US, for First Time, to Sell Coal to Ukraine

The U.S. said Monday that for the first time it will sell coal to Ukraine, easing its reliance on Russia and Moscow-back separatists in eastern Ukraine to meet its energy needs.

The accord calls for Xcoal Energy & Resources in the eastern state of Pennsylvania to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal by the end of the year to Ukraine’s state-owned energy firm Centrenergo to help it heat homes and businesses in the coming winter months. The first shipment, at a cost of $113 a metric ton, is expected to leave the U.S. port of Baltimore in August.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the transaction was “crucial to the path forward to achieve energy dominance” for the United States. President Donald Trump has vowed to bring back the country’s coal industry, which has lost thousands of jobs as the U.S. has turned sharply toward use of cleaner and cheaper forms of energy, chiefly natural gas, even as demand for coal has risen in Europe and Asia.

Ukraine has struggled to meet its energy needs since March, when it cut off coal deliveries from the eastern part of its country controlled by Russian-backed separatists fighting the Kyiv government for control of the industrialized sector. Ukraine has called for a complete ban on coal imports from Russia, which Kyiv and Western countries have accused of supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine that has claimed 10,000 lives in the last three years.

Speaking at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Xcoal president Ernie Thrasher called the deal “historic” and said the company was “committed to serving Ukraine’s needs.”

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With Uber in Turmoil, Lyft’s Ridership Surpasses All of 2016

Ride-hailing service Lyft carried more passengers through June this year than it did in all of last year as it capitalized on missteps at Uber.

 

The company says ridership through June surpassed the 162.5 million rides it gave in all of 2016. A spokeswoman wouldn’t give an exact number.

 

Lyft has made its gains as some shun much larger rival, Uber. Riders boycotted Uber after allegations that it took advantage of a New York taxi boycott in protest of President Donald Trump’s first order on immigration. There also were reports of widespread sexual harassment.

 

Lyft wouldn’t comment on Uber but says it added 160 U.S. cities this year. The company operates only in the U.S.

 

Uber says it’s given more than 5 billion rides since 2010.

 

 

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Used Book Sales Boom in S. Africa as Economic Recession Bites

South Africa entered an economic recession in June, and the country’s unemployment rate is fast approaching 30 percent, according to the government statistics agency. But for the sellers of secondhand books, business has never been better.

Eric Nofal, who has been selling used books for almost 30 years, shows a customer around his store in Johannesburg.

He says he recently faced “intense” competition before launching his fifth bookshop in the city.

“My ex-wife also wanted to open up a shop in this area, but I beat her to the punch, so she is a bit [angry] with me, actually!,” he admitted.

Nofal adds  “I am making money and it is going into my third month and that is pretty good for a new business to make money so quickly. Books have come back.”

It is a big contrast to five years ago when Nofal’s sales dropped dramatically. Book lovers were embracing electronic reading devices like Kindles. He had to close six stores.

But now, Nofal says, the “kindle craze” may be over and many South Africans want to turn “real pages.”

Yet many of his clients give another reason for no longer buying new books.

“They have gone up a hell of a lot. Obviously it depends on your import or your [South African] rand level,” he said.

The rand has dropped steadily against the dollar since the end of 2011, when one dollar was valued at about eight rand. Presently, a dollar is valued at 13 rand.

“A new book should cost you about the price of a meal. In the UK [Britain] that is about right, a meal costs about seven pounds and a [new] book costs about seven pounds. Here on the other hand a reasonable meal for one person will cost you about 70 rand, 80 rand and a [new] book costs 350 [rand]. People just can not afford [new] books,” he said.

Dealers across Johannesburg put the number of second hand book stores at about 50, up from about 25 just a few years ago.

But used books are not always cheaper.

Unpacking hand-me-down books inside his shop, Doron Locketz says that despite the poor economy, some South Africans spend “big money” on rare second hand titles.

“We sold a first edition of Long Walk to Freedom, and the big thing about it was that it was signed, pre the release date, by Mandela. It went to one of our collectors,” he said.

Locketz sold the autographed copy of Nelson Mandela’s bestseller for almost 80,000 rand … more than $6,000 US.

But he says the collectible book market is very small, and he mostly sells used books to a general audience.

“I am delighted to increasingly see more black customers, younger ones, who really have, many of them, a passion for books,” he said.

Economists are predicting a bleak outlook for South Africa for the next few years. So second hand book dealers like Locketz expect sales to rise even further in the near future.

 

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Уряд: номінальна заробітна плата українців у червні зросла на понад 37%

У Кабінеті міністрів України повідомили, що номінальна заробітна плата українців у червні 2017 року зросла у порівнянні з відповідним періодом 2016 року на 37,9 відсотка, і становила 7360 гривень. Про це інформує урядовий портал з посиланням на дані статистики.

