Sunday, April 26, 2015

What is the Armenian genocide?

Nepal earthquake 'a disaster experts knew was coming'

Just a week ago, about 50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world came to Kathmandu, Nepal to figure out how to get this poor, congested, overdeveloped, shoddily built area to prepare better for the big one, a repeat of the 1934 temblor that leveled this city. They knew they were racing the clock, but they didn't know when what they feared would strike.

"It was sort of a nightmare waiting to happen," said seismologist James Jackson, head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge in England. "Physically and geologically what happened is exactly what we thought would happen."

But he did not expect the massive quake that struck Saturday to happen so soon. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed nearly 1,400 and counting and caused widespread destruction.

"I was walking through that very area where that earthquake was and I thought at the very time that the area was heading for trouble," said Jackson, lead scientist for Earthquakes Without Frontiers, a group that tries to make Asia more able to bounce back from these disasters and was having the meeting.

 A Kathmandu earthquake has long been feared, not just because of the natural seismic fault, but because of the local, more human conditions that make it worse. Full story...

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A bolly good read...

MILLIONS of Indians watch Bollywood movies for the broken hearts, lost fortunes, dishy actors and catchy tunes. But beyond mere escapism, such fare may have a role to play in fighting illiteracy. Between 1991 and 2011 India’s official literacy rate rose from 52% to 74%. But about 400m of those counted as literate are only barely so. Bollywood, with its powerful pull among the least-educated, may help the many who can read only simple words.

Brij Kothari of PlanetRead, an NGO, believes that “same-language subtitling”—providing subtitles for the lyrics of catchy Bollywood songs—offers valuable reading practice. Fans keen to mimic their screen idols are drawn to the written versions as they scroll by. The repetitive verses offer a chance to practise more complex words. Children learn well when a ball bounces along the words on screen. Adults generally prefer the words to be highlighted as they are sung.

Mr Kothari says the idea came to him when he tried to improve his rudimentary Spanish by watching films in the language, and found himself wishing they came with Spanish subtitles. Students of Chinese will know how useful this can be. Since dialect-speaking viewers may struggle with spoken Mandarin but understand the written form, many films are subtitled in Chinese characters.

Since the mid-1990s, PlanetRead has subtitled songs in a range of Indian languages. Some are broadcast by Doordarshan, the state broadcaster, in a weekly hour-long programme. Two years ago Zee Talkies, the biggest private film channel in Maharashtra state (of which Bollywood’s home, Mumbai, is the capital) began subtitling songs in ten prime-time movies each week. Bollywood songs with subtitles are now estimated to reach 150m-200m Indian viewers each week. Full story...

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Thousands gather in Istanbul to demand Turkey recognize Armenian mass killings as genocide...

Thousands gathered Friday evening in Istanbul to mark the centennial of the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Armenians from around the world assembled in the evening sunshine at the entrance of central Taksim Square to remember the hundreds of thousands of their countrymen and women who died 100 years earlier in massacres and death marches as Turkish authorities forcibly deported them.

The event began with a smaller group hanging strips of cloth on a wooden "wishing tree," each representing a victim or survivor of the killings. A large crowd of chanting demonstrators arrived shortly afterward demanding that the events of 1915 be recognized as genocide. Turkish authorities are fiercely opposed to doing so, however, claiming instead that the deaths were the result of civil war that led to suffering on both sides.

Many attendees were members of the Armenian diaspora and had travelled to Turkey especially for the ceremony as well as a preceding program of concerts lectures and memorial services. Some clutched photographs of their ancestors — both survivors and victims — and told the stories behind the sepia-toned faces.

Roxeanna Makasdjian, a red-haired 54-year-old from San Francisco who runs a nonprofit focused on human rights and genocide, held a picture of her great grandmother and two others aloft. They lived through the killings, she told VICE News, but others in her family did not. Full story...

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Big bank 'crime of the century' results in guess what? No jail time for anyone...

While corporate watchdogs hailed the record $2.5 billion settlement paid by Deutsche Bank to U.S. and U.K. authorities for its rate-rigging role in the massive LIBOR scandal, some noted that the fine—while large—suggests that some institutions are still considered "too big to jail."

