Carousell fined S$58,000 over data leaks that affected more than 2.6 million users

FIRST BREACH

The first data breach took root in July 2022 when Carousell implemented changes to its chat function.

The changes were meant to be limited to users in the Philippines who were responding to property listings. When the users provided prior consent, their first name, email address and phone number would be automatically sent to the owner of the property listing.

Due to human error, however, the email addresses and names of guest users were automatically appended to all messages sent to the listing owners of all categories in all markets.

For guest users in the Philippines, their telephone numbers were also appended to the messages.

Carousell did not pick up on this bug at the time. Instead, a month later, it implemented a fix to resolve an unrelated issue with the pre-fill functionality of the chat function.

This worsened the effect of the original bug. The email addresses and names of registered users were then automatically appended to messages sent to listing owners of all categories in all markets as well.

For users in the Philippines, their telephone numbers were also appended.

On Aug 24, 2022, Carousell fixed the bugs after a user sent in a report.

The bugs led to the personal data of 44,477 people being leaked. This comprised the email addresses of all affected users as well as the mobile phone numbers of users in the Philippines.

While names associated with users’ accounts were also disclosed, the PDPC did not consider this relevant in assessing how Carousell breached the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

The commission accepted Carousell’s explanation that these names were not necessarily indicative of the users’ actual names, and were already listed on the users’ public profiles.

SECOND BREACH

As for the second data leak, the PDPC alerted Carousell to it on Oct 13, 2022 when someone offered about 2.6 million users’ personal data for sale.

The breach arose when Carousell launched a public-facing application programming interface (API) during a system migration process on Jan 15, 2022. An API allows computer programmes to communicate with each other.

However, Carousell inadvertently failed to apply a filter on the API it had launched.

The filter would have ensured that only publicly available data of users who were followed by, or following, a particular Carousell user would be called up.

Because the filter was not present, the API was able to call up the users’ private data comprising email addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth.

This vulnerability was exploited by a threat actor who scraped the accounts of 46 users with large numbers of users following them, or who were following many other users. This occurred in May and June 2022.

Carousell’s internal engineering team discovered the API bug on Sep 15, 2022 and deployed a patch that same day.

When the company conducted internal investigations to find out if users’ personal data had been accessed without authorisation in the 60 days before it discovered the bug, it did not detect any anomalies.

Carousell remained unaware of this breach till the PDPC informed them of the data sale advertisement.

The judgment did not indicate whether the data was actually sold.

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US should wade carefully into the Indian Ocean - Asia Times

The strategic significance of the Indian Ocean region is considerable and growing.

Consisting of vast and diverse maritime geography of several subregions, including the Indian subcontinent, parts of Australia and Southeast Asia, West Asia, and Eastern and Southern Africa; it is home to 2.7 billion people — over a third of the global population — with an average age of 30 years old; it is resource-rich; and it is comprised of some of the fastest growing countries.

The region also connects peoples and economies worldwide via sealines and telecommunication fiber optic submarine cables; significantly, 80% of global maritime oil shipments traverse Indian Ocean waters.

The region, of course, faces major challenges, including actions by nefarious non-state actors such as pirates, smugglers, and terrorists. The ongoing attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red and Arabian Seas that are wreaking havoc on global maritime trade exemplify this problem.

Other challenges include the impact of climate change, which affects the region disproportionately, and growing naval competition, notably as China is increasingly flexing its muscles in the region.

How should the United States approach the Indian Ocean region?

Ambitions and realities

The United States recognizes the importance of maintaining a peaceful, secure and prosperous Indian Ocean region.

In recent years, Washington has embraced the terminology “Indo-Pacific,” as opposed to “Asia-Pacific,” and in 2018 it renamed the US Pacific Command the US Indo-Pacific Command. Even if US strategy documents say little about the Indian Ocean region, several US officials have recently stressed that Washington is committed to elevating its engagement there, notably through new partnerships.

Admiral Eileen Laubacher, special assistant to US President Joe Biden and senior director for South Asia at the US National Security Council, reiterated this commitment at the recently concluded 2024 Indian Ocean Conference.

