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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday qualified for this week's Democratic presidential debate in Nevada, putting him on the same stage as his rivals for the first tie in the race for the party's nomination.

The debate on Wednesday will be the ninth in the contest for who will challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

A late entry to the race, Mr. Bloomberg, 78, has risen in public opinion polls as he pours money from his estimated $60 billion personal fortune into a national campaign, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads.

When he takes the stage on Wednesday, he is likely to be challenged directly by rivals over his use as mayor of a policing policy widely seen as discriminatory and of supposed sexist practices at his company.

“There's a lot to talk about with Michael Bloomberg,” former vice president and candidate for the nomination Joe Biden said on Sunday.

Mr. Bloomberg had support from 19% of the people surveyed in a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released on Tuesday.

A massacre in an anglophone region of Cameroon left up to 22 villagers dead including 14 children, the UN said, with an opposition party blaming the killings on the army.

Armed men carried out the bloodshed on Friday in the village of Ntumbo in the Northwest region, James Nunan, a local official of humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, told AFP on Sunday.

“Up to 22 civilians were killed, including a pregnant woman and several children,” Mr. Nunan said, adding that 14 children under age 18 -- including nine under age five -- were among the dead.

Eleven of the children were girls, said Mr. Nunan, head of OCHA’s office for the Northwest and Southwest regions, which are home to the West African country’s large English-speaking minority.

Separatists in the regions have been fighting the central government for three years.

The Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon, one of the country’s two main opposition parties, issued a statement saying: “The dictatorial regime (and) the supreme head of the security and defence forces are chiefly responsible for these crimes.” A key figure in the separatist movement, lawyer Agbor Mballa, in a Facebook post also accused “state defence forces” of carrying out the killings.

The three-year conflict between anglophone forces seeking to break away from French-speaking Cameroon has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.

Friday’s killings followed elections on February 9 that were marred by violence in the regions blamed both on separatists and security forces.

In the sprawling Camp Kalma, refugees displaced by the Darfur conflict are overjoyed at the decision by Sudan's new authorities to finally deliver president Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court.

Bashir, who was deposed in April 2019 following mass protests, has for the past decade flouted International Criminal Court arrest warrants on charges of genocide and war crimes in the ravaged Darfur region of western Sudan.

On Tuesday, Sudan's transitional authorities agreed to transfer him to stand trial before the court based in The Hague.

"There was rejoicing across the camp after people heard Bashir is being handed over to the ICC," 65-year-old refugee Adam Ali, a longtime resident of Kalma camp in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state, told AFP.

Darfuris and rebel groups have repeatedly demanded he be handed over to the ICC over alleged war crimes in a conflict which according to the United Nations left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million others.

Local community leader Yaqoob Mohamed said the decision was "a victory for the victims" and would go a long way towards "rebuilding trust" with the leadership in Khartoum.

Hundreds of thousands of those displaced by the conflict that broke out in 2003 in Darfur, a vast region made up of five states, still live in camps and remain dependent on aid provided by the UN and other international organisations.

The conflict erupted when African minority rebels rose up against Bashir's Arab-dominated government in Khartoum that they accused of marginalising the region.

Top WHO experts are set to arrive in Beijing this weekend to assist China to contain the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak as the death toll climbed to 1,523 in China and France reported the first fatality outside Asia, fuelling concerns about the epidemic.

More than 66,000 people are now infected from the virus in China, health officials said.

On Saturday China’s Health Commission said the death toll in China rose to 1,523 after 143 more people died in the country, most in Hubei, the epicentre of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

There were reports of 2,641 new confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2infection and 143 deaths on Friday from 31 provincial-level regions, it said.

A top Chinese health official said efforts to prevent and control the virus outbreak reached its most crucial stage as the virus epicentre Hubei province continues to grapple with growing fatalities over a month after the virus outbreak even though the cases began dropping in rest of China.

The United States has blacklisted Sri Lanka's Army Chief, Shavendra Silva, for human rights violations including extrajudicial killings during the last phase of the country's civil war in 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 14.

