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Chinese Considered 'Language of the Future' for Young Ugandans

LUWERO, UGANDA, (HALIMA ATHUMANI-VOANEWS).- As Uganda's population increases, many young people are having trouble finding jobs that pay well. A government directive to introduce the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in schools may lead to better employment opportunities.

China is a major trade partner and investor in Africa, and many countries are encouraging their citizens to learn what is considered by many to be the language of the future.

Last year, Uganda's Ministry of Education named 35 schools countrywide where the Chinese language would be taught.

The decision was driven by ties between the countries, says Grace Baguma, director of the national Curriculum Development Center.
"There is a lot of economic activity, infrastructure development, medical, [you] name it, that China is working with Uganda," Baguma said. "And many of our people, the Ugandans, are trading with China. So, China has become a country that we need to get to know and get into it. And the only way we can do it is also through the languages."

Kinene Charles, one of the students learning Mandarin at Everest College in Luwero district, thinks the language will open up job opportunities.

"I am interested in learning Chinese because it can help me to be employed in Chinese companies. And if I have a friend who knows Chinese, he can get a job and invite me to act as an interpreter in Chinese anniversaries," he said.
For the last four years, the Confucius Institute at Makerere University has been instructing students in Chinese. The students are now being assigned to different schools in the country to teach the language.

Namisi Moses Apollo says that he was a poor student in his regular schooling, and he worried about finding employment. But he says learning Chinese was easy, and upon graduation he was asked to start teaching in a pilot class in Luwero.

According to Namisi, there are vast opportunities in Uganda for people who can teach Chinese, though he notes that in most cases, it's the Chinese government paying the salaries, and one has to be very professional.

"The market is vast, open, but you also have to be, I would say, a titan at negotiations to get the best out of it," he said. "You need to give it your best. You need to play your ace at last. That is how you can be able to get the job. So, you not only have to be good at Chinese language, but also at the culture and the communication skill."

Visiting Chinese officials have over the years emphasized what they call the template of Africa-China cooperation.
China has funded many large infrastructure projects in Uganda, including the 600-megawatt Karuma Hydro Power Project, with a price tag of $1.8 billion, and a highway between Kampala and Entebbe, which cost $350 million.

Photo VOA.

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ESA gives go-ahead for Smile mission with China

ESA.- The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer, Smile, has been given the green light for implementation by ESA’s Science Programme Committee. 

The announcement clears the way for full development of this new mission to explore the Sun-Earth connection, which will be conducted in collaboration with China.

Smile is expected to revolutionise scientists’ understanding of the physical processes taking place during the continuous interaction between particles in the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic shield – the magnetosphere.

The mission will be a major scientific endeavour in collaboration between ESA and China, following on from the success of the Double Star / Tan Ce mission which flew between 2003 and 2008. Unlike Double Star, which started out as a China-only project, Smile is envisaged from the start as a joint ESA-China mission.

The scientific collaboration began with two workshops – one held in China, one in Europe – that were held to facilitate collaboration between Chinese- and European-based researchers.

This was followed by a joint call for proposals that was issued in January 2015 by ESA’s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Following selection in November 2015, detailed studies by ESA, CAS, three European industrial contractors and the Science Study Team have finalised the mission architecture, including the space and ground elements that are required to fulfil the science requirements.

Under current plans, the 2200 kg spacecraft will be launched by a European Vega-C rocket or Ariane 6-2 in 2023, and subsequently be placed in a highly inclined elliptical orbit around Earth.

Every 51 hours, Smile will fly out to 121 000 km – almost one third of the distance to the Moon – giving it a prolonged view of Earth’s northern polar regions. It will then return to within 5000 km of the planet in order to download its treasure trove of stored data to an ESA ground station in Antarctica and the CAS ground station in Sanya, China.

Aurora over northern Canada

From this unusually elongated orbit, the satellite will be able to make continual observations of key regions in near-Earth space over a period lasting more than 40 hours.

These will include simultaneous images and movies of the magnetopause – the boundary where Earth’s magnetosphere meets the solar wind – as well as the polar cusps, and the region illuminated by the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis.

Smile will offer scientists the chance to observe these key regions of Sun-Earth interaction for such long periods of time for the first time. The prime mission will last three years.

The science payload consists of four instruments: two from Europe and Canada, and two from China.

The innovative wide-field Soft X-ray Imager (SXI), provided by the United Kingdom Space Agency and other European institutions, will obtain unique measurements of the regions where the solar wind impacts the magnetosphere. The Canada-led Ultra-Violet Imager (UVI) will study global distribution of the auroras.

The two Chinese instruments, the Light Ion Analyser (LIA) and Magnetometer (MAG), will measure the energetic particles in the solar wind and changes in the local magnetic field.

ESA is also responsible for the payload module, spacecraft test facilities, launcher, launch campaign, the primary ground station; ESA will share science operations with CAS. A contract for industry to build the payload module will be announced in due course, and all spacecraft assembly and test activities will take place in Europe.

