US Lawmakers Bid to Rename DC Street for Chinese COVID Doctor

HONG KONG, (NATALIE LIU-VOANEWS).- American lawmakers are promoting legislation to change the name of the street in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington to honor Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower who died of COVID-19 after Beijing silenced his attempts to warn the world about the coronavirus.

“I am honored to introduce this legislation to rename the street in front the Chinese Embassy after Dr. Li,” said U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming when she offered the bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

“May this serve as a constant reminder to the world and to the Chinese government that truth and freedom will prevail, that we will not forget the bravery of Dr. Li, and that the Chinese Communist Party will be held accountable for the devastating impact of their lies."

A companion bill was introduced in the Senate on the same day. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said Li is regarded as a “hero to the Chinese people.”

“Chairman Xi [Jinping] can try to claim Dr. Li as the [Communist] Party’s own martyr, but the Chinese people know that it was Dr. Li’s selfless work and voice that the party sought to silence,” Sasse said in a written statement.

Naming the street outside the embassy after Li, he said, “will draw a glaring contrast between the cruelty and lies of the Chinese Communist Party and the decency and compassion of the Chinese people.”

Li, an eye doctor who practiced at Wuhan Central Hospital, warned some of his medical school colleagues at the end of December that a SARS-like phenomenon appeared to be on the horizon.

He was summoned by local authorities for sounding the alarm.

It has since emerged that authorities issued official documents around that time ordering that no one other than designated government officials talk about the coronavirus.

At the time, China had not acknowledged human-to-human transmission of the disease – to be named COVID-19 only later – and doctors treating patients with the disease were discouraged from wearing protective equipment. Li contracted the disease and died on February 7.

According to Chinese media reports, three other doctors at Wuhan Central Hospital had also succumbed to COVID-19 as of early March.
Not the first attempt to rename street

This is not the first attempt to rename the street outside the Chinese Embassy. There was a proposal in 2017 to name the street for dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, who died while in detention in a Chinese hospital that year.

Similarly, the street outside the then-Soviet embassy was renamed in 1984 in honor of prominent dissident Andrei Sakharov, a renowned Russian physicist and dissident who suffered years of persecution at the hands of Soviet authorities.

In an editorial advocating for the name change in honor of Liu Xiaobo, The Washington Post argued that while the Sakharov name change had raised tensions with the Soviet Union, “it also sent a strong message to Soviet diplomats and beyond that Sakharov and activists like him were not forgotten.”

Similarly, the editorial said: “each time a Chinese diplomat entered or left the embassy, he or she would confront Mr. Liu’s legacy – and maybe spare a thought for the hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists currently detained by the Communist Party. This should be impetus enough for the change [of the name of the street].”

Earlier this week, deputy U.S. national security adviser Matthew Pottinger said Li had embodied the true spirit of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which was marked by patriotic calls for cultural and social reforms aimed at strengthening China in a spiritual and fundamental sense.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Chinese Embassy and its ambassador appear to be busy countering criticism over Beijing’s delay in reporting the scale and deadliness of the coronavirus outbreak. Ambassador Cui Tiankai made his case in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday under the title “Blaming China will not end this pandemic.”

The embassy’s website also featured stories about China’s Anhui and Liaoning provinces sending medical supplies to the U.S. states of Maryland and Utah, with signs touting “Anhui loves Maryland.”

Elsewhere in the world, there are signs China’s diplomatic overtures have run into at least a temporary dead end. Sweden recently closed the last of the Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institutes, and Sweden’s second-largest city called off its sister city ties with Shanghai.

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Cheops observes its first exoplanets and is ready for science

MADRID, (ESA).- Cheops, ESA’s new exoplanet mission, has successfully completed its almost three months of in-orbit commissioning, exceeding expectations for its performance. The satellite, which will commence routine science operations by the end of April, has already obtained promising observations of known exoplanet-hosting stars, with many exciting discoveries to come.

“The in-orbit commissioning phase was an exciting period, and we are pleased we were able to meet all requirements,” says Nicola Rando, Cheops project manager at ESA. “The satellite platform and instrument performed remarkably, and both the Mission and Science Operation Centres supported operations impeccably.”

Launched in December 2019, Cheops, or the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, opened its eye to the Universe at the end of January and shortly after took its first, intentionally blurred images of stars. The deliberate defocusing is at the core of the mission’s observing strategy, which improves the measurement precision by spreading the light coming from distant stars over many pixels of its detector.

Precision is key in today’s exoplanet research. More than 4000 planets – and counting – are known to be orbiting stars other than the Sun. A key follow-on is to start to characterise these planets, providing constraints on their structure, formation and evolution.

Taking the steps to characterise exoplanets through the precise measurement of their sizes – in particular those of smaller planets – is exactly the mission of Cheops. Before being declared ready for the task, however, the small, 1.5 metre sized satellite had to pass a large number of tests.

Outstanding performance

With the first series of in-flight tests, performed between January and February, the mission experts started analysing the response of the satellite, and in particular of the telescope and detector, in the actual space environment. Proceeding into March, Cheops focused on well-studied stars.

“To measure how well Cheops performs we first needed to observe stars whose properties are well known, stars that are well-behaved – hand-picked to be very stable, with no signs of activity” says Kate Isaak, Cheops project scientist at ESA.

This approach enabled the teams at ESA, the mission consortium, and Airbus Spain – the prime contractor – to verify that the satellite is as precise and stable as needed to meet its ambitious goals.

“The pointing is extremely stable: this means that while the telescope observes a star for hours while the spacecraft moves along its orbit, the image of the star remains always within the same group of pixels in the detector,” explains Carlos Corral van Damme, ESA’s System Principal Engineer for Cheops.

“Such a great stability is a combination of the excellent performance of the equipment and of the bespoke pointing algorithms, and will be especially important to fulfill the scientific objectives of the mission. The thermal stability of the telescope and the detector has also proven to be even better than required,” adds Carlos.

The commissioning period demonstrated that Cheops achieves the required photometric precision and, importantly, it also showed that the satellite can be commanded by the ground segment team as needed to perform its science observations.

“We were thrilled when we realised that all the systems worked as expected or even better than expected,” says Cheops Instrument Scientist Andrea Fortier, who led the commissioning team of the consortium for the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Time for exoplanets

During the final two weeks of in-orbit commissioning, Cheops observed two exoplanet-hosting stars as the planets ‘transited’ in front of their host star and blocked a fraction of starlight. Observing transits of known exoplanets is what the mission was built for – to measure planet sizes with unprecedented precision and accuracy and to determine their densities by combining these with independent measurements of their masses.

One of the targets was HD 93396, a subgiant yellow star located 320 light-years away, slightly cooler and three times larger than our Sun. The focus of the observations was KELT-11b, a puffy gaseous planet about 30% larger in size than Jupiter, in an orbit that is much closer to the star than Mercury is to the Sun.

The light curve of this star shows a clear dip caused by the eight hour-long transit of KELT-11b. From these data, the scientists have determined very precisely the diameter of the planet: 181,600 km – with an uncertainty just under 4300 km.

The measurements made by Cheops are five times more accurate than those from Earth, explains Willy Benz, Principal Investigator of the Cheops mission consortium, and professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern. “That gives us a foretaste for what we can achieve with Cheops over the months and years to come,” he says.

A formal review of the satellite performance and ground segment operations was held on 25 March, and Cheops passed it with flying colours. With this, ESA handed over responsibility for operating the mission to the consortium led by Willy Benz.

Fortunately, the commissioning activities were not affected much by the ensuing emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in social distancing measures and restrictions to movement across Europe to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The ground segment has been working very smoothly from early on, which enabled us to fully automate most of the operations for commanding the satellite and downlinking the data already in the first few weeks after launch,” explains Carlos. “By the time the crisis emerged in March, with the new rules and regulations that came with it, the automated systems meant that the impact on the mission was minimal.”

Cheops is currently transitioning towards routine science operations, which are expected to begin before the end of April. Scientists have started observing some of the ‘early science targets’ – a selection of stars and planetary systems chosen to showcase examples of what the mission can achieve: these include a ‘hot super-Earth’ planet known as 55 Cancri e, which is covered in a lava ocean, as well as the ‘warm Neptune’ GJ 436b, which is losing its atmosphere due to the glare from its host star. Another star on the list of upcoming Cheops observations is a white dwarf, the first target from ESA’s Guest Observers Programme, which provides scientists from beyond the mission consortium with the opportunity to use the mission and capitalize on its observational capabilities.

