Saturday, November 30, 2013

Total eclipse of the heart...

Australia-NZ gold company destroys Filipino village...

Australian-New Zealand mining company Oceana Gold has destroyed the isolated rural village of Didipio in the mountains of Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya, a province of the Philippines.

Oceana Gold has operated one of six mining projects in the Philippines covered by the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) since 1994. Fierce resistance from villagers, legal struggles and the financial problems of the company meant it was only this year that Oceana Gold was able to ship out its first 5000 tons of copper-gold concentrate.

Thousands of trees from a big biodiversity corridor in the Sierra Madre mountain range were cut down to make way for a 765-hectare open-pit mine, replacing the mountain of Dinkidi.

Discovered as a body of ore by Australian firm Climax-Arimco, Dinkidi has disappeared from the peaks of Mamparang, a significant wildlife corridor. The villagers say that wildlife such as deers, wild boar and hornbills have already disappeared. Mudfish, snails and prawns can no longer be caught in the river, which has also changed in odour and appearance.

The villagers, from the indigenous Ifugao tribes, who used to plant rice in its terraced slopes or grow citrus orchards, are now living in wooden houses outside the gates of the mining complex and most are working as labourers. A handful of the biggest landowners sold the choicest parcels of land to the company and have left the area. One couple, Margarita and Eduardo Licyayo, said they had been cheated of their eight-hectare land in Sitio Bacbacan. Full story...

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Germany rethinks its liberal ways on prostitutes....

On Berlin's Kurfürstenstrasse, they are out in force: women in their late teens to late forties, some of them perhaps older but dressed to look younger. On a November night, many are wearing puffer jackets and tight-fitting jeans under their miniskirts.

A shiny grey BMW stops and silently winds down its window. One of the women steps up on the passenger side. There's a brief exchange of words – five or six syllables, not more – then the car drives off again. A few minutes later the same woman can be seen walking towards the LSD ("Love, Sex & Dreams") adult entertainment store on the corner with Potsdamer Strasse, a client in tow. A girl on her way home from school is skipping down the road in the other direction.

A scene like this can probably be witnessed in most large cities around the world. What is unusual about the situation in Germany is that prostitution here has been legal since the Social Democrat (SPD)-Green coalition government changed the law in 2002.

The aim of that change was, as the SPD politician Anni Brandt-Elsweiler put it at the time, "to improve the situation of prostitutes by giving more power back into their own hands, by strengthening their self-confidence and their legal position when dealing with clients and pimps". Full story...

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Billions from Beijing: Africans divided over Chinese presence...

Everything is as it has always been: decayed rows of houses, weathered doorframes with intricate carvings, potholed dirt roads, fishing boats rotting on the beach and, in the middle of it all, the Boma, a stone fortress built by the former German conquerors in Bagamayo, a sleepy coastal town in Tanzania.

Bagamayo was the capital of the colony of German East Africa from 1888 to 1891, when the administrative seat was moved to Dar es Salaam because the shore in Bagamayo was too shallow for a real seaport. Since then, time seems to have stood still.

"But soon nothing will be as it once was in Bagamayo," says Marie Shaba, "because now the new rulers of the world, the Chinese, are coming."

The 65-year-old radio journalist is wearing a bright, mango-yellow kitenge, the traditional dress worn by Tanzanian women. She calls herself a cultural activist. For years, Shaba has been fighting to have Bagamayo, an important arena for the slave trade in the 19th century and for colonial history, declared a United Nations World Heritage Site.

But now Shaba fears that the sleepy town will disappear in the waves of progress. Full story...

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Life imprisonment for five out of six teachers for repeatedly raping a 19-year-old Untouchable girl student...

The Gujarat High Court today upheld life imprisonment of five out of six teachers for repeatedly raping a 19-year-old Dalit girl student of their college in Patan.

The high court reduced punishment of the sixth teacher from life term to ten years' imprisonment.

