Papua New Guinea Government to ban Facebook for a month to study impact on populace

Papua New Guinea is going to ban Facebook for a month to study its impact on the general populace and try to flush out "fake users".

The Government is going to use the ban to conduct research into how the social media platform is being used in the country, DPA news agency reports Sam Basil, minister for communications, told the local Post Courier newspaper.

"This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly," Mr Basil said.

"We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country."

Facebook has been the focus of serious scrutiny for many governments after it was revealed the platform had leaked personal data of tens of millions of users to British company, Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Basil also outlined an ambitious plan that may be put in place after the study.

"We can also look at the possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well," he said.

DPA reports that the exact date for the ban has not been announced.

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Facebook app on smartphone (File picture). Source: istock.com

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Hundreds attend vigil to honour 20 victims of New York limousine crash

A ceremony for the victims of the limousine crash that killed 20 people ended with participants lifting candles above their heads to signal unity and perseverance.

Over 1,000 people jammed a riverside park in Amsterdam, New York, for Monday night's vigil (Tuesday NZT) as victims' relatives tried to come to grips with the tragedy that happened as a group of friends and family were on their way to a 30th birthday party.

The supersized limo ran a stop sign and hit a parked SUV on Saturday in Schoharie.

Authorities have yet to say how fast the limo was going or determine why it failed to stop and sped off the road at the bottom of a long hill.

The 19-seat vehicle had at least some seat belts, but it was unclear whether anyone was wearing them, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The crash about 270 kilometres north of New York City came three years after another deadly stretch-limo wreck in New York state spurred calls for Governor Andrew Cuomo to examine such vehicles' safety. There is no evidence the state took any steps to do so.

Some relatives of the dead shed tears as local officials expressed solidarity with them.

Family members and friends gather for a candlelight vigil memorial in Amsterdam, N.Y. Source: Associated Press

US Representative Paul Tonko, a Democrat from Amsterdam, told a crowd that spilled onto a bridge spanning the Mohawk River, "We are crushed with you, we are crushed for you."

Some relatives shed tears as a woman sang Amazing Grace. The ceremony ended with everyone lifting their candles above their heads in unity.

The wreck killed two pedestrians and all 18 people in the limousine, including four sisters who were headed with friends and relatives to a brewery for a party for one of the sisters.

The four sisters' aunt, Barbara Douglas, said they had felt "they did the responsible thing getting a limo so they wouldn't have to drive anywhere."

"My heart is sunken. It's in a place where I've never felt this type of pain before," said Karina Halse, who lost her 26-year-old sister Amanda.

Authorities haven't released the driver's name, but friends and relatives identified him on social media as Scott Lisinicchia.

"The investigation is STILL going on and the facts are not verified," his niece, Courtney Lisinicchia, wrote on Facebook.

The state moved to shut down the owner, Prestige Limousine, as state and federal authorities investigated the cause of Saturday's wreck in Schoharie. The company said it was taking its cars off the road while conducting its own probe into the crash.

Investigators plan to examine the mangled limo's data recorders and mechanical systems as well as the road, which has a history as a danger spot. They are also looking into the driver's record and qualifications and conducting an autopsy to see if drugs or alcohol were factors.

But officials already saw some red flags, Mr Cuomo said: The driver didn't have the necessary commercial licence, and the vehicle failed a state inspection that examined such things as the chassis, suspension and brakes.

"In my opinion, the owner of this company had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road," the governor said while attending a Columbus Day Parade in New York City. "Prestige has a lot of questions to answer."

He also said the limo - built by cutting apart a heavy-duty SUV and lengthening it - had been created without federal certification, though NTSB officials said they hadn't yet determined whether the vehicle met federal standards.

Prestige Limousine issued a statement on Monday expressing condolences to victims' families and saying it was conducting "a detailed internal investigation" while also meeting with state and federal authorities.

