3 Chinese Astronauts Return to Earth After 6-Month Mission

Three Chinese astronauts landed in a northern desert on Sunday after six months working to complete construction of the Tiangong station, a symbol of the country’s ambitious space program, state TV reported.

A capsule carrying commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe touched down at a landing site in the Gobi Desert in northern China at approximately 8:10 p.m. (1210 GMT), China Central Television reported.

Prior to departure, they overlapped for almost five days with three colleagues who arrived Wednesday on the Shenzhou-15 mission for their own six-month stay, marking the first time China had six astronauts in space at the same time. The station’s third and final module docked with the station this month.

The astronauts were carried out of the capsule by medical workers about 40 minutes after touchdown. They were all smiles, and appeared to be in good condition, waving happily at workers at the landing site.

“I am very fortunate to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station after six busy and fulfilling months in space,” said Chen, who was the first to exit the capsule. “Like meteors, we returned to the embrace of the motherland.”

Liu, another of the astronauts, said that she was moved to see relatives and her fellow compatriots.

The three astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-14 mission, which launched in June. After their arrival at Tiangong, Chen, Liu and Cai oversaw five rendezvous and dockings with various spacecraft including one carrying the third of the station’s three modules.

They also performed three spacewalks, beamed down a live science lecture from the station, and conducted a range of experiments.

The Tiangong is part of official Chinese plans for a permanent human presence in orbit.

China built its own station after it was excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese space programs’ close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.

With the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 mission, the station expanded to its maximum weight of 100 tons.

Without attached spacecraft, the Chinese station weighs about 66 tons — a fraction of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 465 tons.

With a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, Tiangong could one day be the only space station still up and running if the International Space Station retires by around the end of the decade as expected.

China in 2003 became the third government to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China has also chalked up uncrewed mission successes: Its Yutu 2 rover was the first to explore the little-known far side of the moon. Its Chang’e 5 probe also returned lunar rocks to Earth in December 2020 for the first time since the 1970s, and another Chinese rover is searching for evidence of life on Mars.

Officials are reported to be considering an eventual crewed mission to the moon, although no timeline has been offered.

Shanghai Axes Some COVID Testing Requirements  

Authorities in China’s financial hub of Shanghai will from Monday scrap some testing requirements in the country’s latest relaxing of its strict zero-COVID policy following nationwide protests unseen in decades.

Multiple cities have started to roll back some restrictions after public resentment at harsh and prolonged containment measures reached a boiling point last weekend, when spontaneous protests broke out in multiple Chinese cities.

Shanghai residents will no longer need a 48-hour negative test result to use public transport and enter outdoor venues such as parks and tourist attractions, authorities said in a WeChat post on Sunday.

The city of more than 23 million was sealed off for months this year, weighing heavily on domestic economic activity.

Shanghai follows multiple cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Chengdu, which all cancelled the testing requirement for public transport on Saturday.

Beijing’s local authorities also abandoned on Saturday real-name registration that had been required to buy cold and fever medicine.

Chinese health authorities last month released a list of measures designed to “optimize” zero-COVID and minimize its socio-economic impact, but local enforcement of the measures has varied widely.

The northeastern city of Jinzhou said Thursday it would continue to impose lockdowns because “it would be a shame to not achieve zero-COVID when we are able to,” before backtracking the next day after public outcry.

Officials in the eastern city of Jinan said Sunday that residents would still need to scan a health code and have a recent negative test result to access public toilets.

Protests erupted over the past week in residential compounds in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou over what residents deemed were excessive measures.

Asian Faiths Try to Save Sacred Swastika Corrupted by Hitler

Sheetal Deo was shocked when she got a letter from her Queens apartment building’s co-op board calling her Diwali decoration “offensive” and demanding she take it down.

“My decoration said ‘Happy Diwali’ and had a swastika on it,” said Deo, a physician, who was celebrating the Hindu festival of lights.

The equilateral cross with its legs bent at right angles is a millennia-old sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that represents peace and good fortune. Indigenous people worldwide used it similarly.

But in the West, this symbol is often equated to Adolf Hitler’s hakenkreuz or the hooked cross – a symbol of hate that evokes the trauma of the Holocaust and the horrors of Nazi Germany. White supremacists, neo-Nazi groups and vandals have continued to use Hitler’s symbol to stoke fear and hate.

