Offshore Drillers Could Cut Costs By 30% With Standardized Equipment

The offshore oil industry could cut exploration costs by more than 30 percent if it would just agree to use standardized equipment, according to the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA). When starting a new offshore drilling project, oil companies often contract out the work to engineering companies and oilfield services, and the sub-contractors often fabricate tailor-made parts and equipment. In-house fabrication is also common, necessarily leading to differences in equipment from project to project. Manufacturing unique equipment…

Offshore Drillers Could Cut Costs By 30% With Standardized Equipment

The offshore oil industry could cut exploration costs by more than 30 percent if it would just agree to use standardized equipment, according to the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA). When starting a new offshore drilling project, oil companies often contract out the work to engineering companies and oilfield services, and the sub-contractors often fabricate tailor-made parts and equipment. In-house fabrication is also common, necessarily leading to differences in equipment from project to project. Manufacturing unique equipment…

Offshore Drillers Could Cut Costs By 30% With Standardized Equipment

The offshore oil industry could cut exploration costs by more than 30 percent if it would just agree to use standardized equipment, according to the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA). When starting a new offshore drilling project, oil companies often contract out the work to engineering companies and oilfield services, and the sub-contractors often fabricate tailor-made parts and equipment. In-house fabrication is also common, necessarily leading to differences in equipment from project to project. Manufacturing unique equipment…

Could Santa’s Sleigh Go Electric?

Indeed, it’s time to give Santa’s reindeer a break, so this year, rumor has it, they’re just along for the ride as Santa goes electric, pleasing both the animal welfare watchdogs and environmentalists who would be keen to see this go down with a minimal carbon footprint. And what better year than 2016, when electric vehicle poster boy Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors Inc., is being wooed by President-elect Donald Trump. It would seem almost inevitable that Santa would go electric, now that electric vehicles are preparing to enter the…

Asia on alert ahead of Christmas

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529752432162500

JAKARTA/BANGKOK: Security forces across Asia were on alert on Friday ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, as police in Australia and Indonesia said they had foiled bomb plots and Malaysian security forces arrested suspected militants.
Australian police said they had prevented attacks on prominent sites in Melbourne on Christmas Day that authorities described as “an imminent terrorist event” inspired by Daesh.
The announcement came after an attack in Berlin in which a truck smashed through a Christmas market on Monday, killing 12 people. The suspect was killed in a pre-dawn shoot-out with police in Milan on Friday, Italy’s interior minister said.
In Indonesia, where Daesh’s first attack in Southeast Asia killed four people in Jakarta in January, at least 14 people were being interrogated over suspected suicide bomb plots targeting the presidential palace in Jakarta and another undisclosed location, police said.
Anti-terrorism police killed three suspects in a gunfight on Wednesday on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, would deploy 85,000 police and 15,000 military staff for the Christmas and New Year period, police said.
Indonesian groups were helping authorities secure Christmas celebrations amid heightened religious tension after the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, went on trial on a charge of blasphemy, which he denies.
Religious group Islamic Defenders Front swept into shopping centers in the city of Surabaya, in East Java, last week to make sure Muslim staff were not forced by employers to wear Santa hats or other Christmas gear.
In West Java, a group stopped a Christmas event as it was being held in a public building rather than in a church.
In Jakarta, about 300 volunteers from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest moderate Muslim group, will join police in overseeing security.
“The focus is against terrorism, especially in Jakarta and Bali, because these are the traditional targets,” Indonesia police chief Tito Karnavian told reporters.
The largely Hindu island of Bali, famed for its temples and beaches, suffered Indonesia’s most serious militant attack, in 2002, when 202 people were killed, most of them foreigners, by bombs at a bar.
In the Pakistani city of Lahore, where 72 people were killed in an Easter Day bombing targeting Christians this year, police said 2,000 Muslim volunteers had been trained to help with security.
“A three-layer security will be arranged around every church in Lahore,” said Haider Ashraf, the city’s deputy inspector general of police.
He said CCTV cameras were monitoring churches and other gathering places for Christians, who make up about 1 percent of Muslim-majority Pakistan’s 190 million people.
Police in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where Daesh claimed responsibility for a grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June, said this week they had arrested seven people for suspected links to the militant group.
Police will monitor transport hubs, entertainment centers and tourist spots.
“We try not to have too much physical presence in public and focus more on prevention,” Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said. “People should feel free to enjoy their holidays.”
The US Embassy in India warned this week of an increased threat to places frequented by foreigners.
In mostly Muslim Bangladesh, where a militant group killed 22 people, most of them foreigners, at a Dhaka cafe in July, police would be patrolling near churches, an officer said.

