26 April 2021

Indian journalist who reported rape of minority community girl handcuffed to hospital bed; not allowed to use toilet

Kappan handcuffed to hospital bed; not allowed to use toilet, says wife

Kappan, who is lodged in UP's Mathura prison, is admitted to K.M. Medical College

siddique_kappan (File) Siddique Kappan

Journalist Siddique Kappan, who is lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura prison since October 2020, has been denied the “basic human right to go to a toilet”, his wife Raihana Kappan told THE WEEK today. The Delhi-based journalist from Kerala is currently admitted to K.M. Medical College, Mathura.

Kappan was arrested at Mathura by the Uttar Pradesh Police in October 2020, while on his way to Hathras to report on the gangrape and murder of a Dalit girl, which had triggered nationwide outrage. The journalist was booked under the Draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On April 20, he collapsed in the Mathura Jail and suffered serious injuries, Raihana said.

“After hospitalising, he was tested positive for COVID-19,” she told THE WEEK. “He called me today from somebody’s phone. He told me that the hospital authorities are not allowing him to go to the toilet. He is handcuffed to the bed and is not allowed to move. He is urinating in a plastic bottle. He is a human being. He has to go to the toilet too, right?”

On April 22, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists had pleaded before the Supreme Court, seeking his transfer from the Mathura hospital to All India Institute of Medical Sciences or Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, citing his deteriorating health.

“He have had fever for more than 10 days now,” Raihana said. “His chin was injured after collapsing in the bathroom. So, he is having difficulty in having food. But now, he somehow wants to get discharged from the hospital. If he is in the [Mathura] jail, he can at least go to the toilet.”

Wills Mathew, Kappan's advocate, said that the latter is now in a “very bad” condition. He also said that he is preparing a letter to the Chief Justice of India describing his condition.

Kappan is a diabetic, and has had high blood pressure and cholesterol for more than 15 years, his wife said. “If you inquire with the medical superintendent, he would say ‘it is all good’,” Raihana said. “But when my husband called me today, his only request was to get him discharged somehow from the hospital so that he can go to the toilet.”


source: The Week

50,000 fans attend rock concert in COVID-free New Zealand

By Jesse O’Neill

As the rest of the world isolates, New Zealand rocks!

More than 50,000 people gathered for a massive rock concert in the island nation, which is free of social-distancing requirements after virtually stamping out COVID-19 with strict policies.

The band Six60 has been playing to huge crowds across the county, and its Saturday tour finale in Auckland’s biggest stadium was billed as the largest concert in the world since the pandemic began.

And it wasn’t just Kiwi rock fans who got to gather this weekend — with 78,113 fans packing into a stadium in neighboring Australia for an Aussie rules football match on Sunday.

The game, between the Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers at the 100,000-seater Melbourne Cricket Ground, was the highest attendance at any sports stadium since the pandemic started.

Last year’s clash between the teams was played in an empty stadium, and fans roared back Sunday for the game that fell on Anzac Day, a day of remembrance in both Australia and New Zealand. It ended with a 109-85 win for Essendon.

Fans cheers as Six60 perform at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

At the Six60 concert, the band honored military musicians and invited Maori performers to join them onstage for music sung in the indigenous language.

“We know what it’s like to be in lockdown. It sucked. And we didn’t know if we’d be able to play gigs again,” lead singer Matiu Walters said before the show. “But we are fortunate, for a few reasons, here in New Zealand.”

“It was amazing to see how fanatical people were, and excited about being out and seeing live music, and seeing something to drag them out of a long, brutal year,” Guitarist Ji Fraser said. “It was very special.”

A fan who lived in lockdown laden Britain during the past year found the experience to be dreamlike.

Maskless fans enjoyed a concert in COVID-free New Zealand on April 24, 2021.

“It’s very important for us as humans to be able to get together and sing the same songs together,” Lucy Clumpas said. “It makes us feel like we’re part of something,”

Not everyone was thrilled about the show at the large Eden Park rugby stadium, where concerts used to be banned.

