Iran is considering 13 scenarios to avenge the killing of a top Iranian military commander in Iraq by a U.S. drone attack, a senior Tehran official said on Tuesday as the general’s body was brought to his hometown for burial.
In Washington, the U.S. defense secretary denied reports the U.S. military was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, where Tehran has vied with Washington for influence over nearly two decades of war and unrest.
The killing of General Qassem Soleimani, who was responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy forces across the Middle East, has prompted mass mourning in Iran.
U.S. and Iranian warnings of new strikes and retaliation have also stoked concerns about a broader Middle East conflict and led to calls in the U.S. Congress for legislation to stop U.S. President Donald Trump going to war with Iran.
“We will take revenge, hard and definitive revenge,” the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, told tens of thousands of mourners in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman.
Many chanted “Death to America” and waved the Iranian flag.
READ ALSO: Iran threatens to ‘unleash Hezbollah’ in Israel and Dubai
Soleimani’s body has been taken through Iraqi and Iranian cities since Friday’s strike, with huge crowds of mourners filling the streets.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and military commanders have said Iranian retaliation for the U.S. action on Friday would match the scale of Soleimani’s killing but that it would be at a time and place of Tehran’s choosing.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said 13 “revenge scenarios” were being considered, Fars news agency reported. Even the weakest option would prove “a historic nightmare for the Americans,” he said.
Iran, whose southern coast stretches along a Gulf oil shipping route that includes the narrow Stait of Hormuz, has allied forces across the Middle East through which it could act. Representatives from those forces, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, attended the funeral.
Despite its strident rhetoric, analysts say Iran will want to avoid any conventional conflict with the United States but assymetric strikes, such as sabotage or other more limited military actions, are more likely.
Trump has promised strikes on 52 Iranian targets, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliates, although U.S. officials sought to downplay his reference to cultural targets.
Reuters and other media reported on Monday that the U.S. military had sent a letter to Iraqi officials informing them that U.S. troops would be repositioned in preparation to leave.
“In order to conduct this test, Coalition Forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner,” it said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said there had been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq.
“I don’t know what that letter is,” he said.
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was a “poorly worded” draft document meant only to underscore increased movement by U.S. forces.
The letter, addressed to the Iraqi Defence Ministry’s Combined Joint Operations and confirmed as authentic by an Iraqi military source, had caused confusion about the future of the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, where there has been a U.S. military presence since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 invasion.
On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament, dominated by lawmakers representing Muslim Shi’ite groups, passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country.
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad on Monday that both sides needed to work together to implement the parliamentary resolution.
Friction between Iran and the United States has risen since Washington withdrew in 2018 from a nuclear deal between Tehran and other world powers.
The United States has imposed economic sanctions on Iran and Tehran said on Sunday it was dropping all limitations on uranium enrichment, its latest step back from commitments under the deal.
The U.S. administration has denied a visa to allow Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday, a U.S. official said.
“The United States will get the decisive, definite answer for its arrogance at the time and place when it will feel the most pain,” Zarif said in a speech broadcast on state television.
Trump’s U.S. political rivals have challenged his decision to order the killing of Soleimani and its timing in a U.S. election year. His administration said Soleimani was planning new attacks on U.S. interests but has offered no evidence.
U.S. general Milley said the threat from Soleimani was imminent. “We would have been culpably negligent to the American people had we not made the decision we made,” he said.
Trump administration officials will provide a classified briefing for U.S. senators on Wednesday on events in Iraq after some lawmakers accused the White House of risking a broad conflict without a strategy.
The post ‘Death to America’: We will take hard and definitive revenge ― Iranians chant appeared first on Vanguard News.
SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.
The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.
Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.
Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.
The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.
By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.
In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.
“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”
Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.
Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.
The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.
“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”
Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.
“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.
Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.
The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.
“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”
But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.
On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.
“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.
Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.
“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.
Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.
Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.
“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.
In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.
Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.
In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.
“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.
Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.
Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.
Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.
There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.
On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.
But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.
For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.
“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”
TEHRAN: A Ukrainian airliner carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all on board, Iran state media reported.
The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said.
“Obviously it is impossible that passengers” on flight PS-752 are alive, Red Crescent head Morteza Salimi told semi-official news agency ISNA, adding that 170 passengers and crew had boarded the plane.
State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members had boarded the aircraft, which was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed all those on board the plane were killed.
“According to preliminary data, all passengers and crew members are dead,” he wrote on Facebook of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, which was bound for Kiev.
