Saturday, December 31, 2016

Almost six years of Syrian conflict, through eyes of children ...


Facebook doesn’t tell users everything it really knows about them...

Facebook has long let users see all sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.

But the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.

Since September, ProPublica has been encouraging Facebook users to share the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them. Users showed us everything from “Pretending to Text in Awkward Situations” to “Breastfeeding in Public.” In total, we collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users.

Facebook’s site says it gets information about its users “from a few different sources.”

What the page doesn’t say is that those sources include detailed dossiers obtained from commercial data brokers about users’ offline lives. Nor does Facebook show users any of the often remarkably detailed information it gets from those brokers. Full story...

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France gives workers 'right to disconnect' from work email...

From January 1, a new employment law will enter into force that obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

Overuse of digital devices has been blamed for everything from burnout to sleeplessness as well as relationship problems, with many employees uncertain of when they can switch off.

The French measure is intended to tackle the so-called "always-on" work culture that has led to a surge in usually unpaid overtime -- while also giving employees flexibility to work from outside the office.

"There's a real expectation that companies will seize on the 'right to disconnect' as a protective measure," said Xavier Zunigo, a French workplace expert, as a new survey on the subject was published in October.

 "At the same time, workers don't want to lose the autonomy and flexibility that digital devices give them," added Zunigo, who is an academic and director of research group Aristat. Full story...

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The Japanese parents who apologise for their children...

Japan's corporate apology culture is already well known and deeply rooted.

Many people will be aware of the shazai kaiken, or "apology press conferences", where business chiefs read a profoundly apologetic statement lowering their heads and bowing deeply to their audiences.

But what are less known are the public apologies given by Japanese parents called on to stand up and be accountable for the actions of their children - no matter how old they are.

In late August, actress Atsuko Takahata delivered an emotional apology for her 22-year-old son, who was arrested over an alleged sexual assault. He was released without charge, but before the process even began his mother stood up to tell the public that she must hold partial responsibility for any alleged actions. Full story...

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Singapore's ICA to start collecting iris images next month...

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will be collecting iris images from Singaporeans and permanent residents from next month, as amendments to the National Registration Act kick in.

The iris images will serve as another identifier, in addition to photographs and fingerprints, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday.

This will be done as part of the National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) registration and re-registration process, and passport application and renewal.

Amendments to the Act were passed last month and are aimed at strengthening "the effectiveness and efficiency of (ICA's) operations", said MHA.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee had told Parliament that the collection of iris images would be done in preparation for a roll-out of iris-scanning technology at land, air and sea checkpoints in the next two years. Full story...

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Duterte told Filipinos not to believe Catholic priests and urged them to join the “Iglesia ni Duterte,” (Church of Duterte) a religion he would establish where nothing is forbidden and men are allowed to have five wives.

President Duterte yesterday told Filipinos not to believe Catholic priests and urged them to join the “Iglesia ni Duterte,” a religion he would establish where there is no prohibition and men are allowed to have five wives.

The Catholic Church has been critical of Duterte’s drug war, which is marked by summary killings and human rights violations.

Duterte blasted the Catholic Church anew after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and other churches, including the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, launched exhibits of photos of summary killings under Duterte’s bloody drug war.

In response, Duterte threw insults at the Church during the Christmas party of 2,000 barangay captains and councilors in his hometown Davao City yesterday. Full story...

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Simon's cat: little box...

The gloves come off: Media tycoon Alex Jones to sue Facebook and Wash Post...

The threats are over, it's showtime.

Since the mafia behind the failing MSM declared all out war on alt media - epically highlighted by WaPo’s outrageous PropOrNot scandal, and Facebook’s exposure working on a Chinese censorship tool to restrict news just last month - on Thursday Dec 15, 2016, Alex Jones made his last and final threat, see video below, and the next day he came out and announced (with fury) that he actually is going to move forward with the inevitable big lawsuits that we’ve all been waiting for, see video below.

Yes, he’s not just taking on billionaire Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post (worth $250 million), but Snopes as well, AND Facebook herself (worth $350 billion) - and he. is. pissed.

