Thursday, August 21, 2014

Stand-off continues between Pak govt and protesters

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Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf Chief Imran Khan says he will not hold talks with the government until Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns. The opposition leader told protesters holding a sit-in outside parliament that the talks will be no use unless Mr. Sharif steps down.
However, Cleric Tahirul Qadri, sent a team to meet officials last night but the talks ended without a resolution. Protesters accuse Mr Sharif of rigging last year’s elections.
Mr Khan has led a week-long campaign in an attempt to bring down the government, which culminated in thousands of protesters breaching the high security zone of Islamabad on Tuesday.
Mr Khan and Mr Qadri, have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court today to explain the protests.
The government has accused protesters of attempting to derail democracy.
Although both protest movements are calling for Mr Sharif’s resignation, they are not formally allied. The demonstrations have remained peaceful so far.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif will address the Pakistan National Assembly today.




Americans support US air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq.

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Americans support US air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq. Just released media reports on  ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, 54 percent of respondents said they support the military action against the Sunni insurgents, while 39 percent said they oppose it.
Support for the air strikes is up 9 points from a poll conducted in June.Barack Obama sent US troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue Americans, including beheaded journalist James Foley, held by the Islamic State group but the operation failed, officials said. Obama said the act of violence shocked the conscience of the entire world.He said he prays for the safety of the other journalist and that the United States will continue to do what it must do to protect its people. US forces began the air strikes in northern Iraq on August 8th targeting a Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State. They have been trying to protect US diplomats and to assist Iraqi and Kurdish troops. On Tuesday the Sunni militants posted a video showing the beheading of a US journalist on the Internet. They claimed that they killed him in retaliation to the US air strikes.
He said when people harm Americans anywhere, the government does what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And he vowed to continue air bombardments of Islamic State targets, saying he will stay the course in confronting terrorism. Media agencies




Iran’s parliament dismisses science minister Reza Faraji-Dana

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Iran’s parliament has voted to dismiss the science minister Reza Faraji-Dana,the reformist minister this gives dent to moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
The parliament approved a no-confidence motion against Science, Research and Technology Minister Reza Faraji-Dana on Wednesday.




