Amazon testing delivery drones in Canada

Amazon delivery drone

Amazon delivery drone

Amazon tests delivery drones at secret Canada site after US frustration

Exclusive: Guardian gains access to unnamed British Columbia site where tech giant’s roboticists and engineers, stymied by American regulation, are now developing their unmanned domestic delivery service

By  in British Columbia

Amazon is testing its drone delivery service at a secret site in Canada, followingrepeated warnings by the e-commerce giant that it would go outside the US to bypass what it sees as the US federal government’s lethargic approach to the new technology.

The largest internet retailer in the world is keeping the location of its new test site closely guarded. What can be revealed is that the company’s formidable team of roboticists, software engineers, aeronautics experts and pioneers in remote sensing – including a former Nasa astronaut and the designer of the wingtip of the Boeing 787 – are now operating in British Columbia.

The end goal is to utilise what Amazon sees as a slice of virgin airspace – above 200ft, where most buildings end, and below 500ft, where general aviation begins. Into that aerial slice the company plans to pour highly autonomous drones of less than 55lbs, flying through corridors 10 miles or longer at 50mph and carrying payloads of up to 5lbs that account for 86% of all the company’s packages.

Amazon has acquired a plot of open land lined by oak trees and firs, where it is conducting frequent experimental flights with the full blessing of the Canadian government. As if to underline the significance of the move, the test site is barely 2,000ft from the US border, which was clearly visible from where the Guardian stood on a recent visit.

The Guardian was invited to visit Amazon’s previously undisclosed Canadian drone test site, where it has been conducting outdoor flights for the past few months. For the duration of the visit, three plain-clothed security guards kept watch from the surrounding hills.

Amazon’s drone visionaries are taking the permissive culture on the Canadian side of the border and using it to fine-tune the essential features of what they hope will become a successful delivery-by-drone system. The Guardian witnessed tests of a hybrid drone that can take off and land vertically as well as fly horizontally.

Read more » the Guardian
See more » http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/30/amazon-tests-drones-secret-site-canada-us-faa

Canada – Student protests create tension in Montreal schools

flagCaConfrontation occurs at Concordia University after protesters barge into classroom

By CBC News

Things are heating up in university classrooms after thousands of students boycotted classes this week to protest against the provincial government.

At Concordia University, some students on strike erupted into two classrooms, yelling at some students to leave.

In a video captured by Alex Bailey, a photographer for the school newspaper The Link, some students are seen yelling “Get the f–k outta here” to one of the students who barged into the classroom.

CBC has blurred the faces of those appearing in the video.

Concordia University had cancelled classes that day — but only those belonging to faculties where students voted to strike.

In one instance, the protesters barged into a classroom where some students belonged to a faculty that voted to boycott class.

At least two students in the classroom told CBC Montreal that the classroom contained a few students who belonged to faculties that were on strike that day.

They said the altercation made the mood very tense, and the professor ultimately cancelled the class.

Read more » CBC
See more » http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/student-protests-create-tension-in-montreal-schools-1.3008179

Pakistan military’s new combat drone

Pakistan military’s new combat drone is ‘great national achievement’

Burraq unmanned aircraft capable of firing laser-guided missiles

US refused to share technology despite heavy use of drones in Pakistan

Pakistan, the country that has been subjected to more secret US drone strikes than any other, has hailed the development of its first unmanned combat plane as a “great national achievement”.

In a significant breakthrough, the country’s army announced on Friday it had successfully test-fired a missile from an indigenously developed drone – a technical feat few nations have managed.

Army chief Raheel Sharif was among the engineers and scientists who witnessed the demonstration of a technology that has largely been the reserve of a few countries, such as the US and Israel.

The army said the drone, named Burraq after the flying horse of Islamic tradition, successfully hit stationary and moving targets with its Barq laser-guided missile with “impressive pinpoint accuracy”.

The system would be a “force multiplier in our anti-terror campaign”, said an army spokesman, Asim Bajwa.

Developing homemade drones has been a priority for Pakistan given the extensive use made of them since 2004 by the CIA to target terrorist groups in the restive north-west tribal belt.

he controversial weapons have proved irresistible given their ability to linger over their targets for extended periods of time, collect intelligence and deliver deadly missiles far more cheaply than conventional aircraft.

But the US supplies only its most trustworthy allies with the capability and has refused repeated requests from Pakistan, which has been attempting to join the club of countries with armed drones for at least two years.

Read more » The Guardian
See more » http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/13/pakistan-military-new-combat-drone-great-national-achievement

Toronto terror arrest linked to suspected plot against U.S. consulate

A Pakistani man has been arrested in connection with a suspected terror plot against the United States consulate in Toronto.

The Canada Border Services Agency says Jahanzeb Malik was arrested on Monday on suspicion of “engaging in terrorism and being a danger to national security.”

The CBSA says the suspect displayed a “violent and extremist mindset” in allegedly plotting to kill people and destroy property in Toronto. The alleged plot involved plans to bomb the U.S. consulate in Toronto and other targets in the city’s financial district.

According to the CBSA, Malik attempted to “radicalize” an undercover RCMP officer by showing him videos of apparent Islamic State beheadings. Malik allegedly attempted to recruit the officer to help him make an explosive device to be detonated remotely.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney called Malik “a supporter of the Islamic State” in an address to reporters on Wednesday.

“This individual was also promoting jihadi ideology,” Blaney said.

Malik arrived in Canada on a student visa in 2004. He obtained permanent resident status in 2009 with his wife as his sponsor.

