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Earth could be 'unrecognizable' by 2050, experts say

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2011

World population curve. A log scale is used fo...

World Population Growth Curve

http://in.news.yahoo.com/earth-could-be–unrecognizable–by-2050.html

Yahoo! India News – Tue, Feb 22, 2011 4:15 PM IST

The earth could become “unrecognizable” by 2050, if a growing affluent global population keeps consuming more resources, researchers warned at a major US science conference.

“By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable” if the global population continues to increase, said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, “with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia,” said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.

Meanwhile, as income is expected to rise over the next 40 years — tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations, people tend to consume more meat, eggs or dairy products, which would cost more grains to produce, adding more strain to global food supplies.

“We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning,” said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.

It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, AFP reported.

“More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet,” Jason Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced.

Population experts called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations.

[Agencies]

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New Zealand quake kills at least 65; race to reach trapped

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/zealand-city-christchurch-hit-strong-earthquake-20110221-162446-287.html

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – New Zealand rescue teams worked under search lights early Wednesday to find scores of people trapped under collapsed buildings after an earthquake struck the country’s second-biggest city of Christchurch, killing at least 65 people.

About 120 survivors have already been rescued from the rubble, but the death toll is expected to rise following the second strong quake to hit the city of almost 400,000 people in five months.

“We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day…The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise,” said New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who had flown to his home town of Christchurch, where he still has family.

Tuesday’s 6.3 magnitude quake struck at lunchtime, when streets and shops thronged with people and offices were still occupied. It was New Zealand’s most deadly natural disaster for 80 years.

Rescuers, working under lights in rain, focused on two collapsed buildings: a financial-services office block whose four stories pancaked on top of each other, and a TV building which also housed an English-language school.

About a dozen Japanese students at the school were believed to be missing, an official in Japan told Reuters, while public broadcaster NHK said several other students from another group in the building were also unaccounted for.

Trapped survivors could be heard shouting out to rescuers from the TV building. Local media say as many as a dozen or more people could still be inside. Relatives of those feared trapped kept a vigil outside the building as rain began to fall.

“All of our energy tonight is really focused on the need to rescue people,” said Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, estimating 120 people had been pulled out of rubble or rescued so far.

A woman freed from a collapsed building said she had waited for six hours for rescuers to reach her after the quake, which was followed by at least 20 aftershocks.

“I thought the best place was under the desk but the ceiling collapsed on top, I can’t move and I’m just terrified,” office worker Anne Voss told TV3 news by mobile phone.

Christchurch Mayor Parker described the city, a historic tourist town popular with overseas students, as a war zone. He told local radio that up to 200 could be trapped in buildings but later revised that estimate down to around 100 or so.

It was the country’s worst natural disaster since a 1931 quake in the North Island city of Napier which killed 256. Christchurch Hospital saw an influx of injured residents.

“They are largely crushes and cuts types of injuries and chest pain as well,” said David Meates, head of the Canterbury Health Board. Some of the more seriously injured could be evacuated to other cities, he added.

HISTORIC CATHEDRAL IN RUINS

On the way into the city, a Reuters correspondent saw buckled roads, toppled buildings and big pools of water. Police and the army were patrolling the streets.

Christchurch has been described as a little piece of England.

It has an iconic cathedral, now largely destroyed, and a river called the Avon. It had many historic stone buildings, and is popular with English-language students and also with tourists as a springboard for tours of the scenic South Island.

Emergency shelters had also been set up in local schools and at a race course. Helicopters dumped water to try to douse a fire in one tall office building, while a crane was used to help workers trapped in another office block.

“I was in the square right outside the cathedral — the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there. There were people inside as well,” said John Gurr, a camera technician who was in the city centre when the quake hit.

Aerial TV footage of surroundings suburbs showed once-elegant homes in ruins and roads cut off by huge boulders.

There have been offers of help from the United States and Japan, while neighbouring Australia is sending 148 search and rescue specialists, including sniffer dogs. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth offered her sympathy and said in a statement she was

“utterly shocked” by news of the quake.

STREETS TURN INTO QUICKSAND

Christchurch is built on silt, sand and gravel, with a water table beneath. In a quake, the water rises, mixing with the sand and turning the ground into a swamp, swallowing up roads and cars.

TV footage showed sections of road that had collapsed into a milky, sand-coloured lake beneath the surface. One witness described the footpaths as like “walking on sand”.

