Bangladesh seeking Saudi assistance in energy security, clean power

Saudi Arabia has inspired many countries with its programs to pivot away from dependency on fossil fuels. (Reuters/File Photo)
Saudi Arabia has inspired many countries with its programs to pivot away from dependency on fossil fuels. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 29 October 2022

Bangladesh seeking Saudi assistance in energy security, clean power

Bangladesh seeking Saudi assistance in energy security, clean power
  • Joint Commission to meet in Riyadh on Oct. 30-31
  • Dependent on imported LNG, Dhaka facing acute energy crisis

DHAKA: Dhaka will seek Riyadh’s assistance in enhancing energy security and developing clean power sources, its embassy in the Kingdom told Arab News ahead of a meeting of the Bangladesh-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission on Sunday.

Dependent on imported liquefied natural gas, Bangladesh has struggled with an acute energy crisis in recent months as the country tackles surging energy demands.

Since mid-July, the government has resorted to daily power cuts amid high global prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Industries have been forced to remain idle for several hours a day due to insufficient power to run operations.

In early October, some 80 percent of Bangladesh’s 168 million people were left without electricity after a grid failure, which occurred when more than one-third of the country’s gas-powered units were short of fuel.

When representatives from the Bangladeshi government attend the 14th Joint Commission meeting in Riyadh on Oct. 30-31, they will push for cooperation in the energy sector.

“This will include the import of crude oil and other petrochemicals from KSA to Bangladesh, refinery issues and many more,” Mortuza Zulkar Nain Noman, economic counselor for the Bangladeshi Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News.

As the power crisis leads to surging production costs in the country, Bangladeshi industries are trying to transition toward clean or renewable energy sources. But such solutions require both technological know-how and heavy investment.

Saudi Arabia has inspired many countries with its programs to pivot away from dependency on fossil fuels, and Bangladesh will explore the possibility of cooperation in this field.

“We are interested in clean energy. A few proposals from the KSA side are made to Bangladesh, which are in different stages of discussion. We will also discuss the same during this Joint Commission meeting,” Noman said. “We are hopeful to sign a few MoUs.”

Energy experts believe that possible long-term agreements signed during the meeting could help Bangladesh build strategic reserves and energy resilience.

“We need some long-term contracts and commitment from the Kingdom for having uninterrupted fuel supply so that we can save ourselves from the price fluctuations in the fuel market,” Prof. Abdul Hasib Chowdhury of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology told Arab News.

“We need to build a strategic oil reserve in the country to meet emergency demands for three to six months. It takes years and years with lots of investment. The Kingdom can support us here also.”


Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover

Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover
Updated 08 December 2022

Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover

Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover
  • The execution, carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father, took place in western Farah province

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban authorities on Wednesday executed an Afghan convicted of killing another man, the first public execution since the former insurgents took over Afghanistan last year, a spokesman said.
The announcement underscored the intentions by Afghanistan’s new rulers to continue hard-line policies implemented since they took over the country in August 2021 and to stick to their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
The execution, carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father, took place in western Farah province before hundreds of spectators and many top Taliban officials, according to Zabihullah Mujahid, the top Taliban government spokesman. Some officials came from the capital Kabul.
The decision to carry out the punishment was “made very carefully,” Mujahid said, following approval by three of the country’s highest courts and the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The executed man, identified as Tajmir from Herat province, was convicted of killing another man five years ago and stealing his motorcycle and mobile phone. The victim was identified as Mustafa from neighboring Farah province. Many Afghan men use only one name.
Taliban security forces had arrested Tajmir after the victim’s family accused him of the crime, said a statement from Mujahid, the spokesman. The statement did not say when the arrest took place but said Tajmir had purportedly confessed to the killing. Mujahid added that Tajmir was shot three times by the victim’s father Wednesday with an assault rifle.
During the previous Taliban rule of the country in the late 1990s, the group carried out public executions, floggings and stoning of those convicted of crimes in Taliban courts.
After they overran Afghanistan in 2021, in the final weeks of the US and NATO forces’ pullout from the country after 20 years of war, the Taliban had initially promised to allow for women’s and minority rights.
Instead, they have restricted rights and freedoms, including imposing a ban on girl’s education beyond the sixth grade. They have also carried out public lashings across different provinces, punishing several men and women accused of theft, adultery or running away from home.
The former insurgents have struggled in their transition from warfare to governing amid an economic downturn and the international community’s withholding of official recognition.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the public execution, reiterating the UN position that “the death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life,” UN associate spokesperson Stephanie Tremblay said.
In comments late Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US condemned the public execution.
“We’re closely watching the Taliban’s treatment of the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “As we’ve said both publicly but also in our private engagements with the Taliban, their relationship with us, with the international community depends entirely on their own actions. It depends largely on their actions when it comes to human rights, when it comes to the rights of all Afghans, when it comes to the rights of women, girls, minorities and other marginalized communities in Afghanistan.”

