What's Going On Around The World Today?
A writer in Bangladesh was hacked to death, the latest in a string of murders of atheist and secular bloggers. BuzzFeed News tracked U.S. surveillance planes and found they routinely circle over most major cities. And one of the most lucrative mining contracts in Africa may unravel because of the Panama Papers.
HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
Why Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook went all in on live video.
It’s a simple feature: Hit a button to live-stream video. Facebook Live launched in August 2015 to a select audience.
“Because it’s live, there is no way it can be curated,” Zuckerberg said. “And because of that it frees people up to be themselves.”
Facebook Live features include animated reactions in the video, comment playback, an interactive map of live streams, video filters, ability to broadcast just to groups or events, and video categories — as well as a special dedicated button on the home row.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.” —Mark Zuckerberg
Michelle Rial / BuzzFeed News
And a little extra.
Facebook Live is already creating celebrities and genres. Among them: Liz Cook, a tattoo artist who goes Live with inkings and has amassed more than 1 million followers, and Esther the Wonder Pig, who is, well, a highly successful pig. Also, weird seems to work — nearly 750,000 people watched the close-up of a guy popping bubble wrap.
Raw, unfiltered video is hot right now. A host of apps launched in 2015 and 2016 — Periscope, Meerkat, Peach, and Beme among them — that try to nail this experience. “This is precisely what Snapchat is so good at, and why it has become such a threat to Facebook,” Honan writes.
A secular blogger in Bangladesh was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers on Wednesday evening, police said.
Writer Nazimuddin Samad, who was studying law, was attacked on the streets of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, BuzzFeed News’ Francis Whittaker reports. Samad was a vocal opponent of religious fundamentalism and last month his name appeared on a hit list of 84 writers drawn up by Islamist militants.
During the attack, Samad “fell on the street and then the attackers shot him to confirm death before leaving the place,” the Dhaka Tribune writes.
A bit of background.
Samad is the latest in a string of well-known atheist and secular bloggers who have been murdered in the country in recent months. The killings of bloggers in Dhaka have instilled fear among young, progressive writers in Bangladesh. Since the murders started, many have left the country or stopped writing.
The day before he was murdered, Samad had written a post on Facebook expressing concerns about the Bangladeshi government and the deterioration of law and order in the country.
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
U.S. surveillance planes routinely circle over most major cities, but usually take the weekends off, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis.
The planes are piloted by agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and fitted with high-resolution video cameras, BuzzFeed News’ Peter Aldhous and Charles Seife report.
The government’s airborne surveillance has received little public scrutiny — until now.
BuzzFeed News has assembled an unprecedented picture of the operation’s scale and sweep by analyzing aircraft location data collected by the flight-tracking website Flightradar24 from mid-August to the end of December last year, identifying about 200 federal aircraft. The analysis also found surveillance flight time dropped more than 70% on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays.
The FBI and the DHS would not discuss the reasons for individual flights but told BuzzFeed News that their planes are not conducting mass surveillance.
And a little extra.
The BuzzFeed News analysis also revealed how the government responded to the mass shooting last December in San Bernardino, California. Within 90 minutes of the attack, two planes were circling the scene. Later that afternoon, the FBI plane flew around the home of the two shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Farook attended a nearby mosque. Starting Dec. 3, FBI planes traced circles with the mosque near their center, Aldhous and Seife report.
The FBI told BuzzFeed News that it cannot launch investigations based on race, ethnicity, or religion. Shakeel Syed, executive director of an organization representing Southern California’s mosques and Islamic centers, said he’s alarmed that the FBI’s reaction to the San Bernardino attack seems to have been to send its planes to watch the mosque attended by Farook.
For the latest news and updates, download the BuzzFeed News app for iOS and Android (available in Canadian, UK, Australian, and U.S. app stores).
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
More people were executed worldwide last year than in any of the previous 25 years.
Countries including Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia executed at least 1,634 people in 2015, Amnesty International said.
The charity named China as the top executioner, although the true extent of the country’s use of the death penalty isn’t known — the data is considered a state secret.
Iran executed at least 977 people last year (a 31% increase on 2014). Pakistan executed more than 320 people, the highest number ever recorded for the country, BuzzFeed News’ Alan White and Paul Curry report.
Quick things to know:
The latest on the #PanamaPapers: One of the most lucrative mining contracts in Africa may unravel. It’s a deal between an Israeli diamond dealer and Guinea. (BuzzFeed News) Swiss police raided European soccer body UEFA’s offices to collect files that could shed light on the leaks. (The Guardian) And Canada has no idea how much tax revenue it’s losing to offshore havens. (BuzzFeed News)
LGBT rights: Britain’s only domestic violence charity for LGBT people is facing closure — its government grant still hasn’t arrived. (BuzzFeed News) And Hong Kong airport staff confiscated the ashes of a British man’s husband because they didn’t deem him next of kin. (BuzzFeed News)
And in celebrity news: Lena Dunham will publish books under her own Random House imprint, Lenny. (BuzzFeed News) Janet Jackson is delaying her world tour because she wants to start a family. She was due to play in Las Vegas in May. (BuzzFeed News) And country music icon Merle Haggard has died at 79. (Billboard)
Step inside the secret world of biological museum samples. The archives of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., have helped experts explore the biological and cultural diversity of our planet, BuzzFeed UK’s Laura Gallant writes. The archives include 30 million insects dried and pinned into boxes and 7 million fish in jars filled with preserving liquids. Insane.
This letter was edited and brought to you by Natasha Japanwala and Claire Moses. You can always reach us here.