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‘International Network’ of Islamic Extremists Believed Responsible for Sri Lanka Church Bombings

‘International Network’ of Islamic Extremists Believed Responsible for Sri Lanka Church BombingsSri Lankan authorities believe a local Islamist militant group, assisted by an “international network” of sympathizers, carried out the string of church and hotel bombings that left 290 people dead and at least 500 injured on Sunday morning.While they have not yet announced the responsible party, the authorities believe members of a local group known as National Thowheed Jamath carried out a total of eight bombings across the country on Sunday.All of the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but they were assisted by foreign sympathizers, officials announced Monday.“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”Suicide bombers detonated improvised explosive devices filled with small metal projectiles inside of three Catholic churches during Easter services. They also detonated bombs in three hotels in the nation's capital, Colombo. Two additional explosions occurred during police raids on addresses in the capital.Twenty-four people have been arrested in connection with the attacks and 87 detonator devices have been recovered from a local bus stop.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that several Americans were killed in the bombings.“Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security,” Pompeo said.“We can confirm that several U.S. citizens were among those killed,” he added. “The U.S. Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.”Government officials said Sunday that they were recently warned by a foreign government that the National Thowheed Jamath posed an imminent threat but failed to take the appropriate precautions. The country is now in a state-of-emergency and social media platforms have been temporarily blocked.The bombings represent a return to the sectarian violence that ravaged the small island nation until 2009 when the government reached a peace deal with the the Tamil Tigers, a Tamil-speaking militant group known for pioneering the use of suicide bombings in the 1990's.




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 8:22 AM

FBI arrests leader of armed group stopping migrants in New Mexico

FBI arrests leader of armed group stopping migrants in New MexicoThe arrest came two days after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused the group of illegally detaining migrants and New Mexico's Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered an investigation. Hopkins, 69, also known as Johnny Horton, was arrested in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on a federal complaint charging him with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. "We're not worried about it, he's going to be cleared," said Jim Benvie, a spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), blaming his arrest on political pressure from Lujan Grisham.




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 10:40 AM

Tiger attacks zookeeper in front of visitors: 'He is a wild animal and was acting on instinct'

Tiger attacks zookeeper in front of visitors: 'He is a wild animal and was acting on instinct'A beautiful spring morning at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas turned tragic when a male Sumatran tiger attacked a keeper, inflicting wounds that sent her to a hospital.Although keepers are never supposed to be in the same space as the tigers, they found themselves together in the outdoor habitat that morning for reasons under investigation."There's some sort of error that occurred here," said Brendan Wiley, the zoo's director, told a news conference. He confirmed that several visitors to the zoo had witnessed the attack.The employee is the zoo's primary tiger keeper and had worked there for years, according to Mr Wiley, who noted that part of her job is to clean and maintain the enclosure. He said that the keeper was in stable condition and that the zoo was reviewing its safety protocols.The zookeeper, whom Mr Wiley declined to name, citing her family's need for privacy, suffered "lacerations and punctures" to the back of the head, neck, back and arm. She was awake and alert when she was transported to a hospital.The attack occurred about 9:15 am and the zoo's safety protocols immediately went into effect, Mr Wiley said. A radio call alerted the staff that there was an emergency, and the zoo called 911. Nearby staff members responded to the scene to secure the tigers, and an official made the decision to temporarily close the zoo. A firearms response team also was dispatched to the tiger exhibit, but zookeepers had successfully lured the tiger away by the time it arrived."Some of our staff witnessed some things that you hope you go through a career without witnessing," Mr Wiley said.The zoo has two adult Sumatran tigers: Jingga, a female, and Sanjiv, who was brought to the zoo in August 2017. Shanna Simpson, animal care supervisor, told the Topeka Capital-Journal then that Sanjiv "is the sweetest cat I have ever met."In October, Jingga gave birth to four cubs - three males and one female.The Topeka Zoo allowed Jingga and her cubs back into their enclosures Saturday afternoon, but Sanjiv would remain in holding overnight, Mr Wiley said.City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said in an email that "nothing will happen to the tiger; he is a wild animal and was acting on instinct."Sanjiv is too valuable to conservation efforts to euthanise. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, and only about 400 remain in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They are native to Indonesia, where deforestation, human encroachment and poaching have whittled their numbers to the brink of extinction.Some zoos participate in Sumatran tiger conservation programs designed to save the species, but these efforts are not always successful. In February, a male tiger brought to the London Zoo to mate attacked and killed its prospective female partner.The Washington Post




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 4:13 AM

Elizabeth Warren Proposes Eliminating Student Debt for Millions of Americans

Elizabeth Warren Proposes Eliminating Student Debt for Millions of AmericansThe proposal would create a one-time cost of $640 billion