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Narendra Modi’s party set for landslide election win in India’s Gujarat state

Narendra Modi’s party set for landslide election win in India’s Gujarat state
Updated 08 December 2022

Narendra Modi’s party set for landslide election win in India’s Gujarat state

Narendra Modi’s party set for landslide election win in India’s Gujarat state
  • Western industrial state is a bastion of the BJP, which has not lost state assembly elections there since 1995

AHMEDABAD, India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was headed for a landslide victory in his home state of Gujarat on Thursday, a big boost to the Hindu nationalist party ahead of general elections due in 2024.
The western industrial state is a bastion of the BJP, which has not lost state assembly elections there since 1995. Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014.
The BJP led in more that 80 percent of seats out of a total 182 in early counting of votes and was on its way to wrest a larger majority than in 2017, when it won 99 seats in the last state assembly elections.
The party was also set to surpass its best results in Gujarat when it won 127 seats in 2002.
Modi remains widely popular in the country, partly due to economic growth and also because of his strong base among India’s Hindu majority population, despite critics pointing to rising inflation, unemployment and growing religious polarization.
He is eyeing a third term as prime minister in 2024 and campaigned extensively across the state in the run up to the Gujarat vote.
The BJP’s main opposition in Gujarat came from the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged in 2012 out of an anti-corruption movement.
The 137-year-old Congress party led in 26 seats, far below the 77 seats it won in 2017, while the AAP was ahead in nine seats having won none the last time.
In another state election in the small northern state of Himachal Pradesh, the BJP was also hoping to ride on Modi’s aggressive campaigning to retain power. The BJP and the Congress were neck and neck for seats in the 68-seat assembly.
Victories in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will come as a welcome boost for the BJP, which lost control of the municipal corporation in the national capital Delhi to the AAP, in results announced on Wednesday.


Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl
Updated 08 December 2022

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl

Hawaii road in limbo as Mauna Loa lava continues to crawl
  • Lava from Mauna Loa was 2.89 kilometers from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway

HONOLULU: About a week-and-a-half since the world’s largest volcano began erupting, Hawaii officials continue to brace for slow-moving lava to intersect with a crucial Big Island road, even though scientists are not sure when or even if that will happen.

On Wednesday morning, lava from Mauna Loa, which began erupting Nov. 27 after being quiet for 38 years, was 1.8 miles (2.89 kilometers) from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway, scientists with the US Geological Survey said. The road connects the east and west sides of the vast island.

Last week, officials said the earliest the lava could hit the road was one week. But, as expected, the lava slowed considerably in recent days as it moved across flatter ground, leaving scientists unable to estimate a clearer timeline.

“I wish we could give a better answer,” David Phillips, deputy scientist-in-charge at USGS’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Wednesday. “And so just based on its current behavior and all the variables involved, it’s very difficult to estimate a time, a place or even an if, it would intersect the highway.”

The flow front seemed even less active Wednesday than the previous day, possibly because of a breakout of lava headed upslope that could be diverting lava from what’s headed to the highway, Phillips said.

Scientists were monitoring the overflow about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) upslope from the lava front but it wasn’t currently posing any threat, Phillips said. It was unclear if it would continue to be active, but if does, it would be a while before it reached the road, he said.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said planning for a road closure continues. Residents of the island are bracing for major upheaval if lava makes the road impassable, forcing drivers to find alternate coastal routes, which could add hours to commute times.

Roth warned that the road could even close before the lava arrives if some lava-gawkers continue behaving badly, including people hiking onto closed areas to get a closer glimpse.

Thousands of motorists driving along the road to watch the lava prompted officials to open a one-way “mitigation route” last week.

The route seems to have helped reduce collisions that were happening at night when lava-viewing traffic increased, officials said.

About 20 members of the National Guard were dispatched to help with managing lava-related issues, including safety and traffic. The county also hired some security guards to help keep people from going into prohibited areas, Roth said.

“As we’re looking at this lava flow, you know, the concern hasn’t been so much for people getting hurt by lava,” Roth said Tuesday, “it’s people getting seriously injured by traffic crashes.”


