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March 26, 2013

Kiribati acquires international funding for solar power

Kiribati acquires international funding for solar power

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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Solar panel installation in the United States
Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last Tuesday, AusAID Australia and the World Bank’s Global Environment Fund (GEF) reached an agreement to give the government of Kiribati US$5 million (AU$4,779,000, NZ$5,985,000, 3,885,000) to install solar panels around the country capital, located on the Tarawa atoll. According to Business Desk of the Brunei Times, AusAID promised AU$3.2 million in funding, while GEF promised US$1 million. The country was the first in the Pacific to make a deal with the World Bank.

The funding was part of a US$530 million (NZ$635 million) package announced at yesterday’s Pacific Energy Summit in Auckland involving New Zealand and the European Union, Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the World Bank Group, and the United Arab Emirates. Also at the summit yesterday, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully had announced a national commitment of USD$54,262,000 (AU$51,861,000 NZ$65 million, €42,178,000) to Pacific region energy solutions, of which US$8,348,000 (AU$8 million, NZ$10 million, €6,483,000) would be specifically earmarked for renewable energy and improved energy efficiency in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

A small school maneaba (equivalent to a school hall) in Nabeina, North Tarawa, Kiribati
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Kiribati is heavily dependent on diesel fuel for most of the energy available on the national power grid, which supplies power to half Kiribati’s population of 110,000. In addition, a third of the country’s population lacks access to electricity. Once installation of the solar panels is complete, they are estimated to reduce diesel consumption by 230,000 liters (60,760 gallons) a year and give access to the electricity to some parts of the population that currently have no electricity. The European Union already has committed €100 million to sustainable energy in the region, with €10 million of that coming as a result of an announcement made last week.

In a press release about the news, Kiribati President Anote Tong was quoted as saying, “Kiribati faces big challenges it is remote, it is at risk from the effects of climate change, and it is vulnerable to economic shocks. […] Shifting Kiribati’s focus to reliable solar energy will provide a more secure, more sustainable power source for the country’s people.” Radio New Zealand International quoted Tong as saying, “It’s the first time we are doing this. We’re excited at the prospect of even substituting fossil fuel to a small extent at this stage. What the system being envisaged will only produce around 500 kilowatts, but this is the beginning of what I hope will be a pattern, the trend in the future.”

The European Union’s Fiji-based head of operations for the Pacific region, Renato Mele, supported alternative energy solutions like solar power for the region, but said that solar power had limitations because climate and environmental conditions sometimes meant batteries required to power the panels had a life of only 12 months, compared to other climates where batteries normally last five years. This created the potential to drive up standard operating costs. Mele has also noted these additional costs though are still lower than the cost of diesel power.

One News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver noted, “Governments will be able to put the money they (currently) spend on diesel into things like education and health.”



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June 28, 2011

Chinese political dissident Hu Jia freed as Chinese Premier Wen visits Britain

Chinese political dissident Hu Jia freed as Chinese Premier Wen visits Britain

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hu Jia
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(Image missing from commons: image; log)

The Chinese government released human rights activist Hu Jia from prison on Sunday after he had served over three years for subversion. His release, which had been scheduled in advance, occurred just days after controversial artist Ai Weiwei was unexpectedly released on bail after three months of detention.

Hu was released on the same day that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his visit to Britain, the first country on his three-nation Europe trade tour.

Described by the Irish Times as a “mild-mannered, slight figure who suffers from liver ailments”, the 37-year-old Hu is a prominent Chinese dissident who had spent years campaigning for civil liberties, environmentalism, and on behalf of suffers of HIV/AIDS before his imprisonment. He was imprisoned in April 2008 for “inciting to subvert state power” by writing articles about human rights in the period before the 2008 Olympic Games. He had also given many interviews to foreign news media and government embassies. He was first detained in December 2007 and his arrest came after he had spent more than 200 days under house arrest. In 2008 while in prison, he won the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, awarded by the European Parliament.

Hu’s wife Zeng Jinyuan said via Twitter that her husband lost his political rights upon his release and cannot speak to the media for a period of one year.

