Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Power Africa partners U.S. African Development Foundation and GE announce Women in Energy Challenge Winners in Uganda

Joint Energy and Environments Projects (JEEP) and Conservation and Development Uganda Limited (CODE) will each be awarded a grant of $100,000 to expand their renewable energy enterprises to reach women beneficiaries

KAMPALA, Uganda, August 23, 2017/ -- The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), in collaboration with partners Power Africa and GE (www.GE.com), is proud to announce the winners of the 2017 Women in Energy Challenge in Uganda, where only 20% of the population is connected to electricity. Joint Energy and Environments Projects (JEEP) and Conservation and Development Uganda Limited (CODE) will each be awarded a grant of $100,000 to expand their renewable energy enterprises to reach women beneficiaries. Dr. Maria Bawabya Senkezi, JEEP’s Chairwoman, says investing in women entrepreneurs is critical because “women invest money back into the community.”

The Women in Energy Challenge, part of the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, was launched in 2016 by USADF and GE to identify and accelerate enterprises either led by women or benefitting women, and help African entrepreneurs compete in the global economy. The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is a part of Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid initiative, which aims to drive private investment in off-grid and small-scale renewable energy solutions. By funding energy entrepreneurs, USADF is bridging the energy gap for some of Uganda’s most vulnerable populations.

    Joint Energy and Environments Projects (JEEP) is a 100% women-owned enterprise in central Uganda. With a $100,000 grant, it will install 6 green power units in Kalangala district, a remote island district in Lake Victoria. Fishing is the main industry in this island district in Lake Victoria, but commercial ice to preserve fish is both expensive and limited. As a result, a significant amount of fish is lost before it can be sold in the market. The 6 green power units which JEEP establishes will each have solar-powered cold storage facilities for preservation, phone charging and solar home systems for sale, and each will be run by a women’s group trained in bookkeeping. The green power units will each repay a portion of their profits to JEEP to be used to replicate the model throughout the region. This will not only provide local jobs, but will increase incomes for local women.
    Conservation and Development Uganda Limited (CODE) is a majority-women owned enterprise in western Uganda where surrounding national parks limit the amount of available firewood, and as a result, women bear the brunt of energy poverty, walking long distances in search of firewood and cooking fuel. Through the grant, CODE will sell an initial 350 Agro-Eco kits using a flexible repayment financing model, which will provide alternative and safer fuel sources. Using a low-cost distribution system using Village Savings and Loan Associations, CODE will collect revenues and expand their business to impact more and more households in the region.

The U.S. African Development Foundation is the only U.S. agency dedicated entirely to Africa, and solely funding 100% African-owned businesses and African entrepreneurs. USADF aims to promote innovative solutions that increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable power – particularly for vulnerable populations who will have little to no access to grid power.

“We launched this Women in Energy Challenge to find the best and the brightest female entrepreneurs that are making a difference in bringing electricity to rural communities. We are very pleased to see that these women-led enterprises are showing promise in finding alternative solutions to Uganda’s energy crisis,” says C.D. Glin, USADF President and CEO.

“Providing energy access to Africa’s population is a priority for us,” said Jay Ireland, President & CEO of GE Africa. “The Women in Energy Challenge is one of our commitments towards supporting local entrepreneurs and we are delighted that African women-owned enterprises are solving local challenges.”

In Uganda, where USADF has a $5 million co-funding agreement with the Government of Uganda, USADF has awarded three Off-Grid Challenge grants to energy enterprises. Since 2013, USADF has partnered with GE and Power Africa to fund over 70 off-grid energy companies in nine countries in Africa, and invested over $7 million in Africa's energy entrepreneurs, which has already resulted in over 20,000 actual connections benefitting over 100,000 people. To learn more about the USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge, visit www.USADF.gov/off-grid.

Distributed by APO on behalf of GE.

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USADF Press Contact: 
Julia Tanton
JTanton@USADF.gov

GE Press Contact:
Nina Florette
Nina@Newmark.co.ke

About USADF:
The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is an independent U.S. Government agency established by Congress to support and invest in African owned and led enterprises which improve lives and livelihoods in poor and vulnerable communities in Africa. For more information, go to www.USADF.gov.

About Power Africa:
Power Africa is a U.S. Government-led initiative launched in 2013. Power Africa’s goals are to increase electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by adding more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections. Power Africa works with African governments and private sector partners to remove barriers that impede energy development in sub-Saharan Africa and to unlock the substantial natural gas, wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal resources on the continent. To date, Power Africa and its partners have helped 80 power projects comprising over 7,200 megawatts (MW) reach financial close with a total value of $14 billion. Three-quarters of those projects by MW are gas. Three-quarters of the 80 projects are renewables. Over 2,000 MW are already operational. Power Africa has helped add 10.6 million connections to off-grid, micro-grid and central grid solutions, which has enabled tens of millions of people gain access to electricity for the very first time.

About GE :
GE (NYSE: GE) (www.GE.com) is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the "GE Store," through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry.

SOURCE
GE

AAA students claim Inaugural Facebook Challenge Student Award at the Loeries Inbox


The award, which aims to celebrate the achievements of future creatives as they redefine creativity in the mobile era, was created in partnership with Facebook and The Nelson Mandela Foundation

DURBAN, South Africa, August 23, 2017/ -- The Facebook Challenge (www.Facebook.com), an official Loerie Award in the Student category, was won this year by three students from AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town. The award, which aims to celebrate the achievements of future creatives as they redefine creativity in the mobile era, was created in partnership with Facebook and The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

With students from across Africa and The Middle East briefed to address gender inequality awareness through the development of a mobile video campaign, the inaugural Facebook Challenge Loerie was won by Peni Buckton, Claudia Bester (both 3rd year students studying BA in Creative Brand Communication) and Lunje Jwambe (2nd year student studying Copy Writing diploma).

The winning trio created an engaging piece of work called ‘Everyday Armour’ which is an 'anti-harassment couture' brand that seeks to make thought-provoking social commentary on the gender-based violence women face daily. These students felt that as women, they could all relate to the small things that women have to do consciously and sub-consciously to prepare themselves for any instance; be it taking a different route home, wearing oversized clothing to deter unwelcome advances or even go as far as taking martial arts/self-defense classes, simply because they are born female. The campaign aims to shed light on this unfortunate reality and make a small difference in society.

“The quality of work we saw coming from students was truly inspirational,” says Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director Facebook, Africa. “There was a lot of conceptual innovation, as well as fascinating approaches to the use of technology. Many congratulations from us at Facebook to the winners for not only embracing the challenge, but creating a thought-provoking and moving mobile video campaign. We look forward to our ongoing work with advertising schools and universities as we continue to support and invest in young and diverse creative talent.”

The three students received a bronze Loerie for their work, titled ‘Every Day Armour’. Commenting on their win, student Lunje Jwambe said: “It’s been a real honour to win a Loerie. We really enjoyed the opportunity to think about mobile in a different and challenging way and coupled with social consciousness, this truly made it a fascinating experience. It’s been very good grounding for each of us and one that I’m sure will stand us in good stead for our future careers.”

Charles Maggs, Head of Creative Faculty AAA, Cape Town, added: “The project exposes students to the demands of the digital communication front line. They learn a huge amount as they work, and the thematic tie-in to social issues makes the process relevant to everyone on a personal level.”

The winning campaigns will be launched on Facebook and Instagram soon.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Facebook.

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Media contact:
Idea Engineers – PR agency for Facebook in Africa
Facebook@IdeaEngineers.co.za

SOURCE
Facebook

Greed Will Destroy Ghana If It Is Not Checked

The current travails of Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, the CEO of Engineers and Planners, and Mr. Joseph Siaw Adjapong of the Jospong Group, illustrate perfectly the nature of the society that has evolved in Ghana since the overthrow of President Nkrumah in 1966.

Ghana has become a dog-eat-dog society in which it is  the most ruthless and cynical who are somehow able to manipulate the system that often get ahead.  Alas, it has virtually eroded Ghanaian society's moral fabric.

So although the Ibrahim Mahamas and Joseph Siaw Adjapongs are withought question personable and generous individuals it is hard to fault even their harshest critics who insist that political patronage has made them very wealthy businesspeople - sometimes even at the expense of Ghanaian society. 

That is the reason why the system is  now being manipulated in turn by some of today's most powerful individuals - who clearly feel that having 'conquered' Ghana they are entitled to the spoils: and are therefore determined to supplant yesteryear's leading crony-capitalists who prospered so  mightily during the era of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administrations of presidents Mills and Mahama respectively.

The grapevine points to some New Patriotic Party (NPP) bigwigs as those mainly behind what is said by some to be self-seeking cloaked as patriotism - which they insist is the main driving force motivating those now conducting the new era's crusade-of-the-avengers, apparently targeting Ibrahim Mahama and Joseph Siaw Adjapong amongst others.

Such cynics often wonder aloud in conversations whether the uncouth,  loud-mouthed and arrogant Kennedy Adjapongs and Bernard Antwi-Boasiakos (allegedly  today's master-puppeteers) forget that the very same one-step-removed tactics they are deploying to clip the wings of yesteryear's eagles and stop them soaring yet higher, will also be used against them too someday when regime-change occurs.

If indeed it is true that the duo are actually manipulating the system ultimately for their own ends, not for patriotic reasons, then the two gentlemen must not forget that wise saying, "No condition is permanent" - as they themselves very well know.