The Red Crescent said teams were assisted by soldiers and firefighters in the effort to recover bodies.
“After six o’clock (0230 GMT) this morning we were informed that a passenger plane crashed in the vicinity of Shahriar,” said Shahin Fathi, the head of its search and rescue unit.
“All operational teams were dispatched to the area,” he told state television. “Unfortunately… we haven’t found anyone alive.”
“Everyone is helping so that we can gather all the bodies that have been scattered in a wide area,” said Fathi.
Press TV, state television’s English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.
The crash was likely to have been caused by “technical difficulties”, it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.
“The plane caught fire after crashing,” said Press TV.
A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.
American airline manufacturer Boeing tweeted: “We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”
The crash came shortly after Iran said it fired missiles at Iraqi bases in revenge for the killing of one of the Islamic republic’s top military commanders in a US drone strike on Friday.
Following the missile strikes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf after rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.
“The (FAA) issues Notices to Airmen tonight outlining flight restrictions that prohibit US civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” it said in a statement.
“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”
Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure who headed the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination and declared three days of mourning following the assassination which shocked the Islamic republic.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic. -AFP
It has been a long time coming, it has even been alluded to in some Sci-Fi series such as Incorporated, where in the near future a corporation runs a country and is also a state in its own right. With Facebook earlier in 2019 officially unveiling plans to launch Libra, its own (along with other corporate partners) digital currency, in 2020, it is almost safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s (despite being a public company, Facebook’s share structure and voting rights afford Zuckerberg a lot of control and power) social network is almost a country in its own right.
With approximately 2 billion monthly active users as reported at the end of 2018, even if you had to account for duplicate and fake accounts, it would still measure up as one of the largest populations any country has on the planet.
If you add WhatsApp, considering that the messaging app’s users will also be able to transact using Libra (once, or rather if, it eventually launches), with its reported 1,5 billion active users (although some are already Facebook users), you are looking at a size of a country like one we have never witnessed before.
Welcome to the .
Strong political opposition
It didn’t take long after the official announcement of Libra earlier in the year that three countries, France, England, and Germany, started displaying signs that they were feeling threatened by Facebook & Co.’s newly proposed digital currency. Specifically, France’s Finance Minister stated unequivocally that Libra cannot be a replacement for sovereign currencies.
So far, it has not been an easy ride for Libra since that official announcement earlier in 2019. What looked like a good list of partners has been reduced with several of its (Libra Association) member companies deciding to pull their membership and support for Facebook’s proposed digital currency. It all started with PayPal withdrawing from the Libra Association, this was then followed by Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe and Mercado Pago who all announced that they will no longer be participating nor supporting Libra.
The withdrawals, which ended up leaving Libra without any major global payments companies as members, were politically motivated as the United States Senate sent a letter to the various Libra Association member organizations CEOs urging them “to proceed with caution until Facebook is able to provide real answers to you.”
Despite this strong political opposition to Libra by various countries and regulators, which has also seen Facebook being hauled before the USA’s policy makers to answer questions about the planned digital currency, I still think there is a high probability that not only will Libra launch in 2020, but it has better than average chances of gaining traction.
This is despite those involved in the Libra project at Facebook stating that there is no clear product roadmap nor a s et launch date.
However, important to note that Patrick Ellis, one of the board members of the Libra Association, confirmed to Reuters that Libra would launch during 2020, but couldn’t provide any indication of when or even the initial markets it would be launched in.
Before I elaborate on why I think it will succeed, what will it mean for your money to be controlled and managed by Facebook?
Your money in Facebook’s control
To further understand why some countries, including the USA, have been vocally opposing Libra in public, the letter that The United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook), and David Marcus (CEO of Facebook subsidiary, Calibra), gives us a few hints in my opinion.
Firstly, as compared to say, Bitcoin, it is easier and possible to write to Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sandberg regarding Libra compared to trying to write to Satoshi Nakamoto. In this case, there are real people and organizations that can be held accountable. Secondly, and as they allude to in the letter, the policy makers feel that Libra is a threat to the US Dollar and the country’s monetary policy, despite it being merely a stablecoin and not a cryptocurrency in the strictest of terms.
There’s also the matter that should Libra ever get into trouble (eg. not be able to guarantee customers withdrawals etc.), the US government in one way or another would need to step in to protect Americans as we’ve seen it do before with some of the country’s large banks (side note: this is exactly what Bitcoin avoids, but alas. A discussion for another day).
