'Disrupting terror finance vital to counter-terrorism'
New Delhi : Disrupting communication and finance of terror outfits are vital to tackling terrorism as such acts succeed due to movement of "men, money, material and messages", US-based terror expert Amit Kumar has said.
 
"Communication by way of messages, flow of money or anything that has (monetary) value is required to spread terrorism. Terrorists succeed by moving men, money, materiel and messages. The effective counter-terrorism strategy could be to disrupt their communication and finance," Kumar told IANS while on a visit here.
 
Kumar, who is president of Washington-based AAA International Security Consultants LLC, said some measures have been taken for disrupting terrorist messages by working with social media sites like YouYube.
 
"Arms embargoes, travel ban, freezing of assets and immigration checks are some other measures being taken worldwide," said Kumar.
 
"The next strategy to counter terrorism should be to unravel the nexus between terrorist finance and crime. Both organised and petty crime are known to intersect with terrorist financing activities," he added.
 
Kumar, who has studied public administration and philosophy, apart from international business, also mentioned the role of bitcoin -- virtual currency -- as a new phenomenon being used for transaction of money by terrorists and other criminals.
 
Bitcoin is a digital asset and a payment system which helps users to transact money directly without an intermediary.
 
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, owners of bitcoins can use various websites to trade them for physical currencies, such as dollars or euros, or can exchange them for goods and services from a number of vendors.
 
Bitcoin relies on public-key cryptography, in which users have a public key that is available for everyone to see and a private key known only to their computers.
 
Kumar gave the example of a 17-year-old tech-savvy youth, Ali Shukri Amin, a resident of Virginia, who was held by US agencies last year on charges of providing instructions to Islamic State supporters on using bitcoins to conceal financial donations.
 
Kumar said that effective monitoring of bitcoins can be done, particularly by the banking system.
 
"For example, if a bitcoin user buys a bitcoin, he does intersect the banking system by the way of PayPal (an American company operating a worldwide online payments system) or some kind of online intersectional inter-phase of a bank.
 
"By monitoring, you can try to avert the potential use of bitcoin by a criminal or a terrorist. Otherwise the bitcoin transaction and usage becomes anonymous," he explained.
 
Kumar, who has worked previously with Al-Qaida/Taliban sanctions regime at the United Nations, also talked about measures like de-radicalisation of terrorists or would-be terrorists to counter terrorism.
 
Kumar said AAA International Security Consultants LLC provides consulting, training and curriculum development, and research services in a range of areas, including counter terrorism, counter terrorist-financing and anti-money laundering.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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110 die in Kerala temple tragedy, Modi calls it 'dreadful'
Kollam (Kerala) : At least 110 devotees were killed and over 350 injured when an illegal fireworks show set off massive explosions and caused a huge blaze in a Hindu temple in Kerala before dawn on Sunday in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was a "dreadful tragedy".
 
Many of those warded in hospitals were in critical condition. Modi, who visited the disaster-hit Puttingal Devi temple in Peravur town here, suggested that they could be flown to Mumbai or New Delhi for treatment.
 
Only two of the dead were women, police sources told IANS.
 
"The tragedy is unimaginable and dreadful," a sombre Modi said in Thiruvananthapuram just before taking a flight to Delhi. He announced Rs.2 lakh as compensation to families of each of the dead.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced a compensation of Rs.10 lakh to families of the dead, Rs.2 lakh each to the seriously injured and Rs.50,000 to those with minor injuries.
 
He also ordered a judicial probe and a simultaneous investigation by the Crime Branch of Kerala Police to determine how the fireworks show ended up raining death.
 
Dazed survivors said the disaster happened when stacks of explosives stored in a building a little away from the 100-year-old temple exploded, apparently after a spark from a firecracker landed on its roof.
 
The incident occurred just after 3 a.m. amid a dazzling and deafening fireworks display even after the local authorities had declined permission for it. The celebrations had begun the previous night.
 
K. Jayakumar, a travel agent, explained how the disaster struck.
 
"A fireball engulfed the entire area right before my eyes," he told the media. "A concrete slab came flying my way and hit the person sitting next to me. He died on the spot."
 
The impact of the explosion brought down the building where the crackers had been stored, trapping many. 
 
Chunks of concrete flew at great speed, killing unsuspecting devotees who had gathered in thousands.
 
Lallu S. Pillai, a journalist who was on the terrace of a nearby house, told IANS that many died within minutes.
 
Once the building came crashing down, "we felt the place shake", he said. "After that it was absolute chaos."
 
Other devotees said people, frightened by the explosions, started to run, at times tripping over one another.
 