Fans listen as New Zealand band Six60 perform at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said shows there would represent a “home invasion” of noise.

“But the people wanted it. And the people spoke,” Walters said, as he invited the PM to the next gig.

Six60 performs before a sea of fans at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on April 24, 2021.

“Six60 is for everyone. And maybe if she came and enjoyed herself, she’d have a change of heart.”

Only 26 people have died of the coronavirus in the nation of five million, according to Worldometer.

Saudi Arabia to ship 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India to meet growing demand

Saudi Arabia is shipping 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India as the country is running low on supplies due to an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases.

India logged a record of 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day on Sunday, taking its total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,69,60,172. The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record 2,767 daily new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The supply shipment is being undertaken in cooperation with the Adani group and Linde company.

"Embassy of India is proud to partner with Adani group and M/s Linde in shipping much-needed 80MT liquid oxygen to India. Our heartfelt thanks to the Ministry of Health Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all their help, support, and cooperation,” the Indian mission in Riyadh tweeted.

"Thank you @IndianEmbRiyadh Indeed, actions speak louder than words. We are on an urgent mission to secure oxygen supplies from across the world. This first shipment of 4 ISO cryogenic tanks with 80 tons of liquid oxygen is now on its way from Dammam to Mundra,” Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani said in a tweet.

India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals in several States are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

To combat the growing demand for oxygen in the country, India has reached out to various countries to procure containers and oxygen cylinders under operation 'Oxygen Maitri'.

The Indian Air Force on Saturday brought four cryogenic tanks, to be used for transporting oxygen, from Singapore. The containers were airlifted from Singapore by C17 heavy-lift aircraft of the IAF.

The aircraft "with 4 cryogenic containers for storage of liquid O2 from Singapore landed at Panagarh airbase" in West Bengal on Saturday, a home ministry spokesperson tweeted.

The IAF was also transporting essential medicines as well as equipment required by the designated COVID-19 hospitals in various parts of the country.

On Friday, the Union Home Ministry said it was in talks for the import of high-capacity oxygen-carrying tankers from Singapore and the UAE.

Meanwhile, President of the European Council Charles Michel said in a tweet, "The EU stands in solidarity with Indian people amidst resurgent COVID19 pandemic. The fight against the virus is a common fight. We will discuss our support and cooperation at EU-India Leaders' meeting on 8 May with @narendramodi and @antoniocostapm".

French President Emmanuel Macron has also extended support to India.

In a tweet shared by the Indian embassy in France, Mr Macron said, "I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no one. We stand ready to provide our support."

Armenians Celebrate Biden's Genocide Declaration as Furious Turkey Summons US Ambassador

By Christina Zhao


Armenia celebrated President Joe Biden's recognition of the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide on Saturday, as Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador and strongly condemned the move.

"Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring," Biden said in a statement released on the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

In acknowledging of the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, Biden went further than his predecessors in the White House after years of careful language on the issue. The move risks fracturing America's relationship with Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO partner.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan sent Biden a letter praising his statement. "I highly appreciate your principled position, which is a powerful step on the way to acknowledging the truth, historical justice, and an invaluable of support for the descendants of the victims of the Armenian Genocide," Pashinyan wrote.

In a tweet, Armenian President Armen Sirkissian stated that the move "opens new prospects for US-Armenian relations. It also makes this world a better place!"

Meanwhile, officials in Turkey quickly denounced Biden's remarks and summoned the US Ambassador to Ankara.

In a statement, Turkey said its foreign minister, Sedat Onal, has told ambassador David Satterfield that Biden's remarks caused "wounds in ties that will be hard to repair." Onal also reportedly told Satterfield that Turkey "rejected it, found it unacceptable and condemned in the strongest terms."\

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We have lived together in peace in this land for centuries, we find peace under the shadow of our crescent and star flag."

Ankara acknowledges that many Armenians were killed amid clashes in the Ottoman Empire, but refutes the number of deceased and insists that the events should not be considered a genocide.

