Posts tagged ‘Asia’

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden killed in shootout with U.S. forces in Pakistan [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

WORLD  U.S. officials  said bin Laden was found in a million-dollar compound in the upscale town of Abbottabad, 60 km (35 miles) north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. A source familiar with the operation said bin Laden was shot in the head.

“Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama declared in a hastily called, late-night White House speech announcing the death of the elusive head of the militant Islamic group behind a series of deadly bombings across the world.

Leaders worldwide praised the killing as a dramatic success in the war against al Qaeda, although many analysts cautioned it was too soon to say bin Laden’s death would mark a turning point in the battle against a highly fractured network of militants.

Jubilant, flag-waving celebrations erupted in Washington and New York after Obama’s announcement. It was the biggest national security victory for the president since he took office in early 2009 and could give him a political boost as he seeks re-election in 2012.

Obama may now also find it easier to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan, begun after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.

But the operation could complicate relations with Pakistan, already frayed over U.S. drone strikes in the west of the country and the jailing of a CIA contractor accused of killing two Pakistani men.

A U.S. official said Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid after it had taken place.

The revelation bin Laden was living in style in a mansion will also put Pakistani officials under pressure to explain how he could have been right under their noses. Residents in Abbottabad said a Pakistani military training academy is near the compound.

“For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad,” said Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst.

U.S. officials said American forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building in Abbottabad after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.

Bin Laden was finally found after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building in Pakistan, officials said.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

Bin Laden and three adult men, including a son of bin Laden, were killed along with a woman who was used as a shield by a male combatant, officials said.

The New York Times said bin Laden’s body was taken to Afghanistan and then buried at sea.

RESIDENT WOKEN BY BLASTS, GUNFIRE

The operation took under 40 minutes. A U.S. helicopter was lost due to a mechanical problem and its crew and assault force safely evacuated, officials said. No Americans were harmed in the operation, Obama said.

“After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound. Three helicopters were hovering overhead,” said Nasir Khan, a resident of the town.

“All of a sudden there was firing toward the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash,” said Khan, who had watched the dramatic scene unfold from his rooftop.

Authorities said bin Laden’s hideaway, built in 2005, was about eight times larger than other homes in the area. It had security features including 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire, internal walls for extra privacy, and access controlled through two security gates.

It had no telephone or Internet connection.

“It is not a surprise that bin Laden was captured in an urban heartland,” said Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

“Many of al-Qaeda’s senior leaders have been captured in Pakistani cities. It had become a myth that the al Qaeda leadership were hiding in caves in the tribal areas.”

POSSIBLE REPRISALS

Bin Laden’s death triggered a travel alert for Americans worldwide, the U.S. State Department said, warning of the potential for anti-American violence.

Thousands of people gathered outside the White House, waving American flags, cheering and chanting “USA, USA, USA.” Car drivers blew their horns in celebration and people streamed to Lafayette Park across from the street, as police vehicles with their lights flashing stood vigil.

“I’m down here to witness the history. My boyfriend is commissioning as a Marine next week. So I’m really proud of the troops,” Laura Vogler, a junior at American University in Washington, said outside the White House.

Similar celebrations erupted at New York’s Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center twin towers felled by hijacked airplanes on September 11.

A market perception that the death of bin Laden reduced the security risks facing the United States lifted the dollar from a three-year low and raised stock index futures.

U.S. crude oil prices also fell. “Current oil prices are regarded by most analysts as carrying significant risk premium at current levels and good news on the geopolitical front has the potential to move prices back below $100,” said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

However, some analysts said the market impact would be short lived.

Many Americans had given up hope of finding bin Laden after he vanished in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Intelligence that originated last August provided the clues that eventually led to bin Laden’s trail, the president said. A U.S. official said Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation last Friday morning.

“The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of men, women and children,” Obama said.

CAPTURED DEAD

Former President George W. Bush, who vowed to bring bin Laden to justice “dead or alive” but never did, called the operation a “momentous achievement” after Obama called him with the news.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden’s death as “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.

Other experts were more cautious. “It changes little in terms of on-the-ground realities — by the time of his death bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world,” said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Statements of appreciation poured in from both sides of Washington’s political divide. Republican Senator John McCain declared, “I am overjoyed that we finally got the world’s top terrorist.”