A two-judge Bench of Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Z K Saiyed confirmed the life imprisonment for Manish Parmar, Mahendra Prajapati, Ashwin Parmar, Kiran Patel and Suresh Patel--all teachers of Patan's government-run Primary Teachers' Training College (PTC)--but reduced the term of the sixth convict, Atul Patel.

A fast track court in Patan in 2009 had sentenced all six teachers to life term.

The high court took into account the delay in filing of the FIR, the versions of the accused and corroboration of evidences before pronouncing the judgement.

Atul Patel had committed the crime only once and was not involved in gang-rape or multiple gang-rape. Hence, his life term was reduced to rigorous imprisonment of ten years by the high court, the bench said. Full story...

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Black Friday is a hoax and a rip-off...

The multitudes of Americans who brave the freezing cold and the rampaging mobs in the belief it’s all worth it to get a great ‘deal’ on electronic goods they don’t really need and can’t afford are victims of a gigantic scam.

Black Friday is a hoax.

While believing that they are paying far less for high-end consumer products, shoppers who throw themselves on the altar of Black Friday madness today will in the aggregate be paying more for such items than they would at other times of the year.

As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, despite the hype, despite the coupons, despite the “friends and family deals,” the profit margins of large retailers are actually higher during the holiday period. The idea that big stores are losing out in order to provide Americans with massively discounted goods is a complete hoax. Full story...

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The dirty secret of Black Friday "discounts"

When shoppers head out in search of Black Friday bargains this week, they won't just be going to the mall, they'll be witnessing retail theater.

Stores will be pulling out the stops on deep discounts aimed at drawing customers into stores. But retail-industry veterans acknowledge that, in many cases, those bargains will be a carefully engineered illusion.

The common assumption is that retailers stock up on goods and then mark down the ones that don't sell, taking a hit to their profits. But that isn't typically how it plays out. Instead, big retailers work backward with their suppliers to set starting prices that, after all the markdowns, will yield the profit margins they want.

The red cardigan sweater with the ruffled neck on sale for more than 40% off at $39.99 was never meant to sell at its $68 starting price. It was designed with the discount built in. Full story...

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CIA superspy set to flee Pakistan over drone lawsuit...

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been forced to call back its station chief in Islamabad after he was accused of killing civilians in killer drone strikes.

This comes after a Pakistani lawsuit designated the CIA station chief by name, accusing him of killing civilians in missile strikes.

The letter signed by a senior aide to Pakistani politician and cricket star, Imran Khan, asked police in northwestern town of Hangu to name CIA Director John Brennan and a man they identified as the agency's Islamabad station chief as suspects for murder and “waging war against Pakistan.”

Several Pakistani lawyers had previously said they would file a lawsuit against drone killings in Pakistan and, if necessary, one with the International Court of Justice based in The Hague.

The CIA station chief in Islamabad runs the unmanned drone attacks which are said to target militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt. Full story...

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Friday, November 29, 2013

What I learned by giving a homeless woman shelter in my home...

I never thought I would do a thing like this. We generally have a bad perception of homeless people. I’ve had my fair share throughout the US, Canada, India and Europe. From drunken abusive yelling, following me several blocks and asking me for drugs and to people with missing fingers and teeth tapping my driver’s window surrounding the car. I generally don’t give money to panhandlers anymore after some have rejected food from me when standing in front of a burger joint. I only give money to people selling Real Change and homeless shelters.

To keep her anonymity, I’ll refer to her as Emerald. I met Emerald near a local coop coffee shop, after some friendly conversation I found that she was homeless and needed a place to stay for the night. She had been sleeping at her friend’s storage shelter’s cold concrete floor since she couldn’t sleep in her beat-up car comfortably in the winter.

I agreed to let her stay.

You are probably yelling at me in your head, “what the hell were you thinking? aren't you afraid you’re going to get stabbed / robbed / raped / [insert your nightmare here]?”  (That was the reaction of some of the few people I told) Full story...

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How advertising turned anti-consumerism into a secret weapon...

