Self-driving cars are coming but Britain isn’t ready for them, say MPs
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
(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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
“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
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
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.
News courtesy: Reuters
Read more » http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/02/26/india-economy-s-p-idINKBN0LU0L220150226
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
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.
Read more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1166300/
Mr Roy founded a secular blog and spoke out against religious extremism
An American atheist blogger who spoke out against religious extremism and intolerance has been hacked to death in Bangladesh.
Avijit Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University on Thursday evening when they were attacked.
Witnesses told local media their bicycle rickshaw was stopped by two men who dragged them on to the pavement but police chief Sirajul Islam said the couple were ambushed as they walked towards a roadside tea stall.
Both accounts said at least two men with machetes started hacking at the couple as they lay on the ground.
The attackers then ran away, disappearing into crowds.
Mr Roy, believed to be in his 40s, was pronounced dead during emergency surgery at the Dhaka Medical College hospital and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, lost a finger and is being treated for serious injuries.
Police found her severed finger alongside two machetes and a bag possibly belonging to the attackers at the scene, BDnews24reported.
Read more » The Independent
Lear more » http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/americanbangladeshi-atheist-blogger-avijit-roy-hacked-to-death-by-suspected-islamist-extremists-10074747.html
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More » Twitter
Pakistani mainstream media anchor Mubashir Luqman calls MQM chief Altaf Husaain a “Joker In London” in his tweets
Sindhis to get a shrine they can call their own in Kutch
By Mohammed Wajihuddin,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
(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.
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.
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.
By Katie Benner
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
The marketplace for solar power isn’t cooperating with pessimists
Solar panels are super cheap, with prices down more than 75 percent in five years. Just $0.70 a watt! That’s great news, even if few people can explain what a watt feels like exactly. And the future is growing even brighter, according to a report released today from the independent German research group Agora Energiewende. The analysts report that leading global projections of world energy use may be missing the big picture: “Most scenarios fundamentally underestimate the role of solar power in future energy systems,” the report states. The price of silicon panels is no longer the cost headache it’s been historically. How much sun a location gets, the authors write, is less than a factor than many might think. What increasingly matters is financing costs.
Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-24/in-the-time-it-takes-to-read-this-story-a-solar-array-will-go-up-somewhere-i6jrbr4x?hootPostID=d7724d162a760d8a3b726708c34ed292
More than 30 years after Argentinian forces made a failed attempt to seize the Falkland Islands from the British, Argentina’s Central Bank has announced the introduction of a 50 peso note with the archipelago emblazoned on the front.
On the reverse side of the colorful note is an image of Antonio Rivero, the Argentinian rebel leader who led an 1833 uprising in an effort to reclaim the islands from the British. Rivero, today a folk hero in the South American country, is pictured on horseback waving an Argentinian flag above his head.
The new banknote, which is worth £3.70 ($4.20), is scheduled to enter circulation next month.
Central Bank President Alejandro Vanoli explained that the goal of the new banknote is to “incorporate the Argentine nation’s unwavering claim over the Islas Malvinas [as they are known locally] into an element of daily use.”
Read more » http://rt.com/news/235279-argentina-banknote-falklands-britain/
Written by Mohd Faisal Fareed | Lucknow
Tension prevailed in Madhopur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district after 150 Muslim families reportedly left their homes Monday, fearing a backlash from BJP MP Yogi Adityanath’s outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) over a land dispute. Heavy police force including PAC personnel have been deployed in the village to prevent any disturbance.
Kushinagar additional district magistrate Ram Kewal Tiwari admitted that there is tension in the village. “It is a property dispute. There was a minor clash and we deployed PAC. HYV is active in this region and they often hold meetings, but we handle the situation,” Tiwari claimed. He, however, denied that Muslims have left the village.
HYV held a meeting at Madhopur on Monday to show solidarity with the village’s Hindus following a property dispute. The outfit has reportedly given call for a Hindu mahapanchayat on March 3 if its demand of handing over possession of a 1.5-acre disputed plot to a Hindu villager is not met.
“We had gone there to show solidarity with our worker Digvijay Kishore Shahi who was assaulted by a Muslim when he resisted their move to grab his land. Since the Muslims have done wrong, they have fled. We are not responsible,” Sunil Singh, state president of HYV said.
Read more » Indian Express
See more » http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/village-tense-after-adityanaths-outfit-enters-land-row-150-muslim-families-leave-homes/
The Alberta government is projecting 31,000 fewer jobs in 2015 as falling oil prices put the screws to Canada’s golden goose economy.
On the bright side? They’re also projecting a $465-million surplus this fiscal year despite a $644 million hit to bitumen royalties. But if oil continues to slide, that too could disappear “in a heartbeat,” warned Finance Minister Robin Campbell, giving the fiscal update Tuesday.
In its third quarter update for the first nine months of fiscal year 2014-15, the government expects to post a $465-million change in net assets and a consolidated surplus of $361 million, which includes school districts, universities, colleges and health authorities as well as external corporations and the environmental monitoring agency.
