Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad

Update Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad
Residents of the impoverished Baghdad suburb of Sadr City pledge support to Al-Sadr, an influential cleric who called on thousands of his followers to storm Iraq's parliament. (AP)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad

Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad
  • Powerful cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, had called on followers from across Iraq to pray inside Baghdad’s Green Zone
  • The mass-prayer call follows Al-Sadr’s demand for early elections

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis heeded the call of an influential Shiite cleric to gather in a show of strength for a mass prayer in the heart of Baghdad’s heavily fortified government zone on Friday. The gathering took place amid an escalating political crisis that has put the country’s capital on edge.
The powerful cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, had called on his followers from across Iraq to come to pray inside Baghdad’s Green Zone — a heavily fortified area in the heart of the city that houses government buildings and foreign embassies. They arrived and stood outside in the scorching summer-time heat, with temperatures reaching 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).
Friday’s mass prayer was the latest display of strength by the cleric, whose political power derives from his strong grassroots support base.
Al-Sadr has used his large grassroots following as a pressure tactic against his rivals, after his party was not able to form a government despite having won the largest number of seats in federal elections held last October. He exited the political process to form the next government in June.
His followers gathered facing the Victory Arch, a monument erected during Saddam Hussein’s regime to commemorate the Iran-Iraq war. It was built for the purpose of holding military parades.
Farid Jaafar, 16, arrived from Babylon province to show his support for Al-Sadr. His transport was paid by Al-Sadr’s party he said. “I love Muqtada,” he said.
Holding the prayer within the highly restrictive zone that is closed off to most Iraqis points to the cleric’s power and influence.
Last Saturday, thousands of his followers stormed parliament in a bid to derail attempts by Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals to form a government. Around 125 people were injured in the violence, most of them protesters and 25 members of the security forces.
Al-Sadr’s followers camped out inside the parliament until he ordered them, after four days to withdraw from the assembly building, but maintain a sit-in outside. He’s calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.
His Shiite rivals in the Iran-backed Coordination Framework have said they would consider holding early elections in the event of a national consensus.


Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
Updated 6 min 3 sec ago

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
  • It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature

SYDNEY: Australia’s parliament on Wednesday voted to censure former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison after an inquiry found his secret appointment to multiple ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic undermined trust in government.
Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the pandemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.
The historic motion, brought by the ruling Labor party, passed by 86 votes to 50 in the country’s lower house.
It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature.
“The fact is, that our democracy is precious,” Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the debate, speaking in favor of censuring Morrison.
“There’s no room for complacency.”
Morrison has said his decisions were lawful, and that the decision was necessary in case ministers became incapacitated during the pandemic.
“For those who wish to add their judgment today on my actions in supporting this censure motion, I simply suggest that they stop and consider the following: have you ever had to deal with a crisis where the outlook was completely unknown?,” Morrison said in parliament before the vote on Wednesday.
“In such circumstances, were you able to get all the decisions perfectly right?“
Morrison said he had only used the powers on one occasion, to block BPH Energy’s PEP-11 gas exploration project.
He accepted the recommendations of an inquiry into the appointment, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.


Bad abbot: Thai temple left empty after monks fail drug tests

Bad abbot: Thai temple left empty after monks fail drug tests
Updated 44 min 13 sec ago

Bad abbot: Thai temple left empty after monks fail drug tests

Bad abbot: Thai temple left empty after monks fail drug tests
  • Thailand is a major transit country for methamphetamine flooding in from Myanmar’s troubled Shan state via Laos, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

BANGKOK: A Buddhist temple in central Thailand has been left without monks after all its holy men failed drug tests and were defrocked, a local official said Tuesday.
Four monks including an abbot at a temple in Phetchabun province’s Bung Sam Phan district tested positive for methamphetamine on Monday, district official Boonlert Thintapthai told AFP.
The monks have been sent to a health clinic to undergo drug rehabilitation, the official said.
“The temple is now empty of monks and nearby villagers are concerned they cannot do any merit-making,” he said.
Merit-making involves worshippers donating food to monks as a good deed.
Boonlert said more monks will be sent to the temple to allow villagers to practice their religious obligations.
Thailand is a major transit country for methamphetamine flooding in from Myanmar’s troubled Shan state via Laos, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
On the street, pills sell for less than 20 baht (around $0.50).
Authorities across Southeast Asia have made record meth seizures in recent years.
 

 


Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety
Updated 30 November 2022

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety

Twitter not safer under Elon Musk, says former head of trust and safety
  • Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation

CALIFORNIA: Twitter's former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth on Tuesday said the social media company was not safer under new owner Elon Musk, warning in his first interview since resigning this month that the company no longer had enough staff for safety work.
Roth had tweeted after Musk's takeover that by some measures, Twitter safety had improved under the billionaire's ownership.
Asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference on Tuesday whether he still felt that way, Roth said: "No."
Roth was a Twitter veteran who helped steer the social media platform through several watershed decisions, including the move to permanently suspend its most famous user, former U.S. President Donald Trump, last year.
His departure further rattled advertisers, many of whom backed away from Twitter after Musk laid off half of the staff, including many involved with content moderation.
Before Musk assumed the helm at Twitter, about 2,200 people globally were focused on content moderation work, said Roth. He said he did not know the number after the acquisition because the corporate directory had been turned off.
Twitter under Musk began to stray from its adherence to written and publicly available policies toward content decisions made unilaterally by Musk, which Roth cited as a reason for his resignation.
"One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy ... there's no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do," he said.
The revamp of the Twitter Blue premium subscription, which would allow users to pay for a verified checkmark on their account, launched despite warnings and advice from the trust and safety team, Roth said.
The launch was quickly beset by spammers impersonating major public companies such as Eli Lilly, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.
Roth also said Tuesday that Twitter erred in restricting the dissemination of a New York Post article that made claims about then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son shortly before the 2020 presidential election.
But he defended Twitter's decision to permanently suspend Trump for risk of further incitement of violence after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
"We saw the clearest possible example of what it looked like for things to move from online to off," Roth said. "We saw people dead in the Capitol."
Musk tweeted on Nov. 19 that Trump's account would be reinstated after a slim majority voted in favor of the move in a surprise Twitter poll.

