Easter attacks aftermath: Five-year jail term for those caught spreading fake news in Sri Lanka

Easter attacks aftermath: Five-year jail term for those caught spreading fake news in Sri Lanka

Colombo: Sri Lanka's government will introduce five-year jail terms for those caught spreading fake news and hate speech on social media, the government said Wednesday, following a surge in online vitriol and disinformation after the Easter suicide attacks.

The cabinet of ministers approved a proposal by the acting justice minister, which will also see offenders fined one million rupees (USD 5,715), the government said in a statement.

It did not immediately release a definition of the two offences, but said the penal code will be amended to introduce the new penalties.

The move follows repeated government allegations that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp have been used to spread online hate, in a country where ethnic divisions still linger after decades of war.

Sri Lanka shut down internet access in March last year to prevent further violence when anti-Muslim mobs went on the rampage in the island nation's central region, killing three people and destroying hundreds of homes, shops, vehicles and mosques.

During the violence, mobs used social media platforms to organise attacks against minority groups.

Sri Lankan social networks also saw a surge in fake news after the Easter suicide bombings that left 258 people dead and nearly 500 wounded.

A nine-day ban on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp was introduced following the Islamic State-claimed attacks on three churches and three hotels on April 21.

Last month Singapore's parliament passed laws to combat fake news that will allow authorities to order the removal of content and could see those convicted of violations imprisoned for up to 10 years.


Donald Trump targets India, China on bad air, water

Donald Trump targets India, China on bad air, water

water and they don't fulfil their responsibilities towards world's environment. Trump made the remark in an interview to British channel ITV when he was asked about his meeting with UK monarch Prince Charles. The leader, who facilitated his country's unceremonious exit from the Paris Agreement on climate change, also claimed the United States had one of the cleanest climates in the world.

"We (He and Prince Charles) were going to have a 15 minute chat... and it turned out to be an hour and a half...he did most of the talking. He is really into climate change," he told the interviewer. "I did say that the United States is among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics and it is even getting better," he claimed. He said countries like India, China and Russia didn't have a sense of pollution and cleanliness.

"China, India, Russia, many other nations, they have not very good air, not very good water, and the sense of pollution and cleanliness," he said. "If you go to certain cities... I am not going to name these cities, but I can. If go to certain cities, you can't even breathe," he said adding," They don't do the responsibility," reports NDTV.

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Everest deaths: Nepal to limit access, but doubts linger

Everest deaths: Nepal to limit access, but doubts linger

Kathmandu: Under pressure after a deadly season on traffic-clogged Mount Everest, Nepal is considering tightening access to the world’s highest peak, but mountaineering experts fear the proposed changes could amount to little more than lip service.

Eleven people died during the climbing season that ended this week, as record numbers lined the route to the summit. Although overcrowding was blamed for at least four deaths, many say inexperience is a bigger killer.

“People who know nothing of climbing, never been on a mountain, came and tried to climb Everest,” Chilean mountaineer Juan Pablo Mohr told AFP after returning to Kathmandu.

“A lot of people didn’t know how to put (on) crampons or (use) the fixed rop­es,” he said, adding they rel­i­ed on an Army of sherpas or Nepali guides to help th­em accomplish such basic tasks.

For years, Kathmandu has issued permits to anyone willing to pay $11,000, regardless of whether they are rookie climbers or skilled mountaineers. After a devastating spring season, officials said they are mulling imposing more restrictions.

“We are looking into having a minimum requirement for climbers, fixing more ropes or taking more oxygen and sherpas,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, secretary at Nepal’s tourism ministry.

For veteran mountaineers, the announcement of new rules amounts to little more than a futile annual exercise —with the government each year promising tougher measures that fail to materialise by the following spring.


Indian-origin woman gets 22 years to life in prison for strangling stepdaughter to death

Indian-origin woman gets 22 years to life in prison for strangling stepdaughter to death

New York: An Indian-origin woman in the US has been sentenced to 22 years to life in prison for strangling her nine-year-old stepdaughter to death in a bathtub, a crime described as “unimaginable” by the court.

Shamdai Arjun, 55, of Queens, New York was convicted last month of second-degree murder by a jury that deliberated for less than one hour before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. She was sentenced Monday to an indeterminate term of 22 years to life in prison.

Arjun was convicted for the August 2016 strangulation death of her stepdaughter Ashdeep Kaur, who was left in her care. “The defendant in this case goes beyond the tales of evil stepmothers. This defendant committed the unimaginable – she wrapped her hands around her stepdaughter’s little neck and squeezed the life out of her,” Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan said in a harsh statement after the verdict.

“The victim was an innocent child and just nine years old. The Court has imposed a sentence that will likely guarantee this woman never sees freedom again. The sentence of the Court is more than warranted in this tragic case,” Ryan said. According to trial testimony, on the evening of August 19, 2016, Arjun was observed by an eyewitness leaving her apartment in Queens along with her ex-husband Raymond Narayan, and her two grandchildren aged 3 and 5.

