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Facebook Removes Page of Ecuador’s Former President on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest

Elias Marat

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Facebook Removes Rafael Correa Page

Facebook has unpublished the page of Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, the social media giant confirmed on Thursday, claiming that the popular leftist leader violated the company’s security policies.

In a statement republished by Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio, a company spokesperson said:

“Protecting the privacy and security of people is central to Facebook [and] we have clear policies that do not allow the disclosure of personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, bank account data, cards, or any record or data that could compromise the integrity physical or financial of the people in our community.”

The move comes on the same day that Ecuador’s government allowed British security personnel to enter their embassy in London to arrest journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been sought by U.S. officials for years due to his role in releasing scandalous information implicating Washington in a range of crimes, including war crimes.

Assange, 47, had been living at the Embassy of Ecuador in London since 2012, when then-President Correa granted political asylum to the Australian amid the British government’s attempts to detain him. At the time, Correa called Eduador’s actions an act of sovereign “duty.”

Ecuador’s current leader, Lenin Moreno, was openly opposed to Assange, whom he referred to on various occasions as a “miserable hacker,” an “irritant,” and a “stone in the shoe” of his government. Moreno’s distancing from the asylee came following a 2017 meeting with Trump campaign confidant and political “fixer” Paul Manafort, where the two discussed Ecuador’s handover of Assange to U.K. and U.S. authorities.

In March, a tranche of documents were published dubbed the INA Papers linking President Lenin Moreno to the INA Investment Corporation, an offshore shell company used by Moreno to procure furniture, property, and various luxury items.

The account number for the offshore account allegedly used by the president to launder money was shared across Ecuadorean social networks by netizens of all political stripes, including by Correa – who had about 1.5 million followers and whose Facebook page enjoyed more interactions and attention than that of President Moreno himself.

The account number was also shared alongside personal photos of President Moreno enjoying lavish breakfasts and dinners of lobster—imagery considered especially damning for the people of Ecuador given Moreno’s previous boasting of an austere poverty diet consisting of eggs and white rice.

Information on the bank account allegedly used by Ecuador’s president to launder money.

It also came amid attempts by the neoliberal Ecuadorean government to curry favor with financiers in Europe and the United States amid the continuing debt crisis. In March, the IMF finally bailed out Moreno’s government to the tune of $4.2 billion.

Prior to the removal of the page, Correa lambasted his successor in a series of posts that still remain on Twitter at the time of this writing.

Since 2015, Correa—who lives with his family in Brussels, Belgium—had used the social platform to great effect, using strongly-worded posts, video interviews, and live-streams as a platform amid the Ecuadorean media’s de facto blackout of the former leader, who remains reviled by the center-right former opposition and sections of the country’s left.

Former President Correa minced no words in his assessment of Moreno, denouncing him in an English-language tweet as “the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history … Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.”

In a separate tweet responding to Moreno’s announcement of the handover, Correa further tore into what he called “one of the most atrocious acts [and the] fruit of servility, villainy and revenge.”

“From now on worldwide, the scoundrel and betrayal can be summarized in two words: Lenin Moreno,” the popular former president added.

The removal of Correa’s page for violating Facebook’s “community standards” is an unprecedented move, and the former statesman is the most high-profile public political figure to ever be removed from the social platform–placing the economist and icon of Latin American “socialism of the 21st century” in the same unlikely category as right-wing conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Alex Jones.

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CIA Drops ‘Black Vault’ Trove Containing ‘All’ Government Documents on UFOs

Elias Marat

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The CIA has released all publicly available U.S. government documents collected on unidentified flying objects (UFO) over the course of three decades that can now be downloaded by any curious users.

According to reports, the massive trove of data on UFOs includes over 2,700 pages of information collected and recorded by government agencies over the course of decades, with some declassified documents dating back as far as the 1980s.

The information was released thanks to numerous requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) over the past 25 years.

The downloadable archives are available on the website The Black Vault, which has collected every piece of data recording sightings of UFOs. The site’s founder, John Greenewald Jr., purchased a disc which the CIA claims contains the entirety of its archives, but Greenewald notes that “there may be no way to entirely verify that.”

