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Chinese rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean, draws criticism from NASA
9 May 2021, 9:21 AM

Remnants of China’s biggest rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, with most of its components destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere, ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit but drawing US criticism over lack of transparency.

The coordinates given by Chinese state media, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office, put the point of impact in the ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago.

Debris from the Long March 5B has had some people looking warily skyward since it blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29, but the China Manned Space Engineering Office said most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.

State media reported parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time (0224 GMT) and landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

The US Space command confirmed the re-entry of the rocket over the Arabian Peninsula, but said it was unknown if the debris impacted land or water.

“The exact location of the impact and the span of debris, both of which are unknown at this time, will not be released by US Space Command,” it said in a statement on its website.

The Long March was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020. Last year, pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former senator and astronaut who was picked for the role in March, said in a statement after the re-entry.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”


With most of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the odds of populated area on land being hit had been low, and the likelihood of injuries even lower, according to experts.

But uncertainty over the rocket’s orbital decay and China’s failure to issue stronger reassurances in the run-up to there-entry fuelled anxiety.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Nelson said.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Reuters that the potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.

Since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and landed in Australia, most countries have sought to avoid such uncontrolled re-entries through their spacecraft design, McDowell said.

“It makes the Chinese rocket designers look lazy that they didn’t address this,” said McDowell.
The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, dismissed as “Western hype” concerns the rocket was “out of control” and could cause damage.

“It is common practice across the world for upper stages of rockets to burn up while reentering the atmosphere,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular media briefing on May 7.

“To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means most of its parts will burn up upon re-entry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” Wang said at the time.

The rocket, which put into orbit an unmanned Tianhe module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station, will be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station by 2022

India, Nepal should prioritize stay-at-home measures over vaccines: US expert
9 May 2021, 8:08 AM

Implementing stay-at-home mandates, as well as mask-wearing and social distance policies, are the most important measures India and Nepal can take now to stymie their worsening COVID-19 situations, said a US doctor on Saturday.

Facing overburdened medical systems and supply shortages, the two countries have been struggling with surging coronavirus-related infections and deaths caused by recent outbreaks.

Official data released on Saturday shows that India has seen more than 400 000 new daily confirmed cases for three straight days, while the daily death toll exceeded the grim 4 000 mark for the first time. The country’s COVID-19 tally passed 21 million with over 238 000 deaths.

Meanwhile, Nepal is also seeing surging infections and deaths. The country on Saturday reported over 8 000 new infections and 54 new deaths from the disease.

Speaking in an interview with China Global Television Network, Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor at Brown University, pointed out that Nepal’s geographical location and reliance on India for supplies has added to its difficulties in combating COVID-19.

“The first is that, like most of the world, the majority of the population is not yet vaccinated. And we know we have 15, 16 months of evidence that when folks are not vaccinated, this virus spreads like wildfire. The second problem, as you said, is that Nepal has limited access to medications, to critical supplies like personal protective equipment, masks, gowns, gloves to protect the medical workers, or that incredibly important equipment, things like oxygen cylinders, sure, but also all of the other medical equipment that we use to take care of critically ill patients.”

“They have limited access to that even in normal times, because as you say, Nepal is landlocked. All of their supplies and medications have to go through India, and right now India is hanging on to everything it can keep,” she said.

Unpacking rising COVID-19 cases in India with Dr. Anant Bhan:

The number of deaths from the virus may be unnecessarily high in India because of the country’s overburdened medical system, she noted.

“The last part is that we know that when the virus spreads unchecked, when health care systems get overwhelmed, that’s when the mortality rate from this virus surges. It is a horrible virus even in a functioning health care system, but when you get overwhelmed, you can no longer provide that basic lifesaving care and folks are going to be more likely to die,” said Ranney.

A false sense of security in India over the past few months led many Indians to ignore restrictions and preventative measures. Some large-scale festivals were even held across the country, offering the perfect conditions to create superspreader events.

Ranney said that for India, the first and most important step is to stop the transmission of the virus, as vaccinations need time to take effect.

“Yes, we need to vaccinate and every country in the world has to help vaccinate India but also other countries, right? But vaccines are not going to be an immediate fix. If people get vaccines in arms today, they’re not going to be protected for somewhere between two and six weeks, depending on what type of vaccine they get,” explained the doctor.

“So what India needs to do today is to put policies in place for people to stay home, wear masks on those essential outdoor excursions to get groceries or to buy essential medications, and to shore up their medical system so that they can take care of the people who are already sick. People are dying unnecessarily because there are insufficient physicians, nurses, oxygen, personal protective equipment, and so on. And that’s something the government can do today,” she said.

Regarding the “double mutate” variant, which is becoming the most prevalent among all the mutant COVID-19 variants in India, Ranney noted that vaccinations and non-pharmaceutical interventions like keeping socially distant and wearing masks are important methods to curb the spread of the virus.

