With China: You Had Better Look The Gift Horse In The Mouth; Or Die

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN AND OF THE GOOGLE PLUS WEBSITE OF ANDY TAI)

 

The Guardian view on China’s spreading influence: look in the gift horse’s mouth

There is growing concern about Beijing’s attempts to shape the thinking of politicians and the public overseas
Donald Trump meets the Chinese president, Xi Jinping in Florida in April last year

The arrest of a former CIA agent this week is the stuff of a classic murky spy tale. Though he is charged with unlawfully retaining national defence information, the US reportedly suspects that he leaked the names of informants. An earlier report alleged that China imprisoned or killed multiple US sources between 2010 and 2012. Both countries have plans for tackling espionage. But analysts, intelligence agencies and politicians are now debating how to handle the subtler challenge of Chinese influence activities: a “magic weapon” neither cloak-and-dagger nor transparent.

China says it does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. Yet all nations seek to sway foreign governments and citizens towards their own priorities, interests and perspectives. The question is how they do so, and how far they go. (No one should pretend that western nations always act above board.)

China’s influence work is strategic and multifaceted. Some of it is distinctive mainly for lavish resourcing. The National Endowment for Democracy recently described other aspects as “sharp power”: the effort by authoritarian states not just to attract support but to determine and control attitudes abroad. It seeks to “guide” the diaspora and enlist it for political activity. It embraces foreigners, appointing those with political influence to high-profile roles in Chinese companies. Chinese-language media overseas have been bought by entrepreneurs with ties to Beijing. Partnerships with universities shape research and limit debate.

Last month, Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced a bill banning foreign donations as he warned of “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” attempts to influence politics. It follows a senator’s resignation after allegations that he tipped off a Chinese donor that his phone was probably tapped by security agencies; the case has reportedly prompted the Trump administration to open an investigation into Beijing’s covert influence operations in the US. In New Zealand, a Chinese-born MP denied being a spy after it emerged that he had spent years at top Chinese military colleges. A leading scholar on China has alleged that its “covert, corrupting and coercive political influence activities in New Zealand are now at a critical level”.

Chinese state media has complained of “hysterical paranoia” with racist undertones in Australia. In an era of populism, there is good reason to worry that members of the diaspora, in particular, could face unfair suspicion. Citizens have the right to listen to the views of a foreign government, be persuaded and share them. But to speak for them, on their order, is different. Is someone acting spontaneously, or have they been prodded, coerced or bought? What links or leverage does Beijing enjoy? Establishing the answers is hard – and proving self-censorship even tougher. But it is essential to at least attempt to distinguish between legitimate, improper and illegal activities.

Casting light on the issue is by far the most important step. Democracies must delve into areas that may prove embarrassing. They need the capability to do so – starting with language skills. Working together would help. In places, laws may need to be tightened, though with care: banning foreign political donations is a basic step. For this issue says as much about the west as China. Beijing’s keenness to control speech is manifest, while influential figures and institutions in democracies proclaim lofty ideals – then fall prey to gullibility or greed. China’s influence would not go very far without the western hunger for its cash.

Iranian oil tanker explodes, sinks off China with no survivors

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER AND ANDY TAI GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE)

 

Iran oil tanker explodes, sinks off China with no survivors

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/video/embed/109476966?sitelabel=reimagine&platform=desktop&continuousplay=true&placement=uw-smallarticleattophtml5&pagetype=story

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A burning Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea on Sunday in the worst oil ship disaster in decades has produced a large oil slick, as worries grow over damage to the marine ecosystem.Newslook

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TEHRAN, Iran — A burning Iranian oil tanker exploded and sank Sunday after more than a week listing off the coast of China, as an Iranian official acknowledged there was “no hope” of missing sailors surviving the disaster.

The collision and disaster of the Sanchi, which carried 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, had transfixed an Iran still reeling from days of protests and unrest that swept the country at the start of the year.