“The allegations of gross human rights violations against Shavendra Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions imposed on February 14 by Washington bar Lt. gen. Silva and his family members from entering the United States.

Lt. Gen. Silva’s appointment as Army commander in August 2019 drew sharp criticism from the United States and the United Nations.

Lt. Gen. Silva is credited with leading an Army division against Tamil Tiger rebels in the final phases of the island nation’s 26-year-long brutal civil war, which ended in 2009.

His victory, however, was highly controversial. Thousands of civilians were killed in the last phases of the armed conflict, including in areas declared by the government to be a ‘no fire zone’, which came under sustained Army shelling, including hospitals.

A United Nations panel has accused Lt. Gen. Silva’s division of suspected extrajudicial executions of unarmed rebels in the final week of the war and systematic torture of people in custody.

Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders narrowly won the New Hampshire vote on Tuesday, establishing his position as the candidate of choice of the progressive wing of the Democratic party. The vote was mostly split between Pete Buttigieg, who came a close second, followed by moderate Amy Klobuchar.

Both former Vice-President Joseph R. Biden and progressive Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had a bad night.

Mr Sanders got 25.8% of the vote followed by Mr. Buttigieg, 38, at 24.4% with 89% of the vote counted. Each of these candidates had won 9 delegates (officials who will vote for them in the nominating convention in August). Ms. Klobuchar was at 19.8%. Ms Warren, who came in at 9.3%, and Mr. Biden, who won 8.4% of the vote, failed to secure any delegates.

“Let me say tonight, that this victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” Mr. Sanders told jubilant supporters on Tuesday night. Mr. Sanders offered his “appreciation” and “respect” for his fellow Democrat candidates and said Democrats would unite together to defeat Mr. Trump.

Mr. Sanders, who at 78, who is more than twice Mr. Buttigieg’s age (38), said he was putting together a “ multi-generational, multi-racial, political movement.” He also made a veiled reference to Mr. Buttigieg accepting contribution from wealthy donors.

Speaking to his supporters at the end of the day, Mr. Buttigieg made a pointed reference to independents and “newly former Republicans”, a term he has used before.

“So many of you turned out. Die hard Democrats, independents unwilling to stay on the sidelines and even some newly former Republicans, ready to vote for something new,” he said. “Ready to vote for a politics defined by how many we call in, instead of who we push out.”

Once again, he suggested Mr. Sanders’s choices of “revolution or status quo” were untenable for most voters faced with a divisive incumbent in the White House.

Ms. Klobuchar, who did better than in Iowa splitting the moderate vote with Mr. Buttigieg, also made a pitch to the middle at her speech on Tuesday night.

Worst nightmare

“Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is that the people in the middle, the people who have had enough of the name-calling and the mudslinging have someone to vote for in November,” Ms. Klobuchar said.

Entrepreneur and Asian American candidate, Andrew Yang, announced that he was dropping out of the race after Tuesday’s performance. Mr Yang’s signature policy was a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for every American.

“While there is great work left to be done, you know I am the math guy, and it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” Mr. Yang told the “Yang Gang” — his supporters, adding that he did not want to accept donations for a race that could not be won.

Ms. Warren has said she would remain in the race. “Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started,” she told supporters.

On the Republican side, President Trump easily won New Hampshire’s primary. He was facing token opposition from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. With most of the vote in, Mr. Trump’s vote share was approaching the modern historical high for an incumbent President, 86.43% set by Ronald Reagan in 1984.

New Zealand pace spearhead Trent Boult has recovered from a broken hand to be included in the 13-player squad to face India in the two-test series, as selectors swung the axe following the dismal tour of Australia.

Opener Jeet Raval, spin-bowling all-rounder Mitchell Santer and paceman Matt Henry have all been jettisoned in the wake of the Black Caps’ 3-0 test series whitewash by Australia.

Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel has been recalled for his first test since the tour of Sri Lanka last August, while Auckland paceman Kyle Jamieson has been included in place of the injured Lockie Ferguson.

Left-armer Boult broke his right hand in the Boxing Day test against Australia in December but is fit for the first test starting at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Friday.

