Monday, August 8, 2016
China exports decline; Tesla autopilot helps in medical emergency; End of a 16-year hunger strike in India
1 China exports decline (BBC) Chinese exports have seen a further decline in July, adding to concerns over the global economic outlook. Exports fell by 4.4% compared to a year earlier, which was a slight improvement over June's 4.8% drop but still worse than analysts had been expecting.
Imports were also weaker than estimated, down by 12.5%. As China is a crucial driver of the worldwide economy, the data is seen as a snapshot of the global outlook. The country's exports have fallen for 12 out of the past 13 months.
Global uncertainty ranging from low commodity prices to the EU debt crisis and the UK leaving the bloc continues to mute economic activity around the world. In US dollar denominated terms, exports fell to $184.7bn while imports dropped to $132.4bn.
The sluggish domestic demand indicates that Beijing's efforts to boost consumption to spur growth have yet to take effect. The fresh data, though, comes on the heels of better-than-expected economic growth in the second quarter. Gross domestic product expanded by 6.7% in the three months to June compared to a year earlier.
2 Tesla autopilot helps in medical emergency (Alan Yuhas in The Guardian) Joshua Neally’s brand-new Tesla Model X didn’t exactly save his life when he started having severe chest pains, but it helped him get most of the way to a hospital.
The 37-year-old was driving in his electric car from his law office in Springfield, Missouri, when the air was sucked from his lungs and he felt a sudden biting pain in his chest – a blocked artery in his lungs. Distracted by the pain and still in traffic, he let the car’s controversial autopilot carry him down the road toward a hospital.
Tesla’s autopilot function requires a driver to touch the wheel every few minutes, and Neally was able to keep it active for 20 miles down the highway. He said that in the moment of crisis, he considered stopping for an ambulance but decided to trust the software, for fear that he would crash if the car were entirely in his control. Tesla’s software has been designed to guide cars to a stop on the side of the road if a driver stops responding.
Eventually carried near a hospital, Neally gathered his strength and took over, driving off the highway exit ramp and the rest of the way to the hospital. He has since recovered and continues to receive treatment.
In May, a Florida man was killed while driving a Tesla on autopilot, with a DVD of Harry Potter on, according to a witness. According to Tesla, the car’s sensors failed to detect a white 18-wheel truck against a bright sky, and the car attempted to drive underneath the tractor-trailer “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S”.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his embattled company’s safety record, and in April he asserted that the autopilot system was “twice as good as a person”. In July, he responded to criticisms of the autopilot, saying: “When used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”
3 End of a 16-year hunger strike in India (San Francisco Chronicle) In Imphal, India, activist Irom Sharmila has been kept in judicial custody for engaging in a nearly 16-year hunger strike.
Sharmila told a court in Manipur state last month that she would end her fast to run in state elections next year. She has not eaten any food voluntarily since Nov. 5, 2000, in protest of a law that suspends many human rights protections in areas of conflict.
Three days into her fast, she was arrested on charges of attempting suicide and has been force fed through a tube in her nose since then. She has said the single issue on her political agenda is removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in effect in Indian-ruled Kashmir and northeastern areas wracked by separatist insurgencies.
The law says troops have the right to shoot to kill suspected rebels without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant.