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Friday, February 26, 2010


Whales on the verge of extinction... will it be saved in time


WELLINGTON - New Zealand wants diplomacy rather than an international court to find a way to end Japan's whaling in Antarctic waters, Prime Minister John Key said yesterday.

Mr Key was responding after Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday bluntly warned Japan that it must commit by November to reducing its annual whale catch to zero or face action in the International Court of Justice.

"Any court case is likely to take a long time to resolve," Mr Key said. "We really want to save some whales. Coming up with a diplomatic solution has got to be a faster way than a court case."

New Zealand and Australia oppose Japan's killing of hundreds of whales each year, carried out in the name of "scientific research".

Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, said yesterday the international court was not the right forum for the dispute because Japan's "research whaling" was legal under international law.

He reiterated Japan's position that it seeks a diplomatic solution rather than a court case. AFP

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010


Solar thermal energyImage via Wikipedia

SINGAPORE - It would be "more practical" to reduce carbon emissions in Singapore through a tax system, rather than a cap-and-trade system, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in the FY2010 Revenue and Expenditure Estimates it released yesterday.

This is because Singapore is a small domestic market with only "a few large energy consumers".

A tax system - where the Government fixes the price per unit of carbon - can also "provide greater price certainty and stability that will incentivise investments in energy efficiency and low carbon solutions", MOF said.

Conversely, a cap-and-trade system - which allows firms to buy and sell their emissions permits - could pose "substantial" transaction and monitoring costs on both the Government and firms because a new carbon trading infrastructure would have to be set up.

Carbon trading also allows the price of carbon to vary, and may deter or delay carbon reduction investments, the ministry added.

MOF said a combination of price signals, fiscal measures and other policy interventions will be needed to curb carbon emissions.

It is studying all the options, and will announce specific measures after working out the details and the outcome of climate change negotiations is clearer.

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010

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Tesla Roadster Engineering Prototype at Yahoo!.Image via Wikipedia

SINGAPORE - To encourage test-bedding of clean technologies, green vehicles brought in here can enjoy the waiver of Additional Registration Fees, Certificate of Entitlement and custom duties for six years - an extension from the current two years.

The Transport Technology Innovation Development Scheme will also be enhanced to allow up to 1,300 vehicles, up from the current quota of 300. The total amount of tax waived is estimated to be about $75 million.

Imported used green vehicles will also get to enjoy the Green Vehicle Rebate, which grants a 40-per-cent cut in the main car tax. Currently, only brand new green vehicles qualify for the rebate, but the scope will be extended from July.

However, the extension of the rebate will not be applicable to imported used Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles and vehicles which are required to be brand new at the point of registration, such as taxis.

More details will be released by the National Environment Agency and the Land Transport Authority next month.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw welcomed the move to allow imported used green vehicles here as returning Singaporeans and expatriates could bring their green vehicles for use here. "Overall, it is a small development in the scheme of greening private cars but it will increase the number of green cars on the roads," he said. Leong Wee Keat

From TODAY, Tuesday, 23-Feb-2010

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dwarf Dinosaurs

Illustration of the dwarf-sized sauropod dinos...Image via Wikipedia


LONDON - A prehistoric "lost world" ruled by miniature dinosaurs has been discovered by palaeontologists. The creatures lived on an island - a kind of pigmy Jurassic Park - and were up to eight times smaller than some of their mainland cousins.

One of the island-dwelling dinosaurs, named Magyarosaurus, was a little bigger than a horse, but was related to some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth - gigantic titanosaurs such as Argentinosaurus, which reached up to 100 feet (30.5 metres) long and weighed around 80 tonnes. Another of the dinosaurs was found to be a primitive dwarfed species similar to large duck-billed herbivores like Iguanodon, which could grow to be up to 10 feet long and weighed more than three tonnes.

Fossils from the dwarf dinosaurs were found in modern day Romania, in an area known as Hateg, which was an island 65 million years ago.

Professor Michael Benton, from the University of Bristol, who carried out the research with scientists at the Universities of Bucharest and Bonn, said the dinosaurs seemed to have evolved into smaller bodies after becoming marooned there. THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

From TODAY, Monday, 22-Feb-2010

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History written down...

