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China’s conquest of space

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Manned cosmic flight is the most technologically complex and difficult aerospace project in the world. It represents a country’s strength in science, technology and economy.

Many countries have submitted plans for manned space flight, but for decades there have only been three States that could actually send men into space independently.

According to statistics, 80% of the over one thousand new materials in China in recent years have been developed thanks to space technology, and over two thousand have been shifted from space technology to various sectors of the national economy.

On May 5, 2020, the Changzheng 5B (Long March) space launcher developed for China’s manned space station project successfully lifted off from Wenchang (Hainan Island), officially kicking off the Third Step mission of China’s manned space project.

The selection of the third group of reserve astronauts for China’s manned space project was completed on October 1 last. Eighteen astronauts, i.e. seven pilots, seven flight engineers and four cargo experts, will participate in the third step of China’s manned space project.

With the intensive development of various tasks, Chinese manned space flight has entered the Chinese space station project.

In 1992, the Chinese manned space flight project was launched and a three-stage development strategy was established.

1) Launch a manned spacecraft; develop a preliminary design for a pilot manned spacecraft and carry out space application experiments.

2) Engage in new discoveries in the field of astronaut egress technology, spacecraft rendezvous and docking technology; establish a space laboratory and solve problems related to it with short-term assistance.

3) Build a space station to solve the problem of large-scale space applications with long-term assistance.

Since 1992, generations of astronauts have been self-sufficient and have continued to work: from unmanned flight to manned flight; from in-ship experiments to out-of-ship activities; from single-ship flight to the stable operation of combined bodies.

On October 15, 2003, China’s first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou V, carried astronaut Yang Liwei into space. After 21 hours and 23 minutes, as well as 14 orbits, the spacecraft landed safely. China became the third country in the world capable of sending humans into space independently.

In 1957, the USSR’s first artificial satellite ushered in the era of the human conquest of space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet astronaut Jurij Gagarin undertook the first human space flight in the Vostok 1 spacecraft. On May 5 of the same year, American astronaut Alan Shepard remained in space for 15 minutes in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, thus becoming the second astronaut in human history.

Faced with the successes of the two superpowers in the space field, President Mao was shocked and asked: ‘How can we be considered a powerful country? We cannot even put a potato into space!!!”

In the early 1970s, China began research into manned space flight. After the launch of China’s first artificial earth satellite, the Dongfanghong 1, Qian Xuesen, the then President of the Fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defence, pledged that China should also undertake manned space flight.

Project 714 (i.e. 1971, April) was born and the probe was to be named Dawn One. However, due to various financial and technological problems, the project was eventually shelved.

Over the subsequent 20 years, Chinese space technology continued to develop. Most notably in 1975, China successfully launched and recovered its first satellite, thus making it the third country in the world to operate satellite recovery technology after the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as laying a solid foundation for China to carry out manned space flights.

But even so, it took years from the formal establishment of a manned space project to the regular launch of China’s first astronaut.  

Since the birth of manned space flight, some scholars have calculated that, as a percentage of GDP, manned space flight is the most expensive technological project in history.

A U.S. shuttle costs up to 500 million dollars per flight, and 300 to 400 million U.S. dollars are needed for maintenance.

China’s manned space project is known for its high efficiency and cost-effectiveness. According to the data released by the Beijing Engineering Bureau, from the start of the project to the completion of the launch of the Shenzhou VI spacecraft in 2005 (i.e. when the first phase of the manned space project was completed), the total cost of the project reached about 20 billion yuan.

Manned space flight incorporates many modern state-of-the-art technologies. The structure of carrier rockets, manned space vehicles and spacecraft is complex, with tens of thousands of parts and components. The failure or malfunction of just one part can cause an accident.

On February 1, 2003, the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated and exploded on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts, when a fragment of foam accidentally fell out of the fuel tank.

If a country is able to send its astronauts into space, it will not only reflect on its national strength, but will also greatly enhance national pride and improve the sense of State and internal cohesion.

Deng Xiaoping stated: ‘If China had not a nuclear bomb, a hydrogen bomb or launched satellites since the 1960s, it would not be an important country with a strong influence and would not have its current international status’. Hence, in the 21st century, manned space flight represents all of this.

Obviously Chinese astronauts have the right to be proud, because they have achieved all this little by little and with their own efforts.