"It’s terrific to have Trent back with us and we’re looking forward to the energy and experience he adds to the group alongside his obvious class with the ball in hand," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said in a team release on Monday.

Jamieson earns his place after promising displays in the two one-day internationals against India.

The trusted trio of Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner are likely to form New Zealand’s pace unit but Stead suggested Jamieson was under consideration for the series-opener.

"Kyle will offer us a point of difference with the bounce he could extract on what is traditionally a good surface in Wellington," he said.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Blundell, who replaced the struggling Raval during the Australia series, will remain at the top of the order after scoring a valiant 121 in the Melbourne Test.

 

Chennaiyin FC continued their remarkable run in the Indian Super League with a 3-1 win over ATK at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Sunday.

Goals from Rafael Crivellaro (7') and Andre Schembri (39') gave them a 2-0 lead before Roy Krishna pulled one back with his 14th goal of the season (40'). A late goal from Nerijus Valskis (90+4') sealed full points for the visitors.

The three points see Chennaiyin boost their play-off chances and are now just a point behind Mumbai City FC who are fourth on the table. ATK, meanwhile, have seen their chances of landing the top spot take a huge beating. They are now three points behind league leaders FC Goa with only a match left for the league stage to conclude.

The game got off to a very energetic start with both sides showing plenty of intent. But it was the away side who looked more threatening and duly took the lead after a wonderful run by Crivellaro.

Eli Sabia won the ball in midfield from Krishna and set Crivellaro on his way in the seventh minute. He marauded past a host of ATK defenders and placed a cool finish into the bottom corner to leave the home fans stunned.

There were further chances for Chennaiyin to take the lead with Edwin Vanspaul almost forcing an own goal from Sumit Rathi before stinging the palms of ATK goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya with a shot just the past the half an hour mark.

ATK started to find a lot of joy down the right-wing with Prabir Das sending in a few dangerous deliveries. But it was Chennaiyin who scored the next goal. Bhattacharya came out to collect a corner and missed it altogether, allowing Schembri to direct a header into an empty net.

 

IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad released their full schedule for the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Saturday. The Hyderabad based franchise will play their IPL 2020 opener on April 1 against Mumbai Indians at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium.

Overall, SRH is going to play 14 matches in IPL 2020 with their last group match scheduled against Kolkata Knight Riders on May 15 at the Eden Gardens. However, there is no official confirmation on the complete schedule of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL)

Sunrisers Hyderabad, which has won the IPL once and qualified for the playoffs five times, retained most of its squad including youngsters Abhishek Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed, T Natarajan, Sandeep Sharma. SRH roped in some promising youngsters in the ranks during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 auction last week. The Kane Williamson-led side got two strong uncapped Indian youngsters to bolster the batting. They were joined by foreigners Mitchell Marsh and Fabian Allen to bring more depth.

SRH managed to get together a talent pool that is enough to decimate any bowling attack that they play against in the IPL auctions. With a solid core at the top, assisted by a sturdy and sensible middle-order and followed by a series of big-hitting batsmen, they have a line-up that any team would drool on.

The Indian team faced a tough initiation into the red-ball leg of the ongoing New Zealand tour when they were reduced to 5 for 3 and then 38 for 4 in their tour practice match vs New Zealand XI at Hamilton.

After the Indians chose to bat first, fast bowler Scott Kuggeleijn made life difficult for the visitors removing opener Prithvi Shaw for a 4-ball-duck in the first over itself. Shaw's opening partner Mayank Agarwal (1) was the next to fall getting caught by Dane Cleaver of the bowling of Kuggeleijn. Next ball, newcomer Shubman Gill also fell for a golden duck after being caught by the wicketkeeper Tim Seifert as the Indians were in deep trouble at 5/3.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who was looking solid in defence at the other end seemed to be weathering the storm with Ajinkya Rahane (18) before the latter fell to Jimmy Neesham i the 16th over with the team score reading just 38.

However, Hanuma Vihari and Pujara then decided to cut out the drives and go for blunting the attack. Showing extreme patience, Pujara completed a hard-fought fifty and has put on 96 runs for the 5th wicket till the Tea break was taken. While India lost 4 quick wickets in a tumultuous first session, Pujara-Vihari partnership ensured that they didn't lose a single wicket in the post-lunch session.

