Category Archives: BOOKS

Digital printing will spark revolution in textile industry: LCCI

The Digital Printing and Signage Technology Exhibition brings modern machinery and equipment, which will spark revolution in the textile and printing industry in coming years, leading to job creation and higher industrial growth.

These were the opening remarks of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Malik Javed Tahir at the three-day 3rd International Digital Printing and Signage Technology Exhibition.

The event began on Friday at the Lahore Expo Centre and around 150 local and foreign companies participated in the fair.

Tahir said foreign companies were exhibiting their products for joint ventures with local companies, which was beneficial for Pakistan’s economy as local companies would be able to manufacture modern equipment to save capital.

He urged the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to facilitate local manufacturers in importing latest printing technology.

Responding to a question, he said the government had imposed unjustified regulatory duties on the import of raw material, which would be resisted by the business community at all levels.

“Around 500 textile units have already been closed due to unfavourable government policies,” he remarked.

Speaking on the occasion, Inks Global EMEA APAC Commercial Director Rudy Grosso said their ink technology had a great potential in the Pakistani textile market. “We will start from textile and go to food and other innovative industries in Pakistan for digitalisation purposes.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2017.

Sukuk’s potential to fund infrastructure, energy projects

Following the change of government, there has been a renewed interest in tapping alternative sources of finance for energy and infrastructure projects that the present government plans to undertake.

LONDON: Sukuk has emerged as a competent alternative to conventional debt financing for large infrastructure and energy projects, globally. In developing countries like Pakistan, such projects are typically undertaken by the government due to the tying up of capital over a longer period and low and intermittent returns.

According to S&P, “the asset-backed nature of Islamic financing provides a better funding match for infrastructure projects than traditional lenders.” Furthermore, sukuk investors typically have an appetite for longer periods and prefer stable and predictable cash flow, traits associated with infrastructure or energy projects.

Following the change of government, there has been a renewed interest in tapping alternative sources of finance for energy and infrastructure projects that the present government plans to undertake.

Consequently, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is developing policy guidelines for project/infrastructure specific sukuk as part of its Strategic Plan (2014-18), which are expected to be released in 2015.

It is important to note that:

1) All sovereign sukuk issued thus far are for infrastructural assets but are not necessarily used for infrastructure projects. This is important for any new financier/investor to understand that the funds raised over infrastructure assets may in fact not be used for infrastructure projects.

2) In terms of Shariah structures, Pakistan sukuk appears to be more innovative compared to other countries where the use of Murabaha system has been prominent. Pakistan sukuk structures favour diminishing Musharaka and Musharaka Shirkatul Aqd. An important innovative structure that claimed to have changed the landscape of the Pakistani sukuk market is short-term sukuk based on Shirkatul Aqd for power-producing companies.

3) For any investor who wants to ensure that the funds raised for infrastructure projects are actually used for such projects, it is important that an appropriate structure is used for the chosen sukuk. Musharaka-based sukuk and those based on the principle of Istisna may in fact ensure that the investors have real exposure to the underlying infrastructure project.

Projects in the pipeline

These include small ones valuing around $20 million (Foundation Wind Energy plans to finance $20.5 million renewable energy projects through sukuk) to $1 billion.

The government must raise funds domestically and internationally. It has shown interest in using Islamic finance as a tool for raising capital and the role of SBP is being beefed up.

There is a representative list of projects that may be financed through a sukuk programme.

Among them is the construction of a power park with installed capacity of 6,600 megawatts that the Ministry of Water and Power is planning. The park with 10 units of 660MW each will be established in Gadani near Karachi. The 4,500MW Diamer Bhasha Dam is another project and requires billions of dollars.

Other projects in the pipeline which have been approved recently include Dasu hydropower project (2,160MW), Faisalabad-Khanewal Motorway, a new rail link from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad, new rail link from Havelian to Pakistan-China border, connection between Gwadar and Karachi through rail, approach roads to the new Islamabad International Airport, new Gwadar International Airport, jetty and infrastructure development at Gadani, Gwadar Port Free Economic Zone, Pakistan-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar and Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park at Lal Sohnra Park Phase-II (600MW).

With the aggressive stance of the government on important projects and its interest in Islamic finance, sukuk can be an important avenue to fund these projects. The government also plans to issue a euro-denominated sukuk after recent success of a sovereign dollar-denominated bond.