Families of the sailors wept and screamed at the headquarters of the National Iranian Tanker Co. in Tehran, the private company that owns the Sanchi. Some needed to be taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals because they were so overwhelmed by the news.

“Thirty-two people died without a funeral and without coffins! They burned to ashes while their families were wailing here!” cried out one woman who didn’t give her name. The government “has come after 10 days to sympathize with them? What sympathy are you talking about?”

State TV earlier quoted Mahmoud Rastad, the chief of Iran’s maritime agency, as saying: “There is no hope of finding survivors among the (missing) 29 members of the crew.”

President Hassan Rouhani expressed his condolences and called on relevant government agencies to investigate the tragedy and take any necessary legal measures, according to state TV. In a message, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his condolences and sympathy with the victims’ families, his own website, Khamenei.ir, reported Sunday. The government also announced that Monday will be a nationwide day of public mourning over the disaster.

The cause of the Jan. 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, 160 miles off the coast of Shanghai, remains unclear. The CF Crystal had 21 crew members, all of whom were reported safe.

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/video/embed/109252272?sitelabel=reimagine&platform=desktop&continuousplay=true&placement=uw-smallarticleinlinehtml5&pagetype=story

A tanker carrying Iranian oil and run by the country’s top oil shipping operator was ablaze and spewing cargo into the East China Sea on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, leaving its 32 crew members missing, according to the Chinese government. Matthew Larotonda reports Video provided by Reuters Newslook

But the Sanchi, carrying nearly 1 million barrels of a gassy, ultra-light oil bound for South Korea, burst into flames. Chinese officials blamed poor weather for complicating their rescue efforts. Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, engaged in the rescue and cleanup effort Saturday, spraying foam in an effort to extinguish the fire.

Around noon Sunday, Chinese state media reported that a large explosion shook the Sanchi, its hull and superstructure completely stripped of paint by the flames. The ship then sank into the sea.

The Chinese say the ship left a 3.8-square-mile area contaminated with oil. However, the condensate oil the ship was carrying readily evaporates or burns off in a fire, reducing the chance of a major oil spill.

Chinese state media also said the ship’s voice data recorder, which functions like “black boxes” on aircraft, had been recovered. Three bodies have been recovered from the sea, leaving 29 crew members still unaccounted for.

The tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according to the United Nations-run International Maritime Organization. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

It’s the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

More: Oil tanker burning off China’s coast at risk of exploding

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President Trump Is Correct About Putting America First

TRUMP PUTTING AMERICA FIRST IS THE ONLY CORRECT THING TO DO

 

As anyone who reads the Blog surely knows by now, I am not at all a fan of Donald Trump. It is difficult for me to think of a civil word in the concept of describing this person. Those who follow this Blog also know that I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton so I hope that you understand this article today is not about being a Democrat or a Republican as I am neither. So far though I do believe that the Republican Party is bringing much harm to themselves by standing behind this President. I do believe that if the Republicans have not gotten the guts to stand with the Democrats and to impeach Trump from Office before the November 2018 Mid-term Elections they are going to get slaughtered in those Elections. On a side note, I also feel that the Christians who are standing with this President are doing a great dishonor to Christ and His Holy Name as there is nothing holy about Mr. Trump. It is right and correct to pray for our Leaders but it is sinful to back sinful policies in the name of Christianity.

 

Now to the main headline of today’s commentary. Ever since Mr. Trump in his Campaign started using the slogan ‘America First’ he has drawn a lot of fire and anger from ‘the left, Democrats and liberals’. To me this anger is total stupidity! I do totally believe that Mr. Trump is a total racists but I do not at all consider this ‘slogan’ to be racist in any way. If Mr. Trump was saying something along the lines of ‘Whites First’ then yes, that would be totally racist. Yet any Leader or want to be Leader of any country who doesn’t create policies to put his own Nation first has no business being a Leader of that Nation. Think about it for a moment, if Mr. Trump’s slogan was ‘China First, or Russia First’, do you think that the American people would have elected him?

