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Nicaragua creates Ministry of Extraterrestrial Space Affairs

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Nicaragua creates Ministry of Extraterrestrial Space Affairs

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua has created a new National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, which is drawing amused reactions on social media in a nation that has been struggling since anti-government protests three years ago.

The agency was approved by 76 legislators Wednesday in the country’s congress, which is dominated by President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Party. Fifteen opposition legislators abstained.

In a country that has a hard time supplying its people with food, fuel and coronavirus vaccines, it is not clear exactly what the ministry is supposed to do.

It will be under the control of the Nicaraguan army, which has no space program. The law says the ministry “will promote the development of space activities, with the aim of broadening the country’s capacities in the fields of education, industry, science and technology.”

Geologist Jaime Incer Barquero, president of Nicaragua’s Academy of Geography and History, told CNN: “Nicaragua does not have a scientific capacity or tradition, does not have a serious (space) observatory. We are not scientifically able as a country to undertake this type of research.”

Social media users were quick to create memes of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, dressed as astronauts and of Nicaraguan police expropriating the moon, as Ortega has done with some buildings in Nicaragua that belonged to media outlets and civic groups he disagreed with.

Critics said the country does not have the money to spare for dreams of space exploration. It has yet to acquire any coronavirus vaccines and has been in a deep social and economic crisis since the government quashed mass protests in 2018.

The space agency is not be the first time Ortega has endorsed quixotic proposals. In 2014 he authorized a Chinese company to build a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua. The project has made little headway.

Human rights organizations, meanwhile, said Thursday that they will demand a “strong resolution” on Nicaragua’s human rights situation at the Feb. 22 opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“Violations of human rights continue in Nicaragua and they require a mission to visit the country and make recommendations for overcoming this challenges and for the county to return to normality before the elections” next fall, said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN special investigator on the rights to peaceful assembly and association.

National elections are scheduled for Nov. 7. Ortega is expected to run for his fourth consecutive term as president since 2007 and his fifth in total, combined with his stint in power in 1979-1990, Nicaragua has already spent almost a quarter-century under Ortega’s rule.

In recent months, Ortega’s government has proposed, passed and implemented a number of laws making it more difficult for nongovernmental organizations to operate.

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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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