$5b programme

In light of the above, a $5-billion sukuk programme may be initiated to raise funds. The government must commit some money in the budget while other components can be raised from international capital markets.

In this respect, Malaysian Islamic financial institutions may be more helpful than their counterparts in the Middle East. The proposed sukuk programme should start with a $1 billion issue for the first project with regular tranches over a period of three to five years.

In Islamic capital markets, larger issuances of sukuk have attracted more publicity and fund-raising than smaller amounts. A $5 billion issue for infrastructure and energy projects is a story that must sell.

Possible structures for the sukuk programme may include Istisna and Musharaka-based arrangements. This will ensure that the funds raised remain tightly tied with the underlying projects and are not used for general public sector borrowing requirements.

The writer is a PhD in economics from Cambridge University and is the chairman of Edbiz Corporation, a London-based Islamic financial advisory group

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014.

Call for Papers 2014 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference Call for Papers

Call for Papers
The 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Submit your abstract for presentation at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (GC&E) held June 17-19, 2014 in the Washington DC metro area.

Held by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, this event is the premier conference on Green Chemistry and Engineering. Hundreds of participants come together every year to share research as well as education and business strategies to ensure a green and sustainable future.

If you are interested in contributing your part to GC&E by presenting a paper, or would like to see a listing of topics to be covered, visit the program page at this year’s conference website. Abstract submission will be open through February 28, 2014.

Submit your abstract now.

Early registration also opens on January 15th. Register early and save up to fifteen percent!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact.

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

East Asian countries top global league tables for educational performance

China’s Shanghai region easily beats rest of world in maths, reading and science, according to OECD education rankings

 

Asia’s rising economic success has helped China’s hi-tech corridor to take a clear lead in the latest OECD international education rankings.

The results of the OECD’s programme for international student assessment – a triennial exam for 15-year-olds known as Pisa – show that China’s Shanghai region easily tops the rest of the world in maths, reading and science.

SingaporeHong KongTaiwan and South Korea made up the rest of the top five for maths, followed by the Chinese island of Macao.

Elsewhere, Pisa results were a further disappointment for the US, which saw its maths rank fall to 36th place overall, worse than its 2009 performance, which President Obama dubbed a “Sputnik moment” for American education. In reading, the US fell seven places, to 24th, and in science the country came in 28th, down five.

Australia saw a precipitous fall in its maths ranking, from 15th in 2009 to 19th in 2012, as it was overtaken by Poland and the new entrant, Vietnam, which appears in the OECD tables for the first time. Australia’s reading score was little changed but its performance in science slipped from 10th to 16th, tied with Macao.

Finland was the highest placed European country, with a top-five performance in science, while Ireland was sixth-equal with Taiwan in reading. In maths, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the Netherlands were the only European entrants in the top 10.

The UK’s performance was virtually unchanged from its 2009 results, when its international rankings suffered with the addition of higher-placed new entrants such as Shanghai. It ranked 20th overall for science, 26th for maths and 23rd for reading – on a par with France and the US, and close to the OECD average for reading and maths.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director for education and skills and co-ordinator of the Pisa programme, said the success of education systems such as Shanghai’s was the result of an emphasis on selecting teachers, as well as prioritising investment in teacher training and development.

Shanghai’s lead was so clear that the results were the equivalent of its students having had three additional years of schooling, the OECD estimates.

Outside Asia, Brazil, Germany and Mexico have all shown consistent improvement, with Germany, Mexico and Turkey winning praise for improving the performance of their weakest performing students, many of whom were from disadvantaged backgrounds.

David Spieghalter, the Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said: “Pisa explores many factors associated with country performance but occasionally seem hasty in assigning reasons for change – we can’t decide causality from this study, and we should be very cautious in the lessons to be learned.”

Spieghalter added: “If Pisa measures anything, it is the ability to do Pisa tests. Aligning policy along a single performance indicator can be damaging. We need to look at the whole picture.”

The OECD administered the standardised tests at the end of last year in 34 countries and a total of 64 regions, to 500,000 15-year-olds.

According to the findings, girls performed worse than boys in maths exams in 37 regions and countries, although in the majority of cases the gap was small. In most countries the gender gap favoured girls in reading, while in science there was little difference.

