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FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo are seen in front of displayed binary digits in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo are seen in front of displayed binary digits in this illustration taken, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

April 26, 2019

(Reuters) – U.S. social media giant Facebook Inc on Thursday said it has filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal court, against a company and three people in New Zealand, alleging the sale of fake engagement services on its Instagram photo-sharing platform.

Facebook, in a blogpost, said the company and individuals – whom it did not name – used various other companies and websites to sell the services. It said it issued warnings and suspended associated accounts but that they persisted in their activities.

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in BENGALURU; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration picture
FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

April 25, 2019

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc is preparing for a record-setting fine from U.S. regulators over privacy issues, but Wall Street shrugged at the looming penalty after the company added users and trounced profit expectations for the first quarter.

It has been just over a year since Facebook’s improper data sharing with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica launched probes on both sides of the Atlantic. That included a U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into whether Facebook violated a 2011 agreement over user privacy.

Some companies pulled their ads off the social network and users tweeted #DeleteFacebook as they shut down their accounts. And investors knocked nearly $70 billion off Facebook’s market value in less than a month as executives admitted costs of fending off outright regulation would spiral.

But Facebook is now worth $40 billion more than it was right before the scandal erupted. Shares surged 6 percent on Thursday, the day after it disclosed a $3 billion litigation accrual in quarterly earnings that otherwise beat estimates.

“With each fresh scandal, commentators and politicians demand vague action and declare the end is nigh,” said Ben Marder, senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

“All this just solidifies Facebook as a shining example of ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Figures show its users are generally happier now, following alterations to the algorithm to give them more ‘meaningful content’.

Facebook’s namesake app logged an 8 percent rise in users from the first quarter last year. The company raised its 2019 expense forecast, but the financial penalty itself prompted few concerns.

There were some worries from analysts about changes the FTC could potentially force as part of a settlement, however, and how new requirements might hurt ad targeting and revenue.

Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in March said he was open to government oversight of social media, and in a blog post said Facebook’s future is in private messaging. The company is also working on a WhatsApp-based payments system.

Analysts appear to buy into Facebook’s vision, though it has not articulated how it will adapt its ad model. In the meantime, they said advertisers will still be drawn by its massive user base.

“While marketers may say privately that they do worry about Facebook’s problems with fake news, election meddling, privacy and more, they worry more about their own financial health, and Facebook is still a major partner in that regard,” eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said.

Facebook is also a global and diversified company. Its U.S. users have held relatively steady in recent quarters, but overseas markets fuel growth.

The company has said its Instagram app now has more than a billion users, versus Facebook’s 2.38 billion. There are also an estimated billion people on Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.

One analyst characterized Facebook as a Swiss army knife with ad products that can now meet almost any advertising need. Industry estimates show only 25 percent to 30 percent of global advertising has migrated online

“Along with Google, we expect Facebook to be a primary beneficiary of the about $600 billion global advertising industry’s secular shift from offline to online,” Baird Equity analysts said

FTC REMEDIES?

Of course, regulatory risks remain and more bad headlines could turn off users, analysts said. Facebook has also grappled with scrutiny over how the platform was being used to promote extremism and spread misinformation.

There are also worries revenue from targeted ads could slow.

A settlement with the FTC could include remedies for the company that force it to change its business practices, privacy experts said. The FTC might require Facebook to collect less of the user data that it needs to target advertisements, for example.

David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at the time of the 2011 consent agreement, said Facebook should be required to make sure its users agree to any data collection by third parties.

Having less data could knock two percent off overall revenue since Facebook would know less about its users and advertisers would pay less, Gene Munster of Loup Ventures estimated. Facebook had $55.8 billion in revenue last year

The company has set aside $3 billion to cover a settlement with U.S. regulators and warned that could rise to $5 billion. That would be largest civil penalty ever paid to the FTC.

