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Some kids don't want their photos shared on school social media – Halifax Examiner

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1. Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia converting Dartmouth hotel to supportive housing for 65 people

A white hotel building with three peaks in the roof is seen at the back of a parking lot on a sunny day. In the background, the three red and white smoke stacks at the Nova Scotia Power plant in Dartmouth are visible. There are a handful of cars in the parking lot, and green grass boulevards.

Travelodge Suites in Dartmouth is shown in a Google Streetview image from 2018.

Zane Woodford reports on the news that the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia is buying Travelodge Suites in Dartmouth and converting it to supportive housing for about 65 people. Woodford writes:

AHANS is buying the Travelodge Suites by Wyndham Halifax Dartmouth, located at 101 Yorkshire Ave Ext., off Windmill Road in Dartmouth, using a mix of provincial and federal funding directed through the municipal government targeted toward deeply affordable housing.

Halifax regional council approved a proposal from AHANS to use about $6.3 million in federal money from the Rapid Housing Initiative to convert an existing non-residential building, as the Halifax Examiner reported in September.

Woodford continues:

An employee on the front desk confirmed to the Examiner by phone that Thursday is the last day the hotel will be open. He said he found out about the sale a couple weeks ago.

The sale price isn’t yet publicly listed. According to ViewPoint Realty, the building last sold in January 2019 for $4.2 million.

Click here to read the whole story.

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2. COVID update: 26 new cases

This is a close up of an old Olympia manual typewriter, blue grey in colour. There is a sheet of white paper in it, and the word COVID 19 has been typed in capital letters.

Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

Twenty-six new cases of COVID-19 were announced on Wednesday. Tim Bousquet has the full update here. Twenty-two of the new cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone; the other four are in the Northern Zone.

There are 146 known active cases in Nova Scotia. Ten people are in hospital with the disease and one of those patients is in ICU.

You can still get tested and here are the locations for today and Friday:

Thursday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm —
Kentville Lions Club, 10am-5pm

Friday
Kentville Lions Club, noon-7pm

Click here for the full update. 

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3. New environmental legislation

Environment Minister Tim Holman speaks with reporters on Oct. 27, 2021. Halman is standing at a podium equipped with a microphone. In the background is a painting of Queen Victoria.

Environment Minister Tim Halman speaks with reporters on Oct. 27, 2021. Photo: Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet has a report on the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, which the Houston government tabled on Wednesday. As Woodford notes, the Act is a new version of the previous Liberal government’s Sustainable Development Goals Act of 2019, although there are some big differences.

Woodford breaks it all down and also got reaction from Noreen Mabiza, the Energy Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) who said the EAC was happy to see the goals in legislation and added this:

Of course more work has to be done. We’re in a climate emergency, so there’s more work to do — we need to get rid of offshore oil, for example.

Click here to read Woodford’s report. 

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4. On the set of Black Ice

A photo of a film crew with director Hubert Davis in a red and blue shirt interviewing Paul Byard. Behind Byard is a man holding a light. The second photo is taken from behind Davis and looks toward Byard. Behind Davis is the cameraman who is filming the interview. The set is in Byard's home in his living room and his kitchen is in the background.

Film director Hubert Davis talks to Paul Byard about the former Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes. Byard’s father St. Clair Byard was a member of the Truro Victorias. Photo(s): Matthew Byard.

Matthew Byard interviewed Hubert Davis, the Oscar-nominated director of Black Ice, a new documentary being filmed about the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes. The documentary is based on the 2004 book, Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925, which was written by brothers George and Darril Fosty.

As Byard learned, the players from the league have all since passed away, so Davis is interviewing their descendants, which includes Byard’s father Paul.

St. Clair Byard, Paul’s father,  played for the Truro Victorias. Davis told Byard why it’s important to get these stories:

What we’re finding is, I think in the Black community, the oral tradition is really how stories have been handed down. So [we’re] trying to kind of reclaim some of those stories so that they’re out there and documented so that they don’t kind of get lost from generation to generation.

Byard interviewed his father, Paul, who talked about the legacy of the league:

When my father and those guys played, their skills and things were passed down from somebody else and then they passed it down. And I think as the country grew and as Blacks got more involved in sports, in hockey in particular, by time the 1940s and 50s came, there was just an explosion of talent — of Black talent. And it just couldn’t be held down anymore, it was all over Canada.

