Sunday, September 25, 2011

Maldives to generate 60 percent of energy from solar power

Maldives has launched an ambitious plan to generate 60 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2020 as part of its aim to become the world's first carbon neutral nation, a statement issued by the government said on Friday.

Maldives Economic Development Ministry posted the "Renewable Energy Investment Framework" online and invited the international community to assist in its implementation.

"At the moment, our economy is run on imported oil and every time the oil price rises, we all suffer. The Maldives has an abundance of sunshine, so shifting to solar will improve the country's energy security," Economic Development Minister Mahmood Razee said in the statement.

The framework suggests that up to 80 percent of the electricity island communities use could be derived from renewable energy, without the cost of energy increasing.

The country's 100 tourist resorts will be offered opportunities to reduce their oil consumption.

The total investment in developing solar power is estimated between 3 billion U.S dollars and 5 billion U.S dollars over the next ten years.

The government hopes that these investments will pay for themselves by saving the Maldives government huge sums of money in oil imports.

In 2010, the Maldives announced plans to become the world's first carbon neutral nation by 2020.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Occy" Triumphs at World's Most Luxurious Surfing Event at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives

1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo ("Occy") from Tweeds Head, Australia won the inaugural Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy - organised in conjunction with luxury surf pioneers Tropicsurf of Noosa, Australia - after a sensational week of surfing from six former world champions.

Contested over three days from August 31 to September 5, 2011 at the world-class break of Sultan's Point, located just off Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, the event saw historic match-ups between contestants including four-time world champion Mark Richards and seven-time world champion Layne Beachley in a competition dubbed "the world's most luxurious surfing event."

It was a clean sweep for Occy, who won all three divisions of Single Fin, Twin Fin and Thrusters, before defeating world longboard champion Josh Constable in the Grand Champions Final to take home USD 19,000 of the USD 25,000 on offer.

The President of the Maldives, His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and members of his cabinet watched the Grand Champions Final from the three-deck, 39 metre (128 foot) Four Seasons Explorer luxury catamaran, the Maldives' ultimate surf vessel.

During the competition, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa scooped the top award at the Condé Nast Traveller 14th annual Readers' Travel Awards in London - the Best of the Best in the World's Top 100. And the surfers, partners and event crew certainly made the most of the five-star resort facilities.

"Personally I would like to congratulate Four Seasons on winning the award for best resort in the world and I can vouch that's true," said Occhilupo. "It's been an amazing time here. Sanjiv Hulugalle and all his staff have been incredible to us."

Occy dedicated his win to the late Tony Hussein Hinde (1953-2008), an Australian-born Maldivian surfing pioneer, considered to be "the father of surfing in the Maldives," who looked after Occhilupo on his first visit to the island nation over a decade ago .

Following his win, Occy and Constable celebrated by dancing with the President to the sounds of the traditional Maldivian bodu beru drummers. "It was a perfect way to cap off an incredible week," said Constable.

"The whole Maldives experience has been luxurious, from the Resort to the local surfers allowing us to take over their break," confirmed Beachley. "One of the best trips of my life, I never want to leave."

Resort guests rubbed shoulders with the contest's participants in Kuda Huraa's vibrant village setting - home to competitors, judges and supporters alike for the duration of the event. Guests booking the Resort's all-inclusive four- or seven-night Champions Trophy package got right on top of the action with competition day passes aboard Four Seasons Explorer and three half-day surfing passes with Tropicsurf.

Never before has a surf competition amassed such a high-profile field in such privileged surroundings. "It's the ultimate surf competition showcasing a hand-picked field of iconic champions with the latest surf craft available in some of the best surf on the planet," said Event Coordinator Mark Winson of Tropicsurf.

Following the enormous success of the inaugural event Four Seasons and Tropicsurf have vowed to make the 2012 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy bigger and better next year.

Four Seasons Resorts Maldives wish to thank its kind co-sponsors of the 2011 Surfing Champions Trophy: HSBC, Billabong, Wataniya Telecom Maldives, Surfing World and Singapore Airlines; and its six inaugural contestants, all from Australia: 1999 World Champion Mark Occhilupo (Tweeds Head, New South Wales), 2006 world longboard champion Josh Constable (Noosa, Queensland), five-time world champion Mark Richards (Newcastle), seven-time world champion Layne Beachley (Manly), six-time world champion Nat Young (Town) and two-time world champion Damien Hardman (Narrabeen, New South Wales).


