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Seeds placed in Norwegian vault as agricultural ‘insurance policy’

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a vault containing millions of seeds from all over the world, saw its first deposits on Tuesday. Located 800 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the vault has been referred to by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso as a “frozen Garden of Eden“. It is intended to preserve crop supplies and secure biological diversity in the event of a worldwide disaster.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is in charge of collecting the seed samples. The Norwegian government, who owns the bank, built it at a cost of $9.1 million.

At the opening ceremony, 100 million seeds from 268,000 samples were placed inside the vault, where there is room for over 2 billion seeds. Each of the samples originated from a different farm or field, in order to best ensure biological diversity. These crop seeds included such staples as rice, potatoes, barley, lettuce, maize, sorghum, and wheat. No genetically modified crops were included. (Beyond politics they are generally sterile so of no use.)

It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks.

Constructed deep inside a mountain and protected by concrete walls, the “doomsday vault” is designed to withstand earthquakes, nuclear warfare, and floods resulting from global warming. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called it an “insurance policy” against such threats.

With air-conditioned temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, experts say the seeds could last for an entire millennium. Some crops will be able to last longer, like sorghum, which the Global Crop Diversity Trust says can last almost 20 millenniums. Even if the refrigeration system fails, the vaults are expected to stay frozen for 200 years.

The Prime Minister said, “With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization.” Stoltenberg, along with Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, made the first deposit of rice to the vault.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said. The vault will operate as a bank, allowing countries to use their deposited seeds free of charge. It will also serve as a backup to the thousands of other seed banks around the world.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” Cary Fowler said.

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Minnesota oil pipeline explosion and fire kills two

Friday, November 30, 2007

A major oil pipeline in Minnesota exploded and caught fire, killing two workers. The pipeline carries oil from Saskatchewan, Canada to close to Chicago, United States, representing 16% of America’s total oil imports.

The section of the pipe that exploded was undergoing maintenance at the time to address a pinhole leak first identified three weeks earlier, and patched at the time with a metal sleeve. On Wednesday, the entire section was removed and replaced with a new one. When oil was reintroduced on Thursday morning, oil leaked where the new section joined the pre-existing pipe, triggering the fatal explosion.

The fire was extinguished later the same day.

The line is split between four separate pipes. After the explosion, all four pipes were shut down, resulting in the global price surge, but this subsided for the most part after it became clear that the three undamaged pipelines had returned to normal operation, restoring 80% of the line’s capacity, and that the accident pipe is expected to be back in use in a matter of days.

“There were no problems found in that area where the leak occurred,” reporters were told by Larry Springer, spokesman for Enbridge, the Canadian company that owns the line. High-tech equipment had been through the line in 2006 to check for any signs of problems.

Enbridge identified the deceased as Dave Mussati Jr. and Steve Arnovich, both of whom were contract workers based in Superior, Wisconsin. The damaged section of pipe is in Clearbrook, which is approximately 350 miles Northwest of Minneapolis.

Enbridge metallurgists have been sent to examine the failed section in an effort to determin the cause of the accident. Other Enbridge workers are working to clear spilled oil from the site. It is expected that once this is complete, the pipe will return to service.

Global crude oil prices temporarily spiked by over US$4 per barrel but closed yesterday slightly above original prices.

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Three dead, over 70 injured in Bangkok blasts

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A series of explosions occurred in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, on Thursday, in which at least three people died and at least 70 people were wounded. The army says the explosions were caused by five M-79 grenades; three in the Saladaeng Skytrain station on Silom Road, one close to Dusit Thani Hotel, and one near a bank. The Thai government said the attacks had been from anti-government protestors. The explosions occurred in the business district of the city.

Television footage showed ambulances coming to the area and locals carrying the injured to safe spots. Office windows were destroyed and pavements had traces of blood.

Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman of the army, mentioned that five M-79 grenades had been used in the attack. Three of these were thrown through the roof of Saladaeng Skytrain station, along Silom Road, the central part of Bangkok’s business district, he added. He said the fourth and fifth bombs exploded on a pavement close to the five-star Dusit Thani Hotel and near a bank, respectively. The attacked railway station was soon closed, according to sources.

