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Pakistani doctor indicted in Minnesota on terrorism charge

The people whom he was chatting with on the encrypted online messenger were undercover informants for the FBI.

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Muhammad Masood

New Delhi/Washington, May 17 : A US federal court has indicted a Pakistani doctor on H1-B visa for his support to the Islamic State (IS) and attempting to carry out a terror plot, raising serious questions about the vetting process in the country’s immigration system.

In an official statement, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that the federal grand jury for the district of Minnesota on May 15 indicted 28-year-old Muhammad Masood for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

A licensed medical doctor in Pakistan, Masood was formerly employed as a research coordinator at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota under an H1-B visa.

As per his LinkedIn profile, he has a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from Riphah International University, a General Certificate of Education from the University of Cambridge and a license to practice from the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council.

The DoJ said that between January and March, Masood made several statements to others, including pledging his allegiance to the IS and its leader, and expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for the terror group.

The Pakistani national also wanted to carry out ‘lone wolf’ terror attacks in the US.

He was initially charged in a criminal complaint on March 19 this year and currently in custody pending further court proceedings.

As per the complaint, Masood was messaging on an encrypted online platform about how sick he had grown of smiling every day at the “passing kuffar” (non-Muslims) and yet he was keeping the pretence “just not to make them suspicios (sic) a I cannot tolerate it anymore”.

In his messages, he mentioned that he could not waste the opportunity while being in the US.

“Sometimes I want to (sic) attack enemy when I am behind enemy line (sic) itself,” he messaged in January.

“(I) wonder if I will miss the opportunity of attacking the enemy when I was in the middle of it.”

Masood quit his job at the Mayo Clinic, auctioned off his personal belongings and on February 21, bought a plane ticket from Chicago, Illinois to Amman, Jordan and from there planned to travel to Syria.

But his travel plans changed because on March 16, Jordon closed its borders to incoming travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a message Masood revealed: “… there is so much I wanted to do here … lon wulf (sic) stuff you know … but I realized I should be on the ground helping brothers sisters kids Inshallah.”

So he decided to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet an individual who he believed would help him with travel via cargo ship to deliver him to the IS territory, the DoJ statement said.

The people whom he was chatting with on the encrypted online messenger were undercover informants for the FBI.

They asked him several times if he was absolutely sure he really wanted to quit his job in the US and join the IS abroad, to which he replied: “I want to kill and get killed … and kill and get killed … and again and again. This is what … Allah wished.”

Todd Bensman who works for the US-based research group Center for Immigration Studies, said that the Masood case was a cause for reassessing current security vetting protocols in countries not on the travel restriction list, to ensure that hot security threats were not imported among the doctors, engineers, and other skilled professionals who use the H-1B visa to leave countries of national security interest.

The American public, elected leaders, and security professionals, he wrote, should never assume that force fields of credibility immunize doctors from security investigations and thorough vetting.

They don’t, as we well learned from Dr. Nidal Hassan’s massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 and from a bizarrely long list of other Hippocratic Oath breakers.

World

Facebook, Twitter remove Trump clip over Covid misinformation

This is the first time Facebook removed a post by Trump for violating its Covid-19 misinformation policy.

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Trump travel ban

San Francisco, Aug 6 : Facebook and Twitter have removed a video clip from an interview in which US President Donald Trump claimed children were “almost immune” to coronavirus.

The social media platforms said the statement by the US President made during the interview to Fox News violated their rules related to Covid-19 misinformation.

While Facebook removed the clip posted by the President, Twitter briefly suspended a Trump campaign Twitter account, @TeamTrump, for tweeting the video clip which contained the same claim.

The Trump campaign Twitter account became active again after the tweet with the clip was apparently removed.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying by the BBC.

This is the first time Facebook removed a post by Trump for violating its Covid-19 misinformation policy.

A Twitter spokesperson said that the tweet by @TeamTrump was in “violation of the Twitter Rules on Covid-19 misinformation”.

However, the microblogging platform, which is facing allegations of being biased against conservative politicians, earlier determined that a post by billionaire Elon Musk which suggested that children were “essentially immune” to coronavirus did not violate its rules.

Studies have shown that while children can get the disease, their risk of suffering serious complications due to the disease is lower compared to adults.

This was not the first time Twitter took action on a Trump post.

In May, Twitter labelled two Trump tweets that made false claims about mail-in ballots in California.