Digital India – A programme to transform India

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            The Cabinet today at the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi gave its approval for Digital India – A programme to transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy.  This is a follow up to the key decisions taken on the design of the programme during the meeting of the Prime Minister on Digital India Programme on August 7, 2014, and to sensitize all ministries to this vast programme touching every corner of the government.  This programme has been envisaged by Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
The vision of Digital India aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.  The programme will be implemented in phases from the current year till 2018.  The Digital India is transformational in nature and would ensure that Government services are available to citizens electronically.  It would also bring in public accountability through mandated delivery of government’s services electronically, a Unique ID and e-Pramaan based on authentic and standard based interoperable and integrated government applications and data basis.
The source of funding for most of the e-Governance projects at present is through budgetary provisions of respective Ministries/ Departments in the Central or State governments. Requirements of funds for individual project(s) for Digital India will be worked out by respective Nodal Ministries/ Departments.
The vision areas of Digital India:
I           Infrastructure as Utility to Every Citizen:
(i)            High speed internet as a core utility shall be made available in all Gram Panchayats.
(ii)          Cradle to grave digital identity – unique, lifelong, online and authenticable.
(iii)         Mobile phone and Bank account would enable participation in digital and financial space at individual level.
(iv)         Easy access to a Common Service Centre within their locality.
(v)          Shareable private space on a public Cloud.
(vi)         Safe and secure Cyber-space in the country.
II         Governance and Services on Demand:
(i)            Seamlessly integrated across departments or jurisdictions to provide easy and a single window access to all persons.
(ii)          Government services available in real time from online and mobile platforms.
(iii)         All citizen entitlements to be available on the Cloud to ensure easy access.
(iv)         Government services digitally transformed for improving Ease of Doing Business.
(v)          Making financial transactions above a threshold, electronic and cashless.
(vi)         Leveraging GIS for decision support systems and development.
III        Digital Empowerment of Citizens:
(i)            Universal digital literacy.
(ii)          All digital resources universally accessible.
(iii)         All Government documents/ certificates to be available on the Cloud.
(iv)         Availability of digital resources / services in Indian languages.
(v)          Collaborative digital platforms for participative governance.
(vi)         Portability of all entitlements for individuals through the Cloud.
Scope of Digital India:
The overall scope of this programme is:
(i)             to prepare India for a knowledge future.
(ii)           on being transformative that is to realize IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology)  = IT (India Tomorrow)
(iii)         making technology central to enabling change.
(iv)         on being  an Umbrella Programme – covering many departments.
  • The programme weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single, comprehensive vision, so that each of them is seen as part of a larger goal. Each individual element stands on its own, but is also part of the larger picture.
  • The weaving together makes the Mission transformative in totality.
(v)           The Digital India Programme will pull together many existing schemes which would be restructured and re-focused and implemented in a synchronized manner.  The common branding of the programmes as Digital India, highlights their transformative impact.
Digital India aims to provide the much needed thrust to the nine pillars of growth areas, namely
  1. Broadband Highways,
  2. Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity,
  3. Public Internet Access Programme,
  4. e-Governance: Reforming Government through Technology,
  5. e-Kranti – Electronic Delivery of Services,
  6. Information for All,
  7. Electronics Manufacturing,
  8. IT for Jobs
  9. Early Harvest Programmes.
Approach and Methodology:
i             Ministries / Departments / States would fully leverage the Common and Support ICT Infrastructure established by the Government of India.
ii           The existing/ ongoing e-Governance initiatives would be revamped to align them with the principles of Digital India.  Scope enhancement, Process Reengineering, use of integrated & interoperable systems and deployment of emerging technologies like Cloud & mobile would be undertaken to enhance delivery of Government services to citizens.
iii             States would be given flexibility to identify for inclusion additional state-specific projects, which are relevant to their socio-economic needs.
iv             e-Governance would be promoted through a centralised initiative to the extent necessary, to ensure citizen centric service orientation.
v               Successes would be identified and their replication promoted proactively.
vi             Public Private Partnerships would be preferred wherever feasible.
vii           Adoption of Unique ID would be promoted to facilitate identification, authentication and delivery of benefits.
viii         Restructuring of NIC would be undertaken to strengthen the IT support to all government departments at the Centre and State levels.
ix             The positions of Chief Information Officers (CIO) would be created in at least 10 key ministries so that various e-Governance projects could be designed, developed and implemented faster.
x               DeitY would create necessary senior positions within the department for managing the programme.
xi             Central Ministries / Departments and State Governments would have the overall responsibility for implementation of various Mission Mode and other projects under this Programme. Considering the need for overall aggregation and integration at the national level, it is considered appropriate to implement Digital India as a programme with well defined roles and responsibilities of each agency involved.

Program Management Structure :
A programme management structure would be established for monitoring implementation. Key components of the management structure would consist of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for according approval to projects, a Monitoring Committee headed by the Prime Minister, a Digital India Advisory Group chaired by the Minister of Communications and IT, an Apex Committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) / Committee on Non Plan Expenditure (CNE).
Background:
Even though India is known as a powerhouse of software, the availability of electronic government services to citizens is still comparatively low. The National e-Governance Plan approved in 2006 has made a steady progress through Mission Mode Projects and Core ICT Infrastructure, but greater thrust is required to ensure effective progress in electronics manufacturing and e-Governance in the country.   The Digital India vision provides the intensified impetus for further momentum and progress for this initiative and this would promote inclusive growth that covers electronic services, products, devices, manufacturing and job opportunities. India in the 21st Century must strive to meet the aspirations of its citizens where government and its services reach the doorsteps of citizens and contribute towards a long-lasting positive impact.  The Digital India Programme aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy by leveraging IT as a growth engine of new India.




