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Couple buys old truck and converts it into a beautiful apartment

They’ve transformed an old truck into a beautiful place to live!

For people who love to travel it would be a dream come true: converting a van or truck to be able to live in it and travel the world. A simple campervan isn’t good enough for these travellers. No, they’d love to be able to design their own home on wheels. This was the case for Iona Stewart and Martin Hall as well. This young couple from the UK transformed an old truck into a beautiful home.

 

Canary yellow

Iona and Martin bought a canary yellow truck for 3,600 pounds, which is about 4,000 euros. Both of them love to travel. Martin Hill had been living in a van for a couple of years already, but the couple wanted to find something where they could live together. That’s why they decided to buy the truck and convert it themselves. They were both unemployed at the time, so they could spend all of their time on the project and it shows. The result is amazing!


Fixing it up

The travelling couple converted the truck all on their own. According to Iona’s Facebook page, the outside was the most difficult part. They wanted to make it look like a true campervan and not like a truck with windows. They definitely managed to do that because the truck looks modern and fancy both inside and out. The entire transformation is said to have cost 20,000 pounds (22,500 euro). Because Iona and Martin did everything themselves, they could economise on everything as well. They did have to buy isolation material, a floor, furniture, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Home

It was important that the truck would be more than just a glorified tent on wheels. Iona and Martin wanted to make something really beautiful. They isolated the truck and installed a real kitchen and bathroom. They don’t just sleep on a mattress on the floor but have an actual bed, a wardrobe and a small living room with a sofa. Their home is more luxurious than most apartments! They’ve gone all out and it shows.

Want to see the end result of Iona and Martin’s hard work? Go to the next page!

https://www.tips-and-tricks.co/home-and-garden/couple-converts-truck/

stella Posted on July 20, 2019 08:04

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Determined College Student Walked 20 Miles to New Job, So His Boss Gave Him a Car

There are people (slowly raises hand) who gripe about having to get up before the sun is up to jumpstart their workday. Then there are people like Walter Carr, who start walking at midnight in order to arrive at their job — located 20 miles away — on time.

I kid you not. Walter Carr is a superhero in disguise.

According to AL.com, Carr’s feat of defiance started when his car broke down the night before he was to start his new job with Bellhops moving company.

Unfazed, Carr decided to walk from Homewood, Ala., to Pelham throughout the night, across highways, for some 20 miles or more.

He got to Pelham at 4 a.m., where four concerned officers stopped him to ask if he was okay. Carr explained his situation, prompting Pelham police officer Mark Knighten to step in.

Knighten, along with fellow officers Klint Rhodes and Carl Perkinson, took Carr to Whataburger where they treated him to breakfast and told him to grab lunch to go as well. Then they drove Carr to a church — which they deemed the safest place to leave him until it was time for him to be at work.

Officer Scott Duffey, who was just coming back on the clock then heard the story from his co-workers and went looking for Carr — who had already left the church, dedicated as ever — and dropped him off at his job assignment.

Jenny Lamey, the person that Carr was meant to help move that day, posted about the incident on Facebook after she was greeted by Duffey and Carr.

“[Carr] WALKED ALL NIGHT to get from Homewood to Pelham. Because he needed to get to work. For those reading this that are not local, that’s over 20 miles. You could tell how the officer told us this story that he had complete admiration for Walter and by my reaction he could tell I did too,’’ she wrote. “The police officer said they picked him up earlier that morning, took him to get some breakfast and once they checked his story out, brought Walter to our house.”

Lamey told Carr he was welcome to stay, and even offered to let him go upstairs and take a nap until the rest of the crew arrived, but the hardworking student declined and instead got straight to work.

“We chatted while we were working together early yesterday morning. He loved my kitchen and said that it was exactly the kind of kitchen he would want. He was from New Orleans. He and his mother lost their home in Hurricane Katrina and they came and made their home in Birmingham,’’ Lamey wrote. “I asked him if he was tired from all that walking, and he said replied that he wasn’t and that he had a 4-hour nap before he left at midnight.”

Lamey took actions into her own hands, setting up a GoFundMe to help Carr. In just two days, the campaign has smashed its $2,000 goal, raising almost $39,000 as of 9:17 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.

Walter is overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people who have wanted to support him.…

Eventually, Carr’s boss, Bellhops CEO Luke Marklin got wind of the story and decided to help out as well. Marklin drove from Tennessee to allegedly meet Carr for some coffee to thank him for his dedication, but then decided to give Carr his own barely-driven 2014 Ford Escape.

“I am honestly blown away by him,’’ Marklin said of Carr. “Everything he did that day is exactly who we are — heart and grit. So far, he’s batting 1,000.”

As Marklin handed Carr his keys, Carr couldn’t believe it.

“Seriously?” the college student is heard asking.

Carr, who wants to be a U.S. Marine (and will probably pass training and all tests with flying colors with that kind of determination), said that he was just grateful for the opportunity to work.

“This was the first job in a long time to give me an opportunity to get hired,’’ he told AL.com. “I wanted to show them I got the dedication. I said I’m going to get to this job one way or another.’’

I want people to know this — no matter what the challenge is, you can break through the challenge. Nothing is impossible unless you make it impossible,’’ he added. “You can do anything you set your mind to. I’ve got God by my side. I’m really emotional right now trying to hold back the tears.”

https://www.theroot.com/determined-college-student-walked-20-miles-to-new-job-1827683586

stella Posted on July 20, 2019 07:30

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FaceApp: How accurate are the predictions? How accurate are the predictions?

It might feel like every person you've ever met is using FaceApp at the moment.

Your timelines have been flooded with people from school posting photos of what they might look like when they're older.

The app has got its critics. There have been warnings over how its creators use your data - and one politician in America even wants the FBI to investigate it.

But how accurate are the app's results? We've put pictures of celebrities from their younger days through it to see how they compare to now.

Sir Ian McKellen

The app is pretty much bang on with Sir Ian McKellen aka Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.

The picture on the left was taken in his late 20s back in 1968. The one in the middle is after it's been worked on by FaceApp and the right is when Sir Ian played Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past - aged 75.

Sir David Attenborough

Yeah, not too bad.

Taken in 1965, on the left is Sir David Attenborough aged 39. The middle picture is the result after going through the app and on the right is earlier this year aged 93.

Dolly Parton

OK, this is probably not the greatest.

On the left is country singer and all round general icon Dolly Parton in her early 30s back in 1977. Centre is after she's been app'd and the right was earlier in 2019, aged 73.

If anything, she's aged better than the app has done...

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman looks good here - especially in the left picture, which is from 1990 when he was in his early 50s.

But you can't help but feel he's lost a little bit of the glimmer in his eye in the middle FaceApp'd picture. Luckily, it's definitely still there on the right, which was taken in June this year.

FaceApp is not new. It first hit the headlines two years ago with its "ethnicity filters".

These purported to transform faces of one ethnicity into another - a feature that sparked a backlash and was quickly dropped.

The app can, however, turn blank or grumpy expressions into smiling ones. And it can tweak make-up styles.

The app also works on painted portraits - although the effect is sometimes unnerving.

It's done with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). An algorithm takes the input picture of your face and adjusts it based on other imagery.

This makes it possible to insert a toothy smile, for instance, while adjusting lines around the mouth, chin and cheeks for a natural look.

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 11:52

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Stevenage 'car cruise' crash leaves 17 injured

Seventeen people have been injured after two cars crashed at a "car cruise" gathering and ploughed into spectators.

The vehicles collided on Monkswood Way, Stevenage, at about 21:45 BST on Thursday leaving two seriously injured and 15 more hurt.

One of the charity event's organisers described the "horrific" crash as a "nightmare".

Police have asked witnesses to send footage of the crash to detectives.

Video footage shows one car passing another before the two collide and one strikes people standing at the roadside while the other hits spectators in the central reservation.

The East of England Ambulance Service said some of the people had been seriously hurt.

One witness said on Twitter: "I've just witnessed that horrendous crash in Stevenage, no more than 50ft away from me. I'm still trying to process it all."

Hertfordshire Police said it was investigating and no-one had been arrested.

Ch Insp Alicia Shaw said the force had not been aware of the event or the size of the gathering.

She said: "We weren't aware of this event taking place and we weren't aware of such large numbers attending the Stevenage area."

Ch Insp Shaw said officers had attended events in the past and handed out warnings or seized cars when they were being driven in a dangerous of manner.

A group called Cruise-Herts had said it was holding a cruise event on Thursday where people would gather to look at modified cars.

Organiser Rix Sidhu said he had been organising similar meets for 17 years and the gathering was held to raise money for charity.

He estimated one of the cars that crashed was travelling at 60 or 70mph and then went into the crowd "at speed".

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said: "There were a number of people in the area at the time and 17 people are presently being treated for injuries, some of which are serious."

Mr Sidhu said: "We held the meet in a car park with a speed bump at the entrance. But unfortunately some people went a bit rogue.

"We try and stop that, we urge people...not to go out on the roads, not to risk injury or anything.

"But unfortunately, in this age of social media and Snapchat, people want to get footage and post things to their friends, which seems to drive some people to the main road."

'Nightmare'

In a statement on Facebook he said they would not be organising any more such events.

Fellow organiser Dean Summerbee, 34, said people attending had been warned not to race or do wheel spins and burnouts.

He said: "It was horrific seeing it last night. It still plays over in my head in slow motion. I literally had to pull my mate out of the way.

"My thoughts go out to everyone who has been hurt. It's not something I'd like to relive again.

"I was extremely close to the crash, less than 15ft away. I feel sorry for anyone who witnessed it. It was a nightmare last night."

The single carriageway section of A-road passes a retail park near Stevenage Football Club.

Tom Adams, who lives in Welwyn Garden City and arrived shortly after the crash, said he knew the organisers "dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts" and it was "not just a gathering of hooligans" but the event had been let down by a "bunch of boy racers".

He said: "I can't disagree with that stigma of boy racers. There is a select group of people that have no consideration for other people and unfortunately that has come back to bite us."

Ciaran O'Connor, 33, was travelling home when he witnessed the crash.

He said: "We saw the fast car coming towards them and there was just a scene of kids lying in the road, some of them motionless and people around them trying to help them. It was horrific."

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said crews had cut free one person trapped in a vehicle and provided "trauma care" to a number of injured people.

The air ambulance was also sent to the scene.

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said such events were unauthorised and hard to regulate.

She said: "We will do whatever we can to make sure we don't get dreadful incidents like this.

"It's not an easy thing to regulate. Nobody says to us "we want to have an event" if they had done that we would have put all the safety measures in place that we can.

"These are unauthorised events, they happen all over the country, we will do whatever we can to stop them happening in Stevenage but it's not the easiest thing to tackle."

Last night there were hundreds of people here, but this morning the only sign anything happened is an abundance of skidmarks in the adjacent car park - and police markings on the road at the scene of the accident.

There are yellow spray-painted markings that seem to indicate where the two cars involved were travelling, the point at which they met - and where they came to rest.

Some of those markings are on the pavement.

I can also see that first aid was given here.

There are are a few bits of medical paraphernalia left among the rubbish, which is now the only other evidence of how many people were gathered here last night.

Throughout the morning young people have been turning up to collect their vehicles but they have been too upset to talk about what happened.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-49041165

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 11:34

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Fire at hotel near Cribbs Causewayel near Cribbs Causeway

Parts of a hotel ravaged by fire are continuing to collapse on to a major A-road, near to the M5.

The Premier Inn partially fell on the A4018 Cribbs Causeway, near Bristol, overnight and fire chiefs said "further elements" of the building had fallen on to the dual carriageway since.

Firefighters are still dealing with the blaze, which began on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire chiefs said conditions inside the hotel remained "extremely dangerous".

Smoke from the blaze led to warnings from the fire service during the night about visibility problems on the M5.

Local residents have been told to keep doors and windows shut because of smoke.

Six crews and three turntable ladders remain at the scene of the blaze, which started at about 13:15 BST on Wednesday.

Justin Hobbs, from Avon Fire and Rescue, said it was possible they might need to increase the number of crews there again if small fires still burning in the building took hold.

He said the fire was not fully extinguished and there were pockets of flames still in the building.

"As the building collapses in, it becomes slightly more difficult for us to get water on to those areas," he said.

"It's extremely dangerous for our staff. Because the building has started to collapse we've had to go to what we call defensive firefighting.

"For the safety of staff and everybody else we can't go internally to try to put the fire out so we're applying water from turntables and monitors externally."

Fire officials have confirmed that all the guests staying at the hotel when the blaze broke out have now been accounted for.

Footage released by Avon Fire and Rescue showed the moment two sides of the hotel collapsed.

Laura Evans Hughes, who lives nearby, said she returned home on Wednesday evening to find she could not get to her house.

"I literally had to abandon my car, and I had to be police escorted to my house," she said.

"All last night I've been hearing bangs and crashes - I've just had to walk to my car now and the roof's still on fire."

She added the smoke was "thick and foggy" near her home in Catbrain Hill.

During the night the fire service said the blaze had spread, causing more smoke

The A4018 Cribbs Causeway remains shut in both directions between Clifton Rugby Club and Lysander Road.

Road closures have led to traffic problems and long delays in the Filton and Southmead areas, and have been exacerbated by a protest being carried out by the Extinction Rebellion group at the nearby MoD site.

North Bristol NHS Trust tweeted that the ring road around Filton was gridlocked and advised patients and staff at Southmead Hospital to allow extra time for their journeys.

Buses heading towards Cribbs Causeway are stopping at Henbury, with First West of England providing shuttle buses to get people to their destinations via Avonmouth and the M5.

The Mall shopping centre, which is two miles from the scene of the fire, is still open. Motorists can access it from junction 17 of the M5.

But other local businesses are closed. The Dick Lovett BMW showroom is diverting all telephone enquiries to other offices and said it was awaiting instructions about reopening from the emergency services.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-49028337

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 11:13

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Suspect charged in Crown Heights shooting: police

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — A Brooklyn man has been arrested and charged in connection with the shooting of two people, including an 11-year-old boy, in Crown Heights Thursday night, police said.

Angel Eaddy, a 27-year-old, is charged with two counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault, two counts of criminal use of a weapon and two counts of reckless endangerment, according to authorities.

The 11-year-old boy was on the sidewalk of Schenectady Avenue near near Lincoln Place when he was hit somewhere around his right shoulder and critically injured around 7 p.m., officials said. A 31-year-old man was also shot in the knee.

Neither of them were the intended target of the shooter, police said. A person of interest was taken into custody hours after the shooting.

The boy was rushed to Kings County Hospital, an NYPD spokesman said. His condition improved after surgery and he's expected to survive. The adult victim went to the same hospital on his own for medical assistance.

According to a school official, the boy was a fifth grader at New Bridges Elementary School and was supposed to graduate Friday morning.

Parents expressed their sadness over the fact the boy was going to miss his graduation.

"I feel very sorry because he's a sweet little boy, and we all love him. He's very smart," said Irene Ortiz, a grandparent dropping her 7-year-old off at school.

Surveillance video shows the moment the alleged shooter opened fire on the street, missing his intended target, hitting the victims.

Kyle and Anna Shermer, a couple who live on the street, heard the shots fired.

"It was rapid fire, four continuous shots," Kyle Shermer said. "So boom, boom, boom, boom."

Anna Shermer saw the boy on the street after he was hit.

"He was in shock - his eyes were open, mouth was open, people around him were screaming," she said.

Her husband saw a man in a green shirt and blue jeans run from the scene, she said.

"It was just really shocking because who would shoot a kid and run away from that? It never happens on this street," she said.

Brooklyn North Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey implored members of the community to work together to keep the neighborhood safe in the wake of the shooting.

"This is something that happened pretty much in broad daylight," he said. "This is the time more than ever for our communities to partner with our police department and we know that we already do that, but we have to do that even more because we can't let incidents like this go unchecked and we can't let shooters believe that they can do this with impunity."

So far this month, there have been a rash of shootings involving innocent bystanders.

June 4 – A 15-year-old girl was shot on a basketball court in Bushwick
June 5 – A 7-year-old Bronx boy shot in leg
June 5 – Two women were shot in a Queens home
June 7 – East Harlem woman was shot in arm at 102nd Street and Madison Ave.
June 10 - Hamilton Heights victim Winston McKay killed while walking his dog
June 12 - Woman shot in the Bronx on Williamsbridge Road.
June 20 -11-year-old boy and 31-year-old man shot in Crown Heights
As police continue to tout historically low crime numbers and New York being "the safest big city," shooting incidents are bucking that trend. As of June 16, they are up 24% year-to-date, according to the latest statistics.

https://pix11.com/2019/06/21/suspect-charged-in-crown-heights-shooting-police/

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 10:35

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Grieving mom shares story of son with schizophrenia who threw little brother from Brooklyn roof

QUEENS — Odessa Frith moved to Queens after a devastating family tragedy last September that left her 4-year-old son, Shimron, dead in a Brooklyn courtyard — and her oldest son, Shawn, charged with throwing the little boy from a roof.

“My daughter take the phone,” the mother remembered through sobs, “ and when she take the phone, she said, ‘Mommy, Shawn throw Shimron off the building!’”

Frith, who lived with her six children on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn — after emigrating to New York from Guyana in 2017 — is sharing her intensely painful story for the first time with PIX11 News.

She said she wants the public to know about the help she didn’t get after her 20-year-old son, Shawn Smith, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the spring of 2018 at Kings County Hospital.

Shawn had threatened to jump from the roof but was talked down by police, after a call was made to 911.

Frith said Shawn spent three weeks in the psychiatric ward at Kings County, where he was given medication to manage his mental illness.

She had noticed he started acting strangely around his 19th birthday, hearing voices, but the diagnosis came when he was closer to age 20.

Shawn’s older sister picked him up to go home from the hospital and said medical personnel promised to keep track of Shawn.

She quoted the staff who released Shawn as saying, “They’re going to send somebody weekly” to the family’s apartment to make sure Shawn was taking the medicine.

“He took it for the first week,” the sister said about Shawn, “and then he didn’t want it.”

Psychiatrists are well aware of the side effects of specific medicines used to treat schizophrenia.

Dr. Lewis Nelson, who once ran the emergency room at NYU Hospital, told PIX11 in 2018 that people who refuse to take the medication put themselves and others at risk.

“Once they miss a few doses, their psychiatric illness starts to recur and, of course, it’s a spiral downward from there.”

Odessa Frith’s household was dealing with lots of stress in the weeks leading up to Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018.

Aside from Shawn’s illness, the electricity was turned off in most of the apartment, because another family member had stopped paying the bills.

Frith had gone to court on Friday, Sept. 28, to stave off an eviction proceeding.

She said she fried sausages for her family, including Shawn, before putting the youngest child, Shimron, to bed that Friday night.

At 3 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, Frith said she woke up suddenly and realized little Shimron wasn’t sleeping in the bed near her.

She got up and went to the bathroom and noticed Shawn wasn’t in the apartment either.

Frith said she ran from the family’s 6th floor apartment down to the front of the building and saw police lights flashing.

“The officer said, ‘Mom, where are you going?’ I said I can’t find my baby and my big son.”

The mother learned the terrible news at the local precinct.

She waited eight months to go to Rikers to visit Shawn, who had flagged down police himself and admitted throwing his little brother from the roof.

When Shawn Smith saw his mother behind a plexiglass window at the jail, “He said, ‘Mommy, you came to find out what happened to Shimron?’ I said, Yes. He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t know it was Shimron. I thought it was a bag.’”

The oldest son sobbed and “he said, ‘Mommy, I’m so sorry. Mommy, I’m so sorry,’” Odessa Frith recalled.

“I said, Shawn, I forgive you, even though I know it hurt me. I forgive you. I want you to give your life to Christ. Ask God to forgive you.”

Odessa Frith seemed unaware that schizophrenia is one of the cruelest mental illnesses and one of the hardest to treat.

She remains anguished about things that happened before Shimron was killed and what happened afterwards.

“I know if that alarm was there, my baby would be alive today,” Frith said about the alarm connected to the roof door, “because my son would have turned back if that alarm went off.”

The mother said a police officer warned the building super to maintain the alarm, after Shawn Smith threatened to jump from the roof in the spring last year.

The realty company that manages the building said all of its roof alarms are in working order.

In our second report, we will detail our visit to the building on Nostrand Avenue and our conversation with the realty company.

Odessa Frith claims, “The owner of the building didn’t even call to say ‘sorry.’ They didn’t even say you have my sympathy. Nothing.”

https://pix11.com/2019/07/17/grieving-mom-shares-story-of-son-with-schizophrenia-who-threw-little-brother-from-brooklyn-roof/

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 09:51

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Pennsylvania baby born without an anus comes home after 8 months in hospital

WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. - After months of treatment and multiple surgeries, a Pennsylvania baby born with a rare condition is finally going home.

When Andrew Kuhn and Katie Faulkner found out they were having twins, it came as a shock.

The couple welcomed two beautiful boys, Jamison and Jackson, in July of last year through C-section.

However, when Jackson came out minutes after his brother, shock turned to fear.

"I saw that they were examining one of the babies they had the other one and took him away and a bunch of doctors were surrounding," Kuhn said.

As Faulkner was recovering from surgery, Kuhn said he was focusing on staying calm.

"I was just like something doesn't seem right something doesn't feel right," he said.

A doctor pulled him to the side and broke the news: Jackson had an imperforate anus, a piece of skin covering his rectum which never fully formed.

Twenty-four hours later, doctors transferred Jackson to John's Hopkins for better equipped care.

After five months, the family was told their insurance wasn't accepted, forcing them to transfer to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, two hours away from their home.

Seven surgeries later, the family found themselves facing hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

"We still have to pay for our house and our other bills, too. We're trying to catch up, we're struggling a bit," Faulker said.

"You feel depressed and stressed out every day you're thinking what's going to happen next and what bill is going to come in the mail next," Kuhn said.

Jackson is now home after eight months in the hospital, but this is just the beginning for him.

"He has a colostomy right now where his stool drains into, and he also has a central line where he gets all of his nutrients from, and he also has a G-tube where he gets formula," Faulker said.

While the couple says the past year has been difficult, they are both just happy to have Jackson at home.

"Just seeing his smiling face every day home with us beats any bill," both parents said.

GoFundMe has been set up to help the family pay for Jackson's medical needs.

https://wgno.com/2019/04/14/pennsylvania-baby-born-without-an-anus-comes-home-after-8-months-in-hospital/

 

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 09:17

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185,000 of Ghanaians living with HIV know they have the virus

Based on current estimates, of the 335,000 Ghanaians currently living with HIV, only 185,000 knew their status, with the remaining 150,000 having no knowledge, and so could easily be infecting other people.

The Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), has therefore called for intensified efforts through stakeholder collaborations, to address issues around stigmatisation, non-adherence to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), and Behaviour Change Communication, to curb new HIV infection rates and sustain treatment levels.

Mr Kyeremeh Atuahene, the Acting Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), made the call at the release and media briefing on the 2018 National HIV estimates and projections in Accra on Wednesday.

He said although Ghana was doing well in its efforts to achieve the World Health Organisation’s 90-90-90 targets of ensuring that all persons infected with HIV were tested to know their status, put on treatment, and that all those receiving ARTs attained viral suppression, there was more to be done in order to achieve the set objective by 2020.

Mr Atuahene said multiple sources were used to generate data for the spectrum, which brought the total national adult prevalence of HIV to approximately 1.7 per cent, compared to the 2.0 per cent recorded in 2014 in the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS).

The 2018 data, he said, showed that an estimated 335,000 Ghanaians are currently living with HIV, of which only 185,000 knew their status, with the remaining 150,000 having no knowledge, and so could easily be infecting other people.

He said out of the total number of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), 305,200 were adults aged between 15 years and above, while 29, 514 were children age zero to 15 years, representing 91 per cent and nine per cent respectively, with 117,199 being males and 217,515 females signifying 35 per cent, and 65 per cent respectively.

There is an estimated 19,931 new infections, of which 16,614 (83 per cent) were adults aged 15 and above, while 3,317 (17 per cent) were children age zero to 14 years, he said.

The Acting Director-General said of the total number of new infections 5,532 was among the youth aged between 15 and 24 years, representing 28 per cent.

