Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Indian maid who lost arm in Saudi Arabia becomes face of human trafficking...

When Kasthuri Munirathinam crawled out of the window of a second floor apartment in Riyadh, she was scared for her life.

The 55-year-old Indian housemaid from the southern state of Tamil Nadu was determined to escape from her employer's apartment where she worked as a domestic help.

She had been in Saudi Arabia for just two months, one of thousands of Indians heading to the Gulf states every year for work, but was terrified she would never see her family again.

"I thought they would kill me. I had to escape. I wasn't given enough to eat. They had my wages, my passport, my phone," Munirathinam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in her home in Vellore, 150 km (90 miles) from Chennai.

Munirathinam's desperate bid to escape last September hit international headlines after the housemaid said her employer had chopped her hand off in the affray, with the injury resulting in an operation to amputate her arm. Full story...

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It's not a crime if hungry poor steal food, Italy says...

Italy's highest court has acquitted a homeless man of stealing cheese and sausages, ruling that the theft of small amounts of food by the hungry poor is not a crime.

Ukranian Roman Ostriakov was caught in 2011 pocketing €4.07 ($4.72) worth of food in a supermarket in Genoa, after a customer spotted him and reported him to a member of staff, Italian media reported on Tuesday.

He was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a €100 fine.

But the verdict was appealed on grounds that Ostriakov had been stopped before he had actually left the supermarket, and at a second appeal, Italy's court of cassation acquitted him.

It was clear the defendant "could not live without feeding himself, so acted out of necessity," the court said.

 The Corriere della Sera daily was quick to point out the irony of a legal system in Italy which saw the theft of goods worth fewer than €5 go through three costly rounds of justice - first instance, appeal and cassation - before being thrown out. Source...

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Leicester City: Thailand celebrates karma-driven triumph of ‘Siamese Foxes’

Pirom Methaveerapong went to sleep in Bangkok a confident man, but still set his alarm for 4am this morning so that he would be among the first in Thailand to hear the news.

Mr Pirom duly checked the result of the Tottenham-Chelsea game online, grinned broadly and went back to sleep for a few hours.

Leicester City’s remarkable underdog story has been embraced by football fans around the world.

But nowhere is this truer than in Thailand as this year’s heroics of the Thai-owned club have attracted new legions of followers in a county where loyalties have traditionally been with Liverpool and Manchester United.

“I had no doubts,” the businessman and football fan told The Telegraph after waking up for a second time. “I always expected that Leicester would be the champions because I believe in Phra Prommangkalachan.” Full story...

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Catholic priest in Australia who preyed on kids gets 18 years in jail...

A depraved former priest was able to carry out a decade-long reign of abuse against three girls and nine boys because he was protected by the Catholic Church, a Sydney judge says.

Loud applause broke out in court on Monday as John Joseph Farrell was led from the dock after being sentenced to 29 years behind bars for his crimes in Moree and Tamworth, in country NSW.

Victims and their loved ones packed into the courtroom at Sydney's Downing Centre District Court to watch the 62-year-old face sentencing for dozens of historical sexual crimes committed against children between 1979 and 1988.

The disgraced ex-priest sat with his eyes closed as Judge Peter Zahra told how he preyed on his victims, grooming the children, cultivating the trust of their parents and exploiting his powerful position as a priest.

"This allowed him to offend whenever and wherever he chose," Judge Zahra said. Full story...

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Monday, May 02, 2016

McDonald’s oldest employee is 92 and works in Singapore...

Most people would like to think they’ll be retired and off their feet by the time they reach their 90s. But not one Singaporean great-grandmother, who continues to labor over a hot fryer at one of the city state’s McDonald’s outlets — at the age of 92.

Goh Gwek Eng is the U.S.-based global burger chain’s oldest employee, the Straits Times newspaper reports. Having lived through the occupation of Singapore by Japanese forces in the 1940s, she now has 10 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

“Now that most of them are working or have their own families, the house is very quiet,” Goh said of her decision to keep working.

