Myanmar: Union Election Commission revokes 2020 election results

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YANGON, Myanmar – The UEC revoked election results when it met with political parties in Naypyiday Feb. 26. The current election commission was established by the military after it took power in early February, replacing the previous election commission which had validated the presidency of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Among 91 political parties in Myanmar, 53 political parties attended the meeting. “We have to abolish the 2020 election result because of election fraud,” the chairman of the UEC explained.

In the 2020 election, the National League for Democracy party (NLD) won by a landslide, but the military complained that the NLD had committed fraud.

Under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD was the most popular and famous political party in mainland Myanmar.

By Htay Win
Featured image photo credit: Wutyi Ma

Pro-military mob attacks locals and media in Yangon

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YANGON, Myanmar – Downtown Yangon, the pro-military mob attacked local people and media, with 20 people being wounded this morning, according to a local source.

The mob destroyed some cars stuck in traffic as well.

Photo credit Ko Sein Gyi

Some protesters have claimed they received money from the military to vandalize in particular areas.

Recently, A group of people including some monks rallied to stand with the military after the coup. They are members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Under international pressure, law enforcement forces constricted the violence as much as they could, especially in big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay. The military has also lobbied ASEAN countries to legitimatize its administration.

By Htay Win
Feature image credit Het Arkar

Ethiopian government allows seven international media outlets to report in the Tigray region

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ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government has given permission to seven international media outlets, including the BBC, Reuters and Al Jazeera, to report on the situation in Tigray.

The government said in a statement that it was concerned about the baseless and politically motivated information being spread about the situation in Tigray State.

Additionally, of the 135 international organizations that have applied for humanitarian assistance in the region, 29 are said to be already operating there.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC) announced that the power supply that was cut off was due to the attack on the main power transmission line in Tigray State and has since been restored. Electricity has been cut off across the region for more than a week.

According to the government, electricity was cut off by TPLF militants during an attack on a high-voltage transmission line from Alamata-Mehoni-Mekele in the area known as Adigudom.

EEPC announced that power supply repairs were successfully completed in days following the power outage in the region.

By Henok Alemayehu

Myanmar military arrests key players of NLD and its supporters at night

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YANGON, Myanmar – In Myanmar internet service has not been available between 1am and 9am every day since the military seized power from the democratically-elected government and declared a 1-year state of emergency. The military imposed a curfew and the combined force, including military and police, has been arresting the main individuals involved in the National League for Democracy party and its supporters during the night since February first. According to a local source, more than 500 people have been arrested so far.

Nightly, the people in Yangon bang on pots and pans at 8pm to demonstrate their anti-coup sentiments and they are taking measures for their own security in their neighborhoods. In some areas, the local people have confronted the security forces which has resulted in incidents of violence between the two opposing groups.

The NLD party was the most popular party in mainland Myanmar, winning the 2021 election by a landslide. The election earned the NLD 65% of the seats in parliament, notably excluding 25% reserved for unelected military representatives. Aung San Suu Kyi , the chairman of the NLD, is widely considered to be the most popular leader among Burmese people.

By Htay Win

Facebook to restore news feeds in Australia after government agrees to change its approach to force tech companies to pay for news content

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Reversing a decision to block all news in Australia which was broadly seen as a heavy-handed move and which ended up taking down health and emergency services along with government pages, the technology giant said the government had agreed to change a proposed Media Bargaining Code that would have dictated compensation for linking to news.

In comparison to Facebook’s reaction to Australia’s recent new law, Google struck a deal in which it would provide news publishers with some money for the links Google Search used.

By Milan Sime Martinić

Malaysia defies court order and deports 1086 Myanmar nationals

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Despite a Kuala Lumpur high court’s temporary stay barring the removal of some 1,200 refugees, the country’s director-general of immigration said in a statement that those sent back on Myanmar Navy ships left voluntarily, adding that no persecuted Rohingya or asylum-seekers were included in the group. The court’s stay was issued at the request of Amnesty International who argued the lives of people would be at risk in deteriorating conditions under a regime with a track record of cruelty.

By Milan Sime Martinić

French bank will stop financing companies that exploit deforested land in the Amazon

Amazon deforestation
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Continuing a trend of European businesses moving independently to protect the Amazon, France’s BNP Paribas announced it will no longer finance companies that buy cattle or soy produced on deforested or converted Amazon lands after 2008. The measure also applies to deforested lands in Brazil’s Cerrado region, a threatened tropical savanna eco-region covering 20% of Brazil that has lost half its land to agricultural clearing.

PNB said it will only finance those who adopt a Cerrado strategy of Zero Deforestation by 2025, promoting criticism from environmentalists that it is weak action that gives deforesters a 5-year free pass in an area they see spiraling into a collapse of its biodiversity.

The immediate move to fight Amazon deforestation, however, will also affect Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana, and French Guiana, which hold parts of the Amazon forest along with Brazil. An area the size of the state of Maryland was lost to deforestation in 2020.

By Milan Sime Martinić

ICC has jurisdiction over Palestine, it says

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International Criminal Court judges found that the court has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories because Palestine had been granted membership to the tribunal’s founding treaty.

The decision refers to the territories without attempting to say anything about the question of Palestinian statehood or national borders. The ICC’s jurisdiction, the judges found, extends to Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem–territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The finding may lead to the ICC taking up war crimes cases against the Israeli Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas, according to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

In response, Netanyahu issued a televised message where he said that “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure antisemitism.” He said Israel was defending itself against terrorists, and pointed to dictatorships in Iran and Syria “who commit horrific atrocities almost daily” which the ICC “refuses to investigate.”

The US also opposed the decision. Human Rights Watch, though, said it “finally offers victims of serious crimes some real hope for justice after a half century of impunity.”

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

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At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

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The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

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When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

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Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035