Malik first appeared on the CBSA’s radar when he was questioned by border guards and intelligence agents upon his arrival at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on a flight from Libya in 2013. Malik claimed he had been teaching in Libya and had also visited Saudi Arabia for a few months.

He was allowed into Canada because he is a permanent resident.

Court documents allege Malik has taken weapons, combat and landmine training in Libya, and was a “personal friend” of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

He is believed to be a self-proclaimed supporter of the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

The CBSA flagged Malik as a potential threat last week and arrested him on Monday.

Malik appeared in front of an immigration board on Wednesday. CBSA officials say they are pushing to have him deported. His next detention review is scheduled for March 16.

Read more » CTV News
See more » http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toronto-terror-arrest-linked-to-suspected-plot-against-u-s-consulate-1.2274369

Rangers raid MQM HQ in Karachi, detain member of Rabita Committee

By DAWN.COM | SOHAIL SHABBIR

Excerpt:

Rangers issue details of raid

A press release was issued by Rangers soon after the raid on MQM’s headquarters.

It said: “Pakistan Rangers Sindh has conducted a series of targeted raids at Surrounding areas of 90 including Khursheed Memorial Hall today. During the above mentioned action following hardcore criminals have been arrested.”

Following is the Rangers press release with details of those arrested:

Faisal Mota (involved in murder of Wali Khan Babur and convicted and sentenced to death by court)
Farhan Shabbir aka Mullah
Amir
Nadir (convicted and sentenced 13 years)
Ubaid K 2
Faisal Mota had been awarded the death sentence in absentia on Mar 1 2014 by an anti-terrorism court in the murder case of Wali Khan Babar, a Geo TV reporter.

Journalist injured
Express News cameraman Waseem Mughal who was at Nine Zero among other media personnel has been injured due to firing.

An employee of the Express Media Group confirmed that Mughal has been shot in the arm and that his condition is stable.

‘Stolen ammunition seized’

According to Rangers spokerperson Colonel Tahir, ammunition stolen from Nato containers was also seized during the search operation at Nine Zero. ….

Read more » DAWN.COM
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1168840/rangers-raid-mqm-hq-in-karachi-detain-member-of-rabita-committee

China to invest $50bn in Pakistan by 2017

ISLAMABAD: China intends to invest as many as $50 billion by 2017 in various sectors of Pakistan’s economy, particularly in energy sector to help the country overcome power crisis and help sustainable economic growth, President Pak-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry Shah Faisal Afridi said.
“China has planned to replicate the model of Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) by investing $50 billion into a number of projects including coal, solar and wind energy till 2017 under Early Harvest Programme,” Faisal said.
These projects would enable Gawadar to create a nexus between Pakistan, Iran, China and Central Asian States that would ultimately generate billions of dollars in revenues along with huge job opportunities in the region.
Afridi said that SFTZ is a perfect model to be implemented at Gwadar, asserting, the SFTZ was first used as a testing ground for a number of economic sectors.
The zone, he said, incorporated numerous relaxations in different sectors, under the FTZ’s new capital registration system, foreign investors were no longer required to contribute 15 percent capital within three months and full capital within two years of the establishment of a foreign invested enterprise (FIE).
Meanwhile, official sources said that in addition to invest in power projects, China was also interested in already working in various projects of motorways and railways.
On energy front, Pakistan has been already working to generate about 10400 megawatt electricity with the help of Chinese investment and several projects were already underway to overcome energy crisis.
Beijing has designated three banks including Exim Bank that will provide loans to Chinese companies for investment in power, railway and transport sectors in Pakistan.

Read more » http://defence.pk/threads/china-to-invest-50bn-in-pakistan-by-2017.333769/

Former girlfriend ‘forgives’ Bangladesh hero Rubel in rape case

By AFP

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi actress who filed a rape case against cricket star Rubel Hossain said Tuesday she was withdrawing the charges against the fast bowler, a day after his match-winning heroics at the World Cup.

Naznin Akter Happy, 19, made the rape allegation earlier this year after claiming 25-year-old Rubel had reneged on a promise of marriage that he made while they were having an “intimate affair”.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1168651/

Rafale deadlock gives thrust to Russian 5th-gen jet project

By , TNN

NEW DELHI: Faced with continuing deadlock in the mega deal to acquire 126 French Rafale fighters, India is now pressing the throttle to seal the even bigger project with Russia for the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

India has told Russia it wants deliveries of the FGFA to begin in 36 months after the main contract is inked, instead of the 94 months envisaged earlier, top defence sources said.

With this “accelerated delivery timeframe” becoming the main objective, India is ready to forego the earlier plan for a 50:50 design and work-share agreement with Russia on its under-development FGFA called PAK-FA or Sukhoi T-50.

India is also no longer insisting that all the single-seat stealth fighters required by IAF be built in India by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics at its Ozar facility. “We have agreed to a lesser work-share for a realistic contract, with the initial lot of the FGFA being imported and the rest being made here under technology transfer,” said a source.

“Like for the Russian Sukhoi-30MKI fighters (majority of the 272 Sukhois contracted for $12 billion are being made by HAL), the curve in technology absorption will also be steep in the FGFA project,” he added.

Faced with a sharp decline in the number of fighter squadrons in IAF, India wants to fast-track the FGFA project under which its “perspective multi-role fighter” will be based on PAK-FA but tweaked to its requirements.

The final FGFA design contract has been hanging fire since India and Russia completed their initial work under the $295 million preliminary design contract signed in December 2010. India will overall spend around $25 billion on the FGFA project if it goes ahead with its plan to induct 127 such fighters, as earlier reported by TOI.