Authorities announced Thursday that Germany's biggest bank would pay $2.5 billion in penalties, a record for cases involving interest rate fraud, which have already targeted banking behemoths like Barclays and UBS. Officials said the wrongdoing at Deutsche Bank lasted from 2005 to 2011 and touched employees in London, Frankfurt, New York, and Tokyo.

The New York Times reports that Deutsche Bank "also agreed to accept a criminal guilty plea for the British subsidiary at the center of the case. It is the most significant banking unit to accept a criminal plea in the long-running investigation into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR."

(...)

Bartlett continued: "This settlement, which involves no jail time for any traders, seems out of sync with the problems identified. To make matters worse, many of the traders responsible for the frauds remain employed at Deutsche Bank. The DOJ claims that it may still prosecute individuals, and we hope it will pursue such work. To date, some traders at other firms such as Rabobank have been convicted, but no senior officers of any of the banks involved in the LIBOR case have faced charges."

Indeed, as journalist Valentin Schmid points out at Epoch Times, "Insider trading in individual stocks seems minute in comparison, yet many people have been jailed for 10 years or more. Time criminals working for large international banks are given the same treatment." Full story...

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Battlefield America: The war on the American people...

“A government which will turn its tanks upon its people, for any reason, is a government with a taste of blood and a thirst for power and must either be smartly rebuked, or blindly obeyed in deadly fear.”—John Salter

We have entered into a particularly dismal chapter in the American narrative, one that shifts us from a swashbuckling tale of adventure into a bone-chilling horror story.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, “we the people” have now come full circle, from being held captive by the British police state to being held captive by the American police state. In between, we have charted a course from revolutionaries fighting for our independence and a free people establishing a new nation to pioneers and explorers, braving the wilderness and expanding into new territories.

Where we went wrong, however, was in allowing ourselves to become enthralled with and then held hostage by a military empire in bondage to a corporate state (the very definition of fascism). No longer would America hold the moral high ground as a champion of freedom and human rights. Instead, in the pursuit of profit, our overlords succumbed to greed, took pleasure in inflicting pain, exported torture, and imported the machinery of war, transforming the American landscape into a battlefield, complete with military personnel, tactics and weaponry.

To our dismay, we now find ourselves scrambling for a foothold as our once rock-solid constitutional foundation crumbles beneath us. And no longer can we rely on the president, Congress, the courts, or the police to protect us from wrongdoing.

Indeed, they have come to embody all that is wrong with America. Full story...

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115 children killed in month of Saudi-led operation in Yemen – UN...

At least 115 children have been killed and 172 injured in Yemen as the Saudi-led operation against Shiite Houthi militia forces enters its fifth week, UN agency said, adding that the total number of the dead and wounded kids may be even higher.

“The number of child casualties shows clearly how devastating this conflict continues to be for the country’s children. Without a speedy end to the violence, children will be unable to lead normal lives,” Julien Harneis, UNICEF Representative to Yemen said.

According to UNICEF estimates, “at least 64 children have been killed by aerial bombardments, 26 by unexploded ordnance and mines, 19 by gunshots, three by shelling and three by unverified causes related to the conflict.”

The numbers of children killed or injured may be even higher, as “the verification process is ongoing,” the agency said, adding that as the crisis in Yemen continues, it’s children who remain ”the most vulnerable.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen who continue to live in the most dangerous circumstances, many waking up scared in the middle of the night to the sounds of bombing and gunfire,” added Harneis. Full story...

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A new way of feeding your kid!!!

Turkey, Armenia and the other "forgotten" genocides...

It’s good and right that we commemorate the mass killing in the Ottoman Empire during World War I of between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians.

Many nations now call the slaughter of 1915-1916 a “genocide.” This week the 100th anniversary of the notorious event was observed. Pope Francis and the European parliament called on Turkey to recognize the killings as genocide.

Turkey, successor to the Ottoman Empire, admits many Armenians were killed in WWI, but rejects the label of “genocide,” saying their deaths occurred in the confusion of war, not by design. The United States, a very close ally of Turkey, avoids the “g” word. Interestingly, Israel does too, perhaps not wanting to detract from the genocide Jews suffered in WWII.

