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Місія марсоходу Opportunity офіційно завершена

Американське космічне агентство NASA 13 лютого офіційно оголосило про припинення функціонування марсохода Opportunity, що потрапив у 2018 році в найпотужнішу пилову бурю на Червоній планеті і відтоді не виходив на зв’язок.

«Місія Opportunity завершена», – заявив помічник голови NASA з питань науки Томас Зурбучен.

NASA повідомило 12 лютого, що зробить фінальну спробу зв’язатися з марсоходом Opportunity. Востаннє зонд виходив на зв’язок вісім місяців тому.

Opportunity сів на Марсі в 2004 році і подолав там близько 45 кілометрів.

У червні 2018 року NASA повідомило, що припинило виконання наукових операцій марсоходом Opportunity через пилову бурю. Буря перешкоджала проникненню сонячних променів крізь атмосферу і позбавляла марсохід джерела енергії, а працював він на сонячних батареях.

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China’s Huawei Soft Power Push Raises Hard Questions

As a nasty diplomatic feud deepens between the two countries over the tech company, involving arrests and execution orders, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Huawei’s bright red fan-shaped logo is plastered prominently on the set of “Hockey Night in Canada.” TV hosts regularly remind the 1.8 million weekly viewers that program segments are “presented by Huawei smartphones.”

The cheery corporate message contrasts with the standoff over the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. In what looks like retaliation, China detained two Canadians and plans to execute a third — heavy-handed tactics that, because they leave some Canadians with the impression the privately owned company is an arm of the Chinese government, give its sponsorship a surreal quality.

The TV deal is one of many examples of how Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom gear producer and one of the top smartphone makers, has embarked on a global push to win consumers and burnish its brand. It sponsors Australian rugby, funds research at universities around the world, and brings foreign students to China for technical training. It has promoted classical music concerts in Europe and donated pianos to New Zealand schools .

Its efforts are now threatened by the dispute with Canada and U.S. accusations that it could help China’s authoritarian government spy on people around the world.

“Huawei’s marketing plan up until Dec. 1 (when Meng was arrested) was working very well,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China. Now, “public opinion is changing toward China and Huawei.”

At stake for Huawei are lucrative contracts to provide new superfast mobile networks called 5G. The U.S. says Meng helped break sanctions and accuses Huawei of stealing trade secrets. It also says the company could let the Chinese government tap its networks, which in the case of 5G would cover massive amounts of consumer data worldwide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed that point to European allies on a tour this week.

Huawei, which did not respond to requests for comment for this story, has previously rejected the allegations. The Chinese government says Huawei’s critics were fabricating threats.

Still, the headlines have been relentlessly negative.

“At some point there could be a majority of Canadians that will say `We don’t think the government should do business with Huawei,”’ said Saint-Jacques.

There’s no evidence of sinister intentions behind Huawei’s marketing, which isn’t unlike that of Western multinationals, although its efforts have been unusually strong for a company from China, where brands have struggled to capture global attention.

Rogers Communications, which broadcasts “Hockey in Night in Canada” and also sells Huawei smartphones, said it has no plans to change its sponsorship deal, which started in 2017 and runs to the end of 2020.

In Australia, the Canberra Raiders rugby team indicated it would renew a Huawei sponsorship deal this year despite a government ban on using its equipment in 5G networks.

Huawei has also ventured into high culture by using its smartphone artificial intelligence to complete the remaining movements in German composer Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8,” known as the “Unfinished Symphony.” It held a symphony orchestra concert in London this month to perform the completed score.

And Huawei has a vast network of relationships with universities around the world through research partnerships and scholarships. It has helped fund a 25 million pound ($32 million) joint research project at Britain’s Cambridge University.

Some universities have begun to rethink their collaborations, although there’s no allegation of wrongdoing by Huawei. Universities point out that companies that fund research don’t automatically own any resulting patents.

Britain’s Oxford University stopped accepting Huawei’s money last month. Stanford University followed suit after U.S. prosecutors unsealed nearly two dozen charges against the company, as did the University of California at Berkeley, which also removed an off-campus videoconferencing set-up donated by Huawei based on guidance from the Department of Defense.

Faced with these setbacks, Huawei has responded by stepping up its public relations efforts.

Its normally reclusive chairman, Ren Zhengfei, last month held three media briefings, fielding questions from Western, Japanese and Chinese journalists.

The company will be out in force this month at the Mobile World Congress, a major telecom industry gathering in Barcelona, Spain. It’s expected to unveil its latest smartphone, a 5G device with a folding screen. Company executives are scheduled to brief analysts and give presentations on 5G technology.

