Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Philippines: Corn Fields Dry Up As South Grapples With El Niño

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By Jeoffrey Maitem

Elderly farmer Avelino Jacinto surveyed a field that was once covered
in greenery, but had recently transformed into a patch of cracked
earth.

Jacinto, 73, was staring at the early impacts of El Niño, a weather
phenomenon that causes warming of sea-surface temperatures in the
Pacific, which could unleash droughts and shrink the economic
performance of one of Southeast Asia’s robust economies.

Agriculture has been the lifeblood of this town in the volatile
southern Philippines for years. But this year’s extremely dry weather –
forecast to worsen as the nation enters its summer months – is not only
threatening livelihoods but also food security.

“These corn I am showing you are now worthless,” Jacinto told a
BenarNews reporter as he visited his five-hectare (12-acre) farm in
South Cotabato province last week. “I cannot do anything but accept our
loss.”

Not far from Jacinto’s farm, a river that used to provide irrigation
for thousands of hectares (acres) of farmland in nearby towns had dried
up or was slowly turning to brown mud.

El Niño, which means “the boy” in Spanish, occurs every few years. It
produces scorching weather in Asia and East Africa, but causes flooding
in South America, and usually lasts about one year. In the late 1990s,
it killed more than 2,000 people worldwide and wreaked havoc on
farmlands.

In the town of Lake Sebu, also in South Cotabato, farmers tried to
salvage remaining agricultural crops that were damaged as the drought
progressed. For many it was a race against time, but the crops that were
harvested were of low quality and not going to make the market sale.

“We can only get about one fourth of these crops,” said Roland Samping, 34, as he began harvesting a rice paddy.

Across Mindanao and the eastern parts of the country facing the
Pacific, at least five regions are already suffering the early onset of a
dry spell, and it is estimated that more than 100,000 farmers will be
affected.

The government’s disaster risk office confirmed that five regions in
the countryside were already severely hit by a dry spell, with the bulk
of more than 100,000 farmers affected in the Bicol and Mindanao regions.

The Climate Prediction Center, which is part of the U.S. National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, claimed earlier that the dry spell had
strengthened in February as above-average sea surface temperatures rose
across the equatorial area of the Pacific Ocean.

Initial reports indicated that almost 150,000 hectares (370,000
acres) of farmland planted to some 233,000 metric tons (513 million
pounds) of rice had already been affected, according to the country’s
agriculture department.

Amid the potential negative impact of the prolonged dry spell brought
about by El Niño, the Manila-based regional lender Asian Development
Bank (ADB) on Wednesday slashed its 2019 growth forecast for the
Philippines to 6.4 percent.

But Kelly Bird, ADB’s country director, told reporters that although
the country’s economic expansion was cut from a previous projection of
6.7 percent, economists expected faster growth this year compared to
2018, largely bolstered by the government’s massive infrastructure
spending.

Similarly, the World Bank’s outlook this year on the Philippine gross
domestic product (GDP) also went down from 6.5 percent in December 2018
to 6.4 percent, as it flagged several risks, including the El Niño
phenomenon, which may cause lower farm output and an uptick in food
prices.

With the effects of drought likely to worsen, the government has
reactivated the El Niño Task Force to ensure farmers won’t suffer as
they did in 2015, when the extreme dry spell struck with much intensity,
destroying an estimated 15 billion pesos (about U.S. $288 million)
worth of crops and livestock.

Jose Luis Fernandez, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
representative in Manila, warned that climate change ultimately impacts
food insecurity.

In January, his agency implemented an early warning system for
drought in the country, where extreme weather could not only disrupt
farm production but also stir strong typhoons.

The intervention aims to safeguard the livelihood of rice farmers in
selected areas in Mindanao that have high vulnerability rates and high
exposure to drought. At the same time, it will help protect production
by providing irrigation systems in areas with dried up water resources.

In 1998, El Niño delivered droughts that wiped almost $5 billion from
farm production, causing a 6.4 percent contraction in agriculture, and a
spike in food prices in a country where food is the most heavily
weighted component of the consumer price index.

“We cannot stop El Niño from happening,” Ernesto Pernia, the
socio-economic planning secretary, told reporters this week, as he
announced the reactivation of the El Niño task force.

