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Read at: 2018-02-18T21:31:32+00:00

All 65 passengers, crew feared dead in Iran plane crash

All 65 passengers and crew were feared dead in a plane crash in central Iran after the domestic flight came down in bad weather in a mountainous region.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:56 pm GMT

Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards wins at BAFTAs

Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was one of the early winners at Sunday night's British Academy of Film and Television Awards, being named Outstanding British Film.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:52 pm GMT

Doherty: 'Job of work' to convince people on referendum

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty has said she believes there is a "job of work to be done" to convince people to pass the Government's proposals on the Eighth Amendment.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:50 pm GMT

Two teenagers after gun, ammunition seized in Dublin

Gardaí seized a firearm, ammunition and a quantity of drugs in a search operation in Dublin this afternoon.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:43 pm GMT

AI Can Be Our Friend, Says Bill Gates

An anonymous reader shares a report: "AI can be our friend," says Gates. In response to the question, "What do you think will happen to human civilization with further development in AI technology?" Gates says the rise in artificial intelligence will mean society will be able to do more with less. "AI is just the latest in technologies that allow us to produce a lot more goods and services with less labor. And overwhelmingly, over the last several hundred years, that has been great for society," explains Gates. "We used to all have to go out and farm. We barely got enough food, when the weather was bad people would starve. Now through better seeds, fertilizer, lots of things, most people are not farmers. And so AI will bring us immense new productivity," says Gates.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:40 pm GMT

Counterfeit clothes, bags and watches seized in Meath

Gardaí seized counterfeit clothes, handbags and watches worth in excess of €50,000 euros when they carried out an operation at Fairyhouse Market in Ratoath, Co Meath today.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:37 pm GMT

Dagestan church shooting leaves five dead in Kizlyar

Worshippers leaving a church's evening service in Dagestan were fired upon by a gunman.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:35 pm GMT

Kerry Babies tribunal transcripts ‘not to be released’

Department of Justice says privacy of Joanne Hayes ‘paramount’ in retention of files

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:34 pm GMT

Water purification could be the key to more electric cars

Humanity is going to need a lot of lithium batteries if electric cars are going to take over, and that's a problem when there's only so much lithium available from conventional mines. There may be an oddball solution for that, however: turn the worl...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:33 pm GMT

Gardaí seize counterfeit goods worth €50,000 at Fairyhouse market

Fake designer handbags, watches and sports clothes recovered in Ratoath, Co Meath

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:30 pm GMT

Barnaby Joyce should quit, according to majority of voters in Newspoll

Survey finds 65% think deputy PM should step down as Nationals leader

A majority of voters think Barnaby Joyce should vacate the leadership of the Nationals after a week of ceaseless controversy about his private life and an extraordinary bout of open warfare with the prime minister.

The latest Newspoll finds 65% of a sample of 1,632 voters thinks Joyce should resign the leadership of the Nationals, while a third of the sample thinks he should quit parliament.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:28 pm GMT

Stars and activists support Time's Up at BAFTAs

Saoirse Ronan and Caitriona Balfe were among the stars wearing black to the BAFTAs in support of the Time's Up campaign against sexual harassment, following on from the statement made at the Golden Globes in January.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:26 pm GMT

Bafta Awards 2018: Stars wear black on the red carpet

Guests at the Bafta Film Awards unite in support of the Time's Up and Me Too campaigns.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 8:25 pm GMT

Israel ready to act against ‘dangerous’ Iran, Netanyahu warns

Tehran will not be allowed to put ‘noose of terror around our neck’, PM says in Munich speech

Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel will act directly against Iran if necessary, not just its allies in the Middle East.

As Iran’s military role expands in Syria and Yemen and Donald Trump pushes for a more confrontational approach toward Tehran, Israel is seeking wider support for efforts to contain its regional arch-enemy.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:56 pm GMT

'Do not test Israel's resolve,' Netanyahu warns Iran – video

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has sent a warning to the ‘tyrants of Tehran’ while holding up a piece of what he claimed to be an Iranian drone that had been brought down by Israeli defence forces

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:55 pm GMT

Man due in court after stabbing in Co Limerick

A man has been charged with assault causing harm after the stabbing of a man close to his home in Newcastle West in Co Limerick yesterday evening.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:45 pm GMT

Father and 11-year-old daughter killed in French Alps avalanche

Pair from Paris region had been skiing at Val d’Isère resort in area closed because of avalanche risk

A father and his 11-year-old daughter were killed when an avalanche swept them away while they were skiing in the French Alps, rescue officials have said.

They said the man, 43, and his daughter were from the Paris region and had been skiing in the Pisaillas glacier area of the Val d’Isère resort that had been closed because of the avalanche risk.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:42 pm GMT

Tokyo To Build 350m Tower Made of Wood

A skyscraper set to be built in Tokyo will become the world's tallest to be made of wood. From a report: The Japanese wood products company Sumitomo Forestry Co is proposing to build a 350 metre (1,148ft), 70-floor tower to commemorate its 350th anniversary in 2041. Japan's government has long advertised the advantages of wooden buildings, and in 2010 passed a law requiring it be used for all public buildings of three stories or fewer. Sumitomo Forestry said the new building, known as the W350 Project, was an example of "urban development that is kind for humans," with more high-rise architecture made of wood and covered with greenery "making over cities as forests." The new building will be predominantly wooden, with just 10% steel. Its internal framework of columns, beams and braces -- made of a hybrid of the two materials -- will take account of Japan's high rate of seismic activity. The Tokyo-based architecture firm Nikken Sekkei contributed to the design.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:40 pm GMT

Minister told GSOC staff request 'excessive'

Senior officials at the Department of Justice privately briefed the then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald last year that a request by the Garda Ombudsman for extra staff to investigate protected disclosures was "excessive".

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:33 pm GMT

SF accuses Taoiseach of 'misleading' Dáil

Sinn Féin has accused the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of having "deliberately misled the Dáil" about an Oireachtas vote on the legal status of Project Ireland 2040.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:27 pm GMT

PSNI investigates 'despicable' bomb attack in Down

The PSNI is investigating a petrol bomb attack on the home of a man with severe learning difficulties in Co Down early today.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:26 pm GMT

Kathmandu, Nepal As Seen From Orbit

Part of Nepal including its capital city, Kathmandu, and the Himalayan foothills are pictured in this satellite image.

Source: SpaceRef | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:12 pm GMT

Garda using CCTV to test claims of murdered woman’s husband

Joanne Lee’s estranged partner says they were trying to reconcile before her death in Ranelagh

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:07 pm GMT

Netflix deal provides a much-needed boost in the Middle East

Despite what it seems, Netflix isn't a dominant force everywhere on the planet. In fact, it's struggling in the Middle East and northern Africa -- Netflix and Amazon combined represent 21 percent of the local subscription video space. The company is...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:02 pm GMT

Women's FA Cup: Manchester City reach quarter-finals with extra-time win

Holders Manchester City need extra time to beat Birmingham City and reach the Women's FA Cup quarter-finals.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:47 pm GMT

Winter Olympics 2018: Woodsy, scary aerials & masters of the mic

Watch the best moments from day nine of Pyeongchang 2018, including James Woods' bid for ski slopestyle silverware and the thrill of the aerials.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:41 pm GMT

Give Workers 10,000 Pound To Survive Automation, British Top Think Tank Suggests

Britons should be able to bid for 10,000 pound (roughly $14,000) to help them prosper amid huge changes to their working lives, a leading think tank suggests today. From a report: The Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) has released research proposing a radical new sovereign wealth fund, which would be invested to make a profit like similar public funds in Norway. The returns from the fund would be used to build a pot of money, to which working-age adults under-55 would apply to receive a grant in the coming decade. People would have to set out how they intend to put the five-figure payouts to good use, for example, by using the cash to undergo re-training, to start a new business, or to combine work with the care of elderly or sick relatives. It would be funded like the student grant system and wealthier individuals could be required to pay back more in tax as their earnings increase. Ultimately, the RSA paper suggests, the wealth fund would finance a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as the world of modern work is turned upside down by increased automation, new technology and an ageing population.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:40 pm GMT

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Steve Davies' dramatic injury-time equaliser earns League One Rochdale an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Tottenham.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:35 pm GMT

Orbán claims Hungary is last bastion against 'Islamisation' of Europe

PM steps up populist rhetoric in annual state of the nation speech ahead of April elections

The prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has ramped up his populist rhetoric ahead of April elections to claim that “dark clouds are gathering” and that his country is a last bastion in the fight against the “Islamisation” of Europe.

In his annual state of the nation speech, Orbán, who already appears set to win a third consecutive four-year term, made what are now familiar claims about his success in beating back threats to Hungary’s way of life from “Brussels, Berlin and Paris politicians”.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:34 pm GMT

Woman and toddler killed as car collides with lorry near Rugby

Man and six-year-old girl from same vehicle taken to hospital after crash in Warwickshire

A 31-year-old woman and a two-year-old boy have died after the car they were travelling in was involved in a crash in Warwickshire.

A man aged 35 and a six-year-old girl from the same vehicle were taken to hospital for treatment after the accident on the A426 close to Churchover, near Rugby, at 10.30pm on Saturday.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:33 pm GMT

FA Cup: Rochdale's Steve Davies stuns Spurs with stoppage-time equaliser

Substitute Steve Davies forces home a stoppage-time equaliser as Rochdale secure an FA Cup replay against Tottenham.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:17 pm GMT

Voters need to be convinced on abortion change, says Doherty

‘We need to explain how we reached proposal to allow for terminations up to 12 weeks’

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:12 pm GMT

Florida students to march on Washington

Students who survived last Wednesday's mass shooting at their Florida school have announced plans to march on Washington.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:41 pm GMT

Contractors Pose Cyber Risk To Government Agencies

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: While US government agencies are continuing to improve their security performance over time, the contractors they employ are failing to meet the same standards according to a new report. The study by security rankings specialist BitSight sampled over 1,200 federal contractors and finds that the security rating for federal agencies was 15 or more points higher than the mean of any contractor sector. It finds more than eight percent of healthcare and wellness contractors have disclosed a data breach since January 2016. Aerospace and defense firms have the next highest breach disclosure rate at 5.6 percent. While government has made a concerted effort to fight botnets in recent months, botnet infections are still prevalent among the government contractor base, particularly for healthcare and manufacturing contractors. The study also shows many contractors are not following best practices for network encryption and email security.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:40 pm GMT

Trump faces calls to act against Russia after Mueller's indictments

Democrats and former intelligence officials argue Trump had done nothing to protect future elections from Russian interference

Donald Trump faced mounting calls on Sunday to act against Russia after special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled indictments on Friday accusing 13 Russians and three companies of interfering in the 2016 presidential election to help Republicans.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:38 pm GMT

Warning after Swiss avalanche hits skiers

Eight people believed to be missing on a mountain are safe but two others have been injured.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:37 pm GMT

The best portable SSD

By Justin Krajeski This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here. After research...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:30 pm GMT

In Florida aftermath, US students say 'Never Again'

Movements run by school students are spreading rapidly online in wake of the Florida attack.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:14 pm GMT

Five people killed in Dagestan church shooting

Women shot dead in apparent Islamist attack on Orthodox church in North Caucasus region

Five women were shot dead in an apparent Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday.

According to local press reports, an unidentified gunman fired at worshippers in the small town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region. At least five other people, including two Russian police officers, were wounded in the attack, which took place after a service to mark the start of Russian Orthodox Lent.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:08 pm GMT

For Presidents Day, Here’s One Vicious, Ghastly and/or Fascinating Fact About Every U.S. President

Happy Presidents Day! Even though it’s not exactly Presidents Day. According to the federal government, the name of this holiday is merely Washington’s Birthday. The Office of Personnel Management insists that while “other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.”

The OPM is grumpy about this because a majority of U.S. states do call this Presidents Day. It’s popularly become about all U.S. presidents, not just Washington. Even the U.S. Mint says “it’s a great day to celebrate everything that our past presidents, including Washington and Lincoln, have done for our nation.”

