International: Cambridge Analytica Suspends Alexander Nix following Election Staging Brags

Data mining company Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was caught bragging about manipulating elections in a tape.

In a hidden camera footage set by UK’s Channel 4 News, the firm’s executives were seen pitching tactics to entrap political opponents and boasting about running election campaigns across the world, including in Kenya in 2013 and 2017.

To a reporter who posed as a fixer for candidates in Sri Lanka, the executives talked about the way the company operated, including offering bribes, spreading false information about the opponents, and sending “some girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, also spoke about the firm’s role in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in the last two of Kenya’s elections, including providing research, rebranding the party and writing manifesto and speeches.

“We’d stage the whole thing,” Turnbull said in the video.

Cambridge Analytica continues to receive heavy scrutiny, following the revelation by whistleblower Chris Wylie this week that the firm tapped personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts without permission for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm, which is partly owned by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, said Channel 4’s report “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

However, the company’s board said Nix will still be suspended effective immediately pending a full independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the statement read.

“We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.”

Nix’s suspension came as a British parliamentary summoned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how the social media giant allowed the company to access user data. More US politicians also call for Zuckerberg to testify before the congress.

International: Trump’s Pick for CIA Chief Takes Heat for Alleged Links to Torture

President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA chief, Gina Haspel, reportedly oversaw a secret prison in Thailand where terrorist suspects were tortured by waterboarding.

If approved by the US Senate, Haspel will become the first woman to lead the intelligence agency, replacing Mike Pompeo, who is reassigned as the secretary of state.

Haspel has spent more than 30 years working for CIA with extensive overseas experience, and is widely respected across the intelligence circles. However, she started receiving heavy scrutiny on her links to the secret prison after her appointment as Pompeo’s deputy in February 2017.

Associated Press reported that according to anonymous officials, Haspel briefly ran the black site prison in 2002, where two terrorism suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri allegedly underwent waterboarding and slamming. Three years later, Haspel ordered the destruction of the 92 videos of the interrogation.

Haspel’s nomination has been widely criticised by politicians from both parties. Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured in the Vietnam war, said, “Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”

Fellow Republican Susan Collins, who is a part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she is undecided on whether to support the nomination. “[Haspel] certainly has the expertise and experience as a 30-year employee of the agency,” said Collins. “But I’m sure there are going to be some questions raised.”

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, who served in the Iraq War, said Haspel’s nomination was “even worse” than that of Pompeo’s. “Not only did she directly supervise the torture of detainees, but she also participated in covering it up by helping to destroy the video evidence,” Duckworth said in a statement. “Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this president believes they merit a promotion. I could not disagree more.”

Haspel has not addressed these concerns. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Haspel said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”

National: Rare Thomas Edison Cables Unearthed in Brisbane

Excavators in Brisbane have found 134-year-old rare electrical cables with links to light bulb inventor Thomas Edison.

The cables, which were laid under William Street to provide electricity to the parliamentary precinct, were removed on Tuesday to allow the new Queen’s Wharf casino complex development to go ahead.

The “Edison tubes” were designed by the late inventor and built by his American company. Brisbane was the third city to have the technology after London and New York.

“We were the first place in the southern hemisphere to have this technology, and just the third in the world,” said supervising archaeologist Tina King.

“It’s a milestone for Brisbane’s development as a city and we’re making sure to take the utmost care in the conservation of these important artefacts.”

The tubes were made of cast iron casing, asphaltum-based pitches, and two to three copper cores.

Parts of the cables will be housed in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Brisbane’s Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane, the Highfields Pioneer Village in Toowoomba, and Parliament House as well as the Science Centre in London and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, US.

International: The Queen’s Baton Visits Sydney for 2018 Commonwealth Games

The Queen’s Baton is visiting Sydney today as a part of its Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games journey.

Swimmer Ian Thorpe, cricketer Glenn McGrath and Australian rugby union player Shannon Parry are among the baton’s bearer in the city. The relay will begin at Government House from 3pm to go through the Opera House, CBD, King’s Wharf and the Australian Maritime Museum.

The baton will continue its journey to other NSW cities for the next three days, including Penrith, Wollongong, Kiama and Batemans Bay.

Since leaving the Buckingham Palace in March last year, the baton has travelled through about 70 Commonwealth countries and territories.

The baton will reach its final destination on the Gold Coast on April 4, where the Queen or a representative will read the message within to officially open the Games.

International: New Excavation Begins in Buddha’s Nepal Hometown

A new excavation mission has been started in Buddha’s hometown, Tilaurakot, to uncover more evidence of its heritage significance.

Nepal’s Department of Archaeology begun the excavation earlier this month to identify important sections of King Suddhodan’s Royal Palace in Tilaurakot, where Gautam Buddha spent 29 years of his life. The excavation, which is the fourth one that the state has managed since 2014, is expected to take 55 days.

The current excavation project also involves experts from UK’s Durham University, Lumbini Development Trust, and students of Tribhuvan University and Lumbini University.

The department’s officer Ram Bahadur Kunwar said the project will be carried out in two spots within the central complex of Tilaurakot Palace, and beside Samayamai Temple.

In 1996, the Nepalese government proposed for Tilaurakot to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its cultural significance.

International: 3,500-Year-Old Mummy Found in Luxor, Egypt

Two ancient tombs dating back 3,500 years have been discovered in Luxor, Egypt.

The two tombs – containing linen-wrapped mummy, paintings, masks and figurines among others – were originally discovered in the 1990s by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp, but the Egyptian archaeological mission only began its excavations recently.