Central Bangkok has been the site of recent protests staged against the current Thai government. A coalition of protesters, named the Red Shirts, have been demanding new elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for five weeks. Recently, 21 people died in clashes between the Red shirts and government forces. The military has recommended using tear gas, rubber bullets and other ammunition to prevent the protesters from causing disruption, if necessary. However, Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda is reluctant to use such ammunition, being unwilling to renew violence.

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Java creator criticizes .Net

Saturday, February 5, 2005

AustraliaJames Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, said last week that he believes Microsoft is wrong in its decision to support C and C++ programming languages in the common language runtime in Microsoft .NET. According to him, this decision may lead to severe security flaws in .NET. Gosling is currently in Australia, giving talks and visiting friends.

According to Gosling, the problem lies with the programming languages and some of their characteristics: “C++ allowed you to do arbitrary casting, arbitrary adding of images and pointers, and converting them back and forth between pointers in a very, very unstructured way.”

The Java language was developed due to limitations of C++. Gosling began using C++ for the former Sun Microsystems‘s star-seven project. At that time Gosling concluded C++ was inadequate and created the Oak language. The Oak language would become the language known today as Java. The former star-seven project shares its defining characteristics with networked software applications today: safety and portability.

Gosling continues: “If you look at the security model in Java and the reliability model, and a lot of things in the exception handling, they depend really critically on the fact that there is some integrity to the properties of objects. So if somebody gives you an object and says ‘This is an image’, then it is an image. It’s not like a pointer to a stream, where it just casts an image.”

Charles Sterling, a Microsoft developer and product manager of the .NET framework, didn’t entirely disagree with Gosling’s thoughts. But he said that .NET defines different types of code. And there is the code which is managed by the .NET framework. All new Microsoft languages, such as C# and Visual Basic.NET, produce only code managed by the .NET framework, so they are safe.

A key idea that has not shown up in Gosling’s talk is that Java itself allows a very similar process to occur. Java’s JNI (Java Native Interface) allows the integration of the same unsafe code that prompted Gosling’s central thesis.

However, Gosling says languages like C and C++ can still produce unsafe code which would not follow the rules of safety of .NET. This sort of code, usually found in old software applications, requires additional .NET permissions to execute. Sterling says it is up to developers to decide whether or not to use unsafe code in their .NET applications.

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Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

Friday, February 10, 2012

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Egypt’s currency rating for the second time in four months based on the country’s shorfall in foreign reserves and shaky political transition. It’s the latest development for a nation facing mounting economic diffuclties.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell by over 50 percent last year to about US$16 billion. Egypt has requested US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund to bolster its reserves and prevent a devalation but that could take months.

Experts say that Egypt’s problem of attracting foreign investment and tourists, which are two sources that would increase reserves, has already caused the Egyptian pound to lose 1 percent of its value and if the country doesn’t solve the shortfall in foriegn currency, it could even lead to a further currency devaluation within the next two to three months.

The long-term solution is to restore tourism and foreign investments but both are suffering because of the continuing unrest.

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China completes “mammoth” Three Gorges Dam hydro-electricity project

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The People’s Republic of China has announced the completion of an enormous dam across the Yangtze River, an important milestone for the world’s largest hydroelectric project. The official Xinhua News Agency reports the event as a “landmark in the construction of the project.”

Launched in 1993, the Three Gorges Project, including the 2,300 metre long, 185 metre high dam with 26 power generators, is being built in three phases on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River – China’s longest river. Built with over 16 million m3 of concrete, the Three Gorges Dam is considered the biggest reinforced concrete dam in the world.

The Three Gorges Reservoir is capable of holding nearly 40 billion m3 of water, including a space of 22.15 billion m3 for extra flooded water. With a length of more than 6,300 km and a natural fall of 5,400 metres from the west to the east, the flood-prone Yangtze River is the third largest in the world.

The gigantic project is expected to generate around 15 million megawatts of electricity, 84.7 billion kWh annually when the entire project is completed in 2008. But whilst proponents of the world’s largest hydropower project laud the increased electricity generation and improved flood control as benefits to China, opponents claim destruction of the environment, ruin to China’s cultural heritage – disaffecting millions of local residents.

