Skype deals blow to investigative journalism Skype, the internet communication service, is no longer a secure mechanism. The system operator will now record data up to a month and hand them over if requests are made by law enforcement agencies of any country. The move has come as a threat to investigative journalists. The [...]


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Skype deals blow to investigative journalism

Skype, the internet communication service, is no longer a secure mechanism. The system operator will now record data up to a month and hand them over if requests are made by law enforcement agencies of any country. The move has come as a threat to investigative journalists. The Wire, a publication devoted to the media, has offered some advice. This is what it says:
“Investigative journalists face yet another obstacle after a policy change by Skype, the internet phone, video and message service.

“Many journalists favour Skype IM because it uses encrypted software that cannot be intercepted.”But now the communications giant is able to store chats for up to 30 days, and has confirmed it will pass data on to law enforcement agencies when ‘appropriate’.

“The changes also give authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers.”Skype says that changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability. But it confirmed it would pass on messages to law enforcement agencies when ‘appropriate’.

“Skype has been a safe haven for terrorists and criminals, and journalists are indirectly affected by the new rules.
“However, there are still legitimate ways of preserving your security on Skype:

1. The journalist and the contact should create new Skype accounts, taking care not to reveal any personal details in their profile.
2. When communicating with each other, the journalist and the contact should use a proxy server — e.g. Hotspot Shield, Anonymous, etc. These enable you to use the web without leaving traces of personal information, particularly your computer’s IP address.
3. Both sides can then chat safely, provided they don’t reveal anything about their identities in their messages.
4. Use a more secure IM system.”

Two-star officer punished for alleged corruption

The grand show of a prominent service arm was planned in grander style. The boss took personal interest to ensure nothing went wrong.

One of his men, a two-star type with a ‘no-star’ approach forwarded quotations from two different private firms a few months ago. One was for illuminations and the other for sound. One had quoted Rs. 3 million whilst the other had quoted Rs. 3.8 million for the different jobs.

The total therefore was Rs. 6.8 million or so the two-star man’s quotations claimed.The boss felt the amounts were unrealistic. Without the knowledge of the two two-star type, he invited the owners of the two companies for a chat. He asked them how much the duo would quote for the jobs. One said Rs. 1.2 million and the other wanted Rs. 1.8 million. That totalled only Rs. 3 million and not Rs. 6.8 million in terms of the two star man’s quotations. Was there a mark-up of a staggering additional Rs. 3.8 million to go into someone’s pocket? Who was that new millionaire to be?

Both businessmen declared they were willing to do the job free of charge if the event was for charity. The boss said it was not but hired them. An advance was paid.

When it came to paying the balance, the boss gave the cheque to the unsuspecting two-star man. When he found the amount to be low, the man was to protest mildly with the little diplomacy he has learnt abroad. He said somewhat reluctantly that the amount due to the two private business concerns in terms of the quotations he gave was much higher and it should be paid.
The boss remained calm but stared in the face of the two-star man. Just then, the man ended his remarks by saying “if there is no trust in me I am willing to be moved out from my positions.” The remarks came in the tenor of how spokespersons would make bold pronouncements.

Undeterred, the boss asked him to sit down. He called for his secretary and dictated a letter. The man was stripped of his top position and moved out. That was a strong signal to the two-star man that the boss would not brook any nonsense, not even inflated invoices for light and sound.

No Prabha’s photographs at Eelam conference

Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam leader Muthuvel Karunanidhi, who hosted the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation conference (TESO) in the outskirts of Chennai last week had a knotty issue to overcome.

He asked participants to the event not to bring any photographs, banners or placards. Most were puzzled.
It later transpired that Karunanidhi was taking legal safeguards against anyone brining in photographs of slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a banned organisation in India. So displaying Prabhakran’s photograph or other LTTE material would have made aging Karunanidhi liable for legal action.

DB and the Swazi king: The slip was showing

The traditional dress of African states range from flowing robes to bare bodies for both men and women; from fez caps to cowboy hats — all a colourful spectacle of a colourful continent.

Royal harem: Some of the king's 13 wives, pictured during Easter celebrations at Swaziland's national stadium

So much so, that one of the jokes or gaffes (depending on how one saw it) attributed to the Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Philip of Britain was how on seeing an African Head of State at a formal dinner banquet at Buckingham Palace dressed in his traditional pyjama style flowing robes with some covering for the head, asked him “are you ready to sleep?”.

In 1989, our own Prime Minister Dingiri Banda Wijetunga (later President Wijetunga) represented President Ranasinghe Premadasa at CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Seating is in English alphabetical order of the name of the country and the King of SWAZILAND was seated next to the Prime Minister of SRI LANKA.
Premier Wijetunga in his spotless white national dress noticed his Swazi neighbour’s one leg and much more on display because the King was in his traditional dress — quite apart from his bare body. Despite the rank, the humble politician from Uda Dumbara used his seniority in age to tell the young King that he was not appropriately dressed and more so, that he was not in front of his 12 Queens but ‘The Queen’ — the head of the Commonwealth.