India said the killing underlined its concern that “terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” India’s home ministry said in New Delhi.

A U.S. official said that the retrieval of the body may help convince any doubters that bin Laden is really dead.

The United States is conducting DNA testing on bin Laden and used facial recognition techniques to help identify him, the official said.

The United States is ensuring that bin Laden’s body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition, a U.S. official said.

Bin Laden had been the subject of a search since he eluded U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces in a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001.

The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan.

While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.

Besides September 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks — including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen. (Additional reporting by Jeff MasonPatricia ZengerleArshad MohammedAlister BullMissy RyanMark HosenballRichard CowanKristin RobertsAndrew Quinn and Tabassum Zakaria, Joanne Allen in Washington and Chris Allbritton in Islamabad; Writing by Steve Holland; editing by David Storey and Dean Yates)

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April 13, 2011

The Other Nuclear Crisis Quietly Mounting In Japan [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

In many ways the 11,000 villagers in Rokkasho, on the northeastern tip of Japan’s main island, are blessed. While other towns in the remote region are run-down and financially strapped, Rokkasho boasts gleaming public buildings, immaculate recreation facilities and free picture-phones in every home. Rare in a land of massive public debt, its government has a $100 million surplus. At $170,000 per capita income is triple Tokyo’s.

The reason for Rokkasho’s good fortune is its decision three decades ago to host a nuclear waste dump, as well as uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants. When the plans were hatched in the 1980s, Japan was the economic wonder of the world, and Rokkasho was held up as a “dream project.” Spearheaded by Japan’s political and power industry bosses, it was envisioned as harnessing the nation’s technical and financial prowess to complete the nuclear fuel cycle–a circuit in which conventional nuke plants, fast-breeder reactors and Rokkasho’s recycling facilities would create inexhaustible energy.

These days the dream project looks more like a study in how overwrought ambition and money politics created a financial nightmare. Rokkasho is operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), an industry consortium led by Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. Up to now it has remained in the testing stage and taken delivery of what is believed to be only a small amount of waste.

The power industry’s plan to send many tons of spent fuel to Rokkasho from its 54 domestic nuclear plants has been scuttled by 18 safety-related delays so far in the start of uranium reprocessing. The delays, in turn, have left Japan’s nuke plants sitting on 13,000 tons of waste. Unless Rokkasho begins reprocessing, they could run out of storage capacity within a matter of years. JNFL now hopes to begin reprocessing in October 2012–after spending another $2.5 billion. Plutonium reprocessing and fast-breeder reactors, which other nations have largely abandoned, are more doubtful still.

That was true even before the Mar. 11 earthquake set off a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, halfway between Rokkasho and Tokyo. Under a nuclear policy review ordered by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Rokkasho is likely to get a close look; one type of fuel it aims to produce, mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium, or mox, was introduced into Fukushima’s No. 3 reactor last year and is a top contamination concern.

One thing that’s not reviewable is the money already consumed by Rokkasho. Costs have exceeded estimates by threefold and stand at $27.5 billion. Billions more would be needed to fulfill its early ambitions.

 

April 11, 2011

Daily Life of NinjaHinja [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 9, 2011

New strong 7.4 earthquake rocks Japan, tsunami alert issued [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 3, 2011

China’s ‘Deviant’ Journalists Navigate Censorship, Corruption [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 11:  H...

Fear and intimidation are the preferred tools used by the Chinese government to control the country’s more outspoken media outlets. Investigative reporting the world over is inherently expensive and risky, but in China those risks ratchet up to include various forms of harassment, lawsuits, job loss, violence and even death threats. Perhaps worst of all, the most likely outcome for working under such punishing conditions is a story that either gets watered down or never gets published at all.

Call it watchdog journalism with Chinese characteristics, or more accurately “supervision by public opinion” (舆论监督). The Chinese Communist Party recognized the role of the media in monitoring its misbehaving government officials way back in 1987, but it’s allowed to exist only under the strictest of controls.

“Ever since the Tiananmen incident, there has never been a formal opening of the media or relaxing of media controls. In fact, there’s been a progressive tightening in recent years,” said David Bandurski, a researcher at Hong Kong University’s China Media Project (CMP).

