A month after imposing a censorship on Twitter, the ultra conservative gulf kingdom Saudi Arabia has threatened to ban instant messaging applications like Skype and WhatsApp citing failure to control them as the reason.”The Communications and Information Technology Commission has requested companies operating the applications to meet the regulatory requirements to avoid their suspension in the kingdom,” sources told Saudi news website Sabq.”The commission is now coordinating with the application operators on the issue.”According to Russia Today, the Saudi Arabian government had given just a week’s time to the companies to deal with the situation and decide on technical measures.The sources said the decision of banning instant messaging applications was “in accordance with regulatory procedures.”Saudi-owned television news channel Al Arabiya reported that instant messaging applications like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber face the risk of being banned.Recently, Saudi Arabia Minister for Media and Culture Abdel Aziz Khoga had asked citizens to abide by the government’s decision of banning Twitter.”People have to take care of what they are writing on Twitter,” the minister said.”It’s getting harder to observe around three million people subscribing to the social network in the kingdom.”Earlier, the government had banned the usage of Blackberry Phones stating that the sending and receiving of message was encrypting communications and was causing difficulty in monitoring them which in turn affected the country’s efforts to fight terrorism and crime.Here are some countries that have completely banned social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube:
AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury. File PhotoBikalpa Dhara Bangladesh (BDB) president AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury suffered a mild stroke early Friday, reports UNB.“Badruddoza Chowdhury suffered a minor stroke and he was advised to take a two-week full bed rest by his daughter and personal physician Shaila Sharmin Chowdhury,” said B Chowdhury’s press secretary Jahangir Alam.The BDB chief is now under best rest at his residence under the supervision of Shaila Sharmin, he said.Badruddoza Chowdhury urged the countrymen to pray for his early recovery, Jahangir Alam added.
A surprise election victory for fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr appears to have shaken Iraq’s political landscape at the expense of both the Iranian and American influence in the country.The populist Shiite preacher, a firebrand who once battled US troops and now opposes Tehran, is looking to cobble together a broad technocrat coalition tasked with rooting out Iraq’s endemic corruption.But can he really sideline powerful foreign players and domestic rivals to take control?Playing by the rules?While Sadr’s unlikely Marching Towards Reform alliance with Iraq’s communists looks on course to be the biggest group in parliament — it faces many obstacles.The movement has pitched itself as a challenge to Iraq’s entrenched elite and ridden popular protests over graft to drum up support.Under article 76 of Iraq’s constitution, the right to form a government falls to the political bloc with the most seats. Sadr — who has ruled himself out of becoming PM — should be the key powerbroker and is already eyeing a coalition of around a dozen groups to reach a majority.However, with months of wrangling expected ahead, it remains far from certain that he will get the chance to realise his ambitions.At elections in 2010, the Iraqi National Movement of Ayad Allawi — loathed by Iran — scooped 91 seats to become the biggest group in parliament.But after much manoeuvring, Allawi was eventually bested by Nuri al-Maliki, as Tehran helped engineer a union between two leading Shiite blocs to give him more seats.Cutting foreign influence?Strengthened by his apparent victory in Saturday’s polls, black-turbaned Sadr could now push his nationalist agenda that has seen him pledge to curb foreign meddling in Iraq.After the 2003 invasion, his militia battled US forces. He is now calling for the latest deployment of American troops to leave following last year’s defeat of the Islamic State group.While his family of religious scholars historically has close ties with the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran and he spent years living there, Sadr has now fallen out with Tehran and wants its overbearing influence slashed.In a sign that he is angling to chart a different course, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia last year, as Tehran’s rival seeks to play a greater role in Iraq.Sadr faces a difficult act to herd together enough groups from across Iraq’s fragmented political spectrum to form a government.He has extended a hand to a wide spread of parties — including the bloc of current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that lies in third place according to latest results.Whether he can convince Abadi — a key member of the establishment Dawa party that has dominated Iraq for years — to turn his back on his former stablemates and team up remains a major question.Abadi — who came to power in 2014 as IS rampaged across Iraq — has balanced off the US and Iran during his time at the helm. On Tuesday, the prime minister called Sadr to congratulate him for the election victory, the cleric’s office said.Sadr for now appears to be ruling out an alliance with two other powerful forces inside Iraq: the Iran-backed Conquest Alliance of former anti-IS paramilitary fighters and ex-premier Maliki.Iran manoeuvres?Any attempt to form a government that would threaten the influence Iran has built up in the 15 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein looks certain to face opposition from Tehran.Iraq’s larger neighbour to the east has major leverage over many of the top Shiite politicians and it already seems like it may be looking to block Sadr’s path to power.Political sources told AFP that two meetings have been held under Iranian guidance to bring together several political blocs.According to a participant, the aim has been to unite Abadi and Maliki — bitter foes despite coming from the same Dawa party — alongside the Conquest Alliance, which looks set to come second in the election.The initiative could trump Sadr’s own coalition-building efforts but it risks angering the cleric’s supporters who are yearning for a clampdown on corruption among establishment figures.