Unlike last year’s even stronger tremor, which struck early in the morning when streets were virtually empty, people were walking or driving along streets when the shallow tremor struck, sending awnings and the entire faces of buildings crashing down.

Police said debris had rained down on two buses, crushing them, but there was no word on any casualties.

Fears that the quake could dent confidence in the country’s already fragile economy knocked the New Zealand dollar down by about 1.8 percent from late U.S. levels to $0.75 .

Westpac Bank raised the possibility that the central bank could cut interest rates over the next few weeks in a bid to shore up the economy, while other banks pushed out their expectations for the timing of the next rate increase.

ANZ now expects the central bank to keep rates on hold until the first quarter of 2012.

Shares in Australian banks and insurers, which typically have large operations in New Zealand, fell after the quake.

The quake hit at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday) at a depth of only 4 km (2.5 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The tremor was centred about 10 km (six miles) southwest of Christchurch, which had suffered widespread damage during last September’s 7.1 magnitude quake but no deaths.

New Zealand sits between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates and records on average more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which about 20 would normally top magnitude 5.0.

(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota in Singapore; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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Gadhafi's hold on Libya weakens in protest wave

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110221/ap_on_re_af/af_libya_protests

A man holds a poster of Libyan leader Moammar ...
By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Maggie Michael, Associated Press 1 hr 13 mins ago

CAIRO – Deep cracks open up in Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime after more than 40 years in power, with diplomats abroad and the justice minister at home resigning, air force pilots defecting and a fire raging at the main government hall after clashes in the capital Tripoli. Protesters called for another night of defiance in Tripoli’s main square despite the government’s heavy crackdown.

Gadhafi’s regime appeared to be preparing a new major assault in the capital Monday night in an attempt to crush unrest that has already swept the eastern parts of the country — leaving Libya‘s second largest city in protesters’ control — and was now overwhelming the capital of 2 million people.

State TV at nightfall Monday announced that the military had “stormed the hideouts of saboteurs” and called on the public to back the security forces as protesters called for a new demonstration in central Green Square and in front of Gadhafi’s Tripoli residence.

Military warplanes were seen swooping low over the city in the evening, and snipers had taken position on the roofs of buildings around Tripoli, apparently to stop people from outside the capital from joining the march, according to Mohammed Abdul-Malek, a London-based opposition activist in touch with residents.

Communications into the capital appeared to have been cut, and mobile phones of residents could not be reached from outside the country. State TV showed images of hundreds of Gadhafi supporters rallying in central Green Square Monday evening, waving pictures of the Libyan leader and palm fronds.

The eruption of turmoil in the capital after six days of protests and bloody clashes in Libya’s eastern cities sharply escalates the challenge to Gadhafi, the Arab world’s longest ruling leader. His security forces have unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The chaos in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern. European nations were eying an evacuation of their citizens.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring Egypt, called the Libyan government‘s crackdown “appalling.”

“The regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress,” he told reporters in Cairo.

The heaviest fighting so far has been in the east. In Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, security forces opened fire on Sunday on protesters storming police stations and government buildings. But in several instances, units of the military turned against them and sided with protesters.

By Monday, protesters had claimed control of the city, overrunning its main security headquarters, called the Katiba.

Celebrating protesters raised the flag of the country’s old monarchy, toppled in 1969 by a Gadhafi-led military coup, over Benghazi’s main courthouse and on tanks around the city.

“Gadhafi needs one more push and he is gone,” said Amal Roqaqie, a lawyer at the Benghazi court, saying protesters are “imposing a new reality … Tripoli will be our capital. We are imposing a new order and new state, a civil constitutional and with transitional government.”

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, went on state TV in the early hours Monday with a sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes, vowing to fight and warning that if protests continue, a civil war will erupt in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.”

“Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him,” he said. “The armed forces are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” he said.

He also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop, and on Monday state TV said he had formed a commission to investigate deaths during the unrest. Protesters ignored the vague gestures. Even as he spoke, the first clashes between protesters and security forces in the heart of Tripoli were still raging, lasting until dawn.

During the day Monday, a fire raged at the People’s Hall, the main hall for government gatherings where the country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year, the pro-government news web site Qureyna said.

It also reported the first major sign of discontent in Gadhafi’s government, saying justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil resigned from his post to protest the “excessive use of force against unarmed protesters.”

Libya’s U.N. ambassadors called for Gadhafi to step down, and there were reports of a string of ambassadors abroad defecting. Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters, issued a statement demanding Gadhafi and his commanders and aides be put on trial for “the mass killings in Libya.”