Over the past decade, as the Asian diaspora grew in North America, calls to reclaim the swastika as a sacred symbol became louder. These minority faith communities are being joined by Native Americans whose ancestors used it in healing rituals.

Deo believes she and people of other faiths shouldn’t have to sacrifice or apologize for a sacred symbol simply because it is often conflated with its tainted version.

“To me, that’s intolerable,” she said.

Yet to others, redeeming the swastika is unthinkable.

Holocaust survivors could be re-traumatized by the symbol that represents a “concept that stood for the annihilation of an entire people” and the horrors they experienced, said Shelley Rood Wernick, managing director of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Center on Holocaust Survivor Care. Her grandparents met at a displaced persons’ camp in Austria after World War II.

“I recognize the swastika as a symbol of hate,” she said.

Steven Heller, author of Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?, said it is “a charged symbol for so many whose loved ones were criminally and brutally murdered.” Heller’s great-grandfather perished during the Holocaust.

“A rose by any other name is a rose,” he said. “For many, it creates a visceral impact.”

The symbol itself dates back to prehistoric times. The word “swastika” has Sanskrit roots and means “the mark of well being.” It has been used in Hindu prayers, carved into the Jains’ emblem, marked Buddhist temple locations, and represented the four elements for Zoroastrians.

The symbol is ubiquitous in India today. It also has been found in the Roman catacombs as well as various places in Greece, Iran, Ethiopia, Spain and Ukraine.

The symbol was revived during the 19th century excavations in the ancient city of Troy by a German archaeologist, who connected it to Aryan culture. Historians believe this is what made it appealing to the Nazi Party, which adopted it in 1920.

In North America, in the early 20th century, swastikas made their way into architectural features, military insignia and team logos. Coca-Cola issued a swastika pendant. The Boy Scouts awarded badges with the symbol until 1940.

The Rev. T.K. Nakagaki said he was shocked when he heard the swastika referred to as a “universal symbol of evil” at an interfaith conference. The New York-based Buddhist priest thinks of swastikas as synonymous with temples.

In his 2018 book titled The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate, Nakagaki posits that Hitler referred to it as the hooked cross or hakenkreuz.

“You cannot call it a symbol of evil or (deny) other facts that have existed for hundreds of years, just because of Hitler,” said Nakagaki, who believes more dialogue is needed.

The Coalition of Hindus of North America is among several faith groups leading the effort to differentiate the swastika from the hakenkreuz. They supported a new California law that criminalizes the public display of it, making an exception for the sacred swastika.

Pushpita Prasad, a spokesperson for the Hindu group, called it a victory, but said the legislation unfortunately labels both the sacred symbol and Hitler’s as swastikas.

It’s led to self-censorship. Vikas Jain, a Cleveland physician, said his family hid images containing the symbol when they had visitors because of the lack of understanding. Jain says he stands in solidarity with the Jewish community, but is sad that he cannot freely practice his Jain faith.

Before WWII, the name “Swastika” was popular in North America, including for housing subdivisions in Miami and Denver, an upstate New York hamlet and a street name in Ontario. Some have been renamed while others continue to carry it.

The Oregon Geographic Names Board will soon vote to rename Swastika Mountain in Umpqua National Forest.

The mountain’s name, taken from a nearby ranch that used a swastika cattle brand, made news in January when hikers were rescued off the butte, said Kerry Tymchuk, the Oregon Historical Society’s director. A Eugene resident questioned the name, spurring the vote, he said.

For the Navajo people, the symbol represents the universe and life, said Patricia Anne Davis, an elder of the Choctaw and Dineh nations. She said Hitler took a spiritual symbol “and made it twisted.”

In the early 20th century, traders encouraged Native artists to use it on their crafts. After it became a Nazi symbol, several tribes banned it.

“I understand the wounds and trauma that Jewish people experience when they see that symbol,” Davis said. “All I can do is affirm its true meaning. …It’s time to restore the authentic meaning.”

Jeff Kelman, a New Hampshire-based Holocaust historian, believes the hakenkreuz and swastika were distinct. Kelman, who takes this message to Jewish communities, is optimistic about the symbol’s redemption.

“When they learn an Indian girl could be named Swastika and she could be harassed in school, they understand how they should see these as two separate symbols,” he said. “No one in the Jewish community wants to see Hitler’s legacy continue to harm people.”

Greta Elbogen, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor whose family members were killed at Auschwitz, said learning the swastika is sacred to so many is a blessing and feels liberating. Elbogen, born in 1938 when the Nazis forcibly annexed Austria, went into hiding in Hungary before immigrating to the U.S.