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Ebola vaccine highly ‘effective’

Author: 
AP
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529752572163000

GENEVA: Final test results confirm an experimental Ebola vaccine is highly effective, a major milestone that could help prevent the spread of outbreaks like the one that killed thousands in West Africa.
Scientists have struggled to develop an Ebola vaccine over the years, and this is the first one proven to work. Efforts were ramped up after the infectious disease caused a major outbreak, beginning in 2013 in Guinea and spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. About 11,300 people died.
The World Health Organization, which acknowledged shortcomings in its response to the West Africa outbreak, led the study of the vaccine, which was developed by the Canadian government and is now licensed to the US-based Merck & Co. Results were published Thursday.
Merck is expected to seek regulatory approval in the US and Europe sometime next year.
The experimental vaccine was given to about 5,800 people last year in Guinea, as the virus was waning. All had some contact with a new Ebola patient. They got the vaccine right away or three weeks later. After a 10-day waiting period, no Ebola cases developed in those immediately vaccinated, 23 cases turned up among those with delayed vaccination.
The Lancet paper published Thursday mostly crystallizes what was already largely known from interim results released last year. The vaccine proved so effective that the study was stopped midway so that everyone exposed to Ebola in Guinea could be immunized.
“I really believe that now we have a tool which would allow (us) to control a new outbreak of Ebola of the Zaire strain,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general who was the study’s lead author. “It’s the first vaccine for which efficacy has been shown.”
She noted that other Ebola vaccines are underdoing testing, and that a vaccine is also needed to protect against a second strain, Sudan.
The virus first turned up in Africa in 1976 and had caused periodic outbreaks mostly in central Africa, but never with results as deadly as the West Africa outbreak. Many previous vaccine attempts have failed. Among the hurdles: The sporadic nature of outbreaks and funding shortages.

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‘Complications’ hold up deal to end DR Congo crisis

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529821832170800

KINSHASA: The signing of a deal aimed at ending DR Congo’s political crisis was being held up on Friday due to “complications,” a source close to the negotiations said, dampening hopes of a breakthrough.
The unstable, mineral-rich nation has been thrust into political limbo by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down after his second and final term, which officially ended on December 20.
At least 40 people have been killed during anti-Kabila protests around the Democratic Republic of Congo since Monday, the UN human rights office said in Geneva Friday.
“Some 107 people have been injured or ill-treated and there have been at least 460 arrests,” it added.
The influential Catholic Church has been brokering talks between the government and opposition in a bid to exit the crisis, and negotiators wrapped up talks on Thursday night in an optimistic mood, leaving legal experts to finalize the text of the deal based on a working document.
“It’s certain — we will finish tomorrow,” CENCO vice president Fridolin Ambongo had said, while an opposition source told AFP: “We’ve got everything we could have wanted.”
Lumanu Mulenda, a negotiator on the government side, had said: “The president has made enough concessions, the deal will be signed tomorrow.”
But on Friday morning a source in the Congo National Episcopal Conference (CENCO), which is presiding over the negotiations, told AFP tersely: “There have been complications.”
The working document for the deal, seen by AFP, envisages a “political transition” with fresh presidential elections to be held at the end of 2017.
The vote was supposed to be organized this year, and the government had previously said it was impossible for it to be held before April 2018.
The deal also guarantees that Kabila will not seek a third mandate — as is banned under the constitution — and lays the groundwork for a “national transition council” charged with carrying out the agreement.
In return, the opposition headed by 84-year-old Etienne Tshisekedi, accepts that Kabila would stay in power until he hands over to an elected successor, having previously demanded an immediate departure from public life.
Kabila, 45, has been in power since his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001.
The younger Kabila was confirmed as head of state of the vast nation of 70 million people in DR Congo’s first free post-independence elections in 2006, and re-elected in 2011 in a vote marred by allegations of massive fraud.
The UN said those killed In clashes with security forces were “mainly” people protesting Kabila’s refusal to step down.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement the high casualty figures suggested DR Congo’s security forces had shown “a serious disregard” for the need for restraint.
“Violent repression of dissenting voices and a heavy-handed and irresponsible response to demonstrations risk provoking violence in return by demonstrators and possibly even tipping the constitutional crisis over the president’s future into further conflict across the country,” the rights chief said
Despite being constitutionally banned from seeking a third term, a controversial order by the constitutional court in May said Kabila could stay on until a successor was chosen.
DR Congo has never witnessed a democratic transfer of power following polls since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Two decades ago, the country collapsed into the deadliest conflict in modern African history. Its two wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s dragged in at least six African armies and left more than three million dead.