 

If Chancellor Merkel of Germany vocally or via policies said her goal is to put the EU before Germany should be voted out of Office? If Prime Minister May of England did the same thing, should she be the Prime Minister? How about President Jinping of China, if he was pushing a policy of Japan first, would he still be the President of China? How about Mr. Putin of Russia, if he was saying ‘America First’, would he still be the President of Russia? What I am saying is, of course Mr. Trump should put the interest of America first, if he didn’t, wouldn’t he then be a traitor to his own Country? What I am saying is, just because you or I believe this person (I have a hard time calling him a man) to be ignorant self-centered scum of the Earth, it does not mean that everything he says is wrong nor from his racist Soul.

China’s Leadership Will Never Tolerate Anyone Being Truthful

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWSPAPER ‘SHINE’)

(CHINA’S COMMUNIST PARTY LEADERSHIP WILL NEVER TOLERATE ANYONE WHO DARES SPEAK ‘THE TRUTH’)(trs) 

China probes foreign companies labeling China’s territories as independent countries

Reuters

China’s aviation authority on Friday demanded an apology from Delta Air Lines for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, while another government agency took aim at Inditex-owned fashion brand Zara and medical device maker Medtronic Plc for similar issues.

The moves follow a regulator’s decision on Thursday to suspend Marriott International Inc’s Chinese website for a week to punish the world’s biggest hotel chain for listing Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China asked Delta to investigate the listing of Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, and called for an “immediate and public” apology.

The aviation authority also said it would require all foreign airlines operating routes to China to conduct comprehensive investigations of their websites, apps and customer-related information and “strictly comply with China’s laws and regulations to prevent a similar thing from happening.”

In a statement, Delta apologized for making “an inadvertent error with no business or political intention,” saying it recognized the seriousness of the issue and had taken steps to resolve it.

Separately, the same regulator that penalized Marriott – the Shanghai branch of the state cyberspace administration – accused Zara of placing Taiwan in a pull-down list of countries on its Chinese website.

Medtronic had also put “Republic of China (Taiwan)” on one of its websites, the office said in a WeChat post.

Medtronic issued an apology via social media, saying it had updated the website. An executive who answered the phone at Zara’s Shanghai office was not able to immediately comment.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing on Friday that Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were all part of China.

“The companies that come to China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s laws, and respect the feelings of the Chinese people. This is the minimum requirement of any company going to another country to carry out business and investment,” he said.

China Authorities Bomb Evangelical Megachurch

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Christians in China Fear Persecution Will Get Worse After Authorities Bomb Evangelical Megachurch (VIDEO)

(SCREENCAP: YOUTUBE/GUARDIAN NEWS)Footage of the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church by Chinese officials in Linfen, Shanxi province, China, on January 9, 2018.

An evangelical megachurch was destroyed by Chinese Communist authorities Tuesday in the country’s northern Shanxi province, sparking fears among Christians that the persecution they suffer will soon get worse.

China Aid said in an update Wednesday that Chinese military police detonated explosives inside Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, destroying the $2.6 million house of worship, which was owned by the Christians who worshiped there.

A demolition crew broke apart the remaining pieces of the church after the explosion with diggers and jackhammers.

Lampstand’s head Pastor, Yang Rongli, had previously spent seven years in prison on charges of assembling a large crowd to disturb traffic order, and has been under police surveillance since his release in October 2016.

Describing the demolition, the pastor was quoted as saying that at first, police surrounded the church.

“Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass. At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch,” she said.

“The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”

The order to demolish the church reportedly came from China’s top officials, who control the military police.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid President and founder Bob Fu.

“ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

The Guardian reports that a Catholic church in the neighboring province of Shaanxi was also demolished in a similar fashion last month, which is stoking fears among Christians that the widespread crackdown on churches continues in full force.

As many as 1,200 crosses have been removed from churches in Zhejiang province since 2015, with officials arguing that many of the demolitions have been down to building code violations.