Bandurski and his colleague Martin Hala recently published a book titledInvestigative Journalism in China: Eight cases in Chinese watchdog journalism that offers an inside view of the complexities and intrigues of working in a Chinese newsroom.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the course of this book getting to know a lot of Chinese journalists, and they work in an incredibly difficult environment. They take calculated risks and push as far as they think they can go,” he said.

Successful strategies used by reporters in the past have often involved exploiting gaps between the Central Government and provincial authorities, along with gaps between the provinces themselves. Cho Li-Fung, a former reporter at 21st Century World Herald and currently a sociology teacher at Hong Kong University, described the three basic types:

– The geographic gap by which out-of-town reporters face fewer restrictions since they’re not under the same administrative controls by regional officials.

– The self-interest gap by which local officials turn a blind eye to reports of problems in other provinces by the media from their jurisdiction.

– The information gap by which local officials have a harder time tracking unfamiliar journalists, allowing them to have more time to publish stories before political pressure can be brought to bear.

Bandurksi singled out Hu Shuli, the former editor-in-chief of Caijingmagazine, as the master of this practice. Caijing’s reporting on SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) illustrates how Guangdong’s authorities had banned all coverage by the local media, but there was no such directive from the Central Propaganda Department to curtail reporting by the national press. Hu said fear, or self-censorship, most likely stopped many of her peers from pursuing the story.

Six years later, Hu stepped down from her position at Caijing after a prolonged tussle with the magazine’s owners over finances and editorial independence. She now edits Caixin magazine.

Cheng Yizhong, the founder and former editor of the Southern Metropolis Daily and The Beijing News said during a recent lecture, “Chinese journalists haven’t found the edge of the bird cage yet.” He believes professional journalists in China need to push themselves to find the real boundaries because the bigger problem in China is not the censors, but the prevalence of self-censorship.

Cheng was jailed for four months in 2004 in what has been viewed as retaliation for his coverage of a young migrant worker named Sun Zhigang who had been beaten to death while in police custody. Two of his colleagues also served prison terms for what appeared to be trumped-up charges of corruption. Cheng was awarded the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize in 2005.

“The present generation of Chinese journalists grew up in a time when lies prevailed and media served the narrow interests of political leaders,” said Qian Gang, a former editor-in-chief of Southern Weekend and now the director of the China Media Project.

“While controls are real today, these journalists have a vested interest in pushing the limits of control in order to ensure China does not step backward,” he added.

The government’s control of the Chinese media relies on a system of intimidation for both reporters and editors, but it’s often the editors that are used as the main pressure point. All Chinese editors know full well that their livelihoods and careers are at stake every time they publish a story that casts government officials in an unfavorable light. Swift and harsh punishments, irrespective of a report’s accuracy, create an environment of fear and calculated risks. Editors and their paymasters have to be skilled at second-guessing the political ramifications of their coverage. When the risks become too great, a story can either be watered down or effectively killed off by filing it as one of the Party’s internal references.

Internal references are reports compiled for circulation among government officials only. They’re assigned different levels of classification, and unauthorized distribution can lead to accusations of revealing state secrets. Internal references are intended to inform the authorities of key information deemed too sensitive for public disclosure.

The cross-regional reporting that many publications had used so effectively in the past was officially banned by the Party years ago, and yet it still persists. Like many other laws in China, enforcement is sporadic, usually coinciding with disputes that involve prominent officials or businessmen.

“Everyone still does it, but it’s riskier now,” Bandurski said. “It’s really a matter of what political connections a publication’s editors and owners can muster against the person or organization that was the focus of the report. The media needs political connections just like commercial businesses. And that tells us why we can’t just look at the formal aspects of control. They don’t tell the whole story,” he added.

The first of the eight cases featured in the book illustrates this dynamic.Lu Yuegang’s pursuit to find justice for the victim of an unspeakable sulfuric acid attack was repeatedly stymied by the top party leader at Fenghuo village in Shaanxi province. Although Lu’s peers in the domestic and international press eventually publicized the story and lauded his efforts, his employer, China Youth Daily, was sued for libel and a provincial court ordered them to pay 900,000 yuan in damages and legal fees.

