparation for the time when that evil dictator from the north will try to harm Japanese nationals in the south.

Conveniently, if Japan does deploy those troops — and, let’s be honest, they will — that will put the coalition of Japan, South Korea, and the United States together on the Korean peninsula.

Consider that for a moment. Full story...

Donald Trump accused of 'shocking ignorance' as he repeats Chinese claim that Korea was part of China

Donald Trump, the US president, has been accused of "shocking ignorance" after asserting that Korea "used to be a part of China" shortly after a meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.

Mr Trump made the comment in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on April 12, although the quote was only picked up on subsequently by the online news website Quartz.

In the interview, Mr Trump said of his Chinese counterpart, "Went into the history of China and Korea... And you know, you're talking about thousands of years ... and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China".

The interview with the Journal was the same one in which Mr Trump revealed that the Chinese leader had explained the situation on the Korean Peninsula and he concluded, "After listening for 10 minutes, I realised it's not so easy". Full story...

Italian court finds link between cell phone use and tumor...

A longtime Telecom Italia employee has been awarded monthly social security payments after a court found that his brain tumor was caused by improper use of a company-issued cellphone.

Lawyer Stefano Bertone said Thursday that it was the first trial court verdict of which he was aware in the world "to recognize a link between cellphone use and the development of brain tumor."

Bertone said one factor that appeared to have contributed to the verdict was the refusal by the court's expert to accept into evidence studies that were funded by the telecom industry.

The legal reasoning behind the ruling, which was issued by a court in the northern city of Ivrea last month but only made public on Thursday, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

 The employee, Roberto Romeo, used the company cellphone for three hours a day for 15 years without taking any precautions, resulting in the non-cancerous tumor and the subsequent loss of hearing in one ear. Full story...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Swiss or Tamil? Caught in the middle...

The election where no-one came to vote...

On Thursday India attempted to re-run the disrupted ballots. There was massive security in place.

But an election without voters is a very sad affair.

I arrived at one polling station five hours after it had opened. Not one ballot had been cast.

The eyes of seven bored election officers looked up expectantly as I walked in.

It was a sorry scene. The windows were broken but no-one had bothered to sweep up the puddles of broken glass on the floor.

On Sunday, protesters had stormed the building, pelting stones. The polling centres was forced to close, hence the ballot today.

I introduced myself and asked how things were going. Full story...

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Singapore ties with Germany for most powerful passport in the world...

For the first time, Singapore is tied with Germany as the country with the most powerful passport in an international ranking.

Both Germany and Singapore now top the Global Passport Power Rank 2017, published by Arton Capital's Passport Index.

Holders of the Singapore passport can now get visa-on-arrival in Ukraine for up to 15 days, upping the Republic's score by one to 159, Arton Capital said in a press release on Tuesday (April 18).

Singapore was second before this change.

Germany still has the edge for visa-free free travel, it said. Germans can travel to 125 countries without a visa, holders of the Singapore passport, 122. Full story...

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Get over it: you have zero online privacy...

Privacy advocates were aghast when President Trump signed a bill on April 3 that overturned restrictions on data sharing by internet service providers (ISPs).

But to paraphrase Shakespeare, methinks they protest too much. The fact is, unless you take precautions, you already have exactly zero privacy online. Your online data is there for the taking by the likes of Google, Facebook… and the NSA (National Security Agency). And thanks to the new law, by ISPs such as Verizon and AT&T as well.

The rules Congress overturned were passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last fall. They would have required ISPs to obtain explicit consent from consumers to share sensitive data, such as financial or health information or browsing history. But the rules applied only to ISPs. They didn’t cover massive data collectors and aggregators like Google or Facebook. Or for that matter, the NSA.

That’s one reason I think the self-appointed privacy advocates are overreacting. And if enacted, the proposed rules would have given consumers a completely false sense of security.

Let’s start with the NSA. For at least the last decade, the world’s largest intelligence agency has been vacuuming enormous quantities of data from cyberspace. Your email records, browsing history, and just about everything else you do online is fair game. The quantity of data the NSA has accumulated is so massive that it has been forced to construct enormous data centers to store it in. The first one – in Utah – is a million square feet in size. Full story...