During his 2020 presidential race, Biden's campaign promised that if elected, "Joe will recognize the Armenian Genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration so that such a tragedy can never occur again."

Earlier this week, a group of 100 bipartisan lawmakers signed a letter spearheaded by California Rep. Adam Schiff urging Biden to stand by his word and "recognize the Armenian Genocide."

Americans of Armenian descent also celebrated the move on Saturday. In an Instagram post, reality TV star Khloe Kardashian wrote, "Thank you for honoring the stories, the pain, suffering and loss of the Armenian people. Today we honor our ancestors on Armenian Remembrance Day."

21 April 2021

Facebook Plans To Launch Stablecoin That Will Compete With Dollar Early Next Year

A couple of days ago, Morgan Stanley warned that China's new digital renminbi - the first "central bank digital currency" (or CBDC) - could cement its status as the next reserve currency. But as government and Wall Street continue their embrace of virtual currencies that, some say, threaten to blow up the industry status quo and eliminate the need for banks, corporations are also striving to create the stablecoin of the future, challenging governments' long-held monopoly on money.

Years after Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg first declared his intention to launch a transnational stablecoin via Facebook's "Libra" project that would, he hoped, enable cross-border payments on Facebook's platform, the Facebook-backed digital-currency project Diem is reportedly planning to launch its first stablecoin in 2021 as a small-scale pilot, according to an anonymously sourced report from CNBC.

But Libra, which involved a convoluted plan to launch a stablecoin backed by a potpourri of fiat currencies, was quickly scaled back after Facebook's talk about creating a new international financial system to supplant the dollar apparently rattled too many feathers. What was left was later spun off as Diem, a re-branding that has given life to a scaled-back vision of corporate stablecoin dominance. However, When it finally arrives, Diem won’t come with the same fanfare and controversy of the original idea envisioned by the social media giant nearly two years ago.

The person, who preferred to remain anonymous as the details haven’t yet been made public, said this pilot will be small in scale, focusing largely on transactions between individual consumers. There may also be an option for users to buy goods and purchases, the person added. However, there is no confirmed date for the launch and timing could therefore change.

"It’s really drifted off the radar in a way that’s quite striking," Michael Casey, chief content officer of the cryptocurrency publication CoinDesk and a former financial journalist, told CNBC.

Facebook won't play an official role in the launch, which instead will be overseen by the Diem Association, the Switzerland-based nonprofit which oversees diem’s development.

In comments to CNBC, financial journalist Michael Casey said he was surprised at how under-the-radar the diem project has become. It's almost as if the international community has forgotten about it, he said. "It really drifted off the radar in a way that’s quite striking," said Casey, the chief content officer of the cryptocurrency publication CoinDesk who was one of the first reporters at a major American newspaper (the Wall Street Journal) to cover the rise of crypto.

The soft reaction to Diem is also surprising considering how much of a backlash its predecessor created. "It was such a stunning challenge to the international order, in that the backlash was just really powerful," Casey said.

Diem has lost several senior executives over the past year, as well as the backing of powerful corporations like Mastercard and Visa, among many others. But in the wake of its rebranding, Diem is reportedly in talks with Swiss financial regulators to secure a payment license, a crucial step that would place the organization further along the path toward getting its digital currency project off the ground.

Of course, more "government sponsored" competitors are in the works: in addition to the eRMB, the ECB recently concluded a public consultation on a digital euro and will make a decision this summer, and the Boston Fed is set to release its initial research in the fall.

With stablecoins seen as a more practical alternative to bitcoin and ether, we will be closely watching the rollout of stablecoins as a space where corporations might win an early victory in the battle to use crypto technology to seize the money-making monopoly from government - and from the people.

To sum up, why should readers be skeptical of Facebook's Diem? Well, Tom Luongo once described it as a "Trojan Rabbit" that could quietly help Zuck seize the ability to print money, and launch "the Central Bank of Facebook."

