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Alabama senate passes law to bans abortion

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The Alabama senate has passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States, which places a near-total ban on the termination of pregnancy – even in cases of rape and incest – and could punish doctors who perform the procedure with life in prison.

The text passed by the Republican-led senate has been sent to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk for signature into law and, if approved, is expected to trigger a legal battle which could reach the Supreme Court.

Under the bill, performing an abortion is a crime that could land doctors who perform it in prison for 10 to 99 years. Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has a fatal condition.

The largest human rights defence organisation in the United States, the ACLU, promised to file a lawsuit to block its implementation, saying the vote showed “how little they (conservative lawmakers) regard bodily autonomy”.

“This bill punishes victims of rape and incest by further taking away control over their own bodies and forcing them to give birth,” it added.

The National Organization for Women called the bill “unconstitutional” and said its passage would “send women in the state back to the dark days of policymakers having control over their bodies, health, and lives.”

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, who also presides over the state senate, greeted the bill’s passage as a “strong step toward defending the rights of the unborn.”

“With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way,” he added.

The bill’s backers have expressly said they want to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

Now that the top US court has a conservative majority in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, some Republicans want to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that recognised women’s right to abortion.

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Facebook disables billions of accounts

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Facebook on Thursday said it recently disabled billions of bogus accounts set up by “bad actors” and that five per cent of active accounts is likely fakes.

An estimate of how many of the online social networks accounts are fake and actions was taken against the creation of more during the first three months of this year was disclosed in Facebook’s latest report on enforcement activity.

Facebook disabled 2.19 billion accounts in the first quarter of this year, nearly double the number of accounts nixed in the prior three-month period, according to vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.

“The number of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time,” Rosen said.

Facebook apparently disabled the accounts as automated imposters were trying to establish them. The leading social network, meanwhile, estimated that five per cent of its 2.4 billion monthly active users were fake accounts yet to be uncovered.

The California-based company also said it has made progress in battling hate speech, automatically detecting 65 per cent of the content removed instead of needing to wait for users to report it.

Facebook took down four million posts considered hate speech in the first quarter of this year and continues to invest in technology to better detect such material in various languages and regions, according to Rosen.

AFP

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Government Kicks Against Cow-Kissing Challenge

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The Austrian government Thursday warned internet users to shun an online cow-kissing challenge, calling it a “dangerous nuisance”.

A Swiss app called Castl launched the #KuhKussChallenge (“Cow Kiss Challenge”) on Wednesday, encouraging users in Switzerland and other German-speaking countries to kiss cows — “with or without tongues” — to raise money for charity.

But Austrian Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Koestinger branded the challenge a “dangerous nuisance” in a statement on Thursday.

“Pastures and meadows are not petting zoos — actions like these could have serious consequences,” she added, pointing out that cows could become aggressive when defending their calves.

Balancing the activities of tourists and cattle farmers is a sensitive topic in Austria’s mountain regions, with both being key pillars of the region’s economy.

In February, a court in the Tyrol region caused uproar after ordering a farmer to pay 490,000 euros ($555,000) in compensation to the widower of a woman who was trampled to death by a herd of his cows in 2014.

The farmer is appealing the verdict and is being supported by Austria’s farmers’ federation, which has warned of the “end of our mountain pastures” if the verdict is allowed to stand.

The government has tried to prevent such incidents by publishing a “code of conduct” for mountain walkers and hikers, advising them to avoid herds of cows wherever possible.

“Actions like this challenge fly in the face of our efforts to promote co-existence on the pastures. I simply can’t understand it,” said Koestinger.

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Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky To Be Sworn In As Ukraine’s President On Monday

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Ukraine’s parliament voted on Thursday to hold the inauguration of newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday after he wrangled with lawmakers over the date.

Zelensky had wanted to hold the inauguration on Sunday, but those plans were controversial because that is a day of mourning for victims of Stalin-era repressions in the former-Soviet country.

The 41-year-old comedy actor, whose only previous experience in politics was playing the president in a television series, crushed the incumbent Petro Poroshenko in a runoff vote on April 21, in which he took 73.2 percent of the vote.

He repeatedly accused MPs of deliberately postponing the inauguration. But they defeated him and voted in favour of holding it on Monday, with 315 backing the date and two opposing.

The long and rancorous wrangling over the date suggest that Zelensky may struggle to impose his will over a parliament in which he does not command a majority despite his decisive victory in the presidential poll.

Following the vote, Zelensky on Facebook slammed the lawmakers as “petty crooks.”

His advisor Dmytro Razumkov told Ukrainian news agency Interfax that some lawmakers voted for a Monday inauguration “simply in order not to support the proposal of the country’s president.”

But pro-Western MP Serguiy Vysotsky wrote on Facebook that “the language of ultimatums is not politics,”  accusing Zelensky of behaving “like a child who wants everything to go the way he wants.”

Zelensky’s team has suggested that the lawmakers’ decision to delay the inauguration could affect the president’s ability to call snap elections to take advantage of his current popularity instead of waiting until October.

Zelensky has promised to eradicate Ukraine’s widespread corruption and end the war with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country, accusing the outgoing president of doing nothing to improve living standards and reduce poverty.

Yet beyond continuing Ukraine’s pro-Western course, his programme remains unclear and his team largely unknown, raising questions over how he will run a country battling pro-Russian separatists in the east and an unprecedented crisis in relations with Moscow as well economic woes.

AFP

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