India: DRDO starts work on ‘next-gen’ hypersonic weapon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

DRDO starts work on ‘next-gen’ hyper-sonic weapon

Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. These missiles are capable of delivering conventional or nuclear payloads at speeds not imagined hitherto over long ranges.

INDIA Updated: Oct 21, 2019 05:47 IST

Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Hypersonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defence systems. Image used for representational purpose only.
Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo: MIB_India)

The Defence Research and Development (DRDO) has started work to produce a hyper-sonic weapon – missiles that travel at five times speed of sound, or a little over a mile every second. A wind tunnel to test and fine tune the technology will be operational soon, senior government officials who did not want to be named said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to inaugurate the facility soon, they added.

“A hyper-sonic weapon system is one of the many niche technologies we are exploring seriously,” one of the officials said, asking not to be named.

Billed as a “next-gen” weapon system, the race to acquire hyper-sonic weapons technology is heating up. China, Russia, and the United States are testing hyper-sonic weapons of various types to enhance strategic nuclear deterrence and strengthen front-line combat units.

Existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) re-entry vehicles also travel at those super fast speeds, but the hyper-sonic glide vehicles now in development are far more maneuverable, making their tracking and interception nearly impossible.

Hyper-sonic weapons are specifically designed for increased survivability against modern ballistic missile defense systems. These missiles are capable of delivering conventional or nuclear payloads at speeds not imagined hitherto over long ranges.

In a bid to boost defence manufacturing in India, the DRDO is also offering 1,500 of its patents, including critical missile technology, life sciences, and naval technology, for use by Indian Industry, DRDO chairman G Satish Reddy said.

The patents can be accessed by free of cost even by start-ups and medium and small manufacturing enterprises.

Some of the patents offered for free include technologies to manufacture “man-mounted air-conditioning system”, aircraft arrester barrier system, a sliding mechanism for missile containers, lightweight high strength broadband microwave absorbing rubber, silicon-based lubricants for wide temperature range applications, low-density carbon foam, and anti-corrosive paint for application under immersed conditions, among others.

“DRDO is determined to encourage industry to develop advanced defense equipment thereby making the Make-In-India programmer a success. We have today an 1,800-industry basewe are determined to enlarge this base and take the technological capability to a higher level,” Reddy said, explaining the reason behind offering patents at no cost.

Indian industry will not have pay “license fee or royalty” for any of the patented technologies, said a second senior DRDO official who did not want to be named. “DRDO won’t be just offering the technology but will also be hand holding the industry and help them produce the product,” he said.

In a related development, DRDO has also tweaked its policy for “Transfer of Technology” (ToT) to the industry. No, ToT fee will be charged from the industry, DRDO Development Partners developing systems or sub-systems for military applications. And, for other industries, the ToT fee is reduced to 5% against an earlier rate of 20%. Also, no royalty is charged for supply to Indian Armed forces and other Govt departments. A nominal royalty of 2% will be charged for supply in the commercial market and for exports.

“Hyper-sonic weapons will become very critical in the near future. China has demonstrated that it has the technology. Others like US and Russia may already possess such weapons. It’s time that India also starts looking at these technologies,” Lieutenant General(retd) Vinod Bhatia, former Director General of Military Operations said.

First Published: Oct 20, 2019 23:50 IST

The 10 Countries With The Most Billionaires

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The 10 Countries With The Most Billionaires

 

Countries With the Most Billionaires

The world is home to about 2,754 billionaires who together control $9.2 trillion in wealth, according to the 2018 Billionaire Census, compiled annually by Wealth-X.

While billionaires are spread out all over the globe, that wealth is concentrated in a small handful of countries. As it turns out, 40 percent of the world’s billionaires reside in the countries below.

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10. United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is an oil-rich Arab nation on the Persian Gulf. It’s also home to 62 billionaires who together have a total wealth of $168 billion.

Dubai, the capital city, is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to architectural wonders like the Burj Khalifa — which is currently the tallest building in the world. Dubai is also home to 65 percent of the nation’s billionaires, according to Wealth-X data.

9. Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia is a mecca for billionaires, literally and figuratively. The country ties its neighbor for the total number of billionaires with 62, but it’s got the UAE beat in terms of shared wealth. Saudi billionaires hold a total of $169 billion, $1 billion more than their Emirati counterparts.

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East, thanks to the more than 266,000 barrels of untapped oil lying beneath its desert sands. The nation exports more oil than any other country, and the size of its reserve is second only to Venezuela.

8. United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom is home to 90 billionaires at last count, who together hold $251 billion.

You might be surprised to learn that Queen Elizabeth II isn’t among them; she’s worth only half a billion. The U.K. billionaire club includes a diverse list of business people such as steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal ($18.9 billion), bagless vacuum inventor Sir James Dyson and family ($12.3 billion), and Virgin Atlantic founder and space cowboy Richard Branson ($4.1 billion).