Armenians insist the Ottoman authorities were determined to eradicate the ancient Armenian people. Turks claim that Armenian guerilla bands known as “dashnaks” acted as a fifth column for their bitter foe, Russia, which was attacking the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Large numbers of Armenian civilians were herded from their homes in eastern Turkey, across the mountains, and into the wastes of northern Syria.

The greatest loss of life occurred on these “death marches,” a fact that Turkey accepts. What is rarely stated by either side is that Kurdish tribesmen inflicted a significant number of deaths, pillage, and rape on the helpless Armenian deportees. Full story...

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Smartphones making children borderline autistic, warns expert...

Children struggle to read emotions and are less empathetic than a generation ago because they spend too much time using tablets and smartphones, a leading psychiatrist has warned.

Iain McGilchrist said children as young as five were less able to read facial expressions because of too much interaction with technology.

He added that he had evidence that more pupils were displaying borderline "autistic" behaviour. Dr McGilchrist, a former Oxford literary scholar who retrained in medicine, said he had heard of increasing numbers of teachers who had to explain to their pupils how to make sense of human faces.

However, experts have said children’s lack of ability to read emotions may be down to cultural or language barriers and not just technology.

Mr McGilchrist said he’d heard from teachers who said they now have to explain to their pupils how to make sense of the human face more than a few years ago.

 Mr McGilchrist said he has been contacted by teachers of five to seven year olds who have estimated that roughly a third of their pupils find it difficult to keep attention, read faces and show empathy. Full story...

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Damning new evidence of Labour peer Lord Janner's child sex abuse covered up by police and social workers for over 20 years...

The most damning evidence yet of how the Establishment hid Lord Janner's alleged child abuse can be revealed today.

Police and social workers were told more than 20 years ago that the peer took a vulnerable boy to Labour Party offices and Parliament before molesting him in his marital bed.

A ten-page witness statement details the alleged victim's harrowing ordeal at the hands of Janner. But all references to the politician were removed from the child's social services file, according to legal papers obtained by the Mail.

A children's home manager told bosses she feared he was having sex with the child but her concerns were 'swept under the carpet'.

The scale of the cover-up helps explains how the former Labour MP repeatedly escaped justice.

The Director of Public Prosecutions says there was sufficient evidence to charge Janner with 22 offences of paedophilia against nine children. But Alison Saunders outraged campaigners by ruling the 86-year-old should not face court because he has dementia. The latest proof of the Establishment's strenuous efforts to protect one of its own came as it emerged that: Full story...

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The ADHD fallacy: It’s time to stop treating childhood as a disease...

I met Aiden in 2008 when he was seven years old. The previous year, he had moved with his family from New York to California, and the transition had been difficult. He missed his friends in his old neighborhood and his cousins who had lived nearby. When I met with Aiden’s parents, Scott and Ava, they told me Aiden had always been a handful. Even as a baby Aiden was colicky and fussy, and difficult to put down to sleep. At two years old, he was more active than most of their friends’ children. Aiden’s preschool teachers had been concerned about his disruptive, impulsive behavior.

Now Aiden’s second-grade teacher said he typically fidgeted at his desk and talked with his classmates instead of completing his class work. Often he doodled or daydreamed and missed the teacher’s instructions so the teacher had to explain an assignment two or three times before he figured out what he was supposed to do. The teacher sent notes home almost every day. Worst of all, Ava explained with tears in her eyes, Aiden was beginning to feel bad about himself. He had begun saying things like “I hate myself” and “I’m stupid.”

On the plus side, Ava told me, Aiden was a sweet and caring child. He seemed to be able to focus for hours on things that interested him such as video games. He was also an amazing artist. The walls of their house were covered with his drawings of horses, their cat Donovan, and their dog Barney. He had been playing piano since he was five, and his piano teacher said he had a natural talent for music.

Worried about Aiden’s disruptive behavior at school, Ava and Scott took him to the pediatrician. The doctor said Aiden had enough symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattention to warrant a diagnosis of ADHD. The pediatrician wrote a prescription for Adderall. Before giving Aiden the medicine, however, his parents decided to consult me to find out if there was some other way to help him apart from medication. I was happy to help. Full story...

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Woman who spent 30 YEARS fighting debilitating cerebral palsy and undergoing operations discovers she has been misdiagnosed - and almost all of her symptoms can be cured by just one pill...

