China launches four-stage rocket with satellites from Yellow Sea

June 5 (UPI) — China “successfully” sent into orbit a solid-fueled launch vehicle from the Yellow Sea, according to Chinese authorities. China’s National Space Administration stated Wednesday it had launched the Changzheng 11, a four-stage rocket carrying five commercial satellites and two “wind-measuring devices.” The launch comes at a time tensions are escalating with the United States over trade and defense. Over the weekend, China’s defense minister accused Washington of destabilizing the Pacific. The launch marks the first time China used an offshore platform to send the Changzheng 11 into orbit. In January, China launched the same rocket with four satellites. The country has sent the rocket into the atmosphere a total of six times, not including the Wednesday launch. “With the success of this rocket launch, China has filled a technological vacuum,” CNSA said in its statement. China is increasingly using its northeastern waters to test rockets; reports indicate China tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles in Bohai Bay, not far from North Korea, on Sunday. Economic tensions with the United States have yet to subsid...

The murky world of Madagascar’s roaring vanilla trade

This piece is from 1843, our sister magazine of ideas, lifestyle and culture. It was published in the June/July 2019 issue. I follow Felicité Raminisoa and her father, Romain Randiambololona, up a narrow track along the forested slopes of her family’s farm in southern Madagascar. It is lychee season and, as we walk, we break off branches of fruit and peel off the pink, spiky shells. Large yellow jackfruit grow like Chinese lanterns among loquat and clove trees, pepper vines and coffee plants. Sapphire dragonflies flash by as they chase each other over ponds of tilapia dammed into the valley. The air is muggy under the banana leaves but grows fresher as we climb. In all directions we can see vanilla vines winding around tree trunks. Each zigzag stem has been trained so that it grows no higher than Raminisoa can reach. Every so often she stops at a pale-yellow bloom and parts its waxy petals. With a spike snapped from an orange tree, she delicately scrapes away the membrane separating the anther from the stigma in order to pollinate the flower. This is a task that requires perfect timing. Each flower must be pollinated by hand on the morning it blooms or the beans won’t sprout. Th...