Till Tea, Pujara had played 159 balls for 53 while Vihari remained unbeaten on 39 off 118 balls. Soon after Tea, Vihari too completed his hal-century off 132 balls and brought up the 100-run stand for the 5th wicket.

Captain Virat Kohli and the likes of Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja and others are yet to bat. The match is devoid of first-class status as the teams chose to use all the players in their squads for the match.

While this is just a practice match before the proper 2-Test series starts on February 21, India would still have hoped for a better showing from their top-order batsmen. But apart from Pujara, the performances of the others would certainly not have eased the nerves of Kohli and Co. But if Kohli is an optimist he could think that it is better for the team to fail in practice than in the main series itself. That aspect has been covered today.

egendary Kapil Dev on Thursday termed the unsavoury incident involving budding Indian and Bangladeshi players after the recent ICC U-19 World Cup as "horrible", saying cricket is no more a "gentleman's game".

The 1983 World Cup-winning India captain urged the BCCI to take strong action against erring cricketers to set an example.

"Who's saying cricket is a gentleman's game? It's not the gentleman's game, it was!" said Kapil, who also relived the memories of the 1983 World Cup triumph which India won under his leadership.

Two Indians -- Akash Singh and Ravi Bishnoi -- and three Bangladeshi players -- Md Towhid Hridoy, Shamim Hossain and Rakibul Hasan -- were found guilty of breaching the ICC Code of Conduct after a few players from both the sides nearly came to blows after Bangladesh beat India by three wickets to win their maiden U-19 World Cup title.

"What happened between those young people I think it was horrible. The cricket boards should take hard steps today so that tomorrow these type of mistakes do not happen," Kapil said at an event, referring to the ugly post-match scenes in the U-19 World Cup final held last Sunday at Potchefstroom in South Africa.

"You lost the match, you have no right to go back to the ground and fight with anybody. Come back. You should give more blame to the captain, manager and the people who were sitting outside. Sometimes, if you are an 18-year-old boy, he doesn't understand. But if you're a manager, that's your responsibility to take care of the situation," he added.

Sebastian Vettel is Ferrari’s first choice to partner Charles Leclerc next year, team boss Mattia Binotto said on Tuesday, despite speculation that they want six times world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The 32-year-old German had a difficult and disappointing 2019 season, outperformed by Leclerc in the young Monegasque’s first year at Ferrari, and is out of contract at the end of 2020.

Hamilton is in a similar position with Formula One champions Mercedes, although the Briton is expected to stay, and met Ferrari chairman John Elkann last year.

Binotto told reporters at the launch of the Italian team’s new SF1000 car, however, that Vettel remained very much part of future planning even if he no longer retained clear number one status.

"Seb is our first choice at the moment," he said.

"Obviously it is something we are discussing with him and we will continue discussing, but he is certainly our first option, our preference."

Asked whether he could therefore rule out Hamilton, who can expect to become the highest-paid Formula One driver of all time if he stays at Mercedes, Binotto refused to be drawn.

"We are focused on our drivers," he said. "And we are considering Seb as our option at the moment."

Pressed on whether Hamilton might still be a fallback option’, Binotto said that was not under consideration.

Vettel, asked if he wanted to stay at Ferrari for what would be a seventh successive season, said age was certainly not a factor.

"I feel young enough. You spoke about Lewis, he’s even older," he said of the 35-year-old who can equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships this year and also beat the German’s unprecedented 91 wins.

So that’s not a limitation. So yeah, happy to keep going.

Vettel started last season as the clear number one at Ferrari, the sport’s most successful team but without a title in 12 years, only for Leclerc to take more wins, poles, podiums and points.

In December, Ferrari extended 22-year-old Leclerc’s contract to the end of 2024 a huge vote of confidence from a team that has rarely committed itself to even the greatest of drivers for so long.

The pair clashed on track, most famously with a collision in Brazil when they were warned about their behaviour, but Binotto said they would be free to race on equal terms from the start of this season.