Goh has been working at the Bedok Interchange McDonald’s since 1998. And by all accounts, she is still lovin’ it. Her only complaint is that she gets a little hot standing near the oil where fries are made. “I plan to keep working for as long as I am healthy,” she told the Straits Times. Source + photo...

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Poet Walt Whitman health tips unearthed...

A trove of journalism by the great US poet Walt Whitman is being published online after lying in obscurity more than 150 years.

The 13-part series, Manly Health and Training, was written under a pseudonym for a New York newspaper in 1858.

It contains a multitude of tips on topics such as diet, sex, and hygiene.

The 47,000-word series, which survived only in a few libraries, was discovered in a digitised newspaper database by a graduate student last year.

It is now being published by the online journal The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.

US commentators point out that some of Whitman's health advice sounds surprisingly modern. Full story...

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Leicester City's 'good karma': the Buddhist monks behind the Foxes' divine play...

From supremely gifted players on the pitch to the tactical vision of the manager and coaching staff and the passionate support of the fans, it takes many people to win English football’s ultimate prize.

But if Leicester City beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to complete their fairy tale story conquest of the Premiership there will be one other, rather more unusual group of supporters to thank – a collection of Buddhist monks from Thailand.

The blessings of the monks, from the Wat Traimit Withayaram Woraviharn (Golden Buddha) Temple, in Bangkok, are being credited with adding a divine element to the team’s play.

About 10 monks from the temple are flown to Britain for most home games by the club’s Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to bless the players before the kick-off, before spending the match deep in meditation in a specially designated room at Leicester City’s King Power stadium. Full story...

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The case against TTIP...

It was the sentence, we were assured, that torpedoed the referendum debate. Asked about Britain’s chances of securing a unilateral trade deal with the United States after leaving the EU, Barack Obama declared: “The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.”

The comment was catnip to the Remain side: the Brexiters have long conjured up the image of a newly divorced Britain taking her rightful place in the “Anglosphere” without the rest of the EU dragging us down. Instead, the US president was telling us, we would be left out in the cold.

But here’s a question for you: what’s so great about a US trade deal, anyway? For the past three years, the acronym “TTIP” has been floating across my vision. I’ve always had the sense it was a Bad Thing, without ever really understanding why. So what is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and should we be against it?

My first port of call is my nerdiest friend. “The first rule of TTIP is, anyone who thinks TTIP matters is a douche,” he tells me briskly. It’s safe to say that’s very much not the opinion of Mark Dearn, a senior trade campaigner at War on Want, who gives me a quick run-through of why the agreement has attracted such widespread protests, including a march by 150,000 people in Berlin last October. Full story...

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

What are the facts behind 'sell by' dates?

Every year, people in the U.K. throw away more than 93 million gallons of milk, 733,000 tons of potatoes and 473,000 tons of bread, according to U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.1 Similarly, the average U.S. family of four wastes more than 2 million calories, which equates to $1,500 worth of food, every year.2

Wilted or spoiled produce, moldy bread, or leftovers that sit too long in the fridge are common contributors to such food waste, but so are potentially good foods that get thrown away solely based on their “sell by” dates.

Labels like “use by” and “sell by” on foods aren’t actually an indicator of food safety, as many believe them to be.

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard even found that more than 90 percent of Americans are throwing out food prematurely because of misunderstandings of what such dates actually mean.3

The researchers concluded that food dates generally lead to good food getting thrown away and may at the same time prompt you to eat a food that’s actually spoiled because of “undue faith in date labels.” Full story...

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Remember the Golan Heights?

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces had surprised Israel and were fast approaching the edge of the steep Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It seemed as if Syrian armor and infantry would retake Golan, then pour down into Israeli Galilee.

Soviet recon satellites observed Israel moving its nuclear-armed, 500km-range Jericho missiles out of protective caves and onto their launch pads. At the same time, Israel was seen loading nuclear bombs on their US-supplied F-4 fighter-bombers at Tel Nof airbase.

