22/05/2017

Indian woman ‘sets new Everest dual ascent record’ – BBC News

An Indian has climbed Mount Everest twice in under a week in what may be a new woman’s record for fastest double ascent of the world’s highest peak.

Anshu Jamsenpa, a 37-year-old mother-of-two, reached the summit on 16 and 21 May, tourism official Gyanendra Shrestha confirmed to BBC Nepali.

The current Guinness record for woman’s fastest double ascent is seven days.

News of Ms Jamsenpa’s climbs came as at least three climbers were killed on the mountain over the weekend.

An Australian climber died on the Tibetan side, while a Slovak and an American died on the Nepalese side. Rescuers have failed to locate a fourth climber – who is from India – who disappeared shortly after reaching the summit.

Hundreds of mountaineers are hoping to scale the world’s highest peak before the monsoon sweeps in next month.

 

It’s the second time Ms Jamsenpa, who is from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, has notched up an Everest double ascent. Her previous feat was in 2011, but those ascents came 10 days apart.

She will now have to approach Guinness World Records to register her climbs after they have been certified by Nepal’s ministry of tourism.

The current woman’s record was set by Nepalese climber Chhurim Sherpa in 2012.

Apart from her two double ascents, Ms Jamsenpa also scaled the mountain in 2013.Her husband, Tsering Wange, told the BBC that her plan was always to do a double ascent twice, but her second attempt did not succeed in 2014 due to an avalanche and in 2015 because of the devastating Nepal earthquake.

Source: Indian woman ‘sets new Everest dual ascent record’ – BBC News

22/05/2017

India announces policy for strategic partnerships in defence | Reuters

India on Saturday finalised a policy that would allow local private companies to work with foreign players to make high-tech defence equipment, in a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to cut reliance on imports.

The policy, whose finer details are still to be formalised, will initially allow the entry of private companies into the manufacture of submarines, fighter aircrafts and armoured vehicles through foreign partnerships, a statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.”In future, additional segments will be added,” the statement said.

Industry experts have said that delays in finalising procurement policies have undermined India’s efforts to get local, largely inexperienced, companies to tie up with foreign manufacturers, a necessary step if domestic firms are to utilise the latest technology.

Prime Minister Modi has vowed to reverse India’s dependence on imports by building a local manufacturing industry. The government is forecast to spend $250 billion on modernisation of its armed forces over the next decade.The policy, announced on Saturday, would allow Indian companies to partner with global defence majors “to seek technology transfers and manufacturing know-how to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains,” the statement said.

Foreign manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems and Saab are looking to India as one of the biggest sources of future growth.

Source: India announces policy for strategic partnerships in defence | Reuters

22/05/2017

China, Russia formalize Shanghai venture to build wide-body jet | Reuters

China and Russia on Monday completed the formal registration of a joint venture to build a proposed wide-body jet, kickstarting the full-scale development of a program that aims to compete with market leaders Boeing (BA.N) and Airbus (AIR.PA).

State planemakers Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) [CMAFC.UL] and Russia’s United Aircraft Corp (UAC) said at a ceremony in Shanghai the joint venture would aim to build a “competitive long range wide-body commercial aircraft”.

COMAC, which is increasingly looking to break the hold Boeing and Airbus have over the global commercial jet market, successfully completed the maiden flight of its home-grown C919 narrow-body passenger jet earlier this month.

“The long-haul, wide-body passenger jet is a strategic project for China and Russia, followed closely by the two governments,” said Guo Bozhi, general manager of COMAC’s wide-body department.

COMAC and UAC first announced the twin-aisle jet program in 2014 but the project has so far been slow to materialize.

In November, the firms said they had set up a joint venture in Shanghai and unveiled a mock-up of the wide-body jet, based around a basic version that would seat 280 and have a range of up to 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles).

UAC president Yuri Slyusar said the firms were aiming to complete the wide-body jet’s maiden flight and first delivery between 2025-2028. He added the plane would look to take 10 percent of the market from the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350.

Previously, the firms had been aiming for a maiden flight of the jet in 2022 and delivery from 2025 or later.

