Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why can't you use cell-phones on a plane?

Polanski to preside at French Oscars: 'We feel sick', say French feminists...

Feminists called for protests Thursday at the "French Oscars" next month after controversial film director Roman Polanski agreed to preside over the ceremony.

The maker of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has been wanted in the US for almost four decades for the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977.

Polanski, 83, last month defeated a bid to extradite him from his native Poland, telling reporters, "I'll finally be able to feel safe in my own country."

But the decision to honour him at the annual Cesars ceremony has infuriated women's groups, with many taking to social media calling for a boycott of the televised show.

The leading group Osez le feminisme (Dare feminism) called the decision by the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques "shameful", and urged people to protest outside. Full story...

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Rohingya crisis: Malaysia PM says Muslims must act...

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has called on Muslim countries to lead international action over the plight of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims.

Mr Razak made the comments in an opening statement to members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathering in Kuala Lumpur.

The OIC is made up of 57 countries with large or majority-Muslim populations.

It is holding the emergency session to discuss what it says is a humanitarian crisis faced by the Myanmar minority.

Approximately 65,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state since Burmese soldiers began intensive counter-terrorism operations there in October. Full story...

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Japan government mulls stopping employees from fatal overworking...

Japan's government has announced measures to prevent employees from overworking in an attempt to stop people literally working themselves to death, a report says.

The Independent newspaper reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would soon seek to impose a cap on the number of overtime hours employees can work.

Yoshihide Suga, a government spokesman, has said that Japan needs to end the "norm of long working hours so people can balance their lives with things like raising a child or taking care of the elderly."

Some Japanese companies have begun a routine of switching all the lights off at night to encourage workers to leave the office.

The Japan Business Federation is also set to launch a campaign that will allow workers to leave the office early on the last Friday of every month. Full story...

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After Big Pharma Failed, Parents Risked All to Save Daughter’s Life with Cannabis — It Worked!

(...)

The outlook for children with schizencephaly is grim. Some patients are stillborn, others are “not compatible with life” and others succumb to medication-induced organ failure. Barbara has connected with parents of children suffering from this condition, and many have lost the battle.

By the time Nova was two years old, she was having all types of seizures and was taking six anti-seizure medications. But they weren’t working. Doctors had turned to simply trying to sedate her, including the use of benzodiazepines – potent psychoactive drugs known through names such as Xanax and Valium.

If Nova wasn’t in a state of seizure, Barbara says the cocktail of drugs kept her in an immobilized, completely unresponsive state, with no apparent awareness of her surroundings. Barbara tearfully described a moment when she tried to get Nova to play with some small bells, lifting Nova’s hand to touch them. But Nova, eyes rolled to the back of her head, just let her hand drop.

Barbara began to “question how [Nova] could ever have a quality of life.” After several MRI and EEG scans, the Texas neurologist said Nova was a good candidate for brain surgery called lesionectomy, which would remove most of the brain she had left. There is no guarantee it would work, and the extreme procedure could result in Nova’s death. Full story...

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12-year-old Indian girl raped by principal, three teachers on school premises...

A 12-year-old student of a government school was allegedly gangraped by the principal and three teachers in Bihar's Jehanabad, police said on Monday.

Principal of Kako Secondary School Aju Ahmed and three teachers - Atul Rahman, Abdul Bari and Md Shakaut - gangraped the girl on Sunday when she was alone in the building, Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) P K Srivastava said.

The accused took her to the roof of the school building and committed the crime, the SDPO said quoting an FIR registered against the four based on a complaint filed by the girl's mother.

The victim was spotted by her mother, also a teacher in the same school, lying in a "dishevelled" state on the roof. The girl then narrated the incident to her, the SDPO said.

The accused are at large and searches are being conducted to nab them.

Sunday, routinely a holiday, had been declared a working day in the school in a verbal communication by the Principal who had instead ordered it to be closed on Friday, Srivastava said. Source...

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Tamil girl and son dancing duet...

Why do Indians vote for 'criminal' politicians?

Political scientist Milan Vaishnav has been studying links between crime and democracy in India for many years now. His upcoming book When Crime Pays offers some intriguing insights into what is a disturbing feature of India's electoral democracy.

The good news is that the general election is a thriving, gargantuan exercise: 554 million voters queued up at more than 900,000 stations to cast their ballots in the last edition in 2014. The fortunes of 8,250 candidates representing 464 political parties were at stake.

The bad news is that a third (34%) of 543 MPs who were elected faced criminal charges, up from 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004.

