Arab countries need to improve education systems, says UN official

Arab countries need to improve their education systems, a leading UN official has said, with only the UAE performing impressively in the sector.

Hany Torky, the UNDP’s chief technical adviser, said GCC countries were spending the same amount of money on education but only the UAE was making an impact.

“So far the UAE has appeared as a leader in knowledge not just in the Arab countries but also across Asia. No other country has performed so well as the way UAE has done and continues to do that,” he told Arab News. “The reason can be the quality of teachers, corruption, using resources in the right manner, quality of students. All these factors count for a lot.”

He was speaking to Arab News while sharing the latest results of the Global Knowledge Index, which this year placed the UAE 19 out of 134 countries. It ranked 13 in pre-university education and 20 in higher education.

Torky said the idea of education needed to be redefined in the region because of technological breakthroughs including artificial intelligence, virtual reality and coding.

“We need to use technology to improve social and communication skills. Teachers cannot be replaced by robots. However, robots can help teachers to perform better.”

Saudi educationalist Omar Farooqi said a teacher’s role would change dramatically and they would become more like guides or advisers.

“The problem comes in the form of parents and top-to-bottom implementation of technology in schools,” he told Arab News, “otherwise if you look at the youth population in the Arab world, it is larger than the adult population. Therefore, these children have grown with technology in their hands and on their fingertips. They are more than willing to embrace it.”

The UAE was quick to adopt technology and trends faster than anywhere else in the Arab world, he added, and technology was also a way to revamp the curriculum in public sector schools.

“The Public (school) sector needs a complete revamp of standards from top to bottom of school operations. Private schools, on the other hand, are heavily geared primarily toward commercial success. Therefore the quality of education versus tuition fees is not appropriately balanced. Once it is balanced out, then there is cause for optimism for the private sector to take the lead in helping the public system set higher governance standards through strong strategic collaboration,” said Farooqui.

The Global Knowledge Index is produced annually by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation in partnership with the UNDP.

[“source=forbes]

“I Am A Tariff Man,” Trump Says, As China Talks Show Signs Of Sputtering

'I Am A Tariff Man,' Trump Says, As China Talks Show Signs Of Sputtering

Trump threatened to slap tariffs if China did not make changes in its trade relationship with US.

The economic agreement President Donald Trump said he reached with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Saturday showed signs of unraveling Tuesday, with the White House threatening new penalties against Beijing and multiple officials seeking to downplay expectations for an eventual deal.

Investors, who had applauded the deal on Monday, turned sharply negative Tuesday. In midday trading, the Dow Jones industrial average had dropped more than 600 points or about 2.4 percent.

Trump, in a series of Twitter posts, threatened to slap a range of import penalties on Chinese products if they did not make major changes in their economic relationship with the United States.

“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will,” Trump wrote. “But if not remember, I am a Tariff man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power.”

This is a much different characterization of the China talks than just three days ago, when Trump had dinner with China’s president at a meeting of the Group of 20. After the dinner, Trump said they reached the framework of a deal that would come together in 90 days.

“It’s an incredible deal,” Trump told reporters after the dinner. “It goes down, certainly, if it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.”

He later said China had committed to buying large amounts of U.S. agricultural products and completely removing all tariffs on U.S. automobiles, a huge shift from its current 40 percent penalty. Chinese officials, meanwhile, did not confirm any of these details. They wouldn’t even acknowledge that there was a 90-day deadline under which they were operating.

In the past 24 hours, there were signs that White House officials were beginning to backpedal from some of their initial optimism. In his Twitter posts on Tuesday, Trump said they might need an extension if the 90-day timeline didn’t prove sufficient.

Meanwhile, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said there wasn’t an actual agreement for China to remove auto tariffs, but that he expected China to eventually do it as a measure of good faith.

He also said that China’s vice premier, Liu He, had told him there would be changes made “immediately” to show the Chinese were serious about a new agreement. But Kudlow acknowledged Tuesday that so far they haven’t seen any evidence of concrete steps being taken.

“I have no assurances” China will change, Kudlow said, speaking at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal. He acknowledged that Chinese leaders have stopped short of following through on deals in the past, but he said he believed the involvement of Xi in the discussions Saturday would lead to a different outcome.

“It looks to me that the ball is being moved in the right direction,” Kudlow said.

There are significant differences between the two governments over what was agreed at the dinner, according to a side-by-side comparison of their post-meeting statements prepared by Bloomberg. The Chinese have not acknowledged a 90-day deadline for the talks or said that they plan to “immediately” increase purchases of U.S. farm goods.

Chinese officials are puzzled and irritated by the administration’s shaky handling of the meeting’s aftermath, according to a former U.S. government official who has been in contact with them. Even before the Buenos Aires talks, Trump last month had stated incorrectly that the Chinese government “got rid of” the Made-in-China 2025 program of subsidized technology development in response to his objections.

The comments by the president and his top advisers over the past 48 hours have only added to China’s confusion about their negotiating partners.

“You don’t do this with the Chinese. You don’t triumphantly proclaim all their concessions in public. It’s just madness,” the former official said, who asked for anonymity to describe confidential discussions.

White House national security adviser John Bolton, who also attended the Saturday meeting, said the verdict was still out on what China would ultimately do.

“We need to see some major changes in their behavior,” he said, speaking at the same event as Kudlow. “Nobody is under any illusions.”

Kudlow also said the goal was to eliminate all tariffs on any imports, which is a departure from what Trump wrote Tuesday in a Twitter post, when he said he was a “tariff man.” Trump has not promised to lift all tariffs against Chinese goods.