A woman who spent 30 years of her life believing that she suffered from cerebral palsy, only to learn that she had in fact been misdiagnosed and almost all of her symptoms could be cured with just one pill, insists she feels no resentment or anger about her doctor’s life-changing error.

Jean Sharon Abbott, 38, from Plymouth, Minnesota, was told she had spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, when she was just four-years-old. But after three decades of suffering from muscle spasms, weakness, near immobility, as well as undergoing painful surgical procedures, she learned at the age of 33 that she actually had dopa-responsive dystonia (DRD), a rare, yet treatable, muscle disorder.

'Honestly, I’ve never had any negative thoughts about what I went through,' Jean told Daily Mail Online of her misdiagnosis, which saw her confined to a bed for much of her childhood.

While Jean admitted that there 'plenty of times' she wished she didn't have to deal with the physical symptoms associated with condition, including her dependence on others to complete everyday tasks, she noted that she still had a 'fantastic childhood' - thanks in large part to the unwavering support of her family and friends.

'Even though I had challenges, my parents were so good with dealing with my disability and didn’t “baby” me,' she explained. 'Also, I had true friendships that I never had to question. All of my life experiences made me who I am today - and I like me.' Full story...

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Battle lines drawn in India's internet debate...



More than a million Indians have come together in an attempt to ensure that internet services remain free of government regulations seen as favouring big telecom companies, in the world's third largest internet using country.

In one of the biggest online campaigns of recent times, Indians have given a verdict in favour of net neutrality after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) sought peoples' feedback last month.

TRAI sought to know whether any service or application provided online like messaging and voice services, e-commerce sites and apps should be regulated, and whether consumers should not just pay for data but also access to certain websites and services.

TRAI set a deadline of April 24 and, within days, was receiving 50 emails per minute in what activists called was the biggest such response to a government discussion paper in India. Full story...

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India's upper house of parliament passes landmark transgender rights bill...

The Rajya Sabha, upper house of India’s Parliament, voted unanimously on Friday in favor of a bill to protect the rights of transgender people.

According to media reports, the private member's bill by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva who represents Tamil Nadu was the first member-sponsored bill to be passed since 1970.

On Friday, MPs are said to have cut across party lines to support the proposed legislation that aims to safeguard the welfare of transgender people who are known in India as the 'third gender'.

The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill 2014 now goes to India's lower house, the Lok Sabha, for a vote.

 If it passes, it would require the government to establish a plan to safeguard the welfare of transgender people. Full story...

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Drinking milk from non-Indian cows 'could make children turn to crime'

The Jersey cow may seem like a cute symbol of the British countryside, but according to Hindu nationalists in India it is a demonic creature and the cause of juvenile crime.

The claim was made by a leading figure in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the influential Hindu nationalist group which counts Narendra Modi, the prime minister, among its members. Mr Modi was educated by the group as a child and entered politics with its support.

The group has successfully lobbied for the slaughter of cows for beef to be banned in some parts of India because it offends higher caste Hindus who worship them as a source of life.

 It also promotes the use of cow dung as antiseptic flooring, bovine biogas as fuel, and its urine as a 'cola' health drink. Full story...

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Naypyidaw: Burma's bizarre capital: a super-sized slice of post-apocalypse suburbia...

Driving through Naypyidaw, the purpose-built capital of Burma, it could be easy to forget that you’re in the middle of one of south-east Asia’s poorest countries. On either side of the street, a seemingly endless series of giant detached buildings, villa-style hotels and shopping malls look like they have fallen from the sky, all painted in soft pastel colours: light pink, baby blue, beige. The roads are newly paved and lined with flowers and carefully pruned shrubbery. Meticulously landscaped roundabouts boast large sculptures of flowers.

The scale of this surreal city is difficult to describe: it extends an estimated 4,800 square kilometres, six times the size of New York City. Everything looks super-sized. The streets – clearly designed for cars and motorcades, not pedestrians nor leisurely strolls – have up to 20 lanes and stretch as far as the eye can see (the rumour is these grandiose boulevards were built to enable aircraft to land on them in the event of anti-government protests or other “disturbances”). There is a safari park, a zoo complete with air-conditioned penguin habitat, and at least four golf courses. Unlike in much of the country, there is reliable electricity here. Many of the restaurants have free, fast Wi-Fi.