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Muslim man found dead after speaking to media in restive Myanmar state

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529821782170500

YANGON: The headless body of a Muslim villager has been found days after he spoke to reporters on a rare government-guided media tour of restive northern Rakhine State, Myanmar police said on Friday.
Troops have taken control of the dangerous and remote region bordering Bangladesh since Oct. 9 when armed men raided police posts, killing nine officers.
At least 34,000 Rohingya Muslims have since fled to Bangladesh, taking with them allegations of mass-killings, rape and torture at the hands of Myanmar security forces.
The Myanmar government has vigorously denied the accusations and blamed Rohingya activists for spreading false accounts.
Troops have killed more than 80 people throughout the crackdown, according to official figures, while conflict analysts say several Muslim villagers have also been killed by the militants whose attacks sparked the latest unrest.
Police did not give a motive for the killing of the 41-year-old man, whose body was found floating in a river, but said he spoke to Burmese journalists on Wednesday in Ngakhura village.
“On Thursday his family said he had disappeared after giving interviews to journalists… so we opened the case,” Police Col. Thet Naing in Maungdaw town told AFP.
“This afternoon (Friday) I got the report his headless body was found… we have confirmed from villagers that it is him,” he said, adding police went to the scene of the grisly find.
Police have yet to name the man or identify suspects.
Two Burmese reporters, who did not want to be named, told AFP that they interviewed the man on Wednesday at his village and had been contacted by police to say he was missing.
The rare media tour — open only to Burmese journalists — was organized by the government amid mounting pressure on de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to probe reports of army abuses and allow access to a zone home to the stateless and reviled Rohingya minority.
The area has been under lockdown for more than two months since hundreds of armed militants launched surprise attacks on border posts.
Conflict monitors the International Crisis Group (ICG) say the attackers were from a Saudi-backed group called Harakah Al-Yaqin, which emerged after a wave of sectarian violence cut through Rakhine in 2012.
The ICG report said the group has killed several Rohingya ‘informers’ perceived to be working with the Myanmar authorities.
On Friday state mouthpiece the Global New Light of Myanmar ran a front page article on the media trip, trumpeting its transparency with the headline: “Journalists impressed with extensive media access in Rakhine.”

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World-famous diamond inspires new and bloody history

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529821732170200

NEW DELHI: Many precious stones have a blood-soaked history, but a new book reveals the world’s most famous diamond the Koh-i-Noor surpasses them all, with a litany of horrors that rivals “Game of Thrones.”
The Koh-i-Noor (“Mountain of Light“), now part of the British Crown Jewels, has witnessed the birth and the fall of empires across the Indian subcontinent, and remains the subject of a bitter ownership battle between Britain and India.
“It is an unbelievably violent story… Almost everyone who owns the diamond or touches it comes to a horribly sticky end,” says British historian William Dalrymple, who co-authored “Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond” with journalist Anita Anand.
“We get poisonings, bludgeonings, someone gets their head beaten with bricks, lots of torture, one person blinded by a hot needle. There is a rich variety of horrors in this book,” Dalrymple tells AFP in an interview.
In one particularly gruesome incident the book relates, molten lead is poured into the crown of a Persian prince to make him reveal the location of the diamond.
Today the diamond, which historians say was probably first discovered in India during the reign of the Mughal dynasty, is on public display in the Tower of London, part of the crown of the late Queen Mother.
The first record of the Koh-i-Noor dates back to around 1750, following Persian ruler Nader Shah’s invasion of the Mughal capital Delhi.
Shah plundered the city, taking treasures such as the mythical Peacock Throne, embellished with precious stones including the Koh-i-Noor.
“The Peacock Throne was the most lavish piece of furniture ever made. It cost four times the cost of the Taj Mahal and had all the better gems gathered by the Mughals from across India over generations,” Dalrymple says.
The diamond itself was not particularly renowned at the time — the Mughals preferred colored stones such as rubies to clear gems.
Ironically given the diplomatic headaches it has since caused, it only won fame after it was acquired by the British.
“People only know about the Koh-i-Noor because the British made so much fuss of it,” says Dalrymple.
India has tried in vain to get the stone back since winning independence in 1947, and the subject is frequently brought up when officials from the two countries meet.
Iran, Pakistan and even the Afghan Taliban have also claimed the Koh-i-Noor in the past, making it a political hot potato for the British government.
Over the course of the century that followed the Mughals’ downfall, the Koh-i-Noor was used variously as a paperweight by a Muslim religious scholar and affixed to a glittering armband worn by a Sikh king.
It only passed into British hands in the middle of the nineteenth century, when Britain gained control of the Sikh empire of Punjab, now split between Pakistan and India.
Sikh King Ranjit Singh had taken it from an Afghan ruler who had sought sanctuary in India and after he died in 1839 war broke out between the Sikhs and the British.
Singh’s 10-year-old heir handed over the diamond to the British as part of the peace treaty that ended the war and the gem was subsequently displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London — acquiring immediate celebrity status.
“It became, for the Victorians, a symbol of the conquest of India, just as today, for post-colonial Indians, it is a symbol of the colonial looting of India,” Dalrymple says.
The Koh-i-Noor, which is said to be cursed, has not been worn by a British monarch since the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
It last emerged from its glass case in the Tower of London for the funeral of the Queen Mother, when it was placed on her coffin.
So might it be worn again — perhaps by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, when Prince Charles ascends to the throne?
“If that doesn’t finish the monarchy, nothing else would” laughs Dalrymple.

