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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tension Escalates in Maldives After Police Arrest 192

Maldives police arrested 192 people including the leader of an opposition party after clashes broke out late on Friday with protesters demanding the government free the Indian Ocean archipelago's ex-president from prison.

Those arrested include Sheikh Imran Abdulla, a leader of the small but influential Islamic Adhaalath Party, as well as the chairperson of the main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), a police official said on Saturday.

The MDP is the party of Mohamed Nasheed, a former president who was jailed in March for ordering the arrest in 2012 of a judge in a trial that was slammed as deeply flawed by the international community.

The imprisonment of Nasheed, who became the Maldives first democratically elected president in 2008, has triggered daily protests in the popular honeymooners' destination.

The Maldives, a string of palm-fringed beaches with fewer than 400,000 inhabitants, has struggled to embed democracy since 30 years of authoritarian rule came to an end in 2008.

Nasheed was ousted in disputed circumstances in 2012 as a result of a crisis that blew up over over the judge's arrest. His supporters say he was forced out in a coup.

During Friday's protest, police used tear gas, stun guns and pepper spray to stop crowds from breaking through barriers and into a compound housing the police headquarters in capital city Male, in the biggest protest since Nasheed's arrest.

Several police officers and protesters were injured although none seriously, witnesses said, and more protests are expected late on Saturday. All 193 of arrested remained in custody, a police official said on Saturday.

Tensions are rising in a country increasingly polarised between Nasheed supporters and those backing the government, and there are worries that arresting the opposition leaders could inflame an already volatile situation.

"The president doesn't have any interest in arresting opposition leaders, but no one is above the law," Ibrahim Muaz, a spokesperson for the President's Office said.

"We are aware who the leaders of the protests are - the Adhaalath Party leader," he said, declining to comment on the reasons for the arrests.

Bangalore Metro Phase-1 Deadline May Get Pushed to March 2016

Indicating another slip in the deadline for the completion of the 42 km first phase of the Bangalore Metro, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday indicated that Phase 1 might be completed only by March 2016 as against last year’s projected deadline of December 2015.
“It is only because of the technical difficulties in the underground section that work is delayed. I have been informed by the BMRCL that 94 percent of the stretch is completed but the entire 42.3 km will be finished by December or March 2016,” Siddaramiah said.
The Karnataka Chief Minister added that the tendering process for the second phase of the Namma Metro project had begun and would be completed within two weeks. “The 72.1 Kilometer stretch would cost Rs. 13,845 crore, of which apart from Central funds and other loans, Karnataka would bear a cost of Rs. 5000 crore,” he said.
Siddaramaiah was speaking at the inauguration of Reach 3B extension of phase one of the metro project which covers a 3.4 km stretch between Nagasandra and Peenya industrial area in north Bangalore. The metro will cover the 10.5 km stretch from the Mantri Mall at Sampige Road to Nagasandra in 25 minutes. BMRCL MD Pradeep Singh Kharola said that tunneling of the four km underground stretch in central Bangalore was the major challenge before the BMRCL.
Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu who was in attendance said that cities with a population of over 10 lakh could seek central funding for metro. “The smart cities tag and a Metro — these are the two universal demands from everyone concerned in Parliament. The Centre is considering funding metros for cities with more than 10 lakh population instead of the existing 20 lakh limit,” Venkaiah Naidu said.

UK’s Duchess Kate Middleton Gives Birth to a Baby Girl

Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William, has given birth to a daughter, the couple’s residence Kensington Palace announced on Saturday.
The baby weighed 8 lbs 3 oz and both mother and child are doing well, it added in a Twitter statement.

Prince William’s wife Kate was admitted to a London hospital for the birth of the their second child, Kensington Palace.
In a brief statement, palace officials said the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted at 6 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) Saturday at St. Mary’s Hospital. She traveled by car to the Lindo wing with William.
The baby will be a younger brother or sister to William and Kate’s first child, Prince George, who was born in July 2013 at the same hospital.
The couple has said that they don’t know whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.
Royal officials are not expected to provide any more information until the birth, which will be announced on Twitter and Instagram.
That announcement will say what gender the baby is, as well as its weight and the time of birth.