He said in 2018, an estimated 12,181 AIDS-related deaths were recorded, of which 11,412 (80 per cent) were adults aged 15 years and above, with the remaining 20 per cent 2,769, being children below 15 years.

Mr Atuahene said considering the time frame and the enormous work left to be done, the GAC acknowledges that although Ghana may not be able to achieve all the three ‘90’ targets by the stipulated date, stringent measures and strategies have been put in place to intensify public education especially at the community level, encourage HIV testing, address stigma and encourage adherence to ARTs by PLHIV.

The GAC, he said, would also pay keen attention to the youth due to their current sub-cultural behaviours, and intensify advocacy for the care and support of HIV and AIDS-related orphans, adding that Ghana has the right policies, programmes and human resources to render the required services towards the elimination of the disease.

Mr Isaiah Doe Kwao, the Data Quality Assurance Manager, GAC, presenting the national data on the 2018 HIV fact sheet, said out of the 185,000 persons who tested and had knowledge of their HIV status, only 113,000 were put on ARTs.

He also gave the estimated number of pregnant women needing Prevention-of-Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) as 16,421, but approximately 12,950 of them received ARTs for protecting their babies from getting infected, while new child infections due to MTCT were 3,317.

Mr Kwao said the data imputed into a special software to generate the spectrum, were from all available certified national statistics, including fertility, population, and mortality (life expectancy), and for the first time Ghana also generated sub-national estimates with estimated regional and district HIV prevalence rates.

The Greater Accra Region, he said, topped with as high as approximately 77,132, followed by Ashanti with 75,675 and the Eastern 41,089 respectively with PLHIV.

Dr Stephen Ayisi Addo, the Programme Manager for the National AIDS and STI Control Programme, Ghana Health Service, said HIV was urbanised with the ability to buy sex very high, citing the role of Key Populations such as Men having Sex with Men, and Female Sex Workers.

He thanked all health partners for their financial and technical support over the years and called for sustained collaborations to address the existing gaps in achieving the three ‘90s’.

https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2019/07/18/only-185000-of-ghanaians-living-with-hiv-know-they-have-the-virus-ghana-aids-commission/

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 07:24

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Current Wave Of Kidnapping In Nigeria

former United States of America's Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, says the current wave of kidnapping in the country cannot be compared to what used to happen in the past.

He said, "Nigeria is experiencing a wave of kidnappings. In the past, kidnapping has often had a political dimension. In the oil patch, for example, militants have long kidnapped oil company employees to advance a political agenda. Boko Haram in the northeast is notorious for kidnapping young girls, the most famous episode being the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls. 

"The current wave is different. It is nation-wide, rather than confined to a specific region. It appears to be purely mercenary; the goal is to extract the maximum ransom possible rather than advancing a political agenda. Kidnapping victims now include the entire social spectrum, rather than being confined to those with some money or property. Nobody is exempt."

After several weeks of being held by his captors, an in-law of President Muhammadu Buhari was rescued by the police in a shoot-out recently.

But Campbell pointed out that the Buhari administration like previous regimes might be promoting the crime.

"In theory, but not in practice, the payment of ransom is illegal in Nigeria," he explained. However, the government itself pays ransoms in high-profile cases. So, too, do ordinary citizens. Because both kidnapping and ransom paying are illegal activities, there is little hard evidence about how many kidnappings are actually taking place. Indeed, the lack of transparency may lead to a popular exaggeration of the numbers.

"Nevertheless, Nigerians believe they are in the midst of a kidnapping wave and that the government is largely powerless to stop it. 

"Fear of kidnapping appears to be a factor in middle-class emigration from Nigeria and the wealthy sending their families abroad."

Recently, the BBC released a video on kidnapping providing a human face to the victims of kidnapping. 

The video showed Deputy Police Commissioner, Abba Kyari, and the Intelligence Response Team, set up to fight kidnapping. 

Speaking about the video, Campbell noted: "Kyari, known to many as “Nigeria’s supercop,” is the youngest high-ranking official in the Nigerian police force. 

"Policing in Nigeria is underfunded, and policemen by and large are undertrained. They are notorious for human rights abuses and have been widely accused of extra-judicial killing. The BBC interviewer raises these human rights considerations with The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria."

Continuing, he said: "Kyari, predictably, denies that they take place, or asserts that when there are credible accusations, they are thoroughly investigated. He also realistically talks about the difficulty of law enforcement in Nigeria—the lack of investigative capacity and the violence of criminals against policemen. He does not let the viewer forget the horror that accompanies kidnapping. 

"Kidnapping along with the Boko Haram insurrection in the northeast; Delta militant activity in the oil patch; and conflict over land use, ethnicity, and religion in the middle belt are immediate stressors of Nigerian society. They are related to deeper challenges, notably the huge increase in population, rapid urbanization, and degradation of the environment related to climate change."

However, with specific reference to kidnapping, reform of the police and the security services appears to be a pressing need, the former envoy. 

"And here the foreign friends of Nigeria could help," Campbell suggested, "perhaps through forensics assistance, provision of training, and facilitating exchanges."

http://saharareporters.com/2019/07/13/current-wave-kidnapping-nigeria-different-former-us-ambassador-nigeria

stella Posted on July 19, 2019 06:50

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Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh review ordered

A full safety review into the delayed Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh has been ordered by the Scottish government.

The £150m facility was due to open on 2 July but last minute inspections uncovered problems with the ventilation in a critical care ward.

The review will assess the water, ventilation and drainage systems.

Similar checks will be made at other recently completed major NHS facilities across Scotland.

This will include the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, which was built by the same contractor responsible for the Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh and has also had problems with ventilation systems.

The NHS-led review is due to be finished by September but no date for when the new hospital will be ready has been given.

It has also been revealed that private consultants KPMG have been hired by the Scottish government to probe "governance arrangements" for the new hospital and establish the factors which led to the delay.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has revealed that NHS Lothian will get additional support from the Scottish government because of the significant variation from its plans.

She said: "I understand that this is a disappointing and worrying time for parents and carers of patients who have appointments at the new children's hospital.

"However, safe, effective and high quality clinical services continue to be delivered from the existing site in Sciennes.

"The work carried out by NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) will give quality assurance on the water, ventilation and drainage systems and establish a timeframe for services to move safely to the new hospital."

She added: "Infection prevention must always be embedded within the design, planning, construction and commissioning activities of all new and refurbished healthcare facilities, which is why I have also instructed NSS to review current and recently completed major NHS capital projects and provide assurances that the same standards have been adhered to."

The new 233-bed hospital will form part of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh campus, providing care for children and young people to about 16 years of age.

It will also have 10 theatres and a children's emergency department.

The site, which also includes Clinical Neurosciences and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, has already faced a number of problems and delays.

Ms Freeman was asked in parliament last month if NHS Lothian had been assured the same problems did not exist at the new site.

The health secretary said NHS Lothian told her it would not take ownership of the building until it was "absolutely assured" those steps had been taken.

Contractor Multiplex previously said its work was signed off as complete by an independent certifier on 22 February, when it handed over the building to NHS Lothian.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs MSP said Holyrood's health committee should investigate the saga.

He said: "Families and staff will look at this announcement and wonder why these things weren't demanded of the construction firms from the outset.

"After all, the nationalists have had seven years of delays in which they could have ensured these boxes were ticked.

"The only way to establish the extent of what has gone wrong, why it has happened, and how we can ensure it's not repeated, it to have a full Scottish parliament inquiry."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-49029837

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 15:10

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My son was scarred for life by dangerous dog

A mother has told how her six-year-old son's ear was torn off by two dogs that were kept off the leash.

Claire Booth was out walking with son Ryan near their home in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, when she says two English bull terriers came "from nowhere" and "dragged him around the ground".

Four years on, the mother says her family are still wary of open spaces.

It comes as a Scottish Parliament committee claimed that dog control legislation is "not fit for purpose".

'His whole body was battered'

Recalling the attack, Ms Booth told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland: "From a distance the owner of the two dogs were shouting 'don't worry they won't hurt you'.

"But as I managed to get Ryan up, his left ear had been bitten off - his earlobe had been detached from his head. There was blood everywhere, his whole face was distorted.

"He had a bite to his elbow, a bite to his hip and teeth marks embedded on his forehead. His whole face was bruised and battered, his whole body was bruised and battered.

"As a result of that Ryan has now got another three surgeries to face to rebuild his ear and he's now terrified of dogs. We are getting over that now but it has taken nearly four years for that to happen."

Although they did not witness the attack, Ryan's siblings are also scared of dogs having heard about the trauma he went through.

Ms Booth said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident in 2015.

The dogs' owner was prosecuted and received the maximum community service sentence. One dog was destroyed, but the other was given a control order which was never followed up.

Ms Booth said: "I felt it was farcical because the owner of the dog moved away to another area which means the dog control order was never followed up - the dog wardens didn't know where they were.

"The owner was supposed to take it to behavioural classes, have it on the lead at all times and be muzzled at all times - but nobody knows if that happened or not.

New laws were introduced in Scotland in 2010 but MSPs recently heard evidence there was still an "unacceptably high prevalence of dog attacks".

Holyrood's post-legislative scrutiny committee said they considered it to be "nothing less than a national crisis".

MSPs said the impact on victims, particularly on children, could be life-changing.

Dog control notices

The Control of Dogs Act 2010 was introduced to promote responsible dog ownership but the committee said it was not working.

Its report called on the Scottish government to undertake a comprehensive review of all dog control laws immediately.

Committee convener Jenny Marra said: "There are still far too many dog attacks on children and little enforcement or understanding of the current laws that might prevent these attacks."

She called for urgent reform so that dangerous dogs can be dealt with properly.

The 2010 legislation brought in a new regime of "dog control notices" to impose measures on the people who do not keep their dog under control.

It gave Scottish ministers the power to establish a national database of dog control notices so information could be shared across the country.

The MSPs said the failure of ministers to use its powers was a "missed opportunity".

They also said there were too few dog control wardens to enforce the current law and a lack of awareness of how it worked.

The committee said that police, hospitals and local authorities were not keeping consistent data on dog attacks.

Earlier this year, the Holyrood Committee heard that thousands of people are treated each year by hospital emergency departments for dog-related injuries.

Ms Booth was among parents who told the committee about the horrific attacks endured when owners acted irresponsibly.

The committee also heard from Radio Clyde journalist Natalie Crawford who initiated a campaign to keep dogs on leads in public places.

She discovered that Glasgow City Council - Scotland's largest local authority - until recently had just one part-time dog warden and that there had been no dog control notices issued in a three-year period.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-49019591

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 14:54

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23 student in indian have killed themselves because of school exam result.

At least 23 teenagers in the southern Indian state of Telangana have killed themselves since their school-leaving exam results were announced in April. BBC Telugu's Deepthi Bathini explains why the results have become controversial.

Thota Vennela enjoyed cooking, watching comedy shows and eating street food.

Her older brother, Venkatesh, 19, had recently taught her to ride his motorbike. "I was so happy that she could ride it like a professional biker. But sometimes I would follow her without her knowing to make sure that she was safe," he says. The siblings fought over the bike and played pranks on each other, but they were close.

Venkatesh struggles to hold back tears as he pulls out his wallet to show his sister's photograph. On 18 April - the day she found out that she had failed her 12th class (school leaving) exams - Vennela consumed poison. She died hours later in a hospital.

"She kept repeating, how could I fail?" recalls her mother, Sunitha. "We consoled her and told her it was fine and she could apply for re-evaluation or take the exams again. But even at the hospital she kept saying, 'I should have passed'."

Vennela was one of more than 320,000 students in Telangana who failed their school-leaving exams. All of them were enrolled in schools that teach a syllabus set by the state education board. (Some Indian schools also teach syllabuses set by a national education board.)

Higher education in India is fiercely competitive. And school-leaving exams are crucial for securing a spot in good universities - they are seen as a ticket to a well-paying job and a bright future. Top universities also conduct independent admission tests, but students who perform well in those can still lose their seat if they fail their school-leaving exams.

In the days following the announcement of the exam results, shocked students and parents protested, alleging there had been errors in marking and demanded the exams be marked again.

"My son scored full marks in maths, physics and chemistry in his 11th class exams. But this year the results show that he scored one mark in maths and zero in physics. How is that possible?" says Venugopal Reddy.

"He had been studying for other competitive tests. But after the results, he is dejected. He has stopped studying and eating, and refuses to leave the house. I am worried about his mental health," he adds.

As protests intensified, suicides by students who had failed the exams were reported from across the state.

A child rights group petitioned the state high court, which ordered the board to re-mark the answers of all those who had failed. The new results were announced on 27 May - the scores of 1,137 of the students who had failed were revised, and they were declared successful in the exams. One student who had initially scored zero marks in a subject, ended up scoring 99 when her answers were re-marked.

At the heart of the controversy is a private software firm, Globarena Technology, which in 2017 won the government contract to conduct the exam across the state for more than 970,000 students. It is also responsible for processing the final scores to announce results.

The state education board, which outsourced the job to Globarena, has said the suicides were not "connected to mistakes due to technical and result processing errors".

Globarena conceded there had been errors.

"We follow the process prescribed by the board. The incidents that have happened are unfortunate. Initially there were technical errors. We have made the corrections," VSN Raju, the company's CEO, told the BBC in April.

The family of one of the students who killed herself - Anamika Yadav - has said it will file criminal charges against the education board and Globarena.

Her family told the BBC that the 16-year-old killed herself hours after finding out that she had failed the exams. On 27 May, the re-evaluation said she had passed the exams, but hours later the marks were again revised - she had failed again.

It seems there was a mistake in updating the scores. Board officials said Globarena was not involved in the re-evaluation process.

"This makes us suspicious," says Anamika's father, Atul Ganesh.

Vennela's father, Gopalakrishna, also says he wants to file charges. "I can't trust the board. How can my daughter, who was always a good student, fail? I need answers."

The re-evaluation did not include the marks of any of the 23 students who killed themselves. But their parents are not sure what to make of these results - they are shocked and heartbroken, but are also bewildered and suspicious.

Most of the parents spoke of their children's diligence and ambition.

Vodnali Shivani, 16, woke up at the crack of dawn every morning to study. She wanted to be an engineer and she would often say to her father: "Wait for five years and our lives will change."

Devasothu Neerja wanted to become a doctor, and she spent most nights studying. "She always passed all her exams. So we thought we must do whatever we can to help her," says her father, Rupal Singh.

Bhanu Kiran, 18, loved maths and wanted to become an ethical hacker so he spent a lot of his time watching YouTube tutorials about the subject.

But what underscores all of these memories is the immense pressure to succeed. Students in India - especially those who want to study engineering or medicine - take a series of highly competitive exams in quick succession.

And the race to secure a college place starts early - as early as two years before the school-leaving exams - allowing for a risky and prolonged mix of stress, expectations and dreams.

"The exam itself is surrounded by stress," says psychologist Vasupradha Kartic. "Students need to be counselled regularly."

She adds that students need to be able to see beyond the exams - that failing doesn't mean they have no options left for a career or a future.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48050020

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 14:29

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Hollywood producer Riza Aziz arrested in Malaysia over 1MDB scandal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malysia – The Malaysian producer of the Leonardo DiCaprio-starred film The Wolf of Wall Street was arrested Thursday, July 4 on suspicion of money laundering as part of investigations into the 1MDB scandal, officials said.

Riza Aziz was detained in Malaysia after questioning by graft investigators and will appear in court Friday, July 5 to face charges, said Latheefa Koya, head of the anti-corruption agency.

Riza is the stepson of Malaysia's disgraced ex-leader Najib Razak, and the son of the country's former first lady Rosmah Mansor. Both Najib and Rosmah have been charged over the plundering of state fund 1MDB.

"I confirm (Riza) has been arrested today and was released on bail," Latheefa told AFP, adding he would face charges under laws related to money-laundering.

A second agency official, who spoke anonymously, also said the arrest was linked to investigations into 1MDB.

Billions of dollars were looted from the investment vehicle, allegedly by Najib and his cronies, and spent on everything from yachts to pricey artwork in a globe-spanning fraud.

Riza co-founded the Hollywood company Red Granite Pictures, and US officials allege that it was bankrolled by huge sums of pilfered 1MDB cash.

As well as the Wolf of Wall Street – a 2013 film about a massive stock market scam that netted its perpetrator millions of dollars – it produced the Jim Carrey movie Dumb and Dumber to and Daddy's Home, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

In May, some US$57 million forfeited by Red Granite was returned to Malaysia and put into an account set up to recover money looted from 1MDB.

The 1MDB scandal played a major role in Najib's election loss last year.

Malaysia's new government has re-opened probes into 1MDB, and Najib went on trial in April over the allegations.

The US Department of Justice, which is seeking to seize assets bought with 1MDB money in the US, believes some $4.5 billion was looted from the fund. – Rappler.

https://www.france24.com/en/20190704-hollywood-producer-arrested-malaysia-over-1mdb-scandal

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 13:27

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Uganda: Two-Time Rape Victim Infected With HIV, Forced to Marry Rapist

Jane Draru (not real names) seats on the verandah of her grass thatched house in Kopu village in Ayipe Sub County in Koboko District folding her hands on her chest. She celebrated her 18th birthday early this month. Draru, who seems lost in a state of despair was raped twice in a space of four years, impregnated and infected with HIV.

"I don't know what to tell you. I wait for a time when I will also die. After all, even my child has died," she narrates. Draru was first raped in March 2015 as she returned from Ayipe Trading Centre around 8pm.

She was confronted by a man whom she knew as a family friend. "He wrestled me down and then raped me. I reported to my parents but I was blamed for it. They said I had wanted to have sex with him," she says. Draru decided to keep quite because her family chose to blame her.

Six months later, Draru escorted her friend to a health facility. While there, a health worker discussed the advantages of knowing one's health status. She was hesitant to test because people had told her that the person who had raped her was already on HIV treatment.

She feared knowing her status but nevertheless, her friend encouraged her to test and the results confirmed her suspicion. Draru rushed home and shared the test results with her parents.

However, the suspect's family said they were not aware and there was no proof that their son had actually raped her. "I decided that I would look for this man and do something to him. But I was informed that he left this place and I have never seen him again," Draru said.

At the time of the first incident, Draru was a Primary Four pupil at Ayipe Primary School. She immediately stopped going to school thinking that she would die soon. Draru started operating a food joint to earn a living. She could wake up as early as 5am and return home past 9m.

However, bad luck struck again as she was raped for the second time in June 2018. The rapist waylaid her on her way home about 15 minutes to 10pm.

Unlike the previous time, she couldn't identify the rapist. She only managed to identify the rapist with the help of her neighbors after describing how he was dressed.

"I went to report to the Chairman. But the suspect fled before he could be arrested. I have never seen him since then," Draru said. According to Draru, she could have chopped the rapist into pieces had she got chance to pounce on him.

Forced marriage

Since her neighbors had identified the second rapist, her parents held a meeting with his family. The two families agreed to settle the matters amicably. A month later, Draru missed her periods. She tested for pregnancy and the results were positive.

The parents asked her whether the pregnancy was as a result of the second rape or it was someone else. "I told them I had not engaged in any sexual activity except when I was raped. They took me to the man [rapist]'s home and his parents accepted to take care of me. I started living with them until I gave birth," she said.

Her child was born weak. Draru didn't have money to take her baby to better health facilities. However, in both incidents she didn't report to police because she was never supported by her parents.

No justice

"I wish my rapist could be arrested and killed. I would be happy if they are arrested. They raped me and ran away. I am now suffering with HIV. They are enjoying life," Draru said.

Although she is she is already on HIV treatment, Draru says sometimes she gets angry and abandons the drugs. Draru says she sees no reason for taking drugs since she could die any time. She says her child could have survived to give her a reason for living.

Draru is part of the 47,746 girls defiled in the last three years, according to the Police Annual Crimes records of 2016, 2017 and 2018. This translates into 15,915 girls defiled every months and 43 on a daily basis.

Police statistics show 201 girls were defiled by people living with HIV in 2018, 115 were defiled by guardians, ninety-five pupils by their teachers, 90 secondary school students by teachers, 90 girls with disabilities were defiled and 84 girls by their biological parents.

Activists speak out

Child rights defenders such as Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU), Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and Partner in Community Transformation (Picot) put the blame to lack of comprehensive police on Sexuality, Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) that would empower girls with appropriate information on how to deal with sexual advances.

Maureen Andinda, the RAHU's Strategy and Business Development Manager, reasons that absence of clear policies regarding the approach and response to young people's sexual reproductive health challenges creates an environment where inaccurate, mythical and downright wrong information sharing thrives.

Andinda says young people listen to wrong information and base on it to make their reproductive health choices without guidance therefore young people are not able to stand up for themselves against vices such as sexual harassment, abuse or peer influence.

"Inadequate response to these occurrences contribute to a lot of the reproductive health indicators that remain unacceptably high for example; the ever increasing cases of teenage pregnancy and HIV prevalence amongst young people," Andinda said.

Lydia Ceyo, the Picot's project manager cites West Nile region, says there is need for a detailed approach to address Sexuality, Reproductive Health Rights-SRHR in solving problems faced by girls such as Draru.

She believes if Draru had been empowered, she would have thought of post-exposure prophylaxis (Pep) soon after she had been raped and it could have probably prevented her from getting HIV.

"For instance, in this West Nile, many parents do not believe that a girl can be defiled or raped. This is why they often force victims to get married to their rapists. I have intervened in numerous cases where raped girls are being forced to get married to their rapist," Ceyo says.

Joy Asasira, CEHURD's research and documentation manager, says the problem lies in the response of different stakeholders that are tasked with ensuring that young people have access to information and services. Asasira insists that equipping children with SRHR information would be pivotal in making informed choices, especially as they relate to their sexuality.

"From the smallest unit to the larger institutions like schools and churches, young people are being encouraged to abstain, maintain moral turpitude, but that is not enough. Young people need more information about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexual violence," Asasira explains.

Ismael Mulindwa, the Education Ministry's Policy Analyst, believes all child rights queries are answered by the National Sexuality Education Frame (NSEFW) launched by First Lady and Minister for Education, Janet Museveni. Mulindwa refers Andinda, Ceyo and Asasira to NSEFW's objectives that he says summarize issues of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

Sheikh Juma Muhammad Chuchu, the Education Secretary Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), says religious leaders are not against efforts by the Education ministry to address SRHR. Chuchu says as clerics they have issues on the content that that they intend to give the children given their age.

"We are saying that they should involve us from the start so that we can advise them on how to package information for children. You cannot teach relationships to children of three years and we just look on. We can't accept that," Chuchu said.

The Education ministry's list of activities to be done once implementation is enrolled out include teaching children of 3 to5 years old sexuality and human development, sexuality and relationships, sexuality and sexual behaviour, sexuality and sexual health.

Records from the Criminal Investigation Directorate show that more than 25000 cases have been dismissed by court for lack of substantive evidence in the last four years. Majority of the cases rotate around sexual offences.

"There are a number of factors for cases to be dismissed. Sometimes complainants lose interest in cases and this is very true in cases of sexual offenses. Victims fail to report to court because suspects compromise the and when you summon them to report to court, they don't turn up, later on the cases are dismissed," CID Director Grace

https://allafrica.com/stories/201907160089.html

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 12:17

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13 year old boy dead over a cell phone fight with parents.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -

An Iowa 13-year-old who ran away from home last week after his parents took away his cellphone was found dead Sunday less than a mile and a half from his house.

The body of Corey Brown, of Marshalltown, was found around 11:45 a.m. Sunday in a secluded area of the city, which is located just over 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Corey had been missing for more than four days. 

“At this time, there is no evidence or information that indicates criminal activity is connected to this missing person/death investigation,” . “However, this is still an active investigation and all possible scenarios will be thoroughly investigated.”

The chief previously told reporters at a news conference that Corey left home following an argument with his parents, during which they had taken his phone. security camera footage showed the boy leaving his home around 11 p.m. Jan. 22, while the city and surrounding area were under a winter weather advisory. 

His parents did not realize he was missing until the following morning, when they found his bedroom empty.

“Anyone with kids has had discussions with their children about household rules,”  “This was a typical parent-teenager interaction. No anger. Nothing extraordinary.

