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Calls at UN to prevent using social media as platforms for hate



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United Nations, May 4: As the UN paid tributes to the victims of the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, calls were made to take action to prevent use of social media to spread hate and bigotry.

“While protecting freedom of expression, we must also find ways to address incitement to violence through traditional and social media,” General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said on Friday at the event commemorating the 253 victims.

“It is sobering that the theme of World Press Freedom Day today is: journalism in times of disinformation.

“We must ensure that new and evolving technologies promote – and do not harm – human security,” she added.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke about social media being used to spread hate.

“The world is experiencing a dangerous rise in intolerance, xenophobia and racism. And today such hatred spreads easily and swiftly on the Internet.

“The UN continues to strengthen its efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and violent extremism,” Mohammed added.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Rohan Perera was more forthright in calling for a consensus on how to regulate social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to prevent them from becoming the medium to spread hate.

“It is time for us to explore the possibility of an international consensus on a regulatory framework.

“It is vital, if we are to preserve democratic space, that valuable tools such as Facebook and Twitter among others, are utilised as spaces to nurture healthy debate rather than breed violence and extremism,” he said.

Sri Lanka had temporarily banned all forms of social media immediately after the April 21 bombings because it was being used to circulate fake news and create enmity between communities.

Access was restored on April 30.

Perera, who is the chair of the Working Group on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, urged all nations to come together and adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) that was proposed by India in 1996.

“Too much blood has spilt for us to remain deadlocked on this issue.

“The time has come for the international community to go beyond words and to demonstrate political will and commitment in taking the last remaining step to conclude the CCIT and complete the sectoral multilateral treaty regime to address the global phenomenon of terrorism.

“The international community must send out a strong signal of its collective will to combat terrorism and contribute to the effective implementation of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy,” he added.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin joined Perera in appealing for an agreement on the CCIT.

Perera, “has, for more than two decades, tried to steer us to an outcome on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism”, Akbaruddin said.

“Perhaps, as a tribute to the victims in his country, we can all try and strengthen efforts to achieve that objective of a putting in place a global legal framework to counter a global scourge,” he added.

Denouncing the use of religion to justify violence, Mohammed said: “As a Muslim, I know my faith preaches peace and tolerance. Tragically yet, again and again, the world is seeing places of worship become killing grounds and houses of horror.

“Churches, mosques, synagogues and the religious sites of many faiths are being targeted for murder, arson, vandalism and desecration… We must reject this form of violence.”

Espinosa reflected on how religions can bring people together.

“I was deeply moved by the images of Sri Lankans – Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sinhalese, Tamil and others – donating blood to treat survivors,” she said. “Mosques and temples have opened their doors to Christian services. That is an inspiring expression of courage and resilience.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)


He’s always going to be for us: Trump on Kanye’s prez bid




Donald Trump

Washington, July 10 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has brushed off reports of American rapper Kanye Wests bid for the November presidential election and his subsequent comments that he no longer supported the President, according to media reports.

“He is always going to be for us, and his wife is going to be for us,” The Hill news website quoted Trump as saying on Thursday in a Fox News interview, referring to West and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.

Trump brushed off comments that West made earlier this week, telling Forbes that he was “taking the red hat off”, referring to the President” signature red “Make America Great Again” campaign baseball caps.

The President maintained that he thought the rapper will support him in his re-election bid.

“(He”s a) very good guy. He is a person that I get along with very well,” Trump said.

“At the end I think he would support us over anyone else, we have to stop the radical left from taking over our country.”

In a tweet on July 4, the 21-time Grammy winner said: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States… #2020VISION.”

It was not immediately clear which party the 21-time Grammy winner would pick in his apparent challenge to Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

While there is no official deadline to enter the presidential race, candidates must meet certain filing requirements under Ballot Access Laws that vary by state.

The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states, including California.

But while speaking to the Forbes magazine earlier this week, West said that he should be allowed extra time due the coronavirus pandemic.

“I”m speaking with experts, I”m going to speak with Jared Kushner, the White House, with Biden,” The Hill news website quoted West as saying to Forbes.

The rapper has sparked speculation over the years that he would potentially enter the presidential race one day, most recently in November 2019, when he said he planned to run in 2024, according to a report by the Daily Mail newspaper.

In 2018, he visited Trump at the White House, wearing the “Make America Great Again” cap and delivered a speech in which he discussed alternate universes and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he said was actually sleep deprivation, the report added.

Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian has also met the President on more than one occasion lobbying for criminal justice reform.


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Middle East

Targeted killing of Iran’s Soleimani unlawful: UN report

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.