Papua New Guinea Hit By 7.1 Earthquake

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit off Papua New Guinea on Friday, 110 kilometres south-southwest of the town of Kokopo, the US Geological Survey said, just a day after a 6.7 magnitude tremor in the region.

The quake hit at 1336 IST, 689 kilometres northeast of the Pacific nation’s capital Port Moresby, in the New Britain region at a depth of 53 kilometres.
There were no tsunami warnings, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
“This is the second earthquake that has occurred in that region over the last two days,” co-director of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre Daniel Jaksa told AFP.A 6.7 magnitude quake hit the same region yesterday, 131 kilometres southwest of Kokopo, but there were no reports of serious damage.
“The previous one was about 10 kilometres to the southeast of this particular epicentre. It’s a very uninhabited region off the island of New Britain. The earthquake was a measure of 7.1, so that’s about 30 times smaller than the (recent) earthquake in Nepal. It should be like the one yesterday — no real impact.”
New Britain, the largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago, is east of mainland New Guinea and has a population of around 500,000 people.

Nigerian Army Rescues 234 More Women from Boko Haram Stronghold

Nigeria’s military rescued 234 more girls and women from a Boko Haram forest stronghold in the country’s northeast, an announcement on social media said Saturday.
It brings the number of females declared rescued this week to more than 677.

“FLASH: Another set of 234 women and children were rescued through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the #Sambisa Forest on Thursday,” said a message on the official Twitter account of the Nigerian Defence Headquarters posted early Saturday.
It comes as the army deployed ground troops following weeks of punishing air raids on the Sambisa Forest.
President Goodluck Jonathan, whose term ends this month, said Thursday that the forest is the last holdout of the Islamic militants and he pledged to “hand over a Nigeria completely free of terrorist strongholds.”
It is not known how many girls, women, boys and men Boko Haram has kidnapped during its nearly 6-year-old rebellion. Nigeria’s army has reported rescuing only females.
The Associated Press has reported that some women shot at their rescuers and were killed, with Boko Haram using them as an armed human shield for its main fighting force.
Boko Haram continues to attack in isolated places. The governor of a province in neighboring Niger has ordered residents of Lake Chad to evacuate by Monday when a government official said troops will flush the militants from hideouts.
As the insurgency spilled over Nigeria’s borders, a multinational force consisting of Nigeria and its neighbors deployed at the end of January and has retaken towns and villages where Boko Haram had declared an Islamic caliphate. Nigeria’s military, which had largely failed to curb the rebellion, has been reinvigorated by new weapons including helicopter gunships.
Nigeria’s military says it has flown in medical and intelligence teams to screen the rescued girls and women and find out their identities. Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman said most are traumatized.

Friday, May 1, 2015

US Military's 'Self-steering' Bullets Can Hit A Moving Target

It’s been revealed that a series of tests in February have made unnerving progress with ‘self-steering’ bullets.

The team behind the project, known as EXACTO and developed by America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has released a video showing the smart bullets in action, successfully changing their course in order to hit a moving target. It’s thought that they work by using small fins on the sides of the bullet to guide it to the target, which is tracked by lasers, although DARPA are being understandably quiet about its exact inner workings.

The military often has to face unfavorable conditions—such as harsh weather, wind, and moving targets—that reduce the accuracy of soldiers, and it would normally be the preserve of specially trained snipers to hit difficult targets. However, the video shows how the weapon can be used, not just by trained sharpshooters, but by absolute novices—with no drop in accuracy. The smart bullets don’t just increase a squaddies accuracy either, it can also increase their range.

“EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-calibre bullet to target,” explained Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds.”

The fact that they have fit such advanced and impressive tech into a relatively small .50-caliber round is a “major breakthrough” and opens the door for the ability to expand the system into other larger caliber shells at some point in the future.   

R&B Legend Ben E King Dies at 76

Ben E King, the R&B and soul singer best known for Stand By Me, whose honeyed vocal tones helped first popularise the genres with mass pop audiences, has died aged 76.

King, who first found celebrity in his early 20s with the Drifters, died on Thursday, his publicist, Phil Brown, told the Associated Press, saying only that the death was from natural causes.