Lu’s experience also revealed the existence of the court’s “auxiliary files,” highly classified documents that show the details of contacts between Party officials and the court. The files are thought to reveal behind-the-scenes wrangling by government officials when political agendas trump the law. Lu had tried and failed to get access to the files related to his case. He described them as the “black box” of the Chinese legal system.

Bandurski says the Western stereotype of Chinese media as being mouthpieces of the party or watchdogs on a leash fails to account for the complexities and nuances of what’s actually happening. The irony is that the Western press relies so much on the investigative reporting done by the Chinese media to reveal scandals like the Henan Aids epidemic,Sichuan’s “tofu” buildingsmelamine-tainted dairy products and forced child labor at brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan.

On top of all the risks cited above, investigative reporting in China is further complicated by the poor ethics and lack of professionalism that continue to plague the industry. Corruption within the media, particularly by reporters threatening negative coverage unless a fee is paid, often referred as news extortion or black journalism, continues to be a serious problem. Forbes Beijing Bureau Chief Gady Epsteindescribes this practice in “Dark Journalism.”

In spite of this, many people have no other alternative than to seek assistance from the media for their grievances. Entrenched local officials can use the power of their office to cut off all avenues of appeal through government agencies and the law courts. Given these circumstances, reporters can be seen as miracle workers by some for calling attention to the injustices they’ve suffered, which explains why some reporters are still willing to endure such a difficult environment.

April 2, 2011

The New American Post From OFA (“I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a good job can find one”)

by Avinash Saxena

This is the Posts from the famous and presidential website of America. OFA’s writer Mary Hough Wrote a blog on there site about Employement on America.

“Nearly two years after one of the worst recessions we’ve ever seen, our economy is showing signs of real strength. Today we learned that we added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last thirteen months. And the unemployment rate has now fallen a full point in the last four months. The last time that happened was the recovery of 1984.

Now, despite this good news, we still have plenty of work to do. There are still millions of Americans looking for a job that pays the bills. I know there’s a lot going on in the world, and the news is filled with images of the Middle East and Japan, but you should know that keeping the economy growing and making sure jobs are available is the first thing I think about when I wake up every morning. It’s the last thing I think about when I go to bed each night. And I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a good job can find one; until every family gets a shot at the American Dream. That’s our North Star. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

 

March 30, 2011

City Tax Battle Isn’t About a Two-Year Break. It’s About Repealing the Payroll Tax Completely

by Avinash Saxena

Not only is the San Francisco Chronicle lacking the professional courtesy to link to TechCrunch for first reporting the tech industry’s fears about San Francisco taxing stock options– the paper is also missing the broader point in the escalating debate.

This isn’t about Zynga and Twitter negotiating a special deal, nor is it about a two-year deferral of payroll tax. Sure, that could keep a few companies and thousands of jobs in the city. But what would really cripple the city’s future economic growth is if every other startup reading this news, grimaces at the idea of haggling with unsympathetic elected officials who don’t seem to want their jobs, and decide instead to follow Mark Zuckerberg’s lead and open their company in Palo Alto or another Bay Area city from day one.

San Francisco has lost a lot of industries over the past decades like publishing and banking, and for much of Silicon Valley’s history, the city has watched as neighboring Bay Area cities got thousands jobs and newly minted millionaire citizens. The Web 2.0 movement has been San Francisco’s rare shot at owning an engine of constant new-job formation– and highly-paid jobs at that. And fortunately, some members of the city government get just how precious that is in a country gripped with underwater mortgages and 9% unemployment.

The goal isn’t a mere concession or two for the big boys. It isn’t a two-year payroll tax deferral either. David Chiu, President of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is aiming for a near term agreement to take taxing startup stock options off the table completely and a goal over the next two years of repealing the payroll tax as it stands now– completely.

“I want to thank TechCrunch for starting this urgent conversation,” he said in an interview earlier today. “We are the only city in the entire state with a payroll tax, and I’ve been concerned about it since I came into office. Last year, we jump-started the conversation about why it is a job killing tax. I want to propose big changes, and it’s a long conversation.” Chiu, a former CEO, continued, “A two-year moratorium doesn’t solve the problem. That solution still limits the possibilities of new tech companies being formed here. I can tell you as the president, the current board is very willing to do anything that helps incentivize San Francisco job creation.”