Rating agency Moody’s skips scheduled review of South Africa
8 May 2021, 12:23 PM

Credit Rating agency Moody’s has skipped a scheduled review of South Africa’s sovereign rating.

The agency was expected to make an announcement on the country’s rating on Friday night but instead the agency published a notice stating that the rating for South Africa and other countries such as Italy were not updated.

Last year, Moody’s downgraded the country’s debt to “junk” status with a negative outlook.  At the time it cited the country’s ballooning debt servicing costs and a high civil servants wage bill as some of reasons behind the downgrade.

Moody’s has not given any indications as to when an announcement can be expected.

Chief Economist at Efficient Group Dawie Roodt says the move is not unusual.

“We have to remember that rating agencies are private organisations they postpone their announcements or they change ratings, and they can do it whenever or whatever they want to do because they are private organisations, and a postponement like this is nothing unusual.”

He adds: “I don’t think we should read anything into this. But as far as South Africa’s rating are concerned, I think our rating current levels will remain unchanged and I think for a couple of months. But I’m afraid if we do not fix especially the state’s finances, further downgrades can be expected but for now I think things are going to remain unchanged at least for a couple of months.”

Najla al-Mangoush
Libya presidency denies armed groups attacked hotel where it meets
8 May 2021, 11:06 AM

A senior official at Libya’s new Presidency Council denied on Saturday that groups who entered a hotel where the body meets had been armed or used force, playing down an incident that had appeared to illustrate the risks facing the unity government.

Earlier, the Council’s spokeswoman had said armed groups had stormed the Corinthia Hotel on Friday, though she also said nobody from the body had been in the building at the time.

“There was no kidnapping, gunfire, or an attack on me or the hotel,” the head of the Presidency Council’s office, Mohamed al-Mabrouk said in a social media video, adding that he had been in the hotel at the time of the incident.

Mabrouk said the head of the Presidency Council, which functions as Libya’s head of state for now, would meet with the groups involved.

The Presidency Council was chosen through a United Nations-facilitated process that also selected a new Government of National Unity that took office in March, replacing rival administrations in east and west.

Armed groups based in western Libya have voiced anger at the Government of National Unity’s Foreign Minister, Najla al-Mangoush.


Unity Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibeh has worked to win support from Libya’s many rival factions, forming a large cabinet that includes an array of ideological and regional figures.

However, both the Presidency Council and Government of National Unity have faced internal criticism and challenges to their authority.

In eastern Libya, commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) still hold sway nearly a year after their 14-month offensive to seize the capital collapsed.

In Tripoli, the armed groups that pushed Haftar back from the capital with Turkish support still control the streets.

Foreign mercenaries remain entrenched on both sides of the heavily fortified front line, despite international calls for the warring sides to pull them from the country.

Last week, Foreign Minister Mangoush repeated the call for all foreign fighters to leave while standing next to visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Turkey says its military presence in Libya is different to that of other foreign forces because it was invited by the previous U.N.-recognised government and it will not withdraw until others do.

Before Friday’s incident, an operations room for the Tripoli armed groups said on social media that it had met to discuss “irresponsible statements” by Mangoush and later called on the GNU to formally reject Haftar.

African National Congress
ANC IPC in North West says 4 member’s requested to step aside have done so
8 May 2021, 10:22 AM

The ANC Interim Provincial Committee (IPC) in the North West says only four of its five members who requested to step aside, have done so. These are members implicated in various criminal activities.

Among them are the Mayor of the JB Marks Local Municipality, Kgotso Khumalo, former MEC for Finance, Wendy Nelson, and two councillors from Matlosana and Ditsobotla local municipalities, respectively.

Coordinator for the ANC IPC, Hlomane Chauke, says the only member who is refusing to step aside is the speaker of Mahikeng local municipality, Bafana Nebe.

“In the North West with regards to the issue of step aside we had five comrades whom we have identified. Four of them have already stepped aside. We are left with one comrade who we have already in fact communicated with him formally to inform him that he needed to do that and that happens to be the speaker of a Mahikeng local municipality by the name of comrade Nebe. It seems that the comrade is not adhering to what supposed to have happened.”

Chauke says they are now going to suspend Nebe’s membership as it’s clear that he is defying their call.

“What is going to happen obviously will be for us to ignite the disciplinary process, clearly is that the comrade is not ready and I think he is not even willing. Then we will have to implement the Constitution of the ANC and suspend the membership.”

Meanwhile, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa says the NEC will deal with his so-called letter of “suspension” at its meeting this weekend.

The ANC says Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s attempt to suspend the president is null and void.

Cyril Ramaphosa says ANC’s NEC will deal with his letter of “suspension”:




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