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Monday
Oct142019

Nobel prize in economics given to three economists for work on alleviating global poverty

MicroStockHub/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Nobel prize in economics has been awarded to three economists "for their experimntal approach to alleviating global poverty."

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were announced as the winners on Monday morning.

Banerjee and Duflo work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kremer works at Harvard University. Duflo is only the second woman to win the prize after Elinor Ostrom won it in 2009.

The prize is officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel although. The award, however, was not created by the prize founder but is considered to be a part of the Nobel stable of awards.

The winners will receive a 9 million-kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma.

All but the winner of the Peace Prize will receive their awards in Stockholm on Dec. 10 -- the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

Six Nobel prizes were awarded last week in the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry plus two literature awards as well as the Nobel Peace Prize which was won by Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, for his work on ending Ethiopia's long-running conflict with Eritrea.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct122019

Women attend soccer match in Iran after decades of being kept out

Somaye Malekian/ABC News(TEHRAN, Iran) -- They waved flags. They painted their faces with stripes of green, white and red. They celebrated with blowhorns.

For the first time in four decades, women were allowed to pack into Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Thursday to cheer along with male fans as Iran's national soccer team played a World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

“It is truly exciting! Enjoying one of my basic rights for the first time,” Zahra Ahooei, 30, told ABC News as she made her way to the stadium, in between cheerfully sending bursts of air into her horn painted the colors of the Iranian flag. She wore the white team jersey and a matching hat that her husband had given her as a gift.

FIFA, the international governing body, has long obliged the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, FFIRI, which excludes women from buying match tickets. But after a 30-year-old woman named Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire and died in protest last month following her arrest for trying to enter Azadi Stadium earlier this year, FIFA changed its position.

“Women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely,” FIFA said in a statement at the time, addressing FFIRI.

Inside the stadium, women didn’t miss the chance to shout their demands, besides jubilation.

Some women shouted “Seats are spared, no space for women!" and "The Blue Girl, you are missed!” But the demonstrations were quickly quieted by policewomen who patrolled the stadium.

“Sahar will be greatly missed today," Zahra said. "I am sure everyone will think about her here.”

Another woman, a 25-year-old teacher named Hedyeh, came to the stadium with her friend, Matina, who is also 25. (The women asked that their last names not be disclosed for their security.) Hedyeh said she was disappointed that so many women were stuck outside the stadium while so many seats were empty.

In the days leading up to the match, some officials in President Hassan Rouhani’s administration tried to claim credit for the historic moment.

“The entry of women into the stadium is the result of internal efforts, not external pressure,” Ali Rabiei, spokesman of the government tweeted on Monday, a claim that was followed up on Thursday with the spokesman saying he has mediated for letting some women who did not have tickets to enter the stadiums, as PANA reported on Thursday.

But Iranians quickly rebutted the claims.

“If women are in the stadium today, it is the result of the #BlueGirl’s death. It's not the government's pursuit of women's demands,” Mojgan Jamshidi, a journalist responded to Rabiei’s tweet on Tuesday.

Some women are worried about obstacles that might not let their attendance at the stadiums turn to a routine. For example, Kayhan, a conservative daily affiliated to hardliners, described women who attended the stadium in a front-page headline as “victims of freedom,” on Saturday. A literature which shows hardliners will keep fighting against giving more freedom to women in this regard. However, women hope this time FIFA along public demands can keep the window open.

After the match, which Iran won handily, FIFA issued another statement and called the day a "very positive step forward."

“There can be no stopping or turning back now,” the statement said.

“History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey,” the statement added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct112019

How tech has fueled a 'leaderless protest' in Hong Kong

iStock(HONG KONG) -- Residents of Hong Kong have convened on the streets in masses for months, demonstrating against Beijing's dominance in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory they call home -- what sets these uprisings apart from pro-democracy movements in the past, however, is that millions of citizens are armed with a stockpile of tech resources.

While pro-democracy protests have flared up in Hong Kong sporadically throughout its history, this most recent bout has carried on for months, and despite not having clear leadership, it has attracted crowds well into the millions. Some demonstrators say new technology, such as encrypted apps, has fueled this new kind of leaderless protest.