Several houses in a half-kilometre radius were damaged.
 
Prakashan, who lives near the temple, said he had been complaining for years against the fireworks display but was ignored.
 
Temple officials fled the spot after the tragedy. IANS tried to reach some of them on their mobile phones but they were switched off.
 
Police arrested five men linked to a father-and-son contractor pair who were responsible for the fireworks show.
 
The father himself was in a serious condition in a hospital while the son had suffered 50 percent burn injuries.
 
For hours after the tragedy, charred bodies and human remains lay scattered in the temple complex. Authorities then began clearing the heaps of debris.
 
Amid the election fever in Kerala, Chief Minister Chandy held an emergency cabinet meeting in Kollam. He said the incident "should open the eyes of all of us" vis-a-vis temple celebrations.
 
He said the government would bear the expenses of the injured.
 
Spiritual guru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi called for a ban on the use of firecrackers in temples or at least their minimum use, that too under careful supervision.
 
At the Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, about 60 km away, 124 people were admitted, mostly with broken bones in their hands and legs. A few had burn injuries, indicating fire was not the only cause of death.
 
Within hours, the army, air force and the navy joined in rescue operations and to provide medical treatment. Ships sailed from Kochi while helicopters flew in from Tamil Nadu as well.
 
Making a brief statement at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital, Modi said he was deeply grieved. "We stand by Kerala's grief and we will do everything we can to bring down the misery." 
 
After spending about 10 minutes walking around the temple complex, Modi and Chandy drove to the Kollam district hospital where 185 of the injured are undergoing treatment.
 
All political parties on Sunday cancelled their election meetings as a mark of respect for the dead.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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'India's animation industry has seen unprecedented growth'
New Delhi : With global players exploring India as a talent pool for animation content and Indian filmmakers looking out for subjects with a "broad mass appeal", there's a huge potential for the growth of the animation world in the country, says US-based Avneet Kaur, who has lent her creative touch to Hollywood entertainers like "Tangled", "Frozen" and "Zootopia".
 
"The animation industry is definitely evolving in India. It has witnessed unprecedented growth rates in recent times," Kaur told IANS in an email interview from Los Angeles.
 
Her statement is well supported by the fact that India's animation industry generated revenues to the tune of Rs.51.1 billion in 2015, marking a growth rate of 13.8 percent, according to a FICCI-KPMG report.
 
Kaur, who is a simulation technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studios, said: "Over the last decade, it has seen the entry of many global studios who have tapped into India's talent pool.
 
"Additionally, leading Indian production houses like Tata and Reliance are now investing in the animation market and collaborating with Indian filmmakers to make animated features that have broad mass appeal and entertain their local audiences.
 
"I believe that this industry has huge business potential in India and is beginning to scale new heights."
 
India is said to have nearly 300 animation, 40 visual effects and 85 game development studios with over 15,000 professionals working for them, and these cater to not just the movie world but also to small screen content for children and regional platforms.
 
Kaur says it is Bollywood that taught her to dream big, and her love for films made her walk on the animation path to reach the world of Hollywood.
 
Having worked on films like "Bolt", "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Feast", would she want to try her hand at an animation project in Bollywood?
 
"May be some time in the future if the correct opportunity arises. It will be a homecoming, for my work," said Kaur, who after spending her growing up years in New Delhi and pursuing Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch) from the Birla Institute of Technology, India, took a foreign detour as she did her M.S. Visualisation Sciences from Texas A&M University, US.
 
While the cinematic world at large continues to paint a picture of India as a place with a mysterious, magical and enchanting quality, Kaur believes people in the west define India as a "strong, modern and forward-thinking nation" which is in touch with its culture and history.
 
"India is a potpourri of diverse cultures. Growing up in so many different cities, each with its unique and diverse traditions, our family always had more festivals and occasions to celebrate.
 
"Bollywood taught me to dream big, and my family and friends taught me the essence of life, and kept me grounded. I am so grateful for everything I have learnt growing up in India."
 
She added that she always "loved to draw as a kid", and her parents encouraged her passion for the arts. Then she landed in Hollywood enthused with her love for films of all kinds.
 
Kaur asserted: "Having a job of making movies was the best thing that could have happened to me and what better place to do this at, than Walt Disney Animation Studios. I was offered a job at this magical place in 2005, and since then this is my second home."
 
She joined the team of "Zootopia", a film which brings the world of animals alive on the silver screen, when it was in early production, and worked as a character simulation technical director on it. Her next tryst with animation is Disney's musical adventure film "Moana".
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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