Cyprus bailout spreads panic; China is fifth largest arms exporter; Here come the domestic drones

1 Cyprus bailout spreads panic (Paul Gallagher & Helena Smith in The Guardian) Cypriots reacted with shock that turned to panic on Saturday after a 10% one-off levy on savings was forced on them as part of an extraordinary 10bn euro bailout agreed in Brussels.

People rushed to banks and queued at cash machines that refused to release cash as resentment quickly set in. The savers will raise almost €6bn thanks to a deal reached by European partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is the first time a bailout has included such a measure and Cyprus is the fifth country after Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Portugal and Spain to turn to the eurozone for financial help during the region’s debt crisis. The move in the eurozone’s third smallest economy could have repercussions for financially overstretched bigger economies such as Spain and Italy.

People with less than 100,000 euros in their accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, Eurozone officials said, while those with greater sums will lose 9.9%. Without a rescue, president Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus would default and threaten to unravel investor confidence in the eurozone.

The prospect of savings being so savagely docked sparked terror among the island’s resident British community. In the coastal town of Larnaca, Cypriots described how they had queued from the early hours in the hope of withdrawing deposits from banks. “A lot of us just can’t believe it,” said Alexandra Christofi, a divorcee in her 40s who said she had rushed to her bank before doors even opened at 6am.

The levy does not take effect until Tuesday, following a public holiday, but action is being taken to control electronic money transfers over the weekend. Co-operative banks, the only ones open in Cyprus on a Saturday, closed following a run on the credit societies while ATMs cancelled transactions due to “technical issues”.

2 China is fifth largest arms exporter (Straits Times) China has overtaken Britain as the world’s fifth largest arms exporter, a Swedish think-tank has said. The volume of Chinese weapons exports rose by 162% in the five-year period 2008-2012, compared to the previous five-year period, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said in its report. That means China’s share of all international arms exports increased to 5% from 25, and the country climbed to fifth from eighth in the rankings.

The largest buyer of Chinese weapons was Pakistan, which accounted for 55% of the country’s exports, followed by Myanmar with 8% and Bangladesh with 7%, Sipri said. “China’s rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan,” said Mr Paul Holtom, director of the Sipri Arms Transfers Programme.

2 Here come the domestic drones (Matthew  L Wald in The New York Times) “The sky’s going to be dark with these things,” said Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, who now runs a company, 3D Robotics, that sells unmanned aerial vehicles and equipment. He says it is selling about as many drones every calendar quarter — about 7,500 — as the US military flies in total.

The burst of activity in remotely operated planes stems from the confluence of two factors: electronics and communications gear has become dirt cheap, enabling the conversion of hobbyist radio-controlled planes into sophisticated platforms for surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration has been ordered by Congress to work out a way to integrate these aircraft into the national airspace by 2015.

Some fans of the technology wince at the word “drone,” which implies that there is no pilot. And they have grown resentful about the alarms raised over privacy issues, noting that a few city and state governments have begun banning drones even where they do not yet operate.

Aside from the missing persons mission, experts here outline a number of uses for the planes: “precision agriculture,” with tiny planes inspecting crops several times a week for the first sign of blight or insect invasion; safety missions by semiautonomous flying machines that could cruise the two-mile length of a freight train and examine the air brakes on each car, far faster than a person could, and be available for accident assessment in case of derailment; inspection operations of pipelines or power lines, a job that is notoriously dangerous for helicopters, and scouting out fires or car crashes. Remote control equipment might even displace some human pilots, in the cockpits of cargo planes.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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