Tesla updates software to roll out driverless cars in three months

Seeing a Tesla is about to get a lot more wild, as the company is preparing to install its self-driving software in the Model S fleet. The autopilot feature will only work on highways… as the technology may not yet be legal in the US.

Tesla will roll out an auto-steering software update for the Model S in the next three or four months, and owners won’t even have to go into a Tesla store for the upgrade, founder Elon Musk said at a Thursday press conference.

Read more » RT
See more » http://rt.com/usa/242733-tesla-models-autopilot-software-update/

It’s On: Asia’s New Space Race

While NASA and the European Space Agency gets most of the world’s attention, China, Japan and India are racing for the heavens.

The general public in the West largely views the exploration of space as dominated by the United States and perhaps Russia. Sometimes, as in the case of the Rosettamission, they may give thought to Europe’s capabilities. Few people think of India when it comes to missions to Mars, but popular joy erupted across India in September 2014 after its Mangalyaan scientific spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around the red planet. One Indian reader responded to the story on a major online news outlet by posting: “It is [a] moment of pride as India becomes [the] 1stAsian nation to reach Mars.” And understood to all Indian readers was the point that China had—after a series of Asian firsts in space—finally been surpassed.Since China’s first human spaceflight in 2003 and its threatening anti-satellite test in 2007, Asia has seen a surge in space activity, with budgets increasing rapidly across the region. While few officials admit to the term, a “space race” is emerging in Asia.

The surge of Asian countries joining the ranks of major space powers mirrors the rise of Asian economies and their militaries more generally since the end of the Cold War. But following the political drivers of these trends leads most often to regional rivalries, not a desire to compete with the United States or Russia. Being first in Asia to do anything in space brings prestige, lends credibility to governments in power, and helps stimulate Asia’s young population to study science and technology, which has other benefits for their national economies.

The responses to China’s rise have included the sudden development of military space programs by two countries that previously shunned such activities—Japan and India—and dynamic new activities in countries ranging from Australia to Singapore to Vietnam. On the Korean Peninsula, both North and South have orbited satellites in the past three years and both have pledged to develop much larger rockets. Many of these countries realize that they can’t “win” Asia’s space race, but they also know that they cannot afford to lose.

China’s rapid expansion in space activity has also raised serious concerns within U.S. military circles and in NASA. But these developments pose an existential threat to China’s neighbors, some of whom see Beijing’s space program as yet another threatening dimension to their deep-seated historical, economic, and geo-political rivalries for status and influence within the Asian pecking order. Even more, space achievements affect the self-perceptions of their national populations, challenging their governments to do more.

How this competition will play out and whether it can be managed, or channeled into more positive directions, will have a major impact on the future of international relations in space. The U.S. government has thus far responded with a two-track strategy, seeking a bilateral space security dialogue with Beijing, while quietly expanding space partnerships with U.S. friends and allies in the region, adding a space dimension to the U.S. “pivot” to Asia.

Read more » The Daily Beast
See more » http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/17/why-china-will-win-the-next-space-race.html

China’s Double-Digit Defense Growth

What It Means for a Peaceful Rise

By Richard A. Bitzinger

China has done it again. In early March, it released its defense budget for 2015, and as in almost every year for over almost two decades, it increased its military expenditure by double-digit percentages. This year, the Chinese defense budget will rise by 10.1 percent, to roughly $145 billion. And it seems likely that the trend will continue, much to the concern of Washington and regional capitals.

Already, China is the second-biggest military spender in the world, having surpassed the United Kingdom in 2008. China’s new budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is more than three times those of other big spenders such as France, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and nearly four times that of its rising Asian rival, India. It is also the only country besides the United States to have a triple-digit defense budget (in billions of U.S. dollars).

This level of spending is all the more remarkable given where China started. In 1997, Chinese military expenditures totaled only about $10 billion, roughly on par with Taiwan and significantly less than that of Japan and South Korea. Beginning that year, however, China’s defense budget began to rise. There were two economic factors that made this growth possible. First, the country’s economy soared; in 1997, defense spending made up less than two percent of GDP, which remains roughly the same share today, at least according to Beijing. Second, low inflation rates over the past two decades have meant that real growth in defense spending has nearly matched nominal growth; even the most conservative estimate of actual growth rates (accounting for inflation) reveal a five-fold real increase in military expenditures since 1997.

What is particularly striking about the growth in defense spending over the last two decades is that it has almost always outpaced GDP growth. Between 1998 and 2007, China’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 12.5 percent, while its defense spending increased at an average of 15.9 percent per annum. Given that the economy is likely to grow by only seven percent in 2015, and its defense spending is growing at double digits, the disconnect between economic performance and defense spending is becoming more pronounced.

Read more » FOREIGN AFFAIRS
See more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/143275/richard-a-bitzinger/chinas-double-digit-defense-growth

Time for Pakistan to give up the ‘jihadi’ option forever: Hussain Haqqani

NEW DELHI: Former Pakistani envoy to United States, Hussain Haqqani, said Pakistan was not doing enough to show the world the seriousness of its efforts to curb and eradicate terrorist setups breeding on its soil.

“It is time for Pakistan to give up the jihadi option forever, only when we do that, we will have credibility in the international community,” Haqqani said.

Haqqani told ANI that terror attacks in India perpetrated by agents from across the border were a deliberate hindrance to peace talks.

“Terrorists have always wished to interrupt talks between India and Pakistan through terror attacks. But India and Pakistan must understand that there is no other way than a peaceful bilateral dialogue. No terrorist is a friend of Kashmir, India or Pakistan,” he said.

Calling upon the Pakistani government to up the ante against terror if it wanted to show the world that it was serious against militancy he said that ”Pakistan’s government continues to say that it is trying to eliminate terror and efforts have been started, but they are not enough. Pakistan needs to make it clear to the world and to India that no jihadi group will have safe haven in Pakistan anymore.”

Haqqani observed that Pakistan itself had suffered in the hands of terror breeding on its soil and said that it was high time that authorities accepted this.

“The acceptance and tolerance towards jihadi groups over the past has harmed Pakistan more than any other country in region,” he felt.

The former Pakistan envoy to the US condemned Friday’s terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua and said efforts were required from Pakistan to build confidence and move towards healthier, meaningful dialogue between the two countries. “Kathua attack should not only be condemned, but Pakistan must extend cooperation in finding out which groups based. Only then can the confidence be built which will enable India and Pakistan to move forward in a comprehensive dialogue,” added Haqqani.

He termed Pakistan’s steps towards Tehreek-e-Taliban as a positive step but an inadequate one.

Unless Pakistan acts against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, JeM and all militant groups, wherever they might be operating Pakistan, will continue to be suspected by international community of harbouring terrorists,” he said.

Pakistan High Commissioner in India, Abdul Basit’s decision to engage with Hurriyat Conference leaders from Kashmir was criticised by Haqqani, terming it as an ‘ill-advised’ move which would not be looked on positively by India.

Continue reading Time for Pakistan to give up the ‘jihadi’ option forever: Hussain Haqqani