“In my view, building the Three Gorges dam is a ridiculous and evil farce,” says dam opponent Dai Qing. “Many people have known something is wrong with the project, but few have dared to speak up,” she said. After it becomes operational, the 660km reservoir created by the dam will drown 13 towns, 4500 villages and 162 archaeological sites.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) are also strident vocal critics. “The dam is having a titanic social and environment impact,” the group said this week. “Sometimes people are being moved out by truncheon and bulldozer because they refuse to leave their home for fear of not being rehoused. Human rights violations are massive and brutal,” it said. FoE pointed to evidence that the dam was already having a serious environment impact.

FoE points to a scientific study by the East China Normal University in Shanghai, published in March in Geophysical Research, which said that in 2004, the Three Gorges dam has reduced the supply of sediment to the Yangtze delta to just 35 per cent of the norm.

Millions of tonnes of silt are drawn along the Yangtze river every year, and critics argue the dam will intercept much of it – with potentially disastrous consequences. They say the lack of sediment further downstream would lead to soil erosion, and the accumulation of sediment in the reservoir could raise the dam level, submerging even more land.

Opponents say the reservoir could fill with the accumulated garbage from tens of millions of households. The China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Corp. has spent $2.5 million on a vessel to collect as much as 7 million cubic feet of garbage that accumulates at the dam each year, according to Xinhua. Some argue that the impact of the dam project will contribute to the extinction of the rare Yangtze river dolphin.

The dam project will force the relocation of a total of 1.13 million people, and communities that have lived in the area for millennia will disappear. Researchers warn sedimentation and rising water levels in the reservoir will lead to the evacuation of tens of thousands more people.

But as the waters rise, that which can not be saved will disappear along with some world famous natural scenery. Critics say the dam is under threat from earthquakes, with two geological fault lines nearby. Officials working on the project counter this by saying the worst that can happen is a tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, while the dam is built to withstand force 7.0.

“Although the dam is now complete, we still have a long way to go and cannot become self-satisfied or relax our efforts in the least,” Li Yongan, general manager of the Three Gorges Project Development Corp, said. The official China Daily in an editorial called for people to remember the more than 100 workers whom died during the dam’s construction. “The best possible way to repay such a debt of gratitude is to make sure the highest safety and quality standards are observed up till the very end of the entire building process,” the editorial said.

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Canada’s Don Valley West (Ward 25) city council candidates speak

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 25). Three candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include John Blair, Robertson Boyle, Tony Dickins, Cliff Jenkins (incumbent), and Peter Kapsalis.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

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Former Satyam CEO Raju, his brother and CFO arrested and detained in profit-fraud scandal

Monday, January 12, 2009

Byrraju Ramalinga Raju, founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services, and his brother, B. Rama Raju, the company’s managing director, were arrested late Friday by Andhra Pradesh police. The brothers were placed under judicial custody in a Hyderabad, India jail and will remain there until January 23. Facing charges of criminal breach of trust (Section 406 of IPC), criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B), cheating (Section 420), falsification of records and forgery (Section 468), and fraudulent cancellation of securities (Section 477-a), they face up to ten years imprisonment if convicted.

After 18 hours of interrogation by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) at the state police headquarters, the Raju brothers were sent to the Chanchalguda prison and slept Saturday night on the floor along with 26 other low-risk inmates.

S. Bharat Kumar, the Rajus’s lawyer, asked the magistrate to issue orders for health monitoring. “His blood pressure is fluctuating and he needs medical treatment,” said Bharat Kumar. Mr. Raju appeared before the court Saturday while a team of doctors visited him after he had complained of chest pain.

Raju has Hepatitis-C, and both brothers have high blood pressure, so health precautions are necessary while imprisoned. Prison rules mandate service of jail food thrice a day. The menu includes 650 gm of rice thrice a day with 250 gm of vegetable curry and 125 gm of ‘daal’ plus tea twice a day.

Satyam’s chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas, who was also arrested Saturday, had undergone preliminary investigation and appeared Sunday before a special court, according to A. Sivanarayana, Andhra Pradesh additional director general of police. Srinivas was remanded to judicial custody until January 23 by Mr. D. Ramakrishna, Sixth Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, and sent to the Chanchalguda jail with the Raju brothers after interrogation by CID’s Crime Branch (the CB-CID). During his Saturday night arrest and probe by CB-CID, Srinivas made revelations which are contained in his confession letter as submitted to Network 18. “According to me fixed deposits are unreal and fictitious which were managed and was an understanding between the audit section management,” Srinivas stated.