In 1796, the English physician Edward Jenner injected an eight-year-old boy in Gloucestershire with cowpox. Reasoning that absorbing a small amount of the virus would protect the child from a full-strength attack of smallpox in the future, Jenner’s bold experiment founded the practice of vaccination. Two hundred years later, the marketing industry has cottoned on to Jenner’s insight: a little bit of a disease can be a very useful thing.

If you’re one of the more than 7 million people who have watched the global fast-food chain Chipotle’s latest advertisement, you’ll have experienced this sleight of hand for yourself. The animated short film — accompanied by a smartphone game — depicts a haunting parody of corporate agribusiness: cartoon chickens inflated by robotic antibiotic arms, scarecrow workers displaced by ruthless automata. Chipotle’s logo appears only at the very end of the three-minute trailer; it is otherwise branding-free. The motivation for this big-budget exposé? ‘We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from,’ Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, told USA Today, but ‘millennials are sceptical of brands that perpetuate themselves’.

Never mind that Chipotle itself — with more than 1,500 outlets across the US, and an annual turnover of $278 million — is hardly treading lightly on the world’s agricultural system. The real story is that the company is using a dose of anti-Big Food sentiment to inoculate the viewer against not buying any more of its burritos. Chipotle are very happy to sell the idea that they’re on our side if it helps to keep the millennials happy. If it’s advertising we don’t like, then it’s advertising we won’t get. Full story...

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Course aims to train 'sex assistants' for disabled in Italy...

A course aimed at training sexual assistants for disabled people is being prepared by an organization pushing to legalize the role in Italy.

Maximiliano Ulivieri, one of the organization’s founders, launched a campaign to change Italian legislation earlier this year.

He told The Local that the aim is to prepare a course that would give special training - along the lines of what is already provided in a number of other European countries - to people on how to cater to the sexual needs of disabled people. Once in place, the course will be taught in Bologna, where the voluntary organization is registered.

 Ulivieri, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, the muscle wasting disorder, hopes to begin enrollments next year, but realizes it could be some time before the newly trained assistants are able to exercise their role. Full story...

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In Swaziland, Coca-Cola has the power to make democracy the real thing...

(...)

If the king is able to ignore his people, his parliament and his rich neighbours, what is the peaceful route to change for Swaziland? When global giants speak, even kings listen – and in the realm of the multinational, few stand as tall as Coca-Cola.

Sold in more than 200 countries, Coca-Cola has an annual turnover of £21bn, more than nine times Swaziland's yearly output (£2.33bn). When accused of propping up the Swazi regime, Coca-Cola simply said it does not get involved with the internal politics of the countries it works in.

I'm afraid this is just a convenient fudge. In 1987 Coca-Cola moved to Swaziland from apartheid South Africa once public opinion made its presence there unacceptable. While many global firms, like Coke, have genuinely good intentions towards the people they employ and the countries they work from, they also exist to suck up resources and turn them into cash. Where these motives collide there can be only one winner.

Coca-Cola's bosses don't have to woo electorates, but protecting the company's brand as "the world's favourite drink" is incredibly important. Between 2002 and 2010 Coca-Cola donated £170m through its foundation to "develop and maintain vibrant, sustainable and local communities". In 2001 the company launched its African Foundation, based in Swaziland, which is the centre of the company's development work in the continent. But if such corporate social responsibility projects are to be more than just cynical PR exercises, corporations can no longer turn a blind eye to abuses in the countries they work in. Full story...

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How your state of mind is affecting your well-being...

Most of us know that the environment has a tremendous effect on our physical and mental well-being but did you know that our thoughts directly affect the way we physically feel? Remember always that we live and exist as part of a vast, elaborate, and intricate matrix of consciousness where everything affects everything else. There are numerous causes to any one effect. Reality is far more complex than we sometimes realize. It’s far easier on our brains to overly simplify Reality’s operating system yet by doing so we can end up blocking out an understanding of how we are living a shadow of the amazing life we could be experiencing. Let’s take a look at a program in the operating system of Reality that affects us on a daily basis in very intimate ways: our thoughts affecting our well-being.

