Archive for the News Category

Woman Beaten to Death After Being Accused of Witchcraft on Facebook

Posted in News with tags on May 14, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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Woman Beaten to Death After Being Accused of Witchcraft on Facebook

Annalee Newitz

Woman Beaten to Death After Being Accused of Witchcraft on Facebook

At last Facebook has brought us back to the middle ages, just as we knew it would. A woman in the Brazilian city Guarujá, near São Paolo, was beaten to death last week after Facebook rumors circulated that she was a witch.

A local news outlet, Guarujá Alerta, posted a rumor on its Facebook page that Fabiane Maria de Jesus was kidnapping children for black magic rituals. They included a picture of the woman, who was subsequently beaten to death by people who had read about her online. One of them even filmed the beating (you can see the video here — but be warned that it is very disturbing).

De Jesus was a housewife in her early thirties, and police say she has no criminal record and has not ever been reported for kidnapping. Guarujá Alerta has taken down the post about her from their Facebook page, but page administrators told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo that they were merely passing along the story as a “rumor” and that they couldn’t be held responsible.

This is just an extreme example of how the social relationships made possible online are in many ways the same as the old ones. Rumors on Facebook can result in a lynching — just the way rumors in villages resulted in lynchings during the Inquisition. If you’re still convinced that social media will create a more beautiful and egalitarian future for humanity, just remember that the wisdom of crowds sometimes ends in the  wisdom of crowds sometimes ends in the public beating of an innocent woman for witchcraft.

Read more in Folha de São Paolo

President Obama Asked to Block BBC Show ‘Top Gear’ That Allegedly Used Racist Term

Posted in News with tags on May 6, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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President Obama Asked to Block BBC Show ‘Top Gear’ That Allegedly Used Racist Term



LONDON — President Obama has been asked to consider blocking broadcast in the U.S. of BBCmotoring show “Top Gear” after its star, Jeremy Clarkson, was accused of allegedly using racist language.

A firm of lawyers, Equal Justice, is to write to Obama and the ambassadors of more than 200 countries in which “Top Gear” airs to ask them to consider the evidence, and then decide if the series should continue to be broadcast in their countries, the Guardian has reported.

The firm was referring to footage from the show in which the nursery rhyme “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” was recited, and in which it has been alleged the n-word was used. The footage was not broadcast, but the Daily Mirror has put the footage on its website. Clarkson claims he mumbled something that sounds like the offending word, but not the word itself.

Lawrence Davies, director of Equal Justice, said: “Clarkson claimed he ‘did everything in my power to make sure that that version did not appear in the program that was transmitted’ … The obvious thing that any non-racist would have done is to not use the rhyme at all or failing that to simply substitute another word such as ‘tiger’ in the take. There was never any need to mumble the N-word repeatedly.”

Davies added that the BBC should have sacked Clarkson and his team for alleged “gross misconduct,” but won’t because “they are making money out of the show.”

It is not the first time the show has been accused of using racist language.

Equal Justice repped Indian-born actress Somi Guha when she filed a complaint to the BBC about “Top Gear” after Clarkson used the word “slope” when referring to an Asian man.


The firm also repped Iris de la Torre, who complained about the use of racial stereotypes in an episode about Mexican vehicles.



US Treasury sounds alarm over student loans

Posted in News with tags on April 30, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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US Treasury sounds alarm over student loans


People walk on the Columbia University campus on July 1, 2013 in New York City (AFP Photo/Mario Tama)

Washington (AFP) – Deputy US Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin sounded the alarm Tuesday on student loans in the US, where the number of people defaulting is on the rise.

At least 40 million people have taken out a student loan, Raskin said, and by the time students graduate, the average amount of loans is $30,000, and they will spend ten years or more repaying.

And many never manage to repay them at all, Raskin said during a speech at the University of Maryland.

“While delinquency rates on many other types of debt have fallen in recent years, delinquencies on student loan debt are rising,” said the Treasury Department number two, noting that some seven million Americans had defaulted on their student loans.