Huawei is a corporate sponsor of the show and Ren is expected to attend to help win business deals, though U.S. officials are reportedly expected to turn out in force to lobby against Huawei.

The company last week hosted a Lunar New Year reception in Brussels for the European Union diplomatic community, in a ballroom commissioned by Belgium’s King Leopold II. There was a piano concert, a jazz performance, a bubble tea bar, and a speech by Huawei’s chief EU representative, Abraham Liu.

“We are shocked or sometimes feel amused by those ungrounded and senseless allegations,” Liu told the reception guests, adding that the company is “willing to accept the supervision” from governments in Europe, Huawei’s biggest market after China. Huawei plans to open a cybersecurity center in Brussels next month, he said.

To attract top talent, Huawei runs a program called “Seeds for the Future,” under which it sends students from more than 100 countries to China to study Mandarin and get technical training at its headquarters.

Shanthi Kalathil, director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, sees Huawei’s charm offensive dovetailing with broader efforts by China to influence the global debate on the government’s surveillance and censorship it uses.

“It’s not like an afterthought. That is the foundation of the entire system,” she said.

Whether or not Huawei is linked to the Chinese government or merely defended as a corporate champion, the fight over the company shows how world powers see technology as the front line in the fight for economic supremacy.

“Today’s innovation economy is based on IP (intellectual property) and data,” said Jim Balsillie, the former chairman and co-CEO of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion. “So soft power is the best tool for advancing national interests because the battle is not about armies and tanks.”

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Indonesian Musicians Rally Against Music Bill

More than 200 Indonesian musicians have started a movement against a draft bill on music law (RUU Permusikan) being considered in the legislature that they say could limit freedom of expression.

Mondo Gascaro, a composer and music producer, and one of the people who initiated the National Coalition against the Draft Bill on Music, says most of the articles in the bill are problematic.

“These articles don’t address the problem about the welfare of people in the music industry. The government’s regulations should ensure a good ecosystem for music (industry), and instead the articles in the bill can potentially limit musicians’ freedom of expression,” he said at a press conference in Jakarta on February 6.

Gascaro believes the bill is also problematic because it is unclear what are the issues that the government wants to regulate because the bill only focuses on the musicians.

“They said this is about governance of the music industry, but there are terminologies that are missing from the bill when you talk about the industry, there’s production, creation, distribution, artists,” he continued.

The coalition is calling for the bill to be discarded. Arian Arifin, a vocalist of the Indonesian heavy metal band Seringai, said it is pointless to revise the bill because he said more than 80 percent of the articles are disorganized. 

Bill not yet finalized

Although the draft bill on music law has been included in the 2019 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas), which means it is one of the priority bills that can be passed this year, Representative Inosentius Samsul, a backer of the measure, said it is not final. 

“It can still be revised and reviewed,” the lawmaker said at a press conference on February 4.

“We make the framework and the main stakeholders (musicians) only need to fill it. If there are things that need improvement, we will be open to discuss it and revise the script,” he explained. 

The coalition is not convinced, however, because the bill is already in the Prolegnas, and revising a script with articles can be problematic. 

“Why bother revising, you might as well create a new one. Start from the beginning with transparency and credible sources,” Arifin said. 

One of the sources cited in the draft bill is a Blogspot page that was written by a student from a high school in Central Kalimantan. Rara Sekar Larasati, a singer and a researcher on Cultural Anthropology, questioned the sources that were used as a basis of the bill’s script. 

“The sources for the articles are irrelevant. How can you cite a Blogspot that was made by a high school student?” she told VOA.

Potential criminalization

Larasati said a major concern for artists is the possibility for musicians to be prosecuted and jailed under the draft bill.

“We see there’s Article 5 that can potentially be a ‘rubber law,’ ” she said, referring to the term used in Indonesia for a law with ambiguous wording that is open for broad interpretation. “This is like a pattern for the state to censor and control its citizens.”

The article states that musicians are not allowed to encourage the public to commit violence, make pornographic content, provoke dispute, commit blasphemy, bring the negative influence of a foreign culture, and demean people’s dignity.

Asfinawati, director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), said Article 50, at the end of the script, states anyone who violates Article 5 can be punished with imprisonment or fines. 

“But the wordings are problematic, must not encourage the public to commit acts against the law. In law, the word encourage is ambiguous. For example, a musician can sing on stage, but in one corner there are people gambling. The authority can say the performance encourage gambling, or be connected to a violent act in the same place,” she explained. 

In addition, the bill mentions the negative influence of foreign culture. Asfinawati is unsure whether it refers only to the negative things that may be adopted from another culture or deems all foreign cultures negative.

