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World’s first wooden satellite built by Japan researchers

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The world’s first wooden satellite made from wood and named LignoSat, developed by scientists at Kyoto University and logging company Sumitomo Forestry, is shown during a press conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto on May 28

The world’s first wooden satellite has been built by Japanese researchers who said their tiny cuboid craft will be blasted off on a SpaceX rocket in September.Each side of the experimental satellite developed by scientists at Kyoto University and logging company Sumitomo Forestry measures just 10 centimetres (four inches).

The creators expect the wooden material will burn up completely when the device re-enters the atmosphere — potentially providing a way to avoid the generation of metal particles when a retired satellite returns to Earth.

These metal particles could have a negative impact on the environment and telecommunications, the developers said as they announced the satellite’s completion on Tuesday.

“Satellites that are not made of metal should become mainstream,” Takao Doi, an astronaut and special professor at Kyoto University, told a press conference.

The developers plan to hand the satellite, made from magnolia wood and named LignoSat, to space agency JAXA next week.

It will be sent into space on a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in September, bound for the International Space Station (ISS), they said.

From there, the satellite will be released from the Japanese ISS experiment module to test its strength and durability.

“Data will be sent from the satellite to researchers who can check for signs of strain and whether the satellite can withstand huge changes in temperature,” a Sumitomo Forestry spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, a rocket carrying a separate sophisticated satellite — a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and JAXA — blasted off from California on a mission to investigate what role clouds could play in the fight against climate change.

Source: Channels

 

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Russia awaits US response to prisoner swap proposals

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Russia awaits US response to prisoner swap proposals

Russia said Wednesday it was waiting for the United States to respond to its propositions regarding a prisoner swap, days before US reporter Evan Gershkovich was set to face trial in Russia.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 on espionage charges rejected by his family, employer and the White House as false.

President Vladimir Putin said in February that talks on a prisoner swap involving the journalist were underway, but the Kremlin has not given any details on the progress of the negotiations.

“The ball is in the court of the United States, we are waiting for them to respond to the ideas that were presented to them,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia’s state TASS news agency in an interview.

“They are well known to the relevant parts of the US administration. I understand that, perhaps, something in these ideas does not suit the Americans. That’s their problem,” he added.

Gershkovich is set to face a secretive trial in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on June 26 and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Washington has accused Moscow of arresting its citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

Among other US nationals detained in Russia is reporter Alsu Kurmasheva, detained last year for failing to register as a “foreign agent”. Her employers denounced the case against her as politically motivated.

Former US marine Paul Whelan, in prison in Russia since 2018 and serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges, is also pushing to be included in any future prisoner exchange.

Source: The Punch

 

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Seven die in Indian train crash

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Seven die in Indian train crash

At least seven people were killed when an express passenger train and a goods train collided on Monday in India’s West Bengal state, derailing three passenger carriages, police said.

Images on Indian broadcasters showed the tangled wreckage of carriages flipped on their side, and one thrust high into the air precariously balanced on another.

Police said rescuers were scouring the twisted carriages in case there were more bodies trapped beneath.

“We have confirmation of seven deaths and 39 passengers admitted at a local hospital with various injuries,” local police officer Iftikar-Ul-Hassan told AFP.

The incident is the latest to hit India’s creaking rail network, which carries millions of passengers daily.

“We just saw the bodies of a dead driver and a guard… their bodies were taken out,” Rajesh Kumar Singh, from the Railway Protection Force, told AFP.

“Some more bodies may be under the crash site, but we don’t yet know for sure.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to “those who lost their loved ones”, in a post on social media, adding that “rescue operations are underway”.

‘Tragic’

West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called the crash “tragic” in a post on social media.

“Doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery and medical assistance,” Banerjee said. “Action on war footing initiated.”

Banerjee said the crash took place in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district, when the Kanchenjunga Express train was hit by a goods train.

Railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the “injured are being shifted to the hospital”.

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks and has seen several disasters over the years, the worst in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.

In June last year, a three-train collision killed nearly 300 people in Odisha state.

In recent years, India has been investing huge sums of money to upgrade the network with modern stations and electronic signalling systems.

On Sunday, a train crossed for the first time the world’s highest railway bridge — 359 metres (1178 feet) above a river — in India’s Himalayan region, the railways minister Vaishnaw said.

The arch-shaped steel structure over the Chenab River links sections of northern Jammu and Kashmir state, connecting the disputed territory to the rest of India.

Work on the railway track has been ongoing for nearly three decades, and the trial run comes ahead of a formal opening expected within weeks.

Source: The Punch

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US soldier pleads ‘partially’ guilty in Russian theft case

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US soldier pleads ‘partially’ guilty in Russian theft case

A US soldier held in Russia denied threatening a Russian woman with murder while also pleading “partially” guilty to theft in a court in the far eastern city of Vladivostok Monday.

Gordon Black was arrested in early May in Vladivostok, where he was visiting a Russian woman he met and dated while serving in South Korea.
He is the latest US citizen to be held in Russia.

The 34-year-old was detained after the woman, named by Russian media as Alexandra Vashuk, reported him to the police after an argument.

Russian media quoted Black as saying he was “partially guilty” of theft but that it was not premeditated, and that he was “not guilty” of allegedly threatening Vashuk with murder.