All this has gained urgency since India feels French aviation major Dassault is being needlessly intransigent over the pricing mechanism in the final negotiations for the over $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project. Under it, the first 18 Rafale fighters were to be delivered off-the-shelf, with the remaining 108 being produced in India.

“But Dassault’s costing for the 108 Rafales to be built by HAL has undergone a major hike. It amounts to changing the price line that led to Rafale’s selection over Eurofighter Typhoon as the L-1 (lowest bidder) in the MMRCA competition,” said the source.

“The MoD simply cannot sign the contract if the L-1 price is altered. Dassault should relent and stick to its commercial bid submitted in response to the original RFP (request for proposal),” he added.

Both sides are furiously working to break the deadlock since India wants to take a final call on the MMRCA project before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits France in early-April, as earlier reported by TOI.

News courtesy: The Times of India
Read more » http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rafale-deadlock-gives-thrust-to-Russian-5th-gen-jet-project/articleshow/46497247.cms

A Strategic Seaport – Is Pakistan Key to China’s Energy Supremacy?

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

A seaport in southwest Pakistan may hold the key to China’s energy supremacy. At least, that’s what China hopes. The Gwadar port, which China has built and will operate in the province of Balochistan, is situated near the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil-shipping lane that can serve as an energy corridor from western China through Pakistan to the Persian Gulf.

Beijing’s pivot to Pakistan is a substantial one. The story goes back to 2008, when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf proposed a railroad and an oil pipeline to link Gwadar to the Kashi port in Xinjiang—allowing China to take advantage of the shortest possible route to the Middle East. In exchange, Pakistan would get an influx of Chinese investment. Indeed, in 2014, the Chinese government committed to spending $45.6 billion over the next six years to build the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will include the construction of highways, railways, and natural gas and oil pipelines connecting China to the Middle East. China’s stake in Gwadar will also allow it to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean, a vital route for oil transportation between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Another advantage to China is that it will be able to bypass the Strait of Malacca. As of now, 60 percent of China’s imported oil comes from the Middle East, and 80 percent of that is transported to China through this strait, the dangerous, piracy-rife maritime route through the South China, East China, and Yellow Seas.

The United States fears that China will come out of its dealings with Pakistan with more power. But it need not be worried: China’s involvement in Balochistan, a restive area prone to insurgencies, will not end well. Many believe Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, is hiding wanted leaders from the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, small towns in Balochistan are the breeding grounds for a decades-old separatist movement targeting federal agencies. Increasingly, China has been caught up in the violence. In 2004, three Chinese engineers were killed and nine wounded when separatists attacked their van in Gwadar. In 2009, China shelved its $12 billion plans to build an oil refinery and an oil city in Gwadar due to security concerns.

China’s involvement in the region’s politics can only be bad news. In 2012, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a resolution that asked the United States to support Baloch separatists as freedom fighters. The resolution was tabled, but if the United States ever does decide to involve itself in the conflict, China’s strategic interests will be at risk.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
See more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/143227/syed-fazl-e-haider/a-strategic-seaport

Russia’s ‘Dark’ Warplanes Are Spooking Europe

Russian military aircraft with their transponders turned off have had several close calls with civilian planes

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Two Russian bombers, flying with their transponders turned off to avoid detection, swooped so close to the Irish coast that Dublin’s control tower delayed the takeoff of one passenger plane and ordered another to alter its route to steer clear of the bombers. The Feb. 18 incident, disclosed last week by the Irish government, was only the latest in an alarming series of close calls with Russian warplanes in the skies over Europe.

In December, a Russian military intelligence plane nearly collided with an SAS passenger jet over southern Sweden, according to the Swedish air force chief. Earlier in the year, a Russian plane flew close to another SAS jet that had just taken off from Copenhagen. Russia has denied that its aircraft were dangerously close to either plane.

Over the past year, Russian military aircraft have probed and sometimes violated the borders of European nations’ airspace more than 100 times, according to NATO. In most of these instances the Russians have turned off their transponders, electronic devices that commercial jets are required to use to make it easy to track them. Operating without the devices, known as “flying dark,” poses a serious risk to civilian air traffic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference in December.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/russia-s-dark-warplanes-are-spooking-europe?hootPostID=376535ce1bcfd0c34becbd39be56022d

Pakistani man survives liver surgery after 12 Indian students donate blood

Humanity knows no boundaries. This was proven by 12 Indian students who donated blood to a Pakistani liver patient, saving his life.

Aman Lal Makhija, a 40-year-old Pakistani man from Sindh, traveled to New Delhi for a liver transplant after being advised by doctors to seek help across the border, according to Daily Mail.

Makhija was accompanied by his donor and brother-in-law Dilshad Ali. However, Makhija’s liver started failing and there was urgent need for blood. Responding to Dilshad’s pamphlets requesting blood donations, 12 students came forward to donate blood.

The doctors who operated on the patient, Dr KR Vasudevan and Dr Abhideep Chaudhary, said that owing to the timely contribution of blood, the team was able to successfully perform a complicated liver transplant surgery on February 27.

“Usually, all liver transplant patients are advised to arrange 10 units of blood in case of any eventuality. But being from Pakistan, the family did not have any donors. The noble act of blood donation by these students really touched us all,” said Dr Vasudevan, a liver transplant surgeon.

Makhija, who runs a medical store in Pakistan, said, “This rebirth is the best Holi gift to me by Indian doctors and students.”