Facebook generated more than $5 billion in free cash in the quarter and ended with $45 billion in cash. Revenue in the first quarter rose around to $15.1 billion, growing by roughly the size of the accrual.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Diane Bartz in Washington)

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FILE PHOTO: A woman stands in front of the logo of Snap Inc. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO, in New York City
FILE PHOTO: A woman stands in front of the logo of Snap Inc. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO, in New York City, NY, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

April 23, 2019

By Vibhuti Sharma and Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Snap Inc’s original shows and rebuilt Android app helped it add Snapchat users for the first time in three quarters and beat analyst revenue expectations, but that was not enough to push its shares higher after a sharp run up this year.

Snap said the number of daily active Snapchat users rose to 190 million in the first quarter from 186 million in the prior period, but remained below the 191 million it had a year earlier.

The figure, widely watched by investors and advertisers, beat analysts’ average estimate of 187.2 million daily users, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Overall revenue jumped nearly 40 percent in the quarter from a year earlier as Snap was able to wring more ad revenue out of each user.

Executives left the company in droves late last year after a widely panned redesign of Snapchat, and any uptick is a welcome sign Snap has stemmed user losses.

Chief Executive Evan Spiegel has worked to turn Snap’s business around while the company largely avoid privacy and other scandals plaguing bigger rivals like Facebook Inc.

Snap did not give specific guidance on future user growth, but cautioned that growth rates tend to be higher in the first quarter versus the second quarter.

Shares of the company, which rose 12 percent immediately after the results, gave up most of their gains to trade up marginally at $12.08. They have more than doubled in value so far this year.

“Things are improving at Snap, and that could be putting it mildly – although with the shares up 100% so far this year, that’s pretty priced in,” said Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, in a note.

In an effort to increase how much time users spend on the app, Snap, which faces stiff competition from Facebook’s Instagram, launched more than 50 shows and publisher stories in international markets alone during the reported quarter.

It also rebuilt its Android app, which had more bugs and a worse user experience than its iOS app. Snap had prioritized development on the Apple ecosystem through its stock market debut in 2017.

Snap’s revenue, which it earns from selling advertising on the app, jumped 39 percent to $320.4 million and beat Wall Street’s average estimate of $306.6 million.

Revenue growth was helped by new ad formats like unskippable commercials on its original shows, which are housed on the Discover page, a panel on the app that contains publisher content along with influencer content.

“Snap is maintaining, which is a good place for them considering they still lack any clear direction on how to expand or pivot its app beyond the under 34-year-old demographic,” said Jessica Liu, a marketing analyst at Forrester.

Snap’s focus on privacy and communication between friends has helped it avoid problems with misinformation and the spread of abusive content, which have been an issue for Facebook and Google’s YouTube, two of Snap’s main rivals for digital ad dollars.

Average revenue per user jumped 39 percent to $1.68 during the quarter from a year earlier.

The company’s net loss narrowed to $310.4 million, or 23 cents per share, from $385.8 million, or 30 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company lost 10 cents per share in the quarter, beating analyst estimates of losses of 12 cents per share.

For the second quarter, Snap said it expects revenue of $335 million to $360 million. That compares with the average analyst estimate for revenue of $348.5 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Earlier this month, Snap launched a gaming platform within its Snapchat app featuring original and third-party games such as Zynga Inc’s Tiny Royale.

(This story corrects tenth paragraph to show Snap launched 50 shows and publisher stories in international markets, not that Snap launched 50 original shows).

(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Meredith Mazzilli)

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

April 23, 2019

By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s ban on popular Chinese video app TikTok is resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for its developer, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, and has put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company said in a court filing seen by Reuters.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Earlier this month, an Indian state court ordered the federal government to prohibit its downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography. Acting upon instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google last week removed TikTok from their India app stores.

The developments have dealt a blow to the India growth plans of Bytedance, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp and by private equity. Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups potentially worth around $75 billion, was considering a public listing in Hong Kong this year, sources told Reuters in August.