Schleicher said that the OECD found no evidence from its international analysis that competition between private, state or charter-style schools – free schools, in the UK – had any impact on raising standards.

“You would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better because you expect competition to raise performance of the high performers and lower performers, and put out of the market schools and systems that do not succeed. But in fact, you don’t see a correlation,” Schleicher said.

“Competition alone is not a predictor for better outcomes. And the UK is a good example: a highly competitive school system but still only an average performer.”

Instead, Schleicher said parents had higher priorities in choosing schools than simply academic results, according to the OECD’s surveys of parental opinion.

“The most important thing for parents is not the performance of the school but what they call a safe school environment. And that is true for privileged and disadvantaged parents,” he said.

Source: Guardian News

 

UK: Access to best teaching is down to luck, says Ofsted

Inspectors hail inner-cities and say bad schools can be found in affluent areas

The uneven quality of schools across the country means England is a nation divided into “lucky and unlucky children” in terms of access to high-quality teaching, and poverty is no longer a predictor of educational failure, the head of Ofsted will argue today .

Launching his annual report card, the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will hail reforms to inner-city education in London, Manchester and Newcastle. He will say some of the least fortunate pupils are going to poorly performing schools in the relatively affluent home counties and the east of England.

The Ofsted chief is expected to say that in effect an “educational lottery” consigns children in some parts of the country to study in substandard schools.

Wilshaw, the former head of an academy in Hackney, east London, will say: “Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities but who are born in different regions and attend different schools end up with widely different prospects because the quality of their education is not consistently good.”

Ofsted’s data is to show that seven of the best performing local authorities are in London, with the likes of Tower Hamlets in the East End boasting schools that have all been judged to be outstanding or good by Ofsted’s inspectors

But in contrast, Wilshaw will say that the “unluckiest children” are those poorer children living in relatively affluent areas, including parts of the home counties as well as counties such as Nottinghamshire and Suffolk. East Anglia is to be picked out as home to the worst-performing primary schools in the country.

Improvements have been seen among deprived children from every minority ethnic group in recent years according to Ofsted, but that progress has been sluggish in schools dominated by working-class white children.

Despite that, the man responsible for overseeing the inspection and grading of England’s thousands of state schools will present an optimistic picture of education in England, saying that the “battle against mediocrity” is gradually being won. Nearly eight out of 10 state schools are now judged good or outstanding – the highest proportion in Ofsted’s 21-year history – which Wilshaw will attribute to better teaching and leadership in schools.

The chief inspector will argue that a tougher inspection regime has driven the improvement. “Coasting schools now know that mediocre standards will no longer be tolerated,” Wilshaw is to say.

But Wilshaw’s view places him at odds with that of the Department for Education, which attributes recent improvement to reforms initiated by the government.

A DfE spokesman said: “The government’s reforms are already raising standards but there is still more to do. We are especially targeting areas where there are long-term problems, and recruiting new sponsors. It is vital that all children get a first-class education – wherever they live and whatever their background. The pupil premium is giving extra money to the poorest pupils to narrow the attainment gap between them and their better-off peers.”

The chief inspector will also warn of poor discipline in the classroom, calling it “a culture of casual acceptance of low-level disruption and poor attitudes to learning. The sort of culture that is a million miles away from the sort of cultures we see in some of the high-performing Asian countries.”

Ofsted’s figures suggest as many as 700,000 pupils attend schools where behaviour needs to improve. “Unless this changes, teachers will struggle to create an environment in which all children learn well,” Wilshaw is to say.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said that school improvement required highly trained teachers to boost learning and discipline.

“Unqualified teachers lack the training to manage classroom disruption. It’s a scandal that [David] Cameron is allowing unqualified teachers into classrooms on a permanent basis, damaging education. Labour would end this watering down of standards, insisting all teachers are qualified,” Hunt said.

The DfE spokemsan said the department agreed with this part of Wilshaw’s remarks: “Bad classroom behaviour is hugely disruptive to children’s education. It means teachers can’t teach and pupils can’t learn. That is why a key part of our reforms is restoring discipline in schools and why we have strengthened teachers’ powers to put them back in charge.”