“But as we take a long-term view and look at the lessons from our
experiences, we are on a stronger footing to weather it,” he said.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Lessons From India For The Power Sector In Sub-Saharan Africa – Analysis

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The GreenCo model represents a practical solution that recognises and supports the development of the regional power pools.

By Ana Hajduka

Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, and Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) countries in particular, are in an excellent position to benefit from the momentum of the global paradigm shift towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, in which “the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable.” [1] The standardised cost of renewables and a central metric that measures affordability has decreased significantly and continuously over the past decade. While already cost competitive in many countries, and even cheaper than fossil-based generation options in some, costs are predicted to continue declining in the future; for this reason and others, renewables are well positioned to play a major role in the electrification of SSA. These developments present the African energy sector with unprecedented opportunities to leapfrog in to an energy future dominated by renewable sources.

The African and international development community and others seeking to support the deployment of grid-connected renewable energy in SSA is addressing how to best convert this staggering potential into operational projects. This conversion can, in turn, provide dependable and affordable electricity sources at the scale required for economic and social development in the region.

The African Development Bank estimates that there is a funding gap of USD 42-67 billion per year that must be bridged in order to achieve universal access to electricity in Africa by 2025. This target will not be reached unless private sector capital is mobilised.

Currently,
the lack of creditworthy offtakers in the SSA is one of the key factors
deterring investment in the African renewable energy sector. Weak
balance sheets and poor payment track records of many national utilities
is one of the reasons why commercial banks have been unwilling to fund
Independent Power Projects (“IPPs”), which has resulted in limited
competition, and consequently, a higher cost of capital.

New
business models are required through which the lack of creditworthiness
in the power sector in SSA can be overcome. One such model is the
Africa GreenCo which is designed to tackle this creditworthiness
constraint by establishing an independently managed, creditworthy
intermediary offtaker, and a power services provider to mediate between
renewable electricity generation companies on the one hand, and both
state owned and private sector off-takers on the other. GreenCo will
operate as a member of the African regional power pools, aggregate
offtaker credit risk, and diversify both supply and demand side risks on
a regional basis. In case of a utility defaulting, GreenCo will rely on
various risk mitigation tools including the right to sell power to
other utilities/bulk power purchasers via the power pool.

The GreenCo model represents a practical solution that recognises and supports the development of the regional power pools. It is focused on enabling a sustainable market through which there can be a shift from supporting isolated investments to catalysing systemic change in the energy markets. This solution will attract significant volumes of private sector finance.

GreenCo
aims to emulate the success of comparable independent power
intermediaries and aggregators in developing markets. These pioneering
interventions have demonstrated the financial feasibility and
transformative market-making impacts of intermediaries on local power
markets.

The
most applicable case study to the GreenCo model is the PTC India
Limited (PTC), formerly known as Power Trading Corporation of India Ltd.
PTC was established under the Government of India in 1999 as a PPP. Its
primary focus was to develop a commercially vibrant power market in
India. PTC was mandated to act as an entity for credit risk mitigation.

The
evolution of the Indian power market up until the PTC’s creation
closely mirrors that of the African power markets. India had five
regional grids, each governed by a Regional Electricity Board (REB),
comprising of the Heads of the member State Electricity Boards (SEBs).
These acted as each state’s public sector power utility, while each
regional area was minimally interconnected. During the 1990s, privately
financed and operated IPPs were allowed to support the growing demand
for power. IPPs contracted directly with SEBs, with a guarantee from the
State Government. In some cases, counter-guarantees were provided by
the Central Government. Investment decisions in power generation and
transmission infrastructure were not coordinated and inefficient: there
was limited inter-state and almost no inter-region power trading.

The
PTC was developed in response to the Government’s decreasing appetite
and capacity to sign sovereign and state-level guarantees for IPPs.
There was also recognition that there was scope for more efficient power
trading, which would ultimately de-link power purchases from direct
fiscal impact.

The two core components to PTC’s operating model are below:

  1. Acting
    as an intermediary PPA offtaker for IPPs that are creating transparent
    and standardised negotiation and contracting practices, while also
    selling power to SEBs under PSAs. The PTC directly addressed IPP
    concerns about creditworthiness by limiting exposure to specific
    utilities and payment securities and through its ability to divert power
    to alternative buyers in case of default. The PTC’s risks were to be
    mitigated by a planned deduction from Central to State government
    grants.
  2. Trading power from regions/utilities with a surplus to
    regions/utilities with a power deficit on a short-term basis. The PTC
    was a pioneer in the Indian market for differentiated peak and off-peak
    power trading, and introduced the ‘Day Ahead Market.’ In addition to
    utilities, the PTC works with more than 400 industrial/bulk consumers
    directly.