Believing Israel was about to use nuclear weapons against Syria and Egypt, Moscow put huge pressure on both to rein in their advancing forces. Damascus, already in range of Israeli artillery on Golan, ordered its armored forces on Golan to halt, allowing Israel to mount powerful counter-attacks and retake the strategic heights.

In 1981, Israel formally annexed the 580 sq. mile portion of Golan that it occupied. This illegal annexation was condemned by the United Nations, the United States and Europe’ powers. But Israel held on to Golan and implanted 50,000 there in some 41 subsidized settlements. Full story...

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Why this Indian woman is using 'blackface' as solidarity...

A young woman in southern India is painting her body black to protest against what she calls the growing intolerance in the country against the low-caste Dalit community, writes Ashraf Padanna in Kerala.

One could run into 26-year-old Jaya PS anywhere in the southern port city of Cochin - be it in a supermarket, public transport or at an art exhibition.

Ms Jaya, who holds a masters degree in art, paints her body with collyrium, a type of dark eye shadow, whenever she steps out of her home studio.

"I decided to paint my body black while appearing in public after Rohith Vemula died," she told the BBC. More + photos...

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Ken Livingstone stands by Hitler comments...

Ken Livingstone has stood by his recent comments about Hitler, saying he was "not sorry for telling the truth".

He said he "regretted" the disruption his comments had caused but "I believe what I said is true".

The former London mayor was suspended from the Labour party on Thursday after saying Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s.

He made the comments while defending Labour MP Naz Shah over accusations she was anti-Semitic.

During an interview on LBC, Mr Livingstone repeatedly refused to apologise for making the comments, saying he was sorry if his views had upset Jewish people but he had simply made a "statement of fact" that had also been made by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Full story...

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Sri Lanka: A troubling spate of arrests across the northern and eastern provinces...

(...)

PEARL is deeply concerned by Sri Lanka’s latest arrest and detention under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of Subramaniyam Sivakaran, a Tamil activist and journalist from the North-East. Sivakaran was arrested in Mannar by the Terrorism Investigation Department on Wednesday, April 27. The arrest came days after he publicly criticized the PTA and the continued detention of Tamils under the Act.

Abductions and arrests of many Tamils across the North-East, although commonplace for decades, have been greatly increasing in recent weeks. The Sri Lankan state continues to deploy its notorious “White Vans” to abduct Tamils, who in some cases later turn up in police or military custody. Although the current government recognized the flawed nature of the PTA and pledged to review and repeal it, the law remains in force and security forces continue to use it to detain Tamils. The existence and application of the PTA also facilitates abuses in custody, like torture and sexual violence. Full story...

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Moscow schoolgirl fools airport security and flies to St. Petersburg ticketless...

An 11-year-old schoolgirl has confounded Russian police and airport officials after managing to fly unnoticed from Moscow to St. Petersburg without documents and tickets.

On the evening of April 25 the girl, a Moscow resident, did not return home from school and her parents began to worry. She was later discovered at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, having boarded a plane at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, somehow eluding all inspections.

According to the girl, who had never flown on an airplane before, her motive was that she had really wanted to see St. Petersburg. Having arrived at Vnukovo, she joined a family couple with children. Evidently, the security guards accidently let the girl pass with the other children.

Incredibly, she was not asked for documents at any of the inspection points in the airport. She boarded the plane, belonging to Aeroflot subsidiary Rossiya, by mixing with adults and took an empty seat. Full story...

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New study shows mass surveillance breeds meekness, fear and self-censorship...

A newly published study from Oxford’s Jon Penney provides empirical evidence for a key argument long made by privacy advocates: that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression. Reporting on the study, the Washington Post this morning described this phenomenon: “If we think that authorities are watching our online actions, we might stop visiting certain websites or not say certain things just to avoid seeming suspicious.”