Facebook also removed a Trump campaign ad featuring a symbol used by Nazis for political dissenters, saying the ad violated its policies.

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5 things to know as Hiroshima marks 75th A-bomb anniversary

The city of Hiroshima in western Japan is marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing

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The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA, Japan — The city of Hiroshima in western Japan marks the 75th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack on Thursday.

Three days after its Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II and, more broadly, its aggression toward Asian neighbors that had lasted nearly half a century.

Here’s a look at that day in Hiroshima 75 years ago.

Q. Why was Hiroshima chosen as a target?

A. Hiroshima was a major Japanese military hub with factories, military bases and ammunition facilities. Historians say the United States picked it as a suitable target because of its size and landscape, and carefully avoided fire bombing the city ahead of time so American officials could accurately assess the impact of the atomic attack. The United States said the bombings hastened Japan’s surrender and prevented the need for a U.S. invasion of Japan. Some historians today say Japan was already close to surrendering, but there is still debate in the U.S.

Q. What happened in the attack?

A. At 8:15 a.m., the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 4-ton “Little Boy” uranium bomb from a height of 9,600 meters (31,500 feet) on the city center, targeting the Aioi Bridge. The bomb exploded 43 seconds later, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the ground. Seconds after the detonation, the estimated temperature was 3,000-4,000 degrees Celsius (5,400-7,200 degrees Fahrenheit) at ground zero. Almost everything within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of ground zero was destroyed by the blast and heat rays. Within one hour, a “black rain” of highly radioactive particles started falling on the city, causing additional radiation exposure.

Q. How many people were killed?

A. An estimated 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died through Dec. 31, 1945. That was 40% of Hiroshima’s population of 350,000 before the attack. Everyone within a radius of 500 meters (1,600 feet) from ground zero died that day. To date, the total death toll, including those who died from radiation-related cancers, is about 300,000. Hiroshima today has 1.2 million residents.

Q. What effect did radiation have?

A. Many people exposed to radiation developed symptoms such as vomiting and hair loss. Most of those with severe radiation symptoms died within three to six weeks. Others who lived beyond that developed health problems related to burns and radiation-induced cancers and other illnesses. Survivors have a higher risk of developing cataracts and cancer. About 136,700 people certified as “hibakusha,” as victims are called, under a government support program are still alive and entitled to regular free health checkups and treatment. Health monitoring of second-generation hibakusha began recently. Japan’s government provided no support for victims until a law was finally enacted in 1957 under pressure from them.

Q. What are those colorful folded paper cranes for?

A. “Origami” paper cranes can be seen throughout the city. They became a symbol of peace because of a 12-year-old bomb survivor, Sadako Sasaki, who, while battling leukemia, folded paper cranes using medicine wrappers after hearing an old Japanese story that those who fold a thousand cranes are granted one wish. Sadako developed leukemia 10 years after her exposure to radiation at age 2, and died three months after she started the project. Former U.S. President Barack Obama brought four paper cranes that he folded himself when he visited Hiroshima in May 2016, becoming the first serving American leader to visit. Obama’s cranes are now displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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Hiroshima marks 75th atomic bomb anniversary

Many fear interest in the bombings is fading as they recede beyond the horizon of lived experience and into history.

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75th anniversary of bombing in Hiroshima Nagasaki

Japan on Thursday marked 75 years since the world’s first atomic bomb attack, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a scaling back of ceremonies to remember the victims.

Survivors, relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended this year’s main event in Hiroshima to pray for those killed or wounded in the bombing and call for world peace.

But the general public was kept away, with the ceremony instead broadcast online.

Participants, many of them dressed in black and wearing face masks, offered a silent prayer at exactly 8:15 am (2315 GMT Wednesday), the time the first nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city.

Speaking afterwards, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui warned against the nationalism that led to World War II and urged the world to come together to face global threats, like the coronavirus pandemic.

“We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself. Civil society must reject self-centred nationalism and unite against all threats,” he said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been criticised by some for his attempts to revise a key pacifist clause of the country’s constitution, pledged in his address to “do my best for the realisation of a world without nuclear weapons and peace for all time”.

And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who addressed the gathering by video message because of the pandemic, warned that “the only way to totally eliminate nuclear risk is to totally eliminate nuclear weapons”.

The bomb attack on Hiroshima killed around 140,000 people, many of them instantly, with others perishing in the weeks and months that followed, suffering radiation sickness, devastating burns and other injuries.

Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, where 74,000 people were killed.

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