The United Nations is undergoing a five year, nearly $2 billion renovation to bring its New York headquarters into the modern era.
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has offered $150 million loan for expansion of railway tracks and improving overall service. The programme will help India improve rail services along some of its busiest freight and passenger transport routes, providing double-track for about 840 kilometers of rail routes and electrifying about 640 kilometers, according to a statement released by the ministry of finance. New signaling will also be installed. ADB will also support accounting reforms to improve operational and financial efficiency at Indian Railways, it said. Venu Rajamony, a joint secretary at the Department of Economic Affairs, and Hun Kim, ADB country director for India, signed the loan agreement here. The ADB's concessional loan is meant for Railway Sector Investment Programme, which is aimed at improving rail freight services and passenger transport routes. Total cost of the Railway Sector Investment Programme is $1,144.6 million, out of which loan assistance from ADB is $500 million and the Indian government's funding is $644.6 million. The ADB will provide the loan in four tranche. Tuesday's agreement was for the first tranche. The new railway programme will help reduce fuel consumption and enhance energy efficiency, reduce pollution, enhance railway safety, increase the line capacity, benefiting consumers and producers of goods and services, improve staff productivity, and incorporate innovating financing modalities by pursuing carbon credits under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) With a crippling food storage hitting the Arab world's poorest state, India Monday extended humanitarian assistance to Yemen. "India and Yemen have traditionally enjoyed close relations. In keeping with this, Government of India is extending humanitarian food assistance comprising rice to the Republic of Yemen," the external affairs ministry said here. The first consignment is scheduled to reach the port of Hodaidah in Yemen on July 13. A catastrophic food crisis is unfolding in Yemen, which is reportedly facing serious security problems due to the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Arab state. The food crisis has hit the Yemeni economy adversely, with the United Nations requested the international community to assist Yemen with food.
London, July 8 (IANS) Personal computers, mobile phones, tablet computers and other electronic items gobble up a staggering 320 tonnes of gold and 7,500 tonnes of silver worldwide, experts say. Manufacturing these high-tech products requires more than $16 billion in gold and $5 billion in silver. Most of these metals will be squandered, however. Just 15 percent or less is recovered from e-waste today in developed and developing countries alike, according to a United Nations University statement. Electronic waste now contains precious metal "deposits" 40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground, experts said at the first meet of GeSI and StEP E-Waste Academy in Ghana, co-organised by the UN University and the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI). Quantities of gold, silver and other precious metals available for recovery are rising in tandem with the fast growing sales of electronic and electrical goods. With respect to gold alone, electronic and electrical products consumed 197 tonne (5.3 percent) of the world's supply in 2001 and 7.7 percent last year. In that same decade, even as the world's annual gold supply rose 15 percent from about 3,900 tonne in 2001 to 4,500 tonne in 2011, the price per ounce leapt from under $300 to more than $1,500. Thanks to the volume and value of precious metals it contains, the percentage of e-waste collected in developing countries is estimated to be as high as 80-90 percent. However, some 50 percent of the gold in e-waste is lost in crude dismantling processes in developing countries (compared with 25 percent in developed countries). The bottom line in rich and poor countries alike: just 10-15 percent of the gold in e-waste is recovered, at least 85 percent is lost.
New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) The United Nations food standards body, Codex Alimentarius Commission, has agreed on a set of residue limits for the veterinary drug ractopamine for animals, a statement from the body said here Saturday. The drug, used as a growth promoter in cattle, also helps in keeping pigs lean. "The Member States of Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted maximum residue limits for the amount of the drug allowed in the tissues of pigs and cattle," the statement from the Commission in Rome said. "The decision was made after a rigorous process of scientific assessment to ascertain that the proposed levels of residues have no impact on human health," the statement said. The assessment was carried out by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, a group of independent experts convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) that provides scientific support to Codex. The Commission reached a decision through a vote, carried out in accordance with the rules and procedures. "The limits were approved with 69 votes for, 67 against, and seven abstentions," the statement said. "The ractopamine limits set by the Commission are 10 micrograms per kilogram of pig or cattle muscle, 40 micrograms per kilogram in liver, and 90 micrograms per kilogram of the animals kidneys, it added.
United Nations, July 7 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon has urged the Security Council to reduce the number of unarmed military observers in Syria and focus more on political efforts to end the Middle East country's crisis, Xinhua reported Saturday. In a report submitted to the 15-nation UNSC, Ban has recommended that the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) with a " reduced military observer component" be redeployed to Damascus from regional cities where the conflict has grown in recent weeks. According to a draft of the report distributed to reporters, the UN chief outlined several options for the force of about 300 unarmed military observers and over 120 civilian staff in Syria. One of them is to temporarily reduce the number of observers and focus on political engagement until fighting subsides. "If UNSMIS were re-oriented in this manner, the Mission would redeploy from the field to the capital to minimise risks, retaining core civilian and military observer capacities to focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process," Ban wrote in the report. He noted that from a central hub in Damascus, the civilian component would continue liaison and dialogue with opposition and government representatives in the provinces if security conditions allowed. The divided Security Council must make a decision on the future of the UN mission in Syria before July 20 when its mandate expires. The Council is scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday and is due to vote July 18. UNSMIS was established by Security Council Resolution 2043 of April 21, 2012 to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and to monitor and support the full implementation of UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan's six-point plan to end the conflict in Syria.