The Hyderabad court on Monday postponed the bail hearings of the Raju brothers and Srinivas to January 16. To be defended by a battalion of 25 lawyers, the three accused will remain in Chanchalguda Central Jail until further court order. The Raju brothers were shifted Sunday to a mid-size Old Hospital Barrack cell shared with a bootlegger.

Contents

  • 1 The offences
  • 2 About Satyam Computer Services
  • 3 Impact on Satyam Computer Services finances and reactions
  • 4 Related news
  • 5 Sources

In 2008, the company struggled to purchase two infrastructure companies founded by family members of company founder and CEO Dr. Raju – Maytas Infrastructure and Maytas Properties – for $1.6 billion, despite concerns raised by independent board directors. Dr. Raju tendered his resignation on January 7 after due notice of falsified accounts to board members and the SEBI.

Since January 7 when two lawsuits were commenced, dozens of other class action law suits were filed against Satyam for hundreds of millions of dollars damages based on fraud in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, among others. The securities fraud class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of investors who bought Satyam American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) since 2004.

On Wednesday Dr. Raju admitted to falsifying and overstating Satyam’s cash reserves by $1B US dollars (£661m) or 94% of its cash and bank balances on books at the end of September.

The fraud was perpetrated several years ago to bridge “a marginal gap” between actual and accounting books operating profits, and continued for several years. “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten,” B. Raju said.

In a letter to the board, Dr. Raju said that neither he nor the managing director had benefited financially from the inflated revenues. Further claiming that none of the board members had any knowledge of the dire company situation, he noted that Satyam’s balance sheet as of the September 30, 2008, carried inflated figures for cash and bank balances of INR 5,040 crore (as against INR 5,361 crore reflected in the books). He alleged it also carried an accrued interest of INR 376 crore which was non-existent. He confessed that he himself prepared an understated liability of INR 1,230 crore on account of funds amid an overstated debtors’ position of INR 490 crore (as against INR 2,651 crore in the books).

Indian analysts have compared the Satyam-Raju scandal to the infamous American Enron scandal. Immediately following the media expose, PricewaterhouseCoopers, auditor of Satyam’s accounts, was set to be probed for complicity in the controversy. Times Now has reported that the Andhra Pradesh CID arrested PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) representative Gopal Krishnan for investigation on Saturday night.

New York-listed Satyam Computer Services Ltd., India’s fourth-biggest software firm, is a consulting and information technology services company based in Hyderabad, India. Founded in 1987 by Dr. Byrraju Ramalinga Raju, Satyam’s network spans 67 countries on six continents. It employs 53,000 professionals in India, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Hungary, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan, Egypt and Australia. Its monthly salary outflow is estimated at six billion rupees ($125 million). Deriving more than half of its revenues from the United States, it serves 700 global companies, 185 of which are Fortune 500 corporations.

Satyam’s clients include Nestle, Ford, General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Applied Materials Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Sony Corp., and brought in about $40bn last year.

In December 2008, a failed acquisition attempt involving the company Maytas led to a plunge in Satyam’s share price. After Wednesday’s confession, Satyam stocks fell further by more than 70%, while the BSE SENSEX dropped to 7.3% Wednesday, causing the removal of Satyam Computer Services from its indices on Thursday. The shares free fell to 11.50 rupees on Friday, their lowest level since March 1998, compared with around last year’s high of 544 rupees.

The New York Stock Exchange has terminated trading in Satyam stock as of January 7, while the National Stock Exchange of India said it will remove Satyam from its S&P CNX Nifty 50-share index from January 12.