More about Cheops
Cheops is an ESA mission developed in partnership with Switzerland, with a dedicated consortium led by the University of Bern, and with important contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

ESA is the Cheops mission architect, responsible for procurement and testing of the satellite, launch, the launch and early operations phase, in-orbit commissioning, as well as the Guest Observers’ Programme. The consortium of 11 ESA Member States led by Switzerland provided essential elements of the mission. The prime contractor for the design and construction of the spacecraft is Airbus Defence and Space in Madrid, Spain.

The Cheops mission consortium runs the Mission Operations Centre located at INTA, in Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid, Spain, and the Science Operations Centre, located at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

For further information, please contact:

Nicola Rando
ESA Cheops project manager
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Kate Isaak
ESA Cheops project scientist
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Carlos Corral van Damme
ESA Cheops System Principal Engineer
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ESA Media Relations
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Coherent Policy Response Needed to Overcome Coronavirus Crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON . —The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is seeing a sharp decline in growth due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis, which requires several policy responses to support the most vulnerable, avert a financial crisis, and protect jobs, according to a new report form the World Bank.

To help the vulnerable face the loss of earnings from the lockdown, existing social protection and social assistance programs should be rapidly scaled up and their coverage extended, according to “The Economy in the Time of Covid-19,” the latest semiannual report from the World Bank’s Chief Economist Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the same time, governments may need to support financial sector institutions and key sources of employment.
“We need to help people face these enormous challenges and make sure that financial markets and employers can weather the storm,” said Humberto López, World Bank Acting Vice President for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region. “That means limiting the damage and laying the groundwork for recovery as fast as possible.”

A series of shocks hit economic growth in LAC over the past year starting with social unrest, the collapse of international oil prices, and now the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. Growth is suffering as a result.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Latin America and Caribbean region (excluding Venezuela) is expected to decline 4.6% in 2020, according to the report.* A return to growth of 2.6% is expected in 2021. 

The coronavirus pandemic is fueling a major supply shock. Demand from China and G7 countries is falling dramatically, affecting commodity exporters in South America and exporters of manufactured goods and services in Central America and the Caribbean. A collapse in tourism is severely impacting some countries in the Caribbean.
Many countries in LAC are confronting the crisis with a constrained fiscal space. Higher levels of informality make it difficult to reach out to all households and protect all sources of employment. Many households live from hand to mouth and do not have the resources to cope with the lockdowns and quarantines needed to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Many also depend on collapsing remittances. To help the vulnerable face this economic challenge, existing social protection and social assistance programs should be rapidly scaled up and their coverage extended. 

At the same time, governments will have to take on the burden of much of the losses. Socializing the losses may require taking ownership stakes in financial sector institutions and strategic employers through recapitalization. This support will be key to preserving jobs and allowing for a recovery.
However, these processes need to be transparent and strong arrangements need to be put in place to manage the newly acquired assets, building on the best examples of sovereign wealth funds and asset management companies.

“Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean face the enormous challenge of both protecting lives and limiting the impact of the economic fallout,” said Martín Rama, World Bank Chief Economist for the Latin America and the Caribbean region. “This will require coherent, targeted policies on a scale rarely seen before.”
World Bank Group Global Support to Face the Coronavirus Crisis:

The World Bank Group is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response, increase disease surveillance, improve public health interventions, and help the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. It is deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over the next 15 months to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.  

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic circumstances within countries and regions are fluid and change on a day-by-day basis. The analysis in the report is based on the latest country-level data available as of April 10, 2020.

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ESA helps analyse untouched Moon rocks

MADRID, (ESA).- With one sample already being analysed, preparations are now being made to open the second later this year. 

This work focuses on rock and soil retrieved during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, and is part of NASA’s Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) programme, which takes advantage of advanced analytical techniques.

ANGSA consists of nine expert science teams, covering different aspects of sample analysis. ESA scientists and engineers form part of the Consortium for the Advanced Analysis of Apollo Samples, headed by Charles ‘Chip’ Shearer, one of the ANGSA lead scientists. 

“ESA collaborators will assist in the characterisation of samples, and help us assess how well the lunar material has been collected and preserved,” says Shearer. “Looking ahead, this will help us design future collection and curation procedures for the NASA-led Artemis mission.”

To help achieve ANGSA’s aims, a truly collaborative approach is being employed.