Now, make no mistake, Facebook, Snopes, and WaPo are lawyering up right now faster than they pissed their already skid-marked knickers. Alex Jones owns one of the biggest media companies in the world (Infowars); which of course dwarfs the Washington Post. He also has alliances with many of the titans in the alt media which all combined recently conjured an influential juggernaut powerful enough to put Der Trumpen F├╝hrer in the White House. In court, Facebook's billions can't buy a jury but Alex Jones's influence can.  More + videos...

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Your gadgets are listening, and the government can too...

Growing popularity of voice activated technology in smartphones and home automation devices means that many Americans are never more than a few feet from a device capable of recording conversations they may assume are private. But a warrant recently obtained by police in Arkansas should serve as a reminder that Americans are willingly bugging their own homes.

Officers in Arkansas are currently hoping the evidence they glean from the recordings on one of Amazon’s popular Echo devices will give them a break in a Bentonville murder investigation.

The Amazon Echo is a popular home automation device which looks like a regular speaker but is always listening on standby for users to utter its wake words. The device, with the help of a virtual personal assistant named Alexa can deliver weather reports, cue a favorite song, dictate a recipe and even order pizza or make dinner reservations via voice commands.

The upside of the device is convenience; the downside is that users tether their phones and troves of personal information to the device and then allow it to listen in on their day-to-day conversations in the home.

When echo users wake the device by addressing “Alexa” directly, the device begins recording commands to save on Amazon’s servers for the purpose of improving its voice recognition capabilities. Full story...

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Dog walks 600 kms with Sabarimala pilgrim to keep him company...

Naveen first saw Malu on 8 December, on the second day of his nearly 700 km pilgrimage by foot from the Mookambika temple in Kollur, Udupi to the Sabarimala shrine in Pathanamthitta. Naveen had no way of knowing then that he had found a friend of a lifetime, who would stay by his side through thick and thin.

Back then Malu was just a stray dog that was curious about a bearded man walking along the road.

An employee at the Kerala State Electricity Board, Naveen began his journey on the morning of 7 December . At first, he was worried about several stray dogs that approached him, especially in the morning hours, and invariably shooed them off. But something about Malu set this dog apart from others.

It took Naveen, a 38-year-old hailing from Kozhikode in Kerala, 17 days to make the journey of more than 600 km by foot. And incredibly, Malu was with him almost every step of the way. And when he made his return journey on 23 December, Malu came back home with him, seated right next to him in a KSRTC bus. More + photos...

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Head of Japan's largest ad agency resigns over 'death by overwork'

The president of Dentsu Inc , Japan's largest advertising agency, will step down over the "death by overwork" of a young employee, a suicide which has prompted official probes and fresh hand-wringing over Japan's overtime culture.

Matsuri Takahashi, a promising graduate of Japan's top university, leapt to her death in December 2015, leaving behind a trail of grievances over relentless days. She clocked 105 hours of overtime in October 2015, before becoming depressed.

Her death, deemed by the government to be "karoshi" or death by overwork, has prompted raids on Dentsu offices, but has also been followed by Japan's first white paper on the issue.

That study found that in a country that imposes few limits on employers regarding overtime hours and pay, more than a fifth of companies had staff that worked more than 80 hours of overtime in a month - the government threshold.

"It is extremely regrettable that we could not prevent overwork by a new recruit," Dentsu President Tadashi Ishii told a news conference. Full story...

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Duterte publicly admits he threw a man out of a helicopter...

The president of the Philippines made his second murder confession in a month Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte claimed he threw a kidnapper out of a helicopter mid-flight during his tenure as mayor of Davao. The president’s statements were intended as a warning to corrupt officials, reports the Philippine Star.

“If you are corrupt, I will fetch you with a helicopter and I will throw you out on the way to Manila,” Duterte explained. “I have done it before, why should I not do it again?”

He recalled telling the pilot to fly at a height suitable to prevent the splatter from “causing a commotion.” Full story...

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Monday, December 19, 2016

New virtual 'female companion' offering more than just weather advice...



Japanese startup Gatebox have created an expensive hologram digital assistant that’s specifically designed to provide companionship to people who live alone.

