Monday, August 31, 2009

Dalai Lama sees Taiwan storm area

The Dalai Lama led prayers in the devastated village of Hsiaolin
The Dalai Lama is visiting the typhoon-hit areas of southern Taiwan on a tour that China has warned will hurt its recent rapprochement with Taipei.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's first stop was Hsiaolin, a village where at least 424 people died in a mudslide caused by Typhoon Morakot.
The Dalai Lama knelt on the ground above the former farming village, and prayed for those that perished.
China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist seeking Tibet independence.
It also sees Taiwan as a renegade province but had been pursuing closer economic ties with Taipei following the election of President Ma Ying-jeou.
The Dalai Lama denied he had any political agenda.
"I'm a monk. I was asked to say prayers for peace," he said late on Sunday after arriving in Taiwan from India. "There is no politics. This is humanitarian in nature."
'Oppose this'
Shortly after the Dalai Lama's arrival, the Chinese government issued its second stern criticism of the trip.
"The Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan is bound to have a negative influence on relations between the mainland and Taiwan," a spokesman for the cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office said in comments quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency.
"We resolutely oppose this, and our position is firm and clear. We will keep a close eye on the situation," the spokesman said.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou approved the visit after his government was accused of offering a slow and inefficient response to the typhoon.
At least 571 people were killed, with another 106 missing and feared dead.
The Dalai Lama is expected to lead a mass prayer and address the island's Buddhist followers during his five-day visit.

Power station 'invasion' planned

The coal-fired facility was chosen in an online poll
Environmental activists are planning a "mass invasion" of a power station following a vote by supporters of the Climate Camp in London.
E.On's Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant in Nottinghamshire was named as the next direct action target after a debate at the camp in Blackheath.
The activists described the coal-fired plant as Britain's third most polluting power station.
Groups are now aiming to force a plant shutdown on 17 and 18 October.
A statement released by Climate Camp said thousands of people would "descend on the "E.On plant by land, water and air"
Camp organisers held the Great Climate Swoop online poll over recent weeks, attracting more than 2,000 votes, with Ratcliffe coming ahead of other suggestions including the Drax power station near Selby in North Yorkshire.

We are doing this because it's time to imagine a world without coal
Charlotte Johnson, protest organiser
E.On also owns Kingsnorth power station in Kent, which was targeted by Climate Camp last year in protest at plans to build the UK's first coal-fired power station in 30 years there.
Charlotte Johnson, one of the people organising the protest, said: "We are doing this because it's time to imagine a world without coal.
"But coal power stations must be shut permanently if we are to have any chance of stopping catastrophic climate change.
"Climate change is happening now, and the political and economic systems are not preventing it so we are taking power into our hands."
In a statement, E.On said: "Planet change is a key issue within the UK and on a global scale and at Eon we recognise this.
"Essentially people have a right to protest as long as they do this peacefully and do not jeopardise the safety of others while doing so."
An E.On spokeswoman added the company had worked closely with police and climate groups before and that the utmost importance was the safety of the employees on site.
In April police arrested 114 people at a school close to the Ratcliffe-on-Soar plant, claiming they believed protestors were due to take part in an "unlawful action".
So far no-one has been charged with any offence.
Model 'swoop'
Activists said the success of last week's "swoop" on Dartmouth Field in Blackheath for the week-long camp is being seen as a model for the October invasion.
"Now those skills will be used to enter the Ratcliffe site and stop emissions from the site's 200 metre-high chimney," said a statement from Climate Camp.
People attending the camp in London were being trained in non-violent direct action techniques to use at the protest in October, it added.
Paul Roberts, who has been staying at the camp in London, said he voted for Ratcliffe because of the "greenwash" it used to persuade the public it was helping the environment.
"And it's colluding with the government so it can carry on its polluting business as usual and protect its profits," he added.

