Lessons from Housing Privatization Can Be Applied to New Installation Initiatives

first_imgThe Army’s successful housing privatization initiative can be used as a model to guide future reforms of DOD’s real estate portfolio, two former high-ranking Army officials say in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal.“The program’s success shows how partnerships between business and the military can often achieve better outcomes than the military can achieve on its own. This is especially so when applied to the vast infrastructure that consumes more than $200 billion of today’s defense budget,” say Sandy Apgar, who served as assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment from 1998-2001, and Jack Keane, who served as the Army’s vice chief of staff from 1999-2003.Apgar and Keane suggest that other assets, such as offices, warehousing and maintenance, could be monetized and their performance improved.“If the Defense Department were authorized to follow the best practices of American business and shed 10 percent to 20 percent of its infrastructure-related costs, it could save $20 billion to $40 billion a year,” they state.They cite five principles of defense reform that the next administration should follow in launching new initiatives:integrate public needs with private means and methods;plan from the inside out — military-business partnerships start with the soldier and the family, not the budget or the building;act strategically, trading short-term gains for long-term benefits;cross institutional, functional and geographic boundaries — bypassing DOD’s vertical silos and risk-averse culture can eliminate overhead and produce outcome-based systems; andfocus more on best-value outcomes than least-cost activities.“Partnerships have shown that the Pentagon’s conventional contracting methods can be more costly in the long run while risking mediocre results,” Apgar and Keane say. Dan Cohen AUTHORlast_img read more

Wilmington OBITUARIES Week of July 8 2018

first_imgWILMINGTON, MA — Here are the obituaries published on Wilmington Apple during the week of July 8, 2018:Lived In Wilmington At Time Of Passing:NonePreviously Lived In Wilmington:Philip F. Denner, Jr., 93Ralph Dixon Knight, 75Worked In/Volunteered In/Connected To Wilmington:NoneLike Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedWilmington OBITUARIES (Week of July 21, 2019)In “Obituaries”Wilmington OBITUARIES (Week of July 14, 2019)In “Obituaries”Wilmington OBITUARIES (Week of July 28, 2019)In “Obituaries”last_img read more

Google Lens gives you shopping dining and translation help

first_img Share your voice 30 Photos Google Maps for Android Google Search gets AR, and Google Lens wants to be your… Now playing: Watch this: The coolest things we saw at Google I/O With the Translate filter, Google Lens will detect a language and overlay a translation on top of the words. It works across over 100 languages, according to Google.The Text filter allows users to copy and paste text from objects including Wi-Fi passwords, gift card codes and recipes onto their phone; and Shopping provides similar items when the camera is pointing at clothing, furniture, or home decor, as well as barcode scanning capabilities.Read: Google brings AR and Lens closer to the future of searchAuto provides search results based on whatever object a user is pointing the camera at.”We’re taking Google Lens and taking it from, ‘oh, it’s an identification tool, what’s this, show me things like this,’ to an AR browser, meaning you can actually superimpose information right on the camera,” Aparna Chennapragada, vice president and general manager for camera and AR products at Google, told CNET earlier in May.”One of the questions we had was, if we can teach the camera to read, can we use the camera to help people read?” she added regarding the Lens Translate feature. “This is obviously useful in cases where you’re in a foreign city and you can’t speak the language, but in many parts of the world, people can’t speak or read their own language.” 4:19 Tags Comments Review • The rebuilt Google Maps for Android is better than ever Google Lens is getting five more filters.Google on Tuesday launched five new Lens filters for subjects ranging from food to foreign languages.The new Google Lens features will provide better and faster overlays of information over real-world objects, the company said.  Google gave CNET’s Scott Stein an early look at what Lens filters can do just ahead of its I/O developer conference earlier this month. The Dining filter will automatically highlight popular dishes on a menu, tapping into Google Maps to see photos and reviews of specific dishes.”And when you’re done with your meal, just point the camera at your receipt, and Lens can help calculate the tip and split the bill,” Google said. Mobile Tech Industry Mobile Apps Phones Digital Media Online 0 Googlelast_img read more