India’s biggest-ever corporate fraud has seriously tainted India Inc.‘s strong corporate governance image. “The admission of fraud in financial affairs has created an adverse impression in the minds of trade, business and industry across the world,” the Indian government admitted. The government intervened on Friday night, dismissing Satyam’s board of directors, announcing it will appoint representatives to manage the affairs of the insolvent outsourcing giant. The board would meet within seven days. Dr Yeduguri Samuel Rajasekhara Reddy, chief Minister of State of Andhra Pradesh, India, on Sunday said that the main agenda is to protect the jobs of the software professionals. “We are taking all needful steps in coordination with the government of India to ensure that the jobs of 53,000 engineers are protected and the shareholders’ money is salvaged,” Reddy said.

“We are working on the names. The Satyam case is an aberration. The credibility of the Indian corporate sector in general, and IT sector in particular, should not be allowed to suffer because of this.” Prem Chand Gupta, the Corporate Affairs Minister said. The Federal Government of India appointed a three-member independent board with full authority for Satyam on Sunday and was set to convene within 24 hours. “We have appointed Deepak Parekh, chairman of Housing Development Finance Corporation, Kiran Karnik, former president of IT industry body NASSCOM and C. Achutan, former member of Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) of India,” Mr. Gupta said.

In early Monday trading (0535 GMT) after the creation of the three-member board, Satyam shares rocketed upwards 60% to 38.15 rupees, even though the main Mumbai market was down more than 2%. BBC reported that Satyam shares have jumped 51% to 36.05 rupees on Monday after the stock lost 87% last week. “The constitution of the new board is seen as a positive step by the market. It’s a confidence boosting measure,” K.K. Mital, Globe Capital, New Delhi head of portfolio management services said. “But the rally will depend largely on the financial situation at the company and the kind of measures that are taken to improve liquidity,” he added.

The Company Law Board, however, has requested Satyam’s interim board not to implement its decisions. “We are asked by the Company Law Board not to implement the decisions of the board. But we are allowed to continue our activity. The team which was constituted recently is continuing its work,” Satyam head global marketing and communications, Mr. Hari Thalapalli, said.

Lazard Ltd., who has a 7.4% stake in Satyam, sought representation on the new board and wrote as much to The Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs. “As the largest shareholder in the company, we want to be consulted in whatever decisions are being taken by the Indian government. We have written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and are awaiting a reply from them,” Hitesh Jain, a partner at ALMT Legal, who claimed to represent Lazard, said. “It is a fair proposal and we will take a decision as and when we clear other issues. No decision on this has been taken yet,” P.C. Gupta replied.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) also announced it will try to control the damage and take steps to boost investor confidence. “This exercise will be undertaken after the third quarter results and is expected to be completed by end of February this year,” a SEBI official statement said. A SEBI team is also investigating acting-CEO Ram Mynampati whose salary was greater than that of founder Dr. Raju and all the directors combined. Dr. Raju had just one fifth of Mynampati’s total package of over Rs 3.5 crore as of March 2008. All the directors comparably received only a total of Rs 2.6 crore as salary, commissions, sitting fees, professional fees and other receivables.

Further, the Andhra Pradesh Police CID and teams assigned by the Economic Offences Wing of the CB-CID conducted searches Sunday of homes of the accused including the ex-CFO’s office to gather documentary evidence about the financial fraud.

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Hser Nar Moo, missing Utah girl, found dead

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Seven year old Hser Nar Moo, who went missing from her home in South Salt Lake, Utah Tuesday, has been found dead less than 100 feet from her home.

South Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Snyder said at a news conference, “Once inside the apartment, they observed some evidence that led them to the bathroom of the apartment, where they discovered the body of Hser Nay Moo.”

It has not been made public how the girl died. “There is some trauma present, and that’s all I’m going to say,” Snyder said.

As of Wednesday morning, police have five men in custody for questioning. Witnesses say that four of them are Burmese immigrants living in the same apartment complex as the child’s family.

Nar Moo was last seen alive at her home on Monday at around 2:00 PM MDT (UTC-6), and was reported missing at around 6:30 PM. An AMBER alert was issued at 9:42 AM yesterday, before her body was found in the bathroom of a neighbor.

The seven year old Asian girl was described as being 3 feet 8 inches tall, weighing about 45 lbs, with brown eyes and long black hair. She was wearing a pink dress to her knees and pink Croc shoes at the time when she went missing.

Police reported that she spoke very little English, though she did understand some. It is believed her family is from Burma.

The AMBER Alert issued yesterday is no longer active because of the discovery of the body.