“There are about 400 Hindu families in our area. We have never faced any problems in Pakistan. Here, everyone, including these young students, have been so helpful. The students even came to enquire about my brother’s health and have invited me to take part in Holi celebrations. My family will always remain obliged to them,” Jawahar Lal Makhija, the patient’s brother, said.

“The patient was suffering from Hepatitis-B for the last three years and needed an urgent liver transplant. A part of his bother-in-law’s healthy liver was transplanted in a seven-hour surgery. Both donor and recipient are fine now and will be discharged in a week,” said Dr Chaudhary.

News courtesy: The Express Tribune
Read more » http://tribune.com.pk/story/849466/pakistani-man-survives-liver-surgery-after-12-indian-students-donate-blood/

China’s ‘gift’ of Z-10 Stealth helicopters to Pakistan

China Likely to give 3 Z-10 Attack Helos to Pakistan; Will this ‘Gift’ Support its R&D?

By

Pakistan is all set to welcome new attack helicopters from China — the Z-10 — in 2015 if reports are to be believed. Moreover, these attack helicopters will be given free of cost to China’s “all-weather friend”, Pakistan.

The reports originated from unconfirmed Russian media, which claimed that China might be gifting three of its latest anti-tank attack helicopter that was designed by the Russian design bureau, Kamov, and further developed by the Chinese 602nd Research Institute.

The primary missions for the Z-10 are anti-tank missions with air-to-air missions being its secondary capability. These according to Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet, will be added to the aviation fleet of Pakistani Army.

This helicopter will be able to attack either on ground or on air. It has a range of 3-4 kilometres without appearing on the radar. The maximumspeed of Z-10 is 300+ km/h with a range of 800+. It also has 23 mm or 30 mm autocannon mounted, 57 mm, 90 mm multi-barrel unguided rocket pods and four hard points for missiles.

Read more » INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES
S
ee more » http://www.ibtimes.co.in/china-likely-give-3-z-10-attack-helos-pakistan-will-this-gift-support-its-rd-619658

Refugees pay more income tax than millionaire investor immigrants

Only 39% of investor immigrants paid any income tax 5 years after arriving

By CBC News

Refugees who have come to Canada over the past 30 years have paid more income tax in this country than immigrant investors admitted under the now defunct immigrant investor program, critics say.

Ian Young, a South China Morning Post journalist based in Vancouver, crunched the numbers with data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Canada seeks 50 millionaire immigrant investors under pilot program

Only a small proportion of the immigrant investors who have come to Canada under the program since 1980 end up staying here, Young said, again relying on numbers from the federal government.

“After five years, only 39 per cent of investor immigrants declared any income. Not only that, those who did, their average incomes were very low,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The Current on Friday.

Not much Canadian income

They may have been millionaires, but they were earning very little money here in Canada. Immigrant investors declared about $18,000 to $25,000 of income annually, he said.

“Why? Either because they were living off existing wealth, or they weren’t declaring their [global] incomes,” Young said.

Read more » CBC
See more » http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/refugees-pay-more-income-tax-than-millionaire-investor-immigrants-1.2984982?cmp=rss

Self-driving cars all across the UK within 10 years

Self-driving cars are coming but Britain isn’t ready for them, say MPs

By Jonathan Walker

Newcastle University academic Professor Eric Sampson tells MPs that automated cars could cut or end deaths on the roads

Driverless vehicles which could dramatically cut deaths on the roads are coming to Britain – but the Government must do far more to ensure the UK is a world leader in adopting the technology, according to MPs.

The findings were published after a Newcastle academic told MPs that driverless cars could even potentially cut the number of road fatalities down to nothing.

But Professor Eric Sampson, visiting professor at Newcastle University, told the inquiry that the Government would have to pass legislation making the new technology compulsory.

Giving evidence at Westminster, he said: “To get zero fatalities, if you can ever get there, you have to mandate the fitment. You cannot have vehicles travelling around that are not fitted with the latest technology.”

Cars which drive themselves might sound like science fiction but manufacturers say they could have vehicles available within five years.

Nissan, which has a major plant in Washington, Tyne and Wear, says it will introduce vehicles with affordable autonomous drive systems by 2020.

The firm is planning to introduce technology which automates specific tasks, such as driving in heavy traffic or traffic jams; maintaining a steady speed and changing lanes in motorways, and parking.

A spokeswoman said: “The first of these systems will be in the market from 2016 with a successive roll-out towards 2020 when full autonomous drive systems will be available.”

But in a new report, the Commons Transport Committee said the UK needed a “visionary strategy” to make the most of new motoring technology.

Laws and regulations governing car insurance needed to be reformed to make it clear how the introduction of self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers, the MPs said.

Britain must also work with the EU to develop common standards which will help UK manufacturers develop products suitable for export.

Committee chair Louise Ellman MP said: “The public need to be sure that new types of vehicles are safe to travel on our roads.

The Government must do more to prepare for a transition period where manual, semi-autonomous and driverless vehicles will share UK roads.

“Transport Ministers must explain how different types of vehicles will be certified and tested, how drivers will be trained and how driving standards will be updated, monitored and enforced.”

The inquiry heard evidence from a range of experts before publishing its findings. As well as Professor Sampson these included Professor Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University.

He told the committee that self-driving cars were probably inevitable.

Giving evidence to the inquiry, Prof Blythe said: “I see a real role for moving towards autonomous vehicles, for all sorts of reasons.

“In urban areas, you can manage and optimise traffic if you have some control over speed, lane or whatever at certain times.

“As people get older, they have functional and cognitive declines. Assistive technologies in cars to help them when they cannot judge distances or speeds are important.”