Gatebox’s AI is called Hikari Azuma. According to her official site, she is 20 years old and 158 cm tall. She likes donuts and anime and her speciality is making fried eggs. She dislikes insects and her dream is to "become a heroine to help people who are working hard."

Short skirt-wearing Hikari lives in a high tech glass box that looks like a fancy coffee machine. Similar to other virtual assistants, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, she can control household appliances and other devices as well as make helpful suggestions like, “It may rain today, take your umbrella with you.” Full story

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Corporate media’s 'Fake News' War is backfiring by showing the world the power of alternative media...

As you’ve likely heard by now, Facebook has taken its war against ‘fake news’ to a whole other level — employing third party media and fact-checking organizations to judge whether news items are legitimate — to the consternation of countless users who see the platform overstepping red lines.

Servile corporate media immediately parroted the wealth of benefits Facebook’s plan will ostensibly provide, from an alert and gateway system forced onto articles deemed “disputed,” to the organizations making the ‘kiss of death’ judgment call: Snopes, FactCheck.org, Politifact, and ABC News.

Anyone with passing knowledge of bias in media is probably spitting out their coffee — all four organizations are notoriously left-leaning and liberal, and the list includes no outlets with any other of myriad ideological tilts.

Indeed, right-leaning outlets from Breitbart to the Drudge Report, as well as the sizable alternative media community — who, collectively, held to higher journalistic standards throughout the election cycle than “old media” titans like the New York Times and Washington Post — quickly condemned the unabashed bias imbued in Facebook’s plan.

Mark Zuckerberg, a large consensus concluded, just declared war on dissent — if not information, itself. Full story...

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The "elite" coup of 2016...

There is an "elite" coup attempt underway against the U.S. President-elect Trump.

The coup is orchestrated by the camp of Hillary Clinton in association with the CIA and neoconservative powers in Congress.

The plan is to use the CIA's "Russia made Trump the winner" nonsense to swing the electoral college against him. The case would then be bumped up to Congress. Major neocon and warmonger parts of the Republicans could then move the presidency to Clinton or, if that fails, put Trump's vice president-elect Mike Pence onto the throne. The regular bipartisan war business, which a Trump presidency threatens to interrupt, could continue.

Should the coup succeed violent insurrections in the United States are likely to ensue with unpredictable consequences.

The above theses are thus far only a general outlay. No general plan has been published. The scheme though is pretty obvious by now. However, the following contains some speculation. Full story...

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Behind Singapore’s PISA rankings success – and why other countries may not want to join the race...

Singapore has topped the global Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings in maths, science and reading, while countries including Australia, France and the UK sit in the bottom batch of OECD countries for achievement in these areas.

So what is Singapore doing right, and do other countries want to emulate it?

Clearly there are things to learn. Singapore has invested heavily in its education system. Its teachers are the best and brightest, and it has developed highly successful pedagogic approaches to science, maths, engineering and technology (STEM) teaching, such as the “Maths Mastery” approach.

Culturally, Singaporeans have a strong commitment to educational achievement and there is a national focus on educational excellence.

Success in PISA rankings and other global league tables are an important part of the Singapore “brand”. Singaporean academic Christopher Gee calls this the “educational arms race”. Highly competitive schooling is the norm. Full story...

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Hopeless Afghan struggle to save boy sex slaves...

Quivering with quiet rage, Shirin holds a photo of his teenage brother-in-law, who now lives as the plaything of policemen, just one victim of a hidden epidemic of kidnappings of young boys for institutionalised sexual slavery in Afghanistan.

Shirin is among 13 families AFP traced and interviewed across three Afghan provinces who said their children were taken for the pervasive practice of "bacha bazi", or paedophilic exploitation, in Western-backed security forces.

Their testimonies shine a rare spotlight on the anguished, solitary struggles to free sons, nephews and cousins from a tradition of culturally-sanctioned enslavement and rape.

Shirin recalled how his 13-year-old brother-in-law screamed and writhed as he was taken from his home earlier this year by a police commander in southern Helmand.

"When I begged for his release, his men pointed their guns and said: 'Do you want your family to die? Forget your boy'," Shirin told AFP in Lashkar Gah. Full story...