Elbogen said she no longer fears the symbol: “It’s time to let go of the past and look to the future.”

For many, the swastika evokes a visceral reaction unlike any other, said Mark Pitcavage, an Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism researcher who maintains the group’s hate symbols database.

The ADL explains the sanctity of the swastika in many faiths and cultures, but Pitcavage said Hitler polluted the symbol: “While I believe it is possible to create some awareness, I don’t think that its association with the Nazis can be completely eliminated.”

China’s Xi Unwilling to Accept Vaccines Despite Threat From Protests, US Says

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is unwilling to accept Western vaccines despite the challenges China is facing with COVID-19, and while recent protests there are not a threat to Communist Party rule, they could affect his personal standing, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Saturday.

Although China’s daily COVID cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen testing and quarantine rules after Xi’s zero-COVID policy triggered a sharp economic slowdown and public unrest.

Haines, speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California, said that despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi “is unwilling to take a better vaccine from the West, and is instead relying on a vaccine in China that’s just not nearly as effective against omicron.”

“Seeing protests and the response to it is countering the narrative that he likes to put forward, which is that China is so much more effective at government,” Haines said.

“It’s, again, not something we see as being a threat to stability at this moment, or regime change or anything like that,” she said, while adding: “How it develops will be important to Xi’s standing.”

China has not approved any foreign COVID vaccines, opting for those produced domestically, which some studies have suggested are not as effective as some foreign ones. That means easing virus prevention measures could come with big risks, according to experts.

The White House said earlier in the week that China had not asked the United States for vaccines.

One U.S. official told Reuters there was “no expectation at present” that China would approve western vaccines.

“It seems fairly far-fetched that China would greenlight Western vaccines at this point. It’s a matter of national pride, and they’d have to swallow quite a bit of it if they went this route,” the official said.

Haines also said North Korea recognized that China was less likely to hold it accountable for what she said was Pyongyang’s “extraordinary” number of weapons tests this year.

Amid a record year for missile tests, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week his country intends to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force.

Speaking on a later panel, Admiral John Aquilino, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said China had no motivation to restrain any country, including North Korea, that was generating problems for the United States.

“I’d argue quite differently that it’s in their strategy to drive those problems,” Aquilino said of China.

He said China had considerable leverage to press North Korea over its weapons tests, but that he was not optimistic about Beijing “doing anything helpful to stabilize the region.”

Polynesian Pride: 3-Day Canoe Voyage in Mid-Pacific

The causes are worthy, the course is daunting – almost 500 kilometers across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean in a large canoe.

It’s the Hoki Mai Challenge, which started Saturday in Rapa Nui, a territory in the Pacific that is part of Chile and is better known as Easter Island.

The event consists of a canoe voyage in which nine Rapanuis, two Chileans and one Hawaiian seek to raise awareness about the importance of women in the world, urge protection of the environment, and celebrate the union of the islands of Polynesia.

The 12 athletes have been training six days a week since mid-September, preparing for a voyage that will take them from Rapa Nui to Motu Motiro Hiva, another island in the mid-Pacific that belongs to Chile.

“It won’t be easy,” said Gilles Bordes, coordinator of Hoki Mai. “Three days and three nights.”

Bordes moved to Rapa Nui earlier this year, but he has lived in Polynesia for three decades, devoting much of his time to rowing.

“I am very grateful to all the Tahitians for teaching me their culture and how to row,” he said. “I came from France, but they accepted me and allowed me to share this with them.”

Hoki Mai pursues three goals. The first is to honor canoeing in Polynesia, which has been practiced for centuries. The second relates to the environment. Motu Motiro Hiva — also called Salas y Gómez — is an uninhabited island, but its land and the surrounding waters have been affected by pollution.

The third purpose relates to gender equality. The team will carry a small female moai – one of the ancient statues for which Easter Island is famous — to raise awareness about the importance of women in the world. A bigger statue — carved by a local artisan for Hoki Mai — will be taken to Motu Motiro Hiva in March.

During the voyage, rowing will be done in relays: groups of six will row for about four hours, then be replaced by the next shift. Those who need to rest will do so in a Chilean navy ship escorting the canoe.

“The training has been hard, especially for those of us who are less experienced,” said Konturi Atan, a 36-year-old historian.

