Things to know about ‘mysterious objects’ shot down by US
The downing of a huge Chinese balloon off the US coast, followed by the shootdowns of three smaller objects over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron on the US-Canada border has raised concerns about North American security and further strained relations with China.
Here is what we know so far:
– What were the four objects? –
The drama began in late January when a giant Chinese balloon – dubbed a spy craft by American officials – drifted for days through US skies before being shot down on February 4 by an F-22 jet off the South Carolina coast. China insisted the balloon was conducting weather research and had gone astray.
The Pentagon said it had a gondola the size of three buses and was equipped with multiple antennas and had solar panels large enough to power several intelligence-gathering sensors.
It also appeared to be able to steer itself, using winds and possibly a propulsion mechanism, officials said.
Then Friday, US fighter jets downed another object off northern Alaska. It was much smaller than the Chinese balloon, and lacked any system of propulsion or control, officials said.
On Saturday, a US F-22 jet, acting on US and Canadian orders, downed a “high-altitude airborne object” over Canada’s far northwest Yukon territory, saying it posed a threat to civilian flight. Canada described it as cylindrical like and about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
On Sunday Biden ordered US warplanes to down yet another unidentified object over Lake Huron. The object was described as an octagonal structure with strings hanging off it.
It too posed a hazard to civil aviation as it flew at about 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), officials said.
The Pentagon said none of the four objects appeared armed or posed any threat of attack.
Officials would not comment on the origin or function of the three objects that came after the Chinese balloon. Only the balloon has been attributed to Beijing so far.
– What has been recovered? –
Military teams working from planes, boats and minisubs are scouring the shallow waters off South Carolina for the first object, and military images showed the recovery of a large piece of balloon. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking custody of the debris for analysis.
Operations to recover the second object continue on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska. “Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow and limited daylight, are a factor,” the military said.
Recovery teams are searching for debris from the third object in the Yukon, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said Saturday.
The Pentagon said Sunday that US and Canadian teams were preparing an operation to try and recover the fourth object.
– What was the objects’ purpose? –
US officials say the Chinese balloon, which flew over sensitive US nuclear missile sites, had surveillance equipment that could intercept telecommunications.
They said that such balloons skirted US territory at least four times in the past six years, but none had flown deep into US territory.
The balloons were part of a “fleet” operated by China — likely the Chinese military — that has conducted surveillance on some 40 countries over five continents, US officials said.
Speculation was growing about the other objects. US Assistant Secretary of Defense Melissa Dalton said it was known that public and private research bodies launch their own research craft into the atmosphere at those altitudes.
But after decades of investigating some strange sightings by US military pilots that were categorized as “UFOs”, officials were not ready to completely dismiss the idea that aliens or extraterrestrials were the source.
“I haven’t ruled out anything at this point,” said US Northern Command Commander General Glen VanHerck Sunday when asked about that possibility.
– Why so many objects now? –
Dalton said Sunday that after the Chinese balloon was detected, US air defense made adjustments to radar systems to be able to detect smaller and slower-moving objects in the atmosphere.
Analysts said normally US and Canadian intelligence constantly receive huge amounts of raw data, and generally screened some out to focus on the threat of incoming missiles, not slow-moving objects like balloons.
After the radar adjustments, “What we are seeing is very, very small objects that produce a very, very low radar cross section,” said VanHerck.
– What’s the impact on US-China ties? –
The United States scrapped a visit to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, intended to stabilize severely strained relations, and has sanctioned six Chinese entities believed to support military spy balloon programs.
Beijing denounced the first balloon’s downing, saying it “seriously violated international practice.” It reserved the right “to use necessary means to deal with similar situations.”
Dalton said Sunday that after Beijing rejected US overtures for several days, US officials have had “contacts” with China over the balloon. She did not characterize the contacts.
Crystal Palace sack Patrick Vieira after a string of bad results
Patrick Vieira has been sacked as Crystal Palace Football Club manager. He was sacked after a string of poor performances. The club confirmed the sack on its website on Friday. The statement reads below: Crystal Palace Football Club can confirm that Patrick Vieira has left his post as First Team Manager. Three members of Patrick’s coaching staff – Osian Roberts, Kristian Wilson and Saïd Aïgoun – have also left the club. Chairman Steve Parish said: “It is with enormous regret that this difficult decision has been made. Ultimately, results in recent months have placed us in a precarious league position and we felt a change is necessary to give us the best chance of retaining Premier League status.”That said, Patrick’s impact since joining us in the summer of 2021 has been significant, and he is held in the highest regard by myself, and all of his colleagues. He led the team to a Wembley FA Cup semi-final and respectable 12th placed finish last season playing some exciting football, which was a challenging and crucial campaign for the club given the changes we made to the squad prior to his arrival.”Patrick has given his all to the club, and we all thank him and his team for their service.“We also wish Patrick, Osian, Kristian and Saïd the very best for their futures.” The process to appoint a new manager is underway, and we will provide an update in due course. Dean Kiely will remain as goalkeeping coach.
US Tells China-based company to sell TikTok share Or risk ban
The United States has told China-based ByteDance to sell its shares on the TikTok app or risk a national ban, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.Western powers, including the European Union and the United States, have been taking an increasingly tough approach to the app, citing fears user data could be used or abused by Chinese officials.The concern here ramped up earlier this year after a Chinese spy balloon was shot down in US airspace.The White House last week welcomed a bill that would allow President Joe Biden to ban TikTok, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.A bipartisan bill “would empower the United States government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services… in a way that poses risks to Americans’ sensitive data and our national security,” Sullivan said.The Senate bill and the backing of the White House accelerated the political momentum against TikTok, which is also the target of a separate piece of legislation in the US House of Representatives.Appearing tough on China is one of the rare issues with potential for bipartisan support in both the Republican-run House and the Senate, where Biden’s Democratic Party holds a majority.TikTok claims it has more than a billion users worldwide including over 100 million in the US, where it has become a cultural force, especially for young people.
I prepare mentally before every race – Amusan
The current World, Commonwealth and African champion in the 100 m hurdles, Tobi Amusan has given an insight into her successful stink on the track last year.The 25-year-old hurdler had a triumphant outing in 2022 and became the first Nigerian world champion in an athletics event, when she won the 2022 World Championships 100m hurdles gold medal and setting the current world record of 12.12secs.In a video chat with Justin Tuckey, the Ogun-born hurdler said she trained hard and prepared herself mentally before any race, noting that it helped her stay focused.“We put our bodies through six hours of training every day for six days a week. And you can be the fittest person in a race and mentally you just get distracted by the other runners on the tracks. A few moments of that ruin everything. And with my kind of event, you need 100 per cent focus,” Amusan said.So, the mental part is just as important, if not more, because you have done the work by training hard and now you show up at the track. Sometimes, it’s not about who is the toughest. I have been in every championship finals and it’s not about the toughest, but who wants it and can relax and execute in most of the race scenarios.“Most times when I train, I do my little talking in my head to prepare myself mentally. What I do in training is what I do on the tracks. So, when you see me out there, I am not crazy, I do this every day, especially when I have lots of hurdle practices.“I say to myself, ‘you are the best, you have to do it.’ That self-affirmation, like talking in your head, kind of gets you going, but the time you get on the track, I know what to say to calm myself down and not put myself under unnecessary pressure. It’s really important to be mentally tough.”
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