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A Pakistani girl is snatched away, payment for a family debt

Author: 
AP
Sat, 2016-12-24
ID: 
1482529705632155800

MIRPUR KHAS, Pakistan: The mother rummages through a large metal trunk, searching for a picture of her young daughter taken away in the night to be the bride of a man who says the family owed him $1,000.
Beneath the blankets, clothes and silver ornaments that she wears with her sari, Ameri Kashi Kohli finds two photos, carefully wrapped in plastic, of her smiling daughters.
Ameri tries to remember her daughter Jeevti’s age; few of this country’s desperately poor have birth certificates. With a grin at a sudden recollection she says, “I remember her sister, my youngest, was born when there was a big earthquake in Pakistan.”
That was 2005. Jeevti was 3 years old at the time, Ameri says. That means the girl was just 14 when she disappeared into the hands of the land manager her parents were beholden to.
Her mother is sure that Jeevti paid the price for a never-ending debt.
Ameri says she and her husband borrowed roughly $500 when they first began to work on the land, but she throws up her hands and says the debt was repaid. “We started with a loan, and every time they said they were taking money for our loan, but no one gave us anything to show we paid.” Instead, the debt doubled.
It’s a familiar story here in southern Pakistan: Small loans balloon into impossible debts, bills multiply, payments are never deducted.
In this world, women like Ameri and her young daughter are treated as property: taken as payment for a debt, to settle disputes, or as revenge if a landowner wants to punish his worker. Sometimes parents, burdened by an unforgiving debt, even offer their daughters as payment.
The women are like trophies to the men. They choose the prettiest and the young and pliable. Sometimes they take them as second wives to look after their homes. Sometimes they use them as prostitutes to earn money. Sometimes they take them simply because they can.
Ameri says she has heard stories of other workers whose daughters disappeared, in a country that sees an estimated 1,000 girls like them taken each year. Now, even though she and her family live elsewhere after being tossed out of their home, she’s afraid that her 11-year-old could be taken too.
And like everything else in her life, as a Hindu in a Muslim country, as a woman who is among the poorest of the poor, she knows she will be powerless to stop it from happening.
“I went to the police and to the court. But no one is listening to us,” Ameri says. She says the land manager made her daughter convert to Islam and took the girl as his second wife. “They told us, ‘Your daughter has committed to Islam and you can’t get her back.’”
More than 2 million Pakistanis live as “modern slaves,” according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, which ranks Pakistan in the top three offending countries that still enslave people, some as farm workers, others at brick kilns or as household staff. Sometimes the workers are beaten or chained to keep them from fleeing.
“They have no rights, and their women and girls are the most vulnerable,” says Ghulam Hayder whose Green Rural Development Organization works to free Pakistan’s bonded laborers.
Employers sexually assault the women and girls, marry them, force them to convert, and rarely will the police intervene, he says. He recalls a case in which a husband accused a landowner of sexually assaulting his wife. The landowner held him for three days, beat him and released him with a warning to tell no one.
An estimated 1,000 young Christian and Hindu girls, most of them underage and impoverished, are taken from their homes each year, converted to Islam and married, said a report by the South Asia Partnership organization.

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