The ban has also worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms.

In the filing made to India’s Supreme Court on Saturday, Bytedance urged the court to quash the ban and direct the federal IT ministry to tell companies such as Google and Apple to make the app available again on their platforms.

The court filing is not publicly available and its contents have not been previously reported.

Bytedance pegged financial losses at $500,000 each day, which it said includes destruction in the value of its investments and loss of commercial revenue. It added the ban would result in its reputation and goodwill taking a hit with both advertisers and investors.

“Banning has had adverse impact on the user base of this app, losing close to 1 million new users per day … It is estimated that approximately six million requests for downloads could not be effected since the ban came into effect,” the company said in the filing.

A spokesman for TikTok and the federal IT ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

COURT BATTLE, CONTENT WOES

The Supreme Court has so far not provided any interim relief on repeated pleas by Bytedance and referred the case back to the court in southern Tamil Nadu state, where the case will next be heard on Wednesday.

Memes and music videos thrive on TikTok, although some clips show youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-syncing and dancing to popular tunes.

Its growing popularity has drawn criticism from some Indian politicians and parents who say its content is inappropriate. The Tamil Nadu court, which ruled against TikTok after an individual filed a public interest litigation, has said the app could also expose children to sexual predators.

The Supreme Court filing included a table in which Bytedance compared TikTok to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by listing 13 of its implemented safety features, including parental controls.

A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has said.

“The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of free speech and expression … of numerous Indian citizens have been severely impacted,” the company said in its latest filing.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Martin Howell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi
An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi, Kenya April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 23, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Paresh Dave

NAIROBI/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s struggles with hate speech and other types of problematic content are being hampered by the company’s inability to keep up with a flood of new languages as mobile phones bring social media to every corner of the globe.

The company offers its 2.3 billion users features such as menus and prompts in 111 different languages, deemed to be officially supported. Reuters has found another 31 widely spoken languages on Facebook that do not have official support.

Detailed rules known as “community standards,” which bar users from posting offensive material including hate speech and celebrations of violence, were translated in only 41 languages out of the 111 supported as of early March, Reuters found.

Facebook’s 15,000-strong content moderation workforce speaks about 50 tongues, though the company said it hires professional translators when needed. Automated tools for identifying hate speech work in about 30.

The language deficit complicates Facebook’s battle to rein in harmful content and the damage it can cause, including to the company itself. Countries including Australia, Singapore and the UK are now threatening harsh new regulations, punishable by steep fines or jail time for executives, if it fails to promptly remove objectionable posts.

The community standards are updated monthly and run to about 9,400 words in English.

Monika Bickert, the Facebook vice president in charge of the standards, has previously told Reuters that they were “a heavy lift to translate into all those different languages.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said this week the rules are translated case by case depending on whether a language has a critical mass of usage and whether Facebook is a primary information source for speakers. The spokeswoman said there was no specific number for critical mass.

She said among priorities for translations are Khmer, the official language in Cambodia, and Sinhala, the dominant language in Sri Lanka, where the government blocked Facebook this week to stem rumors about devastating Easter Sunday bombings.

A Reuters report found last year that hate speech on Facebook that helped foster ethnic cleansing in Myanmar went unchecked in part because the company was slow to add moderation tools and staff for the local language.

Facebook says it now offers the rules in Burmese and has more than 100 speakers of the language among its workforce.

The spokeswoman said Facebook’s efforts to protect people from harmful content had “a level of language investment that surpasses most any technology company.”

But human rights officials say Facebook is in jeopardy of a repeat of the Myanmar problems in other strife-torn nations where its language capabilities have not kept up with the impact of social media.

“These are supposed to be the rules of the road and both customers and regulators should insist social media platforms make the rules known and effectively police them,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Failure to do so opens the door to serious abuses.”