When asked about the nine-year-old victim’s whereabouts, Arjun informed the eyewitness that the child was in the bathroom and was waiting for her father to pick her up. The eyewitness, who observed that the bathroom light had been on for several hours, called the victim’s father Sukhjinder Singh and was instructed to break through the bathroom door. She found Kaur’s lifeless naked body in the bathtub. There were several bruises on her body.

A report filed by the Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the cause of death was manual strangulation. In 2016, Queens Assistant District Attorney Michael Curtis had said that Arjun repeatedly and on numerous occasions threatened to kill the young girl.        Kaur’s relatives had also said that the young girl had been previously abused by Arjun, who had been entrusted with her care while Singh worked in a local restaurant.

Kaur had arrived in the US from India just three months before she was killed in August 2016 and was living with her father and Arjun in an apartment in Queens that was shared with another couple. The housemate had seen Kaur go in the bathroom with Arjun, who later came out alone and left the building. She allegedly said that Kaur was taking a bath.

New York Police Depratment detectives had then gone to Narayan’s residence and found him, Arjun and the two grandchildren inside the apartment.

Apple further fortifies users’ data as tech firms falter

Apple further fortifies users’ data as tech firms falter

San Jose: Sending a strong message to tech companies who take data privacy for granted and allow third party vendors to snoop on your privacy, Apple – that has a clear roadmap on who finally owns the data – has decided to give its users more reasons to stay secure with their personal information.

Realising that third party sign-ins like with Facebook and Google to access its services may put users’ at illegal data sharing or data mining risks, the Cupertino-based tech giant on Monday introduced a more private way to simply and quickly sign into apps and websites.

Instead of using a social media account or filling out forms, verifying email addresses or choosing passwords, customers can simply use their Apple ID to authenticate and Apple will protect users’ privacy by providing developers with a unique random ID.

Even in cases where developers choose to ask for a name and email address, users have the option to keep their email address private and share a unique random email address instead. “You can choose to share your actual email address or you can choose to hide it. This entire exercise is meant to ensure that you have control over your data. You own your data and not us,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering told the audience as the company kicked off its flagship developers’ conference “WWDC 2019” here on Monday.

The Sign In with Apple tool makes it easy for users to authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID and has two-factor authentication built in for an added layer of security. The company said it does not use Sign In with Apple to profile users or their activity in apps.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has always taken a strong position on privacy which has made him a darling among the Apple users. “Apple does not want your data. Apple does not want to read your emails or sell your personal information to third parties or advertisers, nor would provide backdoor to government agencies to hack into iOS devices,” Cook stressed when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came knocking at Apple’s doors, asking the company to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists in the 2015 San Bernardino shooting in the state of California.

Another front where the company feels data privacy has to be maintained is home. Apple’s HomeKit remains one of the easiest to use smart home systems owing to its deep integration with Apple devices. “Our homes are personal places where we deserve to feel safe and secure. HomeKit has been designed from the outset to protect the privacy and security in your use of home accessories. And no accessory is more personal than security cameras that film in and around your home,” Federighi noted.

The company announced HomeKit would now have support for several new devices this year including security cameras and routers. “Most home cameras today send peoples’ video to the Cloud. This risks your privacy. We have a new way. It’s called HomeKit secure video. In this case, the video is analysed in your home on a resident iPad, HomePod or Apple TV. Then it’s encrypted and securely sent to iCloud where no one, not even Apple, can see it,” emphasised Federighi.

“The storage for 10 days of video footage would be included in your existing iCloud account and won’t count against your storage,” he added. The new router support in HomeKit will let people firewall off accessories.

Trumps join Queen at State Banquet

Trumps join Queen at State Banquet

London: Dressed in a gorgeous white pleated outfit, Ivanka Trump stood smiling in the balcony of Buckingham Palace with husband Jared Kushner by her side, as her father Donald Trump and stepmother Melania arrived at the palace for a symbolic meet with the Royal family.

Ivanka wore her blonde hair straight down over her shoulders in a sleek, simple style, with a pair of diamond stud earrings to complete the look, reports Express.co.uk as Melania, meanwhile, donned a white Dolce and Gabbana monochrome midi-dress with blue collar and matching waist-belt paired with a white hat detailed with a navy band around the brim. She completed her look with Manolo Blahnik heels.

White appears to be the theme of the night, considering that Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, and Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine are all dressed in white for the lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace, reports CNN.

Trump and the Queen exchanged toasts shortly after they arrived at their seats at the state banquet. The US President sat to the right of the Queen at the horseshoe-shaped table, reports The New York Times.

Hailing the Queen as a “great, great woman”, Trump said during his address, “As we honour our shared victory and heritage, we affirm the common values that will unite us long into future: freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law and reference for the rights given to us by almighty God,” he added.


Beyond wonderful to share this unforgettable evening with this crew...

