Hot firing proves solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C


ESA.- Today's hot firing of the P120C solid-propellant motor at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana proves its flight-worthiness for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020.

This marks an important milestone in the development schedule of Europe’s new-generation launchers, designed to boost our autonomy in the space arena, and maintain Europe’s global competitiveness.

The test lasted 135 seconds simulating the complete burn time from liftoff and through the first phase of flight.

No anomalies were seen and the performance met expectations, though full analysis will take several months.

The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter and is made using a carbon composite material and built in one segment. It will replace the current P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C. Two or four P120Cs will be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff.

This test was a collaboration between ESA, France’s CNES space agency, and Europropulsion under contract to Avio and ArianeGroup.

The next static firing will occur at the end of this year with the P120C qualification motor.


TAIPEI, (TAIWAN TODAY).- Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu is leading a nine-member delegation on a tour of El Salvador and Belize July 12-17 to deepen the friendships and bolster political and economic exchanges with the Central American allies.

During his four-day stay in El Salvador, Wu is scheduled to meet with President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Vice President Oscar Samuel Ortiz Ascencio and Legislative Assembly President Norman Noel Quijano Gonzalez to discuss current cooperative projects and future opportunities for collaboration.

The minister will deliver a letter to Sanchez Ceren from President Tsai Ing-wen congratulating the nation on the scheduled canonization of Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero Oct. 14, and host a ceremony for Taiwan Scholarship recipients.

Wu is also scheduled to hold talks with Central American Integration System (SICA) Secretary-General Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo and review results from Taiwan’s ongoing initiatives with the San Salvador-headquartered intergovernmental organization.

Taiwan and SICA have worked together closely since its establishment in 1991, implementing joint development programs in areas spanning agriculture, climate change management, democracy and security, economic integration, education, medical care and talent cultivation. To date, more than 120 cooperative projects have been completed, benefiting people throughout the region, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After arriving in Belize July 16, Wu is expected to meet with Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow as well as Lee Mark Chang, president of the Senate, and Omar Figueroa, deputy president of the House of Representatives. He will also tour the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System to explore possibilities for collaboration in environmental protection.

The same day, Wu will receive the Order of Distinction from Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington in recognition of his efforts to deepen bilateral ties and promote people-to-people exchanges. The prestigious honor is awarded to foreign officials or other individuals in recognition of their valuable services and contributions to the Central American nation.

This is Wu’s first official overseas tour since becoming foreign minister in February. (KWS-E)

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Tags: El Salvador Taiwán Belize Foreign Minister Jaushieh Wu

Nicaragua: HRF Condemns Killings by Ortega’s Regime


NEW YORK (July 11, 2018) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) joins the United Nations in condemning the more than 300 state-sponsored killings in Nicaragua. On April 18, protests broke out in the country in response to changes in social security policy. After the first protest-related deaths on April 19, there was a shift in the focus of the protests and activists began demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and calling for electoral reform to restore the country’s democracy. However, on July 7, Ortega announced that he would be ignoring calls for early elections. HRF urges Ortega to cease the violence and heed protesters’ demands in order to restore peace and justice in Nicaragua.

“Faced with country-wide protests by Nicaraguans demanding an end to Ortega’s authoritarian rule, the regime’s response has been brutal,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov. “While Ortega has reluctantly participated in several ‘negotiations’ to end the crisis, the violence by his regime did not stop during the so-called peace talks. Not even an OAS mission to the country, invited by Ortega himself, nor the publication of the OAS’s report strongly condemning the human rights abuses, stopped the violence. As a matter of fact, the violence has only gotten worse. Now, the regime is even carrying out summary executions as a means of intimidation. It is clearer than ever that Ortega and his cronies do not care about the Nicaraguan people and that their only goal is to cement their authoritarian grip on power,” Kasparov added.

Several reports and official statements by international bodies and local NGOs documented criminal actions by the police and pro-Ortega paramilitary groups. On June 22, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a comprehensive report on the human rights violations committed during the protests. Most recently, on July 5, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein explicitly deemed the killings “state violence,” holding the regime accountable even as Ortega blamed his opponents for the ongoing violence.

Ortega’s response to the violence has been marked by hypocrisy. On June 2, President Ortega bragged about his government’s involvement in a national dialogue process that had yielded several written and verbal agreements to end the violence. Yet that same day, according to Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos (ANPDH), a local NGO, at least 10 people were killed, 72 wounded, 10 missing, and 120 arrested after barricades in the western city of Masaya were violently attacked by local police and pro-Ortega paramilitary groups. ANPDH’s latest report on the situation in Nicaragua published today brings the death toll to 351.

On June 15, a new round of peace talks resulted in a government pledge to “end all forms of violence and threats no matter where they come from.” The next day, six members of a family, including two children, were killed in a fire started by paramilitary groups, with help from the police.

ANPDH also reported that this past weekend, as Ortega blamed “coup-mongers” for the violence, regime-aligned paramilitary groups killed at least 12 people in Diriamba and Jinopete, located south of the country’s capital. Police also reportedly arrested over 200 protesters during these attacks. Similar incidents have been reported throughout the country. In a conversation with HRF, a source in Nicaragua, who asked for anonymity due to fear of reprisal, stated that Nicaraguans are also very worried about the rising number of targeted attacks against civilians, which have become “a government strategy to discourage protests.”