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The new Thai king’s reign of fear...

The overwhelming success of the reign of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who died on Oct. 13, 2016, has evidently become an entrapment for his son Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has failed to follow in the footsteps of his much-revered father but instead is a mirror image. Some analysts have expected Vajiralongkorn to be a weak king precisely because of the lack of moral authority, divinity and popularity once enjoyed by Bhumibol.

Bhumibol’s moral authority was made a sacred instrument that underpinned his effective reign for seven decades. It legitimized his political position, to place it above what were perceived to be ill elements, including ‘dirty’ politics and ‘corrupt’ politicians. Members of the network monarchy worked indefatigably to ensure the strengthening of his moral authority, through vigorous glorification programs in the media and national education, about the devoted king who strove for his people’s better livelihood. It was his moral authority which was partly exploited to justify the use of the lese-majeste law, which punishes disrespect for the royalty.

Now that Bhumibol has passed from the scene, a critical question emerges: how has Vajiralongkorn forged new alliances and eliminated enemies and critics in order to consolidate his reign?

Without his own charisma, or baramee, Vajiralongkorn has used fear to command those serving him instead of trusting or convincing them to work for him based on love and respect, as argued by a recent article of Claudio Sopranzetti. He has used fear to build order, perhaps in the way in which mafias, or chaophos in Thailand operate their empire. Full story...

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Build a sandcastle, get fined $500, and maybe go to jail...

Bryant Rylee lives a seemingly simple life. Before the state intervened in his life, his Facebook page—which has a modest 591 friends—was relatively quiet. However, that was before a sandcastle built by his son caused the city of Panama, Florida, to threaten him with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail, a threat that caused his Facebook page to get its “fifteen minutes of fame.”

Sandcastles are the epitome of childhood innocence and the manifestation of youthful creativity and wonder. As adults embarking on a day at the beach, we see only grains of sand that serve as nothing more but an uneven cushion beneath our feet. For children, the sand is a blank slate upon which they can build anything they want—kingdoms included.

Anyone who grew up or spent a great deal of their childhood on an American coastline knows the joy of playing in the sand.

Whether they are indeed putting their burgeoning engineering skills to good use and building intricate sandcastles with high towers and moats to guard against their siblings and rogue seagulls, or are building vast holes in which to bury each other, both are apparently illegal if you are spending the day on Panama City Beach in Florida. Full story...

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‘Yemen crisis is by no small measure made by US & its allies’

We CAN put Blair in the dock over the Iraq War, say lawyers...

Tony Blair still faces being dragged before the courts for leading Britain into the disastrous Iraq War.

Leading barristers representing bereaved families of British troops killed in the controversial conflict believe there is evidence the ex-prime minister committed ‘misfeasance in public office’.

The legal team has gone through the 2.6million-word, 12-volume Chilcot Report into the invasion of Iraq with a fine-tooth comb for the past eight months.

They now conclude there is a strong case Mr Blair misled Parliament to justify the catastrophic 2003 war, which cost the lives of 179 UK personnel.

The development comes after it emerged that the Attorney General is seeking to block a separate attempt to bring legal action against the former prime minister over the conflict. Full story...

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Student’s brutal murder shows Pakistan’s failure as a state...

The gruesome vigilante murder of Mashal Khan, 26, by his fellow students last Thursday – after he was accused of committing blasphemy – has once again brought into sharp focus the failure of Pakistan as a state.

Khan was a student of journalism at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, 60 kilometers east of Peshawar. The incident occurred hours after a dormitory debate, following which allegations of blasphemy spread around the campus, prompting university officials to announce that three students, including Khan, were being investigated for “blasphemous activities”.

Blasphemy is taken seriously in Pakistan. The former military dictator, Gen Zia Ul Haq, introduced amendments prescribing life imprisonment or the death penalty for those who insult the Prophet Muhammad. Since 1992, the latter punishment has been the only option. At least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations since 1990 and today dozens languish in the country’s jails awaiting execution. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was gunned down by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, when he suggested amendments be made to blasphemy ordinance. Qadri was hanged last year. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands of people and his grave has become a shrine. Full story...

