News in Brief 12 April 2016 (PM)

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USSR Cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova visit UN headquarters in October 1963. UN Photo/YN

International Day remembers space pioneer Yuri Gagarin

Inspirational messages from space explorers to future generations are being shared this Tuesday, 12 April.

The day marks 55 years since Yuri Gagarin from the then Soviet Union became the first person to travel to outer space.

The International Day of Human Space Flight also reaffirms the important contribution of space science and technology in increasing the well-being of the world's people.

The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs has compiled the messages from astronauts from 20 countries in an "autograph album" that is available online and in all six UN official languages.

It also features a copy of Mr Gagarin's autograph which was taken during a visit he made to UN headquarters in October 1963 where he spoke to the press about the need to keep outer space a nuclear-free zone:

"The ban on nuclear tests in space and on launching into space objects carrying nuclear weapons would eliminate the danger of radiation and, as a result, threats to space flights.  If nuclear weapons make their way into space, Damocles’ sword will hang over mankind, ready to strike at any minute."

Human rights expert welcomes Myanmar political prisoner release

The recent release of political prisoners in Myanmar has been hailed by a UN human rights expert as "a truly significant moment" for the country.

UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee added that she also hopes to see "quick and real progress" on recommendations to amend more than 140 laws.

She said these changes are vital to ensuring there are no new political prisoners there in the future.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, had been under military rule for nearly 50 years, which ended in 2011.

The country's first democratically elected government, which took office in March, had announced plans to release political prisoners in conjunction with the start of the Burmese New Year this month.

Desert Locust watch for countries near Yemen

A desert locust outbreak in Yemen could threaten crops in surrounding countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning.

The UN agency is urging Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran to take measures to prevent the insects from reaching breeding areas in their territories.

It is also calling for strict vigilance in areas of Morocco and Algeria.

FAO says the extent of the infestation in Yemen is not known as survey teams are unable to access most areas due to the country's ongoing conflict.

Desert locust swarms can number in the tens of millions and can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind.

In one day, a small swarm can eat as much food as approximately 35,000 people.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 3’00″

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