Saturday, April 19, 2014

German president attacks “dangerous” Swiss self-government...

As outrage grows among European Union bosses over Swiss voters’ February decision to curb mass immigration into Switzerland, German President Joachim Gauck (shown) warned that self-government by the people is “dangerous.” Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but this has not stopped officials in Germany and across the European Union from going into meltdown mode against their independent neighbor and brazenly terrorizing the Swiss with increasingly outrageous threats over their decision to limit immigration. Gauck’s attack on Switzerland’s system of constitutional self-government, though, is among the most extreme thus far, and it has infuriated citizens all across the political spectrum.

During an official visit to the liberty-minded and fiercely independent Alpine nation last week, the German head of state blasted the Swiss system whereby the people can organize elections to override the wishes of politicians. Speaking of the immigration referendum, Gauck claimed it is “dangerous when citizens vote on highly complex issues.” It was not immediately clear why the German president thought immigration policy could be considered too “complex” for the Swiss people to make a decision about — especially considering Switzerland’s nearly unparalleled track-record of prosperity and freedom.

In fact, across Europe, fury over mass immigration and other issues has sparked calls all over the bloc for Swiss-style national referendums. However, the emerging Brussels-based super-state, like many of its member governments, has become notorious for imposing its will in defiance of the public. Indeed, the entire continent-wide effort to smash all remaining vestiges of national sovereignty and create a “federal” Europe has been accomplished almost entirely against the wishes of citizens, rather than through consent. In the few cases where referendums were allowed, the public rejected EU schemes, which were imposed anyway. The erection of the radical “Lisbon Treaty” offers an excellent example.  Full story...

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Honey badger Houdini - Honey badgers: masters of mayhem...

Landmark case in South Africa sees Pirate Bay user hit with 5-year sentence...

In a blaze of publicity mid December 2013 it was revealed that South Africa had netted its very first Internet pirate. SAFACT, the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft, said it had caught a man uploading a high-profile movie to The Pirate Bay.

The case had unusual hallmarks from the start, not least since SAFACT admitted it had engaged the services of a “certified ethical hacker” to identify, profile and trace the uploader. Adding to the intrigue, SAFACT also refused to name the uploaded movie, although it was later revealed to be Four Corners, a local gangland film that was yet to be officially released.

Initially, the identity of the uploader was also shrouded in mystery but he was later revealed to be 29-year-old Majedien Norton. The IT engineer was reported to have uploaded the movie on November 21, 2013, although there is no sign of it now, which suggests that the father of two later deleted the file. Norton later admitted to buying a ‘screener’ copy of the movie off the streets and uploading it to Pirate Bay.

As in many countries, relatively minor and non-commercial instances of copyright infringement are dealt with via the civil courts in South Africa, but from fairly early on it was clear that this case would be different. The overall anti-piracy tone was that an example needed to be made and a precedent set for those tempted to make the same kind of mistake in future. Full story...

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French bank bosses to explain 'indecent' pay...

As France struggles to resuscitate its moribund economy and squelch record unemployment, the bosses of its biggest banks have given themselves millions in euros worth of raises since last year. And Economy Minister Arnaud Montbourg is incensed.

Crédit Agricole’s boss Jean-Paul Chifflet is making €2.14 million, a jump of about 38.8 percent over last year. The boss at BNP, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé is pulling in €3.44 million, up by 8.1 percent from the previous year. While Société Générale’s chief Frédéric Oudéa is earning €2.7 million or 8.5 percent more than last year, French daily Le Parisien reported.

The millions in pay hikes prompted Montbourg to tell the Senate on Thursday he’s decided to invite the CEO’s to a “little meeting” where they will "explain themselves" on the topic of the “indecent” jump in their salaries, Le Parisien reported.

“We’re going to have to talk about all this with the banking industry,” Montbourg told lawmakers. “We cannot have a defective banking system and remuneration that soars to, in our view, disproportionate levels.”

 No word yet from the banks on whether they consider the salaries indecent or if they’ll attend the gathering. However, the banks are not government-owned institutions and go pay their bosses what they wish. Full story...