So let’s take a look at all of America’s presidents. We don’t need to celebrate them, but it’s important to rescue them from the drab, sepia-tinted version of U.S. history. There’s a conscious effort to drain all human interest out of our past. But in fact it was shockingly vicious, ghastly and fascinatingly bizarre, and if you don’t understand it you will never comprehend our present.

Here’s an assortment of some of my favorite facts about every U.S. president:


George Washington’s dentures are shown after their installation into a display at the Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh, Monday, July 24, 2000.

Photo: Keith Srakocic/AP

George Washington (1789-1797) appears to have had dentures that used the teeth of some of the people enslaved on his plantation. This is not 100 percent proven, but the evidence is, let’s say, highly suggestive. The good news is the teeth weren’t stolen, although the suppliers only received one-third of the market rate.

John Adams (1797-1801) endorsed, in 1776, the concept of what Friedrich Engels would 117 years later call “false consciousness.” According to Adams, “very few men who have no property, have any judgment of their own. They talk and vote as they are directed by some man of property, who has attached their minds to his interest.” The solution, said Adams, was massive property redistribution.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) was an intelligent man torn between his desire to see himself as moral and his desire to own lots of other people. To resolve this conflict he needed to believe Africans were a different type of being from Europeans. It didn’t matter how and it didn’t need to make sense. Therefore, in his book “Notes on Virginia,” he revealed that Africans need less sleep than normal, white people. Then six sentences later he said that Africans sleep more.

James Madison (1809-1817) was America’s shortest president at just 5 foot 4, perhaps due to bad nutrition.

James Monroe (1817-1825) promulgated the Monroe Doctrine, which, as Dave Barry says, states that:

1. Other nations are not allowed to mess around with the internal affairs of nations in this hemisphere.

2. But we are.

3. Ha-ha-ha.

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) frequently went skinny dipping as president in the Potomac River. There’s an excellent story about an investigative reporter named Anne Royall sitting on his clothes while he was swimming and refusing to get up until he agreed to an interview, although it is marred by the fact that it is not true.

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) was famously in command at the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in what’s now Alabama. After they won, some of his troops cut strips of skin off dead members of the Red Stick tribe and used the skin for bridles for their horses. You can read about this and much more in an 1895 book that recounts the testimony of some of the soldiers.

Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) was perhaps our schmanciest president, wearing outfits that make you regret he came along before color film. An observer of an early Van Buren campaign stop at a church remembered him like this: “He wore an elegant snuff-colored broadcloth coat, with velvet collar to match; his cravat was orange tinted silk with modest lace tips; his vest was of pearl hue; his trousers were white duck … his nicely fitting gloves were yellow kid.”

William Henry Harrison (1841-1841) was the first president to die in office, after just a month. Only recently have we realized that he was probably killed by Washington, D.C.’s lack of a sewage system: There was a giant field of human excrement a few blocks upstream of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and bacteria likely got into the White House’s water supply.

John Tyler (1841-1845) looked like a horse but had a lot of energy and fathered (at least) 15 children. The last of them was born in 1860 when he was 70. Two of his grandchildren are still alive!

James K. Polk (1845-1849) was almost picked off by the same crap-filled swamp that got Harrison. However, he survived to leave the White House and then immediately die of cholera.

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) was not as lucky as Polk and became the second president to be felled by the neighborhood’s huge feculent pond. This era not a high point of U.S. science.

Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) is today best-remembered as the inspiration for the name of Mallard Fillmore, the worst comic strip in human history.

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) completed the Gadsen Purchase of territory from Mexico, buying a chunk of territory in what’s now southern New Mexico and Arizona. Mexico was likely willing to sell because we’d simply stolen Texas a few years before and they figured they might as well get some bucks this time around.

James Buchanan (1857-1861) often comes in last in historians’ rankings of all U.S. presidents, thanks to his dithering as America drifted toward civil war. On the upside, he’s the basis for the most historically-sophisticated masturbation joke ever made. (Here starting around 1:55.)

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) does not get enough credit for kicking off the Golden Age of Presidential Facial Hair, a period of 52 years during which 9 of the 11 presidents had a beard, mustache, or miscellaneous.

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) had strong feelings, such as, “This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.” Also, during a speech purportedly celebrating Washington’s Birthday — i.e., this holiday — Johnson mentioned himself over 200 times. It’s difficult today not to wonder if there’s a correlation between believing in white supremacy and constantly talking about yourself.

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) won the 1868 election, the first in which African American men could participate, by 300,000 votes. About 500,000 black men voted, providing Grant with his margin of victory. This was immediately noticed by white Americans, who have gone on noticing such things ever since.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) took office thanks to the grievously evil Hayes-Tilden Compromise. It was difficult to say who’d actually won the 1876 election, so the Republican Party agreed to withdraw all remaining federal troops from the South in return for Democrats accepting Hayes as president. Every promise of Reconstruction was betrayed. The white Southern plantation class took the opportunity and ran with it, essentially reinstituting slavery for the next 90 years.

James Garfield (1881-1881) was nominated by the GOP as a compromise candidate on the 36th ballot after an exhausting fight between the party’s delightfully-named “Half-Breed” and “Stalwart” factions. Chester A. Arthur was added to the ticket to keep his obstreperous fellow Stalwarts happy. Then a Stalwart assassin shot Garfield soon after he took office so that Arthur would become president. This should put today’s intra-party twitter spats in perspective.

Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) came up in the staggeringly corrupt New York State Republican machine. The Nation (it’s been around since 1865) called his origins “a mess of filth.” Frederick Douglass later said Arthur “allowed the country to drift … towards the howling chasm of the slaveholding Democracy.” On the other hand: Check out his mutton chop whiskers.

Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) is the only president elected to non-consecutive terms. He also appears to have been a rapist who brutally smeared his victim.

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) had policies that were no great shakes but he said some remarkable stuff that’s been totally forgotten, along with Harrison himself:

“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”

“Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age.”

“When and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law? … This generation should courageously face these grave questions, and not leave them as a heritage of woe to the next.”

William McKinley (1897-1901) started America’s extremely brutal colonization of the Philippines. One Kansas soldier told a reporter that “The country won’t be pacified until the niggers [i.e., Filipinos] are killed off like the Indians,” impressively squeezing all of America’s ugliest racial ideology into one sentence.

Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) was an appropriate choice for the U.S. at the dawn of the 20th century with its incipient industrialized genocides. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian,” Roosevelt said pre-presidency, “but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

William Taft (1909-1913) didn’t want to be president and wasn’t good at it. But he was renominated in 1912 by GOP mandarins even though they knew he’d lose, in order to block a rebellion from progressive rank and file Republicans. “When we get back in four years,” explained Sen. James Watson of Indiana, “instead of the damned insurgents, we will have the machine.” Once you understand this kind of maneuver, politics makes much more sense.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) is a great lesson in never believing what politicians say about foreign policy. In 1916 he campaigned on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” Then he led the U.S. into World War I one month after his second inauguration.

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) would be more exciting if he had in fact, as malicious rumors had it, been poisoned by his wife. Instead he almost certainly died of a heart attack.

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) believed “The chief business of the American people is business,” which gets more profound the more you think about it. Moreover, he said it in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, as part of an argument about why it wasn’t a problem that the press was, as Coolidge put it, “controlled by men of wealth.”

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) is scorned for his dreadful response to the beginning of the Great Depression. But he was in many ways an incredible, exemplary person, and just a prisoner of the time’s awful conventional wisdom on economics. The relief effort he led in the early 1920s before becoming president rescued untold numbers of Soviet citizens from starvation. Maxim Gorky told Hoover: “Your help will enter history as a unique, gigantic achievement, worthy of the greatest glory, which will long remain in the memory of millions of Russians whom you have saved from death.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) was president for twelve years, yet not nearly long enough. In 1944 he called for the U.S. to have a “Second Bill of Rights,” including the right to a job and the right to medical care.

Harry Truman (1945-1953) was encouraged by his advisers to increase tensions with the Soviet Union while running for president in 1948 because it would help him win: “There is considerable political advantage to the administration in its battle with the Kremlin. … In times of crisis the American citizen tends to back up his President.” To the detriment of everyone on earth, Truman took this advice.

Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) did 9/11. Let me explain.

Eisenhower approved America’s covert support for the 1953 coup which overthrew Iran’s democratically-elected prime minster and replaced him with the dictatorial Shah. The Shah allowed the U.S. to use Iran as a base for American power in the mideast. We now know that when the Shah was finally overthrown in 1979 and the U.S. was kicked out of Iran, the Soviets were worried that America would try to take Afghanistan, or that there would be a similar Islamist revolution there, or both. The Soviets invaded, the U.S. funded the mujahideen, and Osama bin Laden rose to prominence and got the idea it was easy to defeat superpowers. Hence 9/11.

Funnily enough, American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon on 9/11, took off from Dulles Airport in Virginia. Dulles Airport is named after John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s secretary of state and one of the main forces behind the 1953 Iranian coup.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) is the subject of one of the best videos on the entire internet.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) opined, in a 1948 speech in Congress, that “without superior air power America is a bound and throttled giant; impotent and easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife.” He then vigorously put these views into action during the Vietnam War.

Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was likely the most cruel and cynical human being ever to hold the U.S. presidency. And not because of Watergate.

Gerald Ford (1974-1977) was the first modern president to use his status to cash in after he left office, setting an example for everyone (except Jimmy Carter) who followed. You can see pictures of one of Ford’s homes, his huge mansion in Vail, Colorado, here. Note the seal of the president of the United States inlaid in the marble floor.

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) was, in the popular made-up version of American history, a namby-pamby weak-kneed capital-L Liberal. In fact, he commenced the turn to the right in U.S. politics that would accelerate under Reagan. Of course, he’s changed a great deal since then, and now calls the U.S. “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) was the prototype for the final product that is Donald Trump.

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) privately told Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 that “Reagan is a conservative. An extreme conservative. All the blockheads and dummies are for him.” Bush also said to Gorbachev that he would have to use harshly anti-Soviet rhetoric while running for president in 1988, but that Gorbachev shouldn’t take it seriously.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001), according to his Secretary of Defense William Perry, helped lay the groundwork for the today’s terrible present-day relations between Russia and the U.S. While “the problems today I think are mostly … Russian actions,” Perry recently said, “it’s as much our fault as it is the fault of the Russians, at least originally.” Perry specifically cited the expansion of NATO and Clinton’s decision to send U.S.-led NATO troops to Bosnia in 1996.

George W. Bush (2001-2009) told a Bush family friend in 1999 that if he was elected he wanted to attack Iraq because it would help him politically. According to the friend, Bush said, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. … If I have a chance to invade … if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Barack Obama (2009-2017) lived in Indonesia for several years just after a 1965 U.S.-supported coup and subsequent mass slaughter there. In his book “Dreams From My Father,” Obama wrote, “we had arrived in Djakarta less than a year after one of the more brutal and swift campaigns of suppression in modern times … rivers of blood [had] once coursed through the streets.” You can listen to Obama reading this section for the audio version of his book here.

Donald Trump (2017-present) has never said or done anything worth noting, but perhaps one day he shall.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface of our presidents’ freakish lives and American’s vagarious history. So if you have your own favorite facts not mentioned here, please leave them in the comments — maybe we can do this every year.

The post For Presidents Day, Here’s One Vicious, Ghastly and/or Fascinating Fact About Every U.S. President appeared first on The Intercept.

Source: The Intercept | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:02 pm GMT

FA Cup: Hawkeye apologises over wrong VAR image for Juan Mata 'goal'

The 'squiggly line' image shown by broadcasters was not used to disallow a Manchester United goal at Huddersfield, Hawkeye says.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:01 pm GMT

Nauru refugee caught between her son and 'high heart attack risk'

Medical report says she needs to be moved urgently for treatment but border force won’t allow her son to go with her

Doctors have diagnosed a refugee held on Nauru as being at “high and imminent risk of … heart attack or sudden death”, but the Australian Border Force has refused to move her to a hospital that can treat her, because she won’t leave her young son alone on the island.