And as an old wag I know quipped:"Kofi, they will pay for their cruelty to Ibrahim Mahama and regret the envy driving them to destroy Joseph Siaw Adjapong's business empire, as sure as day follows night. Mark my words." Hmm, Oman Ghana - eyceasem o.

Still, Ibrahim Mahama and Joseph Siaw Adjapong  are neither meek children nor did they become super-rich by being shrinking violets - and know how to take care of themselves and will therefore survive regardless.

What a contrast to the Nkrumah-era for those my age - who are aware that President Nkrumah made it plain to the world that he did not want a powerful few with greedy ambitions to grab all the nation's resources (which in his view was owned by all Ghanaians) for themselves at  society's expense.

Indeed, it is inconcievable that under President Nkrumah - especially at a time when global climate change is negatively impacting the Ghanaian countryside - land inside forest reserves  anywhere in this country would have been parcelled out to private individuals and companies to mine sundry minerals in. Greed will destroy Ghana if it is not checked,

Unfortunately, because it is not an issue that has been on their radars much, large sections of the Ghanaian media have been silent on the issue of mining being allowed in forest reserves for years now.

Surely, the time has now come for the media to make amends for badly letting down present and future generations of our people in that regard - by leading a national campaign  to end all mining (both legal and illegal, ditto  illegal logging) in forest reserves nationwide. No nation whose ruling elites have foresight and know the priceless nature of biodiversity and the eco system services forests provide will permit mining in forest reserves in this day and age. We must be careful: Greed will destroy our nation as sure as day follows night.


Bloomberg New Energy Finance: Small-scale solar will displace $2 billion of US power by 2025


Small-scale solar will displace $2 billion of US power by 2025
By Bloomberg New Energy Finance on 23 August 2017
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Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Ratio of small-scale solar and battery capacity to total installed capacity
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

By 2025, over $2 billion worth of U.S. electricity production will change hands from traditional generators to small-scale generation assets.

Worldwide, the small-scale solar photovoltaic capacity operated by homes and businesses is predicted to grow consistently as depicted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in the New Energy Outlook 2017.

In countries like the U.S. which face stagnant electricity demand growth, the growth in distributed electricity production will take sales from generators in the wholesale markets and regulated power regions.

Australia leads the way in distributed energy, with around 45 per cent of total demand to be delivered by locally sourced distributed power  solar, wind and storage, by 2040.

Clients can access the full report here.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Reproduced with permission. 
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SDG Knowledge Hub/Stefan Jungcurt: UN Environment Supports Private Sector Partnerships for SDG Implementation in Africa and Latin America

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UN Environment Supports Private Sector Partnerships for SDG Implementation in Africa and Latin America
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

By Stefan Jungcurt  Ph.D. Thematic Expert on Biodiversity (Germany) 22 August 2017

story highlights

UN Environment has signed an MOU with Safaricom, a telecommunications, data and financial services provider, to support implementation of six SDGs in Kenya.

In Peru, UN Environment is providing technical support to the development of the country's first inventory of short-lived climate pollutants.

16 August 2017: UN Environment has announced it is supporting numerous initiatives that encourage private sector engagement and partnerships on science and monitoring and implementation on the ground, including recent projects in Kenya and Peru.

In Kenya, UN Environment signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Safaricom, the country’s largest provider of telecommunications, data and financial services. the partnership will focus on supporting implementation of the following SDGs: SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 13 (Climate action); SDG 14 (Life below water); and SDG 17 (Partnerships).

The MOU will provide a framework for collaboration in the implementation of activities contributing to these goals. Safaricom seeks to transform the lives of people in Kenya by investing in mobile communications infrastructures and offering mobile-based data and payments systems. These enable people to run small businesses and participate in economic growth. At the signing ceremony, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim called on the private sector to engage in SDG implementation, noting that the private sector’s “energy and innovations will shape the success or failure of our common goals.” [UN Environment Press Release][Safaricom Press Release]

In Peru, UN Environment provides technical support to the development of the country’s initial national inventory of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs are substances responsible for a large portion of near-term global warming. They include gases such as methane, tropospheric ozone and hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) as well as particulates such as black carbon. In contrast to reducing CO2 emissions, which is most important for mitigating climate change in the long term, reducing SLCP emissions is expected to mitigate climate change in the short term while providing co-benefits for human health and food security. SLCP inventories are an essential tool allowing countries to develop SCLP reduction strategies and to engage partners in mitigation action. Peru’s inventory is being developed by a partnership under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) that includes entities from the public and private sectors. The members contribute to the inventory through feedback on the methodology and technical aspects. A preliminary inventory was developed based on a detailed analysis of SLCP emissions in different sectors, including energy, transport, waste management and agriculture. The preliminary inventory was reviewed and refined at a workshop held 5 July 2017. [CCAC Press Release]
SDGs
6. Clean Water & Sanitation7. Affordable & Clean Energy11. Sustainable Cities & Communities12. Responsible Consumption & Production13. Climate Action14. Life Below Water17. Partnerships for the Goals
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Energy, Water & Sanitation, Human Settlements & Population, Industrial Development, Oceans & Coasts, Science, Climate Change, Mitigation, Monitoring & Evaluation
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Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South America, Eastern Africa
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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Facebook Showing Publisher Logos in Trending and Search

Showing Publisher Logos in Trending and Search
By Andrew Anker, Product Manager Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO, United States of America, August 22, 2017/ -- Today, we will begin introducing publisher logos next to articles in Trending and Search surfaces on Facebook (www.Facebook.com) as part of our ongoing efforts to enhance people's recognition of the sources of news distributed on our platform. Publishers will now be able to upload multiple versions of their logos through a new Brand Asset Library, so that the logos can appear next to their content on Facebook. We built this in close collaboration with a number of partners, as part of the Facebook Journalism Project, and are now rolling this out more broadly to all publishers.

To start, we are introducing these logo treatments exclusively for articles in Trending and Search, but the eventual goal is to extend these to all places where people consume news on our platform.

Enhancing people's awareness of the sources of content they read on Facebook
Research has shown that when people see a link to an article, it can be difficult for them to associate that link with a particular source. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that only 56% of respondents could recall the source of a new link viewed on social sites (Pew Report, February 2017) (http://APO.af/RjWz8D).   

By surfacing publisher logos next to article links, we want to make it easier for publishers to extend their brand identity on Facebook--to enhance people's awareness of the source of content they see on Facebook, so they can better decide what to read and share.

Now, publishers who upload their logos through the new Brand Asset Library will be eligible to see their logos in the following places:

    All Trending surfaces on desktop and mobile. See more details on where logos are eligible to appear in Trending (http://APO.af/SpWX5s). Access multimedia content here (http://APO.af/Hj8EkK).
    For news links on the search results page when a person searches for something. Access multimedia content here (http://APO.af/xH51BF).

How to get started
Publishers can upload their logo assets through a new Brand Asset Library located under Publishing Tools on their Page. See a full step by step guide on how to get started and logo requirements (http://APO.af/SpWX5s).

Access multimedia content here (http://APO.af/L8AWsg).

We'll continue to solicit feedback and explore additional opportunities to reinforce publisher brand on Facebook. We look forward to continued collaboration with partners in support of a more informed community.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Facebook.

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Media contect:
Idea Engineers – PR agency for Facebook in Africa
Facebook@IdeaEngineers.co.za

SOURCE
Facebook

WBCSD: 8 Business Cases to the Circular Economy

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8 Business Cases to the Circular Economy
Published: Thu, Jul 20, 2017
Type: Publication
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The macro-opportunities associated with implementing the circular economy are clear. Now, companies need to know how circularity will impact their business as well as specific industry or sector opportunities.

Summarizing the results of over 100 interviews and survey responses, WBCSD identified eight business cases managers can use to justify circular economy practices across the board:

    Gener8: create additional revenue from existing products and processes
    Innov8: spur innovation of new products and services
    Moder8: reduce operating costs
    Captiv8: engage customers and employees
    Differenti8: distinguish from competition
    Integr8: align with corporate strategy or mission
    Acclim8: adapt business models and value chain relationships
    Insul8: mitigate linear risk exposure

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WBCSD: The Circular Economy


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World business council for sustainable development

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Circular Economy

The circular economy is a $4.5 trillion opportunity. It’s a new way of looking at the relationships between markets, customers and natural resources, leveraging innovative new business models and disruptive technologies to transform the current “take, make, dispose” economic model.

Successful circular initiatives will reduce our dependence on natural resources while creating value for companies and their stakeholders. Companies may also discover that the circular economy helps them to drive bottom-line growth, enhance competitiveness and mitigate risk.

