Every Cloud: Death Can Strengthen Social Bonds for Years Afterwards

It has long been acknowledged that death of a loved one can unite people in many different and often unexpected ways – friendships forged, relations reconnected with, etc. Still, the question of how long these bonds last has hitherto remained elusive.
For, while death can strengthen social bonds, once the grieving process is complete, or the event fades from painful emotional prominence, what is there to keep people allied? In instances where death reconnects former pals or alienated kin, there is presumably a risk of subsequent detachment anew as the emotional resonance of an event fades.

Now however, a University of California study of thousands of Facebook friend networks finds a person’s friends and acquaintances remain in tighter contact with each other than before years after someone passes.

Do social networks heal to fill the space left by the death of a friend? Research by William Hobbs & Moira Burke https://t.co/iy5Ke1SPJ5 pic.twitter.com/CkM6Q99YKG
— NatureHumanBehaviour (@NatureHumBehav) April 24, 2017

​The researchers collected anonymized statistics on 15,129 friend networks which had lost someone, and a comparison group of 30,258 networks that hadn’t. To measure interaction, the scientists counted comments, posts, and photo tags.

For each of the deceased, they looked at that person’s “close friends” — defined as individuals they’d interacted with at least once during a 6-month window — and tallied how much those friends interacted with various types of other people. This included close friends of the deceased, less close “acquaintances” — friends whom the deceased had not communicated with in that 6-month window — and “strangers” whom the deceased had no connection to.

In the month immediately after the death, close friends of the deceased interacted with each other about 30 percent more than usual, and with acquaintances of the deceased about 15 percent more than usual. Friend-friend communication died down over the following year, and friend-acquaintance communication died down over a few months. However, even two years later, in both cases interactions per month were still about three percent higher than in the comparison networks. The researchers expressed surprise at the resurged connection enduring so long.

Nonetheless, not all deaths had the same impact. Post-death interactions were more frequent after deaths through cancer and unintentional injuries than other causes, and less frequent after stigmatized causes, such as suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, and liver disease (due to its associations with alcoholism).

Made my kid my Facebook legacy contact. He said that when I pass into the next world,he will update my status to: “Opps.” #proudmom #momlife
— Giovannie Espiritu (@giospirit) April 22, 2017
​The findings come with further caveats. The researchers didn’t analyze what the people in the study wrote to each other, merely measured communication — it could be they engaged in a negative way, with expressions of anger or helplessness, or simply desperate attempts to effectively keep a deceased alive via nostalgia. Moreover, the sample consisted of Californian Facebookers, meaning the results may not be extrapolated to the wider population.
Facebook has a “legacy contact” option?! That’s actually kind of disturbing. Choose who can view your profile and make changes once you pass
— Alyssa Nicole (@alyssapelkey) April 22, 2017
​Still, the research is unique for its focus on entire social networks, rather than individuals or small groups. The researchers believe it important to recognize humans naturally grieve in broader social contexts — understanding collective behaviors could help shape them to further increase resilience to traumatic events.

For instance, this study shows young people are more fluid in forming new bonds. Older mourners, and those grieving over a stigmatized death, may need active encouragement to reach out. Moreover, it may be the case the best way to reconnect with individuals, and maintain that reconnection, is to take relationships offline as much as possible.

(Source: sputniknews)

China in talks with Europe to collaborate on moon village construction

China is in talks with the European Space Agency regarding the construction of a moon village, Tian Yulong, chief engineer at the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense and secretary general of China National Space Administration (CNSA), disclosed in Xi’an on April 24.

Deep space exploration is key to China’s space development, Tian stated on China Space Day 2017. Tian added that the Chang’E-5 mission, to be carried out by the end of 2017, will achieve the major task of collecting samples from the moon and then returning to Earth. The Chang’e-4 mission in 2018 will land on the far side of the moon and explore the physical environment and mineral resources in that area – an unprecedented accomplishment for humankind.

In addition, Tian said that the next step for China’s space development is to create a safer, more reliable and economical aircraft, making it more convenient to send people into space. Already, China has started developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle and establishing a transportation system to achieve this goal.

“The cost of flying into and out of space must be reduced if we want to achieve this goal. If the price were around 50,000 RMB ($7,261) for one trip, it would be within reach for ordinary people, and we are now trying to make that a reality,” said Bao Weimin, director of the science and technology committee under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

China’s homegrown helicopter completes test flight over Qinghai plateau

China’s domestically made helicopter AC311A completed a test flight in the mountainous Delingha, Qinghai province on April 24. The aircraft withstood conditions of high altitude, low-oxygen air and harsh weather.