"Last year we said Seb would have been first driver, and Charles second," he said.

"I think that after a year both have shown they can fight for the best result so they will be on the same level. Let’s say they can both fight for being ahead and that’s it. So let them race."

Google Maps has redrawn the world's borders that look different depending upon where the user is viewing them from, with the popular search engine showing Kashmir's outlines as a dotted line acknowledging "dispute" when it is seen from outside India, a leading American daily has reported.

According to the Washington Post, "the borders on Google's online maps display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region's snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute".

From Pakistan, Kashmir appears disputed while from India, it appears as a part of India, the Post report said, adding that "Google Maps changes disputed borders based on what country you search from".

Responding to the Post report, a company spokesperson said: "Google has a consistent and global policy to depict disputed regions and features fairly, showing claims made by the disputed or claiming nations on its global domain.

"This does not endorse or affirm the position taken by any side. Products that have been localised to the local domain, such as maps.google.co.in, depicts that country's position as per the mandate of the local laws".

"We're committed to providing our users with the richest, most up-to-date and accurate maps possible. We do border updates based on data from our providers as new or more accurate data becomes available from authoritative sources or geopolitical conditions change. As we did for the state of Telangana in 2014," the Google official told PTI.

According to the Post report, "From Argentina to the United Kingdom to Iran, the world's borders look different depending on where you're viewing them from. That's because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them".

Google's corporate mission is "to organise the world's information", but it also bends it to its will, the Post report said, adding that with some 80 per cent market share in mobile maps and over a billion users, Google Maps has an outsize impact on people's perception of the world.

Headquartered in California, the company's decision-making on maps is often shrouded in secrecy, even to some of those who work to shape its digital atlases every day, the Post report said.

"It is influenced not just by history and local laws, but also the shifting whims of diplomats, policymakers and its own executives," the report quoted as saying people familiar with the matter on the condition of anonymity.

Launched 15 years ago, Google Maps has become one of the most-used and recognisable products for the search engine giant, it added.

Facebook has removed two separate networks of fake accounts originating in Iran and Russia, for "engaging in foreign or government interference". 

The Russian operation, which Facebook linked to the country's military intelligence services, focused primarily on Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

The small Iranian operation used accounts and personas on Facebook and Instagram to post content about US politics and the 2020 presidential election.

Both operations attempted to directly contact politicians, public figures and journalists, a tactic used by several other information operations in the past. 

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook's security policy, said in a blog post that both operations were removed for violating the company's "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" policy, not their content. 

The social network defines the policy as "when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing".

'Intelligence operation'

The Russian network used dozens of fake personas to post pro-Kremlin and anti-Western messages on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news websites.

It focused primarily on Ukraine, but some of Russia's neighbouring countries, such as Moldova, the Baltic states and Turkey, were also targeted. A few accounts also focused on Germany and the UK, but "left little trace of online activity", according to Graphika, a social media analytics firm.

The messaging pushed by the network echoed some of the key Kremlin media talking points, including attacks on the White Helmets volunteers in Syria and pro-Western politicians in Ukraine, as well as talk of perceived Russophobia in the West.

In total, 78 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, 29 groups and four Instagram accounts have been removed. Much of their activity goes back to 2016-2018, but some of the accounts were still active at the time of the takedown.

According to Graphika, blogs formed "the backbone" of the network, with operators using fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter to target selected audiences with long-form blog posts.

Mr Gleicher explained that some of the fake accounts posed as citizen journalists and "tried to contact policymakers, journalists and other public figures".

"The operators picked their targets with care, and took pains to create realistic-looking accounts, many of which had unique profile pictures, rather than images copied from elsewhere online," Graphika said.

But at least one of the targeted individuals denies ever being in touch with the fake accounts.

Eskender Bariev, a member of a Crimean Tatar governing body which opposes the Crimea annexation, was allegedly "entrapped" by a fake account posing as a journalist into making divisive comments in a Facebook correspondence.

But Mr Bariev himself told Radio Liberty's Krym.Realii website that he had had "no correspondence in the said period of time" and that his responses to questions differed from his usual style.

Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, told the BBC that the Russian network's "overall reach was very limited", but their operators still managed "to plant some of their stories on genuine news sites in Ukraine and Moldova".

"It's a classic approach for an intelligence operation: establish a false persona, then poison the well of information," he added in a tweet.

The Iranian operation was much smaller, in terms of size and scale. Consisting of six Facebook and five Instagram accounts, the network only managed to gain 60 followers on Instagram.

Facebook said it was able to spot the network, as it demonstrated links to a much larger operation originating from Iran which it had taken down last year.   

FireEye, a US cyber-security firm which was given prior access to some of the content posted by the network, said in a blog post that personas in the network posed as US liberals and amplified content "directly in line with Iranian political interests".

The firm also spotted a network of under 40 accounts on Twitter, which in some cases showed "direct overlap" with the accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

In one case, a persona using the name "Ryan Jensen" posted the same video of an anti-war protest to Instagram and Twitter following the US assassination of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani.

The accounts on Twitter constantly replied to tweets by members of the US Congress, journalists and media outlets, often using the same hashtags.

The personas were notable for their poor use of English, and also the fact a simple search would reveal that none of them were journalists or media personalities.

"This was not a new type of activity, but it shows continuity in terms of the narrative and using commentary from authentic figures," Lee Foster, information operations intelligence analyst at FireEye, told the BBC.

"It's not surprising that this was a small operation. If you are pretending to be journalists soliciting interviews from public figures, you probably don't need hundreds of accounts."

Much like the Russian operation, the accounts "picked their targets individually and engaged them personally", Mr Nimmo said.

"There's much more to online disinformation and propaganda efforts than trolling and fake media reports. Politicians and journalists need to be aware that they're targets, and be wary."

Samsung has silently added a few interesting products in its official store page. Two of these are 10,000mAh power banks with 25W charging support and the third is a 45W dual car charger. One of the power banks supports wireless charging while the other does not. Both are listed in the same colour, ‘Silver'. The car charger, on the other hand, is black in colour and has one USB Type-A and one USB Type-C port, of which, the former supports a maximum of 15W while the latter supports 45W charging.

Another difference between the two power banks besides wireless charging support is the presence of two Type-C ports on the 25W Wireless Portable Battery. The other power bank, listed as 25W Portable Battery, has a Type-A port in place of the second Type-C port. Whether or not the Type-A port supports 25W charging is currently unknown. According to the store listing, the 25W wireless power bank is priced at $79 (roughly Rs. 5,600). None of the other products have their price listed as of now.

The standard 25W Samsung power bank (without wireless charging) has overcurrent and overvoltage protection. You can also charge a phone and the power bank itself at the same time with pass through charging. It is also compatible with power delivery (PD) and Quick Charge standards up to 25W.

Both Samsung power banks have a button and what seem to be LED indicators on one of the sides. As of now, there are no product details for the 25W wireless Samsung power bank on the official store page.

Coming to the 45W car charger, there are only two Samsung phones, the Galaxy Note10+ and the newly released Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, which support 45W fast charging. It connects to the standard 12V socket in your car and two people can charge their phones simultaneously.

China has launched an app that allows people to check whether they have been at risk of catching the coronavirus.

The 'close contact detector' tells users if they have been near a person who has been confirmed or suspected of having the virus.

People identified as being at risk are advised to stay at home and inform local health authorities.

The technology shines a light on the Chinese government's close surveillance of its population.

To make an inquiry users scan a Quick Response (QR) code on their smartphones using apps like the payment service Alipay or social media platform WeChat.

Once the new app is registered with a phone number, users are asked to enter their name and ID number. Every registered phone number can then be used to check the status of up to three ID numbers.

The app was jointly developed by government departments and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and supported by data from health and transport authorities, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

It is widely known that the Chinese government conducts high levels of surveillance on its citizens but experts in the field suggest, in this case at least, it will not be seen as controversial within the country.

Hong Kong-based technology lawyer at the law firm DLA Piper Carolyn Bigg told the BBC: "In China, and across Asia, data is not seen as something to be locked down, it's something that can be used. Provided it's done in a transparent way, with consent where needed."