Trump has argued that China for decades has abused global trade rules to lure away U.S. jobs, steal U.S. intellectual property, subsidize its own companies, and strong-arm U.S. firms. Many Democrats and Republicans, as well as global leaders, have agreed with Trump’s assessment, and he has taken an adversarial approach with Beijing, saying he believes this is the only way to force changes.

That approach so far has amounted to slapping tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports and vowing to impose penalties on all other imports if China doesn’t make changes. The changes U.S. officials have sought include forcing Beijing to lower tariffs on U.S. goods, stop dumping cheap steel and aluminum into foreign markets, and halting the theft of intellectual property, among other things.

As part of the talks Saturday night, Trump agreed not to increase existing tariffs on Chinese goods or impose any new ones for 90 days, while talks took place. Global investors, who had feared for months that a protracted trade war could hurt economic growth, seemed to cheer the cease-fire on Monday, but U.S. markets slid back on Tuesday as it became clear that there were few concrete commitments that came out of the discussions so far.

[“source=cnbc”]

Israeli Firm Says It Can Turn Garbage Into Bio-Based Plastic

Israeli Firm Says It Can Turn Garbage Into Bio-Based Plastic

Hawks, vultures and storks circle overhead as Christopher Sveen points at the heap of refuse rotting in the desert heat. “This is the mine of the future,” he beams.

Sveen is chief sustainability officer at UBQ, an Israeli company that has patented a process to convert household trash, diverting waste from landfills into reusable bio-based plastic.

After five years of development, the company is bringing its operations online, with hopes of revolutionising waste management and being a driver to make landfills obsolete. It remains to be seen, however, if the technology really works and is commercially viable.

UBQ operates a pilot plant and research facility on the edge of southern Israel’s Negev Desert, where it has developed its production line.

“We take something that is not only not useful, but that creates a lot of damage to our planet, and we’re able to turn it into the things we use every day,” said Albert Douer, UBQ’s executive chairman. He said UBQ’s material can be used as a substitute for conventional petrochemical plastics and wood, reducing oil consumption and deforestation.

UBQ has raised $30 million (roughly Rs. 195 crores) from private investors, including Douer, who is also chief executive of Ajover Darnel Group, an international plastics conglomerate.

Leading experts and scientists serve on its advisory board, including Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg, Hebrew University biochemist Oded Shoseyov, author and entrepreneur John Elkington and Connie Hedegaard, a former European Commissioner for Climate Action.

The small plant can process one ton of municipal waste per hour, a relatively small amount that would not meet the needs of even a midsize city. But UBQ says that given the modularity, it can be quickly expanded.

On a recent day, UBQ Chief Executive Tato Bigio stood alongside bales of sorted trash hauled in from a local landfill.

He said recyclable items like glass, metals and minerals are extracted and sent for further recycling, while the remaining garbage – “banana peels, the chicken bones and the hamburger, the dirty plastics, the dirty cartons, the dirty papers” – is dried and milled into a powder.

The steely gray powder then enters a reaction chamber, where it is broken down and reconstituted as a bio-based plastic-like composite material. UBQ says its closely-guarded patented process produces no greenhouse gas emissions or residual waste byproducts, and uses little energy and no water.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by decomposing organic material in landfills. Roughly half is methane, which over two decades is 86 times as potent for global warming as carbon dioxide, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For every ton of material produced, UBQ says it prevents between three and 30 tons of CO2 from being created by keeping waste out of landfills and decomposing.

UBQ says its material can be used as an additive to conventional plastics. It says 10-15 percent is enough to make a plastic carbon-neutral by offsetting the generation of methane and carbon dioxide in landfills. It can be moulded into bricks, beams, planters, cans, and construction materials. Unlike most plastics, UBQ says its material doesn’t degrade when it’s recycled.

The company says converting waste into marketable products is profitable, and likely to succeed in the long run without government subsidies.

“What we do is we try to position ourselves at the end of the value chain, or at the end of the waste management hierarchy,” Sveen said. “So rather than that waste going to a landfill or being incinerated, that’s kind of our waste feedstock.”

The wonder plastic isn’t without its sceptics, however. Duane Priddy, chief executive of the Plastic Expert Group, said UBQ’s claims were “too good to be true” and likened it to alchemy.

“Chemists have been trying to convert lead to gold for centuries, without success,” Priddy, a former principal scientist at Dow Chemical, said in an email to The Associated Press. “Likewise, chemists have been trying to convert garbage to plastic for several decades.”

UBQ said it is confident its technology will prove the sceptics wrong. “We understand that’s people’s perceptions. We hope to convince them in a professional and scientific manner,” Sveen said.

Even if its technology is ultimately successful, UBQ faces questions about its long-term viability. Building additional plants could be expensive and time-consuming. It also needs to prove there is a market for its plastic products. The company said it is negotiating deals with major customers, but declined to identify them or say when the contracts would go into effect.

The UN Environment Program has made solid waste disposal a central issue to combatting pollution worldwide. Landfills contaminate air, water and soil, and take up limited land and resources. A December 2017 report by the international body devoted five of its 50 anti-pollution measures to reducing and processing solid waste.

“Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide,” the organisation says. “The solution, in the first place, is the minimisation of waste. Where waste cannot be avoided, recovery of materials and energy from waste as well as remanufacturing and recycling waste into usable products should be the second option.”

Israel lags behind other developed countries in waste disposal. The country of roughly 8 million people generated 5.3 million metric tons of garbage in 2016, according to the Environment Ministry. Over 80 percent of that trash ended up in increasingly crowded landfills. A third of Israel’s landfill garbage is food scraps, which decompose and produce greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

To UBQ, that means a nearly limitless supply of raw material.

“The fact is that the majority of waste goes to a landfill or is leaked into our natural environments because there simply aren’t holistic and economically viable technologies out there,” said Sveen.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]