31 Aug 2015
A British MI6 spy who was found dead inside a bag in 2010 had hacked into restricted information about the US president, it has been claimed. Gareth Williams, a 31-year-old employee of GCHQ who was seconded to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was found dead inside a padlocked bag at a safe house in London.
The Sun on Sunday newspaper quotes an intelligence source as saying Mr Williams had obtained sensitive documents regarding former US president Bill Clinton. “The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’s work with America was of the most sensitive nature,” the source is reported to have told the newspaper.
“It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time.” A coroner had previously ruled that Mr Williams was probably unlawfully killed and that his death was likely to have been the result of criminal actions.
30 Aug 2015
They’re not people: nobody would tolerate hearing about the drowning of human beings over and over again. At best they are bleak but intangible statistics, the object of a bit of tutting before mundane everyday life takes over. For others, they are an unwanted and uninvited swarm that Fortress Europe must keep out: full of undeserving would-be leeches who have no place in the west. In the hierarchy of death, anyone labelled “migrant” must take their place somewhere near the bottom. It is a dehumanised word: for all too many people, it is somewhere down with “petty criminal”, and who mourns petty criminals?
As the news of up to 200 dead refugees, drowned off the coast of Libya, filters fleetingly into news coverage, the only guarantee is that more will drown. And with news of more than 70 refugees found dead in a truck in Austria – to try to imagine their last living moments triggers a horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach – we know that more bodies will be found in more trucks. Those of us who want more sympathetic treatment of people fleeing desperate situations have failed to win over public opinion, and the cost of that is death.
For those who believe that hostility to human beings from other countries who lost the lottery of life is somehow hardwired into us, there is evidence to the contrary. Germany takes in around four times as many refugees as Britain does; and for every Syrian asylum seeker received by Britain, Germany gets 27. And despite German generosity comparing starkly with our own, half of Germans polled support letting in even more refugees.
27 Aug 2015
After two days of caste-related riots that left eight people dead in the Indian state of Gujarat, calm is slowly returning. However, a curfew remains in place and the Internet has been blocked in some areas. And many residents are furious.
Protests began in Ahmedabad, with members of the Patel caste [the caste system is a system of social stratification and impacts people’s occupations] demanding quotas in public universities and in government jobs. The influential Patels, a caste that also own a lot of the region’s land and diamond businesses, are not among the Indian castes considered as being disadvantaged, which benefit from quotas (also known in India as “reservations”.)
A Patel rally held on Tuesday evening quickly degenerated into clashes with the police after the protest movement’s leader Hardik Patel was arrested. Rioting quickly spread to other towns in the state, and dozens of police stations and vehicles were set ablaze. Hardik Patel was freed later in the night, but clashes continued into Wednesday, when government forces were brought in and a curfew installed. Parts of Ahmedabad still have limited Internet access, in an effort the authorities say is meant to stop incendiary messages from spreading via social media.
26 Aug 2015
25 Aug 2015
24 Aug 2015
A Bangkok court has indicted a British human rights worker for criminal defamation after he exposed alleged labour abuses in Thailand’s tinned fruit industry. Andy Hall, 35, could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty of criminal defamation by publication and offences under the country’s Computer Crimes Act.
The case is one of four criminal and civil cases brought by the Natural Fruit Company following Hall’s research into the firm. The civil cases carry fines of up to $12.5m. Hall’s interviews with migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar found evidence of labour trafficking, child labour, violence against workers, and other abuses at its plant in the central province of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The research was carried out on behalf of the Finnish NGO Finnwatch. Its executive director Sonja Vartiala said the charges against Hall were unfounded and called on Thailand to abolish its criminal defamation laws, "as they infringe on freedom of expression". "At this point, the prospects for Andy Hall to receive a fair trial are looking grim," she added.
The Bangkok South Criminal Court ordered Hall to enter a plea on October 19, when he faces detention but can request bail.
Hall is backed by international human rights groups, trade unions, and the Thai seafood industry, which has itself come under fire for alleged human rights abuses. "They are all against it. These people [Natural Fruit] are just stubborn," Hall told Al Jazeera. "I respect the decision of the court, but I will fight the case and hopefully win it."
23 Aug 2015
21 Aug 2015
Comedian and host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight John Oliver slammed televangelists on Sunday for their greed and extortion as they enjoy mass wealth as a result. To mock the government’s absence of regulation, Oliver started his own church, called “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” naming himself “megapastor” and CEO.
Looks like Oliver struck a nerve. On Wednesday, Christian minister Jennifer LeClaire said Oliver shouldn’t “mock what you don’t understand,” calling him a “false reverend.” LeClaire, who operates the Awakening House of Prayer, admitted there are abusive churches. But she does believe in the concept of “seed faith” — the idea that giving money to a church will result in returns for the giver. “[W]e have to be careful not to paint everyone who believes for an airplane or sows a seed to get out of debt as a heretic,” she writes.
Oliver’s segment hilariously skewered preachers whose fantastic displays of wealth come at a large cost to parishioners who they compel to donate what little money they have. They tend to believe in the conveniently self-serving idea of prosperity as a sign of God’s favor.
A typhoid outbreak is just the latest catastrophe to be inflicted on Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. They've endured a bombing campaign and siege by the government of Bashar al-Assad, and more recently an invasion by Islamic State militants. December 2012 fighting has driven out the vast majority of some 200,000 refugees that had made Yarmouk their home. The UN has been denied access to Yarmouk since late March. More than 90 percent of more than half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria rely on UN assistance for survival.
Inside the walls of a derelict seaside swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK, mysterious construction over the last month—including a dingy looking Disney-like castle and a gargantuan rainbow-colored pinwheel tangled in plastic—suggested something big was afoot. Suspicion and anticipation surrounding the unusual activity attributed to fabled artist and provocateur Banksy has reached a Willy Wonka-esque fervor. Well, if Banksy’s your bag, continue fervoring. If not, there’s more than a few reasons to continue reading.
The spectacle has since been revealed to be a pop-up art exhibition in the form of an apocalyptic theme park titled Dismaland (“The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”) that will be open to the public for five weeks.
Dismaland.co.uk - More at Mashable