Teachers are now able to search pupils for prohibited items and more easily remove disruptive pupils, the DfE said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said Ofsted’s annual report blames school leaders for poor discipline, despite Wilshaw himself recently blaming poor teaching. “The public will be right to question whether Ofsted makes it up as it goes along,” she said.

Keates said Ofsted’s tougher system of inspections had created a climate of fear among teachers. “No other education system, including those often cited as high performing and fast improving by ministers, has resorted to use of such crude approaches to holding schools to public account for their work as those in place in England.”

Tower Hamlets, which is to be praised by Ofsted for its achievements, is described as having some of the best urban schools in the world, according to a new report that charts the local authority’s transformation.

In 1997 Tower Hamlets schools were rated as the worst in the country. But the report – backed by the local authority and written by Professor Chris Husbands and others from the Institute of Education – says that their improvement since then is “a genuinely exceptional achievement, worth celebrating, worth understanding but, above all, worth learning from”.

Source: Guardian News

 

World’s leading authors: state surveillance of personal data is theft

• 500 signatories include five Nobel prize winners
• Writers demand ‘digital bill of rights’ to curb abuses

More than 500 of the world’s leading authors, including five Nobel prize winners, have condemned the scale of state surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

The signatories, who come from 81 different countries and include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass and Arundhati Roy, say the capacity of intelligence agencies to spy on millions of people’s digital communications is turning everyone into potential suspects, with worrying implications for the way societies work.

They have urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would enshrine the protection of civil rights in the internet age.

Their call comes a day after the heads of the world’s leading technology companies demanded sweeping changes to surveillance laws to help preserve the public’s trust in the internet – reflecting the growing global momentum for a proper review of mass snooping capabilities in countries such as the US and UK, which have been the pioneers in the field.

The open letter to the US president, Barack Obama, from firms including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, will be followed by the petition, which has drawn together a remarkable list of the world’s most respected and widely-read authors, who have accused states of systematically abusing their powers by conducting intrusive mass surveillance.

Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Irvine Welsh, Hari Kunzru, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro are among the British authors on the list.

It also includes JM Coetzee, Yann Martel, Ariel Dorfman, Amit Chaudhuri, Roddy Doyle, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and the Russian Mikhail Shishkin.

Henning Mankell, Lionel Shriver, Hanif Kureishi and the antipodean writers CK Stead, Thomas Keneally and Anna Funder are other globally renowned signatories.

The Guardian has published a series of stories about the mass surveillance techniques of GCHQ and its US counterpart, the NSA, over the past six months; two of the most significant programmes uncovered in the Snowden files were Prism, run by the NSA, and Tempora, which was set up by GCHQ. Between them, they allow the agencies to harvest, store and analyse data about millions of phone calls, emails and search-engine queries.

Though Tuesday’s statement does not mention these programmes by name, it says the extent of surveillance revealed by Snowden has challenged and undermined the right of all humans to “remain unobserved and unmolested” in their thoughts, personal environments and communications. “This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes,” the statement adds.

“A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.”

Demanding the right “for all people to determine to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed”, the writers call for a digital rights convention that states will sign up to and adhere to. “Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property, it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else – the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.”

McEwan told the Guardian: “Where Leviathan can, it will. The state, by its nature, always prefers security to liberty. Lately, technology has offered it means it can’t resist, means of mass surveillance that Orwell would have been amazed by. The process is inexorable – unless it’s resisted. Obviously, we need protection from terrorism, but not at any cost.”

The intervention comes after the Guardian and some of the world’s other major media organisations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, began disclosing details of the extent and reach of secret surveillance programmes run by Britain’s eavesdropping centre, GCHQ, and the National Security Agency.

The revelations have sparked a huge debate on the legal framework and oversight governing western spy agencies. Obama has launched a review of US intelligence operations, and earlier this month the UN’s senior counter-terrorism official, Ben Emmerson, announced an investigation into the techniques used by both US and British intelligence agencies.

Civil liberties groups have criticised the UK government for putting intense political pressure on the Guardian and other media groups covering the leaks rather than addressing the implications of the mass surveillance programmes that have been uncovered. But campaigners hope Tuesday’s statement will increase the pressure on governments to address the implications of the Snowden revelations.