He added: “I see a lot of reasons why automation in vehicles will come. Virtually all you need for fully autonomous vehicles is there now in different vehicles; it just has not all been brought together.

“It has real safety benefits and will allow platoons of freight, which may increase capacity on the roads.”

News courtesy: Chronicle Live
Read more » http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/self-driving-cars-coming-britain-isnt-8783135

The Fed is considering a more ambitious target for “full employment”

Fed Weighs More Ambitious Goal for Sweet Spot on Employment

(Bloomberg) — As the U.S. jobless rate reaches the range that the Federal Reserve defines as full employment, some Fed officials are asking a question: How low can you go?

Their answer: less than the 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent the Fed currently defines as the lowest that can be achieved without heating up inflation. Some Chicago Fed economists say this sweet spot, often called full employment or the natural rate of unemployment, may be as low as 5 percent.

Their boss, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, is among policy makers who have lowered their estimates for the normal rate. “I now think that it might be something more like 5.0 percent,” Evans said in a speech Wednesday.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-05/fed-weighs-more-ambitious-goal-for-sweet-spot-on-full-employment?hootPostID=b3ad681452769348e7e399927e593771

What Some Muslims Are Doing For Hindus In Pakistan On Holi Will Make You Stand Up & Applaud Humanity

By Rohit Bhattacharya

The National Students Federation of Pakistan, a platform to redirect the thinking of students and others alike from the inept politics of the ruling powers, has proposed an event that is as heartwarming as it is heart wrenching. They want to form a human shield for the Hindu Holi revellers, to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters.

Read more » Scoop Whoop
See more » http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/hindus-on-pakistani-holi/

Isis fighters throw another ‘gay’ man off a tower – and stone him to death when he survives fall

Isis fighters threw a man accused of homosexuality from a building and stoned him to death when he survived the fall, a Syrian monitoring group has claimed.

The man was reportedly thrown from a tower in the Syrian city of al- Tabaqa, west of the group’s defacto stronghold of Raqqa, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The Observatory collects information from activists living in  Isis-controlled territories.

The killing reportedly took place in front of a huge crowd of people gathered below the building on Tuesday.

Read more » The Independent
See more » http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-fighters-throw-another-gay-man-off-a-tower–and-stone-him-to-death-when-he-survives-fall-10084618.html

No exit: Human rights activists denied foreign travel at Karachi airport

By Faraz Khan

KARACHI: Abdul Qadeer Baloch, also known as Mama Qadeer, the vice-chairperson of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), was stopped from travelling outside the country at the Karachi Airport on Wednesday night.

Qadeer, accompanied by his organisation’s general secretary, Farzana Majeed and a relative of one of the Baloch missing persons, Faiqa Baloch, was travelling to New York for a conference on the alleged human rights violations in Balochistan and Sindh, to be held on March 7.

“They [FIA] officials told us that Farzana and I could not leave the country as our names have been placed on the exit control list [ECL],” Qadeer told The Express Tribune. “They even stopped Faiqa as her visa was issued in my name.” He added that the FIA officials also off-loaded their luggage from the plane. “They forced us to stay at the airport for at least three-and-a-half hours until the plane flew off, during which time they mentally tortured us,” he alleged.

“The US government has given us a five-year visa, but we cannot fly to the USA now,” he lamented. “I just want to ask the government what we have done wrong that made them stop us from travelling abroad,” he questioned, adding that there was no case registered against him and he had never heard about his name being put on the ECL.

“What is the government doing with us since the last six years? We are human rights activists, not anti-state activists, but the government has always tried to label us in the latter category,” he decried. “They [government] should be ashamed of such activities.”

On contact, the FIA officials confirmed that the name of Qadeer and Farzana Majeed had been placed on the ECL. “We do not know why their names were put on the ECL as it does not concern us,” the FIA’s Immigrations deputy director, Asim Qaimkhani, told The Express Tribune. “We only follow the system. We put their names on the computer and found them on the ECL. It is our job to stop those people whose names are on the ECL and we only did our job.” He said that only the interior ministry would be able to tell why their names were put on the ECL.

HRCP condemns

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the denial of foreign travel to the rights activists, reportedly on account of their ‘anti-state activities’.

In a statement issued on Thursday by chairperson Zohra Yusuf, the commission said:

“Apart from the obvious denial of the freedom of movement, the decision to prevent them from traveling abroad is bound to add to the sense of deprivation felt by the Baloch. It also demonstrates the many difficulties that human rights defenders face in their work in the country.”

This manner of arbitrarily adding citizens’ names to the ECL has been severely criticised by the Supreme Court in the last few years and the government has committed on more than one occasion to introduce parameters to introduce safeguards to prevent abuse. The safeguards are meant to inform the individuals in time about inclusion of their names to the list in order to enable them to challenge the inclusion, read the statement.

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Australian-first floating solar farm due to begin construction in SA

PHOTO: Solar panels will be floated at the wastewater facility at Jamestown similar to a current project in France. (Supplied: Infratech Industries)

PHOTO: Solar panels will be floated at the wastewater facility at Jamestown similar to a current project in France. (Supplied: Infratech Industries)

By Matthew Doran

An Australian-first floating solar power plant is expected to be operational in South Australia by early April, with construction about to begin.

The plant will float on a wastewater treatment facility in Jamestown in the state’s mid north.

Felicia Whiting of Infratech Industries said the plant was designed so that much of the construction could be carried out offsite and slotted together at the facility.

“We should see some plant on the site within about two weeks,” Ms Whiting said.

She also explained that as the solar panels were floating they would be kept cool by the water mass, making them about 57 per cent more efficient than land-based solar panels.

