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Cuba’s president slams social media ‘hatred’ after protests – Al Jazeera English



Havana, Cuba – The Cuban government held a massive rally in the early hours of Saturday morning on Havana’s Malecon, the city’s famed corniche, at the end of a week of unrest that spurred a slew of international criticism.

Crowds for the “Act of Revolutionary Reaffirmation” rally in the Cuban capital, which the government said numbered 100,000, arrived before the sun rose and spilled onto the highway near the United States embassy. Other rallies were held across the country.

People had travelled in by buses and trucks and were met by the music of Silvio Rodriguez, one of the few famous Cuban musicians not to criticise the government’s fierce response to the protests last week.

“I’m here to support the Cuban revolution,” Yilian Llanes told Al Jazeera. “To give my support as a representative of young Cubans, and to express my discontent with the violent protests that took place in our country.”

Those protests began last Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Banos. Residents were furious with hours-long blackouts but people quickly spilled onto streets across the island due to anger over months of food and medicine shortages.

People participate in a rally in Havana [Alexandre Meneghin/Reuters]

Police cars were turned over, a few hated MLC stores – where necessities can only be purchased in foreign currencies – were looted, and clashes with police and government supporters broke out.

The state’s response – arresting hundreds, including protesters who were pulled from the crowds and detained without having their families informed of where they were – earned a rebuke from the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday.

“All those detained for exercising their rights must be promptly released,” Michelle Bachelet said.

‘Viva Cuba Libre’

People began being bused to Havana’s Vedado neighbourhood from local party headquarters from 4:30am (08:30 GMT) on Saturday for the rally. They carried party flags, banners and placards showing revolutionary heroes such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Raul Castro, the 90-year-old brother of Fidel who stepped down as the first secretary of the Communist Party in April, made an appearance but did not speak. Instead, the microphone was given to his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

“Viva Cuba Libre,” shouted Diaz-Canel, before launching into an attack on social media, access to which the government had restricted for much of the last week.

“Hate robs us of the time to love. We have experienced that in the last week on social media. The owners of these networks, the dictators of those algorithms, have opened their platforms to hatred, without the slightest ethical concern,” he said.

‘Viva Cuba Libre,’ shouted Diaz-Canel, before launching into a furious attack on social media [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

“It is a hatred that fractures friends, families, society and threatens to make many of our values useless.”

In contrast to last weekend’s protests, the crowd on Saturday was older. People had been called up by their workplaces and many wore the T-shirts of state industries, such as oil distributor CUPET. Others wore pro-Cuba slogans.

Still, young people participated in the rally, including 27-year-old Kenneth Fowler, who told Al Jazeera he is a professor at the University of Havana and had come with students from the chemistry faculty.

“Last weekend we had an attempt against the safety of our society,” he said. “It was part of a much greater attack by the US government and the capitalist system. The president called for people to come forward and defend our achievements. So that’s why I’m here.”

On Thursday night, during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US president Joe Biden made it clear that he would continue Donald Trump’s policy of denying Cubans money by continuing to block remittances sent by relatives abroad. The UN’s Bachelet also criticised the 60-year US embargo.

COVID-19 infections

Meanwhile, news of the rally spurred criticism from those who have been watching COVID-19 flood every corner of the island. The average daily number of new cases has risen above 6,000 and hospitals are being overwhelmed in several provinces.

Amilcar Perez Riverol, a post-doctoral fellow in molecular biology at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil and a veteran of Cuba’s laboratories, has been a staunch supporter of Cuba’s health workers and scientists as they have fought the virus and developed homegrown vaccines.

He tweeted that for a country that is currently fifth in the world and first in Latin America in terms of infections per capita, the decision to rally seemed disastrous.

“These rallies aren’t good news for the control of the current surge in Cuba. Not only because of the potential infections during the rallies but for the message they send,” Perez Riverol told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

But on the Malecon, Fowler said a show of unity was too important to worry about the further spread of the virus. “We need to show our decision to fight together, I think that is more important,” he said. “And you know what? I didn’t hear anyone telling that to the protesters last weekend.”

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RCMP Southeast District media relations officer headed east – Cranbrook Daily Townsman – Cranbrook Townsman



After 15 years in B.C., RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey is headed east.

O’Donaghey has spent the last two years as the district advisory non-commissioned officer for media relations B.C. RCMP’s Southeast District. Before that, he served as the communications officer for the Kelowna Regional Detachment, following stints as a front-line officer in Kelowna and Lake Country. He began his policing career in Chilliwack with Fraser Valley Traffic Services.

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Now, he’s accepted a transfer to Newfoundland and Labrador, where his spouse was born and raised.

“I am absolutely thrilled for the opportunity to take her back home,” said O’Donaghey. “I am also overjoyed for the opportunity to work in such a gorgeous part of our country and raise my young family in a warm and welcoming province, well-known for having the some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.”