WEST BENGAL BUSINESS SUMMIT

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14 hrs ·
Today was a milestone occasion for West Bengal. This morning, we had a business summit of more than 200 officials and industrialists, all of whom have showed much passion and determination to make West Bengal achieve greater heights. A promising 13 business dealings have commenced between Singapore and West Bengal .
I am confident that in the near future we will have a stronger and more dynamic business relationship with Singapore. This is part of our bigger dream to have lo
Mamata Banerjee's photo.
Mamata Banerjee's photo.
Mamata Banerjee's photo.
Mamata Banerjee's photo.
LikeLike · ·  · 9,595668652




AirAsia Press Release : 2nd Quarter Results

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EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE IN LIGHT OF POLITICAL AND ROUGH OPERATING ENVIRONMENT, 
·        EXCLUDING THAILAND, OPERATING PROFIT IS FLAT Y-O-Y
·        RASK DECLINE ENDED – UP 2% Y-O-Y,
·        ANCILLARY PERFORMANCE UP 13% Y-O-Y

          2Q14 MALAYSIA
1H14 MALAYSIA
·      Ancillary Income Per Pax
·      up 13% to RM45
·        Ancillary Income Per Pax
·        up 7% to RM45
·      Revenue up 5% y-o-y;
·      Operating Profit down 17% y-o-y
·      Profit After Tax up 529% y-o-y
·        Revenue up 3% y-o-y;
·        Operating Profit down 12% y-o-y
·        Profit After Tax up 211% y-o-y
·      COST ex fuel FLAT y-o-y
·        COST ex fuel FLAT y-o-y
·      EBIT MARGIN of 13%
·        EBIT MARGIN of 15%