But you’ve probably never heard of the U.K’s richest man: Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of London-based chemical manufacturer Ineos. Ratliffe is entirely self-made, mortgaging his house to buy his first chemical assets.

7. Hong Kong

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We know, we know. Hong Kong isn’t really a country, per se. It is a semi-autonomous region of China. But its high concentration of billionaires makes it worthy of distinction. The city-state has a total of 93 billionaires worth a combined $315 billion.

In terms of billionaire cities, Hong Kong is ranked second, nestled between New York (#1) and San Francisco (#3). Hong Kong owes its wealth to more than a century of British rule, which came to an end in 1997. Possessing one of the world’s busiest shipping ports, Hong Kong became a manufacturing powerhouse.

The country’s richest person is 90-year-old entrepreneur Li Ka-shing. A high school dropout, Li made his fortune in plastic manufacturing, port development, and retail.

6. Russia

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Russia is home to 96 billionaires worth a combined $351 billion. That number doesn’t include the net worth of President Vladimir Putin, who is rumored to be the world’s richest man with $200 billion in secret assets. But according to documents filed with the Russian election commission, Putin only claims to earn an average annual salary of $112,000.

Officially, Russia’s richest man is Leonid Mikhelson at $23.6 billion. Mikhelson is CEO of Novatek, Russia’s largest independent natural gas company. He’s among the politically powerful Russian oligarchs who rose to power after rapidly gobbling up assets when Russia’s state-owned companies went private.

5. Switzerland

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Switzerland has 99 billionaires worth a total of $265 billion. That’s a high concentration of billionaires for such a small country, and once a year it gets even more concentrated. CEOs and heads of state from all over the world descend upon the snowy ski-town of Davos at the beginning every year for the World Economic Forum.

Many Swiss billionaires owe their riches to the banking and financial industry. Provided the country’s neutral status during both World Wars, and its centuries-long tradition of secrecy, Swiss banks became a global favorite. In 2018 it was estimated that Swiss banks held $6.5 trillion in assets, which is a quarter of all global cross-border assets.

4. India

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India is a country of extremes. About 58 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, surviving off less than $3.10 a day. It is also home to one of the fastest-growing economies and 104 billionaires in total. Together India’s billionaires are worth $299 billion.

The country’s richest man is Mukesh Ambani, who is worth an estimated $49.6 billion. He owns 43 percent of Reliance Industries, which owns a little bit of everything: energy, oil, textiles, retail stores and telecom. Ambani also owns a professional cricket team, the Mumbai Indians.

3. Germany

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With 152 in total, you might be asking why Germany has so many billionaires. The answer is cars, machines, chemicals, electronics and groceries.

As it turns out, that “Germany engineering” you always hear about is a real thing, and it’s worth a lot of money. German billionaires control a total of $466 billion in assets, much of it earned from industrial and chemical manufacturing companies.

But the country’s richest person is Dieter Schwarz, whose company owns Europe’s largest supermarket chains, Lidl and Kaufland. At 79, Schwarz is worth a whopping $24.9 billion.

2. China

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At 338, China is home to 12 percent of the world’s billionaires who together possess $1 trillion in total wealth. Deng Xiaoping, who served as leader from 1978 to 1989, paved the way for the country’s growth by drastically reforming the economy. Flash forward to today where China generates a new billionaire every two days, according to UBS. The richest among them is Alibaba founder Jack Ma, with a net worth of $40.1 billion.

1. The United States

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The United States is far and away the leader when it comes to billionaires with a total of 680. That is 25 percent of all billionaires in the world. U.S. billionaires have more than $3.16 trillion in assets combined.

America’s four richest billionaires are household names: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($120 billion), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($95.5 billion), investing genius Warren Buffett ($82.5 billion) and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg ($65.9 billion).

 

 

4 Most Active Volcanoes in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Most Active Volcanoes in the World

There are approximately 1,500 active volcanoes around the world today. When volcanoes erupt, they can cause immense damage, destroying towns, forcing massive relocation’s, and even grounding planes. While some volcanoes lie dormant for decades, others are more active. Here are four of the world’s most active volcanoes.

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Stromboli, Italy

Stromboli, Italy

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Located in the south of Italy among the Aeolian Islands, Stromboli is one of the most popular volcanoes for tourists to visit. Beautiful beaches and incredible vegetation surround it. Stromboli has been erupting almost non-stop since the 1930s and was fairly active for 2,000 years before that. Its fiery eruptions mean that it glows for miles in the night, which has led it to be nicknamed “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” Stromboli’s eruptions are generally small but frequent, with streams of lava spewing from its summit approximately every 20 minutes. This style of eruption is so distinct to Stromboli that scientists refer to any other volcano with small, frequent eruptions as “Strombolian.”