India 'terminates' Moon mission

All contact with Chandrayaan-1 was lost early on Saturday
India's space agency has abandoned its inaugural Moon mission a day after scientists lost communication with the orbiting Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
"We don't have contact... and we had to terminate...," said the head of Isro - the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The unmanned craft was launched last October in what was billed as a two-year mission of exploration.
The launch was seen as a major step for India as it seeks to keep pace with other space-faring Asian nations.
Despite the termination of the mission, Isro chief G Madhavan Nair told reporters that the project was a great success and 95% of its objectives had been completed.
"We could collect a large volume of data, including 70,000 images of the Moon," he added.
Isro scientists said the agency was in talks with the US and Russia to track the spacecraft, which was orbiting 200km from the surface of the Moon.
Following its launch from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh last October, it was hoped the robotic probe would orbit the Moon, compile a three-dimensional atlas of the lunar surface and map the distribution of elements and minerals.
Useful mission?
Last month the satellite experienced a technical problem when a sensor malfunctioned.
An Isro spokesman said at the time that useful information had already been gathered from pictures beamed to Earth from the probe, although the picture quality had been affected by the malfunction.
Powered by a single solar panel generating about 700 watts, the Isro probe carries five Indian-built instruments and six constructed in other countries, including the US, Britain and Germany.
The mission was expected to cost 3.8bn rupees (£45m; $78m), considerably less than Japanese and Chinese probes sent to the Moon last year.
But the Indian government's space efforts have not been welcomed by all.
Some critics regard the space programme as a waste of resources in a country where millions still lack basic services.

Nato tankers blown up in Pakistan

Nato supply trucks are regularly attacked in Pakistan
Suspected militants have blown up more than 20 vehicles carrying Nato supplies from Pakistan's Karachi port to Kandahar in Afghanistan, police said.
Two people have been injured in the attack, they said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack occurred when the border was closed to traffic after a dispute between Pakistani and Afghan officials.
The Taliban regularly carry out attacks on trucks ferrying supplies for Nato in Afghanistan.
In the latest incident late on Sunday, militants detonated remote-controlled explosives to destroy more than 20 oil tankers and trailers.
Police and witnesses said there was a huge explosion, presumably under one parked oil tanker.
The tanker burst into flames and the fire soon engulfed other oil tankers nearby.
Truckers' dispute
The border was closed on Saturday when Afghan truckers carrying fruits and other supplies into Pakistan accused Pakistani border guards of forcing them to offload their goods at the crossing for security checks.
They said the exercise was time consuming, and damaged the perishable fruits they were carrying.
On Sunday, at a press conference at Spin Boldak, the Afghan town near Chaman, Afghan truckers accused the Pakistani paramilitary Frontier Corps personnel of demanding bribes.
They said those truckers who paid the officials 500 rupees were not asked to offload their goods.
A spokesman of the Frontier Corps in Quetta, Murtaza Beg, refuted this claim.
"We have strict orders to check all trucks and containers coming in from Afghanistan since April this year when more than 40 Afghan nationals suffocated to death in a container in a human smuggling racket," he told BBC Pashto Service's Ayub Tarin.
Mr Beg denied that the truckers were being asked to offload their goods.
But a Pakistani customs official at Chaman border, Shahid Abbasi, told the BBC that the Afghan truckers blocked cross-border traffic when they were asked by the security forces to offload their goods.
"It is a dispute between the security forces and the Afghan government officials, and does not involve Pakistani customs officials who have no role in checking vehicles at this border crossing," he said.

British plan to tackle asteroids

British plan to tackle asteroids

A 3D visualisation of an asteroid before it hit the Earth as devised by Queen's Astrophysics Research Centre astronomers

A team of British scientists are developing plans for a spacecraft that could stop large asteroids from destroying the Earth.
The 10 tonne "gravity tractor" would deflect any orbiting rocks years before any potential collision could happen.
The device, which would rely on the force of gravity, is being developed by Stevenage space company, EADS Atrium.
However the idea is still in its early stages and the company admits a prototype has not yet been made.

The tractor would steer asteroids away from the Earth
NASA's Near Earth Object Programme reports on its website that it has recorded 1068 known "Potentially Hazardous Asteroids", however there are thousands more estimated to be present in space.
Dr Ralph Cordey, who is EADS Astrium's head of exploration and business told the BBC that the concept of a tug was actually first mooted by two Nasa astronauts, Edward Lu and Stanley Love, a few years ago.
He said: "Frankly I thought it was crackers. I thought it would never work."
But he said after reconsidering the idea and focusing on specific engineering issues, including the size of the spacecraft, and long-term propulsion methods, it was considered by the team to be potentially feasible.
The tractor would intercept the asteroid from just 48 metres away and exert a small gravitational force on it, pulling the rock towards it. The pair would then embark on a different orbit, away from the Earth.
It could possibly be powered using solar panels.

However the device would have to be launched at least 15 years before any predicted collision and would need a team to monitor it from the ground during this time.
Dr Cordey said the company had worked with a number of space authorities on other methods of protecting the Earth from asteroids but this one would be able to target a wider range.
He said: "We have done quite a lot of design work on this with the European Space Agency and we believe this would work just as well on a big solid iron asteroid as well as other types."
But the high cost implications mean that before the device could be made, it would have to be commissioned by a government or a group of governments working together.