United Nations, July 7 (IANS) The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has reported that an alarming number of children continue to be recruited by Malian armed rebels, Xinhua has reported a UN spokesman as saying here. "UNICEF says that armed rebel groups controlling large parts of northern Mali are recruiting child soldiers into their ranks," UN spokesperson Eduardo del Buey told reporters Friday during a daily news briefing. "It says that at least 175 boys aged between 12 and 18 years have been recruited." UNICEF also says that insecurity in the region has forced an estimated 30,000 children out of schools, making them more vulnerable of being recruited and exploited. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution in full support of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) in their efforts to restore democracy in Mali, which experienced a military coup March 22. The UN also took action to prevent further recruitment of child soldiers in Myanmar and Somalia.
Geneva, July 7 (IANS) Russia, China and Cuba voted against the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution Friday which unilaterally condemned the Syrian government. However, India, Philippines and Uganda abstained from voting, reported Xinhua. While a total of 41 member states voted in favour of the UN resolution, India, Philippines and Uganda abstained. The resolution, tabled by the US, strongly condemned "the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights; acts of violence; ongoing atrocities; and indiscriminate targeting of civilians by the Syrian authorities." It also condemned "the human rights violations and crimes that members of the government-controlled militia 'Shabiha' continue to commit against the Syrian people". Russia proposed to include the sentence of "strongly condemns all terrorist acts in Syria" in the text, but was rejected by the Human Rights Council, according to a media update sent by the council. China said the resolution was neither balanced nor objective. It would do no good to help resolve the human rights issues in Syria, instead would possibly intensify the confrontation among parties in Syria, making the political process of Syria more complicated. The 20th regular session of the Human Rights Council was held from June 18 to July 6. The 21st session will be held from Sept. 10 to 28 during which the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, mandated by the council, is expected to deliver its final report.
In a global outbreak of violence, evil criminals are assaulting innocent civilians with deadly weapons such as french fries, in some cases unsalted. In the past couple of weeks alone, there have been at least 10 cases of food-assisted robberies, according to cuttings sent to me by readers. In the US, a man 'attacked and robbed a Brockton man using stolen sausage links', according to the press in that country. In Croatia, a footballer was attacked with a banana, and in the UK a man was arrested for throwing lasagna. Police are taking it seriously. A man who threw a packet of McDonald's French fries at his stepdaughter was arrested for 'felony assault with a dangerous weapon', according to a June 26 police report in the US state of Massachusetts. James Hackett was 'charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, to wit, a french fry', police said. I was reminded of the time reader Stephen Birkett told me his mango was confiscated as he boarded a domestic flight in India. Why? 'For security reasons,' staff told him. What happened to good old guns and knives? The best theory I heard was from my mentor/bartender, who said the United Nations worldwide gun control crackdown was accelerating in the run-up to the global summit on the subject being held this month. 'Since guns are harder to get hold of, people are going for whatever is at hand, including french fries, sausages, etc,' he said. But can you really hurt someone with a french fry? He thought for a moment. 'Sure. French fries kill. But you don't need to hit people with them. Just feed them to them at regular intervals.' *-* President Pratibha Patil of India last month commuted the death sentence of convict Bandu Tidke in a show of mercy, only to be told that that he'd been dead for five years. Oh well, it's the thought that counts. *-* Shhhh! Be careful what you say. Your gadgets are listening. Many now have built-in voice recognition. Every time I switch my laptop on, a tiny picture of a microphone appears expectantly at the top of the screen. It's listening. I called an expert who told me that my Windows speech-to-text function was coming on automatically. 'To stop it, wait five seconds after the computer has fully booted up, say 'STOP LISTENING', then turn around three times and make the sign of the cross,' he told me. This sounded like a joke, but I tried it and it worked! The words 'Going To Sleep' magically appeared next to the microphone. He also told me to face the fact that the day of talking to machines has arrived. So I bought a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, the world's top-selling voice recognition software. 'Good morning,' I said to the screen. The words 'Good morning' appeared instantly. I tried a more complicated sentence. 