Let us consider the case of the International Space Station (ISS), built jointly by nineteen countries and regional organisations. This long list includes developed and developing countries (Brazil, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, South Africa), but not China. Some States have deliberately imposed a strict embargo on China, in an attempt to exclude it from the ISS.

All this makes it clear to Chinese astronauts and scientists that key fundamental technologies cannot be traded or bought.

The Chinese are therefore firmly following the path of independent development and innovation to enhance manned spaceflight without the help of anyone else.

Around 2022, a Chinese self-built space station will be completed and deployed and, according to foreign sources, the ISS will be decommissioned in 2024.

Some countries have turned to China in search of opportunities and cooperation. This switching of sides explains once again that only by mastering key fundamental technologies does the People’s Republic of China have a say and visibility.

Facts have shown that, even under the long-term technical embargo of some countries, China’s manned space industry has taken off ‘against the wind’.

With the hard work of generations of astronauts, it has gradually grown and developed into a space power, with distinctly Chinese characteristics.

If manned space flight is a flagship endeavour, independent innovation is the scale that supports efforts.

In 2022, the Chinese Space Station will officially complete its in-orbit construction task. At that juncture, China will bring high-level experimental equipment to it in the fields of aerospace medicine, space life and biology, materials, microgravity and fluid combustion, physics, astronomy, etc.

At 23:11, on December 1 last, the Chang’e-5 probe successfully landed on Earth. The main mission of the exploration was to collect and “pack” about 2,000 grams of lunar soil and rock samples. In fact, China has taken another step towards a manned landing on our satellite.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Is your security compromised due to “Spy software” know how

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Spy software is often referred to as spyware is a set of programs that gives access to user/ administrators to track or monitor anyone’s smart devices (such as desktop, laptop, or smart phone) from anywhere across the globe.

Spyware is a threat, not only to businesses but individual users as well, since it can steal sensitive information and harm anyone’s network. It is controversial due to its frequent violation to end user’s privacy. It can attack user’s device, steal sensitive data (such as bank account or credit card information, or personal identity) or web data and share it with data firms, advertisers, or external users.

There are numerous online spyware designed for almost no cost, whose ultimate goal is to track and sell users data. Some spy software can install additional software and change the settings on user’s device, which could be difficult to identify.

Below are four main types of spyware, each has its unique features to track and record users activity:

Tracking cookies: These are the most common type of trackers, these monitor the user’s internet usage activities, such as searches, downloads, and history, for advertising and selling purposes.

System monitors: These spy software records everything on your device from emails, keystrokes, visited websites, chat-room dialogues, and much more.

Adware: This spyware is used for marketing purpose, it tracks users downloads and browser history, and suggests or displays the same or related products, this can often lead to slow device.

Trojan: This spyware is the most malicious software. It can be used to track sensitive information such as bank information or identification numbers.

Spyware can attack any operating system such as windows, android, or Apple. Windows operating systems are more prone to attack, but in past few years Apple’s operating systems are also becoming vulnerable to attacks.

According to a recent investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organizations, found that there is a widespread and continuous abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware Pegasus, on Government officials, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists worldwide which was only intended to use against terrorists and criminals.

The research, conducted by the Pegasus technical partner Amnesty’s Security Lab, found traces of the Pegasus activity on 37 out of the 67 examined phones. Out of 37 phones, 34 were iPhones, and 23 showed signs of a Pegasus infection, while remaining 11 showed signs of attempted infection. However, only three out of 15 Android phones were infected by Pegasus software.

Attacks like the Pegasus might have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. But evidences from past have proved that attackers target large group of people and are often successful.

Below are the most common ways devices can become infected with spyware:

  • Downloading software or apps from unreliable sources or unofficial app publishers
  • Accepting cookies or pop-up without reading
  • Downloading or watching online pirated media content
  • Opening attachments from unfamiliar senders

Spyware can be extremely unsafe if you have been infected. Its damage can range from short term device issue (such as slow system, system crashing, or overheating device) to long-term financial threat.

Here’s what you can do protect your devices from spyware:

Reliable antivirus software: Firstly look for security solutions available on internet (some are available for free) and enable the antivirus software. If your system or device is already infected with virus, check out for security providers offering spyware identification and removal.

-For instance, you can install a toolkit (the Mobile Verification Tool or the MVT) provided by Amnesty International. This toolkit will alert you with presence of the Pegasus Spyware on your device.

-The toolkit scans the backup file of your device for any evidence of infection. It works on both Apple and Android operating systems, but is more accurate for Apple operating system.