Online anonymity and end-to-end encryption is the key, protesters say, as some Hong Kong residents view the technology they use as a double-edged sword that offers a way for Big Brother on the mainland to get a glimpse at their digital lives.

Citizen X, an anonymous frontline protester who asked for his name to not be revealed, told ABC News that being anonymous online is crucial, because of the "terror that is being created" by Chinese authorities.

"We do not have any kind of trust in the police force in Hong Kong now," he added. "And we do not have much trust in the judicial system of Hong Kong right now either."

"The government is using the Public Order Ordinance, which is something that is left over from the colonial era," Citizen X said. "They are very strict; they are very harsh, and they put the protester at a very disadvantaged situation."

Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance imposes sweeping restrictions on the right to assembly with the goal of maintaining "public order."

"That’s why if we want to continue our fights, if we want to continue to protect our city, we have to remain anonymous," Citizen X said.

Craig Choy, a lawyer from Hong Kong who focuses on privacy and data protection laws, wrote a manual on how to use encrypted apps for the pro-democracy group after the Umbrella Movement in 2014. An updated version of the manual has been distributed to 2019's demonstrators.

Choy told ABC News the way people organize and congregate for protests are through Telegram and Signal, which are messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption. Telegram is a cloud-based messaging app that boasts on its website that "messages are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct."

In the past, pro-democracy demonstrators relied on now-outdated methods of "publications on Facebook" or "writing articles in the newspapers," Choy said.

"But nowadays a lot of people are using messenger channels," he said. "They are also using other kind of technologies to collaborate, to work together, to make it easier for them to communicate and consolidate and do their call to actions."

Choy said he spent some time protesting in August and received directions and information through Telegram.

Another piece of technology heavily used by protesters is "the LIHKG forum, which is something like Reddit in the U.S.," Choy said. "A lot of people are using it to discuss political ideas; there are lots of discussions there about where they will move, what they will do next."

"People are just throwing out their own ideas. The difference is that everyone is anonymous, people will not judge you whether you are a person with a high position in society or whether you are young or rich," he said. "I think because of that a lot of young people can voice their opinion without the baggage of, 'I'm not high-ranking enough in society.'"

"It's very open," Choy said. "For example the protest in the airport, it didn't really get a lot of support, they thought it was a nuisance to visitors to Hong Kong, that's where they formulated the idea to apologize."

Choy also said Apple's Airdrop technology, which allows users to send text, pictures or information through Bluetooth, is being used to spread news to people who may otherwise not receive it through mass airdrops in public places.

"It's a very efficient way to spread information about the protests," Choy said. "It's also because the older generation they just turn on their Bluetooth without knowing it."

Political activist Glacier Kwong, 23, who has also spent time protesting on the streets in Hong Kong, said technology had played a “vital role throughout the movement.”

The online platforms that are being used to organize mean that there are "many facilitators of the movement," and citizens can "organize themselves without revealing their identity."

In addition to the organizing component, technology is a significant help on the front lines of a protest, Kwong said, where people can be updated with "instant news" about "where is safe, where is not."

Citing the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Kwong said one of the biggest issues for protesters then was that “not everyone agrees with the ‘main organizers’ and there are a lot of debates and conflicts.”

“But this time, because technology enables us to get rid of leaders, everyone can do whatever they see fit,” she said. “And it is also harder for the government to deter people from participating.”

"Because no matter who they arrest, there are no leaders,” she added. “Hence, the others can still organize themselves.”
Online anonymity is crucial because 'retaliation on the protesters are very severe'

As Citizen X said, anonymity is vital for those who choose to protest because it can mean risking their livelihoods.

“Technology is being used against protestors for sure,” Kwong said. “It is highly suspected that Hong Kong-ers data are being collected and send to China as there are no regulations governing data transmission."

Choy added that the same tools they use could be later used to "expose the identities of some people," Choy said. "I think that it's very important because you can also see that retaliation on the protesters are very severe."