On five separate occasions since September 2016, and with increasing urgency, doctors have requested that Fatemeh, an Iranian refugee, be moved off Nauru for heart checks that cannot be performed on the island.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:00 pm GMT

Gambling tycoon builds $100m bitcoin-funded Antiguan resort

‘His excellency’ Calvin Ayre says project will be entirely funded from digital currency profits

Calvin Ayre, a gambling and bitcoin multi-millionaire who was once on the run from the US authorities, is building a $100m five-star resort on Antigua funded by profits from digital currencies.

Canadian-born Ayre, who has been appointed Antigua and Barbuda’s special economic envoy, said he had begun work on the upmarket tourist resort on Antigua’s Valley Church beach.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:54 pm GMT

Who Killed The Junior Developer?

Melissa McEwen, writing on Medium: A few months ago I attended an event for women in tech. A lot of the attendees were new developers, graduates from code schools or computer science programs. Almost everyone told me they were having trouble getting their first job. I was lucky. My first "real" job out of college was "Junior Application developer" at Columbia University in 2010. These days it's a rare day to find even a job posting for a junior developer position. People who advertise these positions say they are inundated with resumes. But on the senior level companies complain they can't find good developers. Gee, I wonder why? I'm not really sure the exact economics of this, because I don't run these companies. But I know what companies have told me: "we don't hire junior developers because we can't afford to have our senior developers mentor them." I've seen the rates for senior developers because I am one and I had project managers that had me allocate time for budgeting purposes. I know the rate is anywhere from $190-$300 an hour. That's what companies believe they are losing on junior devs.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:40 pm GMT

‘Disgusting creature’ threw petrol bomb at home of man with learning difficulties

Attack in Co Down condemned as ‘sickening’ by PSNI

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:29 pm GMT

Israeli PM warns Iran over acts of 'aggression'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Tehran over acts of aggression by, what he called, Iran and its "proxies" in Syria.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:26 pm GMT

Zimbabwe opposition leader: Morgan Tsvangirai mourned in Harare

President Emerson Mnangagwa calls on Zimbabweans to unite around the opposition leader's memory.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:21 pm GMT

Thousands march in Kiev calling for Ukraine's president to quit

Supporters of deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili demand impeachment of Petro Poroshenko

Thousands of supporters of the deported former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili have marched through the streets of Kiev, demanding the impeachment of the Ukrainian president.

Journalists said an estimated 10,000 people took part in the rally on Sunday, though the ministry of internal affairs put the number at about 3,000.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:11 pm GMT

After Math: Market fluctuations

It's been a volatile week for us all, what with the stock market's unpredictable undulations, the US Senate's DACA drama, the Olympics hacking and whatever other craziness that's sure to happen between the time I file this post and Sunday morning. It...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 4:00 pm GMT

US's Greatest Vulnerability is Ignoring the Cyber Threats From Our Adversaries, Foreign Policy Expert Says

America's greatest vulnerability is its continued inability to acknowledge the extent of its adversaries' capabilities when it comes to cyber threats, says Ian Bremmer, founder and president of leading political risk firm Eurasia Group. From a report: Speaking to CNBC from the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, the prominent American political scientist emphasized that there should be much more government-level concern and urgency over cyber risk. The adversarial states in question are what U.S. intelligence agencies call the "big four": Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. "We're vulnerable because we continue to underestimate the capabilities in those countries. WannaCry, from North Korea -- no one in the U.S. cybersecurity services believed the North Koreans could actually do that," Bremmer described, naming the ransomware virus that crippled more than 200,000 computer systems across 150 countries in May of 2017. Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, weighed in, stressing the economic cost of cyber crimes. "It is very hard to attribute cyberattacks to different actors or countries, but the cost is just unbelievable. Annually more than a thousand billion U.S. dollars are lost for companies or countries due to these attacks and our economy is more and more based on internet and data."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:40 pm GMT

Iran plane crash: All 66 people on board feared dead

Aseman Airlines retracts a statement which said definitively that all 66 people aboard had died.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:35 pm GMT

Winter Olympics: Who could win Great Britain's record-breaking medal?

Great Britain need one more medal to reach their greatest tally at a Winter Olympics - but who could take them to that magic mark?

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:27 pm GMT

Appeal for witnesses to Dublin hit-and-run

A 24-year-old man has been injured in an apparent hit-and-run in Crumlin in Dublin.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:24 pm GMT

Florida school shooting: Students to march on Washington

Young survivors of Wednesday's school massacre demand it be a "turning point" on gun control.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:21 pm GMT

Suspected Dublin hit-and-run leaves man in serious condition

26-year-old found at Parnell Road/Clogher Road junction with head injuries

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:18 pm GMT

Attempted ram-raid robbery in Leeds caught on camera

Police say several suspects attempted to break into a shop front in Leeds, using a car.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:01 pm GMT

Banned from the U.S. Due to Terrorist Threats, Yemenis Are Themselves the Victims of Attacks

Khaldoon Gahleeb was sitting on the curb outside his home in Yemen on a quiet morning last November, when two extremists drove up on a motorbike and shot him twice in the back of the head.

Khaldoon, a 37-year-old government prison security guard, had been looking down at his phone, waiting for his salary. He’d just complained to his older brother, Mamoon, that he didn’t have any money to buy khat, Yemen’s popular narcotic. Mamoon went inside their family home to get some cash to lend his brother.

When Mamoon returned, Khaldoon was lying on the curb, bleeding from the back of his head. It was an image that the local branch of the Islamic State, who claimed responsibility for the attack, would spread on their own media channels, later published by Yemeni news outlets.


Khaldoon Gahleeb holds his son.

Photo: Mohamed Gahleeb


Mamoon rushed Khaldoon to the hospital, but it was too late: The doctors declared his younger brother dead.

In New York City, more than 7,000 miles from the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, the brothers’ father Mohamed Gahleeb couldn’t believe the news. The 73-year-old U.S. citizen had immigrated in 2008, a decade after one of his daughters married a Yemeni-American and moved to Michigan.

Mohamed Gahleeb applied for Khaldoon to join him in 2009. Mohamed has five other children in Yemen, but he chose Khaldoon because his middle son was the one most in need of work. Mohamed also didn’t want to push his luck: He knew how difficult and long of a process it could be to bring even one family member to the United States.

“I was waiting and waiting for him for years, until the day they killed him,” Mohamed said.

Sitting in the kitchen of his basement apartment deep in Brooklyn, Mohamed showed a picture on his phone of Khaldoon holding his toddler son. The elder Gahleeb choked on tears as he kissed the screen and murmured: “My son. It’s not easy for me to talk about. It hurts me too much.”

Visas for married children of U.S. citizens can take more than a decade to process. After Mohamed Gahleeb submitted a DNA test, conducted two immigration interviews, and waited for eight years, President Donald Trump declared his travel ban in January 2017. It barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen. The Supreme Court allowed a third version of the ban to go into effect in December, stopping all Yemeni immigrant visas.

The travel ban has left families like the Gahleebs trapped in a war that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis starving millions. Conflict erupted between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, supported by a Saudi-led and U.S.-armed coalition, in early 2015.

Extremist groups filled the ensuing power vacuum. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, active in Yemen since 2009, strengthened, while ISIS, currently waning in Iraq and Syria, seized the chance to move into the region and recruit in 2015. These terror threats were the justification for Trump’s travel ban, but the policy has left Yemenis with liberal views and government affiliations vulnerable to extremists.

“Part of the reason we are not being allowed in the United States is the fact that they say we are connected with terrorists, and here we are getting killed by terrorists,” said Zaid Nagi, community activist and vice president of the Yemeni American Merchants Association in New York City.

Even Yemenis who might qualify to be resettled as refugees face stiff odds. In Trump’s first executive order on immigration allowed to go into effect in June 2017, he banned all refugee admissions for 120 days. When that expired in October, he put into place a 90-day review for 11 countries deemed high risk, including Yemen. Although that leaves open the possibility of refugee admissions, a Reuters investigation in December reported that even when the ban was lifted, refugee admissions plummeted. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, only 16 Yemenis were resettled as refugees in fiscal year 2015, 26 in 2016, 21 in 2017, and none yet in this fiscal year.


Mohamed Gahleeb at home in Brooklyn.

Photo: Mallory Moench


Mohamed Gahleeb said Yemenis have lived under terrorism for nearly a decade.

“The terror people are everywhere,” he said. “They like to make people fear, they want to kill. Those are people who think themselves that they are Muslims. But God doesn’t say kill your people.”

“We don’t know what they want,” Mohamed added. He also doesn’t know why they targeted his son.

Khaldoon Gahleeb’s death followed a slew of attacks against civilians and pro-government security forces in Aden in November 2017. The local branch of ISIS claimed responsibility for at least two suicide bombings and two assassinations, including Khaldoon’s, although the motivation was unclear.

Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University who monitors extremists in Yemen, said assassinations flagged as terrorist attacks could actually be motivated by political rivalry or criminal activity. In the tumult of war, it’s hard to tell.

The complicated story epitomizes Yemen’s spiraling crisis, where factions constantly shift allegiances. When the war was about to break out in late 2014, Khaldoon joined government forces fighting against the rebel Houthis and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Gahleebs are also staunch supporters of South Yemen, which was an independent country until unification in 1990. Mohamed Gahleeb, who welcomes U.S. and Saudi support for the war against the Houthis, dreams of an independent South Yemen again one day. He celebrated when southern separatist soldiers, backed by the United Arab Emirates, attempted what the prime minister called a “coup” against Aden’s government in January 2018. Fighting in the city is still ongoing.

In this chaos, extremist groups have thrived. Gerald Feierstein, U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 2010 to 2013, explained that the government breakdown undermined counterterrorism aims.

“They have been able to expand their presence in places that have been particularly affected by civil conflict, where the level of governmental control is particularly weak,” Feierstein told The Intercept. “Because of the collapse of a strong Yemeni counterterrorism program with us and others, they have been able to regain territory that they lost.”

Post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy in Yemen has targeted alleged terrorists with air attacks and ground raids. Drone strikes since 2002 have killed at least 1,000 militants and more than 100 civilians in Yemen, watchdog groups estimate.


Yemenis gather at the scene of an explosion near a security post in the southern port city of Aden on November 14, 2017.

Photo: Nabil Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Under Trump, counterterrorism attacks have surged. A widely criticized raid a week after he took office ended in the deaths of one Navy SEAL and at least 16 Yemeni civilians. Drone strikes tripled from 2016 to 2017. In January 2018, U.S. forces conducted 10 airstrikes targeting AQAP and ISIS.

There is evidence that strikes may have been effective in weakening these groups, according to Kendall, who monitors extremist social media and news reports.

“Right now, both groups are under so much pressure,” Kendall told The Intercept.

She has tracked AQAP commanders killed by drones replaced by increasingly younger men and both groups changing tactics. According to her research, AQAP has shifted its target from the Houthis to the UAE-backed military, because of the threat it posed to the extremist group. ISIS moved from civilian suicide bombings to battling Houthis – except for the spike of violence in November that killed Khaldoon.

But more than 15 years after the first U.S. airstrike in Yemen, extremists continue to evolve, and experts like Kendall and Feierstein are quick to point out that counterterrorism attacks fail to address the root causes of extremism, fueled by political instability and the current humanitarian crisis.

“If you’re going to achieve a longer-term success and going to actually eliminate the operational environment for these groups,” said Feierstein, “you have to be engaged in other things like institutional capacity-building, developing law and order, providing services and convincing people that their interests are best served by supporting the government and cooperating to achieve them.”

Until that is possible, Yemeni extremists are still active – and lethal. Mohamed Gahleeb said he now fears for the safety of his five children still in Yemen.

“I can’t let them stay there because they are wanted, maybe like their brother,” he said. “As they killed him, maybe they want to kill the others. I am afraid for the whole family.”

Mohamed wants to bring Khaldoon’s wife and son to the United States, but until the Supreme Court addresses the travel ban, they remain trapped between terrorism and war.

Top photo: Yemenis inspect the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the finance ministry building of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in the country’s second city of Aden on Nov. 29, 2017.

The post Banned from the U.S. Due to Terrorist Threats, Yemenis Are Themselves the Victims of Attacks appeared first on The Intercept.