Mahindra Verito Vibe Set to Debut in India Today

first_imgIndia’s largest utility vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) is all set to launch its much anticipated Verito Vibe in India on Wednesday (5 June).The vehicle is powered by 1.5 litre Renault K9K diesel engine which would deliver 65 PS and a mileage of 21 kilometres per liter. The sub-4 metre version of M&M’s existing Verito sedan was said to be hatchback model. However, there are also reports saying that the model is going to be a compact salon. The vehcile is expected to fall in the price bracket of ₹5 lakh and is likely to come in three variants like its Verito sedan – D2, D4 and D6.M&M which is gearing to enter to a new segment with the launch of Verito Vibe hopes to regain its sales in the domestic auto market. The decline of car sales in India has also affected M&M. The company, which is heavily dependent on diesel vehicles, reported 1.2 percent decrease in its total sales at 43,460 units in May 2013. The domestic sales of the company was up by 5.4 percent, clocking at 42,104 units against 39,938 units in the same month last year. On the downside, exports declined by 67 percent at 1,356 units.”We have achieved an overall growth of 5 per cent in our domestic volumes during May 2013 for our automotive sector, in spite of a challenging environment. The growth in capital investment and private spending have also slowed down which is a cause for concern,” said M&M Chief Executive (Automotive Division) Pravin Shah .last_img read more