Anger Makes You Physically Sick

According to a 2006 Harvard study, 10 million adult men in the United States are so angry that they’re sick. In fact, their disease has a name: intermittent explosive disorder, or IED. It’s been something recognized since 1980 but has existed for millenia before humans discovered the facts of the matter. Besides a person filled with anger and rage being an immediate threat to any property or people that may happen to be within swinging distance, there is some serious damage that is happening internally as well. People who experience frequent outbursts of anger have been found to be more likely to die of heart disease or stroke.

In fact, more than 30,000 heart attacks each year are triggered by momentary anger, according to a 2004 Harvard study. “People who have a lot of anger invest a lot of energy in trying to control it, and that kind of friction is likely to increase the probability of a heart attack,” says Charles Spielberger, Ph.D., a University of South Florida psychologist who developed the most widely used test to measure anger. “The more intense the anger, the more likely the heart attack.” Other studies have shown that angry men are three times more likely to develop premature cardiovascular disease, six times more likely to have an early heart attack, and three times more likely to have a stroke. Full story...

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Study proves vaccines — not ‘vaccine refusers’ — are behind whooping cough outbreak...

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the whooping cough vaccines that have been in use since the 1990s — and not kids whose parents refuse the whooping cough vaccine — are actually behind the surge in whooping cough outbreaks across the U.S.

This news flies in the face of scads of articles that have come out in the past few years claiming unvaccinated children are behind whooping cough outbreaks. One such article is Time Magazine’s, “Parents Not Vaccinating Kids Contributed to Whooping Cough Outbreaks” reported on back in September. Time cited research published in the Journal of Pediatrics — research that involved at least one author who disclosed financial ties to Big Pharma vaccine makers Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline — the two companies that just so happen to produce all the pertussis vaccines available in the U.S.

(Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits that unvaccinated children are not responsible for whooping cough outbreaks, by the way.)

Scientists have now concluded that the effectiveness of the acellular pertussis vaccines (DTaP) available on the U.S. market today wanes after about five years. Apparently the old version of the pertussis vaccine was a whole cell vaccine, which supposedly lasted much longer; however, it was discontinued due to side effects such as inducing chronic neurological problems in some of the children who received it. Full story...

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The little known benefits of masturbation...

People talk about anything and everything but, for many of us, having a conversation about masturbation is still taboo; we won't discuss the subject at work or at dinner parties. My two favourite quotes from Woody Allen are: “Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone you love” and “I am such a good lover because I practise a lot on my own.”

Masturbation is a topic that could do with some airing. It is easy to explain why, over the ages, religious groups have condemned masturbation, claiming it inhibits self-control and promotes sexual promiscuity. Given these negative messages some of us receive while growing up, it is not surprising that there are still feelings of shame and embarrassment about this very natural and healthy activity.

Several studies have shown that close to 100 per cent of men masturbate, which is quite understandable, and for women it's about 82 per cent, depending on age. The television series Sex and the City certainly made it easier for women to discuss self-pleasure while at the same time making the rabbit vibrator famous.

Masturbation is important for helping you to discover your body and to find out what you like. Contrary to popular belief, you are responsible for your own orgasm. So if you know your body and know what excites you, you will be able to communicate that to your partner. Full story...

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Man reportedly electrocuted while using iPhone...

In a rare but not entirely unprecedented incident, a man in Thailand was reportedly declared dead after being electrocuted while using his Apple iPhone 4S when it was charging. It's worth pointing out that the charger was found to be third-party one, and not the original Apple-supplied charger.

As per a Tech In Asia report, the 28-year old man from Chanthaburi province was found dead in his room with burn marks across the body and hand. The report claims that the man was holding his iPhone 4S at the time of death and that the smartphone was hooked to a power outlet.

While the exact cause of death has not been ascertained, the report speculates that the man might have been talking on the smartphone while charging it, and that the charger could have overheated resulting in the electrocution.