“Gadhafi’s regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” al-Houni said.

A Libyan diplomat in China, Hussein el-Sadek el-Mesrati, told Al-Jazeera, “I resigned from representing the government of Mussolini and Hitler.”

Two Mirage warplanes from the Libyan airforce fled a Tripoli air base and landed on the nearby island of Malta, and their pilots — two colonels — asked for political asylum, Maltese military officials said.

The capital Tripoli was largely shut down Monday, with schools, government offices and most stores closed, except for a few bakeries serving residents hunkered in their homes, residents said. Outside, armed members of pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” circulated in the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s old city, said one protester, named Fathi.

Protesters planed new marches Monday evening in the capital’s main Green Square and at the leader’s residence.

A similar march the night before sparked scenes of mayhem in the long heavily secured capital.

Sunday evening, protesters from various parts of the city streamed into Green Square, all but taking over the plaza and surrounding streets in the area between Tripoli’s Ottoman-era old city and its Italian-style downtown. That was when the backlash began, with snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting and chasing people down side streets, according to several witnesses and protests.

Gadhafi supporters in pickup trucks and cars raced through the square, shooting automatic weapons. “They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill. … It was total chaos, shooting and shouting,” said one 28-year-old protester.

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness, named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded. After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two state-run satellite stations, Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness said.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The system of rule created by Gadhafi — the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses” — is highly decentralized, run by “popular committees” in a complicated hierarchy that effectively means there is no real center of decisionmaking except Gadhafi, his sons and their top aides.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime’s face of reform and is often cited as a likely successor to his father. Seif’s younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces, and another brother Khamis heads the army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best trained and best equipped force in the military.

The revolt in Benghazi and other cities in the east illustrated the possibility of the country crumbling.

In Benghazi, cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya” on Monday after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people as security forces defending besieged stations opened fire with heavy caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the airport then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,” said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. “We are appealing to the wise men of every neighborhood to rein in the youths.”

Youth volunteers were directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other residents said police had disappeared from the streets.

After seizing the Katiba, protesters found the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, the doctor. He said protesters believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security forces for refusing to attack protesters.

____

AP correspondents Sarah El Deeb and Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.

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US admiral: Carrier killer won't stop US Navy

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2009 file photo, military ...
In this Oct. 1, 2009 file photo, military vehicles carrying the Dong Feng 21D missiles for a parade.
By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Tue Feb 15, 6:55 am ET

YOKOSUKA, Japan – A new “carrier killer” missile that has become a symbol of China’s rising military might will not force the U.S. Navy to change the way it operates in the Pacific, a senior Navy commander told The Associated Press.

Defense analysts say the Dong Feng 21D missile could upend the balance of power in Asia, where U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II.

However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers — the Navy’s crown jewels.

“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy — it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.

The DF 21D is unique in that it is believed capable of hitting a powerfully defended moving target — like the USS George Washington — with pinpoint precision. That objective is so complex that the Soviets gave up on a similar project.

The missile would penetrate defenses because its speed from launch would not allow enough time for carriers or other large ships to complete countermeasures.

That could seriously weaken Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea, as well as deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

Van Buskirk, whose fleet is responsible for most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with 60-70 ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines under its command, said the capabilities of the Chinese missile are as yet unproven. But he acknowledged it does raise special concerns.

“Any new capability is something that we try to monitor,” he said.

“If there wasn’t this to point to as a game changer, there would be something else,” he said. “That term has been bandied about for many things. I think it really depends in how you define the game, whether it really changes it or not. It’s a very specific scenario for a very specific capability — some things can be very impactful.”

The development of the missile comes as China is increasingly venturing further out to sea and is becoming more assertive around its coastline and in disputes over territory.

Late last year, China and Japan were locked in a heated diplomatic row over several islands both claim in the East China Sea, an area regularly patrolled by U.S. Navy vessels. A flotilla of 10 Chinese warships, including advanced submarines and destroyers, passed through the Miyako Strait last April in the biggest transit of its kind to date.

Experts saw it as an attempt by China to test Japan and the United States and demonstrate its open water capabilities.

China has also expressed strong displeasure with U.S. carrier operations off the Korean Peninsula, saying that they posed a security risk to its capital.

Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.

“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”

The faster-than-expected development of the missile has set off alarm bells in Washington. Further, China is developing a stealth fighter jet that could be used to support its navy in a potential conflict and hopes to deploy its first aircraft carriers over the next decade.