The Browns immediately reported their son missing,  More than a dozen law enforcement agencies from around Iowa joined Marshalltown first responders in search efforts coordinated out of a local Lutheran church, 

Hundreds of volunteers also began showing up at an area Catholic church to form search parties, but Tupper and his crews sent the volunteers home so they would not impede the search efforts,  

Efforts were already hampered by frigid temperatures and more than 6 inches of snow that fell the night Corey left his home and the following day. Temperatures topped out at 29 degrees while the boy was missing and the lowest temperature, recorded Friday morning, was -9 degrees, 

Corey’s family made an impassioned plea Thursday for the teen to come home. 

“Corey if you are out there please come home,” a tearful Michelle Brown said. “You know how much we love you and I’m not going to stop until we find you. If you are out there, come home. We love you more than you’ll ever know.”

It was unclear Monday how long the teen survived the weather, but an autopsy was planned to determine when and how he died. Tupper said Corey was found in the same clothing he was wearing when he vanished -- a red shirt, black pants, a black and lime green coat and a Seattle Seahawks stocking cap.

Corey’s fellow students at Miller Middle School spent part of the day Monday decorating his locker with notes of remembrance for the eighth-grader described as a bright, kind and friendly child. 

“Rest in peace. You were an awesome friend and a great person and I wish I just could have said bye,” one note read,  

“We will miss you so much,” another note read. 

Marshalltown Community School District officials  that additional counselors were and would remain at the middle school, as well as at the high school, for several days to help students, faculty and staff process their loss. 

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer offered his condolences on Facebook to the Brown family, who Tupper said requested privacy following the discovery of Corey’s body. 

Our hearts bleed for the Brown family,” Greer wrote,  “The whole city and all well-wishers will keep them in our thoughts and continue our prayers for them.”

In an opinion piece  Tupper expressed dismay with some of the national news coverage of Brown’s disappearance, accusing some media outlets of sensationalizing and inaccurately reporting details of the case “in an effort to hint someone must be to blame.” He also pointed at “keyboard warriors on social media” who speculated and theorized on what happened and who might be to blame. 

“I have held the hand of far too many parents as they mourn the loss of a child,” Tupper wrote. “Any senseless or unexpected loss of life is difficult to deal with but, when a child dies, it hurts in ways that for me are indescribable.”

The chief wrote that it is normal to seek answers and accountability when a tragedy takes place, but that sometimes, there is no explanation. 

“We convince ourselves we would have done something different to prevent tragedy had it been us in the shoes of those dealt the horrible blow,” Tupper wrote. “Maybe this is how we cope. Maybe this is how we try to convince ourselves such horrible things will never happen to us. We know better after all and someone must have done something wrong to cause this.”

That mindset is wrong, the chief wrote. 

“The Brown family deserves, and needs, our support, our love,” Tupper wrote. “They deserve compassion. There is nobody to blame here, folks.

“Corey Brown did nothing wrong. The Brown family did nothing wrong. They were the victims of unfortunate circumstances that could have just as easily visited our own families. Tragedy sometimes just happens. All you can do is support one another.”

https://www.boston25news.com/news/trending-now/iowa-13yearold-found-dead-after-running-away-over-cellphone-fight-with-parents/911662014

 

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 10:44

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Thieves attacked man outside red lobster

 Police say a group of thieves was so bold that they attacked a man outside a DeKalb County restaurant and then opened fire on an off-duty officer Monday night.

The officer shot two of the suspects, wounding one and killing another, according to police. Two other men got away, police said.

Channel 2's Tom Jones was in DeKalb County where a Clarkston police officer was working a part-time security detail Monday night at the Red Lobster on Candler Road.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the officer saw a man in the parking lot who had been robbed. 

According to the GBI, the officer approached him to help, when four other men got into a car and started shooting at the officer and victim as they drove away.

The officer shot at the men in the car, hitting two of them, police said. The gunmen sped off but stopped at a Wendy's down the street where two of them took off running. Police are still searching for them. 

The two other men were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where police said one of them died.

That man’s family identified him as Darion Jones.

They told Channel 2’s Tom Jones he was not a robber and that they do not believe the officer’s version of what happened.

On Thursday, the GBI identified Jones as being 26 years old. They said the other person involved in the shooting is Qasim Abdullah, 20, who remains in the hospital.

Family members at the scene said they will not stop until they get to the bottom of what happened. 

Meanwhile, neighbors told Jones the area has gotten so violent, they are afraid to even walk down the street. 

DeKalb Police Officer Edgar Flores was murdered about a mile away on Candler Road less than a month ago. 

"We have people walking around here who are openly packing guns," one neighbor told Thomas. "It's gotten to the point where it's scary.'

https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/dekalb-county/shootout-in-parking-lot-of-red-lobster-leaves-robbery-suspect-dead-police-say/900882651

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 09:44

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10 suspected dead in Japan in anime studio

KYOTO - A man started a fire at a Kyoto animation studio after spraying a liquid Thursday morning, leaving at least 10 dead and nearly 40 injured, several of them unconscious, local police and rescuers said.

Many bodies were found on the second floor of the three-story Kyoto Animation Co. studio after the fire started around 10:30 a.m. The police also found knives at the scene.

 

 

The company is known for producing popular TV animation series “K-On!”, “Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu” (“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”), “A Silent Voice,” “Clannad” and “Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon” (“Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid”).

The 41-year-old man who has said he started the fire was among the injured and has been taken to hospital, the police said.

People near the studio said they heard a series of explosions and saw black smoke billowing out of the building. People were later seen being carried out of the studio covered in blankets.

“A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints,” said a 59-year-old woman who lives nearby.

“I heard a bang and the black smoke and the burning smell were awful,” said a hair salon manager in his 30s.

Kyoto Animation, known for short as “KyoAni” in Japan, has animation studios in Kyoto and nearby Uji, where it is headquartered. The studio in question is its first studio, according to the company.

The company, founded in 1981, has released a number of animations appealing to younger generations, particularly in the 2000s. Many fans have visited locations associated with the works.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/18/national/dozens-injured-fire-kyoto-anime-studio-man-questioned-police/#.XTAUn_lKjIU

stella Posted on July 18, 2019 06:48

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John Mahama former president of Ghana said, he feels sorry and sad for cocoa farmers.

The flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr John Dramani Mahama has described as sheer wickedness President Nana Akufo-Addo’s decision to stop the supply of free fertilisers to cocoa farmers and allow the fertilisers to expire and dispose of them.

“I feel very sad for our cocoa farmers”, President Mahama said, adding “we had good plans and started implementing good policies for the cocoa sector”.


He was speaking during an interaction with cocoa farmers and the people of Enchi in the Aowin Constituency of the Western North Region on Tuesday.

According to the former President, the supply of free fertiliser, seedlings and inputs to cocoa farmers led to an increase in the annual yield of cocoa. “When we started giving out free fertilisers, it was because we realised it will help improve yield, and in the 2016/17 crop year, we recorded 950,000 tons… I cannot understand why this government will decide to stop that and sell the fertilisers to the farmers… In fact, it is wickedness to leave the fertiliser in warehouses because the farmers cannot and won’t buy them, and throw them away after they expire,” he lamented.

President Mahama who is on a two-day tour of the Western North Region assured the people that with their continuous support, the NDC will win the 2020 elections and resume the implementation of its people-friendly policies and initiatives.

He acknowledged the support of the people of Enchi and the Aowin Constituency for consistently voting for the NDC, assuring them that all projects stopped by the Akufo-Addo government will be resumed and new projects added when he wins the 2020 elections.

Many road projects in the cocoa-growing areas being funded by the Ghana Cocoa Board have all been stopped, with roads scheduled to be completed in 2017, now in more deplorable states. 

The Elubo to Enchi road was on contract and we gave it to two contractors so they can be completed early. They should have been completed by now, but thanks to the NPP that road is worse now than when we started working on it”. 


The NDC flagbearer also used the occasion to welcome to the NDC a number of NPP supporters who announced their defection to the NDC, asking them to join the Aowin constituency members to campaign for the party to win and bring relief to the people.

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/I-feel-sorry-and-sad-for-cocoa-farmers-John-Mahama-764400

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 19:28

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Nigeria's Looming Genocidal Horrors, Brutalities, Anarchy And War

This is being written with a heavy heart and sorrow. This may very well be a dirge for Nigeria!

Nigerians are rapidly, quickly and speedily driving Nigeria towards an epochal cliff and precipice to happily fall to oblivion!

Nigerians, many of them, are currently doing everything illogically possible to make Nigeria become what Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria have become in recent years; quickly sadly, sadly in the most extreme sense.

Any reasonable human being would have thought that Nigerians, upon being familiar with the dire human conditions which have persisted in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic in recent history, would do, all, any, and every, thing, to avoid a repeat in Nigeria, the cataclysmic events which led to the continuing catastrophes and tragedies in these aforementioned failed nations!

Too many Nigerians are unwittingly asking for the sorts of genocides which took place in Rwanda and Darfur Sudan, some two decades ago. These Nigerians are literally begging for genocidal horrors, brutalities, anarchy, civil war and the ultimate disintegration of Nigeria, while pretending not to see the consequences and unintended consequences of their pronouncements and actions?

Nigerians and Nigeria are (not merely sleepwalking), but sleep-sprinting towards a free-fall-off, of the face of the earth!

The Rwandan genocide will be a seeming picnic or child's play, in comparison to the looming genocide, horrors, brutalities, anarchy, war and disintegration which may consume Nigeria

When, as it happens, a crime is committed against a Nigerian, a group of Nigerians from the ethnic group of the victim of crime, picks at random, a person from the ethnic group of the ALLEGED perpetrator(s)'s ethnic group, and cavalierly slaughters him, without care for law, due process and certainty of guilt, then, such a society is begging for genocide!

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 was consequent upon ethnic hatred, and killings and revenge, vendetta and reprisal killings which consumed thousands of Hutus and Tutsis! There were no winners in the aftermath of the ethnic bloodbath in Rwanda!

Quite unfortunately and disgustingly, like play, like play as Nigerians say in local parlance, Nigerians are excitedly demanding and insisting on repeating the Hutus and Tutsis barbarically disgusting blood bath festivals of killings, whether to see and determine, what group of Nigerians can slaughter the other group more?

Nigerians are, on a daily basis, engaging in appallingly reprehensible, repugnant and unjust ethnic bashing, ethnic demonization, ethnic stereotyping and ethnic stigmatization of the Fulani ethnic group, without circumspection or reflection.

Nigerians are behaving like unreasoned drunks in their haste to cast aspersions on the Fulani ethnic group, in hasty generalizations, in which all Fulani are lumped together as guilty for all kidnappings, robberies and sundry insecurities, which are occurring nationwide in Nigeria, while making President Muhammadu Buhari as the poster-boy of Fulani criminalities, as an enabler, protector and patron, all at once!

All of these, because of the Fulani are Fulani and President Muhammadu Buhari is himself, a Fulani!

It must be a tough time to be a Fulani in Nigeria and in the world!

But why are thousands of Nigerians engaging in these group think? Why are thousands of Nigerians indulging in this dangerous herd’s mentality? Forgive me for the pun that fit! But, the truth is my witness, there is so much group-think or herds mentality currently going on in Nigeria, unbridled, and unmitigated!

It is nonsensical magical thinking by the thousands of Nigerians, perhaps millions? of Nigerians who appear to live in alternate universe who are adamant in insisting on their claimed knowledge of Fulani involvement and or absolute ownership of Nigeria's current widespread kidnappings, armed robberies, criminalities and nationwide insecurities, and yet, same multitudes are unable to pinpoint and or lead police and other law enforcement agencies to these notoriously vicious Fulani Herdsmen....

The next day, the next week and the next month, these same fraudulent and disingenuous narratives are repeated by Nigerian politicians, pastors, journalists and even some Nigerians in law enforcement agencies, without sanctions or consequences for false accusations of crimes, heinous crimes, carte blanche against the Fulani!

There is a call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a National Conference to discuss pervasive, pervading and spiraling-sprawling insecurities nationwide. Really? What is the job description of our politicians in the National Assembly? Why can't Senators and the House of Representatives members discuss this Urgent Matter of National Importance? What is the job of the National Council of States? What is the job of the President and the Governors' Forum? Constitutional amendments are all it takes! It is revealed that the just sworn in senators and house of representatives members have, upon arriving in Abuja at the National Assembly, received a so-called "welcome package" of 35 and 25 million Naira respectively, but cannot debate and solve Nigeria's presently overwhelming nationwide insecurities?

Henceforth, any Nigerian, private citizen or public official, who reports crime, with ethnic variable or ethnic colorations must be required to report details of such ethnic characteristics leading to the conclusions, as such, that the perpetrator(s) is adequately, accurately and properly described.

Police officials must be required to find lawbreakers and criminals and solve criminal activities. The police must cease and desist labeling any ethnic group as responsible for particular crime or types of crimes.

The Nigerian Press, electronic, print and social media journalists must be required to restrain themselves from giving ethnic labels to any crime or particular sets of crimes, as a crime committed solely or mostly by a particular ethnic group.

Furthermore, all Nigerian private citizens, public officials, police officers and journalists in traditional, and, or social media, will be subject to sanctions and punishment(s) if and when the mentioned categories of persons, or class of persons refer to Nigerians accused of crime(s) with ethnic or linguistic appellations or togas.

There should be a Nigerian law, with nationwide application, a law against ethnic-bigotry, ethnic race-baiting, or any discrimination or crimes which is motivated by a Nigerian's origins, such as local government, ethnic or linguistic and state, region of origins, or religion practiced or language spoken etc. There should a Hate Crime Law in Nigeria, it will sanction and punish violators who attack the "otherness" of fellow Nigerians! The citizenship of any Nigerian should have equal value throughout the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, with Full Faith and Credit, just as the One Naira, a unit of our national currency command equal value throughout Nigeria!

Evans was notorious for committing kidnapping in a serial or marathon manner. It is therefore gross injustice to decent and hardworking citizens of Igboland to refer to Evans, as the Igbo Kidnapper!

Similarly, Lawrence Anini was a notorious armed robber in Nigeria some decades ago. It is obviously provocatively unfair and unjust, to all hardworking decent Edo citizens from Edo, when Anini is referred to as the Edo armed robber!

Similarly, it is extremely vexing to all reasonable persons, all reasonable Nigerians, particularly, decent and hardworking Fulani anywhere, as thousands of Nigerians have cultivated the absolutely disgusting and repulsive habit of referring to every kidnap in Nigeria as committed by Fulani Herdsmen, be it in Edo, Emuoha/Rumuji in Rivers State or somewhere in Ekiti and Ondo States!

Nigerians should join me, in tasking our national government, states and local government officials to give Police, Army, Navy, Air Force, State Security Service, Nigerian Civil Defense Service etc the equipment, money and all the resources to enforce our laws objectively.

Nigerians need to put the collective feet of these Law Enforcement Agencies to the fire! We need to demand and insist, as an extremely urgent manner, the matter of national insecurities, which has now assumed an existential threat to Nigerian continued existence as a single corporate sovereign entity nation state!

Nigerian Security Apparatuses should be given all the resources they need, and then, be tasked with solving our national insecurities and promptly. Nigerian governments at all levels, should monitor performance and outcomes of Nigerian Law Enforcement Agencies with rewards, and or punishments accordingly.

The Nigerian landscape is currently littered with a million roadblocks, police obstacle courses at every mile, and yet, there are kidnappings everywhere!

It is one of two things, the police officers have allowed themselves to be distracted and detracted from their official functions, with their underpaid, ragtag outfits or, our police officers are in conspiracies, connivance and collusions outright with kidnappers, armed robbers and sundry purveyors of our current national insecurities nationwide!

Commissioners of Police and Divisional Police Officers should be held accountable, punished or rewarded for effectiveness and efficiencies or absences of same, in their command or areas and jurisdictions of authority.

It is the case that, presently, policing in Nigeria is hodgepodge and nonsensically reliant on over politicizations and manipulations by local thieving and thuggish politicians. Nigerians are aware of some pastors that have police officers escorting them to church and journeys to extramarital rendezvous, instead of law activities in the communities!

Community policing is certainly not police officers in uniforms, with guns and tear gas etc holding umbrellas over the heads of pastors, to shield from rains or sunlight! Nigerians have given Nigerian police free-rides, Nigerians have given our police plentiful get-out-of-jail-cards!

Our police should solve crimes and not give us excuses, and we must STOP giving our police excuses and cover, with pointing fingers at easy or political targets! Nigerians must view all kidnappers, armed robbers and fraudsters with equal displeasure and disdain! Criminals are CRIMINALS .They are not Igbos, Yoruba, Tiv, Kanuri, Esan or Urhobo!

Though state governors are the so-called Chief Security Officers of a given state, they appear to exploit police operations as an intimidation tool, and when and where that is not the case, some state governors are in constant battles and conflicts with police commands in the state governed by such a governor.

One of the old arguments against the establishment of state police in Nigeria, was that, such state police might be misused by the local politicians and might be ethnicized. This would be problematic in a multiparty system. The Nigeria Police force is presently all these, despite the federalization or federal status of Nigeria Police!

The American model, after which the Nigerian democracy and constitutionalism is modeled, has multilayered policing practiced to the letter! Every local government, known as County, has its' police. There are State Police or Troopers, then, Highway Police, followed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI. Furthermore, there is the Bureau of Firearms and Tobacco, ther presidential protection force known as the Secret Service, then, there is the Postal Police of the United States Postal Service.

In New York State for instance, you will find, the above named United States policing departments, and in addition, New York State Troopers and Highways Police, New York Police Department with policing limited to only the 9 million citizens of New York City, as opposed to the 20.4 million citizens of the entire state of New York with localized police departments in all counties or local governments.

New York City also maintains a branch of the New York Police Department (NYPD) which is dedicated solely to housing, known as Housing Police, and yet, another branch of the NYPD which is dedicated solely to policing in the trains or Mass Transit systems, which includes the Subways and surface train lines and buses.

A nation without law and order, a nation with multiple levels of insecurity, cannot expect economic development. A nation with these plethora or myriad insecurities fosters underdevelopment.

Nigerians cannot expect economic development and prosperity, in the midst of a million security uncertainties. Nigeria cannot receive investments from Nigerians at home or abroad, or from so-called Foreign Direct Investors as the profound absence of public infrastructures and basic amenities such as electricity and water, roads, bridges, trains and airports are compounded by kidnappings and robberies.

No investors or tourists will consider kidnappings and armed robberies as attractions or magnets. In fact, a majority of Nigerians are afraid of travels within Nigeria. In view of such clear and present danger in Nigeria to Nigerians, how can Nigeria hope to make these multiple variables of negative factors be considered inviting to a-would-be investor or tourist in Nigeria?

Nigerians and Nigeria are minutely starring at looming anarchy, war, disintegration brought about by plentiful insecurities nationwide. There is still time to wake up, there may be no tomorrow!

www.modernghana.com/news/945444/nigerias-looming-genocidal-horrors-brutalities-anarchy-an.html

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 16:09

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Bobi Wine arrested again

Ugandan police arrested celebrity musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine after he was charged over his role in a street protest last year against a tax on social media.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was charged with holding an illegal public assembly and detained on Monday at Naggalama police station, about 30km east of the capital, according to a police statement.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said Kyagulanyi led the protest in Kampala in July 2018 without prior police authorisation.

"He is with the police and investigations are on," he told AFP news agency. 

Asuman Basalirwa, one of Kyagulanyi's lawyers, said his client was arrested after he answered a summons to the Criminal Investigations Directorate.

This time we have not been informed why he has been detained," he added.

Kyagulanyi, who entered parliament in 2017, had been under house arrest in Kampala since Easter Monday when police officers blocked his way when he tried to leave for a concert at his nightclub.

Last week, police spokesman Enanga described the situation as a "preventive arrest" imposed when the authorities decide someone is about to commit a crime.

The cancellation by the authorities of one his performances last week led to clashes between opposition supporters and baton-wielding police who also fired tear gas.

The 37-year-old opposition MP, who has said he plans to run for president in elections in 2021, has since called for mass protests.

Vocal presence

Kyagulanyi has built a large youth following through his criticism of Uganda's long-time leader President Yoweri Museveni - who has been in power for 32 years - both in parliament and through his music.

The rapper made international headlines after an arrest last year and alleged torture by Ugandan security forces in detention. The government denies the accusations.

On August 14, Kyagulanyi was arrested and chargedwith treason for allegedly throwing stones at Museveni's presidential motorcade during a by-election campaign.

After being released on bail nearly two weeks later, Kyagulanyi was re-arrested in September while trying to leave the country to seek medical treatment in the United States for his injuries.

Eventually, Kyagulanyi was released and allowed to travel to Washington, DC, to be treated in hospital.

Kyagulanyi is the figurehead of a new generation who grew up under Museveni but want to see change. His anti-government songs have helped win him a significant following.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera last year - his first for television since leaving hospital - Kyagulanyi said: "We've always wanted a free Uganda, but that Uganda should not come at the cost of torture. It should not come at the cost of murder or illegal executions, it should be got freely because our generation feels like the price has already been paid."

Several times in recent months, the authorities have stepped in to prevent Kyagulanyigiving concerts, and his house arrest last week was part of those efforts to keep him offstage.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/ugandan-pop-star-opposition-mp-bobi-wine-arrested-190429153709250.html

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 12:57

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Canadian Girls’ kidnappers storm Kumasi

The eight suspects, who were recently nabbed in connection with the kidnapping of two Canadian ladies in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, returned to the city where they were captured recently.

The suspected kidnappers, including Seidu Abubakari, aka Mba, believed to be a ring leader, were in the city in the company of heavily armed police investigators from Accra to ‘recreate’ the crime scene.

The other suspected kidnappers are Sampson Aghalor, Elvis Ojijorwe, Jeff Omarsar, Yussif Yakubu, Abdul Nasir, Safianu Abubakari and Abdul Rahman.


“They were in Kumasi for what we call in police as ‘Search Without Warrant’,” a source disclosed to DAILY GUIDE.

The source also disclosed that the suspects stayed in Kumasi for two days (Wednesday and Thursday) and as part of investigations into the kidnapping of the Canadians who have since flown back to their home country after their dramatic rescue.

Kidnapping Hideout

The eight kidnappers were reportedly marched to the uncompleted two-bed room house at Kenyasi Achiase, where they kept the victims for several days.

The top police investigators were said to have asked the eight suspects key questions, especially regarding how they brought the hapless ladies to the place.

The suspects, according to reports, were also asked about how they managed to force the girls into a waiting Uber car at Nhyiaeso and sped off to Kenyasi Achiase for hiding.

Rooms Searched

The investigators were also said to have visited the various homes of all the suspects, where they thoroughly searched their rooms for evidence.

The investigators visited places like Sawaba, Dichemso, Asokore Mampong and a hostel at Sawaba Junction where the suspects were residing.


Seidu Rents 5 Rooms

In the course of the search, it came to the attention of the investigators that Seidu Abubakari had rented five different rooms at different locations in Kumasi at the same time.

They then marched him to all the five rented rooms in the city and searched the places thoroughly without anybody knowing about it.

For security reasons, the source did not disclose as to whether the investigators managed to retrieve any offensive or illegal item during the ‘Search Without Warrant’ operation.

Kidnappers Back In Accra

The eight suspected kidnappers were taken back to Accra on Thursday evening to continue with investigations in the case which had gained worldwide attention.

Chilling News

It would be recalled that two Canadians, who were in Kumasi for humanitarian projects, were kidnapped by some unknown hoodlums at Denyame a few weeks ago.

There were three Canadian ladies in an Uber car from the Baba Yara Stadium area to their hostel at Denyame but unknown to them some miscreants trailed their car.

Two of the Canadian girls, who sat at the back of the Uber, were quickly bundled into a waiting Toyota Corolla car by the miscreant right in front of their hostel around 9pm.

Sensing danger, the Uber driver also drove from the crime scene with the third Canadian, who was in the front seat, to lodge a complaint with the police immediately.

Kidnappers Rescued

The kidnappers reportedly hid the two Canadian girls in a dilapidated building at Kenyasi Achiase with the hope of taking a ransom from their families back in Canada.