A local pastor, who asked not to be named, said that he saw “more police than I could count” at the site, preventing worshipers from approaching.

“My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own,” he said. “This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”

The Associated Press noted that the evangelical megachurch had a congregation of 50,000, and had been targeted by police on a number of occasions. Officials reportedly hired thugs to smash the church and take its Bible during the crackdown in 2009, when Rongli was arrested.

Christians have protested against church demolitions, with a video captured in Shanxi in August showing a clash between Catholics and government representatives who were using bulldozers to destroy church property.

The believers in the video could be heard shouting “Jesus save me!” and “Mother Mary, have pity on us,” and successfully blocked the government’s efforts.

A video of the demolition of Golden Lampstand Church has also been captured, and can be viewed below:

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Walmart Is Raising Its Minimum Wage to $11 an Hour and Giving Employees a $1,000 Bonus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

(IN THIS BLOG I HAVE KNOCKED THE WALTON FAMILY MANY TIMES BECAUSE OF THEIR CHINA POLICIES AND FOR HOW THEY TREAT THEIR EMPLOYEES SO IN THE VENUE OF HONESTY AND FAIRNESS I NOW APPLAUD THEM FOR THESE MOVES. THERE IS ONE THING I WOULD LIKE YOU TO NOTICE TODAY THOUGH, WATCH WALMART STOCK PRICES GO DOWN TODAY, THIS HAPPENS EVERY TIME A COMPANY GIVES RAISES OR BENEFITS TO THEIR WORKERS, IT IS A SICK REALITY.)

A customer pushes a shopping cart at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Burbank, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the traditional start to the U.S. holiday shopping season. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A customer pushes a shopping cart at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Burbank, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the traditional start to the U.S. holiday shopping season. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

8:34 AM EST

Walmart is boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, giving a one-time $1,000 cash bonus to eligible employees and expanding its maternity and parental leave benefits.

The retailer said Thursday changes that to its compensation and benefits policy will impact more than a million hourly workers in the U.S., with the wage increase effective next month.

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The company is also creating a new benefit to assist employees with adoption expenses.

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If I Don’t Oppose Dictatorship, Am I Still a Man?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

‘If I Don’t Oppose Dictatorship, Am I Still a Man?’: Chinese Activist Gets Eight Years in Prison

Wu Gan via Apple Daily News. Licensed for non-commercial use.

“For those living under a dictatorship, being given the honorable label of one who ‘subverts state power’ is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen.”

Chinese human rights activist Wu Gan made this statement to a Tianjin court after receiving an eight-year prison sentence on December 26, 2017. In early January, he filed an appeal to the sentence.

Wu Gan, better known by his nickname “Super Vulgar Butcher”, has been active in Chinese human rights circles since 2008, when he began campaigning on behalf of Deng Yujiao, a waitress who was charged with murder after she stabbed and killed a government official when he attempted to rape her.

His earned his nickname after writing a blog post on “how to slay pigs” (a euphemism for bringing down corrupt officials) and thus established his reputation as a “butcher”. Speaking with the New York Times’ Sinosphere blog, Wu’s lawyer, Ge Wenxiu, explained that the name is intended to mock state officials’ use of vulgarity with a sarcastic suggestion that he wants to “slay” for them their corruption and misconduct.

Wu was arrested in 2015 after a protest outside a court in Jiangxi province over a rape and murder case in which the defense was denied access to court documents. His arrest marked the beginning of a nationwide crackdown on human right lawyers and activists.

He was initially charged with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and defamation but upon his refusal to confess to his crime, the police changed the allegation to “subversion of state power.”