At the end of 2013, the total amount of US student loans approached $1.1 trillion, well above the total amount of credit card debt in the country.

And the percentage of students graduating with debt is on the rise — 60 percent of graduates in 2012, compared to just 30 percent in 1993.

“These numbers are daunting; to what extent should we be concerned?” Raskin asked, emphasizing that such figures could have an impact on the rate of economic growth in the country.

Late payments and defaulting on student loans could later hinder the borrower from being able to get other loans, including mortgages and car loans.

Number of Students Graduating With Debt Rises

And sometimes, she said, defaulting on a student loan could hinder a candidate from getting a job, because employers often check credit history and consider past problems to be a sign of irresponsibility.

The large majority of student loans in the United States are financed by the federal government, but distributed by agents or private banks.

Raskin, who left the Federal Reserve to join the Treasury Department last month, called on these lenders to make it easier to modify payment plans for borrowers who find themselves struggling to meet their obligations.

Harsh Reality Break: 234 Girls Kidnapped from Physics Test

Posted in News with tags on April 30, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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Harsh Reality Break: 234 Girls Kidnapped from Physics Test     

Mika McKinnon

Harsh Reality Break: 234 Girls Kidnapped from Physics Test

Over 200 students were abducted from this school in Chibok, Nigeria. 234 are still missing. Haruna Umar/AP    Warning: this is a horrible story. 234 young women were abducted from a physics test in Nigeria, specifically to keep them from getting an education. Nothing is being done to find them. Collective public outrage is the only tool that can possibly get a search started.

The students were loaded into a truck at gunpoint, and taken into the forest. It is assumed that the kidnappers were Boko Haram, an extremist group whose name means, “Western education is sinful.” The idea of allowing girls to get an education, and, worse, yet, a science education, is everything they hate. They have a local history of doing crazy, horrible things, like assassinating clerics who criticize their extremism, bombing schools, murdering students, and kidnapping girls to use as sex slaves. At the time of the kidnapping, every other school in the area was shut down due to security concerns, but this school was kept open specifically to take final exams, with over 100 taking a physics test. Their parents say that if they’d done well on their exams, many of the women were hoping to pursue higher education.

Tearful mothers of the kidnapped schoolgirls at a meeting in Borno state. Picture: ReutersTearful mothers of the kidnapped schoolgirls at a meeting in Borno state. Picture: Reuter   (                                                                                                                                                           sThe world has a lot of terrible, horrible things happening in it, but this is insane, crazy, and heart-breaking. I’m a female scientist in Canada, where the Montreal Massacre is an annual reminder of the power of hatred, sexism, and violence in limiting women’s access to education. I’m a geophysicist who ran a field crew in Africa, working in a camp directly next to a school and hiring locals who told me about their dreams for the future. I know this first-hand: education is a powerful tool for reshaping the world, and making this a better, cooler, more interesting place to live. This shit cannot be tolerated.

I don’t usually have much faith in clicking-for-activism, but publicly declaring outrage is the only tool we have to get a search started. These girls can’t even count on their own government to look for them. As Rebecca Watson writes:

The Nigerian government is doing less than nothing – at one point they announced that the girls had been found and rescued, but the parents revealed that was a lie. The parents are spending their own money to hire motorcycles and cars to trek into the forest, and coming back empty-handed.

So, snuggled between stories of awesome science and bad-ass science fiction, here’s my harsh break to reality. Raise awareness for this story. Sign the petition demanding the Nigerian government start an actual, real search. This news is downright stale — the kidnapping occurred over a week ago on April 15th — so if you’re only hearing about it now, turn around and slap your news-provider for ignoring it. Ask your local paper or TV news station why they aren’t covering the story when kidnapping 234 students out of exams anywhere in Europe or North America would elicit screaming headlines and constant coverage. If you’re on Twitter, spread awareness with the hashtags helpthegirls andbringbackourdaughters.