To help businesses become more circular, we provide:

    Information sharing
    Scalable solutions
    Metrics and measurement
    Advocacy and communication

How we are meeting the challenge

We are driving business solutions and initiatives that integrate the circular economy principles of life-cycle thinking and resource optimization. Our projects mobilize companies in their journey towards the circular economy.
Roadmap for reducing Ocean Waste

Ocean protection is at the forefront of the international agenda with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 14, where the first target is directed at reducing marine pollution, including plastic marine debris...
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Highlights
Practitioner Guide to the Circular Economy

Browse over 70 strategies, 125 circular economy concepts and 300 resources to help you find the tangible actions you can take to implement circularity across your company.
CEO Guide to the Circular Economy

The CEO Guide to the circular economy is a call to action that will help businesses get into the circular mindset. The Guide highlights the opportunities business can take by moving towards a circular economy.
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It is the global business collaboration delivering innovative, scalable solutions for the circular economy.  It brings companies together to reinvent how business finds, uses and disposes of the materials that make up global trade. 
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WBCSD releases 8 Business Cases to the Circular Economy - helping business accelerate growth, enhance competitiveness and mitigate risk
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Insider Perspective: 2017 Sustainability and Circular Economy Summit, “From Aspiration to Implementation”
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Making the circular economy more accessible and more attainable: WBCSD’s Practitioner Guide to the Circular Economy
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The Sustainable Materials cluster aspires to create a planet without any waste in 2050. Our cluster work program addresses Sustainable Development Goal 12—Responsible Consumption and Production and supports 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
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Bloomberg/Anna Hirtenstein: The Plan to Turn Africa’s Mobile Phone Towers Green

Bloomberg

The Plan to Turn Africa’s Mobile Phone Towers Green

By Anna Hirtenstein
Mon Aug 21 08:32:00 2017


    GreenWish plans $800 million investment in mobile phone towers
    CEO Aubin-Kalaidjian helps Orange deploy off-grid technology

GreenWish Partners, a renewable energy company run by a former Morgan Stanley executive, is planning to invest $800 million on solar-powered telecommunications towers across Africa.

The project could fuel economic growth by providing power for essential services. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of energy access in the world and is home to about half of the world’s 1.2 billion people without reliable electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. The problem extends to businesses as well as households, cutting into productivity and growth.

“We reduce the total cost of power by 30 percent,” said Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian, the founder and chief executive officer of GreenWish, who was formerly a managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “Smaller towers can run entirely on solar and battery and larger ones reduce their diesel use by at least 60 percent.”

Africa has more than 240,000 telecom towers, which convey signals to and from mobile phones. Most of them are powered by diesel generators because they’re often attached to unreliable grids or in remote areas without power network access. The hybrid systems developed by GreenWish combine a solar panel, a battery and a diesel generator to provide complete off-grid reliability.
Leapfrogging

Africa’s telecom industry has exploded in recent years, leapfrogging traditional fixed-line infrastructure and moving straight into mobile phones and Internet services. Services have becoming increasingly competitive with local companies taking market share, setting off price wars and squeezing profit margins.

Mauritius-based Greenwish has partnered with Orange SA and will begin with 250 towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year. It’s aiming to reach 3,000 towers across several countries by 2018 and 10,000 by 2020, Aubin-Kalaidjian said.
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“Given cost of solar has been declining rapidly and energy costs for off-grid towers are high, tower owners are incentivized to switch to hybrid systems,” said Takehiro Kawahara, frontier power analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Africa has potential remaining to increase mobile subscriptions while most other markets are reaching saturation, but energy costs can be significant in rural areas.”

Aubin-Kalaidjian set up GreenWish in 2010 after working at Morgan Stanley during the financial crisis. She ran Morgan Stanley’s asset management division in France and Switzerland, helping grow the business from 500 million euros to 7.5 billion euros.
‘Positive Impact’

“I didn’t want to belong to an investment bank anymore, I wanted to create my own business mandate and finance only real assets,” she said. “Projects with a positive impact, socially and environmentally.”

She raised $20 million in June 2015, largely from African investors such as the Senegalese sovereign wealth fund. A year later, she raised $250 million, counting Boston-based private equity firm Denham Capital Management LP among her investors.

GreenWish first focused on renewable energy projects on the grid and has built a 27-megawatt solar plant in Senegal. It has a pipeline to install another 350 megawatts in West Africa. It also builds clean power generation for industrial customers, from mines to cement factories to banks.

Aubin-Kalaidjian is in discussions with other telecommunication companies in Africa. Greenwish expects to extend its partnership with Orange beyond the DRC, moving into other markets such as Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Ivory Coast.

“Our partnership with Orange is a client-supplier relationship, we provide them with energy management services,” she said. “We finance everything ourselves.”

GreenWish expects to raise debt from a combination of commercial banks and development institutions such as the Overseas Private Investment Corp, the African Development Bank, KfW and FMO of the Netherlands.

— With assistance by Solape Renner

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Fast Company/Daniel Terdimanlong Read: How A Burning Man Camp Project Became A Multimillion-Dollar Business

Fast Company

   

    08.22.17 5:00 am most creative people

How A Burning Man Camp Project Became A Multimillion-Dollar Business
Thousands of $1,500 Shiftpod shelters have been sold, and are being used in disaster relief areas globally. Now the company has its own cryptocurrency.
How A Burning Man Camp Project Became A Multimillion-Dollar Business
Further Future Festival [Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]

By Daniel Terdimanlong Read

It began in the middle of the night: a nagging idea that Christian Weber couldn’t shake. That there had to be a better way. That he had the better way.
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After 20-plus years camping in a million different ways at Burning Man, the annual 70,000-person summer arts festival held in Nevada’s hot and windy-as-hell Black Rock Desert, in 2014, Weber came across something new: a friend’s hexayurt.

Increasingly popular on the playa (shorthand for the Black Rock Desert), the hexagonal shelter offers insulation, complete darkness, and respite from the withering heat or bitter cold. That helps explain why there are now well over 1,000 hexayurts in use every year at Burning Man. Weber loved the structure, the way several people could fit inside, and how cool the inside temperature was. He considered building one for the following year’s event, when he would lead a Burning Man camping group of 350 people.

Further Future Festival [Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
Then the doubts started. He worried about how long it would take to put a hexayurt together, that they’re fragile and hard to store, and that you need a truck to transport them. So Weber, who at the time owned an oil company that deployed an environmentally friendly alternative to fracking, concentrated on planning his camp. He forgot about hexayurts.

Four months later, in the dead of night, he woke up at his home in Napa, California, his brain afire with inspiration. “I couldn’t get the idea out of my head,” Weber tells me during a recent interview. “I started to think about [adapting] the walls of a hexayurt together so they fold up into one piece. I thought about doing it with fabric. I got my origami book out and did some drawings.”

The result was the Shiftpod, a sturdy, insulated, easy-to-construct camping shelter that weighs 64 pounds but transports easily. At 77-by-13-by-13 inches, it’s big enough to fit a queen-sized bed and plenty of gear. Most people can stand up in it.

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Originally, Weber planned on making a limited number of Shiftpods for campmates. He told his friends what he was doing and posted an online order form, thinking that maybe 30 people might want one at about $800 a pop. “Someone leaked it on Facebook,” he says. From there, he adds, “people were sending me money, people I didn’t even know . . . that year, we delivered 300 units out to the playa.”

Arriving in the desert that August, in 2015, I saw a Shiftpod for the first time. As someone who, like Weber, had explored countless Burning Man camping methods, I was intrigued by how a Shiftpod could both keep the dust out and be set up in less than five minutes. It looked like a lunar habitat–conversation piece!–and you didn’t freeze overnight. There’s nothing else like it. So prior to Burning Man 2016, I bought one.

In my camp alone last year, there were five Shiftpods and more than 1,000 on the playa. By then, Weber had sold his green-fracking operation and launched Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. (ASSI), the Napa-based company that’s turned his late-night Burning Man lodging idea into a multimillion-dollar business whose market extends far beyond the U.S. festival circuit—so far, in fact, that it requires an entirely new currency.
[Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
From Festival Hut To Rescue Shelter

Napa is most famous for being one of the world’s great wine-growing regions. Yet even a place dominated by miles of stunningly beautiful wineries has its share of nondescript office parks. And on a recent summer morning, I’m sitting in one with Weber to hear about everything that’s happened with Shiftpods over the last couple of years.

Although the shelters were built with Burning Man’s uncompromising conditions in mind, Weber told me that Burning man attendees, or “Burners,” now make up less than half of his customers. Attendees of other festivals have become dedicated buyers, as evidenced by a photo on the wall of a couple hundred Shiftpods set up at Further Future, an elite music and lifestyle event that the Wall Street Journal says should definitely not be called “Burning Man for billionaires.”

Originally sold for $800, Shiftpods have now progressed to a 2.0 model, and are currently available on sale for $1,299, down from their full price of $1,499. ASSI has also introduced a Shiftpod Mini (“A 110-pound [woman] can put that over her shoulder, hike that into a festival, take it on a plane,” Weber says) and a tunnel system that links two Shiftpods together.
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But Weber’s story doesn’t end with the sale of thousands of high-end tents to festival goers. He remembers that when he returned home from Burning Man 2015, a fire was raging in Northern California that eventually killed four people, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings in several towns, and displaced thousands.

“I got back in my car and drove back to Burning Man [and] retrieved 20 Shiftpods . . . from storage,” he said. “We washed them, cleaned them, and rehabbed them” with the intent of donating them to the NGO that was coordinating relief efforts.

But he was rebuffed–the NGO only wanted money. Eventually, Weber donated a few Shiftpods to individual families, but the experience gave him a quick education in the realities of bureaucracy and process on the ground after disasters.
[Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
A Place For The Displaced

From the beginning, ASSI had committed to giving away one Shiftpod for every 20 it sold. But now, Weber was inspired by a larger need for shelters for disaster and emergency management. “There’s 53.4 million forcibly displaced in the world right now because of wars and politics,” Weber says. “A lot of them are living in shanty shacks with blue tarps, so we’re trying to create a low-cost, easy-to-ship, easy-to-set-up unit that people can live in for up to five years.”