“ANGSA ties together those who were involved in the initial curation and analysis of Apollo samples with the next generation of planetary scientists,” says Francesca McDonald, ESA Research Fellow who is coordinating ESA’s ANGSA participation. “Our diverse team includes Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt, the only geologist to walk on the Moon, who along with fellow Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan, originally collected the lunar material.”

Ancient lunar processes

The Apollo 17 landing site lies within the narrow Taurus-Littrow Valley, surrounded by several steep mountains including the North and South Massifs, with afault scarp, caused by a difference in elevation between the two sides of the fault, cutting across the entire region. The samples were collected from a prominent landslip deposit, which occurred when sediment cascaded down from the South Massif onto the lava filled valley floor. Thus, they contain material from elevated areas that could not have been accessed by astronauts.

To extract the regolith, a 70 cm cylindrical tube was hammered into the landslide deposit to produce a core, which was then separated into two halves on the surface of the Moon.

The lower half of the section, known as sample 73001, likely contains a region of the subsurface that is cold enough to have trapped loosely bound volatiles, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen. To try to preserve these precious gases, it was sealed in a vacuum container on the lunar surface and then double sealed in a second vacuum container back on Earth.

The upper portion of the core, sample 73002, was also carefully contained after being collected, but was not vacuum sealed. Both halves have remained in storage, under the expert care of the NASA Astromaterials Curation Team, since being returned.

ESA initially has a supportive role in the planning and processes associated with examining the lunar samples, working with the NASA curation team to ensure that the scientists are able to make their highly precise measurements.

Francesca made the trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, in December 2019 to assist in the meticulous dissection of 73002 into subsamples, shortly after it was opened.  

During dissection, a detailed record is made of exactly where each subsample comes from within the core, allowing the science teams to make inferences about lunar processes.

To prepare for the opening of the lower portion sample, ESA scientists and engineers are currently working closely with ANGSA noble gas and volatile experts to design a tool to capture any precious gases it may contain.

The results of the analysis will address questions first pondered by Apollo-era scientists.  

“It is not entirely known what caused the landslip – was it from an impact? Or from movement of the fault?” says Francesca. “If it was to do with movement of the fault scarp, how long ago did this happen? And did this result in any release of gases from within the Moon, which were trapped in the landslide deposit?”

Lessons learned

Another goal for ANGSA is to understand how effective the double-vacuum sealed containment was, which is paramount for preserving the core’s integrity and the meaningfulness of any subsequent analysis.

With future lunar missions likely to target the polar regions, and the international Mars Sample Return campaign in preparation, this will provide essential information for developing future extra-terrestrial sample containment and curation procedures. 

“Utilising materials present on the Moon is an important part of enabling a future sustained presence for men and women at the lunar surface and for developing onward human exploration of Mars,” explains Dayl Martin, ESA Research Fellow and ANGSA team member.

“Understanding the composition and behaviour of lunar material is important to achieve this. The techniques currently being refined as part of ANGSA are set to provide such insights.”

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Taiwan: MOFA refutes WHO director-general’s false accusation

TAIPEI, (TAIWAN TODAY).- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed deep regret and displeasure April 9 over the accusation by World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that Taiwan is orchestrating personal attacks against him.

Taiwan is a civilized and mature democracy, and the government has never encouraged personal attacks on Dr. Tedros or issued any racially discriminating remarks, the MOFA said in a statement.

Dr. Tedros’ baseless accusation has caused great harm to the government and people of Taiwan, the ministry said, urging him to apologize and clarify his misleading remarks immediately.

The MOFA’s statement followed remarks by Dr. Tedros during a news conference the day before in Geneva at which he claimed to have been subject to a coordinated campaign of racially motivated abuse orchestrated by Taiwan for the past three months.

According to the MOFA, the government of Taiwan condemns any and all forms of discrimination and injustice. The country’s 23 million people can relate as they have long been victimized by the politics of the global health system, it said.

In February, the MOFA encouraged individuals and associations to adopt a reasonable manner when making the case for Taiwan’s full participation in the activities, mechanisms and meetings of the WHO.

People in democratic societies have the right to express their opinions over the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government of Taiwan has no control over internet criticisms,

the MOFA added.

The ministry called on Dr. Tedros to set aside political prejudice and invite Taiwan to take part in the World Health Assembly as an observer in order to help realize the WHO’s goal of Health For All. (SFC-E).

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