ABUSE IN FIJIAN

Mohammed Saneem, the supervisor of elections in Fiji, said he felt the impact of the language gap during elections in the South Pacific nation in November last year. Racist comments proliferated on Facebook in Fijian, which the social network does not support. Saneem said he dedicated a staffer to emailing posts and translations to a Facebook employee in Singapore to seek removals.

Facebook said it did not request translations, and it gave Reuters a post-election letter from Saneem praising its “timely and effective assistance.”

Saneem told Reuters that he valued the help but had expected pro-active measures from Facebook.

“If they are allowing users to post in their language, there should be guidelines available in the same language,” he said.

Similar issues abound in African nations such as Ethiopia, where deadly ethnic clashes among a population of 107 million have been accompanied by ugly Facebook content. Much of it is in Amharic, a language supported by Facebook. But Amharic users looking up rules get them in English.

At least 652 million people worldwide speak languages supported by Facebook but where rules are not translated, according to data from language encyclopedia Ethnologue. Another 230 million or more speak one of the 31 languages that do not have official support.

Facebook uses automated software as a key defense against prohibited content. Developed using a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, these tools identify hate speech in about 30 languages and “terrorist propaganda” in 19, the company said.

Machine learning requires massive volumes of data to train computers, and a scarcity of text in other languages presents a challenge in rapidly growing the tools, Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president who oversees automated policy enforcement, has told Reuters.

GROWTH REGIONS

Beyond the automation and a few official fact-checkers, Facebook relies on users to report problematic content. That creates a major issue where community standards are not understood or even known to exist.

Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s director of public policy for Africa, told Reuters in March that the continent had the world’s lowest rates of user reporting.

“A lot of people don’t even know that there are community standards,” Okobi said.

Facebook has bought radio advertisements in Nigeria and worked with local organizations to change that, she said. It also has held talks with African education officials to introduce social media etiquette into the curriculum, she said.

Simultaneously, Facebook is partnering with wireless carriers and other groups to expand internet access in countries including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where it has yet to officially support widely-used languages such as Luganda and Kituba. Asked this week about the expansions without language support, Facebook declined to comment.

The company announced in February it would soon have its first 100 sub-Saharan Africa-based content moderators at an outsourcing facility in Nairobi. They will join existing teams in reviewing content in Somali, Oromo and other languages.

But the community standards are not translated into Somali or Oromo. Posts in Somali from last year celebrating the al-Shabaab militant group remained on Facebook for months despite a ban on glorifying organizations or acts that Facebook designates as terrorist.

“Disbelievers and apostates, die with your anger,” read one post seen by Reuters this month that praised the killing of a Sufi cleric.

After Reuters inquired about the post, Facebook said it took down the author’s account because it violated policies.

ABILITY TO DERAIL

Posts in Amharic reviewed by Reuters this month attacked the Oromo and Tigray ethnic populations in vicious terms that clearly violated Facebook’s ban on discussing ethnic groups using “violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion.”

Facebook removed the two posts Reuters inquired about. The company added that it had erred in allowing one of them, from December 2017, to remain online following an earlier user report.

For officials such as Saneem in Fiji, Facebook’s efforts to improve content moderation and language support are painfully slow. Saneem said he warned Facebook months in advance of the election in the archipelago of 900,000 people. Most of them use Facebook, with half writing in English and half in Fijian, he estimated.

“Social media has the ability to completely derail an election,” Saneem said.

Other social media companies face the same problem to varying degrees.

(GRAPHIC: Social media and the language gap – https://tmsnrt.rs/2VHjwTu)

Facebook-owned Instagram said its 1,179-word community guidelines are in 30 out of 51 languages offered to users. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook as well, has terms in nine of 58 supported languages, Reuters found.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube presents community guidelines in 40 of 80 available languages, Reuters found. Twitter Inc’s rules are in 37 of 47 supported languages, and Snap Inc’s in 13 out of 21.