Company Sells Sex Robot "Clones" Of Dead Partners Using 3D-Modeling Technology

For many people who have lost their significant others, sex dolls have provided one way to ease the pain of grief and loneliness.

However, sex robot company Lux Botics is taking things one step further – by offering a clone of dead partners using state-of-the-art three-dimensional modeling.

With demand for sex dolls booming amid the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns across the world, Lux Botics is offering “ultra-realistic humanoids” to satisfy the carnal needs of the singles without any other recourse.

The company’s flagship “Adult Companion” model called Stephanie goes for USD $6,000 on the Lux Botics website.

The model includes speech control, facial recognition, a “hyper realistic eyes” option and even the option of implanted real hair, as well as limited AI capabilities.

However, the company also offers the option of creating a facsimile of a lost loved one.

The company can either create a 3D model through detailed modeling prior to it being printed in ultra-fine resolution, or it can rely on photos of the individual.

A mould would then be constructed based on the 3D model, complete with a robot skeleton. The robot is then painted and fitted with the lips, nails, eyebrows and other features the customer chooses.

“We can make robots that talk but we have not made robots that truly walk on their own,” Lux Botics co-founder Bjorn told Daily Star UK

“We hope to develop this in the near future. We can make a large number of body parts that can move in a realistic manner.”

While the company hasn’t yet created body doubles, Lux Botics is offering the choice to customers.

Since the start of the pandemic, people have been desperate to cope with the solitude of self-isolation and lockdown measures. While many have resorted to traditional measures like purchasing a pet or using dating apps, sex doll sales have also skyrocketed as people seek an emotional crutch.

20 April 2021

Report: China, Russia fueling QAnon conspiracy theories

Michael Isikoff
·Chief Investigative Correspondent
·5 min read
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images, Getty Images (3)
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images, Getty Images (3)

Foreign-based actors, principally in China and Russia, are spreading online disinformation rooted in QAnon conspiracy theories, fueling a movement that has become a mounting domestic terrorism threat, according to new analysis of online propaganda by a security firm.

The analysis by the Soufan Center, a New York-based research firm focused on national security threats, found that nearly one-fifth of 166,820 QAnon-related Facebook posts between January 2020 and the end of February 2021 originated from overseas administrators.

An advance copy of the report, which is being released today, was provided to Yahoo News.

“It’s very alarming,” said Jason Blazakis, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center and a former State Department counterterrorism official who is one of the authors of the report. “We have enough problems without the amplification of conspiracy theories by foreign actors, and that foreign impact really does stir up a hornet’s nest.”

The report injects a new element into the debate about how to counter QAnon — a bizarre but increasingly widespread conspiracy movement that has pushed the idea that the U.S. government is secretly run by Satan worshipers involved in a global sex trafficking ring.

Speaking to lawmakers last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed concern that the extremist nature of the movement could lead to violence, citing as an example the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He said the bureau is preparing a formal “threat assessment” of QAnon that he expects to share with Congress “very shortly.”

QAnon conspiracy theorists hold signs and protest the California lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 01, 2020 in San Diego, California.  (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
QAnon conspiracy theorists protest the California coronavirus lockdown in May 2020 in San Diego. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Despite the outlandish nature of QAnon claims, the report also suggests that adherents to the movement’s conspiracy theories may be far more prevalent than some previous studies have shown. A new poll of 9,308 U.S. adults, conducted for the Soufan Center by Limbik, a data analytics firm, found that between 20 and 23 percent of respondents self-identified as a QAnon believer, member or supporter — figures far higher than in some earlier surveys.

The numbers became even higher when those polled were asked about specific issues that QAnon has emphasized. For example, when asked whether they believe “elites, politicians and/or celebrities are involved in global pedophile rings,” 35.8 percent said they did, up from 26.7 percent from a similar sample last December.

