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North Korea says it will launch its first military spy satellite in June



(Last Updated On: May 30, 2023)

North Korea will launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in June for monitoring U.S. military activities, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday.

In a statement carried by the KCNA news agency, Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party, denounced joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea as openly showing their “reckless ambition for aggression.”

U.S. and South Korean forces have carried out various training exercises in recent months, including what they said were the biggest joint live-fire exercises last week, after many drills were scaled back amid COVID-19 restrictions and hopes for diplomatic efforts with North Korea, Reuters reported.

North Korea’s Ri said the drills required Pyongyang to have the “means capable of gathering information about the military acts of the enemy in real time.”

“We will comprehensively consider the present and future threats and put into more thoroughgoing practice the activities for strengthening all-inclusive and practical war deterrents,” Ri said in the statement.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has said it has completed development of its first military spy satellite, and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch, read the report.

The statement did not specify the exact launch date, but North Korea has notified Japan of the planned launch between May 31 and June 11, prompting Tokyo to put its ballistic missile defences on alert.

Japan has said it would shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory, Reuters reported.

“(North Korea’s) satellite launches incorporate technology that is almost identical and compatible with those used for ballistic missiles, and regardless of the designation used by North Korea, we believe that the one planned for this time also uses ballistic missile technology,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Tuesday.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Monday any North Korean launch that uses ballistic missile technology, including those used to put a satellite in orbit, would violate multiple United Nations resolutions.

The launch would be the North’s latest in a series of missile launches and weapons tests, including one of a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile last month, read the report.

Analysts say the satellite will improve North Korea’s surveillance capability, enabling it to strike targets more accurately in the event of war.

Science & Technology

TikTok to label AI-generated content from OpenAI and elsewhere



(Last Updated On: May 10, 2024)

TikTok plans to start labelling images and video uploaded to its video-sharing service that have been generated using artificial intelligence, it said on Thursday, using a digital watermark known as Content Credentials, Reuters reported.

Researchers have expressed concern that AI-generated content could be used to interfere with U.S. elections this fall, and TikTok was already among a group of 20 tech companies that earlier this year signed an accord pledging to fight it.

The company already labels AI-generated content made with tools inside the app, but the latest move would apply a label to videos and images generated outside of the service.

“We also have policies that prohibit realistic AI that is not labeled, so if realistic AI (generated contents) appears on the platform, then we will remove it as violating our community guidelines,” Adam Presser, head of operations and trust and safety at TikTok, said in an interview.

The Content Credentials technology was spearheaded by the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, a group co-founded by Adobe (ADBE.O), opens new tab, Microsoft (MSFT.O), opens new tab and others, but is open for other companies to use, read the report.

It has already been adopted by the likes of ChatGPT creator OpenAI.

YouTube, owned by Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O), opens new tab Google, and Meta Platforms (META.O), opens new tab, which owns Instagram and Facebook, have also said they plan to use Content Credentials.

For the system to work, both the maker of the generative AI tool used to make content and the platform used to distribute the contents must both agree to use the industry standard.

When a person uses OpenAI’s Dall-E tool to generate an image, for example, OpenAI attaches a watermark to the resulting image and adds data to the file that can later indicate whether it has been tampered with, Reuters reported.

If that marked image is then uploaded to TikTok, it will be automatically labeled as AI-generated.

TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, has 170 million users in the U.S., which recently passed a law requiring ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban. TikTok and ByteDance have sued to block the law, arguing it violates the First Amendment.

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Science & Technology

China launches historic mission to retrieve samples from far side of the moon



(Last Updated On: May 3, 2024)

China on Friday launched an uncrewed spacecraft on a nearly two-month mission to retrieve rocks and soil from the far side of the moon, the first country to make such an ambitious attempt.

The Long March-5, China’s largest rocket, blasted off at 5:27 p.m. Beijing time (0927 GMT) from Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan with the more than 8 metric ton Chang’e-6 probe.

Chang’e-6 is tasked with landing in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon, which perpetually faces away from the Earth, after which it will retrieve and return samples.

The launch marks another milestone in China’s lunar and space exploration programme.

“It is a bit of a mystery to us how China has been able to develop such an ambitious and successful programme in such a short time,” said Pierre-Yves Meslin, a French researcher working on one of the scientific objectives of the Chang’e-6 mission.

In 2018, Chang’e-4 gave China its first unmanned moon landing, also on the far side. In 2020, Chang’e-5 marked the first time humans retrieved lunar samples in 44 years, and Chang’e-6 could make China the first country to retrieve samples from the moon’s “hidden” side.


The launch was attended by scientists, diplomats and space agency officials from France, Italy, Pakistan, and the European Space Agency, all of which have moon-studying payloads aboard Chang’e-6.

But no U.S. organisations applied to get a payload spot, according to Ge Ping, deputy director of the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Program.

China is banned by U.S. law from any collaboration with the U.S. space agency, NASA.

“The far side of the moon has a mystique perhaps because we literally can’t see it, we have never seen it apart from with robotic probes or the very few number of humans that have been around the other side,” said Neil Melville-Kenney, a technical officer at ESA working with Chinese researchers on one of the Chang’e-6 payloads.