While the target is tough, it is more realistic than recent aircraft programs that have sought results in 5-7 years and then come in late, industry analysts said. COMAC’s first homegrown jet, the ARJ-21, obtained permission to enter domestic service more than 10 years behind its original schedule.

COMAC and UAC hold equal shares in the joint venture.

Last July, Boeing forecast the world’s airlines would need 9,100 wide-body planes over 20 years to 2035, with a wave of replacement demand to come between 2021-2028.China has plowed billions of dollars over the past decade into a domestic jet development program as it looks to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost high-tech manufacturing at home.

Source: China, Russia formalize Shanghai venture to build wide-body jet | Reuters

18/05/2017

Why are millions of Indian women dropping out of work? – BBC News

Why are millions of women dropping out of work in India?

The numbers are stark – for the first time in India’s recent history, not only was there a decline in the female labour participation rate, but also a shrinking of the total number of women in the workforce.

Nearly 20 million Indian women quit work between 2004-05 to 2011-12

The labour force participation rate for women of working age declined from 42% in 1993-94 to 31% in 2011-12

Some 53% of the total drop – the largest chunk – happened among women aged 15-24 and living in villages

In rural areas, the female labour force participation rate dropped from 49% to 37.8% between 2004-05 and 2009-10

While more than 24 million men joined the work force between 2004-5 to 2009-10, the number of women in the the work force dropped by 21.7 million

Using data gleaned from successive rounds of National Sample Survey Organisation and census data, a team of researchers from World Bank have attempted to find out why this is happening.

“These are significant matters of concern. As India poises itself to increase economic growth and foster development, it is necessary to ensure that its labour force becomes fully inclusive of women,” says the study, authored by Luis A Andres, Basab Dasgupta, George Joseph, Vinoj Abraham and Maria Correia.

So what accounts for the unprecedented and puzzling drop in women’s participation in the workforce – at a time when India’s economy has grown at a steady pace?

Women need better and more suitable job opportunities outside farming, the authors say

Predictable social norms are attributed to women quitting work in India: marriage, motherhood, vexed gender relations and biases, and patriarchy.

But they may not be the only reasons. Marriage, for example, does affect the rate of participation of women in the workforce. But in villages, the workforce participation rate of married women has been found to be higher than that of unmarried women – whereas in the cities, the situation is reversed.

Significantly, rising aspirations and relative prosperity may be actually responsible for putting a large cohort of women out of work in India.

Remember, the largest drop has been in the villages.

After calculating the labour force participation rates and educational participation rates (young women in schools) the researchers believe that one plausible explanation for the drop in the participation rate among rural girls and women aged 15-24 is the recent expansion of secondary education and rapidly changing social norms leading to “more working age young females opting to continue their education rather than join the labour force early”.

The study says there has been a “larger response to income changes among the poor, rather than the wealthy, by sending children to school”.

Also, casual workers – mainly women – drop out of the workforce when wages increased for regular earners – mainly men – leading to the stabilisation of family incomes.

“Improved stability in family income can be understood as a disincentive for female household members to join the labour force,” says the study.

Many women work outside the home, and on their farms

“This largely resonates with the existing literature, which suggests that with rising household income levels, women in rural India withdraw from paid labour and engage in status production at home.

“But dropping or opting out of the workforce to go to school and get an education may not ensure that these women will eventually go to work.

After studying the relationship with the female labour participation rate and levels of educational achievements, the researchers found that having a high school-level education was “not found to be an incentive for women” to work.

The lowest rate of participation is among those who had secured school and high school education in the cities and villages. And the rate is actually highest among illiterates and college graduates.

But there has been a general drop in the rate in recent years, indicating that irrespective of educational attainments, “the incentive for women to participate in the workforce has declined over this period”.

Will new maternity law help keep Indian women in work?

The Indian women who took on a multinational and won

To be sure, India has a poor record of female participation in the workforce: the International Labour Organisation ranked it 121 out of 131 countries in 2013, one of the lowest in the world.

Also, India is not an outlier when it comes to women dropping out of the workforce.