Admiral Eileen Laubacher. Photo: US Navy

The annual event is spearheaded by the India Foundation and this year was hosted by the Perth USAsia Center in Australia and supported by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

There are problems, however. The US bureaucracy is not structured to engage the Indian Ocean region.

The US Department of State approaches it through four different bureaus: African Affairs, East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Near Eastern Affairs, and South and Central Asian Affairs. The US Department of Defense, for its part, separates it into three combatant commands: the Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command, and Africa Command.

These divisions make it difficult for the United States to appreciate and address dynamics of the region as a whole, especially maritime developments.

Another problem is that the United States – unlike India, Australia, Japan, and a few others – does not include the Western Indian Ocean or the eastern coast of Africa in its conceptualization of the Indo-Pacific.

The US framing of the Indo-Pacific coincides with the Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility, which ends with India. That further complicates the United States’ ability to craft a unified strategy for the Indian Ocean region.

Perhaps partly due to these bureaucratic and conceptual issues, US engagement of the region has been limited.

US military planes parked at Diego Garcia military base, December 2017. Photo: Facebook

Recognizing it as a priority route and theater for US military power projection, the United States has of late improved its technology and facilities, notably its joint naval base (with the United Kingdom) at Diego Garcia, and increased logistics and supply cooperation with India, with which it wants to strengthen relations, notably as both countries worry about China’s rising power.

But the United States has been slow to roll out non-military programs and engage smaller regional countries. It only has one “ship-rider” agreement in the region (with Seychelles), constraining its ability to promote security cooperation, and only three embassies and two defense attaches to cover seven countries.

The United States also participates as a dialogue partner in one of the two primary regional multilateral bodies, the Indian Ocean Rim Association. But it’s not part of the other, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. More worryingly, in terms of assistance for the development of small regional countries the United States is falling behind China, which is investing massively in ports, fiber optic cables, and other maritime infrastructure.

The United States, therefore, should take immediate steps to adapt its approach to the Indian Ocean region. It should do so by embracing the region as a whole and ramping up engagement, notably by acting as a problem-solver and committed partner.

Embrace the region as a whole

The United States should begin by clearly defining its interests, goals, and priorities in the region as a whole and developing a strategy for it. That work, as mentioned, has not been done.

Broadening the US Indo-Pacific construct to include the Western Indian Ocean and eastern coast of Africa would be a good start. Not only would it bring the United States in line with many of its key partners, notably India, Australia, and Japan, but it would also help identify ways to implement the US Indo-Pacific Strategy in the region.

Meanwhile, the United States should probably steer clear of undertaking a major bureaucratic restructuring to better grasp, and act on, dynamics in the Indian Ocean region because it is too labor-intensive and time-consuming. Yet the appointment of nodal points or coordinators for the region in the US State and Defense Departments would be a good, easy fix to address the problems associated with the current US bureaucratic structure.

Act as problem-solver

The United States could be tempted to engage the region primarily — even only – with an eye to countering China because, after all, that goal is driving much of its foreign policy. Some have made that case, advocating that Washington focus its competition with Beijing in the Indian Ocean region because it has a bigger advantage there than closer to China’s coastline.

A blockade in the region, the argument goes, could help deter Chinese adventurism in the Pacific because it would force Beijing to devote resources to a distant area where it has disadvantages and trigger greater balancing by regional countries, notably India, which would feel threatened by a larger Chinese presence in the theater. The idea is that horizontal escalation in the region could replace vertical escalation in the Pacific.

It is unclear that this approach would work, however, either at the required speed or at all. Balancing by regional countries would also not be given because many have a favorable view of China, and even those that do not, are not prepared to go “all in” against China.

S Jaishankar, Indian minister of external affairs. Photo: Sputnik

Of note, virtually no one participating in the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth this month uttered the words “China” or “deterrence,” let alone in the same sentence. Even S Jaishankar, India’s minister of external affairs, only took oblique swipes at China in his keynote address, never mentioning it explicitly. Besides, many Indian Ocean regional states are suspicious about, and some even opposed to, cooperation with the United States, and there is a deep tradition of non-alignment in the region.

Rather than “countering China,” then, the organizing principle for US engagement in the region should be “fixing problems.” The United States should present itself as a problem-solver, a country that can help address issues of direct concern to IOR countries.