After the probe separates from the rocket, it will take four to five days to reach the moon’s orbit. In early June a few weeks later, it will land.

Once on the moon, the probe will spend two days digging up 2 kilogrammes (4.4 lb) of samples before returning to Earth, where it is expected to land in Inner Mongolia.

The window for the probe to collect samples on the far side is 14 hours, compared to 21 hours for the near side.

The samples brought back by Chang’e-5 allowed Chinese scientists to uncover new details about the moon, including more accurately dating the timespan of volcanic activity on the moon, as well as a new mineral.

Ge said the scientific value of Chang’e-6 lay in the geological age of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which his team estimated was about 4 billion years, much older than the samples previously brought back by the Soviet Union and the United States, which were about 3 billion years old, as well as the 2-billion-year-old samples from Chang’e-5.


Besides uncovering new information about the celestial body closest to Earth, Chang’e-6 is part of a long-term project to build a permanent research station on the moon: the China and Russia-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

The construction of such a station would provide an outpost for China and its partners to pursue deep space exploration.

“We know that the moon may have resources that could become useful in the future, so the European Space Agency, NASA, the Chinese agency and others around the world are going to the moon,” said James Carpenter, head of the ESA’s lunar science office.

“Part of the rationale is to understand those resources,” Carpenter said.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project, speaking at the 2024 China Space Conference last month, said a “basic model” of the ILRS would be built by 2035.




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Apple set for big sales decline as investors await AI in iPhones



(Last Updated On: May 2, 2024)

Apple’s (AAPL.O), opens new tab plan to add generative AI to its iPhones and revive sagging sales in the crucial Chinese market will be in focus on Thursday, when the tech giant is expected to report its biggest quarterly revenue decline in more than a year, Reuters reported.

Long considered a must-own stock on Wall Street, Apple shares have underperformed other Big Tech companies in recent months, falling more than 10% this year as fears mount about its slow roll-out of artificial intelligence services and as a resurgent Huawei (HWT.UL) takes market share in China.

Analysts on average see iPhone sales, which account for about half of Apple’s revenue, falling 10.4% in the first three months of 2024, according to LSEG. That drop would be the steepest in more than three years.

The year-ago iPhone revenue that the 10.4% iPhone sales drop is measured against was unusually high as Apple satisfied pent-up demand after the COVID pandemic, company executives previously noted.

At least $5 billion of the $51.3 billion in iPhone sales a year ago was essentially catching up from disruptions in the December 2022 quarter when COVID lockdowns in China hampered iPhone production, executives said.

Even with that factored in, Wall Street expects a slight decline in iPhone sales, and analysts estimate Apple’s total revenue declined 5% in its fiscal second quarter ended in March. That would be Apple’s biggest revenue decline since the December 2022 quarter, when revenue fell 5.5%, read the report.

Apple earlier this year lost the crown of the world’s most valuable company to Microsoft (MSFT.O), opens new tab. Its market value stands at $2.68 trillion after the share price declined 11.24% so far this year.

Weak revenue and falling shares have pressured Apple to spruce up its flagship device after years without major upgrades.

The company is in talks with OpenAI and Alphabet-owned Google to add genAI features for the iPhone that could be unveiled at what is expected to be its biggest-ever annual developer conference in June, Bloomberg News has reported.

According to Reuters analysts believe such an AI integration could drive demand for the next iPhone series, expected to be announced in the fall.

While executives at Microsoft, Alphabet (GOOGL.O), opens new tab, Meta Platforms (META.O), opens new tab and other major technology firms have talked up their AI strategies on quarterly conference calls in recent months, Apple CEO Tim Cook has discussed his plans for the emerging technology much less.

Adding AI features to iPhones could also help Apple to compete better with Huawei and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), opens new tab, which reclaimed the title of the world’s top smartphone vendor from Apple this year, driven by demand for the AI features in its Galaxy S24 smartphones.

“Replacement cycle tailwinds and incremental generative AI features set up Apple well for a strong iPhone 16 cycle,” Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said this week as he upgraded the company’s shares to “outperform” from “market-perform.”

“We believe prevailing weakness in China is more cyclical than structural, and note historically Apple’s China business has exhibited much higher volatility than Apple overall, given its very feature-sensitive installed base.”

Thursday’s earnings will also be watched closely for updates on the company’s stock buyback plan and the Vision Pro, Apple’s first major product in years that hit the shelves in February.

After initial enthusiasm, there have been signs that demand slowed for the $3,500 device, with an analyst saying this month that Apple has pulled back its production estimates for the mixed-reality headset.

The rest of the company’s hardware business is also reeling from soft demand, with iPads and Mac sales expected to fall 11.4% and 4.3%, respectively, in the March quarter, Reuters reported.

Apple has signaled it is sharpening its focus on the devices, which have also been hobbled by a lack of major upgrades.

At an Apple event this month, a revamped iPad line-up is expected to be unveiled and media reports have said that it plans to update every Mac model with faster, AI-focused M4 processors.

The services business, which includes App Store and subscription services such as Apple TV, is expected to remain a bright spot with revenue growth of 7.7%.

Apple shares closed down 0.6% at $169.30 on Wednesday.

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