Asked whether they believe COVID-19 was created in a lab, 30.6 percent said they did in February compared to 29.1 percent in December. The survey in February also found that 25 percent supported the actions of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., on August 2, 2018 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)
A man with a Q sign before a campaign rally featuring Donald Trump and Republican Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta in August 2018 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)

These data points, the report concludes, suggest that there may be a “significant cognitive opening” among the U.S. population “that makes Americans more susceptible to further radicalization within the QAnon movement.”

If true, it is an opening that, according to the report, foreign actors are aggressively seeking to exploit. Limbik, which uses artificial intelligence and other techniques to sift through huge volumes of data, analyzed Facebook content that pushed QAnon-related content and concluded a significant portion was coming from overseas, apparently for the purpose of sowing societal discord or distrust about the American political process.

Zach Schwitzky, the founder of the firm, acknowledged in an interview that identifying foreign content was not “an exact science” since there is rarely publicly available account information about individuals or groups who post on Facebook. But by conducting linguistic analysis of the posts and logos or photos posted, the firm was able to unmask Russian, Chinese, Saudi and Iranian actors who were posting messages or stories that advanced QAnon beliefs about child sex trafficking rings, election fraud, vaccines and COVID-19 and related issues.

The Q-Anon conspiracy theorists  hold signs during the protest at the State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, United States on May 2, 2020. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A Q-Anon conspiracy theorist at a protest at the Oregon Capitol in Salem in May 2020. (John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For much of last year, the report found, Russian actors dominated the foreign QAnon space on Facebook. But they have been overtaken in recent months by those based in China as the government there has ramped up its disinformation efforts in response to increased tensions with the United States, the report says. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2021, 58 percent of foreign-based QAnon posts came from administrators in China — more than double that from Russian administrators, the Limbik analysis found.

The Limbik analysis was unable to say whether the Russian or Chinese administrators posting the material on Facebook were acting as part of a government operation. But Blazakis, the former State Department official, said: “Do I think the Russian and Chinese governments have awareness of this? I think the answer is absolutely yes.” He noted in particular the “firewall” the Chinese government uses to block foreign content it disapproves of from penetrating the internet in that country, while tightly monitoring content within the country.

“In China, nothing is going to be done without the Chinese government being aware of it,” he said. “I think there is at a minimum tacit support for the amplification we’re seeing.”

A Facebook spokesperson said the company couldn’t comment on the report because it hadn’t yet had a chance to review it. But the spokesperson said it took “aggressive action” to stop the spread of dangerous content on its platform last year by expanding its “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy to include foreign conspiracy networks. This has resulted in the removal of about 3,300 pages, 10,500 groups and 27,300 Instagram accounts that were spreading QAnon content. “We remain vigilant to this evolving threat so we can stay ahead of it and keep people safe,” the spokesperson said.

Sex workers get priority vaccine access in Vancouver

 A sex trade worker is pictured in downtown Vancouver in this file photo.

Everyone’s version of essential workers is different when it comes to vaccinating the population. Some think health workers should be at the front of the line, others think teachers.

In Vancouver, sex workers are now getting priority treatment.

The PACE Society, an organization in the city’s Downtown Eastside which “provides support, advocacy, and education by, with, and for current and former sex workers of all genders,” is hosting a vaccination clinic for sex workers Thursday.

“Enter through the alley,” the poster says.

PACE Society poster for a vaccination clinic for sex workers in Vancouver.
PACE Society poster for a vaccination clinic for sex workers in Vancouver.

The clinic is for a first shot only and is being presented as a way to “protect yourself and those around you!”

It was just days ago that police and other frontline responders in Surrey, a COVID hotspot in the Lower Mainland, were given their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I am pleased to advise you that we have received approval from the province and Fraser Health for all Surrey detachment staff (all categories of members and municipal employees) to receive vaccines on a priority basis,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards wrote in a memo to staff.

Like many other provinces, British Columbia has been allocating vaccine doses primarily through age ranges with some occupations getting earlier access. Right now, with some exceptions, vaccination appointments for the general public are open to those 50 years of age and older, with those over 40 able to book appointments starting next week.

So far, more than one million residents have received a COVID-19 vaccination.