“It prevents water evaporation up to 90 per cent of the surface area covered, and for dry states and dry climates that’s a big water saving measure,” Ms Whiting said.

“It prevents the outbreak of blue-green algae by keeping the surface water cool, which is for treated wastewater an issue in water quality.

“By preventing photosynthesis, the energy from the sun goes into the panel rather than into the water.”

Read more » ABC
See  more » http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-05/australian-first-floating-solar-farm-for-sa/6281374

China: PV installed capacity grows to almost 30 GW in 2014

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has released 2014 solar figures. The report shows installed capacity approached 30 GW, while manufacturers are reporting greatly increased utilization rates.

The NEA report concludes that as of the end of 2014, the total installed PV capacity of connected to state grid was 28.05 GW. Breakdown between installation type reveals ground-mounted capacity was 23.38 GW while Distributed Generation (DG) came in at 4.67 GW.

Total electricity generated by PV showed rapid growth in 2014, reaching 25 billion kW/h, an increase of more than 200% over last year.

For 2014, NEA reports 10.6 GW of new capacity was connected to the state grid, along the lines of previous predictions of 10.52 GW. This accounts for around one quarter of all new PV capacity installed globally and one-third of the total PV module output from China.

Geographically, the east part of China overtook the west for the first time in terms of new PV capacity installed, accounting for 54% of arrays.

Upstream data

From the perspective of the upstream industry, in 2014 the total poly silicon production of China was about 130,000 tons, a 50% increase on 2013. Despite this rapid growth, China still imported about 90,000 tons of poly silicon for domestic manufacturing. The photovoltaic modules production was over 33 GW, an increase of 17% over the previous year of which 68% were exported.

The capacity utilization of PV manufactures increased sharply. The average capacity utilization of top 10 PV modules manufactures stood above 87% by the end of 2014.

The NEA has announced the goal of 15 GW for new solar capacity for 2015.

News courtesy: PV Magazine

Read more: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/china–pv-installed-capacity-grows-to-almost-30-gw-in-2014_100018231/#ixzz3TVu14y5b

67 Members of Congress Send Bipartisan Human Rights Letter to Saudi Arabia’s New King

Press release: WASHINGTON – On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District) and James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd District) have sent a bipartisan letter to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman. The letter urges the new King to free all prisoners of conscience—including blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair—and to allow women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia.

The letter garnered 67 congressional signers and endorsements from 17 women’s, human rights, religious freedom, and advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners of conscience such as blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu Al-Khair,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Sixty-seven members of Congress have already raised their voices in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Now, Secretary Kerry must do the same when he visits the Kingdom tomorrow.”

The imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as the ban on women driving, the restrictions of the male guardianship system, and so-called “anti-terror” laws that have criminalized peaceful expression, have all brought Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to the forefront of the U.S.–Saudi relationship. By signing this letter, U.S. representatives are urging King Salman to end the imprisonment of peaceful critics, violations of women’s human rights, religious persecution, and the crackdown on advocates and reformers.

Endorsing Organizations

Amnesty International USA, International Christian Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK, In Defense of Christians, Human Rights Watch, Project on Middle East Democracy, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, US National Committee for UN Women, Women’s Action for New Directions, Women Thrive Worldwide, Peace X Peace, Equality Now, PEN American Center, Center for Inquiry, National Organization for Women Foundation, Universal Muslim Association of America, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

The letter can be read at:http://amnestyusa.org/pdfs/LetterCongressToWhiteHouseSaudiArabiaMarch2015.pdf

News courtesy: Amnesty International
Read more » http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/67-members-of-congress-send-bipartisan-human-rights-letter-to-saudi-arabia-s-new-king

Why $100 oil won’t be coming back for a long, long time

L-Shaped Oil Recovery Flattens V-Shaped Market Optimists

(Bloomberg) — Get ready for an L-shaped oil recovery.

A growing consensus is emerging from the likes of BP Plc, the International Energy Agency, shale wildcatters and even the Saudis that a near-term recovery to $100-a-barrel crude isn’t in the cards. Instead, expect a range of $50 to $60 for at least the next few years.

When oil prices plunged sharply in 2008, they rebounded almost as quickly. Several months ago, industry and government touted the same U or V-shaped recovery this time out. On closer examination, a new factor in the marketplace — shale oil — has changed their minds.

“This is the new normal,” Dennis Cassidy, co-leader of the oil and natural gas practice for consulting company AlixPartners, said in an interview. His group sees an L-shaped chart that could extend for three to five years.

Unlike other petroleum formations, the nature of shale — with multiple inexpensive, short-lived wells — means producers can stop and start drilling on a dime. On the one hand, this allows them to quickly cut costs in a downturn; on the other, every time prices tick up, so will their output — renewing downward pressure on prices.

While an offshore well usually costs about $100 million to drill, and takes as long as 10 years and billions more to begin producing from a new field, a shale well requires only several million dollars and a few weeks to coax out oil and gas.

No Coordination

“When the price of oil recovers, most shale formations will be aggressively exploited,” said Leonardo Maugeri, a former Eni SpA vice president and now a researcher at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs. Based on his appreciation of shale’s special qualities, he predicted the current glut in 2012.

No central authority tells shale drillers, who have been described as the new “swing producers,” what to do. Unlike the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the effect they’ll have in holding down prices comes from a set of independent decisions influenced by the need to deliver shareholder returns.

The expectation that U.S. producers will boost drilling as soon as prices improve is why oil executives, including BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley, are saying they don’t see $100 a barrel returning for a “long time.”