Some people "have been fired" from their jobs because their online activity was reported, Choy said. This is why many protesters are wearing masks, goggles and helmets.

Another way people protect their identity is by using code words such as meeting for a "picnic" when they congregate.

One common term is "dreamwalking," Choy said. "Whenever they go for a protest they will say, 'I am going for a dream.'"

"People are very cautious about what they are saying online now," he said. "They don't want direct evidence that can be collected by Hong Kong police online."

Kwong said she sees online anonymity as “necessary for the advancement of human rights" because it "allows individuals to exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly online."
As tech is being used as a tool, companies like Apple are being dragged in the middle

Apple recently was accused by critics of bowing to pressure from China after it removed a police-tracking app, HKMap.live, from the App Store. Apple defended its decision in a statement saying it has learned that the app "has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong."

"The app displays police locations, and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement," the statement added. "This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store."

While the app lives on in a web server and on Android devices, Choy said he believes Apple's decision will have a "chilling effect" on other app developers and companies who support Hong Kong.

"A lot of these companies nowadays are facing pressure from China," Choy said. "The technology is neutral. By itself, it's not evil or good, it's how people use it that matters."

Moreover, Choy said Apple's move to delete the app is "actually putting the protesters in a very dangerous position."

"Lots of people nowadays, they use that app to know where the police officers are, especially in Hong Kong police brutality is very serious now, and none of them wear the badges and lots of protesters are going on the street and risking their lives," he said. "Even though they are facing police brutality, they have no way to complain."

"A not very brave protester like me would need this app so that I could locate a police officer, so I could get out of this dangerous scene," Choy said.

Apple taking a stand like this will cause other app developers to "think second thoughts" about what kind of apps they make, Choy said, and if they want to stand with Hong Kong.

Citizen X said Apple's decision shows that no one is immune to China's threats.

"As we see in recent years, the Chinese rise in power in economic perspective, power in a political perspective, it is constantly exerting influence over other countries, over international community and so on," he said. "That’s why we see Apple has to succumb to the threat of the Chinese government and the Chinese authority to impose some restriction on the application on the Apple store."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct112019

Thousands of US troops deploying to Saudi Arabia: Pentagon

MivPiv/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is deploying thousands of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Iran's attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The deployment includes fighter squadrons, early detection aircraft, and air defense systems.

"[Defense] Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia," said Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on Friday. "Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month."

The U.S. is sending two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to Saudi Arabia. The air expeditionary wing can be comprised of tankers, fighters, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), a U.S. official tells ABC News.

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has been in the Gulf region since May and is expected to depart later this year. The carrier will likely to not be replaced because the USS Harry S. Truman remains in Norfolk, Virginia for unscheduled repairs to its electrical systems.

The new aircraft deployment is not meant to make up for the potential lack of a U.S. carrier in the region but is intended to back fill the squadrons of aircraft the U.S. sent to the region earlier this summer after Iran carried out a series of attacks on commercial shipping and downed an American drone. The squadrons sent during that time were not originally scheduled to be replaced.

"Since May, the Department of Defense has increased the number of forces by approximately 14,000 to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as an investment into regional security," Hoffman said. "As we have stated, the United States does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest in the region."

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct112019

Manchester stabbings: police arrest suspect on suspicion of 'terrorism offenses'

BrianAJackson/iStock(LONDON) — A man has been arrested on suspicion of "terrorism offenses" after a man with a knife stabbed three people in a busy shopping center in Manchester, England.

The suspect, a man in his 40s, has been arrested in connection with the multiple stabbings at the Arndale Center on Friday morning. Video footage circulated on social media showed the purported suspect being arrested by police officers armed with stun guns. He was initially arrested at the scene on suspicion of "serious assault," although the incident is now suspected to be terror-related.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson told reporters that the man had been arrested on “suspicion of terrorism offenses” but they do not believe there is a wider threat at this time, describing the incident as an “awful attack.”