“The helicopter’s entrance to central and western China, especially the Qinghai plateau, aimed to provide an opportunity for people there to have close contact with the high-performance aircraft,” said Xu Wei, vice president of AVIC Changhe Aircraft Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. The choice to complete a test flight on the plateau was also intended to showcase the helicopter’s ability to cope with special climate and geographical conditions, Xu added.

The test flight lasted about two hours, and the helicopter climbed nearly 1,800 meters from an altitude of 2,900 meters. With a highest operating altitude of 4,700 meters, the plane successfully took off from and landed on the 4,100-meter-high Laha Lake tourist area.

The test flight was carried out to further expand the company’s market share of police and civil helicopters in central and western China.

Wild giant panda wanders into Shaanxi nature reserve

A wild giant panda in Yang County, northwestern China’s Shaanxi province wandered into Changqing National Nature Reserve on April 21.

After encountering the panda, a security guard named Chen Baozhong fed it some bamboo shoots he collected. A group of visitors passed by 20 minutes later and took photos with the panda. Surprisingly, the animal was neither shy nor scared when faced with such a big crowd. Nevertheless, security guards carefully maintained order and kept some distance between the visitors and the panda.

According to Chen, the panda didn’t leave immediately after it finished eating. Instead, it remained where it was and slept for about half an hour.

“This wasn’t the first time. We have seen wild pandas a few times before,” said one employee at the reserve.

Zhao Naxun, a senior engineer at the reserve, explained that April and May are the months when pandas search for bamboo shoots in low-elevation areas (1,200 meters), where humans often live. When the bamboo in higher-elevation zones (2,000 meters) becomes ripe, the pandas also go to those places, Zhao said. Pandas normally change routes when they smell human scents, but they are always easy to spot because of the loud noise they make when eating the shoots.

A total of 345 pandas currently live on the nearby Mount Qin.

Scientists identify ‘Super Earth’ that could contain water

According to Nature magazine and Space.com, scientists recently discovered a “Super Earth,” a rocky planet that might contain water in liquid form. It could be the best chance of finding life outside the solar system.

Thousands of planets have been considered during the past two decades, but most failed to meet the requirements for a Super Earth. Most planets’ temperatures are either too high or too low to mimic the natural environment of Earth. Even the TRAPPIST-1 system, which has seven terrestrial planets, cannot support life due to frequent and strong radiation.

This time, an M dwarf named LHS 1140 has been identified by Jason A. Dittmann and his colleagues from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics using a MEarth-South telescope array. The planet is 39 light years away from the sun, and scientists have also noted that LHS 1140b transits LHS 1140, suggesting that its circular orbit might have existed at the time it was formed.

The mass of the planet is estimated to be 6.6 times that of Earth, consistent with a rocky bulk composition. Because of mild “sunlight” and low radiation, the planet sits in the habitable zone of its parent star, and water may exist on its surface.

Dittmann said this is the most exciting exoplanet he has seen in the past decade, and he will collect data about its atmosphere using the Hubble Space Telescope. According to the research team, LHS 1140b is detectable using existing telescopes since its parent star is small and not far from Earth. Astronomers hope to soon prove the existence of an atmosphere surrounding the planet.

Odd! Man awaits ‘auspicious’ death in grave, saved by police

A man from Guang’an, Sichuan province climbed into the grave he dug for himself on March 23 – a date he had been told by a fortune teller would be auspicious. He then proceeded to remain in the grave until he was rescued by local police and sent to hospital.

The man, Xiang Chaojie, is 72 years old. He has been suffering from esophageal cancer for several years. Though he received treatment, his condition continued to deteriorate. In the last year, Xiang asked a fortune teller about his death. The latter told him it would fall on the “auspicious” day of March 23, 2017. As a result, Xiang dug himself a grave on the mountain behind his house and patiently waited for that day to come. He even left several possessions to his friends, telling everyone he knew that he would die on that day.

When the day came, nobody other than Xiang believed the prophecy would come true. Nonetheless, his niece worried about his safety and went to visit him around 9 a.m. When she found his house vacant, she went to her uncle’s grave and saw a man lying inside. Panicking, she called the police.

Police confirmed that the man inside the grave was none other than Xiang, but he didn’t respond to their calls. Several onlookers spoke up, urging police to respect Xiang’s wishes, but the police insisted on confirming Xiang’s condition.
After entering the grave, the officers found Xiang still alive. They later extracted him from the hole and sent him to the hospital. Xiang told police he had been drinking before he entered the grave, and it was probably the alcohol that had caused him to fall asleep. He promised to cooperate with his doctor and live the rest of his life to the fullest.