“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenewald added.

The U.S. government has been increasingly open in its discussions of UFOs since September 2019, when the U.S. Navy admitted that widely-circulated video footage captured by Navy pilots purportedly showing UFOs flying through the skies did depict actual “unknown” objects that flew into U.S. airspace.

While officials admitted that they have been baffled by the unknown flying objects, they also admit that past encounters with them have been frequent. They also said that rather than calling them “UFOs,” they prefer the term unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.

The Guardian reports that a range of bizarre incidents are recorded in the documents, some of which are hard to decipher and are extremely disorganized.

One document reports a series of inexplicable explosions in a Russian town, while another reports a first-hand account of a sighting of an unidentified aerial phenomenon near Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

LiveScience has also reviewed the files, and reports that the documents cover a range of other incidents such as a “1976 account of the government’s then-Assistant Deputy Director for Science and Technology being hand-delivered a mysterious piece of intelligence on a UFO.”

However, Greenewald has expressed annoyance over the manner in which the agency packaged the documents, including the fact that they were burned onto CD-ROM, a medium that he called “outdated.”

“The CIA has made it INCREDIBLY difficult to use their records in a reasonable manner,” he wrote to Vice’s Motherboard. “This outdated format makes it very difficult for people to see the documents, and use them, for any research purpose.”

The arrival of the dump comes as UFOlogists and alien aficionados eagerly anticipate hearings before Congress where Pentagon and intelligence agency officials will report all of their findings on UAPs, according to the New York Post.

A provision tucked into the roughly 5,600-page coronavirus relief bill passed in December requires that government agencies “submit a report within 180 days … to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on unidentified aerial phenomena.”

Also last June, outgoing President Trump told his son Don Trump Jr. that he had heard some “interesting” things about supposed UFOs and the secretive Area 51 base near Roswell, New Mexico, that some theorists claim was a crash site for a UFO.

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Betty White Turns 99, and Her Tips on Living a Long and Happy Life Are More Valuable Than Ever

Elias Marat

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Betty White, the original golden girl beloved by people of all ages, celebrated her 99th birthday on Sunday.

The spry granny, born Betty Marion White on Jan. 17, 1922, has managed to live a long, healthy, happy life and this can likely be chalked up to her unconventional approach.

The Emmy award-winning veteran actress once joked that her secret to longevity consisted of three simple ingredients: vodka, hot dogs, and her love of pets.

However, her tongue-in-cheek advice is getting new attention, especially given that too many of us have been forced to stay at home over much of the past year.

In 2011, during a Late Show interview with David Letterman, White gave 10 sagely tips on how she’s managed to maintain her verb and energy for so long. With White reaching one year short of a century, the advice is worth revisiting.

Her first bit of advice was to “get at least eight hours of beauty sleep, nine if you’re ugly.” Next, she advised that one should “Exercise. Or don’t. What the hell do I care?”

Third, she opined that one should “never apologize. It shows weakness.”

Her fourth tip shouldn’t give anyone any adventurous ideas, but it’s helpful nonetheless: “The best way to earn a quick buck is a slip and fall lawsuit.”

She then gave the priceless tip that one should “avoid tweeting any photos of your private parts” while also making sure to “schedule nightly appointment with Dr. Johnnie Walker.”

Some of the healthy eaters in our audience may take exception to White’s seventh tip, which is to: “Take some wheatgrass, soy paste and carob, toss it in the garbage and cook yourself a big-*ss piece of pork.”

Her next bit of adice was to “try not to die” and “never dwell on past mistakes,” which may both be easier said than done. Lastly, she recommended that you “don’t waste your time watching this crap.”

Sound advice that we can all relate to, Mrs. White!

White is reportedly spending her 99th birthday simply relaxing, she told Entertainment Tonight.

“You probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. … What am I doing for my birthday? Running a mile each morning has been curtailed by [coronavirus], so I am working on getting ‘The Pet Set’ re-released, and feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day,” she explained, referencing a 1971 show she starred in that featured celebrities appearing alongside their pets.