Atan said a crewmember invited him to join a few months ago while he was out paddling a one-person canoe.

“He told me: I need you to come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help us; we’re lacking enough people to train,” said Atan, who rowed with them, shared a meal, then agreed to join the challenge.

On training days, they often started before dawn to get accustomed to the darkness they will face during much of the Hoki Mai.

“We practiced rowing at night, we practiced getting little sleep, we practiced training every day. Gym, rowing, gym, rowing, gym, rowing. Except for Sunday, when we rest,” Atan said.

Spirituality and sacredness are pervasive in Rapa Nui, including cooking rituals and songs about their history. Sports also incorporate spirituality.

Several days before the trip, the canoe built for Hoki Mai was blessed with a “umu,” which involves cooking underground with hot stones in a sacred ceremony.

“We did it with a white chicken,” Atan said. “It is something spiritual. Eating a piece is a connection to our roots.”

Their cultural legacy is also linked to the moai, like the one they’ll carry with them to Motu Motiro Hiva.

The moai are perhaps the most recognizable symbols of Rapa Nui.

Carved in volcanic stone between 1000 and 1600 AD from the slopes of the Rano Raraku volcano, they represent the ancestors of the various clans whose descendants still inhabit Rapa Nui. They were placed on ceremonial platforms called “ahus” with their torsos facing the island to provide protection. They attracted international attention in October after a fire damaged dozens of them.

Ahus were built in some other places in Polynesia, but moais are exclusive to Rapa Nui. The bond between neighboring islands is still strong. Rapa Nui, Tahiti, Hawaii and even New Zealand share language similarities and other features.

Now, with Hoki Mai, there’s also an expectation that those ties expand beyond Polynesia. That’s why the Rapanui and the Hawaiian will row with two “continental” Chileans, as the locals identify those who come from the Chilean mainland in South America.

“The idea of the canoe is also union,” said Gilles Bordes. “Six people doing the same thing to go forward. The union of cultures. That is why people from Chile are going to row, to show that together we can move towards a better future.”

У КМДА розповіли, як забезпечуватиметься водопостачання у столиці в разі блекауту

Питну воду та воду для інших потреб доставлятимуть до пунктів обігріву. Влада столиці вже відпрацювала з комунальними службами схеми транспортування цистерн із водою

WHO Chief: More than 8,500 COVID Deaths Last Week 

The director-general of the World Health Organization said Friday that due to COVID-19 “more than 8,500 people lost their lives last week — which is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last Saturday marked the anniversary of WHO’s announcement of COVID-19’s omicron variant, which he said “has proved to be significantly more transmissible than its predecessor, delta, and continues to cause significant mortality due to the intensity of transmission.”

The WHO chief said omicron has evolved and there are now “over 500 sublineages of omicron circulating” and all of them are “highly transmissible” and “have mutations that enable them to escape built-up immunity more easily.”

While WHO believes the world is “closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over,” Tedros said, “we are not there yet,” despite WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world’s population has some form of COVID immunity, due to infection of vaccination.

Tedros warned that, “Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality.”

For Many Hawaiians, Lava Flows Are a Time to Honor, Reflect

When Willette Kalaokahaku Akima-Akau looks out at the the lava flowing from Mauna Loa volcano and makes an offering of gin, tobacco and coins, she will be taking part in a tradition passed down from her grandfather and other Native Hawaiians as a way to honor both the natural and spiritual worlds.

Akima-Akau said she plans to take her grandchildren with her and together they will make their offerings and chant to Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire, who her grandfather used to pay reverence to as a kupuna, a word that can mean ancestor.

“This is the time for our kupuna, for our people, and for our children to come and witness what is happening as history is being made every day,” she said, adding that today’s experiences will be added to the next generation’s stories, songs, dances and chants.

For many Native Hawaiians, an eruption of a volcano like Mauna Loa has a deep yet very personal cultural significance. For many it can be an opportunity to feel a connection with creation itself through the way lava gives birth to new land, as well as a time to reflect on their own place in the world and the people who came before them.

“A volcanic eruption is a physical manifestation of so many natural and spiritual forces for Hawaiians,” said Ilihia Gionson, a Hawaii Tourism Authority spokesperson who is Native Hawaiian and lives on the Big Island. “People who are unfamiliar with that should understand that it’s a very personal, very significant thing.”

To be sure, not all Native Hawaiians will feel the need to make a trek to see the lava, but among those who do, some may chant, some may pray to ancestors and some may honor the moment with hula, or dance.