I’ve been working with Byard on his stories and I’ve said this before: he has really good instincts for ideas, he gets out into the community and digs for stories, and he’s creating a good network of contacts. He’s also a very good photographer. It’s been fun following his progress and reading his work.

Click here to read his story.

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5. Food banks

A photo from the Glace Bay Food Bank showing its stock of food, including bags of potatoes and canned goods.

A few years ago, I was driving past Feed Nova Scotia’s warehouse in Burnside and wondered, “why is the food bank getting bigger?” For years, Feed Nova Scotia was located in a much smaller space on the Bedford Highway. Some people don’t like it when you comment on food banks because they think you’re criticizing the staff and volunteers who run them. That’s not the case at all, of course. But seeing food banks getting bigger and busier means there are other societal issues that are being ignored. Bigger and busier food banks aren’t a success story.

It looks like Dolores Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator was thinking about food banks, too. She wrote this piece, Banking on food banks, this week.

Campbell writes about an article she saw by Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, in the Globe and Mail. I saw that article, too, and it has this statistic that stands out:

Food charities outnumber grocery stores in Canada four to one.

Campbell writes:

Nikkel quotes a recent report from Second Harvest, “Canada’s Invisible Food Network,” which found that the $33 billion worth of food these organizations distributed last year would “make them the second-largest grocery store chain in Canada, having served about 6.7 million Canadians.”

She also cites a Statistics Canada report that found that in 2019, “an estimated 1.2 million households” in Canada were living with food insecurity, a number that increased to one in seven families during the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Campbell also has some stats on food bank use in Nova Scotia and it’s not getting any better:

As far back as its HungerCount 2016 report, Food Banks Canada found a rise in food bank use across the country — including a 20.9% surge in Nova Scotia and a 24.9% spike in the territories. By 2019, food bank visits nationally had plateaued, as had overall visits in Nova Scotia, but 53.9% of this province’s 123 reporting food banks reported an increase in visits between 2018 and 2019.

That HungerCount 2021 report is out today and you can read it here.

But here are some stats:

  • 33.3% of food bank users are children while representing only 19.1% of the population
  • Single adult households represent 46.1% of households accessing food banks, while representing only 28.2% of the population
  • Those receiving provincial social assistance as their main source of income support represent 50.5% of households accessing food banks
  • The percentage of single adults with children using food banks is 17.8% while representing only 10.1% of the population
  • While seniors represent 8.7% of food bank users, the rate of increase is far outpacing other age groups
  • 3,216,631 meals and snacks served in March 2021 (does not include Hamper programs) through food banks across Canada.

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6. The Tideline: episode 51, Hello City

The four members of Hello City, who are three young white men and a young white woman.

Hello City.

Tara Thorne has a spooktacular episode of The Tideline this week with a Hello City Halloween special. Liam Fair, Henri Gielis, Colin McGuire, and Beth Poulsen share spooky tales all made up in the moment. Oh, this show is rated G for Ghoulish.

Stick around for the bit on the best Halloween candy.

I know those molasses kisses don’t get much love — they’re likely one of the most divisive of Halloween candies — but I like them.

Click here to listen to The Tideline for free.

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Views

Some kids don’t want their photos shared on school social media

A photo of a young girl with long hair looking at a laptop computer. A smart phone in a pink case sits next to the laptop.

Caroline Arsenault has two children who attend schools under the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP). Each September, Arsenault gets a media release form asking if she gives permission for her children’s photos to be used by teachers and the schools on its website, social media, and other platforms. But before she signs the forms, Arsenault asks her kids if they give consent to share their photos. This September, her youngest said they were okay with their photos being shared. The oldest, however, not so much. Arsenault said when her oldest child first didn’t give consent, it was because they didn’t want to pose for photos that might be shared. They were okay with group photos of them with fellow students being shared. But that has since changed.

This is a child who is aware of social media. My kids don’t have social media, but they do have access to devices. They know about social media, for sure. I am active on social media. My oldest child who doesn’t want to give consent is not in favour of social media.

Denying consent hasn’t really been an issue for Arsenault and her oldest child, until they had a school project that involved recording a video. The teacher reached out to Arsenault to ask how to have her child take part in the project.

To me, it’s an unnecessary barrier caused by the overly broad consent form. I wish I were able to say I do not give consent for sharing over social media. I do give consent for in-class work, for sharing with parents. I wish there were different levels. I’ve written that in on the form.