“A lot of misinformation gets spread around and the problem with the content publishers is the reluctance to deal with it,” Saneem said. “They do owe a duty of care. “

(Reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Fiji and Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel in Windsor
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Easter Mattins Service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, Britain April 21, 2019. Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS

April 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s oldest and longest reigning living monarch, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday by attending the traditional Easter service at Windsor Castle.

Elizabeth was accompanied by members of her family, including grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry, and William’s wife Catherine, at the Easter Mattins service in St George’s Chapel.

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle, who is due to give birth to the couple’s first child imminently, did not attend.

The couple, who were married at the chapel in May 2018, posted a birthday greeting to Elizabeth on their official Instagram account.

“Happy Birthday Your Majesty, Ma’am, Granny. Wishing you the most wonderful day! Harry & Meghan,” they wrote.

Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, in Bruton Street, central London and became queen in 1952 at the age of 25, meaning she has now reigned for more than 67 years.

She has an official birthday in June which is publicly marked with a large parade of soldiers through central London, known as Trooping the Colour.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter)

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FILE PHOTO - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) shakes hands with Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan (L) during Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) first-phase launching at Bundaran HI station in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (R) shakes hands with Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan (L) during Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) first-phase launching at Bundaran HI station in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 14, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Hafidz Mubarak A/ via REUTERS

April 21, 2019

By Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Even with Indonesia’s current presidential election result still to be officially confirmed, attention is turning to the next race for the top job in 2024 with some rising political stars and well-connected figures in the frame.

Sample vote counts by private pollsters from last week’s poll show that incumbent President Joko Widodo is headed for a second and final term in office though the results are being disputed by his challenger, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

There are, however, a string of new leaders waiting in the wings for their chance including some who, like Widodo, cut their teeth running cities or provinces across the archipelago, and also the offspring of ex-leaders being groomed to take over.

Still, a candidate needs at least 20 percent of seats in parliament or 25 percent of the popular vote to stand, meaning it is conceivable for this year’s challenger Subianto, who is chairman of the Gerindra party, to run for a third attempt.

“We have a lot of potential leaders… The threshold should be lowered to give these people an open opportunity,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are some of the possible contenders for the 2024 vote.

Anies Baswedan, 49, is the governor of Jakarta. The former education minister, with backing from opposition parties and some hardline Islamist groups, defeated the popular ethnic-Chinese, Christian governor of the capital in a vote marred by religious tensions. Still, the Fulbright Scholar who comes from a family of moderate Muslim scholars is seen as appealing to younger voters and representing a more modern face of Islam.

Sandiaga Uno, 49, was elected vice governor of Jakarta in 2017, but stood down to be the vice presidential running mate for Prabowo. His private equity fortune made to a large degree with investments in Indonesia’s coal industry helped fund Prabowo and his campaign. Though a relative newcomer to politics, the campaign has allowed him to raise his profile across Indonesia and he proved a hit with millennial and female voters.

Ridwan Kamil, 47, is governor of Indonesia’s most populous province West Java and an ally of Widodo. A trained architect, he was previously mayor of Bandung where he is credited with rebranding the city to encourage creativity and use of technology. He has successfully used social media to connect with voters and has more than 10 million followers on Instagram.

Puan Maharani, 45, is a minister for human development and cultural affairs. She has political pedigree as the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and granddaughter of Indonesia’s charismatic first leader, Sukarno. Her mother chairs the biggest party in parliament, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is in the ruling coalition.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 40, is the eldest son of former president and Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Harvard-educated politician followed his father by having a military career and despite his inexperience ran in the Jakarta governor race in 2017 where he lost in the first round. The Democratic Party has also not fared so well this year.

Other names being circulated by pollsters or the media include regional leaders such as Ganjar Pranowo, 50, the governor of Central Java, Tri Rismaharini, 57, mayor of Surabaya, and East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, 53.

In eastern Indonesia, Nurdin Abdullah, 56, the South Sulawesi governor, is also seen as a contender.