The only thing Naypyidaw doesn’t have, it seems, is people. The vast highways are completely empty and there is a stillness to the air. Nothing moves. Officially, the city’s population is 1 million, but many doubt this is anywhere close to the true figure. On a bright Sunday afternoon, the streets are silent, restaurants and hotel lobbies empty. It looks like an eerie picture of post-apocalypse suburban America; like a David Lynch film on location in North Korea. Full story...

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Armenian massacre remembrance sparks rift between Turkey and Europe...

In recent weeks, Turkey has had to accept numerous decisions by important leaders in Europe to ignore Ankara's demands to leave assessments of the 1915-1917 deportations of Armenians to the historians.

First, Pope Francis described the mass murders as "genocide" - a term that Ankara has steadfastly rejected.

Then, the term was used again in resolutions in the EU parliament, in the Austrian parliament, and in remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Friday, German President Joachim Gauck and the German parliament also spoke of a genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire.

For Turkey, it's unacceptable. Nationalist politician Ümit Özdag said it was a "diplomatic disgrace" that Germany, of all countries, wanted to advise Turkey on the matter of genocide. Full story...

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Nurse's reaction when patient starts to walk...


Elvis Presley, the voracious reader...

The old adage about never judging a book by its cover has no corollary about not judging a reader by his books. Love him or hate him, worship him or detract from him, we can all agree on one thing: Elvis Presley was a strange, unique, fascinating character, a one-in-a-lifetimer, and his choice of reading material mirrors his own fascinating persona.

Larry Geller, who for many years was Elvis' main supplier of books and reading material, estimates that Elvis read over a thousand books on philosophy, and esoteric and spiritual teachings. For many years, Elvis traveled with two trunks full of books (as many as 300) so that he could read when he felt like it, when he was away from home.

Of all the countless facts about Elvis Presley that made up his storied life, possibly the least-widely known, both to the general public and to his ardent fans, was the fact that The King was a voracious reader and lifelong lover of books.

Graceland archives include Elvis' library card from the Tupelo Public Library from when he was 13. This was despite the fact that the church to which his mother belonged, the First Assembly of God, taught that no other book than the Bible should be read. Full story...

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Armenia marks centenary of genocide by Ottoman Turkish Empire...

Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and other dignitaries assembled at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex in Yerevan on Friday morning.

They walked along the memorial with a single yellow rose and lay it in the center of a wreath resembling a forget-me-not, a flower declared as a symbol of the commemoration.

"We will never forget the tragedy that your people went through," the French president said at a Yerevan ceremony.

"Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny," Hollande added.

President Vladimir Putin said the world should never allow a repetition of the genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenians.

 "There is no and cannot be any justification for the mass murder of people," Putin underlined. Full story...

Read also: Armenia marks 100 years since genocide by Ottoman Turks...

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Big hair, big money: Malaysia’s Rosmah draws anger...

Frustrated in his continuing attempt to bring down Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has turned his sights on a new and vulnerable target – the prime minister’s big-spending wife, Rosmah Mansor.

“He is going to go after her with everything he’s got,” said a longtime political operative. “When [Mahathir] was trying to drive out [former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi] in 2009, he went after Dollah’s wife [Jeanne Abdullah]. He even criticized Dollah’s former wife after she had died. He will use any weapon he can get his hands on. He is not going to let up.”

Mahathir has been attacking Najib over a wide range of issues including the indebted state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., the eight year-old murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, the rising cost of living, the implementation of a goods and services tax and the falling popularity of the United Malays National Organization, which he lays at Najib’s door.

It is unknown how much traction Mahathir has. Many view him, at age 89, as a man long past his time and a curmudgeon who has attacked every prime minister the country has ever had. Although Najib’s poll ratings have been falling, the country – as Mahathir points out – faces serious economic headwinds from retreating commodity prices and steep government debt, which is as much to blame for Najib’s popularity woes as anything. Sources who have met with Najib and his advisers say they are unconcerned about Mahathir’s attacks. The prime minister has skillfully pulled UMNO cadres into Kuala Lumpur for repeated votes of confidence. Full story...