Reports indicated that the kidnappers briefly opened a Twitter account to communicate with the families of the victims but they shut the account down few minutes later.

Through painstaking investigations, a crack team from the National Security, BNI and the police managed to rescue the two girls at Kenyasi Achiase some weeks ago.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the kidnappers were overpowered by the security forces after a gun battle, leading to the rescue of the Canadians.

All the eight suspects, including some Nigerians, are currently standing trial in court in Accra.
 

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/New-twist-in-Canadian-girls-kidnap-763827

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 11:32

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Corrupt Puerto Rico governor refuses to step down. Protest ongoing.

Embattled Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló refused to step down Tuesday amid demonstrations calling for his resignation after a series of scandals that continue to rock his administration of the island territory.

“Aside from these [protests] I recognize their importance, I recognize the magnitude, and it’s important to me that the government continues working for the island and we get results,” he said at a news conference, according to McClatchy D.C.

Rosselló's government was thrown into chaos Saturday after the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico released 889 pages containing sexist, homophobic and profane text messages from the encrypted app Telegram between him and 11 other male members of his administration.

The chat group included Luis Rivera Marín, Rosselló's secretary of state; Christian Sobrino, who held a series of important economic posts; Carlos Bermúdez, a onetime communications aide; Edwin Miranda, a communications consultant; Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi; Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira; and Elías Sánchez, onetime representative to the board overseeing Puerto Rico's bankruptcy

In the leaks, Rosselló describes New York politician Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born in Puerto Rico, as the Spanish word for "wh---," and made fun of Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin for being gay.

San Juan Mayor -- and frequent critic of President Trump -- Carmen Yulin Cruz was also targeted.  “I’m dying to shoot her up,” Rosselló’s chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, said of Cruz in the chat.

The chat also contained emojis of a raised middle finger directed at the federal control board that oversees the island's finances. Rivera Marín, Sobrino, Bermúdez and Miranda have already resigned or been fired.

The leaks came days after six former government officials and contractors, including the commonwealth's former education secretary, were arrested in a federal corruption probe.

Protesters took to the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan on Monday evening holding signs and chanting, "Ricky, renuncia," or Ricky, resign. Some participants spray-painted insults used in the chats on walls.

Rosselló said 21 police officers were injured during confrontations with the crowd; police used tear gas to disperse protesters who lit fireworks in front of the governor's mansion.

“We cannot protect vandalism, aggression and violence,” the governor said. “I want to make sure that following this blow, we can rise again.”

The scandals are a blow to Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a continuing debt crisis and 13-year recession.

Rosselló's refusal to resign has elicited outrage from Puerto Ricans in Florida, many whom migrated after the hurricane.

“The institutions of government in Puerto Rico are as fragile as its infrastructure after Maria,” Jorge Bonilla, a conservative Puerto Rican talk-show host based in Central Florida, told McClatchy. “I think it’s unsustainable that he continues to be governor. ... At this point you have to wonder what more can happen before Congress takes control” of the island.”

Members of Rosselló's pro-statehood New Progressive Party do not support beginning impeachment proceedings against him, said Carlos Méndez Núñez, the president of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/puerto-rico-governor-refuses-to-step-down-amid-corruption-and-texting-scandals

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 10:14

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Kenya needs pilots!!! Shortage of pilots due to old age.

Kenya may soon run short of pilots as the ones in service are ageing.

“We do not have enough young men and women who are qualified pilots in Kenya, and this is likely going to bring doom in the aviation industry if we do not train our children to be pilots,” president and founder of Young Aviators Club of Africa Mercy Makau said during Magadi Education Day on Sunday.

Makau noted that on attaining the age of 65 years, one cannot be allowed to fly.

She said many of those with pilot licenses are now in their 40s and above.

The cost of training has not made it any better. To qualify as a pilot in Kenya, one has to part with close to Sh6 million for two licences, Glain Naneu,19, who is training to fly at the Flight Training School in Nairobi, said.

She is also taking a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Aviation management at the East African School of Aviation.

"To get a private pilot’s licence from the Kenya School of Flying, a student parts with a minimum of Sh2 million, while getting a commercial pilot’s licence costs over Sh4 million for the one-year course," she said during the second edition of Magadi soda Foundation Education Day.

But even with the high fee structure, students from local schools are more probable to get jobs with smaller airlines in Kenya which pay less than what their colleagues working for the national carrier get.

Kenya Airways widely recruits trainees from South African schools such as 43 Air School in Port Elizabeth.

The school, which is by far the largest on-location training fleet in the Southern Hemisphere and the largest live on-campus facility on the continent, trains for the private, general commercial, airline, and military sectors, hence Kenya Airways’ preference for the school.

Once Naneu graduates, she is probably going to be the second Maasai woman pilot in Kajiado, after another from Kaputiei ward who is currently flying police helicopters at Kenya Police Air Wing in Nairobi.

Naneu is an alumnus of Magadi Primary School.

Also present during the education day was Eng Joseph Nkadayo, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority chairman, former KQ chief executive Titus Naikuni and Magadi Soda Foundation Board of Trustee chairman Stephen Moiko.

https://www.the-star.co.ke/counties/rift-valley/2019-07-17-kenya-risks-running-out-of-pilots-due-to-old-age/

 

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 10:00

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A 17-Year-Old Girl Was Murdered. How Did Photos of Her Death Go Viral?

A 17-year-old Instagram celebrity was brutally murdered allegedly by an obsessed male friend who then posted images of the slaying on Instagram, gaming website Discord, and 4chan, prompting an outpouring of shock and horror on social media.

The victim, Bianca Devins, is a 17-year-old so-called “egirl” who lived in Utica, NY, and had a small following on Instagram under the name @escty. Devins also frequently posted on the discussion forum 4chan. Utica Police confirmed Devins’ death.

According to a statement sent to Rolling Stone from the Devins family, Bianca was “a talented artist, a loving sister, daughter, and cousin, and a wonderful young girl, taken from us all too soon.” The statement also notes that Devins had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending a local community college in the fall. “She is now looking down on us, as she joins her cat, Belle, in heaven,” the statement reads. “Bianca’s smile brightened our lives. She will always be remembered as our Princess.”

“She was a sweet person, very caring,” says a friend of Devins who identified herself as a 20-year-old named Chels, who met Devins on a Discord server three years ago. “She always tried to make people feel good, feel loved, helped them when they were down even if she was going through her own shit.”

The suspect is Brandon Andrew Clark, a resident of Bridgeport, NY, which is about an hour away from Utica. Clark allegedly posted photos of the murder on his Instagram story, including an extremely graphic and bloody image of the victim sitting in an SUV with her neck cut. He also allegedly posted a photo on a server on Discord, with the caption, “Sorry fuckers, you’re gonna have to find someone else to orbit.” (Orbiting is a term used to describe men who lurk on a woman’s social media accounts in the hopes of having sex with her.) Shortly after posting the images, Clark posted a number of other cryptic videos on the Instagram story for his account @yesjuliet, including him driving a car down a dark road with the caption: “Here comes hell. It’s redemption, right?” Clark also changed his Instagram bio to read  “10/06/1997 – 7/14/19.”

According to Chels, who was on the server, Devins and Clark attended a concert by Canadian musician Nicole Dollenganger the night before the murder. Clark was supposed to be Devins’ ride home. Chels said that Clark and Devins reportedly met up with another person, a male, at the concert. The three reportedly smoked weed in Clark’s car together before Clark and Devins drove back to Utica around 10:00 pm.

In DMs with another friend on the Discord server that were shared with Rolling Stone, Devins makes reference to Clark being “so mad” that she held hands with this person and kissed him at the show. The last message sent by Devins is timestamped 5:47 am, less than two hours before police arrived at the scene to discover her body.

The images were posted around 6:40 a.m. “I didn’t believe it [at first]. I thought it was fake or a lookalike,” she says. “Then I started comparing her distinct facial features … after I realized, ‘Holy shit, this might be her.'” Someone else on the server who followed Clark on Snapchat found his location on Snapmaps and called the police, who arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. When reached for comment regarding how the images ended up on the server, a spokesperson from Discord told Rolling Stone: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible situation. We are working closely with law enforcement to provide any assistance we can. In the meantime, our hearts go out to Bianca’s family and loved ones.”

In a phone interview with Rolling Stone, Lt. Brian Coromato of the Utica Police Department said Utica police received multiple calls at around 7:20 a.m. from concerned 4chan and Discord users who had seen Clark’s posts. Coromato also said they received a call from Clark himself, who “made incriminating statements with respect to the homicide” and “also was alluding the fact that he was going to harm himself,” according to a statement sent from the UPD. When an officer approached him, Clark began stabbing himself in the neck.

When police arrived at the scene, Devins was already deceased; though an autopsy has not yet been conducted to determine time and cause of death, Coromato says police believe it was a few hours before Clark called police, and “multiple sharp objects” were found at the scene, including a razor and a knife. Clark was alive, though severely injured from apparently self-inflicted wounds, and is in critical condition, Coromato says.

Coromato confirmed the authenticity of three images that circulated on Discord, 4chan, and Instagram following her death, though he says a video circulating purporting to be of her death is not authentic. Though he declined to confirm the identity of the victim or suspect, a heartbreaking Instagram post from Devins’ sister appeared to confirm Devins’ death, reading: “I hate knowing you’re not going to ever come back home. You were the best sister anyone could’ve ever asked for.” Another Instagram post from Clark’s brother also alluded to the crime, reading: “Shoutout to all the people who target someone’s family and blame them for a persons [sic] decisions. Nothing better than waking up at 4am to find out your brother killed someone and tried to kill himself.”

It’s unclear at this time what the precise nature of Clark and Devins’ relationship was. On social media, many painted Clark as a lonely, obsessed fan who had stalked Devins and tracked her down at a concert, then killed her after she sexually rejected him. This narrative prompted the hashtag #ripbianca, which went viral, with many claiming the tragedy was an all-too-familiar story for women, who are often terrified of rejecting men for fear of inciting their rage.

While Coromato declined to specify Clark’s potential motive, he said that police believed Clark and Devins “were boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever kids these days call it.” Chels, however, disputed this, saying that while the two were friends and knew each other well, their relationship was strictly platonic. She also said that on the night of Devins’ murder, Clark had agreed to drive her to and from a concert they were both attending in Utica. “They were on good terms,” she says.

tragedies like this are the exact reason why girls are afraid to reject guys, they fear his reaction. they fear losing their life due to a man’s inability to handle rejection, so he lashes out. stop fucking taking our lives bc we said no. we have EVERY RIGHT to say no. #ripbianca

— may ? (@yuppmayyy) July 15, 2019

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/bianca-devins-murder-brandon-andrew-clark-858874/

stella Posted on July 17, 2019 09:36

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Tupac’s Private Apology to Madonna Could Be Yours for $100,000

It was once “strictly 4 Madonna.” But now, a handwritten apology letter that Tupac Shakur wrote the Material Girl a year before his death is going to auction.

Two years ago, Madonna attempted to stop its sale when she told a judge that her celebrity “does not obviate my right to maintain my privacy.” An appeals court overturned that injunction last month. The letter is headed to the auction block on July 17th with bids starting at $100,000. Auctioneer Gotta Have Rock and Roll estimates it will go for between $200,000 to $300,000 even though scans of it have been floating around the Internet for years 

The three-page letter, dated January 15th, 1995 — a year and change before he was fatally shot — he apologized to the singer for not being “the kind of friend I know I am capable of being.” The artists dated briefly in the Nineties, though they kept it secret; in 2015, Madonna said that Shakur had riled her up before a shocking 1994 appearance on David Letterman so she was “feeling very gangster” when she said the word “fuck” 13 times on air. But they kept their relationship secret. In the letter, Shakur wrote that he felt uncomfortable being seen with a white woman because he “would be letting down half of the people who made [him] what [he] thought [he] was,” whereas dating a black man would help her career. He wrote that he also took umbrage to her allegedly saying it was her job to “rehabilitate ll the rappers and basketball players.”

“Those words cut me deep seeing how I had never known you to be with any rappers besides myself,” he wrote. “It was at this moment out of hurt and a natural instinct to strike back and defend my heart and ego that I said a lot of things I have since come to regret.” He followed that by writing that he had “grown spiritually and mentally” since then.

Part of the reason he wrote the note was because he wanted to tell her how he felt “in case anything happened 2 me.” He added that “everyone is not as honorable as they seem … let my five bullets be proof of that.”

In July 2017, a judge stopped the sale of the letter and 21 other items after Madonna filed an emergency court order. Bidding on the letter had reached $100,000 by that point. In her filing, she wrote that she wasn’t aware that the letter and other potential auction items were out of her possession; much of the auction had been donated by her former personal assistant, Darlene Lutz. In April 2018, a judge ruled in favor of the auction house, saying that Madonna should have known Lutz was in possession of things like the letter and didn’t make any attempt to stop the auction before it had begun. That ruling was upheld the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court on June 4th of this year, according to the auction house.

stella Posted on July 15, 2019 17:13

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US actor physically assaulting underage girl and posted video on instagram .

The LAPD has opened an investigation into actor and influencer Ray Diaz after disturbing videos appeared to show him verbally and physically assaulting an underage girl, who were allegedly dating at the time.

On July 5, a disturbing clip was posted to 17-year-old Angelica Salek's Instagram account featuring a man alleged to be Diaz, who has 3.1 million followers on Instagram alone.

 

In the video, the man can be heard screaming, threatening Salek with violence, and hitting her. The clip was deleted, but it's since been reuploaded to other social media accounts, including by YouTuber Keemstar on his most recent DramaAlert episode.

 

youtube.com

In the episode, Keemstar also included a lengthy interview with Salek, who said she was emotionally and physically abused in what she called a yearlong relationship with Diaz. She began dating the YouTuber when she was 16.

 

"I was just so scared always because he would yell at me always," she said. " ... It was my fault if somebody would ever have any suspicions that him and I were dating. He would yell at me for hours."

She also described a recent incident on July 3 when Diaz forced her to hide in his bed's box spring when police arrived searching for her.

"I had to be quiet and not make a sound," she said.

On July 6, Diaz responded to the release of the first video, claiming that he and Salek were simply "acting."

"It was fake. It is acting lessons, and it does sound crazy, but it is an acting bar," he told TheHollywoodFix.com during a recorded FaceTime interview. "It's something you learn in acting class if you studied in New York City. It's just screaming and yelling, and I do this before every single audition with Angelica just to get the juice flowing — the emotions flowing."

 

TheHollywoodFix.com / DramaAlert / YouTube

Salek later told Keemstar that she was coached by Diaz to go along with this narrative when she posted a video to Twitter. She said she was coerced to lie and tell everyone that her mom had stolen the clip from her phone and posted it publicly to manipulate the situation.

"That was a lie that Ray and I made up to try to cover the situation. It was real," she said. "It was such a tough situation because I wanted to help him and I was feeling guilty, and I didn't know what to do in the situation."

She said she has since filed a restraining order against Diaz. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Salek.

 

Instagram: @undefined

 

On Thursday, a member of the DramaAlert team posted another clip of the two to social media, this time stating the footage had leaked.

In the video, a man purported to be Diaz is heard calling Salek a "bad person." He threatens to punch her and tells her to "kill [her]self" and "die."

Salek is heard crying as he continues to violently berate her.

Over the past week, people online have expressed worry and support for Salek. On her Instagram she said she's "home safe," but some are not fully convinced.

Some are commenting and advising people to remain "skeptical" in the event that Diaz still has control over her life and social media accounts.

 

instagram.com

Salek told Keemstar she wants justice for Diaz's actions.

"I hope and pray that something does happen here, that he does get put away. I don't want this to happen to any other girl," she said.

 

On Friday, the LAPD announced via Twitter that it is "aware of several social media posts related to a social media personality, alleging physical abuse and sexual relations with a minor."

"We take these allegations seriously. Currently, the department has directed a group of investigators to look into these allegations," the LAPD tweeted. A commanding officer of the department told BuzzFeed News it has no further comment or updates at this time.

Neither Diaz nor his team responded to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News. He has since privatized his Instagram account.

 

stella Posted on July 15, 2019 16:02

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Earthquake hits Indonesia

Indonesia's Moluccas islands have been hit by a series of aftershocks after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed at least two people, prompting hundreds of people to flee their homes.

The United States Geological Survey said Sunday's quake was centred 166km southeast of Ternate, the capital of North Maluku province, at a depth of just 10km. Shallow tremors tend to cause more damage than deeper one.

Agus Wibowo, spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency, said on Monday two women were killed by collapsing houses and more than 2,000 people had relocated to temporary shelters. The earthquake was followed by at least 65 smaller aftershocks.

The hardest-hit areas, Sofifi and Labuha, can only be accessed by a 10-hour boat trip from Ternate or by small plane, Wibowo said.

"We don't wish for more victims, but we cannot rule out that possibility since access to the area is difficult and we cannot yet collect all the data regarding casualties," Wibobo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.

Even though the authorities said there was no risk of a tsunami, many people ran to higher ground, and television footage showed panicked residents screaming while running out of a shopping centre in Ternate.

Ikhsan Subur, a local disaster agency official in Labuha, the town closest to the earthquake's epicentre, said several hundred people who were afraid of aftershocks took shelter in government offices and mosques.

He said a police dormitory and several houses of villagers in South Halmahera district were damaged.

With a population of around one million, North Maluku is one of the less populated areas in Indonesia, a country of more than 260 million people that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Last week, a magnitude 6.9 undersea earthquake caused panic in parts of eastern Indonesia and triggered a tsunami warning

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/powerful-earthquake-hits-parts-eastern-indonesia-190714154651065.html

 

stella Posted on July 15, 2019 14:48

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Pastor brings ebola back to africa

According to the latest health ministry figures, issued on Saturday, 1,655 people have died from the notorious haemorrhagic virus since August 1 last year, when the disease broke out in North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri.

Nearly 700 people have been cured, and more than 160,000 been vaccinated.

The Goma patient is a Christian pastor who had preached at a church in another town, Butembo, where he would have touched worshippers "including the sick", the health ministry said Sunday.

His symptoms first surfaced last Tuesday.

The preacher on Friday took a bus from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak, and arrived two days later in Goma where "the results of the laboratory test confirmed that he was positive for Ebola", the ministry said.

"Given that the patient was quickly identified, as well as all the passengers on the bus from Butembo, the risk of the disease spreading in the city of Goma is low," it added.

The pastor was swiftly taken back to Butembo, about 300 kilometres (180 miles) from Goma, the governor added.

The other passengers on the bus, 18 in all, and the driver will be vaccinated against Ebola on Monday, said the ministry, urging the population of one of Africa's largest countries to "keep calm".

The United Nations was convening a "high-level event" in Geneva on Monday to discuss response and preparedness for the Ebola outbreak.

It will be attended by government ministers from the DR Congo and Britain, senior officials of the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other UN agencies.

Last month, the WHO said the outbreak did not qualify as an international threat -- a category that significantly ramps up global response to a contagious disease.

Its decision took into account cases of infection that surfaced in Uganda among a family that had travelled to eastern DR Congo to see a relative stricken with Ebola.

Ebola spreads when humans touch the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.

- Militia attacks -

Health workers in Goma were vaccinated as early as December when the outbreak first hit Butembo further north.

Efforts to roll back Ebola have been hampered by Insecurity in a region plagued by militia groups, who have attacked treatment centres.

Local hostility to health workers trying to trace and isolate people in contact with Ebola patients is another hurdle.

Two more Ebola workers were murdered in their homes in North Kivu after months of threats, the ministry said.

The latest epidemic is the 10th documented outbreak in DR Congo since the disease was identified in 1976 near the Ebola River, which gives it its name.

It is the second deadliest on record globally, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

https://www.afp.com/en/news/15/dr-congo-urges-calm-after-ebola-case-key-city-doc-1is1ku2

stella Posted on July 15, 2019 14:31

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Sir Elton John's best movie moments

The much talked-about Sir Elton John biopic, Rocketman, touched down in the UK this week following its glitzy launch at the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie, directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton chronicles the colourful career of the musician; from his early life as Reginald Kenneth Dwight to becoming the knight of the rock 'n' roll realm we know today.

Speaking at the Cannes press conference, actor Bryce Dallas Howard said it was "incredibly surreal to hear Elton crying a few seats away" at the premiere.

After the screening the rock star put on a surprise gig at a beach-side gala party, where he performed the film's title track alongside Egerton once again.

"It was one of the best days of my life," said the 29-year-old, with a tear in his eye.

Sir Elton has been no stranger to the silver screen himself down the years, so let's take a quick look back at some of his most memorable celluloid moments.

Having played himself in the 1972 concert film, Born to Boogie - alongside Marc Bolan and Ringo Starr - Sir Elton first showed his credentials as a character actor a few years later in The Who's film, Tommy.

He played the role of the Pinball Wizard - dressed in seven foot high boots - in the movie adaptation of the band's 1969 rock opera.

After years of being the champ, Elton's man had to hand over his pinball crown to the title star; "that deaf, dumb and blind kid," played by frontman Roger Daltry.

In fact, Sir Elton quite literally takes his hat off to him at one point.

Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson all appear in the flick, as do Oliver Reed and Ann-Margret, who was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for her performance.

He may already have had more music awards than you can safely store in your garage, but Sir Elton had to wait until 1995 to get his hands on an Oscar.

There was a lot of love felt that year for Can You Feel The Love Tonight, which he wrote in collaboration with Tim Rice for the Hans Zimmer-scored Disney animation, The Lion King.

Sir Elton fended off stiff competition from, well... himself, twice - The Circle of Life and Hakuna Mata - to take the prize for best original song.

The song specifically soundtracked the romantic scene between Simba and Nala - you know the one (tissues at the ready).

It also won Elt' another Grammy for best male pop vocal performance.

OK, so he was never going to be given any gongs for this one; the briefest of cameos in the Spice Girls movie - but it still goes down in 90s pop culture history.

The scene basically involved him saying a quick hello to Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Baby and Posh while exchanging kisses in the corridor.

There's a brilliant outtake, that you can find online, of Sir Elton delivering the gag: "Damn, never happened with Take That."

The girls went on to perform his track, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, alongside him for ITV's An Audience with Elton John later that year.

In 2018, the artist formerly known as Posh Spice - Victoria Beckham - told Vogue magazine that she decided to quit the group after seeing her friend Elton in concert and realising that she didn't feel anywhere near the same "passion and enjoyment" for performing as he does.

Oh Sir Elton, how could you?

Cameron Crowe's cult retro indie film, about a schoolboy infiltrating the rock 'n' roll world while working for Rolling Stone magazine during its 70s heyday, had a fair few bangers in it.

However, the most memorable musical moment arrives when the entire Stillwater - that's the fictional band, by the way - tour bus burst out into an emotionally-charged impromptu rendition of [by-now Sir] Elton's Tiny Dancer.

You could argue it effectively made Sir Elton cool and relevant again.

The US director later revealed his lifelong love of the Watford singer and how he wanted to pay a "proper tribute" to him during the film's central scene.

"Tiny Dancer is wrapped up a lot in 1973 in my heart," said Crowe, "so I wrote it in the script, it was originally the part of that scene that meant the most to me, even the soul of the movie.

"Elton is always authentic, he feels like he's talking directly to you. It's really what you dream of when you're making a movie, to speak directly to one person and his music has always helped me do that in films."

End of Youtube post by Elton John

He added: "And I always wanted to feel that I was able to earn the song."

The scene apparently took two days to get just right, meaning that "everyone sang a million times". Everyone apart from Noah Taylor that is, who played the band's tour manager as "he's a punk rocker!"

Sir Elton repaid the compliment to Crowe by telling him: "I'm gonna have to start playing that in all my concerts now."

"It's just slightly surreal and great" beamed the man in the director's chair.

The soundtrack for the animated rom-com, based loosely (very loosely) on William Shakespeare's classic play, Romeo and Juliet, reads like the track-list for an Elton John greatest hits collection.

Ordinarily that would cost a filmmaker and arm and a leg, but handily the very same songwriter was the executive producer on this one.

The movie stars the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, to name but three.