In a similar incident, a Chinese woman was killed by an electric shock when answering a call on her iPhone 5 while it was charging in July this year. Soon after, Apple announced a probe looking into the death of the woman. Previously, an Apple iPhone 5 even exploded during phone call in Thailand. Full story...

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

A handful of Myanmar...

India sex assault case spotlights powerful predators...

The man at the centre of a sexual assault scandal that has whipped India's media into a frenzy is no average Joe.

Tarun Tejpal is one of India's most powerful journalists, and accusations that he sexually assaulted a colleague have uncovered what lawyers say is an often buried truth - such violence is common in the highest echelons of society.

An investigation into Tejpal, who denies the accusations, has dominated headlines for eight days as news outlets follow every twist and turn. It comes days after similar accusations were made by an intern against a retired Supreme Court judge.

For Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, both cases show how hard it is for women to press complaints against colleagues in the workplace, particularly if they are powerful individuals not used to having their authority challenged. Full story...

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The real story about Canada's role in Haiti...

Step one for everyone trying to make the world a better place should be listening to those they wish to help.

This is certainly true in the case of Haiti, a long-time target of Canadian ‘aid’. But, while Haitians continue to criticize Ottawa’s role in their country, few Canadians bother to pay attention.

After Uruguay announced it was withdrawing its 950 troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti last month, Moise Jean-Charles, took aim at the countries he considers most responsible for undermining Haitian sovereignty. The popular senator from Haiti’s north recently told Haiti Liberté:

“Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are not the real occupiers of Haiti. The real forces behind Haiti’s [UN administered] military occupation — the powers which are putting everybody else up to it — are the U.S., France, and Canada, which colluded in the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat against President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide. It was then they began trampling Haitian sovereignty.”

For the vast majority of Canadians, Jean-Charles’ comment probably sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person. When the media in this country focuses on Haiti, it is typically to highlight Canadian aid projects. Yet, here is one of Haiti’s most popular politicians telling the press (and audiences throughout South America) that Canada helped overthrow its elected government and continues to undermine its sovereignty. Full story...

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In India men are men but women are often "girls"

You can't visit an Indian website or watch TV news at the moment without reading about one of several assault or harassment cases.

One clear change since the outcry over last December's fatal gang rape in Delhi is that the media now devotes much more space to such stories - even without the current spate of high-profile cases.

But what also stands out is that the victims are almost always described as "girls" - even when they are much older than 18.

Some see this "default thinking" as symbolic of to what extent attitudes towards women remain in the past.

The three cases currently getting the most column inches are a perfect example. The accused are, respectively, a well-known magazine editor, a well-known prime ministerial candidate and a prominent, though-so-far-unidentified, retired Supreme Court judge.

The Times of India uses the word "girl" as a standard term for the journalist who has accused the Tehelka editor-in-chief of twice assaulting her earlier this month - even though she's known to be in her late-20s.

"Girl was extremely close to Modi" begins the headline on a TV news piece about the case of a 27-year-old woman allegedly subjected to intrusive surveillance on the orders of the man running to be India's next leader. Full story...

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Is your TV spying on YOU? It sounds like science fiction but many new TVs can watch you...

You are sitting in bed in your pyjamas, drinking a cup of cocoa. A loved one lies next to you, watching late-night television. Pillow talk is exchanged. An alarm clock is set. Eventually the lights are turned out.

Earlier, you sat on the living-room sofa eating supper, before loading the dishwasher and heading upstairs.

You have, in other words, just enjoyed a perfectly normal night, in a perfectly normal home. The curtains are drawn, the central heating turned up. It’s cosy, relaxing and, above all, completely private. Or so you thought.

The truth turns out to be quite the opposite. For on the other side of the world, people you didn’t know existed are keeping a beady eye on your every move.

These characters can see what clothes you have been wearing and what food you’ve eaten. They heard every word you said, and logged every TV show you watched. Some are criminals, others work for major corporations. And now they know your most intimate secrets. Full story...

