EU Business Interests, Energy Security ‘Directly Hit’ by New US Sanctions

The latest US House of Representatives sanctions bill directly impacts European business interests and energy security, Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin said Wednesday.

PETROZAVODSK (Sputnik) — France and Germany have so far spoken out against the bill that the US House passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday as one that adversely affects European industries while advancing US commercial interests.

The US House of Representatives approved by a 419-3 vote on Tuesday a new version of a bill that would impose sweeping sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, and limit President Donald Trump’s ability to lift the restrictions on Moscow. The measures target Russia’s defense, intelligence, mining, shipping and railway industries, and restrict dealings with Russian banks and energy companies.

“We see very serious pressure from the US on European companies. It directly hits European companies’ business interests, even often within Europe itself, on European energy security,” Oreshkin told reporters.

The US House of Representatives anti-Russia sanctions bill will not force a revision of Russia’s macroeconomic forecast or a fundamental shift in the ruble exchange rate, he added.

The bill, which is yet to be approved by the administration of US President Donald Trump, has already prompted criticism within the European Union. Thus, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern have condemned the draft of new US sanctions, which, they said on June 15, were about “selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market.”

In April, Gazprom’s subsidiary Nord Stream 2 AG signed a deal with French Engie, UK’s Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, which agreed to provide part of long-term financing of the gas pipeline project, estimated at 9.5 billion euros ($10.6 billion).

The Nord Stream 2 project presumes the construction of two gas pipelines with a combined annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas. The new pipeline is planned to be laid along the existing Nord Stream pipeline route from the Russian coast through the Baltic Sea, on to a hub in Germany.

(Source: sputniknews)

Science Shocker: Money Does Bring Happiness

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before… a study sponsored by a very expensive educational institution has claimed that an abundance of cash makes a person happy.

With nothing more useful to set their highly trained and profit-minded attention to, a Harvard Business School professor and his team of ready acolytes conducted — wait for it — a telephone survey (so 1970s!) of approximately 4500 people from the US, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada, and they spoke with millionaires, if that can be believed.

Lines of inquiry followed in their exhaustive exploration of the human condition included spending habits, life satisfaction and the parsing of a new condition called “time famine of modern life,” which they may have simply invented to engage in their academic pastime.

What they found is not capable of shocking you.

Having an abundance of money with which to spend — not on material possessions, mind you, but to increase one’s efficiency — will allow greater satisfaction and relaxation in your life, Newsweek reported.

Gleefully published, it can be imagined, by the august journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States — itself staffed by those matriculated from Ivy League institutions similar to Harvard — the study has revealed, unsurprisingly, that people who adhere to the dictum of “time is money” will forever feel as if they do not have enough.

But by only addressing the “time is money” adherent’s beliefs that there is never enough time — which brings stress, anxiety and its constant bedfellow unhappiness — the professor and his minions came to the conclusion that money — that’s right, cold hard cash — is the answer to their problems.

To get to the answers they sought, the study asked whether their well-heeled participants had the ready cash to pay others to perform the “unenjoyable daily tasks,” including house cleaning, so as to “increase their free time,” cited by Rawstory.

Some 28 percent of those answering the survey said yes, noting an increased level of self-satisfaction in their lives, as opposed to those who did not have a budget with which to hire others to do their scutwork for them.

As for whether the millionaires spent money to purchase “more free time,” responses split 50/50, and those who could budget to outsource chores noted a higher degree level of self-satisfaction.

Researchers acted surprised in noting that the practice of purchasing the services of others to do their menial tasks was not more common, particularly in people who barely have enough money to eat and keep their children warm.

“Despite the potential benefits of buying time, many respondents allocated no discretionary income to buying time, even when they could afford it: just under half of the 818 millionaires that we surveyed spent no money outsourcing disliked tasks,” the researchers puzzled, cited by Newsweek.

The age-old satisfaction of outsourcing domestic work to others — whether through employment, indentured servitude or outright slavery — is not new, but by providing academic validation through polling those who are on the top rung of the social and economic ladder, the practice gains renewed traction in the US, a country with perhaps the world’s starkest divide between the haves and the have nots.

