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Monday, April 29, 2013

NEWS: Mongolia to host UN World Environment Day 2013

Originally posted on UN.org - Feb 22, 2013

Herdsmen drive cattle through Western Mongolia. The government suspended mining licenses to protect the traditional nomadic lifestyle.

Mongolia will host this year’s World Environment Day (WED) celebration on 5 June, which will focus on reducing food waste and loss, the United Nations announced today.

The Asian nation was chosen for its efforts to shift towards a green economy in its major economic sectors such as mining and for promoting environmental awareness among youth, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a news release.

“Mongolia is facing enormous challenges, including growing pressure on food security, traditional nomadic herding and water supplies as a result of the impacts of climate change,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Indeed it is estimated that annual mean temperature has increased by over 2°C during the last 70 years and precipitation has decreased in most regions, except the western part of the country, indicating that Mongolia is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to global warming.

“Yet its Government is also determined to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities of a less-polluting and more-sustainable future – from a moratorium on new mining pending improved environmental regulations to plans to become a renewable energy power-house and exporter of clean energy regionally,” he said.

Observance of World Environment Day began in 1972 as a way to raise awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action. This year’s theme for the Day is “Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint,” which builds on a global campaign of the same name launched earlier this year by UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other partners to reduce food and waste loss.

The announcement was made during UNEP’s Governing Council session in Nairobi, Kenya, where hundreds of environment ministers and civil society representatives met to discuss some of the most pressing environmental issues.

“I am sure that as the global host of WED, Mongolia will demonstrate to the world that a transition to a green economy is possible, even within some of the most traditionally challenging industrial sectors, when leadership, vision, smart policies and political will are translated into action on the ground,” Mr. Steiner said.

During the Council session, Mr. Steiner also announced that a UNEP mission to Mongolia was scheduled to depart in April to assist the country in its transition to a green economy in areas such as energy, land and water.



Word List:
  • green: concerned with the protection of the environment; supporting the protection of the environment as a political principle
  • vulnerable: weak and easily hurt physically or emotionally
  • seize: to be quick to make use of a chance, an opportunity, etc.
  • moratorium: a temporary stopping of an activity, especially by official agreement
Pronunciation MP3:
= vulnerable
= seize
= moratorium

Monday, April 22, 2013

NEWS: East Asia’s New Peacemaker: Mongolia?

Originally posted on The Diplomat - Mar 15, 2013
By J. Berkshire Miller

From provocations coming from North Korea to various island spats, East Asia is rife with hotspots. Could Mongolia play a role?

The past year has heightened some important security landmines in East Asia. There is the usual cycle of “provocation followed by negotiation” by a not-so reformed regime in North Korea. More concerning however is the intractable, diplomatic tussle between Tokyo and Beijing over islands in the East China Sea. Add to this the fractured bilateral relationship between the U.S.’ two most important allies in the region – Japan and South Korea – and there appears to be too many problems to be solved by a “rebalance.”

Against this backdrop, there is an underutilized diplomatic asset that could potentially help these quarrels. As Elizabeth Economy pointed out last month on The Diplomat, and others have alluded to elsewhere, Mongolia could take on an enhanced role in mediating the region’s quarrels. The most obvious situation mentioned is the stalemate between the U.S., Japan and South Korea on one side and North Korea on the other. Economy stressed the potential benefits of Ulaanbaatar’s involvement: “While we wait for Beijing’s foreign policy to coalesce, we might look to Beijing’s north for some help. Mongolian officials have regularly hosted their North Korean counterparts for national security and economic discussions.”

Indeed, Mongolia attaches importance to its relationship with Pyongyang and has gone out of its way to point this out to outside observers. For example, in a 2011 speech at the Brookings Institution, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj noted the importance of Mongolia’s bond with the North: “(Mongolia has) a unique relation with North Korea. We have our embassy there, we have governmental line to connect, and every year meetings, and now we are developing an exchange program. And when they (North Koreans) come to Mongolia, they see that there is a different way of living, a different way of governance.”

Critics will argue that Mongolia’s window into North Korea may be merely cosmetic and incapable of producing tangible results. However, there is no debating the fact that Ulaanbaatar is interested in playing this intermediary role.

Mongolia currently holds the Presidency of the Community of Democracies, a global intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries that seek to promote democratic rules and strengthen democratic norms and institutions around the world. While Ulaanbaatar’s term as chair will end in April, this is a position that Elbegdorj’s government has taken great pride in as Mongolia continues to work through its own growing pains on its way to becoming a model democracy in a region that is flush with corruption. Elbegdorj has leveraged Mongolia’s history before its democratic reforms to push for changes in Central Asia. While it is hard to equate this effort with reforms (the region remains one of the most corrupt in the world), no one believed that Mongolia would suddenly change decades of ingrained corruption.

