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Chinese Space Station in Argentina Suspected of Military Use

first_imgBy Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo October 26, 2018 The Argentine province of Neuquén is known for its lakes, volcanoes, ski slopes, and oil fields. Its latest feature, however, clashes with the Patagonian landscape: a 450-ton, 48-meter high by 35-meter wide antenna, operated by the Chinese military. The huge antenna is part of the Far Space Station of the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC), a division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The complex was built on 200 hectares of land the Argentine government ceded China for 50 years. Negotiations led to an agreement with secret provisions signed in 2014 between the governments of former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Argentine Congress ratified the deal with China in 2015. Soon after, the Argentine Ministry of Planning denied there were secret provisions in the agreement. According to the ministry, “the station is exclusively for scientific and civic purposes, focused on monitoring, control, and data download of Chinese interplanetary exploration missions under the Chinese Lunar and Mars exploration programs.” However, the $50 million mega-project, which became fully operational in late 2017, stirs mixed feelings in Argentina. Scientists of Argentina’s National Space Activities Commission (CONAE, in Spanish) will have access to the antenna about two hours and 40 minutes a day. Security analysts warn about risks of military use of the antenna, despite China’s pledge to use it for peaceful purposes to the government of Argentine President Mauricio Macri. “It stands out that the agency in charge of the project is a military agency of the Chinese Army’s Directorate-General of Armaments. In other words, one cannot doubt the double purpose in this matter,” Juan Belikow, professor of International Relations at the University of Buenos Aires, told Diálogo. “The main problem is that there is no mechanism that guarantees Argentina or the international community any monitoring of exactly what goes on in that unit.” According to Belikow, the issue is whether the station is part of a Chinese network similar to the global surveillance program known as the ECHELON Network, which uses similar technology to intercept communications. “They have the capacity. The agency that controls this antenna engages in these activities. And since there is no oversight, there’s no way to ensure that they’re not doing it [intercepting communications],” he said. “That is, the civil use promise is a verbal agreement, and we know the words of China in this sense were never very meaningful.” According to Argentine international analyst Fabián Calle, Argentina is a benchmark in space matters, with an advanced technological industry in satellites and nuclear energy. “The explanation of scientists without ideological preferences is that the antenna, considering how it was mounted, is particularly useful to the Chinese space program,” Calle told Diálogo. “No technician I spoke with depicted the antenna as a key element in China’s strategic ballistic missile program,” Calle said. “This doesn’t mean it won’t have some kind of dual use, or that it can’t obtain information useful to the Chinese military structure.” BeiDou: The GPS made in China Located in Bajada del Agrio, Neuquén, the interplanetary station is the first China built outside its territory. The station will allow for a lot more than prepare for a moon-landing mission. With this facility, Beijing seeks to level with other world powers and stop relying on GPS. The U.S. Department of Defense developed the navigation satellite system, operational since 1995, in the 1970s. Since then, Europe developed the Galileo system, while Russia built its global navigation satellite system GLONASS. China currently develops BeiDou, also known as Compass. To gain independence from the GPS system requires a significant geostationary presence, Belikow said. Moreover, installing the antenna in Neuquén province makes sense, because of Patagonia’s location on the other side of the globe from China. “This gives the Chinese an opportunity to make up for the dark side of the planet they haven’t covered,” the analyst said. “But we know this is not enough. China probably knows that they need to triangulate [the signals], so they could install similar antennas in other parts of the world to make their system complete. We can expect other similar stations to be built in Africa or in another part of Asia.” Belikow believes that six to 12 stations would be advantageous, yet three should allow for three dimensions. “There might be two stations in China, which means they would already have enough. Anyway, its accuracy is relatively low,” he said. “For now, the Chinese military will at least use the premises as a base for their satellite positioning system. We know that GPS is basically geared toward military use, then civil use. So it’s ridiculous to think that the Chinese military won’t use their own GPS system.” Context of the accord The long process to build the antenna started in 2012, when CLTC and CONAE signed a cooperation treaty. At the time, Argentina—still suffering from the aftermath of the 2008-2009 recession and without access to international markets with $100,000 million in sovereign bonds that defaulted in 2002—saw the Asian power as a solution to its economic problems. Politics also factored in. “Kirchner’s