Between 2004 and 2012, the female labour force participation rate in China dropped from 68% to 64%, but the participation rate remains very high compared with India. In neighbouring Sri Lanka, for example, the participation rate has dropped, but only by 2%.

“India stands out because of a such a sharp decline within such a short period. In levels, it is very low in international rankings now,” the researchers told me.

Indian woman auto rickshaw driver Rajani Jadhav pose for photographs during her training session of rickshaw driving in Mumbai, India, 14 April 2017.India needs to offer more opportunities to women, the researchers say

Clearly women need better and more suitable job opportunities, outside agriculture. Rural labour markets need to offer jobs that are acceptable and attractive to women and their families.

The World Bank study suggests that gains will not be realised unless social norms around women’s – and men’s – work also change:

“Strategies to communicate the importance of women’s work should take into account the roles of women, husbands and in-laws.”

Also, as another study says, the “ongoing decrease in the availability of farm-based work, has led to women focusing on economic activities within their households”. Should home-based workers then be counted as members of the labour force?

Source: Why are millions of Indian women dropping out of work? – BBC News

18/05/2017

China taps into cool future for global energy | South China Morning Post

China has succeeded in extracting methane gas from solid deposits under the sea in an experiment that could eventually lead to the commercial production of what is being touted as an abundant new source of energy.In a first for the country, engineers extracted the gas from the so-called “flammable ice” – methane hydrate, where the gas is trapped in ice crystals – and converted it to natural gas in a single, continuous operation on a floating production platform in the Shenhu area of the South China Sea, about 300km southeast of Hong Kong, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Thursday.

Methane hydrate is formed in such abundance that the US Department of Energy has estimated the total amount could exceed the combined energy content of all other fossil fuels, sparking interest in the resource worldwide.

The US, Canada and Japan have been leading research into it, and Japan said earlier this month it had successfully produced natural gas from methane hydrate off its Pacific coast and plans to conduct continuous production for three to four weeks. Japan’s tests are being carried out on a ship, whereas China is using a floating platform.

China was a latecomer to the methane hydrate scene, but has been catching up fast since the discovery of promising reserves in the South China Sea in 2007. Earlier this year scientists built the nation’s first land-based drilling platform on the Tibetan Plateau, where abundant methane is trapped under the permafrost.

In the latest breakthrough, a bore head was lowered to extract the gas and convert it to natural gas, according to video footage shown on China Central Television.

“We brought the gas to the surface and have lit it up since May 10. By now, the drill has been running continually for eight days,” Ye Jianliang, project leader and deputy chief engineer at the China Geological Survey, told the broadcaster.

“The daily output [of gas] exceeds 10,000 cubic metres. The best day recorded 35,000 cubic metres,” Ye said.Chen Yifeng, associate researcher with the Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea Geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, said the trial run was different from previous operations by other countries because it followed the procedures of commercial production.

“The technology and equipment they use is no longer for experimental purposes. They mean business,” she said.But methane hydrate has its disadvantages, according to Chen. Unlike oil and natural gas reserves which are usually concentrated in confined spaces, the hydrates are often scattered over large areas on the sea floor, and extracting them was like “picking strawberries in a field”.

Also, unlike mineral ores, the “ice” cannot be taken straight out of the water because it would disintegrate with the loss of pressure. Sophisticated machinery and technology was required to depressurize or melt it on the sea bed and channel the gas to the surface.

She also noted that one reason why some countries had put commercial exploitation on hold was because of a fear of a massive escape of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, which could occur if drilling machines destroyed the stability of a seabed.

Some researchers have speculated that methane hydrate had caused a rapid buildup of pipeline pressure that led to the deadly explosion and subsequent massive oil spill on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico seven years ago.

A mainland government energy researcher, who declined to be named, doubted whether commercialisation could begin any time soon.

“The government statement has not disclosed the cost, but at this stage, to produce natural gas from combustible ice is likely to make no economic sense,” the researcher said.

“China became the world’s first because no other country has the motivation to do it while oil prices remain low.”