Deaths of Infants and Young Mothers Are Declining, but Goals Are Missed

Deaths of infants and young mothers continue to decline around the world, but nearly not as quickly as the world’s health ministers hoped when they set targets in 2000, according to an analysis released Monday by University of Washington researchers.

In 1990, more than 11 million children under age 5 died each year; in 2011, about 7 million are expected to. Deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth declined to about 274,000 from 409,000 over the same period.Countries doing particularly well on both fronts include China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, the Maldives, Mongolia, Peru, Syria and Tunisia. (Above, awaiting delivery of a stillborn child in Senegal.)

The study was done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to measure the effectiveness of global health efforts independently of the World Health Organization, which is often put under pressure by member states.

According to William Heisel, a spokesman for the institute, several factors contributed to the decline. Donor nations are giving about twice what they used to toward maternal and child health. Previously the focus was on AIDS.

In countries with malaria, mosquito nets have helped to reduce mortality among infants and young mothers. So have efforts like paying rural women in India to give birth at hospitals instead of at home.

“The single biggest factor, though, is the education of young women,” Mr. Heisel said. Girls with more schooling make better decisions about getting pregnant and learn to protect themselves and their newborns.


Monday, September 19, 2011

TIFF 2011: “Island President” scoops doc award

The Island President (pictured), Jon Shenk’s documentary following the president of the Maldives’ battle to raise awareness about climate change, has picked up the Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Bess Kargman’s ballet documentary First Position was awarded the first runner-up accolade, while Cameron Crowe’s music doc Pearl Jam Twenty was named second runner-up. The winners were chosen by popular vote.

The win comes after President Mohamed Nasheed, the subject and star of The Island President, made an appearance at the festival to take part in a Q&A alongside director Shenk, as previously reported.

In a statement, Shenk paid tribute to Toronto audiences, thanking them for supporting the film. “My team has been humbled so many times during the making of this film,” he said. The president himself also delivered a short statement, adding: “I’m very pleased audiences liked the film – I thought it was quite excellent.”


Pooja Bhatt set to launch Maldives singer

Bollywood actress-turned-filmmaker Pooja Bhat, who introduced Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in Bollywood with her 2004 movie Paap, is now set to launch Mariyam Unoosha, a singer from the Maldives.

“After introducing Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to India through Man Ki Lagan I will now unleash the sheer brilliance of Unoosha from the Maldives,” Pooja posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

“Soon, Unoosha from the Maldives will create the same impact as Rahat did. This is not mere assumption. It is absolute conviction + belief,” she added.

Rahat became a household name after singing Man Ki Lagan in John Abraham and Udita Goswami starrer.


Documentary highlights sinking of the Maldives

It's a late-night party at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Mohamed Nasheed is trying to stifle a yawn. It's been a long week. Nasheed flew in from the Maldives, the island nation in the Indian Ocean of which he is the leader, and attended the premiere of the documentary The Island President. ("I thought it was excellent," he says.) Fighting jet lag, he is now moving among the guests at the after-party, talking about the problems of global warming that threaten to flood the entire nation in 40 or 50 years.

"It's getting worse and worse, and we are having to spend more money on it, on water breakers and embankments and so on," says Nasheed. When he returns to the Maldives this week, his first job is to build an embankment on one of the 1,200 islands - 200 of them inhabited - that comprise the tiny country. The Maldives is a tourist mecca, a place of luxury resorts, but even there, the effects of erosion are becoming visible: a disappearing shoreline and fallen palm trees.

The Maldives is one of the lowestlying nations in the world - the average elevation above sea level is 1.5 metres - and Nasheed has become a leader in the fight to lower the carbon emissions that warm the air that's raising the ocean waters.

If things unfold the way scientists say it might, what will happen to its 400,000 people? Where will they go? "They won't go anywhere," says Nasheed. "They'll die. That's what's going to happen."

The Island President was directed by Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan), an American documentarian who followed Nasheed through his first year of office, ending at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. There, the diminutive leader of the small nation became a driving force for a compromise agreement, the first ever signed by the U.S., China and India. His stirring speech to other world leaders salvaged the summit.

Nasheed - who came to the filmfestival party with an entourage that included plainclothes security guards - said it was helpful to watch the movie, because he gained perspective on the compromises that were necessary.