Згідно з повідомленням, найбільше зростання заробітної плати у червні було в сфері виробництва комп’ютерів, електронної та оптичної продукції (12136 гривні), електронного устаткування (7038), автопрому (7798) та на виробництві коксу і продуктів нафтопереробки (8802 грн).

«У червні 2017 року у порівнянні з відповідним періодом 2016 року номінальна заробітна плата працівників освіти зросла на 51,9% (7151 гривні), діяльності у сфері творчості, мистецтва та розваг – на 48,4% (6159 гривні)», – повідомили в уряді.

Економісти в ефірі Радіо Свобода нещодавно заявили, що номінальне підвищення рівня зарплати на сьогодні не є відчутним для громадян, оскільки реальні доходи українців є значно меншими. Тенденція до зростання зарплат є, однак в Україні вони досі лишаються значно меншими за сусідні європейські країни.

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Запаси газу в Україні за тиждень зросли до 13 мільярдів кубометрів – «Укртрансгаз»

Запаси природного газу в українських підземних сховищах газу (ПСГ) у період з 22 до 29 липня зросли на 3,1%, до більш як 13 мільярдів кубометрів. Про це свідчать дані оператора газотранспортної системи України держкомпанії «Укртрансгаз».

Раніше міністр енергетики і вугільної промисловості Ігор Насалик заявив про плани нагромадження на 1 жовтня 2017 року 17 мільярдів кубометрів для проходження опалювального сезону 2017–2018 років.

При підготовці до минулого опалювального періоду профільне міністерство також наполягало на необхідності нагромадити 17 мільярдів кубометрів газу, але керівництво «Нафтогазу України» запевняло, що 14,5 мільярда кубометрів буде цілком достатньо. У результаті, в опалювальний сезон 2016–2017 років Україна ввійшла із запасами «блакитного» палива на рівні 14,7 і завершила сезон на рівні 8,4 мільярда кубометрів.

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Crocodile Industry Hopes to Boost Australia Aboriginal Communities

The crocodile industry in Australia’s Northern Territory, a new report says, is worth more than four times the previous estimate of US $80 million. Officials hope the findings will give poorer aboriginal communities the chance to develop crocodile farming industries.

The saltwater creature is the world’s largest reptile. In Australia, they were once hunted to the brink of extinction, mainly for their skins, which were used to make durable leather goods and clothes.

They have been a protected species since the early 1970s, and their numbers in Australia’s tropical north have soared.

Economic opportunities

The Northern Territory regional government now sees economic opportunities for indigenous communities, where officials want to see an expansion of crocodile egg collection programs.

The eggs would help to stock crocodile farms owned by aboriginal groups, or traditional owners of land, which would supply reptile skins to big fashion houses including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, as well as supplying crocodile meat.

“We are looking at direct investments into rangers to make sure that we see on country a growth in the crocodile industry, so the harvesting of eggs, the growing of the crocodile locally and remotely, which is a very important and valuable use of traditional country done by traditional owners,” said Michael Gunner, the Northern Territory’s chief minister.

Hunting for sport?

An independent Australian MP, Bob Katter, has said that as crocodile numbers increase, so does the threat to people. He believes big game trophy hunters should be allowed to shoot them for sport. Katter has argued that crocodile safaris would boost the incomes of indigenous communities.

While the Northern Territory government supports crocodile safaris, the final decision rests with Australia’s federal government, which has refused to allow them. Conservationists have insisted that the shooting of iconic animals for profit in Australia is abhorrent and should never be allowed.

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Apple Accused of Bowing to Chinese Censors

Apple, Inc. has confirmed that it is removing some applications providing virtual personal networks, or VPNs, from its China App Store, to comply with new Chinese regulations — a move critics say is capitulating to internet censorship.

Apple confirmed the move in an email to National Public Radio on Saturday, after several VPN providers announced that their apps had been removed from the China App Store.

Software made outside China can sometimes be used to get around China’s domestic internet firewalls that block content that the government finds objectionable. Critics call China’s “great firewall” one of the world’s most advanced censorship systems.

VPN apps pulled

“Earlier this year,” Apple said, “China’s MIIT [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] announced that all developers offering VPNs must obtain a license from the government. We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations.”

App maker Express VPN said in a blog post that its app was removed from the China Apple Store, and it noted that “preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS [Apple operating systems] have been removed.”

The statement continued, “We’re disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China’s censorship efforts.”

Another company, Star VPN, also announced it had been contacted by Apple with the same notice.

China successful

Golden Frog, a company that makes security software, told the New York Times that its app also had been taken down from the China App Store.

“We gladly filed an amicus brief in support of Apple and their backdoor encryption battle with the FBI, so we are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure from China to remove VPN apps without citing any Chinese law or regulation that makes VPN illegal,” said Sunday Yokubaitis, president of the company.

The Times reports that this is the first time China has successfully used its influence with a major foreign technology platform such as Apple, to flex its muscle with software makers.

China is Apple’s largest market outside the United States.

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