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'Spain's freedom of speech repression is no joke'

For the most part, social media users in democracies are free to express their opinions online. In Spain, however, that’s not the case.

Cassandra Vera, a 21-year-old student from the city of Murcia in the south-east of Spain, has been sentenced to a year in prison, and disqualified from public functions for seven years, after making jokes on Twitter that “glorified terrorism”.

Between 2013 and 2016, Vera published 13 tweets that commented on terrorist group ETA’s assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco, which happened in 1973. Blanco had been expected to succeed dictator Francisco Franco, and was a long-time ally of the general.

 Ruling on her crime, judges in the National Audience, Spain’s top criminal court, stated that Vera’s tweets “constitute contempt, dishonour, disrepute, mockery and affront to the people who have suffered the blow of terrorism”. Full story...

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The addiction that’s 'worse than alcohol or drug abuse’

If you can’t seem to resist a scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed during working hours, or if you feel anxious when you can’t check your smartphone or have no signal, you might need a digital intervention.

In the last few years, social media users who find it impossible to stay off their devices when they would like to resist them are seeking treatment via professionals. And they’re responding. Therapists are offering counselling, mindfulness coaches are hosting detox retreats, and corporate-wellness startups are all vying to help you get through the day without constant, compulsive scrolling.

The result is a wide array of options that social media users are willing to try to break their habit. Hour-long sessions can cost from $150 per hour, with longer detox camping-style retreats costing more than $500 for several days.

“We give people driving lessons and swimming lessons, but everyone just gets a smartphone and off they go,” says Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, a research nonprofit, in Newport Beach in California in the US. “There are skills needed to navigate any social space.” Full story...

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Easyjet forced couple off overbooked flight...

Two Easyjet passengers were removed from an overbooked flight and not offered compensation a day after a United Airlines passenger was dragged off a plane in the US.

The British couple were due to fly from Luton Airport to Catania in Sicily on Monday last week.

After boarding the aircraft they were asked to leave by staff because the plane had been overbooked.

Easyjet has apologised and blamed human error for the situation.

The two passengers, who had booked non-refundable accommodation in Italy, were told that the next available Easyjet flight was four days later.

The airline failed to tell them they were entitled to a flight the same day with another airline, or to compensation as stipulated under EU rules. Full story...

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

I was a prominent neo-Nazi...

Hitler’s Mein Kampf returns to Japanese schools as ‘teaching material’

Japan has okayed using Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography and Nazi manifesto, in schools for educational purposes just weeks after the similarly controversial Imperial Rescript on Education was approved as “teaching material,” according to media reports.

Although the Japanese government approved Hitler’s infamous book as “teaching material” for schools on Friday, using it to promote racial hatred will lead to a strict response from regulators, according to the Japan Times report.

The decision came weeks after the controversial Imperial Rescript on Education in schools was approved for the same purposes.

According to many historians, the Rescript, which focuses on patriotism and loyalty to the Japanese Emperor, was one of the primary sources promoting obedience and moral certitude that helped militarism to grow in Japan.

It was issued in 1890 to expound the government’s policy on teaching the Japanese Empire’s guiding principles and it was subsequently distributed to all of the country’s schools, along with a portrait of Emperor Meiji. Schoolchildren were obliged to learn and recite it from time to time. Full story...

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Support for Brexit hits a five-month high, with 55 per cent of UK population now backing exit from European Union...

Support for Brexit has hit a five month high, with 55 per cent of the population now backing Britain’s exit from the European Union, a new poll has found.

A new survey from Orb International shows a four per cent boost for Theresa May in days after she triggered the start of Brexit talks at the end of last month.

Dissatisfaction with Brexit is now at its lowest level since the survey started last November, with just 45 per cent opposed to leaving the EU.

The poll by Orb International also shows that Britons are more concerned about trade talks than immigration for the first time as formal negotiations about Brexit get underway.

The survey found that 47 per cent of voters disagreed that “controlling immigration [was] more important than access to free trade”. Full story...

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Etihad Airways turns plane around for elderly couple to visit dying grandson...