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'Internet meme ruined my career'

Deaths in police custody go unpunished in India...

Police in India are torturing suspects to death in custody with impunity and blaming suicide or natural causes, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The rights group said a failure to follow proper arrest procedures, such as presenting a suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours, was allowing police to get away with murder.

At least 675 people died in police custody in India between 2009 and 2015, government figures show. An investigation by the rights group found that victims were beaten with belts or boots, or suspended by their wrists.

"Since these deaths are not happening in an open domain, it is very hard to prove how they died if the other police officials who are witnesses shield their colleagues," said Jayshree Bajoria, author of the report published Monday.

 "The lack of accountability of police is the reason why there is continued impunity for custodial deaths in India," she told AFP. Full story...

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Singapore expands its paternalistic policy on race. Only ethnic Malays would be permitted to run for president next year.

(...)

But Singapore’s paternalism has not gone away. In early November the government announced that only ethnic Malays would be permitted to run for president next year. The constitution will be amended to mandate that presidential elections be reserved for members of a certain ethnic group if nobody from that group has served as president for the past five terms.

Until 1993 parliament chose the president—a largely ceremonial post. Since Singapore began electing its presidents directly, two Chinese-Singaporeans and one Indian-Singaporean have served. The last Malay president was Singapore’s first, Yusof Ishak, who held office from 1965 to 1970. Possible candidates in next year’s election, which must be held before August, include Halimah Yacob and Abdullah Tarmugi, the current and previous Speakers of Parliament. Mr Lee has said the move will ensure that every citizen will “know that someone of his community can become president and in fact, from time to time, does become president”.

Yet some Malays have decried what they see as shallow tokenism. Others have noted that the rule bars Tan Cheng Bock, a former minister who is critical of the government and nearly won the previous presidential race, from running (he is Chinese). A spokesman for the government has dismissed the idea that such a base motive played any part in its decision as “factually false”. Full story...

Saudi Arabia set to execute 150 people for second year in row...

Saudi Arabia is on course to execute 150 people or more, for a second consecutive year, becoming one of the most frequent users of state executions to carry out judicial sentences, figures compiled by the human rights group Reprieve show.

The group also claims its figures show the kingdom is increasingly using secret courts to impose the death penalty on drug offenders, juveniles and political prisoners.

Many Gulf states use the death penalty and there is concern that executions are becoming the “new normal”. The Reprieve figures show 150 people have been executed this year, close to the 2015 high of 158, and way above the 2014 figures of 87.

Reprieve also suggested that although Saudi Arabia was the Gulf state most likely to use the death penalty, other states such as Kuwait were lowering the age at which the death penalty can be used. Full story...

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US 'got it so wrong' on Saddam Hussein, says CIA analyst who interrogated dictator...

The US "got it wrong" about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the CIA analyst who interrogated the former dictator has said.

John Nixon had numerous conversations with the deposed leader and now says that America was critically mistaken about their intervention Iraq in a number of ways.

In particular, he claims, the CIA’s view of Hussein’s attitude to using chemical weapons was wrong.

They were also mistaken about his health, personal habits and his involvement in running Iraq.

Mr Nixon also criticised the conduct of George W Bush, under whose leadership America invaded Iraq, saying the former president heard “only what he wanted to hear” on the topic. Full story...

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Want to win the lottery?

Indian security forces are blinding hundreds of protesters with shotgun pellets...

Indian authorities call the shotgun shells filled with hundreds of small metal pellets a “non-lethal” weapon for crowd control, but that does not make them harmless. They’ve inflicted a permanent toll on hundreds of Kashmiris hit by them.

Their faces are scarred. Their eyes are damaged or simply gone, replaced with prosthetics. And their psychological wounds run deeper still.

“What I miss most is being able to read the holy Quran,” says Firdous Ahmad Dar, 25, a Kashmiri man who lost vision in both eyes after being shot with the pellets during an anti-India protest in the troubled Himalayan region.

The pellets have been in use here since 2010. Soldiers are trained to fire the shotguns below protesters’ waists, causing immense pain but — in theory — no permanent injuries. But a police official acknowledged that the rules are “more or less not followed because of the intensity of stone-throwing protests. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy. Full story...

