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Chinese state fund invests in gene firm BGI

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Chinese state fund invests in gene firm BGI

SYDNEY – The Chinese government has made an investment in BGI Genomics Co, a listed Chinese company that has supplied millions of COVID-19 tests globally as the gene firm seeks to fund exponential growth driven by the pandemic.

BGI Group, which runs a massive gene databank in China and has DNA sequencing contracts with health firms and universities worldwide, has in the past responded to claims from US security agencies that it is closely linked to the Chinese government by saying it has no Chinese government capital.

BGI Genomics, the company’s subsidiary listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange, raised the equivalent of just over $300 million in a private placement to investors including China’s biggest state investment vehicle, the State Development and Investment Corp (SDIC), filings to the exchange on Feb. 1 show.

SDIC is wholly owned by the Chinese central government, which appoints its board and has focused on strategic emerging industries – including biotechnology and artificial intelligence – and infrastructure that serve China’s national interest, according to its public statements.

The Central SOE Poverty Area Industrial Investment Fund, which is managed by SDIC Chuangyi, the wholly owned venture capital subsidiary of SDIC, paid $30.8 million for 1.4 million shares in BGI Genomics, a spokesman for SDIC Chuangyi told Reuters.

The investment gave SDIC Chuangyi a shareholding of about a third of one percent in BGI Genomics, BGI said.

The aim of the investment was to advance China’s interests in alleviating poverty through improved healthcare and in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Wang Weidong, chairman of the board of SDIC Chuangyi told Reuters in a statement.

“Epidemic prevention and control is also a social benefit,” Wang said.

US security officials have warned American labs against using Chinese tests for COVID-19 because of concern China was seeking to gather foreign genetic data for its own research. BGI has denied that.

The Central SOE Poverty Area Industrial Investment Fund that invested in BGI has invested in a pharmaceutical distribution company, a supplier of critical lithium battery materials and restructured China’s biggest railway materials company in recent months.

BGI Genomics filings said the funds raised will be used to ease pressure on working capital, to upgrade storage capacity for genetic data and to build a biological sample bank.

Two large Chinese state-owned securities firms, Huatai Securities and China Merchant Securities, also took stakes in BGI Genomics. Huatai becomes the fifth-largest shareholder in BGI Genomics after the placement.

BGI Genomics said in a statement to Reuters that its controlling shareholders remained private enterprises and individuals.

“At present, the shareholding ratio of SDIC Chuangyi in BGI Genomics is 0.3332 percent, which does not play a decisive role in the voting of motions,” BGI Genomics said in the statement.

A shareholder with this ownership “may not be able to appoint a director to participate in the decision-making of BGI Genomics, nor does it have any significant influence over BGI Genomics’ operations, strategies or other matters,” the company said.

BGI founder and chairman Wang Jian holds 0.46 percent of BGI Genomics directly. Two private companies associated with BGI Group control 45 percent of BGI Genomics shares.

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Myanmar soldiers use TikTok to threaten protesters

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Myanmar soldiers use TikTok to threaten protesters

SINGAPORE – Armed Myanmar soldiers and police are using TikTok to deliver death threats to protesters against last month’s coup, researchers said, leading the Chinese video-sharing app to announce it was removing content that incites violence.

Digital rights group Myanmar ICT for Development (MIDO) said it had found more than 800 pro-military videos that menaced protesters at a time of increasing bloodshed – with 38 protesters killed on Wednesday alone according to the United Nations.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said MIDO executive director Htaike Htaike Aung, who said there were “hundreds” of videos of threatening uniformed soldiers and police on the app.

A spokesman for the army and junta did not respond to a request for comment.

One video from late February reviewed by Reuters shows a man in army fatigues aiming an assault rifle at the camera and addressing protesters: “I will shoot in your fucking faces… and I’m using real bullets.”

“I am going to patrol the whole city tonight and I will shoot whoever I see… If you want to become a martyr, I will fulfil your wish.”

Reuters was unable to contact him or the other uniformed men who appear in the TikTok videos or to verify that they are in the armed forces.

TikTok is the latest social media platform to suffer a proliferation of menacing content or hate speech in Myanmar.