China anticipates 680 billion RMB reduction of tax after 1 year of VAT reform

China is expected to reduce taxes by 680 billion RMB ($98.74 billion) by April 30, after comprehensively replacing business tax with value added tax (VAT) for one year, said Wang Jun, head of the country’s State Administration of Taxation, on April 13.

Wang said at the fourth meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on VAT that China has achieved a total tax reduction of 1.2 trillion RMB between January 2012, when the country began its pilot VAT reform, and February 2017. In addition to tax reduction, Wang said China’s VAT reform has also promoted adjustment of the economic structure, stimulated innovation and entrepreneurship, accelerated financial and taxation reform, and normalized market order.

According to Wang, China’s VAT reform involves nearly 16 million enterprises and 10 million individual taxpayers, replacing business taxes of over 2 trillion RMB. He said it has groundbreaking significance for the incorporation of banking, insurance and security businesses into the scope of VAT collection.

Representatives attending the forum from various countries expressed the belief that successful VAT reform showcases China’s excellent strategic execution of economic reform. It will not only spur the country’s economic growth, but will also inject momentum into global economic development, according to the representatives, who also noted that China’s practice has provided a successful example of tax reform for the international community in recent years.

The OECD Global Forum on VAT is the forum with the greatest degree of global participation and with the broadest scope of cooperation. Tax departments from more than 100 countries and international organizations attended the meeting.

China delivers third maritime patrol ship to Pakistan

On April 11, China officially handed a 600-ton patrol ship over to Pakistan’s maritime safety authority in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Among other things, the ship will be used to safeguard Pakistan’s maritime interests.

The new ship, just the third of its kind, was built by China Shipbuilding Trading Company Ltd. (CSTC) and China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Xijiang Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. Its two predecessors have already demonstrated their reliability and excellent performance during visits and exchanges, joint drills, maritime rescue and other missions in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s maritime safety authority expressed great appreciation for the quality of the ships and for sound cooperation with Chinese ship manufactures, who have promised to provide after-sale services. The ships are key to consolidating China-Pakistan relations, protecting Pakistan’s sea transportation and pushing forward the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Belt and Road Initiative.

Mongolian food becomes 9th major Chinese cuisine

The Association of Cuisine and Catering Industry (ACCI) of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region officially announced on April 16 that Mongolian food will become the ninth major cuisine of China.

Located in northern China, Inner Mongolia has a broad and historical food culture. Experts believe that Mongolian dishes conform well to the modern culinary emphasis on ecology, health and nutrition, and that they deserve recognition as a major cuisine.

According to Lang Lixing, president of ACCI of Inner Mongolia, the organization has established standards for Mongolian food and local cuisine through years of efforts and in cooperation with the Inner Mongolia Institute of Standardization.

Prior to the announcement, the eight major cuisines of China were Shandong, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hunan and Anhui food. Mongolian cuisine will inevitably promote changes in the catering industry as it becomes the ninth major cuisine. For instance, a chef from Paris currently working in China praised the flavor of Mongolian cuisine, saying he would promote Mongolian food in his own country.

The inclusion of Mongolian food as a major Chinese cuisine was supported by experts from the China Cuisine Association and China Hospitality Association. Experts noted that the eight preexisting major cuisines were simply recognized by the public,without any authoritative approval, and the same rule should also be applied to Mongolian cuisine.

Lang said that in addition to cementing the cuisine’s position in China, ACCI will also expand its profile overseas.

China’s investment in Belt and Road countries warms up in Q1

China’s investment in the Belt and Road countries continued to rise in the first quarter of 2017, despite an overall decrease in the country’s outbound direct investment.

In the first three months of 2017, Chinese enterprises invested $2.95 billion in the non-financial sectors of 43 countries along the Belt and Road route, accounting for 14.4 percent of total outbound investment in that period. That figure is up 5.4 percent compared with the same period last year, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce on April 18.

In the first quarter of 2017, total non-financial outbound investment reached $20.5 billion, registering a dramatic drop of 48.8 percent year on year. The investments span 129 countries and regions.

China’s outbound investment is flowing mainly into manufacturing, business services, information transmission, software and information technology services.

A total of 952 contracts have been inked with 61 countries along the route. The contracts have turned over $14.39 billion, up 4.7 percent year on year, accounting for 49.2 percent of total turnover in the period.

New contracts have substantially driven export growth. In the first three months of 2017, commodities worth a total of $3.47 billion were exported, up 28.4 percent year on year.