Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday hailed the upcoming launch of Sino-Brazilian satellite CBERS-4A from a base in Taiyuan, capital city of northern China's Shanxi province.
"This coming 20th (of December), the CBERS-4A satellite, as well as the Floripasat nanosatellite, will be launched from China for diverse surveillance purposes," Bolsonaro said via Twitter.
The CBERS-4A, built in part with Brazilian technology, "is part of a cooperation agreement with China dating from 1988," the president added.
Floripasat is a miniaturized satellite, known as a CubeSat, which was developed by Brazil's Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Bolsonaro said.
Jointly built by Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE) and the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the CBERS-4A arrived at the Taiyuan base on Nov. 5. It is the sixth satellite developed as part of the CBERS program, signed by the two governments in the late 1980s.
The satellite is programed to make 14 orbits daily around the planet, mainly to monitor deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest, and to supply agricultural data.
According to the INPE, the CBERS-4A will orbit at a lower altitude than the currently-functioning CBERS-4, so it can generate higher-resolution images.
In 2004, the CBERS program initiated an open-data policy, allowing research institutions, universities and private-sector companies to benefit from the free use of images captured by the satellite.
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The enhanced X-Ray Timing and Polarimetry mission (eXTP) could set an example of good cooperation between the Czech Republic and China, said Czech scientists attending an international workshop on Astronomical X-Ray Optics which closed here on Friday.
The eXTP is a China-led cutting-edge satellite observatory that aims to explore still mysterious celestial bodies, such as black holes and neutron stars.
The project, to be launched by 2027, has reached out for cooperation with scientists from more than 20 countries, including Italy, Germany,and France.
Chinese researchers in the past relied mainly on interpreting data from other space programs, noted Prof. Vladimir Karas, director of Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
But he stressed that the eXTP would change the trend as Chinese astrophysicists become more important in the international scientific community.
The eXTP project also spells closer economic cooperation between China and Europe. The satellite will carry four payloads - two developed mainly by China and two by Europe.
China will supply a Spectroscopy Focusing Array (SFA) and Polarimetry Focusing Array (PFA), while the European side will develop the Large Area Detector (LAD) and Wide Field Monitor (WFM).
The Czech team, composed of scientists from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Silesian University in Opava, will contribute in cooperation with the Czech industry.
Czech scientists will participate in measurements of X-rays from the closest neighborhood of black holes and neutron stars.
"These satellites are extremely complicated and expensive, so it turns out that one country, one academy, or one space agency has finite resources to produce one satellite," said Karas, who is also Co-Principal Investigator of the Czech project for the eXTP.
"But these satellites don't last forever. They fly a few years, and they need to be replaced... no country is able to repeat this many times. There needs collaboration," Karas added.
Karas said his team's collaboration with Chinese researchers began about 10 years ago at an astrophysics conference in Spain, where he and a Chinese researcher from Shanghai found shared research interests.
Since then, Karas has co-signed research papers with Chinese physicists and saw the launch of the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) in China two years ago.
Formal relations between the Chinese and Czech space programs began in the early 1990s. The Czech Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Sciences both finance student exchanges and allow researchers to visit each other's academies.
The Czech Republic, through the European Space Agency (ESA), is also formally collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on other projects such as the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE).
So far, the Czech Republic is part of the main consortium on SMILE and providing "top-level participation" during the project's finalization.
"SMILE is already in the manufacturing process, everything is fixed, and it's official," said Prof. Rene Hudec, the Czech team's lead from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University.
However, the ESA has yet to sign on to the eXTP project officially.
"I hear that they will somehow support or join the mission so that everything should be on the right track," said Karas. "For us, it would be a big help because the Czech Republic is a small country and we are involved in the ESA."
Social media companies are failing to stop manipulated activity, according to a report Friday by NATO-affiliated researchers who said they were easily able to buy tens of thousands of likes, comments and views on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Most of the phony accounts and the activity they engaged in remained online weeks later, even after researchers at the NATO Strategic Command Centre of Excellence flagged them up as fake.
The center, an independent group based in Latvia that advises the military alliance, said the findings contrast with statements from tech companies that say they've been working harder on stamping out manipulation.
"Overall social media companies are experiencing significant challenges in countering the malicious use of their platforms," the report said.
Online manipulation emerged as a major issue for tech companies after the 2016 U.S. election, when Russian influence efforts came to light. The researchers found that most fake social media activity is bought for commercial, not political, reasons. It can include Instagram influencers trying to pump up their profiles to make more money from their brand contracts.
Fake accounts are still used for political means, though it's a minor slice of the industry and aimed at "non-western" pages, the researchers said, noting they were used to buy engagement on hundreds of political pages and dozens of government pages.
To carry out the study, the researchers turned to the "manipulation service provider" industry, which is expanding to feed the growing demand for phony clicks and likes. They used 16 companies, most based in Russia, to buy fake online engagement for 105 posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. They spent just 300 euros ($330) to purchase 3,530 comments, 25,750 likes, 20,000 views and 5,100 followers.
To avoid influencing real conversations, they only bought clicks for posts that were at least six months old and carried neutral and non-political messages, such as "Hello!" and "Thank you!" on New Year's greetings from European Union commissioners.
Four weeks later, 80% of the fake activity remained online, the researchers found, as they sought to gauge whether the sites were independently detecting misuse. They then reported 100 of the accounts as fake, but found about 95 remained active three weeks later.
Some companies were better than others, the report said.
YouTube was the easiest site on which to create fake accounts but the best at countering artificial likes and video views. Manipulating Instagram is easy and cheap because the site is was largely unable to detect and stop it, while Twitter was best at detecting and removing manipulation.
Facebook was best at stopping fake accounts, but any that got through were more successful because they faced little further scrutiny, and their comments and views weren't removed. Facebook says it disabled 2.2 billion fake accounts in the first quarter of this year.
"Fake engagement tactics remain a challenge facing the entire industry," Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said in a statement. "We're making massive investments to find and remove fake accounts and engagement every day."
YouTube said it takes any abuse of its systems seriously and has invested in technology to prevent the artificial inflation of video view counts.
"While no anti-spam system will ever be perfect, our teams work very hard to manage spam views to less than one percent of all views," it said in a statement.
Twitter said it has "invested significant technical resources to this issue and are committed to improvement."
German carmaker Audi announced on Friday that worldwide deliveries went up by 23.1 percent to a total of 163,350 vehicles last month, which was more than ever before in November.
Around 58,300 vehicles had been sold in Europe, a sharp increase of 33 percent, according to Audi, a subsidiary of Germany's largest carmaker Volkswagen.
The strong increase of Audi sales in Europe was explained by weak sales figures in November of 2018 that resulted from the switchover to new European pollution standards known as WLTP (or Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles test), for which several Audi models failed to receive certification in time.
In November, Audi increased sales in North America by 17.3 percent and in China by 16.8 percent. Both markets had contributed to the "record-breaking figure", the German luxury carmaker noted.
In China, a total of 67,402 cars had been delivered in November. Audi recorded high demand for the long-version model A6 L and recently introduced another long-version model, the Q2 L, as an all-electric model exclusive to China.
In the year to November, Audi sold almost 1.7 million vehicles, a slight increase of 0.7 percent year on year.
"We therefore still expect our deliveries to customers to perform robustly and to see slight growth for 2019 as a whole," said Hildegard Wortmann, member of the board of management for sales and marketing at Audi.