You can find ASSI shelters all around the world. They’re in Haiti, Japan, and Nepal. In Greece, they’ve been used to warm up refugees as soon as they emerge from the ocean. Weber says ASSI worked with a software company to donate 200 Shiftpods to the city of Honolulu for disaster response and to help house the homeless in the Nation of Hawaii. And last year, when a hurricane was bearing down on Florida, Weber got a call asking for a thousand units. “We had a few hundred,” he says. “We put them on a trailer and were ready to go.”

This past June, 40 local, state, and federal agencies got together in Cape Blanco, Oregon, for Operation Triton 32, an emergency management exercise geared toward training the military, police, and other local first responders in this remote area to prepare for what could someday be a catastrophic earthquake.
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ASSI was asked to bring some of its Shiftpods and new products, including the Shelterpod and Responsepod.

“We were pretty impressed as a whole,” says Jordan Fanning, the emergency operations center coordinator for the town of Brookings, Oregon. “Our first experience was meeting at the airport, and we hadn’t planned for [rain]. It was going to be an outdoor meeting. All of a sudden, there was a downpour. We had a Shiftpod. We ended up using it as our makeshift meeting room.”

Shelterpod container system. [Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
But what everyone involved in the exercise really liked was how easy it was to set up the Shiftpods, Shelterpods, and Responsepods, especially for volunteers with no experience. “That’s really nice, when people can just figure it out on their own,” Fanning says. “You can’t really do that with a lot of the [bigger] shelter companies. There’s lots and lots of pieces, and you have to fit them together.”

Even better, folks from a couple of the Air Force agencies that were on hand appreciated the pods because they could be quickly set up after being flown in on helicopters. “When the Chinook landed,” Weber says, “we could set up a unit before the rotor blades even stopped turning.”

And Shiftpods are sturdy: The force of the rotors never blew any of them down. (In a test at John Brown University in April, one of the shelters was put in front of a giant fan and subjected to increasingly strong winds. Only when gusts hit 109 miles an hour did the pod break loose and go flying.)

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Fanning says the city of Brookings is considering buying several dozen Shiftpods as a way to ensure that essential employees have shelter in the event of a major quake. “If we could stick 40 to 50 of these in [a shipping container],” he says, “then we have the ability to respond to the incident [quickly] without having to wait for FEMA or the state.”

[Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
As Weber sees it, one of the biggest challenges in disaster response is that many of the organizations that spring into action end up competing with each other for resources. The result, he says, can be long delays before supplies arrive and hoards of people being forced to hole up in sports arenas, schools, or other big buildings with nothing more than blankets and whatever else they could grab from their homes in a hurry.

He wants to find a solution for that. “Our goal is to set up kits for individuals to take with them that have a shelter, water filtration, and everything you need for a family of four to survive for 30 days,” Weber says. “And to build systems for up to 1,600 people [that can be stored] in one container.”

An obvious customer would be large companies in earthquake zones (like Silicon Valley) that have big parking lots and plenty of space to both store and set up emergency shelters. “You could literally walk out the door, pop open the [container] doors, and set up camp,” Weber says. “All the systems—radio, satellite communications—spool up, turn on, and you’ve got a disaster camp in a box.”

He calls this the Shelterpod Disaster Camp, and you can draw a straight line between it and his Burning Man camp. The kits, Weber says, are “basically our 40-foot shipping container that we use at Burning Man. And every year we unload our camp out of the container and use our container as our kitchen. It literally has fold-down tables [and] air conditioning . . . and when we’re all done, we throw it back in the container, and it’s ready to go for next year.” ASSI would lease the kits to companies or agencies, or donate them to organizations that need them when disasters strike.
[Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
Sheltercoin

While ASSI is willing to eat some of the costs of its donations, it’s still a for-profit business with a bottom line. That’s why, in searching for ways to help subsidize costs, the company created an all-new cryptocurrency.
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Meant to be launched in the coming weeks, ASSI’s Sheltercoin will be modeled after Bitcoin and similar systems. If enough value can be vested in Sheltercoin, ASSI would be able to recoup a lot of the donated funds, even as it helps streamline the process for putting money into the hands of those on the ground in disaster areas.

To start, ASSI will hold what’s known as an initial coin offering, or ICO, in which people will buy Sheltercoin with dollars. In conjunction, the company plans to offer Shiftpod customers “steep discounts” if they buy with Sheltercoin instead of dollars.

If a significant number of people buy Shiftpods with the cryptocurrency, Weber hopes, that will prop up Sheltercoin, and ideally raise the currency’s value. The more the value increases, he reasons, the lower ASSI’s true costs on the Shiftpods it donates. “The more people use the coin, the higher the value of the coin, because there’s a limited quantity,” Weber says. “The higher the value, the more equipment we can purchase, the more people we can train, and the more product we can have ready to ship.”

At the same time, Weber hopes to be able to use Sheltercoin as a way to put money in the hands of relief workers who would otherwise have to wait days, or even a week or more, to receive funds sent through traditional methods. “With blockchain [the technology underlying the cryptocurrency], I can send it right to somebody’s phone,” Weber says. “And they can take it to a local company that takes bitcoin for cash and transfer the funds to them in exchange for the local currency.”

Currency exchangers, he adds, are often some of the first people to arrive in emergency situations.

Will it work? Weber thinks so, arguing that Sheltercoin could be the first cryptocurrency backed by a solid company with a global mission and an actual product. He believes a lot of new cryptocurrencies are nothing more than an idea or concept. “We are a well-established company with a hot product going into a huge market,” he said. “So we should be able to create a lot of demand for the coin.”
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Heather Vescent, a futurist and expert in alternative currencies, agrees that the thirst for cryptocurrencies these days is “ridiculous.”

Vescent, who doesn’t have any firsthand knowledge of ASSI’s plans, lauds the company’s strategy for building a cryptocurrency around its social values. But she cautioned that ASSI and those using Sheltercoin would have to be disciplined and not allow the coin to be used in ways that are counter to those values.

And while she noted that there’s plenty of potential for a new coin to have huge gains, volatility in the cryptocurrency market could very easily lead to big losses for Sheltercoin’s backers.

[Photo: courtesy of Advanced Shelter Systems]
Weber is aware of the risks and is ready to shoulder losses should Sheltercoin collapse. But he’s convinced it’s the best way to propel ASSI’s mission of getting the company’s shelters where they need to be–and in turn, helping as many people as possible.

As for when he will launch the ICO, he says he’d initially kicked around the idea of doing it the same night that the Man (Burning Man’s namesake effigy) burns. The festival, and its community, he says, are “our roots, so we’re not going to forget where we came from.”

“I always thought going to Burning Man was my release and my hobby,” Weber continues. “Now I’m able to take a lot of stuff I’ve learned out there and turn it into a product I can share with the world, and help a lot of people not only have fun, but who need help and shelter.”
About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.

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API Summit & Expo 2017 Presenting a New Chapter for African Real Estate

API Summit & Expo 2017 Presenting a New Chapter for African Real Estate

ASK your questions LIVE

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, August 22, 2017/ -- A new reality for the African real estate industry, which has faced a number of geo-political and economic challenges over the last few years, is starting to emerge, and investors and developers have already started to look into how they can best redefine this new property landscape.

Key Questions Covered in Press Conference:

    Leonard Michau, Head - sub-Saharan African Operations at Broll Property Group

Once the darling of African real estate, the sentiment for West Africa has been largely negative over the last two years- is this narrative changing and can we expect Nigeria and Ghana’s real estate markets to start growing again?

    Bronwyn Corbett, Chief Executive Officer, GRIT Real Estate Income Group, Mauritius

Grit recently completed a successful USD121 million capital raise. What are new and existing equity providers looking for and is their profile changing? Is there still appetite from London, Europe and the far east and are African pension funds becoming more accessible?

    Selwyn Blieden, Head of CPF Coverage: Rest of Africa - Barclay's Africa group (CIB), South Africa, Barclays Africa Group (CIB), South Africa

Which sectors are providing the most promise of growth and sustainability? How do the LTV’s differ cross sector and what assets are lenders finding most defensive?

Where: Online

When: Thursday, August 24 at 11:00 GMT+2 (Time converter: http://APO.af/5Aq6wV)   

Who:

    Leonard Michau, Head - sub-Saharan African Operations at Broll Property Group
    Bronwyn Corbett, Chief Executive Officer, GRIT Real Estate Income Group, Mauritius
    Selwyn Blieden, Head of CPF Coverage: Rest of Africa - Barclay's Africa group (CIB), South Africa, Barclays Africa Group (CIB), South Africa

Why: API Summit & Expo 2017 Presenting a New Chapter for African Real Estate

Language: English

How it works: This service is FREE and only requires a computer connected to the internet. Request accreditation here: http://APO.af/nbPg3v

Conference Overview

The Africa Property Investment Summit and Expo (API) is Africa’s largest and most premier real estate event. It connects the most influential local and international Africa property stakeholders, driving advancement and investment into a wide range of real estate and infrastructure projects and developments across the continent. Under the “Developing Africa’s New Reality” the API Summit & Expo 2017 will focus on the following:

Key themes:

    African real estate investment and development models realigned
    The move towards convenience retail malls
    Increasing influence of Pension Funds
    Debt restructuring and renegotiation of leases
    Lowering of company and construction costs
    Effective project delivery and mitigation of in-country risks
    Alternative debt and equity funding
    The importance of urban design, land registry and valuations in shaping the African cities of tomorrow

Key Topics:

    The new terrain: African real estate investment realigned
    Insider’s guide to construction costs & procurement in Africa
    Cracking the code: capital raising & new debt for African real estate
    The seismic shift: African pension & sovereign fund capital moving from stock markets to real estate investments
    Cameroon: Africa’s new hotspot?
    Designing for density and overcoming the overcrowding issue: How can African cities become more economically dense — not merely crowded?
    Expansion, retreat or entry: where to next for Africa’s retailers?