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Meet the begging bowl barons: How YOU are helping to fund international charity chiefs whose eye-popping pay is bankrolled by BRITISH aid...

Bosses of charities handed millions in British foreign aid to fight poverty in poor nations are creaming off huge six-figure salaries and hefty bonuses, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

An investigation by this newspaper has discovered that charity chiefs are taking home astonishing pay packages worth up to £618,000 a year and ramping up spending on senior staff.

Beneficiaries include former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who takes home £530,922 as president of the US-based International Rescue Committee, which has been given £3.6 million British aid. He has been complaining that a shortage of cash hinders his group from helping people in need.

Another charity – given £7.3 million from British taxpayers to ‘expand economic opportunity’ in Asia – shared £2.25 million last year among its ten most senior staff. Full story...

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Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign was run on ‘fake news:’ staged photo ops, rigged debates, puppet journalists and scripted lines...

Currently, “fake news” is the buzz word of the Regressive Left, and it’s something that we cannot seem to avoid hearing about. Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, those on the Left have done everything in their power to explain why. Instead of accepting the fact that Clinton was an unlikable candidate that ran an uninspiring campaign, they have blamed everyone from third-party voters to the Russians for the loss.

Recently, though, “fake news” began to receive the brunt of the blame, which is hilarious when you consider that Hillary Clinton utilized actual fake news during her entire campaign.

During a speech at Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s portrait unveiling last week, Hillary Clinton stated, “It’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real world consequences. This isn’t about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities. It’s a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.” Because, of course, she did. Full story...

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Donald Trump faces Senate backlash over ‘cabinet of billionaires’

Earlier this month, Donald Trump used a “thank-you” rally in Des Moines, Iowa, to give his supporters further insight into the “deal-making” team he intends to build in Washington. As president-elect, Trump has so far nominated a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers and the chief executive of the world’s largest oil firm to senior positions. Responding to liberal consternation at the sheer wealth of the prospective appointees, Trump told his audience: “A newspaper [the New York Times] criticised me and said: ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’ Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they are negotiating for you, OK? It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”

Trump’s cabinet, which is not yet fully filled, is already said to be worth a combined $14bn – the richest White House top table ever assembled. His team – if all are confirmed by the Senate – will be worth 50 times the $250m combined wealth of George W Bush’s first cabinet, which the media at the time dubbed the “team of millionaires”. For Trump, those figures are simply a confirmation of competence: in Trumpian politics, the richer you are, the better you must be at cutting a deal. And “deal-making” is what the next White House will be all about.

Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly returned to the theme of the “terrible deals” cut by previous administrations, from the North American Free Trade Agreement trade deal to the nuclear deal with Iran. Full story...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A small nick or cut, they say...

368 US gymnasts as young as 6 years old report sexual abuse...

A 12-year-old gymnast molested by an Olympic coach during “therapy” sessions.

Children as young as 6 secretly photographed nude by coaches.

Coaches who slipped a finger inside girls’ leotards.

A coach having almost daily sex with a 14-year-old at one of the country’s most prestigious gyms.

No one knows exactly how many children have been sexually exploited in America’s gyms over the past 20 years. But an IndyStar-USA TODAY Network review of hundreds of police files and court cases across the country provides for the first time a measure of just how pervasive the problem is.

At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That’s a rate of one every 20 days. And it's likely an undercount. Full story...

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Starving Yemeni children, bloated US weapons makers...

While the world is transfixed on the epic tragedy unfolding in Syria, another tragedy—a hidden one—has been consuming the children of Yemen. Battered by the twin evils of war and hunger, every ten minutes a child in Yemen is now dying from malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory-tract infections. A new UNICEF report shows over 400,000 Yemeni children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Without immediate medical attention, these children will die. The situation is so dire that over half of the entire nation’s 25 million people lack sufficient food.

Why are so many of Yemen’s children going hungry and dying? Since 2014 Yemen has been wracked by a civil war, a war that has been exacerbated by outside intervention from Saudi Arabia. In March 2015, the Saudi government became involved in the internal conflict in neighboring Yemen because it was worried that a more pro-Iran faction—the Houthis—would take over the government. Since then, with U.S. weapons and logistical support, the Saudis have been pounding Yemen. This 20-month-old Saudi bombing campaign has not only killed thousands of innocent Yemenis, but sparked a severe humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Middle East.

Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and the war, including a Saudi naval blockade and bombing of the country’s main port, has made it difficult to import food and sufficient humanitarian supplies. The war has left millions of people unemployed and over two million displaced. These families don’t have income to buy food, while food prices have soared because of the shortages. Full story...

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Kickass Torrents is back!!!

After its much publicised shutdown in August with its boss allegedly being arrested by the US Justice Department in Poland, Kickass torrents is back. No, it is not a mirror or a clone of the original one, but the original one in its full glory.

According to TorrentFreak report, Kickass Torrents’ original staffers have brought the defunct website back to life under a new domain name, with all its old content and former glory.

The website however, looks to be under construction right now with a message being displayed saying, “Servers load have been affected, there are other few sources of this issue, its not just one. We are working to fix this as soon as possible. One thing is for sure, we are not going anywhere, even as much (people) behind this acts want us to. Cowards always choose the shadows to commit their acts, and I do personally hope they know how to pray, they will need it.”

The website, after a special request of team members, have also pinned a YouTube like to Rick Astley’s famous track Never Gonna Give You Up which is an assumption that this message is for the community suggesting that Kickass Torrents is here to stay.

The staffers have pointed out that their site has a proper DMCA takedown procedure, which is similar to websites like YouTube which states that they do not store any copyrighted material on their servers. Source...

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Obama destabilizes our democracy with fake news...

Obama and his press secretary, Josh Earnest, are now leading the post-election campaign against Trump. That’s evident by their latest accusations and charges against Trump. They have made strong statements of supposed fact that are more extreme than anything they’ve said so far. Their statements are fake news, that is, suppositions that are presented as if they were known and true facts. They are like the lie that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and the lie that Gaddafi was springing a genocide on the Libyan people.

The facts about who hacked or leaked e-mails from the DNC are not known at this time. We do not know who did what or why. We know what Obama is saying about the DNC leaks, and I will argue that what he and his associates are saying is fake news. I will argue that the main accusation against Trump, which is that he’s destabilizing our democracy, applies directly to Obama’s own statements. I do not pretend to be presenting facts in everything I say. I present hypotheses whose truth can only be verified as new evidence is brought forward or as existing facts tend to confirm the suppositions I am making. I present an overall picture that tries to make sense of what is being said by Obama and his spokesmen. I want to present this as a case study in the generation of fake news from the White House. I want to show how it is that we cannot simply accept or believe what is told to us by government officials. We have to go deeper if we are to judge the truth or falsity of their statements. Full story...

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Japan's pudgy pop stars take aim at obesity prejudice...

Competition is cutthroat among Japan's thousands of pop idol wannabes, but a unique concept is winning fame for a band of "chubby" girls deploying their cheeky cuteness to combat prejudices against obesity.

Despite one of the lowest rates of obesity in the developed world, Japan has a growing number of underweight young women, who rely on excessive dieting to satisfy society's emphasis on being slim.

Heavy people are the frequent target of jokes in the media and use of the derogatory "debu," or "fatso," remains common.

Enter "Pottya", a pop group named after a slang word for chubby and consisting of four young women who are not especially hefty to Western eyes, but well above average weight in Japan. Full story...

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Jain and Makeba...

'We’re living in the end of times': Starving Venezuelans giving away children to survive...

Venezuelan parents are giving up their children to survive as the South American country’s suffers with a catastrophic economic crisis.

Three local councils and four national welfare groups say there is an increase in parents handing kids over to the state, charities, friends and family.

A baby boy was recently found abandoned inside a bag in capital Caracas and a malnourished one-year-old boy was found in a cardboard box in Ciudad Guayana in recent months.

The trend is an indictment of Venezuela's triple-digit inflation and near 80 per cent currency collapse over the last year.

“This is written in the bible. We’re living in the end of times,” said Zulay Pulgar, who gave her six-year-old daughter to a neighbour in October. “It’s better that she has another family than go into prostitution, drugs or die of hunger.” Full story...