Stromboli is also unique in that ancient records all indicate that it has been active for as long as people have been able to keep track of it — this volcano has never lied dormant. Fortunately, it rarely erupts in any sort of catastrophic explosion. Only three times in the past 100 years has Stromboli caused human fatalities or property damage: once in 1919, once in 1930, and, most recently, in 2003. Otherwise, this volcano is relatively safe despite its steady stream of activity.

Of course, as with any natural phenomena like this, Stromboli does still pose a risk. One of its most significant hazards is the Sciara del Fuoco, or Stream of Fire — this large scar stretches along the northwest edge of the volcano. If it collapses, it could cause tsunamis and dangerous clouds of volcanic material to erupt into the air.

Piton de la Fournaise, France

Piton de la Fournaise, France

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Piton de la Fournaise is located on France’s island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. It erupts approximately once every nine months. Although it is in a state of nearly constant eruption, these eruptions are generally small and harmless. Piton de la Fournaise’s activity tends to consist of one explosion of lava, followed by a slow, steady lava stream down the mountain. While this could pose significant problems in populated areas, the lands around this volcano are mostly uninhabited due to its constant activity. This means that the eruptions cause little to no damage when they do occur.

Scientists closely monitor Piton de la Fournaise in the Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory. These scientists can predict eruptions several weeks before they happen, which gives them plenty of time to warn hikers, close the paths, and provide emergency instructions to anyone staying nearby. When no eruptions are expected, the volcano is open for people to hike and sightsee, and plenty of tourists visit — The La Réunion islands are a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This volcano has only had two catastrophic eruptions in the past 50 years. The first occurred in 1977 when an unusually strong lava flow made it to a populated area and caused severe damage to the village of Piton Sainte-Rose. The second was 30 years later, in 2007 — a considerable eruption released dangerous clouds of sulfur and sent a strong stream of lava down the mountain, destroying the island’s main road.

Mount Etna, Italy

Mount Etna, Italy

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The second most active volcano on earth, Mount Etna is in the south of Italy, near Sicily. Locally known as “Mongibello,” or “Beautiful Mountain,” this enormous volcano currently stands over 10,000 feet high, although this is subject to change — its frequent eruptions often cause Mount Etna to grow as lava solidifies along the top of the mountain. This volcano is the tallest in Italy.

Although Mount Etna’s eruptions rarely cause any damage, disruptions do still happen. In July of 2019, a particularly ashy eruption forced authorities to close two airports in Catania, Sicily. One flight had to be diverted, and several more could not take off. There was also once an attempt to divert a flow of lava that was threatening Catania. This attempt, which occurred in 1992, was called “Operation Volcano Buster.” It involved United States Marines working with the Italian government to take explosives and blast a large hole on the side of the volcano. They then dropped concrete into the hole in an attempt to slow down the lava. Unfortunately, they were ultimately unsuccessful.

However, Mount Etna is mostly harmless and is even good for Sicily’s economy. The fertile soil it creates ensures that residents do very well agriculturally. The volcano also brings in quite a bit of money from tourism, as visitors to the island flock to see it.

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Mount Kilauea, United States

Mount Kilauea, United States

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Mount Kilauea is currently the most active volcano in the world. It is on the island of Hawai’i, also known as The Big Island — the southernmost Hawaiian island. This unique volcano is in the middle of the longest eruption ever recorded, which began back in 1983. This eruption has produced lava covering over 100 square miles of land and has expanded the coastline of the island.

Mount Kilauea is so active that it has become part of Hawaii’s traditional Polynesian legends. According to these legends, Mount Kilauea is home to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele. Pele is both a destroyer and a creator — while the eruptions cause damage, the solidified lava creates new land and fertilizes the existing soil.

Kilauea is a UNESCO World Heritage property, part of a national park, and can be visited by tourists. Although sections of the park are closed due to recent eruptions, visitors can stop at the Kilauea Visitor Center to see what’s open, learn about hiking routes, and sign up for activities. But make sure you don’t take any lava rocks with you; this is considered disrespectful to Pele, and locals strongly discourage it.

The 5 Deepest Canyons in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Deepest Canyons in the World

If you are an outdoor enthusiast and a nature lover, you know how exciting visiting a canyon can be. Not only can you hike and climb, but the rivers below offer opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and floating. Canyons also provide unmatched vistas for photographers and those who simply want to take in incredible, panoramic views. Knowing the deep valleys and high cliffs of a canyon have taken thousands of years to form as a result of weathering incites the realization of the majesty of these natural landforms. Deep canyons offer the most drastic adventures and views, often including once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Below you will find the five deepest canyons in the worlds to help you plan your next adventure travel getaway.