End of Youtube post by Touchstone Pictures

The standout scene is set to the tune of Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting; a rocking little number that was originally recorded for Elton's 1973 record, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

However, even way back then he was probably dreaming that the track would one day find its true spiritual home as the soundscape for a fast-paced fictional alleyway lawnmower race.

Vroom Vroom.

Last but not least, the same song got a rather more violent run out a few years ago in the second instalment of Matthew Vaughn's Kingsman movie series.

The UK director actually wanted Elton to be in the first film three years earlier, but alas it was not to be. So when Vaughan finally got his man, it's fair to say he made the most of it, dressing the singer up in one of his old exotic bird stage outfits and having him kung-fu kick someone in the face in a pair of his trusted old Tommy-era platform boots.

"It was so weird getting into those old clothes again," said Elton, in conversation with Vaughan on his Beats 1 radio show.

End of Youtube post 2 by Elton John

The Layer Cake director explained his choice of Saturday for the ridiculous piano-side fight scene.

"It's incredibly cinematic," said Vaughan, "and it's got three acts to it which means I can build the action to it.

"In the movie we used five different live versions and mixed them all together which was [very] difficult to do!"

He added: "It's fun, energetic, great for action but also warm and feel good - it made my film 100 times better."

Next time around, Sir Elton, who acted opposite Julianne Moore and Colin Firth, said he wants to be one of the actual Kingsmen and not just a colourful sideshow.

Well, its prequel; The Great Game, is pencilled in for a February 2020 release, so we won't have to wait too long to see if the sun has gone down on perhaps his best chance of a cinematic lead role.

If Rocketman goes down well, at least he won't ever have to play himself again.

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-48049916

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 15:29

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Preston man jailed for girlfriend's crowbar murder

A man who admitted battering his girlfriend to death with a crowbar has been jailed for life.

Benjamin Topping, 25, beat Rosie Darbyshire, 27, "beyond recognition" with 50 blows in Pope Lane, Preston, in February, police said.

They said it was seen by two witnesses who were then chased by Topping as he wielded the crowbar, before he threw the weapon at a third person.

Topping, of Preston, was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years.

Police said Ms Darbyshire was found on a pavement in the early hours of 7 February "beaten beyond recognition".

She suffered severe head and facial injuries from at least 50 separate blows, said police. She also had injuries to her arms and hands from trying to defend herself.

Det Ch Insp Geoff Hurst from Lancashire Police said: "This was a senseless murder where a talented, defenceless young lady needlessly lost her life in the most appalling way.

"Ben Topping is a dangerous individual who attacked Rosie with such savagery, she was unrecognisable and died almost straightaway.

"He has left a nine-year-old boy without a mother and a family who will never be the same again."

Ms Darbyshire's family said after sentencing they were "relieved" Topping pleaded guilty earlier at Preston Crown Court.

"No sentence will ever feel enough to show the value of Rosie's life and the loss we feel," they said in a statement.

"We want to thank the police involved in Rosie's case and the prosecutor. They have treated the case, us as a family and Rosie's memory with invaluable respect and dignity.

"Now we are no longer stuck in limbo we will try to live our new reality and ensure that Rosie's son lives a happy life and will always share memories of his beautiful mum."

The case has been referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) as "standard practice" because Lancashire Constabulary had been in contact with Ms Darbyshire prior to her death.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-48385281

 

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 14:55

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Kingston University campus evacuated over 'WWII bomb'

Part of a university in south-west London has been evacuated after a suspected unexploded World War Two bomb was found on a nearby building site.

Students at Kingston University London had to leave part of the Penryhn Road campus while officers investigate.

The Met Police said it was called at 09:15 BST and had since asked for help from the Ministry of Defence.

A police cordon in place in Fassett Road has closed two nearby polling stations.

Kingston University said: "[The campus] will be closed for the rest of the day. All staff and students based at Penrhyn Road may go home.

"Be prepared that the campus may also be closed tomorrow."

Kingston Council confirmed two polling stations being used for the European elections have been closed while the device is dealt with.

St John the Evangelist Church in Grove Lane has moved to St Mark's Church in Surbiton and St Raphael's Catholic Church Hall in Portsmouth Road has moved to Glenmore House, The Crescent.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-48377427

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 14:42

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John Walker Lindh: What happens when you release a 'traitor'?

John Walker Lindh and hundreds more have been sent to prison for terrorism, treason and other crimes. The release of the "American Taliban" on Thursday shows how little the US has done to prepare for the moment they are set free.

The US-born Lindh was captured on the battlefield during the US invasion of Afghanistan in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks. He pleaded guilty in 2002 to aiding the Taliban and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Back then he was vilified as a traitor. This week, though, he will leave prison.

Lindh, 38, will be put on probation. He will not be allowed to go online unless he has special permission, and he cannot travel freely.

Lindh became an Irish citizen while he was in prison (his grandmother was born in Donegal) and could move to Ireland when the travel restrictions are lifted.

Upon his release from prison, he will discover a world that has changed dramatically since his incarceration. He will have to grapple with daily life, learning how to use a smartphone, for example.

And he will face a society that has done little to prepare for his arrival.

Many experts, including the Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood, who specialises in national security, say the US should do more to help.

"In the justice system, we say 'You, the criminal, are not like us'. But there is also a responsibility for society to say at the end 'There is a place for you in our world'. We've very bad at that."

In bad company

Lindh is not the only one to rejoin society after a lengthy incarceration for crimes that threaten national security - and to face the daunting prospect of life on the outside.

More than 300 people in the US have been convicted of jihadist terrorism-related charges since 2001, according to New America Foundation, a think-tank based in Washington.

In addition, dozens of individuals are behind bars for assassination attempts, selling secrets to the Chinese government and other crimes that threaten national security.

Some have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Yet a significant number have already been released or will be free at some point.

When Lindh walks out of prison, he will join a colourful cast of infamous former inmates.

In 2016, John Hinckley Jr, the man who tried to kill US President Ronald Reagan, left a psychiatric facility where he had been imprisoned for decades. Hinckley, who is now 63, moved in with his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, and, according to court records, has had a hard time finding a date.

Faysal Galab, who was a member of a group known as Lackwanna Six, pleaded guilty to a terrorism-related charge and was sentenced to seven years. In 2008, he was released from a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the same one where Lindh has been incarcerated, and moved to a rehabilitation centre in Detroit.

'Paid their debt to society'

Each of their cases is unique, but collectively they raise a fundamental question: should individuals who commit reprehensible crimes, whether terrorism offences or threats to national security, be welcomed back into society after their punishment?

If so, how should their welcome - or at least their reintegration - be handled?

Legally speaking, the matter is straightforward. Individuals who have served their time can rejoin friends and family on the outside and take up their lives again (at least the law-abiding parts).

"Someone who has paid their debt is entitled to resume their life," says John Sifton, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

Yet the mechanics of how these individuals resume their lives vary, and so do the restrictions placed on them.

The US government does not have an official programme or set of procedures to help them find their way in the world.

Two decades ago, the teenage Lindh started a very different journey, leaving his Catholic family in California to study Arabic in Yemen. He went on to Pakistan, then across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan before being brought back to the US to stand trial.

Ready for reintegration?

Since his conviction, the only glimpse we've had of Lindh was in 2012 when he testified in court, wearing a prison uniform and a white prayer cap, as part of a legal challenge against a ban on group prayer.

"I believe it's obligatory," he said. "If you're required to do it in congregation and you don't, then that's a sin."

He added: "There are no legitimate security risks by allowing us to pray in congregations. It's absolutely absurd."

The US government, however, alleged in court documents then that he had delivered a radical sermon in Arabic. And leaked classified documents published by Foreign Policy magazine in 2017 claimed Lindh managed "to write and translate violent extremist texts".

Some US senators have questioned if enough is being done to help prison and parole officers to recognise the signs of violent radicalisation and recidivism.

A letter from one Republican and one Democrat to the Bureau of Prisons director noted that 108 other prisoners convicted of terrorism offences in the US are scheduled for release in the next few years.

"Little information has been made available to the public about who, when and where these offenders will be released, whether they pose an ongoing public threat, and what federal agencies are doing to mitigate this threat while they're in federal custody," they wrote.

US President Donald Trump has reportedly said that he thinks Lindh should serve his full sentence (Lindh is getting out three years early).

After his capture in Afghanistan, Lindh was held in a prison where a CIA officer, Johnny Micheal Spann, conducted interrogations - and where Spann was killed in an uprising. His father, Johnny Spann, has told reporters he does not think Lindh should go free.

Still some counterterrorism experts say the system, however patchwork, works well.

Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says individuals who commit terrorism offences and are then released from prison are closely watched: "There's a lot of monitoring."

Others say simply that he has done his time.

Jesslyn Radack, an attorney who worked for the US Department of Justice when Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, felt his sentence was unduly harsh.

Now, she says: "I hope he's able to come out and quietly restart his life."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48372500

 

 

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 14:33

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How Narendra Modi has reinvented Indian politics

Narendra Modi has scored a resounding victory in the Indian general election, securing a second five-year term. The BBC's Soutik Biswas looks at the main takeaways.

1. The second landside is all about Narendra Modi

India's polarising prime minister made this an election all about himself.

He should have faced some anti-incumbency. Joblessness has risen to a record high, farm incomes have plummeted and industrial production has slumped. Many Indians were hit hard by the currency ban (also known as demonetisation), which was designed to flush out undeclared wealth, and there were complaints about what critics said was a poorly-designed and complicated uniform sales tax.

The results prove that people are not yet blaming Mr Modi for this.

On the stump, the prime minister repeatedly told people that he needed more than five years to undo more than "60 years of mismanagement". Voters agreed to give him more time.

Many Indians seem to believe that Mr Modi is a kind of messiah who will solve all their problems. A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a Delhi-based think tank, a third of BJP voters said they would have supported another party if Mr Modi was not the prime ministerial candidate.

"This tells you how much this vote was for Mr Modi, more than the BJP. This election was all about Mr Modi's leadership above all else," Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, told me.

In a sense, Mr Modi's second successive landslide win echoes Ronald Reagan's abiding popularity as US president in the 1980s, when he somehow escaped blame for his country's economic woes. Reagan was called the Great Communicator and for being a "teflon" president whose mistakes never stuck to him. Mr Modi enjoys a similar reputation.

Many say Mr Modi has made India's elections more presidential. But strong prime ministers have often overshadowed their parties - Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Indira Gandhi are some obvious examples.

"There is no question that Mr Modi is the most popular politician in India since Indira Gandhi. He is peerless when it comes to the national stage at the present," says Dr Vaishnav.

The 2014 win was partly a vote in anger against the corruption-tainted Congress party. Thursday's win is an affirmation for Mr Modi. He has become the first leader since 1971 to secure a single party majority twice in a row. "This is a victory for Modi and his vision of a new India," says political scientist Mahesh Rangarajan.

2. A cocktail of development and nationalism worked

A combination of nationalist rhetoric, subtle religious polarisation and a slew of welfare programmes helped Mr Modi to coast to a second successive win.

In a bitter and divisive campaign, Mr Modi effortlessly fused nationalism and development. He created binaries: the nationalists (his supporters) versus the anti-nationals (his political rivals and critics); the watchman (Modi himself, protecting the country on "land, air, and outer space") versus the entitled and the corrupt (an obvious dig at the main opposition Congress party).

Aligned to this, deftly, was the promise of development. Mr Modi's targeted welfare schemes for the poor - homes, toilets, credit, cooking gas - have used technology for speedy delivery. However, the quality of these services and how much they have helped ameliorate deprivation is debatable.

Mr Modi also mined national security and foreign policy as vote-getters in a manner never seen in a general election in recent history.

After a suicide attack - claimed by Pakistan-based militants - which killed more than 40 Indian paramilitaries in disputed Kashmir and the retaliatory air strike against Pakistan in the run-up to the election, Mr Modi successfully convinced the masses that the country would be secure if he remained in power.

People having no obvious interest in foreign policy - farmers, traders, labourers - told us during our campaign travels that India had won the respect of the outside world under Mr Modi.

"It is all right if there's little development, but Modi is keeping the nation secure and keeping India's head high," a voter in the eastern city of Kolkata told me.

3. Modi's win signals a major shift in politics

Mr Modi's persona has become larger than his cadre-based party, and a symbol of hope and aspiration for many.

Under Mr Modi and his powerful aide Amit Shah, the BJP has developed into a ruthless party machine. "The geographical expansion of the BJP is a very significant development," says Mahesh Rangarajan.

Traditionally, the BJP has found its strongest support in India's populous Hindi-speaking states in the north. (Of the 282 seats the party won in 2014, 193 came from these states.) The exceptions are Gujarat, Mr Modi's home state and a BJP bastion, and Maharashtra, where the BJP has governed in alliance with a local party.

But since Mr Modi became PM, the BJP has formed governments in key north-eastern states like Assam and Tripura, which are primarily Assamese and Bengali-speaking.

And in this election, the BJP - where it contested more seats than the Congress - has emerged as a force to reckon with in non-Hindi speaking states like Orissa and West Bengal in the east.

The party's modest presence in southern India still doesn't make it a truly pan-Indian party like the Congress of yore, but the BJP is moving towards it.

Twenty years ago when it was in power under Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP seemed content being the first among equals - the largest party in a group of parties which tried to run a stable government.

Under Mr Modi, the BJP commands an overwhelming majority in parliament as the first party, and there are no equals.

He and Amit Shah have adopted an aggressive take-no-prisoners style of politics. The party is not a seasonal machine that comes alive during elections. It appears to be in permanent political campaign mode.

Political scientist Suhas Palshikar believes India could be moving towards a one-party dominant state like the Congress in the past.

He calls it the "second dominant party system", with the BJP leading the pack, and the main opposition Congress remaining "weak and nominal" and the regional parties losing ground.

4. Nationalism and yearning for a strongman played a key role

Mr Modi's strident nationalism as a main campaign plank seems to have overruled the more pressing economic problems facing voters.

Some analysts believe that under Mr Modi, India could be inching towards a more "ethnic democracy", which requires the "mobilisation of the majority in order to preserve the ethnic nation".

This would look more like Israel which sociologist Sammy Smooha characterised as a state that "endeavours to combine an ethnic identity (Jewish) and a parliamentary system drawing its inspiration from Western Europe".

Will Hindu nationalism become the default mode of Indian politics and society?

It will not be easy - India thrives on diversity. Hinduism is a diverse faith. Social and linguistic differences hold India together. Democracy is an additional glue.

The BJP's strand of strident Hindu nationalism, conflating Hinduism and patriotism, may not appeal to all Indians. "There's no other place in the world where diversity is so spectral and a drive to homogenise so fraught," says Mr Rangarajan.

Also India's shift to the right is not unique to India - it's happening with the new right in the Republican Party in the US, and the central ground of French and German politics has shifted rightwards.

India's rightward shift is clearly part of a wider trend where the nature of nationalism is being redefined and cultural identity is being given renewed emphasis.

How valid are fears that India is sliding into a majoritarian state under Mr Modi?

He is not the first leader to be called a fascist and authoritarian by his critics; Mrs Gandhi was called both when she suspended civil liberties and imposed the Emergency in the mid-1970s. People voted her out after two years.

Mr Modi is a strongman, and people possibly love him for that.

A 2017 report by the CSDS showed that respondents who supported democracy in India had dropped from 70% to 63% between 2005 and 2017. A Pew report in 2017 found that 55% of respondents backed a "governing system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts".

But the yearning for a strongman is not unique to India. Look at Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungary's Viktor Orban, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.

5. India's Grand Old Party faces an existential crisis

The Congress has suffered a second successive drubbing but for now is likely to remain the second largest party nationally.

But it's way behind the BJP and is facing a major crisis: the shrinking of its geographical space.

In Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal, India's most populous region, the party is virtually non-existent. The party is invisible in southern states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In the industrially developed west of India, the party last won a state election in Gujarat in 1990, and hasn't been in power in Maharashtra since Mr Modi became PM.

Several questions are going to be asked after a second successive general election debacle. How can the party become more acceptable to more allies? How will the party be run? How does the party reduce its dependence on the Gandhi dynasty and open itself to younger leaders? (The Congress is still a party of second and third generation leaders in several states.) How does Congress build a grassroots network of workers to take on the BJP?

"The Congress will likely muddle along, as it has in the last several election cycles. It is not a party known for deep introspection. But there are enough two-party states in India where the Congress is at odds with the BJP to create a floor for the Congress," says Milan Vaishnav.

Political scientist Yogendra Yadav, who's also a politician these days, believes the Congress has outlived its utility and "must die". But parties are capable of reinvention and renewal. Only the future will tell whether the Congress can rebuild itself from the ruins.

6. A mixed future for India's regional parties

In the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends more MPs to parliament than any other, the BJP is looking at a repeat of its stunning 2014 performance when it won 71 of 80 seats. It is one of India's most socially divided and economically disadvantaged states.

This time, Mr Modi's party was expected to face stiff competition from a formidable alliance of powerful regional parties, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which was aptly named the "mahagatbandhan" or grand alliance.

Mr Modi's charisma and chemistry appear to have triumphed over the hard-nosed "social arithmetic" forged by these two regional parties who have always counted on the faithful votes of a section of lower caste Indians and untouchables (formerly known as Dalits). That faith is now broken, and it also proves that caste arithmetic is not immutable.

India's regional parties must now rethink their strategies and offer a more compelling economic and social vision. Otherwise, more and more of their own voters will abandon them.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48293048

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 14:03

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Joe Biden: Can Obama's vice-president stay the Democratic frontrunner?

It's been four weeks since Joe Biden announced he was running for president. Since then, in defiance of what was conventional wisdom, he's risen in the polls, posted impressive fund-raising numbers and seemingly shrugged off allegations of inappropriate physical contact with women.

The candidate many thought to be a paper tiger, temporarily buoyed by high name recognition and little else, has shown some teeth.

There are plenty of potential pitfalls ahead, however, and numerous ways to stumble before the finish line. As is frequently said, a presidential campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Does the 76-year-old veteran politician from Delaware have the legs to turn his early lead into his party's nomination - and, in 18 months, a presidential victory?

Why Biden is the frontrunner

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Joe Biden "officially" kicked off his presidential campaign in front of roughly 6,000 enthusiastic fans in Philadelphia.

While the attendance fell far short of the opening campaign rallies of Senators Kamala Harris of California (20,000) and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (13,000), it at least temporarily answered the question of whether real people exist who are, in fact, actually enthusiastic about Biden's candidacy.

"I think he's exactly what everybody is waiting for," says Jason Pudleiner, a Philadelphia public defender who stood in a long in for a Biden t-shirt after the Philadelphia rally. "It's the perfect combination of spreading hope, but also somebody who is not going to get bullied by Donald Trump. I love this man."

Testimonials aside, the on-the-paper case for Joe Biden as a durable front-runner is straightforward. He sits atop the latest RealClearPolitics aggregation of national Democratic preference polls with 38%, well ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 19%.

His lead narrows in early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but is formidable in South Carolina thanks to strong support from black voters.

According to an analysis by Geoffrey Skelley of the political forecasting site FiveThirtyEight.com, a well-known candidate like Biden who is polling nationally in the high 30s or better has won his party's nomination 75% of the time since 1972.

Then there's Biden's rapidly expanding campaign war chest.

While he had a later start than the other big names in the field, in his first 24 hours he brought in $6.3m (£4.9m), topping the grass-roots-driven marks of Sanders and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke. He netted $700,000 in one high-rolling fundraiser in Hollywood and is likely to match that mark during an upcoming trip to New York City.

Biden has shown a willingness to rub elbows with the party's well-heeled contributors and donation-bundlers, which may raise the ire of progressives in the party but will provide plenty of fuel for the machinery of his campaign.

Biden also has history on his side. Former or current vice-presidents seeking their party's nomination tend to win- including Al Gore in 2000, George HW Bush in 1988, Walter Mondale in 1984, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and Richard Nixon in 1960 and 1968.

Only two former vice-presidents were unsuccessful in their presidential nomination campaigns since 1960 - Humphrey in 1972 and Dan Quayle in 2000.

Occupants of the number-two spot have the benefit of already serving on at least one winning national general-election campaign.

They have the ability to build a national network of donors and supporters through the power of their office. And they're usually a known political quantity, which counts for a lot.

Why Biden might prevail

According to a Quinnipiac poll of voters, Biden is both well-known and well-liked - the strongest candidate in the field by that metric.

Forty-nine percent of Americans said they had a positive view of the former vice-president, while only 39% were negative on him. Both Sanders and Trump, who have similar levels of name recognition, were underwater.

South Carolina State Senator Dick Harpootlian, former chair of the state's Democratic Party and a long-time Biden supporter, says the key to the former vice-president's appeal is his personal attributes.

"He's probably the most genuine, honest and sincere person I've met in politics ever," he says. "A lot of folks you deal with are calculating, everything they say is more worried about re-election than getting the job done. I think Joe Biden is genuinely good."

Biden garnered considerable goodwill in 2015 following the death of his 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer.

Personal tragedies have marked Biden's adult life, as he also lost his first wife and daughter in an automobile accident in 1972, shortly before he was sworn in as one of Delaware's two US senators.

"I think the tragedies he's been through and how he gets through them demonstrates that he's a person of tremendous character, strength and faith," Harpootlian says.

Biden also benefits from his eight-year association with Barack Obama, the man who bested him in the 2008 Democratic primary contest, then selected him as his vice-presidential running mate.

It's probably one of the primary reasons Biden's support among black voters is so high, even with candidates like Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker running against him.

His two terms in the second spot, where he frequently appeared at the president's side or just over his shoulder, has allowed Biden to lay claim to much of Obama's legacy - including passage of the Affordable Care Act, the economic stimulus package and financial industry reform.

During his Philadelphia speech, Biden cited both the 2009 stimulus package and Obamacare as reflecting how he would govern - co-operating with Republicans on the former, while going it alone with Democrats in the latter."

"I know there are times when only a bare-knuckle fight will do," Biden said. "But it doesn't have to be that way on every issue."

'Beat Trump'

There was a moment about midway through Biden's Philadelphia kick-off rally that perhaps illustrated the greatest strength - and potential peril - of his nascent presidential bid.

The benediction had been delivered, the Pledge of Allegiance recited, and the National Anthem sung. A gospel choir had belted out Amazing Grace and the 1971 Marvin Gaye hit What's Going On. Aides were fiddling with the Tele-prompter stands on the podium, to ensure the candidate looked just right before the made-for-television backdrop of Philadelphia's skyline on a radiantly sunny afternoon.

After the crowd offered a few short-lived chants of "We Want Joe!", a woman took a different tack.

"Who don't we want?" she began shouting. "Trump!" Others joined in. The enthusiasm was obvious, but from a distance it sounded like they were just chanting the president's name.

Plenty of candidates for the Democratic nomination are running on who they are or what they can do. Elizabeth Warren has her stack of policy proposals. Sanders preaches political revolution. Pete Buttigieg and Booker tout their personal attributes and sunny disposition.

Biden has made the early days of his campaign about who he's not - Donald Trump. And what he can prevent - Trump's second four-year term in office.

More from Anthony on the candidates

"I think many of these other candidates have great ideas," Harpootlian says. "They have great aspirations and they're good on the stump - all the things you want in a candidate. But they don't have the experience, the gravitas or the toughness that Joe Biden brings to the fight with Donald Trump. He can go toe-to-toe with him in any debate, anytime, anywhere."

During his Saturday speech, Biden ticked through a laundry list of Democratic policy priorities on healthcare, education and the environment, but he concluded that "the single most important thing we have to do to accomplish these things is defeat Donald Trump."

"If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate change proposal for America is," he said. "Beat Trump."

It's a message that has resonated with the crowd in Philadelphia and a Democratic primary electorate that tells pollsters that selecting a nominee who can win is their top priority in 2020.

"Trump has got to go," says David Dignetti, a plumber from Philadelphia who came to the Biden rally with his wife Deirdre. "I just want government to work again. It's got to go back to the way it was."

"Make America great again, again," echoes Dierdre. "It was great under Obama."

Why Biden might falter

There is a danger, of course, in basing a candidacy on the appearance of electability. If something were to happen to strip that veneer of appeal - a lack of sharpness in the debates, a stretch where the candidate lacks the requisite energy or enthusiasm - there's not much left to fall back on.