"It is only through compromise that we will actually be able to move forward on climate-change negotiations," he said, sitting at a small bistro table at a hip downtown restaurant. The Island President notes that carbon emissions have actually risen since the Copenhagen meetings, but Nasheed maintains his hope: "It perhaps would have gone up much higher, if not for Copenhagen. People could have been very mindless about opening new power stations. Lots has changed, even in developing countries. They're mindful of what they're doing, even if they're doing it."

The Island President also provides a kind of tour of the Maldives - its impossibly blue waters and pristine, if disappearing, beaches - and of its history. The country was a dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Nasheed was a pro-democracy advocate who was once held for 18 months in solitary confinement in a small metal shack. He was arrested 12 times over 20 years and tortured twice. He went into exile and returned in 2005 to the cheers of crowds yelling his nickname, Anni.

"It won't do any good to have democracy if we don't have a country," he says in the film. At one stage, in order to draw world attention to the impending disaster, Nasheed holds an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers wearing scuba gear.

The country has raised taxes so it can afford to build the embankments and seawalls that are protecting it from the rising waters.

"There's no other way," he said. "We have to fend for ourselves. Our means are very modest, but we have to fend for ourselves."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sinking Maldives would like to buy land in India

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed is trying to prevent his island nation from going underwater, literally, due to climate change, but if that doomsday scenario does play out, among the options seriously being considered by his government is relocation of some of the country's population to India.

In an interview, President Nasheed said, "We have to have a kitty saved for a rainy day. That might mean some of the people, whoever wants to get relocated, to be able to go somewhere. I think any responsible Maldives government should be thinking along these tracks."

This has been mentioned to India. As he said, "We haven't had an official discussion on that but I've always been mentioning to Indian officials that it's important that we are able to buy land in India, it's important we are able to have easy access to India, so that these eventualities can be covered."

President Nasheed doesn't want that eventuality to occur, so he has undertaken a high-profile campaign on the issue. As part of the effort, he walked the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF premiere of the documentary, The Island President.

As the name suggests, the film, directed by Jon Shenk, has President Nasheed as the central character. But for the President, the agenda went beyond just that since the film also focuses on the peril faced by his nation from possible global warming leading to rising levels of the Indian Ocean, causing submergence of large parts of the Maldives. The tiny South Asian nation consists of about 1,200 coral islands, with an average elevation of just 1.5 metre.

Among the countries he's relying upon heavily for support is India. Among the first shots of the film features Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed pushes against the tide

“Climate change issues are real to us,” President Mohamed Nasheed says of the situation facing the Maldives. “This is not tomorrow’s events. These are today’s real events.”
During his 20-year fight to bring democracy to the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed was arrested 12 times. He endured torture and exile. He was in solitary confinement when his second daughter was born.

Then in 2008, the Islamic country held its first multiparty presidential election and Nasheed, known as “Anni,” won by popular vote. Immediately, however, he found himself fighting again for survival — but for that of a nation.
Nasheed had essentially took helm of a sinking ship. As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world — the average elevation is 1.5 metres above sea level — a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge its 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean; some scientists fear it could be underwater in less than 100 years.

“Climate change issues are real to us,” the 44-year-old president said. “There is so much erosion, dwindling [fisheries], water contamination because of sea water intrusion. This is not tomorrow’s events. These are today’s real events.”

President Nasheed was in Toronto this weekend for the premiere of Jon Shenk’s documentary, The Island President, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Shortly after he was elected, he agreed to allow Shenk unparalleled access to his life. For a year, the award-winning San Francisco filmmaker followed Nasheed as he travelled around the world lobbying for reduced carbon emissions.
“He was a journalist,” Shenk said. “He used journalism to affect change and even though he’s now a president, he hasn’t forgotten that the power of a story in some ways trumps politics.”
Nasheed, who watched the film for the first time Saturday, said he found it to be “very true.”
“The country was going through a major transition from dictatorship to democracy. Someone wanted to record that; I thought an extra pair of eyes would be good,” he said. “Also, we want to know how we might be able to impress the international community on climate change issues and the gravity of it. To do that, we don’t have much money and if someone was willing to do it in cinematography, we thought this was good.”

Nasheed is a small man with a relaxed aura that contradicts his ramrod straight posture. He has a likability and sincerity that can be illustrated in a BBC clip featured in the documentary: Nasheed is being interviewed during the presidential campaign about the incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The camera is focused on his concentrated face.