Before visiting Beijing last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he has been concerned about the anti-ship missile since he took office.

In December, Adm. Robert Willard, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper he believed the missile program had achieved “initial operational capability,” meaning a workable design had been settled on and was being further developed.

The missile is considered a key component of China’s strategy of denying U.S. planes and ships access to waters off its coast. The strategy includes overlapping layers of air defense systems, naval assets such as submarines, and advanced ballistic missile systems — all woven together with a network of satellites.

At its most capable, the DF 21D could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers).

To allay regional security fears, van Buskirk said, China needs to be more forthcoming about its intentions.

“It goes back to transparency,” he said. “Using the United States as an example, we are very clear about our intent when conducting routine and normal operations in international waters … That is what you might expect from other nations that might operate in this region.

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Bahrain protesters gather in capital for third day

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_bahrain;_ylt=A0wNdPF9dFtNT28BHxas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhbGphY2EzBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE2L3VzX2JhaHJhaW4EY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMyBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNiYWhyYWlucHJvdGU-

Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl ...
Reuters – Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl Roundabout, a famous landmark of Bahrain
By Cynthia Johnston Cynthia Johnston 30 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Thousands of Shi’ite demonstrators, inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday to mourn for a second protestor killed in clashes this week.

Several hundred gathered at a funeral procession for a man shot dead when police and mourners clashed at an earlier funeral procession on Tuesday.

“We are requesting our rights in a peaceful way,” said Bakr Akil, a 20 year-old university student, wearing a sheet stained with red ink that he said was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice his life for freedom.

“I am optimistic that our big presence will achieve our demands,” Akil said.

Women dressed in black abayas followed the procession with their own chants calling for peace and Bahraini unity.

Elsewhere in central Manama, witnesses say about 2,000 protestors had spent the night in tents at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, similar to the number marching on the streets a day earlier.

It remains to be seen whether the number would rise or fall during Wednesday. Some will have to return to work, after a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammed‘s birthday.

Police kept their distance, mostly confining themselves to a nearby dirt lot with dozens of SUV police vehicles. The ministry of Interior announced that all roads were open.

The demonstrators from Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority say the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.

“The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

The main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which boycotted parliament to protest the clampdown by Sunni security forces, said it would hold talks with the government on Wednesday.

Protesters said their main demand was the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed the Gulf Arab state since its independence in 1971.

An uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he is thought to own much land and is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

DEMOGRAPHIC BALANCE

Activists say they also want the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution.

Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, the rest being foreign workers.

Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking center, could embolden marginalized Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

King Hamad expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.

Bahrain, in a move appeared aimed at preventing Shi’ite discontent from boiling over, had offered cash payouts of around 1,000 dinars ($2,650) per family in the run-up to this week’s protests.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter; writing by Reed Stevenson; editing by Matthew Jones)

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Government: No electronic flaws in Toyotas

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

Toyota Logo

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110208/ap_on_re_us/us_toyota_recalls

By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Ken Thomas, Associated Press Tue Feb 8, 6:12 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Electronic flaws weren’t to blame for the reports of sudden, unintended acceleration that led to the recall of thousands of Toyota vehicles, the government said Tuesday.

Some of the acceleration cases could have been caused by mechanical defects — sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats — that have been dealt with in recalls, the government said.

And in some cases, investigators suggested, drivers simply hit the gas when they meant to press the brake.

“We feel that Toyota vehicles are safe to drive,” declared Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The investigation bolstered Toyota’s contentions that electronic gremlins were not to blame and its series of recalls — involving more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 — had directly addressed the safety concerns.

Transportation officials, assisted by engineers with NASA, said the 10-month study of Toyota vehicles concluded there was no electronic cause of unintended high-speed acceleration. The study, launched at the request of Congress, responded to consumer complaints that flawed electronics could be the culprit behind complaints that led to Toyota’s spate of recalls.

Recalls to fix sticking accelerator pedals, gas pedals that became trapped in floor mats, and other safety issues have posed a major challenge for the world’s No. 1 automaker, which has scrambled to protect its reputation for safety and reliability. Toyota paid the U.S. government a record $48.8 million in fines for its handling of three recalls.

Toyota said the report should “further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles” and “put to rest unsupported speculation” about the company’s electronic throttle control systems, which are “well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur.”

Toyota reported a 39 percent slide in quarterly profit earlier Tuesday but raised its full-year forecasts for earnings and car sales. The financial results and government report boosted shares of the automaker on Wall Street by more than 4 percent, to close at $88.57.