Source: The Intercept | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:00 pm GMT

Mattel's 'Jurassic World' dino-bots are surprisingly realistic

Mattel's last Kamigami STEM robot was an adorable DIY lady bug. Now, the toy company is aiming for something bigger with its new Jurassic World bots. You'll still have to put them together first, but what you end up with is a complex robo-dino with r...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:00 pm GMT

New AI Model Fills in Blank Spots in Photos

A new technology uses artificial intelligence to generate synthetic images that can pass as real. From a report, shared by a reader (the link may be paywalled): The technology was developed by a team led by Hiroshi Ishikawa, a professor at Japan's Waseda University. It uses convolutional neural networks, a type of deep learning, to predict missing parts of images. The technology could be used in photo-editing apps. It can also be used to generate 3-D images from real 2-D images. The team at first prepared some 8 million images of real landscapes, human faces and other subjects. Using special software, the team generated numerous versions for each image, randomly adding artificial blanks of various shapes, sizes and positions. With all the data, the model took three months to learn how to predict the blanks so that it could fill them in and make the resultant images look identical to the originals. The model's learning algorithm first predicts and fills in blanks. It then evaluates how consistent the added part is with its surroundings.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 2:43 pm GMT

Winter Olympics: Austria's Marcel Hirscher wins giant slalom for second gold

Austrian skiing great Marcel Hirscher wins his second gold medal of the Winter Olympics with a sensational win in the giant slalom.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 2:40 pm GMT

Norway's Braaten wins gold in ski slopestyle

Great Britain's James Woods narrowly misses out on a medal in the men's ski slopestyle as Norway's Oystein Braaten wins gold.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 2:28 pm GMT

Nigeria releases 475 Boko Haram suspects for rehabilitation

Authorities said some suspected of links with militants had been held without trial since 2010

A Nigerian court has released 475 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram for rehabilitation, the justice ministry said, as the country’s biggest legal investigation of the militant Islamist insurgency continued.

The first person convicted for the kidnapping in 2014 of Chibok schoolgirls, sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment last week, was also handed an additional 15-year sentence, to run back-to-back, the ministry said in a statement.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 2:25 pm GMT

Decadent Theatre company to stage excerpts from hostage drama in Cork Prison

McGuinness play ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’ is inspired by Brian Keenan’s kidnapping in Beirut

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 2:11 pm GMT

Finland's new pandas enjoy snow

Finland's new pandas were being allowed outside for the first time since arriving in the country last month.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:58 pm GMT

A Border Patrol Memoir Gets Caught Up in the Deportation Fight

Francisco Cantú, author of “The Line Becomes a River,” remembers watching the heated rallies engulfing his home state of Arizona. To one side were immigration advocates, activists who demanded the migrants running for their lives through the Sonoran Desert be treated as human beings, regardless of their citizenship status. To the other, were vocal, angry crowds, carrying signs and calling for increased fortification along the divide between the U.S. and Mexico, more Border Patrol agents, and a wall between the two countries.

This was not the 2016 presidential election. This was a decade earlier, in 2006, and the people with the signs ended up getting just about everything they wanted. Cantú was in college at the time, a student of international relations obsessed with untangling the knotted policy fights that surround the borderlands. After graduation and a stint at a non-profit, Cantú concluded there was a world of information critical to understanding those fights that was beyond his grasp. So, at 23-years-old, Cantú signed up for the U.S. Border Patrol, joining one of the final waves of new recruits in the last major push to bolster the size of the agency.

Cantú’s mother opposed the decision. A former federal employee herself, she reminded her son that his employer was a paramilitary organization, and that such organizations have a way of bending, stretching, and breaking the moral limits of even the most principled of employees. “You must understand you are stepping into a system, an institution with little regard for people,” she warned.

Self-assured and idealistic, Cantú told himself that he would be one of the good ones. His grandfather was born in Mexico, he spoke Spanish, he came from the border — maybe, down the line, he could bring his unique experiences to bear to change policy for the better, to help people. “I’m not going to become someone else,” Cantú assured his mother.

Over the next four years, as he patrolled the vast expanses of the American southwest, where U.S. enforcement strategies have driven migrants into some of the country’s deadliest terrain, culminating in thousands of deaths, Cantú was proven wrong. While he was granted the ground-level view of immigration enforcement that he had been looking for, it came at a cost. There was no way to be half-in, he learned. When you become a cog in “the thing that crushes” — a name Cantú later gave to the U.S. immigration enforcement apparatus — your good intentions have a way of evaporating and you become implicated whether you like it or not.


“The Line Becomes a River,” by Francisco Cantú.


Sitting on a stage in the ornate Wachenheim Trustees Room at the New York Public Library earlier this week, Cantú was thousands of miles from the desert and a world away from the life he used to live. His green uniform was gone, replaced by a sharp ensemble of blue. Cantú was in town to promote his new book. Broken into three acts, the memoir details Cantú’s decision to join the Border Patrol and the psychological unraveling he experienced during his time on the job, which eventually led to his exit from the agency. It ends with Cantú outside of law enforcement, working to support the family of a friend caught in the machinery of deportation.

In the week since “The Line Becomes a River” was released, Cantú has appeared in a nonstop string of media interviews. The book has enjoyed critical acclaim, but it has not been without controversy. In California, Bay area activists called on local bookstores to cancel Cantú’s readings on the grounds that he was a cop, and cops deserve no sympathy, particularly at time when millions of immigrants across the country are living in fear of law enforcement. The readings were not cancelled. In Austin, Texas, demonstrators called Cantú a “traitor,” and accused him of profiting off migrant pain. The radical news website It’s Going Down, further argued that Cantú possess an “insidious ability to minimize complicity,” and that he has “built his career and fame as a writer through participating in the culture of cruelty that typifies Border Patrol.”

The broader sentiment behind the pushback is not difficult to understand. In recent years, the Border Patrol hiring surges that Cantú was part of, which President Trump seeks to repeat, have been followed by startling increases in serious misconduct by agents. And, as the historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez, author of “Migra,” has noted, the agency’s history is littered with examples of Border Patrol agents serving as a frontline force executing draconian and punishing immigration enforcement policies. Just last month The Intercept highlighted a report by the faith-based humanitarian group No More Deaths, which operates out of Cantú’s hometown of Tucson, Arizona, documenting Border Patrol agents systematically destroying water left for migrants crossing the desert. Hours after the report was published, one of the group’s volunteers was arrested by Border Patrol for providing food and shelter to two undocumented immigrants. More than a half-dozen other volunteers with the group have been hit with federal charges in recent months for leaving water in the desert.

Responding to the criticism he’s received, Cantú tweeted last week, “To be clear: during my years as a BP agent, I was complicit in perpetuating institutional violence and flawed, deadly policy. My book is about acknowledging that, it’s about thinking through the ways we normalize violence and dehumanize migrants as individuals and as a society.” He added: “I’m not here to defend BP. But I am here to listen and learn from the ways my writing may be construed to normalize, eroticize, or beautify border violence, and the ways my voice may amplified at the expense of those who suffer from it. Ultimately, I’m here to work against it.”

There’s no getting around the fact that Cantú’s work in law enforcement will, for some, render his contributions to the conversation around immigration null and void. In this view, one might argue, Cantú willingly contributed to the problem he wishes to address and conclusions that, yes, in fact, the system is broken are far from revelatory — and certainly do not require participation in that system to prove. But while there’s a coherence to the critique, to dismiss Cantú’s work entirely would be to risk missing out on a unique glimpse inside a closed-off set of institutions with tremendous power.

In the years since September 11, the publishing world has produced a wealth of literature, mostly novels, from veterans who came of age in the aftermath of the attacks and fought in the wars they led to. In a 2015 article for Harper’s Magazine, Sam Sacks made the case that the significant praise these works have received can be attributed, in part, to the general public’s alienation from the wars it underwrites. Sacks also wrote that these accounts are almost always “stories of personal struggle that are built around abstract universal truths,” which typically refuse to grapple with the critical context surrounding the conflicts in which they are set. This appears to be no accident, Sacks added, given that nearly all of the post-9/11 veteran writers who have succeeded in recent years have emerged from the same creative writing and MFA programs.

“I think that what these humanitarian groups are doing by putting water out in the desert, is they’re attempting to fill a deadly void that is left by our border policy,” Cantú said.

Cantú shares some similarities with his counterparts in the veteran novelist community. He, too, is an MFA grad, in addition to a former Fulbright fellow, and “The Line Becomes a River” does detail a story of personal struggle. But there are also some critical differences. Like the war on terror, the interlocking conflicts along the border are at times regarded as abstractions among those who are removed from its realities. But unlike the wars abroad, the disaster at home has yielded few firsthand, literary accounts from officers and agents tasked with fighting that fight (though perhaps that will change as the face of U.S. immigration enforcement evolves).

“The Line Becomes a River” provides a rare window into that world, but Cantú also attempts to go deeper, reflecting on the border itself and the clichéd narratives that surround the region. Woven throughout his personal story is a deep body of research and critical analysis that seeks to explain how the status quo came to be. And while reasonable minds can disagree on whether he’s succeeded, Cantú, in both his book and public comments, has clearly attempted to address the underlining conditions that made his experience what it was, along the way demonstrating a willingness to publicly challenge the mission of his former employer.

In a passage reflecting on what it meant to become “good” at his job, Cantú writes, “It’s true that we slash their bottles and drain their water into the dry earth, that we dump their backpacks and pile their food and clothes to be crushed and pissed on and stepped over, strewn across the desert and set ablaze.” While Cantú says that he never took part in the practice, the fact that he was part of a force that would intentionally increase the likelihood of migrant deaths was haunting. “I have nightmares,” he writes, “visions of them staggering through the desert, men from Michoacán, from places I’ve known, men lost and wandering without food or water, dying slowly as they look for some road, some village, some way out.”

In New York City, Cantú’s panel was moderated by John B. Washington, an accomplished border journalist in his own right, who befriended Cantú while working on a novel and volunteering with No More Deaths, the organization that documented the destruction Cantú described. Noting that the group has called for disbanding the Border Patrol, Washington asked Cantú about the legitimacy of his former employer. “I think its only legitimacy is that it already exists,” Cantú replied. “Something like destroying water, that’s an unforgivable act,” he went on to say. “I think that what these humanitarian groups are doing by putting water out in the desert, is they’re attempting to fill a deadly void that is left by our border policy,” Cantú said, adding that the country needs groups like No More Deaths, though he doubts the Border Patrol will ever be abolished.

Over coffee the next morning, I asked Cantú for a fuller explanation on his reason for joining the Border Patrol in the first place. “It’s really hard to answer that question now,” he replied. He had read the critiques, he knew what he was getting into, but in his 23-year-old mind he had come up with a script to assure himself that he could “do the good parts and not participate in the bad parts.” More than a decade later, Cantú acknowledges this was “a defense mechanism against, probably, a much bigger, scarier, realer realization,” namely that, “You can’t separate who you are as an individual, really, from the work that you do as part of an institution.”

“I think that disconnect is at the heart of the book,” he added.

The response will no doubt leave some of critics unsatisfied, but Cantú seems willing to accept criticism. During the protests in Texas, The Austin Chronicle reported that he quietly listened to the demonstrators’ complaints, without attempting to shut them down. “I have plenty of opportunities to speak,” he said. “I have a book in the world.”

While those opportunities are available, Cantú remains intent on making at least a couple things clear. First, that there’s a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding along the border every day. And, second, that the so-called big picture issues of immigration can distract from the individual human stories. And that if those stories aren’t known or heard, then the conversation becomes hollow and false. Addressing a core criticism of his own book, one centered on the question of who gets to have their stories told and who tells them, is part of that process, Cantú added. “I totally agree that the voices that we need to be listening to are the voices of the undocumented. Those are the people that being the most effected by this and those are the people who are being diminished by the current climate and debate,” he said.

“It’s so weird,” Cantú told me, to see the same uninformed fights that led to his career in the Border Patrol playing out all over again. “We’re literally doing the same thing, expecting different results,” he said. It’s mid-2000s Arizona all over again. The only difference now, Cantú argued, is that there’s more rage. “It’s worse,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Top photo: A new U.S. Border Patrol trainee is fitted for a uniform at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy on August 3, 2017 in Artesia, New Mexico.

