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Suspected Rincin detected in envelope sent to President Trump, Pentagon

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Donald Trump

Washington, Oct 3 : Investigation is on after the U.S. Secret Service said Tuesday that it intercepted a suspicious envelope addressed to President Trump after the Pentagon confirmed seizing packages containing deadly toxin ricin used in biological attacks by terror groups.

A day earlier, one of at least three reported instances of suspicious mail being sent to government- or political-related offices in recent days.

 

Ricin, which is extracted from castor beans, after specific treatment is highly poisonous and has been used by the Al Qaeda terrorist group to carry out biological attacks.

The Secret Service said it is working with law enforcement partners to investigate the matter.

The Secret Service, which is the agency that protects the president and his family, said in a statement on Tuesday that it detected “a suspicious enveloped addressed to the president.”

“The envelope was not received at the White House, nor did it ever enter the White House,” the Secret Service confirmed.

Although normally the Secret Service does not comment on security matters, it said that “in this instance, we can confirm that we are working jointly with our law enforcement partners to fully investigate this matter”.

The agency provided no details about the possible contents of the envelope or where it originated, but the report came on the same day that the Pentagon revealed that it had intercepted a suspicious package that, according to preliminary analysis, contained ricin, a powerful poison.

Two pieces of mail tested positive for ricin by the Pentagon mail facility that were addressed to US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, the Defense News reported.

The FBI, which is leading the investigation, is expected to conduct a second test to confirm the initial finding on Tuesday.

Chris Sherwood, a Pentagon spokesman, said authorities at its screening site “recognised some suspicious packages,” noting they were “suspected to be ricin”.

He stressed that authorities were still waiting for confirmation that the packages contained ricin. Pentagon police referred the matter to the FBI for investigation.

The package, which at no time actually entered the Pentagon but rather was intercepted on Monday at a mail sorting facility in one of its neighbouring buildings, was detected by agents of the defence headquarters security force, a department spokesman, Colonel Robert Manning, said in a statement.

The package was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for additional analyses.

Health

Instagram influencers are a vaccine priority in wary Indonesia

Among the first in the queue for coronavirus vaccines in Indonesia has been one conspicuous group – social media influencers.

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Indonesia Vaccination

Jakarta: Alongside President Joko Widodo as the world’s fourth most populous country kicked off its vaccination drive on Wednesday was Indonesian television personality, Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram.

“Alhamdulillah [Praise be to God] a vaccine … Don’t be afraid of vaccines,” the 33-year-old celebrity wrote under a video of him receiving the shot, next to a heart emoji and another of Indonesia’s red and white flag.

Deciding who should be first in line for limited vaccine doses has been a challenge around the world, with many countries prioritising vulnerable medics and the elderly.

Senior health ministry official, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said the decision to include influencers alongside almost 1.5 million healthcare workers in the first round of inoculations was a deliberate government communications strategy.

Although Indonesia faces the most severe coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia – with more than 869,000 cases and 25,000 deaths – there has been scepticism around the safety and efficacy of any vaccine, and in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, whether it is halal, or allowed under Islam.

Indonesians are among the top global users of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The health ministry did not say how many infuencers would be first in the vaccine line, but others due to receive a shot on Thursday included musicians Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.

Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, told Reuters the artists would “hopefully convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines, and especially to young people.

A poll last month showed just 37% of Indonesians were willing to be vaccinated while 40% would consider it, and 17% refused.

Some doctors have raised doubts over Indonesia’s initial use of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine – with studies from Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey showing efficacies ranging from 50-91%.

But in another possible boost for chances of acceptance, the country’s top Islamic council has deemed the vaccine halal.

However the decision to include social media influencers on the priority list backfired somewhat when photos of Raffi showed him partying hours after he was given the injection – which does not confer immediate immunity.

The images of him unmasked and flouting social distancing protocols with a group of friends drew criticism on social media, with calls for him to set a better example.

“It also shows the government is inconsistent in prioritising who gets the vaccine first,” said Irma Hidayana, cofounder of pandemic data initiative LaporCOVID-19, “They should’ve done it with another health worker, maybe, not an influencer.”

Health ministry official Nadia noted that “when you’re vaccinated, you still have to abide by health protocols and not be careless in enforcing them”.

Zubairi Djoerban of the Indonesian Medical Association said the strategy to hire influencers could only work if “influencers are briefed about vaccine and COVID-19 so they can be agents of change”.

Police said they are investigating whether Raffi broke the law, while he has offered a public apology.

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World

Indonesian authorities extend search for plane crash victims

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has extended the search for victims of last week’s Sriwijaya Air plane crash as well as the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and other materials for another three days, a top official said here on Friday.

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Srivijayair Indonesia

Jakarta: “It was decided that the joint search and rescue (SAR) operation to search for Sriwijaya Air victims will be extended for another three days until Monday,” Basarnas’ chief Bagus Puruhito told reporters.

The Boeing 737-500 passenger aircraft with 62 people aboard slammed into the Java Sea on January 9, minutes after take-off from Jakarta en route to Indonesian city of Pontianak in West Kalimantan province.

Basarnas’ search and rescue mission coordinator Rasman M.S. said on Friday that as many as 130 divers have been deployed to search for the victims and the aircraft’ materials.

The agency has also deployed 62 ships, 21 sea rider boats and jet skis as well as 13 airplanes.

Rasman said that the aerial search is being expanded to coastal areas.

As many as 239 body bags containing human remains had been retrieved and 12 victims have been identified after forensic examinations in the police’s hospital as of Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) has retrieved data from the flight data recorder (FDR), but the search team is still looking for the aircraft’s CVR.

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Tech

Twitter CEO says banning Trump was right decision but sets dangerous precedent

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behavior.

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Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO

Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday that banning President Donald Trump from its social media platform after last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol was the “right decision,” but said it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said on Twitter.

“They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

In his Twitter thread, Dorsey said that while he took no pride in the ban, “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”

Even so, he added, “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures over the last year like labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behavior.

The Twitter CEO added that bans by social media companies on Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not coordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet,” he said.

Supporters of Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

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