Although regional countries have different goals and priorities, by and large, that means helping respond to non-traditional security threats, including, but not limited to, nefarious non-state actors; illicit trafficking of all sorts; illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing; or climate change.

The recent US commitment to do just that is a good first step, but words should quickly turn into deeds so that regional countries can “see” more concrete deliverables, more regularly.

In this regard, the United States should bear in mind that building partner capacity to respond to non-traditional security threats can have multiple purposes, and therefore multiple payoffs. Enhancing a partner’s ability to combat maritime crime, for instance, simultaneously provides tools useful vis-à-vis China’s maritime developments.

Be a committed partner

Doing more in the Indian Ocean region does not mean that the United States will have to divert resources away from other theaters or the Pacific. The United States can – and should – ramp up engagement of the region while remaining focused on the Pacific.

In addition to repurposing some of its in-theater resources from continental to maritime challenges and maximizing its diplomatic and military visits to regional countries as it transits in the region, as some have recommended, the United States can do more by building on its existing relationships with regional countries and, more importantly, supporting regional leaders.

So, the United States should present itself not just as a problem-solver, but also as a committed partner.

Partnering with India, the predominant regional power, should be priority number one. The United States should build upon the recent flurry of cooperation agreements it has concluded with India and work out ways it can best support Indian activities in the region, be it through

In so doing, the United States should let India be in the driver’s seat, both because Washington should focus on the Pacific and because of possible backyard anxieties from New Delhi about an overly active US presence in the Indian Ocean region.

Ram Madhav. Photo: Wikipedia

Such an approach could benefit the United States in other ways. For instance, Ram Madhav, the President of the India Foundation, has argued that US appreciation and upholding of India’s primacy in the region would encourage New Delhi to “get involved in the imperatives of the Pacific region.”

In other words, US support for Indian leadership in the Indian Ocean region will trigger Indian support for US leadership in the Pacific, a clear upside from a US perspective.

Of course, the United States should work with other regional leaders as well. A staunch US ally often described as the United States’ “southern anchor” in the Indo-Pacific, Australia immediately comes to mind. So do other non-Indian Ocean regional countries, such as Japan, France or the United Kingdom, all of which play important roles in the region.

The United States should seek to leverage their roles to do more in the region, including to resolve longstanding issues such as the Diego Garcia stalemate; some have proposed innovative approaches to the problem.

Alfred Thayer Mahan. Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

The United States also should urge mini-lateral arrangements such as the Quad, a security arrangement that includes Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, to pivot to the Indian Ocean region and perhaps even to develop ties with the “I2U2 group,” a new cooperative partnership between India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, the now famous US naval strategist, reportedly prophesied in the late 1890s shortly before he became admiral that “The destiny of the world will be decided” on Indian Ocean waters. These words continue to ring true today, and it is thus high time the United States gave the Indo side of the Indo-Pacific the attention it deserves, even as it remains focused on the Pacific.

David Santoro ([email protected]is president of the Pacific Forum. He specializes in strategic deterrence, arms control, and nonproliferation. Santoro’s current interests focus on great-power dynamics and US alliances, particularly the role of China in an era of nuclear multipolarity.

This article, originally published by Pacific Forum, is republished with permission.

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New retention scheme a 'reason to stay' but payouts not substantial enough, say some nurses

SCHEME “FALLS SHORT” IN SOME AREAS

But Sarah and some nurses CNA spoke to pointed out they have to wait four to six years for each payout and that the incentive does not apply to those in the private healthcare sector.  

Sarah, who has been a nurse for 10 years, acknowledged that the retention scheme serves as an “additional boost” on top of existing benefits. 

But a S$20,000 payout over four years means S$5,000 a year, or just S$417 per month.

This is “close to” the amount a locum or stand-in nurse receives in one shift, Sarah noted. “I feel that it is the main reason why nurses are speaking up; (they do) not consider it a substantial amount,” she said, pointing to comments from fellow nurses on social media. 

To this, SIT’s Assoc Prof Siow said: “It is difficult to put a specific amount on what is considered a sufficient payout for nurses.

“At first pass, the amounts do look generous, but it must be understood that these payouts happen every four to six years,” she said.