The first tomb, designated Kampp 161, was a single-shaft burial containing a mural as well as artefacts honouring the Egyptian god Osiris. It was estimated to date to the era between the reign of King Amenhotep II and the one of King Thutmose IV (1427-1388 BC).

The other tomb, Kampp 150, contained a mummified person with unknown identity which was estimated to date back to the 17th-18th Dynasty (1580-1292 BC).

The discovery of the tombs is hoped to revive the country’s declining tourism industry following the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, according to AP News.

International: Bangladesh Pleads Myanmar to Take Rohingya Refugees Back

Bangladesh’s prime minister has called on Myanmar to take back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled from the Rakhine state.

In a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp on Tuesday, Sheikh Hasina said Myanmar should “take all their citizens back to their country and create a congenial atmosphere so that they can go back”.

According to the United Nations (UN), about 370,000 Rohingya have crossed the border in the last three weeks to escape the military crackdown and village burnings, following some militants’ attack on police posts.

“And still people are trying to get into the country,” said UNICEF spokesman Jean-Jaques Simon. “The scale is quite something, the rapidity of the new arrivals.”

Myanmar continues to draw international criticism for the crisis, as the UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the situation as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” on Monday.

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei denounced Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to stop the violence. “A cruel government, at the top of which sits a cruel woman who was awarded a Nobel prize, kills innocent people, sets fire to them, destroys their houses and displaces them and no tangible reaction is seen,” Khamenei said in a speech on Tuesday. “Yes, they condemn it, issue statements, but what good does it do? They should take action. This marks the death of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Sheikh Hasina also condemned the country’s treatment of the minority ethnic group. “My personal message is very clear, that they should consider this situation with the eyes of humanity,” she told BBC. “So these people, they belong to Myanmar. Hundreds of years they are staying there. How they can deny that they are not their citizens?”

International: $70 Million Resettlement Deal for Manus Island Detainees Approved

A compensation deal worth $70 million for over 1,300 current and former Manus Island detainees has been approved by Victoria’s Supreme Court.

The class action settlement, reached with Australia’s federal government and the Island’s Regional Processing Centre operators, sought to compensate the detainees for the illegal detention and negligence in housing and protection.

“I am comfortably satisfied that a figure of $70 million to be distributed without deduction of costs amongst participating group members is a fair and reasonable sum,” said Justice Cameron Macaulay on Wednesday.

“[We wanted] to put an end to this fiction the Commonwealth seeks to maintain for political purposes that it’s PNG [that] holds these people, that PNG has the duty of care for these people,” said Rory Walsh of Slater and Gordon, the firm who led the legal action.

“The Commonwealth settled this case and paid $70 million not to have that fiction tested in court.”

Out of 1,923 former and current detainees who are eligible for the compensation, 1,383 have registered to get their share by Monday.

However, more than 160 detainees have objected to the compensation amount, saying that it would not address the plights of those who remained in the Island. About 800 men are expected to remain at Manus Island after the detention centre closes next month.

“Getting that money is not the issue. It is not the matter of the amount of money,” Iranian refugee Amir Taghinia told ABC’s AM.

“We are still in the same situation, we are still suffering from the same conditions, under the cruel regime of the defendant, and the case is finished, the case says ‘yeah, that’s it, it is already settled’ … It is absolutely not in favour of any of the detainees in here, but it is in favour of the law firm and the defendant.”

International: Melbourne Named As World’s Most Liveable City for Seventh Year Running

Melbourne has again been named as the world’s most liveable city for the seventh year in a row.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual Liveability Index ranks 140 cities around the world based on healthcare, education and infrastructure – for which Melbourne received perfect scores this year – as well as stability, culture and environment. Overall, Melbourne scored 97.5 out of 100 points.

“This world record is an amazing feat that all Melburnians should be extremely proud of today,” City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said.

“This accolade is an important selling point for Melbourne internationally: for businesses to invest or move here, for the best and brightest people to make Melbourne their home and for tourists to visit us.”

Vienna in Austria followed in the second spot, while Vancouver in Canada came third. Adelaide established itself as Australia’s second most liveable city at number five, while Perth came seventh. On the other hand, Sydney’s position dropped from the seventh place last year to the eleventh with a score of 94.9.

“Sydney in Australia is another city that has seen a decline in its ranking, reflecting growing concerns over possible terror attacks in the past three years,” the Global Liveability Report 2017 stated.

Damascus in Syria was ranked as the least liveable city, followed by Nigeria’s Lagos and Libya’s Tripoli.

International: Australia’s Healthcare One of the Best in the Developed World, Study Finds

Australian healthcare system has been ranked as one of the best in the developed world while the US’ is the worst, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by American thinktank Commonwealth Fund, found that the United Kingdom has the healthcare system out of 11 developed countries, while Australia ranked second, the Netherlands third and the US last.

The researchers found that the US performed poorly in terms of access, equity and healthcare outcomes, despite having the biggest spending in healthcare. It not only had “the poorest performance of all countries on the affordability subdomain”, but also on “population health outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy at age 60”.

The report concluded by encouraging the US to take important lessons from the top three nations on universal health insurance coverage. “All three provide universal coverage and access, but do so in different ways, suggesting that high performance can be achieved through a variety of payment and organizational approaches,” the report said.

The study’s results came amid the Republican Party’s attempt to repeal former president Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

The Senate is set to vote on the legislation in a few weeks. Two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, have said that they will not be voting for the repeal bill.

Sources: ABC, The Hill