-You can also download and run Norton Power Eraser a free virus removal tool.

Update your system regularly: Set up an update which runs automatically. Such automatic updates can not only block hackers from viewing your web or device activity, but can also eliminate software errors.

Be vigilant of cookies compliance: Cookies that records/ tracks users browsing habits and personally identifiable information (PII) are commonly known as adware spyware. Accept cookies only from reliable sites or download a cookie blocker.

Strong authentication passwords: Try to enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) wherever possible, or if not possible create different password for all accounts. Change your password for each account after a certain period of time.

-Password breaches can still occur with these precautions. In such case change your password immediately.

Be cautious of free software: Read the terms and conditions on software licenses, before accepting. Free software might be unlimited but, your data could be recorded with those free software’s.

Do not open any files from unknown or suspicious account: Do not open any email attachments or text on mobile from a suspicious, unknown, or untrustworthy source/number.

Conclusion:

Spyware could be extremely dangerous, however it can be prevented and removed by being precautious and using a trustworthy antivirus tool. Next gen technologies can also help in checking and removing malicious content. For instance, Artificial intelligence could aid the organizations identify malicious software, and frequently update its algorithms of patterns similar to predict future malware attacks.

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Implementation of virtual reality and the effects in cognitive warfare

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Photo: Lux Interaction/Unsplash

With the increasing use of new technologies in warfare situations, virtual reality presents an opportunity for the domain of cognitive warfare. Nowadays, cognitive skills are treated equally as their physical counterparts, seeking to standardize new innovative techniques. Virtual reality (VR) can be used as a tool that can increase the cognitive capabilities of soldiers. As it is understandable in today’s terms, VR impacts the brain directly. That means that our visual organs (eyes) see one object or one surrounding area, but brain cells perceive and react to that differently. VR has been used extensively in new teaching methods because of the increased probability of improving the memory and learning capabilities of students.

Besides its theoretical teaching approach and improvement of learning, VR can be used systematically towards more practical skills. In medicine for example students can have a full medicine lesson on a virtual human being seeing the body projected in 3D, revolutionizing the whole field of medicine. If that can be used in the medical field, theoretically it will be possible to be used in combat situations, projecting a specific battlefield in VR, increasing the chances of successful engagement, and reducing the chance of casualties. Knowing your terrain is equally important as knowing your adversary.

The use of VR will also allow us to experience new domains relating to the physical health of a person. It is argued that VR might provide us with the ability to effectively control pain management. Since VR can stimulate visual senses, then it would be safe to say that this approach can have higher effectiveness in treating chronic pain, depression, or even PTSD. The idea behind this usage is that the brain itself is already powerful enough, yet sometimes when pain overwhelms us we tend to lose effectiveness on some of our senses, such as the visual sense. An agonizing pain can blurry our vision, something that we cannot control; unless of course theoretically, we use VR. The process can consist of different sounds and visual aids that can trick the mind into thinking that it is somewhere that might be the polar opposite of where it is. Technically speaking, the mind would be able to do that simply because it works as a powerful computer, where our pain receptors can override and actually make us think that we are not in such terrible pain.

Although the benefits of VR could be useful for our health we would still need to deal with problems that concern our health when we use a VR set.  It is possible that the brain can get overloaded with new information and the new virtual environments. VR poses some problems to some people, regarding the loss of the real environment and creating feelings of nausea or extreme headaches. As a result, new techniques from cognitive psychologists have emerged to provide a solution to the problem. New technologies have appeared that can desaturate colors towards the edge of the headset in order to limit the probability of visual confusion. Besides that, research shows that even the implementation of a virtual nose when someone wears a VR headset can prevent motion sickness, something that our brain does already in reality.

However, when it comes to combatants and the implementation of VR in soldiers, one must think of maybe more effective and fast solutions to eliminate the problems that concern the confusion of the brain. Usage of specific pharmaceuticals might be the key. One example could be Modafinil which has been prescribed in the U.S. since 1998 to treat sleep-related conditions. Researchers believe it can produce the same effects as caffeine. With that being said, the University of Oxford analyzed 24 studies, where participants were asked to complete complex assignments after taking Modafinil and found out that those who took the drug were more accurate, which suggests that it may affect higher cognitive functions.