The PTC management believed that the following conditions needed to be satisfied in order to be seen to be creditworthy:

  1. It must have sufficient net worth to collateralise PPA obligations;
  2. It must have a higher profile in the market;
  3. Investors must understand and accept the PTC’s capacity to trade in case of default
  4. It had to ensure timely payment by the off-taker/buyer SEB under the PSA.

Using
its capital base, the PTC India has been able to act as a creditworthy
PPA counterparty for 7,000MW of installed capacity from a pipeline of
14,000MW. This has unlocked well over USD 5 billion of private
investment even by a conservative estimate of capital costs for new
IPPs. As planned, the PTC’s involvement as an off-taker since 2004 has
resulted in a shift from government guarantees.

The
PTC’s role in developing the Indian and regional cross-border power
markets has been an unqualified success. The following information
supports this:

  • It has helped grow overall traded volumes from 1.6 TWh in 2001 to 37 TWh in 2015.
  • It has a 30-40% market share.
  • Total short term traded volumes have increased from 2% of total generation to approximately 10% from 2005 to 2015.
  • It has demonstrated the viability of cross-border power trading.
  • It ahs increased investor confidence in supporting IPP.
  • Suppliers’ fixed costs per unit of power fell as capacity utilisation increased.
  • Supplier/power plant revenues increased as they were able to maximise capacity utilisation.
  • Areas of power deficit moved closer to supply/demand equilibrium.

The
PTC acts as an indicator of the potential impact and financial
feasibility of an intermediary model; for GreenCo the key questions are
then how this model can be adapted to fit African power markets. While
the Indian and African contexts are clearly different, and operating
across multiple countries presents additional challenges when compared
to operating in a single country, the PTC’s former management offered
the following insights to consider when looking at the similarities
between the India and Africa:

  • Fragmented State (India) and National (Africa) utilities and transmission infrastructure.
  • Growing collaboration and coordination across regional power pools (5 in India, 4 in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • Low average creditworthiness of off-taker utilities.
  • Desire to eliminate sovereign guarantees for PPAs.
  • High growth in/latent demand for power.
  • Focus on renewable energy versus fossil fuels.

The
PTC India therefore provides a concrete example of the significant role
a renewable energy intermediary offtaker, aggregator and power trader
can play in increasing power generation and trade and stimulating the
power market. GreenCo is a model of a more context relevant South-South
collaboration which aims to achieve systemic impacts in the way power
markets are developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa GreenCo is working closely with the Government of Zambia on the operationalisation of its business model by Q4 2019 — i.e. the establishment of a new creditworthy intermediary renewable energy power purchaser: GreenCo Power Services Limited (GreenCo), which will be a PPP entity between the Government of Zambia, the international development community, and the private sector.

GreenCo will act as:

  • A renewable energy creditworthy power buyer and seller: GreenCo
    buys power from small to medium sized IPPs, on-selling through
    long-term contracts to utilities and private buyers; it also executes
    shorter-term trades on the SAPP.
  • An aggregator of Risk and Risk Capital: Strongly capitalised, GreenCo assumes credit risk of utilities and private buyers, resulting in reduced tariffs.
  • An operational Aggregator of renewable energy supply.
  • Downside Support: Where
    buyers fail to pay, GreenCo sells to alternative buyers, or through
    SAPP markets; where termination scenarios arise, GreenCo uses its
    capital structure to cover outstanding commercial project debt in
    affected IPPs.
  • A champion of new renewable energy services and innovations for the region in partnership with the public sector.

GreenCo
will be embedded in the local and regional electricity sector and will
be able to take practical steps to diversify and mitigate risk. This
will catalyse sustainable structural market change and support the
growth of national and regional electricity markets. GreenCo will
operate as a member of regional power pools and will mitigate both
demand-side and supply-side risks. GreenCo will help unlock the private
capital required to meet Sustainable Development Goals at reduced cost,
with less reliance on host Government support, and at lower generation
tariff to utilities.

While GreenCo will
start operations in Zambia, it will provide regional market support and
become a renewable energy offtaker in neighbouring countries.


