China markets start week with new falls; World’s poor lose out as aid is diverted to refugees; Tesla car can now park itself, be summoned

1 China markets start week with new falls (BBC) Asian shares headed lower on Monday as jitters from the sell-off in the markets last week continued to keep investors on edge. Global markets made big losses after Chinese trading was suspended twice last week on dramatic plunges in values that triggered a circuit breaker mechanism, and spurred more volatility.

China suspended the use of that tool on Friday, a move that reassured traders. But the Shanghai Composite index was down 2.5% to 3,106.38 in early trade. Weak inflation data over the weekend did little to encourage investors. China’s consumer inflation edged up 1.6% in December from a year ago. That compared to a 1.5% rise in the previous month.

But deflation risks remained in the world’s second largest economy as factory-gate prices continued to fall for the 46th consecutive month, down 5.9%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2.4% to 19,964.64, following the mainland markets.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was down 2% to 4,892.60 as falling oil prices continued to weigh on the market. The price of Brent crude oil fell another 50 cents to $33.05 a barrel. Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tino both plunged over 4% in Sydney. In South Korea, the benchmark Kospi index was down 0.7% to 1,904.14 points.

2 World’s poor lose out as aid is diverted to refugees (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) Sweden is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to international aid. Along with other Scandinavian countries, it has given bounteously to less fortunate nations for many years. With a population of under 10 million, it also takes more than its fair share of asylum seekers – an estimated 190,000 last year, with a further 100,000 to 170,000 expected to arrive in 2016.

This is proving to be an expensive business. The Swedish migration agency says the cost of assimilating such a large number of asylum seekers will be €6.4bn this year – and a debate is raging about whether the aid budget should be raided to help meet the bill. In 2015, 25% of the aid budget was spent on refugees. One proposal is to raise that figure to 60%.

Other countries are responding in similar fashion. Italy raised its aid spending in 2015, but the extra money was mostly spent domestically on those who successfully made the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean from north Africa.

Final figures for development assistance show that global aid spending rose to a record level of $137.2bn in 2014 – an increase of 1.2% on the previous year. But the money is not going to those countries that are in the greatest need. Spending on the least developed countries (LDCs) fell by almost 5% and as a share of the total fell below 30% for the first time since 2005.

Donor countries are increasingly dipping into their aid budgets to deal with the migration crisis or diverting money that would previously have gone to sub-Saharan Africa to countries that are deemed to be fragile, such as Egypt, Pakistan and Syria, but are not classified as LDCs.

The aid critics respond by saying that too much of the money is being wasted. They ask why the health systems of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone proved so woefully inadequate during the Ebola crisis and have a ready answer: the money that should have gone on building hospitals and training doctors and hospitals across Africa all too often ended up being spent on expensive western consultants or in the offshore bank accounts of corrupt politicians.

3 Tesla car can now park itself, be summoned (David R Baker in San Francisco Chronicle) In two years, Tesla owners may be able to summon their self-driving electric cars from across the country and let the vehicles find them, CEO Elon Musk has said. In the meantime, however, they’ll have to settle for telling their cars to meet them in the driveway or park automatically in the garage.

Tesla this weekend updated its Autopilot system that gives the company’s Model S sedans and Model X sport utility vehicles limited abilities to drive themselves. The update is now available for Model S and will soon be available for the Model X.

With the latest changes, delivered as a wireless software upgrade, owners will be able to “summon” their cars while standing nearby. Using either the key fob or a smartphone app, drivers can tell their cars to open the garage door, roll forward to where the owner is standing and close the garage door automatically. The same process works in reverse, so Tesla owners can step out of their cars at the front door and let the cars park themselves.

Tesla also improved the cars’ ability to auto-park in public. The cars can now back themselves into tight parking spots after the owner has exited the vehicle. Musk called the new summoning feature a “baby step” in the evolution of Tesla’s autonomous driving technology.

“Ultimately, you’ll be able to summon your car from anywhere there’s a land bridge, anywhere the car can physically get to you,” Musk said. “If you’re in New York and your car is, say, in Los Angeles, your car will find its way to you.” That level of self-driving capability, Musk said, is probably two years away.


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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