The new study documents how, in the wake of the 2013 Snowden revelations (of which 87% of Americans were aware), there was “a 20 percent decline in page views on Wikipedia articles related to terrorism, including those that mentioned ‘al-Qaeda,’ “car bomb’ or ‘Taliban.'” People were afraid to read articles about those topics because of fear that doing so would bring them under a cloud of suspicion. The dangers of that dynamic were expressed well by Penney: “If people are spooked or deterred from learning about important policy matters like terrorism and national security, this is a real threat to proper democratic debate.”

As the Post explains, several other studies have also demonstrated how mass surveillance crushes free expression and free thought. A 2015 study examined Google search data and demonstrated that, post-Snowden, “users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the US government” and that these “results suggest that there is a chilling effect on search behavior from government surveillance on the Internet.” Full story...

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Identity 2016: 'Global citizenship' rising, poll suggests...

People are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens, according to a BBC World Service poll.

The trend is particularly marked in emerging economies, where people see themselves as outward looking and internationally minded.

However, in Germany fewer people say they feel like global citizens now, compared with 2001.

Pollsters GlobeScan questioned more than 20,000 people in 18 countries.

More than half of those asked (56%) in emerging economies saw themselves first and foremost as global citizens rather than national citizens.

In Nigeria (73%), China (71%), Peru (70%) and India (67%) the data is particularly marked.

By contrast, the trend in the industrialised nations seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Full story...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Factory Farms (Graphic)

Robert De Niro enters the vaccine safety battle...

Can vaccines trigger autism? This is the topic of the film “Vaxxed”, which was originally scheduled to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, but was pulled from the lineup on March 26.

The decision has created so much blowback and publicity that whoever was pushing for its removal may have cause to regret it because it has given the film a much higher public profile than if it had simply been screened as scheduled.

The Tribeca Film Festival was started by Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal in 2001 in an effort to revitalize lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

Strange as it may seem, according to Rosenthal, it was primarily other filmmakers that were threatening to pull their films out of the prestigious festival unless “Vaxxed” was removed. De Niro says he will look into who lodged the complaints, and why. Full story...

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Furious Germans abandoning their "lyin' corporate media" in droves...

You can see it coming, you know it instinctively, you warn about it and write about it. Then everything comes out much worse than anyone could have predicted. And they had secretly hoped that somehow a miracle would save them – that the soothsayer inside them might just turn out to be wrong. Then the German IVW, [which does the sales auditing for the amount of publications sold within a given period,] presents us with the bill for the first quarter of 2016. And it's much worse than anyone had feared: double-digit losses for the number of mainstream tabloids sold in Germany. The readers are running away in droves…

(...)

And when you take out the red herring publication “B.Z.” from the BILD/B.Z. group (1,997,319), that amounts to 1.8 million BILD publications that are in paid circulation — that’s with throwing a few more rags into the count.

So after 15 years of dominating the newsstands, the BILD gravediggers have driven away a good 3 million of its readers.

That’s a bitter morning gift for the newly designated executive editor of BILD, Tanit Koch. There was a time when BILD had five million buyers. Per day. Full story...

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Malaysia’s bomohs: Witch doctors in modern society...

Last week, students at several schools in the town of Pengkalan Chepa in the eastern Malaysian state of Kelantan suddenly began screaming and gyrating, seeing a particular Malay ghost called Pontianak, also known as Kuntilanak in Indonesia — evil, half-dead, foul-smelling, dripping blood with a nail stuck in her neck, a shrieking female poltergeist.

The case of girls in school dorms or dorm-like habitats in multinational microchip assembly plants such as those in Penang is not new. In the 1970s and 1980s they were regular occurrences, with factories filled with screaming women, and western multinationals kept close contact with bomohs, or Malay shamans, to dispel the spirits.

Nor are they are unique to Malaysia although Malaysia seems a particular center for the phenomenon. They have been observed since the Middle Ages, where nuns in a French convent simultaneously began mewing like cats, according Robert E. Bartholomew and Erich Good, writing in the Skeptical Inquirer in May of 2000. Episodes, the two wrote, typically occur in small, tightly knit groups such as schools, factories, convents and orphanages.