“Specialist officers are continuing to respond to an incident at the Arndale shopping centre in #Manchester city centre," Greater Manchester Police said in a statement. "In these early stages we are keeping an open mind about the motivation of this terrible incident and the circumstances as we know them. Given the location of the incident and its nature officers from Counter Terrorism Police North West are leading the investigation as we determine the circumstances. A man in his 40s – who was arrested at the scene on suspicion of serious assault – remains in custody for questioning.”

In total five people were injured in the attack, with two women and a man are being treated in hospital with stab wounds. The condition of the two women being treated with "stab injuries" is described as "stable," while the man is being treated with "stab wounds," police said. A fourth woman, who was not stabbed, was treated by paramedics on the scene, and was deemed to not require hospital treatment.

Police are now appealing for footage and images of the incident on social media.

The investigation is looking into "what the man said" during the incident to determine whether the stabbings were terror-related, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his "shock" and praised the response of the emergency services in the aftermath of the attack.

"Shocked by the incident in Manchester and my thoughts are with the injured and all those affected," he said in a tweet. "Thank you to our excellent emergency services who responded and who are now investigating what happened."

Earlier this year a police officer was among three people stabbed on New Year's Eve in Manchester, England, in what authorities investigated as a "terrorist incident." The city was also the site of a suicide bombing at at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017, which left 22 killed and 59 injured.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct112019

Duchess Meghan shares throwback clip of herself as a pre-teen to mark International Day of the Girl

NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has a message for young girls as the world celebrates International Day of the Girl.

"Every girl has potential. She has promise. She has the right to learn, the right to be heard, the right to play and to discover. The right to be exactly who she is," Meghan said in a video shared Friday on the @SussexRoyal Instagram account. "So to each one of you, keep asking questions. Keep pushing forward. Keep shining brightly. Know your worth and know that we are behind you every step of the way."

The video narrated by Meghan also includes a throwback clip of a pre-teen Meghan talking about how she took action at age 11 when she was offended by a commercial for a dishwashing liquid that said in its tagline, “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.”

Meghan, who grew up in California, wrote a series of letters that she claims changed how women were portrayed in a commercial for dish soap.

"If you see something that you don't like or are offended by, on television or any other place, write letters and send them to the right people," the young Meghan says in the throwback clip. "And you can really make a difference for not just yourself but lots of other people."

The now Duchess of Sussex also shared in the Instagram post a quote she said in a speech in Cape Town during her recent 10-day tour of South Africa with Prince Harry: “Visualize your highest self, and show up as her.”

"To all of the young girls reading this today on International Day of the Girl, that quote is for you," the post reads.

It is no surprise that Meghan chose to speak out on a day devoted to women's empowerment. The duchess has made women a focus of her work as a royal, including supporting women-focused charities in the U.K., launching a fashion capsule collection to benefit women and spotlighting women at events both home in the U.K. and abroad.

When Meghan had the opportunity to guest-edit British Vogue's September issue this year, she used the platform to spotlight activist women like maternal rights advocate and model Christy Turlington, feminist and actress Yara Shahidi and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in an issue she named "Forces for Change."

Meghan, a self-described feminist, also advocated for women when she worked as an actress, before she wed Prince Harry.

"I am proud to be a woman and a feminist," Markle said in a 2015 speech in her role as a United Nations Women advocate for political participation and leadership.

"It isn’t enough to simply talk about equality. One must believe in it," she said in the speech. "And it isn’t enough to simply believe in it. One must work at it. Let us work at it, together, starting now."

While making a name for herself in Hollywood, Markle worked on women's rights issues with organizations including World Vision, the Myna Mahila Foundation and One Young World, in addition to the United Nations.

On International Women's Day in 2017, Markle wrote an essay on period shaming based on her experience visiting India as an ambassador for World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization.

"We need to push the conversation, mobilize policy making surrounding menstrual health initiatives, support organizations who foster girls' education from the ground up," she wrote in Time magazine. "And within our own homes, we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.”

While Meghan was dating Harry, she hinted that she had found her match in him as a feminist.

She responded to a well-wisher who told her, "It's great having a feminist in the royal family," by saying, "He's a feminist too," in an apparent reference to Harry.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct112019

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wins 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

rrodrickbeiler/iStock(LONDON) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prizes, decided to award this year's prize to Ahmed "for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea."