It’s more information to manage and control for each child, but if the school wants to use all these platforms for its own promotion, along with that activity or possibility of promotion comes some responsibility.

Parents of kids in schools across Nova Scotia have to sign these forms each year. Here’s an example of one used by the Halifax Regional Education Centre. HRCE spokesperson Doug Hadley replied to my email with this statement about sharing student information:

Sharing success stories and examples of student engagement on social media is one way teachers and schools are able to bring families into the classroom. This has proven to be especially helpful during the pandemic when, for the most part, only essential visitors were allowed in school.

Signing the form may not be a big deal for most parents, but some parents, like Arsenault, would prefer to have more options on how their children’s photos are shared.

Of course, schools and teachers have good intentions in sharing the photos of their students. But for some parents who limit what they share about their kids on their own social media, sharing photos on school Facebook and Twitter accounts is too uncomfortable. Most regional education centres in the province have Twitter, Facebook, and/or YouTube accounts. So do many teachers. It’s not difficult to find those accounts either. There’s a big difference between sharing photos with the parents of your kid’s classmates, and posting them on a Twitter account. The media release forms don’t account for that — you give consent to everything or nothing.

I contacted all the regional education centres — I still want to call them school boards — and the ones that got back to me said they follow the Provincial Privacy of Student Information Policy, which you can find here.

There are some photos of students on the Halifax Regional Centre for Education Twitter account. In some cases, the students are identifiable. In others, they’re not. But I personally find the issue is with Twitter itself. It can be a toxic place. The HRCE account on a snow day is just wild. And that’s not the HRCE’s fault; it’s the users who are the issue. I feel badly for the person monitoring that account on those days. And teacher Twitter accounts aren’t protected. If your kid wants privacy online, I can see how they wouldn’t want their photos on school or teacher social media accounts.

I also reached out to the Department of Education and spokesperson Jenna McQueen sent this statement about the forms and social media use:

Consent forms:
The broad nature of the consent form is required as any information shared publicly (i.e social media, school website, newsletters, etc.), can result in further distribution on social media platforms. If families have questions or concerns, they should contact their school principal.

If a family does not consent or doesn’t return the form to the school, the school keeps a list of the students and ensures the student’s image or student work are not published. If a parent or guardian changes their mind at anytime, they can update the consent form.

Social media:
Nova Scotia teachers have teaching standards (comprehensive guide) which guide their work, including a focus on professionalism. Teachers must adhere to the confidentiality requirements and demonstrate professional conduct in a variety of settings, including schools, communities, digital sites, and social media.

Students, parents or guardians, teachers, support staff, volunteers, principals, school board and regional centres for education staff share a responsibility for demonstrating good digital citizenship and respect through appropriate and responsible behaviour when using technology as outlined in Nova Scotia’s Provincial School Network Access and Use Policy. The appropriate use of technology is embedded within the curriculum and taught to students. We encourage parents to continue the conversation about privacy and consent.

Arsenault says at their home, they weave conversations about consent and social media into everyday life.

We are clear that we are parents and we make decisions on their behalf; it’s our responsibility. But they do have a say in some decisions, especially when it’s something that really is optional and has to do with sharing information quite broadly.

I hope they feel heard and that they perspective is valid, that they have some agency in what happens. Something that is really important: I do want them to know consent is theirs to give and they can withdraw it at any time. They are entitled to give and withdraw consent. It’s so much easier to teach that when it’s a form to share photos.

Arsenault says a simple fix is having levels of how photos would be shared. She says schools and regional education centres can also have continuing conversations with students on social media, how content is shared, and what the implications are.

There are lots of really interesting points to cover with kids of all ages, beginning with what we think of as really innocent photo sharing, to photo sharing without consent. There is a lot of opportunity to educate kids about their behaviour online and sharing images. To educate but to also demonstrate and model behaviour. As a school, we can model that behaviour by always checking for consent and being clear about what we’re doing with that information and the purpose behind it. The eyes-wide-open approach.

Arsenault says she doesn’t like seeing stock photos being used for promotional materials because they don’t reflect the actual school community. She says schools can get consent for those specific campaigns.

For general promotion, I don’t know if it’s necessary to promote photos of smiling children all the time. There are lots of ways to make it a little more anonymous, but still demonstrate what’s happening in schools with the great work being done.