“The president says he needs another term to see through his democratic reform,” the reporter says.
Upon hearing that, a puff of air blows up Nasheed’s cheeks and then escapes from his lips. “Um, well, he’s already had 30 years,” he says, stifling his laughter, “and we really can’t quite see how and what else he is going to do with another five years.”

“I love that clip,” Shenk said. “It’s so indicative of someone living in the moment. … He’s very human.”

The film culminates at the climate change summit in Copenhagen in November 2009 where Shenk and his crew were accredited as part of the official Maldives delegation. This afforded them a rare behind-the-scenes look at the jockeying between leaders and of course, Nasheed’s very honest reactions (“I’m really going to lose it if these bureaucrats keep bickering endlessly about the text”).
“It’s fascinating to watch world politics,” Shenk said. “Whenever world leaders meet, there’s this dance they do, they shake each other’s hands and the cameras flick away. The real meat of the meeting happens behind closed doors. But in Nasheed’s case, he literally would walk up to people and he would immediately start discussing the hard issues. The leaders oftentimes were completely caught off guard. At the end of the day, I think he just wants to get down to work.”
Nasheed, who pledged to make the Maldives the first country to go carbon neutral within a decade, is credited with coaxing India and China to soften their stance on the issue.

“For India and China, there are a lot of questions of pride and sovereignty,” he said. “The United States or Europe cannot tell them to go and do something. You are conceding to them when you do something they ask. It’s a very different story when we ask them to do something. It’s not a conspiracy against their development. They’re very receptive when they understand that we have something to lose.”

Not one to mince words, Nasheed is blunt about what that something is. A journalist asks Nasheed in the film: If the conference doesn’t achieve its goals and sea levels rise, what options are there for the Maldives?

Nasheed is leaning on his elbow, his face in his palm. He looks the journalist square in the eye and says: “None. We will all die.”


Thursday, September 8, 2011

How covert cameras detecting hot flushes will reveal who is lying at airport security

Secret lie detectors which can rumble fraudsters without them even knowing they were suspected are to be installed at a British airport.

High definition video and thermal imaging cameras could be used at passport control or in customs interviews to detect those trying to trick immigration officials.

The cameras, which would be installed covertly, would be able to pick up tell-tale signs of people giving false accounts of themselves based on research under way now.

They are able to pick up the minuscule changes in a person’s temperature which can indicate they are spinning a yarn.

Scientists hope the technology will enable officials to be able to detect liars ‘with the click of a button’ – but critics fear the devices could violate privacy if they become more widespread.

The Home Office and HM Revenue & Customs are sponsoring research into the system.

It is an improvement from conventional lie detectors, which involve hooking people up to machines to take a series of metabolic measurements, as it can be applied without people knowing.

It is not yet known which airport will test it out but if successful it could be installed in others across the UK.

The system was designed by Hassan Ugail, professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford.

He told The Sunday Times: ‘In an interview you can be talking to a person, then you basically just press a computer button and say: "Was this person lying or not?" '

The devices work by monitoring tiny changes in facial expression, including eye movement and micro facial expressions, which indicate the increased brain activity as a liar works out the most plausible story.

The brain activity also triggers tiny fluctuations in facial skin temperature, which can be picked up by thermal imaging cameras.

The pictures are then compared with a computer database containing the types of changes seen in people who are known to be lying.

Those with suspect changes can then be put under deeper scrutiny.

Prof Ugail said: 'With polygraphs, you try and get measurements of things, like the heartbeat and the temperature.

'What we try and do is experiment with the face itself, but it is purely non-invasive, which means the person is probably not aware the measurements are being taken.

In a video presentation to fellow academics Ugail said: 'When people lie they make up things in their brain which they haven’t really thought about before.

'So what tends to happen is your brain activity increases, so the blood-flow pattern in your actual face changes, especially at the eye area.

'There’s usually a heat change on the spectrum, so when we look through a thermal camera there is a slight rise in temperature when we tell lies.

'Usually people get nervous as well, so that comes out quite nicely on the camera.'

He is still developing the system, which has a current success rate of 60-70 per cent.

It could also have other uses in the police and security services and even help nervous people perform better in interviews – but critics fear widespread use could see schools, businesses and even jealous spouses adopting the technology.

Professor Ugail will be holding an event during the British Science Festival, which is in Bradford from September 10 to 17, when he will guide the audience through the lie-detection technology.