The surplus runs contrary to an earlier statement by Premier Jim Prentice that Alberta would post a $500 million deficit.
“We have taken steps to protect our financial position that will help keep us in the black,” Prentice said Tuesday.
– Related: Alberta’s 3rd-quarter fiscal update
“Contract settlements made by previous administrations and significantly lower resource revenues have created a very challenging fiscal outlook for Alberta. This requires a reset of our fiscal foundation to address a $7 billion revenue gap.”
A sharp drop in oil prices has moved the government’s non-renewable resource revenue forecast down by $503 million, with bitumen royalties expected to drop $644 million by the end of 2014-15. While initially budgeting average West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices of $95 per barrel, the government is now forecasting an average of $79 per barrel.
A falling exchange rate, now forecast at roughly 88 cents US to Canadian dollar, will cushion falling energy revenues but real gross-domestic product is now forecast at only 0.6% growth in 2015 due to a pullback in energy investment.
Oil and gas investment is expected to decline by 30% in 2015. The province is predicting a 1% increase in job growth that is actually a slowdown compared to the 2.2% job growth seen in 2014. The result is an expected loss of 31,800 jobs, largely in oil-related fields, meaning 2015 will be one of the weakest years for job growth in the past 25 years.
“Let’s be clear, we’re about $300 million in the black and that could disappear in a heartbeat,” warned Campbell, noting the low exchange rate and corporate tax boost are helpful but not a solution.
Read more » thebeaumoontnews
See more » http://www.thebeaumontnews.ca/2015/02/24/alberta-is-forecasting-a-465-million-surplus-this-fiscal-year
ISLAMABAD: Two out of three forensics experts, who performed an autopsy on the dead body of a foreign wire journalist, suspect she was likely murdered may be by strangulation.
Maria Golovnina, 34, the Pakistan and Afghanistan bureau chief for foreign news wire Reuters had died on Monday after collapsing in the office in Islamabad. She was rushed to hospital but doctors were unable to save her, Reuters said in a statement.
“Some marks on the deceased’s neck along with bluish discoloration of nails, lips, and heels point to what could be
suspected as ‘struggle’ immediately before death but it will be premature to say anything before a laboratory analysis,” sources quoted one of the experts on a three-member medical board.
With only 20 percent of the population, the world’s 300 largest metropolitan economies account for nearly half of global economic output. Through our new Global Metro Monitorreport and interactive, users can understand the individual trajectories of the world’s large metropolitan economies and gain new insights into sources of growth that national or regional assessments tend to obscure.
The fastest growing metro areas this year, as measured by our economic performance index that combines employment and GDP per capita growth, are concentrated in China, Turkey and the Middle East.
Read more » Brrokings
See more » http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/the-avenue/posts/2015/02/10-worlds-10-fastest-growing-metropolitan-areas-parilla-trujillo?cid=00900015020089101US0001-02241
ISLAMABAD: Maria Golovnina, the Pakistan and Afghanistan bureau chief of Reuters who was based in Islamabad, was found dead at her office in the capital’s F-8 sector, sources in the police told Dawn.
Golovnina had reportedly gone to the toilet, and had not stepped out for a long time when people who were present barged in.
She was reportedly lying on the floor covered in vomit.
he bureau chief was rushed to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) where she was pronounced dead.
Doctors at Pims told Dawn Maria had passed away before she could be brought to the hospital.
The hospital will carry out a post-mortem before handing over the body to Russian authorities.
The cause of Golovnina’s death could not be determined immediately and authorities have launched an investigation to ascertain the facts of the case.
Read more » DAWN
Learn more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1165411
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long enjoyed close relations, but Islamabad’s new-found resolve for fighting the root causes of extremism has seen the Gulf state come in for rare criticism.
The two countries, both with majority Sunni Muslim populations, are bound together by shared Islamic religious ties, financial aid from oil-rich Saudi and Pakistani military assistance to the kingdom.
But a Taliban massacre at a school that killed more than 150 people in December, mostly children, has led the government to crack down on militants and talk of bringing religious seminaries under tighter control.
Now the country’s media and even government ministers have begun to question whether support from Saudi Arabia for seminaries, known as madrassas, is fuelling violent extremism — bringing tension to the relationship for the first time.
Last week, the Saudi embassy issued a statement saying that all its donations to seminaries had government clearance, after a minister accused the Riyadh government of creating instability across the Muslim world.
The Pakistani foreign ministry responded by saying that funding by private individuals through “informal channels” would also be scrutinised closely to try to choke off funding for terror groups. While the statement avoided mentioning Saudi Arabia specifically, it was widely interpreted as a rebuke.
Away from the seminaries, there has also been widespread criticism of the decision to allow Saudi royals to hunt the rare houbara bustard, prized in the Middle East for its supposed aphrodisiac properties, in the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan.
Officials granted permission to hunt the bird, which is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of threatened species, in defiance of a court order, prompting allegations that the government prized its lucrative ties to Riyadh over its own wildlife.