Source: China taps into cool future for global energy | South China Morning Post

18/05/2017

Indian cabinet approves plans to build 10 nuclear reactors | Reuters

India’s cabinet approved plans on Wednesday to build 10 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 7,000 megawatts (MW), more than the country’s entire current capacity, to try fast-track its domestic nuclear power programme.

The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government marks the first strategic response to the near collapse of Westinghouse, the U.S. reactor maker that had been in talks to build six of its AP1000 reactors in India.Westinghouse, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after revealing billions of dollars in cost overruns at its U.S. projects, raising doubts about whether it can complete the India deal.

India has installed nuclear capacity of 6,780 MW from 22 plants and plans to add another 6,700 MW by 2021-22 through projects currently under construction. The 10 additional reactors would be the latest design of India’s Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor.

“This project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximise cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution,” the government said in a statement.

“It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step towards strengthening India’s credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse.”

Westinghouse has said it plans to continue construction of its AP1000 plants in China and expects to bid for new plants in India and elsewhere, without elaborating on how it plans to do so.

Indian companies such as Larsen and Toubro, Kirloskar Brothers Limited and Godrej & Boyce welcomed the government’s move.

Sanjay Kirloskar, chairman of Kirloskar Brothers Limited, said: “nuclear power plants will go a long way in reducing the perennial energy deficit,” while Larsen and Toubro’s director S.N. Roy called the move “bold and historic.”

Source: Indian cabinet approves plans to build 10 nuclear reactors | Reuters

08/05/2017

The bullies of Urumqi: The extraordinary ways in which China humiliates Muslims | The Economist

CHINESE officials describe the far western province of Xinjiang as a “core area” in the vast swathe of territory covered by the country’s grandiose “Belt and Road Initiative” to boost economic ties with Central Asia and regions beyond.

They hope that wealth generated by the scheme will help to make Xinjiang more stable—for years it has been plagued by separatist violence which China says is being fed by global jihadism. But the authorities are not waiting. In recent months they have intensified their efforts to stifle the Islamic identity of Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs, fearful that any public display of their religious belief could morph into militancy.Xinjiang’s 10m Uighurs (nearly half of its population) have long been used to heavy-handed curbs: a ban on unauthorised pilgrimages to Mecca, orders to students not to fast during Ramadan, tough restrictions on Islamic garb (women with face-covering veils are sometimes not allowed on buses), no entry to many mosques for people under 18, and so on.

But since he took over last August as Xinjiang’s Communist Party chief, Chen Quanguo has launched even harsher measures—pleased, apparently, by his crushing of dissent in Tibet where he previously served as leader. As in Tibet, many Xinjiang residents have been told to hand their passports to police and seek permission to travel abroad. In one part of Xinjiang all vehicles have been ordered to install satellite tracking-devices. There have been several shows of what officials call “thunderous power”, involving thousands of paramilitary troops parading through streets.

Last month, new rules came into effect that banned “abnormal” beards (such as the one worn by the man pictured in front of the main mosque in Kashgar in south-western Xinjiang). They also called on transport workers to report women wearing face veils or full-body coverings to the police, and prohibited “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervour”. A leaked list of banned names includes Muhammad, Mecca and Saddam. Parents may not be able to obtain vital household-registration papers for children with unapproved names, meaning they could be denied free schooling and health care.

Residents have also been asked to spy on each other. In Urumqi, the region’s capital, locals can report security threats via a new mobile app. People living in Altay in northern Xinjiang have been promised rewards of up to 5m yuan ($720,000) for tip-offs that help capture militants—over 200 times the local income per person.

Across Xinjiang residents have been asked to inform the authorities of any religious activities, including weddings and circumcisions. The government is also testing its own people’s loyalty. In March an official in Hotan in southern Xinjiang was demoted for “timidity” in “fighting against religious extremism” because he chose not to smoke in front of a group of mullahs.

Mr Chen is widely rumoured to be a contender for a seat in the ruling Politburo in a reshuffle due late this year. Displays of toughness may help to ingratiate him with China’s president, Xi Jinping, who has called for “a great wall of iron” to safeguard Xinjiang. Spending on security in Xinjiang was nearly 20% higher in 2016 than the year before. Adverts for security-related jobs there increased more than threefold last year, reckon James Leibold of La Trobe University and Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology at Korntal, Germany.