A Border Security Force (BSF) official registers the names of Rohingya Muslims after they were detained while crossing the India-Bangladesh border from Bangladesh, at Raimura village on the outskirts of Agartala, on 22 January 2019. — Photo: ReutersIndian police on Tuesday arrested 31 Rohingya Muslims stranded on the border after they were denied entry into Bangladesh and border officials failed to agree on what to do with members of the community fleeing a crackdown in India.India’s Hindu nationalist government regards the Rohingya as illegal aliens and a security risk, and has ordered that tens of thousands of them who live in scattered settlements and slums around the country be identified and repatriated.The stranded Rohingya, including women and children, had been stuck in no-man’s land on Bangladesh’s border with India since Friday. Two rounds of talks between border officials failed to find a solution.“We have arrested them under the Foreigners Act on charges of entering India without valid travel documents,” said Ajay Kumar Das, a police official in the northeast state of Tripura that borders Bangladesh.Hundreds of thousands of members of mostly Buddhist Myanmar’s Rohingya community have left their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State over the decades, most fleeing military crackdowns and discrimination.Many have sought shelter in Bangladesh – where nearly one million live – but others have ended up in India, Southeast Asia and beyond.The 31 had been living in Kashmir and some of them carried identity cards issued by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.The UNHCR has issued about 16,500 Rohingya in India with identity cards that it says can help “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation.” India does not recognize the cards.India’s deportation of seven Rohingya men to Myanmar in October raised fears in the community of a wider crackdown and prompted hundreds of Rohingya families to leave India for Bangladesh.Indian police arrested another group of 30 Rohingya on Monday in the northeastern state of Assam, where they had moved after living for six years in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state.Members of the group said they were looking for work after losing their jobs in Kashmir, police said.“The arrests were made during a routine check by police and after interrogation we found they are all from Myanmar,” said Imon Saikia, a police official in the city of Karimganj where the group was arrested.
Share Brien Straw | Houston Public MediaHarris County Sheriff Ed GonzalezHarris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Monday a $4.4-million in grants from the Texas Governor’s Office to assist victims of violent crime and combat sex traffickers. The money will also help change the way prosecutors address the problem.About one-million will be used to go after sex traffickers, while the remaining funds will be used to assist victims of violent crimes. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is putting those in the sex trafficking business on notice. “To all the offenders and predators out there, we’re going to continue to increase our resources, continue to build our collective efforts. And in Harris County we’re going to send a strong message, if you haven’t been caught yet, you will be caught. It’s just a matter of time,” said Gonzalez.Houston leads the nation in calls to the national trafficking assistance hotline, but Andrea Sparks, Director of the Child Sex Trafficking Team for Governor Greg Abbott, is hoping the grant money will change the narrative.“Let’s make it the number one city in trauma informed response to its victims,” she said.The number of staff able to assist victims will almost double thanks to the four grants, but according to Ogg, equally important is a shift to treating the women involved, into victims.“From putting prostitutes in jail over and over and over, to now focusing on the marketplace and their buyers, and more importantly their human traffickers, it’s not revolutionary but it really is a new era,” Ogg said.