O’Donaghey was born in Calgary, Alta., but moved to Penticton at eight years old. He graduated from Pen-High.

“Jesse has been a valuable part of the BC RCMP Media Relations program,” says Dawn Roberts, director in charge of B.C. RCMP communications. “Representing the RCMP, talking about what we do, as well as being very engaged in community awareness and charity events is why we are going to miss him so much as he heads to the east coast.”


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BC residents taking more outdoor risks for social media glory – My PG Now



Securing that killer selfie or video for some social media glory comes at a cost according to BC Hydro.

According to its latest survey, 16% of British Columbians have stood at the edge of a cliff, while 12% knowingly disobeyed safety signage or trespassing.

Spokesperson, Dave Conway told Vista Radio the recent numbers ring true of an even more disturbing trend.

“We have seen over a five-year period a 200% increase in trespassing incidents over the last five years and about 2% or 80-thousand British Columbians admit to hurting themselves while trying to get a photo or a video.”

Cuts, falling, and spraining ankles are among the most common injuries followed by near-drownings and broken bones.

Those living in the north experience injuries the most at a rate of 4% while taking a photo or video while people in our region were most likely (19%) to trespass or ignore warning signs.

Conway also mentioned public interference with electrical infrastructure is quite risky.

“You do not need to touch the infrastructure to be electrocuted. You need to come within the area that the electricity can jump from the infrastructure itself into you and then down into the ground.”

However, the risks do not stop at selfies.

British Columbians also admit to staying in a park or recreation site after permitted hours (25%), getting too close to a wild animal (17%), cliff diving (15%), hiking in a or restricted area (13%), and swimming out of bounds or in a restricted area (12%).

Selfie-related deaths and injuries are on the rise globally.

Between 2011 and 2017, 259 people were reported killed worldwide in these types of incidents.

A link to the full report can be found here.

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Is Social Media Spreading Dangerous Covid-19 Delta Variant Misinformation? – Forbes



Throughout the pandemic, there have been memes on social media that questioned whether Covid-19 was real. Now across the platforms there are those who are even claiming that the delta variant was somehow caused by the vaccines. That’s not true of course, as the delta variant was first identified in India last October – two months before the first emergency-approved Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was even administered.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the delta variant is also just one of eight known variants of the virus. It has been in the spotlight because of its high transmission rate and its level of aggression.

On social media there are those that not only disregard the warnings from the WHO and Centers of Disease Control (CDC), but have used the platforms to spread contradictory information.

“Social media is not news,” warned William V. Pelfrey, Jr., Ph.D., professor in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Reputable news outlets have objective editors who review information quality before disseminating it,” added Pelfrey. “There are, unfortunately, some media elements that present as news but are instead politically motivated and distribute information that is not factual. They are usually easy to spot. Although the word ‘news’ may be in the title, they are in reality an echo chamber.”

Misinformation Spreads Like A Virus

Because of the continued divide in our country, it is easy to see how social media can help spread information, misinformation and even disinformation. Information sent by like-minded individuals, even if they aren’t friends, can be more trusted than what is seen or heard from the actual news outlets.

“Social media is different,” noted Pelfrey. “People post what interests them, posts that will draw attention – and secure distribution – and posts that make them feel good. The psychology behind this process is fascinating. When given a large enough platform, posts that make a person feel good can be very dangerous. If I have thousands of followers and post that ‘Covid-19 is over!,’ I am creating a serious public health risk, even if that post makes me feel less insecure about an uncertain world.”

The ability for social media to spread this sort of misinformation isn’t new, but the pandemic may have increased its ability to act as a megaphone.

“As a healthcare provider, I was already starting to see an increase in patients turning to social media before Covid-19 even started. Jokes about Dr. Google or Dr. Facebook were already taking place,” said Dr. Donna Gregory, senior lecturer within the School of Nursing at Regis College.

Previously it was more of an individual case-by-case basis, but with the outbreak of the pandemic last year, suddenly it seemed the masses took to social media for the latest source of information, even as health care experts knew very little about it.

“Unfortunately, with social media it can often be difficult to determine the original source and the credibility of that source,” added Gregory. “I often hear patients say, ‘Someone I know shared a post…,’ or ‘My friend posted that her friend…,’ regarding health information. Many of these posts generate fear and impact patient decision making but aren’t grounded in fact.”

Social media remains a great place to interact with others, especially during the shutdown that forced people to stay at home. It can also be a good place for academic discourse and information gathering, but it doesn’t take much for misinformation to be presented as fact.

“Disinformation can lead to fear, failure to follow guidelines, distrust of the medical community, and overall, we have seen it negatively impact the community response to this pandemic,” explained Gregory.

“In order to prevent the spread of disinformation and allow people to make decisions that are based on fact and expert opinion, people need to know how to be savvy consumers of social media,” she explained. “This includes being able to identify disinformation and know what sources are credible. This has been true since the start of the pandemic and continues to be true as we see changes, such as the emergence of the delta variant.”

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