“Although the protests started due to an increase of social security charges, the regime’s brutal response seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Nicaraguans,” said Centa B. Rek, International Legal Associate at HRF. “Nicaragua has suffered a serious interruption of its already-eroded democratic order under Ortega, and this has come hand-in-hand with serious human rights violations. Freedom of the press and freedom of association, the right to free and fair elections, and the right to protest have been under attack for years,” said Rek. “Ortega’s regime cannot be considered democratic any longer, as it violates the principles set out in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. He has remained in power through a series of unconstitutional reforms and illegal court rulings that did away with presidential term limits. Ortega must accept the OAS’s proposal, call an early general election, and step down peacefully.”

Learn more about the situation in Nicaragua by watching this talk from the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

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Tags: Nicaragua,

China blamed for baffling rise in ozone-depleting gas


BERLIN, (DW).- A mysterious rise in emissions of ozone-depleting gas has been traced to Chinese plastic foam factories, a green campaign group claimed in a report published on Monday.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said 18 factories in 10 Chinese provinces admitted to using chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), despite it being banned in 2010.

In May, an international team of scientists published research that showed the expected decline of CFC-11 in the atmosphere had slowed by half since 2012, suggesting it was being illegally produced.

Their data pointed to East Asia as the source of renewed production of the gas, a potent destroyer of the ozone layer that protects life on Earth from dangerous solar rays.

A rise in CFC emissions could put at risk the healing of the ozone layer which was severely damaged by the rampant use of CFCs, initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.

The discovery of a hole as large as North America set off a global alarm, prompting countries to sign the Montreal Protocol in 1987 that banned the use of CFCs. The production of CFCs officially ended in developing countries in 2010.

Rampant usage of CFCs

The EIA investigators, posing as buyers, found that the use of CFC-11 is rife in China's plastic foam sector because the harmful chemical is cheaper than its alternatives and makes more effective foams, which are in high demand as an insulator in the booming construction industry.

"Detailed discussions with company executives make clear that these are not isolated incidents but instead represent common practice across the industry," the investigators said.

EIA said several companies admitted to exporting the banned CFC agents by mislabeling them as Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) compounds and other chemical blends. This could mean that countries that have pledged to ban CFCs may have inadvertently imported them.

China, a signatory of the Montreal Protocol, says it successfully ended the industrial practice of using CFCs in 2007.

Tags: Plastic foam Ozone


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, (MICHELLE QUINN-VOANEWS).- While the Trump administration is putting tariffs on Chinese imports, another battle has been brewing about whether the United States should block Chinese investments in some U.S. companies that work in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other key technology.

Some of these technologies have U.S. national security implications, argues the Department of Defense in a report on growing Chinese ties to U.S. firms. Lawmakers in Washington are considering expanding a Treasury Department review process that looks at investments from foreign entities.

“I assure you that the threat China poses is real and that the dangers we worry about are already taking effect,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texan Republican, who is sponsoring the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, the bill that would strengthen the review. “Our inaction can only have negative consequences, and we need to aim to prevent any future negative consequences to our country.”

Limiting Chinese investments has to be done thoughtfully, said Jeff Moon, an international trade and government affairs consultant and a former assistant U.S. trade representative.

“The biggest problem I see is just vagueness when we talk about Chinese investment,” Moon said. “Are we talking about any Chinese national that's dropping a penny into the American economy?”

View from Silicon Valley

In Silicon Valley, there is some relief the Trump administration appears to have backed away from a plan to block investment into AI or other technologies in the United States by a company with more than 25 percent Chinese ownership.

While the national security concerns are legitimate, tech firms and investors don't want to see “policies that take some kind of a sledgehammer approach to investment, which by and large from China here has been beneficial," said Sean Randolph, senior director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

“How concerned should we be about these different sources of leakage, if that's the term,” Randolph said. “What is an appropriate way to address that as opposed to ways that would try to address it, but that actually end up having a very negative effect on the economy here and in the U.S. economy, and the Chinese economy, too?”

Collaboration valued

Recently, Silicon Valley held its first U.S.-China summit on AI technologies with a focus on how to better collaborate between the two nations.

“The technology is shared and collaborative and better for humankind. I don’t think it’s one country against another country,” said Tao Wang of SAIC Capital.

Helen Liang, managing partner of FoundersX, a venture capital firm, said entrepreneurs and companies in AI are focused on how to tackle big issues, such as health care, transportation and work.

“Regardless of the geopolitical pressure or differences, from a technology perspective we are looking to solve society’s problems,” said Liang, whose firm helps startups it invests in with business relationships in China.

'Disruption' from both countries

Nicolas Miailhe, president of The Future Society, a nonprofit research group, said any limits on investment from China to the United States could also slow down U.S. innovation.

“We have been used to disruptive business models emerging from the Silicon Valley here. This is changing,” Miailhe said. “We are now in FinTech for example seeing new and disruptive business models emerging from China.”

“Disruption” is a favorite term in Silicon Valley, describing how new technologies can lead to dramatic and unpredictable results on an industry.

That potential is what excites these entrepreneurs – and worries some lawmakers back in Washington.

Tags: The United Sates,