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Oneok Partners LP are among companies basing their budgets on an assumption that oil will stick to about $50 to $55 a barrel this year, with $65 the ceiling for next year.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-03/l-shaped-oil-recovery-flattens-v-shaped-market-optimists

Tesla Motors Announces A New Home Battery; Living Off The Grid Will Soon Be Status Quo

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced Wednesday that the company is working on a new kind of battery that would be used to power homes. Based on Tesla’s lithium-ion battery technology, the new battery is expected to help the company become a leader in the growing home energy-storage market.

Speaking during an earnings conference call on Wednesday, Musk said that the design of the battery is complete, and production would begin in about six months. Although the company did not provide any date for the product’s launch, Musk said that he was pleased with the result.

“We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses fairly soon,” Bloombergquoted Musk as saying.

During an earnings call last year, Musk had talked about his plans to make a product that would be fitted into consumers’ homes, instead of their cars. He had expressed an interest in the home energy-storage market and predicted enormous demand for battery systems for backup power at both homes and businesses.

“We are trying to figure out what would be a cool stationary (battery) pack,” Forbes had quoted Musk as saying at the time. “Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.”

The Palo Alto, California-based automaker already produces residential energy-storage units through SolarCity Corp., a solar-power company that names Musk as its chairman and the biggest shareholder. In addition, Tesla’s Fremont, California, facility also produces large stationary storage systems for businesses and utility clients, Bloomberg reported.

“The long-term demand for stationary energy storage is extraordinary,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, said. “We’ve put in a huge amount of effort there.”

At this moment, many solar or wind-powered homes have to remain on a the grid because there has not been a way to store extra power for lean hours. If given a relatively cheap and reliable battery to hold the power needed, building off-grid in the country will become commonplace, and even in the city, self powered homes could be a less expensive option than being grid-tied.

Courtesy: Off Grid Quest
Read more » http://offgridquest.com/news/tesla-motors-announces-a-new-home-batter

S&P raises India’s GDP forecasts, says it’s a bright spot in Asia

MUMBAI: (Reuters) – Standard & Poor’s sharply raised India’s growth forecasts for the next several years to reflect a recent change in how gross domestic product is calculated by the government, and said the economy should be a “bright spot” in Asia.

The ratings agency S&P raised its India GDP growth forecast to 7.9 percent from 6.2 percent for the year ending March 2016, citing as well rising investment and low oil prices.

The agency also raised its growth forecast for 2016/17 to 8.2 percent from 6.6 percent previously.

The revisions come after India this month changed the way it measures Asia’s third-largest economy.

“India should be the Asia-Pacific region’s bright spot,” S&P said in a statement.

At the same time, the ratings agency lowered growth forecasts for a slew of Asian countries, including China and Japan.

S&P currently rates India at “BBB-” with a “stable” outlook.

The agency earlier this week said India must boost growth, cut its fiscal deficit and fulfil promises of financial and fiscal reforms to justify an upgrade in a credit rating.

(Reporting by Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

News courtesy: Reuters
Read more » http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/02/26/india-economy-s-p-idINKBN0LU0L220150226

Pakistan’s support to LeT will likely be an irritant: US Intelligence Director

By Dawn.com

Pakistan’s continued provision of a safe haven to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) will probably continue to be a key irritant in Indo-Pak relations, Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper claimed in his testimony on “World Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” which he presented Thursday in a hearing of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee.

India recognises the proscribed militant group LeT as a major threat to regional security and has accused its chief Hafiz Saeed of masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Saeed, who now leads the banned organisation Jamaatud Dawa (JUD), has denied any links to terrorist activities or having any association with LeT.

Read more »  DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1166275/pakistans-support-to-let-will-likely-be-an-irritant-us-intelligence-director?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dawn-news+%28Dawn+News%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Delhi entrepreneur launches app to unite Pakistan and India

By Dawn.com

In a bid to limit the rivalry between India and Pakistan to sports grounds, a Delhi-based entrepreneur earlier this month launched a new app to improve relations between the two South Asian rivals.

‘India or Pakistan’ is an innovative application, available on Google Play store, that questions the reader, after showing pictures of the two nations. The idea is to make people focus on what unites them by making them guess whether the photographs were taken in India or Pakistan.

In light of recent events, it is a welcoming gesture that is part of the wider movement called ‘India Loves Pakistan’ that was launched in 2013. The Delhi-based social movement aims to ‘add .. human element to the India-Pakistan relationship.’

The initiative operates primarily on Twitter through #DearNeighbour and #IndiaWithPakistan.

Where the former was launched as a generic hashtag to initiate dialogue across the border, the latter was trending post-Peshawar massacre in Pakistan, with thousands of Indians expressing solidarity with Pakistanis after the terrorist attack.

Courtesy: DAWN
Read more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1166300/

Sindhis to get a shrine they can call their own in Kutch

By ,TNN

Once, the Sindhu (Indus) river ended here. On the banks of Kori Creek in Kutch’s Lakhpat district in Gujarat and close to Sindh’s capital Karachi, it had the Arabian Sea in the backdrop. From the sea, riding a fish, the deity of Sindhis, Lord Jhulelal, is believed to have emerged to rescue the community from a tyrant king. The place seems a perfect site for Jhulelal Tirathdham, a future nerve centre for the global Sindhi community.

Work on the Tirathdham complex which includes a massive Jhulelal temple, a museum, amphitheatre, auditorium, meditation centre, shelter for pilgrims and other amenities will start soon. As they plan a bhoomi poojan on Cheti Chand, the Sindhi New Year on March 21, the management is trying to invite PM Narendra Modi as the chief guest.