As we speak, the Board of Supervisors is meeting – and Chiu is introducing a drafting request that will start a multi-week process of hammering out the details to pull this ambitious plan off. Chiu and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee have also invited several tech companies and venture capitalists to participate in the process. The first step will be addressing the stock option issue, although Chiu wants to make sure only high-growth startups are getting the exemption, not mature companies seeking a payroll tax loophole.

Repealing the entire payroll tax will take more time. It has to go on the ballot the same year supervisors are up for election, which means November 2012. If it does, expect a record turnout of entrepreneurs. The recommendation will likely be to replace the payroll tax with a solution similar to what nearly every other city does, taxing companies’ gross receipts. The compromise won’t gut the city’s taxes, but it also won’t put San Francisco at a disadvantage by unfairly penalize high growth startups creating thousands of jobs.

No doubt this will be a contentious issue, and it’s one that every single member of San Francisco’s startup scene needs to be paying attention to. Well, unless they want to start commuting. As we’ve reported before, San Francisco is one of the only cities in the nation that has a payroll tax. But what is even more unique that a lot of local reporters miss: San Francisco law counts stock options as part of payroll– something even the Federal government doesn’t do. There’s a new IRS requirement to report stock option gains. Since it didn’t exist before, companies like Salesforce.com didn’t have to worry about this unless they chose to report options as compensation.

But the subtle change is what has startups understandably spooked. Companies like Twitter and Zynga could owe tens of millions of dollars to the city should they go public at current secondary market valuation levels– as much as half of the proceeds of a typical IPO. It’s a cost that they would totally avoid simply by moving a few miles away. You can argue that these companies need to pay “their fair share” all you want. No company in their right mind would wind up paying it, because its fiduciary duty to shareholders would require it relocate and invest that money in the business instead.

The groundswell of supervisors seeking to address a more systemic change for all startups since TechCrunch’s original article is a good indication that multiple forces in the city government want to keep startups happy. As the Chronicle reports, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is also drafting legislation he intends to introduce to the board today for a two-year moratorium on all payroll taxes on all private companies with 100 employees or more. It’s a step up from the proposal already under consideration that would allow a six-year break on taxes if companies relocate to the city’s blighted Tenderloin neighborhoods. Even the city’s own economists see some sort of concession as an fiscal no brainer.

As this issue gets bigger, it could be about even more than saving jobs. It could be about changing the political makeup of the city. Long a haven for progressives, San Francisco is one of the most unfriendly places to do business in the United States. Charmed by its weather, beauty and highly talented workforce, a lot of companies have just viewed policies like the payroll tax as the necessary cost to being here. When the founders of those companies decided they wanted to start a family or had just made enough money; they’d just move elsewhere.

 

March 29, 2011

Tsunami ravaging Kesennuma port

by Avinash Saxena
Tags: , ,
March 28, 2011

Nuclear safer than coal, China official says

by Avinash Saxena
ReutersEven in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis, nuclear power remains a safer and cleaner choice for China than coal, Pan Ziqiang, the chairman of the science and technology committee at the China National Nuclear Corp., said today.Before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Beijing was bullish about the prospects of nuclear power in China, fast-tracking the approval of dozens of reactors along the coast as part of a wider plan to ease dependence on heavily-polluting fossil fuels. 

Since the quake, China has been at pains to show that its existing nuclear facilities are completely safe, and has already suspended all new project approvals pending a nationwide inspection into reactors and construction sites.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, also said it would also “adjust and improve” its plans for the sector.

“We’ve recently drawn up recommendations saying that these inspections [announced by the State Council] are completely necessary, but I personally believe that the nuclear power development plan should not be changed,” Pan, an industry veteran of nearly 60 years, told reporters in Beijing.

“Everybody knows atmospheric pollution from coal is very serious…Nuclear basically has no harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions are 1 percent of a coal-fired power plant.”

Many of the projects currently under construction use tried and tested designs from Russia, France, Canada, and the United States, but China will also build the world’s first “third-generation” AP1000 reactor, built by U.S.-based Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba.