 


Kim Kardashian and Ye settle divorce, averting custody trial

Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards on Nov. 6, 2019, in New York. (AP)
Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards on Nov. 6, 2019, in New York. (AP)
Updated 30 November 2022

Kim Kardashian and Ye settle divorce, averting custody trial

Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the WSJ. Magazine Innovator Awards on Nov. 6, 2019, in New York. (AP)
  • Kardashian and Ye will equally split the expenses for the kids’ private security and private school, including college, according to the settlement proposal

LOS ANGELES: Kim Kardashian and Ye have reached a settlement in their divorce, averting a trial that had been set for next month, court documents filed Tuesday showed.
The former couple and their attorneys filed documents asking for a judge’s approval of terms they have agreed on, including $200,000 per month child support payments rom Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, to Kardashian.
The two will have joint custody, and neither will pay the other spousal support, according to the documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The judge declared the two legally single at Kardashian’s request in March, ending their eight-year marriage, but issues of property and custody remained that were to be worked out in a trial starting Dec. 14.
The two have four children whose ages range from 3 to 9 years old.
Kardashian and Ye will equally split the expenses for the kids’ private security and private school, including college, according to the settlement proposal.
They will also each pay their own debts the settlement said. The two had a pre-nuptial agreement and kept their property largely separate.
The couple began dating in 2012 and had their first child in 2013. West proposed later that year using the giant screen at the empty waterfront ballpark of the San Francisco Giants, and the two married May 24, 2014, in a ceremony at a Renaissance fortress in Florence, Italy.
The two appeared to be headed for a cordial split with agreed-upon terms when Kardashian first filed for divorce in February of 2021. Neither discussed the split publicly until early this year, when Ye started lashing out on social media against Kardashian, her family, and then-boyfriend Pete Davidson. Among his complaints were that he was not being allowed to make major parenting decisions and was been excluded from birthday parties and other events for their children.
Ye, who has fired two lawyers since the divorce filing, also raised several technical issues and demands, including seeking the right to question any new husband of Kardashian’s under oath, which Judge Steve Cochran promptly rejected.
The settlement comes soon after several companies have cut ties with Ye ove r offensive and antisemitic remarks that have further eroded an already withering public image.
His latest lawyer, Nicholas Salick, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the settlement.
It was the third marriage for Kardashian, the reality TV superstar, businesswoman and influencer, and the first marriage for the rap and fashion mogul Ye. Theirs was one of the most closely followed celebrity unions in recent decades.

 


Neymar to miss Brazil’s last group game at World Cup

Neymar to miss Brazil’s last group game at World Cup
Updated 30 November 2022

Neymar to miss Brazil’s last group game at World Cup

Neymar to miss Brazil’s last group game at World Cup
  • Lasmar did not give a timetable on Neymar’s return, and did not say if the player would return at all

DOHA: Neymar will miss Brazil’s last group game at the World Cup because of his right ankle injury, the team doctor said Tuesday.

Rodrigo Lasmar said the Brazil forward will not recover in time to face Cameroon in the Group G game on Friday.

Neymar missed Monday’s game against Switzerland, when Brazil won 1-0 to secure ther spot in the round of 16. A draw against Cameroon will be enough to give Brazil first place in the group.

Lasmar did not give a timetable on Neymar’s return, and did not say if the player would return at all. Brazil’s coaching staff, though, reiterated Tuesday that the Paris Saint-Germain forward was expected to play again at the tournament in Qatar.

Neymar, who damaged ligaments in his ankle during Brazil’s opening match against Serbia, was the only player who didn’t go to Stadium 974 to watch the match against Switzerland. He stayed at the team hotel for physiotherapy treatment.

Lasmar said Neymar also had a fever on Monday, which “was under control” and would not affect his ankle treatment.

Lasmar said right back Danilo, who also is nursing an ankle injury, and left back Alex Sandro, who had to leave Monday’s match with a muscle injury, also won’t play against Cameroon.

Danilo got injured in the team’s opener last week and also missed the game against Switzerland. Alex Sandro got hurt in the final minutes of Brazil’s win against the Swiss and was replaced by Alex Telles. Tests on Tuesday showed that he as a muscle injury in his left hip. Lasmar also did not provide the expected recovery time for Danilo and Alex Sandro.

Tite replaced Neymar with Fred and Danilo with Éder Militão in Monday’s starting lineup. 

The coach was yet to announce who would play on Friday, but was expected to rotate players considering a draw against Cameroon would be enough to secure first place. If Brazil finishes first, the last-16 match would take place only three days later. Brazil’s opponents would come from Group H, which includes Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana.

Neymar, trying to win his first major title with Brazil, is two goals shy of Pelé’s all-time record of 77 with the national team.

His right ankle also kept him from playing in the 2019 Copa América in Brazil. Five years earlier, he was taken out of the World Cup in Brazil after hurting his back in the quarterfinals against Colombia.

On Tuesday, Brazil complained about the field conditions at Stadium 974, where they could be back for the round of 16 if they finishes first in its group. The team said it would ask FIFA to act and make sure the grass conditions improved at the venue.