"From a Chinese perspective this is a really useful service for people... It's a really powerful tool that really shows the power of data being used for good," she added.

The Chinese government defines 'close contact' as coming near to, with no effective protection, confirmed, suspected or mild cases of the coronavirus while the person was ill, even if they were showing no symptoms at the time.

'Close contact' covers:

  • People who work closely together, share a classroom, or live in the same home
  • Medical staff, family members or other people who have been in close contact with patients and their caregivers
  • Passengers and crew who have been on planes, trains and other forms of transport with an infected person

For example, all air passengers within three rows of an infected person, as well as cabin staff, are seen as being in close contact, while other passengers would be recorded as having general contact.

When it comes to air-conditioned trains, all passengers and crew members in the same carriage are regarded as being in close contact.

Regulator Ofcom is set to be given the power to make tech firms responsible for protecting people from harmful content such as violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse, the government will confirm on Wednesday.

Platforms will need to ensure that illegal content is removed quickly.

They will also be expected to "minimise the risks" of it appearing at all.

However it is not yet known what penalties Ofcom will be able to impose on those firms who fail to comply.

"There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that's changing," said Digital Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan.

"I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming."

New powers

Communication watchdog Ofcom already regulates television and radio broadcasters, including the BBC, and deals with complaints about them.

This is the government's first response to the Online Harms consultation it carried out in the UK in 2019, which received 2,500 replies.

The new rules will apply to firms hosting user-generated content, including comments, forums and video-sharing - that is likely to include Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

The intention is that government sets the direction of the policy but gives Ofcom the freedom to draw up and adapt the details. By doing this, the watchdog should have the ability to tackle new online threats as they emerge without the need for further legislation.

A full response will be published in the Spring.

Children's charity the NSPCC welcomed the news.

"Too many times social media companies have said: 'We don't like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we'll do something, leave it to us,'" said chief executive Peter Wanless.

"Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.

"Statutory regulation is essential."

Image caption Seyi Akiwowo set up the campaign group Glitch after experiencing online harassment.

Seyi Akiwowo set up the online abuse awareness group Glitch after experiencing sexist and racist harassment online after a video of her giving a talk in her role as a councillor was posted on a neo-Nazi forum.

"When I first suffered abuse the response of the tech companies was below [what I'd hoped]," she said.

"I am excited by the Online Harms Bill - it places the duty of care on these multi-billion pound tech companies."

Global regulation

In many countries, social media platforms are permitted to regulate themselves, as long as they adhere to local laws on illegal material.

Germany introduced the NetzDG Law in 2018, which states that social media platforms with more than two million registered German users have to review and remove illegal content within 24 hours of being posted or face fines of up to €5m (£4.2m).

Australia passed the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act in April 2019, introducing criminal penalties for social media companies, possible jail sentences for tech executives for up to three years and financial penalties worth up to 10% of a company's global turnover.

China blocks many western tech giants including Twitter, Google and Facebook, and the state monitors Chinese social apps for politically sensitive content.

Roughly 147 million people had information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver's license data, compromised by the hack.

The United States has charged four Chinese military hackers in the 2017 breach of the Equifax credit reporting agency that affected nearly 150 million American citizens, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday.

"This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people," Barr said in announcing the indictments of four members of the Chinese Liberation Army in connection with one of the largest data breaches in US history.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The announcement is the latest in an aggressive campaign by American authorities to root out Chinese espionage operations in the United States. Since turning the spotlight on China in 2018, the US has snared a growing group of Chinese government officials, business people, and academics pursuing American secrets.

Roughly 147 million people had information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver's license data, compromised by the Equifax breach.

The hackers spent weeks in the Equifax system, breaking into computer networks, stealing company secrets and personal data. The hackers routed traffic through approximately 34 servers located in nearly 20 countries to obfuscate their true location.

Equifax Chief Executive Mark Begor said the company was grateful for the Justice Department investigation.

"It is reassuring that our federal law enforcement agencies treat cybercrime – especially state-sponsored crime – with the seriousness it deserves," he said in a statement.