Armed with around 40 acres of land and NOCs from government departments, Shri Jhulelal Tirathdham Trust is embarking on a project never witnessed in the history of Sindhi Hindus, migrants from Sindh after Partition. “Every community has a centre they identify with. Muslims have Mecca, Sikhs the Golden Temple, Hindus have Vaishnodevi and Tirupati even as both Christians and Jews take pride in Jerusalem,” says historian and Tirathdham’s managing trustee, Subhadra Anand. “The scattered and linguistically minority community, Sindhis, have prospered materially but are uprooted culturally and spiritually. The centre will be a bonding force for Sindhis who are fast losing their language and culture.”

It was Anand who, during a lecture on threats to Sindhi identity in Gujarat in the late 1990s, first expressed the desire to build a monument to Sindhi ethos. In the audience was Madhav Joshi, a local who suggested the centre could be in Kutch which houses pilgrim sites like Narayan Sarovar (Krishna temple), Koteshwar (Shiva temple) and an ancient Gurudwara.

Next, Anand and trust chairman and diamond tycoon Dilip Lakhi met then Gujarat CM Modi. “After he heard us, Modi said ‘your dream is my dream’. His response made a difference,” says Anand.

To be created in the helically tapering form of a pyramid, the temple is to be the tallest in India. The project also includes schools, a hospital and a wedding centre. Being backed by rich and not-so-rich Sindhis alike, the trustees are approaching community members for funds. “Sindhis dream big and have built big educational institutions, hospitals and homes. Now building the Tirathdham is the community’s collective dream,” hopes trustee and realty czar Niranjan Hiranandani.

News courtesy: The Times of India
Read more » http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Sindhis-to-get-a-shrine-they-can-call-their-own-in-Kutch/articleshow/46363798.cms

Google Is Making Its Biggest Bet on Renewable Energy

(Bloomberg) — Google Inc. is making its largest bet yet on renewable energy, a $300 million investment to support at least 25,000 SolarCity Corp. rooftop power plants.

Google is contributing to a SolarCity fund valued at $750 million, the largest ever created for residential solar, the San Mateo, California-based solar panel installer said Thursday in a statement.

Google has now committed more than $1.8 billion to renewable energy projects, including wind and solar farms on three continents. This deal, which may have a return as high as 8 percent, is a sign that technology companies can take advantage of investment formats once reserved only for banks.

“Hopefully this will lead other corporations to invest in renewable energy,” SolarCity Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said in a phone interview.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-26/google-makes-biggest-bet-on-renewables-to-fund-solarcity?hootPostID=ec03be21cb060deb7c44af681ec97bf1

China submarines outnumber U.S. fleet: U.S. admiral

Washington: (Reuters) – China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top U.S. Navy admiral told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior.

Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of deployment.

For instance, China had carried out three deployments in the Indian Ocean, and had kept vessels out at sea for 95 days, Mulloy said.

“We know they are out experimenting and looking at operating and clearly want to be in this world of advanced submarines,” Mulloy told the committee.

U.S. military officials in recent months have grown increasingly vocal about China’s military buildup and launched a major push to ensure that U.S. military technology stays ahead of rapid advances by China and Russia.

Mulloy said the quality of China’s submarines was lower than those built by the United States, but the size of its undersea fleet had now surpassed that of the U.S. fleet. A spokeswoman said the U.S. Navy had 71 commissioned U.S. submarines.

U.S. submarines are built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.

In its last annual report to Congress about China’s military and security developments, the Pentagon said China had 77 principal surface combatant ships, more than 60 submarines, 55 large and medium amphibious ships, and about 85 missile-equipped small combatants.

Mulloy did not provide details about the number of surface ships now operated by China.

He said the U.S. military did not believe China carried nuclear missiles on its submarines, but that it had been producing missiles and testing them.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Gunna Dickson)

News courtesy: Reuters
Read more » http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/25/us-usa-china-submarines-idUSKBN0LT2NE20150225

 

India to negotiate free trade zone with Russia-led Customs Union

India is to start negotiating a free trade agreement with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan within the next six months, Indian Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry Rajeev Kher has said.

A Russian-Indian working group which was established in November 2014 will consider the negotiating of a comprehensive free trade agreement between India and the Customs Union.

Kher said the working group would put forward proposals within the next six months and the negotiating process would start after that, TASS reports.

As most of the developed world in the West is suffering an economic downturn, the developing world has been stepping up efforts to bring their economies closer.

Most recently, China said it could establish a free trade zone with a broader Russia-led economic bloc that also includes Armenia and is expected to include Kyrgyzstan soon.

The Eurasian customs union is a regional bloc that includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan aimed at creating a single economic space with common tariffs. The group has a population of 168 million people and a GDP of more than $2 trillion.

The BRICS countries which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will also have established by the end of the year the $100 billion New Development Bank, as a rival to the IMF and the World Bank.

Read more » http://rt.com/business/235731-india-russia-customs-union/

Secret to the Apple Car Is the Battery

By

When news leaked that Apple could produce an electric car as early as 2020, lots of people had visions of driving a sleek, white, environmentally friendly automobile with a big iPad running down the center console. The number of employees Apple had already poached from Tesla and other car makers implied that Chief Executive Tim Cook had ambitions that went far beyond auto software like its existing CarPlay. Reports outlined the many ways that tech’s golden child could disrupt the car industry. Auto execs were put on notice: Apple the Unstoppable is coming for you.

Read more » Bloomberg