Geneva, July 10 : Without an actual imminent threat to life, the targeted killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike earlier this year was unlawful, according to a latest UN report.

Presenting the report to the UN Human Rights Council Thursday on the use of force under drones technology, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the US action constituted an arbitrary killing, reports Xinhua news agency.

“In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing,” Callamard said in her report.

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.

No evidence has been provided that General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, specifically was planning an imminent attack against US interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified, the report said.

Also no evidence has been provided that a drone strike in a third country was necessary or that the harm caused to that country was proportionate to the harm allegedly averted, the report added.

Besides Soleimani, the US airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq”s Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces.

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Cattle smuggling on Bangladesh border to go up before Eid: Intel

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.





New Delhi, July 9 : With just three weeks to go for Eid-ul-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, the Border Security Force (BSF) has deployed more force on India-Bangladesh border apprehending surge in cattle smuggling — an annual affair, but which dropped by 96 per cent last year.

As the festival — which is also called ”Qurbani Eid” — will be celebrated on July 31 this year, the BSF’s intelligence wing has alerted its border units about activities of cattle traffickers, considering the rising demand from Bangladesh.

The BSF, which guards the India-Bangladesh border, said the price of animals is higher than before this time due to rains being in full force and high water level in rivers flowing along the border.

Every year, a BSF official said, incidents of animal trafficking increase before Eid-ul-Adha along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border, the fifth-longest in the world, and spanning Assam (262 km), Tripura (856 km), Mizoram (180 km), Meghalaya (443 km), and West Bengal (2,217 km).

The business of cattle smuggling has been flourishing in West Bengal since many years because influential people are said to be involved. But since last year, the BSF”s South Bengal Frontier has almost stopped cattle trafficking.

It has been learned from reliable sources that the process of licensing ”Cattle Haats” in the border areas of Bangladesh is going to be completed soon. These ”Cattle Haats” see trade of most of the cattle smuggled from India.

The price of cattle in Bangladesh has increased significantly during this time of the year. At present, a buffalo of large size which is available in India for Rs 50,000 is priced in Bangladesh at about Rs 1.50 lakh and a bull of large size at Rs 80,000, an official said.

“Cattle smugglers who are involved in this nefarious and illegal business have several hundred crores (rupees) and put the lives of many poor, illiterate and unemployed youths at stake by luring them for a few thousand rupees,” the officer said.

Another officer said the more strict the border, the more money is paid to these youths who are called ”Rakhals” in the local language.

For every head of cattle taken across the international border, a ”Rakhal” gets Rs 8,000-10,000. For this money, the kingpin cattle smuggler puts the life of ”Rakhal” at stake.

Many of these ”rakhals” lose their lives while doing these illegal acts by drowning during floods, getting bitten by snakes, hit by lightning, being trampled by cattle, getting killed in a gang war or in BSF firing, BSF spokesperson Krishna Rao told IANS.

Rao said the BSF have made all their preparations to meet the challenge of cattle smuggling this year in the run-up to Eid.

“Border Security Force battalions deployed in Malda and Baharampur sectors have completed their preparations and are committed to thwart the nefarious designs of smugglers,” the officer said.

In the most vulnerable Border Out Posts (BoPs) such as Neem Teeta, Harudanga, Madanghat and Sovapur in Malda and Murshidabad districts, additional troopers and resources have been deployed, he said.

“In fact, the Ganga river enters Bangladesh from India under the responsibility of these border posts. When the water is released from the Farakka Dam, this river gets flooded which is exploited by cattle smugglers,” the officer said.

Explaining the method, the official said, the traffickers put the cattle in the river upto 8 to 10 km upstream.

“Before putting them in the river, they tie the legs of the cattle, put a bandage over the eyes and finally tie two banana stems on either side of the animal to keep it afloat.”

The BSF top brass took several calibrated measures to curb the menace last year as the trade promotes an approximate Rs 10,000 crore beef export industry of Bangladesh.

During this rainy season, the BSF has increased the deployment of night cameras, tractors, and speed boats to prevent animal trafficking before Eid-ul-Adha.

”Rakhals” of India and Bangladesh, at times, try to smuggle up to 400-500 heads of cattle, and attack the border guards with sharp-edged weapons, sticks and stones and bricks. Many times, they also fire with home-made firearms and hurl explosives

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.

Its new Inspector General, Ashwani Kumar Singh has given clear instructions that attack on BSF personnel by these smugglers would not be tolerated and that trans-border crimes will be stopped at any cost.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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