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Grand Canyon, United States

Grand Canyon, United States

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As the deepest, and most famous, canyon in the United States and one of the deepest in the world, the Grand Canyon is a sight to behold. Its deepest point is 6,093 feet. It’s also a large canyon, which can fit the entire state of Rhode Island. Scientists estimate that the Colorado River began carving the canyon through modern day Arizona about six million years ago, but some studies estimate the process began almost 70 million years ago.

Visitors can view the canyon from its rims, or take a hike on one of the many trails within the canyon. Bright Angel remains one of the Grand Canyon’s most popular trails. With multiple switchbacks, hikers can explore the canyon and get amazing views of the large cliffs, if they don’t want to go white-water rafting in the Colorado River. Visitors who are more about the view than heading out on a trail can find great vantage points at the North Rim and the South Rim stations; however, a visit to the Grand Canyon isn’t complete with out viewing it from The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, a horseshoe steel frame with a glass floor that extends about 70 feet from the rim of the canyon.

Urique Canyon, Mexico

Urique Canyon, Mexico

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Urique Canyon is one of the six canyons that make up the area referred to as Copper Canyon in Mexico‘s Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in the state of Chihuahua. As the deepest (6,236 feet) and largest of the canyons, Urique draws visitors from all over the world, especially those who want to explore and view Copper Canyon by train. El Chepe, the train that traverses the canyon remains one of the most scenic rides in the world. El Chepe makes several stops along its journey from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, giving ample opportunities for those who want to explore the canyon up close.

Two favorite stops within the canyon are Posada Barrancas and Divisadero, only a few miles from each other. Divisadero doesn’t offer much for amenities, but it does have a hotel on the rim of the canyon. Most stop here to take in the spectacular view from one of the best lookout points along the trip through Urique Canyon. Additionally, the top attraction in the area is an adventure park, which gives visitors the chance to experience Copper Canyon in a different way.

Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru

Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru

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This remote canyon in the Andes Mountains is almost double the depth of the Grand Canyon at its deepest point of 11,595 feet. The largest city near Cotahuasi Canyon is Arequipa, Peru, located about 123 miles southeast of the canyon. The area is home to some smaller towns and villages whose residents farm the protected area of the canyon, which includes well over a million acres.

Those who venture into Cotahuasi are true adventure travelers at heart. The steep cliffs and remoteness of the location are only suitable for those who want to experience a truly rugged canyon adventure that includes trekking, climbing and kayaking. Those who visit don’t need a permit to enter the reserve, but they should be aware that the local flora and fauna are protected by law. Additionally, local farmers still practice traditional farming techniques to grow ancient crops such as quinoa, maize, chilpe, kiwicha, and other beans. Local farmers also raise llamas and sheep as they chew locally grown coca leaves for energy.

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Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon, Peru

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One reason Cotahuasi Canyon might not be as popular of a tourist destination is the fact that the world’s second deepest canyon, Colca Canyon, is also in Peru and is much more easily accessed from Arequipa, the country’s second largest city. Colca Canyon reaches depths of more than 13,600 feet, making it a truly wondrous site for those who visit and take in the picturesque views from its rim. The most popular vantage point in the valley is Chivay, also home to La Calera hot springs, a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Chivay offers travelers accommodations, dining, shopping, and tourist activities blended with local traditions. When you begin to explore the wonder of Colca Canyon, pay special attention to the majestic Andean condors flying throughout the canyon. One popular lookout point that offers breathtaking views is Cruz del Cóndor, located only a few short miles from Chivay.

Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, Tibet

Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, Tibet

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The deepest canyon in the world, Yarlung Tsangpo, reaches depths of more than 25,000 feet near the valley where Mount Namcha Barwa is located along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, which runs through Tibet. This highly remote, unspoiled region of the the globe has distinctive flora and fauna such as the takin, a goat-like mammal endemic to the region. The vast size of the river and the canyon also result in multiple different climate zones. On one part of the canyon you can be in sub-tropical temperatures, while near the highest peaks trekkers will experience arctic-like conditions. In fact, the Yarlung Tsangpo River is so daunting, it has earned the nickname “Everest of Rivers.” As of 2019, no one has successfully rafted or kayaked the entire river.

Israel among world’s top 10 most innovative countries — global index

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel among world’s top 10 most innovative countries — global index

Switzerland tops list, followed by Sweden and US; Jewish state has climbed steadily in rankings since 2015

Participants at the DLD Tel Aviv Digital Conference, Israel's largest international Hi-tech gathering, featuring hundreds of start ups, VC’s, angel investors and leading multinationals, held at the Old Train Station complex in Tel Aviv on September 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Participants at the DLD Tel Aviv Digital Conference, Israel’s largest international Hi-tech gathering, featuring hundreds of start ups, VC’s, angel investors and leading multinationals, held at the Old Train Station complex in Tel Aviv on September 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Switzerland is the world’s most innovative country for a second consecutive year while Israel made the top 10, a global indicator showed Wednesday.