“Some people may be moved to just kind of observe in silence, meditate, you know, commune with their higher power or their kupuna in their own ways,” Gionson said.

Kainani Kahaunaele said as a Native Hawaiian, she feels moved to honor the moment and will take her children, nieces, nephews and close friends as close to the lava flow as possible. There they will chant to Pele.

“Our hookupu will be our voice,” she said, using the Hawaiian word for offering. “It’s not for any kind of show. It’s a connection that we’re making to Pele, to the land, to Mauna Loa.”

Many Hawaiians are practicing family traditions that have been passed down from elders.

Akima-Akau, who lives in Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island, remembers hearing stories about how her grandfather would fly from Maui or Oahu whenever there was a Big Island lava flow to honor Pele.

“He would jump on a plane and come to Hawaii Island to give his hookupu,” offerings of gin, silver dollars and tobacco, she said.

Her grandfather died before she was born, so she doesn’t know exactly why he chose those items, but he wasn’t alone. She said she grew up knowing others who offered the same items, so that is what her family will bring. She said the children will offer Pele a ti leaf lei.

Hawaiians have different relationships with the spirituality of lava, said Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kealoha Pisciotta. To Pisciotta, the lava “brings good mana” — which can mean supernatural or divine power — “and cleanses where it needs cleansing.”

There are also different relationships and connections to Pele, who some refer to as a god or goddess. Pele has great significance in Hawaiian culture, representing all the phenomena related to volcanoes — the magma, steam, ash, acid rain.

“Her primary form is the lava, not necessarily that she is a female, human person. But the image of her function is creation, which happens to be a very feminine image,” said Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻole, a cultural practitioner in Hilo.

Pisciotta calls her “Tutu Pele,” using the word for grandparent, because deities “are more ancient than we are.”

Manua Loa’s spectacular show is drawing thousands of people seeking nighttime views of the lava flowing down the mountain’s northeast flank, clogging the main east-west road on the island. Among them are those coming to pay their respects, leaving altars or shrines along the roadway.

Cultural practitioners like Pisciotta want lava gawkers to be mindful of those who are chanting, praying or gathering in ceremonies amid the eruption: “Give them some space and respect.”

“If a person doing something wants to invite somebody to participate or watch, there will be an invitation,” said Gionson, the tourism official. “And if not, respect that and keep a respectful distance.”

So far, the tourism authority hasn’t received any complaints about people getting in the way of cultural practices, he said, adding that the agency focuses on educating tourists in general about being respectful and behaving appropriately when visiting the islands.

Kahaunaele, who teaches Hawaiian language and music at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus and planned to gather with her family on Thursday night, knows that visitors to the island might be curious when they see and hear her family chanting.

“Don’t film us. Don’t even ask for permission, just don’t,” she said. “That even goes for locals. Don’t infringe upon anybody else’s moment.”

China Eases Some COVID Restrictions Following Protests

Days after protests erupted in China over the country’s strict zero-COVID policy, there are signs the government is beginning to ease its testing requirements and quarantine rules in some cities, but it is unclear whether the measures will go far enough to appease those who have been in lockdown for so long.

Some called for more protests in China this weekend, but it remains to be seen if people will take to the streets like they did last weekend, when demonstrations broke out in more than 20 cities in a display of civil disobedience rarely seen in China.

“It’s hard to predict” what will happen this weekend, Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA’s Mandarin Service.

Few people last weekend had been expecting to see Chinese residents “come out onto the streets in cities across the country, unmasked and calling for an end to lockdowns,” she said.

“The authorities have certainly made clear that they don’t want more of those — both by dispersing, surveilling and detaining some people, but also by agreeing in some areas to some relaxations on COVID-19 restrictions,” Richardson said.

Chinese officials said this week they are taking steps to ease coronavirus restrictions. While officials did not publicly mention the protesters, the move was widely seen as an effort to ease public anger over the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and head off any more demonstrations.

Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who heads the country’s coronavirus response efforts, said during a panel discussion with health workers on Wednesday that China would take “small steps” to relax its COVID-19 policy.

She said the country is facing a “new reality” as the omicron variant poses less of a threat than previous variants.

Several Chinese cities, including Guangzhou in the south and Shijiazhuang in the north said they were easing testing requirements and restrictions on movement. In the capital, Beijing, some neighborhoods said they would allow people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to quarantine at home instead of in government facilities, according to state-run media.

