Monday, June 5, 2017

Diplomatic crisis as Qatar is isolated; India launches heavy rocket; One in five Singapore staff fears automation job loss

1 Diplomatic crisis as Qatar is isolated (Patrick Wintour in The Guardian) The Gulf has been hit by its biggest diplomatic crisis in years after Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region with its support for Islamist groups.

The countries said they would halt all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, eject its diplomats and order Qatari citizens to leave the Gulf states within 14 days. Shoppers in the Qatari capital, Doha, meanwhile packed supermarkets amid fears the country, which relies on imports from its neighbours, would face food shortages after Saudi Arabia closed its sole land border.

The small but very wealthy nation, the richest in the world per capita, was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and its perceived tolerance of Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry said the measures were unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions. As the Qatari stock market tumbled and oil prices rose, it accused its fellow Gulf states of violating its sovereignty.

In a sign of Qatar’s growing isolation, Yemen’s internationally backed government – which no longer holds its capital and large portions of the country – joined the move to break relations, as did the Maldives and the government based in eastern Libya

Monday’s diplomatic moves came two weeks after four Arab countries blocked Qatar-based media over the appearance of comments attributed to the Qatari emir that praised Iran. Qatar said hackers had taken over the website of its state-run news agency and faked the comments.

2 India launches heavy rocket (BBC) India's space agency has successfully launched its heaviest rocket. The 640-tonne rocket blasted off from a launching site off the Bay of Bengal in Sriharikota.
The rocket will reduce the Indian Space Research Organisation's (Isro) reliance on European vehicles to launch heavy satellites. The coverage of the launch has been euphoric, and often colourful, with websites comparing the rocket to the weight of 200 elephants, or five jumbo jets.

Such comparisons highlight the importance of the launch for the country, which is aggressively competing to get a bigger share of the global commercial satellite launch market. The GSLV Mark III can carry put a payload weighing more than three tonnes into the high altitude orbit occupied by the spacecraft that relay TV, telephone calls and broadband connections.

But it's far from being the world's heaviest rocket because Nasa's Saturn V, which was used between 1967 and 1973, still holds that record, with total mass at lift-off about four times that of India's GSLV Mark III. Experts say the rocket gives India more flexibility in launching different kinds of satellites.

Isro hopes that the rocket, called the "monster" by one newspaper, will be able to carry an astronaut to space by 2024. India wants to become the fourth country after the US, China and Russia to send a person into space.

3 One in five Singapore staff fears automation job loss (Straits Times) Nearly one in five employees in Singapore fears that automation will take away their jobs, a survey by recruitment firm Randstad found.

The poll also showed that workers in Singapore (19 per cent) and Hong Kong (20 per cent) held the highest fears of losing their jobs to automation. Malaysian employees, on the other hand, were more relaxed with only 13 per cent fearing automation will hurt their job security.

About three in four, or 72 per cent, of Singapore employees were open to retraining for a new role - provided that their salaries would remain the same or higher than before. The remaining 8 per cent would rather move to another company than retrain. Despite fears of automation taking jobs away, a large group of employees feel that automation will in fact make their jobs better.

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