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India's politicians aren't talking about women, but everybody else is...

India’s general elections, which began on April 7 and span four weeks and 10 phases, are now exactly halfway through. And so far, women voters’ turnout has surged compared to previous years, even dwarfing men’s votes in several regions, including Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim, Lakshadweep, and Chandigarh, an Election Commission official told AFP’s Bhuvan Bagga. In 1962, the difference between men and women’s turnouts was 16.7%. In 2009, it was 4.4%. This year, it is predicted to be even narrower. In the last few decades, India has had both a female prime minister and a female president. It is safe to say that India’s women are ready to demand a place in the political conversation.

After all, it is a conversation that is increasingly about them. A recent survey found that 93% of Indians believe combating gender-based violence should be an election priority. Eighty-eight percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to strong action countering violence against women.

After a horrific New Delhi gang rape in December 2012 first launched phrases like “rape culture” and “victim blaming” onto Indian primetime, the nation’s media and intellectuals have been relentless in scrutinizing how and why India is so lethally violent toward half a billion of its citizens. Some blame Bollywood’s shameless glorification of sexual harassment and female objectification; others fault India’s ancient patriarchal joint family structures. Either way, in the last year, no single issue has galvanized India as thoroughly as its women, their safety, and their lack thereof. Being a woman in India is often described much more often as a plight than a joy. Full story...

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Sri Lanka - Tamil journalist attacked...

A 29-year old freelance Tamil journalist has been attacked by unknown men wearing helmets in the tightly guarded Northern Jaffna peninsula last evening (April 14).

According to media sources, freelance journalist Sivagnanam Selvatheepan who has been contributing to a couple of Tamil national media outlets in Colombo was on his way home when he was attacked with iron rods by two unknown men on a motorbike near Puraporukki in Vadamaradchchi on the Sinhala Tamil New Year day night.

"The attackers have followed him for a couple of miles before stopping him. They questioned him and ensured his identity before launching this cowardly attack," a fellow journalist in Jaffna told the JDS via phone.

Badly injured Selvatheepan has been admitted to the Jaffna base hospital and a complaint has also been lodged with the Kopay police.

It is notable here that Selvatheepan along with his mother has appeared before the government’s Lesson Leant Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to give on the disappearance of his brother, who had gone missing in Batticaloa. According to reports, he has informed his friends about unknown people following his movements and issuing threats. Full story...

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Gold bars removed from Indian man's stomach!!!

Twelve bars of gold have been recovered from the stomach of a businessman in the Indian capital, Delhi, a surgeon treating him has said.

The 63-year-old man was admitted to hospital after complaining of vomiting and difficulty defecating.

He told his doctor that he had swallowed a bottle cap in anger, after a fight with his wife.

But when surgeons operated they found gold bars weighing nearly 400g (14oz) in his stomach instead of a bottle cap.

Doctors, who performed the operation on 9 April, told the BBC that police and customs authorities had questioned the businessman and confiscated the gold. Full story...

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Lindzee - Amelymeloptical illusion...


New Zealand students can buy beer with ... rats!!!

For centuries New Zealand flightless birds and slow-moving reptiles lived without fear of native predators. This golden era ended when the British showed up on rat-infested ships. Since then, rats have become the key player in the destruction of native forestry and the extinction of nine native species of birds. Clearly the rats need to go, but how do you motivate New Zealanders into becoming active rat hunters?

Beer Trap is a programme that lets time-rich and beer-poor university students swap dead rats for free brews. Genius, right? We spoke to Jonathan Musther, one of the masterminds of the campaign, about the intricacies of fixing the environment with young Kiwis and alcohol.

(...)

Right now the Department of Conservation have a great trapping system in our parks and reserves, but they can’t just walk in and start trapping in the backyards of various people’s house. So we began thinking about how we can get people involved with urban trapping. It started as a project in the Wellington zone to create a buffer zone around the parks and reserves, so that the birds that hop across the fence don’t just get eaten.

