Pair seek balloon records
Two balloonists took flight from Japan on Saturday in a bid to break world records for distance and duration for gas balloon travel, in what they hope will be at least a six-day trans-Pacific flight reaching the US West Coast, officials said. The distance record of 8,383km for gas balloons was set on the only previous manned trans-Pacific flight, in 1981, while the duration record of more than 137 hours aloft was set in 1978 by a team crossing the Atlantic. “It goes to the philosophy of man,” said Ray Bair, an official observer with the National Aeronautic Association based at Mission Control in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “You always try to attain new heights and distances. That’s what this is all about.” Balloon pilots Troy Bradley, an American, and Russian Leonid Tuikhtyaev, collectively dubbed “Two Eagles,” took off after bad weather and poor wind trajectories had repeatedly delayed their launch, Bair said.
Correa launches Web site
President Rafael Correa on Saturday unveiled a Web site meant to confront the “smearing” of his government on social media. The site will send alerts to subscribers concerning accounts where the government is being “defamed,” and allow users to report attacks on the president, he said. The government decided “to declare itself ready in the battle for dignity, for the truth on social networks,” Correa said during a weekly report. “If you know the identity of who is insulting, smearing, we will put them in the [weekly report] link or show them on networks in order to see if, when outed, the insulting stops,” he said. The site displays seven videos lauding government achievements, and a template to register for the site.
Blind mother sees baby
A video that went viral last week showed a legally blind mother getting to look at her newborn child for the first time thanks to vision-enhancing glasses. The video posted to YouTube shows 29-year-old Kathy Beitz seeing her newborn boy with the aid of a bulky black headset. “For the first baby that I get to actually look at, being my own is very overwhelming,” Beitz said in the video. Beitz has genetic macular degeneration known as Stargardt disease. She was able to see her new son with the aid of eSight glasses that enhance video in real time. “She gave birth and she instantly wanted to see him,” said Yvonne Felix, Beitz’s sister who posted the video about the moment.
Felix, who has the same disease, is raising money so more people can access the expensive glasses at makeblindnesshistory.com.
Coffee protein relieves pain
Scientists have discovered a protein in coffee that has effects similar to pain reliever morphine, researchers at the state University of Brasilia and state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp Embrapa said on Saturday. Embrapa said its genetics and biotech division, teaming up with the university’s scientists, had discovered “previously unknown protein fragments” with morphine-like effects in that they possess “analgesic and mildly tranquilizing” qualities. The company added tests on laboratory mice showed that the opioid peptides, which are naturally occurring biological molecules, appeared to have a longer-lasting effect on the mice than morphine itself. Embrapa said the discovery has “biotechnological potential” for the health foods industry and could also help to alleviate stress in animals bound for the slaughterhouse.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures