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The Latest: Myanmar Military Facebook Ban, Kashmir Ceasefire, Rare Van Gogh

Religious leaders line up for the Sinovac vaccine in Jakarta after Indonesia organizes mass COVID-19 inoculations for clergy and faith groups.
Religious leaders line up for the Sinovac vaccine in Jakarta after Indonesia organizes mass COVID-19 inoculations for clergy and faith groups.

Welcome to Thursday, where Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets the green light, Facebook bans Myanmar military accounts and a new level of fakery is achieved by a soccer player trying to fool the referee. We also take a look at Bolsonaro's push for new looser gun ownership laws even as Brazil's pandemic death toll soars.

COVID-19 latest: FDA trial finds the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to be safe and effective. As France records more than 31,000 cases in one day, the biggest daily jump since mid-November, the French Rugby Federation has suspended training after 14 players test positive for COVID-19 just days before its match with Scotland.

• Myanmar coup protests: Facebook and Instagram finally take a side by banning all accounts linked to Myanmar's military.

• Kashmir ceasefire: Rival neighbors Pakistan and India agree to ceasefire on the disputed border of Kashmir over a phone call.

• U.S. Khashoggi report: The Biden administration has announced the release of a declassified report detailing the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in which the CIA documents its direct links to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

• Armenia coup attempt: Armenia's Prime MInister Nikol Pashinyan has denounced the military's attempt to force him to resign.

• Two men charged in Maltese journalist murder: Robert Agius and Jamie Vella, known to police for their links to organized crime, have been charged for supplying the bomb that killed the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

• Van Gogh painting goes public: "A Street Scene In Montmartre" will go on display for the first time at the Sotheby's auction house in Paris with an estimated price tag of five to eight million euros. It has been privately owned by a French family since it was painted in 1887.

Daily Ghanaian Times devotes its front page to the arrival of 600,000 vaccine doses in Ghana, the world's first country to receive a vaccine shipment thanks to the United Nations-backed COVAX plan.

As Brazil hits 250,000 COVID deaths, Bolsonaro eases gun control

The eve of Carnival feels different this year in Brazil — and it's not just the pandemic. Even as newspaper headlines report the country's coronavirus death toll nearing 250,000, President Jair Bolsonaro has introduced another element of danger: new looser gun ownership laws.

The move is made of four different presidential decrees signed earlier this month that facilitate purchasing, owning and carrying guns. In short, Bolsonaro relaxed background checks on gun purchases and increased the number of weapons allowed for hunters to 30, for sport shooters to 60, and for ordinary citizens to six, allowing Brazilians to build small private arsenals.

Brazilians already live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, having recorded 43,892 violent deaths in 2020 — in the middle of a pandemic. The figure is a 5% increase compared to 2019, according to G1"s Monitor of Violence. Many are victims of police shootings, 75% of whom are Black and mixed-race Brazilians, according to a recent study.

This is the second time Bolsonaro has relaxed gun laws — in 2019, another set of measures led to the proliferation of guns among civilians, although some of them were suspended later. "In a carnival with an atmosphere of Ash Wednesday, the country is watching a macabre parade caused by the tragedy of the new coronavirus," wrote the O Globo daily in a scathing condemnation of the president. "People lack oxygen, ICU beds, vaccines and jobs — but now they can buy up to six weapons to ‘protect themselves'."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

Orange peel affair: Soccer player takes flopping for the referee to fruity new heights

Diving, flopping and faking for the referee's benefit have become an integral part of modern football. But Guatemalan player Wilfredo Ramos Pérez has taken the craft to the next level of the absurd.

During a match in the Central American country's third division, with one player already on the ground, the referee stopped the match for a foul — that prompted a fan to throw an orange peel on the pitch.

While players from the two teams, San Lorenzo and Banatecos, gathered around the referee, Ramos Pérez ran towards the peel, picked it up, and threw it at his own face, pretending to have been hit by an object thrown from the stands. He then immediately collapsed and rolled around on the grass in a — to be honest, quite deft — display of intense agony.

Little did he know that the whole faux citrus scene was being recorded. Footage also shows an opponent pick up the peel and chuck it away, erasing the evidence. More teammates and angry opponents gather around, before the clueless referee arrives.

The Colombian news website Diario del Surreported that social media users were already drawing comparisons between Ramos Pérez and other players famous for their diving skills, beginning with star player-actor Neymar. Ramos Pérez may not have the Brazilian striker's soccer skills, but both may have a future in Hollywood — third division.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com


GameStop Corp shares soared nearly 104% in what could mark a return of the frenzied trading that shaked the markets last month, when Reddit's amateur investors massively bought GameStop shares as a way to punish hedge funds that had bet against the retailer.

Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days.

— New Jersey nursing home resident Lucia DeClerck, who survived COVID-19 at the age of 105 years old, has revealed her secret of longevity to theNew York Times: eating nine golden raisins soaked in gin every morning.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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