We do have a bit more of an obligation up in Kelburn [near the University], because we have Zealandia and the Otari-Wilton Bush. Those are the two big breeding areas, and the birds go between the two, and while in transit they get eaten by a cat or possum, or they nest outside and their eggs get eaten by a hedgehog or a rat.

 So we decided to get students involved, running Beer Trap from the Victoria University Science Society, and that the best way to incentivise them would be to get them a free drink. They are students after all. Full story...

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Are our children the next generation of zombies?

The zombie apocalypse is a prevalent theme throughout the preparedness community. Many believe zombies will be those unprepared to live through a disaster. Although this could very well be true, zombies are already in our communities and the long lasting effects are already being felt.

Recently, a study has come forth indicating that a rising number of children are unable to perform simple tasks due to the heightened use of iPads and computer devices. Children are losing simple motor development skills such as building blocks because of their exposures to these computer devices. Children as young as 3 years old know how to swipe the surface of an ipad, but have little to no dexterity in their hands.

Experts warn that the growth in the digital era is having a serious effect on children’s social and physical development. One expert notes that “brilliant computer skills” [are] shown by many pupils was “outweighed by their deteriorating skills in pen and paper exams because they rely on instant support of the computer and are often unable to apply what they should have learned from their textbooks”.

We have all witnessed people’s heads buried in their cell phones sitting at a table, or children sitting in front of a television and fighting over using an ipad rather than playing with one another. I have witnessed people sitting at the same table in a restaurant but not speaking with each other because they would rather be on their cell phones. Full story...

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Journalists in Thailand face prison for quoting Pulitzer-prize report about Rohingya abuse...

A navy captain, in a statement to local media, threatened to charge Reuters as well for its prize-winning series. However, the issue is being seen as a cudgel being used to intimidate local publications from reporting on widespread military excesses and corruption.

The two journalists are Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, the editor and reporter, respectively, for Phuket Wan, a small English-language website on the resort island of Phuket, which in the past has mostly covered local problems and tourism issues. However, the two have reported aggressively on the mistreatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar that has come under savage attack by the country’s majority Buddhist population. Tens of thousands have fled Myanmar, making Thailand their first stop.

“Phuket Wan thanks everybody for their support and hopes all goes well in Phuket Provincial Court on Friday morning,” the publication said Thursday in a statement. “We aim to be back reporting as soon as we possibly can, hopefully Friday afternoon.”

There have been widespread reports of abuse of the Rohingya by the Thai Navy including human trafficking and towing boats back out to sea to leave their refugee passengers exposed to peril. Although the bulk of the Thai media including English-language publications in Bangkok have given the Rohingya short shrift, Phuket Wan has regularly reported on their plight. Full story...

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Average CEO earns 774 times the minimum wage, 331 times that of the average worker...

How’s your job going – if you even have one? The odds are very, very high that you haven’t seen a raise in a long time. Or maybe you were laid off and found a new job at half your old pay. They say this is the “new normal.”

Meanwhile, CEO pay just keeps climbing and climbing and climbing (and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing). This inequality is destabilizing our economy.

The AFL-CIO has released this year’s 2014 Executive PayWatch at www.PayWatch.org, a “comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies.”

PayWatch.org offers workers the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives. According to Executive PayWatch data, U.S. CEOs pocketed, on average, $11.7 million in 2013, compared to the average worker who earned $35,293. That means CEOs were paid 331 times that of the average worker. (CEO pay was 774 times the minimum wage.)  Full story...

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Yahoo's recently fired chief operating officer gets a $58million severance package after working for Yahoo for only 15 months...

Yahoo’s recently fired chief operating officer has received a final severance package of $58million after only working at the internet company for 15 months.

A new regulatory filing released Wednesday revealed the eight-figure payout that Henrique de Castro was given by his former boss, Marissa Mayer, after she both hired and fired him in just over a year.

Mayer dumped de Castro, who was in charge of ad sales, in January after concluding he wasn't executing on her plan for reviving Yahoo's lackluster ad growth.

'Ultimately, Henrique was not a fit and that's a very regrettable conclusion,' Mayer told analysts in late January.

'And it's a conclusion that we tried very hard to avoid, but it was the right decision in the end for the company.'

After making the expensive mistake, Mayer has said she won't pick another chief operating officer. Full story...

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New German app helps clients find prostitutes...

While the German government is considering tightening prostitution laws, Berlin entrepreneurs have developed a smartphone app to connect sex-workers with clients.

The latest Berlin-based start-up app idea has taken the online dating principle to the sex industry. Peppr.it, launched on April 1, allows prostitutes to upload profiles of themselves that potential clients nearby can browse.

Clients can search for male or female "Pepprs," and adjust their filters for special services and body type. They can then send an enquiry and make a date.

The prostitutes do not pay to put their profiles online, while clients pay the website a €5 or €10 booking fee.

 The app was co-founded by Pia Poppenreiter, who got the idea after walking through a red-light area in Berlin on a winter night. "I was walking down Oranienburger Strasse - I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the truth - it was chilly and I saw the poor girls on the streets, and I thought, why isn't there an app? It's not efficient to wait outside," she told The Local. Full story...

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Sacred cow and a bull marry in India!!!

A cow and a bull have been married off in a lavish Indian wedding - costing £10,000.

More than 5,000 villagers turned up to watch sacred cow Ganga and Prakash get hitched during the Hindu ceremony held near Indore in Madya Pradesh.

The nuptials were organised by Ganga's guardian, Gopal Patwari, to save the state's harvest from a 'natural disaster'.

According to Mr Patwari: 'Natural calamities like hailstorms and heavy rain occurred in nearby areas, destroying their crops,' he said.

'To prevent this from happening to our villages we organised this wedding on the advice of Sadhus and holy men.

'We have been told this will maintain peace in our village.' More + pictures + video...

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'Kill switch' may be standard on U.S. phones in 2015...

The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players.

Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group.

All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft.

"We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen," said Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA. "This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain." Full story...

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Cheating pervades India's education system...

The voice that answers the number posted on the online ad is polished, confident: No one will suspect anything, he says. The gadget has never failed.

A college senior, he sounds younger on the phone but assures the caller that he speaks from experience. He gives his name as Anil and quotes his price: about $40. Minutes later he texts, offering a 6% discount.

That's the price to cheat on one of India's all-important tests, a pressure-packed exercise that holds the key to the country's most coveted colleges, universities and postgraduate programs.

Anil, a medical student in southern India who asked that his full name be withheld, was selling a tiny wireless earpiece, scarcely bigger than the head of a pin. The earpiece receives a signal from a cellphone via a transmitter. During exams, Anil conceals the transmitter under a loose-fitting shirt, texts pictures of the test questions to a friend at home and receives answers over the phone.

"There's no way anyone can even make out you using the device," says Anil, who found the earpieces in the United States and imports them in bulk, selling three or four a week on EBay to high school and college students. "I've never had any problems. You just need to have some confidence and a good friend who can help you out during the exams." Full story...

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

There'll be no escape from the FBI's new facial recognition system...

If you thought that the NSA wanted too much personal information, just wait a few months. The EFF is reporting that the FBI's new facial recognition database, containing data for almost a third of the US population, will be ready to launch this summer. Codenamed NGI, the system combines the bureau's 100 million-strong fingerprint database with palm prints, iris scans and mugshots. Naturally, this has alarmed privacy advocates, since it's not just felons whose images are added, but anyone who has supplied a photo ID for a government job or background check. According to the EFF's documents, the system will be capable of adding 55,000 images per day, and could have the facial data for anything up to 52 million people by next year. Let's just hope that no-one tells the Feds about Facebook, or we're all in serious trouble. Source...

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FED UP: This film exposes the bitter truth about sugar and america's obesity problem...

For Hillary Clinton and Boeing, a beneficial relationship...

On a trip to Moscow early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton played the role of international saleswoman, pressing Russian government officials to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy dozens of aircraft from Boeing.

A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World’s Fair.

Boeing, she said, “has just agreed to double its contribution to $2 million.”