LOW COST TERMINAL SEPANG, 20 August 2014 – AirAsia Berhad (“AirAsia” or “the Company”) today reported its results for the quarter ended 30 June 2014 (“2Q14”).
The Company posted quarterly revenue of RM1.31 billion, up 5% from the revenue reported in the same quarter last year. The increase in revenue recorded was on the back of the  number of passengers carried which grew 1% year-on-year (“y-o-y”) to 5.57 million which match capacity growth of 1% y-o-y. Seat load factor remained unchanged y-o-y of 80%, in line with the Company’s quarterly target.
During the quarter under review, AirAsia recorded a 17% decline in operating profit y-o-y to RM174.19 million due to its affiliate Thai AirAsia (“TAA”) posting its first quarterly lost which saw AirAsia equity accounting a share of net loss of RM13.6 million. Excluding this share of net loss, its operating profit y-o-y would have been flat highlighting AirAsia standalone performance was strong. The decline in gap of the Company’s average fare has narrowed to -1% y-o-y to RM157 with trend moving upwards in 2H14 as we see irrational pricing of competitors is diminishing. Despite the fall in average fare, ancillary income continued to outperform adding to the Company’s first positive performance in Revenue per Available Seat Kilometre (“RASK”), since the start of irrational pricing same quarter last year. EBIT margin however, remained solid at 13%. AirAsia was also able to maintain its cost leadership which is crucial in a volatile environment involving fuel prices and as the Company grows bigger. Profit after tax was reported at RM367.16 million, up 529% y-o-y mainly due to foreign exchange gain on borrowings.
AirAsia Berhad CEO, Aireen Omar highlighted, “AirAsia continues to be disciplined in an industry where irrational competition exists. With our lean operations and cost conscious culture that aims to optimise profitability, the Company embarked on a route rationalisation exercise in 2Q14, cancelling and cutting down frequencies on selected routes where the Company felt were diluting yields. Our Cost per Available Seat Kilometre (“CASK”) at 13.32 sen, slightly up from the 12.48 sen recorded the same quarter last year was mainly due to the increase in average fuel price of 9% y-o-y . Our non-fuel cost items remain under control as CASK ex-fuel was recorded at 6.50 sen, unchanged y-o-y.
The Company’s revenue, measured in terms of RASK, was reported at 15.36 sen which saw an increase of 2% y-o-y.  Aireen said, “Our strategy internally was to grow positive RASK on the back of a challenging irrational pricing environment and I am very glad to see we were able to achieve that this quarter.
Our ancillary business too performed exceptionally well with the 13% increase in ancillary income per pax at RM45 as compared to RM40 the year before. This is in line with the Company’s ability to innovate, coming up with new initiatives and alternative ways to sell our ancillary offerings.”
Aireen added, “Besides that, we continue to ensure that our cash position remains strong. At the end of the reporting period, the company had RM1.37 billion in deposits, bank and cash balances and we continue to manage our net gearing level which stood at 1.95 times as at 30 June 2014.”
TAA posted revenue of THB5.46 billion in 2Q14, up 2% from the same period last year. This quarter saw an operating loss THB464.91 million which led to a 164% decrease in profit after tax at THB317.61. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes commenting on regional affiliates, “Our decline in operating profit was due to the lower revenue as average fare declined by 14% y-o-y mainly due to drop in passenger travel caused by the political situaiton, depreciation cost of taking aircraft into our own balance sheet and spending on public relations and marketing as the political demonstration in Bangkok continues into the second quarter of this year. With the political demonstration, TAA still continues to record a solid 78% load factor. Like the Malaysian operations, ancillary income per pax for TAA also saw an impressive increase of 8% y-o-y to THB341, while CASK increased slightly by 2% y-o-y to THB1.62 due to the 10% increase in average fuel price. CASK-ex fuel on the other hand decreased by 1% to THB0.90.”
Indonesia AirAsia (“IAA”) posted an increase of 8% in revenue to IDR1,507.82 billion from IDR1,398.23 billion last year. IAA posted an operating loss of IDR271.75 billion from an operating profit of IDR87.66 billion last year. IAA’s 2Q14 loss after tax was IDR340.34 billion – down from a profit after tax of IDR51.66 billion last year. Tony said, “The decline in operating profit was mainly driven by the weakening of the Rupiah currency and the increase in dollar-denominated cost such as fuel, maintenance and its lease expense which led to a 33% increase in CASK at IDR606.16 from IDR456.19  y-o-y. We are now embarking on a route rationalisation programme, terminating loss making routes to ensure we optimise profitability at lower operational cost.”
On Philippines’ AirAsia’s (“PAA”), he mentioned, “We are investing a lot on marketing our brand locally and internationally to ensure we push passenger demand into the Philippines. We have revised our network and I believe this will push fares even higher in 2H14. I am very optimistic the worse is over as our turnaround plan has been put into place. We are also in the midst of getting government to support us on the development of Airports around the country to support our growth.”
Tony said, “Despite losses in affiliate operations, I am very optimistic that the current losses is short lived as most are due to external factors like the weakening of local currencies, geo-political climate and the fluctuations of fuel prices. Our other investee companies posted healthy profits which allowed AirAsia to recognise a profit of RM2.0 million from Asian Aviation Centre of Excellence Sdn Bhd (“AACOE”), and RM3.0 million from AAE Travel Pte Ltd (“AAE Travel”). Those are new part of the three pillars of strength of AirAsia Group which is airline specific revenues, ancillary income and private equity investment.
He added, “What I am proud of is that we continue to be innovative in our offerings which saw ancillary revenue increasing and led to the impressive increase in ancillary income per pax for the Malaysia and Thailand operations. Cost leadership is our best strength and the Group will continue to be focused on driving cost down through this challenging environment.”
Outlook
Commenting on the outlook of the Company, Tony said, “There have been improvements in terms of fare movements. Our average fare is on a positive upward trend as competitors have started to become rational again. We foresee capacity in Malaysia reducing and there will be re-alignment of business strategy by competitors to ensure sustainability.”
He added, “Capacity addition into the region and Malaysia especially will be back to a realistic level in 2H14. For us, we still have to ensure we manage our capacity and fleet deliveries, ensuring each market take the right number of aircraft. Leveraging on our strong relationship with Airbus, we were able to defer and sell some aircraft slots and swapped it to the newly improved fuel efficient Airbus A320neo. We are also on track with the selling of our older aircraft to capitalise on the residual value, and to maintain a young and efficient fleet.”
Tony also highlighted, “Our ancillary business is growing at a very good rate. The ancillary performance this quarter (RM45 per passenger) is testament to my commitment and target of achieving RM50 ancillary income per passenger in the short-term. Keeping in line with my promise to market, a number of new ancillary initiatives have been launched or are in its final stages of testing. I am truly excited that we successfully tested our new on board WiFi with instant messaging capabilities. This will now rollout in phases across all our aircraft with email services and video streaming to come as well.”
He mentioned, “We have also launched our low cost courier called Redbox that will ride on our vast network. This product will provide door to door service at low prices and delivered on air freight. On August 26, AirAsia will begin selling on board duty free to capture more passenger spending. This will have and allow passenger to purchase n board via credit card or book upfront as part of the booking path. We are also moving into the small medium enterprise segment where we are capturing more business travellers. The launch of our Premium flex product which caters for such travellers who would get priority privileges such as boarding, seating, free baggage allocation and free flight change.
He added, “We were able to introduce more connecting flights with AAX and other AOC with our fly-thru product. The group carried over 735,010 fly thru pax in 1H14 which is up 96.3% with a total connecting fees of RM44.1 million. Currently the group is serving up to 739 Fly-Thru routes.”
Tony spoke, “I have spent considerable time on a turnaround plan for Indonesia and Philippines operations which will be rolling out from 3Q14 onwards and I believe both will return to the black in 2H14. AirAsia India (“AAI”) has officially begun operations and I am too excited of its prospect. With our new hub in Bangalore and with the full support from the airport authorities, a lot of costs can be reduced and potentially profit is achievable by year end as well.




