It’s not news if it’s good, the Western news


The success story of regional integration in Latin America today is seldom heard elsewhere in the world, even as people there experience it daily.

LATIN America has been experiencing a progressive, historic but silent revolution for 10 years now. However, few people in the rest of the world seem aware of it.

The silence is not because these countries had sought to avoid world attention. Rather, the international media dominated by Western news agencies seem to have other priorities.

Often enough significant events and key issues are neglected, bypassed by the saucy, the sensational and the scandalous – all that glitters is not gold, much that matters may never be told.
CNBC
Without exception, Western news agencies have doggedly promoted the so-called Arab Spring to the point of tedium.

The standard bogeymen of Western storytelling – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad – are going or gone, so jubilation in Occidental newsrooms may be expected. But there should be limits and other (news) priorities too.

Elsewhere, countries that succeed outside Western norms, dictates and development models may seem unimportant or “politically incorrect”. So they are routinely ignored or underrated.

Worse, the changes said to be wrought by “Arab Spring” uprisings are said to be positive when the exact opposite is happening.

In virtually all these countries, living conditions have deteriorated rather than improved.

But the nine countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that came together in 2004 as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) have been making great strides in every critical area of national development.

Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela have raised standards of living for their people in social, economic and political terms.

Standards in housing, health care, education and employment have risen. These countries have also scored a high 0.721 in the UN Human Development Index, which measures national achievements beyond economic growth and material development.

On Dec 14, 2004, Venezuela and Cuba signed the joint declaration for the establishment of Alba. The alliance is based on humanist principles that place the citizen rather than the state or the corporation at the centre of national policymaking.

This people-centred alliance soon attracted the interest of other countries. Next to join were Bolivia, then Nicaragua, and Dominica, with Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines joining together – followed by St Lucia.

Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis will be the next members. Other countries attending Alba summits as Participants are Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis, and Uruguay.

With a proud record of a decade’s achievements under its belt, Alba marked the passage of its first decade at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Ambassador Lourdes Puma Puma of Ecuador explained Alba’s background and objectives, including the use of the Sucre (Unified System for Regional Compensation) as a virtual currency in trade among member nations.

There is also a Bank of Alba with regional integration as its core purpose. The bank encourages and offers financial support for projects that promote the social development of all the peoples of the continent regardless of race, religion, politics or other background.

The areas that Alba covers in promoting regional integration are comprehensive and ambitious. There are medical schools and a health sciences university with scholarships, and a pharmaceutical company and a drugs regulatory centre with free access to medication.

There are plans for a new financial architecture and an emphasis on science and technology, without neglecting the arts.

There are also awards and scholarships for literature, culture, research and cinematography.

Alba is also working with the People’s Trade Agreement that lobbies for the social, cultural and environmental rights of the region’s peoples. It also works with Petrocaribe, an alliance of nations over oil purchases, as well as Mercosur, a regional customs union for advancing free trade and the movement of goods, people and currency.

The guest speaker at the Kuala Lumpur forum was Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Interna­tional Movement for a Just World.

Dr Chandra identified the significant distinction between Alba and other regional organisations in the way it places priority on the human being, the individual person, in public policymaking.

This humanist aspect of a caring regional society that Alba seeks to build is widely cherished by the national leaders of its member countries. And despite a priority on economic development, Alba is also conscious of environmental needs and emphasises sustainable development.

In pursuing technology, Alba also seeks independence of telecommunications content in programming. Telecoms and broadcasting community services will also be provided to rural and other marginal areas.

Despite their achievements, Alba countries are still developing nations with much to do to achieve full development status. In the meantime basic needs have not been forgotten, with a food fund that has cut malnourishment to under 5% in four Alba countries and eliminated illiteracy in five countries.

More broadly, Alba seeks a more multipolar world that avoids war as a matter of policy. It much prefers human development that addresses the real needs of real people, particularly the most disadvantaged members of society.

Alba is named after the great 18th-19th century Venezuelan leader and liberator Simon Bolivar, hailed as a Latin American independence hero and a regional beacon of progress and development.

Bolivar is the only person in history to have two countries named after him: Bolivia, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Bolivar’s goals for Venezuela and its neighbouring countries labouring under the Spanish colonial yoke may be summed up in four basic priorities: a popular and participatory democracy for the people, economic independence for real development, fairer wealth distribution and elimination of corruption.

