Archive for ‘Good news’

16/04/2014

A Green Group Sees Hope in ‘The End of China’s Coal Boom’ – NYTimes.com – NYTimes.com

A report from Greenpeace charts slowing growth in China’s coal use.

Through much of its history, Greenpeace has been big on what I call “woe is me, shame on you” messaging on the environment. As I explained at a TEDx event in Portland, Ore., over the weekend, fingerpointing (including Greenpeace’s) is appropriate in many instances, but doesn’t work well with human-driven global warming. The blame game too often ends up resembling a circular firing squad.

This is why “The End of China’s Coal Boom,” a valuable new report from Greenpeace’s East Asia office, is so refreshing and worth exploring. I was led to it by a Twitter item from the group’s outgoing director, Phil Radford, that focused on a telling graphic:

View image on Twitter

via A Green Group Sees Hope in ‘The End of China’s Coal Boom’ – NYTimes.com – NYTimes.com.

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16/04/2014

India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek

India signed contracts to purchase solar power from companies building 700 megawatts of capacity awarded in a national auction.

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts...

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts peak near Thüngen/Bavaria Deutsch: Solarpark/photovoltaikanlage mit 19 Megawatt Spitzenleistung nahe Thüngen/Bayern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The government is waiting to sign purchase agreements for the remaining 50 megawatts from the auction in February, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said today in an interview in New Delhi. The agreements, which lock in rates for the power generated for 25 years, bind developers to complete the plants within 13 months.

Two developers dropped out after winning bids, including St. Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison Inc. (SUNE:US), which said last week it gave up a 20-megawatt project because local equipment shortages and prices make it unviable. The other developer that Kapoor didn’t identify forfeited its project after failing to get permission from its parent to proceed, he said.

via India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist

AGAINST a powerful alliance of factory bosses and Communist Party chiefs, Zeng Feiyang cuts a frail figure. Mr Zeng, who is 39, works from a windowless office in Panyu, on the edge of the southern city of Guangzhou, where he runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called the Panyu Migrant Workers’ Service Centre. For more than a decade his organisation has battled against the odds to defend the rights of workers in the factories of Guangdong province. For his troubles, Mr Zeng has been evicted from various premises, had his water and electricity cut off, and been constantly harassed by local officials and their thugs. Then last autumn he received a call from one such official. “The man asked if I wanted to register the NGO,” he says. “I was very surprised.”

Over the past three years other activists at unregistered NGOs have received similar phone calls from the authorities about the sensitive issue of registration, an apparently mundane bit of administrative box-ticking which in fact represents real change. China has over 500,000 NGOs already registered with the state. The number comes with a big caveat. Many NGOs are quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money. Of those genuine groups that do seek to improve the common lot, nearly all carry out politically uncontentious activities. But perhaps 1.5m more are not registered, and some of these, like Mr Zeng’s, pursue activism in areas which officials have often found worrying.

These unregistered NGOs are growing in number and influence. They are a notable example of social forces bubbling up from below in a stubbornly top-down state. The organisations could be a way for the Communist Party to co-opt the energy and resources of civil society. They could also be a means by which that energy challenges the party’s power. And so their status has big implications. Guo Hong of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences in Chengdu calls the liberalisation of NGO registration laws “the partial realisation of freedom of association”. Just as economic liberalisation in the early 1980s had a profound material effect, so these latest moves could have a profound social one.

via Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has lasted longer, gone deeper, and struck higher than many analysts and academics had expected. Xi has been so zealous that since late last year retired Communist Party leaders including ex-President Jiang Zemin have cautioned him to take a more measured pace and not be too harsh, say Ding Xueliang, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Willy Lam, an expert on elite politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Berlin on March 28

Xi is cracking down on the army and the police at the same time, something no leader has done before, says Ding. Gu Junshan, a lieutenant general in charge of logistics for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been charged with bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on March 31. He will be tried in military court.