STOP Racial Discrimination against Sikh Turban in FIBA!

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  • Petitioning Lubomir Kotleba

STOP Racial Discrimination against Sikh Turban in FIBA! #LetSikhsPlay

    1. Rps Kohli
    2. Petition by
      New Delhi, India
On July 12th this year at the Asia Cup Championship at Wuhan, two Sikh Players were humiliated for wearing a turban. Just minutes before their first basketball game, they were asked to remove their turbans because their headgear “violated FIBA’s rules”.
The turban is a part of the Sikh Code of Conduct. FIBA’s policies are discriminatory and curb the players’ religious freedom.
These policies must be changed. FIBA should change its discriminatory policies and allow sikhs to participate in the championship, with their turbans on. Sign my petition.
This incident has deeply hurt the feelings of all Sikhs – who shouldn’t be persecuted for merely adhering to their faith.
Recently, in 2102 FIFA changed it’s policies and lifted the ban on headscarves for female muslim players. It’s high time FIBA recognizes and changes it’s discriminatory policies towards Sikhs.
There is no evidence that the turban has been dangerous during a basketball game or any other sporting event. Many Sikh players like Milkha Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Monty Panesar have enjoyed safe and successful careers with their articles of faith in tact.
Sports are means of uniting people from diverse cultures, religions and races. Ask FIBA to change it’s discriminatory policies and allow sikhs to play.




Daler Mehndi responds to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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 image001


~ Indian pop star challenges Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra ~

Delhi, August 20, 2014: India’s favourite pop musician Daler Mehndi was recently nominated for the Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Associations’ Ice Bucket Challenge by a little girl from the United States of America. Internationally known for his humanitarian activism, Daler Mehndi became the first Indian celebrity to have taken this challenge. The Musical Maestro completes his challenge with three whole buckets of ice water and challenged three of Bollywood’s biggest stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra to do the same.

Watch Daler Mehndi complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge here:

The ALS Association in the USA is aimed at eradicating this fatal neurological disease from the world, and in the meanwhile is helping patients and their families to deal with the trauma of living with ALS. In order to raise funds to run its noble cause, the internet is alive with support. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge comes from obscure origins, but involves responding within 24 hours after being nominated for it by either dumping a bucket of ice water upon oneself or forfeiting by making a financial donation to the ALS Association. Among popular names who have forfeited the challenge is US President Barack Obama.

A day after Daler Mehndi’s performance in New York, he received a video from a little girl named Arya, in which she completed the challenge and nominated him for it. Daler Mehndi promptly completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and posted a video of it. “Hey little angel, I accept your challenge. I’m doing it for you, for this good cause,” said Daler Mehndi in the video before proceeding to dump three whole buckets of ice water on him.

Other global celebrities who have completed the challenge include young musician Justin Bieber, Facebook mastermind and owner Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft owner Bill Gates. US President Barack Obama has been challenged too, but he forfeited by making a donation of $100 to the ALS Association. Daler Mehndi has become the first Indian celebrity to complete this challenge, and has brought the challenge to India by roping in the Bollywood biggies. The humanitarian Daler Mehndi has once again proved his dedication to the cause of making this world a better place.

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