Wu explained in his statement (via China Change) that he had refused to trade a lighter sentence with public confession:

For those living under a dictatorship, being given the honorable label of one who “subverts state power” is the highest form of affirmation for a citizen. It’s proof that the citizen wasn’t an accomplice or a slave, and that at the very least he went out and defended, and fought for, human rights. Liang Qichao (梁启超, famous reformist at end of Qing dynasty) said that he and dictatorship were two forces inextricably opposed; I say: If I don’t oppose dictatorship, am I still a man?
They have attempted to have me plead guilty and cooperate with them to produce their propaganda in exchange for a light sentence — they even said that as long as I plead guilty, they’ll give me a three-year sentence suspended for three years. I rejected it all. My eight-year sentence doesn’t make me indignant or hopeless. This was what I chose for myself: when you oppose the dictatorship, it means you are already walking on the path to jail.

Wu Gan’s friends were disheartened upon hearing the news of his sentencing. On Twitter, Old Wine said:

看到朋友一个个陷入囹圄,除了愤怒,内心还是很纠结的,既希望他们像屠夫一样做个铁骨铮铮的汉子,又不想让他们受苦受非人的折磨,该妥协时也可以做些底线上的让步。前者我是敬重的,后者我是理解的。
新年伊始,每每想到冰冷铁窗里的他们,心如刀绞,恨己无能。

One after another, my friends were sentenced to jail. Apart from anger, I have complex feelings: I wish that my friends would stand up to their principle like Butcher. On the other hand, I don’t want them going through torture and wish that they could compromise. I respect Butcher and I understand those who make compromise. It is now the new year, whenever I think about those who are in jail, my heart hurts and I feel so helpless.

After Wu’s statement was widely circulated, another round of smear campaigning targeting him and other human rights lawyers has emerged. A number of Twitter bots spread posts (examples onetwothree and many others) accusing Wu Gan of garnering personal benefits through online activism backed by anti-China forces.

Knowing that the Chinese dissident community has been overwhelmed with pessimism, Wu Gan wrote a letter to the Chinese Twitter community, urging them to carry on defending conscience and freedom on December 31:

I wish that fellows outside [the Great Firewall] would not be silenced and overwhelmed by pessimism. No matter how bad the situation is, you can’t conspire with [the dictator]. We can be nervous and frightened, but we can’t be blind to the cruel reality and tell lies that are against our common sense, or imagine that an enlightened emperor can save us, or that the battle can be won without paying efforts. We have to spread the truth, defend conscience, respect knowledge, encourage bravery. Everyone has weaknesses, including me. But I believe that with openness to ideas, more understanding, and less calculation for personal gain, more contribution and acts will be rewarded. The fact that I can feel your support and attention is the best proof.

Lastly I want to borrow a sentence from The Shawshank Redemption: some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers carry the color of freedom. [The original quote from Stephen King is: some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice.]

In response to the letter, veteran Chinese activist Wu’er Kaixi from the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement wrote:

让我们在这一天一起郑重面对未来,我们并不活在一个美好的时代,但我们可以作一个美好的个人。我们可以被屠夫感染,而了解无惧是个有效选项,而我们的无惧,将令恐怖无法降临,这个时代也就可因此变美好一些。希望2018是这样的一个时节点。各位新年快乐! pic.twitter.com/NnI49Pn83H

Let’s face the future in a solemn manner today. We are not living in a good time, but we can be good people. We can be affected by Butcher and see fearlessness as an option. Our fearlessness will block terror and make our time better. I hope 2018 can be a starting point for this attitude. Happy New Year!

Wu Gan’s lawyer filed a written appeal to the court’s ruling on January 8 2018 (English version via China Change) defending citizens’ rights to free speech:

When rendering judgement on whether an individual’s conduct is criminal, it is vital to examine the character of their actions. The actions of the appellant — whether speech made via Weibo, WeChat, Twitter, his three “Guides,” interviews given to foreign media, or audio lectures — all fall under the rubric of legitimate exercise of freedom of speech. Similarly, the appellant’s participation in 12 noted cases — which involved ‘stand-and-watch’ protests, appealing in support of a cause, raising funds, or expressing himself via performance art — are also all exercises in freedom of expression, provided for in his civil rights of: the right to criticize and make suggestions; the right to lodge appeals and complaints; the right to report and expose malfeasance, and so on. These rights are innate, and are provided for in the constitution and law of the People’s Republic of China. The exercise of these rights has nothing at all to do with so-called subversion of state power.