China’s former top cop and security czar Zhou Yongkang is under investigation for corruption, say Ding and Lam. When asked at a March 2 press conference whether Zhou was under suspicion, a government spokesman avoided a direct answer, saying, “Anyone who violates the party’s discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is.” He added what seems to be a veiled confirmation: “I can only say so much so far. You know what I’m saying.”

More than 180,000 party officials were punished for corruption and abuse of power last year, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s watchdog. While most were low-level officials—or “flies,” as Xi has put it—they also included senior party members—“tigers,” in Xi’s words. Thirty-one senior officials were investigated by the commission last year: Eight had their graft cases handed over to prosecutors. The remaining 23 are still being investigated.

via In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters

Good news for Chinese health, bad news for the cigarette industry.

“China’s capital Beijing is proposing to ban the use of government money to buy cigarettes, either as gifts or to be provided at official functions, state media said on Friday, in the latest move to try and curtail smoking.

Extinguished cigarettes are seen in an ashtray at the Shanghai Railway Station December 23, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

China, home to some 300 million smokers, is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, and smoking is a ubiquitous part of social life, particularly for men. Cartons of cigarettes are commonly given as presents or provided at formal events.

The Beijing government rules, currently in the proposal stage, would ban cigarettes being provided or given at any official event, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The rules also seek a ban on promotional sales activities or advertising for cigarettes and a ban on smoking in public places like train stations, hospitals and schools, with fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), the report said.

Beijing, along with other parts of China, already bans smoking in many public places, though the rules are generally ignored.

Xinhua did not say when the new rules may go into effect.

Tougher regulation of smoking is a priority this year, officials from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in January, adding that the agency was pushing lawmakers to toughen laws on tobacco use.

The ruling Communist Party said last year that officials must not light up in schools, workplaces, stadiums, and on public transport, among other places, so as to set a positive example.

($1 = 6.2125 Chinese yuan)”

via Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters.

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08/04/2014

Singapore Airlines to Start First-Ever A380 Superjumbo Flights into India – India Real Time – WSJ

Singapore Airlines Ltd.C6L.SG +0.68% will be the first commercial carrier to operate Airbus A380 superjumbos into India next month, after authorities there lifted a years-long ban on the world’s biggest jetliner.

The first A380 delivered to Singapore Airlines arrives at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse Blagnac, southern France, in this file picture taken October 15, 2007. Reuters

Singapore’s flag carrier says starting from May 30 it will deploy the double-decker A380, which seats up to 471 passengers, on daily flights to New Delhi and Mumbai, India’s two largest aviation hubs.

Those flights will replace two existing daily services currently flown by smaller Boeing 777 aircraft that are timed about 90 minutes apart, helping boost cost efficiencies for the airline. Another daily 777 service to both cities will remain unchanged, according to the airline.

Major airlines have been lobbying to fly the A380 into India since the aircraft’s commercial launch more than six years ago. Analysts say it will help alleviate worsening congestion at India’s major international gateways, particularly since the number of passengers is expected to rise in the coming years.

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India prevented the A380’s entry for years because the government feared that foreign carriers would gobble up passenger traffic from state-owned Air India and other domestic carriers using the large planes. None of India’s carriers operate the jumbo jet.

India’s civil-aviation ministry finally lifted the unofficial ban in January, permitting A380 flights to and from New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore as part of efforts to liberalize the aviation sector and revive growth.

Nine of the 10 airlines that currently operate A380s have scheduled flights into India, with at least five having expressed interest in flying the large jet into the country.

via Singapore Airlines to Start First-Ever A380 Superjumbo Flights into India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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01/04/2014

China charges former senior military officer with graft: Xinhua | Reuters

China has charged former senior army officer Gu Junshan with corruption, state news agency Xinhua said, in what is likely to be the country’s worst military scandal since a vice admiral was jailed for life for embezzlement in 2006.

An unfinished residence which belongs to former People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Gu Junshan is pictured in Puyang, Henan province January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

In a renewed campaign on graft, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to go after both powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies”, warning that the issue is so severe it threatens the ruling Communist Party’s survival.

Gu has been charged with corruption, taking bribes, misuse of public funds and abuse of power, Xinhua said on one of its official microblogs on Monday. He will be tried by a military court, it added.