Related Stories:
• Japan reels from earthquake, nuclear crisis (roundup)
• Energy CEO: Costs, not safety, block new nukes
• Will Japan’s nuclear crisis affect U.S. energy debate
• Nukes 101: Up close and personal with nuclear power

China will also be one of the first countries to build new European Pressurized Reactors designed by France’s Areva, prompting critics to claim that China has become the testing ground and shop window for unproven technologies.

Pan said the dangers had been exaggerated.

“From a safety perspective, up to now China has never had an incident higher than level 2. From the 1950s when development began, there hasn’t been a single death caused by radiation–not one–and there hasn’t been a single fatal disease [caused by radiation]. Of course, there have been skin burns, and 10 people were killed in a work accident in 2007, but this is very far from the amount of deaths from China’s coal industry.”

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident has been rated at level 5 on the IAEA’s nuclear event scale, the same as the fire that destroyed the core of Britain’s Windscale nuclear plant in 1957, but lower than the level 7 accident at Chernobyl in 1986.

Pan said the impact of the Chernobyl accident, the worst in the industry’s history, had also been exaggerated. He noted that a World Health Organization report in 2005 put total fatalities at 56, far lower than had previously been estimated, and found no evidence of increased cancer risks apart from an initial spike in thyroid cancer among children drinking contaminated milk.

“We need to adopt stricter management and strengthen the safety culture and our monitoring [but] I think we should accept nuclear development.”

China’s official capacity target still stands at 40GW by 2020, but many in the industry–including Pan–have said a target of more than 80GW would be feasible.

Officials from both the government and its two state-owned nuclear contractors have stressed that China’s plants are far more advanced than Japan’s stricken Fukushima complex, which was first commissioned four decades ago.

China’s coastline is also less vulnerable to the sort of catastrophic tsunami that struck northeast Japan, they have said.

There have been no serious safety accidents at China’s existing nuclear projects, but the scale of its future plans has alarmed experts worried about a shortage of qualified technical staff as well as a lack of transparency.

Yesterday, the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. opened its Daya Bay nuclear facility to selected journalists from nearby Hong Kong. International media were not invited to participate.

March 28, 2011

Buffett cautions social-networking investors

by Avinash Saxena
Warren Buffett is warning investors to be careful about which social networks they friend with their investment dollars.

Buffett, the chief executive of the Berkshire Hathaway investment empire, warned investors Friday at a conference in New Delhi to be wary of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter–a sector that has recently generated great interest and anticipation on Wall Street.

“Most of them will be overpriced,” Buffett said, according to a Bloomberg report. “It’s extremely difficult to value social-networking-site companies.”

“Some will be huge winners, which will make up for the rest,” he said, without specifying which companies he expects to be winners and which will be losers.

Buffett isn’t alone in his dire warnings of another bubble in the offing. IAC founder and former entertainment mogul Barry Diller recently called the multibillion-dollar valuations of social-networking companies with high user engagement but unproven long-term revenue “mathematically insane.”

Investor buzz for hot Silicon Valley companies that aren’t yet publicly traded–like Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga–has hit a fever pitch and reportedly captured the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The commission is reportedly interested in companies that offer exchanges for privately traded stock and along the way offer a peek at the hypothetical valuations of these otherwise tight-lipped companies.

Facebook, with an estimated value of $50 billion, is expected to be one of those players testing the IPO waters this year. With a user base of 500 million, the social-networking giant is estimated to be recording revenue in excess of $1 billion on the back of its Social Ads program.

Of course, Facebook is still a private company and is under no obligation to reveal its financial details. However, should Facebook hit the threshold of 500 individual shareholders, it will be required to either start trading publicly or at least begin disclosing its financial information, according to rules set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Twitter, another social-networking company rumored to be looking at a public offering later this year, will generate about $150 million in advertising revenue this year, up from the $45 million it made last year, according to market research firm eMarketer predictions. The microblogging site recently completed a $200 million funding round that gave the company a $3.7 billion valuation.

Two-year-old daily deals site Groupon, which reportedly turned down a $6 billion buyout offer from Google late last year in favor of a hoped-for $25 billion IPO, is estimated to be bringing in $103 million in revenue. LivingSocial, which thinks it could overtake Groupon this year, recently sealed a $175 million investment from Amazon that gave it a $1 billion valuation.

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