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Mafia boss was 'fed alive to pigs'

A mafia boss was "fed alive to pigs" as a result of a feud with a rival clan, police in Calabria have revealed.

Francesco Raccosta, who disappeared in March 2012, was severely beaten before being thrown to a drove of pigs, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.

His fate was only recently discovered thanks to a police investigation into the southern ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

In a wiretap, police overheard 24-year-old Simone Pepe boasting about Raccosta’s gruesome end, the newspaper said.

“It was satisfying to hear his screams. Mamma mia how he screamed!...In the end I didn’t see anything...nothing remained!” Pepe said.

 The murder was thought to be in revenge for Raccosta killing another mafia boss, in a feud which dates to the 1950s, Il Fatto said. Source...

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Outrage over €21million pension for French CEO...

French unions and officials on Wednesday slammed plans to award a €21 million pension plan to the CEO of struggling carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, Philippe Varin.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici called the amount "inappropriate" and urged Peugeot to "shed light" on the details of the deal.

Facing calls from unions to forsake the money, Varin said he "understood" the reaction to the news but insisted the compensation was fair.

"When I leave the company, when that time comes, I will not receive any severance pay," he told France Info radio, noting that the €21 million ($28.5 million) would be used to pay his €300,000 annual pension and not
be provided in a lump sum.

 The 61-year-old Varin took charge of Peugeot in 2009. Full story...

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Bill Gates' polio vaccine programme eradicates children, not polio...

In the depths of cyberspace lurks a press release written by the CDC, confirming that the OPV, or oral polio vaccination, given to millions of children throughout the developing world, is causing them to develop vaccine-induced polio.

Instead of banning the vaccination, as one would expect, the CDC has decided in its wisdom that the best way to tackle the problem is to maintain a high rate of vaccination in all countries! Yes, that is correct. The CDC recommends maintaining a high rate of vaccination, vaccinating as many children as possible with a vaccine that causes polio.

(...)

In order for governments to mass vaccinate more efficiently, they are fully backing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a group that has made it very clear that their aim is to wipe out wild polio from the planet. The Gates Foundation appears to be ignorant of the fact that they are causing tens of thousands of children to suffer from vaccine-induced polio.

While a large majority of us look on in sheer horror at the number of children who now suffer life-threatening disabilities caused by the vaccine itself, vaccine-crazed Bill Gates has decided to step up his polio campaign by hiring an array of Bollywood stars such as the notorious Bollywood mega-star Amitabh Bachchan to help him dish out the vaccination. Full story...

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Uproar over French plan to extend online spying...

Google and other internet giants have reacted angrily to the French government’s plans to extend its surveillance of emails, phone calls and online behaviour, as the National Assembly met on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.

A plan to roll out French government surveillance of emails and phone calls came before France’s National Assembly on Tuesday, sparking outrage from major online players such as Google and AOL.

The Military Programming Law would extend the government’s power to acquire internet-users’ data, as well as monitor email and telephone communications, without the need to be ratified in advance by a judge.

ASIC, the French Association of Internet Community Services, has called for a moratorium on the bill, which has already been given the Green light by the Senate. ASIC insists it is “not ok” for government bureaucrats to have “real-time access to internet data.”

 The group – composed of major internet companies such as Google, AOL, Facebook and Dailymotion – has warned that the provisions of the plan go far beyond the fight against terrorism. Full story...

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India's nuclear scientists keep dying mysteriously...

Indian nuclear scientists haven't had an easy time of it over the past decade. Not only has the scientific community been plagued by "suicides", unexplained deaths and sabotage, but those incidents have gone mostly underreported in the country, diluting public interest and leaving the cases quickly cast off by police.

Last month, two high-ranking engineers – KK Josh and Abhish Shivam – on India's first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it was clear they hadn't been hit by a moving train, and reports allege they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide. The media and the Ministry of Defence, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn't investigate any further.

This is the latest in a long list of suspicious deaths. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam's body turned up in June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by the Indian media. However, Pakistani outlets – perhaps unsurprisingly, given relations between the two countries – kept the story going, noting how quick authorities were to label the death a suicide considering no note was left.