Biden can get things done? There are candidates who have more detailed or ambitious plans. He's a nice guy? He's not the only one. And you know what they say about nice guys.

Back in March, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a rising star in the party's progressive wing, made an explicit argument against choosing a nominee based on perceived electability.

"I think that in this first initial stage, we have a responsibility to find and really fight for who we believe in," she said. "What people think will win is wrong. Almost always."

Opting for the "electable" candidate, she said, is how voters end up with candidates they don't really like. And while Biden's favourability ratings are currently high, Biden has areas that are ripe for attack.

Questions have already been raised, by Donald Trump and his surrogates, about son Hunter Biden's Ukrainian business interests and anything improper the elder Biden might have done to help advance them.

Then there are the inappropriate touching accusations - complete with uncomfortable video of public affection and testimonials from two women. Biden has responded to the criticism by saying he's an empathetic person, but that he understands expectations and standards have changed.

That defence could always crumble if new evidence or allegations surface.

Biden's age may also be a target. He would be 78 on inauguration day 2021 - by far the oldest president ever elected to a first term in office.

According to a Gallup poll earlier this month, only 63% of Americans said they would be willing to vote for someone over 70 for president. Of course, Trump himself is 72, so they may not have much of a choice.

"You get a lot of experience with age," says Leeann Held, a retired FBI agent who attended the weekend Biden rally. "I know a lot of great people who are that age."

A full 18 months on the campaign trail can wear even a younger candidate down, however.

And while Biden trotted on stage in Philadelphia sporting aviator sunglasses and a broad smile, if he falters down the stretch it could change the political equation.

With age comes other challenges, as well. Biden held public office for nearly 40 years - long enough for the file photos of his first campaign for Senate from Delaware in 1972 to be grainy black-and-white.

Early in his political career, he sided with southern segregationists in opposing court-ordered school busing to segregate public schools.

As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, he oversaw Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings and has been sharply criticised for his handling of Anita Hill's allegations that she was sexually harassed by the nominee.

Biden was a fierce advocate of a 1994 anti-crime bill that many on the left now say encouraged mandatory sentences and mass incarceration.

He voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has frequently pushed for legislation favourable to the large financial institutions based in Delaware, including a 2005 financial bill that greatly curtailed individual bankruptcy rights.

It's the kind of record that, taken as a whole, makes Biden an unlikely standard-bearer for the modern Democratic Party.

"The gap between his image and his record is really stunning," says Norman Solomon, a syndicated columnist and Bernie Sanders supporter. "I think he thrives on lack of knowledge of what he's been doing for four decades."

During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Solomon helped stage organised demonstrations by Sanders delegates who were suspicious of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment. He says this time around, they may be even more wary of Biden, who he says is the "default zombie candidate of the old Democratic Party.

"Biden is already very unpopular with progressives," he says. "The gap between the mass media coverage and the online progressive media coverage of Biden is huge. In one, he's almost saint-like. In the other he's damn near satanic."

The question, then, becomes what Biden's opponents will do to bring the front-runner back to the pack. Elizabeth Warren has gone after the former vice-president for his support of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, citing her anger at it as the reason she first got into politics.

"Joe Biden was on the side of the credit-card companies," she said to a reporter last month.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, announcing another piece of his plan to combat climate, last week, said Biden must "up his game" on the environment.

"He's going to have to say that we have to remove our reliance on fossil fuels in the electrical grid," Inslee said. "I have not seen to date any suggestion that he can do that."

According to Solomon, however, it will be Sanders who comes at Biden the hardest. Already, the Vermont senator has questioned his opponent's past support of trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"If you look at Joe's record, and you look at my record, I don't think there's much question about who's more progressive," Sanders said in a television interview earlier this month.

The rest of the field, Solomon says, may play nice with Biden in hopes of being his running mate or serving in his cabinet.

"As in so many other aspects," he says, "it will fall to Bernie to be the truth-teller."

In other words, get ready for a fight.

Hillary Clinton or Warren G Harding?

The thing about Mr Biden's campaign message is it sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton's pitch to Americans in 2016. Like her, he says he has the experience to get things done. Like her, he's arguing that Mr Trump is temperamentally unsuited for the presidency. Like her, he's making the pitch that calls for togetherness can overcome the politics of division.

In 2016, Ms Clinton's slogans included "Stronger Together" and "Love Trumps Hate". Mr Biden gave his Philadelphia speech in front of video screens emblazoned with the word "unity" and spoke about America being at its best when it's been "one America".

"The nation needs to come together," he said. "And it has to come together."

Mr Biden has drawn fire from critics for saying that the Trump presidency is an aberration, and he returned to that theme on Saturday.

"This is not who we are," he said. "We are better than this.

What the country needs now, he said, is a step back from the divisiveness of the Trump years. (That he is associated with the Obama administration, much of which was characterised by political acrimony and political gridlock, seems glossed over).

In 1920, in the aftermath of World War I, Warren G Harding campaigned on the slogan of "a return to normalcy". Contemporaries mocked the term as ungrammatical, but the appeal of the message was its simplicity.

In one of his most famous lines, he said that America needed healing, not heroics; restoration, not revolution; adjustment, not agitation.

If Democrats in 2020 want revolution or agitation, the former vice-president won't be their guy. He's betting, however, that "normalcy" is what the nation wants - and he can deliver.

"No one likes fighting with their own family, and I find myself fighting with my family and my friends," says Brandi Bogard, a pharmaceuticals company employee who volunteered for Biden at his rally. "I sit in front of the television and cry. I never used to be very political, but I can't help it."

Bogard described Biden as the "loving grandfather" the nation needs.

After four years of the Trump presidency, Mr Biden is betting his presidential hopes that Americans aren't so much angry as they're exhausted - or, at least, ready for a change.

Who will take on Trump in 2020?

Joe Biden could be the man to keep Donald Trump from being re-elected. But who else has a shot at becoming the next president?

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48219941

 

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 10:12

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Manus Island: Refugee 'suicide attempts' in wake of Australia election

Several asylum seekers sent overseas by Australia have attempted suicide in recent days amid rising desperation since the nation's election, advocates say.

Since 2013, Australia has sent asylum seekers arriving by boat to Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The policy has bipartisan support, but many asylum seekers had hoped that a change in government would help them.

The government's re-election has led to heightened despair, refugees say.

"The situation in Manus is out of control, today two more people attempted suicide," tweeted Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-Kurd refugee and journalist on Manus Island.

Another refugee, Abdul Aziz Adam, wrote: "We are calling for the [government] to do something for refugees & asylum seekers on Manus/ Nauru."

The Labor opposition had promised to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees from the islands if they won government last Saturday.

Currently, refugees in PNG and Nauru can either choose to resettle in those nations, apply for a limited number of places in the US, or return to their home country.

What is known about the self-harm cases?

There are differing reports about the number of cases. Manus Island police commander David Yapu told news agency AFP that he was aware of four suicide attempts over the weekend.

Mr Boochani and other refugee groups told the BBC that at least 12 people had attempted self-harm in PNG since Saturday.

Ian Rintoul, from the group Refugee Action Coalition, said at least five people had been taken to hospital.

The Australian government did not directly address the reports, but said in a statement that "it takes seriously its role in supporting the governments of PNG and Nauru to ensure individuals in PNG and Nauru are provided with a range of health, welfare and support services arrangements".

'Pinned hopes on Labor'

The election victory for Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government defied months of opinion polling which had pointed to a probable Labor win.

"Rightly or wrongly, many of the refugees had really pinned their hopes on a Labor victory meaning a change to their situation," Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC.

She said the result had exacerbated feelings of hopelessness on the islands, where more than 80% of asylum seekers are reported to suffer from mental health problems.

At least 12 asylum seekers and refugees have died on the islands since 2013.

The UN has criticised Australia's detention policies as "inhumane", but the nation insists they prevent human trafficking and save lives at sea.

Last year, reports of a mental health crisis among children on Nauru prompted the government to evacuate families to Australia.

In February, Labor and crossbench MPs secured enough votes to pass a law which makes it easier for sick refugees to get treatment in Australia.

Mr Morrison argues the law encourages human trafficking. His government may attempt to repeal it when parliament resumes, according to local media.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-48375120#

 

ruby Posted on May 23, 2019 09:59

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China's latest weapon in the trade war: Karaoke

A Chinese propaganda song about the ongoing Sino-US trade war is getting a lot of interest - and raising a few eyebrows - on Chinese social media.

Trade War, written by a former Chinese official, appeared on popular mobile messenger WeChat on Friday and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. It has also inspired an accompanying music video.

The song features strongly worded criticism of the US and a vow to "beat it out of its wits".

China is no stranger to propaganda songs. Karaoke is popular in China and Beijing knows that songs are an effective way of conveying official thinking to young people.

And with tensions escalating between China and the US, after the latter raised tariffs on some $200bn (£153.7bn) worth of Chinese products, the song has been an effective way for China to build its soft power and stir anti-US sentiment.

The song

Last week, retired Chinese official and lyricist Zhao Liangtian posted the musical score for the Trade War song in a WeChat group called "The World's China Writers."

It attracted significant attention on the WhatsApp-like platform, and a subsequent post showing the song as a music video went viral. The three-minute video shows an animated fist set against flames, while scenic photographs of Beijing flash across the screen.

It is set to the tune of a well-known wartime anti-Japanese propaganda film, Tunnel Warfare, and sounds like an army chant.

"I chose Tunnel Warfare because that is reminiscent of the similar situation that China is facing today," Mr Zhao told Bloomberg News. "Since the trade war broke out, I felt the urge to do something," he said.

He adapted the lyrics for the recent deterioration in trade relations with the US:

"Trade war, trade war, not afraid of the outrageous challenge.

"A trade war is happening over the Pacific Ocean, the Belt and Road has even become a segment.

"If the perpetrator wants to fight, we will beat him out of his wits."

'US imperialists'

More than 100,000 WeChat users have watched the video, and it has generated a great deal of discussion on Sina Weibo - China's version of Twitter.

"His words have filled people with passion," commented one WeChat user whose post received more than 100 likes.

Many on the platform praised "Teacher Zhao". One user got 1,000 likes for calling him a "heroic patriotic warrior."

Others praised the song as a way of "hitting" the US. "Those US imperialists and their wolfish ambitions," posted one user.

But some Weibo users voiced bemusement that China was promoting a song about a trade war. "This thinking makes us no better than North Korea," wrote one.

A history of musical propaganda

Trade War is not the first song that the state has released to promote China's strength amid disputes with other nations, and China has had a track record of producing songs with an anti-US line.

In May last year, official media promoted a song called For Your Attention", featuring a five-member boyband singing about domestic brands and how they are "the pride of China".

The song promoted the idea that China was a rising superpower, and that people no longer needed to buy products from overseas.

And in May 2017, official media widely promoted a multilingual rap by Sichuanese group CD Rev called No to the THAAD - criticising South Korea for working with the US to deploy a now-abolished anti-missile system.

The state has shown it's not afraid to dabble in different genres, and rap in particular has proven popular. During the National Congress in October 2017, the most important political event in the Chinese calendar, China released at least four rap songs.

One, The Letter, signified the changes that China had seen under President Xi Jinping's leadership. The song helped promote Mr Xi's legacy to young Chinese people and solidify his premiership, which he will now hold for another five years, at least.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48359002

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 11:13

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How computing's first 'killer app' changed everything

In 1978, a Harvard Business School student named Dan Bricklin was sitting in a classroom, watching his accounting lecturer filling in rows and columns on the blackboard.

Every time the lecturer changed a figure, he had to work down and across the grid on the board, erasing and rewriting other numbers to make everything add up, just as accounting clerks all over the world did every day in the pages of their ledgers.

It's boring and repetitive work. A two-page spread across the open fold of the ledger is called a "spreadsheet".

The output of several paper spreadsheets provides the input for larger, master spreadsheets.

Changing any of the data in that chain might mean hours of work with a pencil, rubber, and a calculator.

Like many business school students, Mr Bricklin had had a real job before going to Harvard - he'd worked as a programmer at Wang and DEC, two big players in 1970s computing.

Why on Earth would anyone do this on a blackboard or paper ledger, he wondered, when you could do it on a computer instead?

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy highlights the inventions, ideas and innovations that helped create the economic world.

It is broadcast on the BBC World Service. You can listen to all the episodes online or subscribe to the programme podcast.

So he wrote a program for the new Apple II personal computer: an electronic spreadsheet.

His friend Bob Frankston helped him sharpen up the software - and, on 17 October 1979, VisiCalc went on sale.

Almost overnight, it was a sensation

Other financial and accounting programs had long existed but VisiCalc was the first with the modern spreadsheet interface.

It is widely thought to be the first "killer app", a software program so essential that you'd buy a computer just to be able to use it.

As Mr Bricklin notes on his website, Steve Jobs later acknowledged that VisiCalc had "propelled the Apple II to the success it achieved".

Within a few years, many accountants and business owners divided their professional experience into two periods: before and after the advent of the electronic spreadsheet.

Image copyright Dan Bricklin

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before VisiCalc had a new and powerful rival: Lotus 1-2-3.

By 1988, the New York Times reported that Lotus had dominated the spreadsheet market for five years, after toppling VisiCalc "whose dominant share of the personal computer market seemed invincible".

How the mighty were humbled.

The New York Times also described several other upstart challengers, including a program called Microsoft Excel.

But the real lesson of the spreadsheet is not about how monopolies rise and fall but about how technology changes things.

It's a cliche that the robots are coming for our jobs.

But the story is never as simple as that, as the digital spreadsheet proves.

If the concept of a robot accountant means anything, surely it means VisiCalc or Excel. These programs put hundreds of thousands of accounting clerks out of work.

Of course VisiCalc was revolutionary. Of course it was more efficient than a human.

According to the Planet Money podcast, in the US alone, there are 400,000 fewer accounting clerks today than in 1980, the first full year that VisiCalc went on sale.

But Planet Money also found that there were 600,000 more jobs for regular accountants. After all, crunching numbers had become cheaper, more versatile, and more powerful, so demand went up.

The point is not really whether 600,000 is more than 400,000: sometimes automation creates jobs and sometimes it destroys them.

The point is that automation reshapes the workplace in much subtler ways than "a robot took my job".

In the age of the spreadsheet, the repetitive, routine parts of accountancy disappeared. What remained - and indeed flourished - required more judgement, more human skills.

The spreadsheet created whole new industries.

There are countless jobs in high finance that depend on exploring different numerical scenarios - tweaking the numbers and watching the columns recalculate themselves.

These jobs barely existed before the electronic spreadsheet.

I've written before about the Jennifer Unit, an earpiece that directs warehouse pickers to collect products by breaking down instructions into the most mindless, idiot-proof steps.

The Jennifer Unit strips a menial task of its last faintly interesting element. The spreadsheet operates in reverse: it strips an intellectually demanding job of the most boring bits.

Viewed together, the two technologies show that technology doesn't usually take jobs wholesale - it chisels away the easily automated chunks, leaving humans to adapt to the rest.

That can make the human job more interesting, or more soul-destroying - it all depends.

In accountancy, it made the human jobs more creative.

The histories of accountancy that I've read don't bother to mention VisiCalc or Excel. Perhaps it seems beneath their dignity.

What the spreadsheet did to accounting and finance is a harbinger of what is coming to other white-collar jobs.

Algorithms can churn out routine stories about corporate earnings reports more quickly and cheaply than human journalists.

Some teachers use online tutorials to quiz pupils to identify where they are getting stuck before helping them progress.

A doctor can sometimes be replaced by a diagnostic app.

Robotic surgery is increasingly common and can allow greater precision, flexibility and control than conventional techniques.

Law firms use "document assembly systems" that quiz clients and then draft customised legal contracts.

It is hard to conclude this trend won't continue across other sectors.

But we shouldn't ignore the other cautionary tale the spreadsheet has to offer.

We may think we have delegated a routine job to an infallible computer - but in fact we've simply acquired a lever with which to magnify human error to a dramatic scale.

Consider the time when unsuccessful applicants for a senior police job were told they'd been offered the job: that's what happens when you sort one column without sorting the adjacent one.

Or the time two noted economists, Carmen Reinhart and the former IMF chief economist Ken Rogoff, were mightily embarrassed when a graduate student spotted a spreadsheet error in an influential economics paper.

Reinhart and Rogoff accidentally omitted several countries because they forgot to drag down the formula selection box by five more cells.

As Lisa Pollack noted in the FT, the investment bank JP Morgan lost $6bn (£4.6bn), in part because a risk indicator in a spreadsheet was being divided not by an average of two numbers but by their sum - making the risks look half as big as they should have done.

If we ask computers to do the wrong thing, they'll do it with the same breathtaking speed and efficiency that inspired Dan Bricklin to create VisiCalc.

That is a lesson we seem doomed to keep learning far beyond the borders of accountancy.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47802280

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 11:04

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Being black in Nazi Germany

Film director Amma Asante came across an old photograph taken in Nazi Germany of a black schoolgirl by chance.

Standing among her white classmates, who stare straight into the camera, she enigmatically glances to the side.

Curiosity about the photograph - who the girl was and what she was doing in Germany - set the award-winning film-maker off on a path that led to Where Hands Touch, a new movie starring Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay.

It is an imagined account of a mixed-race teenager's clandestine relationship with a Hitler Youth member, but it is based on historical record.

In the Nazi era, from 1933 to 1945, African-Germans numbered in their thousands.

There was no uniform experience, but over time, they were banned from having relationships with white people, excluded from education and types of employment, and some were sterilised, while others were taken to concentration camps.

'Disbelief and dismissiveness'

But their story has largely been untold - and it has taken Ms Asante 12 years to get her account of the period on to the big screen.

"Often there's a form of disbelief, of questioning, sometimes even a dismissiveness of the difficult lives these people led," she told the BBC about the reaction she received from some when she spoke about her research for the film.

The African-German community has its origins in the country's short-lived empire. Sailors, servants, students and entertainers from present-day Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Namibia came to Germany.

Once World War One broke out in 1914 this transient population became more settled, according to historian Robbie Aitken. And some African soldiers who fought for Germany in the war also settled there.

But there was a second group whose presence went on to feed into the Nazis' fear of racial mixing.

As part of the treaty that was signed after Germany's defeat in World War One, French troops occupied the Rhineland area of western Germany.

France used at least 20,000 soldiers from its African empire, mainly North and West Africa, to police the area, some of whom went on to have relationships with German women.

Racist caricatures

The derogatory term "Rhineland bastards" was coined in the 1920s to refer to the 600-800 mixed-race children who were the result of those relationships.

The term spoke to some people's imagined fears of an impure race. Made-up stories and racist caricatures of sexually predatory African soldiers were circulated at the time, fuelling concern.

While anti-Semitism occupied a pre-eminent place at the heart of Nazi ideology, a line in Mein Kampf, the book published in 1925 outlining the political beliefs of party leader Adolf Hitler, linked Jewish and black people.

"It was and is the Jews who bring the Negroes into the Rhineland," Hitler wrote, "always with the same secret thought and clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily resulting bastardisation."

Once in power, the Nazis' obsession with Jews and racial purity gradually led to the Holocaust, the industrialised slaughter of six million Jewish people during World War Two, as well as the mass murder of Roma, people with disabilities and some Slavic people.

Mr Aitken, who researches the lives of black Germans, says they were targeted too - albeit not in the same systematic way.

He describes them as being assimilated into the Nazis' "spiralling radicalisation of racial policy".

He says evidence shows their policies toward "other 'racial aliens' hint toward a goal of racial annihilationism".

'I felt only half-human'

In 1935, the Nuremberg laws, which among other things outlawed marriages between Jews and other Germans, were passed. These were then amended to include black people and Roma in the same category as Jews.

But a fear of racial mixing persisted and in 1937 the mixed-race children from the Rhineland were targeted for forced sterilisation.

Hans Hauck was one of at least 385 people who underwent the operation. Mr Hauck, the son of an Algerian soldier and a white German, appeared in the 1997 documentary Hitler's Forgotten Victims.

He spoke about how he was taken in secret to have a vasectomy. He was then given a sterilisation certificate, to allow him to carry on working, and he had to sign an agreement saying he would not marry or have sex with people "with German blood".

"It was depressing and oppressive," he told the documentary makers, "I felt only half-human".

Another victim, Thomas Holzhauser, said on the film: "Sometimes I'm glad I couldn't have children. At least they were spared the shame I lived with."

Very few others spoke about their experiences while they were alive, and "there have not been many attempts to uncover what eventually happened to the majority of them", Mr Aitken, who is one of the few historians working on the subject, told the BBC.

"It is worthwhile remembering that the Nazis also wilfully destroyed many of the documents pertaining to camps and to sterilisation, making it difficult to reconstruct the fates of groups and individuals," he said.

Ms Asante, who has also written and directed Belle and A United Kingdom, says many of these people suffered an identity crisis. They had a German parent and saw themselves as German, but they were also isolated and never fully embraced.

"The children were inhabiting two places at the same time. They were both insiders and outsiders," the 49-year-old said.

Though their experiences differed, all black Germans were subjected to persecution under Nazi rule.

Germany's colonial era, especially the attempted genocide of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia, already led to a negative view of Africans.

After Hitler came to power, they were harassed, humiliated in public, excluded from types of work and education, and essentially rendered stateless.

There was some resistance. For example, Hilarius Gilges, who was mixed race, was a Communist and anti-Nazi agitator. He was kidnapped and murdered in 1933.

Once war broke out in 1939, their position became more precarious. People in mixed relationships could be targeted for sterilisation, imprisonment or murder.

Trying to be invisible

That was the fear of Theodor Wonja Michael, who was born in Berlin in 1925 - the son of a Cameroonian man and a German woman

Growing up he appeared in so-called "human zoos", or ethnographical exhibitions, he told German broadcaster DW in 2017.

"With vast skirts, drums, dancing and songs - the idea was that people on display were foreign, exotic and were showing spectators what their homeland was like," he said. "Basically it was just a big show."

Once the Nazis came to power he knew that he had to stay as invisible as possible, especially when he became a teenager.

"Of course, with a face like this I could never completely disappear, but I tried.

"I avoided all contact with white women. That would have been horrible. I would have been sterilised and I might also have been charged with racial defilement," he said on the DW film Afro-Germany.

In 1942, Heinrich Himmler, who was one of the architects of the Holocaust, ordered a census of the black people living in Germany. This could indicate the beginnings of a plan of mass murder, though no such plan was ever put in place.

Instead, there is evidence of at least two dozen black Germans ending up in concentration camps in Germany.

"People would simply disappear and you wouldn't know what happened to them," Elizabeth Morton, whose parents ran an African entertainment troupe, said in the documentary Hitler's Forgotten Victims.

Through Where Hands Touch, Ms Asante is trying to shed new light on these stories.

As a British-Ghanaian she feels that the role and presence of people from the African diaspora in European history is often missed out - and says her film will make it difficult to deny that black people suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

"I think there's a lot of ignorance and currently there's a lot of dismissing of what these people went through."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48273570

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 10:57

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The 'personality politics' of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump

In this year's Indian election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi clocked up more than 140 rallies while chasing a second term. Sound familiar? During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Donald Trump appeared at almost as many. The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan looks at how the cult of personality politics is similar to both men.

On a hot and dusty evening in India's capital Delhi, crowds are gathering at an outdoor ground called the Ramlila Maidan.

Larger than life cardboard cut-outs of PM Narendra Modi line the route, along a busy arterial road.

Outside the ground a brass band - the sort usually seen at Indian weddings - blasts out versions of Bollywood songs, as hordes of supporters of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) line up to enter.

Some people clap and dance, others chant "Modi, Modi".

The merchandise sellers spring up on you from nowhere. "Would you like a BJP umbrella?" a man asks me, as he unfurls one to reveal its green and orange party colours.

This sort of political hysteria reminds me of the energy and passion I witnessed in 2016 at rallies for Donald Trump.

Mr Trump's campaign was built on the promise of "Making America Great Again"; for BJP supporters here it's all about "NaMo Again" - NaMo being the moniker given to Mr Modi.

