Tuesday October 17, 2017
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UN offers help to journalists, whistle-blowers under threat

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United Nations: Journalists and whistle-blowers facing threats or retaliations for their work in the public interest can reach out to him for help, a top UN official dealing with freedom of expression says.

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, said that whenever journalists or whistle-blowers felt threatened, they can contact him directly or through non-governmental organisations. He would look into their complaints and, if these are genuine, his office would take up the cases with the governments, he said.

Speaking to reporters here Thursday, Kay said that the fact someone is watching them can put a brake on retaliations by governments.

Kay, who is with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, was a law professor at the University of California at Irvine.

He said the disclosures by whistle-blowers, who often are the sources for journalists, are important in safeguarding human rights and in fighting corruption.

He said the definition of journalists should be broadened to include bloggers, citizen journalists, non-governmental organisation (NGO) researchers, authors and academics as they are all now important sources for informing the public.

While conceding that some information may deserve special protection, he said that when their disclosure is in the public interest the punishment should not be disproportionate. It is important in the public interest to encourage whistle-blowers, he added.

But speaking at the General Assembly earlier, Kay said, “States may restrict access to information in specific areas and narrow circumstances, yet the disclosures of information relating to human rights or humanitarian law violations should never be the basis of penalties of any kind.”

Kay presented to the General Assembly a report focusing on whistle-blowers and sources of information that accused governments and international organisations of failing to adequately protect whistle-blowers.

“Countless sources and whistle-blowers around the world are intimidated by officials, co-workers, and others depriving everyone of information that may be critical to public debate and accountability,” he said.

(IANS)

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An Out-of-control Chinese Space Station is Falling Towards The Earth! Should we be Worrying About Tiangong-1?

Scientists speculate that parts of Tiangong-1, weighing as much as 100kg may crash on the Earth’s surface.

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Tiangong-1
Tiangong-1 was used for multiple manned and un-manned space missions before authorities lost control of the Chinese space station (representative image) Wikimedia

China, October 16, 2017: An out of control Chinese space station, weighing 8.5 tonnes, is falling towards the Earth and will crash land on the surface within a few months, experts say.

The Chinese space laboratory, Tiangong-1, or the ‘Heavenly Palace’ was launched in 2011, symbolic of the hopes of the Chinese ambitions in space. It was also believed to be a stepping stone to establish China as a global ‘space’ superpower.

Tiangong-1 was used for multiple space missions, some of which even included astronauts – the space station was also visited by the first female astronaut from China, Liu Yang, in 2012.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell has now revealed that the space station is descending quickly to the earth and will crash on the planet’s surface ‘soon’.

The ‘Out of Control’ Tiangong-1

Scientists had long speculated the strange behavior of Tiangong-1. Finally, in 2016, officials at China’s CNSA space agency had confirmed that they had lost complete manned control of Tiangong-1 and that the space station would now be descending towards the Earth.

According to The Guardian, McDowell was quoted as saying “(we) expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.” 

Where Will Tiangong-1 Crash?

At the moment, is practically impossible for scientists and engineers to confirm about the precise landing site as the capsule is completely beyond human control.

Researchers believe the descent is now going to be guided and influenced by the wind.

The industry enthusiast Jonathan McDowell had previously told The Guardian that even a slight change in the atmospheric conditions could push the landing site “from one continent to the next.”

Does The Crash-Landing of Tiangong-1 Pose A Threat To Life?

Tiangong-1 is expected to hit the Earth’s surface is late 2017 or early 2018.

Scientists are also examining the possibility of the debris from the craft causing casualties upon landing. While most of the craft is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, parts weighing as much as 100kg can be expected to crash on the Earth’s surface.

ALSO READ China launched its 1st unmanned Cargo Spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country’s space station

The possibility of the debris from Tiangong-1 falling in populated regions cannot be precisely calculated, however authorities believe that is likely to not happen.

In May this year, China had additionally informed the United Nations “Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” that the descent of the space craft will be closely monitored and the United Nations will be duly informed when it takes it final plunge.

Tiangong-1 will not be the first to descend from the space with parts of the debris falling on the Earth. Previously,

  • 1979: NASA’s gigantic Skylab space station, weighing 77-tonne uncontrollably shot down to the Earth with large chunks of the craft landing near Perth in Western Australia.
  • 1991: Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 space station, weighing 20-tonne had crashed to the Earth while it was still docked to another spacecraft called Cosmos 1686 and had broken up over Argentina, throwing debris all over the town Capitán Bermúdez.

Tiangong-1 had been launched on 29 September, 2011, as a long-term mission, with an aim to establish a Chinese outpost in space. However, the out of control Chinese space station is now expected to crash land on the Earth ‘soon’.

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Deadly Blast Jostles Somalia , President Declares Three Days of National Mourning

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but similar attacks have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al Shabab

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A Somali soldier helps a civilian who was wounded in a blast in the capital of Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

Somalia, October 15, 2017 : Somalia’s president has declared three days of national mourning following a deadly truck bombing Saturday in the capital, Mogadishu, which left many people dead and dozens injured, including a VOA reporter.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo said the country “will observe three days of mourning for innocent victims and flags will be flown at half-mast.”