Ex-Theranos president Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years for fraud

Ex-Theranos president Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years for fraud
Updated 08 December 2022

Ex-Theranos president Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years for fraud

Ex-Theranos president Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years for fraud
  • Once valued at $9 billion, Theranos promised to revolutionize how patients receive diagnoses by replacing traditional labs with small machines

A US judge on Wednesday sentenced former Theranos Inc. President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani to 12 years and 11 months in prison on charges of defrauding investors and patients of the blood testing startup led by Elizabeth Holmes, a spokesperson for the US attorney’s office confirmed.
US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, imposed the sentence on Balwani, who was convicted by a jury on two counts of conspiracy and 10 counts of fraud in July.
Prosecutors said Balwani, 57, conspired with Holmes, 38, to deceive Silicon Valley investors into believing the company had achieved miniaturized machines that could accurately run a broad array of medical diagnostic tests from a small amount of blood.
Meanwhile, the company secretly relied on traditional methods to run tests and provided patients with inaccurate results, prosecutors said.
Holmes, who started the company as a college student and became its public face, was indicted alongside Balwani, her former romantic partner, in 2018.
Davila later granted each a separate trial after Holmes said she would take the stand and testify that Balwani was abusive in their relationship. He has denied the allegations.
Holmes was convicted in January on four counts of fraud and conspiracy but acquitted of defrauding patients.
Davila sentenced Holmes to 11-1/4 years in prison at a hearing last month, calling Theranos a venture “dashed by untruths, misrepresentations, plain hubris and lies.”
Prosecutors subsequently argued Balwani should receive 15 years in prison, saying he knew Theranos’ tests were inaccurate from overseeing the company’s laboratory operations, and decided to “prioritize Theranos’ financial health over patients’ real health.”
The probation office had recommended a nine-year sentence.
Balwani’s attorneys asked for a sentence of probation, arguing that he sought to make the world a better place through Theranos and was not motivated by fame or greed.
Once valued at $9 billion, Theranos promised to revolutionize how patients receive diagnoses by replacing traditional labs with small machines envisioned for use in homes, drugstores and even on the battlefield.
The company collapsed after a series of Wall Street Journal articles in 2015 questioned its technology. The case is US v. Balwani, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 18-cr-00258. 


New Peru president sworn in after predecessor Castillo ousted

New Peru president sworn in after predecessor Castillo ousted
Updated 08 December 2022

New Peru president sworn in after predecessor Castillo ousted

New Peru president sworn in after predecessor Castillo ousted

LIMA: Peru’s Congress swore in a new president on Wednesday in a day of sweeping political drama that saw the former leader, Pedro Castillo, ousted in an impeachment trial hours after he attempted a last-ditch bid to stay in power by trying to dissolve Congress.
Ignoring Castillo’s attempt to shut down the legislature by decree, lawmakers moved ahead with the previously planned impeachment trial, with 101 votes in favor of removing him, six against and 10 abstentions.
The result was announced with loud cheers, and the legislature called Vice President Dina Boluarte to take office.
Boluarte was sworn in as president through 2026, making her the first woman to lead Peru. She called for a political truce to overcome the crisis and said a new cabinet inclusive of all political stripes would be formed.
She lambasted Castillo’s move to dissolve Congress as an “attempted coup.”
Peru’s national police shared an image on Twitter of Castillo sitting unrestrained at a police station after the vote to remove him and said that it had “intervened” to fulfill its duties. It was unclear if he had been detained.
Castillo earlier had said he would temporarily shut down Congress, launch a “government of exception” and call for new legislative elections.
That sparked resignations by his ministers amid angry accusations from both opposition politicians and his allies that he was attempting a coup. The police and Armed Forces warned him that the route he had taken to try to dissolve Congress was unconstitutional.
Some small, fairly subdued street protests took place. In Lima, dozens of people waving Peruvian flags cheered Castillo’s downfall, while elsewhere in the capital and in the city of Arequipa his supporters marched. One held a sign saying: “Pedro, the people are with you.”
The Government Palace and Congress in Lima were surrounded by metal barricades and dozens of police officers donning shields and plastic helmets.
Peru has gone through years of political turmoil, with multiple leaders accused of corruption, frequent impeachment attempts, and presidential terms cut short.
The latest legal battle began in October, when the prosecutor’s office filed a constitutional complaint against Castillo for allegedly leading “a criminal organization” to profit from state contracts and for obstructing investigations.
Congress summoned Castillo last week to respond to accusations of “moral incapacity” to govern.
Castillo has called the allegations “slander” by groups seeking “to take advantage and seize the power that the people took from them at the polls.”
The leftist teacher-turned-president had survived two previous attempts to impeach him since he began his term in July 2021.
But after Wednesday’s attempt to dissolve Congress his allies abandoned him and regional powers underlined the need for democratic stability.
“The United States categorically rejects any extra-constitutional act by President Castillo to prevent Congress from fulfilling its mandate,” the US ambassador to Peru, Lisa Kenna, wrote on Twitter.
The turmoil rattled markets in the world’s No. 2 copper producer, though analysts said that the removal of Castillo, who has battled a hostile Congress since taking power, could be a positive for investors.
Peru’s sol currency fell over 2 percent against the dollar at its session low before recovering slightly to trade down 1.4 percent.
“Peru’s financial markets will suffer, but won’t collapse, thanks mainly to solid domestic fundamentals,” said Andres Abadia at Pantheon Macroeconomics.