Clinton did not point out that, to secure the donation, the State Department had set aside ethics guidelines that first prohibited solicitations of Boeing and then later permitted only a $1 million gift from the company. Boeing had been included on a list of firms to be avoided because of its frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business and concern that a donation could be seen as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. officials.

The November 2009 episode was an indicator of a mutually beneficial relationship between one of the world’s major corporations and a potential future president. Clinton functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image. Full story...

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Ron Paul warns that Bundy ranch standoff isn’t over just yet...

A heated land dispute between the federal government and a Nevada cattle rancher subsided over the weekend, but longtime lawmaker and former presidential hopeful Ron Paul says tensions might soon worsen once again.

An armed standoff between Cliven Bundy and the United States Bureau of Land Management ended on Saturday with the federal agency agreeing to release around 400 head of cattle it had seized from the Clark County, Nevada rancher. The bureau said Bundy owed roughly $1 million to the government because for the last two decades he failed to pay a fee for letting his cattle graze on federal land, but the rancher insisted that he owed the agency nothing. Supporters soon took up arms and flocked to the Bunch ranch to stand by in support as feds began to seize nearly 1,000 head of cattle, but over the weekend the BLM aborted their attempt to confiscate the animals in order avoid any violent showdown that might have emerged.

Paul — the former Republican congressman for Texas and a three-time contender for the office of US president — said on Monday that things aren’t necessarily over on the Bundy ranch, even though the feds have for now relinquished their war with the rancher.

“They may come back with a lot more force like they did at Waco with the Davidians,” Paul told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Friday, adding that he wished for a non-violent resolution.

 Only days earlier, the rancher’s wife told the Huffington Post that the mobilization of heavily armed federal agents around her land was all too similar to the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians’ Waco, Texas compound that ended with the deaths of 87 civilians. Full story...

How American drone strikes are devastating Yemen...

The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of an incoming missile.

Such quite literal existential uncertainty is coming at a deep psychological cost for the Yemeni people. For Americans, this military campaign is an abstraction. The drone strikes don't require U.S. troops on the ground, and thus are easy to keep out of sight and out of mind. Over half of Yemen's 24.8 million citizens – militants and civilians alike – are impacted every day. A war is happening, and one of the unforeseen casualties is the Yemeni mind.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. "Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks," said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones "are looking inside our homes and even at our women.'" She says that, "this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones." Full story...

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Google new terms clarify all emails are scanned...

Google has updated its terms of service to make clear it automatically scans all users' emails to create targeted ads.

The internet giant amended its service terms to clarify all emails stored on Google's servers are analysed, as well as all incoming and outgoing emails, to provide users with "personally relevant product features".

The update said: "Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.

"This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored."

Google has recently come under fire for not being clear enough about its scanning policy. Full story...

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Switzerland pushes for minimum wage of $25 per hour, highest in the world ...

Jasmin Eicher has already axed her sole full-time employee to keep afloat her shop selling cards, candles and paper in a Zurich suburb. If Switzerland approves what would be the world's highest minimum wage, she says the only option would be to close her door.

The Swiss will vote in a national referendum on May 18 on whether to create a minimum wage of 22 francs ($25) per hour, or 4,000 francs a month. While about 90 per cent of workers in Switzerland already earn more than that, employ ..

"We couldn't pay it," said Eicher. The employee she let go earned 3,500 francs a month. Now she's by herself, working 10 hours a day, six days a week. "Of course I understand about people not earning enough, but not everyone is worth 4,000 francs. Here in Switzerland we're already so well-off," she said.

The chief backers of the proposal are Switzerland's biggest trade unions, which argue that pay levels need to reflect the country's prices — among the world's highest. A poll by researcher gfs.bern released April 11 said 52 per cent of voters may reject it, while Leger research firm last month found the same percentage would vote yes. Full story...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How Washington and its allies use social media to topple governments & manipulate public opinion...

Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave...

A man facing deportation from Sweden has been granted a temporary reprieve after fellow passengers aboard his flight to Iran prevented it from taking off by refusing to fasten their seat belts.