US tech giant Facebook has now banned all pages linked to Myanmar’s army – and has itself been banned.

TikTok said in a statement: “We have clear Community Guidelines that state we do not allow content that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm… As it relates to Myanmar, we have been and continue to promptly remove all content that incites violence or spreads misinformation and are aggressively monitoring to remove any such content that violates our guidelines.”

TikTok’s policies forbid displays of guns unless they are in “safe environments”. According to a Linkedin job posting from Thursday, the platform is currently recruiting for a Myanmar product policy manager.

Reuters reviewed over a dozen videos where uniformed men, sometimes brandishing guns, threatened to harm protesters who are calling for the reversal of the coup and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some videos had tens of thousands of views. Those reviewed by Reuters were taken down this week. Some used hashtags relating to US celebrities.

Already growing fast in Myanmar, TikTok saw a strong rise in downloads after the military banned Facebook last month. It is in the top 20 most downloaded apps in Myanmar, according to industry data. It also became popular with young activists, with the protest hashtag #SaveMyanmar reaching 805 million views.

Facebook, which remains popular in Myanmar despite the ban, has toughened its scrutiny of content since being accused of helping to fan atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017.

Researchers like Htaike say they believe the military is now attempting to grow its presence on other platforms.

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Amazon opens first UK checkout-free grocery store in London

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The Amazon Fresh grocery store opens in London, Thursday March 4, 2021, where a sign explains for shoppers to pick up items and walk out of the store, contactless, without the need for a till. Customers will scan a QR code on their way into the store, with cameras and technology identifying the items that shoppers take from the shelves and their account automatically paid.

LONDON — Amazon has opened a cashier-free supermarket in London, its first bricks and mortar expansion outside the US as the company bets on strong demand for its contactless shops.

The online retailing giant opened the doors to its Amazon Fresh shop in West London’s Ealing neighborhood on Thursday, in what it said will be the first in a wave of shops in the British capital using its automated checkout technology.

Shoppers use a smartphone app to scan a QR code so they can enter the store. They can fill their shopping bags with milk, eggs or other groceries while cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves.

Purchases are charged to an Amazon account after leaving and a receipt sent by email. There’s no need to wait in line to pay at the checkout, a feature that has more appeal after the pandemic highlighted the need for social distancing.

Amazon already operates 26 cashier-free convenience stores in the US under the Amazon Go brand and two larger supermarkets called Amazon Go Grocery. As part of its U.K. launch, Amazon also unveiled its new private label food brand, by Amazon.

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UK doorbell cameras, dashcams capture meteor on video

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UK doorbell cameras, dashcams capture meteor on video

Residents of the UK were surprised over the weekend when a slow-moving meteor blazed across the night sky.

Videos posted to social media taken from doorbells and dashcams across Britain show the fireball just before 10 pm on Sunday.

A video from UK Meteor Network now has more than 100,000 views on YouTube.

“Was so clear,” Twitter user @JillHemingway wrote on Twitter alongside her own footage from Yorkshire.

Another user, @Lafford_MK, shared his nine-second video from his doorbell in the town of Milton Keynes.

@gingerssnap wrote to her followers: “Anyone else see the #meteor burn up over the UK just before 10pm tonight? I first thought it was a bright star or plane, then it got bigger & faster, then a huge flash lit up the sky & it burst into a massive tail of orange sparks trailing behind like a giant firework! So cool!”

The falling object flashed flight as it began to burn up and break down.

The meteor is likely to have been a small piece of a comet or asteroid entering the planet’s atmosphere, UK Meteor Network co-founder Richard Kacerek told The New York Times, noting that some pieces of it were believed to have survived the fall.

Some witnesses reported hearing a sonic boom or rumbling

Scientists from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFall) agreed and told Yahoo News that the bright light was speeding at around 30,000 miles per hour.

Hundreds of people took to the internet with eyewitness reports of the incident.

In general, meteors are common, though less than 5 percent make it to the ground, according to NASA.

The Planetary Science Institute reports that approximately 500 meteorites make it to the Earth’s surface annually, but less than 10 are found.

More than 50,000 meteorites have been found on Earth, most from asteroids, they report.

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