Air India divestment More positives than negatives to a Maharajas selloff

first_imgAUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH: The government should expedite Air India’s sale by increasing the higher FDI component for foreign buyers who can employ the right professional expertise and marketing know-how to turn around the beleaguered airline.Creative CommonsBad mergers create bad blood – in the skies and on the ground. When the government merged India’s two state-owned airlines in 2007, Air India and domestic carrier Indian Airlines, the combined entity would soon grow into a megalith symbolising all the shortcomings of India’s public sector.In just a generation, competition from the private sector, rising fuel costs as a percentage of operational expenditure, strikes by opposing factions of pilots, freebies and upgrades to politicians and bureaucrats, and huge discounting would move the Maharaja from monopolising air travel to being only India’s third largest airline with a 11.8 percent market share.But the literal bottomline here is: Air India has lost money almost every year since its merger despite the UPA II government infusing Rs 30,000 crore into Air India under a financial restructuring plan (FRP). Total equity infused in the airline thus far is Rs 22,280 crore. Banks currently have an exposure of about Rs 53,980 crore.A diverting fact is that state-owned Air India utilised government bailouts while launching price wars with other airlines as part of its survival requirements, leading to the logical conclusion that the government was helping subsidise monopolistic behaviour.Another FRP by the present BJP dispensation to infuse Rs 42,182 crore as additional equity over 22 years has been delayed as the airline grapples with the problem of handling over Rs 50,000 crore in debt, of which an estimated Rs 23,000 crore is by way of aircraft loan advances. It is a no-win situation exacerbated by the airline’s asset deterioration down the years and its inability to even control its operating losses since 2011.Last year, for the first time in about a decade, Air India managed to post Rs 105 crore in operating profit (net loss after tax in 2016 — Rs 3,836.77 crore) on the back of fresh capital infusion from the government and lower ATF prices. But was the intangible benefits of holding on to a 13 percent market share worth splattering more red ink on a battered balance-sheet? The government didn’t think so. Its decision to divest the national carrier spoke of the triumph of experience over, often unrealistic, hope.Dreams Un-linedThe national career was a symbol of public sector ingenuity and operational inventiveness down the decades till its much- ballyhooed merger with Indian Airlines. Then, the losses started piling up with fresh competition from the private sector on key sectors within India. Even Vijay Mallya’s doomed Kingfisher took valuable market share away from Air India. Middle East carriers like Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways gained top-of-the-mind recall for expatriate travellers to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah and Muscat.For a government long in denial about the dismal picture which Air India presented, the benefits of disinvesting the airline in a single swoop are far more than taking a piecemeal approach as recommended by critics who suggest that it retain 51 percent in the asset-heavy airline. Air India owns prime land in cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, the sale of which, disinvestment supporters expect will vault the airline out of troubled times. But this asset class, going by the airline’s own assessment, would yield only Rs 10,000 crore which is not a scratch on its huge debt burden. Raghavendra NThe Dreamliner aircraft and its entitled pilot crews have remained a thorn in the airline’s flesh to this day. Pilot strikes and mutinies since 2012 and largescale operational mismanagement took the airlines to a new low. The airline incurred operational losses of Rs 5,537 crore in 2012 (or Rs 15 crore every day). Subsequent years were not too different, though going by the government’s claims, Air India was actually paring down its losses fiscal after fiscal.Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had exuded confidence about the airline’s performance since last year, and earlier this year, asserted that it would show operating profits of Rs 300 crore in 2016-17, and the government had no plans to privatise the airline – till the latter poured cold water over his enthusiasm by announcing that a disinvestment program to sell the airline and recover its losses would soon be underway.The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) made things stickier when it said that the airline had actually posted operating losses of Rs 321.40 crore in the April-June period of 2015-16, when the government had claimed a profit.But Air India said that its operational performance targets were in line with the turnaround plan. A spokesperson said that “considerable improvement” in on-time performance at 78.2 percent was achieved in 2015-16 as compared to 68.2 percent in 2011-12. The available evidence didn’t justify the airline’s claims.Taking the debt-free roadThe logical answer to Air India’s problems is privatisation — but politicians and bureaucrats, who misuse India’s flag carrier as much as its employees do –, would baulk at such a move. Air India has been surviving on the Rs 30,000-crore bailout package put together by UPA-II in 2012 to help its turnaround, as well as debt relief provided by public sector banks. It is estimated that even a well executed asset sale may not fully cover the airline’s liabilities, and taxpayers cannot escape footing part of the loss — either directly in case the government pays off the airline’s creditors, or indirectly if the public sector banks write off their loans to the airline.The three options on the table could be a full 100 percent selloff, a 74 percent stake sale or retaining a 49 percent share in the airline, as per a tentative note from the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Raghavendra NThe decision to form an Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism to take forward the disinvestment plan is timely. But this Mechanism should first shed clarity on how the eventual sale will be executed — whether the airline will be fully privatised or hived off asset-wise to interested bidders like IndiGo, which has expressed interest in buying out the carrier’s international operations and peak hour landing slots in airports like London and New York. These slots if sold should fetch the government at least Rs 3,000 crore.A sale of market slots in airports like Delhi and Mumbai would be attractive to foreign airlines to invest in India, though the government’s stakeholding and quantum of divestment will come under their scrutiny before entering the bidding fray. Experts have suggested that the value of the heritage Air India brand can’t be overlooked either, when even Kingfisher’s hostile lenders valued that brand at Rs 160 crore.If both foreign and prospective domestic buyers like Indigo, are allowed to bid freely for the airline, more value could be realised from a sale. There have been suggestions to add more value to the airline’s assets by hiving off non-core assets with high profit potential into a shell company and demerger and strategic disinvestment of profit-making subsidiaries. This make sense only if the government considers making key changes in its FDI policy to allow foreign investors to buy a more substantial stake in Air India. If it is possible to invest 74 percent FDI in telecom, then why not in aviation?The highly rated Tata-Air Asia Berhad JV which saw Air Asia grabbing a foothold in the huge Indian market, has still not fulfilled its initial promise. Going by the record, almost all airlines that have lost money have only themselves to blame. Their painpoints include inefficient operations, aggressive expansion without consolidation, balance-sheets which are leveraged unduly high, improper route planning and wrong pricing of tickets. These factors have contributed more to the downfall of many an airline meeting its Waterloo in the Indian aviation market, rather than the market itself — which is growing and has many milestones ahead of it. Carriers like IndiGo have excelled in the same market. Stabilising Air India will be an important step ahead for Indian aviation. For a start, in the event of a successful sale, the government and its ministries must start seeing Air India as a revenue source and not a revenue generator.last_img read more