The annual Global Innovation Index — compiled by World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University and INSEAD — ranks 129 world economies on 80 parameters including research, technology and creativity.

Switzerland was followed by Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Singapore and Germany, with Israel rounding out the top 10.

The Jewish state was placed 11th in 2018, 17th in 2017, 21st in 2016, and 22nd in 2015.

India, where the announcement was made, was ranked 52nd but has leaped up the rankings in recent years, WIPO assistant director-general Naresh Prasad said.

The report came as the International Monetary Fund downgraded global growth and warned of a “precarious” 2020 amid trade tensions, continued uncertainty and rising prospects for a no-deal Brexit.

The report’s authors said spending on innovation was still growing and appeared resilient despite the slowdown.

But they also warned of signs of waning public support for research and development in high-income economies usually responsible for pushing the innovation envelope, and increased protectionism.

“In particular, protectionism that impacts technology-intensive sectors and knowledge flows poses risks to global innovation networks and innovation diffusion,” the report said.

“If left uncontained, these new obstacles to international trade, investment, and workforce mobility will lead to a slowdown of growth in innovation productivity and diffusion across the globe.”

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China: Trade talks should be based on equality

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NEWS NETWORK)

 

Trade talks should be based on equality

Xinhua

China and the United States should carry out their trade talks on the basis of equality instead of blaming and pressuring the other during the negotiations, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

He made the remarks at a press conference following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

When asked about the prospects for China-US trade talks, Wang said Beijing and Washington have made significant and substantial progress with their joint efforts, but certain difficulties remain that has to be carefully handled and resolved.

Under such circumstances, unilateral accusation is meaningless while shifting responsibility is unacceptable, he said.

Wang warned that exerting maximum pressure will only trigger legitimate countermeasures.

China’s move is meant to not only protect its due rights and interests, but also safeguard the basic rules of multilateral trade mechanism, Wang added.

Wang underlined that the negotiation is not a one-way lane but should be carried out on the basis of equality, saying it is impossible to expect one side to readily accept the other’s request.

China will always safeguard its sovereignty, Chinese people’s interests and national dignity when negotiating with any country, he said.

The outlook for trade links between China and the United States — the world’s two largest economies — not only matters to their own development, but also bears on the prospect of the world economy.

Therefore, as long as the negotiation is in line with China’s reform and opening-up policy, its pursuit of high-quality development, and the common and long-term interests of the two peoples, the negotiators of both sides will have the ability and wisdom to properly address their reasonable demand and reach a mutually beneficial agreement, he said.

US, UK, Canada denounce dissolution of Sri Lanka parliament as undemocratic

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

 

US, UK, Canada denounce dissolution of Sri Lanka parliament as undemocratic

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve parliament, worsening an already major political crisis, has drawn criticism from Western powers, including the United States and Britain.

WORLD Updated: Nov 10, 2018 21:13 IST

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Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve parliament has drawn criticism from Western powers, including the United States and Britain.(AFP)

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to dissolve parliament, worsening an already major political crisis, has drawn criticism from Western powers, including the United States and Britain.

Sirisena dissolved parliament on Friday night, only five days before it was due to reconvene, but a new cabinet he installed was in danger of losing a vote of no confidence. Sirisena also called a general election for Jan. 5.

The president triggered a power struggle when he sacked prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe late last month and appointed the island’s former leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a pro-China strongman defeated by Sirisena in an election in 2015, in his place.

Sirisena’s rivals are set to challenge his decision, which they describe as illegal and unconstitutional, in the Supreme Court on Monday.

The U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said in a tweet that the United States was “deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis”. It said democracy needed to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity.

Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, tweeted his concern about the dissolution of parliament days before it was due to be reconvened.

“As a friend of Sri Lanka, the UK calls on all parties to uphold the constitution and respect democratic institutions and processes,” Field said.

Canada’s Foreign Policy twitter feed said that it was “deeply concerned” about the decision and referred to the risks to reconciliation work after the nation’s civil war.

“This further political uncertainty is corrosive to Sri Lanka’s democratic future and its commitments on reconciliation and accountability,” it said.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne expressed both concern and disappointment in a statement, saying the move “undermines Sri Lanka’s long democratic tradition and poses a risk to its stability and prosperity”.

Sirisena has said he fired Wickremesinghe because the prime minister was trying to implement “a new, extreme liberal political concept by giving more priority for foreign policies and neglecting the local people’s sentiment”.

Parliament test

Mangala Samaraweera, an ally of Wickremesinghe, said their party expects the court to rule that the dissolution of parliament was illegal and that eventually a vote in parliament will be held to test whether there is a majority.