“When we talk about foreign (culture), the problem is there is not a single country in the world that is authentic. We have been influenced by other cultures. Should we muzzle all of it? And musicians must not demean one’s dignity? What if they wrote a song about rape or domestic abuse. They may need to portray the act of demeaning another person to highlight the social issue,” she said.

Moreover, Article 32 states that to be acknowledged in the profession, musicians must take a competency test.

Gede Robi, a member of an Indie band Navicula, believes this can be used to silence independent musicians who are critical of the government. 

“They may not find negative elements in the songs, but it’s possible we can simply be dismissed from the profession, and no longer acknowledged as a musician,” he added. 

Robi said that a poorly drafted bill will hurt the music industry in Indonesia, especially the smaller independent bands. “We want the state to make our lives easier by not diminishing our efforts,” he said. 

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Thai Political Party Facing Dissolution

Thailand’s election commission is calling for the dissolution of the political party that nominated a member of the royal family as its candidate for prime minister. 

The commission filed a request with the Constitutional Court Wednesday to disband the Thai Raksa Chart party because it violated the country’s system of a constitutional monarchy alongside a democratically elected government. 

The Thai Raksa Chart party last Friday nominated Princess Ubolratana Mahidol to run for prime minister in the March 24 general election. The 67-year-old Princess Ubolratana gave up her royal titles after her marriage in 1972 to an American, whom she has since divorced. But King Maha Vajiralongkorn overruled the move as inappropriate and unconstitutional, saying Ubolratana is still a member of the royal family. The Election Commission formally disqualified her on Monday.

In a message on her social media account, Ubolrantana expressed remorse that “my genuine intention to help work for the country and all Thai people has created a problem that should not happen in this day and age.” The message ended with the hashtag theme “#howcomeitsthewayitis.”

The move to dissolve Thai Raksa Chart is notable because it is aligned with the Pheu Thai, the main political party of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin remains popular among Thailand’s rural majority, and his affiliated parties have won every general election since 2001. 

Thaksin and the royalists have been quarreling for most of the last two decades in a bitter feud that has fueled bloodshed and two coups, including one in 2014 that returned the country to its current state of military rule.

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How Communist Vietnam Will Gain as Host of US-North Korea Summit

When Singapore played host in June to the first summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, businesspeople in the city-state made money from summit-themed merchandise and side events. About 2,500 journalists visited, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was quoted saying the summit would bolster his country’s image abroad.

Now Vietnam, as host to a second Kim-Trump summit scheduled for February 27-28, should expect to get even more, country specialists say.

The summit in Hanoi, likely covering U.S. concerns about the buildup of North Korean weapons, will earn Vietnam new respect from both democratic and communist countries, good for its multi-country foreign policy and reputation as a go-to country for business including large international events.

“All the stakeholders, North Korea, the United States, China and South Korea, trust Vietnam to be a neutral host,” said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor with the University of New South Wales in Australia. China backs North Korea, which the U.S. government fears is developing nuclear weapons.

“Vietnam’s success will reaffirm the correctness of its foreign policy of ‘diversifying and mutilateralizing’ its external relations and being ‘a reliable friend to all,’” he said. “Vietnam benefits from the leverage it acquires as host for the second summit.”

Ties with world’s biggest economy

Once war-ravaged Vietnam’s quick economic growth since the late 1980s stands to get special attention at the summit from the United States.

Foreign direct investment drawn by cheap labor has driven the Southeast Asian country’s economic growth of 6-7 percent since 2012. Last month alone, registered investment from abroad grew 27.4% compared to the same month a year ago. Also last month Vietnam joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal encompassing about 13.5 percent of the world economy.

The U.S. government had placed Vietnam under a 19-year trade embargo through 1994.

American consumers now look to Vietnam for shoes, clothing and electronics as U.S. firms increasingly eye the Vietnamese middle class as a viable export market, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at the market research firm IHS Markit. 

“Vietnam’s relationship with the U.S. will definitely be a key feature of this meeting,” Biswas said. “Although the meeting is obviously between the U.S. and North Korea, I think the backdrop of President Trump visiting Vietnam is also very positive for Vietnam. It offers the opportunity for bilateral dialogue.”

U.S.-Vietnam relations are “moving to a new higher level,” he said, and this summit “puts a spotlight” on that trend.

In 2017 Trump lauded Vietnam’s economic progress as a “great miracle” despite a trade gap favoring Hanoi. His comment tells North Korea that as a country with Communist rule like Vietnam’s it can improve too, said Frederick Burke, partner with the law firm Baker McKenzie in Ho Chi Minh City.