“Some nurses may forgo the amounts if they have better opportunities elsewhere or prefer to leave the workforce for personal reasons – such as to take care of family or children – despite the loss of these payouts.”

Janet (not her real name), a home care nurse working at a community care organisation, also told CNA that while she appreciates the Health Ministry’s initiative to retain nurses, she believes it “falls short”.

“Nurses need an annual salary increase with a minimum cap. We are underpaid, considering the hard work we put in to meet patients’ needs and deliver quality care,” said the 36-year-old who has been a nurse for more than 10 years.

Publicly funded community care organisations and social service agencies can also apply to participate in the scheme. They will need to co-fund the awards, with most of the funding coming from the government, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday.

Private hospitals, however, are not included in the scheme. 

“I would be grateful if such schemes are given to private sectors as well. As nurses, be it in the government or private sector, the job is equally stressful and lacks staff welfare,” said Mr Staffan Stewart, who works in the transitional care facility at Raffles Hospital.

“I do hope that private hospital nurses will also be recognised for their hard work,” added the 31-year-old.

Mr Stewart also wanted to see that the welfare of all healthcare workers, and not just nurses, improve gradually. 

“If not, it’s painful to see our locals moving away to other countries just to get the life they are unable to live in Singapore.”

Nurses also told CNA that there is more to retaining the workforce than money.

“Beyond monetary compensation, nurses require adequate rest, a safe working environment, protection from healthcare worker abuse, and opportunities for promotion and career progression within the health organisation,” said Alexandra Hospital nurse Ms Yap.

Likewise, Assoc Prof Siow highlighted that nursing attrition is a multi-faceted issue which “cannot be addressed just by one solution”. 

“The pull factors for remaining in the profession are not entirely monetary. There are other factors that should be considered such as work conditions, passion for the job, regard for the profession, opportunities for upskilling and opportunities for career progression,” she said. 

“Beyond implementing measures to retain nurses, we need to continue efforts to grow the nursing workforce by getting more people to consider nursing as a career.” 

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Zorba the Geek: Cyprus takes the lead in virtual dance arena - Asia Times

The ancient Greeks believed that a man’s grace in dance equaled his prowess in battle, so it is perhaps fitting that the pioneers of a brave new virtual world of dance are embedded in the heart of old Nicosia in Cyprus.

Operating from a stylishly modern, glass-fronted office that sits a stone’s throw from the city’s medieval wall, a team of professors and research scientists have been quietly creating the world’s largest database of 3D dancers.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, more a happy coincidence as they strove to carve out a name for themselves within the increasingly competitive market of immersive technologies, but the goal is now to build the world’s first virtual museum of dance.

Yiorgos Chrysanthou, the hugely enthusiastic research director of the Center on Interactive Media, Smart Systems and Emerging Technologies (CYENS), said: “For many years we have been working on virtual humans and how to animate correctly the body and how to simulate virtual characters that look realistic.

“Many people were doing walking, running, but we thought, ‘What’s the hardest thing you can do?’ Walking is a relatively simple thing, but dancing, there are a lot of variations. Each dance carries a unique narrative, capturing a spectrum of emotions through intricate movements and diversion.

“So we started experimenting with modern dance, which was the hardest dance we could think of. We then started capturing local dances, which involved a lot of research into how to capture someone, but also add a circle of emotion to the animation while still being realistic.

“Currently we have the biggest database of 3D dancers in the world.”

Partly funded by the European Union, CYENS is a research and innovation center of excellence that focuses on innovation and emerging technologies to empower knowledge and technology transfer in the region.

It is also a joint venture among the island’s three public universities – the University of Cyprus, Cyprus University of Technology, and the Open University of Cyprus – the Municipality of Nicosia, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, and University College London.

Cyprus aims to be home to the world’s first virtual dance museum. Photo: Courtesy of Andreas Aristidou

From humble beginnings in 2018 when it was pretty much a one-man show starring Yiorgos Chrysanthou, CYENS now employs 145 of the sharpest minds in Cyprus working in 17 different areas of research involving interactive media.

One of these minds belongs to Andreas Aristidou of the University of Cyprus. Armed with a PhD from Cambridge, Aristidou is leading the team currently causing a stir in the virtual ballroom of augmented reality.