While he enjoyed long if sometimes intermittent success, with other big hits including There Goes My Baby and Spanish Harlem, King remains most closely associated with Stand By Me, a simple and plaintive number the singer co-wrote with the famed production and songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

It made No 4 in the US charts on its release in 1961, and No 1 in the UK in 1987 when it was featured on the Rob Reiner coming-of-age film of the same name, starring River Phoenix, as well as a Levi’s jeans commercial. Overall, the song has charted nine times in the US Billboard 100, seven of them covers by artists including John Lennon.

In March 2015 the Library of Congress inducted King's original version into the National Recording Registry, saying "it was King's incandescent vocal that made it a classic."

King shared songwriting credits on "Stand By Me" with Elmo Glick, a collective pseudonym for the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who produced the recording session. The Library of Congress also praised the song as "anchored by perhaps the best known bassline in recording history" and for its "soaring string arrangement."

India's Swift Response in Earthquake-hit Nepal Stumps China

Even as Nepal struggles to come to terms with its worst earthquake disaster in over eight decades, rescuers from around the world are scrambling to locate survivors and bring succour to the needy. Humanitarian efforts have poured in from all parts of the world, from the day the disaster struck the Himalayan nation, killing over 6,200 people. The rescue operations have also pitted two arch-rivals India and China who have sent their teams to the ravaged nation.

Although Chinese military apparatus is considered to be much more advanced, it is the Indian armed forces which are being lauded for their commendable efforts in carrying out relief and rescue work in a nation that is struggling to come to terms with the massive devastation.

India's swift action and its military's massive operation to evacuate thousands of Indians and foreign nationals from quake-hit Nepal has put China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the defensive with questions being raised as to why its efforts to rescue stranded Chinese nationals did not match that of India. The Chinese media has raised questioned why air force planes were not deployed to airlift over 8,000 Chinese many of who are still stranded in Nepal.

In a rare comparison of India's military with the PLA, the world's largest, Chinese defence spokesman Geng Yansheng was confronted with the question at a briefing as to why the military did not use planes to airlift stranded Chinese when India had done so to ferry its nationals.

There is considerable annoyance in China over the slow process of airlifting of Chinese tourists as well as workers employed in various Beijing-funded projects in Nepal as the task was given to a number of civilian airlines. There were also reports of some of the airline companies demanding heavy fare which was subsequently denied.

Besides airlifting thousands of its citizens, the Indian Air Force also transported about 170 foreign nationals from 15 countries to India. Several others were also transported through special buses from across the border to Bihar.

Defending the move to use civilian aircraft, Geng said "Whether to use military aircraft to transport people from a disaster area this is to be decided by various factors". He said after the earthquake, the Chinese government had organised a number of civilian commercial flights to evacuate Chinese citizens stranded in Nepal.

India's quick response to send search and rescue teams besides relief supplies has been reported by sections of the Chinese media while China too dispatched rescue teams and planes with supplies by which time the Indian presence on the ground had swelled.

Tesla Unveils Suite of Batteries for Homes, Businesses

Tesla Motors Inc unveiled Tesla Energy - a suite of batteries for homes, businesses and utilities - a highly-anticipated plan to expand its business beyond electric vehicles.

Tesla introduced its home battery, named Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery to store energy at residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation.

"Our goal is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy on an extreme scale. The goal is complete transformation of the energy infrastructure of the world," Chief Executive Elon Musk told media at Tesla's design studio at Hawthorne, California on Thursday.

When asked whether Tesla would consider changing its name to Tesla Energy, Musk would only say that the company now had two Web addresses: and

Selling price for Powerwall to installers is $3,500 for 10kwh and $3,000 for 7kwh, which excludes inverter and installation prices.

Musk said Tesla's lead installation partner for home battery will be SolarCity Corp, but there will be many others.

Tesla expects to have low but growing gross margin in battery products in the fourth quarter and battery products to be materially profitable probably some time next year.

Deutsche Bank estimates sales of stationary battery storage systems for homes and commercial uses could yield as much as $4.5 billion in revenue for Tesla. Analysts expect Tesla will build stationary storage systems around the same basic batteries it will produce for its vehicles at a large factory the company is building in Nevada.

Stationary storage systems could be part of a fossil-fuel-free lifestyle in which an individual has solar panels on the roof, generating electricity that can power home appliances and recharge batteries in a Tesla Model S sedan parked in the garage.


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