In the Latin America of his time, Bolivar led territories that included Bolivia, Colombia (then including Panama), Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. As a political and military leader he fought many private and public battles against slavery and for the liberation of his people.

Bolivar died in 1830 at the age of 47. He had paved the way for democracy in many countries in Latin America, but much else remains to be done.

After an era of cruel dictatorships, Latin America is again ready to embrace its history of decency and human achievement. But obstacles remain in the way of Alba countries, particularly when they seek their own way to development.

They prefer a more direct way that impacts positively on the people, particularly the most vulnerable in society such as the poor and the weak. Thus they avoid the customary assistance from powerful transnational institutions that comes with strings, cables and levers attached.

And yet when the UN established the Bretton Woods aid organisations the World Bank and the IMF, they were also supposed to help the poorest without encumbering them. But a problem with institutions is that their practices become institutionalised and worse.

Alba has been established with much goodwill and its achievements have been impressive.

Alba countries deserve support and admiration for their record so far, and encouragement on their promise.

Alba emerged from Venezuela’s rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area for the Americas, which would heighten inequality by enhancing the power of transnational corporations at the expense of the poor.

Neither the World Bank nor the IMF may want to call Alba’s achievements a “miracle”, but they are miraculous nonetheless.

Holding court: Chinese President Xi Jinping's (centre, right) meeting with members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Some have argued that anxieties about China's dominance of the new bank would be dispelled with more founding members. - EPARelated article:

Sound policies require maturity – The Star Online

 Oct 26, 2014 – When major international policies are based on short-sighted self-interests and emotive impulses, problems are never far away.

Behind The Headlines By Bunn Narara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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China’s revival of 600-year-old links in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas


 Malaysia and China have great plans for a 21st century version of an ancient trade route from China that reached as far as Europe and the Americas

China Maritine Silk Road_ Asean

Maritime trade between China and other countries dates back to the Qin and Han dynasties.

Merchant ships that departed from China sailed into the South China Sea carrying silk, porcelain ware, tea and other commodities.

The ancient trade route reached as far as Europe and the Americas, forging friendships and exchanges.

Today, China has a grand vision: to revive a 21st century version of this ancient maritime corridor by inviting countries from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe to come on board the present-day route.

According to an article in the Asia Weekly of China Daily, an English-language newspaper, the proposed 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) begins in Quanzhou in Fujian province, moves on to Guangzhou in Guangdong province and Beihai in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and then heads south to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Continuing south to Kuala Lumpur on the Strait of Malacca, the MSR joins Jakarta, Indonesia, crosses the Indian Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya, and then links with Colombo, Sri Lanka and Male, the Maldives.

China has taken many initiatives to promote the 21st century MSR since its president Xi Jinping first brought up the idea during his visit to Indonesia in October last year.

One of the most recent efforts was the Guangdong 21st Century Maritime Silk Road International Expo, which brought together more than 40 countries and regions to seek cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, tourism and culture.

Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua, during the opening ­ceremony of the expo in Dongguan, touted the 21st century MSR as a road of peace and friendship that brings about mutual cooperation and benefits.

He said Guangdong is a convenient transportation hub linking China with countries along the MSR.

“The inland provinces join the MSR and venture out to the world through Guangdong, while Guangdong is also the entry point for resources to come into China from the outside world,” he said of the strategic location of Guangdong.

In the past, Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province, was a major stop on the ancient trade route. Records show that close to 90 per cent of the merchant ships from the West docked at its Huangpu Port from 1685 to 1757.

The glory remains today, with Guangdong ranking first among all provinces in China in terms of economic output, trade volume and population.

Last year, both its gross domestic product and total imports and exports exceeded US$1 trillion.

Trade between Guangdong and Malaysia, China’s largest trading partner in Asean, stood at US$26.81 billion.

Tourism Malaysia chairman Dr Ng Yen Yen said Malaysia’s participation at the expo, the ­largest among all countries, reflected our readiness for greater collaboration and cooperation with countries along the MSR.

In her speech at a forum held ­during the expo, she said ties between both countries can be traced back to 600 years ago when Admiral Cheng Ho visited Malacca during his seven naval expeditions to the Western Ocean.

