Factbox: Retailers close stores around globe to curb coronavirus spread

Factbox: Retailers close stores around globe to curb coronavirus spread
(Reuters) – Retailers have been closing stores around the globe to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, which has killed over 6,500 and infected more than 174,000 while disrupting supply and production chains.


The British diversified food processing and retailing company shut 74 of its Primark fashion stores across Italy, France, Spain and Austria in mid-March.


Apple said on March 14 it is closing all its retail stores, except those in Greater China, for two weeks.


The France-based retailer of cultural, leisure and technological products closed all its stores in Spain starting from March 14.


Clothes retailer said on March it was temporarily reducing store hours for all U.S. and Canadian locations, and closing over 100 stores.


The world’s second-biggest fashion retailer said in mid-March it was temporarily closing stores in 12 more markets, as it reported a 24% quarterly sales slump in China.


Zara owner Inditex temporarily closed its stores in Spain from March 14, Europa Press said, citing company sources.


Ikea said on March 12 it would temporarily close its stores and shopping centers in Italy.


The home improvement group has closed its 221 Castorama and Brico Dépôt stores in France until April 14, while its 28 stores in Spain have also shut until March 29.


The sportswear company closed its stores in North America and Europe from March 16 until March 27.


The U.S. maker of athletic footwear and accessories will close all of its stores across the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand by March 27, it said on March 15.


The Danish jeweler said in early March it had shut 30 of its 148 shops in Italy, its third largest single market.


The company said it would temporary close stores located in a shopping mall starting March 16.


Under Armour shuttered all North America stores from March 16 for about two weeks.


The apparel retailer which owns brands including Anthropologie and Free People, closed all its stores worldwide until at least March 28.


The company temporarily closed a number of its U.S. stores to expand its work from home policy to some of its retail employees.


North Face owner closed all owned retail stores across North America from March 16 to April 5.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland and Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; editing by Josephine Mason)

Officials arrest 338 in child porn bust on dark web

Officials arrest 338 in child porn bust on dark web
By Andy Sullivan and Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had arrested hundreds of people worldwide after knocking out a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site that sold gruesome videos for digital cash.

Officials from the United States, Britain and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had encountered to date.

Called Welcome To Video, the website relied on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to sell access to 250,000 videos depicting child sexual abuse, authorities said.

Officials have rescued at least 23 underage victims in the United States, Britain and Spain who were being actively abused by users of the site, the Justice Department said. Many children in the videos have not yet been identified.

The site’s vast library – nearly half of it consisting of images never seen before by law enforcement – is an illustration of what authorities say is an explosion of sexual abuse content online. In a statement, Britain’s National Crime Agency said officials were seeing “increases in severity, scale and complexity.”

Welcome To Video’s operator, a South Korean named Jong Woo Son, and 337 users in 12 different countries, have been charged so far, authorities said.

Son, currently serving an 18-month sentence in South Korea, was also indicted on federal charges in Washington.

Several other people charged in the case have already been convicted and are serving prison sentences of up to 15 years, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Welcome To Video is one of the first websites to monetize child pornography using bitcoin, which allows users to hide their identities during financial transactions.

Users were able to redeem the digital currency in return for “points” that they could spend downloading videos or buying all-you-can watch “VIP” accounts. Points could also be earned by uploading fresh child pornography.


“These are the bottom feeders of the criminal world,” said Don Fort, chief of criminal investigation at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which initiated the investigation.

The Justice Department said the site collected at least $370,000 worth of bitcoin before it was taken down in March 2018 and that the currency was laundered through three unnamed digital currency exchanges.

Darknet websites are designed to be all-but-impossible to locate online. How authorities managed to locate and bring down the site isn’t clear, with differing narratives by different law enforcement organizations on the matter.

Fort said the investigation was triggered by a tip to the IRS from a confidential source. However, Britain’s National Crime Agency said they came across the site during an investigation into a British academic who in October 2017 pleaded guilty  to blackmailing more than 50 people, including teenagers, into sending him depraved images that he shared online.

In a statement, British authorities said the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit deployed “specialist capabilities” to identify the server’s location. The NCA did not immediately return an email seeking clarification on the term, which is sometimes used as a euphemism for hacking.