The post A Border Patrol Memoir Gets Caught Up in the Deportation Fight appeared first on The Intercept.

Source: The Intercept | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:51 pm GMT

Latvian central bank boss detained by anti-corruption force

Ilmars Rimsevics has been detained after the anti-corruption agency raided his home and office.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:45 pm GMT

Malaysia wishes wrong New Year with a barking rooster

The country's trade ministry welcomed the Year of the Dog with a culturally unwelcome rooster.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:17 pm GMT

We've Reached Peak Smartphone

You don't really need a new smartphone. From a column on the Washington Post (may be paywalled): Sure, some of them squeeze more screen into a smaller form. The cameras keep getting better, if you look very close. And you had to live under a rock to miss the hoopla for Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Many in the smartphone business were sure this latest crop would bring a "super cycle" of upgrades. But here's the reality: More and more of Americans have decided we don't need to upgrade every year. Or every other year. We're no longer locked into two-year contracts and phones are way sturdier than they used to be. And the new stuff just isn't that tantalizing even to me, a professional gadget guy. Holding onto our phones is better for our budgets, not to mention the environment. This just means we -- and phone makers -- need to start thinking of them more like cars. We may have reached peak smartphone. Global shipments slipped 0.1 percent in 2017 -- the first ever decline, according to research firm IDC. In the United States, smartphone shipments grew just 1.6 percent, the smallest increase ever. Back in 2015, Americans replaced their phones after 23.6 months, on average, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel. By the end of 2017, we were holding onto them for 25.3 months.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:15 pm GMT

Israel's Netanyahu attacks 'dangerous Iranian tiger'

Israel's PM launches a stinging attack on Iran, brandishing a piece of a drone downed over Israel.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:12 pm GMT

A Massive U.S. Drone Base Could Destabilize Niger — and May Even Be Illegal Under Its Constitution

Late in the morning of October 4 last year, a convoy of Nigerien and American special forces soldiers in eight vehicles left the village of Tongo Tongo. As they made their way between mud-brick houses with thatched roofs, they were attacked from one side by dozens of militants, if not hundreds. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Nigeriens and Americans fled, some on foot, running for cover behind trees and clusters of millet, their boots caked in the light brown earth. By the time the fighting was over, five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed, their bodies left naked in the bush after the militants took their uniforms.

The news went straight to the front pages in the United States and sparked a conflict between the family of one of the soldiers and President Donald Trump, after the president made insensitive remarks during a condolence call to the soldier’s widow. But the story also spread like wildfire throughout Niger, where the big news wasn’t so much that American soldiers had been killed, but that Americans soldiers were fighting in the country in the first place.

“I was surprised to learn that Americans had died in the Tongo Tongo attack,” Soumana Sanda, the leader of an opposition party in the Nigerien Parliament and taekwondo champion, told me in an interview in his pristine and sparsely decorated office in Niamey, the country’s quiet capital on the banks of the Niger River. “That was the moment I found out, as a Nigerien, as a member of parliament, as a representative of the people, that there is indeed (an American) base with ground operations.”

It was the same on the street. Moussa, a middle-aged man who sells children’s textbooks and novels on a busy corner in Niamey, captured the feelings of many I talked with. “We were surprised,” he said. “For us, this is another form of colonization.” Out of apprehension that he could get in trouble for voicing his views openly, he declined to give his last name.

In fact, U.S. Special Operations forces have been in Niger since at least 2013 and are stationed around the country on forward operating bases with elite Nigerien soldiers. What happened in Tongo Tongo is just a taste of the potential friction and instability to come, because the pièce de resistance of American military engagement in Niger is a $110 million drone base the U.S. is building about 450 miles northeast of Niamey in Agadez, a city that for centuries has served as a trade hub on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, not far from Mali, Algeria, Libya and Chad. In January, I hopped aboard an aging plane that followed a roundabout route to one of America’s largest-ever military investments in Africa, its latest battleground in an opaque, expensive, and counterintuitive war on the continent.


Aerial view of the American drone base in Agadez, Niger, on June 4, 2017.

Photo: Google Earth

Flying into Agadez requires a tour around Niger’s countryside. I boarded a 30-year-old Fokker 50 propeller plane that is owned by Palestinian Airlines and leased to state-owned Niger Airlines with a Palestinian crew. After stopping in the southern cities of Zinder and Maradi, we descended on Agadez, its rectangles and triangles of compounds and dirt roads forming a mosaic, with the surrounding reddish beige of the desert stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.

On the southeast edge of the civilian airport, accessible by tracks in the sand used mainly to exit the town, is Nigerien Air Base 201, or in common parlance “the American base.” The base, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is technically the property of the Nigerien military, though it is paid for, built, and operated by Americans. It is being constructed on land formerly used by Tuareg cattle-herders. So far, there is one large hangar, ostensibly where the drones could be housed, a runway under construction, and dozens of smaller structures where soldiers live and work.

The air strip will be large enough for both C-17 transport planes and MQ-9 Reaper armed drones, as The Intercept’s Nick Turse found out in 2016. A Nigerien military commander with direct knowledge of the base, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press, told me that it will be mainly used to surveil militants like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Mourabitoun, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and local Islamic State affiliates including Boko Haram, which operate in border zones in neighboring countries. The U.S. currently flies drones out of an airport in Niamey, but those operations will be shifted to Agadez once the new base is completed.

American Special Forces operate separately from the drone base, which is run by the Air Force. The Green Berets are on the ground “training” Niger’s special forces and carrying out capture missions with them from the outposts of Ouallam near the Malian border, Aguelal near the Algerian border, Dirkou along the main transport routes between Niger and Libya, and Diffa, along the southeastern border with Nigeria and Chad, according to the same Nigerien commander. I’ve actually seen them at the Diffa base, a prominent local journalist has seen them at Dirkou, and I spoke to a person who worked at the Aguelal base.

When asked to confirm the American presence in those areas of Niger, U.S. Africa Command spokesperson Samantha Reho replied, “I cannot provide a detailed breakdown of the locations of our service members in Niger due to force protection and operational security limitations. With that said, I can confirm there are approximately 800 Department of Defense personnel (military, civilian, and contractor) currently working in Niger, making that country the second-highest concentration of DoD people across the continent, with the first being in Djibouti at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.”

The U.S. is just one of several Western militaries that have established and strengthened military ties to Niger over the past few years. France has had soldiers in the country since 2013, when it launched Opération Serval in neighboring Mali. In 2015, France reopened a colonial fort in Madama, close to the border with Libya — unthinkable during the times of Moammar Gadhafi; the Libyan leader maintained a sphere of influence in the region that would have been at odds with a French military presence. Germany sent its own troops in Niger to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission across the border in Mali, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel even visited Niger in 2017. And Italy recently announced it would send 470 troops to a French base in the north of Niger to fight migrant transporters.


Sugarcane vendors stand outside during a ceremony at a police station in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney


I tried to find out what people think of the base and the drones that will soon be hovering overhead. After all, this was the biggest foreign military base in the region, an unprecedented uptick in Western involvement, as well as a major economic investment. But after a few days in Agadez speaking to a host of different people, I got the impression that the issue was taboo, and that very few people wanted to openly voice their concerns lest they be tagged with criticizing the current Nigerien administration, which could come back to haunt them.

I visited a school in Agadez and the principal, extremely hesitant about my presence, called me into a back room and declined to give his name. He told me that he couldn’t have an opinion on the Americans because he couldn’t figure out why they were really here. In my two weeks in Niger, I heard theories that the Americans were fomenting the terrorists themselves, digging for gold, or they’re after uranium, or oil, or even possibly the natural water aquifer beneath the Sahara, one of the largest in the world. Other than government officials, no one believed the Americans were here for security.

The base is a mystery for a reason. AFRICOM, which is the division of the Department of Defense that oversees U.S. military operations in Africa, has only allowed access to one news outlet so far that I know of, CNN, and denied me entry for this reporting trip. The public affairs office of the U.S. Embassy in Niger responded to repeated requests for an interview by saying they were processing the request and then eventually refused to answer my questions, explaining they were understaffed due to the three-day government shutdown in late January.

AFRICOM is notoriously restrictive in its access to reporters. A journalist for The Intercept was not allowed to visit another drone base in Cameroon, and people there were also cautious about discussing or criticizing it. This underlines a transnational fact: It’s not clear that American drones in Africa have made things safer. They are often more a source of fear than anything else.

The base in Agadez is about 6 square kilometers, though most of the land is yet to be developed. American troops patrol its perimeter, according to a neighboring village chief I talked with. The base is tucked away and hidden from Agadez first by the 8-to-10-foot wall that separates the city of 125,000 from the airport, and it is surrounded by a barbed wire fence with sandbags, so despite there being a few hundred Americans in Agadez, you would hardly know they were there unless you went looking. Both the Nigerien and the American governments prefer to keep it this way.


A woman and two children walk during blowing winds in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney

There is an unusual question floating around Niger: Is the American base even legal? Activists, lawyers, and opposition politicians say it is isn’t, arguing that it violates Articles 169 and 66 of the Nigerien Constitution. These state that defense treaties require parliamentary approval – which hasn’t happened with the base — and that the defense of Niger is carried out only by Nigerien armed forces, not foreign forces. In an interview, opposition Member of Parliament Soumana Sanda told me that while he and his party, Moden Lumana, support the American military presence in his country, “just because we don’t respect democracy or rule of law in Niger doesn’t mean we should drag the great democracies of the world into illegality.”

The government’s defense of the base’s legality often fluctuates. The interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, said in January during a speech for the 27th anniversary of the president’s political party that because the American and French parliaments never debated the bases, Niger shouldn’t have to either. “The protocols we signed are not defense agreements. If they were, they would be for our partners, too,” Bazoum told a cheering crowd of cadres clad in the ruling party’s signature pink sashes.


Moussa Tchangari, an activist and head of Alternatives, an NGO, holds a copy of the Nigerien Constitution at his office in Niamey, Niger, on Jan. 10, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney

I showed the U.S.-Nigerien Status of Forces agreement, which is available to the public on the State Department website, to Soumana Sanda and Justice Minister Marou Amadou, as well as a leading constitutional lawyer, a member of Niger’s constitutional court, and a prominent NGO head. None of them had ever seen the document and were surprised that it was available online. When I read one sentence from the agreement to Sanda —  that “the Parties waive any and all claims (other than contractual claims) against each other for damage to, loss, or destruction of the other’s property or injury or death to personnel of either Party’s armed forces or their civilian personnel arising out of the performance of their official duties in connection with activities under this Agreement” — he responded, “I wasn’t aware of all this.” He added, “Today I learned a little more” about the terms of American engagement. The base is rarely reported on by the Nigerien media, and most people who knew about it before Tongo Tongo got their information from foreign media reports.

The divide over the base’s legality and its value for Niger tends to fall under sharp lines based on proximity to the power structure. For instance, in Niamey I interviewed Brig. Gen. Mahamadou Abou Tarka, whose brother-in-law, Ahmed Mohamed, was recently named armed forces chief of staff. Tarka heads a $600 million fund for peace in the north of the country set up by the presidency, and he batted away questions about American mission creep. Before being escorted by bodyguards from his air-conditioned office to his chauffeured black sedan, Tarka told me that the government didn’t need to go through parliament because “we have not declared war, so the executive power considers it in its purview to strengthen the capacity of our military by bringing in allies.”

Any member of parliament can ask questions in parliament about the base, and one-tenth of parliament can call for an official inquiry into its legality. There are more than enough opposition MPs to do so, but so far they haven’t acted on their own questions about the base’s legality. Sahirou Youssoufou, journalist and editor-in-chief of L’événement newspaper, said it’s because at the end of the day, the opposition values good relations with the Americans over constitutional law. “These are political calculations. They don’t want to get in power and have all these partners at their back, their relations with them tainted,” Youssoufou told me.

The irony is that while the American presence is supposed to help keep the country stable, the U.S. has participated with the Nigerien government in a constitution-bypassing maneuver that undermines the country’s already-fragile democratic process.