Five years earlier, in the same forest where Mahalingham's body was eventually discovered, an armed group with sophisticated weaponry allegedly tried to abduct an official from India's Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC). He, however, managed to escape. Another NPC employee, Ravi Mule, had been murdered weeks before, with police failing to "make any headway" into his case and effectively leaving his family to investigate the crime. A couple of years later, in April of 2011, when the body of former scientist Uma Rao was found, authorities ruled the death as suicide, but family members contested the verdict, saying there had been no signs that Rao was suicidal.  Full story...

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

China's rich fleeing the country—with their fortunes...

It's one of the largest and most rapid wealth migrations of our time: hundreds of billions of dollars, and waves of millionaires flowing out of China to overseas destinations.

According to WealthInsight, the Chinese wealthy now have about $658 billion stashed in offshore assets. Boston Consulting Group puts the number lower, at around $450 billion, but says offshore investments are expected to double in the next three years.

A study from Bain Consulting found that half of China's ultrawealthy—those with $16 million or more in wealth—now have investments overseas.

And it's not just the money that's exiting the country. The wealthy are increasingly following their money overseas.

 A study by Hurun and Bank of China found that more than half of China's millionaires are considering emigrating or have already taken steps to move overseas. Full story...

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Aarushi Talwar: Parents Rajesh and Nupur get life for double murder...

An Indian couple have been sentenced to life in prison for murdering their daughter, Aarushi Talwar, and their Nepalese servant, Hemraj Banjade.

Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were found guilty on Monday of murder, destroying evidence and misleading investigators.

Their 14-year-old daughter was found murdered at their home in May 2008.

Suspicion initially fell on Hemraj until his bludgeoned body was found on the Talwars' roof just one day later.

The murders generated huge interest in India, with every twist and turn in the case receiving wall-to-wall coverage.

Prosecutors sought the death sentence arguing that this was "the rarest of rare cases". The defence team stressed the lack of hard evidence and said the couple were widely respected professionals. Full story...

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Malaysia summons Singapore envoy over spying claims...

Malaysia's foreign ministry has summoned a senior Singaporean diplomat over allegations that the city-state helped the US and Australia tap telecommunications links in Asia for espionage purposes.

Singapore's government has not publicly responded to the allegations, which were published on Monday in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald and cite documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Malaysian foreign minister, Anifah Aman, said in a statement that his ministry was seeking clarification from Singapore's high commissioner to Malaysia.

"If those allegations are eventually proven, it is certainly a serious matter that the government of Malaysia strongly rejects and abhors," Anifah said. He said spying against a good friend and neighbour was unacceptable. Full story...

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There's no peace for poor old Mr Blair...

Why do events conspire so often now to prevent Tony Blair enjoying his post-Number 10 life of diplomatic privilege, first-class international travel and great wealth?

Yesterday, there were three big stories about our former Labour premier, none of them helpful to his reputation as a statesman and Privy Councillor.

Item 1: We are told his friendship with Rupert Murdoch is over because the media tycoon believed Blair had become too friendly with his wife, Wendi Deng, from whom he is now divorced. Apparently, Tony sojourned with her at the Murdoch ranch in California without the man of the house being present. A spokesman for Blair says there is nothing improper in his friendship with Ms Deng.

Item 2: It’s reported that the families of 150 victims of IRA terrorism accuse Blair of ‘conniving’ with Colonel Gaddafi to prevent them seeking compensation from Libya over the supply of Semtex explosives. A spokesman said Blair had nothing whatever to do with compensation legislation signed by President George W. Bush which deprived the 150 of the right to claim.

Item 3: Blair is ‘facing questions’ over the role of his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) in Malawi, where the entire cabinet has been sacked, millions in foreign aid is feared stolen and an official ready to speak out about corruption was shot and seriously wounded in an apparent murder attempt. Full story...

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Singapore an advanced surveillance state, but citizens don’t mind...