On the tourism front, Dr Ng proposed a multiple-destination cruise route along the 21st-MSR that will provide vast opportunities for multi­lateral economic cooperation.

Meanwhile, an Institute of Maritime Silk Road Tourism and Culture was established during the expo.

A collaboration between the Guangdong Tourism Board and the South China Normal University, the institute will be a platform for academic research and exchange on topics related to the Maritime Silk Road, such as tourism, culture, education and regional development.

By Tho XIn Yi The Star/Asia News Network

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Startups vying for the attention of Venture capitalists (VCs) – part 4


OOI Boon Sheng, founder and chief executive officer of Web Bytes Sdn Bhd, was fortunate to have found a good match in Chok Kwee Bee, managing director of venture capital firm Teak Capital, when he set out to look for a partner to help his retail management services company grow to the next level.

Venture capitalists (VCs) play a unique role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.Magic Logo_Small

They provide startups with funding in exchange for equity in the company. In addition, VCs are often given a say in how the company will operate and grow.

Ultimately, the goal of such partnerships is for VCs to make a profitable exit at a later date either through the sale of their stakes or an initial public offering.

Chok, who sits on the board of Web Bytes following Teak Capital’s investment in the startup, takes an active interest in helping Ooi develop the company’s product.

As Web Bytes grow with the guidance of Chok, so does its value, allowing Teak Capital the chance to make a profitable exit in the future.

Somewhat like angel investors, VCs have a wealth of resources, expertise and network that startups can tap into.

However, VCs tend to fund early-stage startups that have already gained some traction in user base and revenue, but are still new enough to be considered a risky investment for traditional banks and debt funding.

In identifying suitable startups to invest in, VCs are naturally drawn to early-stage companies with technologies that have the potential to generate high returns. Ideally, products developed by these startups are not in overly saturated markets.

VCs also analyse the market to ensure that it is robust enough to support the entry and growth of a startup.

The startup’s management team is also taken into consideration as VCs typically look for a team that is passionate, persistent, experienced, dedicated and organised.

According to Chok, having the right people is as important as having the right idea as the right people would be needed to make the ideas work.

“We have seen more than 1,000 companies since our formation in 2008 and only invested in less than 10, with an average investment of RM2mil to RM3mil.

We look at the team, the product and the market potential,” she said.

Startups are encouraged to build a good working relationship with VCs, not just for the funding element but also because investee companies will be spending a lot of time with mentors from their VC partners.

Many startups, like Web Bytes, have indeed benefited from the active participation of their VC investors. Among Teak Capital’s portfolio of startups, Web Bytes has seen tremendous growth after a year of active mentoring.

But the venture capitalism in Malaysia is still in its early days.

Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang noted that while there is an increase in demand for capital, there are only a handful of VCs in the market.

Currently, about 60% of VC funds come from Government sources, with only nine private VC firms in the country.

Jamaludin says VC firms should look at pushing out more Series-A funding. Series-A is the first significant round of funding for startups that have progressed beyond the seed-funding stage and have started generating revenue of between RM200,000 and RM1mil. With things heating up in the local startup scene, both Jamaludin and Chok agree that more needs to be done to encourage more entrants into the field of venture capitalism.

“The startup scene is picking up. And a lot of them are actually going to Singapore for funding. So I think we need more Malaysian VCs in the market,” said Chok.

By Lim Wing Hooi
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China once again boasts world’s fastest supercomputer


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The Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, was named the world’s top supercomputer for the fourth consecutive time by the TOP500 project. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, was named the world’s top supercomputer for the fourth consecutive time by the TOP500 project.

The Tianhe-2 relegated the US-developed Titan to second spot with a performance of 33.86 petaflop (quadrillions of calculations per second) in a standardized test designed to measure computer performance.

IBM’s Sequoia rounded out the top 3 in the TOP500 list.

The TOP500 project, started in 1993, issues a list twice a year that ranks supercomputers based on their performance.

There was little change in the top 10 in the latest list and the only new entry was at number 10 – the Cray CS-Storm, developed by Cray Inc, which also developed the Titan.

The United States was home to six of the top 10 supercomputers, while China, Japan, Switzerland and Germany had one entrant each.

The United States remained the top country in terms of overall systems with 231, down from 233 in June and falling near its historical low.