Key Speakers:

    Derrick Roper, Chief Executive Officer, Novare Equity Partners, South Africa
    Peter Rotich, Pensions Administration at TelPosta Pension Scheme, Kenya
    Louis Deppe, Partner, Actis Africa Limited, South Africa
    Peter Maila, Investment Director, CDC Group, UK
    Somik Lall, Global Lead for Territorial & Spatial Development, World Bank, United States of America
    Paul Onwuanibe, Chief Executive Officer, Landmark Group, Nigeria
    Maurice De Villiers, Divisional Director, Real Estate Development, Woolworths, South Africa
    Archbishop Anthony Muheria, Archdiocese of Nyeri & Apostolic Administrator of Kitui & Machakos Dioceses, Kenya
    Thapelo Tsheole, Chief Executive Officer, Botswana Stock Exchange
    Mike Collini, Vice President: Development, Sub-Saharan Africa, Hilton Worldwide

Distributed by APO on behalf of Africa Property Investment (API) Summit & Expo.

SOURCE
Africa Property Investment (API) Summit & Expo

We Salute Dr. Anthony Kusi Boafo - And All Those In Ghana Like Him

I watched Dr. Thomas  Kusi Boafo - the Public Sector Reforms CEO -  being interviewed on UTV not too long ago. It was a pleasant surprise for me  - and gave me great hope about our country's future

I was completely bowled over by his wisdom and the common touch he showed. He is truly a man of the people.

He came across as a deep-thinking politican who is principled, disciplined and - rare amongst Ghana's ruling elites - an honest gentleman:  who actually cares about the welfare of both present and future generations of our people. Marvelous.

He is definitely a safe pair of hands - and ordinary Ghanaians ought to count ourselves lucky to have a man of his calibre at the presidency. Thank goodness for small mercies. Hmm, Oman Ghana - eyeasem o.

The question is: How can a politician like that be convinced to step out of the shadow of conventional economic thinking - so that ordinary people's lives can be improved in sustainable fashion: through the use of creative policy ideas?

For the sake of our homeland Ghana and its long-suffering people, this blog will dare to be  presumptuous for once - and venture to make a recommendation to Dr. Thomas Kusi Boafo.

For his information, he will unquestionably be even more effective in his role were he to read as many of the online  publications of  New Zealand's and the UK's Positive Money movements. Ditto those of the International Movement for Monetary Reform (IMMR).

He will find the keys that will enable the regime of which he is such a prominent member to unlock the full potential of this nation - and transform its hardworking and aspirational people's lives in dramatic fashion.

Furthermore, he must endeavour to have a conversation with the Indian conglomerate Tata's subsidiary, Jusco, so that they can transfer to Ghana's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR)  Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI), the very simple technology of mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen, to build plastic roads in Ghana.

Plastic roads last three times the lifespan of conventional roads, remain pothole-free during that entire period, bear heavier loads, and, best of all (especially at a time of extreme weather resuting from global climate change), are never washed away by flash floods because plastic is impermeable to water.

Building plastic roads in Ghana - especially countryside feeder roads - does amount to climate-change-proofing all the new bitumen  roads we will be building across Ghana, going foward into the future. That is building disaster resilience into our system through lateral thinking, is it not?

And since the  free high school initiative is being funded entirely from Ghana's oil revenues,  the vertical integration of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC)  is crucial - if we are to have a sustainable long-term funding source.

The key to that is to merge the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST) and the partially state-owned downstream oil marketing company, Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL). Naturally, government will have to buy back private shareholders' stakes in GOIL at a premium.

At this stage it is worth noting that not a single oil major that is vertically integrated has  failed to pay dividends to shareholders for significant periods since oil prices went south from the high of U.S.$140. That is instructive. Vertical integration of national oil companies is the best hedge there is against low oil prices for new oil producing emerging nations such as ours.

As a result of the tremendous goodwill across Africa that Ghana has (yet another legacy of Nkrumah's leadership), GOIL-branded petrol filling stations across the continent will be well-patronised and profitable.

To ensure that corporate good governance principles underpin the entirety of its operations, the CEO of the vertically integrated GNPC must be selected from world-class and experienced applicants seeking  that position - after the job is advertised globally. We cannot afford a jobs-for-the-boys approach in such an important position - if it will provide the funds for free education, can we?

Again, for the information of Dr. Thomas Kusi Boafo, Thailand made U.S.$72 billion from the 31 million visitors it hosted in 2016. There really is no reason why Ghana too should not earn significant amounts of foreign currency from tourism. And it can do so by becoming a major outbound tourism market for citizens of China and other Asian nations.

The question is: By preserving what is left of our nation's natural heritage - by halting illegal gold mining, illegal logging and illegal sand-winning - will we not be able to anchor a revitalised tourism industry on it and create wealth that stays in Ghana as well as jobs and micro-entrepreneurial opportunities galore across our homeland  Ghana for our bright and talented younger generations?

And if we ban the export of unrefined gold from Ghana and empower the Precious Minerals Marketing Company Limited (PMMC) to produce credit-card-sized gold bars,  gold coins with Adinkra symbols etched on them and traditional-style gold jewelry, could we not turn Ghana into a global centre for the purchase of same by tens of millions from China and the rest of Asia  (ditto other parts of the world) and become the preferred African destination  and major  outbound tourism market for Chinese and  nationals of other Asian countries, I ask?

Is that not a more creative proposal (leading to a new economic paradigm in our relationship with China) that Vice President Dr. Bawumia ought to  have taken along  with him to China when he did - than that outrageous and abominable open invitation to environmentally irresponsible and  destructive Chinese  mining  companies with terrible environmental records around the African continent to come and mine bauxite here?  Ebeeii.

With respect, what is creative about that foolish and unpardonable shortsightedness  dressed up as a "new model" - especially when we are actually committed to the SDGs underscoring all our economic development and nation-building efforts, I ask? Haaba.

Dr. Thomas Kusi Boafo should encourage  his colleagues running the country to commit to low-carbon sustainabiliy initiatives - as that will enable us to develop our nation without causing great harm to the natural environment.

It is madness  giving Chinese mining companies carte blanche to come and mine bauxite here in exchange for a paltry U.S.$20 billion - foreign currency that a revitalised tourism sector can easily earn for Ghana without endangering  Mother Nature.

Finally, we salute Dr. Anthony Kusi Boateng - and all those in Ghana who are like him. Kudos to all of them for actually caring about our nation's future.





Monday, 21 August 2017

Futureoflife.org: An Open Letter to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

Future of Life Institute

An Open Letter to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations.

We commend the appointment of Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India as chair of the GGE. We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the GGE to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies. We regret that the GGE’s first meeting, which was due to start today (August 21, 2017), has been cancelled due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN. We urge the High Contracting Parties therefore to double their efforts at the first meeting of the GGE now planned for November.

Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.

Translations: Chinese
FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES TO THE OPEN LETTER

To add your company, please contact Toby Walsh at tw@cse.unsw.edu.au.