Uighurs have been blamed for several recent attacks in Xinjiang. In one of them in February, in the southern prefecture of Hotan, three knife-wielding men killed five people and injured several others before being shot dead by police (local reports suggested the violence occurred after a Uighur family was punished for holding a prayer session at home). Officials may be congratulating themselves on the success of their tactics; reported large-scale attacks by Uighurs inside and outside Xinjiang have abated in the past 18 months. Yet as in Tibet, intrusive surveillance and curbs on cultural expression have fuelled people’s desperation. “A community is like a fruit,” says a Uighur driver from Kashgar. “Squash it too hard and it will burst.”

Source: The bullies of Urumqi: The extraordinary ways in which China humiliates Muslims | The Economist

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05/05/2017

China’s first big passenger plane takes off for maiden flight – BBC News

After about 90 minutes in the air the plane landed safely back at Pudong airport in Shanghai.

China’s first large domestically made passenger aircraft has completed its maiden flight, mounting a major challenge to Boeing and Airbus.

After about 90 minutes in the air the plane landed safely back at Pudong airport in Shanghai.

The plane is a key symbol of Beijing’s soaring ambitions to enter the global aviation market.

The jet by state-owned firm Comac has been planned since 2008 but the flight was repeatedly pushed back.For Friday’s maiden flight, the plane carried only its skeleton crew of five pilots and engineers and took off in front of a crown of thousands of dignitaries, aviation workers and enthusiasts.

Ahead of the flight, state television said the plane would fly at an altitude of only 3,000 metres (9,800 feet), some 7,000 metres lower than a regular trip, and reach a speed of around 300 kilometres (186 miles) per hour.

The C919 is designed to be a direct competitor to Boeing’s 737 and the Airbus A320.

It’s estimated that the global aviation market will be worth $2tn (£1.55tn) over the next 20 years.

China’s new pride of the skies

Robin Brant tours the C919

  • The C919 is a single-aisle twin-engine plane with a capacity to seat up to 168 passengers.
  • It will have a range of between 4,075 and 5,555km (2,532 – 3,452 miles).
  • According to Chinese media, it will cost around $50m, less than half of a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

The plane still relies on a wide array of imported technology though, it is for instance powered by engines from French-US supplier CFM International.

Orders have already been placed for more than 500 of the planes, with commitments from 23 customers, say officials, mainly Chinese airlines. The main customer is China Eastern Airlines.

Europe’s aviation safety regulator has started the certification process for the C919 – a crucial step for the aircraft to be successful on the international market.

China has had ambitions to build its own civil aircraft industry since the 1970s, when leader Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, personally backed a project.

But the Y-10, built in the late 1970s, was impractical due to its heavy weight and only three of the aircraft were ever made.

Source: China’s first big passenger plane takes off for maiden flight – BBC News

04/05/2017

Aadhaar: Are a billion identities at risk on India’s biometric database – BBC News

Shyam Divan was arguing a crucial petition challenging a new law that makes it compulsory for people to submit a controversial biometric-based personal identification number while filing income tax returns.

“My fingerprints and iris are mine and my own. The state cannot take away my body,” a lawyer told India’s Supreme Court last week

Defending this law, the government’s top law officer told the court on Tuesday that an individual’s “right to body is not an absolute right”.

“You can have right over your body but the state can restrict trading in body organs, so the state can exercise control over the body,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said.At the heart of the latest challenge are rising concerns over the security of this mega biometric database and privacy of the number holders. (The government says it needs to link the identity number to income tax returns to improve compliance and prevent fraud.)

India’s biometric database is the world’s largest. Over the past eight years, the government has collected fingerprints and iris scans from more than a billion residents – or nearly 90% of the population – and stored them in a high security data centre. In return, each person has been provided with a randomly generated, unique 12-digit identity number.

For a country of 1.2 billion people with only 65 million passport-holders and 200 million with driving licenses, the portable identity number is a boon to the millions who have long suffered for a lack of one.

