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Reforms to re size security council gain momentum

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United Nation: Reforms in security council have gained momentum with a total consensus on its resizing from 15 to mid-20s. Although, Russia and the US opposed at the recent negotiating session, according to diplomatic sources.

While the issue of adding permanent members was not on the session’s agenda and was scheduled for later, Pakistan and a group of countries served notice that they would oppose any such move.

Despite these differences, the “momentum of convergence is gaining speed” for reforms, a diplomat who was at the February 22 meeting told agencies. The diplomat cited the overwhelming support for increasing the total number of Council members from 15 to the mid-20s and for other reforms, which include making its working more transparent, emphasising mediation over military force, and more involvement of non-member countries in its activities.

This was the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reforms (IGN) after the General Assembly overcame stiff opposition last year to adopt a text to base the discussions on. IANS put together this account of the closed-door meeting from conversations with sources who attended it and speeches released by some countries.

The US and Russia wanted the size of the Council restricted to 20 asserting that anything more would undermine its efficiency. Limiting it to 20 would make it virtually impossible to add permanent members because there would then be no room for any non-permanent members, which would be the priority of most countries to broaden the representation on the UN’s highest decision-making body.

Washington and Moscow have, however, endorsed adding permanent members, with India as one of them. But a 20-member limit on the Council could nullify this.

The other permanent members, Britain and France, backed the mid-20s number while China did not take a stand.

India supported going up to 27 and Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said: “Efficiency is not merely an issue of numbers but stems from a broader set of factors such as credibility, equitability, legitimacy and representativeness.”

Russia also opposed proposals coming from the IGN on reforming the working of the Council, the other item on the agenda, claiming that it was an internal matter that only the Council should decide.

The IGN is to discuss on March 9 the veto issue, including whether new permanent members should have veto powers and if they should voluntarily forgo them. But in a preview of differences expected at the session, African nations said they wanted two permanent members from their region with veto powers and all other privileges the current five have.

While China spoke of a greater role for developing countries, it avoided saying anything on adding permanent members so as not to publicly antagonise the African countries, even as it lobbies against more permanent members.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi said categorically: “There should be no additional permanent seats.”

Pakistan belongs to a 13-member United for Consensus (UfC) group led by Italy that campaigns against adding permanent members and held up the reform process for several years by preventing the adoption of a negotiating text for the talks.

Italian Permanent Representative Sebastiano Cardi, speaking on behalf of UfC, suggested adding 11 seats to the Council, but said: “UfC countries are convinced that we cannot afford to allocate seats permanently to a few countries at the expense of the rest of the membership.”

Cardi examined the current distribution of seats in the Council to various groups, which gives five seats to the Europe and North America group and only three each to the Asia-Pacific and Africa groups and two each to Eastern Europe and Latin America groups.

This resulted in one Council seat for every 26 Asian-Pacific countries and one seat for every 18 African nations, he said. To right the imbalance, the majority of the added seats should go to Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America, he said.

German Permanent Representative Harald Braun, who spoke on behalf of four-nation group G-4 that includes India, Brazil and Japan, said he was “gratified” that the UfC supported his group’s proposal for enlarging the Council and added that this “indicated the group’s willingness to consolidating this point accordingly”.

The G-4 nations lobby for adding permanent seats and mutually support each for them.(IANS)

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in)

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Students Get Amazon Alexa – Electronic Voice-Controlled Assistants in University Campus Housing

It is a good idea for students to get as much experience as possible with the voice assistants to improve their development skills and prepare for future jobs.

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The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

One American university is putting Amazon-electronic voice-controlled assistants in every student housing room on campus.

Saint Louis University recently announced it will equip every student living space with Amazon’s Alexa system. The school in St. Louis, Missouri, will place about 2,300 Echo Dot “smart” devices in all student dorms and other university housing.

Officials said the university will be the first in the world to put the devices in every student living space. The devices and the Alexa service are being provided at no costs to students.

The Amazon Echo is a speaker with the ability to listen and “talk” to users and can perform some operations. The Alexa assistant competes with similar systems made by Google and Apple.

Devices linked to the systems have become increasingly popular in homes in recent years. They can be used for things like looking up information, playing music, ordering food or buying things on the internet. The devices can also complete actions in the home. These include turning lights on and off, and controlling systems for heating and cooling and security.

Amazon calls these different tasks Alexa can perform “skills.”

Amazon said in a website post that Saint Louis University chose the Alexa system after carrying out a test program. The program involved the Echo Dot and a device from a competing company. It said the students had a better reaction to the Alexa system.

The Echo Dots will include a special skill developed especially for Saint Louis University. It will provide information and answer questions about local school activities and campus life.

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In this March 2, 2016, file photo, David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down on an Echo Dot in San Francisco. VOA

Next year, the university plans to add more personalized skills, such as providing information about classes and grades.

The university said it did not increase student tuition to pay for the project. Instead, officials said, it was financed through the school’s general fund, as well as partnerships with Amazon and n-Powered. The company, based in Los Angeles, California, helped develop the parts of the system that are related to Saint Louis University.

David Hakanson is Saint Louis University’s vice president and chief information officer. In announcing the project, he said it will fit well with students who are “highly driven to achieve success in and out of the classroom.”

He added: “Every minute we can save our students from having to search for the information they need online is another minute that they can spend focused on what matters most: their education.”

While the devices are being placed in every university housing space, students do not have to use them. For those wishing not to take part, the school suggests students just remove the devices from their rooms and put them away in a safe place.

Other universities have also experimented with voice-controlled assistants in student living areas.

A year ago, Arizona State University announced a program that provided Echo Dot devices to a special housing area for engineering students. In the program, all engineering students moving into the special housing community were given the choice of receiving an Echo Dot if they wanted one.

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Bhavik Patel, a mechanical engineering senior and peer mentor at Arizona State’s community housing center Tooker House, demonstrates use of an Amazon Echo Dot while working on formulas. VOA

As is the case at Saint Louis University, Arizona State students are able to use the system to get the latest information on university programs and events. However, the Arizona students also have the chance to sign up for classes that teach subjects related specifically to creating new uses for Alexa devices.

Octavio Heredia is a director with Arizona State’s Fulton Schools of Engineering. He said he thinks it is a good idea for students to get as much experience as possible with the voice assistants to improve their development skills and prepare for future jobs.

Also Read: Google Releases ‘Go Edition of Android 9 Pie’

“Once they are familiar with the devices, they are going to want to further develop their own skills and begin integrating that technology – the hardware and the skills – into other projects,” he said. (VOA)