A Kurd fearing persecution in his home country of Iran, Ghader Ghalamere fled the country years ago and now has two young children with his wife Fatemeh, a Swedish resident.

As a result he qualifies for a residence permit himself – yet because of a quirk in immigration laws he is required to apply for it from outside Sweden.

On Thursday, Mr Ghalamere was put on a flight at Östersund bound for Stockholm – and ultimately Iran itself – accompanied by his friends and family in protest.

Gathering in the departure lounge, they spoke to other passengers preparing to board the flight and explained the situation.

Clearly moved, once on board the plane the other passengers refused to fasten their seat belts – a protest that prevented the pilots from being able to begin take off. Full story...

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Police are testing a "Live Google Earth" to watch crime as it happens...

In Compton last year, police began quietly testing a system that allowed them to do something incredible: Watch every car and person in real time as they ebbed and flowed around the city. Every assault, every purse snatched, every car speeding away was on record—all thanks to an Ohio company that monitors cities from the air.

The Center for Investigative Reporting takes a look at a number of emerging surveillance technologies in a new video, but one in particular stands out: A wide-area surveillance system invented by Ross McNutt, a retired Air Force veteran who owns a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.

McNutt describes his product as "a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities," which is intriguing but vague (and also sounds a lot like the plot of this terrible Denzel movie). More specifically, PSS outfits planes with an array of super high-resolution cameras that allow a pilot to record a 25-square-mile patch of Earth constantly—for up to six hours.

It's sort of similar to what your average satellite can do—except, in this case, you can rewind the video, zoom in, and follow specific people and cars as they move around the grid. It's not specific enough to ID people by face, but, when used in unison with stoplight cameras and other on-the-ground video sources, it can identify suspects as they leave the scene of a crime. Full story...

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Swedes replace credit cards with hand swipe...

Hand scanning has become an alternative payment method for people in a city in southern Sweden, researchers at Lund University said Monday.

Vein scanning terminals have been installed in 15 shops and restaurants in Lund thanks to an engineering student who came up with the idea two years ago while waiting in line to pay. Some 1,600 people have signed up already for the system, which its creator says is not only faster but also safer than traditional payment methods.

"Every individual's vein pattern is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system," researcher Fredrik Leifland said in a statement. "You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through."

 While vein scanning technology existed previously, it has not been used as a form of payment before. Full story...

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India recognises transgender people as third gender...

India's top court has issued a landmark verdict creating a third gender category that allows transgendered people to identify themselves as such on official documents.

Activists say it will give relief to millions of people who face discrimination in India's deeply conservative society.

The supreme court directed the federal and state governments to include transgendered people in all welfare programmes for the poor, including education, healthcare and jobs to help them overcome social and economic challenges.

Before Tuesday's judgment, transgendered Indians had to identify themselves as male or female in all official documents.

The court noted that it was the right of every human being to choose their gender while granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female. Full story...

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Chicago, the great American city...

4 shocking examples of police militarization in America’s small towns...

For nearly half a century, the general trend within America’s police precincts has been toward greater militarization, a transformation initiated by the culture wars of the 1960s and facilitated by the war on drugs, fear of inner-city crime, and anxieties over the threat of terrorism.

Fear of drugs, crime and terrorism have been used to justify the expansion of SWAT programs and the acquisition of military grade weaponry and vehicles in America’s smaller towns. Citing previous work, investigative journalist Radley Balko writes that the number of SWAT teams in municipalities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 “increased by more than 300 percent between 1984 and 1995,” and that 75% of all of these towns had their own SWAT teams by the year 2000. Small precincts acquired wartime weaponry and a warrior culture was engendered among community police.

The ACLU is currently working on a major investigation to illuminate the extent of militarization across America. Here are four shocking examples of militarized police in America’s small towns.

(...)

The flashpoint for the debate came in January 2011, when members of Ogden SWAT battered down the front door of Matthew David Stewart’s home. When the army veteran awoke to the sound of shouting voices and shuffling boots, he grabbed his bathrobe and Beretta and began exchanging fire with the officers, killing one and wounding seven while sustaining multiple gunshot wounds himself. Full story...