"The prize is also meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions," the committee said in a statement Friday.

Along with the notoriety, Ahmed will receive a cash award of 9 million Swedish krona, or about $915,000.

In Ethiopia, the prime minister wields the executive power; and the position of president, while it carries significant social influence, is largely a ceremonial post.

Abiy, 43, became the prime minister of Ethiopia in April 2018. He spent his first few months in office freeing thousands of the country's political prisoners, lifting media censorship and appointing women ministers to a record 50 percent of his cabinet. He also spearheaded a peace agreement to end 20 years of frozen conflict between his nation and Eritrea.

Following the 1998 war over their shared border, which claimed the lives of more than 80,000 people, Ethiopia and Eritrea became locked in a stalemate of neither peace nor war -- until last year. On July 9, 2018, Abiy flew to Eritrea's capital and embraced the country's president, Isaias Afwerki, to usher in a new era of peace and friendship. The two leaders then jointly declared an end to the hostilities as well as the resumption of trade and diplomatic ties.

"Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its statement Friday. "When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries."

The committee acknowledged that "many challenges remain unsolved" in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country, where ongoing ethnic violence as well as conflict over land and resources have displaced millions of people. The committee said it hopes that the Nobel Peace Prize will strengthen Abiy "in his important work for peace and reconciliation."

"In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future," the committee said. "No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early. The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement."

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict."

Peace was the fifth and final prize category that Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel mentioned in his last will and testament. He left most of his fortune to be dedicated to the series of awards, the Nobel Prizes.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses," as described in Nobel's will.

All Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway.

To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when awarded the 2014 Peace Prize.

One person has declined the Peace Prize -- Le Duc Tho -- who was awarded the prize with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973 for negotiating the Vietnam peace agreement.

Of the 106 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 17 are women.

Ten years ago, former President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for what the Norwegian Nobel Committee called "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct102019

Egypt unveils 3,500-year-old industrial district on west bank of the Nile

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Egypt, as part of a larger effort to ramp up tourism, has unveiled a 3,500-year-old industrial area, a first-of-its-kind collection of artifacts, on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor.

The discovery in the Western Valley, also known as the Valley of the Monkeys, dates to the New Kingdom's 18th Dynasty, approximately 1543–1292 B.C., the antiquities ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who spearheaded a two-year excavation in the area, said the site includes 30 workshops where funeral furniture for royal tombs was made.

The team also discovered an oven used to produce clay products, a water storage tank, two silver rings and objects used to decorate royal coffins, Hawass said at a press conference in Luxor, according to the statement.

Hawass' team also uncovered a royal tomb that contained tools used in tomb construction.

A mission launched by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century discovered a few items at this site, which otherwise remained untapped until a new excavation in 2011. That mission was halted, and Hawass returned to the site in 2017.

Work is currently underway in the Western Valley to find the tombs of Queen Nefertiti and the wife of boy-king Tutankhamun, Hawass added.

In April, archaeologists unveiled an expansive tomb on Luxor's west bank that also dates to the 18th dynasty, believed to have belonged to a nobleman named Shedsu Djehuty.

The west bank of the Nile in Luxor also is home to the Valley of the Kings, a major site where pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom were buried.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct102019

Pope Francis holds Vatican gathering to study problems in the Amazon

mason01/iStock(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis and over 200 bishops, indigenous leaders and climate change experts convened in the Vatican on Monday to discuss issues related to the Amazon rainforest region.

The gathering, called a synod, opened Monday with a festive procession that started in St. Peter’s Basilica and moved through St. Peter’s Square.

On Monday in his opening address, Pope Francis urged the bishops to pray a lot, reflect, dialogue and listen with humility -- and be open to new thinking. He warned against a "homogenizing centralism" in the church driven by ideology and urged to "approach Amazon peoples on tiptoes, respecting their history, their culture and their style of good living."

He stressed that the church’s approach was "far removed" from colonial ones "that destroy the distinctiveness of people."

