1. Facebook's Zuckerberg Breaks Silence on Cambridge Analytica Scandal; Admits Mistakes, Outlines Fixes
Breaking more than four days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm. Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, 21 March, that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data.
“If we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you”, he wrote.
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s number 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, have been quiet since news broke Friday that Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections.
2. 'Modicare' Gets Cabinet Nod; Likely to Roll Out by October
The Union Cabinet approved, on Wednesday, 21 March, the government’s ambitious “Modicare” health insurance that targets nearly 11 crore poor families and will be a portable scheme which can be availed of anywhere in India. There will be no cap on family size and age while payments will be on package rates. The scheme, announced in the Budget earlier this year, will provide Rs 5 lakh insurance cover per family and is intended to be extended over time into a universal programme for all citizens.
Pre-existing conditions will be covered and there will also be a defined transport allowance per hospitalisation. As the benefits of the scheme are portable, a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from public or private empanelled hospitals across the country.
3. 39 Mosul Hostages ‘Shot Dead’ Over a Year Ago
The 39 Indian workers who were killed after being kidnapped in 2014 by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq’s Mosul were shot dead, most of them in the head, forensic tests have confirmed.
Iraq’s Department of Forensic Medicine under its Ministry of Health conducted the tests (and the DNA tests) on the bodies that had been exhumed by Martyrs Foundation from a mound in Badush, near Mosul. Dr Zaid Ali Abbas, head of the department, said over the phone from Baghdad that “most of the bodies had gunshot wounds on the head”.
4. Three Army Jawans, Two Cops Killed in Fresh Encounter With Militants in Kupwara
Three Army jawans and two policemen were killed in an ongoing encounter with militants in Kupwara’s Halmatpora in Jammu & Kashmir on Wednesday, 21 March. The search operation is still underway. A total of five militants have been killed in the encounter that has been going on since Tuesday.
A policeman was also injured in the gunfight. The wounded personnel is undergoing treatment at a hospital. His condition is stated to be stable, a police spokesperson said.
5. Ravi Shankar Prasad Warns Facebook on Data Breach: Can Even Summon Mark Zuckerberg
Amid reports that a Facebook associate was involved in a massive breach of user information to allegedly influence polls in the US and the UK, Union Minister for IT and Law, Ravi Shankar Prasad, delivered a sharp warning to the social media giant, saying the government would take “stringent action”, including “summoning” its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India, in case of any data theft of Indians.
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament on Wednesday, 21 March, Prasad also triggered a political war of words when he accused the main Opposition Congress party of having links with Cambridge Analytica, the Facebook associate under the scanner.
6. Address Aadhaar Fears: SC to Govt
The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday, 21 March, to address the concerns of Aadhaar opponents that data collected for the unique identification system could lead to mass virtual surveillance and deprive those who lack the biometric ID of the benefits of state welfare programmes.
Attorney General KK Venugopal,the country’s top law officer, held out an assurance that the government will not deny citizens the benefits they are entitled to if their 12-digit unique identity number authentication fails, so long as they have an alternative ID proof. He also sought to allay concerns over Aadhaar by offering a PowerPoint presentation by the chief of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which oversees Aadhaar, before the court.
7. 11 Cow Vigilantes Sentenced to Life in Jharkhand Lynching
A special fast track court in Ramgarh district on Wednesday, 21 March, awarded life terms to 11 cow vigilantes, including a local BJP leader, for lynching a Muslim trader, Alimuddin Ansari, who they suspected of transporting beef in his vehicle, last year. It is yet to take a decision on a twelfth convict, who is supposedly a juvenile.
The court of additional district judge Om Prakash had held all the accused guilty under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC, among other offences, on March 16.
8. Rajya Sabha Polls in Uttar Pradesh: Parties Brace for a Tough Fight
The upcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh, scheduled for 23 March, are sending political parties into overdrive to ensure they have enough support to guarantee wins.
Part of what has caused this fierce contest is that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which, based on its numbers in the Assembly, can easily get eight candidates elected, has decided to field a ninth – a businessman called Anil Kumar Agarwal.
Previously, it was expected that the BJP will get its eight, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) will get one candidate each – the contest itself is to elect 10 new members to the Upper House of the Parliament.
9. ‘Tipu a Symbol of Communal Harmony,’ Says Rahul Gandhi
Tipu Sultan may be a controversial historical figure in Karnataka, but Rahul Gandhi says that the Muslim ruler stands as a symbol of communal harmony. As part of his statewide temple visit ahead of the assembly polls, the Congress president visited the Sringeri Sharadamba Peeta on Wednesday, 21 March. There, in reply to a question on Tipu’s association with the Hindu mutt, he was impressed when told that the ruler had helped the temple during its hour of crisis.
Rahul, who arrived at the temple town at 11:45 am, was dressed in traditional temple attire of a dhothi and shalya. He was accompanied by KPCC spokesperson K Diwakar and mutt officials. Diwakar said Rahul had asked on Tipu’s connection with the mutt. “I told him about a letter Tipu had written to the then seer of the mutt and the donations the ruler had made.