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Facebook’s Instagram expands ads to Explore feeds
26 June 2019, 9:06 PM

Instagram said Wednesday it planned to launch advertising on its Explore page, expanding marketing opportunities on the Facebook-owned, visual-focused social network.

In the coming months, ads will appear on the Explore feed, where users go to discover content aligned with their interests, an Instagram blog post said.

“Today, 80 percent of people follow a business on Instagram, and Explore can help them find the next business or product they might love,” the Instagram business team wrote.

“Whether it’s shopping, catching up on stories or discovering the latest trends, we see people actively looking to connect with brands they like. That’s why, over the next few months, we’ll be introducing ads in Explore feed.”

The statement said the ad rollout would be done “slowly and thoughtfully” in the coming months.

“For advertisers, this is an opportunity to be part of what’s culturally relevant and trending while reaching new audiences who are looking to discover something new,” the Instagram team said.

Instagram, which now has more than a billion users worldwide and has attracted some users tired of the core Facebook platform, has become an important source of advertising revenue for the California social networking giant.

Although Facebook does not offer a detailed breakdown, the research firm eMarketer estimated that Instagram ad revenue in the US will grow nearly 47 percent this year to reach $9.08 billion.

“Instagram advertising is very popular, and Explore will open up a pipeline of valuable new ad inventory,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

“Half of Instagram users use Explore, making it a highly popular feature. We expect advertisers to quickly adopt this ad placement.”

Instagram, acquired by Facebook in 2013, began limited advertising in 2013 and two years later began serving up video ads.

Earlier this week, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri sought to quell fears that the social network uses private messages as part of its ad targeting strategy.

“We don’t look at your messages, we don’t listen in on your microphone; doing so would be super problematic for a lot of different reasons,” Mosseri said in an interview with CBS.

Trump warns of ‘overwhelming’ retaliation to any Iranian attack
25 June 2019, 5:32 PM

President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Iran that an attack on US interests would trigger an “overwhelming” response and could bring “obliteration.”

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, Trump tweeted: “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

Iran’s leaders only understand “Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world,” Trump said in the series of tweets.

The United States and Iran have been locked in an escalating war of words since last week’s downing of a US surveillance drone. Iran says it was in its airspace, which Washington vehemently denies.

Trump pulled back from plans to retaliate with military strikes on Iranian targets, saying the response — and the collateral damage — would not be “proportionate.”

But on Monday, he slapped a fresh round of tough sanctions on Iran, including on its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs. Tehran said the window for diplomacy was shut.

Iran also said it would abandon more commitments made under a 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers. The United States withdrew from that deal last year.

Trump called their new statements “very ignorant and insulting.”

“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice’ or ‘compassion,’ they never have,” Trump tweeted.

“The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else.”

Iran and the US broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 over the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran following Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Zimbabwe labour group threatens protests over ban on foreign currencies
25 June 2019, 5:03 PM

Zimbabwe’s largest labour body on Tuesday threatened protests over the government’s decision to ban the use of foreign currencies and make the interim currency the sole legal tender.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said the move on Monday to abandon a multi-currency system was an important step towards removing economic imbalances. But many Zimbabweans are distrustful after a long succession of failed economic interventions.

“If the government does not reverse this ruinous policy immediately and announce U.S. dollar salary payments, we will immediately mobilise workers for mass action,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa told a news conference.

“The ZCTU has not moved from its position that the short-term solution is to dollarise and, as such, we are going into the tripartite negotiating forum (with government and business) to demand U.S. dollar salary payments,” Mutasa added.

In January, the ZCTU led nationwide protests against a 150%fuel price increase, triggering a violent crackdown by the army and police, which left at least 12 people dead, according to rights groups.

Mnangagwa replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe after an army coup in November 2017, but a hoped-for economic turnaround has not materialised.

In February, Mnangagwa’s government introduced the RTGS dollar as a transitional unit before relaunching the Zimbabwean dollar.

SABC Chief Audit Executive survives assassination attempt
7 June 2019, 10:57 PM

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has learnt with shock, the news of the attempted assassination of its Chief Audit Executive, Thami Zikode.