He said: “We have captured approximately 400 dance performances through motion capture, and our collection is continually expanding.

“It encompasses a diverse range of dance styles, including folk dances from various countries, modern and contemporary ballet, Latin-based, and capoeira, a martial art.

“Looking ahead, we intend to incorporate group dances, as our motion-capture setup allows for the simultaneous capture of up to three people, and pair dances like tango and salsa are also on our agenda.”

Working with local and international dance schools – CYENS will host a party of Spanish flamenco dancers in the coming weeks – the time needed to process each dance can range from a few hours to a few days, depending on the quality of the motion-capture data and the realism the team aims to achieve.

In order to capture any dance, the CYENS team first sets the stage by calibrating studio cameras while the performer slips into a motion-capture suit. The actual recording time for a dance should take no longer than the duration of the dance itself. It is the processing that is time-consuming.

Marker data, bearing their own ID, requires cleaning and the restoration of occluded data, which can take anywhere between a few hours to a few days. From this, a skeleton is reconstructed in a motion file – such as BVH or SMPL formats – and retargeted to an avatar model, the creation of which tends to be outsourced to a graphic designer.

“After retargeting the motion to the avatar, some refinement may be needed to address issues like self-body penetrations or floor penetrations,” Aristidou said. “The final step is then modeling and rendering the environment.”

3D visualisation of the Eyo masquerade dance at the Tafawa Balewa Square Gate, Lagos, Nigeria.
3D visualization of the Eyo masquerade dance at the Tafawa Balewa Square Gate, Lagos, Nigeria. Photo: Courtesy of Andreas Aristidou

Among CYENS’ ever-growing catalogue of dances are Cypriot, Greek, Serbian and Turkish folk dances, African masquerade, ballet – courtesy of the Hungarian Ballet Academy – salsa, bachata, and a host of contemporary dances from reggaeton to hip-hop.

For Aristidou, it has been an intriguing journey that has thrown up a number of surprises.

He said: “I consistently find our work on safeguarding, documenting, and studying our intangible cultural heritage, particularly in the realm of digital dance ethnography, to be the most compelling.

“In this work, we have introduced and developed a contextual motion analysis method that organizes dance data semantically, giving rise to the first digital dance ethnography. This method adeptly exploits contextual correlations among dances, discerning nuanced differences between semantically similar motions.

“It presents diverse organization trees, offering a digital representation of the chronological and geographical evolution of dances.

“Notably, our method yielded impressive insights, revealing intriguing correlations, such as the connection between Chinese Xin-Jiang and Egyptian belly dance. At the time, we were unaware of this linkage, but as validated by our affiliated dance professionals, both dances share Oriental roots and influences.”

While CYENS’ 3D dance database is a world first, research director Yiorgos Chrysanthou understands that Cyprus will need to fight for its place on the world stage of virtual and augmented reality.

But though CYENS operates on a minuscule budget compared with other EU Centers of Excellence, Chrysanthou is confident that the wealth of talent and expertise on the island, coupled with low taxation and an investment-friendly government, will catapult the nation into a hub of research and innovation capable of attracting international small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups.

“We have a unique setup here,” Chrysanthou said. “As well as lower taxes it’s a very pleasant place to work, with a good standard of living, and we have a number of areas of expertise to help launch projects whether they be in virtual production or digital twins, as well as the infrastructure.”

For Chrysanthou, each success story achieved by CYENS is another foundation stone upon which to build the dream, and creating the world’s first virtual dance museum is another goal within reach.

And it promises to be a spectacular experience should the vision be realized, with visitors able to explore and interact with the rich history of dance.

“Users will have the opportunity to access and engage with archived data through advanced 3D character visualization in three ways: an online 3D virtual environment; virtual reality with a headset; and augmented reality,” Andreas Aristidou explained.

“In augmented reality, the 3D characters seamlessly integrate into the real world. In addition, we aspire to develop diverse e-learning applications wherein users, captured by an affordable motion-capture device – for example, a simple camera or a depth camera – can mimic the movements of a teacher, using data from the archive, to receive real-time qualitative and quantitative feedback.