“We will show that we have the parliament majority and we will show that the dictator president has dissolved a government which had a majority in the parliament,” he told reporters.

They were supported by the Tamil National Alliance, the main party representing ethnic Tamil groups in parliament, who said they too will petition the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the house.

“This is a clear violation of the constitution. The president can’t do this,” M.A. Sumanthiran, a spokesman for the alliance, told Reuters.

India and the West have raised concerns over Rajapaksa’s close ties with China. Beijing loaned Sri Lanka billions of dollars for infrastructure projects when Rajapaksa was president between 2005-2015, putting the country deep into debt.

Wickremesinghe refused to vacate the official prime minister’s residence saying he was the prime minister and had a parliamentary majority.

Before he signed the papers dissolving parliament and calling the election, Sirisena appointed allies of his and of Rajapaksa to cabinet positions.

One of them said Sirisena was right to order an election to end the political crisis. Dinesh Gunawardena, a newly appointed urban development minister, said the president had handed the country back to the people.

“It is the people’s right to vote. We have gone before the people. No force can interfere. The people’s mandate is supreme,” he said.

Independent legal experts have told Reuters that parliament could be dissolved only in early 2020, which would be four-and-half-years from the first sitting of the current parliament. The only other legal way would be through a referendum, or with the consent of two thirds of lawmakers.

Given those views, it was not immediately clear how Sirisena is on legal safe ground by dissolving parliament, though his legal experts have said there are provisions for him to do so.

First Published: Nov 10, 2018 21:11 IST

Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE WORLD POST’)

 

Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

By Nathan Gardels, WorldPost editor in chief

Corporate concentration in the United States is not only increasing inequality but also undermining competition and consumers’ standard of living. Politically, the commensurate lobbying influence of big tech, big finance and other large conglomerates has created what political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy” — where vested concerns have amassed the clout to choke off legislative reforms that would diminish their spoils.

Why the opposite is happening in the European Union is an unfamiliar tale of how governance one step removed from electoral democracy has been able to resist the lobbying of organized special interests to make policy that benefits the average person.

Active antitrust policies in the second half of the 20th century fairly leveled the playing field of American commerce. “But starting around 2000, U.S. markets began to lose their competitive edge,” Germán Gutiérrez and Thomas Philippon write, based on a new study of theirs.

“Now, Internet access and monthly cellphone plans are much cheaper in Europe than in America, as are flights. Even in Mexico, mobile data plans are better priced than in the United States. … Meanwhile in the United States, deregulation and antitrust efforts have nearly ground to a halt. The United States has not completed a major reform to the goods and services market since 1996, and as a result, its industries have grown increasingly concentrated.”

What explains this stunning shift is deliberate policy choices. As the authors relate: “European countries created the single market, which took effect in 1993, and deregulated their domestic markets. Today, most European Union countries score better than the United States in enacting policies that make industries more competitive. Not surprisingly, antitrust enforcement remains active in Europe, with two recent cases against Google resulting in over $7.7 billion in fines. European markets are also less concentrated than U.S. markets.”

Gutiérrez and Philippon argue that “free markets are supposed to discipline private companies, but today, many private companies have grown so dominant that they can get away with bad service, high prices and deficient privacy safeguards. … If America wants to lead once more in this realm, it must remember its own history and relearn the lessons it successfully taught the rest of the world.”

Mario Monti — who was Italian prime minister from 2011 to 2013 as well as the E.U. competition commissioner from 1999 to 2004 and is famous for “shooting down mergers in flames” — agrees with Gutiérrez and Philippon. But he adds an important dimension they don’t discuss: how the much-maligned “technocratic” European Commission has been more able than American antitrust authorities to resist undue corporate influence over policy decisions.

While antitrust efforts in the United States are highly sensitive to election cycles and outcomes, Monti points out, the European Commission (which is indirectly elected by the European Parliament) operates at arm’s length from politics and can make decisions that are independent from lobbyist pressures on parliaments at both the national and European level. As he put it in a recent interview, “the more far away you are, the less you feel under pressure.”

The result is policy decisions that are more disinterested because the process is less politicized. This same technocratic distance in Brussels that has enabled a vigorous competition policy also applies to Europe’s landmark privacy regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), passed earlier this year.

Yet as Giovanni Buttarelli, the E.U.’s data protection supervisor charged with implementing the GDPR, laments, passing a law is only the beginning of reining in big tech abuses. “First came the scaremongering. Then came the strong-arming. After being contested in arguably the biggest lobbying exercise in the history of the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation became fully applicable at the end of May,” he writes from Brussels. “Since its passage, there have been great efforts at compliance, which regulators recognize. At the same time, unfortunately, consumers have felt nudged or bullied by companies into agreeing to business as usual. This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new law.”