However, more importantly for us in Africa is, does Libra offer any of us any value?
Does it help us with anything we are struggling with currently?
Does it make life easier?
To use and transact in Libra, users will have to download and run the official wallet, Calibra (a subsidiary company of Facebook). From what I’ve seen and what has so far led me to say in its current form Libra will struggle to gain traction (unless they address the following two issues) is that to use Calibra one will require a bank account and a government issued ID.
It’s no secret that Africa has a high number of unbanked people mainly as a result of low income and unemployment. As such, it is mind boggling that a product punting financial inclusion would require users to first have a bank account before using it. However, it’s possible that this will change by the time Facebook launches the digital currency and wallet in 2020. If it doesn’t, it could prove to be a stumbling block for gaining traction especially across Africa.
The second issue, which also leads me to explaining why I think Libra will succeed, is around the requirement of government issued ID.
On the surface, in most countries in Africa at least, the requirement for a government issued ID could prove a real stumbling block to adoption. In many African countries, eg. Nigeria, there is no real organized government ID system. Immediately this makes it rather interesting how Facebook is going to verify identity in such cases.
However, Facebook and its Libra partners seem to already have thought of this and have a possible solution in mind. A solution which, once it can be implemented, will make a strong argument that Facebook is now essentially a country.
Facebook’s possible Trojan Horse
Earlier in 2019 when the noise around Libra was at its peak and being frustrated that no African policymakers we commenting on it or providing any clarification on how they view Facebook’s proposed digital currency that is mainly targeted a developing countries, I set out to read the Libra white paper for the third time. Somehow, I found something in the Libra white paper I had missed or wasn’t paying enough attention to previously.
Hidden (in plain sight) deep in the guts of a white paper light on details and heavy on marketing talk about financial inclusion and the world’s 2 billion without adequate financial services are two sentences that seem to be placed nonchalantly atop page 9 of the Libra white paper, yet they could have far reaching impact.
“An additional goal of the [Libra] association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”
This, the development of an open standard for digital IDs, as mentioned, could mean that Facebook already has a solution for part of this problem. The other part of this solution is that Facebook previously acquired a company that verifies government issued IDs in 2018. These two solutions combined could help onboard and verify people onto Libra and from there start issuing them with verified Facebook IDs.
Considering that Facebook, along with its subsidiary platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, is home to over 2 billion people, could this be the new global ID standard that will surpass and be more trusted than government issued IDs?
Although I could not find any further details on the proposed Libra digital ID and Facebook have also refused to comment when I asked, in my opinion it has a far bigger impact than the proposed currency as, if adopted and rolled out successfully it solves one of the web’s biggest issues, trust. I can already envision how it fits in with some of its other acquisitions, for example, Facebook acquired a face recognition tool that it incorporated into its main Facebook platform that would identify faces in the photos you post automatically and suggest you tag them. This, could possibly be used outside of government issued IDs given the trove of (tagged) photos Facebook already has of billions of people around the world, to verify identity.
This to me is Facebook’s Trojan Horse with Libra a necessary part but of lesser significance than the ability for Facebook to be able to run a platform that can verify and vouch for the identity of billions of people independent from any government.
Managing the flow of money gives you some power. Handling trust and identities gives you control, and essentially, makes you a nation state.
A virtual nation state
As far as why I now think this completes the idea of Facebook becoming a country, it’s simply because of the leverage it will hold over some countries especially across the continent who not only do not have near as accurate data about their citizens like Facebook has, but are struggling to maintain the value and usefulness of their own sovereign currencies (e.g. Zimbabwe).
At the heart of it (Libra) people just want a quicker and cheaper way to transact and send money, and already in Africa, many are used to using mobile money for their daily living.
Apart from having such a huge virtual population, a currency, and possibly its own verifiable IDs for its citizens, Facebook also does not fall under any single country’s jurisdiction. For example, its US-based users are governed by a corporation registered in the USA, its users in the rest of the world are governed by a corporation registered in Ireland, while in China it works under different laws. This not only applies to laws but where it pays taxes too. So, as such, you cannot exactly call it a US company as it is not bound any single country’s laws and to make matters worse (or good if you’re Facebook) it is a virtual entity.