government, especially from 2008 onward, made a very anti-American turn that sharpened during Cristina Fernández’s first term and even more so in the second term,” Calle said. “Therefore, the agreement signed [in 2014] is framed in this foreign policy of moving away from the United States, Europe, and the democratic countries on the Pacific coast and the Americas, and relying more on Russia and China.” Argentina claimed that the antenna in Neuquén was very similar to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Deep Space Antenna 3 (DSA 3), inaugurated in 2012 in the Argentine city of Malargüe, Mendoza province. The result of another agreement with CONAE, DSA 3 completed the network of three ESA deep space stations, with antennas in New Norcia, Australia, and Cebreros, Spain. “As such, the Chinese antenna was thought to be similar to the European Union’s [EU]. And if EU was there, including the British until Brexit, why wouldn’t we sign an agreement with China, who is the main buyer of Argentina’s soy and minerals and has important investments in ports?” Calle said. The agreement between CLTC and CONAE raised suspicions from the beginning. Section 10, for instance, indicates that “both parties shall maintain confidentiality regarding technology, activities, and programs of data tracking, control, and acquisition.” The subsequent bilateral agreement was also criticized for its secrecy, despite denials from the Kirchner administration. When Macri assumed the presidency, he asked China to include an amendment stating the station would be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. Belikow, however, thinks the “peaceful purposes” amendment has a catch. “If they [the Chinese] say all their activities onsite are to defend China, and they consider these peaceful, they can frame spying on communications as peaceful use,” he said. The Argentine government faces a delicate situation with access to the deal’s secret clauses, yet unable to reveal them. International agreements between two countries are legally binding documents that carry over even with a new administration. “Also, even if there were technical reasons that would warrant cancellation [of the agreement], Argentina is going through a very complex financial crisis. Exposing the treaty now would have an immediate effect on the Argentine economy,” Belikow said. Calle doesn’t think Argentina will cross the line with China. “Macri’s government wants to move closer to the United States, Europe, Japan, Israel, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. But at the same time, Argentina is realistic and maintains a smooth economic, political, and commercial relationship with China,” he said. “It would be very difficult not to be involved with such an emerging power, which in turn needs the commodities we export.” Calle highlighted Argentina’s recent agreement with the United States to conduct humanitarian activities with the armed forces, precisely in Neuquén. The province also counts with the strong presence of U.S. oil companies, which started exploring one of the largest unconventional reserves of gas and oil in Vaca Muerta. “This will create a strategic strong bond between Argentina and the United States in terms of energy. The government made the clear decision to give U.S companies an important place,” Calle said. Chinese incursion The 16-floor parabolic antenna that rises from the Patagonian desert is just one sign of the growing Chinese influence in Latin America. In 2015, Xi promised to invest $250 billion in the region by 2025. During a Beijing-meeting with leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, in Spanish), Xi estimated trade between China and CELAC members to reach $500 billion in the next decade. Combined military exercises between China and South American countries, such as those conducted in Rio de Janeiro with the Brazilian Navy in 2013, also testify to China’s expanding reach in the region. “China’s incursion in the region is indeed worrisome,” Belikow said. “We have to admit that the Chinese are fast learners. China entered Africa when the United States was focused on wars happening in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq. Today, Africa is controlled by a Chinese incursion Africans resist, because it was very aggressive, with situations that bordered slavery,” he said. The expert doesn’t rule out that China might use the Neuquén station’s structure—its main and supplemental antennas—to interfere with local communications. This could include spying on oil activities and intercepting messages from fishing and military vessels in the South Atlantic. “Don’t forget that nowadays information isn’t sent by cable, but by satellite. And no matter how encrypted it is, we know the Chinese aren’t bad at hacking communications.” For Belikow, the secret clauses of the agreement and the secrecy around the station’s operations are a source of concern. For example, what does access of two hours 40 minutes a day consist of? Is the access physical or remote? “That’s not defined, either. I suspect they will give [Argentine scientists] remote access to information generated onsite. Because nowhere does it say—as far as we know—that the access will be physical,” he said. “It would be more reasonable if we were given that timeframe to access the station at any time. Either way, from the moment we go through checkpoints until we get into the room, they can close programs they shouldn’t use, so there is no way to monitor. It’s a strange situation,” he said.last_img read more