 

32 Missing After Ships Collide Off China’s Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

The Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast on Jan. 7, 2018
The Panama-registered tanker “Sanchi” is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China’s eastern coast on Jan. 7, 2018
Korea Coast Guard/AP

By GERRY SHIH / AP

9:49 AM EST

(BEIJING) — An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s east coast, leaving the tanker’s entire crew of 32 missing and causing it to spill oil into the sea, authorities said Sunday.

Chinese authorities dispatched police vessels and three cleaning ships to the scene after the collision, which happened late Saturday. The South Korean coast guard also sent a ship and a plane to help search for the missing crew members — 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai, China’s Ministry of Transport said.

All 21 crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States, were rescued, the ministry said. The Crystal’s crew members were all Chinese nationals.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the collision.

State-run China Central Television reported Sunday evening that the tanker was still floating and burning, and that oil was visible in the water.

It was not clear, however, whether the tanker was still spilling oil. The size of the oil slick caused by the accident also was not known.

Earlier Sunday, Chinese state media carried pictures of the tanker on fire with large plumes of smoke.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 metric tons (150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels) of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities.

By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989.

The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the U.N.-run International Maritime Organization. The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd., on behalf of the National Iranian Tanker Co., a publicly traded company based in Tehran. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

An official in Iran’s Oil Ministry, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said 30 of the tanker’s 32 crew members were Iranians.

“We have no information on their fate,” he said. “We cannot say all of them have died, because rescue teams are there and providing services.”

The official said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. and had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co. He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.

Hanwa Total is a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total. Total did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

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China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE BUSINESS INSIDER’)

 

China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

china tiangong 1 space station model reutersA scale model of China’s Tiangong-1 space station. Jason Lee/Reuters

  • In 2016, China lost control of its first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace.”
  • The Aerospace Corporation expects the spacecraft to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take a couple of weeks.
  • Chunks of the 8.5-ton vessel should be durable enough to reach our planet’s surface.
  • Any surviving pieces of Tiangong-1 will most likely land in the ocean.

China’s first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace,” will soon explode over Earth into a rain of fiery debris.

Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit research company, predicted last month that the derelict spacecraft would reenter Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take two weeks — so possibly as early as the end of February or as late as April.

When it does, extreme heat and pressure caused by plowing through the air at more than 15,000 mph will destroy the 8.5-ton vessel.

Not everything may vanish, though.

There’s a good chance that gear and hardware left on board could survive intact all the way to the ground, according to Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer who specializes in atmospheric reentry. That durability is thanks to Tiangong-1’s onion-like layers of protective material.

“The thing about a space station is that it’s typically got things on the inside,” Ailor, who works for Aerospace Corporation, previously told Business Insider. “So basically, the heating will just strip these various layers off. If you’ve got enough layers, a lot of the energy is gone before a particular object falls out, it doesn’t get hot, and it lands on the ground.”

For example, he said, after NASA’s Columbia space shuttle broke up over the US in 2003, investigators recovered a working flight computer — an artifact that ultimately helped explain how the deadly incident happened.

Predicting Tiangong-1’s crash to Earth

Tiangong-1 is a two-room space station for two taikonauts, or Chinese astronauts. It has a volume of 15 cubic meters, about 1/60th of the football-field-size International Space Station.

Though China superseded Tiangong-1 in 2016 with Tiangong-2, space experts hailed it as a major achievement for the nation’s space program, since it helped pioneer a permanent Chinese presence in orbit.