Arun Bansal, 27, is wearing a "NaMo Again" T-shirt.

"National security and Pakistan are the big issues this election," the BJP worker tells me.

If the 2016 race in the US was characterised by Mr Trump's tough talk towards southern neighbour Mexico, then 2019 has in many ways been defined by Mr Modi's desire to show he is the strongman when it comes to relations with northern neighbour Pakistan.

Just before we go inside the rally ground, I encounter the first of many Narendra Modi lookalikes. Atri, or "little Modi" as his parents call him, is only seven years old and he's been attending rallies since he was four.

For a moment I have a flashback to an equally hot and humid evening in Florida where I'd met multiple Trump lookalikes - complete with bright yellow wigs, fake tans and red ties.

Here it's all about the white beard and glasses.

"I like Mr Modi because he does good, he helps the poor and everyone else," says Atri, who has ambitions of becoming prime minister himself one day.

Patriotic music is pumping as we enter the rally grounds, seats starting to fill up. Both leaders have a knack of making their base feel an unwavering sense of belonging.

The next level is clothing.

At both rallies, the basic uniform starts with headgear. In America, it is the trademark red MAGA hats. Here, it is an orange hat with the words "NaMo Again" stamped on it.

Harminder Singh Bhatia has arrived wearing a Narendra Modi waistcoat, its polyester finish shimmering in the evening light.

"I've been to every one of his rallies in this area, since he became prime minister," he tells me excitedly.

"He's hardworking, he cares about the country. I like him because he's a strong leader."

As the ground fills up, and the sun begins to set, I'm struck by how many women are in the crowd, like Mridula Aneja, a Sanskrit teacher from Delhi who is at her third Modi rally.

The warm-up acts take to the stage - candidates and party members whip up the crowd ahead of the headliner. Just like super fans at a rock concert, political groupies like to outdo each other with their devotion.

All the while I'm getting Twitter notifications from Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi, like Mr Trump, uses social media to directly talk to his base, and so as the BJP leader makes his journey to the rally, my phone is pinging with alerts.

"Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media." Mr Trump said when the pair met at the White House in 2017. President Trump has 60.4 million followers - PM Modi isn't too far behind with 47.3 million.

As I glance up from my phone, another Modi lookalike walks past and I do a double take.

Ranveer Dhiyam is a retired government official who now travels from rally to rally. "Five hundred people have asked me for a selfie this election," he tells me proudly.

I decide to make it 501.

This is the closest I've come to the man himself, if you can even count it.

Just like Mr Trump, Mr Modi is notoriously choosy about who he grants interviews to, opting for his preferred outlets, who are more sympathetic and less challenging to the BJP. The same can be said of President Trump, whose outlet of choice is Fox News.

As the crowd falls briefly silent, we are told (the real) Mr Modi is on his way.

Minutes later, the prime minister is introduced on stage as the emcee calls on everyone to make a noise so loud it's "an airstrike of claps"- a reference to the airstrikes India says it carried out inside Pakistani territory earlier this year.

They do much more than that - whooping, screeching, whipping out mobile phones as they chant "Modi, Modi" in unison.

"Bharat mata ki jai (victory for mother India)", Mr Modi says, as he kicks off his speech.

Once again I'm having a 2016 flashback to choruses of "USA, USA".

In the pantomime style I've witnessed at Trump rallies, Mr Modi, too, encourages audience interaction.

"Should we not kill terrorists in their homes?" he asks. "Tell me, should we not?"

"No, we should," the crowd replies.

Mr Modi also devotes time to criticise his main opponent, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi.

Both him and Mr Trump present themselves as outsiders with contempt for those they see as the imperious ruling classes. Both ran against members of political dynasties - Hillary Clinton, whose husband is a former president, and Mr Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Mr Modi derides "the Khan Market gang" - a reference to one of Delhi's most exclusive areas, inhabited by the country's most privileged.

Mr Trump, who'd never held public office before, brands Washington's elite members of the so-called "swamp".

"They want votes in the name of their ancestors but when I question the work their ancestors have done, and what they've done to our country, they get irritated," Mr Modi says as hundreds roar in approval.

He did not hold back in his attacks on the opposition and many felt he had sunk to a new low when he criticised his opponent's dead father.

He described Rajiv Gandhi, a former prime minister who was assassinated in 1991, as "corrupt number one".

It reminded me of similar insults Donald Trump directed at Senator John McCain, who lost his battle with cancer last year.

Both Donald Trump and Narendra Modi pride themselves on being direct, but their speeches have sometimes descended into the distasteful.

But for both sets of supporters, there's a broad acceptance that it doesn't matter if the lines of political civility are crossed - as long as the job is done.

The cult of personality politics is what ties the two leaders. Their respective bases believe that personalities like Mr Trump and Mr Modi are ready to stand up for voices that are usually ignored by the ruling classes.

"I really like him - there's such an attraction," Santosh, a mechanic from Delhi tells me, as he clutches his 18-month-old baby who is also dressed as the prime minister.

"I'm ready to skip a meal but I'm not ready for anyone to disrespect our country - that's why I like Modi."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48332141

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 10:37

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I never met my daughter's dad - she was his dying wish

Liat Malka longed to have children but hadn't yet met the right person with whom to start a family. Then she became involved in an unusual plan - to help fulfil a stranger's dying wish of fathering a child.

In 2013, Liat Malka was a single, 35-year-old kindergarten teacher living in southern Israel, when she felt the urgency of her biological clock ticking.

"I was worrying about time passing and maybe missing out on motherhood," Liat says. "So I went to the doctor and did some fertility tests."

When the results came back, they suggested that the number of eggs Liat had left was low. The doctor warned that if she waited for the right person to come along she might not ever become a mother.

"So right away I decided that I would do anything I could to have a baby as soon as possible," Liat says.

When Liat arrived home, she immediately went online to explore her options.

"I really wanted my child to know their father and that's not possible with a sperm donor," she says. "And just having somebody to have a child with is also very complicated."

Liat Malka and Julia Pozniansky spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service

Listen again her.

But then Liat stumbled across an interview on YouTube that had been broadcast on TV news in 2009. In it, a couple called Vlad and Julia Pozniansky explained that they were trying to obtain legal permission to have a child using sperm left by their son, who had died the previous year. They had already found a woman to be the mother of their son's child.

Liat wondered if a similar arrangement might also be a good option for her: "Because this way the child can know who their father was, know their history and have grandparents and family," she says.

She decided to contact the couple's lawyer to ask for more details - and was surprised to learn that although four years had passed since the interview had been recorded, Vlad and Julia still didn't have a grandchild and the woman selected to be the mother was no longer on board.

Liat arranged to meet the Poznianskys and on the day of the meeting the couple brought with them an album filled with photographs of their beloved son, Baruch.

Eventually Vlad and Julia found an Israeli woman of Russian origin who they thought could be a mother to their grandchild. They went to court to obtain permission to use Baruch's sperm and won their case, but within a week or two the woman had met a new partner and withdrawn from their agreement.

"Another young woman came to us, a very nice one," Julia says. The woman's name was added to the court verdict, instead of the first woman, and she began the IVF process. But after seven rounds the woman had failed to conceive, leaving the finite supply of Baruch's sperm depleted.

Somehow, in spite of the devastation Julia felt after losing her son and the failures and disappointments on her journey to try to have Baruch's child, she found the determination to keep going.

"I was ready not to live any more," she says. "But I decided that if I was going to live I had to return some happiness to my life, and some love.

"I wanted my son to continue living - somewhere deep in my heart I wanted to return him physically - I thought maybe a boy would be born who would look like Baruch."

Uncertain how long it might take or if she'd ever be able to fulfil Baruch's dying wish, Julia was longing for a baby in her life. At the age of 55, she and Vlad started trying for a child of their own using IVF and a donor egg.

When their son was born, Julia says it felt like breathing fresh air again.

Julia clearly remembers the day that she and her husband first met Liat in early 2013.

"She was a beautiful young woman. Black hair, red coat, and I loved her from the very beginning," Julia says. "I saw that she was a good person."

She showed Liat the album of photos of Baruch that she'd brought with her and Liat says she felt an immediate connection to him.

"Just looking at the pictures I already knew who this person was - such good eyes, the biggest smile you can ever imagine, surrounded with friends and very handsome," she says.

"And it looked like he was really connected to his parents, because in every picture they are holding hands and hugging. I could see the love and the happiness in his eyes - there was no doubt he was a great person."

As Julia showed Liat the photos, she talked about how much Baruch had loved life, how smart he was, and how sociable, how he'd loved cooking and what great friends he'd had.

In that moment Liat decided that she wanted Baruch, a man she had never met and who had died five years previously, to be the father of her child.

Liat, Vlad and Julia signed contracts which gave Liat ownership of the sperm so that nobody else could use it subsequently, and the contract also formalised arrangements for Vlad and Julia to visit.

"To protect our rights to see the child," Julia explains. "We were doing it not only to fulfil Baruch's will, but also to have a dear, beloved grandchild."

No money changed hands - something that was very important to Vlad and Julia, in order to prevent attracting the wrong type of person.

Julia and Liat then had to meet a social worker who questioned them about what conflicts they anticipated in their relationship and even about what would happen if they quarrelled over what the child would be named. Julia felt as though the whole judicial system was playing God, deciding if a human being would live or not, and she told the social worker as much.

"And this nice woman felt really uncomfortable with my answer," she says.

Liat then began fertility treatment, but her first round of IVF was unsuccessful.

"There was just one egg," Liat says. "That was a shock - I expected more - and then it didn't develop to be an embryo."

Liat tried to remain hopeful, but despite being given an increased dose of the medication which encourages the ovaries to produce more eggs, on the second attempt again there was only one egg.

"They fertilised it and I had to wait for a day and then call to find out if it was developing into an embryo," Liat says.

This time there was good news.

"I thought, 'Wow, maybe this is it?'"

The fertilised egg was transferred into Liat's womb. For a week she rested, waited and hoped, then took a pregnancy test and called the hospital for the results.

"They were yelling like, 'Yeah, you're pregnant!'" Liat says.

Liat shared the exciting news first with her sister and then with Julia. Then, over the following few days, the seriousness of her situation began to sink in.

"I was in shock - I didn't think it was going to happen," Liat admits. "So when it did I just couldn't believe it. I didn't even know Vlad and Julia that much - I'd only met them two or maybe three times."

Liat was worried about how her own family would get along with Baruch's family - her parents had come to Israel from Morocco, while Vlad and Julia come from Russia, and, she says, the two families are culturally very different.

To compound her doubts, Liat had also not yet told her own mother about meeting Vlad and Julia and the plan to become a mother to their dead son's child.

"I didn't want the burden of everyone's opinions, especially my mum's, so I had kept it a secret," she says. "But when I called her to say I was pregnant she was happy - at least I was having a child!"

Liat's pregnancy progressed but her doubts didn't diminish. She was very stressed and couldn't cope with trying to forge a relationship with Vlad and Julia while trying to grow a baby. At night she would dream about how her child might look.

Julia, too, was worried. She wanted to be closer to Liat, but had to respect Liat's wishes and keep her distance.

"I spoke to one of my relatives, a very wise woman, and she said, 'Let her have her child and afterwards everything will be OK,'" Julia says.

When Liat went into labour she didn't feel comfortable about calling Julia to share the news, and told her own mother not to come to the hospital that evening since a doctor had advised her it was unlikely the baby would arrive before morning.

"But at midnight she had a feeling, took a taxi and arrived at the hospital at the last minute," Liat says. "I was very happy that she came. She was in so much shock that she couldn't even speak. My two sisters were with me too, and I have a sister in the US who was on Skype and we put her on the shelf. It was a really amazing experience."

Shira was born on 1 December 2015, more than seven years after her father had died.

"She was exactly like she was in the dream," Liat says. "She was so beautiful, I really couldn't believe it."

Liat called Vlad and Julia to tell them the news.

"I felt that my heart started to beat again for the first time after my terrible loss," Julia says.

The photos of Baruch that Julia brought when she first met Liat are now kept at Liat and Shira's apartment in Ashkelon, and they often look at them together, talking about the man in the photos who is smiling back at them. Liat points out Baruch's blue eyes, just like Shira's.

"One day she told me, 'Maybe soon he will knock at the door and come to see us,'" Liat says. "So I said, 'No, he won't come.'"

Shira is now aged three. Her mother says she does sometimes worry about Shira not having a father.

"But today you have so many kinds of families," Liat says, "This is just another one. Shira knows that she does not have a father, but she's very loved and she's very happy."

And having fulfilled her dying son's last wish, Julia has no doubts about what she has done, and feels certain that Baruch would love his daughter too.

"She's beautiful, she's smart, she's happy, she's everything you could want from a child," Julia says. "She's perfect, she's really perfect."

When Jessica Share bought sperm from a sperm bank in order to start a family, she never imagined that more than a decade later she would meet the donor - and would feel a strong attraction to him.

I met my boyfriend 12 years after giving birth to his child

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-48281662

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 10:28

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US-China trade war: Shoe giants urge Trump to end tariffs

Some of the world's biggest footwear firms are urging Donald Trump to end the US trade war with China, warning of a "catastrophic" effect on consumers.

A letter signed by 173 companies, includinImage copyright Getty Images g Nike and Adidas, says the president's decision to raise import tariffs to 25% will disproportionately affect the working class.

They also warn that higher levies threaten the future of some businesses.

Mr Trump maintains that trade deficit will China hurts the US economy.

The US president increased levies on $200bn (£157.3bn) worth of Chinese imports into the US from 10% to 25% more than a week ago after Washington and Beijing failed to reach a deal on trade.

China retaliated by announcing plans to raise levies on $60bn of US imports from 1 June.

The footwear companies that signed the letter, including Clarks, Dr Martens and Converse, say that while the average US tariff on footwear is 11.3%, in some cases it can reach as high as 67.5%.

"Adding a 25% tax increase on top of these tariffs would mean some working American families could pay a nearly 100% duty on their shoes," the companies wrote.

"This is unfathomable."

"It is time to bring this trade war to an end," the firms urged.

When he raised tariffs earlier this month, Mr Trump told companies that they could reduce costs by shifting production to the US.

However, the shoemakers and retailers say that while they have been moving their sourcing away from China: "Footwear is a very capital-intensive industry, with years of planning required to make sourcing decisions, and companies cannot simply move factories to adjust to these changes."

Retaliation fears

On Tuesday, a top business lobby in China released a survey of its members that found just over 40% had relocated, or were considering moving production facilities, outside of China because of tariffs.

The survey by the American Chambers of Commerce in China and Shanghai found one-third of respondents had delayed or cancelled investment decisions to cope with tariffs.

A recent escalation in the trade conflict - including tighter restrictions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei - was creating fresh concerns for businesses in China, the group said.

Last week, the Trump administration added Huawei to its "entity list", which bans the company from acquiring technology from US firms without government approval.

Speaking to the BBC, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in China, Tim Stratford, said its members had "real concerns" about the fallout from the US action against Huawei.

"Particularly in the wake of the decision to put Huawei on the... entity list, there are concerns that the government of China may decide to retaliate against American companies," Mr Stratford said.

A survey by AmCham found that slightly more than 40% of its members had relocated, or were considering moving, outside of China because of tariffs.

The group represents more than 900 US companies working in China.

Plane manufacturer Boeing, pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer and soft drink giant Coca-Cola are among the US companies AmCham represents in China.

Last year, Boeing opened its first completion plant for its 737 passenger plane in eastern China, near the city of Shanghai.

Boeing's president of China, John Bruns, said he was "nervous" about the "challenging environment" caused by the tit-for-tat tariff war.How did we get here?

China and the US have been engaged in a fractious dispute over trade since the early days of Mr Trump's presidency.

While campaigning for the presidential election in 2016, Mr Trump repeatedly accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft.

He threatened to apply tariffs, saying China's entry into the World Trade Organization had paved the way for the "greatest jobs theft in history".

He also wants to cut America's trade deficit with China, which he says is hurting US manufacturing.

Despite several rounds of talks, the world's two largest economies have failed to reach an agreement to end the trade war.

What's next?

Still, Beijing signalled some willingness to work with Washington to solve their trade dispute.

No discussions have been scheduled since the last round of talks ended on 10 May.

"China remains ready to continue our talks with our American colleagues to reach a conclusion. Our door is still open," China's ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said on Fox News.

The leaders of the US and China are also set to meet again at the G20 summit in Japan next month.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48360373

ruby Posted on May 22, 2019 10:07

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India election 2019: Echoes of Trump in Modi's border politics

In total some four million people who thought they were Indian were excluded from the draft list. Half of these people have filed claims to be included in the final census.

Vinay could not handle the stress of the uncertainty, Shanti says, and took his own life in May 2018. As she mourns her son, Shanti now worries about her own status if she is left off the finalised list.

"Where shall I go and why should I flee?" she says. "It would be better that I too should die. Nobody is helping us. We are poor and weak people. The government should help us."

The citizenship question

Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long railed against illegal immigration in India but has made the NRC a priority in recent years.

Local officials say the list has nothing to do with religion, but activists see it as targeting the state's Bengali community, a large portion of whom are Muslims. Their fears are set against rhetoric from a Hindu nationalist government whose leader has not hidden his preference for Hindu migrants over Muslim ones.

However significant numbers of Bengali-speaking Hindus have also been left off the citizenship list, underscoring the communal and ethnic tensions in the state. For local Assamese, the NRC is about deporting all illegal immigrants - not just one religious minority - in an effort to preserve their culture.

The question of identity is one echoed 13,000km (8,000 miles) away in the US, where a similar resurgence of nationalism has emerged under Mr Trump, the Republican president whose inflammatory rhetoric has stoked anti-immigration fears along the US-Mexico border and divided Americans on national identity.

"While Trump is building his physical wall, Modi is creating a figurative one through policies like the NRC," says Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,

Though Mr Modi came to power two years before Mr Trump, the resurgence of his party's unbridled religious nationalism has come to define this year's election, and the struggle for India's identity as a pluralistic democracy.

'Infiltrators at the border'

BJP politicians have pointed to the NRC to amplify the threat of Muslim "infiltrators", while showing that they are curbing the tide of undocumented immigrants at India's borders.

The party has suggested that such citizens registers could be drawn up across the country.

"These infiltrators are eating away at our country like termites," BJP President Amit Shah said during rallies on 11 April in West Bengal. "The NRC is our means of removing them."

Mr Shah's anti-immigration rhetoric is similar to that of Mr Trump, who has been accused of fear-mongering, describing migrants from Central America as killers and criminals who threaten US security.

The US president has made a crackdown on America's 11 million undocumented immigrants a rallying cry in his 2020 re-election campaign. He continues to push hardline immigration policy, toughening requirements for asylum seekers and, more recently, proposing a reduction to America's family-based admissions system.

But while Mr Trump has indicated his plans to return undocumented immigrants to their countries, the future of people seen as illegal foreigners in India is less clear.

Once the final list is published, residents whose appeals have been denied will be stripped of their citizenship, forcing their deportation or leaving them stateless.

Vijay Kumar Gupta, a senior BJP leader in Assam, told the BBC the process was about separating migrants who fled religious persecution from those who sought economic relief, "damaging Assamese heritage".

He suggested the government would evict those deemed illegal foreigners, but Bangladesh has rejected claims that any of its citizens reside in Assam illegally, calling the NRC a "local internal matter".

Threatened by diversity

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, points out Mr Modi's emphasis on nationalism in this election fits with the broader global trend of populist leaders using polarising rhetoric across Asia, Europe, the US and South America.

While nationalism is not a new sentiment in India, he notes, what's happening under Mr Modi has striking similarities to the political landscape in Mr Trump's America.

Mr Kugelman says the parallels extend to the cult personalities of the two men, both considered "straight shooters" who push conservative politics, have deep business interests and are perceived as hostile toward their country's media - while also embracing social media.

"There has always been these tensions festering underneath this veneer of India as a secular, pluralistic state, between those that think it's true and should continue to be a secular state, and those that think India is above all a Hindu state, and that identity should be promoted as much as possible," Mr Kugelman says,

Those in the latter camp have been emboldened under Mr Modi's leadership, he adds, much like the growing tenor of anti-immigrant sentiment under Mr Trump in the last two years.

Both leaders have used national identity as a crude political tactic on the campaign trail, catering to a constituency feeling threatened by diversity and minority interests.

Are Muslims being targeted?

Assam's Muslim population, about one in three residents, fear the NRC is being used as a device to deport them from India.

"The BJP is trying to divide society, and if they continue to do it, it will destroy the Indian identity," says Azizur Rahman, president of All Assam's Minority Student Union, a group advocating on behalf of those left off the NRC. "If they win, the next five years will be very tough for Muslims, and will be for decades to come."

During the drafting process, residents have been able to challenge the citizenship of names included on the NRC, and some critics say those complaints have largely been directed at Muslims.

"What was a process to segregate foreigners has so clearly become an anti-Muslim exercise," says Aman Wadud, a human rights lawyer based in Assam.

Mr Gupta of the BJP strongly denied the NRC was being used as a means to target Muslims, saying that Mr Modi's government worked on behalf of all Indians.

Ahmed Hussain, a science teacher at a government school in the village of Adabari, fears his family is among those ensnared in citizenship complications because of his name.

"These types of problems against Muslims increased in Assam after the BJP formed the government in 2016."

The 55-year-old teacher comes from a family that has lived for nine generations in the Assamese district of Dhubri, which sits next to the border with Bangladesh, nestled between pond-soaked fields, lush with water hyacinth, and the Brahmaputra river with its countless channels.

Ahmed claims his father was involved in preparing the original NRC while serving in the Dhubri District Commissioner office in 1951, yet his family's Indian roots have been thrown into doubt over a complaint against his 18-year-old niece Nazia's inclusion on the list.

The science student has just completed her studies in Guwahati, some 260km (160 miles) away from her hometown, with plans to become a medical doctor. But instead of studying, Nazia spends her time fighting the case against her, which implicates her entire family.

"I'm afraid for my future, my ability to find a job if I'm not declared an Indian citizen," she says. "If I apply for a government job, will they target me for my Muslim identity? Why only us?"

Among those lodging complaints against citizens are members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which has been a driving force behind the completion of the NRC and the anti-immigration movement since its inception.

AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi acknowledges his members are filing complaints against citizens they believe come from "suspected areas", but blames NRC officials for any errors on the list.

"We want a foreigner-free NRC list. This is a one-time exercise," he declares, adding that if some Indian citizens are forced to endure legal difficulties, it is in the interest of the Assamese people.

The battle for India's soul

Last year the BJP government introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), legislation aimed at granting citizenship to religious minorities fleeing persecution from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It pointedly excluded Muslims, who the BJP contends do not count as a minority group.

The fact that the central government was keen to welcome Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis with no ties to the country while Assam's Muslims continued to fight for their right to stay in India angered many in the state and sparked violent protests.

Opponents of the legislation argued it violated India's constitution by establishing religion as a requirement for citizenship.

The BJP eventually soft-pedalled on the legislation, but if the party returns to power it may renew its efforts to push the legislation through India's parliament.

Whatever happens, Mr Kugelman says the damage is done, deepening divisions about national identity.

"Given the toxicity in politics and the nasty things that have been said and done, the discriminatory rhetoric and policies that we've had for the last two years in India and the United States, it's going to take a long time for both of these countries to recover."

While millions in Assam await the finalised NRC in July, which will determine whether they are accepted as Indian, the rest of the country will decide on 23 May if they agree with the BJP's conception of what that means.

Speaking at a rally in Mumbai in April, Mr Modi told the crowd: "This election is not just for choosing a government, it is an election to decide the direction of India."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48334689

ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 15:42

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The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts

Machines are now writing advertising copy as well as basic news reports, but are their efforts any good and can they be taught to be more inventive?

"Have a suite stay" read an ad for a hotel offering all-suite rooms. A neat - if obvious - pun you might think.

But what made this ad noteworthy was that it was created by an automated copywriting programme developed by Dentsu Aegis Network, the marketing giant.

The firm launched its natural language generation algorithm last year to increase output after changes were made to Google's advertising system, explains Audrey Kuah, the firm's managing director.