Growing up, I recall elite boarding schools such as those Mara Junior Science Colleges experiencing mass hysteria and group-dynamics demon possession as well In a Kuantan town in the mid-1970s. One ghost was said to look like an angry belly-rubbing monk from Thailand, a “bomoh-Siam-looking ghost” that sat on the rooftop of the girls’ dorms. One girl said she saw him and the dormitory exploded into humming and screaming and ghost-dancing and praying, and the bomoh was called in. He brought a live chicken as a tool for healing. Full story...

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Thailand expats rattled by new visa form...

Many members of Thailand’s vast expatriate community are up in arms over a three-page Immigration Bureau form introduced recently, asking for a wide range of personal information and raising fears that critics or people the military doesn’t like may be targeted.

The information the government is asking for includes bank details, all social media used by name and email address, car brand, model, color and plate numbers, “clubs, restaurants, shops, hospitals and other places” they may frequent, Thai and foreign persons whom they may be in contact with by name, surname, occupation and addresses before they can complete applications for 90-day visas.

Although the government has stressed that most of the information is voluntary, some expats are furious. As Thailand’s two-year-old military dictatorship has continued to wear on, antagonism has grown towards foreigners, particularly against the foreign press. In contrast to earlier times, the whole process of obtaining visas has become more onerous.

For those who in the past could skip over to the nearest border to renew their tourist visas for 60 or 90 days, the government has cracked down to the point that some longtime westerners in the country are considering moving to Cambodia, where seemingly things are a bit less strict. Full story...

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Smoking dead scorpions is Pakistan's latest dangerous addiction...

“I started scorpion smoking in the mid 60s,” recalls 74-year-old Sohbat Khan.

It was Ayub Khan’s era, and Sohbat was only 20 years old. He would frequent the famous Jalil Kabab house, which is how he met the vendor who sold scorpions worth Rs1 or Rs2 right next to the eatery. The men got their supply from Peshawar’s Matani area, which is rich in scorpions because of its insufferably hot weather.

Sohbat says he has quit smoking scorpions. His eyes are sunken from years of addiction, and his pale face and hollow cheeks betray a dependence on opium. “Nasha pa nasha khatmege,” he says, smiling— drugs are beaten by other drugs.

His addiction to opium doesn’t bother him as much; Sohbat says opium’s affects are far safer than scorpion smoking. He knows his body is too old to bear the high, but there are days he still feels the pull.

“Chars aw powder kho asi gup dai,” Sohbat says in way of explanation—“Hashish and heroin’s so-called relief is nothing in front of scorpion.” Full story...

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'Leave us alone': teens plea to parents suffering from exams stress...

Britain's stressed out teenagers just want their parents to leave them alone during exam time, according to a new report.

For the latest research shows that exam stress will affect 8 in 10 teens' behaviour, health or appearance this summer.

But the study warns that parents can also be a key distraction or even frustration, with many teens pleading to be left alone to revise.

And the report highlights the best and worst things that parents can say or do during the fraught revision period.

With just weeks to go until the exam period, a new study by National Citizen Service (NCS), the country's flagship youth empowerment programme, reveals the expected impacts of exam stress on the health, hygiene and mood of British teenagers over the course of the revision period and how parents can not only spot the signs but avoid adding to the pressure and fuelling anxiety levels. Full story...

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  9. Mother replaced daughter in vital French exams!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Turkey objects to dead teen photo in Geneva exhibition...

Turkey has asked authorities in Geneva to remove an exhibition picture that blames President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the death of a Turkish teen injured during anti-government demonstrations, a Swiss official said on Monday.

Berkin Elvan spent 269 days in a coma after being hit in the head by a police tear gas canister during the anti-government protests that rocked Istanbul in May and June 2013.

He died in hospital in March 2014 aged 15.