The U.S. Justice Department gave a different explanation, saying that Welcome To Video’s site was leaking its server’s South Korean internet protocol address to the open internet.

Experts pointed to the bust as evidence that the trade in child abuse imagery could be tackled without subverting the encryption that keeps the rest of the internet safe.

Officials in the United States and elsewhere have recently begun prodding major technology firms  to come up with solutions that could allow law enforcement to bypass the encryption that protects messaging apps like WhatsApp or iMessage, citing the fight against child pornography as a major reason.

Welcome to Video’s demise “is a clear indication that in cases like this, where there’s very low-hanging fruit, breaking encryption is not required,” said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

He said the bust showed that law enforcement could also track criminal activity that employs cryptocurrency transactions.

“There’s a lot of a people who have this perception that bitcoin is totally anonymous,” Parsons said, “and it’s been the downfall of many people in many investigations.”

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum)

The Economic Collapse Blog: BLACK MONDAY: The First Time EVER The Dow Has Dropped By More Than 500 Points On Two Consecutive Days

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 588 points. It was the 8th worst single day stock market crash in U.S. history, and it was the first time that the Dow has ever fallen by more than 500 points on two consecutive days. But the amazing thing is that the Dow actually performed better than almost every other major global stock market on Monday.  In the U.S., the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both did worse than the Dow. In Europe, almost every major index performed significantly worse than the Dow.  Over in Asia, Japanese stocks were down 895 points, and Chinese stocks experienced the biggest decline of all (a whopping 8.46 percent). On June 25th, I was not kidding around when I issued a “red alert” for the last six months of 2015. I had never issued a formal alert for any other period of time, and I specifically stated that “a major financial collapse is imminent“. But you know what? As the weeks and months roll along, things will eventually be even worse than what any of the experts (including myself) have been projecting. The global financial system is now unraveling, and you better pack a lunch because this is going to be one very long horror show.

Our world has not seen a day quite like Monday in a very, very long time. Let’s start our discussion where the carnage began…

The Economic Collapse Blog – The Economic Collapse Blog: BLACK MONDAY: The First Time EVER The Dow Has Dropped By More Than 500 Points On Two Consecutive Days

Bible Not Available In 57% of World Languages

The recent State of the Bible report from the American Bible Society reported this statistic:  57 percent of the world’s languages do not have a translation of the Bible.

The same survey showed a super majority of Americans believe the Bible has already been translated into every language on the planet.  Of 2,000 surveyed Americans, 72 percent said they believe the Gospel is available to the world in their native tongue.

Almost 31 percent of languages in the world do not even have a Bible translation underway and another 26 percent do not have a completed Bible translation.

Wycliffe Bible Translators president Bob Creson told the Christian Post that while there is a huge number of languages without a Bible, the translation process is happening faster than at any time in history.

“[2,195] is the highest number in history. There is more work going on than ever before. One of the ways I usually talk about it is that people have more access to Scripture than any other time in history in their first language. It gives people the best opportunity to respond to the Good News message,” Creson said.

Creson says that the goal is to have the translation process started for all the world’s languages by 2025.

“One way to look at [the survey], if you are a Bible translation agency like we are and the American Bible Society, you can be discouraged by that. But, that just shows you the opportunity that we have to continue to educate the Christian public about the need for Bible translation,” Creson said. “One of the big strengths of the American Bible Society is their geographic reach to be able to educate people on that issue. We partner with ABS on a number of different and important translation projects. I am very glad to see them doing this because they have a great reach to be able to help people understand that we are not there yet.”

Bible App Reveals Most Searched Verses in 2014

The YouVersion Bible app has released a list of the most searched Bible verses during the year 2014.

According to all searches, Romans 12:2 is the verse read more than any other:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The administrators of the program say that 164 million smartphone and tablet users around the world have downloaded the YouVersion Bible app.  87 percent of Christians worldwide who have internet access have been reached by the app.

Philippians 4:8 and Philippians 4:6 finished second and third in the list.  The number four verse on the list, Jeremiah 29:11, was most popular in Canada, the U.K., Australia and South Africa.

The app’s creators hope to have the ability to reach all 6,901 languages in the world through a program called Every Tribe Every Nation.