“International moral pressure is what’s needed to ensure politicians address the mass invasion of our privacy by the intelligence services in the UK and US,” said Jo Glanville, from English Pen, which along with its sister organisations around the world has supported the Writers Against Mass Surveillance campaign. “The signatories to the appeal are a measure of the level of outrage and concern.”

Tuesday’s statement is being launched simultaneously in 27 countries, and organisers hope members of the public will now sign up through the change.org website.

Eva Menasse, one of the group of German writers who initiated the project, said it began with an open letter from a group of authors to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, when the first Snowden revelations came to light. “When we started, we did not know how far we would get. But more and more colleagues joined us and within the last weeks we were sitting at our computers day and night, using our networks as more people came forward. This started as an entirely private initiative, but now has worldwide support.”

Another author who helped set up the campaign, Juli Zeh, said writers around the world had felt compelled to act: “We all have to stand up now, and we as writers do what we can do best: use the written word to intervene publicly.”

Winterson told the Guardian she regarded Snowden as a “brave and selfless human being”.”We should be supporting him in trying to determine the extent of the state in our lives. We have had no debate, no vote, no say, hardly any information about how our data is used and for what purpose. Our mobile phones have become tracking devices. Social networking is data profiling. We can’t shop, spend, browse, email, without being monitored. We might as well be tagged prisoners. Privacy is an illusion. Do you mind about that? I do.”

Source: Guardian News

 

World’s most expensive printed book sells for $14.2mn

NEW YORK: The first book written in what is today the United States of America fetched $14.2 million in New York on Tuesday, becoming the world’s most expensive printed book sold at auction.

The translation of Biblical psalms “The Bay Psalm Book” was printed by Puritan settlers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640 and sold at a one-lot auction in just minutes by Sotheby’s. Bidding opened at $6 million and closed swiftly at a hammer price of $12.5 million, rising to $14.165 million once the buyer’s premium was incorporated. The book, with its browning pages and gilt edges, was displayed in a glass case behind the auctioneer to a relatively small crowd which attended the less than five-minute auction in person.

The settlers, who came to America to seek religious freedom, had set about making their own preferred translation from the Hebrew original of the Old Testament book after arriving from Europe.

Sotheby’s named the buyer as David Rubenstein, the billionaire American financier and philanthropist. He was in Australia and his bid was conducted by telephone. Sotheby’s had valued the book at $15-30 million, but denied any disappointment in the sale price reached Tuesday.

The world’s most expensive manuscript, the handwritten Codex Leicester, 72 pages of largely scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci, was bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $30.8 million. Sotheby’s said it was delighted to have set a new world record for any printed book at auction with the $14.165 million price tag. The previous record was $11.5 million, reached when a copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” sold at Sotheby’s in December 2010. “We’re very, very pleased about this purchase,” said David Redden, auctioneer and head of Sotheby’s books.

Rubenstein plans to share the psalm book with the American public by loaning it to a number of libraries around the country and placing it on long-time loan to one of them, Redden said. “If you recall David Rubenstein also brought the Magna Carta from us back in 2007 for the same reason, to make sure Americans would understand the significance of their heritage,” he added. The Magna Carta sold for $21.3 million in New York. It was one of only 17 existing copies of the 800-year-old English royal manuscript setting out the rights of man.

Redden said “The Bay Psalm Book” was a “great rarity” and that only two of 11 surviving copies had come to sale in 100 years. He described the price as “very strong and hefty.””It’s very important because of its story. It’s the first book printed in America and the first book written in America,” Redden told reporters.

Before the sale, Redden said the volume had even greater significance as a precursor to Lexington and Concord, and, ultimately, to US political independence. “With it, New England declared its independence from the Church of England,” he said.

There were 1,700 copies of the original 1640 edition. The eleven that have survived are in collections such as The Library of Congress and Harvard College Library. No copy had previously been auctioned since 1947, when a different copy fetched $151,000 — a record at the time for any book, including the Gutenberg Bible or Shakespeare’s First Folio. The book was sold by the Old South Church in Boston to benefit its work in the historic city. The same church possesses another copy of the “Bay Psalm Book.”Selby Kiffer, from Sotheby’s special projects department, called it “not simply one of the great icons of book history, it is one of the greatest artifacts of American history.”

Source: Dawn News