Space X successfully launches rocket; Assange still faces criminal charges

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Curated top stories

  • Most powerful rocket in history launches, flies, lands – Elon Musk’s venture, SpaceX, successfully launched the Falcon Heavy, marking a historic moment in space exploration. The spaceship broke record speeds, and had boosters that safely flew back to earth after being in space- potentially making space travel far less costly. (Follow WikiTribune’s coverage here). 
  • South Africa’s Zuma given extra time to work out a more graceful exit – The largest political party in South Africa, the African National Congress, is delaying the forcible removal of President Jacob Zuma. The delay is to give the controversial leader time to negotiate a transition plan with the new party head, Cyril Ramphosa. Zuma and Ramphosa have until February 17 to decide who will rule for the remainder of Zuma’s presidency, which doesn’t end until 2019. If a deal isn’t reached by then, the ANC’s oversight body, the National Executive Committee, will adjudicate the fate of Zuma who faces corruption allegations.
  • Julian Assange arrest warrant stands – The UK arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still valid, according to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. This leaves his situation unchanged since he took refuge inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London five years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer sex assault claims. The claims have since been dropped. Four weeks ago, the UK Foreign Office denied Assange diplomatic status.
  • EU opens arms to Balkans – The European Union is looking to replenish links with six Balkan states in an effort to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the region. The EU has set a goal of 2025 for Serbia and Montenegro to join. The move is symbolic of the bloc’s intention to expand its ranks as part of an EU Enlargement strategy (Bloomberg). The other Balkan countries the EU wants to expand to are Albania, which won candidate country status in 2014, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, the latter of which became a candidate country in 2005. EU leaders will embrace the 2025 promise at a summit in May in Sofia, diplomats said.


  • Plunge in stock markets reaches Asia – The global market drop hit Asia on Tuesday as worries about inflation rippled through the financial world. The fall came after Standard & Poor’s 500-stock suffered its biggest decline since 2011, falling by 4.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 6.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, 4.5 percent. On Monday, the Dow Industrials average recorded its biggest one-day decline in history, which helped Wall Street wipe out its gains for the year. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 dropped by four percent. Analysts say that the drop is due to worries that inflation could cause interest rates to rise (Financial Times), and also push up wages (Washington Post).
    • The New York Times explains why fears of a stock market collapse may be over-hyped, and says the reasons behind it “may be more benign than at first glance.”
  • House Democrats vote to release their own memo – Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release their own version of a memo on how the FBI handled requests to surveil Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team. On February 2, Trump allowed Republicans on the committee to release a version of the memo that the FBI said was inaccurate and Democrats said was a political attack on the Bureau. Trump will now decide whether to allow Democrats to release their version.
  • Judges and politicians detained in Maldives’ state of emergency – Armed troops stormed the Maldives’ top court and arrested a former president and Supreme Court judges after the country’s current president, Abdulla Yameen, declared a state of emergency.  The crisis in the Indian Ocean nation began last week, when the Supreme Court ordered the release of nine opposition politicians. The court also ruled that the trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed was unconstitutional. When Yameen refused to obey the court order protests broke out in the capital, Malé, with the opposition calling the government’s actions a “purge.”

What we’re reading

  • From the air, the Amazon is, still, predominantly, a sea of trees. On highway BR-163 that cuts through it, it’s something else entirely. The Globe and Mail’s Stephanie Nolen hits the road on a journey that takes her more than 2,000 kilometers through the vast tropical region. In this story she reveals Brazil’s conflicting ambitions: “To transform itself into an economic powerhouse and to preserve the Amazon as a bulwark against climate change.” – Charles Anderson
  • Sweden, perfect country of equality, well-educated, harmonious, enlightened – but still with a gender pay gap of around 20 percent. This New York Times article pinpoints the cause: kids. Men and women are level-pegging in achievement and pay until the next generation comes along; then women do the lion’s share of the caring and adjust their schedules accordingly. The bank balances show the effect. Looking at neighbouring Denmark, the report notes that both men and women can avail of one year parenthood leave, but that men on average take only two weeks of the time. – Angela Long

What the WikiTribune community is up to

  • WikiTribune is working on a story intended to outline the history of quantum computing and what the future holds for it at a time when attention is perhaps more on blockchain and artificial intelligence. Help report on the implications of quantum computing for the booming field of blockchain and the security of encryption.

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