"May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism," he said at the synod. "The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel."

The fire that destroys, he said "blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own groups, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform."

Francis has made preservation of the planet a focus issue throughout his papacy and passionately argued for defending the poor and their natural environment in his 2015 encyclical letter, "Laudato Si."

On trips around the world, Francis, the first pope from South America, has drawn attention to indigenous communities and asked that they are listened to as equals instead of as minorities. He has often denounced their exploitation by governments and businesses that plunder their lands and natural resources.

The purpose of the gathering is to discuss the Amazon region’s cultural, ecological and spiritual problems and identify new ways for the Catholic Church to minister to its people. The vast area which spans nine countries -- Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname -- has approximately 34 million inhabitants, including 3 million indigenous people from nearly 400 ethnic groups who speak over 200 languages.

The Catholic Church's challenge is immense, especially since the region has a lack of priests. Some rural indigenous communities, often only accessible by boat, may see a priest just once a year.

To address this regional shortage in the more remote areas, some have raised the possibility of making married men from the local communities’ priests and strengthening women’s ministerial roles, many of whom are already doing the largest share of ministering to these communities.

The synod has sparked a great deal of controversy before its start. A conservative Catholic minority, opponents of this pope, which include a few cardinals, are against debating the proposal to allow the region’s married elders to become priests and elevating women’s ministerial roles.

There also have been accusations of heresy and apostasy from some dissenting Catholics who view this gathering as the church ‘’maneuvering to re-establish institutional primacy’’ in a once-Catholic territory that now sees the fast advancement of evangelism and Pentecostal Protestantism.

Another criticism related to this synod has been over bishops granted permission to wear clerical suits instead of cassocks in the synod hall and female experts and auditors able to sit where they wish, not just in back rows, as was the rule in previous synods.

On social media others have criticized Francis for his welcoming and greeting indigenous people who had come to the Vatican for the synod. During his opening address, the pope reacted to a negative comment made about the feathered headdress worn by an indigenous man at the opening mass.

"I was very saddened to hear, right here, a sarcastic comment about that pious man who brought the offerings with feathers on his head. Tell me, what difference is there in having feathers on your head and the three-cornered hat worn by some officials of our dicasteries?" referring to the three-pointed red birettas worn by cardinals.

The synod ends Oct. 27.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct102019

Video of synagogue shooting in Germany viewed more than 2,000 times on Twitch

BrianAJackson/iStock(HALLE, Germany) -- The live-streaming site Twitch is defending its actions after a user shared a video of the Halle synagogue shooting on the platform where it was viewed several thousand times.

Two people were killed near a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday — which was also Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. The attack occurred around noon local time, and the suspect was arrested by police at around 3:30 p.m. The names of the victims were not released.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected," Twitch, a platform especially popular in the online gaming community, said in an initial statement on Wednesday.

"Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously," the statement added. "We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

Later in the day, in a series of tweets, Twitch shed light on its investigation into how a recording of this act of violence was spread online.

The account owner streamed the act live on Twitch for 35 minutes, and it was viewed by approximately five people during that time, the company said.

An automatically-generated recording of the stream, however, was up for 30 minutes and was viewed by approximately 2,200 people before it was removed by Twitch.

Twitch said the account that posted the stream of the violence was created about two months ago and had only attempted to stream once before. They also say that the video was never featured in any recommendations or directories on the platform, saying, "our investigation suggests that people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services."

The company added that after the video was removed from their platform, they shared the user's profile with "an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content."

"We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community," the company added.

The incident is reminiscent of when an attacker live-streamed video of himself on Facebook as he went on a shooting rampage at a New Zealand mosque in March, sending the company and other social media platforms reeling as they tried to contain the spread of videos.

In the aftermath of the New Zealand incident that left 49 people dead, Facebook announced changes to prevent hate videos from spreading -- including a one-strike policy that restricts users from live-streaming after their first offense.

More recently, Facebook announced it had re-trained its automatic detections system using firearm training video footage from U.S. and U.K. law enforcement to better spot content featuring first-person footage of violent events.

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