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Banned by 119 countries, US cluster bombs continue to orphan Yemeni children...

On the morning of October 5, Ali Mohammed “Jubahi” Medarij set out early from his family home in al-Hayma, a coastal fishing village on the Red Sea in western Yemen. Every day, the 34-year-old fisherman traveled 9 miles to a local market — not to sell his catch, but to look for work.

The father of five had not taken his boat to sea in months. Eight other fishermen had already gone missing, presumed dead from attacks by the Saudi naval blockade. Jubahi had joined the other fisherman and dragged his boat onto the beach, where it sat idle while he struggled to support his wife, elderly father, and children.

But on that fall day, Jubahi’s trip to the market was successful. He returned in the early afternoon to share a meal with his family, before wandering down to the beach by himself. According to his father, Jubahi slipped underneath an overturned boat to escape the afternoon sun, and — exhausted — closed his eyes to sleep.

He never woke up. Full story...

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Singapore jails second BSI banker on charges linked to 1MDB probe...

A Singapore court on Friday jailed a second former banker from Swiss wealth manager BSI on charges stemming from a money laundering investigation linked to state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Yvonne Seah, 45, was sentenced to two weeks in prison and a fine of S$10,000 ($6,929), after pleading guilty to three charges including forgery and failure to disclose suspicious transactions involving Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho.

Singapore authorities have described Low, also known as Jho Low, as a key figure in the money-laundering investigation.

Seah worked with Yak Yew Chee, a senior vice president at BSI Singapore, who was a private banker for Low and 1MDB.

Yak was sentenced to 18-week jail term in November on similar charges. Full story...

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'Like a prostitute': 91% of French respondents say the media lies in a Twitter poll...

A French journalist created a stir on Twitter after launching an open poll which asks if people think the media lies. At least 91 percent of the respondents said ‘yes,’ adding that the media hides information, and even comparing journalism to prostitution.

The poll was launched by French journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin, editor-in-chief of RMC radio, earlier in December. He asked one simple question: “Does the media lie to you? Vote.”

Almost 8,000 people answered, and on Tuesday, Bourdin unveiled the final results, with 91 percent of the respondents saying, “Yes, the media lies to us.”

“Media are partisan and distribute biased information,” one person wrote under Bourdin’s post. Full story...

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Indian tycoon builds 90 homes for homeless to celebrate daughter’s wedding...

A wealthy businessman in India’s Aurangabad in Maharashtra chose to celebrate his daughter's wedding by using the money for her wedding to build 90 homes for the homeless instead.

Ajay Munot had Rs 70-80 lakh set aside for his daughter Shreya’s wedding, but decided to put the money to better use and help those who truly needed it.

Munot, a cloth and wheat wholesaler, built the 90 houses on 2 acres of land which cost him 1.5 crore, or 150 lakhs ($22,0920).

Both the bride and groom were supportive of Munot's decision, and handed the keys to the new owners after the wedding.

“I am very happy with the decision and will consider it as my marriage gift,” Sheyra said. Full story...

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Astroturf and manipulation of media messages ...

It’s beginning to smell a lot like totalitarianism, and I don’t mean Rulssia...

(...)

Coprophilia is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “marked interest in excrement, especially the use of feces or filth for sexual excitement.” And coprophagia is eating feces by humans, literally, eating shit.

What people precisely, Holy Father, have a “tendency to towards the sickness of coprophagia”? Is this the dominant sickness of the human race? And if not, why do you make such a disgusting likeness between eating shit and citizens who read about politicians and their misdeeds or media that report on same? And who is to judge if factually true dissemination of facts about political figures from their past is relevant or not to help voters judge their character? I would say the comments are a perfect example of what he pretends to condemn.

Were it only a single, off-the-cuff remark by a religious figure, we could dismiss it along with claims such as the papal infallibility declaration proclaimed by the Vatican I on 18 July 1870. However, precisely because of such dogma and of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and its Pope, notably in the countries of Western Europe, the United States and Latin America, such vague and dangerous remarks ought to be taken seriously as a signal of what lies ahead for the public freedom of speech. Full story...

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