Some of the charges were of minor nature or politically motivated. But more than 20% of the new MPs faced serious charges such as attempted murder, assaulting public officials, and theft.

Now, India's general elections are not exactly a cakewalk. Full story...

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Fake News: The fake-stream media devours itself...

When their Anointed One lost the election, big television news networks and primary newspapers coined the term “fake news” because they were angry at alternative media for eroding deep into their domain. It was time to expose these fakers because audiences were fleeing to alternatives to establishment media as certainly as they fled to alternatives to establishment politicians.

Without a doubt there is a ton of fake news on alternative media sites, which often publish what works for them without much fact checking. So, to launch a war on their competition, the mainstream media employed their standard sound-byte strategy that has worked well for them in the past. They simultaneously started circulating the new talking point “fake news” to try to stop the migration of audiences toward alternative news sites. It was time to point out how they, the mainstream media, do a superior job of editing out the baloney for you.

Everybody else’s news became fake news, but the mainstream media’s own exaggerated and highly spun stories, which they ran day after day … that was just bedrock reality. Following Fox’s years of example, the MSM dropped even the pretense of separating their own commentary from news stories, and much of their news became commentary about alternative media; but the “fake news” mantra all backfired this time. Full story...

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Sex between husbands and wives will only be for 'special occasions' because ROBOTS will satisfy everyday needs, experts predict...

Married couples will only have sex on special occasions, turning to robots to satisfy their day-to-day needs, experts have predicted.

Speaking at an international robotics conference, those working in the field predicted that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) devices in the bedroom will be the norm within 25 years.

Dr Trudy Barber, an expert in the relationship between technology and sexual intercourse, compared the rise of sex robots to that of the e-book and said the machine would would allow people to appreciate 'the real thing' more.

At the International Congress of Love and Sex with Robotics, Dr Barber yesterday said that society's readiness to embrace technology means it was only a matter of time before it also plays a significant role in people's sex lives.

She said: 'It could be that we are so busy with our lives, we are so embedded in our technological narrative that the idea of engaging in long-distance sex and robot sex is actually a natural process in our evolutionary cycle. Full story...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Encrypt the Web...

Air India cordons off women-only seats...

Air India will introduce women-only seats on its domestic flights to give female passengers more choice and comfort, said a senior official from the national carrier, rejecting claims the move was linked to reports of in-flight sex attacks.

From Wednesday, Air India will allocate six seats in the third row of its economy class cabin for solo women travellers - making it the only airline in India, and possibly the world, to take this step, said the official.

India already has policies which segregate women from men on public transport to avoid sexual harassment and molestation. Many trains - both underground and overground - have carriages reserved for women, and some buses have women-only seats.

"We are doing this as we get lots of requests by female passengers at the check-in counter who want to sit next to another woman, rather than a male passenger," said G Prasada Rao, Air India's general manager for corporate communications. Full story...

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China: Agents, parents get in on ‘rent-a-girlfriend’ game...

China's recent rent-a-girlfriend trend has helped bachelors avoid mounting pressure to marry by hiring strangers as stand-ins for pushy parents.

But this year, business is booming, with more agencies offer the services as high demand drives up prices ahead of Spring Festival.

What's more, parents seeking to cash in on the trend are helping their daughters hook up with agents and those looking to deceive their families.

Young women are charging an average 3,ooo yuan ($500) for a 2 day-1 night stint as a stand-in significant other, according to listings on e-commerce site Taobao.

Legitimate matchmaking agencies have entered the game, and have strict rules for renters, with rates starting at 1,000 yuan a day. Full story...

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President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence...

President Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst who was convicted of leaking classified military documents to Wikileaks.

The 29-year-old whistleblower, who was sentenced to 35-years in prison in August 2013, will now be released in five months, on 17 May of this year, instead of 2024.

Since her incarceration, the former US Army soldier who was known as Bradley Manning, attempted suicide twice last year and went on a hunger strike at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

She continued her protest for less than a week until doctors allowed her to receive gender reassignment surgery. A military doctor has nonetheless refused to change her gender on her military records. Full story...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hundreds of Alberta students seeking 'sugar daddies'

Facing staggering debt loads, hundreds of Alberta post-secondary students are logging on to a website connecting them to "sugar daddies" who can provide them a monthly allowance and gifts in exchange for negotiated relationships.

But student advocates warn such arrangements can be fraught with peril, exposing them to potential exploitation or abuse with few avenues to disentangle themselves from a bad situation.

