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Facebook to pay record $5bn fine over privacy violations Fine

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Facebook Inc will pay record-breaking 5 billion dollars fine to resolve a government probe into its privacy practices and the social media giant will restructure its approach to privacy, an official said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said this on Wednesday in Washington.

The FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to adopt the settlement, which requires court approval; even as Democrats said the settlement did not go far enough or require a large enough fine.

“ In spite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how personal information is shared Facebook undermined consumers’ choices,” said FTC Chairman, Joe Simons, a Republican, in a statement.

But Democratic FTC Commissioner, Rohit Chopra, said the penalty provided “blanket immunity’’ for Facebook executives “and no real restraints on Facebook’s business model” and does “not fix the core problems that led to these violations.”

Facebook declined to comment ahead of the settlement’s public release.

The FTC said that Facebook’s data policy was deceptive to “tens of millions” of people, who used Facebook’s facial recognition tool.

Under the settlement, Facebook’s board will create an independent privacy committee that removes “unfettered control by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over decisions affecting user privacy.”

Facebook also agreed to exercise greater oversight over third-party apps.

Chopra and Democratic FTC Commissioner, Rebecca Slaughter, who opposed the settlement, said the 5 billion dollars penalty may be less than Facebook’s gains from violating users’ privacy.

“Until we address Facebook’s core financial incentives for risking our personal privacy and national security, we will not be able to prevent these problems from happening again,” Chopra said.

The FTC Republican majority argued the settlement “significantly diminishes Mr. Zuckerberg’s power — something no government agency, anywhere in the world, has thus far accomplished.”

The Republican commissioners led by Simons said if the FTC had gone to court “it is highly unlikely that any judge would have imposed a civil penalty even remotely close to this one.”

They called the settlement — in light of what the FTC might have been able to win in a court fight — “a complete home run.”

The Republican majority noted that Zuckerberg and other company executives would have to sign quarterly certifications attesting to the company’s privacy practices.

The FTC said Zuckerberg or others filing a false certification could face civil and criminal penalties.

Facebook also is barred from asking for email passwords to other services when consumers sign up.

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Iran begins reconnecting internet after shutdown over protests

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Internet

Dubai, Nov. 21, 2019 Iran on Thursday began restoring internet access in the capital Tehran and a number of provinces, local news agencies and residents said.

This happened after a nationwide shutdown meant to help stifle unrest over fuel price hikes.

The Revolutionary Guards said calm had returned across Iran, state TV reported, after protests in which Amnesty International said more100 demonstrators had been killed by security forces, a figure rejected as “speculative” by the government.

“The internet is being gradually restored in the country,” the semi-official news agency Fars said, quoting unidentified informed sources as saying.

Fars quoted unnamed sources as saying the National Security Council that had ordered the shutdown approved reactivating the internet in “some areas and, according to reports so far.

The fixed line internet has been restored in Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Arak, Mashhad, Qom, Tabriz, Hamadan and Bushehr provinces, and parts of Tehran”.

“We again have internet as of an hour ago,” a retired engineer, who declined to be named said by telephone from Tehran.

The internet blockage made it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate more support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said the restoration of connectivity in Iran was only partial so far, covering about 10 per cent of the country.

The unrest erupted on Nov. 15 after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50 per cent.

Protests began in several provincial towns before spreading to some 100 cities and towns across the Islamic Republic. They quickly turned political with protesters demanding top officials to step down.

On Thursday, state TV showed thousands marching in pro-government rallies in a dozen cities, carrying national flags and signs with slogans including “Rioting is not protesting”.

Amnesty International said it had documented at least 106 deaths of protesters killed by security forces, which would make it the worst street unrest in Iran in at least a decade and possibly since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s UN mission on Wednesday dismissed the casualty report as “speculative, not reliable”.

Iranian authorities said several people, including members of the security forces and policemen, were killed in street violence, which Tehran blamed on “foreign foes”.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)

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Former Italy and Juventus footballer Marchisio turns to journalism

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Journalism

Rome, Nov. 21,2019  Claudio Marchisio, a celebrated former midfielder for Juventus and the Italian national team, has turned to journalism, debuting Thursday as a columnist for Corriere della Sera daily.

The 33-year-old has become a contributor to Corriere Torino, the local news section for Turin, the north-eastern city where Marchisio and Juventus are based.

His first column was not about football, he instead penned a heartfelt tribute to Silvia Romano, an Italian charity worker who was abducted in Kenya a year ago and has been missing.

On Instagram, Marchisio said he accepted the Corriere Torino gig partly to be able to tell Francesca and Enzo, #SilviaRomano’s parents, that my thoughts are with them.

“They must know that they are not alone and that Silvia is also our daughter, our sister, our friend of whom we are proud,’’ Marchisio added.

Marchisio played for Juventus for most of his playing career, winning seven Serie, A titles with the Italian giants.

He retired in October after a final season with Russian club Zenit St Petersburg.

(Edited by Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)

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Algeria plans sharp cut in wheat purchases to curb import bill

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Wheat

Tunis, Nov. 21, 2019 Algeria is targeting a sharp reduction to its wheat imports as it tries to rein in its costly subsidised bread programme in the face of popular protests against the ruling elite.

The North African country has decided to cap soft wheat imports at 4 million tonnes a year, down from 6.2 million tonnes, the government said in a statement.