The National Space Science Center (NSSC/CAS) in China is responsible for the spacecraft platform, spacecraft testing, and mission and science operations. The platform will be built in Shanghai by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites (IAMC/CAS). 

According to ESA’s Smile study scientist, Philippe Escoubet, the mission will enable important breakthroughs in studies of the ever-changing interaction between Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind.

“Smile will provide the first X-ray images and movies of the region where the solar wind slams into the magnetosphere,” says Philippe. “It will also provide the longest-ever ultraviolet imagery of the northern aurora, enabling researchers to see how the aurora changes over time and to understand how geomagnetic storms evolve.”

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The Science circling above us on the space station

ESA.- The International Space Station orbits Earth, 400 km above our heads, running scientific experiments that cannot be done anywhere else. Read on for our bi-weekly update on European science in space.

This week ESA is highlighting space weather, so let us start with the Atmosphere–Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) that was installed outside Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station last year.

This suite of instruments monitors high-altitude lightning phenomena with unprecedented accuracy. It is the most sensitive x- and gamma-ray instrument flown in space and monitors Earth in a broad electromagnetic spectral range with microsecond accuracy.

The space-based storm hunter is working extremely well and exciting results are expected soon. Some of ASIM’s sensitive instruments only record at night-time, during the week of 16 February, the Space Station flew with an orientation that placed the Sun in ASIM’s field of view for extended periods. This restricted its night-time viewing possibilities to only 20 minutes per orbit.

Even though these luminous lightning events occur at high altitudes, they are not actually considered “space weather”. However, ASIM does have a trick up its sleeve. In the future, its Brussels, Belgium-based operators, will occasionally direct the storm hunter’s attention to monitor Aurorae.

This is part of ASIM’s “secondary science” goals and its equipment is well-suited and perfectly placed to observe the dancing lights caused by electromagnetic radiation

Inside the Space Station many automated European experiments continued to collect data over the past two weeks. The Dosis-3D dosimeters dotted around the outpost that passively keep track of the cosmic radiation quietly did their thing. Meanwhile the Electromagnetic Levitator was fired up for another round of weightless metallurgy.

The facility was pumped with helium on 25 February for a number of cycles of heating and cooling ferro-boron alloys to understand and improve casting of this metal for industrial applications on Earth.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain swapped the flash discs that record valuable scientific data for the Sodi-DCMIX experiment that then ran throughout the week of 18 February.

This experiment looks at how fluids and gases behave in space. Molecules are constantly moving and colliding even though there is no microscope powerful enough to see the movement. Scientists are interested in observing and measuring how these movements, combined with temperature changes, lead the fluid’s constituents to redistribute themselves.

A number of facilities were prepared to start new batches of science runs in the coming weeks. Russian commander of the Space Station Oleg Kononenko familiarised himself with the Roscosmos–ESA plasma laboratory PK-4 and the Fluid Science Laboratory worked on the Soft Matter Dynamics experiments.

The third experiment for Europe’s commercial facility inside the Columbus laboratory continued to operate in its ICE Cube and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques prepared the mini-computers called AstroPi for the start of the Astro Pi challenge.

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ESA’s space weather mission to be protected against stormy Sun

ESA.- ESA is planning Earth’s first dedicated space weather observatory to warn of potentially harmful turbulence in our parent star. Like a referee at a sports game, the Lagrange spacecraft will be able to observe both the Sun and Earth as well as the space in between – but will itself be in the space weather line of fire. 

“This will be an operational rather a scientific mission, meaning it has to keep on working because people will be depending on it,” explains ESA space environment specialist Piers Jiggens.

“On Earth it wouldn’t be acceptable to have weather forecasting infrastructure that stops working when a hurricane is coming, because coverage would be lost at the point when an extreme weather event impacts our lives the most.

“In space it will be the same – so we at ESA’s Space Environment and Effects section have been working closely with the Agency’s Space Weather Office, overseeing the Lagrange mission, for several years. Our goal is an optimised design that endures the radiation storms associated with space weather events in an efficient but effective way.”

Side-on observing of Sun and Earth

Sun making space weather

In the same way the heat of the Sun drives weather on Earth, solar activity is responsible for disturbances in our space environment, called ‘space weather’. As well as emitting a continuous stream of charged particles, known as the solar wind, the Sun sometimes produces eruptions called ‘coronal mass ejections’ (CMEs) – expelling billions of tons of material bound up with magnetic fields, often in volumes larger than Earth itself.

If these clouds of particles reach our home planet they can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere, disrupting satellites in orbit, and electrical and communications infrastructure, potentially causing billions of euros worth of damage.

Today’s workhorse solar observer, the ESA-NASA SOHO spacecraft is located 1.5 million km away at the Lagrange point L1, on a straight line between Earth and the Sun, so views incoming CMEs head-on.

The Lagrange points associated with the Sun–Earth system
Sideways view

By contrast, the Lagrange mission will be placed much farther from Earth, a hundred times further than SOHO at 150-million km distance, at the third point of an equilateral triangle formed with the Earth and the Sun.