“This approach will make learning dance both entertaining and educational. In other words, our objective extends beyond merely showcasing dances in our virtual museum. We aspire to incorporate a 3D dance platform for e-learning within a gamified virtual reality environment.

“This feature enables users to learn dance, synching with rhythm through a virtual-reality headset. Ultimately, our goal is to establish a highly immersive VR/AR platform hosting an interactive virtual dance museum. These applications are designed to captivate and sustain the interest of visitors, providing an engaging and educational experience.”

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Jesse Baird: Man charged with murder of missing Sydney couple

Breaking News

A 28-year-old man has been charged with murdering missing Sydney TV personality Jesse Baird and his boyfriend Luke Davies.

Police launched a frantic search on Wednesday after the couple’s bloodied belongings were found in a bin near Sydney. A “significant” amount of blood was later located at Mr Baird’s home, police said.

Beau Lamarre, a police officer and Mr Baird’s ex-boyfriend, handed himself in for questioning on Friday.

Detectives say they are yet to locate the men’s bodies or confirm their cause of death.

Police allege the couple were killed on Monday inside Mr Baird’s house in Paddington, an inner Sydney suburb, before their bodies were moved in a white van.

The van – captured at the scene on CCTV footage – was found in Sydney’s south on Friday morning.

However Det Supt Danny Doherty told reporters a bullet matching a NSW Police-issued gun was found at the crime scene in Paddington.

The gun was found in a safe at a police station in Sydney.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive Breaking News on a smartphone or tablet via the BBC News App. You can also follow @BBCBreaking on Twitter to get the latest alerts.

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Star Awards 2024: All That Glitters up for the most awards, Andie Chen has double nominations

This year’s live red carpet and awards ceremony show, happening on Apr 21 at Stars Avenue, takes the theme of “Ignite, Inspire, Impact, Influence” and will feature four chapters of tributes and performances, each dedicated to one of the aspects. “Ignite” celebrates young talents and rising stars, “Inspire” spotlights supporting artists and programme hosts, “Impact” is dedicated to performers with high accolades and “Influence” is all about popularity award recipients.

The seven-hour Backstage LIVE commentary marathon is also set to return.

Like last year, there will also be a separate closed-door Gala Night on Apr 15 for the Programme and Creative Achievement awards, held at Zouk Singapore.

This year also sees more recognition for radio DJs with the introduction of a new Best Audio Personality award. Along with the Best Radio Programme accolade, this category will be judged solely by a panel of professional judges.

Fans can already start preparing for the voting categories, with the Best Theme Song category already open and voting for the artist popularity awards commencing in March.

For more information and the full list of nominees, visit mediacorp.sg/StarAwards

Catch the Star Awards 2024 Live Show on Apr 21 at 7pm (Walk Of Fame at 5pm and Backstage LIVE starting 3.30pm online) on Channel 8, Channel U, mewatch and Mediacorp Entertainment’s YouTube Channel.

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India Kerala: Protests rock Wayanad after elephant attack deaths

Trained elephants of forest department in Wayanad on the mission to catch rogue onesArun Chandrabose

“I’m afraid the elephant that killed my father could come back to attack again,” says 13-year-old Alna Joseph.

On 10 February, Ms Joseph was returning from morning prayers at her village church in Mananthavady town in the hilly Wayanad district of the southern Indian state of Kerala when she saw a vehicle carrying a bleeding man.

When she reached home, she found out that it was the body of her father Ajeesh Joseph, a 42-year-old farmer, who had been trampled to death by a radio-collared wild elephant – the second such death in the district in three weeks.

As soon as the local hospital confirmed his death, protests erupted in the town. They were withdrawn only after the authorities announced a 1m-rupee ($12,067, £9,525) compensation for Joseph’s family and a job for his widow.

Neighbouring Karnataka state, to which the elephant belonged, also announced a compensation of 1.5m rupees.

Six days later, another wild elephant killed Pakkam Vellachalil Paul, a 50-year-old employee of a state-owned eco-tourism project, while he was on duty in Pulpally town, about 24km (15 miles) away.

Since then, Wayanad district – known for its dense forests – has witnessed massive protests as angry residents blame authorities for failing to protect them from wild animal attacks.