American and French soldiers attend a daily briefing with the Nigerien military commander in charge of the fight against Boko Haram at a Nigerien military base in Diffa, Niger, March 26, 2015.

Photo: Joe Penney

In the meantime, sightings of white soldiers in the desert animate residents’ imaginations and WhatsApp conversations. U.S. Special Forces seem to be involved in far-flung operations that go beyond the mandate of training Nigerien soldiers — Tongo Tongo is not the only example — and generate a lot of confusion, even among the government and its military.

For example, on a recent afternoon, local journalist Ibrahim Manzo Diallo received a video of a Tuareg woman and her two small children in the bush. She recounted how Nigerien and white soldiers abducted her husband and her husband’s friends, who had been camping in a nomadic tent outside Arlit, north of Agadez.

Curious about this incident, Diallo and I called the local prefect, Aghali Hamadil, who said that a mixed American and Nigerien patrol had indeed stormed a Tuareg camp, and while they released eight people, including the woman and her children, they detained four others and sent them to Niamey. When I asked Marou Amadou, the justice minister, whether this was true, he affirmed the account. “Yes, it’s the Americans. … They were looking for Goumour,” he said, referring to Goumour Bidika, who is “the main facilitator” for drug traffickers and terrorists in the Agadez region, according to a Nigerien commander with direct knowledge of the operation.

But that commander said Americans didn’t participate in the operation itself —  the woman in the video who said she saw white soldiers had probably seen them at the Americans’ Aguelal base where the Tuareg captives were detained. The commander, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said Bidika had been communicating with several terrorists they were looking for, and that he had escaped during the raid; four of his lieutenants were detained at Aguelal and sent to a Niamey prison instead.

Aguelal, west of Arlit, is near the Algerian border, and the secret American base there is a recent one. Its existence was partially confirmed in February, inadvertently, when it was discovered that Strava, a fitness app used mostly  by westerners, had released location data that showed the global movements of the users of workout trackers like Fitbit — and the data showed unusual activity in far-off Aguelal.

Reached via email after the operation, Reho, the AFRICOM spokesperson, said “U.S. forces were not involved in any arrests in that region within the past week.”


Young men at a fada (meeting house), in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 16, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney

After NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011 and the subsequent fall of Gadhafi, Agadez emerged as a main hub of migration of Africans to Europe – a trend that brought much-needed economic activity to the impoverished Agadez region. However, the economic spurt that surrounded migration has been throttled in the past few years by Nigerien police and military activity in the area, and the addition of American forces in Agadez will not help the situation.

Young men and women from all over West Africa ride buses to Agadez, and then pay hundreds of dollars to sit on top of yellow water jugs in the back of Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, holding onto pieces of wood to keep them aboard as they speed across the desert to enter Libya on their way to Europe. Up until 2015, the pickups were escorted north in convoys led by the Niger military for safety, and the migrants were made to pay bribes to Nigerien officials at checkpoints along the way.

Agadez depended on this industry for vital income, and the authorities profited from bribes the migrants paid. Things began to change when the city attracted media attention for the migration activity. The European Union held a joint summit with African nations in Valletta, Malta, and resolved to “set up a joint investigation team in Niger against migrant smuggling and trafficking.”

In 2015, the Nigerien government passed a law that targeted smugglers and human traffickers. With the legal backing and the political push from the European Union, by 2016 the government began arresting the drivers of migrants and impounding their vehicles. It also carried out patrols in the desert to turn back cars before they reached Libya. “By all accounts, the impetus behind passing this law was … European policymakers and European governments coming to Niger and saying, ‘You need to have a migrant smuggling law on the books,’” said journalist and researcher Peter Tinti, who has co-written a book on migration in the Sahel.

Once again, Western governments were forcing the Nigerien government to engage in legally dubious activity. Under Nigerien law, all citizens of West Africa have freedom of movement within Niger up until the Libya border, and most migrants making the journey aren’t coerced into doing so. Therefore, because trafficking is against the law only if a person is being transported against their will, the only crime that can be prosecuted is crossing into Libya without a visa. But since 2011, the central Libyan government recognized by the U.N. does not control the border with Niger, and the militias that control the southern towns in Libya ask for money, not visas, according to migrant transporter Bachir Amma. So the EU is trying to stop a flow of migrants that does not appear to break any local laws.


Justice Minister Marou Amadou poses for a picture in his office in Niamey, Niger, Jan. 21, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney


With their cars impounded, Agadez’s migrant transporters are now without jobs. The government does not seem to care. During an interview on the leather sofas in his office in Niamey, Justice Minister Marou Amadou laughed about the travails of Mohamed Anacko, the president of the Agadez Regional Council. “Anacko calls me whining all the time,” Amadou said. “I tell him, ‘Anacko, you can cry all you want, but it will continue’” — referring to regular police sweeps against migrant smugglers.

The EU had promised money to people involved in migrant transportation to start small businesses, but the “people who formerly worked in the migration industry are growing increasingly frustrated,” according to a report by the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands. Migrant transporter Bachir Amma said that 6,550 people registered as ex-participants in the migrant industry, and he himself had been approved for a $2,800 grant to start a restaurant in Agadez six months ago, but he still hasn’t seen the money. The Niger government also shut down a popular gold-mining site in the north of the country for opaque reasons, compounding the economic hardship.

The European response has been to ratchet up the number of soldiers in the country. The Italians opened an embassy in Niger in January 2018, shortly after they announced that they were sending troops to the north of the country to fight migration. It’s another sign that individual European governments decided they couldn’t depend on the EU as a bloc to protect their borders, and have been aggressively pursuing their own anti-migrant agendas in Africa. In 2017, for instance, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti struck deals with southern Libyan tribal leaders in an attempt to stem migration before people get a chance to cross the Mediterranean, in effect pushing Europe’s southern border into the Sahara.

The American base isn’t likely to bring reprieve to the region either. Despite the total cost of $110 million for construction and roughly $15 million in operating costs per year, very little of that money will go to the local economy. A young man who worked in the cafeteria of the base showed me the agreement he signed with the contractor that runs the cafeteria, Sakom. He was paid roughly $1.20 per hour, a low salary in Niger, and said he only got one day off every two weeks, working 12-hour days (the contract showed the hourly rate, but not the overtime or the number of days off). Most food, other than some fruits and vegetables, is shipped in from abroad. When I drove around the base’s perimeter with my colleague Diallo, a Sakom security vehicle began following us. Sakom’s representative in Agadez declined an interview request for this article.


Zara Ibrahim, head of the Association of Women Against War, poses for a picture in her office in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney

The Americans have done very little to help people in Agadez, other than holding a handful of workshops that appeared to be ineffective. Zara Ibrahim, head of the Association of Women Against War in Agadez, facilitated a workshop in which U.S. soldiers demonstrated to a group of mothers how to brush their teeth. Despite the fact that no one in the room needed to be taught how to brush their teeth, over 60 women came, according to Ibrahim, who told me about the workshop while sitting on a plastic mat on the floor of her association’s office. A strong gust of wind kicked up sand outside the building we were sitting in, and passing residents leaned forward and shielded their faces with their elbows. “Some women thought they would get something out of it. … They told us they would prefer 50 kilo bags of rice instead of toothbrushes,” she admitted.

Other workshops have included manuals on hand-washing and sexually transmitted infections, while soldiers donated some benches and notebooks to a local school. Some people appreciate the contact, but it hasn’t offered them much help. Ibrahim doesn’t understand why the local government never even explained what the Americans are doing in Agadez, arguing that the lack of communication lends itself to conspiracy theories, and that the political consequences can be dire. “It would be really easy to communicate to people in Agadez,” Ibrahim said, adding that “there’s a concrete example in Mali” of what happens if the local population is kept in the dark. In 2012, rebels and jihadi groups allied with Al Qaeda took over northern Mali following a Tuareg rebellion. As Ibrahim put it, northern Mali “woke up one morning under occupation.” The jihadi groups occupied the country’s three northern regions for nine months, until a French, Chadian, and Malian military intervention pushed them out of the towns and into the desert.

By staying behind their barbed-wire fences and providing little economic support to Agadez, the Americans run the risk of destabilizing the region. As Ibrahim remarked, “anyone can understand that.”


President Mahamadou Issoufou speaks to journalists after voting in Niamey on March 20, 2016.

Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

The man in the middle is Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger. In power for six years, he has adopted a clear strategy for trying to keep control of things – by aligning himself closely with Europe and the United States, while presiding over an electoral system that his opponents describe as rigged. This is not a recipe for stability in a country that has had little of it since its founding in 1960, at the end of French colonial rule. 

Issoufou is a trained engineer and a former secretary-general of Somaïr, a uranium mine that was run by the French company Areva. Until migration and terrorism, uranium was the focal point of outside, particularly French, interest in Niger. France’s electricity grid is powered by nuclear energy, and Areva’s uranium concessions in Niger provide up to one-fifth of the uranium necessary to power that grid. Issoufou’s predecessor, Mamadou Tandja, had sparred with the French over the concession, and in 2009, then-French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited Niger to negotiate a deal on opening a new mine called Imouraren. After a $1.2 billion deal was struck, Tandja tried to reverse the constitution to stay in power for a third term, and after street protests, a group of low-ranking army officers carried out a coup d’état.

When the transition period ended with Issoufou’s election in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan caused a sharp downturn in global uranium prices. Areva dropped its plans for Imouraren, and Issoufou acquiesced to the French firm’s plans for delaying the mine until prices rose, denting economic growth prospects for the country. But despite losing out on Imouraren, Issoufou quickly became a donor darling and found that the closer he was to France and the West, the better his image and the more firm his hold on political power. Issoufou was criticized heavily for going to Paris to attend the “Je Suis Charlie” march in January 2015, and some human rights organizations view him as a lackey of the West. He works with Image Sept, a French firm with close ties to the Parisian political elite, to manage his image.

A couple of months before his re-election in 2016, Issoufou jailed his main political opponent and former close ally, Hama Amadou of the Moden Lumana party. Amadou was accused of trafficking babies from Nigeria — a charge that Amadou vehemently denies, but which few political observers in the country have cast serious doubt on. His party boycotted the election yet still managed to finish second, behind Issoufou’s 92 percent. The opposition coalition called the election “a sham,” while the EU didn’t send an observer mission, which is rare in West Africa. Amadou is now in exile in France, having been released from prison temporarily for medical treatment.

Issoufou has taken unprecedentedly pro-Western stances on a number of key issues. He has allowed for the rapid expansion of the French and American troop presence, as well as opening up the country to German and Italian soldiers. He has shut down migration on Europe’s demand, against the economic interests of his own country. He has been rewarded for his efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron, who lauded Issoufou as “an example” of democracy on a recent state visit to Niger. And Issoufou has rewarded those in his administration who follow his vision: A couple of days after our interview, Issoufou had promoted Mahamadou Abou Tarka from colonel major to general.


Police officers stand guard during an official ceremony in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney


Amadou, the justice minister, says the real reason the opposition complains about the foreign soldiers in Niger is because they are “interested in demoralizing our troops.” Amadou’s voice rose at this point in the interview. “They tell the soldiers, ‘They don’t have respect for you, they’re bringing bases in and the only way to restore our dignity is to get rid of them.’ These are calls for a coup d’état.”

His phone began buzzing, and he paused our conversation to take a call. It was son excellence, the new Italian ambassador, and Amadou’s mood lifted. “Happy new year. … For the judge? …  I know him very well. … That will be in what domain? I’ll tell you what, we should meet early next week,” he told the ambassador.

Amadou is right to worry about a coup d’état. In 2010, he was a leading member of the civil society opposition to Tandja, the president at the time, and supported the coup that overthrew him in February of that year. Amadou was named leader of the transitional legislative body by the junta, and when he helped usher elections that Issoufou won, he was rewarded with the post of justice minister. He has held the post ever since. During his eight years as garde des sceaux, he hasn’t prosecuted any participants in the 2010 coup nor the transitional government for any wrongdoing, despite blatant corruption detailed by Transparency International. This is because when Amadou was the head of the transitional legislative body in 2010, he helped pass a new constitution that included an entire article guaranteeing amnesty for those involved in the coup, as well as their accomplices. Meanwhile, a number of soldiers have been arrested and convicted for coup plots during Issoufou’s two terms.