[1] Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites): FOX News: Kacey Musgraves slammed on social media for not standing for Reba McEntire’s ACM awards performance

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Kacey Musgraves faced backlash on social media after she didn’t stand during Reba McEntire’s ACM awards performance Sunday evening.

FOX News

1. World from Michael_Novakhov (22 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): “Counterintelligence Reform” – Google News: Experts dwell upon criminal law, justice system at law college – The Tribune

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Experts dwell upon criminal law, justice system at law college  The Tribune

Tribune News *Service*. Ludhiana, April 7. The GHG. Institute of Law for Women, Sidhwan Khurd, organised a national seminar on ‘Criminal Law and …

“Counterintelligence Reform” – Google News

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites): Настоящее Время: Пенсионерка из Курской области за свой счет отремонтировала аварийный дом. Чиновники подали на нее в суд

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Светлана Бонина показывает фотографии дома в поселке Теткино Курской области, где она живет, сделанные несколько лет назад. Дом построили в 1906 году. За сто лет деревянные стены сгнили, крыша просела, а входные двери перекосило так, что их почти невозможно было открыть. 

“Последнее время аж страшно было заходить. Мы не могли попасть в квартиру без ломика”, – вспоминает Бонина.

И не без гордости показывает, как дом выглядит сейчас: “Фундамент полностью заменили, стены полностью заменили, крышу вот эту заменили. Всю канализацию, пол. Все это мы сделали, все новое”.

Кредит на полтора миллиона

Сначала Светлана Бонина пыталась добиться помощи местной администрации: писала заявления и ходила на приемы, пытаясь ускорить капитальный ремонт дома. Сделала за свой счет государственную экспертизу: она показала, что износ дома составляет 79%. Но ответственные чиновники, по словам Светланы Ивановны, выполнять обязанности не торопились, а дом рушился на глазах:

“С мужем решили: нечего ждать. Чего ждать? Пока рухнет здание? Дом? Здание могло все рухнуть, поэтому мы решили сохранить здание и спасти свою жизнь”.

Обошли соседей, получили согласие. Уговаривать их не пришлось: люди боялись, что без ремонта их дом может рухнуть. “Кирпичи сыпались, страшно было. Угол проседал. И все боялись”, – говорит жительница дома Наталья Птахина.

Стройматериалы и найм рабочих обошлись Светлане Бониной почти в полтора миллиона рублей. Для бывшей учительницы математики в сельской школе это астрономическая сумма. Пришлось брать кредит. Теперь вся пенсия уходит на его погашение: 72-летняя Светлана Ивановна отдает банку 21 тысячу рублей в месяц.

Ремонта нет, а квитанция есть

Единственное, чего не учла бывший учитель математики, – платежей за капитальный ремонт, которого ей так и не удалось добиться. С 2014 года в России их в обязательном порядке начисляют всем собственникам квадратных метров в многоквартирных домах старше пяти лет. Когда Светлана Бонина получила квитанцию с требованием оплатить долг за капремонт на сумму 28 тысяч рублей, она решила пойти на принцип:

“Если я сделала за свой счет, не за государственный, не за счет регионального оператора, то региональный оператор обязан вернуть мне эти деньги”.

Генеральный директор фонда капитального ремонта многоквартирных домов Курской области Артур Иванов не согласен со Светланой Ивановной: он говорит, что законных оснований для возврата средств не существует.

Чиновники утверждают, что пенсионерка провела реконструкцию дома, а не капитальный ремонт, потому что не привела здание к первоначальному виду 1906 года.

“Необходимо было сначала провести строительную экспертизу для определения процентного износа той или иной конструкции. После чего выйти с данной экспертизой в адрес органов местного самоуправления, тем самым запустив процедуру переноса работ по капитальному ремонту дома”, – говорит исполняющий обязанности начальника государственной жилищной инспекции Курской области Семен Орехов.

Бонина напоминает, что экспертизу она сделала, а местные органы самоуправления предлагали ей ждать, продолжая открывать дверь в дом при помощи лома.

Иск против пенсионерки, иск против чиновников

Курские чиновники подали на Светлану Бонину в суд как на злостную неплательщицу взносов за капремонт. Пенсионерка направила встречный иск, но проиграла. Суд счел, что необходимость капитального ремонта не была доказана.