Analysts said the report would help Toyota’s reputation but the company would still need to work hard to regain its bulletproof image of reliability. Toyota was the only major automaker to see a U.S. sales decline last year at 0.4 percent.

“This is really something that is going to take years and years to recover,” said Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research with consulting firm IHS Automotive.

Federal officials said they thoroughly examined the acceleration reports and could not find evidence of an electronic problem. Instead, investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the evidence showed that cases in which owners complained about ineffective brakes were most likely caused by “pedal misapplication,” in which the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

Many of the complaints involved cases in which the vehicle accelerated after it was stationary or at very low speed.

LaHood said NASA engineers “rigorously examined” nine Toyotas driven by consumers who complained of unintended acceleration. NASA reviewed 280,000 lines of software code to look for flaws that could cause the acceleration. Investigators tested mechanical components in Toyotas that could lead to the problem and bombarded vehicles with electro-magnetic radiation to see whether that could make the electronics cause the cars to speed up.

Electronic problems can include buggy software, circuitry influenced by electrical interference and electrical shorts. The problems are often difficult to spot and can surface when combined with environmental factors like a blast from a heater vent or moisture from the road.

A preliminary part of the study, released last August, failed to find any electronic flaws based on a review of event data recorders, or vehicle black boxes.

Not everyone was convinced. Rhonda Smith, of Sevierville, Tennessee, who last year testified before a congressional committee that her Lexus raced up to 100 miles per hour without her control, said Tuesday there had to be a cause other than floor mats or sticky gas pedals because she said neither happened in her case.

“There is a defect in that car whether they want to believe it or not,” Smith said. “They need to keep searching.”

NHTSA administrator David Strickland, however, told reporters that the agency conducted extensive tests on Smith’s vehicle and found “no other vulnerabilities” beyond trapped floor mats.

Consumer advocates and safety groups have raised concerns that flawed electronics could be causing unwanted acceleration in the Toyotas. They have questioned the reliability of the event data recorders studied by the government, saying they could be faulty or fail to tell the whole story of the individual crashes.

Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator who previously led consumer group Public Citizen, said the government investigation discounted research conducted by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“The facts are still quite substantial that there’s a problem and I think they could have done a lot more in terms of gathering more expertise,” Claybrook said.

To promote safety, LaHood said NHTSA was considering new regulations. They include requiring brake override systems on all vehicles, standardizing keyless ignition systems and requiring event data recorders, or vehicle black boxes, on all new vehicles.

Transportation officials said they would also consider conducting more research on electronic control systems and review the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals.

Since the recalls, Toyota has installed brake override systems on new vehicles. The systems automatically cut the throttle when the brake and gas pedals are applied at the same time.

The company also created engineering teams to examine vehicles that are the subject of consumer complaints and appointed a chief quality officer for North America amid complaints its U.S. division did not play a large enough role in making safety decisions.

Toyota’s safety issues received broad attention from the government after four people were killed in a high-speed crash involving a Lexus near San Diego in August 2009.

NHTSA has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade, including allegations of 93 deaths. NHTSA has confirmed five of them.

Congress considered sweeping safety legislation last year that would have required brake override systems, raised penalties on auto companies that evade safety recalls and given the government the power to quickly recall vehicles. But the bills failed to win enough support.

The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a separate study of unintended acceleration in cars and trucks across the auto industry. The panel is expected to release its findings this fall.

___

AP Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Sharon Carty in Detroit contributed to this report.

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Indian waters not safe, pirates helped by some forces: Antony

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

Indian Navy @ Chennai

Indian Navy

http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4896967

09/02/2011

Kochi, Feb 8 (PTI) Voicing concern over recent incidents involving Somali pirates near Indian waters, Defence Minister A K Antony today said some other forces were helping them and the country cannot be a mere spectator to it.

“Our waters are not safe like before. There are some other forces helping them (pirates). We cannot remain mere spectators,” he said, adding the forces are yet to be identified.

The incidents point that the country”s coasts were not protected and “if we are not vigilant, danger would not be far behind”, he said while inaugurating Bharat Electrical Limited”s Product Support Centre at KINFRA Hi Tech Park at nearby Kalamassery.

Antony said Navy and Coast Guard would step up their surveillance along the Kerala-Lakshadweep-Tamil Nadu coast in the wake of arrest of pirates off Lakshadweep islands.

More Naval and Coast Guard vessels and aircraft would be deployed to increase surveillance, he said.

