February 14, 2019

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler freed on bail

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler freed on bail Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionMaria Ressa says the rule of law was broken when she was arrested Award-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has been freed on bail, the day after her arrest on charges of "cyber-libel" drew international condemnation. Ms Ressa is CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government. She was arrested at its headquarters on Wednesday by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation. Press freedom advocates see this as a government attempt to silence the news organisation. Ms Ressa has been accused of "cyber-libel," over a seven-year-old report on a businessman's alleged ties to a former judge. The charges - the latest in a string against her - carry a potential 12 years in prison. President Rodrigo Duterte has previously denied that charges against Ms Ressa are politically motivated, but has publically branded Rappler a "fake news outlet" and ban..
February 13, 2019

Valentine’s Day: India college row over ‘virgin tree’ worship

Valentine's Day: India college row over 'virgin tree' worship Image copyright Pinjratod Image caption Some women students say the celebration is anti-women A Valentine's Day celebration at a prestigious college in the Indian capital, Delhi, where students worship a "virgin tree" every year has run into trouble with some female students who say it's "patriarchal" and "misogynistic" and must be shelved. For decades now, male students of the Hindu College have been hosting a puja (ritualistic worship) at the tree, and balloons, colourful ribbons and condoms filled with water would be hung from its branches. Posters of the latest avatar of the goddess Damdami Mai - generally a top Bollywood actress or a model chosen by the students - would be unveiled in the morning and pinned to the tree. A male student dressed as a Hindu priest would perform religious rituals, hundreds of students would sing a hymn in praise of the "generally curvaceous goddess", prasad (food of..
February 13, 2019

Gay couples sue Japan over right to get married

Gay couples sue Japan over right to get married Image copyright Ai Nakajima Image caption Ai Nakajima and Tina Baumann are married in Germany, but Japan doesn't recognise that Thirteen same-sex couples across Japan are taking legal action on Thursday against the government, demanding the right to get married. They are suing for symbolic damages arguing that being barred from marriage violates their constitutional rights. Should the courts agree, it would mean same-sex unions will have to be permitted in future. Japan is the only G7 country that does not allow gay marriage but surveys suggest strong support for the case. The country's constitution says that "marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes" and authorities have until now always read this as not permitting same-sex marriage. But the lawyers for Thursday's plaintiffs counter that the text of the constitution was to prevent forced marriages and there isn't anything in it that explicitl..
February 13, 2019

Carlos Ghosn and Japan’s ‘hostage justice’ system

Carlos Ghosn and Japan's 'hostage justice' system Image copyright AFP Image caption Things are looking tricky for Mr Ghosn Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's former chairman, has now spent three months in jail and faces many more. Japan's former chief prosecutor was, until he unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday, his lawyer, and has declared Mr Ghosn to be a victim of "hostage justice". It is a term few outside Japan will have heard of until now, but what does it mean? Living in Japan it's easy to become complacent about crime - there is so little of it. Japan's incredibly low crime rate is often attributed to a homogeneous culture, small income gap and full employment, but it's also true to say that many people are just terrified of being arrested. I got my first inkling of why in 2014 when an artist I knew, Megumi Igarashi, was arrested for distributing "obscene material". Igarashi had made a digital scan of her own genitals, and used that model to make ..
February 13, 2019

Sri Lanka begins recruitment drive for “moral” hangmen

Sri Lanka begins recruitment drive for "moral" hangmen Image copyright AFP Image caption Inmates at Colombo jail - nearly 1,300 prisoners are on death row in Sri Lanka Sri Lanka has begun a search for two executioners with "strong moral character" amid concerns about a recent surge in drug smuggling. The job, advertised in the state-run Daily News paper, pays 36,310 rupees ($158; $203) a month. Capital punishment is legal in Sri Lanka but no executions have taken place since 1976. The country has struggled to find a permanent executioner after its last hangman resigned five years ago. The dedicated role is open to any Sri Lankan males aged 18-45 who possess "mental strength." The last hangman resigned in 2014 after seeing the gallows for the first time and going into shock. Another was hired last year but never turned up for work. Sri Lanka has nearly 1,300 people currently on death row, 48 for drug-related offences. The country's constitution recognises the freedom of individua..
February 13, 2019

Huawei: New Zealand needs us like rugby needs the All Blacks

Huawei: New Zealand needs us like rugby needs the All Blacks Image copyright Getty Images Huawei is playing on New Zealanders' love of sport with an advert it hopes will soften the rugby-mad nation's stance towards using the Chinese giant's technology. The advertisement has appeared in two major newspapers and on billboards. It read: "5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand." New Zealand is one of several nations to block the use of Huawei equipment for building a new 5G mobile phone network over security concerns. Skip Twitter post by @DreyerChina Huawei's new rugby ad in New Zealand after regulators there blocked the company from using its 5G equipment. 10 points to the marketing agency, if not the company... pic.twitter.com/5Vebxmintu — Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) February 12, 2019 Report End of Twitter post by @DreyerChina In November, New Zealand's intelligence services, followed other countries' lead, in concluding Huawei technology sho..
February 13, 2019

India Citizenship Amendment Bill dropped amid protests

India Citizenship Amendment Bill dropped amid protests Image copyright Reuters Image caption The lapsing of the bill is a major U-turn by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party India's government has quietly shelved a controversial amendment to its citizenship bill after violent protests in the north-east of the country. The bill was aimed at helping Hindus and other minorities move to India from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries. The legislation cleared parliament's lower house but the ruling BJP failed to enact it in the upper house, which ended its term without hearing it. The move marks a major about-turn ahead of general elections due by May. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah told a rally as recently as last month the bill would be pushed through regardless of protests. The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says the BJP seems to have miscalculated just how unpopular the bill would be with people in the north-east, who argued they would be requi..
February 13, 2019

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler arrested

Maria Ressa: Head of Philippines news site Rappler arrested Image copyright Reuters Image caption Maria Ressa was arrested in Rappler's headquarters in Manila. The CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government in the Philippines, has been arrested at its headquarters in Manila. Maria Ressa said the accusation of "cyber-libel" is an attempt by Rodrigo Duterte's government to silence the publication. It is the latest in a string of charges against her for various alleged crimes, including tax evasion. Rappler journalists live-streamed the arrest on Facebook and Twitter. Footage streamed on Facebook showed plain-clothes party officials speaking with Maria Ressa, while several of the site's journalists live-tweeted what was happening. Officers from the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) reportedly ordered them to stop filming and taking photos. Miriam Grace Go, Rappler's news editor, tweeted that NBI agents had taken Ms Ressa off Rappler's propert..
February 13, 2019

New ‘mysterious’ frog species discovered in India’s Western Ghats

New 'mysterious' frog species discovered in India's Western Ghats Indian researchers have discovered a new species of frog - in a roadside puddle. Sonali Garg, a PhD student at Delhi University, and her supervisor SD Biju found the new species in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in southern India. The species belongs to a new Indian frog group or genus which the scientists have named Mysticellus. The name is derived from Latin and means mysterious and diminutive. The scientists discovered the narrow-mouthed frog after three years of extensive explorations, and have confirmed that it represents an entirely new species and genus of microhylid frogs. 'Dancing' tadpoles discovered in India 'Extinct' frog rediscovered in India India's maverick 'frog man' The new genus is currently known only in a single locality. "Our discovery of this new frog genus from one of the most explored and researched regions in the Western Ghats indicat..
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