Three sources with ties to the leadership or military, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gu also sold military positions.

Gu has been under investigation for corruption since he was sacked as deputy director of the logistics department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2012, sources have said.

Sources told Reuters this month that Xu Caihou, 70, who retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year and from the Communist Party’s decision-making politburo in 2012, was under virtual house arrest while helping in the probe into Gu.

As one of Gu’s main supporters in his rise through the ranks, Xu is being implicated in ignoring, or at least failing to report, Gu’s alleged misdeeds.

Reuters has not been able to reach either Xu or Gu for comment. It is not clear if they have lawyers.

via China charges former senior military officer with graft: Xinhua | Reuters.

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30/03/2014

Exclusive: China seizes $14.5 billion assets from family, associates of ex-security chief – sources | Reuters

Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from family members and associates of retired domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades, two sources said.

China's Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang reacts as he attends the Hebei delegation discussion sessions at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing in this October 16, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, the sources, who have been briefed on the investigation, told Reuters.

The sheer size of the asset seizures and the scale of the investigations into the people around Zhou – both unreported until now – make the corruption probe unprecedented in modern China and would appear to show that President Xi Jinping is tackling graft at the highest levels.

But it may also be driven partly by political payback after Zhou angered leaders such as Xi by opposing the ouster of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power.

Zhou, 71, has been under virtual house arrest since authorities began formally investigating him late last year. He is the most senior Chinese politician to be ensnared in a corruption investigation since the Communist Party swept to power in 1949.

“It’s the ugliest in the history of the New China,” said one of the sources, who has ties to the leadership, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to the foreign media about elite politics.

The government has yet to make any official statement about Zhou or the case against him and it has not been possible to contact Zhou, his family, associates or staff for comment. It is not clear if any of them have lawyers.

via Exclusive: China seizes $14.5 billion assets from family, associates of ex-security chief – sources | Reuters.

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21/03/2014

AAP Ousts Two Members on Corruption Concerns – India Real Time – WSJ

The political party created to combat corruption, the Aam Aadmi Party, moved quickly to protect its squeaky-clean image Friday, kicking out two party members amid allegations of bribery.

The two party workers have been accused of demanding bribes from wannabe politicians who were trying to get AAP tickets or nomination papers to run on behalf of the party for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Aam Aadmi, or common man, Party said it discovered demands had been made though no deal was done.

“The transactions did not take place but promises were made,” said Arvind Kejriwal, anti-corruption crusader and leader of the AAP, at a news conference on Friday.

One of the workers that was pushed out of the party, Aruna Singh, was an organizer for the party in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh and said she was not sure what she was being accused of. She had heard there was some recording of her allegedly involved in some kind of political transaction.

“This decision about me has been taken in haste,” Ms. Singh told The Wall Street Journal. “I didn’t get an opportunity to defend myself. If there is any recording of any transaction, they should have asked me if I was involved.”

Ashok Kumar, the other party member that was ousted, was a treasurer for the party in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

via AAP Ousts Two Members on Corruption Concerns – India Real Time – WSJ.

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09/03/2014

* With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters

China has curtailed the power of the ruling Communist Party’s Political and Legal Committee, a secretive body overseeing the security services, to interfere in most legal cases, scholars with knowledge of the situation said – a significant reform at a time of public discontent over miscarriages of justice.

Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, attends National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

The move, which has not been made public by the party but has been announced in internal meetings, would clip the wings of the party’s highest authority on judicial and security matters.

Interference from the committee has led to many wrongful convictions, many of which have been widely reported in the press and even highlighted by President Xi Jinping as an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

Part of a package of legal reforms, the move signals a willingness by Xi’s government to reform its court system as long as it doesn’t threaten the party’s overall control.

China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court, will delivers its work report to parliament on Monday, which could detail some of these reforms.

But the party would still have final say over politically sensitive cases such as those involving ethnic issues and senior politicians – like the disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, who was last year found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power, and jailed for life – and would use the courts to convict citizens who challenge its authority.

via With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters.

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