Heavenly Bodies

BEIJING — The dusty, rocky Martian surface and a Chinese rover and lander bearing small national flags were seen in photos released Friday that the rover took on the red planet.

The four pictures released by the Chinese space administration also show the upper stage of the Zhurong rover and the view from the rover before it rolled off its platform.

Zhurong placed a remote camera about 33 feet from the landing platform, then withdrew to take a group portrait, the space agency said.

China landed the Tianwen-1 spacecraft carrying the rover last month after it spent about three months orbiting the red planet. China is the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars, after the United States.

The six-wheeled rover is surveying an area known as Utopia Planitia, searching for signs of water or ice that could lend clues as to whether Mars ever sustained life.

In addition to the Mars mission, China’s space program plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week. The three crew members plan to stay for three months on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission. They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out science experiments.

Cuban banks to stop taking U.S. dollars

Cuba temporarily will stop accepting cash deposits in dollars at its banks starting June 21, the central bank said late Thursday.

Bank transfers still will be accepted, and account holders will be able to withdraw funds from their dollar accounts, the bank said. Deposits in other currencies such as the euro, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars and British pounds, among others, also will be accepted, the statement said.

“In view of the obstacles that the U.S. embargo creates for the national bank system to deposit abroad the U.S. dollars that are collected in the country, a decision was made to temporarily suspend deposits in U.S. banknotes in Cuba’s bank and financial system,” according to the statement, read by the host of a forum on state TV.

Cuban and foreign bank account holders on the island will have until June 21 to deposit dollars in their accounts. The bank didn’t indicate how long the suspension will last.

The U.S. dollar in Cuba’s black market has soared in recent months to about 70 Cuban pesos, about triple the official exchange rate of 24 pesos. The Cuban peso weakened significantly against the dollar after the island eliminated a confusing dual-currency system that maintained one currency valued at parity to the dollar and another much weaker currency. That created distortions in the economy and kept workers in state companies earning much less than those in cooperatives or private enterprises.

Central bank Vice President Yamile Berra Cires said that suspending cash deposits was a necessary move to protect the local financial system. She said that 24 banks have stopped doing business with Cuba since former President Donald Trump tightened U.S. sanctions on the island.

Bones found near Auschwitz death camp

WARSAW, Poland — Polish prosecutors are investigating an apparent mass burial site revealed this month near the area of Auschwitz, the former Nazi German death camp.

A resident spotted some 12 human skulls and many bones on the bank of the Sola River, running through the Polish southern town of Oswiecim, when the water level was very low, the Onet portal said Friday.

Police and prosecutors are investigating whether the remains might have a link to the former death camp, and the state National Remembrance Institute, which investigates World War II and communist-era crimes, has been notified.

During World War II, from 1940-45, more than 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz, which Nazi Germany operated in Oswiecim, in occupied Poland. Most, but not all, bodies were incinerated in the camp’s crematoria.

U.N. seats 5 nations on Security Council

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations elected five countries to join the powerful U.N. Security Council on Friday with no suspense because all were unopposed — Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Albania, Ghana and Gabon.

Winning a seat on the 15-member Security Council is considered a pinnacle of achievement for many countries because it gives them a strong voice on issues of international peace and security ranging from conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Mali and Burma, to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran and attacks by extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

The five new council members will start their terms Jan. 1, replacing five countries whose two-year terms end Dec. 31 — Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam.

They will join the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council — the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France — and the five countries elected last year: India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway.

In this image released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday, June 11, 2021, the landing platform with a Chinese national flag and outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on Mars is seen from the rover Zhurong. China on Friday released a series of photos taken by its Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars, including one of the rover itself taken by a remote camera. (CNSA via AP)

In this image released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday, June 11, 2021, the landing platform with a Chinese national flag and outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on Mars is seen from the rover Zhurong. China on Friday released a series of photos taken by its Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars, including one of the rover itself taken by a remote camera. (CNSA via AP)