His injury and subsequent death helped galvanise opposition to Erdogan's government and the heavy-handed tactics used by the police.

 His picture is featured in a photography exhibition across the street from the United Nations complex in Geneva, which is supported by the city and press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. Full story...

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India orders ‘panic button’ for mobile phones in bid to protect women...

Mobile phones sold in India will be required to have a “panic button” after Jan. 1, part of the government’s efforts to address women’s safety in a country where incidents of reported rape continue to rise.

“It's a game changer,” Maneka Gandhi, the minister of women and child development, told reporters Tuesday.

The country’s department of telecommunications set up new rules released this week that require all low-tech feature phones to have a panic button configured to the number key 5 or 9 and all smartphones to have a feature that will engage when the on-off button is pressed three times.

Officials decided that having a physical “panic button” was faster than using an application for the mobile phone, Gandhi’s ministry said. In addition, all mobile phones will be required to have GPS by 2018.

The Indian Cellular Association, which represents the cellphone industry, has expressed support for the plan, but “it remains unclear whether manufacturers like Apple would play ball,” the daily Business Standard noted. Full story...

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Hillsborough inquests: Fans unlawfully killed, jury concludes...

Ninety-six football fans who died as a result of a crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the inquests have concluded.

The jury found match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield was "responsible for manslaughter by gross negligence" due to a breach of his duty of care.

Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the FA Cup semi-final.

The prime minister said the inquests had provided "official confirmation" fans were "utterly blameless".

After a 27-year campaign by victims' families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated.

The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989. Full story...

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Zawadi

Monday, April 25, 2016

Singapore is taking the ‘Smart City’ to a whole new level...

This wealthy financial center is known world-wide for its tidy streets and tight controls on personal behavior, including famous restrictions on the sale of chewing gum to keep the city clean.

Now Singapore may soon be known for something else: the most extensive effort to collect data on daily living ever attempted in a city.

As part of its Smart Nation program, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014, Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle.

It is a sweeping effort that will likely touch the lives of every single resident in the country, in ways that aren’t completely clear since many potential applications may not be known until the system is fully implemented. Already, for instance, authorities are developing or using systems that can tell when people are smoking in prohibited zones or littering from high-rise housing. But the data collected in this next phase—and how it’s used—will go far beyond that. Full story...

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Dutch newspaper publishes cartoon depicting Turkey’s Erdogan as an ape crushing free speech...

After a Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey this weekend for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most-read newspaper in the Netherlands on Monday published a front-page editorial cartoon that shows Erdogan as an ape, apparently crushing Europe's free speech.

The cartoon, published by the populist daily De Telegraaf, has an ape with Erdogan's face squashing a woman who appears to be Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday. In the cartoon, the Turkish president is standing on a rock labeled "Apenrots" — a Dutch term meaning "monkey rocks" that is used to refer to the Dutch Foreign Ministry but can also refer to a place where one dominant individual holds power.

The cartoon is titled "the long arm of Erdogan."

Umar, a columnist for the newspaper Metro, had been detained by Turkish authorities who were investigating tweets she had sent about Erdogan. Umar was released Sunday, but she says she has been ordered to remain in the country as the investigation proceeds. Full story...

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Bangladesh LGBT editor hacked to death...

Bangladesh police say a top gay rights activist and editor at the country's only LGBT magazine is one of two people who have been hacked to death.

The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy.

Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat.

Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups.

The two men were murdered two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility - but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country. Full story...

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TTIP: UK Government found trade deal had 'lots of risk and no benefit' in its only assessment...

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will have "few or no benefits to the UK", according to the only official assessment of the deal commissioned by the UK Government.

The warning was disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information request by anti-TTIP campaigners Global Justice Now.

The group filed a request to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to ask what risk assessments had been made about the treaty.

The BIS said it had carried out only one such review in 2013, when the London School of Economics was commissioned to conduct a study.

The study found TTIP would have limited political and economic benefits and may result in "meaningful economic costs in the UK".