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 8:32 AM

How 11 People Are Trying to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest Election

How 11 People Are Trying to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest ElectionOne of the operations most vital to Facebook Inc. at this moment is a world away from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and in more ways than one. This is Boom Live, one of seven tiny fact-checking firms at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to rebuild some of its credibility during India’s elections. Based on the early tallies, more than 60 percent of India’s 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots between now and May 19, as the center-left Congress Party tries to seize power from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 3:20 AM

Samsung is delaying its Galaxy Fold launch so people don’t end up with $2,000 paperweights

Samsung is delaying its Galaxy Fold launch so people don’t end up with $2,000 paperweightsSamsung's foldable smartphone has been making lots of headlines over the past week, and for all the wrong reasons. After several prominent technology blogs revealed that their review units broke within days (and sometimes hours) of use, it quickly became clear that the nearly $2,000 phone isn't ready for prime time just yet. Now, a new report from The Wall Street Journal suggests Samsung is poised to delay the phone's launch for at least another month.The outlet cites unnamed sources within Samsung who claim that the high-profile device failures have forced the company to rethink its launch plans. Most of the reviews have been decidedly lukewarm, especially when considering the phone's incredibly high price point, and very few reviewers are recommending that anyone even consider taking the leap.One particular point of emphasis is on the device's built-in screen protector that is not designed to be removed, but which several early reviewers attempted to pull off anyway. Many smartphones come with a removable layer of film on the display which is typically removed within seconds of opening the box. The Fold is different, and the plastic layer is apparently a vital component of the display.Some of the journalists who spoke openly about their broken devices admitted that they removed that plastic without knowing what it was, while others claim they never touched it but that their phone screens died within days anyway.Samsung devotees have been quick to rush to the company's defense, noting that this is a low-production device and essentially a first-run attempt at an entirely new type of smartphone. That's true, but it's also $2,000 and probably shouldn't die within two days. It's clear that Samsung will need to do something to mitigate the number of device failures within days of launch.This report of a planned launch delay comes just hours after Samsung began cancelling launch events in China and elsewhere, citing issues with the venues rather than a problem with the device or a delay that may be in the works. Samsung has yet to confirm the delay, and sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal did not reveal a potential alternative launch date.




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 11:21 AM

Demoted and sidelined: Google walkout organizers say company retaliated

Demoted and sidelined: Google walkout organizers say company retaliatedStaff who organized mass protests say in internal letter their roles were changed after November 2018 demonstration Workers protest against Google on 1 November 2019 in Mountain View, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP They helped to organize an unprecedented global protest that saw tens of thousands of Google employees walk off the job in November 2018. Now two Google employees, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, are alleging that Google is retaliating against them and other employee activists. “Google has a culture of retaliation, which too often works to silence women, people of color, and gender minorities,” reads a letter from Whittaker, Stapleton and 10 other employees that was published internally on Monday and seen by the Guardian. “Retaliation isn’t always obvious. It’s often confusing and drawn out, consisting of icy conversations, gaslighting, project cancellations, transition rejections, or demotions. Behavior that tells someone the problem isn’t that they stood up to the company, it’s that they’re not good enough and don’t belong.” Stapleton, a nearly 12-year veteran at Google, wrote that two months after the walkout, she was demoted, had a previously approved project cancelled, and was “told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick”. “Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walked back my demotion, at least on paper,” she wrote. “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.” Whittaker, who co-founded the AI Now Institute, wrote that after Google decided to scrap its AI ethics council, she was told that her “role would be changed dramatically”. “I’m told that to remain at the company, I will have to abandon my work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute,” she wrote. Neither Whittaker nor Stapleton responded immediately to a request for comment. The letter was first reported by Wired. A Google spokeswoman said that the company has already investigated these cases and determined there was no retaliation. “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.” Google employees have been at the forefront of a wave of tech worker activism that has swept the industry over the past year. Employee-organized protests have taken aim both at the company’s business decisions – such as its work for a Department of Defense drone project or plans to build a censored search engine for China – and its treatment of employees and contractors. The November walkout was sparked by a New York Times report that revealed that a former executive, Andy Rubin, had received a $90m severance package despite being forced out over an allegation that he had forced a female employee to perform oral sex. The report unleashed a flood of anger and frustration among Google employees who had faced harassment or discrimination. In Monday’s letter, the organizers say that they “collected over 350 stories” during the walkout, and discovered a “sad pattern”: “People who stand up and report discrimination, abuse, and unethical conduct are punished, sidelined, and pushed out. Perpetrators often go unimpeded, or are even rewarded.” The organizers are planning to host a Retaliation Town Hall for workers on Friday. They have reserved conference rooms and plan to live stream the discussion internally. Have you experienced retaliation for workplace activism in the tech industry? Contact the author: julia.wong@theguardian.com or julia.carrie.wong@protonmail.com




