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Ecuador drills near an Amazon nature reserve calls it the start of a new era

Ecuador drills for oil near an Amazon nature reserve and the government blamed the international community for this failure

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Members of the media inspect measures taken at the ITT, or block 43, oil block by Petroamazonas to minimize impact on the environment during oil production in Tiputini, Ecuador, Sept. 7, 2016. Source: VOA
  • Ecuador began drilling for oil Wednesday near an Amazon nature reserve known as Yasuni
  • Around half of Ecuador’s income comes from oil, according to the World Bank.
  • Correa’s government blamed the international community for the failure of a plan once seen as a possible model for other developing countries seeking to resist the lure of oil money

Ecuador began drilling for oil Wednesday near an Amazon nature reserve known as Yasuni, a site that President Rafael Correa had previously sought to protect from development and pollution under a pioneering conservation plan.

Correa in 2007 asked wealthy countries to donate $3.6 billion to offset revenue lost by not drilling in the Yasuni National Park. But the initiative was scrapped in 2013 after it brought in less than 4 percent of the amount requested.

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Correa’s government blamed the international community for the failure of a plan once seen as a possible model for other developing countries seeking to resist the lure of oil money. Wednesday’s drilling by the state oil company Petroamazonas began in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) block at Tiputini, which is just outside Yasuni. Ishpingo and Tambococha are within the Yasuni reserve itself.

Workers walk past machinery at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador, Sept. 7, 2016.
Workers walk past machinery at Miranda Port in Tiputini, Ecuador, Sept. 7, 2016. Source: VOA

Correra has said previously that drilling would affect less than 1 percent of the reserve.

“It’s the start of a new era for Ecuadorean oil,” said Vice President Jorge Glas after a tour of the site Wednesday.

“In this new era, first comes care for the environment and second responsibility for the communities and the economy, for the Ecuadorean people,” he told reporters, adding that the cost of production was less than $12 per barrel.

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Ecuador is OPEC’s smallest member and has suffered heavily from the fall in oil prices. Around half its income comes from oil, according to the World Bank.

It is also one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, boasting Amazon rainforest, Andean mountains and the Galapagos Islands.

The end of Ecuador’s conservation initiative for the eastern Yasuni, a vast swath of rainforest on the equator, drew outrage from environmentalists when it was first announced.

“This is the worst imaginable place to be drilling for oil. The world can simply not afford to lose a place like Yasuni,” Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program director at Amazon Watch, said in a statement.

About 1.67 billion barrels of oil lie under Yasuni’s soil.

With output from the Tiputini field, Ecuador’s oil production will rise to some 570,000 barrels per day (bpd) from a current level of about 550,000 bpd, government officials say. (VOA)

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Apple losing out AI race to Google, Amazon: Report

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Apple
Apple losing out AI race to Google, Amazon: Report

November 3, 2017, 10:32 IST: Essentially a hardware-focused firm, Apple is falling behind in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) race with Google and Amazon racing ahead while embracing the open-source and collaborative approach in the emerging field of AI, Fortune reported.

According to Mohanbir Sawhney, McCormick Foundation professor of technology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, sheets of glass are simply no longer the most fertile ground for innovation.

“That means Apple urgently needs to shift its focus and investment to AI-driven technologies, as part of a broader effort to create the kind of ecosystem Amazon and Google are building quickly,” Sawhney wrote in Fortune.

According to him, Apple has reached its peak with “super premium” iPhone X and “does not represent the beginning of the next 10 years of the smartphone, as Apple claims”. Apple launched the iPhone X globally. Players pursue innovation along a vector of differentiation until the vector runs out of steam.

“When that happens, the focus of innovation shifts to a different vector and new market leaders emerge. We have seen this pattern several times in mobile phone innovation over the past three decades,” Sawhney said.

he vector of differentiation is now shifting from hardware to AI and AI-based software and agents.

“As AI-driven phones like Google’s Pixel 2 and virtual agents like Amazon Echo proliferateaToday’s smartphones will likely recede into the background,” he stressed.

Google Pixel phones offers great photo-enhancement features and deeper hardware-software integration driven by AI-based technology. The second edition of Pixel features 5-inch display, 4GB RAM, 12MP rear and 8MP front camera, and 2,700mAH battery. Google will bring Pixel 2 XL (6-inch display) into the Indian market from November 15 onwards.

The Amazon Echo enables natural conversations through the Alexa virtual agent.

“Apple has only to look at Motorola, Nokia, and Blackberry to understand how quickly a leader can fall from the peak in this market, and do its best to avert this outcome,” Sawhney added. (IANS)

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Con man in Delhi Duped Amazon for over Rs. 50 Lakh; Arrested by Delhi Police for Fraud

Shivam, a resident of north-west Delhi’s Tri Nagar, holds a degree in hotel management. However, he chose to use all his management skills to con the commercial giant, Amazon

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Amazon logo. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 11, 2017 : Leading e-commerce portal Amazon was taken for a ride by a 21-year-old youth who is said to have duped the company for over 50 lakh.

As per the police, the accused, identified as Shivam Chopra, bought over 166 expensive mobile phones via the online e-commerce store Amazon and consequently demanded refunds claiming he had received an empty box.

Shivam, a resident of north-west Delhi’s Tri Nagar, holds a degree in hotel management. However, he chose to use all his management skills to con the commercial giant, Amazon.