Family members and friends gather for a candlelight vigil to honour 20 people who died in Saturday's fatal limousine crash in Schoharie, New York. Source: Associated Press

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Thousands evacuated after fire and explosions at Ukraine arms depot

Plumes of smoke were seen rising above a military storage in northern Ukraine, after explosions and fire reportedly hit the depot early Tuesday local time, according to Ukrainian authorities.   

A video released by the Rescue Service of Ukraine shows smoke rising from the depot near Ichnya, Chernihiv region, during the aftermath. 

Ten-thousand people have been reportedly evacuated from the area, according to local media.  

The cause of the incident and whether there were any casualties were not immediately known. 

Plumes of smoke rise above a military storage in northern Ukraine but the cause was not immediately known Source: Associated Press

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Watch: US animal welfare workers rescue 71 beagles from illegal breeding shelter

Animal welfare workers removed 71 beagles from a cramped house in rural Pennsylvania, where officials say a woman had been breeding them without a license before she died last month.

The Lehigh County Humane Society got a call on Sunday from police who responded to noise complaints at a home outside Allentown, said Barbara Morgan, the Humane Society's police officer.

The officers estimated about 25 dogs were inside the home. Four animal welfare workers and two trucks responded.

"Six hours later, we've removed 71 beagles," Morgan said, adding she had never seen so many animals squeezed into such a small space.

Many are sickly and underweight and all of the animals had fleas, she said. Several are showing symptoms of mange and others have vision issues and are possibly blind. They range in age from weeks old to senior-aged.

The dogs didn't initially belong to the man who owned the home, said Mary Shafer, the executive director of the county Humane Society. The man's companion had been breeding, kenneling and selling beagles, and acted as a beagle rescue, all without a license, Shafer said.

The woman passed away in September, leaving the man with the animals, she said. He will likely face charges.

The dogs are being evaluated and information on adoption will be available in coming days. Until then, the shelter is in need of donations to help care for them, including wet food, towels, sheets and leashes.

"It is beagle-mania here right now," said Morgan.

The shelter typically handles 200 animals at a time, and the influx of beagles has overwhelmed the large dog area of the non-profit shelter, Morgan said.

Just bathing them, clipping their nails and separating the ill from the healthy has been a challenge. Eventually all the dogs will be spayed or neutered, microchipped and vaccinated.

"It is really stressing for staff, but they've told me this is why they are here and they appreciate being able to help," Shafer said.

Many of the dogs, ranging from puppies to middle age, were underweight, had fleas and some showed possible blindness. Source: Associated Press


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Genetic glitch increases risk of erectile dysfunction

Men who are a flop in bed can now blame their genes, new research suggests.

For the first time, scientists have discovered a confirmed genetic link to erectile dysfunction.

Researchers pinpointed a stretch of DNA where variations made it more difficult for men to perform as expected.

The finger of suspicion points to a gene called SIM1 which could be a target for new impotence treatments.

Lead researcher Dr Eric Jorgenson, from US health service providers Kaiser Permanente, said: "Identifying this SIM1 locus as a risk factor for erectile dysfunction is a big deal because it provides the long sought-after proof that there is a genetic component to the disease.

"Identifying the first genetic risk factor for erectile dysfunction is an exciting discovery because it opens the door for investigations into new, genetic-based therapies."

Besides having a potential influence on men's erections, SIM1 is thought to play a role in brain development.

The scientists carried out the study by analysing the complete genomes, or genetic codes, of more than 36,000 American and 222,000 British men.

A search was made for genetic differences that occurred more often in men with a history of erectile dysfunction.

Variations in the SIM1 locus, the region of DNA containing the SIM1 gene, was associated with a 26 per cent increased risk of impotence.

Erectile dysfunction has a number of known physical causes including hormonal deficiencies and nerve and artery damage.

But despite the effectiveness of treatments such as Viagra, many men cannot be helped.

The scientists believe a genetic "promoter" that turns SIM1 on and off may explain their findings rather than the gene itself.

The research is reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Shot of a mature couple having marital problems in the bedroom at home
Source: istock.com