Светлана Ивановна рассказывает, что писала о двойной плате и президенту, и в Совет Федерации, и губернатору, и в “Единую Россию”, и в Общественную палату. Но никто из представителей власти не встал на защиту пенсионерки из поселка Теткино, отремонтировавшей за свои деньги столетний дом.

Настоящее Время

1. Russia from Michael_Novakhov (114 sites)


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“fbi criticism” – Google News: Paul Ryan Told Republicans They Could Drop Support For Trump In Wake Of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Book Claims – The Inquisitr News

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April 07, 2019

“fbi criticism” – Google News: Paul Ryan Told Republicans They Could Drop Support For Trump In Wake Of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Book Claims – The Inquisitr News
Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (8 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: ‘Morally despicable’ to oppose ratification of Rome Statute, say groups – Malay Mail
Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (8 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: Muslims are the main target of hate crime: Study – The Big Smoke Australia
“james b. comey” – Google News: Donald Trump is lone, sensible voice about privacy among all the nonsense – Washington Times
“fbi surveillance” – Google News: Trump announces resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen – UPI News

“fbi criticism” – Google News: Paul Ryan Told Republicans They Could Drop Support For Trump In Wake Of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Book Claims – The Inquisitr News

FBI from Michael_Novakhov (25 sites)
Paul Ryan Told Republicans They Could Drop Support For Trump In Wake Of ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Book Claims The Inquisitr NewsPaul Ryan told other Republicans that they “should feel free to abandon Trump” in the wake of the bombshell Access Hollywood tape’s release in the final days …
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Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (8 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: ‘Morally despicable’ to oppose ratification of Rome Statute, say groups – Malay Mail

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‘Morally despicable’ to oppose ratification of Rome Statute, say groups Malay MailKUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — It is unbelievable and “morally despicable” for any individual or groups to try and oppose the ratification of the Rome Statute, civil …
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Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov (8 sites): “political crimes” – Google News: Muslims are the main target of hate crime: Study – The Big Smoke Australia

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Muslims are the main target of hate crime: Study The Big Smoke AustraliaAccording to a recent study, the overwhelming majority of hate crime victims in this state are Muslim. Those of study believe that the police remain unconcerned.
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“james b. comey” – Google News: Donald Trump is lone, sensible voice about privacy among all the nonsense – Washington Times

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Donald Trump is lone, sensible voice about privacy among all the nonsense Washington TimesFor 200 years, stringent safeguards have been in place to protect the civil liberties of U.S.
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“fbi surveillance” – Google News: Trump announces resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen – UPI News

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Trump announces resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen UPI NewsPresident Donald Trump announced the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday.
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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: More Than Money: Deregulation And User Protection Needed To Create Competitive Arab Tech Scene

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The Arab world needs to fast-track balanced regulation that supports the opportunities created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution while protecting data privacy, if it is to capitalize on the region’s emerging technology scene.

The Middle East and North Africa boasts a growing number of start-ups, with a 31% increase in investments to $900 million in 2018 compared to 2017 across sectors including transport, healthcare and fintech. Such businesses offer the potential for a new wave of economic growth in a part of the world traditionally handicapped by weak infrastructure and a limited industrial base.

“I view the Fourth Industrial Revolution as our opportunity to catch up, as our opportunity to leapfrog and actually get to parity with the rest of the world,” said Mudassir Sheikha, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ride-hailing firm Careem.

Careem has emerged as a poster-child for the Arab digital economy after it was acquired last month by Uber for $3.1 billion – a milestone for Arab tech deal-making. It comes on the heels of the $580 million purchase of Dubai-based e-commerce company Souq by Amazon in 2017.

After steam, mass production and information technology, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing accelerating cycles of innovation, driven by artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology. It offers the promise of new high-tech jobs in a region struggling with high levels of youth unemployment – provided countries can deliver the right educational foundations.

But the rapid pace of change also raises concerns at a time when digital giants such as Facebook are confronted by a growing “techlash” over data privacy. Regional sensitivities over cultural norms add an extra level of complexity.

“It’s a very nuanced situation,” said Wafa Ben-Hassine, Counsel, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Policy at Access Now, who argues that governments in the region must adopt a user-centred framework to ensure privacy and freedom from surveillance and censorship.

Some countries are already moving to embrace the new technological future, with Bahrain – recently selected as the site of new Amazon data centres – having passed a law allowing data stored there by foreign companies to be governed by laws of their home country.

