Indian shepherd combats water scarcity by building ponds

The ponds, constructed over the course of four decades, are meant to address the problem of water scarcity. Kamegowda — known as “Pond Man” — says they’re “scientific” in nature, with the water flowing on a slope, enabling the ponds to avoid drying up even in the scorching summer months. Birds and wild animals such as bears, leopards, deer and foxes use the ponds to quench their thirst.

Kamegowda, who sports tidy black hair and a gray beard, was once dismissed as mad by other villagers. They mocked him for claiming that he had learned from his father, also a shepherd, the art of identifying ground moisture and using it to create bodies of water.

He relied mostly on shovels, spades and pickaxes to create the water bodies, and rented excavating machines when he could afford them to structure the ponds.

The Karnataka state government praised his work two years ago with a prestigious award. But the national recognition came earlier this year when Modi lauded his work on his popular radio broadcast, calling Kamegowda an “ordinary farmer” with “an extraordinary personality.”

“He has achieved a personal feat that will leave anyone awestruck,” the prime mister said, adding that Kamegowda “has dug 16 ponds, through his hard work and the sweat of his brow.”

“It is possible that the ponds he has constructed may not be very big, but then his efforts are huge,” Modi said. “Today, the entire area has got a new lease of life on account of these ponds.”

Social groups are now urging Modi to honor Kamegowda with a national award.

Kamegowda is happy to show journalists around, hobbling on a bandaged leg due to an ulcer wound that hasn’t healed for months. That restricts his regular visits to his ponds these days.

Four years ago, he saved some money for his daughter-in-law, who was expecting to give birth with a caesarean section, but she delivered a baby boy normally, leaving him with some cash on his hands.

“I spent the same money to dig another pond and named it Krishna — after my grandson,” he said.

Kamegowda, who has dozens of sheep, lives in a two-room unfinished shed next to his son’s house, and enjoys spending time with his family. He keeps all of the documents and newspaper clippings reflecting his achievements.

He has a second nickname — “Vanapalaka,” or guardian of forests, earned through his planting of trees in an area near the ponds designated by officials as a park.

“Most of the villagers are proud of me, but those who are jealous try hard to malign my image,” he said. “I ask people not to pollute the ponds by washing clothes and restrict the use of water only for their livestock.”

“It’s nice to see villagers bring their livestock to these ponds to drink water, but it hurts when some try to defame me,” he said.

He was referring to some villagers who, apparently jealous of the recognition he had received, submitted a petition to the local administrator, complaining that Kamegowda was treating the pond area as his personal estate even though it was government land.

However, the local administrator, Deputy Commissioner M.V. Venkatesh, said he visited the village and found that “there is a wrong perception” about Kamegowda’s work. “His work is genuine,” he said.

This year, the Karnataka state government allotted 5 million rupees ($67,500) for the further development of watersheds in the area.

Venkatesh noted that every rainy season, tanks built by Kamegowda become filled with water, and serve as reservoirs for birds and other forest animals during the summer.

“He is a very dedicated man, a very selfless servant for the protection of the environment and ecology. In fact, he is a role model to other people in watershed development,” Venkatesh said. “He is doing very good work.”

“One Good Thing” is a series that highlights individuals whose actions provide glimmers of joy in hard times — stories of people who find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. Read the collection of stories at

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Man really did hack Trump’s Twitter by guessing password, Dutch prosecutors say

“We believe the hacker has actually penetrated Trump’s Twitter account, but has met the criteria that have been developed in case law to go free as an ethical hacker,” the public prosecutor’s office said in a statement, the Guardian reported.

Gevers was open about what he had done and said his aim was to show “vulnerabilities in the Internet,” the BBC reported. On Oct. 22, Gevers shared screenshots, apparently from inside Trump’s account. He also tweeted some advice, seemingly directed at the U.S. president, encouraging the use of two-factor authentication, which makes it harder to hack a password.

Both the White House and Twitter have denied Gevers gained access to the account.

“This is absolutely not true but we don’t comment on security procedures around the President’s social media accounts,” deputy White House press secretary Judson Deere said in a statement in October.

Twitter said in a statement it “had seen no evidence to corroborate this claim, including from the article published in the Netherlands today. We proactively implemented account security measures for a designated group of high-profile, election-related Twitter accounts in the United States, including federal branches of government.”