Although some of its long-term effects are yet to be studied, Modafinil is by far the safest drug that can be used in cognitive situations. Theoretically speaking, if a long exposure to VR can cause headaches and an inability to concentrate, then an appropriate dose of Modafinil can counter the effects of VR. It can be more suitable and useful to use on soldiers, whose cognitive skills are better than civilians, to test the full effect of a mix of virtual technology and pharmaceuticals. VR can be a significant military component and a simulation training program. It can provide new cognitive experiences based on foreign and unknown terrains that might be difficult to be approached in real life. New opportunities arise every day with the technologies, and if anyone wanted to take a significant advantage over adversaries in the cognitive warfare field, then VR would provide a useful tool for military decision-making.

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Vaccine Equity and Beyond: Intellectual Property Rights Face a Crucial Test

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research coronavirus

The debate over intellectual property rights (IPRs), particularly patents, and access to medicine is not new. IPRs are considered to drive innovation by protecting the results of investment-intensive R&D, yet arguably also foster inequitable access to affordable medicines.

In a global public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where countries face acute shortages of life-saving vaccines, should public health be prioritized over economic gain and the international trade rules designed to protect IPRs?

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), to which all 164 member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are a party, establish minimum standards for protecting different forms of IPRs. 

In October 2020, India and South Africa – countries with strong generic drug manufacturing infrastructure – invoked WTO rules to seek a temporary waiver of IPRs (patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and industrial designs) on equipment, drugs, and vaccines related to the “prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.” A waiver would mean that countries could locally produce equipment and vaccines without permission from holders of IPRs. This step would serve to eliminate the monopolistic nature of IPRs that give exclusive rights to the holder of IPRs and enable them to impose procedural licensing constraints.

Brazil, Japan, the European Union (EU), and the United States (US) initially rejected the waiver proposal. That stance changed with the rise of new COVID-19 mutations and the associated increase in deaths, with several countries facing a public health crisis due to vaccine supply shortages. The position of many states began shifting in favor of the India-South Africa proposal, which now has the backing of 62 WTO members, with the US declaring support for the intent of the temporary waiver to secure “better access, more manufacturing capability, more shots in arms.” Several international bodies, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have voiced support.

Some countries disagree about the specific IPRs to be waived or the mechanisms by which IPRs should be made available. The EU submitted a proposal to use TRIPS flexibilities such as compulsory licensing, while others advocate for voluntary licensing. The TRIPS Council is conducting meetings to prepare an amended proposal to the General Council (the WTO’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva) by the end of July 2021.

The crisis in India illustrates the urgency of the situation. India produces and supplies Covishield, licensed by AstraZeneca; and Covaxin, which is yet to be included on the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL). Due to the devastating public health crisis, India halted its export of vaccines and caused a disruption in the global vaccine supply, even to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program. In the meantime, the world’s poorest nations lack sufficient, critical vaccine supplies.

International law recognizes some flexibility in public health emergencies. An example would be the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in 2001, which, while maintaining the commitments, stresses the need for TRIPS to be part of the wider national and international action to address public health problems. Consistent with that, the body of international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), protects the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

But as we race against time, the current IPR framework may not allow for the swift response required. It is the rigorous requirements before a vaccine is considered safe to use under Emergency Use Authorizations and procedural delays which illuminate why IPR waivers on already approved vaccines are needed. Capitalizing on the EUL’s approved vaccines that have proven efficacy to date and easing IPR restrictions will aid in the timely supply and access of vaccines.

A TRIPS waiver may not solve the global vaccine shortage. In fact, some argue that the shortages are not an inherent flaw in the IP regime, considering other supply chain disruptions that persist, such as the ones disrupting microchips, pipette tips, and furniture. However, given that patent licensing gives a company a monopoly on vaccine commercialization, other companies with manufacturing capacity cannot produce the vaccine to scale up production and meet supply demands.

Neither does a temporary waiver mean that pharmaceutical companies cannot monetize their work. States should work with pharmaceuticals in setting up compensation and insurance schemes to ensure adequate remuneration.

At the College of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, our aim is to address today’s legal challenges with a future-oriented view. We see COVID-19 as a case study in how we respond to imminent and existential threats. As global warming alters the balance of our ecosystem, threats will cascade in a way that is hard to predict. When unpredictable health emergencies emerge, it will be human ingenuity that helps us overcome them. Even the global IP regime, as a legal system that regulates ideas, is being tested, and should be agile enough to respond in time, like the scientists who sprang into action and worked tirelessly to develop the vaccines that will soon bring back a semblance of normal life as we know it.

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