Vashuk had accused Black of allegedly stealing some 10,000 rubles (100 euros) from her and said he had physically attacked her.

Black said she had started an argument after drinking.

He said the pair met in October 2022 on the dating app Tinder in South Korea and had dated there, before Vashuk then invited him to come to Vladivostok.

He said he did not plan to take the money and intended to give it back, saying he took it because he could not access from Russia his money, held in a US bank.

The charges carry up to five years in prison.
Black has been kept in pre-trial detention since his arrest in May.

Source: The Punch

 

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

The number of foreign workers and students moving to the United Kingdom has plummeted by nearly 30 per cent this year, according to new figures released by the Home Office.

The drop, from 121,000 to 85,200 in the first five months of this year, aligns with both the Conservative and Labour parties’ promises to reduce net migration.

This marks the largest decline since the pandemic, with skilled workers, students, and health and care visa holders comprising the bulk of migration to the UK.

These three groups, along with their dependents, accounted for a total of 1.13 million visas issued last year.

The Telegraph reports that the decline is largely attributed to measures implemented by the government, including restrictions on foreign workers and students bringing dependants, increased salary thresholds for skilled workers, and curbs on the shortage of occupation visa schemes.

According to the data, net migration stands at 685,000 for the year ending December 2023, down from a record high of 764,000 in the previous year.

The Conservative government aims to reduce immigration by 300,000, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowing to “halve” migration and reduce it further each year if re-elected.

Labour’s manifesto also pledges to reduce net migration, although the party has not specified a target or timeline. The party proposes to link training to immigration, requiring sectors applying for foreign worker visas to first train British citizens.

Home Secretary James Cleverly attributed the decline to his actions, stating, “I took action to drive down legal migration.

“Data released this week show visa applications have dropped 30 per cent amongst key routes. Labour opposed these actions at every opportunity. If you want to reduce migration, vote Conservative on 4th July,” he said in a tweet on his X handle.

The Migration Advisory Committee chairman, Prof Brian Bell, believes the Prime Minister has a “fighting chance” of reducing net migration to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.

The figures indicate a significant drop in visa applications across various categories, including a 25.4 per cent overall decrease in visas for foreign workers, students, and their dependants.

The number of dependents brought in by students fell by nearly 80 per cent, while health and care worker visa applications decreased by 75.6 per cent.

This development comes ahead of the July 4 election, with immigration policy playing a crucial role in the campaigns of both major parties.

Source: The Punch

 

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Biden pledges not to pardon son or reduce his sentence

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US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction on charges of lying about his drug addiction while buying a handgun.

“No,” Biden replied when reporters at a G7 summit press conference in Italy asked if he would commute any sentence that 54-year-old Hunter faces.

“I’m extremely proud of my son Hunter. He has overcome an addiction, he’s one of the brightest, most decent men I know,” Biden said.

“I said I’d abide by the jury decision. I will do that. I will not pardon him,” he said.

In the historic first criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child, a jury on Tuesday found Hunter Biden guilty on three felony counts stemming from his 2018 purchase of a handgun while addicted to crack cocaine.

He could face up to 25 years in prison, though as a first-time offender jail time is unlikely. A date was not set for sentencing but it is expected to take place in the next few months.

Biden said in a statement after the verdict that he loved his sole surviving son — his eldest son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 — and would respect the jury’s conclusion.

But his comments in Italy on Thursday were his first public statement on the verdict.

The day before his Italy trip, Biden, 81, changed his schedule to fly to Wilmington, Delaware, the family hometown where the trial was held.

Hunter Biden was waiting on the tarmac when Marine One landed and was given a warm hug by his father before they left in a motorcade.

The verdict came as Biden faces a tough re-election battle against Donald Trump, who himself recently became the first former president to become a convicted felon.

Trump was found guilty by a New York jury of breaching election law by lying about hush money payments to a porn star.

 

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

The United States said yesterday it was imposing sanctions on more than 300 individuals and entities connected to Russia’s war on Ukraine, including financial institutions, the Moscow Stock Exchange, and Chinese companies.

The announcement came a day before U.S. President Joe Biden joins other Group of Seven (G7) leaders for a summit in the Italian city of Bari, in which the war in Ukraine is set to feature prominently.

The sweeping set of sanctions is chiefly focused on trade, finance, and industry.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions hit “across multiple sectors essential to Russia’s war effort,” including energy, metals, and mining production.

China was singled out for its support of Moscow.

“The United States remains concerned by the scale and breadth of exports from the People’s Republic of China that supply Russia’s military-industrial base,” Blinken’s statement said.

To that end, the U.S. is sanctioning Chinese companies that provide dual-use goods that “fill critical gaps in Russia’s defence production cycle,” he said.

It is not just China, however. Individuals and organisations in countries elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean are also subject to new restrictive measures.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Russia “is deeply isolated from the international financial system, leaving the Kremlin’s military desperate for access to the outside world.”

She said the sanctions go after critical supplies Russia needs from other countries.

Several Russian banks also saw their foreign locations put on blacklists to make it harder for financial transactions to be fulfilled.

Other corners of Russia’s financial infrastructure were hit, including the Moscow Stock Exchange and two subsidiaries, and insurance and reinsurance providers.

Source: The Nation

 

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