Donors in Saudi Arabia have long been accused of quietly funding terror groups sympathetic to the kingdom’s hardline version of Sunni Islam.
Leaked diplomatic cables by then-US secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 said Saudi Arabian donors were “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.
The cable cited the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim sectarian militants Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as examples of where funds were being channelled.
New Delhi: The government has mooted the development of the e-learning curriculum in Sindhi and the uploading of rare books in the national e-library in an attempt to promote the language, an official statement said on Thursday.
The activities, suggested by Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani at the recently held meeting of the newly-reconstituted Governing Council of National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language (NCPSL), would be undertaken for the language`s development.
Under the e-learning curriculum in Sindhi Language, a foundation course of the language would be provided free of cost. Also, the works of young and upcoming Sindhi writers would be published by the National Book Trust.
The books of new writers would be exhibited during the World Book Fair in 2016.
“A competition among young Sindhi knowing students will be conducted and the top three winners will be sent on a `Shodh Yatra` across the Asian continent.”
They would be accompanied by a writer and a historian to study the roots of Sindhi language, culture and its civilization. Their experiences in the form of books will also be published by the government,” a Human Resource Development Ministry statement said.
The meeting was attended by 21 members, who are eminent scholars of Sindhi language and culture.
The minister also suggested that one cultural club in major clusters of Sindhi speaking people would be made functional in which the younger generation would participate in activities like drama, poetry, writing, music and performing arts.
It was suggested that a national-level competition be held for these activities, and an award of Rs.1 lakh has been earmarked.
“It has also been decided to upload rare books of Sindhi language in the National E-Library and such rare books would also be published by the National Book Trust for circulation.”
The task of standardisation of prescribed text books for schools in Sindhi language using Devanagari script will be undertaken by the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL),” it said.
A few important decisions taken in the meeting included an increase in the award money from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to a Sindhi writer for his/her outstanding lifetime contribution in Sindhi literature.
There was also an increase in award money, from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, for 10 eminent writers, recognising their contribution to the field of Sindhi literature, the statement said.
The increase in award money in all cases would be effective from 2014-15.
It was also decided in the meeting to provide Rs 1 crore for the establishment of a Sindhi chair in Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati University, Ajmer.
See more » http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/government-suggests-activities-for-promoting-sindhi-language_1548762.html
The Russian State Duma has ratified the $100 billion BRICS bank that’ll serve as a pool of money for infrastructure projects in Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa, and challenge the dominance of the Western-led World Bank and the IMF.
The New Development Bank is expected to start fully functioning by the end of 2015, according to the Russian Finance Ministry.
Russia has agreed to provide $2 billion dollars from the federal budget for the bank over the next seven years.
It will have three-tiers of corporate governance, with a Board of Governors, Board of Directors and a President.
The bank’s board of directors will hold its first meeting in Ufa in Russia in April. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov is likely to become the bank’s first Chairman of the Board of Governors, according to Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak talking on the Russia 24 TV channel.
The decision to establish the BRICS bank, along with a $100 billion reserve currency pool, was made in July 2014. Each of the five member countries is expected to allocate an equal share of the $50 billion startup capital that will be expanded to $100 billion.
The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, India will serve as the first five-year rotating president, and the first Chairman of the Board of Directors will come from Brazil.
Read more » RT
See more » http://rt.com/business/234027-russia-ratifies-brics-bank/
At least 11 people killed in an attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu, Somali police say.
At least 11 people were killed, including a police officer, in an attack by al Shabab fighters on a luxury hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, police sources said. The Central Hotel in the heart of Mogadishu was hit by a two car bomb explosion, which was followed by heavy gunfire after attackers stormed into the building, police officers said. Al Jazeera has learned that the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, as well as two members of parliament were killed. Analysis: Al-Shabab’s deadly attack in Mogadishu A government spokesman told Al Jazeera that contratry to earlier reports, the deputy prime minister was unhurt.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid in a phone call to Al Jazeera. The group claimed it had killed more than 20 senior government officials in attack.
“We have killed more than 20 senior officials working for the apostate government. They gathered thinking they were safe from the Mujahedeen,” al Shabab military operations spokesman, Abdiaziz abu Muscab told Al Jazeera.
“We hear gunshots inside. I am afraid the attackers have also gone inside the hotel,” police captain Farah Abdullahi told the Reuters news agency.
Another police officer also said attackers had entered the building and that government ministers and MPs were inside the hotel when it was attacked.
January hotel attack
Friday’s assault was the second on a hotel in Mogadishu in less than a month. On January 22, three Somali nationals were killed when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at the gate of a hotel housing the advance party of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the country days later.
A Somali intelligence official said that the Turkish delegation of around 70 members was staying at the hotel at the time of the attack but were unharmed.
Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly campaign against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region.
The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and in neighbouring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union peacekeeping mission known as AMISOM.
Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by the AU forces.
Read more » Aljazeera
See more » http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/deaths-attack-luxury-hotel-somalia-capital-mogadishu-150220103959237.html