Indians will need the identity number to receive benefits from more than 500 welfare schemes

States have been using the number, also called Aadhaar (Foundation), to transfer government pensions, scholarships, wages for a landmark rural jobs-for-work scheme and benefits for cooking fuel to targeted recipients, and distribute cheap food to the poor.

Over the years, the number has taken a life of its own and begun exerting, what many say, is an overweening and stifling control over people’s lives. For many like political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Aadhaar has transmuted from a “tool of citizen empowerment to a tool of state surveillance and citizen vulnerability”.

People will soon need the number to receive benefits from more than 500 of India’s 1,200-odd welfare schemes. Even banks and private firms have begun using it to authenticate consumers: a new telecom company snapped up 100 million subscribers in quick time recently by verifying the customer’s identity through the number.

‘Forcibly linked’

People are using the number to even get their marriages registered. The number, says Nikhil Pahwa, editor and publisher of Indian news site MediaNama, is “being forcibly linked to mobile numbers, bank accounts, tax filings, scholarships, pensions, rations, school admissions, health records and much much more, which thus puts more personal information at risk”.

Some of the fears are not without basis.

The government has assured that the biometric data is “safe and secure in encrypted form”, and anybody found guilty of leaking data can be jailed and fined.

But there have already been a number of leaks of details of students, pensioners and recipients of welfare benefits involving a dozen government websites. Even former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni’s personal information was mistakenly tweeted by an overzealous enrolment service provider.

The fingerprints and iris scans are stored in high security data centres

Now a disturbing report by The Centre for Internet and Society claims that details of around 130-135 million Aadhaar numbers, and around 100 million bank numbers of pensioners and rural jobs-for-work beneficiaries have been leaked online by four key government schemes.

More than 230 million people nationwide are accessing welfare benefits using their numbers, and potentially, according to the report, “we could be looking at a data leak closer to that number”. And linking the number to different databases – as the government is doing – is increasing the risk of data theft and surveillance.

The chief law officer believes that the outrage over the leaks is “much ado about nothing”.

“Biometrics were not leaked, only Aadhaar numbers were leaked. It is nothing substantial. The idea is biometrics should not be leaked,” Mukul Rohtagi told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The government itself has admitted that it has blacklisted or suspended some 34,000 service providers for helping create “fake” identification numbers or not following proper processes. Two years ago, a man was arrested for getting an identification number for his pet dog. The government itself has deactivated 8.5 million numbers for incorrect data, dodgy biometrics and duplication. Last month, crop loss compensation for more than 40,000 farmers was delayed because their Aadhaar numbers were “entered incorrectly by banks”.’

‘Mass surveillance’

There are also concerns that the number can be used for profiling. Recently, authorities asked participants at a function in a restive university campus in southern India to provide their Aadhaar identity numbers. “This is not only a matter of privacy. The all pervasiveness of the Aadhaar number is a threat to freedom of expression, which is a constitutional right,” Srinivas Kodali, who investigated the latest report on data leaks, told me.

Critics say the government is steaming ahead with making the number compulsory for a range of services, violating a Supreme Court order which said enrolment would be voluntary. “The main danger of the number,” says economist Jean Dreze, “is that it opens the door to mass surveillance.”

AadhaarDetails of millions of Aadhaar number holders have been leaked

Nandan Nilekani, the technology tycoon who set up the programme popularly known by its acronym UIDAI, believes concerns about the safety of the biometric database are exaggerated.

He says the identity number has cut wastage, removed fakes, curbed corruption and made substantial savings for the government. He insists that the programme is completely encrypted and secure. “It’s like you are creating a rule-based society,” he told Financial Times recently, “it’s the transition that is going on right now.”

Abused

More than 60 countries around the world take biometric data from its people, says Mr Nilekani. But then there are nagging concerns worldwide about these databases being abused by hackers and state intelligence.

In 2016, personal details of some 50 million people in Turkey were reportedly leaked. (Turkey’s population is estimated at 78 million.) In 2015, hackers stole more than five million fingerprints after breaching US government networks. In 2011, French experts discovered a hack involving the theft of millions of people’s data in Israel.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta has written that the lack of a “clear transparent consent architecture, no transparent information architecture, no privacy architecture worth the name [India doesn’t have a privacy law], and increasingly, no assurance about what exactly you do if the state decides to mess with your identity” could easily make Aadhaar a “tool of state suppression”.

