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Shenzhou-12: China Sending First Crew to New Space Station For Three Months

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NG HAN GUAN / AP Three Chinese astronauts prepare to board for liftoff.

The Shenzhou-12 mission to the new Chinese space station brings three astronauts into orbit.

What We Know:

  • The rocket, Long March-2F, made its 15th flight on Thursday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, sending the Shenzhou spacecraft and astronauts into orbit. Nine minutes and forty seconds after liftoff, the rocket separated from Shenzhou.

  • China’s previous six Shenzhou missions ran from 2003 to 2016, none of which contained astronauts. Thursday’s blastoff is Shenzhou’s seventh piloted mission set for three months in space.
  • The core space module, named Heavenly Harmony, launched on April 29th. This module received supplies and equipment from an unpiloted cargo ship at the end of May. Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo plan to arrange the module for living, then run diagnostic tests on technology and experiment. Experimentation with solar panels has proven successful so far, with solar panels unfolding functionally and providing power to the space station.
  • The Chinese Space Station is distinct from International Space Station built by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency. Although smaller, it shares similar objectives: international research and technological development. China is excluded from the International Space Station due to the 2011 Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. This act set rules and funding for defense and other U.S. government agencies for the year and following years. In section 1340 of the act, it states that NASA cannot use division funds to collaborate with China unless a specific law permits it.
  • The hub of the Chinese Space Station, called Tianhe, contains crew quarters, communication systems, life support technology, an airlock, and spacecraft control panels. If the Shenzhou-12 mission is a success, China plans to send two more docking modules later this year to complete the space station.
  • Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency, explained intentions of sharing space as a forum for exploration. “Outer space is the commonwealth of people all over the world, and exploring the universe is the shared cause of all mankind…We are willing to carry out international cooperation and exchanges with all countries and regions worldwide that are committed to the peaceful use of outer space.”

Successfully executing the fully automated Shenzhou-12 mission tests technology, programming, and ultimately, science.

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Coronavirus

Disneyland and Disney World to Require Masks Indoors Again Regardless of Vaccination Status

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The new policy follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)‘s recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in places such as California and Florida.

What We Know:

  • As of July 30, the Walt Disney Company requires all park visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face-coverings indoors at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California. The only guests who are exempt from these rules are children under the age of two.
  • On July 27, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings declared a local state of emergency due to a spike in coronavirus cases; according to Demings’ executive order, the county in which Disney World is located saw the 14-day rolling positivity rate go over 15%. Orange County also saw a new record of 1,371 cases, the highest number since the pandemic’s beginning, a day prior to the mayor’s announcement.
  • The CDC further ruled Orange County an area with high transmission levels; officials added that the virus “continues to pose a public health threat.” In addition, Anaheim, the location for Disneyland, is facing “substantial” levels of community transmission. On the week of July 30, the city saw a seven-day positivity rate of 6.33%.
  • The influx in cases comes as the Delta variant runs rampant across the country. Currently, the more contagious version of the virus accounts for approximately 83% of cases in the U.S. The more frequent occurrences of COVID-19 also stem from the fact that vaccination rates have slowed down significantly. Disney Parks might continue to enact these mandates until cases stabilize once more.

Last March, the Walt Disney Company closed down all of its parks worldwide as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Walt Disney World in Florida became the first U.S. park to reopen in July 2020. Disneyland opened its gates nine months after Disney World in April 2021.

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Biden Considers US Technology to Send Internet Services to Cuba, Calls Cuba “A Failed State”

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President Joe Biden also declared the United States would consider providing more help to Cuba. Still, they would need absolute certainty that their government would not take advantage of the assistance.

What We Know:

  • Biden made his statements on Thursday during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the United States is figuring out methods to reinstate Cuba’s internet access. When protests erupted across the island on Sunday, Cuba’s communist government blocked its citizens’ internet connection; this was part of an attempt to stop the world from knowing about the demonstrations. Although leaders reinstated access on Wednesday, the service has been unreliable.

“We’re considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access,” Biden announced.

  • The President also stated he would not reestablish US-Cuba remittances over concerns that the regime would confiscate the money. After this announcement, Biden also said he would permit the US may send COVID-19 vaccines to Cuba. However, he would only allow this if he was confident that an international health organization would oversee vaccine administration; Cuba rejected the World Health Organization’s invitation to join their COVAX agency to further experiment in making its own vaccine.
  • President Biden additionally dismissed communism and its effects on Cuba. He called communism a “universally failed system” and that he didn’t see socialism as “a very useful substitute.” Furthermore, he considered the island a “failed state” that is repressing its people.
  • Biden’s comments follow several Floridian leaders’ pleas for him to take action on the island. On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis sent a letter to Biden asking him to reinstate Cuba’s internet; Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Republican Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez, and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr supported DeSantis’ request and joined him in a Thursday press conference where they urged Biden to do more for Cuba.

  • On Monday, the day after riots began, President Biden released a statement in which he told the Cuban regime to stop focusing on their interests and look to that of the island. Despite this, people across Miami, home to the country’s largest population of Cuban exiles, believed a statement was not enough. As a result, citizens have held several protests this week in each of the city’s municipalities to call more attention to the island’s issue.
  • The protests serve as the Cuban-Americans’ demand that Biden prioritizes ending the island’s communist regime. The biggest one occurred on Tuesday when the Florida Highway Patrol allowed demonstrators to shut down the Palmetto Expressway.

Cuban-Americans will continue their efforts nationally. This weekend, a group will travel to Washington, D.C., and protest outside the White House to ensure President Biden takes accountability for his promises.

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Raul Castro Attends High-Level Government Meeting About Protests

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Raul Castro came out of retirement to attend the Communist Party of Cuba’s Politburo meeting on Sunday when Cubans began protesting the 62-year communist regime.

What We Know:

  • According to the Communist Party of Cuba’s newspaper, Granma, Castro discussed methods to ease tensions between the citizens and the government alongside other party members. Leader-Telegram reported his presentation at the meeting might indicate the Party doubts President Miguel Díaz-Canel can handle the situation singlehandedly. Castro selected Díaz-Canel to succeed him as President of Cuba and as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
  • Granma additionally defended Díaz-Canel’s claims that the United States provoked the protests. Reporters wrote that party officials analyzed “provocations orchestrated by counterrevolutionary elements, organized and financed from the United States with destabilizing purposes.” The United States denies these accusations.
  • The news source also praised President Díaz-Canel for dealing with the crisis. It called his response “exemplary” and allowed him to stop “subversive actions;” when demonstrations began in San Antonio de los Baños, the president visited the town expecting to control the situation. However, his measures did not work; by Sunday afternoon, the whole country erupted in protests.
  • Instead of listening to his citizens, Díaz-Canel quickly took to television and urged his supporters to confront protestors “by any means necessary.” After facing criticism for his comments, he stated he did not invoke violence, but the demonstrators “got what they deserve.”
  • Despite Granma stating that the unrest was controlled, protests are still happening in Cuba. Cubans continue begging their leaders for basic necessities such as food and medical supplies throughout the nation; instead of listening to their citizens, the government approved violent police raids, the arrestment of several demonstrators, and an internet shutdown.

Regardless of the consequences, the Cuban people remain determined to continue fighting for political freedom.

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