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Four astronauts arrive at International Space Station for historic SpaceX-NASA mission

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The four-astronaut team aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft safely arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) late Monday night after having taken off on Sunday.

This mission funded by NASA called Crew-1 is set to break a few records, said NASA officials. Not only is this the first full-length mission that the company SpaceX will conduct for NASA, but this will also potentially be the longest-length human mission that has ever been launched from U.S. territory.

The current record-holder is a Skylab mission from 45 years ago that saw a 84-day stay. It goes without mentioning, too, that this is only the second time that SpaceX has launched humans and not empty spaceships that are piloted remotely into space.

The spacecraft, named Resilience, docked safely at the famous low-Earth orbit station at around 11 pm (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday after sailing toward the facility and locking onto one of the ports on the station’s central module. The four astronauts, who had been in the vehicle for almost more than 30 hours, disembarked from the vehicle two hours after arriving so that a series of diagnostics for safety could be performed and they were smiling when they exited the spacecraft.

SpaceX tweeted the news about Resilience successfully docking at the ISS Monday night, writing, “Docking confirmed – Crew Dragon has arrived at the @space_station!”

The four astronauts included Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker from NASA, and Soichi Noguchi, an astronaut from Japan’s space agency.

One story from this trip to the ISS that has been gathering a decent amount of traction in the news reports is that the crew brought along with them a little friend: a plush Baby Yoda doll from the Disney+ show “The Mandalorian” set in the Star Wars fictional universe.

When a SpaceX mission controller told the flight crew that the docking was complete, the mission’s commander, Hopkins, said, “Excellent job, right down the center. SpaceX and NASA, congratulations: This is a new era of operational flights to the International Space Station from the Florida coast.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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China

REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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