A complaint registered this year on behalf of Amazon Seller Services Private Limited first raised eyebrows in June when it was revealed that refunds had been claimed for as many as 166 mobile phones that had been ordered between April and May, on the claims that the delivery packages were empty. Suspicion gathered momentum when it was further revealed that payments for all these 166 mobiles were made through gift cards.

Allegedly, Shivam would use different customer accounts (reports suggest he used 48 different accounts) to place orders of expensive phones on Amazon and would provide the portal with a false address. He would then speak with the delivery associate and collect his order at a mutually decided place within the locality. Consequently, Shivam would then place complaints with Amazon, claiming that he had received an empty package and would demand a refund.

Subsequently, refunds were initiated in the form on gift cards.

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Following an enquiry, a case was registered with the Delhi Police in August.

The accused was then identified with the help of Amazon’s delivery persons, and the locals and by tracing the multiple numbers that were used to place the orders and Shivam was arrested on October 6.

According to the police, Shivam allegedly also purchased 150 pre-activated SIM cards to place the orders from different numbers. His accomplice in the con, Sachin Jain, has also been arrested, who helped provide him the SIM cards.

As per a report by PTI, upon investigation, the Delhi Police recovered 19 mobile phones from Shivam’s house. It was revealed that he had sold all other devices to buyers in the notorious Gaffar Market, or on the online marketplace OLX. The police also recovered Rs 12 lakh in cash, 40 bank passbooks and cheques from his house.

An Amazon India spokesperson later thanks ed the Delhi police for their services in an official statement and added, “We continue to work closely with the Delhi Police and thank them for all their efforts in the investigation.”

An ordinary guy who duped an e-commerce website and claimed refunds running into lakhs of rupees – the case is not a first of its kind. Previously, con-men had been arrested for duping rival e-commerce website FlipKart. However, what is peculiar is how no action has been taken to keep such frauds at bay and these cases continue to suffer.

 

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‘Humans Have Caused Pollution and Humans Can Fix It too’, Says UN Environment Head; Asserts Asia Must Lead Efforts for a Pollution-Free Earth

World Health Organization figures show Asia has 25 of the world's 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health

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Asia-Pacific
People wear protective masks during a polluted day in Shanghai (VOA)

Bangkok, September 9, 2017 : Asia-Pacific — home to more than half the world’s population and some of its fastest-growing economies — is a key battleground in the fight against pollution, one of the biggest threats to the planet and its people, the U.N. environment chief said.

An estimated 12 million people die prematurely each year because of unhealthy environments, 7 million of them due to air pollution alone, making pollution “the biggest killer of humanity,” Erik Solheim told the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment in Bangkok this week.

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Humans have caused pollution and humans can fix it, said Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, in an interview with Reuters at the four-day summit.

“The struggle for a pollution-free planet will be won or lost in Asia — nowhere else,” said the former Norwegian minister for environment and international development.

The sheer size of Asia-Pacific, as well as its continued economic growth, put it at the heart of the challenge, he added.

The region’s development has been accompanied by worsening pollution of its air, water and soil. Its emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide doubled between 1990 and 2012, and the use of resources such as minerals, metals and biomass has tripled, according to the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific
A man carries a sack of vegetables as he walks past a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage, in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (VOA)

World Health Organization figures also show Asia has 25 of the world’s 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health. The pollution comes largely from the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly for transport and electricity generation.

Solheim said Asia is also a major contributor of plastic polluting the world’s oceans — and solutions can be found in the region. He pointed to a huge beach cleanup campaign in Mumbai that inspired Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overhaul the country’s waste management system.

“There’s enormous environmental opportunity,” Solheim said. “Asia has by and large strong governments, and they have the ability to fix problems.”

Coal no longer king?

Solheim said fighting pollution by moving toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would also benefit efforts to curb climate change, which scientists say is stoking more deadly heatwaves, floods and sea-level rise around the world.

But environmentalists worry that Asia’s demand for coal, the most polluting of the major fossil fuels, is likely to grow for years to come.

Figures from a forum organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Singapore earlier this year show that some 273 gigawatts of coal power are still being built, although much more has been put on hold.

In July, analysts told Reuters that Japan, China and South Korea are bank-rolling coal-fired power plants in Indonesia despite their pledges to reduce planet-warming emissions under the Paris climate deal.

Asia-Pacific
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the rise in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Experts say curbing or ending the use of coal is required if this goal is to be reached.

Globally, many countries — including China — are shutting down or suspending plans for coal-fired power plants as costs for wind and solar power plummet.

Solheim is optimistic, noting that the International Energy Agency significantly raised its five-year growth forecast for renewables led by China, India, the United States and Mexico.

“There are very, very few people in the world who believe that the future is coal,” he said. “I think we will see the shift [to renewables] happening much faster than people tend to believe.”

ALSO READ Paris climate pact: The play of words

On U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his nation out of the Paris Agreement, Solheim sees a silver lining.

“The surprising judgment of history may be that Donald Trump did a lot of service to this fight against climate change by withdrawing, because he galvanized the reaction of everyone else,” said Solheim.

“All the big, iconic companies of modern capitalism — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon — they immediately said, ‘We will move into the green economy.'” (VOA)