“We often see elephants roaming around when we go out,” Ms Joseph says. “Most of them don’t attack us. But how do we distinguish them from the dangerous ones?”

Last week, the funeral procession for Paul turned violent as protesters sat with his body – his last rites were performed only after the intervention of local politicians and religious leaders.

Protesters also placed the carcass of a calf killed by a tiger in the town on a forest department vehicle and booed local representatives.

Police accuse protesters of “assaulting forest department employees, damaging a vehicle and stopping policemen from carrying out their duties”.

Opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, who represents the Wayanad constituency in parliament, rushed to the state on Sunday to meet the families of the animal attack victims.

The state government held an all-party meeting and promised to cover medical expenses of those affected by such attacks, while the forest department said it had issued orders to tranquillise the elephant that attacked Joseph.

An angry mob blocks a forest department vehicle during a hartal by various political parties following the death of Paul in an elephant attack.

Arun Chandrabose

Residents say they want strong boundary walls, solar-powered fencing, elephant-proof trenches, early warning electronic systems, radio-collaring of all wild elephants and creation of wildlife corridors – all things that have been promised by the authorities in the past.

There is also growing resentment that the state’s chief minister and forest minister have not visited the area since the attacks.

Man-animal conflict is a major issue for Kerala, state Forest Minister AK Saseendran admits.

Known for its lush green landscape, the state covers only 1.2% of India’s land area, but accounts for 2.3% of its forest cover.

Wayanad has 11,531sq km (1.1m hectares) under forest cover, which is 29.6% of the state’s geographical area.

Residents of the district say most of the electric fencing and trenches dug to protect them from animal intrusions are in ruins.

Mr Saseendran says habitat loss and climate change and its impact on the ecosystem have contributed to rising human-animal conflicts here.

“Most of the raids are by reclusive elderly elephants who are hurt while fighting with youngsters in a herd,” the minister adds.

Authorities say they are installing 250 surveillance cameras to track animal intrusions in vulnerable areas of the district.

“We need to protect the lives of both humans and animals and ensure a healthy coexistence,” Mr Saseendran told the BBC.

The authorities also say a higher population density exerts more pressure on forest resources from dependent communities.

But residents don’t entirely agree and blame government policies for shrinking natural habitats that are forcing animals into residential areas.

Rahul Gandhi with Paul's wife Sani and daughter Sona

Arun Chandrabose

N Badusha, a 71-year-old farmer and environmental activist who lives near the district’s Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, says the area lies at the junction of wildlife reserves of three states.

“Traditional farmers like me and the tribespeople lived here harmoniously for years,” he says.

But decades of bamboo extraction from areas that the elephants relied on for sustenance have destroyed their food source, he says, adding that the government’s push for monoculture plantations such as teak, sandalwood, mahogany, acacia and eucalyptus has also affected the movement of wild animals.

“Today, around 36,000 of 96,000 hectares of Wayanad forests are monoculture plantations such as eucalyptus,” Mr Badusha says.

“The pristine and precious green spaces, vast swamps and wetlands are depleting,” he explains, pushing wild animals, such as elephants onto farmlands and residential areas.

Residents say the district’s burgeoning tourism industry, cattle grazing, invasive plants and forest fires are also destroying wildlife habitats in the region.

They blame the authorities for failing to find a solution to the resultant animal attacks.

In some of the recent cases, residents have also questioned the shoddy response by the authorities. They say that the elephant that attacked Joseph had a radio-collar. So, how come the authorities failed to track the animal and drive it back to the forest?

Mr Saseendran told reporters there had been a delay in tracking the elephant due to signal disruption from the radio-collar.

In the case of Paul’s death, his family also alleges that he failed to get medical treatment at the right time.

“He was shivering in fear and pain,” his 16-year-old daughter Sona says. “Had he got timely medical assistance, he would have survived.”

The state government said it would inquire into the allegation.

Sharath, a 14-year-old tribal boy, got fractured ribs after a wild elephant attacked him last month in the same area where Paul was killed

Arun Chandrabose

“People have lost faith in the system,” says V Mohammed Ali, who runs a tourist home in Wayanad.

It’s not just wild elephants they are worried about but animals like wild boars, tigers, bison and monkeys that make off with their cattle and eat their crops.