Maybe it will do nothing. But maybe, with enough pressure and outrage and collective public demands into how the fuck 234 girls can be taken from their classroom, we’ll cause enough embarrassment to get a real search started.

Update: The Discussion thread is pretty intense, so here’s some highlights:

  1. If you have a browser-extension that forces HTTPS-only, the link to the petition won’t work.
  2. sugabelly, a southern Nigerian, provides local context hereherehere, and other sub-threads in the same region of the page. sugabelly started a new thread on the class-warfare aspects of this situation here.
  3. mazzzystarrrs and southern Nigerian ciwrites give historical context on the 1966 civil war here and here.
  4. wcullen, a former UN combat solider, provides context as to why the UN hasn’t gotten involved here and heremazzystarrs has recommendations for effectively contacting your local UN office here.
  5. mazzystarrrs is trying to brainstorm additional action-measures for building pressure besides the petition to the Nigerian government (which is copied to the United Nations)here.
  6. A lot of people are pointing out that after this long, a happy resolution is highly unlikely. Although exact numbers are difficult to verify, out of the parent-created list of 234 missing students, the school reports up to 43 girls managed to escape into the forest and are home. Historically, Boko Haram keeps kidnapped women alive as “servants” so the young women may be alive.
  7. It’s a FAQ why I don’t list variant-of-extremist, so I answer that here.
  8. The petition had under 4,000 signatures at the time of initial publication. At the time of this update, fewer than 10% of people who read this article have signed.

FBI Raids Real ‘Indiana Jones’ Home

Posted in News with tags on April 7, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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FBI Raids Real ‘Indiana Jones’ Home

A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

Posted in News with tags on March 12, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

George Dvorsky

A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

It’s called “Snake” and it’s being compared to another alleged state-run virus, Stuxnet. And yes, all evidence points to Russia.

According to British-based BAE systems, dozens of computer networks have been infected with the virus, which sometimes goes by the name Ouroboros (named after the serpent in Greek mythology). It works by giving remote attackers ”full remote access to the compromised system.” It has stealth qualities, including the ability to stay inactive for a number of days.

The cyber weapon has been increasingly used since the beginning of the year, before the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych. Security experts are comparing it to Stuxnet, the malware that disrupted Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. More from AFP:

Although its origins are unclear, its developers appear to operate it in the same timezone as Moscow — GMT plus four hours — and some Russian text is embedded into the code, BAE says. BAE has identified 14 cases of Snake in Ukraine since the start of 2014, compared to eight cases in the whole of 2013. In all there have been 32 reported cases in Ukraine since 2010, out of 56 worldwide. “Our report shows that a technically sophisticated and well-organised group has been developing and using these tools for the last eight years,” said David Garfield, the managing director of cyber security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. “There is some evidence that links these tools to previous breaches connected to Russian threat actors but it is not possible to say exactly who is behind this campaign.”

A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

The problem with releasing sophisticated viruses like these is containability. Take Stuxnet, for example, which was recently detected in a Russian nuclear power plant. It’s conceivable that the viruses, once unleashed, might damage other computers and systems in unpredictable and undesirable ways. I think the self-eating snake metaphor in this case is quite apt.

Image: gudron/Shutterstock;Designua/Shutterstock.


Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard

Posted in News with tags on February 27, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard


By Nina Larson21 hours ago
Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard

Geneva (AFP) – Ahn Myong-Chol witnessed many horrors as a North Korean prison camp guard, but few haunt him like the image of guard dogs attacking school children and tearing them to pieces.

Ahn, who worked as a prison camp guard for eight years until he fled the country in 1994, recalls the day he saw three dogs get away from their handler and attack children coming back from the camp school.

“There were three dogs and they killed five children,” the 45-year-old told AFP through a translator.

“They killed three of the children right away. The two other children were barely breathing and the guards buried them alive,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a Geneva conference for human rights activists.

The next day, instead of putting down the murderous dogs, the guards pet them and fed them special food “as some kind of award,” he added with disgust.

“People in the camps are not treated as human beings… They are like flies that can be crushed,” said Ahn, his sad eyes framed by steel-rimmed glasses.