Twitter and Facebook said Nov. 21 that they will transfer control of the official POTUS social media accounts to the Joe Biden administration on Jan. 20. (Reuters)

Gevers, a cybersecurity researcher, told Dutch prosecutors that he was checking for vulnerabilities in the accounts of U.S. candidates ahead of the November elections when he breached Trump’s account.

“He later stated to police that he had investigated the strength of the password because there were major interests involved if this Twitter account could be taken over so shortly before the presidential election,” the prosecutors said, according to the BBC.

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Amid news of Russian hacks targeting U.S., investigative reports expose Moscow’s underbelly

These and other reports are notable not only for what they expose, but for what their very existence implies: that determined investigators can find real evidence of malfeasance among the Russian elite. They show that underneath Putin’s bravado there is also a vulnerable underbelly.

Four years after evidence emerged of interference by Moscow in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Russian hacking has become a familiar subject in the United States. And the story continues to develop. The Washington Post and others reported Monday that Russian government hackers were believed to have breached a large number of U.S. government agencies as part of a large-scale electronic espionage campaign that may have started as early as the spring.

The hackers appeared to have first breached SolarWinds, a Texas-based maker of network-monitoring software used widely by the U.S. government. The hackers then exploited that access to include malware in automatic updates of systems used by the federal government. The infiltration was only discovered after California-based FireEye, one of the world’s top cybersecurity firms, admitted to having been breached by Russian hackers.

Officials have linked the hackers to a Russian group known as APT29 or Cozy Bear — a part of that nation’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, the same hackers suspected of hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, part of the Russian campaign to influence the election that year. The Russian government denies all allegations. But few believe it, and the scale of the attack leads to big questions.

“Could hackers have obtained nuclear secrets? [Coronavirus] vaccine data? Blueprints for next-generation weapons systems?” Frank Bajak, an Associated Press investigative journalist, wrote this week.

The very same day news of the hacks emerged, the investigative website Bellingcat released a report containing reams of evidence suggesting that a clandestine group in Russia’s FSB, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, had poisoned and almost killed Navalny in August.

Bellingcat, along with partner publications (Insider in Russia, Der Spiegel in Germany and CNN in the United States) had uncovered a granular level of detail about how the operation was carried out and who had done it. CNN’s Clarissa Ward even turned up on the doorstep of a suspected assassin — a powerful act of defiance against Russia’s security services.

“I know who wanted to kill me,” Navalny said in a video message after the report was released. “I know where they live. I know where they work. I know their real names. I know their fake names. I have photographs of them.” The big question was: How were investigators able to out these covert operators?

It turns out that most of the secrets lay in loose Russian control of private data, coupled with the endemic government corruption in the country. “Much of the information we used for our investigations could never be found in most Western countries, but in Russia, is readily available either for free or a fairly modest fee,” the Bellingcat team wrote in a long article describing their methods.

Anyone with a “a few hundred euros” can buy months of phone data for Russian security officers in the FSB, allowing anyone to trace their movements. The Russian government seemed to acknowledge this Tuesday, when Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a leading telecoms firm that it was “very important” to protect personal data.

This doesn’t invalidate the impact of the SolarWinds hack, which could have long-term implications. The suspected Russian espionage raises serious questions about Washington’s multibillion-dollar detection system Einstein, which is designed to spot these very threats. (As some observers have noted, the United States probably does this sort of espionage too.)

But investigative revelations do place the hack in context. In some ways, the stories are intertwined. Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan argued that the Kremlin-backed interference in the 2016 U.S. election was a response to the impact of the Panama Papers, a leak of financial data that showed corruption among the Russian elite.

Russian corruption is enabled by lax rules and enforcement, which also helps journalists uncover the corruption, as Bellingcat has now demonstrated more than once. Some of the most impressive investigative journalism in the world is being done by Russian reporters and activists, despite the government restrictions and threats they face.

The revelations from Navalny that then-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev owned undeclared palaces and yachts presaged his resignation. Russian reporters even broke the news about the St. Petersburg “troll factory” interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. One of the reporters who broke that story, Andrey Zakharov, also led the reporting on the Russian president’s suspected ex-lover.

As Navalny’s poisoning shows, those who seek to do this work can be putting their lives on the line. But in doing so, they turn the tables on a government that often trades in corruption and subterfuge.

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