That afternoon, and thereafter, the King came for the sessions in suit.Premier Wijetunga on his return told his Cabinet colleagues this story — and one of the minister’s had rather unfairly wise- cracked to the colleague seated next to him “that must have been our Prime Minister’s only contribution to CHOGM 1989″.

Rajpaksa son wants to be cosmonaut; space training in Russia

Rohitha Rajapaksa, youngest son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, received a letter from Russian President Valdimir Putin recently.

Putin had conveyed his wishes for young Rajapaksa who earlier inquired about the Russian Aero Space Agency to pursue his astronomical studies and training further.

Rohitha, who from his childhood had hoped to be an astronaut, received his degree in Space Science from a University in Britain last month. Though father Rajapaksa was unable to attend, the proud mother Shiranthi was by his side with elder brother Namal when he graduated.

Rohitha wanted to pursue his ambition further with the Russian Aero Space Agency. He is to leave for Russia shortly to receive training there. We also learn that after the graduation, the young Rajapaksa taught Buddhism at an international school, not founded by Aristotle, but by a teacher, who crossed over from the opposition to the government side.

Meanwhile, moves are underway to set up a joint space venture with a Chinese Company. According to a report in the Business Times a few weeks ago, China will lend its expertise to Sri Lanka’s first space academy to be launched next year, through a joint venture between Supreme Satellite Private Ltd Colombo and Great Wall Industry Corporation of China (CGWIC), with an investment of US$ 20 million.

The space academy, to be set up on a 30-acre land in Koggala, is expected to train Sri Lankans in space and satellite technology with the aim of promoting space science in the country. Another report said the Cabinet had approved this proposal.

Swazi king enjoys hoppers and strings

President Mahinda Rajapksa hosted a banquet for visiting Swaziland king Miswati III at the President’s House or Janadipathi Mandiraya on Tuesday.

The dinner included several Sri Lankan delicacies. King Miswati, his wife and six sons had said that they wanted to enjoy Sri Lankan food.

The fare included hoppers, string hoppers with a variety of curries prepared in Sri Lankan style.Rajpaksa’s sons and other young UPFA MPs were at the dinner. The young Rajapaksas discussed Rugby with the king’s sons.

Keuneman wouldn’t mind Milton, why is Fowzie angry

A statue of the late Milton Mallawarachchi, a popular singer and heart throb of millions of Sri Lankans, has become the subject of controversy.

Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, who is chairman of the Pieter Keuneman Commemoration Committee is not in favour of such a statue standing alongside the late Communist leader. So, he has written to Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil asking him not to place the statue at the Council precincts where one of Keuneman’s statue stands.

Fowzie is so angry that he has copied the letter even to the Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. The reason for the protest – it would draw more attention to Mallawaratchchi than to Keuneman.

A contemporary of Keuneman said the late leader and one time Cabinet minister would turn in his grave at Fowzie jealously guarding the statue. He was such a broad minded politician that Keuneman would have been happy to have Mallawaratchchi alongside. Once, the affable Sam Wijesinha, then Secretary General of Parliament related a story of how Keuneman travelled with a delegation of Government and Opposition MPs to a western country.

There, a leading member of the foreign government had interacted with Keuneman. Later when he talked to Wijesinha, and asked which party Keuneman belonged. “The Communist Party,” replied Wijesinha. The western politician quickly responded “If there are such communists, let us have more of them.”

President displays mural art knowledge

President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a surprise visit to Deputy Transport Minister Rohana Dissanayake’s house in Matale two weeks ago. It was when he was touring Sabaragamuwa, Uva and Central provinces conducting District Development Committee meetings.

Dissanayake was out of home. His wife telephoned him and said there was a VVIP guest at home. He rushed back. Rajapaksa began a friendly chat.

He had observed a mural on a wall in Dissanayake’s house. “Rohana mang balang hitiye me mural eka diha. Eka warna sanyojanaye waradak thiyenawa. Balanna gedarata eliya enne me paththen. Eyeth e paththa andurui. Mural ekak hadanne eka diha beluwama hithe prashna niwenna. (Rohana, I was looking at the mural. Something is wrong with its colour combination. The light comes from this end. But in the mural, the area is dark. When you paint a mural, you do it to get some relaxation when you look at it),” the President said.

Rajapaksa then spoke of the historic Sigiriya frescoes and the evolution of mural art.”Mama me kalpana kale Sir kohomada mechchara dewal danne kiyala (I was thinking how come you know all these things),” Dissanayake asked.
“Rohana kiyamanak thiyenawa hema deyak genama tikak denaganna oney. Tikakadewal gena godak denaganna ona kiyala (Rohana there is a saying that one should know little about everything and more about some things),” declared Rajapaksa.

Fire Brigade summoned for short circuit

The Fire Brigade was summoned to a senior minister’s official residence at Stanmore Crescent in Colombo.
It later turned out that the episode was a storm in a tea cup. A short circuit in the washing machine had led to smoke rising from the roof. Fireman promptly doused the fire.

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