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Taiwan aiming to strengthen cooperation with Central America: VP Chen

TAIPEI, (CNA).- Taiwan is hoping to forge closer cooperation with countries in Central America in several fields, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said Tuesday while receiving the visiting president of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).

"Over the years, Parlacen has demonstrated support for Taiwan at various international events," Chen said during his meeting with Parlacen President Irma Segunda Amaya Echeverría at the Presidential Office.

Chen said that over the past 20 years, Taiwan has participated in more than 120 regional cooperation schemes through the Central American Integration System (SICA), as it sought to deepen cooperation with its Central American allies in the areas of infrastructure, medical health, education and agriculture.

Since Amaya took over the helm of the regional assembly of SICA last October, she has been promoting regional integration and development, with a focus on issues such as gender equality, the right of women to participate in politics, immigration and human rights, Chen noted.

"As a member of the global village, Taiwan is willing and able to contribute to the international community," Chen said, expressing the hope that Parlacen will continue its solid support for Taiwan in the international arena.

He said Central America is a key region in Taiwan's global strategic planning and that is why the government has sent several investment assessment teams to the region and has been encouraging Taiwanese businessmen to invest there.

"We also look forward to expanding our cooperation with Central America in various areas in the future," he said.

Amaya arrived in Taiwan on Monday at the head of a five-member delegation on a five-day visit aimed at strengthening bilateral and multilateral parliamentary exchanges.

She was received by Chen as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had to change her schedule to make some impromptu inspections of flood prevention facilities amid torrential downpours brought by a typical weather front in the current plum rain season.

Founded in 1991, Parlacen six member states are Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic, while Taiwan has observer status in the body.

Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua remain the only three diplomatic allies of Taiwan in Parlacen, since the other three switched recognition to China between 2017 and 2018. 

(By Stacy Hsu)

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SMOS joins forces with top weather forecasting system

BARCELONA, (ESA).- As of yesterday, 11 June 2019, measurements from ESA’s SMOS mission are being fully integrated into ECMWF’s forecasting system, allowing for a more accurate description of water content in soil.

Since its launch in 2009, ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission has been providing global observations of emissions from Earth’s surface, particularly soil moisture and ocean salinity – two important variables in the water cycle.

Accurate weather forecasts are paramount for both commercial and leisure activities. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is the leading agency to provide global accurate weather forecasts. Its Integrated Forecasting System (IFS), a gigantic numerical weather prediction model, provides weather predictions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Patricia de Rosnay, the Coupled Assimilation team leader at ECMWF comments that, “When using SMOS measurements in our operational forecasting system, we get a better description of the spatial distribution of the water in the soil.

“These are important measurements to understand the complex interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere, which is crucial for our forecasting system.”

The weather is a complex process and a good prediction largely depends on the knowledge of Earth’s atmosphere provided through a variety of observations from satellites, in situ data, balloons, buoys and other observing systems.

These data need to be available fast in order to be beneficial for predictions. Producing geophysical soil-moisture measurements takes around eight hours after sensing.

A clever technique used to accelerate the production of these data is machine learning, for example using an artificial ‘neural network’, which computes values of soil moisture from the satellite within seconds. It was adapted by CESBIO and LERMA to generate the information needed for operational forecasts.

“Machine learning techniques are computationally efficient and are very fast tools to process large datasets quickly. Using neural networks was the key for the integration of SMOS measurements in time for the weather forecast,” says Nemesio Rodriguez-Fernandez from CESBIO, and who designed and trained the neural network prior to the operational integration done by ECMWF.

Using measurements from an Earth explorer satellite in 24/7 operations is a major achievement. So far, only SMOS measurements over land are being used to support general weather forecasts. Considering SMOS provides information in all weather conditions, SMOS also delivers new information for tracking hurricanes and measuring thin sea ice.

In the future, the information provided by SMOS over oceans and the polar regions may also be used in combination with Earth-system models and data assimilation systems.

ESA’s SMOS mission scientist, Matthias Drusch, said, “Integrating SMOS measurements into ECMWF’s forecasting system has been a major endeavour that started more than 15 years ago. This success story shows how models and even operational applications benefit from new observations.”

So far, SMOS is the only Earth explorer satellite providing measurements operationally for global medium-range weather forecasts. Currently, data from ESA’S Aeolus mission are being tested at ECMWF for operational forecasting system to be used in the near future.

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Iconic spiral

BARCELONA, (ESA).- The iconic appearance of a spiral galaxy is exemplified here in the form of the stunning NGC 2903, imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It shows off whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust.

NGC 2903 is located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), and was studied as part of a Hubble survey of the central regions of roughly 145 nearby disc galaxies. This study aimed to help astronomers better understand the relationship between the black holes that lurk at the cores of galaxies like these, and the rugby-ball-shaped bulge of stars, gas, and dust at the galaxy’s centre — such as that seen in this image.