Tiberio Caetano, founder & Chief Scientist at Ambiata, Australia.
Mark Chatterton and Leo Gui, founders, MD & of Ingenious AI, Australia.
Charles Gretton, founder of Hivery, Australia.
Brad Lorge, founder & CEO of Premonition.io, Australia
Brenton O’Brien, founder & CEO of Microbric, Australia.
Samir Sinha, founder & CEO of Robonomics AI, Australia.
Ivan Storr, founder & CEO, Blue Ocean Robotics, Australia.
Peter Turner, founder & MD of Tribotix, Australia.
Yoshua Bengio, founder of Element AI & Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, Canada.
Ryan Gariepy, founder & CTO, Clearpath Robotics, found & CTO of OTTO Motors, Canada.
James Chow, founder & CEO of UBTECH Robotics, China.
Robert Li, founder & CEO of Sankobot, China.
Marek Rosa, founder & CEO of GoodAI, Czech Republic.
Søren Tranberg Hansen, founder & CEO of Brainbotics, Denmark.
Markus Järve, founder & CEO of Krakul, Estonia.
Harri Valpola, founder & CTO of ZenRobotics, founder & CEO of Curious AI Company, Finland.
Esben Østergaard, founder & CTO of Universal Robotics, Denmark.
Raul Bravo, founder & CEO of DIBOTICS, France.
Raphael Cherrier, founder & CEO of Qucit, France.
Jerome Monceaux, founder & CEO of Spoon.ai, founder & CCO of Aldebaran Robotics, France.
Charles Ollion, founder & Head of Research at Heuritech, France.
Anis Sahbani, founder & CEO of Enova Robotics, France.
Alexandre Vallette, founder of SNIPS & Ants Open Innovation Labs, France.
Marcus Frei, founder & CEO of NEXT.robotics, Germany.
Kirstinn Thorisson, founder & Director of Icelandic Institute for Intelligence Machines, Iceland.
Fahad Azad, founder of Robosoft Systems, India.
Debashis Das, Ashish Tupate, Jerwin Prabu, founders (incl. CEO) of Bharati Robotics, India.
Pulkit Gaur, founder & CTO of Gridbots Technologies, India.
Pranay Kishore, founder & CEO of Phi Robotics Research, India.
Shahid Memom, founder & CTO of Vanora Robots, India.
Krishnan Nambiar & Shahid Memon, founders, CEO & CTO of Vanora Robotics, India.
Achu Wilson, founder & CTO of Sastra Robotics, India.
Neill Gernon, founder & MD of Atrovate, founder of Dublin.AI, Ireland.
Parsa Ghaffari, founder & CEO of Aylien, Ireland.
Alan Holland, founder & CEO of Keelvar Systems, Ireland.
Alessandro Prest, founder & CTO of LogoGrab, Ireland.
Alessio Bonfietti, founder & CEO of MindIT, Italy.
Angelo Sudano, founder & CTO of ICan Robotics, Italy.
Shigeo Hirose, Michele Guarnieri, Paulo Debenest, & Nah Kitano, founders, CEO & Directors of HiBot Corporation, Japan.
Luis Samahí García González, founder & CEO of QOLbotics, Mexico.
Koen Hindriks & Joachim de Greeff, founders, CEO & COO at Interactive Robotics, the Netherlands.
Maja Rudinac, founder and CEO of Robot Care Systems, the Netherlands.
Jaap van Leeuwen, founder and CEO Blue Ocean Robotics Benelux, the Netherlands.
Dyrkoren Erik, Martin Ludvigsen & Christine Spiten, founders, CEO, CTO & Head of Marketing at BlueEye Robotics, Norway.
Sergii Kornieiev, founder & CEO of BaltRobotics, Poland.
Igor Kuznetsov, founder & CEO of NaviRobot, Russian Federation.
Aleksey Yuzhakov & Oleg Kivokurtsev, founders, CEO & COO of Promobot, Russian Federation.
Junyang Woon, founder & CEO, Infinium Robotics, former Branch Head & Naval Warfare Operations Officer, Singapore.
Jasper Horrell, founder of DeepData, South Africa.
Toni Ferrate, founder & CEO of RO-BOTICS, Spain.
José Manuel del Río, founder & CEO of Aisoy Robotics, Spain.
Victor Martin, founder & CEO of Macco Robotics, Spain.
Timothy Llewellynn, founder & CEO of nViso, Switzerland.
Francesco Mondada, founder of K-Team, Switzerland.
Jurgen Schmidhuber, Faustino Gomez, Jan Koutník, Jonathan Masci & Bas Steunebrink, founders, President & CEO of Nnaisense, Switzerland.
Satish Ramachandran, founder of AROBOT, United Arab Emirates.
Silas Adekunle, founder & CEO of Reach Robotics, UK.
Steve Allpress, founder & CTO of FiveAI, UK.
Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, founders, CEO & COO of Open Bionics, UK.
Richard Greenhill & Rich Walker, founders & MD of Shadow Robot Company, UK.
Nic Greenway, founder of React AI Ltd (Aiseedo), UK.
Daniel Hulme, founder & CEO of Satalia, UK.
Charlie Muirhead & Tabitha Goldstaub, founders & CEO of CognitionX, UK.
Geoff Pegman, founder & MD of R U Robots, UK.
Mustafa Suleyman, founder & Head of Applied AI, DeepMind, UK.
Donald Szeto, Thomas Stone & Kenneth Chan, founders, CTO, COO & Head of Engineering of PredictionIO, UK.
Antoine Biondeau, founder & CEO of Sentient Technologies, USA.
Brian Gerkey, founder & CEO of Open Source Robotics, USA.
Ryan Hickman & Soohyun Bae, founders, CEO & CTO of TickTock.AI, USA.
Henry Hu, founder & CEO of Cafe X Technologies, USA.
Alfonso Íñiguez, founder & CEO of Swarm Technology, USA.
Gary Marcus, founder & CEO of Geometric Intelligence (acquired by Uber), USA.
Brian Mingus, founder & CTO of Latently, USA.
Mohammad Musa, founder & CEO at Deepen AI, USA.
Elon Musk, founder, CEO & CTO of SpaceX, co-founder & CEO of Tesla Motor, USA.
Rosanna Myers & Dan Corkum, founders, CEO & CTO of Carbon Robotics, USA.
Erik Nieves, founder & CEO of PlusOne Robotics, USA.
Steve Omohundro, founder & President of Possibility Research, USA.
Jeff Orkin, founder & CEO, Giant Otter Technologies, USA.
Dan Reuter, found & CEO of Electric Movement, USA.
Alberto Rizzoli & Simon Edwardsson, founders & CEO of AIPoly, USA.
Dan Rubins, founder & CEO of Legal Robot, USA.
Stuart Russell, founder & VP of Bayesian Logic Inc., USA.
Andrew Schroeder, founder of WeRobotics, USA.
Gabe Sibley & Alex Flint, founders, CEO & CPO of Zippy.ai, USA.
Martin Spencer, founder & CEO of GeckoSystems, USA.
Peter Stone, Mark Ring & Satinder Singh, founders, President/COO, CEO & CTO of Cogitai, USA.
Michael Stuart, founder & CEO of Lucid Holdings, USA.
Massimiliano Versace, founder, CEO & President, Neurala Inc, USA.
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Youtap launches mobile money QR code solution and apps for growth markets in Africa and Asia

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 21, 2017/ -- Youtap (www.Youtap.com), a global provider of contactless mobile payments and financial services software, has launched a QR code solution and smartphone apps for mobile money services in Africa and Asia.

Youtap’s solution enables customer-initiated or merchant-initiated QR code payments for smartphones and smart point-of-sale devices. The solution conforms to the BharatQR industry standard developed by Bharat, Mastercard and Visa. Youtap’s apps can be white-labelled and branded with the logo and colours of the mobile money service.

The new solution gives any merchant or small business owner with a smartphone the potential to download Youtap’s Merchant App, self-register, and start accepting mobile money payments. Likewise, any subscriber with a smartphone can download the Youtap Pay App and start making payments. Merchants who do not own a smartphone could be provided a printed QR code to accept mobile money.

Youtap’s QR code solution enables a full range of mobile money transactions, including cash-in and cash-out transactions, airtime top-ups, bill payments and in-store payments.

QR codes can also be used to give back change when a customer uses cash.

Smartphone penetration across the emerging markets is increasing significantly. Recently MTN Group published statistics on the growth of smartphones across its operating companies, including South Africa (15%), Nigeria (36%), Ghana (64%) and Côte d’Ivoire (100%). According to the GSMA, an association that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, smartphone adoption is expected to reach 50 per cent by the end of 2018.

In Asia, where smartphone adoption is high, QR codes are already widely used for payments.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Youtap Ltd.

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Contact:
Karen Knott
Head of Communications
Youtap
Karen.Knott@Youtap.com
+64 9 360 9719

On the web: www.Youtap.com
Twitter: @youtap2pay

About Youtap:
Youtap (www.Youtap.com) is a global provider of contactless mobile payments and financial services software enabling mobile money and stored value wallet customers to tap and pay at any point of sale with any device. Youtap’s full suite of contactless mobile payments and commerce solutions bridge the gap between mobile money and stored value wallets and the retail point of sale. Youtap’s secure NFC solutions support payment acceptance for contactless and non-contactless cards, NFC tags and wearables, and NFC phones.

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Youtap Ltd.


RenewEconomy/Giles Parkinson: Why solar towers and storage plants will reshape energy markets

RenewEconomy

Why solar towers and storage plants will reshape energy markets

By Giles Parkinson on 21 August 2017

The 150MW solar tower and molten salt storage plant to be built in Port Augusta has been made possible by a ground-breaking pricing and contract structure that could help completely reshape Australian power markets, including the end of “baseload” power as we know it.

The South Australian government announced last week that it had signed a deal with US company SolarReserve to build the 150MW solar tower with molten salt storage project – to be known as Aurora – just a few kilometres from the now closed Northern coal-fired power station.

The output of Aurora will be around 500GWh – roughly the same as the annual consumption of the state government and the various assets it owns.

But it is the unique nature of the contract that explains the difference between what the government will pay SolarReserve ($75-$78/MWh), and what SolarReserve will receive, and will likely serve as a template for more “dispatchable” renewable energy projects in the future.

Essentially, the S.A. government will buy some of its needs from other sources in the market when demand and the price is low. Aurora will cover the government for energy and prices when the government’s demand is at its highest, around the middle of the day.

But because the government can and will buy some cheap power elsewhere, Aurora will store its solar power in its molten salt storage tanks so it can sell into the market at the system peaks, in late afternoon and early evening, when the market prices are highest, boosting its revenue.

For those in the market, it is a little like a power purchase agreement where an off-taker takes part of the output, while the rest of the plant goes “merchant”. But this contract has a lot more flexibility and is more flexible than plants that use traditional cap contracts.

Danny Price, from Frontier Economics, who helped the government design the contract, says it was struck with a mixture of a capacity purchase agreement (CPA) and a hedge, with the CPA designed to break down the fixed costs and the variable costs.

“We had to have a contract for wide range of technologies,” Price tells RenewEconomy, and the contract structure was designed to level the playing field between dispatchable renewables, which may struggle following loads MW for MW.

Although the fine details of the contract are not being released, at least not yet, the significance should not be understated.

South Australian energy minister Tom Koutsantonis boasted last week that it would send “shivers” through the spine of the coal industry – not that there is one left in his state, but there is no reason why this cannot apply in other states.

There has been great debate about how traditional energy markets, which rewarded baseload power with expensive peaking capacity, could evolve to include renewables with zero fuel costs such as wind and solar.