Her birthday was also marked by various celebrities, who tweeted out birthday greetings to the TV icon.

“Happy birthday, @BettyMWhite! You’re a miracle in every way,”  wrote Ellen DeGeneres.

“I still get warm when I see this look. Happy 99 baby. You are a testament to living life on your own terms. Sending you a great big socially distanced kiss. I love you @BettyMWhite,” Ed Asner tweeted.

“Betty White bloopers are the best bloopers #HappyBirthdayBettyWhite,” Valerie Bertinelli tweeted alongside a video of hilarious mistakes made on the set of their former show, Hot in Cleveland.

“Wishing the incomparable Betty White a very happy 99th birthday! What’s your favorite Betty White role, friends?” wrote Star Trek star George Takei.

White, who is best known for her role as Rose Nylund in the classic sitcom The Golden Girls (1985-92), has over 75 years in show business under her belt. The comedian became a staple of U.S. television in such shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Hot in Cleveland along with memorable appearances in shows like Mama’s Family and That ‘70s Show.

She catapulted to fame with her first sitcom, Life with Elizabeth, where White played the titular role and became the first woman to have creative control of a program as both a producer and the star.

White earned no less than 24 Emmy nominations and won eight in the span of her career.

When she reached the age of 90 it didn’t slow her down one bit. Not only did White become the oldest host in the history of Saturday Night Live but she also made dozens of cameos. White also starred in a memorable 2010 Super Bowl commercial for Snickers where she got tackled to the ground, football-style.

In an email to the Associated Press, White shared an especially enjoyable perk of old age: “Since I am turning 99, I can stay up as late as I want without asking permission!”

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Animals

Surfing Sea Lions Have a Blast as They Ride and Flip Through Gnarly California Waves in Video

Elias Marat

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Surfers know that in terms of the best places to catch the best breaks and surf zones, few regions can compete with California’s central coast. From Malibu through Ventura to Santa Barbara County, up through SLO to the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz, the Gold Coast arguably has no rivals in the U.S. in terms of its natural beauty and spectacular waves.

But while California’s beaches have long been synonymous with the surfing world, it would appear that actual sea lions from the regional are also enjoying the gnarly wakesurfs and sick swells on offer throughout the central coast.

In brilliant video captured last week off Santa Barbara Island, within the Channel Islands National Park just west of Los Angeles, sea lions can be seen surfing the massive waves with the sort of natural skill that only evolutionary forces can mold.

In the footage, the nimble pinnipeds can be seen riding and flipping about while taking huge leaps through the giant swells. The video was captured via high-speed photography, far too fast for sound to be recorded.

So Ryan Lawler, who runs Pacific Offshore Expeditions, paired the footage to the iconic hit from the Surfaris, “Wipeout.”

The energetic footage was captured by a documentary crew that included a National Geographic cameraman during a Jan. 7 outing with Pacific Offshore Expeditions.

 “Our trip to Santa Barbara Island was bumpy and dive conditions questionable,” the company wrote on its Instagram post of the video. “But what we found in light of this was a wonderful surprise: surfing sea lions! None of us had ever seen such sustained and enthusiastic wave riding from pinnipeds before. It was a joy to watch!”

The scene was so remarkable that the crew eagerly returned to Santa Barbara Island for more footage after checking out the footage that they shot.

“On the exposed side of the island the swell was huge but we found some sun,” Lawler told For The Win Outdoors. “As we rounded the southern portion of the island, which has an islet called Sutil Island, we noticed sea lions flying out of the back of the waves. It was an awesome moment.”

Like most priceless moments in the majestic Channel Islands, however, the session was all too brief – and was totally skunked by the thick, foggy marine layer of an unseasonably hot January.

“I had never seen that before at this island, which is well known for its sea lions,” Lawler continued. “So we stayed there for 20 minutes, observing and waiting for the sun to break up the fog. Then we dove for about 90 minutes and came back, but all the sea lions had disappeared.”

Sea lions have long been known to be powerful and agile swimmers who are even known to body surf on occasion, but scenes such as these are very difficult to capture.

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