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Pope ”pained” by Hagia Sophia mosque decision

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first Muslim prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24.

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Hagia Sophia Mosque

Vatican City, July 13 : Pope Francis has said he”s “pained” by Turkey”s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

Speaking at a service in the Vatican, the Roman Catholic leader added that his “thoughts go to Istanbul”, the BBC reported.

Hagia Sophia was built as a Christian cathedral nearly 1,500 years ago and turned into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of 1453.

The Unesco World Heritage Site became a museum in 1934 under Turkish Republic founding father Ataturk.

But earlier this week a Turkish court annulled the site”s museum status, saying its use as anything other than a mosque was “not possible legally”.

Pope Francis confined himself to a few words on the issue: “My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first Muslim prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24.

Shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at the site and broadcast on all of Turkey”s main news channels. Hagia Sophia”s social media channels have also been taken down.

Islamists in Turkey have long called for it to become a mosque again but secular opposition members opposed the move.

Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right, and he added that the building would remain open to all Muslims, non-Muslims and foreign visitors.

The Pope is one of several religious and political leaders worldwide who have criticised the move.

The World Council of Churches has called on President Erdogan to reverse the decision. The Church in Russia, home to the world”s largest Orthodox Christian community, immediately expressed regret that the Turkish court had not taken its concerns into account when ruling on Hagia Sophia.

It has also drawn condemnation from Greece, and Unesco said its World Heritage Committee would now review the monument”s status.

One of Turkey”s most famous authors, Orhan Pamuk, told the BBC that the decision would take away the “pride” some Turks had in being a secular Muslim nation.

“There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard,” said Pamuk.

Health

‘Young people play important role in helping stop Covid-19 transmission’

“Working together, all of us, old and young, from everywhere in the world, can overcome this pandemic,”

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO

Geneva, Aug 13 : Although most young people are not at high risk of severe disease during the COVID-19 pandemic, they play an important role in the collective responsibility to help stop the virus transmission, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

In celebrating International Youth Day, with a theme of “Youth Engagement for Global Action” this year, the WHO Director-General, together with UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay, recognized young people, youth organizations, and youth networks around the world for their collective action during COVID-19, reports Xinhua news agency.

“This pandemic is having a major impact on the future of young adults — not just from the virus itself, but because of its impacts on the economy, employment, education, and the overall health system,” Tedros said, asking young people to “be informed and make choices about their health to prepare for long and healthy lives”.

“It is critical that we engage with young people now to start the journey to understanding their own health.”

He further left three requests for them.

First, he called on organizations, intuitions and governments “to listen, engage and empower young adults as partners in action. Our future is their future”.

“Second, we have to give young people a much larger role in political decision-making. Their voices often go unheard, even though more than half of the world’s population is under 35 years old.

“Finally, and most importantly, to young adults around the world, I say: Think big and be bold. We count on you for your creativity and your fresh ideas…

“Working together, all of us, old and young, from everywhere in the world, can overcome this pandemic,” he added.

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Lifestyle

Facebook removes 22.5mn hate speech content, 1.5bn fake accounts in Q2

Facebook on Tuesday said that it purged 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content in the second quarter (April-June) this year, increased from 9.6 million pieces of content in Q1, and its proactive detection rate for hate speech increased 6 points from 89 per cent to 95 per cent.

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facebook

San Francisco: When it comes to fake accounts, Facebook said it removed 1,5 billion such accounts in Q2, down from 1.7 billion accounts in Q1.

The reason for the decline the social network gave was that when it blocks more attempts, there are fewer fake accounts for it to disable, “which has led to a general decline in accounts actioned since Q1 2019”.

“We estimate that fake accounts represented approximately 5 per cent of our worldwide monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook during Q2,” Guy Rosen, VP Integrity at Facebook, said in a blog post detailing the sixth edition of ‘Community Standards Enforcement Report’.

On Instagram, the proactive detection rate for hate speech increased 39 points from 45 per cent to 84 per cent in the June quarter, said Facebook.

It resulted in action on 3.3 million pieces of hate speech content in Q2, up from 808,900 in Q1.

“These increases (on Instagram) were driven by expanding our proactive detection technologies in English and Spanish,” Rosen said.

Another area where Facebook claimed it saw improvements was content related to terrorism.

“On Facebook, the amount of content we took action on increased from 6.3 million in Q1 to 8.7 million in Q2,” Rosen informed.

“We saw increases in the amount of content we took action on connected to organized hate on Instagram and bullying and harassment on both Facebook and Instagram”.

Facebook said that since it prioritised removing harmful content over measuring certain efforts during this time, it was unable to calculate the prevalence of violent and graphic content, and adult nudity and sexual activity.

“We want people to be confident that the numbers we report around harmful content are accurate, so we will undergo an independent, third-party audit, starting in 2021, to validate the numbers we publish in our Community Standards Enforcement Report,” Rosen said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook sent its content reviewers home in March and relied more heavily on the technology to review content.

The comlany said it has since brought many reviewers back online from home and, where it is safe, a smaller number into the office.

The company admitted that the number of appeals against the removal of accounts etc was much lower in Q2 “because we couldn’t always offer them”.

“We let people know about this and if they felt we made a mistake, we still gave people the option to tell us they disagreed with our decision”.

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Cities

Low key Janmashtami celebrations in Agra as corona cases surge

District officials indicated that a programme for conducting large scale random sampling would be started in the rural areas to break the chain.

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Janmashtami celebrations

Agra, Aug 12 : Gloom and despair greeted Krishna Janmashtami festival in the entire Braj Mandal battling with Covid-19.

Temples in Vrindavan and Mathura were closed as cases of Covid-19 were being reported in double figures daily. Mathura reported 41 new cases in the last 24 hours, while Mainpuri district had an alarming tally of 52, with 23 from one area of the city. Etah reported 28 while Kasganj had 20 fresh cases.

In Agra, the tally has gone up to 2,177 with 41 new cases. So far 1,739 have recovered. With one more death of an elderly person, the tally has gone up to 102.

The spread of the infection in the rural areas continues to remain a worry. Of the 15 development blocks in the Agra district, 11 are in the containment zones.

Officials said the rural medical infrastructure was being upgraded and more health officials were being posted at the Public Health Centres (PHCs). Only serious cases were now being referred to the S.N. Medical College Covid hospital in Agra.

District officials indicated that a programme for conducting large scale random sampling would be started in the rural areas to break the chain.

Meanwhile, the drizzle that started late Tuesday evening continued till Wednesday morning. A few spells of heavy showers were reported from the rural areas.

The festival mood is sombre. “Due to the scare of corona, few people are venturing out of their homes. Since temples are closed, the Sri Krishna bhakts will probably watch online puja or remain glued to the TV sets. This time children also do not seem to be keen on decorating ‘Hindolas’, part of the festivities associated with Janmashtami,” senior citizen Sudhir Gupta of Vijay Nagar colony said.

The priest of the famous Sri Mathuradheesh temple in Agra, Nandan Shrotriya told IANS, “All ritualistic pujas will be conducted closed doors, as the temple is not open to public.” In Vrindavan, the ISKCON temple has arranged live streaming later in the evening. The festivities at the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple will also be low key.

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