In the last one month, two vessels of the pirates had been seized in joint operations by the Navy and Coast Guard and last year 14 ships were attacked by pirates near the 8 Degree Channel in Lakshadweep.

Later talking to reporters, Antony said India had stated that UN should provide the lead in combating piracy.

On the arrest of some suspected Pakistan and Iranian nationals from a fishing vessel a few months ago near Lakshadweep, he said probe was still on.

Asked about the recent killing of a youth in Kashmir by security forces, he said it was ”unfortunate” and the army had ordered an enquiry. It was a case of mistaken identity, he said.

On the suicide by the uncle of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the NSG commando who was killed during the Mumbai terror attacks, he said it was a very ”painful” incident.

The former Kerala chief minister refused to take any questions on politics saying, “No Politics, no masala.”
Navy also provides a helping hand to fishermen who are in distress when at sea, he said.

The BEL”s centre had been set up to provide waterfront support for the Southern Naval Command here and its to support outsourcing of Naval System projects to units of KELTRON.

Antony said the project, the foundation stone of which was laid in 2008 by him, could be completed in a record time, thanks to the support of the state government.

The Centre, state, local bodies had all come together to see the project became a reality, he said.

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Egypt crisis: President Hosni Mubarak resigns as leader

Posted by Admin on February 14, 2011

Hosni Mubarak - World Economic Forum Annual Me...

People power

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12433045

12 February 2011 Last updated at 05:12 GMT

Vice-President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on state television

Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt, after weeks of protest in Cairo and other cities.

The news was greeted with a huge outburst of joy and celebration by thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the heart of the demonstrations.

Mr Mubarak ruled for 30 years, suppressing dissent and protest, and jailing opponents.

US President Barack Obama said that Egypt must now move to civilian and democratic rule.

This was not the end but the beginning and there were difficult days ahead, the US president added, but he was confident the people could find the answers.

“The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard,” Mr Obama said. “Egypt will never be the same again.”

“They have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.”

‘God help everybody’

Continue reading the main story 

President Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak
  • Elevated from vice-president when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981
  • Supported Sadat’s policy of peace with Israel
  • Maintained emergency law for entire presidency
  • Won three elections unopposed
  • Fourth term secured in 2005 after allowing rivals to stand
  • Economic development led many Egyptians to accept continued rule
  • Survived 1995 assassination attempt in Ethiopia
  • Faced Islamist threat within Egypt, including Luxor massacre of 1997 and Sinai bombings
  • Regularly suppressed dissent, protests and political opponents

Announcing Mr Mubarak’s resignation, Vice-President Omar Suleiman said the president had handed power to the army.

Mr Suleiman said on state TV that the high command of the armed forces had taken over.

“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” he said.

“May God help everybody.”

Later an army officer read out a statement paying tribute to Mr Mubarak for “what he has given” to Egypt but acknowledging popular power.

“There is no legitimacy other than that of the people,” the statement said.

The military high command is headed by Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks described Field Marshal Tantawi as “aged and change-resistant”, but committed to avoiding another war with Israel.

Mr Mubarak has already left Cairo and is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has a residence, officials say.

In Cairo, thousands of people gathered outside the presidential palace, in Tahrir Square and at state TV.

They came out in anger following an address by Mr Mubarak on Thursday. He had been expected to announce his resignation but stopped short of stepping down, instead transferring most powers to Mr Suleiman.

Cairo's Tahrir SquarePlease turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. 

 

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Protester: ‘I’ll tell my children we made this revolution possible’

“The people have brought down the regime,” they chanted in reaction to the news of his eventual resignation less than 24 hours later.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said: “This is the greatest day of my life.”

“You cannot comprehend the amount of joy and happiness of every Egyptian at the restoration of our humanity and our freedom.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s banned Islamist opposition movement, paid tribute to the army for keeping its promises.

“I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people. The main goal of the revolution has been achieved,” said the Brotherhood’s former parliamentary leader, Mohamed el-Katatni.

Continue reading the main story 

At the scene

Yolande Knell BBC News, Cairo 


It is hard to know where to look as you walk through central Cairo. Everyone in this mega-city has spilled out onto the streets to party.

Soldiers lift small, smiling children onto their tanks to pose for photos, whole families are flying flags and wearing matching hats in red, white and black as they walk along the Corniche by the Nile, and motorcyclists precariously weave their way through the crowds yelling “Egypt, Egypt”.

The excited din from Tahrir Square, the scene of the massive protests against President Mubarak that began on 25 January, can be heard from miles off. It is packed with huge crowds.

