Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist

Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist
In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019, defendant Miroslav Marcek arrives for the start of the trial of Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, who is suspected of ordering the 2018 assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, at court in the Judicial Academy building in Pezinok, Slovakia. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist

Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist
  • Kuciak’s investigative journalism had delved into cases of fraud involving businessmen with political connections

PEZINOK, Slovakia: A former soldier admitted in court on Monday killing a Slovakian journalist whose murder two years ago led to anti-corruption protests that brought down the government of long-time prime minister Robert Fico.
Miroslav Marcek told a court he was hired to kill 27-year-old Jan Kuciak, who he shot along with Kuciak’s fiancée Martina Kusnirova at their house outside Slovakia’s capital Bratislava in February 2018.
Five people, including a prominent businessman who the investigation into the murder showed had links with security officials as well as judicial and political figures, have been charged in relation to the couple’s deaths.
The case is seen as a test of Slovakia’s judicial and political system ahead of an election in February.
Four suspects were in court on Monday in Pezinok, north of Bratislava, including Marcek’s cousin Tomas Szabo, who Marcek said had approached him with an offer from another of the defendants to undertake the contract killing.
A Reuters reporter said they were led into the courtroom by guards wearing balaclavas and carrying automatic rifles.
Marcek, 37, told the court how an initial plan to kidnap Kuciak and then kill him was abandoned because it was too complicated.
Describing the killings, he said he hid outside the house before the victims came home on Feb. 21 then waited for an opportunity to strike.
“That came when Ms Kusnirova went to the toilet. I hit him (Kuciak) in the chest,” news website www.sme.sk quoted Marcek as saying.
He said he had killed Kusnirova so that she could not identify him. “He (Kuciak) was falling backwards, he held on to the door with one hand, and she came. It was not possible to just leave,” Marcek said.
He told the court he was sorry for his actions and that he had decided to confess after seeing the victims’ families on television.
A fifth suspect, Zoltan Andrusko, admitted to facilitating the murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last month.
Also in court on Monday was businessman Marian Kocner, who is accused of ordering the hit. He denied that charge, but admitted a lesser offense related to illegal ammunition found by police at his house.
A third defendant, Alena Zsuzsova, denied charges of being an intermediary in the killings.
Szabo, a former police officer, pleaded not guilty to murder. Slovak media reported that Szabo said he had been approached by Andrusko about beating up Kuciak, but not killing him.
Kuciak’s investigative journalism had delved into cases of fraud involving businessmen with political connections.
He had reported on Kocner’s business activities, including the takeover of a television station and property deals.
Fico, his cabinet, and later the national police chief all resigned after the murders sparked Slovakia’s biggest protests since the fall of communism, with crowds calling for an independent investigation and an end to widespread corruption.
Fico continues to lead his Smer party ahead of the February parliamentary election.
Last March, liberal lawyer Zuzana Caputova rode a wave of public fury over corruption to win election as Slovakia’s first female president. 


Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award

Farah Nabulsi wrote the film along with US-Palestinian filmmaker Hind Shoufani. Supplied
Farah Nabulsi wrote the film along with US-Palestinian filmmaker Hind Shoufani. Supplied
Updated 59 min 47 sec ago

Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award

Farah Nabulsi wrote the film along with US-Palestinian filmmaker Hind Shoufani. Supplied

DUBAI: Palestinian-British filmmaker Farah Nabulsi’s short film “The Present” has won the award for Best Short Film at the 2021 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) ceremony, which took place on Saturday. 

Nabulsi’s movie beat out “Eyelash,” “Lizard,” “Lucky Break” and “Curvy.” 

“The Present” tells the story of Yusef, played by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, and his daughter Yasmine, played by young actress Maryam Kanj, who set out in Palestine’s West Bank to buy his wife a gift.

The film is also in the running for the “Best Live Action Short Film” category at the upcoming 2021 Oscars. 

It is competing against Doug Roland’s “Feeling Through,” Elvira Lind’s short drama “The Letter Room,” Travon Free’s “Two Distant Strangers” and the Tomer Shushan-directed “White Eye.”