Etihad Airways has been praised for their "above and beyond" customer service when a plane was turned around at Manchester Airport to allow an elderly couple to visit their dying grandson.

The couple, who were were preparing to set off for Australia via Abu Dhabi on March 30, found out about their grandson's condition only after they had boarded the flight, reported a news portal.

The couple's travel agent, Becky Stephenson, said they were switching off their mobile phone when they noticed a missed call from their son-in-law.

"They were taxiing on the runway when they got the text message saying their grandson was in intensive care and they needed to get there," said Stephenson.

The couple informed the crew, who spoke to the captain, who then turned the plane back to the boarding gate, Stephensons said. Full story...

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A contest in Bahrain where the winning prize is an Ethiopian maid...

Bahrainis expressed their anger after an ad had been published in newspapers calling to participate in a contest that would be organized during the month of Ramadan with an “Ethiopian housemaid” as the prize.

The contest had only one condition: the winner must have a work permit for the housemaid.

The entity that put out the ad was a housemaid recruitment agency.

Authorities acted immediately to penalize the agency and suspended its license until the result of an investigation is out.

Authorities have also filed a case of human trafficking against the agency’s owner and management. Source...

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Erica: man made...

Ronaldo paid $375,000 to silence his rape victim...

A report claims that Real Madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo paid $375,000 in hush money to a woman who accused him of raping her in Las Vegas some eight years ago.

German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel said in a Friday report that it had obtained documents, through Football Leaks, that the world-known Portuguese football player, now 32, agreed to give the large sum of money to the unnamed woman after she alleged that Ronaldo raped her at a luxury hotel in Las Vegas in June 2009, when she was in her 20s.

The report, citing the secured documents, added that the woman and Ronaldo, through his lawyer Carlos Osório de Castro, had reached the out-of-court settlement on January 12, 2010 in front of a Nevada mediator.

The magazine further said that de Castro declined to comment on the controversial case but added that it was contacted by a second German lawyer, Johannes Keiler, who dismissed the claims against his client and urged the weekly to drop the report. Full story...

Experiments with meditation expose the fallacy of medicating kids for ADHD...

(...)

While new ADHD drugs are being rolled out and industry profits swell, diagnoses of ADHD in America’s children also continue to rise dramatically, and now, even babies are being medicated to modify their behavior. The presumption among the medical establishment is that ADHD is best addressed with psychotropic drugs, in spite of the fact that evidence indicates ADHD drugs don’t help kids get better grades.

In 2016, an elementary school in West Baltimore made international news for replacing detention with meditation and reporting incredible results. Behavioral complaints against a student is typically the basis for referring a child to an ADHD specialist, and in this case, meditation improved overall behavior at the school.

Instead of punishing them or sending them to the principal’s office, administrators will now be sending children to “the mindful moment room” where they will be able to meditate and wind down. The new policy has been in place for over a year, and in the time that the meditation room has been set up, there has actually been no suspensions throughout the entire year.

In 2015, the David Lynch Foundation brought TM to 900 inmates in the Oregon State Correctional Institution. The results were impressive, with participants remarking on an improved quality of life, improved focus, and most importantly a feeling of peace, leading to less stress and more peace in an ordinarily difficult-to-manage environment. Full story...

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This teen’s story is your worst ‘predictive policing’ nightmare...

Connor Deleire was sitting alone in a friend’s car in Manchester, New Hampshire, one late October afternoon in 2015 when the police zeroed in on him. The 18-year-old waited near the intersection of Union and Merrimack Streets as the friend left to pick up his niece a block away. What Deleire didn’t know was that the vehicle was parked in a “predictive hot spot,” an area determined by a computer algorithm used by the Manchester Police Department to be the likely scene of a crime.

Just being in the area was enough to arouse suspicion, officials at the time said. Then, according to police, Deleire failed to give a “legitimate” reason for being there and grew increasingly agitated with officers. The result of that confrontation: Deleire had his head bashed into a cop cruiser, his body zapped with a stun gun, and his face blasted with pepper spray. The beatdown landed him in the hospital with a concussion, his father John Deleire told Vocativ in a recent interview.

In the end, the only crime his son was charged with was resisting arrest. Full story...

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