The former guard is one of many defectors who provided harrowing testimony to a UN-mandated enquiry that last week issued a searing, 400-page indictment of gross human rights abuses in North Korea.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
North Korean soldiers take part in training with military dogs at an undisclosed location, April 6,  …

After fleeing the country two decades ago, Ahn worked for years at a bank in South Korea but gradually got involved in work denouncing the expansive prison camp system in the isolated nation.

Three years ago, he quit his bank job to dedicate all his time to his non-governmental organisation, Free NK Gulag.

“It’s my life’s mission to spread awareness about what is happening in the camps,” he said.

There are an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea, a nation of 24 million people.

Ahn, who today is married with two daughters, knows all too well the brutal mentality of the camp guards.

When he, as the son of a high-ranking official, was ushered onto the prestigious path of becoming a guard in 1987, he says he was heavily brainwashed to see all prisoners as “evil”.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
Graphic on North Korea’s prison camps outlined in a UN mandated report (AFP Photo/Adrian Leung/J …

– ‘Horrors still happening’ –

At his first posting at camp 14, north of Pyongyang, he was encouraged to practice his Tae Kwon Do skills on prisoners.

And he recalls how guards were urged to shoot any prisoner who might try to escape.

“We were allowed to kill them, and if we brought back their body, they would award us by letting us go study at college,” he said.

Some guards would send prisoners outside the camp and kill them as escapees to gain access to a college education, he added.

Ahn said he had beaten many prisoners but said that, to his knowledge, he had never killed any of them.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
North Korean soldiers patrol along the Yalu River at the North Korean town of Sinuiju on February 12 …

Although he witnessed numerous executions, starving children, and the effects of extreme torture, it was not until he was promoted to be a driver, transporting soldiers back and forth between camps, that he began to question the system.

During his travels he sometimes struck up conversations with prisoners and was astonished to find that “more than 90 percent” of them said they had no idea why they were in the camp.

Ahn had stumbled across North Korea’s system of throwing generations of the same family into prison camps under guilt-by-association rules.

He got a taste of that rule himself. On leave in 1994, he returned home to find that his father had committed suicide after making some drunken, negative remarks about the country’s leadership.

Ahn’s mother, sister and brother were detained and likely sent into camps, although he is not sure what became of them.

Shin Dong-hyuk speaks during an interview with Reuters in Seoul

Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean defector who has given the U.N. panel harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Seoul February 10, 2014. After a year of investigation, the United Nations is set to release a detailed report on human rights violations in North Korea, but defectors from the country and experts are deeply sceptical it will have any effect on the regime in Pyongyang. Picture taken February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA – Tags: POLITICS)

Though Ahn returned to work, he feared he too would be dragged off. So he drove his truck to the shores of the Du Man River and swam across to China, having to dump the heavy weapons he was carrying to avoid drowning.

Once he got involved in the NGO work in South Korea, he was uneasy about meeting former prisoners who had also managed to defect, like Chol Hwan Kang.

Kang was sent to Camp 15 — where Ahn once served — with his whole family when he was nine and spent 10 years there to repent for the suspected disloyalties of his grandfather. Ahn remembered him from his time as a guard there.

But Kang, like most survivors, understood he had not chosen his job and had accepted his plea for forgiveness.

“He met me with a gentle handshake,” Ahn said.

A U.N. Human Rights staff points to the title of a drawing describing North Korean labour camp no 18 in Geneva

A United Nations Human Rights staff points to the title of a drawing describing North Korean labour camp no 18, a gift made in December 2012 by survivor Kim Hye Sook, in Geneva February 17, 2014. The Commission of Inquiry will release its report on human rights in North Korea later on Monday. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse (SWITZERLAND – Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Last week’s UN report was vital to spreading awareness about the reality of the camps, Ahn said, comparing what is happening there to the Soviet-era Gulags.

“The difference is that in North Korea we are still talking in the present tense. These horrors are still happening,” he said.


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