Matchmaking website Seeking Arrangement this week released its rankings of Canadian universities that have had students sign up in search of financial aid. Equating relationships to a business deal, the company said clients hammer out financial arrangements with benefactors ahead of time, leaving the expectations of such an accord between them.

 In 2016, the University of Alberta topped the list for new signups in Canada, with 138 new students logging on. The boom in new members at the Edmonton school brings its total number of members (determined by those using their university emails) to 422, ranked the seventh most of all Canadian post-secondary institutions. Full story...

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Train crushes 2 boys clicking selfies in Delhi...

Obsession with selfies claimed two more young lives in the capital when two teenagers were crushed under a train while posing between two railway tracks at Anand Vihar, east Delhi, on Saturday afternoon. .
.
 The victims, Yash Kumar, 16, and Shubham, 14, along with five friends studying in the same tuition centre, had pooled in money and rented a DSLR camera for Rs 400 per day. Cops said they wanted to build a modelling portfolio. .
.
As per accounts of the other boys, the group had chosen a spot between two tracks to take selfies with an approaching train in the background. They were so engrossed in taking pictures when the train approached that they didn't notice another train coming from the opposite direction.

While others stayed where they were, Yash and Shubham, in a reflex action, jumped onto the other track fearing they would be crushed between two trains. They instantly came under the second train and died, police said. .
.
 Before the accident, Yash and Shubham had gone to a gaming parlour near Akshardham after tution classes, with Rohit Kumar, Tushar Yadav, Bhaveet Tomar, Rohit Singh and Aman Kumar. Full story...

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Monday, January 16, 2017

How to wash a car with a baby...

Driver for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets 27 year sentence for raping minors...

A former driver for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sentenced on Sunday to 27 years in prison for rape, sodomy and “indecent acts” of a sexual nature against six minors.

Ilan Shmuel, 54, from Zecharia, an agricultural village outside Beit Shemesh, was convicted in September. Prosecutors said in October that they were seeking a 40-year prison term.

The father of one of the victims, who is also a relative of Shmuel’s, told Army Radio Sunday morning after the sentencing that the family, which had been “torn apart” by Shmuel’s actions, had “come full circle” with the sentence.

Another victim told Army Radio, “I want to turn to every young girl in Israel who has been sexually assaulted, so they will know that there is indeed justice.” Full story...

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Fake news: Too important to ignore...

Fake news is nothing new, depending on what you mean by it.

But during the past year - specifically during Donald Trump's election - it has become a cancer in the body politic, growing from an isolated but malignant tumour into a raging, mortal threat.

No hack can witness this without alarm. As a BBC journalist I am required to be politically impartial; but as my distinguished colleague Nick Robinson has argued, I am under no obligation to be impartial about democracy (as against tyranny, for example).

Nor am I under any obligation to be impartial about truth, as against lies. The possibility of truth is a necessary condition for democracy.

Fake news is an assault on truth. Therefore it behoves all right-thinking journalists to combat fake news. Full story...

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The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.

In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.

The develo pment charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Oxfam blamed rising inequality on aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by companies, adding that businesses were too focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives. Full story...

Read also: India's rising income inequality: Richest 1% own 58% of total wealth

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bernie Madoff manipulated the market for hot cocoa mix at his prison...

Even behind bars, Bernie Madoff is still the master of monopolizing people’s money. The business he ran from prison, however, is vastly more legit than the multibillion-dollar con that landed him a 150-year sentence.

According to Steve Fishman, the host of Ponzi Supernova, a new Audible audio series focused on the disgraced former money manager, Madoff found much success steering his talents to the prison supply of Swiss Miss.

“At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market,” Fishman told MarketWatch. “He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. … He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.”

It seems Madoff’s Swiss Miss-hoarding hasn’t hurt his standing with the other inmates of Butner Prison, the North Carolina correction facility famed for its cushy digs. Full story...

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Scientists discover that white rhino dung has a lot in common with a Facebook post...

Here’s a social networking site you can find with your nose. Scientists studying the communal pooping areas of white rhinos in South Africa have found that the animals use them like social messaging boards – to leave notes about their status and to read the “posts” of others.

The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, offers insight into the behaviors of these and other social animals — and could even help researchers develop new tools to aid in their conservation.

Mammals are known to leave one another scent signals in their urine (as anyone watching a dog studiously sniff a lamppost while his owner tugs on the leash might suspect).