Turning back to East Asia, there seems to be an opportunity for Mongolia to bring its diplomacy to the next level. Considering the dearth of policy options on North Korea, a stronger dialogue through Mongolia – even if tacit – should not be dismissed by Washington, Seoul or Tokyo. As Elbegdorj has noted previously, “Mongolia was 20 some years ago, like a North Korea like society…. Today we are sharing a community of democracy. Today Mongolia is the champion for the global fight for democracy.”

Last year, Japan accepted Mongolia’s offer to serve as an intermediately in the long stalled talks between Tokyo and North Korea on resolving Pyongyang’s past abduction of Japanese nationals. However, much has happened since then. In December 2012, Japan elected a new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who has traditionally held a more hawkish stance on North Korea. This coupled with Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch and nuclear test has once again scuttled that chance of a meaningful thaw.

But there are other opportunities for dialogue with the North. The moribund Six-Party talks are not going to be resumed anytime soon and the Obama administration should start looking for meaningful alternative approaches. President Obama’s now-bankrupt policy of strategic patience has in practice led to strategic ambiguity and benefitted Kim Jong-un as he builds his credentials as a “military-first” leader.

While regional democracy promotion in Central Asia and its relationship with North Korea are noteworthy, Mongolian diplomacy – while limited in capacity – needs to go the extra step. There are other disputes in the region where Mongolian involvement could yield tangible benefits.

For example, Mongolia could be a useful venue for Japan and Russia to meet over their long-standing territorial dispute. A third party will probably not change the calculus of either Tokyo or Moscow, but it has the potential to institutionalize talks and promote sustained discussion. This would avoid the long delays between talks that have become the norm as a result of political statements or actions.

Of course, this is not to advocate for Ulaanbaatar positioning itself to adjudicate every dispute in East Asia. Mongolia will need to pick its battles and should distance itself from intractable and sensitive disputes such as the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Nonetheless, there is room – and the need – for Mongolia to initiate a strong diplomatic offensive in East Asia. It is clear that Mongolia covets this role but it will need the requisite support of Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.



Word List:
  • heightened: if a feeling or an effect heightens, or something heightens it, it becomes stronger or increases
  • intractable: very difficult to deal with
  • tussle: a short struggle, fight or argument especially in order to get something
  • underutilized: not used as much as it could or should be
  • alluded: to mention something in an indirect way
  • norms: standards of behaviour that are typical of or accepted within a particular group or society
  • flush: completely level with each other
  • ingrained: that has existed for a long time and is therefore difficult to change
  • dearth: a lack of something; the fact of there not being enough of something
  • tacit: that is suggested indirectly or understood, rather than said in words
  • hawkish: preferring to use military action rather than peaceful discussion in order to solve a political problem
  • moribund: no longer effective and about to come to an end completely
  • ambiguity: the state of being difficult to understand or explain because of involving many different aspects
  • adjudicate: to make an official decision about who is right in a disagreement between two groups or organizations
  • covets: to want something very much, especially something that belongs to somebody else
Pronunciation MP3:
= heighten
= intractable
= tussle
= underutilized
= allude
= norm
= flush
= ingrain
= dearth
= tacit
= hawkish
= moribund
= ambiguity
= adjudicate
= covet















Monday, April 15, 2013

NEWS: Apps, Websites, Services & Resources for Students

Originally posted on DailyTekk.com

College life can be crazy… that’s why we’ve compiled a list of awesome tech tools for university students. Whether you are studying, socializing, finding food (our first three categories) or looking for a way to pay for tuition, we’ve got you covered. As usual, we’ve included plenty of brand new startups so there is a ton of fresh new content to explore. Isn’t it nice to have everything in one convenient, bookmarkable place? So, I thought I’d hook you up with some actually useful tech tools that will help you rock at everything from academics to relaxing. Game on!

Study

  1. StudyHall.com - Study, share, connect with your classmates.
  2. Quizlet – Study languages, vocabulary or almost anything (share with friends).
  3. iStidiez Pro – Sophisticated student planner for Mac, iPhone or iPad.
  4. Wolfram|Alpha – Enter what you want to calculate or know about.
  5. STUDYBLUE – Make online flashcards and notes. Study anywhere, anytime.
  6. Boundless – The free textbook replacement; high-quality, open-licensed content.
  7. Brightstorm – Quick homework help (math, science, test prep).
  8. Notesolution - Ace your exams with the best notes at your school.
  9. instaGrok – Understand concepts like gravity thoroughly and intuitively.
  10. Chegg – Expert help in all subjects, eTextbooks, course reviews and more.
  11. OpenStudy – Social learning network and global study group.
  12. Koofers - Free test bank, lecture notes, professor ratings and more.
  13. Desmos – A beautiful, free online graphic calculator.