It really, in my view, has officially become the People’s Republic of Facebook (and like its namesake, it’s not a democracy 😊)
Molotov cocktails were thrown at the headquarters of Brazilian comedy group Porta dos Fundos in Rio de Janeiro on Christmas Eve, weeks after the group launched a film on Netflix depicting Jesus as gay.
The group’s Christmas special, “The First Temptation of Christ,” a 46-minute comedy that portrays Jesus bringing home his presumed boyfriend Orlando to meet the Holy Family, prompted around 2 million people to sign a petition calling on the streaming service to remove the show because it offended Christians.
ALSO READ: Two US lawmakers react to Sowore’s release
The sketch group said a security guard managed to contain the fire at its headquarters and no one was hurt.
State police in Rio did not immediately respond to a request for comments. Netflix declined to comment.
“In the early morning of December 24, on Christmas Eve, the headquarters of Porta dos Fundos was the victim of an attack. Molotov cocktails were thrown at our building,” the comedy group, which won an International Emmy for its holiday special last year, said on Twitter.
“We will move on, more united, stronger, more inspired and confident that the country will survive this storm of hatred and love will prevail alongside freedom of speech,” the comedians said, adding that video footage from security cameras had been handed to the authorities.
ALSO READ: Digital marketing will drive growth in Nigeria’s non-oil sector
Brazil is home to the world’s largest Catholic community as well as a fast-expanding evangelical community with increasing political influence.
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has described himself as a “proud” homophobe, once told an interviewer he would rather have a dead son than a gay son. Earlier this year he suspended funding for a series of films, including a handful with LGBT+ themes. The decision was later struck down by a federal court.
His son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, recently called Porta dos Funds’ Christmas special “garbage” on his Twitter account, saying the filmmakers “do not represent Brazilian society.”
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Pope Francis led the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics into Christmas on Tuesday, urging them not to let the Church’s failings lead them away from accepting God’s love.
Francis celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for thousands of people as hundreds of others watched on large screens outside.
As is customary on Christmas Eve, the 83-year-old pope weaved his sermon around the spiritual and personal significance of the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
“Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us,” Francis, presiding at the seventh Christmas season of his pontificate, said in his sermon.
“You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you. How often do we think that God is good if we are good and punishes us if we are bad. Yet that is not how he is.”
ALSO READ: Pope Francis urges change in pastoral mentality
Without mentioning them specifically, Francis also referred to recent Church troubles, including its attempts to come to grips with continuing sexual abuse scandals around the world and financial irregularities closer to home at the Vatican.
“Let us contemplate the Child and let ourselves be caught up in his tender love. Then we have no further excuse for not letting ourselves be loved by him,” Francis said.
“Whatever goes wrong in our lives, whatever doesn’t work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse. It will become secondary, for faced with Jesus’ extravagant love, a love of utter meekness and closeness, we have no excuse,” he said.
In his latest attempt to confront a sexual abuse scandal, Francis last week announced sweeping changes to the way the Church deals with them, abolishing the rule of “pontifical secrecy” that previously covered them.
Advocates for the victims of a scandal that has rocked the Church for nearly two decades applauded the move.
On Wednesday, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to thousands of people in the square below.
Unlike that on Christmas Eve, the Christmas day message is typically more about the significance of the Christmas message amidst the wars and conflicts of contemporary society.
The post Don’t let Church failings distance you from God ― Pope Francis appeared first on Vanguard News.
Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death and three more to jail terms, totalling 24 years, over the killing of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul in October last year.
Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman, Shalaan al-Shalaan, reading out the verdict in the trial, said the court dismissed charges against the remaining three of the 11 people that had been on trial, finding them not guilty.
Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
He was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to receive papers ahead of his wedding.
His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.
The killing caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image.
The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, but Saudi officials say he had no role.
Eleven Saudi suspects were put on trial over his death in secretive proceedings in Riyadh.
In the investigation into the murder, 21 were arrested and 10 were called in for questioning without arrest, Shalaan said.
Riyadh’s criminal court pronounced the death penalty on five individuals, whose names have not yet been released, “for committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim’’.
READ ALSO: Khashoggi memorial to be held outside Saudi consulate
The three sentenced to prison were given various sentences totalling 24 years “for their role in covering up this crime and violating the law’’.
Shalaan added that the investigations proved there was no “prior enmity” between those convicted and Khashoggi.
The verdicts can still be appealed.
Last November, the Saudi prosecutor said that Saud al-Qahtani, a former high-profile Saudi royal adviser, discussed Khashoggi’s activities before he entered the Saudi consulate with the team that went on to kill him.