The number of Chinese systems on the list also dropped to 61 from 76 in June, while Japan increased its number of systems from 30 to 32.

– China Daily/ Asia News Nework

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BEIJING, November 11 (People’s Daily Online) – To better adapt to interconnectivity of Asia-Pacific area, China needs to step forward to higher level in global value chains, an expert with APEC said after a high level forum.

The 2014 Beijing APEC meetings focus on interconnectivity in Asia-Pacific region, infrastructure and Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific. According to Zhang Lijun, Director of China APEC Development Council, it is of high importance for China to have a clear conception about its role in value chains and supply chains.

To promote interconnectivity in the region is to connect Chinese economy with that of the world. “If not cooperate with supply chains, China may not have a clear mind of its economic role in the market,” said Zhang.

China has long been regarded as the workshop of the world. However, China is shifting its focus to knowledge-intensive industries as well as protection of intellectual property by changing the mode of growth. Only in this way can China realize its updated version of economy, Zhang said.

Besides, according to Zhang, the establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is beneficial to advanced Chinese enterprises to seek fortune abroad. Zhang mentioned that China would play a major role in AIIB. Therefore, Chinese preeminence and voice in cooperation will be valued and guaranteed.

In view of the declining export, investment in foreign infrastructure provides good opportunity for China to make up losses from export, Zhang said.

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Terrible week for US Spaceflights: NASA rocket explodes, Virgin spaceship crashes


Virgin_spaceshiptwo-crash-wreckage

Wreckage from Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft is seen after the vehicle crashed on Oct. 31, 2014 during a test flight out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The burgeoning field of spaceflight suffered two serious blows this week.

The bad news began on Tuesday (Oct. 28), when Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket exploded just seconds after blasting off on an unmanned cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA. Then, on Friday (Oct. 31), SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight; one of the two pilots aboard was killed and the other injured, apparently seriously.

The causes of the two accidents are unclear at the moment, and so are the consequences. But the fallout could be huge for Orbital Sciences, Virgin Galactic and the entire private spaceflight industry, which has been building up some serious momentum over the past several years.Photos: SpaceShipTwo’s Test Flights

Video Explosion! Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft Destroyed In Launch Mishap | Video http://www.space.com/27575-explosion-cygnus-cargo-spacecraft-destroyed-in-critical-launch-mishap-video.html#ooid=loMmdlcTprBMxCnB86X4sRusEF-8Khv-

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences holds a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to make eight robotic cargo runs to the space station using Antares and the company’s Cygnus spacecraft. Orbital had completed two such missions without incident before Tuesday’s rocket explosion.

Another company, California-based SpaceX, also signed a deal to ferry cargo to the space station for NASA. The agency is paying SpaceX $1.6 billion to fly 12 unmanned supply missions to the orbiting lab using the firm’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. So far, SpaceX has flown four of these missions, and all have been successful.

NASA is also looking to the private sector to take astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. Last month, the agency awarded SpaceX and Boeing multibillion-dollar contracts to continue developing their crewed vehicles — a manned version of Dragon in SpaceX’s case and a capsule called the CST-100 for Boeing.

NASA officials hope at least one of these spaceships is up and running by 2017. The agency has been dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to and from the space station since 2011, when NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired.

NASA officials expressed confidence in Orbital Sciences after Tuesday’s launch mishap, citing the company’s two successful supply missions to the space station. The agency also seemed to affirm its commitment to private cargo delivery.

“Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback,” Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites — the company that built the six-passenger, two-pilot SpaceShipTwo — are dealing with a tragedy that claimed a life.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson has previously expressed hope that commercial operations of SpaceShipTwo will begin sometime in 2015. Friday’s crash, which occurred during the suborbital space plane’s fourth rocket-powered flight and 55th overall test flight, will almost certainly push that timeline back.

But Virgin Galactic representatives vowed that they will continue their work to get SpaceShipTwo up and running. And the entire industry will bounce back as well, said Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port in California, which hosts SpaceShipTwo’s test flights.

“It hasn’t been an easy week. It’s certainly been a challenge,” Witt said during a post-crash news conference Friday. “But where I’m from, this is where you find out your true character.”