Deputy parliament speaker and vice chairman of the Gerindra party Fadli Zon, 47, is also seen as a possible candidate as a Prabowo loyalist.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, the ex-governor of Jakarta, still has many supporters if he did try to get back into politics even with a blasphemy conviction for insulting the Koran.

Billionaire businessman Erick Thohir, 48, who orchestrated last year’s Asian Games and Widodo’s 2019 presidential campaign, has also been mentioned though he has denied interest in a political career and up to now lacks governance experience.

(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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FILE PHOTO: Anthony Joshua & Jarrell Miller Press Conference
FILE PHOTO: Boxing – Anthony Joshua & Jarrell Miller Press Conference – Hilton London Syon Park, London, Britain – February 25, 2019 Jarrell Miller during the press conference Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

April 19, 2019

(Reuters) – American Jarrell Miller says he never knowingly took a banned substance and will appeal a decision to revoke his license over an adverse finding from a doping test ahead of his heavyweight title fight with Britain’s Anthony Joshua.

Miller, who was due to fight WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world champion Joshua on June 1 in New York, wrote on his Instagram account he was devastated upon hearing his boxing license was revoked in New York State.

“I have NEVER knowingly taken any banned substance and when I found out the news last night I was totally shocked,” Miller said on Instagram.

“My team and I stand for integrity, decency & honesty and together we will stand to fight this with everything we have!”

Miller also said the test was a voluntary one that he was happy to take and added that the results came one week after another voluntary test he took was completely clean.

The boxer’s camp have requested a B sample be tested, the BBC reported, and if that sample comes back negative Miller can apply for a license again.

ESPN reported that Miller had tested positive for the banned substance GW1516, which boosts endurance and helps athletes burn fat, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

“Remember don’t believe everything you hear and see. The facts will prevail and I shall be vindicated,” said Miller.

“I don’t have anything to hide and the truth will make itself known.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Voters mark their ballots at a polling centre during elections in Jakarta, Indonesia
Voters mark their ballots at a polling centre during elections in Jakarta, Indonesia April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

April 17, 2019

JAKARTA (Reuters) –

Indonesians voted in the world’s biggest single-day election across the sprawling equatorial archipelago on Wednesday following a six-month campaign to choose a new president and parliament.

Early results showed President Joko Widodo, a former furniture salesman who launched his political career as a small-city mayor, with a comfortable lead, in line with opinion polls that had predicted the low-key reformist was heading for a second five-year term.

Data from Private pollsters, based on a partial count of samples from polling stations, showed that Widodo was winning more than half of the vote and his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, was more than 10 percentage points behind him.

Widodo narrowly defeated Prabowo in the last election, in 2014.

The campaign has been dominated by economic issues, but also marked by the growing influence of conservative Islam, with politicians including Widodo taking pains to appear more Islamic. The worry for investors is that the appeal for conservative votes will translate into populist policy.

While most opinion polls gave Widodo a double-digit lead, the opposition has disputed the findings and also said it had uncovered data irregularities affecting millions on the electoral rolls. It has vowed to take legal action or use “people power” if its complaints are not resolved.

(Graphic: Indonesia election by the numbers – https://tmsnrt.rs/2V4DCqq)

The election has been a huge logistical operation in the world’s third-largest democracy with 245,000 candidates vying for votes cast during a mere eight hours.

Voters had five paper ballots – for president, vice president, and national and regional legislative candidates – and some clearly struggled with the process.

Nearly 350,000 police and military personnel, in addition to 1.6 million paramilitary officers, have fanned out across the archipelago of 17,000 islands to safeguard the vote.

More than 10,000 people have also volunteered to crowd-source results posted at polling stations in a real-time bid to thwart attempts at fraud.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT on Tuesday) in the east and closed at 1 p.m. (0600 GMT) in the west.

While the winning presidential candidate is likely to be apparent later on Wednesday, the General Election Commission is expected to announce an official result in May.