The demonstrators’ barricades that had controlled entry to the square have been dismantled, and security checkpoints at which people showed identification and had their bags searched have all gone.

Some people are already packing up their tents in the campsite nearby. They have achieved what they set out to do.

Ayman Nour, Mr Mubarak’s rival for the presidency in 2005, described it as the greatest day in Egypt’s history.

“This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt,” he told al-Jazeera TV.

Meanwhile Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, announced that he would leave his post as secretary general of the Arab League “within weeks”, the Egyptian news agency Mena reported. He hinted that he might stand for president.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo said the announcement caught everyone by surprise: all over the city, drivers honked their horns and people fired guns into the air.

But the army takeover looks very much like a military coup, our correspondent adds.

The constitution has been breached, he says, because officially it should be the speaker of parliament who takes over, not the army leadership.

‘Historic change’

There was jubilation throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including in Tunisia, where people overthrew their own president last month.

A military spokesman on state TV Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. 

 

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A military spokesman on state TV ‘salutes’ Hosni Mubarak’s service

For the Arab League, Mr Moussa said events in Egypt presented an opportunity to build a national consensus.

Meanwhile, Iran described the recent events as a “great victory”.

A senior Israeli official expressed the hope that Mr Mubarak’s departure would “bring no change to its peaceful relations with Cairo”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he respected the “difficult decision” taken in the people’s interests, and called for an “orderly and peaceful transition”.

European Union leaders reacted positively to the news of Mr Mubarak’s resignation.

Foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton said the EU “respected” the decision.

“It is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based government which will respect the aspirations of, and deliver stability for, the Egyptian people,” she said.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said this was a “really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the people together”, and called for a “move to civilian and democratic rule”.

Continue reading the main story 

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi

  • Head of higher council of Egyptian armed forces
  • Minister of defence since 1991
  • Commander-in-chief armed forces since 1991
  • Appointed deputy prime minister 31 Jan 2011
  • Born 31 Oct 1935

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the “historic change” in Egypt.

US Vice-President Joe Biden said Egypt had reached a pivotal moment in history.

The anti-government protests that began on 25 January were triggered by widespread unrest in Egypt over unemployment, poverty and corruption.

They followed a popular uprising in Tunisia which brought about the downfall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

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China's wheat crop at risk, world wary

Posted by Admin on February 14, 2011

Wheat Field [E-X-P-L-O-R-E-D]

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Chinas-wheat-crop-at-risk-world-wary/articleshow/7490455.cms

Subodh Varma, TNN, Feb 14, 2011, 12.34am IST

NEW DELHI: There is bad news on the global food front. In an alert issued this week, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that more than two-thirds of China‘s gigantic wheat crop may be under risk “because of substantially below-normal rainfall” this winter.

The affected areas in the northern plains of China produced over 75 million tonne of China’s total production of 112 million tonne of wheat last year. Any shortfall in Chinese production would have serial effects on availability and prices of wheat around the world.

Global food prices have been silently climbing upward through the past six months and with production and consumption very finely balanced, any disruption in production may wreak havoc with prices. Already, food prices are touching the record levels set in 2008 although prices of rice—the world’s largest staple food— are still below those levels.

High food prices have been feeding growing restlessness and anger in a swathe of countries including West Asia. Egypt had experienced an 18.5% rate of inflation driving up prices of all food commodities except bread which is subsidized by the government to the tune of $1.5 billion annually. This was a major contributory factor to the 18-day uprising that dislodged the three-decade-long dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Protests against high food prices have taken place in Oman, Israel and Jordan and have contributed to political unrest in Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria.

Wheat flour prices were 16% higher than a year ago in China driven by fears of drought. The Chinese government has announced a $1.96-billion package to fight drought, including attempts to create artificial rain by cloud seeding.

Apart from staples, sugar prices are running at 30-year highs. Weather-related disruption in Australia, Brazil and China has caused international refined sugar prices to reach 35.6 cents per pound. The average price for sugar in 2010 was 27.78 cents per pound. The last time sugar prices reached these sky-high levels was in 1980.

Meanwhile, the World Sugar Committee, representing leading traders, wrote to the ICE futures commodity exchange blaming parasitic speculators for the high prices of sugar.