By Mike Wall @Spacedotcom

EDITOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS

Chinese unmanned lunar orbiter returns home


China Lunar_Test Obitor Return homeExperimental orbiter prepares for home trip – CCTV News – CCTV.com English 

China’s unmanned lunar orbiter returns home – CCTV News – CCTV.com English

China succeeded Saturday in the world’s first mission to the Moon and back in some 40 years, becoming the third nation to do so after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

The test lunar orbiter, nicknamed “Xiaofei” on Chinese social networks, landed in Siziwang Banner of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region early Saturday morning.

Search teams have already recovered the orbiter at the designated landing area, about 500 kilometers away from Beijing.

Launched Friday last week, the orbiter traversed 840,000 kilometers on its eight-day mission that saw it round the far side of the Moon and take some incredible pictures of Earth and Moon together.

The re-entry process began at around 6:13 a.m. Saturday morning, with the orbiter approaching Earth at a velocity of about 11.2 kilometers per second.

The high speed led to hefty friction between the orbiter and air and high temperatures on the craft’s exterior, generating an ion sheath that cut off contact between ground command and the orbiter.

To help it slow down, the craft is designed to “bounce” off the edge of the atmosphere, before re-entering again. The process has been compared to a stone skipping across water, and can shorten the “braking distance” for the orbiter, according to Zhou Jianliang, chief engineer with the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center.

“Really, this is like braking a car,” said Zhou, “The faster you drive, the longer the distance you need to bring the car to a complete stop.”

The “bounce” was one of the biggest challenges of the mission, because the craft must enter the atmosphere at a very precise angle. An error of 0.2 degrees would have rendered the mission a failure.

Wu Yanhua, vice director of China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, said the successful test mission has gathered a lot of experimental data and laid a solid foundation for future missions.`
 

Paving way for new probe

The eight-day program is a test run for the final chapter of China’s three-step–orbiting, landing and finally returning–lunar program.

“Xiaofei” is obtaining data and validating re-entry technology such as the heat shield and trajectory design for a future landing on the moon by Chang’e-5.

Earlier reports said Chang’e-5 will be launched around 2017. The goal is to collect samples from the Moon and return to Earth. If successful, China will become the third nation to do so.

Calling “Xiaofei” a pathfinder for Chang’e-5, Zhou Jianliang said the data acquired by the lunar orbiter will optimize technology for Chang’e-5.

Hao Xifan, deputy chief of China’s third phase lunar exploration program, also said the mission validated ground support capacities, craft landing technology and recoverable spacecraft technology.

According to Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, Chang’e-5 is expected to collect a 2-kg sample from two meters under the Moon’s surface and bring it home.

Aside from the high-speed re-entry, major technological challenges for the craft center on surface sampling, taking off from the Moon, and lunar orbit rendezvous, Wu said.


READY TO MAKE HISTORY, AGAIN

China launched a pair of orbiting lunar probes and last year landed a craft on the moon with a rover on board.

Saturday’s success is another step forward for China’s ambition that could eventually land a Chinese citizen there. Few countries can rival China’s space program although China never intended to participate in any “space race”.

In an earlier interview with Xinhua, Wu Weiren said lunar probe technology and software could be of great economic value if adapted for commercial use.

Commercial gains aside, the space program is already a marker of China’s global stature and technical expertise. The Chang’e lunar probes – named after a goddess who took her pet Yutu, or jade rabbit, to the moon – are a symbol of great national pride.

The country sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the U.S. to achieve manned space travel independently. In 2008, astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-7 made China’s first space walk. There are plans for a permanent space station, expected to be set up around 2022.

The Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010 respectively, capped the orbital phase of the three step project. Chang’e-1 crashed onto the Moon’s surface at the end of its mission, and Chang’e-2 was sent into deep space to become China’s first man-made asteroid.

The ongoing second phase saw Chang’e-3 soft land on the moon carrying moon rover Yutu in December 2013. Chang’e-4 was a backup for Chang’e-3 and has not been deployed.

In the meantime, Yutu has entered its 11th dormancy earlier October, although its functions have degraded considerably after it encountered control issues in January this year. Experts had feared that it might never function again, but Yutu has stubbornly managed to wake up from its sleep mode ever since.

None of those missions were intended to return to Earth and this has pushed the 2017 mission further into spotlight.

“The Chang’e-5 mission will be yet another historic moment for China’s lunar program,” Wu said.

(Xinhua)

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