The challenge of implementing the law now, says Buttarelli, is continually challenging big tech. As he puts it, “The E.U. is seeking to prevent people from being cajoled into ‘consenting’ to unfair contracts and accepting surveillance in exchange for a service.”

Buttarelli is looking ahead to the next phase of reform. Under that reform, “Devices and programming would be geared by default to safeguard people’s privacy and freedom. Today’s overcentralized Internet would be de-concentrated, as advocated by Tim Berners-Lee, who first invented the Internet, with a fairer allocation of the digital dividend and with the control of information handed back to individuals from big tech and the state.”

While big tech lobbyists have so far frustrated privacy legislation at the national level in the United States, California has been able to pass curbs on abuses of personal data. Ironically, this was due not to technocratic insulation from politics but its opposite: the citizens’ ballot initiative. A San Francisco real estate magnate funded the gathering of qualifying signatures for a proposition that would impose the same kind of limits on use of personal data in California as contained in the GDPR, forcing big tech to come — reluctantly — to the table.

State legislators then negotiated and passed a measure this summer along GDPR lines that would be open to amendment as technology evolves. With legislation secured, the initiative was withdrawn from the public ballot. (If law is made by the citizens’ ballot initiative, it can only be amended by another vote of the public.) As state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D), who crafted the compromise between privacy advocates and the tech companies, notes, the law in effect makes California’s attorney general the nation’s “chief privacy officer,” since most of the big tech companies affected are located in Silicon Valley.

Making a market that works for the average citizen requires government that acts in the public interest, not at the behest of the largest players in the economy who underwrite the electoral and legislative process. To the extent that elected legislatures are captured by organized special interests, the “vetocracy” can be circumvented either by indirectly elected technocratic authorities or by direct democracy through the citizens’ ballot initiative.

The experiences with antitrust and privacy regulation examined in The WorldPost this week suggest that a mixed system that combines disinterested technocrats, elected representatives and direct democracy — each as a check and balance on the other — would be the most intelligent form of governance.

ABOUT US: The WorldPost is an award-winning global media platform that aims to be a place where the world meets. We seek to make sense of an interdependent yet fragmenting world by commissioning voices that cross cultural and political boundaries. Publishing op-eds and features from around the globe, we work from a worldwide perspective looking around rather than a national perspective looking out.

FOLLOW US: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn

STAFF: Nathan Gardels, Editor in Chief; Kathleen Miles, Executive Editor; Dawn Nakagawa, Vice President of Operations; Rebecca Chao, Senior Editor; Peter Mellgard, Features Editor; Alex Gardels, Video Editor; Clarissa Pharr, Associate Editor; Rosa O’Hara, Social Editor

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Kathleen Miles, Jackson Diehl, Juan Luis Cebrian, Walter Isaacson, Yoichi Funabashi, Arianna Huffington, John Elkann, Pierre Omidyar, Eric Schmidt, Wadah Khanfar

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim, Nayan Chanda, Katherine Keating, Sergio Munoz Bata, Parag Khanna, Seung-yoon Lee, Jared Cohen, Bruce Mau, Patrick Soon-Shiong

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Zheng Bijian, Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland, Guy Verhofstadt, James Cameron

Learn more about the Berggruen Institute from their newsletter and sign up for quarterly updates here.

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China to continue opening up: Chinese Ambassador to US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS SERVICE ‘SHINE’)

 

China to continue opening up: Chinese ambassador to US

Xinhua

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai has said here that China will continue to open its doors to the global community.

“We cannot develop ourselves behind closed doors… We have to open our door even wider and seek cooperation with others, particularly with countries like the United States,” Cui said at the welcome banquet held by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin on Monday.

Cui said China-US relations are not zero sum game, but rather will continue to be mutually beneficial. He said Beijing and Washington should deal with trade issues in an effective way.

Addressing Kentucky officials and businesses, Cui said he has full confidence in bilateral cooperation at the provincial, municipal and county levels, adding that the Chinese people came to know the state after the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened in Beijing over three decades ago.

Over the past decades, the Chinese people have learned that the state has much more to offer, including Bourbon, race horses, farm products and manufactured goods, prompting the Chinese public and business leaders to develop strong relations with Kentucky, Cui said.

For his part, Bevin said his administration is working to cut red tape for businesses who wish to invest here, highlighting the elaborate transportation web his state boasts.

Bevin admitted that certain trade policies Washington has pursued created uncertainties for bilateral business ties, but pledged to work at a state level to assure foreign investors.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Introduction The Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (French: Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon) is a group of small islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, the main ones being Saint Pierre and Miquelon, south of Newfoundland, Canada. The islands are as close as 25 kilometres (16 mi) from Newfoundland.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon are part of France and the European Union, but due to special immigration procedures, EU nationals who are not French citizens are not allowed to exercise free movement and business establishment in the archipelago.