Arsenault intends on bringing up this issue with the CSAP because she’s hearing about it from other parents. She’s also the chair of the Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, an advocacy group for Francophone parents. She says they will likely meet in November.

I do think it’s important to bring it to their level of awareness that some parents have an issue with this and that there are possibilities for different solutions, and make some recommendations on how to move forward.

I appreciate the way Arsenault handles this. She not only has the conversations about consent with her kids, but she takes into account her children’s need for privacy. Every kid is different and some are more private than others. Not all parents get that, unfortunately. And some kids are aware of social media and its potential harms, especially as they get older. It’s a good conversation to have with them. I’d be interested in hearing how other parents handle this.

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Noticed

A photo of the book cover of Susan Orlean's book On Animals. The cover drawing is of a chicken. Yesterday, I bought a copy of On Animals by New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. Orlean was on CBC Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay a couple of weeks ago talking all things animals and her book, which is a collection of essays about, well, animals.

I love animals and if I had to do things over I’d probably work with them. I love cats, horses, donkeys, whales, and foxes — which are cousins to dogs, but somehow look like cats, too. Every week I ride horses at a ranch. My favourite horse to ride, Wrex, is a sweet, calm boy who is a retired race horse. It always amazes me that I have somehow learned to work and even communicate with this 1,200 pound animal well enough to trot around a ring and through obstacle courses or walk through the woods with him. And disconnecting, taking care of and riding a horse for a few hours each week is incredibly therapeutic.

I also love bees, which are fascinating in so many ways, and even spiders. I once held a tarantula at one of those travelling educational shows. I asked the handler, “Can I pet the tarantula?” who replied, “You never pet a tarantula.” Instead I let it crawl on my arm.

Anyway, Orlean’s interview on animals was a good one. She talked about people who aren’t interested in animals, which I also don’t understand. Orlean said:

It’s really interesting because I find it puzzling. I am able to roll with just about anybody’s taste that’s different than mine. But in a way it feels like you’re expressing a lack of interest in the natural world and that I find is the last breaking point. … a profound lack of interest in animals seems to me probably lacking an interest in nature in general.

In one of her book’s essays, “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), which has crossed from domestic rabbits to wild rabbits, and is highly contagious and almost always fatal. She talks about RHD in her interview with Chattopadhyay and that chat included a discussion on COVID:

One thing that COVID has reminded us of is that this lifeform, mainly the virus, doesn’t see a huge distinction between the animal world and the human world. Not every virus can move from animals to humans, but a whole lot of them can … I think we have just sort of forgotten we’re another animal species. And while there are barriers between us, the barriers are maybe a little more permeable than we really think. We, of course, sit way, way, way at the top of the animal kingdom. For better or worse, we are the apex predator. We are above and beyond other animal species, but we still are animals. Now, seeing how rabbit hemorrhagic disease travelled through the rabbit kingdom was exactly the way COVID travelled in the human population. The parallels are uncanny. If you want a rude reminder we are animals, all you have to do is look at viruses because viruses see us all as one continuum, rather than people being this distinct, separate, walled-off species. We’re not. We’re all living creatures on earth.

But this one part of the interview stuck with me and is likely one of the reasons I love animals:

Animals and humans share a whole range of behaviours that we really do have in common and yet their strangeness is so profound. The fact that we can never communicate with them keeps the desire to connect with them in a state of unrequited questing. To feel that you communicated with an animal is a pretty overwhelming sensation. You crossed the barrier between our species and their species.

I do think that we find in them something greater than the pettiness that human existence can sometimes include. There’s something that goes beyond.

It’s a good listen and you can check it out here. Oh, here’s a photo of my sweet Wrex who I will get to see on Saturday.

A photo of Wrex, a white retired racing horse in his stall in a barn. Wrex is wearing a purple halter and looking away from the camera.

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Government

City

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda here

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Thursday, 12pm, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — the findings of six Master of Architecture students who received a scholarship for thesis-related travel and research

Re-envisioning leadership (Thursday, 2:30pm) — Session 7 of the Moral Courage: Dallaire Cleveringa Critical Conversation Series. This conversation asks participants to consider what approach to leadership is needed in our current context. What can we learn from examples of moral courage to inform the future of leadership? What are some strategies to effectively teach moral courage? Register here.