THE ‘NEW FACE’ IN POLITICS, WIDODO SEEKS A SECOND TERM

When Widodo was elected five years ago he offered a break from the military and political elite that had clung to power since the fall of strongman ruler Suharto in 1998.

Now, Widodo, 57, is running on his own record for a second term.

With his easy smile and signature “blusukan”, or impromptu walkabouts, he came to power on a wave of support for the clean, can-do image he cultivated as a small-city mayor, and then as governor of the capital, Jakarta.

Still, during his political rise, Widodo, a moderate Muslim from the city of Solo in Java island, has had to fend off smear campaigns suggesting he was anti-Islam, a communist or in debt to China. On Sunday, he made a pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

As president, Widodo was saddled with expectations he could fix a host of problems, from human rights abuses to pervasive graft. Jokowi, as he is popularly known, also inherited an economy coming off a commodities boom, and faced an obstructive parliament.

He stitched together a majority in parliament and while unable to hit an economic growth target of 7 percent, led a push to build ports, roads and airports.

THE CHALLENGER – FORMER SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER

Challenger Prabowo Subianto, 67, has long harbored ambitions for the top job and has cultivated a strongman image and ties with hardline Islamist groups in the hope of boosting his chances.

In the last election, in 2014, Prabowo, the head of the Great Indonesia Movement party, came within 6 percentage points of beating Widodo.

A former special forces commander, Prabowo comes from an elite political family. His father was one of Indonesia’s most prominent economists, serving in the cabinets of both presidents Sukarno and Suharto. The latter was his father-in-law.

Prabowo has fired up his rallies with warnings the country is at the mercy of unspecified foreign powers and on the verge of fragmentation.

CLAWING BACK VOTER SUPPORT IN MUSLIM HEARTLAND

Since taking office, Widodo has made efforts to bring religious parties into his coalition, and to secure the backing of the conservative voters he failed to win over in 2014.

His decision to pick Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin, 76, as his running mate was part of a strategy to enhance his ticket’s appeal among conservatives but it disappointed some of his moderate and progressive supporters, who say the president is pandering to conservatives and fear the erosion of Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance and pluralism.

Widodo’s aides say the mobilization of grassroots support and canvassing of thousands of Islamic schools in conservative provinces is crucial to prevent a repeat of 2014, when the opposition attacks cost him votes.

(Graphic: Widodo’s achievements – https://tmsnrt.rs/2CRgHYC)

DISGRUNTLED RURAL VOTERS WEIGH OPTIONS

Economic growth has hovered at about 5 percent over Widodo’s first term, but there has been a drop in real income for its nearly 40 million farmers, who account for a third of the labor force.

Widodo has sought to tame inflation with a cap on prices of staples such as rice and shallots, and to import more food. He remains popular in many rural areas though some farmers are considering the opposition even though Widodo has led an infrastructure drive that has improved access to markets.

Prabowo has said some of Widodo’s infrastructure projects have failed to help ordinary people.

SOCIAL MEDIA ELECTION BATTLE

This election has been fought out over social media as never before. So-called buzzer teams have proliferated, named for the buzz they aim to create, to spread propaganda on behalf of both Widodo and Prabowo, sometimes with fake accounts.

Under Indonesia’s broad internet defamation law, creating and spreading fake news is illegal, but holding social media accounts in false names is not, unless a real person is being impersonated. Both campaign teams deny using buzzers or spreading fake news.

Misinformation is rampant on Facebook, which counts Indonesia as its third-largest market globally with an estimated 130 million accounts, as well as on its Instagram and WhatsApp affiliates and rival service Twitter.

The companies say they are working with the government and fighting false content.

BREAKDANCING, HOLOGRAMS TO WIN YOUTH VOTE

People aged 17 to 35 account for more than a third of the electorate. Both Widodo and Prabowo ramped up efforts to appeal to them, deploying everything from holograms, campaign messaging in comic strips, and breakdancing.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE IN INDONESIA’S MONEY POLITICS

Indonesia has some of the worst money politics in Southeast Asia, according to researchers. Handouts of cash and gifts, anti-graft advocates and politicians say, lead to rampant corruption as successful candidates recoup election expenses, and more, once elected.

