By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy likely contracted at its sharpest pace since World War Two in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged services businesses like restaurants and airlines, throwing millions of Americans out of work and into poverty. The Commerce Department's snapshot of fourth-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday is also expected to show the recovery from the pandemic losing steam as the year wound down amid a resurgence in coronavirus infections and exhaustion of nearly $3 trillion in relief money from the government. The Federal Reserve on Wednesday left its ben...
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A crime reporter has been found dead in northwestern Mexico, authorities said Tuesday -- the latest suspected murder in what is already one of the deadliest years yet for the country's press.
The body of Juan Arjon Lopez, an independent journalist who ran a news page on Facebook, was discovered in San Luis Rio Colorado in the northwestern state of Sonora near the US border.
The 62-year-old was identified from his fingerprints, a source at the Sonora attorney general's office told AFP, hours after state prosecutor Indira Contreras told reporters that a body with tattoos matching those of Arjon had been found.
He had been reported missing on August 9.
An autopsy found that the cause of death was blunt trauma, the attorney general's office said in a statement, adding that it was not ruling out any line of investigation.
Arjon had alternated between working as a reporter and at a local restaurant, media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.
His final news reports on his Facebook page "What are you afraid of" were about a drug seizure and the recovery of several stolen goods.
At least 13 journalists have been murdered so far this year in Mexico, one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press, according to media rights groups.
More than 150 media workers have been killed since 2000 in the Latin American country, with only a fraction of the crimes resulting in convictions.
© 2022 AFP
In a town in northeastern Scotland, Debbie Banks looks for clues to track down criminals as she clicks through a database of tiger skins.
There are thousands of photographs, including of rugs, carcasses and taxidermy specimens.
Banks, the crime campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a London-based charity, tries to identify individual big cats from their stripes.
Once a tiger is identified, an investigator can pinpoint where it comes from.
"A tiger's stripes are as unique as human fingerprints," Banks told AFP.
"We can use the images to cross-reference against images of captive tigers that might have been farmed."
Currently this is slow painstaking work.
But a new artificial intelligence tool, being developed by The Alan Turing Institute, a centre in the UK for data science and artificial intelligence, should make life much easier for Banks and law enforcement officials.
The project aims to develop and test AI technology that can analyze the tigers' stripes in order to identify them.
"We have a database of images of tigers that have been offered for sale or have been seized," Banks said.
"When our investigators get new images, we need to scan those against the database.
"At the moment we are doing that manually, looking at the individual stripe patterns of each new image that we get and cross-referencing it against the ones we have in our database."
It is hoped that the new technology will help law enforcement agencies determine where tiger skins come from and allow them to investigate the transnational networks involved in trafficking tigers.
Once the officials know the origins of confiscated tiger skins and products, they will be able to tell whether the animal was farmed or poached from a protected area.
Poaching, fueled by consumer demand, remains a major threat to the survival of the species, according to the EIA.
Tiger skins and body parts are sought after, partly due to their use in traditional Chinese medicine.
An estimated 4,500 tigers remain in the wild across Asia.
"Tigers faced a massive population decline in the last 120 years, so we want to do everything we can to help end the trade in their parts and products, including tiger skins," Banks said.
Anyone with photographs of tigers is invited to submit them to the EIA to help bolster the AI database.
"We are inviting individuals -- whether they are photographers or researchers and academics -- who may have images of tigers where their stripe patterns are clear," Banks said.
"They could be live tigers, dead tigers or tiger parts.
"If they can share those with us, the data scientists can then develop, train and test the algorithm," she said.
"We need thousands of images just to do that phase of the project."
© 2022 AFP
A Lebanese man who held bank staff hostage in Beirut last week to demand access to his trapped savings has been released from custody after charges against him were dropped.
Judge Ghassan al-Khoury ordered the release of Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who stormed a Federal Bank branch in Beirut with a rifle, after the bank dropped the charges against him, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday.
A judicial official told AFP on Wednesday that Hussein has since been released but still faces possible charges by the state.
Following an hours-long standoff last Thursday, Hussein turned himself in after the bank agreed to let him draw out $30,000 of his more than $200,000 in trapped savings, media reports said.
He took the drastic action to access his savings so he could pay for surgery for his father, state media reported.
The incident was the latest between Lebanese banks and angry depositors unable to access savings that have been frozen since 2019.
Hussein has been hailed as a hero by many in Lebanon who blame the country's political and banking elite for a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.
In a report this month, the World Bank blamed authorities for misusing and misspending people's deposits over the past 30 years, accusing them of a "Ponzi" scheme approach to public finance that benefited key political and economic actors at the expense of regular depositors.
"The government consistently and acutely departed from orderly and disciplined fiscal policy to serve the larger purpose of cementing political economy interests," it said, calling the economic crisis a "deliberate depression."
© 2022 AFP