Penang Hill, Bukit Bendera Funicular RailwayImage by think2create via Flickr


KUALA LUMPUR - After years of breakdowns and stranded tourists, Penang bid farewell to its rickety Victorian funicular railway on Sunday.

"It's sad that we have to call it a day for the old funicular but the two kilometres of tracks are very worn out and so are the coaches," state transportation committee head, Mr Lim Hock Seng, told AFP.

Work on the inclined railway began in 1897 but took 26 years to complete, with its first coaches made of wood and steel. Its replacement is slated to be built in around seven months and will open in October.

Mr Lim said that the railway has taken several million tourists to the summit of 830-metre-high Penang hill in its 87-year existence.

However, equipment failure caused it to shut down for eight months in 2003 with sporadic closures after that due to a difficulty in finding spare parts for the old system. The line was again opened in 2004 but less than a year later, tourists were trapped on the hill when a brake malfunctioned.

Mr Lim said the tourism ministry was spending over RM63 million ($26 million) to build a new system that will see air-conditioned coaches take passengers up the hill in 10 minutes, compared to half an hour previously.

He said that the new railway would be able to stop at several new points for Penang Hill residents to access their vegetable farms and flower gardens that dot the area easily. AFP

From TODAY, Monday, 22-Feb-2010

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our vanishing link?

Headquarters of the IUCN in Gland, SwitzerlandImage via Wikipedia


PARIS - Seldom seen species of lemur, monkey and gorilla are among 25 primates facing near-certain extinction unless urgent measures are taken to protect them, according to a report released yesterday.

Close to half of the planet's 634 known primate species are endangered, said the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The figure is up from one third of primates just three years ago. Of the top 25, five are on Madagascar, six on the African continent, three in South America and 11 in Southeast Asia.

The least likely to survive might well be the golden-headed langur of Vietnam. Only 60 to 70 individuals remain. But the most threatened species are not always the rarest. There are more than 6,000 Sumatran orangutans, but poor conservation enforcement has led to plummeting numbers.

By contrast, the Hainan gibbon is the world's rarest primate but the Chinese government has very strict conservation measures so it is not on the list, said Mr Simon Stuart, head of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission.

Globally, habitat destruction has been the main driver toward extinction. AFP

From TODAY, Friday, 19-Feb-2010

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An alien footballer?

Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...Image via Wikipedia


LONDON - Does a London football club have fans that are out of this world? A British police officer says he spotted a UFO hovering above Chelsea's stadium in the British capital.

Declassified military files show the unnamed officer reported seeing bright yellow lights flying over Stamford Bridge more than a decade ago. The officer says he saw the lights move soundlessly over the field, changing from a square to a diamond-shaped formation before disappearing from view.

The March 10, 1999, sighting is detailed in more than 6,000 pages of material declassified yesterday. Britain's Defence Ministry has been gradually releasing the files and posting them online as part of a three year project with the country's national archives. AP

From TODAY, Friday, 19-Feb-2010

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Is this a joke of some kind?

Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and the coun...Image via Wikipedia


JAKARTA - Some Indonesian envoys based in embassies abroad are so weak in English language skills that they take sick leave to avoid meeting foreign officials, a senior Indonesian official said.

Mr Imron Cotan, the No 2 Foreign Ministry official, told a parliamentary committee that the problem lies not with his own diplomats, but with attachs sent to embassies by other ministries including defence, trade and finance.

"I found that a number of our attaches are not fluent in English," The Jakarta Post newspaper reported Mr Cotan telling the committee investigating the performance of Indonesian diplomats.

"Every time their counterparts from the home government want to meet them, they freak out and seek ways to avoid the meetings," he added.

Sick leave was the favourite excuse for missing such meetings, Mr Cotan said. He did not give an estimate of how many attachs had substandard English.

Mr Cotan - who has represented Indonesia in New York, Geneva and Australia - suggested that all attach candidates pass a written test in English.

Most Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesia, the official language in a country that also has hundreds of other dialects. Though English is a compulsory part of the public school curriculum, most Indonesians are not proficient in it.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizahsyah declined to identify which of the 119 embassies had been affected by the language deficiencies. He said his ministry was not responsible for the language skills of attachs sent by other departments. AP

From TODAY, Friday, 19-Feb-2010


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