As a region, West Africa is no stranger to military power seizures. In neighboring Burkina Faso, the American-trained elite presidential guard carried out a coup that eventually failed in 2015, while an American-trained captain named Amadou Sanogo led a destabilizing coup in Mali in 2012. Niger has had four coups since 1960.


A band performs at the French cultural center in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 14, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney

Many people I spoke to in Niger feel their country has had its autonomy usurped by Westerners. “The reality is that Niger is not at a level where it can say yes or no to the French or Americans. … We only have sovereignty on paper,” said Djibril Abarché, president of the Nigerien Human Rights Association. When I asked Amadou, the justice minister, if his country has effectively ceded its military command to Westerners, he balked and explained that the Americans “don’t give orders to our generals, they give orders to our soldiers.”

Is the American presence helping security at all? It’s up for debate. “If I put guards in front of my house to stop criminals from entering and the criminals still come, are the guards worth anything?” asked the secretary-general of Niger’s Islamic University, Seydou Boubacar Touré. “We have the American base, the French base, but Boko Haram continues to kill us. … I don’t see their utility here.” Attacks along the border with Mali and in the southeast on the border with Nigeria have been frequent for years. During my time in Niger, a Boko Haram attack in Diffa killed seven Nigerien soldiers and injured 25.

According to AFRICOM, based in Germany, “U.S. Forces are in Niger to work by, with, and through Nigerien partners to promote stability and security while enabling them to address their security threats.” The word “through” leaves the most question marks. Prior to the disastrous mission in Tongo Tongo, the U.S. had said that its troops were only in an advisory role in Niger. It’s a peculiar role. “It is a training mission,” Mahamadou Abou Tarka, the general, said about Tongo Tongo. The Americans were “training those (Nigerien) special forces in the area. It just so happens that those special forces received a mission to go and capture a terrorist,” he said.

The Tongo Tongo ambush is instructive because, according to Nigerien soldiers interviewed for this article, the American soldiers were in charge of the mission and didn’t listen to Nigerien advice. The soldiers had spent the previous day looking for Doundoun Cheffou, who is connected to militant group leader Abu Walid, in a village called Akaba across the border in Mali. Instead of Cheffou, they found food and other goods indicating he and his men were in the area.

Rather than going directly back to their Nigerien base in Ouallam, they continued looking for him and when night fell, they set up camp 5 kilometers from Tongo Tongo, where the village chief had been known to give false alerts, according to a top Nigerien military officer with direct knowledge of the operation. By spending the night along the border area, they heightened the risks that they faced. There is talk of a sort of competition between the French and U.S. militaries, with each willing to undertake risky missions to prove there is a reason for them to be on the ground. However, Andrew Lebovich, Sahel specialist and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said, “It’s not really a competition, so much as they both have priorities and a desire to work with the government. Sometimes those priorities overlap, sometimes they don’t.”

It is precisely this logic that is so dangerous: American troops are deployed in an advisory and training role. But once on the ground, there is a tendency to push for more activity and engagement, and the Nigeriens have to consistently push back against that. A Nigerien officer with direct knowledge of the Agadez base said on condition of anonymity that what the Americans can and can’t do is a point of discussion on a daily basis. “I say no to the Americans every day,” he said.

The risks the Americans take result in mistakes, and the mistakes, rather than leading to a reconsideration of the risks, can lead to more escalation. After Tongo Tongo, for example, Niger authorized the U.S. to arm its drones in the country, though there are reports that ground missions by the U.S. may face greater scrutiny.

Sitting in the living room of his house in Agadez with his young daughter, Abbas Yahaya, a prominent imam, told me that he is concerned the American drones won’t be able to tell the difference between militants and regular convoys in the desert, who are often armed for protection against criminality. “A drone is manned by people on a military base in America, and many times they make mistakes, killing people who aren’t extremists,” he said. “This won’t solve anything; it will only bring more insecurity.”

Indeed, if a handful of Green Berets can conduct a botched mission that leads to a major escalation of the conflict, what happens when there are 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. troops operating on a base with armed drones and little to no accountability to the public?

I got the feeling that Agadez was just one or two mistakes away from a radical change in which the American military becomes the focal point of hostility. Armed drones are a major issue anywhere the U.S. uses them, but in Niger, the American base is in a major city not far from potential drone targets. Judging from the secrecy and lack of trust thus far, it’s not hard to envision a future in which an errant drone strike causes the population of Agadez to turn against the base.


Mohamed Anacko, president of the Regional Council of Agadez, poses for a picture in his office in Niamey, Niger, Jan. 10, 2018.

Photo: Joe Penney


The Americans don’t even need to make a mistake to get into trouble. Italian, German, and French military forces are active in the country, and if any one of them makes a mistake, they can all become targets for retribution. And the two mission that these Western militaries are engaged in – against migration and against terrorism – are at odds with each other, as Anacko, the president of the Agadez Regional Council, is trying to explain to the rest of the world.

Anacko is practically an institution in Agadez: Everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He has spent the last couple of years arguing with the government in Niamey and the EU that their anti-migrant measures are increasing youth unemployment and resentment towards “the West” at a time when Western militaries are rapidly expanding their presence on the ground. As he explains, you can either stop migration or terrorism, but not both.

When I met Anacko, he was meeting with other regional council leaders at his secondary office in Niamey, across the road from the national soccer stadium. I asked him where he saw the country headed. “In five years, maybe I’ll be a terrorist and you’ll find me in the mountains,” he said, ashing his Rothman cigarette in a blue plastic cup, desaturated by the fluorescent bulb above. I couldn’t tell if he was being serious, or if he had answered enough questions from Western journalists and researchers that he knew exactly how to pique their attention. “Would you come and interview me in the mountains?” he asked, laughing.

A knock on the door signaled the interview was over. On his way out of the office, he walked past a sign that read “Thanks to Swiss cooperation funds” that was taped on the door, and got into his chauffeured white Toyota Hilux pickup truck. I left with my colleague Omar Saley, past the fruit stands and past the smoke from meat grilled by the roadside, which wafted through the windows of our car on the cool, dry night. We had reached the Kennedy Bridge in the center of Niamey when we spotted Anacko in his truck, going to a meeting at one of the main hotels in the city. As his pickup turned, I noticed the words emblazoned on its side: “Gift from the European Union.”

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting contributed funding for this article.

Additional reporting: Omar Saley and Ibrahim Manzo Diallo

Top photo: The American military base is seen in the distance in Agadez, Niger, Jan. 15, 2018.

The post A Massive U.S. Drone Base Could Destabilize Niger — and May Even Be Illegal Under Its Constitution appeared first on The Intercept.

Source: The Intercept | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:00 pm GMT

Device provides years of power through temperature swings

Eventually, you might not need a battery or a conspicuous external power source to keep a device running for years on end. A team at MIT has created a device that produces energy by exploiting the temperature swings that occur between day and night....

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:58 pm GMT

Winter Olympics: Martin Fourcade wins gold in biathlon photo finish

Martin Fourcade finally claims Winter Olympic gold in stunning finish to the men's biathlon 15km mass start.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:54 pm GMT

Sacred Tibetan monastery in Lhasa hit by fire

The blaze at the ancient Jokhang monastery in Lhasa was quickly put out, Chinese state media say.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:27 pm GMT

Winter Olympics: Russian athlete suspected of failing doping test

A Russian athlete is suspected of breaking anti-doping rules at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:21 pm GMT

Iran plane crash in south of country 'kills all 65 onboard'

Aseman Airlines plane crashed en route from Tehran to Yasuj in severe weather conditions, according to state media reports

All passengers and crew onboard an Iranian commercial flight died after the plane crashed amid severe weather conditions in a mountainous region in the south of the country, state television reported on Sunday.

Aseman Airlines flight 3705, en route from Tehran to the southern city of Yasuj, the capital of the impoverished province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, went off radar 50 minutes into its journey, not far from its destination.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:21 pm GMT

Murdered MP's widower Brendan Cox quits charities

Brendan Cox admits inappropriate behaviour that caused "hurt and offence" to women.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:07 pm GMT

British stars set up anti-harassment fund

Emma Watson is among 200 stars calling for an end to workplace sexual harassment ahead of the Baftas.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:01 pm GMT

Seven rescued from Ireland’s highest mountain overnight

Snow on Carrauntoohil creates difficulties for descending hikers

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 11:58 am GMT

Amidst Election Security Worries, Suddenly Paper Ballots Are Making a Comeback

The nation’s secretaries of state gathered for a multi-day National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, with cybersecurity on the mind.

Panels and lectures centered around the integrity of America’s election process, with the federal probe into alleged Russian government attempts to penetrate voting systems a frequent topic of discussion.

Cybersecurity experts from the federal government and military were in high supply. Every secretary of state was invited to a closed-door briefing at the Department of Homeland Security, while federal experts spoke to a wider audience at the conference.

Brigadier General Timothy T. Lunderman, a cybersecurity expert at the National Guard, ran a session laying out to the assembled officials the resources available to them in the event of a cyberattack or intrusion on their systems. “If you take something away from today’s message, it is that we are a team,” he said.

One way to allay concerns about the integrity of electronic voting machine infrastructure, however, is to simply not use it. Over the past year, a number of states are moving back towards the use of paper ballots or at least requiring a paper trail of votes cast.

For instance, Pennsylvania just moved to require all voting systems to keep a paper record of votes cast. Prior to last year’s elections in Virginia, the commonwealth’s board of elections voted to decertify paperless voting machines — voters statewide instead voted the old-fashioned way, with paper ballots.

“It works. I understand. At least if we’re having to spend some time on it, we’re the only ones in control, perhaps is the idea. Nobody else hacking on in I guess is their theory so hopefully it’s safe,” voter Ken Rafferty told the local press on voting day.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson proudly touted his state’s system to The Intercept during an interview at NASS.

Oregon is one of two states in the country to require its residents to vote by mail, a system that was established via referendum in 1998. Richardson argued that this old-fashioned system offers some of the best defense there is against cyber interference.

“We’re using paper and we’re never involved with the Internet. The Internet is not involved at all until there’s an announcement by each of our 36 counties to [the capital] Salem of what the results are and then that’s done orally and through a confirmation e-mail and the county clerks in each of the counties are very careful to ensure that the numbers that actually are posted are the ones that they have,” he said. “Oregon’s in a pretty unique situation.”

Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee recently urged his state to use $29 million in federal funds from the Help America Vote Act to reinforce the state’s paperless machines with a paper trail. “We have an opportunity to improve our election system so that it cannot be hacked, so the voters have complete faith in the integrity in the system, so that democracy works well here in Tennessee,” he said, explaining his request for the funds.

Richardson agrees with the logic that a system that doesn’t rely on electronic voting machines is more secure.

“It’s a system that works….every [ballot] envelope that comes in has a bar code and a signature on the outside envelope. So the bar code brings up on the scanner the signature that’s part of the registration process and then it’s compared on the screen with the signature on the envelope. So every ballot that comes in on paper, the signatures are checked, and it’s just a system that we feel can’t really be hacked. It’s worked really well for us.”

In New Hampshire, the state uses a hybrid system that includes both paper ballots and machines that electronically count paper ballots with a paper trail.

Karen Ladd, the assistant secretary of state for New Hampshire, touted the merits of the system to The Intercept. “We do a lot of recounts, and you can only have a recount with a paper ballot. You can’t do a recount with a machine!” she said.

America’s paper ballot states may seem antiquated to some, but our neighbors to the north have used paper ballots for federal elections for their entire history. Thanks to an army of officials at 25,000 election stations, the integrity of Canada’s elections is never in doubt. “It’s highly decentralized and it’s paper-based so documents can be verified easily afterwards,” Marc Mayrand, former Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada, told the National Post. “So, there may be an error in transmission from time to time or there may be somebody trying to hack the web system that publishes results for the general public. But it’s always verifiable, you can always go back to your paper trail.”