  • Title Spiral galaxy NGC 2903
  • Released 10/06/2019 10:00 am
  • Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ho et al.
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Journalists Say They Are Under Attack in Nigeria

NIGERIA, (VOANEWS).- CPJ said Bartels told the committee that on Tuesday he was beaten and arrested for trying to film several officers who he said were beating a young boy.

Bartels, a journalist with Nigeria Info, also tweeted about the attack in the city of Port Harcourt.

​​Bartels told CPJ that an officer told Bartels that he had “been giving them problems for a long time,” citing his work covering the police in Rivers state. He said the officer also threatened to put him in a prison cell with an inmate who would rape him.

Bartels was not charged with any crimes and eventually released.

“The police officers involved in this horrific alleged assault against Kofi Bartels must be swiftly brought to justice,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “The initial assault of a reporter documenting police behavior, compounded by the brazen retaliation for past reporting, is a chilling example of a gravely consistent pattern of Nigerian security services’ violence against journalists.”

Also Thursday, Nigeria’s broadcasting authority shut down a private radio and television station owned by a key opposition figure.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said it had suspended the license of Daar Communications, the owners of African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM radio.

Officials said both media entities had failed to follow the Nigerian broadcasting code, but did not elaborate.

The owner of two broadcast stations, Raymond Dokpesi, who is also a key member of opposition Peoples Democratic Party, had predicted the move by the NBC. Hours before the licenses were suspended, Dokpesi told reporters at a news conference that his staff was being intimidated on the instruction of the Nigerian presidency.

“We are on a road previously traveled. A media and press clampdown is in the offing,” he told reporters.

https://www.voanews.com/press-freedom/journalists-say-they-are-under-attack-nigeria

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Trump Confident New Migrant Pact with Mexico Will Succeed

WASHINGTON, (ken bredemeir-voanews).- U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Monday to impose tariffs on another $325 billion worth of imported goods from China if Chinese President Xi Jinping does not engage in new trade talks with him later this month.

Trump told CNBC he expects to meet with Xi in Osaka, Japan at the G-20 meeting of the leaders of the world's largest economies on June 28-29, but Beijing has not publicly confirmed the meeting. Trump said he would impose the new tariffs, on top of tariffs he already has levied on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports, if Xi skips the meeting.

"I think he'll go," Trump said. "We're expected to meet."

The U.S. leader said, "China very much wants to make a deal, more than I do."

But months of trade talks between the world's two largest economies have stopped, at least for the moment. Washington has accused Beijing of reneging on various terms the United States thought they had agreed on, although China has rejected the claim.

China's Foreign Ministry said, "We do not want a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting one. If the U.S. is ready to have equal consultations, our door is wide open. But if it insists on escalating trade frictions, we will respond to it with resolution and perseverance.”

Trump's threat about Chinese tariffs came amid growing concern by some business leaders questioning whether he is misusing tariffs — or the threat of imposing them — in ways that could hurt the U.S. economy.

Trump on Friday backed off a threat to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican imports if its southern neighbor did not ramp up efforts to curb the surge of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico to the United States. The two countries reached an agreement calling for tighter migration controls.

Trump called in to the business news network unexpectedly after an earlier segment in which a U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive criticized Trump for his tariff threats against Mexico.

"If we didn't have [the threat of] tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico," Trump said. "The China deal is going to work out. You know why? Because of tariffs."

He added, "Right now China is getting absolutely decimated by companies that are leaving China going to other countries, including our own, because they don't want to pay the tariffs. And China will, in my opinion, based on a lot of facts and a lot knowledge, China's going to make a deal because they're going to have to make a deal."

U.S. Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that Trump would be "perfectly happy" to tax more imports from China if he cannot reach a trade deal with Xi.

“We made enormous progress, I think we had a deal that was almost 90% done," Mnuchin told CNBC. "China wanted to go backwards on certain things.”

“I believe if China is willing to move forward on the terms that we were discussing, we’ll have an agreement," Mnuchin said. "If they’re not, we will proceed with tariffs."

G-20 finance ministers meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, over the weekend said trade and geopolitical conflicts are risking global economic growth, but at the U.S. insistence, dropped a call to "recognize the pressing need to resolve trade tensions."

"Global growth appears to be stabilizing and is generally projected to pick up moderately later this year and into 2020," the finance chiefs, including Mnuchin, said in an end-of-meeting communique. "However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks and stand ready to take further action."

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that a continuing U.S.-China standoff on tariffs could cut a half-percentage point from the global economy in 2020.

Meanwhile, China vowed Sunday to build what it calls a strong firewall against attempts to restrict its ability to technologically innovate.

"China ... will never allow certain countries to use China's technology to contain China's development and suppress Chinese enterprise," the main state-run newspaper declared.

China plans to announce details of its plans in the near future.

The Chinese statement did not mention any country by name, but the United States has restricted U.S. firms from selling technology to China's Huawei, suspecting the company of building spyware into its telecommunications products.

The United States has also warned its allies against the alleged risk in buying Huawei technology.

Trump said concerns over Huawei could be dealt with in a new trade deal.

https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-confident-new-migrant-pact-with-mexico-will-succeed/4951840.html

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