"All in all, it is doubtful UK investors will find additional protections from an EU-US investment protection treaty beyond those currently provided, and enforced, under US law," the study found. Full story...

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

City installs floor traffic lights for smartphone addicts...

Many visitors to European cities are acquainted with the danger.

You are busy trying to navigate your way through some labyrinthine old town using a map or a phone when suddenly you feel yourself lurching to the side.

Only an attentive local dragging you by the scruff of the neck has come between you and a grisly end, caught in the fangs of the serpentine tram or bendy bus creeping up behind you.

Well, it’s not only you.

In the age of the smartphone, wide-eyed tourists and dead-eyed local commuters alike are spending ever more time gawping into a screen as they wander around town, and ever less time paying attention to the world around them.

 The phenomenon has even been given its own German name, “smombie” - a combination of smartphone and zombie - which was voted “youth word of the year” in 2015. Full story...

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Prince, Tom Petty, and others -- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

Saudi Arabia may be in for a nasty shock when Obama steps down...

Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable of carrying on a coherent conversation about important issues.

One visiting US delegation meeting with King Salman recently observed a different method of convincing visitors – or at least television viewers watching the encounter – that he can deal with the escalating crises facing Saudi Arabia. The king did not look at the group but at a giant television screen hanging from the ceiling of the room on which was appearing prompts. Simon Henderson, the Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who tells the story, writes that off to one side in the room was an aide who “furiously hammered talking points into a keyboard".

Of course, King Salman is not the only world leader past or present whose inability to cope has been artfully concealed by aides and courtiers. But eyewitness accounts of his incapacity does put in perspective the claim by the White House that President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and two hour meeting with the king on 20 April was “cordial” and cleared the air after a troubled period in Saudi-US relations. Full story...

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The millionaires building bunkers in their mansions and buying land outside cities to flee to over fears of social uprising as police stock up on riot weapons...

Millionaires concerned about civil unrest are investing in bomb-proof bunkers and buying land outside cities so they can escape during riots, experts have claimed.

Elite residents across the U.S. are said to be concerned about rising crime rates following the clashes in Ferguson in 2014.

One company, Vivos, which deals in underground bunkers, claimed they are being snapped up by 'wealthy' individuals with a 'fear of the uprising from the 99 per cent'.

Economist Robert Johnson added to RT that unrest was one of the main driving forces behind the changes in behaviour, according to Infowars.

It comes as a new report on global riot control systems emerged showing that products are increasingly being bought and stockpiled by law enforcement departments.

Whips, batons, armoured vehicles and updated water cannon systems are all popular with forces preparing for any trouble. Full story...

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Welcome to the devolution: The high-tech world is making us weak and weird...

Our bodies weren’t meant for this world we’ve built. That’s why your back hurts. The things you think are normal are not. The world around you is an alien landscape, a science fiction movie set.

This is not the matrix. This is our everyday, modern life. But if you’ll take a step back with me, you might find that there is hardly anything ordinary about the world we’ve built. The very built-ness of our world is precisely what makes it so foreign to our bodies. In some ways the banal conveniences we seek out and enjoy are actually killing us by a thousand tiny cuts over decades and decades.

Of course, a thousand cuts over the course of a lifetime is a much better way to go than say, one big wound from a sabre tooth tiger taking a bite out of your head. Or finding yourself exposed with no shelter on a freezing tundra. We have eliminated some of the worst things that humans have experienced for most of our history on this planet. That’s quite the accomplishment. But we’ve traded these dangers for the perils of inactivity: heart disease, type II diabetes, some forms of cancer, back pain, joint pain, and possibly a smorgasbord of mental health issues.

Consider the kitchen counter. As you rinse your dishes, blend your smoothie, and grate your cheese, everything is within arms reach. At most you’ll take a few steps to the fridge, bending or squatting for a few seconds to put the bologna back in the crisper. (You fool! Bologna doesn’t go in the crisper!) Full story...

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