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Six month-old baby dies just five days after receiving 13 vaccines...

Imagine being emotionally blackmailed by your doctor to have your baby vaccinated with a lethal cocktail of 13 vaccines, which included two doses of the DTaP, three doses of the oral rotavirus vaccine and two doses of the polio vaccination. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

However, this is exactly what happened to Alisa Neathery when she took her six month-old unvaccinated baby to the doctor for the first time.

She told VacTruth:

“Prior to the shots being given, when the doctor was discussing the pros of getting vaccinated with me, he explained how he was from a village in Africa. That we were lucky in America to have the opportunity to receive vaccines because where he was from, the mothers had to have like 11 kids each, since most would die off from disease because they were not as fortunate to receive vaccines like we are here in America. He really pushed them on me hard. He spent a lot of time convincing me to give Bently the vaccines, but when it was done, we never saw the doctor again.”

According to Alisa, the doctor spent a long time deciding exactly which vaccinations Bently should receive and told Alisa that they shouldn’t give him too many. The doctor eventually decided on a total of 13 vaccinations, which Alisa now believes led to Bently’s death just five days later.

If this were not bad enough, the hospital then decided to blame Alisa for Bently’s death and called child protective services (CPS), who immediately removed her two year-old daughter from the home and gave her to the grandmother to care for her. Full story...

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Sri Lanka ex-president Rajapakse's brother arrested over fraud...

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested the youngest brother of former president Mahinda Rajapakse for "misappropriating" public funds, his lawyer has said.

Basil Rajapakse, a former economic development minister, was arrested on Wednesday hours after the ex-leader accused his successor of a witch-hunt.

Basil was taken into custody after being questioned for more than seven hours, his lawyer UR de Silva told the AFP news agency, adding that the charge was for a non-bailable offence.

"We are told that he will be taken before a magistrate this evening," de Silva said.

"Since he is charged under the Offences Against Public Property Act, bail is not possible."

Two senior officials who worked under Basil were also arrested on charges that the three of them were responsible for a 70 million rupee ($530,000) fraud involving the construction of public housing. Full story...

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Everybody loves a good death in India...

"Everybody loves a good drought," goes the title of the Indian journalist P Sainath's classic book about rural distress in India. To judge from the unseemly clamour of India's political class in the Indian capital, New Delhi, over the last day, everybody loves a good death too.

The Indian farmer Gajendra Singh Kalyanwat was one of a few thousand people to attend a rally organised on April 22 by the Indian political outfit the Aam Aadmi Party, which runs the state government of Delhi. Like many of the parties in opposition in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, the AAP had in the last week been trying to drum up resistance among India's peasantry to the Land Acquisition ordinance, a forerunner of a crucial bill that Narendra Modi's government had been trying to pass into law in the current session.

The bill, which the opposition parties have painted as a "pro-corporate" conspiracy designed to allow big business easy access to the lands of small farmers, had also run into some literal rough weather in recent weeks.

Unseasonal rains in north India had grievously damaged maturing crops, leading the media to focus (as it does intermittently) on the long-term crisis in Indian agriculture, which over the last two decades has resulted in thousands of farmer suicides.  Full story...

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Christmas Island's red crabs on the march...

The 16 most socially advanced countries in the world...

The Social Progress Index is a metric that measures progress through fulfillment of basic human needs (rather than traditional indicators of economic growth).

First released in 2013, the Social Progress Index (SPI) measures a comprehensive array of components of social and environmental performance, aggregating them into an overall framework.

The index, which covers about 99% of the world’s population, was designed by a team led by Michael Green, a Harvard Business School professor, and ranks these social and environmental measures that underline well-being and opportunity.

“The Social Progress Index shows that countries with similar levels of GDP can have very different levels of social progress,” Green said.

One example: Costa Rica and Thailand rank 59th and 58th in the world in GDP, respectively. However, Thailand ranks 57th in the world on the SPI whereas Costa Rica ranks 29th due in large part to significantly higher ratings in personal safety, personal rights, and tolerance and inclusion. Full story...

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Switzerland is 'world's happiest' country in new poll...

Switzerland topped the third annual World Happiness index produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an initiative under the United Nations.

It was closely followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada.