Cquote1.svg (My parents) have told me to just be a normal citizen and don’t confront the system because this system is very cruel, using the country’s absolute power to violate people’s dignity without restraint. But I can only tell my parents I will be careful. Cquote2.svg

—Hu Jia, human rights activist

Hu was briefly interviewed on Sunday via telephone by Hong Kong’s Cable TV, and indicated that despite the danger, he would not give up his work. “(My parents) have told me to just be a normal citizen and don’t confront the system because this system is very cruel, using the country’s absolute power to violate people’s dignity without restraint. But I can only tell my parents I will be careful”, he said.

Although recent releases of high-profile dissidents such as Hu and Ai may seem to some that China is loosening its repressive policies against dissidents, activists and academics said yesterday that the determination of the Chinese government to silence dissent has not lessened and those speaking up continue to be rounded up and detained.

Huang Qi, a dissident released this month from prison and interviewed by telephone, said, “We closely follow dozens of rights’ defense cases, and I’ve found that that at the grassroots and lowest levels of society in China, the rights defense environment has not seen any fundamental improvements.” He warned, “One cannot count how many ordinary people are being locked up or taken away every day.”

However, Wan Yanhau who is a Chinese activist living in the US said there might be a short term diminishing of the crackdowns on human rights activists. He suggested the government could be realizing that the harsh treatment of dissidents has not stopped recent episodes of unrest. The riots by migrant workers in the Guangdong province and protests by ethnic Mongolians are recent examples. Further, China is receiving harsh criticism from European countries with which it wants to increase trade.

But illegal detentions are increasing, according to Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, and are signs that China is not moving toward compliance with international norms.



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November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi release orders \’signed\’

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

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Reports say that Burmese military generals have signed the release papers of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi; her release has not been officially confirmed. Rumours spread that Suu Kyi would be freed yesterday, but she is now expected to be freed today when her arrest period expires.

Security has been increased, though it is unclear whether it is in anticipation of Suu Kyi’s release. Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar specialist, says that the release will only take place if the national ruler Senior General Than Shwe believes it’s in his advantage. “I don’t anticipate they will release her without conditions,” Zawacki added.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer had earlier said that she would only accept an unconditional release. He added that there was no law to continue the arrest after Saturday. She has been held under house arrest numerous times in the last 20 years. In 1991, a year after her National League for Democracy won the Burmese general election, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But her win in those elections were nullified by the military junta.



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August 10, 2010

Bronislaw Komorowski sworn in as president of Poland

Bronislaw Komorowski sworn in as president of Poland

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Polish politician Bronisław Komorowski has been sworn in formally as Polish president. For months before, Komorowski had been acting president.
Image: Jacek Turczyk and Saibo.
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Polish politician Bronisław Komorowski has been sworn in as president of Poland after winning the presidency in the presidential runoff election of July 4. Komorowski belongs to the Civic Platform Party and won the presidential runoff by a margin of 53% to 47% against Jarosław Kaczyński, who is from the Law and Justice party. Kaczyński was the twin brother of former President Lech Kaczyński, who died in an airplane accident in Russia.

The new president had held the post as acting speaker of parliament (the Sejm) since April 10 of this year. He assumed the presidency after the plane crash in Smolensk, Russia that killed 95 political figures, including the president.

Civic Platform is a liberal conservative political party while Law and Justice is conservative and has an “anti-corruption, conservative, law and order agenda.”

Komorowski, 58, is the fourth President of Poland since the fall of communism. He has called for more cooperation and less fighting and hatred in the political arena. “The democratic institutional order we have built in Poland for over 20 years of change has shown that in these difficult times, we have been able to ensure continuity of the state to tax and proudly pays tribute to disaster victims,” Komorowski said.


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July 25, 2010

Venezuelan army on high alert after Chávez cuts diplomatic ties with Colombia

Venezuelan army on high alert after Chávez cuts diplomatic ties with Colombia

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Venezuelan troops in a parade
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(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has declared that the National Army is on maximum alert along the Colombian border, after he broke relations with that country on Thursday. The declaration comes in the wake of the Colombian Secretary of State’s claim before the Organisation of American States (OAS) that the FARC has a “consolidated,” “active” and “growing” presence in Venezuela, with some 1500 guerrilla fighters in 87 camps.

Venezuela’s Secretary of Defense Carlos Mata told the media that his forces have been mobilised since Thursday morning, and are awaiting the orders of their Commander in Chief, the President.