But the potential signal-sending power of poo has garnered relatively less attention, scientists said.  Full story...

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The extreme bike brothers...

'This is Singapore' is no excuse for racist behaviour...

What is your definition of Singapore, and what happens when a fellow Singaporean has a vastly different idea of what the country should be or represent?

A 28-year-old poet has taken to social media to relate an incident last week in which racism reared its ugly head.

Ms Jennifer Anne Champion, a Singaporean with Ceylonese Tamil, Malay, Indonesian and Chinese heritage, was waiting for her partner's return at Changi Airport last Tuesday, according to her Facebook note. Standing next to her were other people waiting to welcome returning family and friends, including a bespectacled Chinese man in his 40s.

When a Filipino family reunited at the railings near the exit of the gate, the bespectacled man began his tirade. At first, he said: "No hugging here. Can you see? This is Singapore. Go hug outside."

In her note, Ms Champion said she thought the man was perhaps asking the Filipino family not to obstruct the exit. Unfortunately, she was proven wrong. Full story...

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Cuba sees explosion in internet access as ties with US grow...

Two days before Christmas, Luis Gonzalez received a little Chinese modem from Cuba's state-owned telecommunications company.

The 55-year-old theater producer connected the device to his phone and his laptop computer, which instantly lit up with a service unimaginable in the Cuba of just a few years ago — relatively fast home internet.

"It's really easy to sit and find whatever you need," Gonzalez said as he sat in his living room updating his Facebook account, listening to Uruguayan radio online and checking an arriving tourist's landing time for a neighbor who rents rooms in their building in historic Old Havana. "Most Cubans aren't used to this convenience."

Home internet came to Cuba last month in a limited pilot program that's part of the most dramatic change in daily life here since the declaration of detente with the United States on Dec. 17, 2014.

While Cuba remains one of the world's least internet-connected societies, ordinary citizens' access to the internet has exploded over the last two years. Since the summer of 2015, the Cuban government has opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners across the country. Cubans were previously restricted to decrepit state internet clubs and hotels that charged $6-$8 for an hour of slow internet. Full story...

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14-year-old Gujarat boy signs 5 crore deal for production of his anti-landmine drone...

A 14-year-old boy in Gujarat has signed an agreement worth Rs. 5 crore to explore the possibility of
commercial production of a drone created by him which can help in detecting and defusing landmines in war fields.

Harshwardhan Zala, who is studying in Class 10, started work on the prototype of the landmine-detecting drone last year after reading in newspapers about high army casualties due to landmines.

"I first created a land mine detecting robot but realised that since the weight is heavy it would trigger a blast and damage it so I thought of creating a drone which will be at a safe distance while detecting the mines," said Harshwardhan, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the recently-concluding Vibrant Gujarat summit in Ahmedabad. Full story...

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Obama opens NSA’s vast trove of warrantless data to entire intelligence community, just in time for Trump...

With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.

The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.

Executive Order 12333, often referred to as “twelve triple-three,” has attracted less debate than congressional wiretapping laws, but serves as authorization for the NSA’s most massive surveillance programs — far more than the NSA’s other programs combined. Under 12333, the NSA taps phone and internet backbones throughout the world, records the phone calls of entire countries, vacuums up traffic from Google and Yahoo’s data centers overseas, and more. Full story...

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

UK ex-premier Cameron visits Bahrain, shunning rights abuse concerns...

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron has visited Bahrain for talks with the sheikhdom’s crown prince and business leaders despite growing concerns about the ongoing human rights violations by the Manama regime.

Cameron, whose term in office saw the closest ever diplomatic and military ties with Bahrain, arrived in Manama earlier this week and met Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifah.

Cameron also visited the headquarters of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB) and met with Bahrain’s transport and telecommunications ministers.

Pro-democracy campaigners have expressed concern over the visit amid speculations that Cameron could follow in former premier Tony Blair’s footsteps and use his international contacts for personal business gains. Full story...

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Ten horrifying ingredients that prove McDonald’s is not fit for consumption...

There’s no doubt that most hard-working Americans like their fast food. Even though they know the bare facts – fast food is high in fat, sodium and sugar and can cause diabetes, heart disease and obesity – they still eat tons of it every year. A 2013 Gallup survey reported that eight in 10 Americans eat fast food monthly, and almost half confessed to eating it at least once a week.

While most of us are aware that every mouthful of a McDonald’s meal contains fat-promoting ingredients, we often don’t realize how many chemicals are in there too. Let’s look at 10 horrifying ingredients that should flip your appetite for a Big Mac.