The archipelago is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control.

History The early settlement of St. Pierre and Miquelon, which were prized by Europeans for their rich fishing grounds, was characterized by periods of conflict between the French and English.

There is evidence of prehistoric inhabitation on the islands (most likely Beothuk). The European settlements on the islands are some of the oldest in America (with the Spanish and Portuguese settlements), dating from at least the early 16th century. At first the Basque fishermen only visited the islands seasonally during the fishing season, and by the mid 17th century there were permanent French residents on the islands.

At the end of the 17th and into the early 18th century, British attacks on the islands caused the French settlers to abandon the islands, and the British took possession for 50 years (from 1713 to 1763). The French took the islands back in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris (which ceded all of New France to Britain except for Saint Pierre and Miquelon) and settlers returned to live peacefully for 15 years.

French support of the American Revolution led to a British attack on the islands, and the deportation of the French settlers. Possession of Miquelon and St. Pierre passed back and forth between France and Great Britain for the next 38 years, as the islands suffered attacks by both countries, voluntary or forced removal of the island’s residents, and upheaval associated with the French Revolution.

France finally took the islands back after Napoleon’s second abdication in 1815, and there followed 70 years of prosperity for the French fishing industry and residents on Miquelon and St. Pierre. However, political and economic changes led to a slow decline of the fishing industry after the late 19th century.

A 13-year economic boom took place on the islands beginning with the period of Prohibition in the United States, when Miquelon and St. Pierre were prominent bases for alcohol smuggling. This boom ended with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and the economy sank into depression.

During the Second World War, the governor, Gilbert de Bournat, was loyal to the Vichy regime; he had to negotiate financial arrangements with U.S. authorities to obtain loans guaranteed by the French treasury. At the same time, Canada was considering an invasion of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Several pretexts were put forward, notably radio broadcasts of Vichy propaganda. It was alleged that the radio was helping German U-Boats on the Grand Banks, though this was never proven. On the advice of his Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Governor General Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone, never authorised the implementation of the plans.

Under orders from de Gaulle, Admiral Émile Muselier organised the liberation of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, without the consent and knowledge of the Canadian and U.S. authorities. On 24 December 1941, a Free French flotilla led by the submarine cruiser Surcouf took control of the islands without resistance. De Gaulle had a referendum organised, which was favourable to him, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon thus became one of the first French territories to join Free France. The affair led to a lasting distrust between De Gaulle and Roosevelt.

Geography Location: Northern North America, islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, south of Newfoundland (Canada)
Geographic coordinates: 46 50 N, 56 20 W
Map references: North America
Area: total: 242 sq km
land: 242 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes eight small islands in the Saint Pierre and the Miquelon groups
Area – comparative: 1.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 120 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: cold and wet, with much mist and fog; spring and autumn are windy
Terrain: mostly barren rock
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Morne de la Grande Montagne 240 m
Natural resources: fish, deepwater ports
Land use: arable land: 12.5%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 87.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: persistent fog throughout the year can be a maritime hazard
Environment – current issues: recent test drilling for oil in waters around Saint Pierre and Miquelon may bring future development that would impact the environment
Geography – note: vegetation scanty
Politics The politics of Saint Pierre and Miquelon take place within a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic French overseas collectivity, whereby the President of the Territorial Council is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon also sends one deputy to the French National Assembly and one senator to the French Senate.

In 1992, a maritime boundary dispute with Canada over the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone belonging to France was settled by the International Court of Arbitration. In the decision, France kept the 12 nautical mile (NM) (22.2 km) territorial sea surrounding the islands and was given an additional 12 NM (22.2 km) contiguous zone as well as a 10.5 NM (19.4 km) wide corridor stretching 200 NM (370 km) south. The total area in the award was 18% of what France had requested.

The boundary dispute had been a flash point for Franco-Canadian relations. New claims made under UNCLOS by France over the continental shelf might cause new tensions between France and Canada. At various times, residents and politicians in Saint Pierre and Miquelon have proposed that the islands pursue secession from France to become part of Canada, so that the islands could participate in Canada’s much larger maritime zone rather than France’s limited “keyhole” zone, although as of 2008 such proposals have never come to a vote or referendum.

People Population: 7,044 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 22.4% (male 806/female 772)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 2,370/female 2,301)
65 years and over: 11.3% (male 366/female 429) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 34.9 years
male: 34.3 years
female: 35.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.114% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 12.92 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.81 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 7.04 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 8.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.91 years
male: 76.55 years
female: 81.4 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.98 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
adjective: French
Ethnic groups: Basques and Bretons (French fishermen)
Religions: Roman Catholic 99%, other 1%
Languages: French (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (1982 est.)
Education expenditures: NA
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