Envelopes, usually stuffed with cash ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 rupiah ($1.42 to $7.08), are commonly doled out to voters. Though small amounts, the overall cost can be huge over a six-month campaign.

The going rate for a serious run for one of 560 seats in the national legislature is about 10 billion rupiah, or $708,000, according to the former deputy chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

PALM OIL CENTRAL TO ENERGY SELF-SUFFICIENCY PLEDGES

Both candidates have pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly from palm oil. Indonesia opposes a European Union plan to curb the use of palm oil over deforestation concerns.

(Editing by Karishma Singh, Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays
Apr 13, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

April 17, 2019

The Tampa Bay Rays placed ace left-hander Blake Snell on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday due to a broken right toe.

Snell said he broke his toe when a decorative granite stand in his bathroom fell on his right foot as he was getting out of the shower Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Times reported. His IL placement is retroactive to Sunday.

On the season, the reigning American League Cy Young winner is 2-1 in four starts with a 2.16 ERA. In 25 innings, he has struck out 36 batters, tied for the major league lead entering Tuesday’s games.

Snell, 26, was 21-5 last season with a 1.89 ERA.

–The St. Louis Cardinals placed outfielder Tyler O’Neill and right-handed reliever Mike Mayers on the injured list one day after both players were injured during a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

O’Neill sustained an ulnar nerve subluxation to his right elbow after making a throw home from center field in the bottom of the second inning Monday. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the third inning.

Mayers sustained a lat strain in his pitching shoulder. He felt cramping just before Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich blasted a three-run homer off of him in the sixth inning.

–Major League Baseball is investigating racist social media posts aimed at Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards, a league spokesman told The Athletic.

Edwards received racist messages on Instagram, according to the report, drawing the attention of the league as well as the players’ union.

The Cubs demoted Edwards to Triple-A Iowa earlier this month to iron out his woes to start the season. Edwards had a 32.40 ERA in four relief appearances this season, allowing six earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings.

–The Boston Red Sox designated former first-round pick Blake Swihart for assignment and recalled catcher Sandy Leon and right-hander Erasmo Ramirez from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Swihart, primarily a catcher, was batting .231 with one homer and four RBIs in 12 games this season. The 27-year-old also saw playing time at first base and left field. He batted .256 with nine homers and 58 RBIs in 202 games over parts of five seasons for Boston.

Leon, 30, has a .226 average with 20 homers and 104 RBIs over parts of seven major league seasons. He spent three seasons with the Washington Nationals (2012-14) before playing the last four for Boston.

–First baseman Greg Bird joined an overflowing injured list for the New York Yankees.

Bird is out with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot and was placed on the 10-day IL retroactive to April 14. The Yankees have 12 players on the injured list, including catcher Gary Sanchez (calf), third baseman Miguel Andujar (shoulder), shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (calf), second baseman Didi Gregorius (elbow) and Bird.

Replacing Bird on the roster is first baseman Mike Ford, who was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and joined the Yankees as they opened a series with Boston.

–Major League Baseball is gearing up to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with the announcement that the 2026 All-Star Game will be played in Philadelphia.

Commissioner Rob Manfred delivered the news in front of Independence Hall, sharing the stage with All-Stars past and present including Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and new Philadelphia outfielder Bryce Harper.

This will be the fifth Midsummer Classic in Philadelphia, which was hosted at Shibe Park in 1943 and 1952 and at Veterans Stadium in 1976 and 1996, but will mark the first All-Star Game at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. Cleveland will host this year’s 90th All-Star Game on July 9, and Los Angeles will host the 2020 game at Dodger Stadium. Sites for 2021-25 have not been named.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN


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