So a lot of lingering doubts remain. How pervasive should an identity number be? What about the individual freedom of citizens? How do you ensure the world’s biggest biometric database is secure in a country with no privacy laws and a deficient criminal justice system?

In many ways, the debate about Aadhaar is also a debate about the future of India. As lawyer Shyam Divan argued forcefully in the top court, “people are reduced to vassals” when the state controls your body to this extent.

Source: Aadhaar: Are a billion identities at risk on India’s biometric database – BBC News

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03/05/2017

China Focus: Key component of world’s longest cross-sea bridge installed – Xinhua | English.news.cn

Chinese engineers installed a 6,000-tonne key part of the world’s longest cross-sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao.

A gigantic crane, which was transformed from a tanker, hoists a 6,000-ton key structure of the world’s longest cross-sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao, May 2, 2017. The wedge, 12-meter-long and weighing more than 25 Airbus A380 jets, was lowered to connect the immersed tubes of the underground tunnel of the bridge. The 55-kilometer bridge connects Zhuhai in Guangdong Province with Hong Kong and Macao. It includes a 22.9-km bridge and 6.7-km underground tunnel. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)

The wedge, 12 meters long, and weighing more than 25 Airbus A380 jets, was lowered to connect the tubes which will form the tunnel section of the bridge, said Lin Ming, chief engineer of the island and tunnel section of the bridge.

The 55-kilometer bridge connects Zhuhai in Guangdong Province with Hong Kong and Macao. It includes a 22.9-km bridge and 6.7-km tunnel.

Before the wedge was installed on Tuesday, 33 immersed tubes, each 180 meters long and weighing 80,000 tonnes, had been installed.

“There is only one wedge for a tunnel, and we cannot afford to fail in its installation. It took two years to prepare for today,” said Chen Yue, director of the chief engineer’s office of the bridge’s island and tunnel section. The installation procedure took more than 10 hours.

“The margin of error for the wedge is 1.5 centimeters. We have to measure precisely the influence of wind, current and buoyancy force,” said Lin.

“It is like putting a needle through a hole in the sea — a truly unprecedented event in the history of transportation,” Lin said.

A gigantic crane, which was transformed from a tanker, was used to hoist the wedge, lowering it to the desired destination between the tubes.The wedge will be welded and finished by June, Lin said.

By the end of the year, the bridge will be open to traffic, said Zhu Yongling, director of the bridge management bureau.

Construction began in December of 2009 at Zhuhai. The Y-shaped bridge connects Lantau Island in Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macao.

Tan Guoshun, an expert in bridge construction who has participated in many big projects, told Xinhua that breakthroughs were made in construction management, technique, safety and environmental protection.

For instance, the bridge is designed to be used for 120 years. “Anticorrosion and quake-proof measures were improved so as to make the goal possible,” he said.

The bridge was pieced together with different parts built in different locations like building blocks. “The progress of China’s equipment manufacturing industry made this construction method possible,” said Zhong Huihong, deputy chief engineer of the bridge management bureau.

Take the floating crane as an example. In the 1990s, China’s floating cranes could only handle about one hundred tonnes. “Now their capacity has reached 10,000 tonnes,” Zhong said.

“Some foreigners believe that completion of the bridge marks a leap forward of China’s construction industry,” said Su Quanke, chief engineer of the bridge management bureau.

The bridge will cut land travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from three hours on the road to a 30-minute drive.

“As economic exchanges between Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai deepen, an urban agglomeration has formed. The bridge will further boost the interconnection,” said Zheng Tianxiang, vice president of the Asia-Pacific Innovation Economic Research Institute.

Guo Wanda, executive vice president of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, believes that the bridge could also help boost the industrial gradient transfer of inland provinces like Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Jiangxi.

“The area will become an important hub of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.

Source: China Focus: Key component of world’s longest cross-sea bridge installed – Xinhua | English.news.cn

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