Lagrange takes its title from the gravitationally stable locations in the Sun-Earth system, one of which it will orbit around – the fifth Earth-Sun Lagrange (L5) point. These have been collectively named after the Italian mathematician who first theorised the existence of these stable points in space.

Sitting at this equidistant point away from Earth and the Sun, Lagrange will be able to identify stormy segments of the Sun’s surface before they rotate around to face Earth, and then track CME clouds as they head our way.

Parker spiral
“Just because the spacecraft is not aligned with Earth and the Sun does not mean it will not be affected by the space weather events it will be monitoring,” adds Piers. “This is because the solar magnetic field, which high energy particles follow, is curved because of the Sun’s rotation, a phenomenon known as the ‘Parker spiral’.

“What this means is that the fastest charged particles from a CME event will reach Lagrange in a matter of minutes after an eruption, potentially causing adverse effects to the spacecraft at just the point it is most needed to resolve the direction and speed of the material headed Earthward, working on a timescale of hours.

“Often you can see some of these effects on SOHO images of CMEs – what looks like snow is actually charged particles triggering the imager detectors. In addition, radiation can cause ‘bit flips’ of onboard memory.”

Solar loops after eruption
Shielding the spacecraft
As is already standard, the spacecraft itself will be built from carefully screened radiation hardened electronic components. Its onboard systems will be equipped with ‘fault detection and correction’ systems to identify and correct for bit flips or other anomalies. For the Lagrange mission, ESA and its industrial partners are investigating how to make these systems more robust still.
“For the L5 mission, the spacecraft has to be more intelligent than others, and will need to have a clever failure detection, isolation and recovery strategy,” notes Stefan Kraft, overseeing the mission.

“When other missions hide away and go into sleep mode, we will need to face the storm and stay awake to remain always on duty.”

Radiation 'snow' in SOHO image

On the imaging side, the particles impair the vision of the mission’s highly sensitive instrumentation. Automated onboard systems will apply artificial intelligence to identify and remove false pixels on a frame-by-frame basis.

Reduced image exposure time is another solution being looked into to decrease the number of radiation ‘hits’. In addition extra aluminium shielding could be added around the detectors, to prevent charged particles impacting them from the side.

As Juha-Pekka Luntama of ESA’s Space Weather Office explains: “The measurements from Lagrange need to be clear in real-time so they can be fed into space weather models and allow forecasters to predict possible impacts.”

Restless star makes for stunning storm

The Lagrange mission is currently being developed through parallel industrial studies, to present to Europe’s space ministers at Space19+ at the end of this year. If approved, it will launch by 2025.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is planning a solar observatory at L1 with a launch targeted in 2024. This mission would provide data complementing observations from L5. The two missions together would form a combined observation system, offering stereosopic views of space weather events as they occur.



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Egyptian Photojournalist Shawkan Released After Five Years in Arbitrary Detention

NEW YORK .- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) celebrates yesterday’s release of award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, and calls on President Sisi and the Egyptian government to immediately remove the conditions restricting his freedom.

Shawkan, who is one of the country’s best-known photojournalists, has been considered a political prisoner since his arrest in August 2013, and has suffered torture while in detention. He was conditionally released from prison after serving his sentence in the infamous Tora prison.

“Shawkan’s release from prison is an enormous relief, but the fact remains that the Egyptian repressive regime has robbed him of nearly six years of his life for purely political reasons.

He should have not spent a single day in jail for being an inconvenient witness to the regime’s brutality toward the Egyptian people,” said Céline Assaf Boustani, HRF’s international legal associate.

“Sisi is responsible for Egypt’s most severe crackdown on freedom of expression in modern history. His persecution of both local and foreign journalists is worsening ahead of the upcoming public referendum to expand his powers and keep the country under his control until 2034.”

Shawkan was arrested in August 2013, while he was covering the brutal repression of a sit-in in Cairo's Rabaa Square, organized by supporters of ousted ex-President Mohamed Morsi.

He was kept in pre-trial detention for over two years, in violation of both Egyptian and international laws. In September 2015, he was officially charged as part of a mass trial, on trumped-up charges of “attempted murder” and “membership in a terrorist group.”

Shawkan faced the death penalty in March 2018, but was instead convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in September 2018, after having already served five years in Tora prison.

He was kept behind bars for an additional six months in lieu of the fine that he could not afford to pay.

Shawkan was conditionally released with restrictions on his freedom that will only be lifted if his sentence is overturned on appeal.

The restrictions include police observation for the next five years, a daily requirement to report to a police station, and a ban on managing his financial assets and property.

In February 2016, HRF represented Shawkan before the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, requesting that it launch an investigation into his case.

A few months later, the U.N. ruled in favor of HRF’s individual complaint and declared Shawkan's arrest and deprivation of liberty arbitrary under international law.

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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Egypt, Mamoud Abou Zeid, Egyptian Journalist