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Still lovin’ it? Next time you are looking for a quick meal, you may want to think twice before heading to the closet McDonald’s restaurant. Full story...

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The privacyless, freedomless smart city of 2030 the elite are engineering...

If you want to earn more, work less...

When Stuart Nomimizu relocated from Birmingham, England, to Tokyo his friends and family in the UK started to worry. Not only did they rarely hear from him, but he seemed to always be at the office from early morning until very late at night. His working hours seemed so extreme, that they didn’t always believe he was working as hard as he said.

To convince them, he documented one week of his life as a so-called “salaryman” in Tokyo’s financial-services industry and posted it online so they could understand his new lifestyle.

The resulting video went viral on YouTube, racking up more than one million views. It depicts a hectic week in 2015 during the financial sector’s busy season — from January to March — when Nomimizu clocked in 78 working hours and 35 sleeping hours between Monday and Saturday (before working another six hours that Sunday, which you don’t see in the video).

It got to the point where Nomimizu was putting in so many 80-hour work weeks that he fainted in his apartment one night and came-to right next to a TV stand, which he’d narrowly missed. When the rush period was finally over, he says the entire office got “horrendously sick.”  Full story...

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Your WhatsApp messages can be read by Facebook...

The Facebook-owned mobile messaging service WhatsApp is vulnerable to interception, the Guardian newspaper reported on Friday, sparking concern over an app advertised as putting an emphasis on privacy.

The report said that WhatsApp messages could be read without its billion-plus users knowing due to a security backdoor in the way the company has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.

The system relies on unique security keys "that are traded and verified between users to guarantee communications are secure and cannot be intercepted by a middleman," the report said.

But WhatsApp can force the generation of new encryption keys for offline users "unbeknown to the sender and recipient of the messages," it said. Full story...

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Catholic priest who inspired The Exorcist died from a fall after a ‘possessed’ child spoke to him and he was ‘pushed over by an invisible force’

A Catholic priest who inspired The Exorcist died from a fall after what he claims was a possessed child spoke to him, it has emerged.

The new revelation comes from a CIA agent after it had been widely reported Malachi Martin from Ireland told a friend an invisible force pushed him to his death.

Ahead of the release of a new documentary, his close friend Robert Marrow has lifted the lid on the moment he believes the priest was effectively killed - when a possessed four-year-old girl he was meant to be exorcising spoke to him in America.

Talking to RTE Radio 1’s The Ryan Tubridy Show, the producer of the feature-length show called Hostage to the Devil Rachel Lysaght recalled a harrowing moment during filming.

Former CIA agent Mr Marrow retracted the steps to Connecticut where Father Martin had offered to carry out an exorcism on the four-year-old girl. Full story...

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Super rich discuss inequality at WEF while Davos staff sleep five to a room in bunks...

Hundreds of chambermaids, doormen and cocktail waiters have been flown to Davos to cater to every whim of world leaders, business executives and the super-rich who will descend next week on the Swiss Alps town for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) celebration of capitalism.

While WEF guests, including Theresa May, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and South African president Jacob Zuma, will spend their nights in some of the world’s most luxurious hotel suites, the staff brought in to serve them will be sleeping up to five to a room in bunk beds.

The manager of the fanciest hotel in Davos – the Grandhotel Belvédère – said he had flown in 200 extra staff to work in shifts around the clock during the annual jamboree of the rich and powerful. “We normally have about 100 employees, but this week we have 300 to help us out,” Thomas Kleber, general manager of the Belvédère, said.

Kleber said the extra staff have been flown in from partner hotels across the world to help out during the Belvédère’s busiest week of the year, but because the whole of Davos is packed out with forum visitors there isn’t much space to accommodate the additional workers. Full story...

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Friday, January 13, 2017

10 shocking facts airlines don't want you to know...

Japan firm considers 3-day weekends as nation rethinks culture of long work hours...

Japan is stepping up its drive to pressure companies into abandoning a culture of long working hours.

Prosecutors this week began reviewing whether Mitsubishi Electric Corp forces its employees to work excessive hours — a move that follows an investigation of Dentsu Inc, Japan’s biggest advertisement agency, where a female worker who put in more than 100 hours of overtime in a month committed suicide.

Mitsubishi Electric said in a statement that it will “deal sincerely with the matter” and will monitor work hours closely and educate managers and employees on the issue. The labour ministry will continue to take a firm stance against long work hours, according to a spokesman who asked not to be named due to ministry policy.

