World this week
China launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long term, the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years. The Tianhe, or "Heavenly Harmony," module blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan, marking another major advance for the country's space exploration.
The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year. China's space program has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month. Minutes after the launch, the fairing opened to expose the Tianhe atop the core stage of the rocket, with the characters for "China Manned Space" emblazoned on its exterior.
President Joe Biden declared that "America is rising anew" as he called for an expansion of federal programs to drive the economy past the coronavirus pandemic and broadly extend the social safety net on a scale not seen in decades. Biden's nationally televised address to Congress, his first, raised the stakes for his ability to sell his plans to voters of both parties, even if Republican lawmakers prove resistant.
In the address, Biden pointed optimistically to the nation's emergence from the coronavirus scourge as a moment for America to prove that its democracy can still work and maintain primacy in the world. Speaking in highly personal terms while demanding massive structural changes, the president marked his first 100 days in office by proposing a $1.8 trillion investment in children, families and education to help rebuild an economy devastated by the virus and compete with rising global competitors.
The first exit polls released after polling finally ended in the mammoth eight-phase assembly election of West Bengal in India predicted a stunning return to power and a third consecutive term for Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC). The ABP-C-Voter exit poll survey predicted TMC would capture 152-64 seats in the 294-seat Assembly. In Assam, the India Today-Axis My India voter survey has predicted a return to power for the BJP with 75-80 seats.
In the southern states, the Left Democratic Front is likely to beat anti-incumbency and retain power in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK-Congress alliance is predicted to upstage the ruling AIADMK-BJP alliance. In Puducherry, the smallest of the five states that willl see official results announced on May 2, the Republic-CNX voter survey predicted victory for BJP-led NDA in the 30-seat assembly winning upto 20. But the biggest prize at stake was unquestionably West Bengal, where the BJP has surged in recent years and its top leadership, I.e. Modi-Shah, threw everything into the effort to wrestle power from Banerjee. But 'Didi' may yet have prevailed.
Glaciers are melting faster, losing 31% more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, according to three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world's mountain glaciers. Using 20 years of recently declassified satellite data, scientists calculated that the world's 220,000 mountain glaciers are losing more than 328 billion tons (298 billion metric tons) of ice and snow per year since 2015, according to a study in Nature. That's enough melt flowing into the world's rising oceans to put Switzerland under almost 24 feet (7.2 meters) of water each year.
The annual melt rate from 2015 to 2019 is 78 billion more tons (71 billion metric tons) a year than it was from 2000 to 2004. Global thinning rates, different than volume of water lost, doubled in the last 20 years and "that's enormous," said Romain Hugonnet, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich and the University of Toulouse in France who led the study.
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