Halloween Weather: Trick-or-treaters advised to get out early

first_imgTrick-or-treaters hoping for an enjoyable Halloween night are being advised to go out early this afternoon to avoid the rain.Little witches, ghosts, superheroes, and many other characters are expected to be out and about in towns and villages across Donegal today.But with heavy rain expected in the evening, the trick to avoid getting the costumes wet is to go out before the showers hit from around 6pm. Met Eireann is forecasting a chilly night with low temperatures of 5 to 6C.‘Persistent and heavy rain’ is forecast for the north west in the evening time, which will ease later and clear slowly by early Friday morning.Friday will see further outbreaks of rain and heavy downpours could lead to local flooding in areas during the night.Met Eireann is warning of a washout weekend, with more rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday. Cold and clearer weather is expected for the early days of next week.     Halloween Weather: Trick-or-treaters advised to get out early was last modified: October 31st, 2019 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Giants set ugly season-high in blowout loss to Nationals

first_imgWASHINGTON, D.C. — A day after hitting a season-high three home runs en route to a series-opening win, the Giants allowed a new 2019 high of four in a loss to the Washington Nationals.Giants starter Jeff Samardzija surrendered a pair of homers in the first inning before reliever Travis Bergen let a close game get out of hand late by giving up two in the seventh in a 9-6 loss. Despite forcing the Nationals to use each of their top relievers in a four-run ninth-inning, the Giants dug too deep of …last_img

Who Needs Cable? 3 iPad Apps That Glue Me To My TV

first_imgThe Internet may be changing TV, but it is nowhere close to completely disrupting it.Why’s that? In a word, content.Web videos can rack up millions of views (and millions of dollars), but the Web isn’t yet giving us content as compelling as Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad. Netflix, Hulu and YouTube are all trying to change that by investing in TV-quality programming for the Internet. But there’s another problem: the user experience. Even the best Internet videos have to be clicked, queued, buffered and occasionally refreshed. You can’t just sit down and watch. Fortunately, that’s starting to change. I don’t have a subscription to cable TV, nor have I had the slightest desire for one. When I sit down in front my TV, it’s with an iPad and Apple remote, which controls my Apple TV set top box. I stream shows from all the usual suspects: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon. But lately, a handful of innovative social video apps have been nabbing more and more of my attention. ShowyouShowyou has long occupied a spot in the top row of my iPad’s “Entertainment” folder, and it’s only gotten better since I first installed it. The app borrows heavily from the Flipboard concept, but instead of articles and blog posts, it curates personalized video clips based on my social connections and interests I’ve explicitly declared by adding channels. I can also follow individual friends on Showyou, independently of whatever relationship I may (or may not) have with them on Twitter or Facebook. In that sense, Showyou is a bit of a social network in its own right. There’s a ton of content in Showyou. Video clips come from legacy brands like ABC News and the New York Times alongside Web sources like Reddit, Pitchfork, The Verge and Gawker. Each category of channels (Comedy, Tech, News, Music, etc) lists at least a dozen sources, each of which can be added as a channel. If you actively follow channels on YouTube, you can plug your Google account into Showyou and include those videos as well. Combine all of this formal curation with feeds of videos shared by Facebook and Twitter friends, and you’ve got an enormous amount of personalized, highly relevant video content. You can break them down by channel or social network or you can view everything in one huge mega-channel. Factor in continuous playback and you’ll be sitting in front of your TV for awhile. VodioLike ShowYou, Vodio merges self-declared interests with socially fueled recommendations. Its channels are far less granular (they’re more like general categories rather than feeds from individual content providers). Its design is decidedly simpler, with a big rotating carousel of video channels and minimal controls. Some channels are more useful than others. The Music channel pulls in videos from a range of sources, and seems to presume that I’m interested in UK boy band One Direction. By contrast, other social video apps let you subscribe to specific music publications, labels and artists, which obviously results in a more personally relevant selection of videos. News, on the other hand, is great on Vodio. The app pulls news clips from outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and ABC, auto-playing them back-to-back to create a sort of multi-sourced, commercial-free news broadcast. The continuous playback makes it feel like watching a single news channel, but with fewer talking heads and more variety. FrequencyFrequency is awesome. It’s pretty much the same concept as the other apps – plug in your social networks and select your favorite Web video content channels – but with an interface that more deliberately mimics the experience of watching TV. Tapping each channel icon is akin to “changing the channel” on a television, jumping from Reddit to Ars Technica, from Gawker to Lifehacker. Whatever you’re into. Like ShowYou and Vodio, Frequency pulls in the videos your friends are sharing on Facebook and Twitter. I can’t overstate how much more effective it is to peruse these videos in this context than it is to scroll through the noise of tweets and status updates to find them. And like the other apps, Frequency plays videos continuously back-to-back. This turns watching Web video from a hunt-and-tap experience to a lean-back and don’t-make-any-decisions experience.Kind of like TV. Lead photo by Gustavo Devito. 5 Outdoor Activities for Beating Office Burnout 4 Keys to a Kid-Safe App Related Posts john paul titlowcenter_img Tags:#iPad#social video#television#YouTube 9 Books That Make Perfect Gifts for Industry Ex… 12 Unique Gifts for the Hard-to-Shop-for People…last_img read more