Price says rather than redesigning the whole system, this contract structure plays within the current design – and the ultimate goal is to provide more stability to markets. It also avoids the pitfalls of conventional capacity markets, which have been shown in Western Australia to be disastrous if badly designed.

Aurora will have no incentive to do as wind and solar PV farms do, and bid in negative prices to guarantee dispatch, and the fact that it is competing in peak times means it reduces the ability of the thermal players to game the market up to pricing peaks of $14,000/MWh.

What’s more, it’s a cheaper technology than gas or new coal. “You couldn’t even buy the gas for that price – let alone the capacity,” says Price of the $75/MWh contract price. And new coal, he says, cannot be built for less than $100/MWh.

“Who would build a gas or coal-fired generator if you can get a dispatchable renewable energy technology like solar thermal for $70/MWh? Why would you do it?

“It is a terrific outcome for the market and for renewable energy. It shows how you can construct a contract to encourage dispatchable renewables.

“It means we can get a renewable energy technology up that is cheaper than thermal plant. So while the federal government stuffs around on carbon pricing, technology is just taking them over.”

Price said one of the keys to the project win was the learnings of SolarReserve from its Crescent Dune facility in Nevada, which has been operating for just over a year -– apart from a few months off-line to deal with a leak or leaks in the molten salt storage tank.

Price said the key to the technology was the receiver, and it was “a very good technology.” SolarReserve had learned a lot from its first plant, capital costs had fallen 40 per cent, and costs were continuing to come down.

“The technology is not really a risk. We get the benefit of the learning so far, and we are second cab off the rank.”

Please read this piece by Simon Holmes á Court, which looks at some of the other interesting aspects of this development, particularly his observation that solar thermal technology is already nearing the price predicted by Alan Finkel for 2050, just a few months after the Finkel report was released.

There are a few things that could still go wrong.

The current contract price is dependent on the $110 million equity  partnership promised by the federal government both before the election and when it was negotiating a tax package with Senator Nick Xenophon, whose dual-citizenship means his immediate political future is now subject to a High Court ruling.

It is clear, and SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said as much in a radio interview on Monday, that the pricing would have to be revisited if that component did not come through.

He did, however, say that financing has been lined up. It is not thought that renewable energy certificates will contribute largely to the deal.

While they are trading round $80/MWh now, they are expected to have fallen dramatically by the time this plant is up and running in 2020, and could have negligible value before they expire in 2030.

Solar towers with molten salt storage, because of their high storage levels, offer the flexibility to offer either continuous power 24/7 (baseload), higher outputs over shorter periods to meet specific demand (such as powering Las Vegas between noon and midnight), or acting as a “peaking” power station.

This new South Australian plant appears to be designed to include the last two components. Its nominal capacity of 150MW will likely be reduced to 135MW during the day, where it uses some of its own power to operate and control the sun-following field or mirrors.

But by being dispatchable in such a way, the solar tower will beat both coal and gas at their own game.

Coal’s big weakness, apart from the fact that it is now dirty and expensive, is that it can’t readily be turned off, which is why loads such as hot water systems are switched on only at night – to give the coal-fired power plants something to do during the night.

The arrival of “base-cost” renewables, however, means that much of the power supply can be delivered by wind and solar at cheap prices.

And the emergence of storage in its various forms – batteries, pumped hydro and now solar towers – means that output can now be dispatchable, or can be balanced, and can mean manufacturers may no longer have to operate only at night when the power cost is low. Cheap power may be a day-time event.

Aurora will not need to operate all the way through the night, although it could. If the government needs power, it will likely buy from other sources at a cheaper price, Aurora will deliver to the government during the day, meet and cover its peak demand, and sell into the afternoon and evening system peaks.

Of course, Aurora is not the only solar thermal project happening in the world right now. SolarReserve is building another plant in South Africa, and other companies are building plant in Morocco, Chile and China.

Keith Lovegrove, the head of the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association, recently returned from a conference in China, where he says the main news is that of 20 announced projects of between 50 and 100MW,  three are well under construction and a further five will begin soon.

“The attached pic is a visit to the Shouhang 10MW molten salt tower system there in Dunhuang,” he says.

“It looked good (from the outside at least). Right next door that company is well into building the 100MW salt tower system that is one of the three mentioned above. CSP is alive and well in China and maybe has finally a good chance of life in Australia.”

Please listen to our podcast with Keith Lovegrove and David Leitch, and this article’s author to discuss the solar tower project, its economics, the implications for the market, and what may follow. 
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Washington Post Worldview/Adam Taylor: The radical ties that bind Barcelona and Charlottesville

A daily newsletter that explores where the world meets Washington.

The Radical Ties That Bind Barcelona and Charlottesville

By Adam Taylor

On both sides of the Atlantic, there are urgent investigations into the radicalization of young men who have committed acts of politically inspired violence.

In Spain, people are seeking to understand the motivations of a dozen young men who plotted terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils that left 14 dead and scores more injured last week. Meanwhile, in the United States, police are looking into the background of 20-year-old Kentucky native James A. Fields Jr., who killed one woman and injured 19 others when he drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters following a far-right rally in Charlottesville.

It would be a mistake to draw too neat a line between the two incidents, but any similarities between Islamist terrorists like those in Spain and white nationalists like Fields are worth examining for what they reveal about radicalization across the globe.

In the small Spanish town of Ripoll, The Washington Post's Souad Mekhennet and William Booth reported that the local community is itself wondering how its kids could have taken part in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. These were young men, they say, some barely old enough to drive. Eight or so of them were from Moroccan-immigrant backgrounds.

One local, the father of two men implicated in the attacks, described the older of his sons as a “problematic” child who fought in school, though he says he was more worried about drugs than religion. In hindsight, he told The Post, he believes his sons may have been radicalized by a local cleric.
Relatives of some of the suspects in Friday's terrorist attacks in Spain during a rally of the Muslim community in their hometown of Ripoll, Spain. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

Relatives of some of the suspects in Friday's terrorist attacks in Spain during a rally of the Muslim community in their hometown of Ripoll, Spain. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

Fields' background in Kentucky was the subject of another story by The Post's reporters, who again found hints of a troubled life: struggles with mental illness and multiple reports that Fields abused his disabled mother. “He looked like he was always lost,” one neighbor told my colleagues. “Always quiet and always alone.”

Teachers recall that Fields had a fixation on Hitler as far back as high school. In Charlottesville, he was photographed posing with members of Vanguard America, a self-proclaimed fascist group that recruits online. The group has denied that Fields was a member.

What ties these two incidents? Aside from the obvious practical parallel — the use of vehicles, a crude method of violence that's now a staple of Islamic State-inspired attacks — there are other important similarities.

While there's no “one-size-fits-all” for the type of person who ends up radicalized, isolated young men are clear and frequent targets, recruited by groups who offer excuses for the problems in their lives. Writing in the Guardian, longtime terrorism follower Jason Burke points to a number of similarities in the belief system of the Islamic State and America's far right — an overall “perverted sense of grievance.” Burke suggests that anger over the loss of the Islamic caliphate may echo the Lost Cause of the Confederacy for the far right — not in real historical terms, but “as a mythic symbol of betrayal, of conviction and of what might, indeed should, have been.”

Experts in the field also see parallels in different ideologies. “In some respects, it’s not that different from Islamist extremists,” said Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center to The Post's Terrence McCoy in an article about alt-right radicalization. In some cases the parallels can be painfully obvious: Earlier this year a former neo-Nazi who converted to Islam was arrested for allegedly killing his roommates after they disrespected his new faith.

In the public rhetoric of the Trump administration, there is no acknowledgment of these parallels. President Trump has been famously willing to point quickly to the motivations behind attacks inspired by the Islamic State or other Islamic militant groups — even when such beliefs don't end up being the reason for the attacks. In the case of Charlottesville, Trump and other Republican politicians focused instead on the actions of the so-called “violent left” rather than the motivations of the far-right.

While there's no doubt that radicalized members of the left have been responsible for political violence — there were plenty of deadly terrorist attacks by left-wing groups in postwar Europe — the evidence suggests they're no longer as dangerous as they once were: Alex Nowresteh, a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, has found that right-wing terrorists have killed 10 times as many people on U.S. soil as left-wing groups since 1992.

Nowresteh's research also shows that Islamic militant-inspired terrorism was deadliest in the U.S., killing 14 times the number of people as right-wing plots had in the same period. But things may change: Jonathan Evans, the former head of British spy agency MI5, recently suggested that Islamist extremists might only pose a terror threat for another 20 to 30 years. Responding to these comments, Raffaello Pantucci of London's Royal United Services Institute warned in the Financial Times that “once we have dealt with that strain of the virus, it will simply morph into a new form.”

This is why its so important to look through the personal histories of attackers in Spain and Fields in Kentucky along with others of their ilk. The threat of violence posed by the Islamic State or far-right groups specifically will eventually dissipate, or morph into some other cause. It's the threat posed by radicalized young men in general — and our present difficulties in stopping them from becoming extremists — that should worry us in the long term.

• Suave 39-year-old French president Emmanuel Macron has made trolling President Trump one of his key responsibilities since taking office in May. But he has one thing in common with his American counterpart: His approval ratings stink.