Correction: Feb. 18, 2018, 1:00 p.m.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Oregon’s secretary of state as Lucien Heath. It has since been updated with the name of Oregon’s current secretary of state, Dennis Richardson.

Top photo: Signage at an early voting center on Sept. 23, 2016, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The post Amidst Election Security Worries, Suddenly Paper Ballots Are Making a Comeback appeared first on The Intercept.

Source: The Intercept | 18 Feb 2018 | 11:56 am GMT

Winter Olympics: Elise Christie faces 'fight against time' to make 1,000m

Britain's Elise Christie is in a "fight against time" to be fit for her final Winter Olympic medal chance and "won't be at her optimum" if she does race.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 11:19 am GMT

Hogline controversy: GB curling team beaten by Sweden at Winter Olympics

Fellow athletes, fans and commentators react as Great Britain's women's curling team lose to Sweden amid hogline controversy.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 11:14 am GMT

Single market is 'best solution' for UK - Guy Verhofstadt

The European Parliament's Brexit negotiator says talks are dependent on the red lines set down by the government.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 10:55 am GMT

Facebook Plans To Use US Mail To Verify IDs of Election Ad Buyers

Facebook will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday. From a report: The postcard verification is Facebook's latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia's use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 10:00 am GMT

US vows inquiry into Syria attack involving Russia

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vowed to investigate an attack involving Russian citizens on American-allied forces in Syria but stopped short of accusing Moscow of orchestrating the assault.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 9:51 am GMT

Electronic skin can display a heartbeat on your hand

Electronic skins might not only detect health troubles in the near future, but display them for the world to see. University of Tokyo researchers have developed an e-skin that can measure vital signs like your heartbeat and display them in real time...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 9:50 am GMT

'How about we stop blaming the victims?': Florida shooting survivors speak at anti-gun rally – video

Students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school have given emotive speeches condemning gun laws in the US. Hundreds of people protested at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 9:23 am GMT

Sinn Féin to meet Varadkar, May amid Stormont deadlock

Sinn Féin is to hold separate meetings with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister next week, following the collapse of talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 9:08 am GMT

The White Duck Case: A fowl killing in Herbert Park

Drake news: In 1942, a reluctant reporter was sent on a wild goose chase in Dublin

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 9:00 am GMT

Winter Olympics: Lindsey Vonn 'hurt' by anti-American accusations

Lindsey Vonn says she is hurt by accusations she is anti-American because of her stance on US President Donald Trump.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:52 am GMT

May wins backing for new security treaty with EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May has made her case for a new security treaty with the EU from next year, winning support from EU and US officials who agreed the issue was too important to risk getting subsumed in broader Brexit negotiations.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:43 am GMT

Man charged in connection with stabbing in Co Limerick

Victim (21) remains in critical condition after assault in Newcastle West on Saturday

Source: The Irish Times - News | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:37 am GMT

Two Palestinians killed by Israeli army say medics

Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire in Gaza in a flare-up after soldiers were wounded by an explosive device along the Palestinian enclave's border, Gaza medical sources have said.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:32 am GMT

Vatican revives pope's sexual abuse panel

The Vatican says it has renewed its anti-paedophile panel as Pope Francis acts to quell the global scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 18 Feb 2018 | 7:23 am GMT

Google is Making it Easier For 911 To Find You in an Emergency

An anonymous reader shares a report: When you call 911 from a cellphone, your location is typically sent to the call taker by a wireless carrier. But that information isn't always so accurate. Well Google might have a better way of going about it and it tested its system across a few states in December and January, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the states where the tests took place, Google sent location data from a random selection of 911 callers using Android phones straight to the people taking those calls. The test included 50 call centers that cover around 2.4 million people in Texas, Tennessee and Florida, and early reports of the results suggest the system is promising. One company involved in the test told the Wall Street Journal that for over 80 percent of the 911 calls where Googl's system was used, the tech giant's location data were more accurate than what wireless carriers provided. The company, RapidSOS, also said that while carrier data location estimates had, on average, a radius of around 522 feet, Google's data gave estimates with radii around 121 feet. Google's data also arrived more quickly than carrier data typically did.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 6:43 am GMT

Website follows journey of Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster through space

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster may have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, but you can still follow its path through the Solar System. Satellite guru Ben Pearson's unofficial Whereisroadster.com website is tracking the EV based on NASA data and his own fl...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 5:21 am GMT

PowerUp releases its phone-controlled paper airplane

PowerUp first previewed its smartphone-controlled paper airplane back in 2014, but now it's finally available to everyone. The startup has announced that a retail version of its Dart aircraft will ship in February, and is running a pre-order campaign...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 3:02 am GMT

Ancient city's LiDAR scans reveal as many buildings as Manhattan

When researchers surveyed the ruins of a Purépecha Empire city in Mexico the old-fashioned way a decade ago, it took them two seasons to explore two square kilometres. Good thing they decided to use LiDAR, because the city called Angamuco turn...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:33 am GMT

Silicon Valley Singles Are Giving Up On the Algorithms of Love

The Washington Post: Melissa Hobley, an executive at the dating app OkCupid, hears the complaints about the apps [being unable to find good matches] regularly and thinks they get a bad rap. Silicon Valley workers "are in the business of scalable, quick solutions. And that's not what love is," Hobley said. "You can't hurry love. It's reciprocal. You're not ordering an object. You're not getting a delivery in less than seven minutes." Finding love, she added, takes commitment and energy -- and, yes, time, no matter how inefficiently it's spent. "You have a whole city obsessed with algorithms and data, and they like to say dating apps aren't solving the problem," Hobley said. "But if a city is male-dominant, if a city is known for 16-hour work days, those are issues that dating apps can't solve." One thing distinguishes the Silicon Valley dating pool: The men-to-women ratio for employed, young singles in the San Jose metro area is higher than in any other major area. There were about 150 men for every 100 women, compared with about 125 to 100 nationwide, of never-married young people between 25 and 34 in San Jose, U.S. Census Bureau data from 2016 shows. That ratio permeates the economy here, all the way to the valley's biggest employers, which have struggled for years to bring more women into their ranks. Men make up about 70% of the workforces of Apple, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet, company filings show.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 1:30 am GMT

The mystery of Toronto's gay village killings

Toronto’s LGBT community grieves after one of their own is charged with targeting and killing gay men.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:39 am GMT

The Indian artist challenging 'dirty taboos' on Instagram

Kaviya Ilango is getting attention for her satirical and poignant sketches of "millennial problems".

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:37 am GMT

How I joined a French wine brotherhood

Hugh Schofield has a weird and charming day in a wine region and asks questions about Brexit.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:36 am GMT

The country breeding a generation of chess whizz kids

Since 2011, all children in Armenia from six to eight years old have compulsory chess lessons - and some now are very good indeed.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:34 am GMT

Hong Kong art: Miniature art shows disappearing Hong Kong

An exhibition of miniature dioramas offers a glimpse into a disappearing way of life in Hong Kong, reports Grace Tsoi from BBC Chinese.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:29 am GMT

The 22-year-old who wants to mine asteroids

He's running the UK's first business for space mining.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:26 am GMT

'I fix umbrellas to save the world'

Thierry Millet is possibly Europe’s last remaining artisanal umbrella repair man.

Source: BBC News - Home | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:25 am GMT

Amid the chaos of Syria, will Israel and Iran launch an all-out war?

Neither country will benefit from a new Middle East conflict, but unless they cease military clashes, such as those inside Syria last weekend, hopes of peace remain fragile

Tensions between Israel and Iran have hit a new high following last weekend’s unprecedented military clashes inside Syria. The fighting has intensified fears that the Middle East is heading for all-out war. But such alarming predictions assume both protagonists standing toe-to-toe, actuallywant to fight. Is this reallytrue?

Iran is portrayed as a wanton aggressor, especially by the Trump administration and the Saudis. It has steadily expanded its military presence in Syria since supporting Bashar al-Assad after 2011, deploying Afghan and Pakistani Shia militias, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and its own Revolutionary Guards.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:05 am GMT

Pope Francis wowed the world but, five years on, is in troubled waters

He entered office on a wave of energy but, as discontent grows over his attitude to abuse scandals, Francis faces opposition on all sides

Chatham House is one of the most important foreign affairs thinktanks in the UK. But on Wednesday its focus will not be a president, or an organisation like the World Bank, or the future of the EU after Brexit, but a religious leader: Pope Francis. And it will be the third time in recent weeks that Britain has turned its attention to the pope.

Two weeks ago, the Foreign Office-sponsored thinktank Wilton Park took delegates to the Vatican to meet the pope and discuss violent religious extremism, while last week the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, was in Rome to talk with Francis about modern slavery.

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Source: World news | The Guardian | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:05 am GMT

Deep Neural Networks for Bot Detection

From a research paper on Arxiv: The problem of detecting bots, automated social media accounts governed by software but disguising as human users, has strong implications. For example, bots have been used to sway political elections by distorting online discourse, to manipulate the stock market, or to push anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that caused health epidemics. Most techniques proposed to date detect bots at the account level, by processing large amount of social media posts, and leveraging information from network structure, temporal dynamics, sentiment analysis, etc. In this paper [PDF], we propose a deep neural network based on contextual long short-term memory (LSTM) architecture that exploits both content and metadata to detect bots at the tweet level: contextual features are extracted from user metadata and fed as auxiliary input to LSTM deep nets processing the tweet text.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 18 Feb 2018 | 12:01 am GMT

Facebook will send postcards to verify US election ad buyers

Facebook has a new yet very old solution to fighting Russian manipulation attempts during future US elections: conventional mail. Global policy program director Katie Harbath has revealed that the social network will send postcards to verify the ide...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Feb 2018 | 11:58 pm GMT

Facebook Admits SMS Notifications Sent Using Two-Factor Number Was Caused by Bug

Facebook has clarified the situation around SMS notifications sent using the company's two-factor authentication (2FA) system, admitting that the messages were indeed caused by a bug. From a report: In a blog post penned by Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, the company says the error led it to "send non-security-related SMS notifications to these phone numbers." Facebook uses the automated number 362-65, or "FBOOK," as its two-factor authentication number, which is a secure way of confirming a user's identity by sending a numeric code to a secondary device like a mobile phone. That same number ended up sending users Facebook notifications without their consent. When users would attempt to get the SMS notifications to stop, the replies were posted to their own Facebook profiles as status updates.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 17 Feb 2018 | 11:00 pm GMT

Student criticises Trump at anti-gun rally in Florida

A student survivor of the Parkland school shooting called out US President Donald Trump today over his ties to the powerful National Rifle Association, in a poignant address to an anti-gun rally in Florida.

Source: RTÉ News - News Headlines | 17 Feb 2018 | 10:52 pm GMT

Joel McHale's weekly Netflix show premieres this weekend

As promised, Joel McHale's weekly Netflix show is premiering on February 18th -- and you now have a better idea of what to expect going in. The streaming service has posted a preview of The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale that gives a feel for wha...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Feb 2018 | 10:32 pm GMT

Most Cities Would Welcome a Tech Billionaire, But Peter Thiel?

Sarah McBride, writing for Bloomberg: Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco, adding another dose of legitimacy to a burgeoning startup scene in Southern California -- along with some controversy. The co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, Thiel runs Founders Fund, one of the more-respected venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. He comes with a little baggage, though, including his staunch support for President Donald Trump, his secretive funding of the legal battle between Hulk Hogan and Gawker.com, and comments some people say have been derogatory toward women. "I'm not sure why Peter Thiel believes he'll receive a warmer reception on the L.A. tech scene than he's had in Silicon Valley," said Tracy DiNunzio, chief executive officer of Tradesy, a fashion-reselling company based in Santa Monica, California. "Our venture and startup ecosystem is fairly left-leaning."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot | 17 Feb 2018 | 10:00 pm GMT

Google app beta adds built-in screenshot-editing tools

Google app is extremely close to rolling out a built-in screenshot-editing tool -- so close that you can now try it out as a beta tester on Android. If you join the app's beta program and download version 7.21, you'll find an option that says "Edit a...

Source: Engadget RSS Feed | 17 Feb 2018 | 9:01 pm GMT

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