The move is designed to “preserve foreign currency and reduce Algerian imports of cereals, especially soft wheat”, it said.

The import ceiling reflected a government estimate of the actual needs of the domestic market for soft wheat at 4 million tonnes.

The change will take effect immediately, a government source said.

Algeria is among the world’s biggest wheat buyers, sourcing most of its supply from France.

It spent about 3 billion dollars on wheat imports in 2018, including durum wheat flour and semolina.

However, hit by lower oil prices since 2014, it is trying to reduce its imports.

Mass protests this year, which led to the departure of longstanding President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have also pushed the interim government to target corruption.

Grain traders said the import ceiling is in keeping with other moves this year.

In July the government removed the head of state grains agency OAIC after a corruption investigation and has also closed some of the country’s 500 flour mills.

After the closure of 45 mills, more than 300 others are under investigation, an agriculture ministry source said.

OAIC also refrained from any wheat imports in October, breaking with its usual practice of holding tenders every calendar month.

“They are showing they want to curb abuse and mismanagement,” one European trader said.

However, traders remained sceptical about Algeria’s ability to reduce wheat imports so steeply, given low domestic production and the importance of its subsidized bread programme.

OAIC held an import tender for soft wheat on Wednesday, with traders reporting that the agency bought about 500,000 tonnes at 223 dollars-224 dollars a tonne including freight.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)

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Lithuania to acquire 200 armoured U.S. military vehicles

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Armour

Riga, Nov. 21, 2019 The European Union (EU) and NATO member, Lithuania plans to acquire 200 armoured vehicles from the U.S. for 145 million euros (161 million dollars), the Ministry of Defence said in Vilnius on Thursday.

The all-terrain joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) is being supplied by U.S. manufacturer Oshkosh.

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis told journalists following the signing of the agreement, according to BNS news agency.

“The new tactical vehicles will strengthen the present capabilities of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, increase mobility, personnel protection and combat power,” said Karoblis.

They should be adapted to the requirements of the Lithuanian army and delivered by 2024.

The vehicles are to be used for defence purposes and should also be used for international missions.

The agreement provides for Lithuania to buy another 300 vehicles if needed.

According to Karoblis, this will be decided by the end of the first contract phase in 2024.

Lithuania borders on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and has concerns about its security given Russia’s alleged involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Given the potential threat from Russia, the Baltic country is now massively upgrading its army.

Thursday’s major order is the second-largest defence contract in Lithuania’s history after the purchase of German armoured fighting vehicles of the type Boxer worth 385.6 million euros

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)

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Russia opens investigation into space centre fraud after Putin rebuke

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Investigation

Moscow, Nov. 21, 2019 Russian investigators said on Thursday they had opened two criminal cases into the management of a company involved in building the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a space centre in the country’s Far East.

The announcement came less than two weeks after President Vladimir Putin complained to government officials about corruption at the facility and called for further investigations.

Construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome began in January 2011, part of a plan for Russia to reduce its dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which Russia leases from the former Soviet Republic for space operations.

But Putin told government officials earlier this month he was dismayed by the level of graft there.

“Hundreds of millions have been stolen. Hundreds of millions. Several dozen criminal cases have already been initiated. There have already been court decisions, people are in prison,” said Putin.

His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said later that 11 billion roubles ($172.45 million) of total 91 billion roubles allocated to the project had been stolen.

Investigators said on Thursday that they were looking into allegations that fraudulent financial documents had led to the theft of 240 million roubles (3.8 million dollars) between November 2018 and May 2019.

Top officials at the Cosmodrome said they were in control of the situation and that any violations would immediately be passed to law enforcement officers, the RIA news agency reported.

The Vostochny Cosmodrome, whose name comes from the Russian word meaning ‘Eastern’, is situated in the Amur region on the border with China.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Labour’s Corbyn launches ‘radical’ manifesto for British election

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Launch

London, Nov. 21, 2019 Britain’s main opposition Labour party on Thursday launched a radical “manifesto of hope” for next month’s general election, promising to re-nationalise key industries, invest massively in infrastructure, and provide free broadband services.

Veteran left-winger Corbyn, 70, offered voters “the most radical, hopeful, people-focused, fully-costed plan in modern times”.

He vowed to take railway, mail, energy and water services back into public ownership if his party wins a parliamentary majority in the Dec.12 election.

“We can rewrite the economy for the many, not the few.

“Vote for this manifesto of hope. It’s time for real change,” Corbyn said in a speech in the central city of Birmingham.

Many political analysts believe the most likely outcome of the election is a comfortable parliamentary majority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, from a vote share of about 44 per cent under Britain’s constituency-based, first-past-the-post system.

Most polls put Labour at least 10 percentage points behind.

Johnson, who is expected to launch the Conservative manifesto later this month, has focussed his campaign on a pledge to “get Brexit done” and accused Corbyn of lacking a coherent policy on the issue.

He tweeted the Brexit pledge and other election promises shortly after Corbyn’s speech, including more funding for 20,000 new police officers, the National Health Service and schools, and an “Australian style, points-based immigration system.”

Corbyn repeated his promise to “get Brexit sorted within six months” by renegotiating a deal with Brussels and then holding a referendum on whether to accept it or remain in the EU.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim) (NAN)

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