Friday, March 10, 2017

Largest humanitarian crisis since 1945; Bumper jobs growth in US; Elon Musk offers to fix Aussie power network

1 Largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 (San Francisco Chronicle) The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945 with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine, the UN humanitarian chief has said.

Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council that "without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death" and "many more will suffer and die from disease." He urged an immediate injection of funds for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria plus safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid "to avert a catastrophe."

"To be precise," O'Brien said, "we need $4.4 billion by July." UN and food organizations define famine as when more than 30 percent of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria.

O'Brien said the largest humanitarian crisis is in Yemen where two-thirds of the population — 18.8 million people — need aid and more than seven million people are hungry and don't know where their next meal will come from. "That is three million people more than in January," he said. The Arab world's poorest nation is engulfed in conflict and O'Brien said more than 48,000 people fled fighting just in the past two months.

For 2017, O'Brien said $2.1 billion is needed to reach 12 million Yemenis "with life-saving assistance and protection" but only 6 percent has been received so far. He announced that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will chair a pledging conference for Yemen on April 25 in Geneva.

2 Bumper jobs growth in US (Phillip Inman & Sam Thielman in The Guardian) The US Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates next week for only the third time since the financial crisis after the latest job numbers for the world’s largest economy beat expectations.

The closely watched Labor department data for February showed that the number of new jobs soared to 235,000, the best month for job growth since July last year, adding to pressure on the central bank to agree the first of three predicted rises this year.

Officials meet on Wednesday in the wake of strong employment, manufacturing and consumer data that should persuade the Fed to add further to its December rate rise, which saw the cost of borrowing raised by 0.25% to a range of between 0.5% and 0.75%.

President Donald Trump grabbed the chance to hail the strong jobs numbers, covering the first full month of his administration, as a personal victory, despite the momentum clearly springing from the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The US economy is now in its 77th consecutive month of growth. Last month’s figures were also stronger than expected, with 227,000 jobs added in January. For December, the last full month of Obama’s term in office, the economy added 178,000 jobs. Economists welcomed the figures, though many warned that wages growth of 2.8% failed to indicate that the economy was overheating.

3 Musk vows to fix Aussie power network in 100 days (BBC) Elon Musk, boss of electric car firm Tesla, says he can help solve South Australia's power crisis within 100 days - and if not he'll do it for free. The offer follows a series of blackouts in the state.

On Thursday, Tesla executive Lyndon Rive had said the company could install 100-300 megawatt hours of battery storage in 100 days. When asked on Twitter how serious he was about the offer, Mr Musk said if Tesla failed, there'd be no bill.

"Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?" he tweeted in response to Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Australian software maker Atlassian.

Having offered to "make the $ happen (& politics)", Mr Cannon-Brookes then told Mr Musk: "You're on mate." Mr Musk went on to quote a price of $250 per kilowatt hour for 100 megawatt hour systems.

The state of South Australia has suffered from blackouts since September last year, leading to a political spat over energy policy. Tesla has been expanding its battery business alongside its car production. This week the US company launched its Powerwall 2 in Australia, the world's top market for rooftop solar.

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