The programme creates 20 to 25 full ads a second in English and is "trained" by feeding it thousands of the kind of ads it is meant to produce, she says.

But what caught their eye about this ad was that it was quite witty.

Google's "cost-per-click-basis" advertising system, whereby the cost of an ad falls the more it is clicked on, encourages clients to play it safe, says Ms Kuah, making the ads rather pedestrian.

The algorithm couldn't learn to be more creative based on such a back catalogue of humdrum copy.

"We got quite fascinated by how we inject this concept of creativity," she says.

So they began to "feed" the algorithm with editorial headlines from travel articles and idioms to see if it could learn "more flowery" language.

"Our ambition is to train this AI [artificial intelligence] copywriter to learn how to inject a little bit of that human creativity, which today is taken out of the search advertising system because it may not be so readily rewarded," she says.

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47944276

'Heart-warming' copy

The idea of making AI more human-like and inventive is already happening to a certain extent in China.

Retail giant Alibaba, for example, enables merchants on its e-commerce ecosystem to dictate the tone of the language when using Alibaba's AI-generated copywriting service, a company spokesperson tells the BBC.

On the Taobao shopping site, for example, merchants can choose between descriptive "short-title" copy, more promotional "selling point" copy, and more emotional "heart-warming" copy.

One heart-felt ad for a hoodie read: "A windbreaker is enough to withstand the autumn wind in England".

The AI copywriter learns from millions of existing samples and can generate 20,000 lines of copy a second in Chinese, the spokesperson says.

While the copy created is not necessarily perfect, the service makes life easier for the many, smaller merchants on Alibaba's e-commerce sites, which do not have the resources to do a marketing push themselves.

"A single product might require up to 10 versions of copy for different advertising formats, like posters, web banners, product pages, and event pages," says Li Mu, director of Alimama Marketing Research and Experience Center. Alimama is Alibaba's digital marketing arm.

"Many merchants, and especially smaller ones, lack the marketing expertise or resources. We aim to solve this problem with easily-accessible and user-friendly technology."

Challenges

Companies generally welcome the greater use of AI, says Parry Malm, chief executive of Phrasee, an AI-powered copywriting firm, headquartered in the UK.

An AI-generated email subject line for a Virgin Holidays campaign continuously outperformed a human-written one over a testing period, he says.

"Shop the sale - don't hang around, book today!" proved more popular than the human-written "There's still time to book that dream holiday for less".

"Ongoing testing resulted in a revenue increase of several million pounds for their email campaigns - which Virgin Holidays has confirmed was a direct result of using Phrasee's AI technology for email marketing," says Mr Malm.

But the scope of AI can be limited and making it more "creative" is not without its challenges.

Ms Kuah says the Dentsu Aegis algorithm sometimes gets confused when you give it new information.

"It will start to go haywire," she says. "You will suddenly have things that don't make sense appear. So it's a little bit like teaching a wayward dog that doesn't want to sit."

Phrasee meanwhile seeks to avoid what it calls "simplistic emotional tagging" altogether, says Mr Malm.

Instead, it tries to differentiate itself by allowing clients to create AI-generated copy that adapts to the "voice" of a particular brand through a "bespoke language model".

"The traditional approach for many marketers and providers has been to tag language with certain emotions - 'happy', 'sad', 'scary' - but such an approach is problematic," argues Mr Malm.

"It not only limits the language available to use but is highly susceptible to human error and prejudice. In other words, it's not scientific."

While the use of AI in advertising copywriting is still very niche, such automation is widely employed in the selling and distribution of digital ads, and increasingly, in journalism.

Broadcasters in Russia and China have recently introduced robot presenters, for example.

"The adoption of AI is growing significantly among advertisers with the increasing use of mass marketing," says Venkata Krishnan Seshadri, industry manager for information and communications technology at market research company Technavio.

"In 2018, over 40% of advertisers used AI for analyzing their target audience. This is expected to increase in the coming years, as numerous organizations are utilising their AI capabilities to streamline their marketing and sales process."

The bottom line is that if AI produces better responses to adverts than humans manage to achieve - and at lower cost - marketers will jump at the chance to use it.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47944276

ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 15:12

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Are barcodes the way to protect dementia patients?

Each year in Japan thousands of elderly people with dementia go missing, hundreds are never found alive again.

Japan has the world's oldest population but also some of the most advanced technology and they're using it to help keep people with dementia safe.

People like Mrs Itou who lives in the city of Matsudo.

The first time she went missing her son who cares for her went driving around looking for her in the places she normally goes.

That was no easy task as Mrs Itou loves to walk and can cover a hundred kilometres a month.

That time his mother came home, but since then she's gone missing four more times as her dementia has worsened.

'Constant vigil'

The stress of caring for someone with dementia is well known to Nobel prize-winning scientist Randy Schekman whose wife had Parkinson's disease and dementia before she died.

"You have to keep a constant vigil," he tells me at a meeting in Japan of Nobel laureates and other eminent people to discuss the future of ageing.

"As my wife's dementia progressed I couldn't let her go to the restroom when we went out together. She would go in go into a stall, lock the door and then not be able to unlock the door - she was trapped inside a women's restroom."

Prof Schekman describes the projections of the rising number of people with dementia as a crisis akin to climate change because of the stress it will place on those caring for them and the economic consequences as people leave work to care for loved ones.

He is at the start of a 10-year project to tackle the basic science behind Parkinson's disease which will gather teams of scientists from around the world. The project's reported multi-billion dollar budget is being provided by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Dementia tech

Meanwhile in Japan, people like Mrs Itou are using new practical solutions to deal with memory loss and the need for a constant vigil.

The local government provides people with dementia and their carers, with badges they can wear. They display a QR code - a square image similar to a barcode - which can be read by anyone with a smart-phone.

The badges have helped Mrs Itou get home the last two times she went missing.

One of the inventors of the badges, Haruo Hidaka had the idea after watching the grandmother who raised him suffer with dementia.

He believed in the idea so much

The local government provides people with dementia and their carers, with badges they can wear. They display a QR code - a square image similar to a barcode - which can be read by anyone with a smart-phone.

The badges have helped Mrs Itou get home the last two times she went missing.

One of the inventors of the badges, Haruo Hidaka had the idea after watching the grandmother who raised him suffer with dementia.

He believed in the idea so much that his team developed a prototype that he personally went to sell in 630 towns and cities across Japan.

The idea was a success and the company he worked for has been bought by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Toho Holdings.

Talking to me at the company's Tokyo headquarters, Mr Hidaka says as well as his grandmother the idea was also sparked by the case of someone who died in their home and whose death went unnoticed for weeks.

Tackling lonely deaths

This is a common problem in Japan and it's another problem that the city of Matsudo and many others are tackling.

It's a rainy Friday afternoon and a group of 10 Matsudo residents are putting on orange vests and preparing to head out around the city.

The volunteers are just some of thousands across Japan who have been through a programme of dementia awareness.

Today they're going door to door with flyers for a pop-up cafe. While posting the adverts they're also keeping an eye out for houses where there are telltale signs of problems, like mail piling up. That could be the sign of someone inside in trouble or perhaps even dead.

"One shouldn't be pointing fingers, but I think you can tell straight away," says Manami Yoshii.

"By putting flyers into the postbox, we are able to check whether their postboxes are overflowing. And through that we would be able to tell if something might have happened to the resident."

The pop-up cafes they are advertising are a place where older people can come and get lunch and a chat.

Cafe connections

While developments like QR codes are useful, they're not the full solution, according to Akiko Saito who runs one of Matsudo's dementia cafes.

"These days our relationships with our immhttps://www.bbc.com/news/business-48227747ediate neighbours are fading," she says as about 20 local pensioners dig in to a typical multi-dish Japanese lunch.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48227747

"We are connected through things like social networking sites, but in case there is a disaster or if something happens, I think it's going to be more and more important in future to have a space where you can build relationships between people so that neighbours would be able to help each other out."

With our life expectancy rising in most countries, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades.

The solutions they have found in super-ageing Japan are already being copied in other countries and are likely to spread even further.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48227747

ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 15:05

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Miami Beach: The hedonistic spirit of the early 90s

Photographer and film-maker Barry Lewis started to document Miami Beach in South Florida in the late 80s, regularly flying out from London to capture portraits and street scenes.

Image copyright Barry Lewis

In the book, entitled Miami Beach 1988 - 1995, writer and photographer Bill Hayes gives historical context to the troubled times that Miami Beach experienced as a result of drug wars.

Hayes says: "This was the city that back in the mid 1970s was named by a local homicide officer as the most dangerous place on earth.

"Twenty five per cent of deaths were from machine-gun fire, 15% were public executions and the majority were drug-related.

"White, middle-class America had fallen in love with cocaine, and 80% of the product was arriving through Miami, with the resulting drug wars."

Image copyright Barry Lewis

Over time, the city began to prosper in the early 90s, and Miami Beach returned to its glamorous and hedonistic former self.

"The tourists were returning, promenading down Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue, mingling with the Latinos, gays, transvestites, crazies and kids step-dancing along the sidewalk with beatboxes to their ears." Hayes says.

"Now came a sudden explosion of fashion and design to Miami. The resurgence of party life was self-perpetuating. No sooner had a business closed than it was converted into a nightclub.

"Anything could happen in the bubble that was South Beach: you could wear anything, behave badly, as crazily as possible - good taste made way for no taste."

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https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-48268600https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-48268600

https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-48268600https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-48268600

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ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 14:57

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Ren Zhengfei says US government 'underestimates' Huawei

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has remained defiant towards US moves against his company, saying the US "underestimates" its abilities.

Speaking to Chinese state media, Mr Ren downplayed the impact of recent US curbs and said no-one could catch up to its 5G technology in the near future.

Last week the US added Huawei to a list of companies that American firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence.

The move marked an escalation in US efforts to block the Chinese company.

"The current practice of US politicians underestimates our strength," Mr Ren said, according to transcripts from state media.

Huawei faces a growing backlash from Western countries, led by the US, over possible risks posed by using its products in next-generation 5G mobile networks.

The potential fallout from the US decision to place Huawei on its "entity list" was drawn into focus on Monday after Google barred the Chinese tech giant from some updates to its Android operating system.

Later on Monday, the US Commerce Department issued a temporary licence that enabled some companies to continue supporting existing Huawei networks and devices.

The US said it would issue the 90-day licence that "will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks," said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre has published advice for Huawei phone owners on its site.

It said the licence should mean that Huawei customers can "update their handsets as normal". It added that it was continuing to assess the situation and planned to provide advice in the future for users.

Still, Mr Ren played down the significance of the move, saying that Huawei had already made preparations ahead of the US restrictions.

Huawei has been at the epicentre of the US-China power struggle for months.

Consumers are worried about what this all means for them, while the implications for Huawei are also likely to be significant.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48345742

ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 13:46

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Don McGahn: White House directs former lawyer not to testify

The White House has told a former adviser not to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, sparking outrage from Democrats.

Lawyer Donald McGahn previously told the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that he had felt pressured by President Donald Trump to fire Mr Mueller.

Mr McGahn has been ordered to appear on Tuesday.

But the White House has now directed him not to speak to the committee.

A letter to the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee said lawyer Donald McGahn was "absolutely immune from compelled Congressional testimony".

There are calls for an impeachment inquiry against President Trump if he does not testify.

Mr McGahn served as White House counsel for nearly two years before his resignation in October 2018.

Both the Department of Justice and White House released statements on Monday arguing that Mr McGahn was under no obligation to give evidence.

Later Mr McGahn's lawyer said his client would "respect the president's instruction".

Mr Mueller's two-year investigation did not determine that Mr Trump conspired with alleged Russian attempts to sway the 2016 election, but listed 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president.

What is the White House saying?

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Democrats did not like the conclusions of the Mueller report and wanted "a wasteful and unnecessary do-over".

Citing the justice department guidance, her statement added: "The former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr McGahn has been directed to act accordingly."

In its memo, the justice department said Mr McGahn did not have to testify.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said: "Congress may not constitutionally compel the president's senior advisers to testify about their official duties."

What has the reaction been?

Speaking to CNN, Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said the panel would hold Mr McGahn in contempt of Congress for not testifying.

Earlier, he said the instruction was "just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this committee".

"The president acted again and again - perhaps criminally - to protect himself from federal law enforcement. Don McGahn personally witnessed the most egregious of these acts," he said in a statement.

However, Mr Nadler and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are coming under growing pressure from their party to launch an impeachment inquiry against the president.

US media reports suggest several member of the Judiciary Committee tried to convince Ms Pelosi to start such an investigation to make the Trump administration comply with subpoenas.

Representative David Cicilline, a committee member, said on Twitter: "If Don McGahn does not testify tomorrow [Tuesday], it will be time to begin an impeachment inquiry of" President Trump.

But Ms Pelosi and Mr Nadler told colleagues their course of action was getting results. Someone in the meeting told NBC News it was a "long and very emotional" debate.

Also on Monday, a federal judge rejected Mr Trump's efforts to block a subpoena into his accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP.

The subpoena, issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on 15 April, asked that the firm hand over financial records relating to Mr Trump dating back to 2011, years before he announced his candidacy for president.

What is this about?

The subpoena for Mr McGahn's testimony is part of a wider inquiry by Congressional Democrats into Mr Trump's alleged obstruction and abuse of power.

In March, the House Judiciary Committee issued document requests related to the investigation to 81 people and groups.

Mr McGahn was interviewed for 30 hours by Mr Mueller's team of investigators, and was frequently cited in their 448-page report, released in April.

Mr Trump later maintained he had authorised this co-operation with Mr Mueller.

The Mueller report detailed how Mr McGahn felt the president had pressured him to fire Mr Mueller and, later, write a memo saying that Mr Trump had issued no such directive.

US Attorney General William Barr was questioned this month about the matter by Senate Democrats.

He said the president had only suggested that Mr Mueller be "replaced" because of a perceived conflict of interest - and then instructed Mr McGahn to correct inaccurate media reports.

Mr McGahn left the White House in October to return to a Washington law firm, Jones Day, which represents the Trump campaign.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48344909

ruby Posted on May 21, 2019 10:09

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Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?

EU officials say Russia is using disinformation to influence the outcome of this week's European Parliament elections. How seriously should their warnings be taken?

"Winter isn't the only thing that's coming - so is the risk of interference in our elections," said Sir Julian King, the EU's commissioner for security, in a press conference late last year.

Their primary suspect is Russia. EU officials say the Kremlin has for years been using disinformation to sow discord and confusion across Europe, while undermining voters' trust in the European Union and its democracies.

Russia flatly denies such accusations, calling them "completely false" and "unsubstantiated". But some commentators believe voters' discontent with the EU - the very thing Moscow is accused of stoking - should not be pinned on foreign actors, but rather on domestic politics.

What evidence is there of Russian meddling?

For many people, phrases like "disinformation" and "fake news" only came on to the radar after the 2016 US Presidential elections where, according to US intelligence agencies, Russia covertly acted to influence the result. Moscow has called the allegation "absurd".

But officials in Brussels have been taking action against perceived Russian disinformation since at least 2015, when the East Stratcom Task Force was created. It's a unit of 15 people whose mission is to identify and expose any attempts by the Kremlin to mislead and confuse EU citizens.

Giles Portman, who heads the task force, told BBC Trending: "The evidence is being compiled for several years now that Russia has been seeking to influence European democratic processes.

"Attempts have been made to hack and leak, or to denigrate particular politicians, or to misrepresent certain policies. The best way [for Russia] to strengthen itself is to weaken its opponent."

As an example, he cites the 2017 elections for the German Parliament, where right-wing nationalists were allegedly endorsed by Russia.

And during French presidential elections in the same year, Kremlin-funded media outlets were accused of "spreading falsehoods" throughout the electoral campaign. There were also suggestions Russia was involved in a last-minute hack of emails from Emmanuel Macron's campaign.

But what about these European elections specifically?

Officials admit that there is currently little evidence of large-scale attempts to spread disinformation directly related to this week's vote.

"From what we've seen of the European election campaign so far, it looks at the moment less sensational than some of the attempts we've seen [in the past]," says Giles Portman. "What we can see at the moment is this continuation of a message that Europe is collapsing, that the elites aren't paying attention to ordinary people, and that Europe's values and identities are under threat."

But the elections have featured prominently in media outlets funded by the Kremlin, including broadcaster RT and the Sputnik news agency.

"They have been picking up the theme consistently over the past few months," says Olga Robinson, who tracks disinformation for BBC Monitoring. "They do seem to be pushing slightly anti-establishment messages."

Some of those messages dovetail with those being put out by anti-EU, populist, and anti-establishment parties that have been gaining ground across Europe in recent years. Polls suggest these parties are likely to increase their number of seats in the European Parliament.

That being the case, how can the EU guarantee that its efforts to tackle Russian disinformation don't instead interfere with legitimate democratic debate?

"We in no way suggest that we are trying to tell people what to believe, how to vote, or interfere in people's right to hold whatever opinion they may wish to hold," says Portman. "We're just questioning the manipulation of the debate and saying that people's opinions are best based on facts."

How seriously is the EU taking this?

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, says disinformation is part of Russia's military strategy and that Moscow spends up to €1.1bn (£960m) on pro-Kremlin media - a huge sum compared to the East Stratcom Task Force budget of €3m (£2.6m) to be spent by the end of 2020.

The task force runs a database open to the public, where it lists and debunks news articles published by the Russian media that, according to its analysis, contain falsehoods and pro-Kremlin disinformation messages. To date, it has compiled more than 4,500 cases. They also publish a weekly newsletter with some of its findings.

Although the task force now focuses solely on Russian media outlets with links to the Kremlin, it came under fire in 2018 for listing articles published by Dutch media outlets as examples of disinformation.

At the time, it was accused of trying to stifle media freedom and, faced the prospect of legal action. In response the task force backtracked and removed the three articles from its database.

However, the unit is just a small part of the EU's broader "action plan against disinformation", unveiled in December last year.

There are also digital awareness campaigns, additional funding for teams of experts in charge of detecting disinformation, and broader commitments that social media giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter have made. Those include making political advertising more transparent and removing fake accounts.

A "Rapid Alert System" has also been created to help European governments respond in real time to new disinformation threats. However, European Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke confirmed to the BBC no alert has yet been triggered.

Could other actors be engaging in disinformation?

In their search for signs of Russian disinformation campaigns, experts have spotted evidence of similar attempts to deceive - emerging not from Kremlin-linked outlets, but from partisan groups based inside the EU.

"These groups seem to be pushing highly polarised content," says BBC Monitoring's Olga Robinson. "Some of the messages I have seen over the past few weeks have been built on complete lies."

She says many of these messages echo pro-Kremlin disinformation.

"It doesn't mean that they are in any way connected. It might be that Russia is tapping into this kind of Eurosceptic agenda and they have been doing that for a very long time," she says.

What does Russia say about these accusations?

In a statement, the Russian Embassy in London described accusations of election interference as "completely false" and "unsubstantiated".

Trending also approached Russian news channel RT for comment. In a statement, deputy editor-in-chief, Anna Belkina, said disinformation claims against Russian media outlets "serve to silence and force out legitimate voices from public debate."

"It is beyond naive to think that if RT didn't exist, the issues we cover wouldn't exist," she said. "Overlooking dissenting voices is what has long undermined the media-political establishment, not RT."

Could the EU be overplaying the seriousness of the threat?

Despite all the media attention that has been given to the subject in recent years, some academic research has actually called into question the reach of disinformation and fake news throughout the continent.

There are also those who, though acknowledging that Russian-backed disinformation is real, argue that the EU's response is misguided.

"By focusing on [Russian disinformation], the European Commission is shifting the focus from the more pressing underlying political issues and that's dangerous," says Julia Rone, a researcher at Cambridge's Department of Politics and International Studies.

"There are people who are legitimately worried about economic inequality, about youth unemployment, and especially about immigration," she says. "There's a lot of mobilisation from the far-right all across Europe and it cannot be attributed simply to foreign agents."

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-48296557https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-48296557

 

ruby Posted on May 20, 2019 11:24

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Do international students get what they pay for?

Canada is competing against countries like the UK and US for the minds - and wallets - of international students. But what happens once they get there?

Jobandeep Sandhu is a hard worker.

The 22-year-old worked pretty much full time as a truck driver while studying to be a technical engineer, so he could help put himself and his brother through college in Ontario.

"My thinking was that working isn't a crime," he said.

But now the Indian citizen is facing deportation after he was arrested for working too many hours as an international student.

Sandhu's student visa stipulated that he can only work off-campus up to 20 hours a week during the school year. Yet some weeks he was working as much as 40.

Sandhu said he did this because his parents could not afford the high cost of international tuition for both himself and his brother, plus the living expenses. When an officer pulled him over during a routine traffic stop and asked to see his trucking log books, Sandhu readily turned them over.

"I was working legally, I was paying taxes," he said.

"I thought that I don't need to lie."

Since then, he has had to hire a lawyer to fight his deportation, which is scheduled for 21 May.

Sandhu is not alone in struggling to pay the bills.

There are currently more than 500,000 international students in Canada, and international tuition rates have risen 32% across the country, compared to 14% for domestic students.

Since his arrest, several advocates have spoken about the need to be more accommodating of international students who need to work.

"They absolutely need to be able to seek employment," says Adam Brown, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and a student at the University of Alberta.

The calls for change come at a time when Canada is trying to aggressively compete with other countries around the world to attract international students.

For years local and federal governments have been pulling out all the stops to draw in students from around the world.

Canada has relaxed rules around off-campus work and made it easier for international students to get a work visa after graduation or apply for permanent residency. The latest federal budget has earmarked $148m (£86m) over the next five years, in part "to promote Canadian education institutions as high-calibre places to study".

Economics 101

It is all about the bottom line, according to Dani Zaretsky, an international student recruiter.

"Globally - it's not just Canada - there's no mistaking it's all about money," says Zaretsky, who co-founded recruitment company Higher Edge and has worked with several Canadian universities and colleges to help boost international student enrolment.

"If there are other benefits [like diversity], they're welcome, but it's not the point."

On average, international students in Canada can expect to pay four times more tuition than domestic students.

Similar formulas apply in other countries. At the University of California in San Diego, where about 20% of students come from outside the US and pay $40,327 a year in tuition, which is about three times the American rate.

A similar number of students at the UK's University of Manchester also come from abroad, and pay £18,500 a year in tuition, twice the rate of domestic students.

At a time when many governments are cutting back on their education spending, international students are a crucial form of revenue for many institutions.

Canada is ranked sixth in the world as a destination for international students, according to research conducted by research group Project Atlas. That puts it behind the US, UK, China, Australia and France - and down two spots from the year before.

Why Canada?

So what makes an international student willing to shell out so much cash?

For Bangladeshi student Kazi Mridul, it was the promise of a high-quality technical education, coupled with Canada's reputation as a welcoming, multicultural country.

"There's more funding for research, especially in the STEM field [science, technology, engineering and maths]," said Mridul, who is studying engineering at Toronto's York University.

Canada also makes it easy for international students to apply for a post-graduate work permit, a policy the UK has discussed adopting, to increase its appeal abroad.

But Mridul says the visa process could still be easier.

"School accepted me in March, but until August I didn't know if I was coming or not," he says.

Do students get what they pay for?

The Ministry of Global Affairs estimated that in 2014 alone, international students spent $11.4 billion in the Canadian economy. Since then, the number of international students has grown from 330,170 to 572,415 - an almost 75% increase.

Meanwhile, average international tuition fees have been raised from $20,593 to $27,159, or by about 32%.

Yet it is not clear that international students are getting any more for their dollar than they were before.

Zaretsky says services have not kept up.

If Canada is really committed to attracting more international students, it should be clear about what it's offering them, he says, and that includes an opportunity to work once they arrive.

He also thinks schools need to be careful about how much they raise tuition, year-to-year.

"Sometimes they'll raise it 10-12% in a fell swoop, and for families that have budgeted carefully that's a rude shock," he says.

Ultimately, Mridul does think his Canadian education was worth it.

"It's not just the education, it's the whole experience," he says.

"It's all the other people that are here. In Bangladesh we have a very homogenous society... here it's the exposure to everything."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-482887

 

ruby Posted on May 20, 2019 10:02

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