Socialize

  1. Path – Stay connected with family and close friends.
  2. Pair – An app just for couples.
  3. Meetup – Find a meetup group near you by topic or interest.
  4. Wendr - Discover what your friends are doing tonight.
  5. Flaunt - A social network for student professionals.
  6. Highlight – A fun way to learn more about people nearby.
  7. Ourspot – Rediscover relationships.
  8. Pearescope – Privately introduces you to nearby friends of friends.
  9. Banjo – Notifies you when any of your friends are near.
  10. Everyme – The private social network.
  11. Diaspora – A creative way to remix your world.
  12. Touch – Share and chat with your closest friends and family.

Eat

  1. Thryve - Start eating what makes you feel great.
  2. Evernote Food – Find and remember memorable food experiences on your iPhone.
  3. CookItFor.Us – Get the recipes you crave made.
  4. Feastie – Search top food blogs for the tastiest new recipes.

Stay Organized


  1. Evernote – Remember everything.
  2. Schooltraq – A smarter academic planner for a smarter you.
  3. Scheedule – The calendar reinvented for students.
  4. Workflowy – Organize your brain.
  5. inClass – The last school app you’ll ever need (schedule, notes and more).
  6. Springpad – Smart notebooks to organize and share whats important to you.
  7. Awesome Note - Combine notes and todos in one app (iPad and iPhone).
  8. Clear – Breathtakingly-simple todos for iPhone.
  9. Things – Comprehensive todo list for Mac, iPad and iPhone.
  10. Wunderlist – Free and easy-to-use task manager.
  11. Any.DO – Award-winning reminder app that helps you do anything (iOS/Android).

Finance Your Education


  1. Campus Shift – Make money, save money, have fun!
  2. Alltuition – The college financial aid common application.
  3. ScholarPRO – Get matched with personalized scholarships; manage them online.
  4. SoFi – Connects students and alumni for community financing opportunities.
  5. Go Financial Aid – Advisors and consultants for FAFSA and CSS profile.
  6. BookRenter – Rent your textbooks, save a bundle.
  7. MeritAid.com – Comprehensive directory of merit and academic scholarships.
  8. Scholarships.com – Find scholarships while colleges recruit you.
  9. Learndipity – Scholarships + savings.

College Life


  1. SparkCollege – Blogs, admissions, college life and school reviews.
  2. Spill - Peer support network for empathy and encouragement.
  3. OOHLALA – Energize the student experience.
  4. Localmind - Know what’s happening around town, right now.
  5. Roommat.es – Makes living with roommates easy.
  6. HackCollege – Student-powered life-hacking. Work smarter, not harder.
  7. UniYu – Support network for students.
  8. JusCollege – Social experiences, local services and deals on goods.
  9. Sumpto – Free stuff for college students.
  10. UCampus – Better connect with your city and school.
  11. 99U – Insights for making ideas happen.
  12. Amazon Student - Exclusive deals for college students.
  13. Blog U – Inside higher ed.

Online Learning


  1. Khan Academy - Learn almost anything for free.
  2. Udemy - Online courses from the world’s top instructors.
  3. Coursera - The world’s best courses, online, for free.
  4. Udacity - Free online courses from world renowned university professors.
  5. Skillshare - A community marketplace for classes.
  6. TED-Ed - Lessons worth sharing.
  7. Sophia - Learn in your own way. Over 25,000 tutorials.
  8. Memrise - The free and fun way to learn anything.
  9. The Concord Consortium - Digital learning for science, math and engineering.
  10. General Assembly - A network of campuses for technology, business and design.

Miscellaneous


  1. Acceptly – College prep; see your chances of getting in.
  2. Inkling – Interactive books for iPad and the web.
  3. Kno – eTextbooks for iPad, Galaxy Note, Windows and the web.
  4. 30 Second MBA – Tips from business leaders.
  5. Fit Campus – Get fit, win prizes.
  6. Thoughtback - Program your mind, one thought at a time.
  7. Acceptional – Sample college admissions essays.

Monday, April 8, 2013

NEWS: Dividing Up Mongolia's Mining Riches from Oyu Tolgoi

Originally posted on BBC.co.uk - March 27, 2013
By Tim Bowler


The Oyu Tolgoi mine will boost Mongolia's GDP by a third when fully operational

Mongolia has for centuries been characterised as a nation of nomads and cattle herders, but this is all changing thanks to a huge new copper and gold mine.