Hamas attacks Al Arabiya TV for exposing prisoner mistreatment

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
Updated 10 April 2021

Hamas attacks Al Arabiya TV for exposing prisoner mistreatment

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
  • Prisoners loyal to Hamas were accused of physically beating Al-Shahateet due to an organizational dispute with the leader of Hamas

LONDON: Hamas issued a statement attacking Al Arabiya TV on Friday for exposing the mistreatment of Mansour Al-Shahateet, a prisoner who was released from an Israeli jail after a 17-year sentence.

Prisoners loyal to Hamas were accused of physically beating Al-Shahateet due to an organizational dispute with Yahya Al-Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, who was also serving a prison sentence.

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries after being kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time. Hamas prisoners who were confined with Al-Shahateet reportedly refused to stay in detention with him after he was severely beaten, and requested that he be transferred to solitary confinement.

Al-Shahateet’s health was neglected and his mental state deteriorated rapidly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested that the Ministry of Health provide him with the necessary medical treatment.


Saudi Research and Marketing Group shareholders to vote on group name change on 29 April: Argaam

Shareholders will also vote to elect members of the board of directors for the next three-year term, starting May 21, 2021. (Supplied)
Shareholders will also vote to elect members of the board of directors for the next three-year term, starting May 21, 2021. (Supplied)
Updated 10 April 2021

Saudi Research and Marketing Group shareholders to vote on group name change on 29 April: Argaam

Shareholders will also vote to elect members of the board of directors for the next three-year term, starting May 21, 2021. (Supplied)
  • Shareholders will also vote to elect members of the board of directors for the next three-year term, starting May 21, 2021
  • The audit committee members include Turki Omar Bugshan, Majid Abdulrhman Alissa and Hamad Saud Alomar

RIYADH: Saudi Research and Marketing Group’s (SRMG) shareholders will vote to amend Article 2 of the company’s Articles of Association, to change the firm’s name to Saudi Research and Media Group, during the extraordinary general assembly meeting (EGM) to be held on April 29, 2021, Argaam English reported.

Shareholders will also vote to elect members of the board of directors for the next three-year term, starting May 21, 2021.

They will also vote on the formation of the audit committee, and the definition of its duties, work regulations and remuneration of its members for the upcoming term.

The audit committee members include Turki Omar Bugshan, Majid Abdulrhman Alissa and Hamad Saud Alomar.

Originally published on Argaam English.


Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender

Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender
Updated 09 April 2021

Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender

Study: Facebook delivers biased job ads, skewed by gender
  • Facebook ads were skewed by gender beyond what can be legally justified by differences in job qualifications, says University of Southern California researchers