“It conducted six successive rendezvous and dockings with spacecraft Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9, and Shenzhou-10 and completed all assigned missions, making important contributions to China’s manned space exploration activities,” said a memo China submitted in May to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

tiangong 1 chinese space station cmsaAn illustration of Tiangong-1, China’s first space station, orbiting Earth. China Manned Space Agency

In the memo, China said it lost contact with the spacecraft on March 16, 2016, after it “fully fulfilled its historic mission.”

By May 2017, Tiangong-1 was coasting about 218 miles above Earth and dropping by about 525 feet a day, the memo said. Its altitude has since plummeted to less than 175 miles, according to Aerospace Corporation data.

“For any vehicle like this, the thing that brings them down is atmospheric drag,” Ailor said. “Why there’s a lot of uncertainty in the predictions is that it depends on what the sun’s doing, to a large measure.”

The sun can unleash solar storms and solar flares — bursts of X-rays and ultraviolet light — that heat Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing the air to expand and rise. That forces low-flying objects like Tiangong-1 to plow through denser gases.

“This puts just a little bit of a higher force on these objects that causes them to come down,” Ailor said.

An analysis of the combined effects of solar activity and Tiangong-1’s orbital speed, direction, and altitude, as well as other factors, helped the Aerospace Corporation provide its most recent estimate of a mid-March de-orbit. Before the big moment, however, the company may refine its estimate as conditions change.

What will happen when China’s space station is destroyed

atv spacecraft atmospheric reentry burning up fireball esa d ducrosAn illustration of Europe’s ATV spacecraft breaking apart and burning up as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.ESA/D. Ducros

Tiangong-1 is likely to crash over the ocean, as water covers about 71% of Earth’s surface. But there’s a decent chance some pieces may strike land as it breaks up over a long and thin oval footprint.

“The whole footprint length for something like this could be 1,000 miles or so,” Ailor said, with heavier pieces at the front and lighter debris toward the back.

If anyone is lucky enough to witness Tiangong-1’s atmospheric breakup from an airplane, it may look similar to the destruction of the European Space Agency’s 14-ton Automated Transfer Vehicle — an expendable spacecraft that was once used to resupply the ISS.

When asked for comment on Tiangong-1’s threat to ongoing NASA missions, the space agency told Business Insider it “actually doesn’t track any debris.”

Ailor says pieces of China’s space station are “really unlikely” to hit anyone or anything on Earth.

“It’s not impossible, but since the beginning of the space age … a woman who was brushed on the shoulder in Oklahoma is the only one we’re aware of who’s been touched by a piece of space debris,” he said.

Should a hunk of titanium, a computer, or another piece smash through a roof or windshield, however, international space law covers compensation for victims.

“It’s China’s responsibility if someone gets hurt or property gets damaged by this,” NASA’s representative said.

China’s 2018 Moon Mission Is To Go A ‘Step Beyond’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’ NEWS)

 

This time next year, there may be a new world leader in lunar exploration. If all goes according to plan, China will have done something no other space-faring superpower has been able to do: land on the far side of the moon. China is rocketing ahead with its plans for lunar exploration. In 2018, they will launch a pair of missions known collectively as Chang’e 4. It is the fourth mission in a series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

The first component of Chang’e 4 is scheduled to lift off in June. It will be a relay satellite stationed some 60,000km behind the moon and will provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side. Once this link is established, it will allow China to send the second part of the mission: a lander to the far side’s surface.

Landing on the far side of the moon is something no one has tried before. “The Chinese are pushing back the frontier with such a technically challenging mission,” says Brian Harvey, space analyst and author of China in Space: The Great Leap Forward.

China’s lunar exploration programme started in 2007 with Chang’e 1, a simple lunar orbiter. In 2010, Chang’e 2 also went into lunar orbit before setting off for a trek across the solar system that culminated in a flyby of asteroid Toutatis in 2012.

In 2013 Chang’e 3, deploying the Jade Rabbit rover, made headlines for the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. So far, so impressive, but all China had done was catch up with the achievements of the US and USSR. Chang’e 4, however, will be a space first.