The mine is Oyu Tolgoi, which is Mongolian for Turquoise Hill, and it is already beginning to transform the economy of this sparsely-populated central Asian nation, sending it towards the top of international growth tables.

But this year, there has been disagreement over the details of the contract between Rio Tinto and the Mongolian government. Ulaan Baatar wants Rio Tinto to explain why it has over-spent on the project by more than $2bn (£1.3bn).

The size of the ore deposit is staggering - running for some 20 miles beneath the Gobi Desert. When this mine is fully operational, in 2020, it will produce 450,000 tonnes of copper and 330,000 ounces of gold a year.

One of those who has been involved with the mine since the very beginning is geologist Samand Sanjdorj, vice president of Oyu Tolgoi operations, who first came to the site 16 years ago.

"When we first came in 1997 it was just open steppe. We had only 11 of us, two ration jeeps and one truck - that's it."

When the survey team realised the size of the deposit below their feet, he says "it was exciting, very exciting".

"This ore body is something like Manhattan Island, this deposit is among the top three in the entire world."

Samand Sanjdorj says the mine
will be one of the biggest in the world

In the past few years Oyu Tolgoi has been transformed. A massive open-cast pit has now been excavated with trucks and diggers the size of houses at work extracting the ore-bearing rocks, and production is due to start this June.

The Anglo-American mining giant Rio Tinto has spent $6.2bn so far on developing the site, which lies in the Gobi more than 300 miles south of Mongolia's capital Ulaan Baatar.

Construction challenges

Besides the opencast pit, Rio Tinto is also working on a deep mine to extract copper and gold ore and this is due to start operating in four years time.

Cameron McRae, chief executive of Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi operations, says there have been huge logistical challenges in developing such a remote site.

"It didn't have roads, it didn't have a railway - which it still doesn't have - it didn't have power, it didn't have water, it didn't have an airstrip for flying people in and out.

"A lot of that infrastructure has had to be put in place as well as building the mine. And just getting the materials to the site to start putting that infrastructure in place has been a challenge in itself."

Yet even though the mine has not yet started producing, Mr McRae says its very construction has already benefited Mongolia's economy.

"Six billion dollars has been brought into the country in terms of goods, money for local businesses to assist in the building of the mine, and there have been a lot of indirect effects into the economy."

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mongolia will be the largest beneficiary - with the country receiving up to 71% of the income from the mine.

Under its agreement with Rio, Mongolia has a 34% stake in the mine and the project is already a major jobs provider, with 13,000 workers of whom 87% are Mongolians.

But Mongolia is concerned it will not receive royalties any time soon because development costs have increased. Under the terms of its deal, Ulaan Baatar won't get a share of the profits until Rio has recovered its investment.

Referring to the current dispute with Rio, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj says that firms mining in Mongolia have a great impact on the country.

"We would like to see that footprint bring development to Mongolian society - not scar it."

"The world has changed, change has to come to mining business. Our people are more informed, more educated and because of that are asking more questions."

Rio Tinto's Colin McRae insists his firm wants to deal fairly with Mongolia's government, but that politicians should let the miners get on with their business.

Politicians should let miners get on with their business,
says Cameron McRae

"Some countries talk of resource nationalism and then what you see is that the investment just leaves the country. And the size of their mining industry shrinks.

"A pretty consistent fact across the world, whether in mining or other businesses, is that governments aren't good at running businesses. They are better off getting out of the way and letting businesses do that - but making sure that businesses do those to the standards that the government desires for its country."

But he denies he is issuing a warning to politicians in Ulaan Baatar.

"I think what we have been saying to the Mongolian government is we want to build a business here that Mongolia, the government and its people, will be absolutely proud of, that will be seen to be run by Mongolians to the highest standards in the world."

'We will not gain'

Elsewhere in the capital, some Mongolians are skeptical that the new mine will really bring benefits. Among them is rap artist Gee, who says the government is not doing enough to protect the interests of Mongolians.

"They can't, they are not doing enough."

Rap artist Gee does not think many Mongolians
will gain from the mine

He doesn't accept that the wealth from the mine will trickle down to ordinary Mongolians.

"They can't get richer, they don't have power. People who have power, they will get the wealth, and they will get more powerful. People like us will not get it."

Yet it is not just Western mining firms that come in for criticism. Much of the mine's output will be taken by road over the border to China, leading some to fear that it will be Mongolia's huge southern neighbour that will ultimately benefit from the mine.

"Their needs are their needs, we should be working on our needs," says Gee.

When asked what he thinks China wants from Mongolia he has a simple answer, "Everything".