Chávez announced the breaking of diplomatic ties on behalf of the Venezuelan government after Colombia released documents allegedly showing the active presence of FARC on Venezuelan territory at the Washington headquarters of the OAS, demanding a special inquiry to investigate the matter. Relations between the two countries had previously been strained, after the Venezuelan government voiced its opposition to new US military bases being set up in Colombia.

The Colombian ambassador has been given 72 hours to vacate his offices in Caracas.



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February 12, 2009

Pakistani nuclear scientist released from house arrest

Pakistani nuclear scientist released from house arrest

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr A.Q.Khan
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Last Friday, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, was freed from detention. Khan was detained under house arrest since 2004, he made a televised confession of selling nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. He is widely regarded as the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program, and most famous as a national hero.

Dr. Qadeer filed a petition at the Islamabad High Court against the government, to address his detention and house arrest. He was freed and now lives as a “free citizen,” but the terms upon which he and the government agreed remain secret.

He sent his regards to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, and the Interior Adviser, and thanked them for their stance opposing his detention.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “very much concerned” about Khan’s release. One of the spokesmen, Gordon Duguid, said Khan “remains a serious proliferation risk” and releasing him would be “extremely regrettable”. Gillani has rejected such remarks, saying that Dr. Qadeer’s network has been dismantled and said that he has been released under Court orders.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tried to calm international worries. He reiterated that Khan’s network had been broken up and said that the government reserves the right to appeal the court’s ruling.

Khan, who is now 72 years old and has received treatment for prostate cancer, told reporters that he was finished with nuclear work and plans to devote himself to education.



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July 4, 2008

Pakistani scientist says government knew about nuclear shipment to North Korea

Pakistani scientist says government knew about nuclear shipment to North Korea

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Khan previously claimed that he was involved in supplying nuclear technology to North Korea, but he now denies it.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has been under house arrest since 2004 for his alleged involvement in exporting nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya, says that North Korea’s shipment of gas centrifuges in 2000 was under the supervision of Pakistan’s army.

In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Khan said that the centrifuges, which are used in the process of enriching uranium, were loaded in a North Korean plane under supervision of Pakistani security officials. He claims the shipment must have had the consent of President Pervez Musharraf, who at that time was chief of the army.

“It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment,” Khan said. “It must have gone with [Musharraf’s] consent.” The Pakistani government has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the nuclear shipments.

Khan’s claims contradict his 2004 confession, in which he reportedly admitted to providing North Korea, Iran, and Libya with nuclear materials and designs without authorization. He was put under house arrest after his confession, but was pardoned by Musharraf. He is still seen as a hero by many Pakistanis for his efforts in creating Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Cquote1.svg It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment. Cquote2.svg

—Abdul Qadeer Khan

In recent weeks, Khan has begun retracting his confession, claiming he had been promised complete freedom for becoming a “scapegoat”, promises which he says were “not honored”. He says that some of his friends, including PML-Q leader and former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, had persuaded him that it was in the national interest.

“In the interests of the country, I agreed to take the blame,” he said. “A statement was given to me to read with the understanding that it would be followed by a presidential pardon, total rehabilitation and full freedom to move and meet anyone within the country. That promise was not kept on the part of the president.”

Khan now denies ever traveling to Iran or Libya, and he says that North Korea’s nuclear program had already been “well-advanced” before he arrived. He admits to making two trips to North Korea for the exchange of missile technology, but says the trips did not involve nuclear secrets and were government-sanctioned.

Musharraf’s spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, denies Khan’s allegations. “I can say with full confidence that it is all lies and false statements,” he said. United States officials are also skeptical of Khan’s recent claims. “We have not changed our assessment that A.Q. Khan was a very major and dangerous proliferator,” an unnamed U.S. official said.

Khan’s wife Hendrina has challenged her husband’s house arrest, hiring attorney Mohammad Iqbal Jaffry to argue the case in court. Jaffry will petition for an end to Khan’s restriction of movement, which his wife says constitutes an “illegal detention”. A hearing has been scheduled for July 15.