The prosecutor said Qahtani acted in coordination with Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmed al-Asiri, who he said, had ordered Khashoggi’s repatriation from Turkey and that the lead negotiator on the ground then decided to kill him.
Both men were dismissed from their positions but while Asiri went on trial, Qahtani did not.
On Monday Shalaan said Asiri has been released due to insufficient evidence and Qahtani had been investigated but was not charged and had been released.
The changes, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, will comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
The California law requires large businesses to give consumers more transparency and control over their personal information, such as allowing them to request that their data be deleted and to opt-out of having their data sold to third parties.
ALSO READ: FG to galvanise mining sector with downstream mineral value chain initiative
Social media companies including Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have come under scrutiny on data privacy issues, fueled by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which personal data were harvested from millions of users without their consent.
Twitter also announced on Monday that it is moving the accounts of users outside of the United States and European Union which were previously contracted by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland, to the San Francisco-based Twitter Inc.
The company said this move would allow it the flexibility to test different settings and controls with these users, such as additional opt-in or opt-out privacy preferences, that would likely be restricted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe’s landmark digital privacy law.
“We want to be able to experiment without immediately running afoul of the GDPR provisions,” Twitter’s data protection officer Damien Kieran told Reuters in a phone interview.
“The goal is to learn from those experiments and then to provide those same experiences to people all around the world,” he said.
The company, which said it has upped its communications about data and security-related disclosures over the last two years, emphasized in a Monday blog post that it was working to upgrade systems and build privacy into new products.
In October, Twitter announced it had found that phone numbers and email addresses used for two-factor authentication may inadvertently have been used for advertising purposes.
Twitter’s new privacy site, dubbed the ‘Twitter Privacy Center’ is part of the company’s efforts to showcase its work on data protection and will also give users another route to access and download their data.
Twitter joins other internet companies who have recently staked out their positions ahead of CCPA coming into effect. Last month, Microsoft Corp said it would honor the law throughout the United States and Google told clients that it would let sites and apps using its advertising tools block personalized ads as part of its efforts to comply with CCPA.
SAN FRANCISCO — The data-collection business model fueling Facebook and Google represents a threat to human rights around the world, Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday.
The organization argued that offering people free online services and then using information about them to target money-making ads imperils a gamut of rights including freedom of opinion and expression.
“Despite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook’s platforms come at a systemic cost,” Amnesty said in its report, “Surveillance Giants.”
“The companies’ surveillance-based business model forces people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse.”
With ubiquitous surveillance, the two online giants are able to collect massive amounts of data which may be used against their customers, according to the London-based human rights group.
The business model is “inherently incompatible with the right to privacy,” Amnesty contended.
The report maintained that the two Silicon Valley firms have established “near-total dominance over the primary channels through which people connect and engage with the online world,” giving them unprecedented power over people’s lives.
“Google and Facebook dominate our modern lives — amassing unparalleled power over the digital world by harvesting and monetizing the personal data of billions of people,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
“Their insidious control of our digital lives undermines the very essence of privacy and is one of the defining human rights challenges of our era.”
The report called for governments to implement policies that ensure access to online services while protecting user privacy.
“Governments have an obligation to protect people from human rights abuses by corporations,” Amnesty maintained.
“But for the past two decades, technology companies have been largely left to self-regulate.”
DISPUTE ON FINDINGS
Facebook pushed back against what it contended were inaccuracies in the report, saying it strongly disagreed with its business model being characterized as surveillance-based.
“Our business model is what allows us to offer an important service where people can exercise foundational human rights — to have a voice (freedom of expression) and be able to connect (freedom of association and assembly),” said a letter from Facebook privacy and public policy director Steve Satterfield in an annex to the Amnesty report.
“Facebook’s business model is not, as your summary suggests, driven by the collection of data about people.”
Facebook spotlighted its measures implemented which limit data information used for ad targeting; controls provided to users regarding their data; and steps taken to restrict abuses by apps on the social network.
“As you correctly note, we do not sell data; we sell ads,” Facebook said.
Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has called for governments to implement uniform rules regarding data-handling instead of leaving private companies to make crucial social decisions such as the limits of free speech.
Google did not offer a specific written response.
But the Amnesty report noted that Google announced this month it would limit data that it shares with advertisers through its ad auction platform, following the launch of an inquiry by the Irish data protection authority and had launched a new feature allowing users to delete location data.