US officials have said Chinese hackers were behind a massive breach at the Office of Personnel Management, which came to light in 2015 and involved the compromise of sensitive personal data submitted by applicants for US government security clearances.

That breach exposed the names, Social Security numbers and addresses of more than 22 million current and former US federal employees and contractors, as well as 5.6 million fingerprints.

Chinese hackers are similarly suspected of being behind a massive breach at hotel group Marriott International.

The Equifax hack fits into a pattern of past Chinese cyber-attacks, said Michael Daniel, a former White House cyber-security coordinator, because the stolen data can support other spying efforts.

"It's primary utility would be in developing potential targets for approach by intelligence operatives or feeding artificial intelligence [and] machine learning tools," said Daniel, who currently serves as president of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a cyber-security information sharing group.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged tougher action to counter Chinese hacking.

"The Chinese Communist Party will leave no stone unturned in its effort to steal and exploit American data. These indictments are good news, but we've got to do more to protect Americans' data from Chinese Communist Party influence operations," he said in a statement.

The Equifax data breach, because it was so large and involved so much sensitive financial information on so many Americans, had far-reaching implications for Equifax and the consumer credit industry.

The company agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle claims it broke the law during the data breach and to repay harmed consumers.

The scandal sent the company into turmoil, leading to the exit of its then-CEO, Richard Smith, and multiple congressional hearings as the company's slowness to disclose the breach and security practices were challenged by lawmakers.

Policymakers and consumer groups have questioned how private companies could amass so much personal data, sparking efforts to bolster consumers' ability to control their information. Both the Senate Banking and House of Representatives Financial Services Committees are considering legislation that would require companies to better protect consumer data.

Top Stories

Grid List

New Delhi: As the world continues to take steps to tackle COVID-19 amid death of 1,665 patients in China, Congress leader Manish Tiwari here on Sunday asked was coronavirus a bio-weapon created by the communist giant.

Tiwari, a former Information and Broadcasting Minister, posted a picture of cover and a page from American author Dean Koontz's book 'The Eyes of Darkness' and tweeted: "Is coranavirus a biological weapon developed by the Chinese called Wuhan-400? This book was published in 1981. Do read the excerpt."

Tiwari highlighted a paragraph that read: "They call the stuff 'Wuhan-400' because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four hundredth viable strain of man-made micro-organisms created at that centre."The virus has spread to around 30 countries, with China accounting for around 99 per cent of the total cases reported.

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One of the most bankable actors of M-Town, Prithviraj Sukumaran is doling out happy vibes in his latest picture. The actor, who has recently stepped into filmmaking with ‘Lucifer’, seems to be a bit more joyous these days. In his latest social media post, Prithviraj Sukumaran is seen showing off his million-dollar smile and there’s a reason behind that smile. In the picture, Prithviraj Sukumaran is accompanied by actor-scenarist Murali Gopi, the same person who has crafted the script for ‘Lucifer’. And Murali is the one because of whom there’s a twinkle in Prithviraj’s eyes! The picture was taken right after the duo met up at the writer’s home to discuss the script of the movie’s sequel. ‘Empuraan’, the sequel to ‘Lucifer’, is currently under pre-production. Prithviraj looks excited as he was awestruck hearing about the canvas of ‘Empuraan’ from the scriptwriter.

Posting the picture, Prithviraj wrote, “At the writer’s den! My eyes are so wide coz I’m thinking how in the world am I going to shoot what he’s just told me! ???? #L2.”

Released last year, 'Lucifer' emerged as one of the biggest blockbusters in M-Town.

 


The upcoming movie, 'Empuraan', will see actor Mohanlal essaying the lead. We also hear that Prithviraj, who appeared in a cameo in its prequel, will have more screen space in the upcoming movie. The movie will be expensive than its sequel and the makers are planning a trilogy. Antony Perumbavoor of Aashirvad cinemas will be bankrolling the project. And as per the sources, ‘Empuraan’ will go on floors by the end of the year.

 

 

 


Meanwhile, Prithviraj was last seen in ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’. The movie, which was released a week ago, is receiving a positive response and is running successfully in the cinemas.

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