China output growth at five-year low; Missing jet and armchair sleuths; Zuckerberg ‘frustrated’ at US spying

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1 China output growth at five-year low (Khaleej Times) China’s industrial production rose at its slowest pace in five years and other key indicators showed surprising weakness, data showed on Thursday, raising alarm bells over the world’s second-largest economy as Premier Li Keqiang outlined “serious challenges” ahead. Industrial output, which measures production at factories, workshops and mines, rose 8.6 per cent in January and February year-on-year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on its website.

The result was the lowest since the 7.3 per cent recorded in April 2009, according to previous NBS data. The pessimistic data set surprised economists and followed other recent indicators for manufacturing, trade and inflation that suggested weakness in China’s economy, a key global growth engine. China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.7 per cent in 2013, unchanged from the year before, which was the worst result since 1999.

Premier Li Keqiang announced earlier this month that it is targeting economic growth of about 7.5 per cent in 2014, the same target it aimed for last year. Li suggested to his once-a-year news conference after the close of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Communist Party-controlled legislature, that the country faces roadblocks ahead.

Zhou Hao, Shanghai-based economist for ANZ Bank, called Thursday’s data “a complete mess” and said it showed that policies were needed to spur growth. “Basically none of the figures were in line with expectations, all came in much lower than expected,” he said.

http://khaleejtimes.com/biz/inside.asp?section=internationbusiness&xfile=/data/internationbusiness/2014/March/internationbusiness_March64.xml

2 Missing jet and armchair sleuths (Scott Mayerowitz in San Francisco Chronicle) There aren’t supposed to be any mysteries in the Digital Age. Maybe that’s why the world is captivated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and why it has created a legion of armchair sleuths, spouting theories in some cases so strange they belong in science-fiction films.

Casual conversations in supermarket aisles, barbershop chairs and office building cafeterias have centered on the mystery and how much we don’t know. With the search for the missing Boeing 777 entering its seventh day, the passengers’ families are left without closure while the intrigue — and hypotheses — continue to grow for the rest of us. Normally, travelers turn to DiScala for the latest deals on flights. But this week, he says, a page on his website dedicated to the latest news about the flight has received most of the attention.

The pros are just as perplexed. On TV and in online forums, aviation experts are more measured and analytical than the amateurs but in the end can’t say with any certainty what happened. “Anybody who travels is intrigued with this story. How can a plane disappear? We’ve got satellites beaming down on everybody …” says Andrea Richard, a French-American in Paris who travels widely, including to Asia.

False leads and conflicting information have only added to the mystery, the speculation and the frustration. It’s still unclear how far the plane may have flown after losing contact with civilian radar — and in which direction. Even if the plane is found soon, the speculation likely won’t fade. It can take months, if not years, after a plane crash to learn definitively what happened.

That’s an anomaly in an age of instant answers. In this situation — to everybody’s frustration — we still don’t have a conclusion. Airlines and their employees don’t like to talk about crashes. It’s not in their nature. Instead, they defer to the crash investigators. Part of it is that they have nothing to gain by speaking and part of it is superstition.

http://www.sfgate.com/news/us/article/Missing-jet-creates-legion-of-armchair-sleuths-5315016.php

3 Zuckerberg ‘frustrated’ by US spying (BBC) Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he has called President Barack Obama to “express frustration” over US digital surveillance. The 29-year-old said in a blog post the US government “should be the champion for the internet, not a threat”. His comments come a day after a report the US National Security Agency (NSA) imitated a Facebook server to infect surveillance targets’ computers. The NSA said the report was “inaccurate”.

Mr Zuckerberg said in September that the US “blew it” on internet spying. The tech founder wrote on Thursday “it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

The NSA’s activities were leaked by a former contractor for the agency, Edward Snowden, last year. His leaks have pointed to the NSA collecting phone records, tapping fibre-optic cables that carry global communications and hacking networks. Earlier this week, Mr Snowden said that mass surveillance conducted by the US and other governments was “setting fire to the future of the internet”.  Earlier this month, European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said billions of people around the world do not trust the internet.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-26571018

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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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