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Canada cuts Commonwealth funding over Sri Lanka woes...

Canada will suspend funding to the Commonwealth while the chair of the secretariat is occupied by Sri Lanka because of human rights concerns.

Canada will instead direct its planned $20m (£12m) contribution toward other Commonwealth programmes.

Sri Lanka has denied accusations by rights groups that its forces committed atrocities in the 1983-2009 war.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper boycotted a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka last year.

Sri Lanka's army defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009. The rebels have also been accused of atrocities.

"Canada remains deeply concerned about the absence of accountability for alleged serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards in Sri Lanka," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told Canadian media. Full story...

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A former US governor slams TSA treatment of passengers at US airports...

A former governor of the US state of Arkansas and potential presidential candidate has slammed the treatment of airport passengers by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Speaking at the conservative "Freedom Summit" in New Hampshire on Saturday, Mike Huckabee said he's beginning to believe that there's "more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States," a reference to TSA patdowns and security procedures at airports.

"When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position," Huckabee said while holding up his hands. "People put hands all over me. And I have to provide photo ID in a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane."

"But if I want to go vote, I don't need a thing," he added, referring to Republican-led efforts to require American voters to provide government-issued identification in order to vote, a move Democrats have said would only suppress voting rights. Full story...

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Pressure mounts on UK over CIA’s ‘black site’ jail in Indian Ocean island Diego Garcia...

A human rights group is urging Britain’s Foreign office to “come clean” over claims that a British-administered island in the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia, was used as a secret "black site" detention center by the CIA.

“We need to know immediately whether ministers misled parliament over CIA torture on British soil,” Cori Crider, strategic director at Reprieve, a legal action charity group, said in a letter to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“If the CIA operated a black site on Diego Garcia, then a string of official statements, from both this and the last government, were totally false,” Crider said.

The letter followed a report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee that Britain had allowed the US to run a “black site” prison on Diego Garcia to secretly hold suspects without accountability. The Diego Garcia prison held some “high-value” detainees and was operated with the “full cooperation” of the British government, US officials familiar with the Senate report said.

“Were ministers asleep at the wheel? Or, as the report suggests, have we been lied to for years?” Crider wrote. Full story...

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Measles outbreak traced to fully vaccinated patient for first time...

Get the measles vaccine, and you won’t get the measles—or give it to anyone else. Right? Well, not always. A person fully vaccinated against measles has contracted the disease and passed it on to others. The startling case study contradicts received wisdom about the vaccine and suggests that a recent swell of measles outbreaks in developed nations could mean more illnesses even among the vaccinated.

When it comes to the measles vaccine, two shots are better than one. Most people in the United States are initially vaccinated against the virus shortly after their first birthday and return for a booster shot as a toddler. Less than 1% of people who get both shots will contract the potentially lethal skin and respiratory infection. And even if a fully vaccinated person does become infected—a rare situation known as “vaccine failure”—they weren’t thought to be contagious.

That’s why a fully vaccinated 22-year-old theater employee in New York City who developed the measles in 2011 was released without hospitalization or quarantine. But like Typhoid Mary, this patient turned out to be unwittingly contagious. Ultimately, she transmitted the measles to four other people, according to a recent report in Clinical Infectious Diseases that tracked symptoms in the 88 people with whom “Measles Mary” interacted while she was sick. Surprisingly, two of the secondary patients had been fully vaccinated. And although the other two had no record of receiving the vaccine, they both showed signs of previous measles exposure that should have conferred immunity. Full story...

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Who pays the price? The human cost of electronics...

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales...

Britain’s biggest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, allegedly bribed doctors in Poland using money that was meant to be spent on educating patients, according to new evidence revealed today by the BBC Panorama programme.

A GSK whistleblower claims that money put aside to teach patients in Poland about an asthma drug, Seretide, actually went towards paying doctors to prescribe more of the medicine.