Friday

MacKay Symposium – Happiness in Troubled Times (Friday, 1pm) — virtual event to discuss

How can we think about happiness at a historical juncture overshadowed by troubles like the climate crisis, rising populism & xenophobia, increasing social inequality, and the COVID-19 pandemic? Four internationally renowned speakers put happiness into social & cultural context. CART captioning provided for the entire event.

More info and registration here.

Queen Elizabeth’s Swedish Gossips: Female Friends and Family in Early Modern England (Friday, 3:30pm, room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Krista Kesselring will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Treat Accessibly (Thursday, 1pm, SMU Quad) — Pick up a free lawn sign, and read these tips to make your home more accessible for trick-or-treaters. More info here.

5th Annual National Retail Innovation Awards (Thursday, 4pm) — online celebration; register here

Friday

The James Webb Space Telescope: The Countdown Is On (Friday, 7pm, McNally Main Theatre Auditorium and online) — René Doyon, Director of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at Université de Montreal and lead scientist for Canada’s contribution to Webb, will explain that

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the prestigious Hubble Space Telescope, will be the largest telescope ever deployed in space when it launches this winter. Thanks to its unprecedented observing capabilities, Webb promises to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe, Webb will study the population of young galaxies formed early after the Big Bang, and probe the atmospheres of nearby temperate Earth-size exoplanets that may have conditions conducive for life. Canada is a key partner in the development of this observatory, arguably among the most complex machines ever built by humanity.

Free virtual and on-campus tickets available, along with ASL interpretation


In the harbour

Halifax
10:30: Ile D Aix, cable layer, moves from Pier 9 to Irving Oil
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
16:00: Ile D Aix, cable layer, moves back to Pier 9
16:00: CMA CGM T. Jefferson, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
18:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea

Cape Breton
13:00: Stemnitsa, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Bejaïa, Algeria
15:00: Horizon Arctic, offshore supply ship, sails from Fiddle Pier for sea


Footnotes

I’ve written about bad bosses in previous Morning Files, but I thought I’d tell you about a good boss of mine. I met Mike at one of my very first jobs when I was almost 18. Then in the early 90s, he hired me to do research for a company he owned. Mike was a rather eccentric person and had a brain full of knowledge. He knew so much about so many things. He especially loved languages, literature, and music. He had thousands of CDs and probably just as many books. We talked about and debated politics, social issues, music — just about anything. I’d say he was one of my first mentors.

We kept in touch over the years and I became friends with his kids, who are about my age. I think he thought of me as another one of his kids. He kept track of my career and would call if he saw my byline somewhere. I last saw him about four years ago, not long after he was diagnosed with dementia. He was aware then that some of his memories were slipping away, although he still recalled much about me, my work, my kid, and all that knowledge of literature and music.

Mike passed away in late September. I went to his celebration of life on Saturday, where the priest called him a “Renaissance man.” Mike would have liked that. I was reading some of the tributes to him on the funeral home website where his obituary is posted. Mike was a school teacher for years before I worked with him, and a student of his from more than 50 years ago recalled how he introduced her to the poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth, and how she thinks of Mike whenever she reads Wordsworth’s writing. Another lifelong friend said Mike was “never at a loss for words, nor was he easily intimidated” and his “love of music, literature, and engaging debate were legendary.” This is the same Mike I remember.

I learned a lot from Mike, too. We’d probably have some good debates on what I write now. He  wouldn’t agree with everything — in fact, he’d probably disagree and he’d tell me so! But he’d also say, “Good for you for writing it.”

Some people have a profound impact on your life. Mike was that for me.


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Hashtag Trending Nov. 29 – Lush leaves social media; Apple warns prosecutor of iPhone hack; man receives 3D-printed eye – IT World Canada

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Lush deletes all of its social media profiles, Apple warns a Polish prosecutor that her iPhone is under attack, and a British man receives the world’s first 3D-printed prosthetic eye.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now, welcome to Hashtag Trending! It’s Monday, November 29th, and I’m your host, Tom Li.

Cosmetic giant Lush went on a social media cleansing routine on Friday by closing its accounts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, citing worries of the harms caused by social media. The announcement was made on the Black Friday weekend, one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. According to Lush CEO Mark Constantine, the company could lose 10 million euros by shutting down the accounts, but he’s happy to embrace the loss. This isn’t Lush’s first attempt to leave social media. In 2019, the company left Instagram and Facebook, but ultimately returned. The scale of its second departure seems to be much larger, and it looks more permanent than before.