Togo, Burundi, Benin and Rwanda, with civil-war wracked Syria, were least happy.

The World Happiness Report examined 158 countries and is aimed at influencing government policy.

The study bases its rankings on data from the Gallup World Poll and takes into account variables such as real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, corruption levels and social freedoms. Full story...

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US accused of double standards on civilians killed by drones...

The United States government has never revealed how many civilians have been killed by its drones, the weapon of choice in its campaign against Islamist militants. But on Thursday, President Barack Obama did publicly admit that two Western aid workers had become collateral damage.

Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto were killed with their al Qaeda captors in a US drone strike in January. Though the strike occurred months ago, the White House claims that it confirmed the deaths of the two Western hostages only in the past few days, and has said it will compensate their families.

The strike hit a compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, according to the US government. But it's unclear who, if anybody, was specifically targeted. Ahmed Farouq, an alleged American member of al Qaeda, was killed in the same strike. But the White House says it had no knowledge of his presence in the compound beforehand. A separate operation in the same region killed another alleged American member of al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn. He too was not specifically targeted, according to the administration.

(...)

Obama went on to say that as soon as the US determined the cause of Warren and Giovanni's deaths, he ordered the operation declassified, because "the Weinstein and Lo Porto families deserve to know the truth" and America is a "democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad."

But the families of Pakistani, Somali and Yemeni civilians have not been given the same consideration, according to Letta Tayler, a senior counter-terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. Full story...

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Putin, Austria name 1915 killings of Armenians ‘genocide’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has joined the list of world leaders and governments who have named the killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire “genocide,” just one day after the Austrian parliament issued a similar declaration, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador.

“April 24, 1915, is a mournful date, related to one of the most horrendous and dramatic events in human history, the genocide of the Armenian people,” Putin said in a letter to the World Without Genocide commemorative event, the text of which was also posted on the Kremlin website.

Putin and French President François Hollande are listed among the leaders to join the commemorations in Yerevan on April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the killings.

“One hundred years on, we are bowing our heads in memory for all the victims of this tragedy, which in our country has always been perceived as our own pain and misfortune,” Putin said.

“The international community should do all it can to prevent such atrocities from happening anywhere ever again,” he stressed. Full story...

Read also: German President labels Armenian killings as genocide

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Australia Islamic school 'bans running' for girls over virginity fears...

An Islamic college in Australia is under investigation after claims that its principal has banned girls from taking part in running competitions because they might "lose their virginity".

Victoria state Education Minister James Merlino said Thursday that if true, the claims made by a former teacher at Melbourne's Al-Taqwa College "would be very concerning".

"I have asked the schools regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, to investigate," he said in a statement.

The former teacher wrote to government ministers this week alleging "the principal (Omar Hallak) holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may 'lose their virginity'", The Age newspaper said.

"The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile."

The newspaper published a letter that appeared to be written by the college's cross-country team to Hallak challenging his decision, which reportedly took place after he blocked the primary school's team from taking part in district events in 2013 and 2014. Full story...

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Saudi Arabia executes second Indonesian maid in one week...

Indonesia's efforts to save its own citizens does not sit well with advocates who are seeking the same mercy for foreigners languishing on Indonesia's death row.


Saudi Arabia has executed a second Indonesian maid despite protests from Jakarta, which is itself facing fierce criticism for its failure to heed calls for clemency for a number of foreigners on death row.

The Indonesian government summoned the Saudi ambassador to the foreign ministry on Thursday after learning that 37-year-old Karni Bt. Medi Tarsim had been beheaded, without official warning.

Karni was sentenced to death in March 2013 for killing her employer's four-year-old child. She was the second Indonesian domestic worker executed by the Saudis this week, following the death of Siti Zaenab Bt. Duhri Rupa on Tuesday -- the execution again carried out with Indonesian officials receiving no prior warning.

"That is our main issue. It's not that suddenly there was an execution. We didn't know when it would take place. Still, we took over a hundred steps to try to free (Siti) from execution," said Arrmanatha Nasir, spokesman for Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Siti, 47, was convicted of killing her employer's wife in 1999, but the death penalty was delayed until the youngest of the victim's sons reached puberty and was old enough to consider requesting her pardon. He didn't. Full story...

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Femen topless protestor corners Spain's interior minister...