Farmaajo also called on citizens to unite against terror, saying it is “time to unite and pray together. Terror won’t win.”

Blast
Somalis gather and search for survivors by destroyed buildings at the scene of a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

Earlier Saturday, the blast occurred near Zobe, a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital, killing more than 50 people, health officials and witnesses said.

Dead, injured

Mahad Salad Adan, a Somali lawmaker who sustained a slight wound from the blast, told VOA that more than 100 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the explosion. He said more 200 others were wounded as Mogadishu hospitals struggled to treat the wounded.

Abdulkaidr Mohamed Abdulle, a VOA Somali correspondent in Mogadishu, was among the injured. His wife, Samira Abdirahman Sheikh Adam, confirmed to VOA that he had sustained injuries to his neck, head and right hand.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but similar attacks have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al Shabab. The group, which is linked to al-Qaida, is trying to overthrow the government in an effort to establish strict Islamic rule.

The United States and the United Nations strongly condemned Saturday’s blast and offered condolence to the lives lost and those wounded in the attack.

Buildings leveled

Buildings around the area were leveled by the explosion from a truck bomb, and dozens of destroyed cars littered the streets.

Blast
Mogadishu on the map. VOA

Health officials said Saturday’s bombing was the largest blast in recent memory in Mogadishu. They also called for residents to donate blood to help with the wounded.

“For 10 years, I have been in the emergency service. … I cannot tell the exact death toll, but together I can say we have transported hundreds of people on our 10 ambulances,” said Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adem, director of the Amin ambulance service. “And economically, I think this is the worst (bombing) ever in Mogadishu in a single day.”

Government soldiers had cordoned off the area, and officials said the death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers find bodies in the rubble.

ALSO READ Terror Strikes Somalia: Five killed in Twin Car Bomb Blast in Mogadishu

Most of the victims were civilians. The exact target of the blast remains unclear, though there are several hotels frequented by government officials and members of various diaspora communities.

“This is a disaster. We ask all Somalis to reach us, to help us in the search of dead bodies under the debris. We appeal to the doctors, to those who have digging machines,” Mogadishu Mayor Tabid Abdi Mohamed said on government radio.

Al-Shabab

Saturday’s blast came hours after al-Shabab militants regained control of Barire, a strategic Somalian town in a farming area along the Shabelle river, 45 kilometers from Mogadishu.

The explosion also comes two days after Somalia’s defense minister and military chief, who were leading the fight against Islamist militants, both resigned from the government, citing personal reasons.

Some analysts believe militants tend to carry out such attacks when there are security lapses.

“The resignation of the country’s defense and military chiefs gave the militants a gab [opening] to carry out such disastrous attack,” said Mogadishu University’s Dr. Abdul Kadir Liban Isse. (VOA)

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Facebook doesn’t Hire Journalists, says Sheryl Sandberg

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Sheryl Sandberg quoted that Facebook doesn't hire Journalists. ians

San Francisco, Oct 14: As people debate Facebook’s role in influencing people during the US presidential elections by Russian ads and fake news on the platform, the company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has stressed that the social media giant is not a media organization, and therefore does not hire journalists.

Sandberg said that Facebook is run by technical workers and engineers and according to her, the company does not produce news content, therefore it can’t be a media company.

In an interview with US-based news website Axios on Thursday, she said, “At our heart we are a tech company. We hire engineers. We don’t hire reporters. No one is a journalist.”

“We don’t cover the news. But when we say that, we’re not saying we don’t have a responsibility. In fact we’re a new kind of platform… as our size grows, we think we have more responsibility,” the executive was quoted as saying.

Business Insider said a firm that is a major source of news and information for people, generates billions in ad revenue and is producing its own original television shows is classified as a media company and Facebook does all of that.

Contrary to her claim, it hired former NBC anchor Campbell Brown in January to head up the company’s news division and work with other journalists to maximise their use of Facebook’s platform.

Reportedly, Facebook does not want to harm its $500 billion valuations by admitting it is a media company. If the company accepts that it is a media firm, it would open the platform up to regulatory rules in the US and other countries which Facebook would rather avoid.

Facebook
Facebook Ads were considered during US Presidential Elections. Pixabay

Business Insider said Britain was already considering regulations that would treat it more like a media company.

Meanwhile, on the Russian ad issue, Sandberg said the election meddling on the platform “shouldn’t have happened” and she wouldn’t discuss Russia or Trump.

“We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms… and so we told Congress and the Intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them,” she said.

Sandberg said that if the Russian-linked ads were posted by “real people” and not fake accounts, Facebook would have let their content remain on the site. “When you allow free expression, you allow free expression.”

“Facebook owes the American people an apology. Not just an apology, but determination for our role in enabling Russian interference during the election,” she said. (IANS)