Facebook is showing different job ads to women and men in a way that might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws, according to a new study.
University of Southern California researchers who examined the ad-delivery algorithms of Facebook and LinkedIn found that Facebook’s were skewed by gender beyond what can be legally justified by differences in job qualifications.
Men were more likely to see Domino’s pizza delivery driver job ads on Facebook, while women were more likely to see Instacart shopper ads.
The trend also held in higher-paying engineering jobs at tech firms like Netflix and chipmaker Nvidia. A higher fraction of women saw the Netflix ads than the Nvidia ads, which parallels the gender breakdown in each company’s workforce.
No evidence was found of similar bias in the job ads delivered by LinkedIn.
Study author Aleksandra Korolova, an assistant professor of computer science at USC, said it might be that LinkedIn is doing a better job at deliberately tamping down bias, or it might be that Facebook is simply better at picking up real-world cues from its users about gender imbalances and perpetuating them.
“It’s not that the user is saying, ‘Oh, I’m interested in this.’ Facebook has decided on behalf of the user whether they are likely to engage,” she said. “And just because historically a certain group wasn’t interested in engaging in something, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have an opportunity to pursue it, especially in the job category.”
Facebook said in a statement Friday it has been taking meaningful steps to address issues of discrimination in ads.
“Our system takes into account many signals to try and serve people ads they will be most interested in, but we understand the concerns raised in the report,” it said.
Facebook promised to overhaul its ad targeting system in 2019 as part of a legal settlement.
The social network said then it would no longer allow housing, employment or credit ads that target people by age, gender or zip code. It also limited other targeting options so these ads don’t exclude people on the basis of race, ethnicity and other legally protected categories in the US, including national origin and sexual orientation.
Endlessly customizable ad targeting is Facebook’s bread and butter, so any limits placed on its process could hurt the company’s revenue. The ads users see can be tailored down to the most granular details — not just where people live and what websites they visited recently, but whether they’ve gotten engaged in the past six months or share characteristics with people who have recently bought new sneakers, even if they have never expressed interest in doing so themselves.
But even if advertisers can’t do the targeting themselves, the study shows what critics have stressed for years — that Facebook’s own algorithms can discriminate, even if there is no intent from the job advertisers themselves.
“We haven’t seen any public evidence that they are working on the issues related to their algorithms creating discrimination,” Korolova said.
Since it isn’t possible to show every user every advertisement that is targeted at them, Facebook’s software picks what it deems relevant. If more women show interest in certain jobs, the software learns it should show women more of these sorts of ads.
LinkedIn said the study’s findings align with its internal review of job ads targeting.
“However, we recognize that systemic change takes time, and we are at the beginning of a very long journey,” the company said in a statement.
US laws allow for ads to be targeted based on qualifications but not on protected categories such as race, gender and age. But anti-discrimination laws are largely complaint-driven, and no one can complain about being deprived of a job opportunity if they didn’t know it happened to them, said Sandra Wachter, a professor at Oxford University focused on technology law.
“The tools we have developed to prevent discrimination had a human perpetrator in mind,” said Wachter, who was not involved in the USC study. “An algorithm is discriminating very differently, grouping people differently and doing it in a very subtle way. Algorithms discriminate behind your back, basically.”
While Domino’s and Instacart have similar job requirements for their drivers, Domino’s delivery workforce is predominantly male, while Instacart’s is more than half female. The study, which looked at driver ads run in North Carolina compared to demographic data from voter records, found that Facebook’s algorithms appeared to be learning from those gender disparities and perpetuating them.
The same trend also occurred with sales jobs at retailer Reeds Jewelers, which more women saw, and the Leith Automotive dealership, which more men saw.
The researchers call for more rigorous auditing of such algorithms and to look at other factors such as racial bias. Korolova said external audits such as the USC study can only do so much without getting access to Facebook’s proprietary algorithms, but regulators could require some form of independent review to check for discrimination.
“We’ve seen that platforms are not so good at self-policing their algorithms for undesired societal consequences, especially when their business is at stake,” she said.


Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo to join Fox News

Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months. (File/AFP)
Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 April 2021

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo to join Fox News

Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months. (File/AFP)
  • “I intend to give viewers a candid, no-nonsense look at geopolitics, international relations and the America First policies,” the former secretary of state said
  • Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo has been hired to appear on Fox News as a “contributor,” the conservative cable news channel said Thursday.
“I intend to give viewers a candid, no-nonsense look at geopolitics, international relations and the America First policies that helped chart the course for unprecedented American prosperity and security,” the former secretary of state and member of Congress said in a statement released by Fox.
“Mike Pompeo is one of America’s most recognized and respected voices on foreign policy and national security issues,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said. “I look forward to his contributions across our range of platforms to share his distinct perspective with our millions of viewers.”
Pompeo took up the post of secretary of state from his predecessor Rex Tillerson in April 2018 until the end of the Trump administration in January 2021. He was previously director of the CIA.
Recently, Pompeo has joined calls for the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and has called the expert report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus a “sham” as part of a “disinformation campaign” from the World Health Organization and the Chinese Communist Party.
He was on the front lines of the Trump administration’s standoff with China.
Fox has hired other members of the Trump orbit in recent months, including his daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
The network has found itself embroiled in controversies over Trump’s untrue allegations of election rigging in 2020, with voting machine maker Dominion seeking more than $1 billion in a lawsuit over allegations Fox implicated the company in the false claims.