Nervous governments across the world are trying to stem the tide in different ways. Several countries in West Asia are stocking up on foodgrain. Iraq, where agricultural production has declined considerably, has placed orders for 300,000 tonne of wheat from the US, with options for another 100,000 tonne. Jordan and Lebanon submitted tenders for 100,000 tonne and 22,500 tonne respectively. Algeria, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia too placed large orders recently. Others, like Russia, have banned exports. Vietnam has devalued its currency, the dong, by 9% to curb inflation.

All these point to an impending crisis in food availability and prices that could lead to further turmoil globally.

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India services PMI up modestly, input prices at 30-mth high

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2011

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/India-services-PMI-modestly-reuters-3999984247.html

A waiter serves coffee to college students surfing the internet at a cafe in Bangalore in this April 6, 2000 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

 

On Thursday 3 February 2011, 10:31 AM

BANGALORE (Reuters) – Business activity in India’s services sector grew at a faster clip in January than in the previous month, boosted by new orders and expectations of solid growth, but costs also soared, a survey showed on Thursday.

The HSBC Markit Business Activity Index, based on a survey of around 400 firms, rose to 58.1 in January after falling to 57.7 in December from November’s four-month high.

It was the 21st consecutive month the key index of the service sector in Asia’s third largest economy has been above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

“India’s service sector saw a slight acceleration in the momentum in January, with activities, orders, and employment growing a bit faster and readings staying firmly in expansionary territory,” said Leif Eskesen, chief economist for India & ASEAN at HSBC.

The PMI’s employment index and the business expectations index climbed to their highest in seven months, indicating Indian firms were more optimistic about the year ahead.

However, the input price index hit a 30-month high of 61.99 in January and prices charged were at a nine-month high, underscoring the threat that higher raw material prices are rapidly filtering into the broader economy, fueling inflationary pressures.

“As we saw for the manufacturing sector, however, the supply side is struggling to keep pace with the strong momentum in domestic demand, which is manifesting itself in accelerating input prices and is spilling over to prices charged,” Eskesen said.

India’s manufacturing sector expanded at a slightly faster pace in January but input prices jumped, adding to pressure from food inflation that the government and central bank are already struggling to contain.

“The current strong pace of activity is clearly not compatible with comfortable and stable levels of inflation, underscoring the urgency of continued monetary policy tightening and the need to prepare a budget for the next fiscal year, which is consistent with an appropriately contractionary fiscal policy stance,” Eskesen said.

India’s central bank raised interest rates on Jan. 25 by a quarter of a percentage point, bringing the repo rate to 6.5 percent, in an attempt to suppress stubborn inflation. The increase was its seventh rate rise over the past year and more hikes are expected to follow later in 2011.

The Reserve Bank of India has lifted inflation projections for March 2011 to 7 percent.

(Reporting by Ruby Cherian; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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World food prices seen at record high in January

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2011

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/World-food-prices-seen-record-reuters-194064327.html

A vendor sorts tomatoes at a wholesale vegetable and fruit market in Chandigarh January 29, 2011. REUTERS/Ajay Verma
On Thursday 3 February 2011, 6:12 AM

 

By Svetlana Kovalyova

MILAN (Reuters) – Surging food prices are on Thursday expected to push the United Nations ‘ food price index to a record high in January for a second straight month, further above the levels which prompted food riots in 2007/2008.

The Food Price Index of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, hit a record in December, above a previous high set in June 2008 during the food crisis.

A mix of high oil and fuel prices, growing use of biofuels, bad weather and soaring futures markets pushed up prices of food in 2007/08, sparking violent protests in countries including Egypt , Cameroon and Haiti.

The Rome-based agency has warned food prices could climb even higher, expressing concern about global weather patterns.

Severe drought in the Black Sea last year, heavy rains in Australia and dry weather in Argentina and anticipation of a spike in demand after unrest in north Africa and the Middle East has helped power grain prices to multi-year highs.

The worst winter storm for decades in the U.S. grain belt kept up pressure on wheat futures on Wednesday.

Surging food prices have come back into the spotlight after they helped fuelled protests that toppled Tunisia’s president in January and have spilled over to Egypt and Jordan, raising speculation other countries in the region would secure grain stocks to reassure their populations.

Algeria on Jan.26 confirmed it had bought almost a million tonnes of wheat, bringing its bread wheat purchases to at least 1.75 million since the start of January, and ordered an urgent speeding up of grain imports, a move aimed at building stocks.

World leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week warned rising food prices could stoke more unrest and even war. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated calls for regulation to rein in speculation and volatility.

Multi-year highs for grain and sugar futures in January helped push higher spot and physical prices which the FAO uses to calculate the index.

(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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