POSTED APRIL 22, 2019 6:25 PM

Twitter shares lift off as profits soar; Trump weighs in

Twitter shares lift off as profits soar; Trump weighs inTwitter shares flew higher Tuesday after a surprisingly robust quarterly report, which sparked a fresh tirade from President Donald Trump over his claims of unfair treatment by social media. The first-quarter report showed a profit of $191 million, compared with $61 million a year earlier, while revenues increased 18 percent to $787 million for the short messaging platform. Twitter shares soared 15.6 percent to close at a nine-month high of $39.76 after the update from the short messaging platform, showing gains in advertising revenue and some signs that its user base is growing.




POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 8:33 PM

How Does the Geely Geometry A Measure Up to the Tesla Model 3?

How Does the Geely Geometry A Measure Up to the Tesla Model 3?Is the Chinese automaker capable of making a Tesla Model 3 fighter? We do the math.




POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 10:40 AM

Sri Lanka 'bombing mastermind' named as Moulvi Zahran Hashim

Sri Lanka 'bombing mastermind' named as Moulvi Zahran HashimSri Lankan intelligence has named the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, an extremist local cleric who incited his followers to violence with fiery sermons on his social media channels. The revelation comes after senior government officials accused the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) a little-known group promoting Islamist terrorist ideology, as the perpetrators of the horrific suicide bombings which have now killed 310 people, including eight British citizens. India’s CNN News 18 channel first reported the possible involvement of Hashim in the massacre, claiming that Indian intelligence sources had indicated to the Sri Lankans that he was planning to attack the Indian High Commission in Colombo in early April. An initial probe into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people shows it was "retaliation for Christchurch," the country's deputy defence minister said Tuesday. "The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament. Read more | Sri Lanka attacks Over the last two years, Hashim gained thousands of followers and attracted the attention of jihad experts for his incendiary preaching on a pro-Islamic State Sri Lankan Facebook account, known as ‘Al-Ghuraba’ media, and on YouTube. Robert Postings, a writer and researcher on the Islamic State, said on his Twitter account that he had first encountered Hashim in late 2017 when the “self-styled” preachers was disseminating pro-Isil propaganda on Facebook. YouTube videos of the Islamist who is now the face of one of the worst terrorist atrocities since 9/11 shows him railing against all non-believers, including Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and declaring that only Muslims are fit to rule. The backdrop to his sermons included images of the burning Twin Towers. Three days after the attack, there have been no claims of reponsibility by Islamic State, the NTJ, or any other group for the series of six devastating bombings across three hotels and three churches on Sunday. There have also been conflicting reports about the fate of Hashim, with claims circulating that he was one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attack and counter-claims that he may be on the run in the neighbouring Maldives islands. Although known primarily as a luxury honeymoon destination, the Maldives also supplied hundreds of radicalised fighters to Isil’s failed attempts to set up an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. Hashim himself was known among the Muslim community as a divisive figure who was said to have dropped out of his seminary in India either because of ideological differences or over money worries. He is believed to have clashed with fellow clerics and encouraged his followers to attack rival mosques. Hilmy Ahamed, the vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told The Telegraph he had been trying to warn officials about Hashim’s extremism for three years after it emerged that he was radicalisng young pupils in his Koran classes. "We were very concerned that this guy was preaching hate on social media and uploading a lot of videos,” he said. Mr Ahamed said Hashim continued to shuttle between India and Sri Lanka, travelling by fishing boat to avoid detection. Hashim's group began as an offshoot of the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaath, which has repeatedly fractured due to internal disputes. People attend burial ritual of the victims of multiple terror attacks during a funeral ceremony in Negomboo Credit: Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The group could not have carried out the attack without external help, added Mr Ahamed. One working theory among regional security experts is that returning fighters could have provided training and logistics to the marginal NTJ which, although a cheerleader of global jihad, had only been known previously for defacing Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka. In January, police in Puttalam, some 100 miles north of Colombo, raided a coconut plantation, where they discovered 100kg of C4 explosives, 100 detonators, 75kg of ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate and six 20 litre cans of nitric acid.   Reports at the time did not name the group involved but said the site may be linked to a newly emerging militant group that was tied to the vandalising of Buddhist statues. Suspects were arrested but later released on bail. Three months later, Sri Lankan security agencies received a tip-off from Indian and US intelligence agencies that the NTJ may be preparing to carry out terrorist acts against churches, but the crucial information was not passed to country’s prime minister. Since the attacks, the Sri Lankan government has apologised for failing to act on the intelligence brief.




POSTED APRIL 23, 2019 10:38 AM

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