Rocket’s maiden flight fails
A new Chinese medium-lift rocket, part of a family of launch vehicles meant to support most of the nation’s launch missions in future, failed on its debut flight, Xinhua news agency reported. The Long March 7A, a variant of the Long March 7, blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan on Monday morning, but later malfunctioned, with authorities investigating the cause, Xinhua said. With its specifications and capabilities, the rocket, known as the LM-7A, is well-placed to become the nation’s main rocket for communication satellite missions, potentially replacing older rockets in the LM-2, LM-3 and LM-4 range. The LM-7 family is also expected to be central to the construction of the nation’s space station, due for completion in 2022. It was not clear how the timetable for near-term orbital launches would be affected by the failed LM-7A mission.
Virus kills famed architect
Vittorio Gregotti, an Italian architect who helped design the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics stadium, died on Sunday at the age of 92 after catching COVID-19. Gregotti died of pneumonia after being hospitalized in Milan, the Corriere della Sera newspaper and AGI news agency reported. He also designed the Merassi stadium in Genoa for the 1990s World Cup in Italy and the Arcimboldi Opera Theatre in Milan, a futuristic structure built to allow the season to continue while the La Scala underwent renovation in 2002 to 2004. Other highlights of a career that also saw him build a housing district in Shanghai include the Belem cultural center in Portugal and the Grand Theatre de Provence in France. Paying tribute, fellow Italian architect Stefano Boeri called Gregotti a “master of international architecture” who “created the story of our culture.”
About 85,000 prisoners freed
The government has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, judicial spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said yesterday, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Some 50 percent of those released are security-related prisoners ... Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” he said. On Tuesday last week the UN special rapporteur on human rights said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of coronavirus. The nation’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 853, with confirmed infections reaching 14,991 people.
UN peacekeeper killed
The UN Security Council on Monday strongly condemned the killing of a UN peacekeeper during an attack by members of the anti-Balaka group in the Central African Republic. The peacekeeper from Burundi was killed on Sunday when troops were trying to stop an attack in Grimari, Ouaka Province, which began when anti-Balaka fighters under the command of Dimitri Ayoloma opened fire on the homes of the mayor and a regional official. The UN mission said peacekeepers in Grimari immediately intervened trying to end the assault, and the rebels deliberately opened fire against them, fatally injuring the soldier from Burundi. Mankeur Ndiaye, who heads the peacekeeping mission, condemned the “heinous act.” The UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ndiaye said that any attack on a UN peacekeeper might constitute a war crime.
Tech giants team up on virus
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Reddit said that they are teaming up to provide accurate information about COVID-19. “We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world,” the companies said in a joint statement on Monday. The technology giants and social networks said that other companies are welcome to join their efforts. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Monday said that it “has convened, and will continue to, a number of meetings with different groups of American tech companies and industry associations as part of our whole-of-America response to COVID-19.”
Authorities release inmates
Authorities in southern California are taking steps to reduce jail populations, including by letting some inmates out early, as the coronavirus spreads. The sheriff’s office in San Diego County is preparing to release an unspecified number of inmates early to free up beds for quarantine, a spokesman for the agency said late on Monday, confirming earlier media reports. In Los Angeles County, bail amounts are being adjusted so that fewer people are booked into custody, which is meant to lower the chances of the virus being introduced into the jail system, the county sheriff’s office said. In addition, the sheriff has begun releasing early some inmates who had fewer than 30 days remaining in their sentences, BuzzFeed reported.
Vernal equinox comes early
Stuck at home this week? The planets and the moon are providing some early morning entertainment. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and a crescent moon are to be clustered together in the southeastern sky just before daybreak. Mercury will peek above the horizon. All this is happening amid the earliest March equinox in 124 years. The vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere — and autumn in the southern hemisphere — is to occur late tomorrow night. That is the earliest since 1896. This is also a good time to spot Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Barely 8.6 light years away, Sirius is especially brilliant this time of year. It is also known as the “Dog Star,” because it is in the Canis Major constellation.
Syrup shipments accelerated
Toilet paper is not the only item that shoppers are stocking up on during the coronavirus pandemic. Maple syrup buyers such as supermarkets are requesting rush shipments of their orders from Quebec, the world’s largest producer. The accelerated delivery is being fueled by concerns that shipping could become difficult in the coming months, Maple Industry Council head Daniel Dufour said. “We don’t know what’s going to be the situation in two, three, four months from now,” Dufour said by telephone. “They want us to rush now, ship faster.” The US is the biggest buyer of syrup, followed by Germany and Japan, he said. Canadian maple syrup is sold as a pure ingredient for use at home and in restaurants, and in other food products, such as maple butter and maple smoked bacon. The good news for pancake lovers is that there is no shortage of syrup. The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has a strategic reserve of 45,359 tonnes of syrup in case of a shortfall.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data