China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007
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 China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images

Nobody has landed on the far side of the moon, mainly because of the communications difficulty. Yet the scientific payoff is huge. Being in the shadow of the moon allows stray radio signals from Earth to be blocked so the view of the radio universe is unparalleled.

Heino Falcke, Radboud University, Nijmegen, is hoping to take full advantage of this by supplying a radio telescope to the Chinese mission. His aim is to test how easy it will be to pick up signals from the early universe before there were any stars.

Astronomers call this the dark ages because nothing was emitting light. But hydrogen atoms were giving out radio waves, which Falcke hopes to catch. He designed the instrument for a lunar mission that the European Space Agency(ESA) considered building about five years ago. When that spacecraft was put on hold, it looked as if his plans were scuppered. But when the king of Holland visited China as part of a trade delegation, the idea was revived.

“China has always made a big play about wanting to do international collaboration,” says Harvey. “I think there may be an element of wanting to do it to show the US that they have an international reach, despite the America effort to stop them.”

Working with the Chinese has not proved to be seamless, however. “China is not the giant bloc it looks like from outside. Knowing who are the right people to talk to isn’t always clear,” says Falcke.

As a result, his instrument is still not guaranteed to make it on to the spacecraft in time for the proposed summer launch, yet he remains optimistic. “I think we built up a lot of good relations in China and there is goodwill on both sides to make this happen,” says Falcke.

It is not just the Chinese that have a programme of lunar exploration. The ESA is contributing two significant instruments to a Russia-led lunar lander, planned for 2022. The ESA are also supplying the primary power and population system for Nasa’s Orion space capsule that is planned to orbit the moon uncrewed in 2019. Finally, they are involved in exploratory talks with the Chinese National SpaceAdministration to identify potential opportunities for future collaboration on robotic exploration missions.

ESA’s collaborative approach is perhaps exemplified by their Moon Village concept, which was put forward by director general Jan Woerner, shortly after taking office in 2015. The Moon Village is envisioned as an open-ended endeavour for a sustainable permanent surface presence on the moon, both robotic and human. “The concept entails ESA acting in a non-traditional role as “honest broker”, facilitator and catalyst towards interested parties globally,” says Piero Messina of ESA’s strategy department.

But it is safe to say that China’s plans are the most advanced. After Chang’e 4, they are on course for a series of other robotic lunar missions that will build towards an attempted human landing in about 15 years. The key to this is the Long March 9 rocket, which is in development and due to fly in 2028-2030. It’s a behemoth that will be able to land something bigger than the Apollo lunar module, which carried pairs of astronauts to the moon and back in the 1960s and 70s.

“It is reasonable to presume that China will have its own people on the surface early in the 2030s,” says Harvey. And this puts them well in the lead over Nasa, which has no firm plans for landing people at present.

The ultimate question is whether the Chinese spirit of international collaboration could extend all the way through to the human landings, with their rockets carrying other nationalities? Maybe.

This summer, ESA astronauts trained with their Chinese counterparts for the first time. It was a survival exercise unrelated to lunar exploration, but it signalled an openness on both sides. “The reception was warm. We truly felt the spirit of belonging to one universal astronaut family, sharing the same values, goals and vision,” said ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer at the time. Clearly, the moon is where humankind is going next. The surprise is that the Chinese are now poised to have such a leading role in the endeavour.

That may prove a bitter pill for the US to swallow as Nasa are prohibited from working with the Chinese. In spring 2013, the US Congress passed a further law effectively banning Chinese nationals from even setting foot inside a Nasa facility.

Given the pace of Chinese progress, this could prove to be an own goal. On 11 December, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 lunar landing (the last time people walked on the moon), President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which directs Nasa to take astronauts to the moon with the help of US commercial space industry.

Yet there is little detail about how and when this might happen and how much the White House is prepared to spend. “Trump’s directive was very vague,” says Harvey. “We’re still no more definite about when the Americans will set foot back on the moon.”

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