'My name is Lorenzo Ignatius Linguine Chicken Tikka Masala Pong.' Again, the sentence appeared perfectly. Impressed, I decided I would dictate my next novel direct to the screen. The first paragraph or two appeared just fine. But then I ran into trouble. Instead of: 'Before his last drink' a similar-sounding phrase appeared: 'Be forest our stringed'. According to the instructions, you say 'undo that' to make corrections. But doing that just added the words 'undo that' to the sentence. I spoke the other corrective phrases from the instruction book: 'Delete' and 'Backspace', but the same thing happened. I ended with a sentence that said: 'Be forest our stringed undo that undo that delete delete backspace backspace backspace oh bother stop it stop it stop it @#$%^ I give up.' My colleagues, reading over my shoulder, told me that it was the most interesting sentence I had ever written and I should send it to my publisher immediately. *-* On a related subject, the biggest users of dictation software are doctors, since 'having illegible handwriting' is the most important requirement for entering that trade. (This has always worried me. If doctors can't control their fingers well enough to write the letters of the alphabet, why do they think it's okay to insert knives into my body cavities and play around with my arteries, veins, discharge valves, etc?) Several doctors grumbled on the Internet about computer dictation problems. 1) The doctor said: 'When the neck pain worsened, she went to a chiropractor.' The computer typed: 'When the neck pain worsened, she went to a car repair.' 2) The doctor said: 'On re-evaluation, pain is better.' The computer wrote: 'On re-evaluation, anus better.' 3) The doctor said: 'She has Ambien to help her sleep.' The computer wrote: 'She has Indians to help her sleep.' Still, it's inevitable that one day I will dictate this entire column and you won't even lotus undo that undo that delete delete backspace backspace oh bother stop stop stop! *-* The Obama administration said the only place Mitt Romney created jobs is in Asia. I'm sure this created absolute fury at Republican headquarters, which is probably located in a call centre near Hyderabad. *-* A car rental agency which checked the GPS signal on a Ferrari found that it was in the Pacific Ocean driving from the United States to Hong Kong. Ferraris do a lot of cool stuff but they can't drive on water (unless maybe Jesus is driving). Customs officials found the car hidden in a smuggler's ship. I wonder what the car's SatNav voice was actually saying? 'Drive straight for the next 13,000 km and turn left in 164 hours.' *-* Are your staff rude to customers? If so, this may be a good thing. A report about surly flight attendants on Japan's Skymark Airlines triggered much interest among readers, several of whom provided examples of organisations which became famous for the grumpiness of their staff. The Sam Wo, a San Francisco Chinese restaurant which recently closed down, was legendary for its outrageous waiters, said reader Chris Huber. The rudest was a waiter named Edsel Ford Fong who would tell the customers how fat they were, criticize their menu choices and clear tables before diners had finished eating. At the end Fong would remind them to leave him a tip. The waiter died in 1984 but we're still talking about him now - the power of being rude. Other readers mentioned the American Peking Restaurant and the Lok Yu Teahouse, both in Hong Kong. Legend has it that a seance was once held at the Luk Yu Teahouse to get in touch with the spirit of a grumpy old waiter who had died. 'Are you there, Mr Wong?' asked the psychic. Silence. 'Are you there Mr Wong?' the psychic repeated. Silence. Then a grumpy spirit voice was heard from the other side of the room. 'That's not my table.' *-* The letters quoted above about rude staff were inspired by a report about Skymark Airlines, the budget carrier which warned passengers in writing that they should not expect flight attendants to be polite or help with luggage. Readers Otis Schindler, Wendy Tong and others started composing a phrasebook Skymark stewardesses can use. 1) When a passenger enters the plane and approaches the stewardess for help finding his seat: 'What you lookin' at, punk?' 2) When a passenger sits in the wrong seat: 'If you can't work out that 48A comes before 49B, you're too stupid to fly.' 3) When the safety video plays: 'Passengers who don't watch the video will get boiling hot tea poured into their laps.' 4) When meals are served: 'Eat your @#$%ing veggies. And when you finish bring your dish to the kitchen area.' 5) When the destination is reached: 'To save on landing fees, we'll swoop down as low as we can and switch the doors to manual. Jump out whenever you like.' (06.07.2012 - Nury Vittachi is a columnist who travels around Asia. Send ideas and suggestions to: http://www.mrjam.org)
Vienna, July 6 (IANS) Despite the ongoing eurozone crisis, global foreign direct investment (FDI) increased by 16 percent to $1.536 trillion in 2011, a UN report said. According to 'World Investment Report 2012' conducted by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global FDI is expected to increase at a slower rate in 2012 due to slower global economic growth, to $1.6 trillion, Xinhua reported. FDI inflows in the US in 2011 totalled $227 billion, marking a 15-percent increase. The 27-member European Union saw a surge by 32 percent to $421 billion. In China, the total FDI inflow reached $124 billion, increasing by 8 percent and in India, it stood at $67 billion, up by 31 percent. About 45 percent of the investment went to developing countries in 2011, representing an 11 percent increase to $684 billion, said the report Thursday. UNCTAD economists expect global FDI to increase to $1.8 trillion in 2013 and $1.9 trillion in 2014, though uncertainty for investors during this time period remains high.