The Post’s James McAuley reports from Paris on Macron’s ever-lower poll numbers, which have descended to the Trumpian level of 36 percent approval in one poll. What’s going wrong for the boy wonder? Among the reasons given are the inexperience of Macron’s party members and his conflict with the French military over spending cuts. But the biggest issue may be Macron’s own personality:

"In three months in power, the new head of state has been reluctant to grant interviews, preferring to deliver lengthy orations in the halls of Versailles, France’s historic seat of absolute monarchy, and such regal optics have not played well with the media or the public. Macron is more unpopular at the three-month point of his first term than any of his immediate predecessors — François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac — were at the same point, according to Ifop, the Paris-based polling firm."

• British authorities are looking for ways to stop the “malicious” use of rented vehicles, Reuters reports. It’s an intriguing response to the growing use of vehicles in attacks carried out by the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Another tactic being used in Britain and elsewhere is the installation of barriers and other obstacles that would stop vehicles being driven into pedestrians.

• CNN reports that suspected sonic attacks against diplomats in Cuba hit more people than previously reported. U.S. officials told Patrick Oppmann and Elise Labott that more than 10 U.S. diplomats and family members have received treatment after "months of harassing attacks."

This strange situation first came to light earlier this month when two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States in response. So far, the State Department has stopped short of publicly accusing the Cuban government of involvement, and there are suspicions that the suspected attacks could have been ordered by a rogue element in Cuba’s state security — or even a third party.

• Writing for Middle East Eye, Kamal Alam of London-based defense think tank RUSI argues that China is taking on an increasingly significant role behind the scenes in Syria — including sending troops to train the Syrian army. The intervention appears to be largely driven by security concerns related to Chinese Uighurs, members of a Muslim ethnic minority that lives in China's northwest, fighting in Syria. But Beijing has been able to exploit the ongoing split between Russia and U.S. interests in the conflict to drive its own agenda.

"In Syria, China has not just simply watched the Russian and US tug of war, it has cultivated its own path by avoiding military confrontation, instead focusing on consolidation and quiet, behind-the-scenes action,” observes Alam.

• Remember the ongoing border drama between India, China and Bhutan that The Post’s Annie Gowen and Simon Denyer wrote about last week? Remarkable video of one skirmish appeared over the weekend, showing troops from the two nuclear powers throwing stones and shoving each other. De-escalation, it seems, is still not in the cards for now.

An Afghan soldier at a military base in the Khakriz district of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July 26. (Muhammad Sadiq/European Pressphoto Agency)</p>

An Afghan soldier at a military base in the Khakriz district of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July 26. (Muhammad Sadiq/European Pressphoto Agency)

Decision time

Aboard a military plane on Sunday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that President Trump had reached a decision on a new, anxiously awaited Afghanistan war strategy. The reported move to deploy several thousand more troops was reached at a strategy meeting at Camp David on Friday involving Trump and more than a dozen aides, and Trump will address the nation about it this evening.

The administration had delayed the decision for months as the White House’s hawks and isolationists fought with other over the proper course. That the decisive meeting happened on Friday, the same day chief strategist Steve Bannon resigned his job, may not be a coincidence. Bannon was the White House's loudest opponent of a troop increase, a move Mattis and the military’s top general have been advocating — and of which Trump appeared skeptical.

There are roughly 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now, down from a high of over 100,000 at the height of the Obama-era surge. The increase in numbers being proposed is modest — perhaps 4,000 or so servicemembers — but the majority would join the effort to train and advise Afghan troops. The line between advising and combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has often been blurry at best.

The war in Afghanistan is already the longest-running conflict in American history. But after sixteen years, with $700 billion spent and many thousands of lives lost, Afghanistan remains as unstable as ever. Both the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan launch regular attacks on major cities and military outposts. The Taliban operates in more than half of the country’s districts. 

If Trump’s decision is to concede to his generals’ wishes, it may prove difficult for him to sell increased spending on the war to a base that elected him to put "America First." But many Afghans will breathe a sigh of relief on hearing that Trump has finally decided something — especially if he's backing a troop increase.

“These delays are not just a matter of bureaucracy. They are a matter of life and death to the Afghan people,” said Davood Moradian, the director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, to our Kabul bureau chief earlier this month. The Taliban insurgents, he said, are trying to "influence the debate in Washington with these new attacks. The longer these delays continue, the more innocent lives will be lost." — Max Bearak


Iranian policemen evacuate a child from the parliament building in Tehran on June 7 during an attack claimed by the Islamic State. (Omid Vahabzadeh/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)</p>

Iranian policemen evacuate a child from the parliament building in Tehran on June 7 during an attack claimed by the Islamic State. (Omid Vahabzadeh/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The big question

Iranian authorities recently said they arrested more than two dozen people who planned to bomb religious sites with smuggled explosives. The Islamic State then released a video in which a Farsi-speaking militant threatened to cut the necks of Iran’s majority Shiites, whom the group regards as apostates. It's part of a ramped-up effort to recruit new members for the Islamic State's extreme vision of Sunni Islam in the world's biggest and most powerful Shiite country. So we asked Post Istanbul correspondent Erin Cunningham: Why are some of Iran's Sunnis open to recruitment by the Islamic State?

"Iran’s Sunnis come mostly from two of the country’s largest ethnic minorities: the Kurds in the west near Iraq, and the Baloch, who live along the Pakistan border in the southeast. The Iranian Islamic State recruits who have been identified so far have also come mostly from those two communities.

"Both the Kurds and Baloch have been engaged in protracted struggles with the Iranian state for autonomy or just greater recognition of their rights. Human rights groups say discrimination against Kurds and Baloch is widespread, and the regions where the Baloch are the majority are the most underdeveloped in Iran.

"So in both places there was already a history of violence and a general sense of persecution by a government that was (and is) essentially a Shiite theocracy. Then came the rise of ultra-conservative strains of Islam in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Those eventually found adherents in Iran in communities where socio-economic conditions were less than ideal.

"Porous borders also meant people were easily exposed to militancy in neighboring countries. For Kurdish recruits, it has been relatively simple to access the Islamic State given the proximity of some of its strongholds to the Iranian border, as well as jihadist supply routes established during the insurgency against the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Baloch separatists, who have established their own armed jihadist groups, are also believed to have cross-border links with militants in Afghanistan.

"The worry now is not just that one of those groups might agree to become an Islamic State affiliate, but also that it may give ISIS fighters sanctuary as the noose tightens on them elsewhere."


The U.S.' relationships with Russia and China are certainly two of its most vital right now. The National Interest wonders how things could be repaired with Moscow, while The Post says things are deifnitely about to change with Beijing now that Steve Bannon is out in the White House. In other relationship changes, we've talked a lot about the pitfalls of the NAFTA renegotation, so the Atlantic looks at how things could go right. And the New York Times has a fascinating piece by a former white supremacist about what that movement gets right about history — and how it was helped last week by President Trump.
         
Getting America and Russia back to normal
Putin and his entourage, the Trump administration, and the U.S. Congress have a large choice to make.
By Robert Legvold | The National Interest  •  Read more »
         
Bannon’s departure has huge implications for the U.S.-China relationship
Bannon wanted to reorient U.S. grand strategy on China, but now those who want the status quo may prevail.
By Josh Rogin | The Washington Post  •  Read more »
         
What would a better NAFTA look like?
As renegotiations on the trade deal begin, some scholars are calling for a rethinking of how such agreements work.
By Alana Semuels | The Atlantic  •  Read more »
         
What white nationalism gets right about American history
Growing up in this community, I learned about a past that’s more present than most will admit.
By R. Derek Black | The New York Times  •  Read more »

   
   


Steve Bannon, no longer chief strategist for the White House, is back at the helm of Breitbart, a publication he once described as "the platform for the alt-right.” But Harper’s reports that the movement’s survival hinges on something else entirely: women. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times exposes a local energy utility’s deadly negligence, while Bloomberg maps America’s new Tornado Alley.
         
The rise of the Valkyries
In the alt-right, women are the future, and the problem.
By Seyward Darby | Harper's Magazine  •  Read more »
         
Hellfire from above
Tampa Electric knew the procedure was dangerous. It sent workers in anyway.
By Neil Bedi, Jonathan Capriel, Anastasia Dawson and Kathleen Mcgrory | The Tampa Bay Times  •  Read more »
         
A new tornado alley is forming in America’s Southeast
A swath of states from Louisiana to Georgia is experiencing an expensive surge in destruction caused by tornadoes.
By Daniel Levitt | Bloomberg  •  Read more »


In the U.S., it's easy to get a shared taxi ride. In China, it's easy to share almost anything, including these umbrellas in Shanghai. The sharing economy has recently exploded in China, with venture capital fueling sharing services for basketballs, washing machines, and even mini-gym workout pods. And while the money is flowing and at least one company has earned plaudits in state media this year, there have also been setbacks: Sharing E Umbrella announced in June that almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas had been stolen. (Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

   
   
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Five sailors injured, 10 missing after U.S. Navy destroyer collides with a merchant ship
Rescue efforts off the coast of Singapore are underway to find the crew missing from the USS John S. McCain.
By Anna Fifield  •  Read more »
         
A 121-year-old Confederate monument was coming down. This Kentucky town put it back up.
In tiny Brandenburg, a monument added just nine months ago has taken on new meaning.
By Chico Harlan  •  Read more »
         
Eclipse eve: Millions converge across US to see sun go dark
Millions of Americans converged on a narrow corridor stretching from Oregon to South Carolina to watch the moon blot out the midday sun Monday for a wondrous couple of minutes in the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast to coast in 99 years.
By Marcia Dunn | AP  •  Read more »


See how, in the Philippines, they are training dogs to become search and rescue helpers.

   
     
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