(Source: sputniknews)

Musk Says Zuckerberg Has ‘Limited’ Understanding of Artificial Intelligence

Billionaire businessman Elon Musk has taken a dig at rival Mark Zuckerberg, claiming the Facebook CEO only has a “limited” understanding of artificial intelligence. His remarks come after Zuckerberg described his scaremongering comments about AI as “pretty irresponsible.”

Many people have a fear of a Terminator-style dystopia where robots and computers take over from humans. And Musk, who owns the Tesla electric car and battery company, SpaceX and several other hi-tech enterprises, appeared to be fueling those fears with comments he made recently.

“AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we’re reactive in AI regulation it’s too late,” he said at a meeting of the National Governors’ Association earlier this month.

Musk also described it as the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.”

Zuckerberg has increasingly used AI in Facebook’s business model and he reacted badly to Musk’s criticism.

“People who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible,” said Zuckerberg.

Last year Joaquin Candela, Facebook’s director of applied machine learning, said the company has been increasingly using AI to moderate offensive content on live streams.

I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017​

Now Musk has hit back and said Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

While not defending Zuckerberg per se, Gil Pratt, CEO at the Toyota Institute, has rounded on Musk.

“It’s important to keep in context how good these systems are, and actually how bad they are too, and how long we have to go until these systems actually pose that kind of a threat,” she said, referring to the dangers highlighted by Musk.

Rodney Brooks, the founding director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, has now also waded into the row.

“There are quite a few people out there who say that AI is an existential threat — Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, a few other people, and they share a common thread in that they don’t work in AI themselves,” said Mr. Brooks.

Zuckerberg and Musk have history.

Last year a $200 million Amos-6 satellite belonging to Facebook was blown up when a SpaceX rocket carrying it exploded on the launchpad in Florida.

Tim’s piece on AI is excellent, but we actually face a double exponential rate of improvement. AI hardware & software are both exponential.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 25 July 2017

​Amos-6 was Facebook’s first satellite, intended to deliver wireless broadband internet access to portions of west, east and southern Africa through the company’s initiative.

“As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided so much connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” a clearly miffed Zuckerberg said at the time.

2/2 Wish everyone who publicly talks about AI knew these two lectures worth of deep learning, by Patrick Winston:

— Rodney Brooks (@rodneyabrooks) 17 April 2017​

(Source: sputniknews)

Chinese man makes name for himself by making novel handicrafts

A man from Changchun, northeastern China’s Jilin province, has made a name for himself by making novel handicrafts, Changchun Evening News reported.

Plastic or metal model transformers are common, but Liu Xuedong has made a , spending 2 months on the project. The transformer is made from tree branches and held together by more than 500 bolts. Painted in red and blue, the model of Optimus Prime looks like it jumped out of the screen.

Liu’s work has attracted the attention of his residential community, with many neighbors showing interest in his work.

Three years ago, inspired by a foreigner who set a Guinness World Record for making a giant horse with toothpicks, Zhang, who was running a barbeque restaurant back then, decided to make a similar one himself.

The handicraftsman turned 300,000 toothpicks into a vivid running horse on a foam board which is 3 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width.

In 2016, Liu started making hydro cooling computer cases with sheets of iron, wood, and plastic. His motherboard and hard drive have now been stuffed into one of the cases he made, and the system is running smoothly.

The cooling computer case

It is worth mentioning that Liu once participated in a world-class handicraft competition in which only nine Chinese competitors were selected.

People in Heilongjiang spend summer in winter clothes

People in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province recently switched into their winter clothes after a strong cold wave hit the region.

The lowest temperature of Heihe, a northwestern city of the province, dropped to 12 degrees Celsius, and the cold wave is expected to last another week. Tourists even lined up to buy heavy coats to keep warm. Some of them from south China joked that it is good to be here in the summer to avoid the scorching heat at home.

China’s homemade high-speed suspended monorail train imminent

China’s independently developed fast suspended monorail train, also known as the sky train, has been produced by Beijing-based CRRC, the world’s largest supplier of rail transit equipment with most complete product lines and leading technologies. Production of the new train has entered the pilot phase.