“We think that is going to be a ground-breaking law,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive, Bahrain Economic Development Board. “We, of course, have to manage risk but we have to not ignore opportunity.”

The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, has appointed Omar bin Sultan Al Olama as the world’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, underscoring the Gulf state’s determination to carve out a niche in the new digital world.

“Not one country is going to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Al Olama said. “There are going to be hubs of excellence across the world and each hub is going to champion one or two domains – and we want to champion the domain of government, first and foremost.”

For governments and companies alike, the new digital economy will bring pluses and minuses, especially when it comes to employment prospects – a dilemma showcased vividly by Careem, which has created 1 million jobs since it started operating seven years ago, but could also destroy employment with the arrival of autonomous cars.

In practice, Sheikha said, the impact of self-driving cars will be felt more gradually in the Middle East thanks to cheaper labour costs, with driver costs accounting for an average 25% of trip expenses in the region against 80% in the United States.

In region known for its big governments, it is important that regulations do not create stumbling-blocks to optimizing the benefits of technology, according to Murat Sönmez, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Network, World Economic Forum. “We need to make sure we don’t get in the way of the potential.”

And Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, warned that the Middle East simply cannot afford to be left behind. “Those countries that absorb the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution first will be the most competitive countries,” he said. “We have to make sure that countries and regions are not lagging behind.”

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa is being held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 6-7 April in partnership with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). The meeting marks the 10th hosted by Jordan since it was first convened at the Dead Sea in 2003. It is bringing together more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders from over 50 countries.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: As Belt And Road 2.0 Gathers Momentum, China Aims To Avoid ‘Debt Traps’

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China is trying to avoid “debt traps” for the countries that signed up for its Belt and Road initiative, a senior Chinese official said at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa. The remarks came on the back of criticism of the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) by some in the US and Europe, and ahead of the second Belt and Road forum, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month in Beijing.

“China is trying to find mechanisms to avoid the ‘debt trap’,” said Li Chengwen, Ambassador for China-Arab States Cooperation Forum Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. He added that no country to date has complained of falling in the “trap” of unsustainable Chinese loans. “The Belt and Road initiative aims to increase the economic prosperity of a country. It does not aim at expanding the political and geographical authority of China in the world.”

The initiative, started by President Xi in 2013, has more than 100 partner countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, but also including Russia, Portugal and Greece. It offers loans from China for infrastructure projects such as railroads, ports and highways, and aims to build a network of economic corridors connecting China with the rest of the world.

Li’s remarks came in response to a question by John Defterios, Editor of Emerging Markets, and Anchor of CNN Business, who mentioned the issue of the Chinese-financed Kenyan Mombasa port and railroad, which has run into financial problems. But it was raised also by Ryan Hass, Foreign Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution. With BRI, “one of things we’ve seen is all the risks are put on the recipient, not the originator of the loan,” he said. “A degree of restraint by the Chinese would be helpful.”

Other participants disagreed with the criticism that BRI is a “loan to own” initiative. “If you keep your interest first, you will not find China an unfair partner,” said Shandana Gulzar Khan, Deputy Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Commerce of Pakistan. “But it depends on how well you do your homework.” In Pakistan, she noted, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor created tens of thousands of jobs and has revived an entire region.

He Wenping, Professor and Director, Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), agreed with that assessment. “The biggest worry on ‘death-trap diplomacy’ should come from China’s side. It is tax payers’ money.” The upcoming Belt and Road forum in Beijing later this month could be an opportunity to kickstart a “second phase” of the initiative, Hu said. “It will be open more to the outside world,” for example by having foreigners on the BRI advisory bodies. “China is not waving the ‘China First’ flag,” she said.

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa is being held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 6-7 April in partnership with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). The meeting marks the 10th hosted by Jordan since it was first convened at the Dead Sea in 2003. It is bringing together more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders from over 50 countries.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Iranian MPs Consider Motion To Blacklist US Army As Terrorist Group

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A group of Iranian parliamentarians have prepared a motion that will designate the US army as a terrorist group if Washington takes a similar measure against the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), an MP said.

Chairman of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy
Commission Heshmatollah Falahat Pishe told Tasnim that three
parliamentary factions have drafted the motion, which would be submitted
to the presiding board for consideration.

According to the
motion, he said, Iran will consider the US army as a terrorist
organization if the US designates the IRGC a terrorist group.

