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Sri Lankan police shut down opposition news sites for ‘false and vulgar reports’

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Sri Lankan police Friday shut down opposition news websites, accusing them of carrying “false and vulgar reports”, months after imposing censorship on news alerts issued by mobile phone companies.

Seven media organisations, including the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, condemned the closure of the Lanka Mirror and Lanka X News offices located within the same building in Colombo.

“A group of 25 officers from the police Criminal Investigation Department sealed the offices and nine employees were arrested,” the media organisations said in a joint statement. “We condemn this deadly assault on media freedom.”

The Sri Lankan defence ministry said the news organisations were shut down after officials obtained a court order to carry out searches and seize equipment.

Rights groups and employees said one website was the official news organ of the opposition United National Party (UNP), while the other website was also closely linked to the UNP.

“The CID sealed the offices of two websites carrying false and vulgar reports,” the ministry said in a statement. “People responsible for feeding information to the Internet through this office are being investigated.”

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The sites have been highly critical of the government, which is already facing international censure over its human rights record and a string of unsolved murders of journalists and attacks on the independent media.

Some 17 journalists and media employees have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past decade, pro-opposition websites have been blocked and media organisations opposing government views have been attacked, according to rights groups.

The latest police crackdown comes three months after the defence ministry ordered that all mobile phone operators should clear any security-related news reports before issuing them as SMS alerts.

Sri Lanka lifted a state of emergency last year, but media rights groups have said that journalists have been forced to self-censor their work amid fears of physical attacks.

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New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

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New Zealand opened a gun buyback scheme Thursday aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons similar to those used in the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in the hours after the March 15 killings that New Zealand's gun laws would be tightened and her government has expedited the change in just three months.

"The buyback and amnesty has one objective -- to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al Noor and Linwood mosques," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

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Greenland ice sheet melting faster than thought: study

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Greenland's ice sheet may have completely melted within the next millennium if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, according to a new study with implications for sea-level rise around the world.

The Greenland ice sheet holds the equivalent of seven meters (yards) of sea level.

"If we continue as usual, Greenland will melt," said lead author Andy Aschwanden, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute.

It is the most recent warning about warming in the world's coldest regions.

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Convicted on all seven counts: US sex cult leader Keith Raniere, attracted the rich and famous

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A US jury on Wednesday convicted a "self-help" guru of racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes for his leadership of a cult-like organization of sex slaves he branded like cattle.

Keith Raniere, 58, coerced a string of women into having sex with him as the charismatic leader of a life-coaching group he founded in New York state.

Nxivm -- pronounced Nexium -- had proved a huge draw since its 2003 launch, attracting a coterie of rich and famous devotees such as the "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, and spreading into cities across the United States.

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