International events

The summit will add to Vietnam’s list of major international events, analysts add. Countries in Asia, Thayer said, “know that Vietnam is capable of providing security, excellent accommodation, and professional diplomatic experience to managing a high-level summit meeting.”

The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting took place in 2017 in Vietnam’s central coast city Da Nang. Next year Vietnam will chair the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a role that requires holding a series of large-scale events.

“I think that Vietnamese leaders have not really been confident in the international arena,” said Trung Nguyen, international relations dean at Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. “This is a chance for them to be used to receiving a lot of attention in the world.”

Political prestige

Vietnam, already trusted by the summit parties, will go on record this month for supporting a regional peace effort if the two summit participants make progress on handling North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Burke said.

“It’s stature in terms of the international community, not just a responsible member but actually as a leader who steps up to the highest level of international relations and international problem solving,” Burke said. 

Vietnam, like other Southeast Asian governments, pursues a balanced foreign policy to get security and economic benefits from China as well as from Western powers.

At the summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim issued a broad joint statement covering U.S. security guarantees for North Korea and expressing support for a cut in nuclear weapons.

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ГПУ: на майно Захарченка повторно наклали арешт

Печерський районний суд Києва повторно наклав арешт на майно підозрюваного у злочинах проти Майдану екс-голови МВС Віталія Захарченка, скасований 30 січня, повідомляє Генеральна прокуратура України.

Як йдеться у відповіді ГПУ на запит Радіо Свобода, таке рішення слідчий суддя ухвалив 7 лютого за клопотанням слідчого.

Крім того, на ухвалу цього ж суду, який наприкінці січня скасував арешт, накладений на 26 об’єктів нерухомості, пов’язаних із Захарченком, у рамках справи про незаконне збагачення і відмивання грошей, прокурор 1 лютого подав апеляційну скаргу. Суд її поки що не розглянув, додали в прокуратурі.

У ГПУ нагадали, що у квітні 2018 року суд дав дозвіл на спеціальне досудове розслідування стосовно екс-міністра внутрішніх справ Віталія Захарченка.

Читайте також: Справа екс-міністра Захарченка: утікачеві повернули майно?

У прокуратурі додали, що Захарченка, зокрема, підозрюють в «організації в складі організованої злочинної групи перевищення влади і службових повноважень працівниками правоохоронних органів з метою перешкоджання проведенню зборів, мітингів, походів і демонстрацій, що призвело до масових жертв серед мітингувальників, тобто до настання тяжких наслідків, організації умисних убивств і замахів на умисні вбивства учасників масових акцій протесту в центрі Києва в період із 18 до 20 лютого 2014 року і терористичного акту на вулиці Інститутській у Києві».

Віталій Захарченко очолював МВС України з 2011 по 2014 рік. Після Революції Гідності він втік до Росії і там отримав російське громадянство. В Україні Захарченко оголошений в розшук як підозрюваний у розстрілах демонстрантів на Майдані.


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У Польщі відбудеться саміт, присвячений Близькому Сходу

У Польщі відбудеться організований США саміт, присвячений Близькому Сходу.

Головною темою конференції у Варшаві має стати Іран. Тегеран, зі свого боку, назвав зібрання ворожим актом і попередив Польщу про наслідки.

Офіційними організаторами заходу є державний секретар США Майк Помпео та міністр закордонних справ Польщі Яцек Чапутовіч. У конференції мають взяти участь чільні посадовці із 60 країн. Серед них віце-президент США Майк Пенс та прем’єр-міністр Ізраїлю Біньямін Нетаньягу.

Джерела Радіо Свобода в США повідомили, що понад 20 інших країн будуть представлені на заході членами міністерств. Мова йде про Британію, Болгарію, Італію, Грузію, Румунію, Україну, Південну Корею, Бразилію та низку арабських націй, зокрема Марокко та Саудівську Аравію.

Водночас у заході не візьме участь Верховний представник ЄС в закордонних справах Федеріка Моґеріні й міністри закордонних справ інших європейських держав, включно з Росією.

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Через негоду в Україні 188 населених пунктів знеструмлені – ДСНС

Через негоду в Україні 188 населених пунктів знеструмлені, повідомила Державна служба України з надзвичайних ситуацій зранку 13 лютого.

У Черкаській області знеструмлені 74 населені пункти, у Київській – 69, у Чернігівській – 18, у Сумській – 15, у Кіровоградській – вісім, у Дніпропетровській – чотири.

Рятувальники пояснили, що населені пункти були знеструмлені через ускладнення погодних умов (сніг, місцями мокрий сніг та пориви вітру).