Jarek Wisniewiski, who was with the company for eight years until 2012, worked on a marketing programme across the country in 2010 to push the asthma drug.

He told Panorama that although officially the money was to be spent on medical training, in reality it was used to bribe doctors to boost the company’s sales.

“I pay for education and in the same meeting I said that I need more prescriptions for Seretide. So… they knew exactly what I pay for,” he said. “We pay agreement for a speech; we pay £100 but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug.” Full story...

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Nudity no longer naughty in Munich...

Germany’s third largest city, Munich, has legalised public nudity by introducing six designated nudist zones.

Since last autumn - when statewide laws stopping nude sunbathing expired - the issue of public nudity has been debated in the city.

It has now been decided that nudists are officially welcome to strip.

The six designated nudist areas are not fenced off or hidden away, although their location in parkland grants them a degree of privacy.

 One nudist zone is situated in a main tourist spot along a stream, which is barely 10 minutes away from Munich’s main square. Full story...

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Chinese mistress’s ‘confession’ kicks off internet furor...

The following purported court statement from an alleged mistress of a former Chinese Communist Party official has gone viral on the Chinese Internet, especially blogs on the biggest sina.com and various forums over the weekend. The unnamed woman lashes out at corrupt officials:

“Corrupt officials are more horrible and more shameless in buying sex than prostitutes who sell sex. My former customers are the judges who are trying me!”

Several overseas Chinese news outlets say the report first appeared in Outlook Weekly, a magazine owned by the official Xinhua News Agency, although none of the news reports have verified the woman’s identity. Her supposed lover’s name Wei Junzi is similar to the word “hypocrite.” There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. If indeed the woman had delivered such an outburst in court, she probably would have been dragged out before her words could have been heard.

But even if the case isn’t real, the very fact that such damning words about party officials are still on the Chinese Internet after two days without being deleted or blocked is quite telling, and it probably indicates that someone in officialdom wants to see the charges circulate, perhaps as an example. Full story...

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Tiananmen 25 years on: the 'event' that no one dares remember...

Seventeen-year-old Jiang Jielian was one of the first to die. A bullet punctured his left lung as he scrambled for cover in a flower bed near Muxidi Bridge. “Run!” he said to his friends, as he crumpled to the ground. “I’ve been hit”.

It was just after 11pm on June 3, 1989 as troops from the 38th Corps of the People’s Liberation Army moved down the wide expanse of Fuxingmenwai boulevard on a mission to clear Tiananmen Square.

Half an hour earlier, Jiang had jumped out of a window at his home in west Beijing and joined the protests that came within inches of toppling the Communist party and which, while ultimately failing in China, paved the way for six Eastern European Communist regimes to implode over the following six months.

It was here, rather than in Tiananmen Square itself, where the majority of the blood was spilt during the violent suppression of the student protests, by inexperienced troops ordered to clear the square by dawn.

Yet today, 25 years later, there is no trace of what happened at apartment block 27 on Fuxingmenwai Boulevard. The holes caused by ricochets, one of which killed the son of a senior government official in a nearby building, have been plastered up. There are no memorial plaques. Full story...

Israel demolishes Bedouin village for 68th time...

Israeli forces on Wednesday demolished the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev Desert for the 68th time.

"A large number of army and police forces stormed into the village and leveled ten homes to the ground," Awad Abu Frieh, a spokesman for the families of the village, told Anadolu Agency.

"The occupation force had not allowed the owners of the destroyed homes to take their belongings from the rubble, leaving them in the open air for the 68th time," he added.

Abu Frieh said that Israeli bulldozers had also destroyed eight homes in different areas in the Negev Desert, describing the event as a "massacre of Palestinian presence" in the desert.

Israeli officials could not be reached for comment.

Around 70 Palestinians, who carry Israeli citizenships, live in Al-Araqib. They say they own the land of the village even before Israel came into being in 1948.

More than 220,000 Palestinians live in the Negev Desert in general, but half of them live in villages and population concentrations that existed hundreds of years ago, according to Israeli statistics. Source...

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