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July 25, 2007

Tour de France: Yellow jersey Rasmussen withdrawn

Tour de France: Yellow jersey Rasmussen withdrawn

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Michael Rasmussen

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Current yellow jersey, Michael Rasmussen has been withdrawn from the 2007 Tour de France by his team Rabobank for lying to the team about his whereabouts in June, saying he was in Mexico while he was, in fact, in Italy. An Italian Tour de France commentator mentioned he had met Rasmussen in June on a training camp in Italy.

It has been reported that the hotel, where Rabobank’s team was staying, was raided and searched late Wednesday by the police. There is no word on whether the search turned up anything.

Rasmussen had come under heavy fire for having received four warnings from cycling authorities before the race, because of him failing to inform about his whereabouts.

Before today’s stage, which he won, Rasmussen said: “I want to make absolutely clear I’ve had out-of-competition tests prior to the Tour de France, 14 tests during the Tour and all the results are negative … I do support my team in the fight against doping and [for] a clean sport.”

“Michael Rasmussen has been sent home for violating the team’s internal rules,” said Rabobank spokesman Jacob Bergsma.

According to Danish news channel TV 2 News, the rest of the Rabobank team will be allowed to finish the race if they wish to do so. TV 2 News also says Rasmussen has left Rabobank’s hotel.

Davide Cassani, a former Tour de France cyclist and now a TV commentator for Italy, said that he had seen Rasmussen in the Dolomites area of the Alps on both June 13 and 14, 2007. Rasmussen had filed information with his team that he was in Mexico from June 4 through June 26.

Reactions

We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable.
 
— Christian Prudhomme, general director of the Tour de France
The team decided to pull him out; that’s their prerogative. I can only applaud that. It’s a zero-tolerance policy, and it’s a lesson for the future
 
— Pat McQuaid, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale
It’s in no way a celebration on our end. It’s the third piece of bad news. It reflects badly on our sport.
 
— P.J. Rabice, spokesperson for Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
It’s a sad day for the cycling sport. I feel sorry for Michael Rasmussen. But most of all I feel sorry for the sport. Another yellow jersey has been discredited, for the second year in a row. It is terrible.
 
— Lars Bonde, coach of the Danish national cycling team
I’m not angry with Rasmussen, but with the situation. I think there are worse things in life than what he did. His life is ruined and he will never get a job as a cyclist again. For me as well, this is a reason to do something completely different.
 
— Michael Boogerd, rider for the Rabobank Cycling Team



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January 8, 2006

Truckies could foot the bill for NSW Pacific Highway upgrade

Truckies could foot the bill for NSW Pacific Highway upgrade

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Sunday, January 8, 2006

A section of the Pacific Highway South of Buladelah
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Just two weeks after a join statement by Australian federal roads minister Jim Lloyd and his New South Wales counterpart Joe Tripoldi that tolls may be used to fast track upgrades of the Pacific Highway, acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile suggested that truck operators could pay up to a $70 toll.

Mr Vaile claims that industry sources claim that it is $400 less for a B-double semi trailer to drive from Sydney to Brisbane via the Pacific Highway than the New England Highway (which is the national highway) because of the upgrades carried out over the past 10 years.

Mr Valie claims the transport industry would accept a $70 toll. “Anything we do is going to enhance their efficiency”. “Therefore the transport industry would be prepared to pay a toll – not just a $5 or $7 or $10 toll. For Sydney to Brisbane, who knows, (they could pay) a $50 to $70 toll, because these efficiencies are so significant now in running that sector.”

The federal and state governments have committed to converting the highway to dual carriageway between Sydney and Port Macquarie and Brisbane and Byron Bay within three years. The remainder of the highway (with the exception of the section replaced by the Sydney – Newcastle Freeway was scheduled to be completed by 2016.

Mr Vaile said that the New South Wales government should look at using public-private partnerships to fund upgrades between Port Macquarie and Byron Bay. He further hinted that regular motorists would still pay tolls, although they would be variable depending on the length of highway used.

Kathy and Greg Campbell who lost Greg’s mother and their daughters Becky, 9, and Jessy, 8, when a truck slammed into their car head on south of Buladelah said the number of trucks which use the single carriageway section is an outrage. Ms Campbell said that the federal government received AU$14 billion a year in fuel excise from motorists and the estimated cost to complete the highway upgrade was AU$8 billion.

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