Apple has alerted a Polish prosecutor that her iPhone has been compromised by the NSO spyware group. According to 9to5Mac, the NSO group was responsible for creating the Pegasus spyware, which has been used to spy on journalists and politicians. Apple is currently in the process of suing NSO for attacking iOS users and is monitoring signs of Pegasus-related attacks.

Finally, a British man became the first person to receive a 3D-printed eye. The prosthetic isn’t a functioning organ but was described to be highly realistic with a clearer definition and more depth to the pupil. Moreover, the procedure was less invasive; Whereas traditional eye prosthetics require a physical mould of the eye socket, the 3D printed one scans the socket digitally, bypassing an invasive step. Moreover, the 3D printed eye was matched against the patient’s other eye, which was also digitally scanned.

Now for something a bit different. The estate of JRR Tolkien, the creator of the Lord of the Rings series, has successfully blocked a crypto-currency called JRR Token. According to the lawyers representing the estate, the token’s name invoked copyright infringement laws. It’s clear that the coin’s creators were trying to capitalize on the success of the author’s name, but this is a common occurrence. In October, the creators of Squid, a coin based on the popular Korean TV show Squid Game, duped their investors out of more than $3 million.

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire Newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. If you have a suggestion or tip, please drop us a line in the comments or via email. Thanks for listening, I’m Tom Li.

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Ethiopian gov’t forces in control of Chifra: State media – Aljazeera.com

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Dead bodies seen ‘everywhere on the streets’ of town in Afar region as Al Jazeera gains exclusive access to front line of escalating conflict.

Ethiopia’s state-run broadcaster has said government forces were in control of the town of Chifra in Afar region, their first major seizure since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said earlier this week he would head to the front lines to lead federal troops against fighters from the northern Tigray region.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions displaced since the war between Ethiopian federal and allied troops, and the Tigrayan forces, broke out in November 2020. The conflict has also caused a massive humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people facing famine.

The Tigrayan forces captured Chifra, on the border between the northern Afar and Amhara regions, after fighting intensified last month.

“Ethiopian Defense Forces and Afar Special Forces have controlled Chifra,” the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said on its Twitter account on Sunday, without providing further details.

There was no immediate comment by the Tigrayan forces.

‘Dead bodies everywhere’

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is heavily restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to corroborate. Al Jazeera, however, was able to gain exclusive access to Chifra, the first international news organisation to do so.

Reporting from “the heart” of the town, Al Jazeera Arabic’s correspondent Mohammed Taha Tewekel said the Tigrayan forces “were driven out of this strategic area” by pro-government militia from the Afar region, but also noted “gunfire could be heard from all directions” for hours.

“It [Chifra] has been the epicentre of military operations during the past 40 days,” Tewekel said during a live broadcast, with gunfire ringing in the background.

“The scenes we witnessed are very appalling. Dead bodies everywhere on the streets. It is living proof of the ferociousness of the fighting. There are clear signs of the lack of humanity in this conflict. The town’s commercial shops were totally destroyed, even the mosques were not spared. All the residents have fled for their lives and the town has turned into military barracks for the Afari fighters,” he added.

The Afari fighters “have seized the city” and are now advancing towards the towns of Bati and Kombolcha, the correspondent said.

Chifra is west of the town of Mille, which Tigrayan forces have been trying to capture for weeks, because it lies along the highway linking landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti, the Horn of Africa’s main port.

State-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported on Friday that Abiy was on the front line with the army fighting the Tigrayan forces in Afar.

“The morale of the army is very exciting,” he said in the remarks broadcast on Friday, promising to capture Chifra “today”.

After months of tension, Abiy in November 2020 sent troops to Tigray to remove the region’s governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in response to what the government said was an attack on federal army camps. The TPLF, which dominated the federal government for nearly three decades until Abiy took office in 2018, said federal forces and its allies launched a “coordinated attack” against it.

The prime minister promised a swift victory and government forces seized Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, in late November. By June, however, the Tigrayan forces had retaken most of the region and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

The Tigrayan forces recently reported major territorial gains, claiming this week to have seized a town just 220km (135 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.

International alarm about the escalating conflict has deepened, with several foreign countries urging their citizens to leave as mediation attempts by the United Nations and the United States have so far failed to yield any results.

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Trump challenges media and Democrats to debate his electoral fraud lie – The Guardian

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Trump challenges media and Democrats to debate his electoral fraud lie  The Guardian



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