“From the second world war to today, her majesty has stood as a constant symbol of these priceless traditions,” Trump said at the start of a state banquet. “She has embodied the spirit of dignity, duty, and patriotism that beats proudly in every British heart.” In her address, the Queen said that Britain and the United States were “bound by the strength and breadth” of their economic ties.” “Mr President, as we look to the future, I’m confident that our common values and shared interests will continue to unite us,” she added.

The Trumps are currently on a three-day official state visit to the UK. Gun salutes in Green Park and at the Tower of London greeted the family upon their arrival in Buckingham Palace on Monday.

On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to hold an official bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.

A white house official told CNN that in addition to Ivanka’s attendance at the ceremonial events at Buckingham Palace on Monday, she will also take part in the business roundtable and bilateral talks with May alongside her father.

Riyadh rallies allies against Tehran at Mecca summits

Riyadh rallies allies against Tehran at Mecca summits

Mecca: Gulf and Arab allies rallied around Saudi Arabia Friday as it ratcheted up tensions with regional rival Iran after a series of attacks, drawing accusations from Tehran of “sowing division”.Tehran, which has strongly denied involvement in any of the attacks, expressed disappointment that Riyadh plans to level the same “baseless accusations” at a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) early on Saturday.

King Salman called on Gulf and Arab leaders to confront Iran’s “criminal acts” after still unexplained sabotage attacks damaged four vessels, two of them Saudi oil tankers, in the Sea of Oman and twin Yemeni rebel drone attacks shut down a key Saudi oil pipeline.His remarks came at the start of two back-to-back emergency summits in the Muslim holy city of Mecca that drew near-unanimous support for the Sunni kingdom from Gulf and Arab.



Louisiana Governor ratifies ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

Louisiana Governor ratifies ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

Washington: Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has signed a bill into law that will ban abortions in the US state once a heartbeat is detectable with no exceptions for rape or incest, according to his office.

Louisiana joins Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri, which have all passed so-called “heartbeat” bills this year, CNN reported. Along with Alabama’s near-total ban on abortion, the heartbeat bills are part of a conservative nationwide push to bring a Supreme Court challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalised abortion in the US.Edwards signed the bill into law on Thursday after it passed the state House by 79-23 on Wednesday.

It would “prohibit the abortion of an unborn human being with a detectable heartbeat”, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. The bill would require an ultrasound prior to an abortion and subject doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected with a $1,000 fine or up to two years in prison.

The bill was introduced by Republican state Representative Valarie Hodges, who called it “a very solemn responsibility”, reports CNN.The Louisiana law will go into effect only should a federal appeals court uphold a similar Mississippi law.
The federal judge hearing the case expressed deep scep

NASA plans to send equipment to Moon from 2020

NASA plans to send equipment to Moon from 2020

Washington: For the first time since the 1970s, the United States is planning to send equipment to the surface of the Moon in 2020 and 2021, in anticipation of a crewed lunar mission in 2024, NASA has said.

The US space agency has chosen American firms Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to send instruments and other scientific equipment to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. The administration of President Donald Trump has accelerated the timetable for putting humans back on the Moon with 2024 the new target date – moved up by four years.

Each company has developed lunar landers of different sizes and shapes: one is tall, and the other two are more compact.
The landers will deliver up to 23 small payloads of equipment provided by NASA. That should include material that will gather information to help astronauts later on to land, navigate and protect themselves from radiation.

Orbit Beyond will land in Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in a lunar crater, by September 2020, after being launched by one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. Intuitive Machines will try to land by July 2021 in Oceanus Procellarum, a dark spot on the Moon visible from Earth. SpaceX will also facilitate that launch.

Astrobotic, which is based in Pittsburgh, will target Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. It has yet to choose a delivery rocket. NASA awarded the companies USD 77-97 million each for development of their landers.

“Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Friday. “Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.” The United States last sent a crewed mission to the Moon in 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission.

NASA regularly sent lunar probes into orbit, but it only has two active missions today: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the ARTEMIS probes. China has meanwhile landed twice on the Moon in recent years: in 2013, and in January on the far side. The Change 4 probe and its motorized robot Yutu-2 are the only probes active on the surface right now.

NASA’s rover spots clay on Red Planet

NASA’s rover spots clay on Red Planet

Washington: Drilling by Curiosity Mars rover at a region of the Red Planet called the “clay-bearing unit” has revealed the highest amounts of clay minerals ever found during the mission, NASA has said. The rover recently drilled two samples at rock targets called “Aberlady” and “Kilmarie”, the US space agency revealed on Wednesday.

Clay often forms in water, which is essential for life. Other than proof that there was a significant amount of water once, what these new findings mean for the region is still up for debate. It is likely that the rocks in the area formed as layers of mud in ancient lakes — something Curiosity also found lower on Mount Sharp mountain on Mars. Water interacted with sediment over time, leaving an abundance of clay in the rocks there, NASA said. This clay-enriched region is located on the side of lower Mount Sharp. The rover’s mineralogy instrument, called CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy), provided the first analyses of rock samples drilled in the clay-bearing unit, NASA said.