Darjeeling: With peace and tranquility returning, tourists are again making a beeline for the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills. This time there is an added attraction for the tourists visiting the Hills, as the 2nd edition of the Kalimpong Darjeeling Folk Festival is all set to be flagged off on October 26 in Kalimpong.The 3 day festival is part of the Rural Craft & Cultural Hub initiative of the department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises & Textiles (MSME&T), in collaboration with UNESCO. Video documentation of the cultural heritage of 16 Hill communities will also be released at the festival. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeThe MSME&T department has developed 10 Rural Craft Hubs in association with UNESCO, which benefit 3,000 handicraft artisans. It is also in the process of developing Rural Craft and Cultural Hubs (RCCH) across 15 districts, which would benefit an additional 12,000 rural artisans. The endeavours are aimed at strengthening grassroot level creative enterprises in the state. “The West Bengal Khadi and Village Industry Board (WBKVIB) has supported many such Hill communities in Kalimpong and Darjeeling. They will be supporting them with Folk Centres. MOUs have been inked with the communities and the process of land identification for the Folk Centres is underway. Already, 5 communities have identified or donated land,” stated Nirmalya Roy, manager of Banglanatak dot com. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killed”Video documentation of the cultural heritage of all the 16 Hill communities has also been prepared. The DVDs will be released at the festival” added Roy. “The DVDs are very special as they contain the cultural brief of the Darjeeling and Kalimpong region, covering lifestyle, food habits, costumes, scripts and other cultural elements of these communities,” said Roy. The communities include Mangar, Dhimal, Tamang, Lepcha, Rai, Khas, Bhutia, Tibetan, Limbu, Sarki, Bhujel, Newar, Gurung, Kami, Damai and Sherpa. Albaluna, an international band from Portugal, will be the star attraction of the festival. Different Hill communities will also present their unique cultures, songs and dances. “The cultural aspect of any destination is a major attraction. Such initiatives go a long way in promoting a place and people. It is a welcome move,” stated Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator.
Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday said that her government has decided to increase the allowances of ministers and MLAs in the state.Ministers will now be getting a daily allowance of Rs 3,000, up from Rs 2,000 per day, while MLAs will get Rs 2,000 a day, up from Rs 1,000. The announcement by the Chief Minister came in the wake of recommendations from different members of the state Assembly. “There have been different types of recommendations from the honourable members and the government has decided to increase the allowances of the ministers and MLAs. Finance minister Amit Mitra is not well. But we can afford this at the moment,” Banerjee announced at the state Assembly, adding that her government will have to cough up an additional expenditure of Rs 15 crore for this purpose. Also Read – Rs 13,000 crore investment to provide 2 lakh jobs: MamataThe allowances are given to MLAs and ministers’ for their presence in the Assembly, either during the session or for any other meeting. “In most of the cases, the members have to attend the Assembly on a regular basis to attend their respective committee meetings,” a senior member of the Assembly said. According to the enhancement, the MLAs will get an approximate allowance of Rs 60,000 instead of Rs 30,000 and the allowance of the ministers, including the Chief Minister, will be Rs 90,000 instead of Rs 60,000 per month. Also Read – Lightning kills 8, injures 16 in stateHowever the Opposition protested the announcement, citing disparity of allowances between the MLAs and ministers. “There should not be any difference of daily allowance between the MLAs and ministers, because all are members of this house,” Left Front leader Sujan Chakraborty said. It may be mentioned here that this is the third time the Mamata Banerjee government has decided to increase the emoluments of the MLAs and ministers. Prior to this, when the state Assembly passed the West Bengal Salaries and Allowances (Amendment) Bill, 2017, the salary of the Chief Minister was increased to Rs 27,001 from Rs 8,500. The ministers’ salary was increased to Rs 22,000 from a meagre Rs 7,500, while the salary of the ministers of state was raised to Rs 21,900 from Rs 7,300. Similarly, the salary of the MLAs was hiked to Rs 17,500 from Rs 5,000. The salary of the Leader of Opposition was also increased to Rs 22,000 from Rs 10,500. In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee came to power, the allowance of members of Assembly was increased as well.