CNN reported Friday that Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged frustration within his country over the government’s strict COVID policies.

The news outlet quoted a European Union official who requested anonymity who said Xi told visiting European Council President Charles Michel in Beijing on Thursday that the protesters were “mainly students” who were frustrated by the government’s COVID-19 measures.

The Chinese leader hinted at the potential relaxation of the measures, saying that the omicron variant is less deadly than the delta variant, according to CNN.

Joe Mazur, a senior analyst at Beijing-based consulting firm Trivium China, wrote on Twitter on Friday that he and his colleagues are “convinced major shift is finally happening in China’s approach to COVID.”

He said the government is taking several steps that would indicate a true policy shift, including downplaying the seriousness of omicron, ramping up vaccination efforts, and allowing people with certain mild COVID-19 cases to quarantine at home.

A top World Health Organization official said Friday the agency was pleased to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions. Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies executive director, said, “It’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.”

He said China could boost its immunization coverage by using imported messenger RNA vaccines, like those made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna.

China has not yet authorized any foreign-made vaccines, which have been found to be highly effective. The country has struggled to vaccinate its elderly population, with only two-thirds of the people 80 and older are fully vaccinated, according to China’s National Health Commission.

Despite Chinese officials signaling a shift in policy, many of the COVID-19 restrictions that brought people into the streets to demonstrate this past week remain in force. It remains to be seen whether the moves by the government will go far enough to appease those frustrated by lengthy lockdowns and widespread testing.

Police patrolled the streets in major Chinese cities in an effort to head off any more protests. Notes on social media said people were being stopped at random by police who were checking their phones, possibly looking for any signs that they were supporting the protests.

An unknown number of people were detained in the recent demonstrations. Richardson said it is “virtually impossible to know at this point” how many protesters have been detained, on what charges they were brought in, and how they are being treated.

A Shanghai resident who participated in a vigil last Saturday to commemorate those who died in a fire in the western Xinjiang region told VOA he witnessed police arresting multiple people.

The fire in Urumqi was what initially spawned the protests across China, with many saying the victims in the burning building were blocked by locked doors and other anti-infection controls. Chinese officials have denied the doors were blocked and blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking the fire to the strict COVID-19 measures.

The Shanghai vigil eyewitness, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told VOA Mandarin, “The police were arresting people in my face because I was always in the front row of the crowd. I was never targeted by them, just luck.”

Asked why he participated in the vigil, he said, “I happened to see it and felt that I had to participate because this is my responsibility as a citizen.”

John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told VOA that the United States has consistently supported the right of people to protest around the world.

The fundamental right for citizens is “to be able to freely assemble without fear, without intimidation, certainly without violence, to protest, to make their voices heard on issues that matter to them,” he said.

A bipartisan group of more than 40 U.S. senators warned China on Thursday against any violent crackdown on peaceful protesters saying there would be “grave consequences” for such actions.

While most of the protesters across China have focused their frustrations on the government’s anti-COVID policies, some have also demanded the resignation of President Xi.

China’s zero-COVID policy has been a signature policy of President Xi since the pandemic began. The country’s state media has touted the government’s political system under Xi as one of the main reasons China has been so successful in preventing COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The zero-COVID policy aims to isolate every infected person and has helped China to keep its case numbers, as a percentage of its overall population, lower than those in the United States.

As a result, millions of Chinese have been confined to their homes for up to four months. The policy has also had economic ramifications, including affecting global supply chains. Beijing’s target economic growth for 2022 was 5.5%, but by the end of September the country’s economy had grown only 3.9%.

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

Funding Gaps Hinder Family Planning in Nigeria

The U.N. said this month that the world’s population reached 8 billion people, and more than half of the population growth up to 2050 would come from eight countries, five of them in Africa. In that time span, Nigeria is expected to double its population to 400 million people to become the world’s third most populous nation. Experts warn that without proper planning, such growth would be unsustainable, as Timothy Obiezu reports from Abuja, Nigeria. Videographer: Emeka Gibson

Prince William, Like His Father, Prioritizes the Environment

Britain’s Prince William capped a three-day visit to Boston by meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, ahead of announcing his Earthshot Prize environmental award winners at a gala event.

The Prince of Wales shook hands with Biden and spoke quietly in the winter cold near the water outside of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum. He also met Caroline Kennedy, the late president’s daughter, and told her that the stories of the Earthshot Prize winners were an inspiration.