Leaks of top secret documents by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has exposed Singapore as a key “third party” providing five countries, including the United States and Australia, secret access to Malaysia’s communications data.

This is done by way of Singapore intelligence tapping on the SEA-ME-WE-3 internet cable which runs from Japan to Singapore, Djibouti, Suez, and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany. SingTel, Singapore’s largest telco which has close relations to the government, allegedly facilitated providing access to the cable. Malaysia and Indonesia are said to be key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence.

However, the news, which suggests that the state has the resources to spy on its own citizens, got little traction within the country. Revealed in August, the pageviews only snowballed recently, and even so, it garnered a weaker reaction than the entrance of extra-marital dating site Ashley Madison into Singapore, a move which sparked an outcry among conservative Singaporeans.

It seems that citizens are more concerned about moral policing than the possibility of having their actions monitored by the state. Full story...

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Cicada 3301: The internet mystery that has the world baffled...

One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.

“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”

The message was signed: "3301”.

A self-confessed IT security "freak” and a skilled cryptographer, Eriksson’s interest was immediately piqued. This was – he knew – an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file. Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background "noise”.

 It’s a technique more commonly associated with nefarious ends, such as concealing child pornography. In 2002 it was suggested that al-Qaeda operatives had planned the September 11 attacks via the auction site eBay, by encrypting messages inside digital photographs. Full story...

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‘56 women killed in Pakistan in 2013 for giving birth to girls’

Fifty-six women have been killed in Pakistan this year for giving birth to a girl rather than a boy, human rights activist IA Rehman said at a symposium here on Monday.

“A country where mothers are killed for giving birth to baby girls can’t be called an ethical society,” Rehman said at the symposium, titled ‘Youth emerging as a force for positive change’, meant to mark the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. The event was arranged by the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA).

From January 2012 to September 2013, there were also 90 acid attacks on women, 72 cases of burning caused by other means, 491 cases of domestic violence, 344 cases of gang rape and 835 cases of violence, he said. “Young girls are being raped in Pakistan and all we do is shout rather that do anything practical,” he said.

Rehman said that giving girls and boys equal access to education and introducing a uniform education system for the rich and the poor would bring about positive changes in Pakistan. “It has taken us 62 years to say that education is a basic right,” he said.

Supreme Court Advocate Shamsa Ali said a third of seats in local government should be reserved for women. This would make local bodies a nursery for young female politicians, she said. Full story...

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Meet Jack English, a 93-year-old legend who lives in a cabin isolated deep in the Ventana Wilderness...



While on a hunting trip he learned that an old homestead in the Ventana Wilderness was being put up for auction by the estate of a childless heiress. He put a bid on the property and won. On the land he built a small cabin using materials from the land and milling trees by hand. When his wife passed away, Jack effectively left "society" and moved to the cabin full time.

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Asia's marathon craze...

Just as marathon running came into its own during the 1980s as a mass participation event around the developed world, the silent foot-slogging revolution has come to Asia. The marathon is chic in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore if not more.

On any given Sunday thousands of Indonesians, Malaysians, Thais, Filipinos and Singaporeans will don their running gear and participate in any number of available events happening every weekend in a murderous tropical sun all across the region. Just over a week ago more than 50,000 did so at the Bangkok Marathon, with a similar number on the same day at the Penang Bridge Marathon in neighboring Malaysia. There was also a major run in Bali that same day with a host of smaller runs in places like Chang Mai, Phuket, and Surin.

Asia has discovered the mass running phenomenon.

The typical stereotype of elderly Asian people as passive couples sitting at home, perhaps going for a short walk or practicing Tai Chi, has been broken. The over-50 category make up 30-40 percent of most mass marathon fields. This group are joined by the 30-something generation who travel to marathons around the region in groups and go through the ritual each week of torturing themselves through a quick 10km or 21km half-marathon, or dragging themselves out through the full 42.1 km full distance, making them fully-fledged members of the "I've finished 42.125 km" group. Full story...

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