“Two months ago, a tiger killed a man and his half-eaten body was recovered later,” Mr Ali says. “People wanted to shoot the animal but were stopped by the authorities.”

Forest officials have also not been able to locate the tiger that killed the cattle in Pulpally as its pugmarks were untraceable.

“My only prayer is that no child is orphaned because of irresponsible authorities again,” Ms Sona says. “No other little one should ever have to cry like I did. We should be able to leave our homes without fear of an attack.”

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Outdoor adventure education sites to be consolidated from 8 to 4; public golf course to make way

The Mandai centre will be developed on the site currently occupied by the Mandai Executive Golf Course at Upper Seletar Reservoir after its tenancy expires.

This centre will potentially allow students to participate in water activities – depending on an environmental impact assessment – and accommodate larger-scale camps by uniformed groups, said MOE.

Meanwhile, the Sembawang centre will be developed at a site near PAssion WaVe @ Sembawang.

This centre will support water activities like kayaking and outrigger canoeing, and allow uniformed groups to participate in land and sea expeditions, added MOE. 

The exact locations and development of the Mandai and Sembawang centres will be guided by environmental impact assessments, which are expected to start next year. 

Nature groups such as Nature Society (Singapore) and Singapore Youth Voices for Biodiversity have been tapped for the preliminary phase.

The Education Ministry also said it will work closely with the National Parks Board (NParks), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and national water agency PUB, while public feedback from stakeholders in the vicinity of the new centres will be taken into consideration. 

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Jesse Baird: 'Grave concerns' over TV presenter and boyfriend Luke Davies missing in Sydney

Luke Davies and Jesse BairdJesse Baird

Police say they have “grave concerns” over a TV presenter and his boyfriend who disappeared in Sydney in suspicious circumstances.

Possessions belonging to ex-Network 10 presenter Jesse Baird, 26, and Luke Davies, 29, were found on Wednesday in a bin in a suburb of the city.

Police have been trying to locate a third man – named by local media as a police officer who had dated Mr Baird.

On Friday morning, a man was taken into custody at a local police station.

New South Wales (NSW) Police have not confirmed if the 29-year-old – who handed himself in – is the man they were seeking to question over the disappearances.

It comes after officers searched a home in the Balmain area of Sydney on Thursday night, seizing a number of items.

Officers found blood and moved furniture at Mr Baird’s home in the Paddington area, around 28km (17 miles) from Cronulla, the suburb where a worker found the couple’s belongings in a bin.

Blood-stained clothes, a phone and credit cards were among the items found.

Police believe the couple were in Paddington on Monday. CCTV footage obtained by 7NewsAustralia shows what it says appears to be the couple going into Mr Baird’s flatshare.

CCTV footage showing a white van in the area was also being looked at by police, the news outlet said.

Qantas flight attendant Mr Davies has not been in contact with his family or attended work since Monday, according to police.

Det Supt Jodi Radmore said all lines of inquiry were being investigated and told reporters: “We do believe, from the crime scene at Paddington and from property located at Cronulla, that there has been some sort of incident.”

She added that had given the force “great concerns for one, possibly both their safety”.

“Witnesses described a verbal argument,” she continued, “but it wasn’t reported to police at the time … it was only reported to police yesterday [Monday morning] during canvassing.”

New South Wales Police are appealing for information.

Mr Baird had been a presenter and red carpet reporter on Network 10’s morning show Studio 10 until the show was axed in December.

Qantas said it was providing support to Mr Davies’ colleagues.

“Our thoughts are with family, friends and colleagues of our crew member at this very difficult time,” the airline said in a statement.

Jesse Baird on Network 10

Jesse Baird

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Heart of the Matter Podcast: Is Singapore's anti-drug messaging resonating with our young?

There’s been a worrying rise in the number of young people arrested for drug abuse, says the Central Narcotics Bureau. How should anti-drug messaging be tailored better to suit a generation that’s consuming a largely social media diet? 

Otelli Edwards finds out from Dr Lambert Low, deputy chief of the department of addiction medicine in the Institute of Mental Health, Ravindran Nagalingam, board member at the National Council Against Drug Abuse and Tham Yuen Han, clinical director at WE CARE Community Services.

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