It
came after the Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed officials as saying
that the United States is expected to designate the IRGC a terrorist
organization.

The officials said the decision is expected to be announced by the US State Department as early as Monday.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites): Eurasia Review: Japan: 1 In 10 Adults In Their 30s Remains A Virgin

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Japan has an increasing percentage of young adults with no history of
heterosexual vaginal intercourse. Public health experts at the
University of Tokyo completed the most detailed analysis of national
fertility survey data to date to understand trends in sexual experience
over the past three decades.

“Previous news reports about virginity rates among Japanese young
adults were a bit sensationalist, only included never-married
individuals, and did not distinguish virginity rates by age group,” said
Dr. Peter Ueda, an expert in epidemiology and public health and leader
of the research project.

The new analysis presented estimates for the whole Japanese
population, more clearly defined the age and socioeconomic status of
people who have never had heterosexual intercourse and compared trends
over time.

Heterosexual inexperience in women aged 18 to 39 years old increased
from 21.7 percent in 1992 to 24.6 percent in 2015. The respective
numbers for men were 20 percent and 25.8 percent. When the numbers are
broken down to smaller age ranges, the trend towards increased virginity
rates is observed even among adults in their 30s.

For people between 30 to 34 years old in 1987, 6.2 percent of women
and 8.8 percent of men reported no heterosexual experience. In 2015, the
numbers jumped to 11.9 percent of women and 12.7 percent of men.

For people between 35 to 39 years old in 1992, only 4 percent of
women and 5.5 percent of men reported no heterosexual experience. In
2015, the numbers jumped to 8.9 percent for women and 9.5 percent for
men.

The data were collected by the National Fertility Survey of Japan,
designed and implemented approximately every five years by the Japanese
National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The
researchers used data from seven surveys conducted between 1987 and
2015, each including between 11,553 and 17,859 adults aged 18 to 39
years old.

Sex and money

Men were more likely to have had intercourse if they had
permanent, full-time employment and lived in cities with more than 1
million inhabitants. Compared to those with the highest incomes, men in
the lowest income categories were 10 to 20 times more likely to have no
heterosexual experience.

“Although the discussion around cause and effect becomes very
complex when considering who becomes sexually experienced and who
remains a virgin, we show that heterosexual inexperience is at least
partly a socioeconomic issue for men. Simply put, money talks,” said
Cyrus Ghaznavi, first author of the study.

Women were more likely to have had intercourse if they had lower
personal incomes, which researchers speculate may be because married
women are more likely to have had sex and be full-time homemakers
without a salary.

Japan leading global trends

Japanese adults are having their first heterosexual experiences
later than their counterparts in other countries, and a substantially
larger proportion remain inexperienced into their 30s.

In comparable surveys from the U.K., U.S. and Australia, rates of
heterosexual inexperience are around 1 to 5 percent in adults in or
around their 30s. Survey data from other high-income countries indicate
that sexual inactivity among young adults might be increasing, so Japan
might be leading the global trend of sexual inactivity.

“Sexual inactivity or inexperience, whether voluntary or not, should
not be exoticized, ridiculed, or necessarily considered a concern for
everyone. More research is needed on reasons for sexual inactivity and
how mating market dynamics might be evolving due to online dating,
shifting expectations in romantic and sexual relationships, and changing
values, lifestyles, and labor market trends,” said Ueda.

No data on same-sex experience

The survey asks about sexual experience with someone of the
opposite sex using a Japanese word that implies vaginal intercourse
(seikosho), but it does not explicitly define different types of sex, as
is common in similar surveys used in other countries.

The researchers assumed all married adults have had sex. Japan does
not yet have marriage equality for same-sex couples. The survey asks no
questions about same-sex sexual experience.

When the researchers made estimations to account for people who
report no heterosexual intercourse but may have had same-sex
intercourse, around 5 percent of people, or one in 20, aged 30 to 39
years old would still lack sexual experience.

Experienced but inactive

Relevant to the national fertility rate and public health
implications but not investigated by the survey are people who have had
intercourse in the past, but have since become sexually inactive.

“The most informative aspect of sexual inactivity involves those who
have opted out of or are, for some reason they cannot control, excluded
from the mating market, regardless of their previous sexual experience.
We’d like to investigate those dynamics in future work,” said Ghaznavi.

Eurasia Review

Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (50 sites)


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