Word List:
  • massive: extremely large or serious
  • extract: to remove or obtain a substance from something
  • logistical: the practicalities needed to make a complicated plan successful when a lot of people and equipment is involved
  • infrastructure: the basic systems and services that are necessary for a country or an organization to run smoothly, for example buildings, transport and water and power supplies
  • beneficiary: a person who gains or benefits as a result of something
  • skeptical: having doubts that a claim or statement is true or that something will happen
  • trickle down: the theory that if the richest people in society become richer, this will have a good effect on poorer people as well, for example by creating more jobs
Pronunciation:
= massive
= logistical
= infrastructure
= beneficiary
= skeptical
= trickle down

Monday, April 1, 2013

NEWS: Mongolia Planning to Buy US Military Airplanes

Originally posted on Eurasianet.org - March 27, 2013

Mongolia is in discussions to buy American-made military transport airplanes, and is getting U.S. help in learning how to operate the aircraft. That ambitious purchase appears to signal that Mongolia has mining money to spend, and it's using some of it to upgrade its armed forces.


Mongolia is looking at buying three C-130J transport airplanes, manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The planes would likely be used to transport the country's armed forces on its increasingly ambitious international peacekeeping missions. From a press release by the Alaska National Guard, whose airmen recently traveled to Mongolia to conduct training on C-130 maintenance:
In a country as vast and open as Alaska, the Mongolian Air and Air Defense Force is tasked with transporting Mongolian Armed Forces, but with only Soviet-era helicopters that include the MI-24B, MI-8T and MI-171E, they lack the capacity to transport large numbers of personnel, making it impossible to meet all their mission requirements.

“This is a great professional exchange for us,” said 1st Lt. Bayasgalan Baljinnyam, platoon commander, Unit 337 Nalaikh Air Base, Mongolian Air and Air Defense Force. “Our national Air Force needs a C-130 because we need to participate in every mission and right now we have to call on civilian aircraft to transport our troops. We need to have our own C-130 so we can manage ourselves and transport our own troops to other countries.”

With a current request to obtain three C-130J aircraft, the aircraft maintenance exchange has provided an engaging opportunity for Mongolian enlisted personnel and officers to pick the brain of two Alaska Air National Guard crew chiefs on the ins and outs of C-130 maintenance and performance.
(If you're wondering why the Alaska National Guard did this, it is part of the National Guard State Partnership program, which pairs U.S. states with countries with whom the U.S. cooperates. Often those national guard units conduct the military training programs that the U.S. conducts around the world, including in the former USSR.)

Asked for more details on the proposed purchase, Lockheed Martin spokesman Peter Simmons said only: "We are in detailed discussions with the Mongolians." The Mongolian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

In a 2009 interview for Jane's Defence Weekly (not online) then-defense minister Luvsanvandan Bold said that the country's defense budget wasn't enough to consider new procurements. He said that circumstance was only likely to change after 2015, when incomes from the country's booming mining economy started to come in.
“Right now it [defence spending] is very low, about 1.4 percent of GDP [gross domestic product]. We want to bring it up to two percent, to really maintain a professional, capable army that meets all our needs,” Bold said.

When that happens, engineering vehicles, equipment for peacekeeping battalions, increasing the living conditions of soldiers, air defence and possibly aircraft procurement will be the priorities, he said. “We want to acquire new aircraft, but we will see. The major issue is costs, how to keep maintenance costs down,” he said. The government is now working on its procurement plans for the post-2015 period, Bold said. “Then we will have a real income.”
But it looks like that is changing a little ahead of schedule. Mongolia announced a couple of years ago that it was going to buy Russian MiG-29 fighters, but nothing seems to have come of that, and this analysis suggests that there may have been nothing behind the announcement, anyway. Either way, the thinking then would still apply now:
This follows the pattern that the U.S. has established in other post-Soviet countries, most notably Kazakhstan: understanding that the military ties with Russia are too great to supplant entirely, the U.S. will instead focus on training and equipping small, niche forces to take part in U.N. peacekeeping and U.S.-led military operations like Iraq and Afghanistan.


Word List:
  • ambitious: needing a lot of effort, money or time to succeed
  • vast: extremely large in area, size, amount, etc.
  • engaging: interesting or pleasant in a way that attracts your attention
  • enlisted: having a rank that is below that of an officer
  • procurement: the process of obtaining supplies of something, especially for a government or an organization
  • supplant: to take the place of somebody/something (especially somebody/something older or less modern)
  • niche: a comfortable or suitable role, job, way of life, etc
Pronunciation:
= ambitious
= vast
= engaging
= enlisted
= procurement
= supplant
= niche