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Vietnam restricted access to Facebook during Obama visit: activists

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The Vietnamese government restricted access to Facebook Inc inside Vietnam for several days this week as part of a broader crackdown on human rights and political dissidents during a visit by President Barack Obama, two activist organizations said on Thursday.

Officials of Access Now, a digital rights organization, and Viet Tan, a Vietnamese pro-democracy group, said the social media site was restricted and at times blocked inside Vietnam from Sunday to Wednesday, citing reports from people inside the country on Twitter and to Access Now’s digital security help service.

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The move coincides with a trend toward restrictions on Facebook in countries including China, Uganda and Turkey during politically sensitive times as the 1.6 billion-person social network grows more powerful.

Obama’s three-day visit to Vietnam ended on Wednesday. Obama largely focused on normalizing relations with Vietnam. But he also promoted human rights and chided Vietnam about restrictions on political freedoms after critics of its communist-run government were prevented from meeting him.

The Facebook shutdown was part of a stepped-up campaign by the Vietnamese government to limit use of the social network for political protests, activists said in phone interviews.

Facebook was blocked several times earlier this month as street protests erupted over an environmental disaster that resulted in mass fish deaths, the two groups said.

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The social media site was also unavailable inside Vietnam ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday as pro-democracy activists called for a boycott, members of the two groups said.

Facebook declined to comment. Vietnamese government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment submitted via a government website.

Uganda’s government blocked Facebook and Twitter Inc in February during presidential elections. In March, after a deadly bombing in Turkey, an Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook and Twitter.

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And during the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, social networks were repeatedly shut down.

Facebook is often shut down in Vietnam during politically sensitive times, Angelina Huynh, advocacy director for Viet Tan, which has members around the world, including in Vietnam, said in a phone interview.

“People were using Facebook to call for protests. They did not want people to take to the streets,” Huynh said.

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(Reporting By Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report

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Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.

The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.

But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.

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‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys

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In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.

"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.

The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.

"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."

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Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors

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A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.

The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.

"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.

The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.

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