A protestor with radical feminist protest group Femen was arrested on Thursday morning after staging a bare breasted protest against Spain's new controversial "gagging law".

She cornered Spain’s interior minister, Jorge Fernádez Díaz, in Madrid on Thursday morning as he arrived at Madrid’s Metropolitano hotel for a meeting on intelligence against terrorism and organized crime.

The slogan "Violador de libertades", or "Freedom rapist", was emblazoned across her chest while she shouted "protesting is not a crime!" according to Spanish daily El Mundo.

"Fernández Díaz guilty" was written across her back.

 Spain’s controversial Citizen Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana), which was passed in March, has been christened the "gagging law" by protestors because of its strict new rules across a range of areas, including protests. Full story...

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We can’t kill cows (in India), but globally lead in beef exports...

India is racing ahead in the export of buffalo meat, ironically, as more states in the country are enforcing a strict ban on slaughter of cows and bullocks. A latest report by the United States department of agriculture (USDA) states India has widened lead over Brazil as the top global beef exporter.

Revising its October prediction by 3 per cent, the report released this month forecasts that global beef exports will touch a record 10.2 MT in 2015.

Despite a reduction in the imports by a number of oil-reliant countries including Russia due to shrinking oil revenues and weaker currencies, the exports will peak riding on larger shipments from India and to a lesser extent from European Union and Paraguay offsetting declines by Brazil, Uruguay and the US, says the report. With Russian market opening up to Indian buffalo meat export, the shipments are expected to increase in the current fiscal. Russia has approved four companies in India for supply of meat and the first consignment has already been shipped.

Data by Agricultural and Processed Food Products' Export Development Authority (Apeda) shows buffalo meat has already overtaken basmati rice as the largest exported commodity in the agri food category in terms of value.

 For eleven months to February, Indian buffalo meat exports clocked 13,56,794 tonne valued at Rs 26,965 crore recording a 11 per cent rise in quantity and 13 per cent jump in value terms. Full story...

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Australia: The secret country again wages war on its own people...

Australia has again declared war on its Indigenous people, reminiscent of the brutality that brought universal condemnation on apartheid South Africa. Aboriginal people are to be driven from homelands where their communities have lived for thousands of years. In Western Australia, where mining companies make billion dollar profits exploiting Aboriginal land, the state government says it can no longer afford to “support” the homelands.

Vulnerable populations, already denied the basic services most Australians take for granted, are on notice of dispossession without consultation, and eviction at gunpoint. Yet again, Aboriginal leaders have warned of “a new generation of displaced people” and “cultural genocide”.

Genocide is a word Australians hate to hear. Genocide happens in other countries, not the “lucky” society that per capita is the second richest on earth. When “act of genocide” was used in the 1997 landmark report Bringing Them Home, which revealed that thousands of Indigenous children had been stolen from their communities by white institutions and systematically abused, a campaign of denial was launched by a far-right clique around the then prime minister John Howard. It included those who called themselves the Galatians Group, then Quadrant, then the Bennelong Society; the Murdoch press was their voice.

The Stolen Generation was exaggerated, they said, if it had happened at all. Colonial Australia was a benign place; there were no massacres. The First Australians were victims of their own cultural inferiority, or they were noble savages. Suitable euphemisms were deployed. Full story...

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Mass surveillance is driven by the private sector...

Yet another report has surfaced describing how tools created by the malware-industrial complex are being deployed by U.S. security services. While the coverage surrounding this story focuses primarily on federal agencies it’s important to step back for a moment and view the big picture. In particular, looking at who builds, operates, and profits from mass surveillance technology offers insight into the nature of the global panopticon.

A report published by Privacy International as well as an article posted by Vice Motherboard clearly show that both the DEA and the United States Army have long-standing relationships with Hacking Team, an Italian company that’s notorious for selling malware to any number of unsavory characters.

Federal records indicate that the DEA and Army purchased Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) package. RCS is a rootkit, a software backdoor with lots of bells and whistles. It’s a product that facilitates a covert foothold on infected machines so intruders can quietly make off with sensitive data. The aforementioned sensitive data includes encryption keys. In fact, Hacking Team has an RCS brochure that tells potential customers:

“What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain” Full story...

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