William once again paid homage to President Kennedy, “the man who inspired our mission,” and said the “game-changing” solutions were being offered to protect the planet.

Kennedy’s legacy loomed large during the visit by William and his wife, Kate. William named his environmental award the Earthshot Prize, drawing inspiration from Kennedy’s moonshot speech that mobilized the nation in 1962 by declaring astronauts would set foot on the moon before decade’s end.

William became heir apparent less than three months ago with his grandmother’s death, but he was already crowned Britain’s chief environmentalist.

During his visit to Boston, William drew praise for his drawing attention to pollution and climate change and the need to scale up solutions to address them. Those efforts were culminating Friday evening, when the five winners of the royal couple’s Earthshot Prize for environmental innovators were to be announced.

“I just appreciate that they are using platform and publicity to bring attention to meaningful climate work,” said Joe Christo, who is managing director of Stone Living Lab, which researches nature-based approaches to climate adaptation, and was among those who met the royal couple at Boston Harbor on Thursday.

“I do know his dad is a big environmentalist,” he said. “He seems to be doing a great job continuing that legacy.”

The Earthshot Prize offers 1 million pounds ($1.2 million) in prize money to each of the winners of five separate categories: nature protection, clean air, ocean revival, waste elimination, and climate change. The winners and all 15 finalists also receive help in expanding their projects to meet global demand.

The winners were to be announced at Boston’s MGM Music Hall as part of a glitzy show headlined by Billie Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding, and Chloe x Halle. The show will also feature videos narrated by naturalist David Attenborough and actor Cate Blanchett.

William is following in the footsteps of his environmentally minded grandfather Prince Philip — the late husband of Queen Elizabeth II — and more recently his father and Elizabeth’s successor, King Charles III.

In his capacity as prince, Charles was for decades one of Britain’s most prominent environmental voices, blasting the ills of pollution. Last year, he stood before world leaders at a U.N. climate conference in Scotland and suggested the threats posed by climate change and biodiversity loss were no different than those posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But now that he is king, Charles is expected to be more careful with his words and must stay out of politics and government policy, in accordance with the traditions of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. This year, he did not attend the U.N. climate conference in Egypt.

The caution presents an opportunity for William to step into that role as the royal family’s environmental advocate and speak more forcefully about the issues once associated with his father.

There is no better example than the Earthshot Prize.

“It’s a huge deal to Prince William,” Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty Magazine. “He knows he can attract attention from the most important people. That really is the core of the Boston trip.”

After attending a welcome event Wednesday at City Hall and then a Boston Celtics game, the royal couple spent much of Thursday hearing about the threats of climate change and solutions in the works.

They got a firsthand look at some innovations at a green technology startup incubator called Greentown Labs, in Somerville. Among them were solar-powered autonomous boats and low-carbon cement.

“Climate change is a global problem, so it’s so important to have global leaders talking about the importance of taking action,” said Lara Cottingham, vice president of strategy policy and climate impact for Greentown Labs.

William and Kate also chatted with Katherine Dafforn, co-founder of Living Seawalls, an Australian company that designs environmentally friendly ocean infrastructure. “For all of us, time is ticking,” William said.

The couple’s first trip to the U.S. since 2014 is part of the royal family’s efforts to change its international image. After Elizabeth’s death, Charles has made clear that his will be a slimmed-down monarchy, with less pomp and ceremony than its predecessors. William and Kate arrived in Boston on a commercial British Airways flight.

Prayers? Bombs? Hawaii History Shows Stopping Lava Not Easy

Prayer. Bombs. Walls. Over the decades, people have tried all of them to stanch the flow of lava from Hawaii’s volcanoes as it lumbered toward roads, homes and infrastructure.

Now Mauna Loa — the world’s largest active volcano — is erupting again, and lava is slowly approaching a major thoroughfare connecting the Big Island’s east and west sides. And once more, people are asking if anything can be done to stop or divert the flow.

“It comes up every time there’s an eruption and there’s lava heading towards habited areas or highways,” said Scott Rowland, a geologist at the University of Hawaii. “Some people say, ‘Build a wall’ or ‘Board up,’ and other people say, ‘No, don’t!”

Humans have rarely had much success stopping lava and, despite the world’s technological advances, doing so is still difficult and dependent on the force of the flow and the terrain. But many in Hawaii also question the wisdom of interfering with nature and Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire.