The train has a projected speed of 80 kilometers per hour, rivaling that of metros. “Bearing large power and light weight, the train possesses gradability three times more than ordinary subway cars, which makes it a perfect vehicle for transportation in the moutainous city,” noted Liu Yuwen, deputy director at CRRC’s technical center.

In addition, various devices have been installed to ensure the safety of passengers. The suspended monorail train, a unique means of transport with advantages over subway cars in lower cost, shorter construction period and less influence on ground transportation, has huge market potentials.

Apple reportedly working on electric car batteries with Chinese battery maker

Apple is reportedly working on electric car batteries with Chinese vehicle battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL), Shanghai-based Yicai Global reported.

The Cupertino-based tech titan is working with CATL in Fujian province on a scheme based on a confidentiality agreement. The parties are working together in the field of batteries, sources involved with the cooperation said.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook disclosed at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last month that the company was focusing on autonomous systems.

“Clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook explained. But he made no mention of any specific plans.

Neither Apple nor CATL commented on the reported cooperation.

In recent years, CATL has ranked in the world’s top 3 vehicle battery manufacturers together with Panasonic and BYD, the latter of which is an emerging car maker in China. According to statistics released by China Industrial Association of Power Sources, CATL and BYD sales exceeded 10 billion yuan in the last year.

In the first half of 2017, the battery production of CATL reached 1,312.4 MWh, accounting for 20.98 percent of the domestic market. It has surpassed BYD to become China’s largest vehicle battery maker.

Starting from 2015, Apple has established its own development team for automobiles and called the plan “Project Titan.”

However, just four months after it released its smart system CarPlay, Apple scaled back the project and turned to self-driving technology research.

The cooperation between the two companies might be a hint that Apple will continue its car plan. If true, it would mean that Apple’s Project Titan could be working toward building a fully electric car and not just a self-driving system.

19 Chinese provinces and cites unveil energetic half-year economic data

hina’s economic performance in the first half the year was better than anticipated, with 18 provinces and cities having registered GDP growth of 6.9 percent or above, official data showed on July 23.

Beijing’s GDP growth was 6.8 percent, slightly lower than the nation’s average of 6.9 percent.

China’s eastern provinces and cities still lead the country in terms of overall economic growth, with GDPs of Beijing, Shandong, Shanghai, and Fujian all surpassing one trillion yuan ($180 billion) from January to June.

China’s western regions saw greater economic growth than the eastern regions. Chongqing’s economy rose by 10.5 percent, followed by Guizhou at 10 percent.

“New drivers for economic growth brought by the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ have benefited the western regions,” said Chen Yao, a researcher with the Institute of Industrial Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and secretary general of the China Regional Economic Association.

The rapid development of China’s western regions has narrowed the regional development gap, indicating stronger regional coordination and sustainability, Chen noted.

The service industry contributed to at least 50 percent to the economic growth of the 19 provinces and cities. However, the number was lower than that of big cities in the developed world, Chen pointed out. The service sector accounted for 82.2 percent of Beijing’s GDP.

High and new technologies, the sharing economy, and other emerging factors are becoming an important driving force in the above provinces and cities, data indicated.

China grants more access to US-developed GM crops

China has granted U.S.-developed genetically modified (GM) crops more access to the domestic market after food experts declared them safe for consumption.

The imports of 16 GM crop varieties, including GM soybean and maize, were approved by China’s Ministry of Agriculture last month.

The move aims to meet the domestic demand for high-quality crops, particularly maize, according to Li Xinhai, a researcher at the Institute of Crop Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Yang Xiaoguang, a researcher at the National Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said scientists widely agree that GM food in Chinese and foreign markets are safe to eat.

Yang, who has been engaged in the research of GM food safety for over 20 years, said no evidence has been found that GM food is harmful to humans.

According to Chinese agricultural experts, the industrialization of homegrown GM crops is a way to make the domestic market less dependent on imported products.

China’s import of soybean has increased from 16.9 million tons in 2003 to 83.9 million tons in 2016, according to Chinese customs data.