5.8 Billion Now Have Access To The Bible

Wycliffe Bible Translators USA has said that over 5.8 billion people worldwide now have access to God’s word.

“Last year, Wycliffe Global Alliance reported that 4.9 billion people could access at least part of the Bible in their first language. This year the number has grown to 5.8 billion,” Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe, told The Christian Post. “This represents tremendous progress toward our goal of starting a translation project in every language needing one by 2025.”

Creson said that advances in technology that increase the speed of translations have helped them.

“There are about 7000 languages in active use and at least one book of Scripture exists in almost 2,900 of these languages,” noted Wycliffe Global Alliance. “At least 1.3 billion people do not have the full Bible available in their first language. Over 634 million of these have the New Testament; others have portions or at least some level of work begun.”

Anti-Semitism Rises In Wake of Gaza Conflict

A new report shows anti-Semitism worldwide making a significant increase in the wake of the conflict in Gaza.

The footage of Hamas terrorists shooting rockets into Israel, the murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists, the tunnels into Israel that have been used for terror attacks have fallen on deaf ears in most countries because of media coverage only showing the impact on Palestinian civilians who are used as cover by terrorists.

The heavily Jewish section of Paris was looted and attacked as the mob showed “gas the Jews.”  Synagogues and Jewish centers in Paris and other French cities were firebombed and Nazi symbols spray painted onto Jewish property.

Germany showed particularly nasty incidents including in Berlin where protesters would stand in front of the homes of Jewish residents and yell “Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight.”  In Frankfurt, protesters carried signs saying “Jews are beasts.”

In the United States, the mainstream media ignored multiple instances of Jews being attacked and harassed.  No major network covered the story of a Jewish student in Boston who was attacked by a woman saying that Jerusalem would be cleansed of the Jews while a crowd chanted that Jews better learn how to swim.

Group Plans To Offer Free Wi-Fi To Planet

A new organization wants you to be able to check your e-mail in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest or the deserts of Africa.

A group calling themselves the Media Development Investment Fund is creating something called Outernet, which involves hundreds of mini-satellites that would orbit earth and provide Wi-Fi to the entire planet.

The MDIF says that the new technology would allow free press and information to flow into countries that block internet access to citizens like China and North Korea.  Currently about 60% of the planet has access to the internet mostly because poor areas of the world lack the infrastructure necessary to sustain signal.

The company plans to ask NASA to run tests of their service from the International Space Station in September 2014.  If the tests from the ISS are successful, the company believes they can begin Outernet by June 2015.

The service will not be like traditional internet service in that the user can go to any website but the service will be much like satellite TV in that it will provide a menu of websites for users visit.

Experts Say H1N1 Pandemic Death Toll Actually Ten Times Higher

A new report on deaths linked to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic shows the total number of deaths to be more than ten times higher than reported by the World Health Organization.

The study also discovered that respiratory deaths in the Americas can be 20 times higher than the death rates in Europe.

Examining only deaths from pneumonia that could have been connected to the flu, the study showed Mexico, Argentina and Brazil had the highest death rates from the pandemic. The toll was significantly lower in New Zealand, Australia and in most of Europe.

“[The report] confirms that the H1N1 virus killed many more people globally than originally believed,” study author Lone Simonsen of George Washington University said. “We also found that the mortality burden of this pandemic fell most heavily on younger people and those living in certain parts of the Americas.”

The World Health Organization said in 2010 the death toll from H1N1 was around 18,500 but noted their total was limited to laboratory confirmed testing.

Catholic Church Sees Attendance Increase From Pope Francis

The Catholic Church is reporting a huge upswing in attendance in the 8 months since Pope Francis was chosen to lead.

Churches in Britain have seen a 20% rise in attendance with a mix of new and returning members. More than half of priests in Italy have reported seeing a significant upturn in attendance and Spain’s church leaders report a decade-long slump in attendance has suddenly reversed.

In addition, leaders in the U.S., France and Latin America report growth.

All of those surveyed credited Pope Francis and his appeal to those who have felt like they were being cast aside from the church. Surveys say that people are very impressed with his simple lifestyle, devotion to service to the poor and needy and his commitment to rid the papacy of pedophile priests.

One columnist even said that Pope Francis has become the world’s biggest voice for change in the current system getting people to focus on the needs of others.