Forbidden in China, but Trump skirts ‘Great Firewall’ to tweet about Beijing trip

US President Donald Trump (L) looks up as he sits beside China’s President Xi Jinping during a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2017. US President Donald Trump toured the Forbidden City with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as he began the crucial leg of an Asian tour intended to build a global front against North Korea’s nuclear threats. (AFP/Jim Watson)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Forbidden in China, but Trump skirts ‘Great Firewall’ to tweet about Beijing trip

BEIJING: US President Donald Trump went around and over the “Great Firewall” of China in a late-night tweet in Beijing as he thanked his hosts for a rare tour of the Forbidden City and a private dinner at the sprawling, centuries-old palace complex.
Many Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in China. A sophisticated system has been built to deny online users within China access to blocked content.
That was not an issue for Trump, known for tweeting to his 42.3 million followers at any hour of the day, on Wednesday, the day he arrived in Beijing.
“On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and I, THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning!“
Trump even changed his Twitter banner, uploading a photograph of himself and Melania with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, during a Chinese opera performance at the Forbidden City.
The Twitter banner upload did not go unnoticed by Chinese state media, with state broadcaster CCTV flashing screenshots of the photograph on Thursday.
Trump’s visit was also the third-most talked-about topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo over the last 24 hours, trailing only the birthday of a singer in a Chinese boy band and a weekly Asian pop song chart.
Many people wondered how Trump managed to evade China’s tough Internet controls.
“I guess he must have done it via wifi on a satellite network,” said a user on Weibo.
Many foreigners log on to virtual private networks (VPNs) to access content hosted outside of China. Another option is to sign up for a data-roaming service before leaving one’s home country.
“The president will tweet whatever he wants. That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not?” a White House official said ahead of Trump’s arrival in Beijing on Wednesday.
Not all of Trump’s tweets in China were bright and cheerful.
“NoKo has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness,” he tweeted about reclusive North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. “This would be a fatal miscalculation. Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US.”


Google boils down water data for new UN environment site

Updated 17 July 2018
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Google boils down water data for new UN environment site

  • Improved information could lead to better investment in environmental services as countries try to meet their Sustainable Development Goals
  • Google is using artificial intelligence and cloud computing to process a massive amount of satellite imagery and data

TEPIC, Mexico: Vast quantities of raw satellite imagery and data will be distilled into an online platform showing how water ecosystems have changed, and how countries can manage them to prevent further loss, said Google and the United Nations.
Focussing initially on fresh water ecosystems such as rivers and forests, Google will produce geospatial maps and data for a publicly available platform to be launched in October in partnership with the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
“It’s basically a time slide... you can go back in time, and what is does is show you where water has disappeared,” said Elisabeth Mullin Bernhardt, a program manager at UNEP, on Monday.
“It can show you where water never was and now is there. It can show you where water is seasonal.”
For Africa’s Lake Chad, for example, access to comprehensive data and images showing surrounding land and rivers could help explain why the lake, on which so many depend, is drying up so quickly, said Kenya-based Bernhardt.
Given that most countries share water sources, the information could also be used to encourage neighboring nations to work together on strategies to manage rivers or lakes, she said.
Google is using artificial intelligence and cloud computing to process a massive amount of satellite imagery and data, stretching back over three decades, before it can be analyzed, said Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth and Earth Engine.
“Much of the world does not have access to good data about the state of their forests, their rivers and lakes and coastal eco-systems and how they’ve been changing over time,” Moore told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
“It’s a critically important time because there are dramatic changes going on, due to climate change and urbanization and a number of factors that are in some cases significantly depleting fresh water supply.”
Improved information could lead to better investment in environmental services as countries try to meet their Sustainable Development Goals, said UNEP.
Agreed at the UN in 2015, the 17 global goals include targets to end poverty and hunger, combat climate change, and provide universal access to water and sanitation by 2030.
Governments are currently reviewing progress on the goals at UN headquarters in New York, where UNEP and Google announced the satellite initiative.
While researchers will focus on water ecosystems, the platform could be expanded to include issues such as desertification or plastics in the world’s oceans, said Bernhardt.