The attack occurred following  Zikode leaving work on Friday evening.

Zikode was followed by a car as he left the office. When he got to the gate of his house, the occupants of the car started shooting at his car.

The matter has been reported to the police for further investigation.

The SABC says Zikode was unharmed and remains fully committed to ensuring good governance within the Corporation.

Ethiopia PM urges democratic transition in Sudan after deadly crackdown
7 June 2019, 10:11 PM

Ethiopia’s prime minister Friday called for a “quick” democratic transition in Sudan as he met the country’s ruling generals and protest leaders, days after a deadly crackdown killed dozens of demonstrators in the capital.

Abiy Ahmed, who has emerged as a key regional leader, arrived in Khartoum to revive talks between the Sudanese generals and protest leaders after the African Union suspended Sudan on Thursday until the military makes way for a civilian-led transitional authority.

The move by the African bloc was backed by the European Union amid a chorus of condemnation of Sudan’s military rulers over Monday’s deadly crackdown on a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters demanding civilian rule.

“The army, the people and political forces have to act with courage and responsibility by taking quick steps towards a democratic and consensual transitional period,” Abiy said in a signed statement issued to reporters after he held separate meetings with the generals and protest leaders.

“The army has to protect the security of the country and its people and political forces have to think about the future of the country,” he said.

Ethiopia and Sudan share a long frontier and experts say instability in one sparks concern in the other.

Protest leaders welcomed Abiy’s mediation but insisted that any fresh talks with the generals could happen only if certain conditions were met.

“The Transitional Military Council has to admit the crime it committed,” Omar al-Digeir, a prominent leader from the protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, told reporters.

He said all “military elements should also be removed from the streets across the country” and called for an international probe into “the massacre at the sit-in”.

The generals are ready to sit for “negotiations and reach a solution at any time”, foreign ministry official Hassan Ahmed told reporters.

‘State of terror’

Digeir said the military council should also restore access to the internet and allow public and media freedoms.

Since the deadly assault, fearful Khartoum residents have remained largely indoors, leaving the streets virtually deserted at a time when Muslims are normally out celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Paramilitaries of the feared Rapid Support Forces, who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia unleashed in the conflict in the western region of Darfur in 2003 and 2004, have remained stationed in a number of the capital’s main squares.

Others have been seen out on patrol in their trademark pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns or rocket launchers.

“We’re living in a state of terror because of sporadic gunfire,” a resident of south Khartoum told AFP.

He said he was “afraid for (his) children to go out in the street,” as the paramilitaries patrolled parts of the capital.

In north Khartoum, riot police fired tear gas on Thursday evening after protesters put up makeshift roadblocks made from rocks, bricks and tree trunks.

RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is deputy head of the ruling military council, has warned he will not “allow chaos” and has vowed to tear down all barricades.

The protesters and the military authorities have given sharply divergent death tolls for the crackdown.

Doctors close to the demonstrators say 113 people were killed in Khartoum, including 40 whose bodies were pulled out of the Nile.

The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide, 52 of them by “live ammunition” in Khartoum.

The World Health Organization says 784 people were wounded according to a survey of hospitals, adding that the actual number could be higher.

Pressure on generals

The crackdown was launched after talks broke down between protest leaders and the generals on a new transitional ruling body to replace the military council that took power after the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir on April 11.

Despite several initial breakthroughs, the talks hit a deadlock over the demonstrators’ demand — backed by Western and most African governments — for it to have a civilian majority and a civilian leader.

The African Union, which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said it was suspending Sudan, “until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis”.

The European Union said it joined the AU in calling for “an immediate end to violence and a credible enquiry into the criminal events of the last days”.

The generals have so far been shielded from condemnation at the United Nations by China, which has made significant investments in Sudan.

Beijing, backed by Moscow, blocked a bid at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to condemn the killing of civilians in Sudan and issue a pressing call from world powers for an immediate halt to the violence, diplomats said.

“Sudan is extremely strategic for China,” said Marc Lavergne of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.

“It has huge potential resources which are not being exploited.”

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