Prayers to Pele

Attempts to divert lava have a long history in Hawaii.

In 1881, the governor of Hawaii Island declared a day of prayer to stop lava from Mauna Loa as it headed for Hilo. The lava kept coming.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Princess Regent Lili’uokalani and her department heads went to Hilo and considered ways to save the town. They developed plans to build barriers to divert the flow and place dynamite along a lava tube to drain the molten rock supply.

Princess Ruth Ke’elikōlani approached the flow, offered brandy and red scarves and chanted, asking Pele to stop the flow and go home. The flow stopped before the barriers were built.

More than 50 years later, Thomas A. Jaggar, the founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, asked U.S. Army Air Services to send planes to bomb a Mauna Loa vent to disrupt lava channels.

Lt. Col. George S. Patton, who later became famous as a general in Europe during World War II, directed planes to drop 20 272-kilogram demolition bombs, according to a National Park Service account of the campaign. The bombs each had 161 kilograms of TNT. The planes also dropped 20 smaller bombs that only had black powder charge.

Jagger said the bombing helped to “hasten the end of the flow,” but Howard Stearns, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist onboard the last bombing run, was doubtful. In his 1983 autobiography, he wrote: “I am sure it was a coincidence.”

According to the park service, geologists today also are doubtful the bombing stopped the lava flow, which didn’t end with the bombing. Instead, the flows waned over the next few days and didn’t change paths.

 

Local advises to go with the flow

Rowland said authorities could use a bulldozer to pile a big berm of broken rock in front of Daniel K. Inouye Highway. If the terrain is flat, then lava would pile up behind the wall. But the lava may flow over it, like it did when something similar was attempted in Kapoho town in 1960.

Rapidly moving lava flows, like those from Kilauea volcano in 2018, would be more difficult to stop, he said.

“It would have been really hard to build the walls fast enough for them. And they were heading towards groups of homes. And so you would perhaps be sacrificing some homes for others, which would just be a legal mess,” he said.

He said he believes most people in Hawaii wouldn’t want to build a wall to protect the highway because it would “mess with Pele.”

If lava crosses the highway, Rowland said officials could rebuild that section of the road like they did in 2018 when different routes were covered. There are no current plans to try to divert the flow, a county official said.

Thinking you should physically divert lava is a Western idea rooted in the notion that humans have to control everything, said Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner. She said people need to adjust to the lava, not the other way around.

«Ми пройдемо цей шлях» – митрополит Епіфаній про повернення української молитви до Києво-Печерської лаври

«Мирно, спокійно, впевнено ми пройдемо цей шлях. І в святині нашого народу нарешті зазвучить щоденна молитва рідною мовою – за перемогу, за справедливий мир, за вигнання російських агресорів та за добро для України»

Hawaii Volcano Eruption Threatens Big Island’s Main Transportation Route

The lava flowing from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which is the world’s largest active volcano and erupted this week, is edging closer to the Big Island’s main highway.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported Friday that the main front of the lava flow was 5.2 kilometers away from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, and could possibly reach it in a week.

But the USGS also said that because of the unpredictable nature of lava flows, it’s “difficult to estimate when or if the flow will impact” the highway, which is the island’s main east-west road.

If the main highway is cut off, Hawaii county officials say, traffic will be forced onto coastal roads, crowding them and adding hours onto a trip from Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island, to Kona, a tourist magnet, which takes just 90 minutes on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Talmadge Magno, administrator of Hawaii County’s Civil Defense Agency, told reporters this week that if lava flows onto the highway it would likely take the federal government a few months to get it passable again once the flows halt.

After the eruption on Sunday, the lava initially moved quickly down steep slopes. Over the past day, it reached a flatter area and slowed significantly, moving at just 40 meters per hour. The sight has attracted visitors to the “once in a lifetime” spectacle.

The USGS says many variables influence exactly where the lava will move and at what speed. On flatter ground, lava flows spread out and “inflate” — creating individual lobes that can advance quickly and then stall.

Mauna Loa rises 4,169 meters above the Pacific Ocean, part of a chain of volcanoes that formed the islands of Hawaii. It last erupted in 1984.

For Generation Z, It’s Travel Now, Work Later

Generation Z is the name given to people born between 1997 and 2012, and the oldest of them are well into adulthood. But for many, the traditional signs of adulthood — a steady job and home ownership — aren’t yet part of the plan. Karina Bafradzhian has the story.