The government is also seeking a shift in the corporate mindset to encourage flexibility and boost a labour force being depleted as the population shrinks. Mr Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, said Wednesday (Jan 11) that Japan needs to “end of the norm of long working hours so people can balance their lives with things like raising a child or taking care of the elderly.” Full story...

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President Obama will depart the White House having dropped 26,171 bombs on foreign countries around the world in 2016, 3,027 more than 2015...

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The U.S. dropped 79 percent of the anti-Islamic State group coalition bombs in Syria and Iraq, totaling 24,287. That figure, along with others analyzed by CFR, is likely lower than the actual number dropped because one airstrike can involved multiple bombs.

Obama did authorize a troop surge in Afghanistan — a conflict he pledged to end during his campaign — where the U.S. dropped 1,337 bombs in 2016. There are currently 8,400 U.S. troops left in the country, more than Obama initially wanted to keep there at the end of his term. The U.S. only dropped 947 bombs in Afghanistan in 2015.

The U.S. also dropped more bombs in Libya in 2016 than it did in 2015. Nearly 500 bombs were dropped in the North African country that has essentially been ungoverned since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. He was captured and killed during the Libyan Civil War, kicked off by the Arab Spring protests that also began the Syrian conflict. Full story...

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Demonetisation, WW2 Bengal famine and horrendous Indian avoidable mortality then and now...

The demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is disproportionately impacting the poor of India. Presently 4.5 million Indians die avoidably from deprivation each year and demonetisation will make this worse by increasing poverty, deprivation and disempowerment. Indians must reject this callous and deadly attack on the poor, reject deadly pro-One Percenter neoliberalism and demand social justice via social humanism (democratic socialism).

Countercurrents.org editor Binu Mathew has written: “In a cashless / digital money India Big Brother would be watching 24/7. The digitally illiterate vast majority would be driven out of circulation like the old notes. It’s a long process, perhaps more lethal than Hitler’s “Final Solution”. More people died in World War II Bengal famine than Hitler’s gas chambers. Did it make it at least into the footnotes of Indian history? Demonetised India doesn’t need gas chambers, hunger will do the job!” [1].

Unfortunately Binu Matthew is essentially correct and indeed quite conservative in his estimation. Poverty and disempowerment combine to constitute a deadly deprivation in India today that is already linked to an annual avoidable mortality of 4.5 million Indians each year as estimated from mortality data from the UN Population Division [2]. Avoidable mortality (avoidable death, excess mortality, excess death, untimely death, deaths that should not happen) is the difference between actual deaths in a country in a given period and deaths that would be expected if that country were at peace and subject to humane governance [3]. Demonetisation will make this horrendous Indian avoidable mortality holocaust worse by increasing poverty, deprivation and disempowerment. Full story...

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Myanmar migrants face Malaysian violence...

The hundreds of thousands of Buddhist migrant workers in Malaysia face a growing cycle of violence, with scant attempts to protect their lives beyond sending out safety instructions.

In recent weeks, relations between the two countries have soured, with Myanmar banning workers from going to Muslim-majority Malaysia after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak lashed out at Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for allowing what he called “genocide” during a rally in Kuala Lumpur.

The rally drew thousands of people protesting Myanmar’s military action against ethnic Rohingya, who are Muslims, Malaysia’s predominant religion. As many as 20,000 Rohingya have fled into neighboring Bangladesh.

That is a separate issue, however, from the violence against migrants. Last week another five migrant workers from Myanmar were murdered by a mob in the Serdang district on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, with another two remaining in critical condition and several others escaping unharmed.

 “Four Myanmar men died at the scene of the attack almost immediately, said U San In, chair of the Kathphone Free Funeral Service Society, a rights group based in Kuala Lumpur that provides funerals for impoverished citizens. “One died in the hospital [on Jan.6]. Another two remain in a serious condition due to blood loss.” Full story...

Children in Norway can sign a form to change their gender...

AI takes on humans in marathon poker game...

An unusual poker game is taking place in Pittsburgh, pitting human players against an artificial intelligence program.

The goal is to see if a computer can beat four of the best players in the variant of poker known as no-limit heads-up Texas hold 'em.

In a similar tournament in 2015, the humans won.

The algorithm could be adapted for use in medicine, cybersecurity, business and the military, its creators said.

The matches - dubbed Brains v Artificial Intelligence - are being held over 20 days at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. Full story...

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