Trump warns Syria missiles will be coming

first_imgA Syrian government forces soldier walks over the rubble of buildings in the former rebel-held town of Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Wednesday. Photo: AFPUS President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that “missiles will be coming” in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria, as the UN chief urged world powers to stop a face-off with Russia from spiraling out of control.With punitive US military action seemingly imminent, Russia scrambled to deflect blame from its ally Bashar al-Assad and, according to a monitor group, Syrian forces evacuated key defense buildings in Damascus.Trump’s warlike tweets came in response to a warning from Russia’s ambassador to Beirut, who took to a television network run by the armed group Hezbollah to declare that any US missiles would be shot down “as well as the sources they were fired from.”If the US action follows the pattern of a previous punitive strike on Syria last year, it will begin with a salvo of cruise missiles fired from American warships in the Mediterranean, as Trump implied when he tweeted they would be “nice, new and ‘smart.’”Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as CIA director Mike Pompeo huddled at the White House on Wednesday to discuss options and game out the situation.“The president’s national security team met today. That meeting was chaired by the vice president to discuss a number of options,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.With the UN Security Council failing thus far to find a diplomatic solution, Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday time was running out.“Today, I called the Ambassadors of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council to reiterate my deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control,” he said, referring to the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.Moscow and Washington have so far vetoed each other’s motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use.Opponents of unilateral US action called an emergency closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council for later Thursday.Meanwhile, Moscow said the formerly rebel-held district of Eastern Ghouta-including Douma, the target of Saturday’s attack-had been “totally stabilized” and would soon be patrolled by Russian military police.But the Russian army continued to deny their side’s latest victory came after Assad launched a chemical attack on the last rebel-held pocket of the enclave in the Damascus suburbs, instead accusing the White Helmets civil defense organization of staging the massacre.Trump’s spokeswoman dismissed this idea, and pointedly refused to acknowledge that concern about the risks of a direct confrontation with Russia would hold the US military back.“The intelligence provided certainly paints a different picture,” she said. “The president holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”But while the Russian president’s lieutenants continued to up the ante with threats and allegations, Vladimir Putin himself adopted a more statesmanlike tone, in remarks to new ambassadors presenting their credentials at the Kremlin.“The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and international relations will take a constructive path,” he said.Trump’s tweets were more belligerent-he told Russia “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”-and declared that US relations with Russia have plunged to a historic low.But he notably also said there was “no reason for this,” reiterated his hope for talks with Putin to halt a new arms race, and blamed his domestic political opponents for poisoning ties.Assad’s Damascus regime, which has long accused Washington of supporting its armed opponents in the country’s bloody seven-year-old civil war, hit back at Trump’s “reckless escalation.”OPCW to deployTrump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday’s alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people.British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Thursday, while French President Emmanuel Macron is to decide on a response in the coming days, having insisted he does “not want an escalation” and that any response would focus on Syria’s chemical capabilities, not on allies of the regime.As it looked to head off the threat of Western strikes, Syria said it had invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has blamed the regime for previous attacks, to visit the site.The OPCW said it would “shortly” deploy a fact-finding team to Douma for an investigation, but US officials said they were working from their own information and would not necessarily hold back.Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal in 2013, narrowly avoiding American and French air strikes in retaliation for a suspected sarin attack.That incident, which killed hundreds, also took place in Eastern Ghouta.last_img read more

Baker Institute forum to examine legal battle behind stem cell research

first_imgAddThis ShareCONTACT: Franz BrotzenPHONE: 713-348-6775E-MAIL: franz.brotzen@rice.eduBaker Institute forum to examine legal battle behind stem cell researchScientific research using human embryonic stem cells was thrown into turmoil in August when a federal judge ruled it violated a congressional amendment. An Oct. 4 presentation at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, “The Fate of Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Examining the Legal Battle Behind the Science,” will look at the impact of the ruling on scientists and stem cell research, future legal actions and how the Obama administration and Congress can address the issues created by the court’s decision. Speakers the will include Robert Riddle, a patent lawyer with the law firm of Baker Botts, and Richard Behringer, professor of genetics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute and Rice’s Malcolm Gillis University Professor, will deliver the opening remarks.On Aug. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in the preliminary motions of Sherley v. Sebelius that funding human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. The amendment prohibits the creation of hESC lines from destroyed embryos. The court issued an injunction blocking all National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for hESC research, which resulted in the NIH removing all hESC grants from review and blocking funding to newly awarded grants. Research at NIH’s Bethesda, Md., campus was halted as well. On Sept. 8, the Department of Justice appealed; in response, a federal appeals court temporarily suspended the injunction to hear arguments from both the plaintiffs in Sherley v. Sebelius and the Department of Justice. Though hESC research is permitted — pending the appeals court ruling — Lamberth’s decision could ultimately ban funding regardless of whether the appeals court permanently stays the injunction. These tumultuous court rulings have left scientists uncertain of the future of the $140 million in grants currently funded by the NIH. For more on the presentation, go to http://www.bakerinstitute.org/events/esc1010. Support for the Oct. 4 program has been provided by the State of Qatar Endowment for International Stem Cell Policy.The event begins at 4 p.m. in Baker Hall’s Kelly International Conference Center. For directions, go to http://bakerinstitute.org/contact_directions.cfm. Members of the news media who want to attend should RSVP to Franz Brotzen at franz.brotzen@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.last_img read more