(Reuters) -Twitter Inc has rolled back a policy that was aimed at tackling misinformation related to COVID-19 on the social media platform, lending itself to the risk of a potential surge in false claims even as cases rise in China and some parts of the world. The move also comes amid concerns of Twitter's ability to fight misinformation after it let go about half of its staff, including those involved in content moderation, under new boss Elon Musk. "Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy," according to an update on its blog page...
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A truck-sized asteroid that suddenly loomed out of the darkness a few days ago -- with the Earth in its sights -- sailed harmlessly past us on Thursday, space scientists said.
Despite what we've seen in movies like "Armageddon," no global mission to blow it up or knock it off course with nuclear weapons was required.
Instead, Asteroid 2023 BU whizzed past without incident and back out into the blackness of space.
The rock, which was spotted for the first time on Saturday by an amateur stargazer in Crimea, came closest to the southern tip of South America at around 0029 GMT Friday, according to scientists who were tracking it.
At its nearest point, the asteroid was just 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) from Earth's surface -- just a quarter of the height of many of the geostationary satellites that make our telephones and car navigation systems work.
Amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, who had already spotted an interstellar comet in 2019, raised the alarm over the weekend, alerting fellow space-watchers to the previously unknown celestial body.
Scientists around the world raced to calculate where it was headed -- and whether we needed to start making last-minute evacuation plans.
But experts using NASA's Scout impact hazard assessment system rapidly determined the alien visitor was coming in peace.
"Scout quickly ruled out 2023 BU as an impactor, but despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth," said NASA's Davide Farnocchia, who helped develop Scout.
"In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded."
If the math had been off, however, humanity would still probably have been alright, scientists say.
At between just 3.5 to 8.5 meters (11 to 28 feet) across, Asteroid 2023 BU is a bit small to cause too much damage, and would have largely burned up as it hurtled through the atmosphere.
The few meteorites that did make it to the ground would have been small, not the city-destroying, tsunami-generating monsters of "Deep Impact."
The close call will leave a more lasting impact on the asteroid itself, NASA's number-crunchers said.
Earth's gravity will affect the object's orbit, lengthening the amount of time it takes for 2023 BU to go around the Sun, from 359 days to a more leisurely 425 days.
© Agence France-Presse
Mexico is on tenterhooks awaiting fresh revelations from the US trial of former security chief Genaro Garcia Luna, accused of receiving vast sums of money to allow the notorious Sinaloa cartel to smuggle cocaine.
The trial of Garcia Luna, who was Mexico's public security minister from 2006 to 2012, began on Monday at the same New York court that handed convicted drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman a life sentence in 2019.
The prosecution's first witness, an ex-police officer who later worked for Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, said he had witnessed former gang boss Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed in 2009, give bribes to Garcia Luna.
"He was paid until Beltran's last day," Sergio Villarreal Barragan said in Spanish.
In exchange for money, Garcia Luna provided information about police operations, Villarreal Barragan testified -- claims denied by lawyers for the 54-year-old ex-minister, who has pleaded not guilty.
Mexican media have given blow-by-blow accounts of the proceedings, while President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised daily updates at his morning news conferences.
Lopez Obrador called the allegations "shameful," while his government is seeking to recover $700 million allegedly embezzled by Garcia Luna.
A lawsuit was filed on September 21, 2021 in Florida against 39 companies belonging to Garcia Luna or his relatives.
The objective is "to return to Mexico all the property that exists in the name of Genaro Garcia Luna in Florida," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in 2018, suggested three hypotheses on the situation surrounding Garcia Luna:
First, if he's innocent, he must be released "even if it's a fiasco" for the United States.
The second possibility is that Garcia Luna acted alone, deceiving Mexican authorities including former president Felipe Calderon (2006-12).
Lopez Obrador's third conjecture is that Garcia Luna may have acted with a "green light" from Calderon as well as former president Vicente Fox (2000-06).
A left-wing populist, Lopez Obrador regularly accuses his "conservative" predecessors of corruption, and even organized a referendum in 2021 on whether former presidents should be prosecuted for graft.
The poll's result in favor was non-binding due to low turnout.
Garcia Luna, who was arrested in December 2019 in Texas, was Washington's interlocutor when he was Calderon's security chief.
Meeting then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2009 as the neighboring countries launched a joint initiative to fight cross-border organized crime, the pair were all smiles as they shook hands in front of the cameras.
As the boss of the police, the former minister was a pivotal player in the war against drug cartels launched by Calderon in 2006.
At the time, the super-cop was already allegedly profiting from his influence with "El Chapo," US authorities charged in 2020.
"From 2001 to 2012, while occupying high-ranking law enforcement positions in the Mexican government, Garcia Luna received millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for providing protection for its drug trafficking activities," the Justice Department said.
Before becoming a government minister, Garcia Luna, an engineer by training, headed Mexico's since-renamed Federal Investigation Agency, a branch of the police.
Hailing from a modest district of Mexico City, Garcia Luna entered the security services at the age of 21.
It was there that Garcia Luna, known for always being elegantly dressed, met his wife, an intelligence analyst.
According to journalist Francisco Cruz, who wrote a book about the ex-security chief, Garcia Luna sought to model himself on the late American J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director who served for nearly a half-century.
The nature of his work meant that Garcia Luna crossed paths with US security agencies, whose presence in Mexico is an open secret.
"We had a close relationship with him on the themes of crime and drug trafficking," said Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The trial is expected to last several weeks and if convicted, Garcia Luna could face up to life in prison.
© 2023 AFP
A conservative candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court is seeking permits to open a gun range that also serves alcohol to patrons, reported Jezebel on Thursday.
"According to local news reports, Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, a conservative candidate, and her husband Brian, are developing an indoor gun range that would not only host weddings and other events, but would also serve alcohol," reported Susan Rinkunas. "The couple requested a Class B liquor license to sell beer and wine to members and guests in the 'clubhouse.' The range would also sell firearms and accessories on-site."
Per the report, they are assuring government officials they won't actually allow people to use the range after drinking.
"The Dorows said in city documents that they devised an 'alcohol safety policy' consisting of hand stamps to prevent members from entering the shooting range after drinking and a breathalyzer to be used on 'suspicious individuals.'"
"The couple purchased the former Hartland Sportsman’s Club and renamed it Delafield Oaks Range," said the report. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that club had its permit revoked in 2010 after a bullet "grazed a pregnant woman who was dining on the outdoor patio at the Delafield Brewhaus about a quarter-mile away," and entered into a decade-long legal battle over the city to get its permit restored.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court race is one of the most intensely watched major elections that will take place following last year's midterms. Justice races in the state are officially nonpartisan, but in practice both Democrats and Republicans endorse a candidate based on liberal or conservative judicial philosophy.
The court currently has a 4-3 conservative makeup, but arch-conservative longtime Chief Justice Patience Roggensack is retiring from the seat up for election, meaning this race would decide the court's balance and affect cases on a range of issues from redistricting to abortion rights. Family court Judge Janet Protasiewicz is running as a liberal candidate for the Court, while another conservative, former Justice Dan Kelly, is also running to reclaim a seat on the bench.