Daily Archives: September 19, 2014

Salmond: Scottish leader defeated but defiant

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has reasons to be cheerful despite failing to lead his country to independence: he emerges from the campaign with more powers for Scotland coming his way.

A chubby-faced former Royal Bank of Scotland economist with a debonair manner, the 59-year-old has missed out on his lifetime’s dream, which seemed so close a week ago as the polls rested on a knife-edge.

But even though the dream is over, for now at least, Salmond has a promise to cash in from British party leaders who vowed to give his regional government sweeping new powers on tax-raising and spending to win over voters.

“Scotland has by majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country,” Salmond said in his concession speech in Edinburgh on Friday.

He was also quick to remind the parties of their promises.

“The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course,” he said.

Salmond had peppered his campaign with emotive language about his vision for Scotland’s 5.3 million people, speaking of “freedom” to “break the shackles” of the 307-year-old union with England.

The portrait of a country Scottish voters have rejected was to have been social democratic, pro-European and nuclear weapons-free without Britain’s submarine-based deterrent.

Fuelled by North Sea oil and gas revenues and whisky exports, the Scotland he promised would have been a prosperous small nation on the fringes of Europe.

Salmond will need to take stock of the defeat and work within the new powers offered to Scotland, and see if he can use his canny wit to keep the dream alive.

Throughout the campaign, Salmond’s supporters praised his unflagging determination and his political know-how. His opponents branded him arrogant and misogynistic with a penchant for populism.

Many users on the online forum Mumsnet criticised him as “patronising”, although British media regularly refer to him as “one of the most talented politicians of his generation”.

Made in Scotland

Born to civil servants on December 31, 1954, Alexander Eliott Anderson Salmond is Scottish born and bred, graduating from St Andrews University in economics and mediaeval history.

Then a lawmaker in the British parliament, in 1990 Salmond took over leadership of the Scottish National Party (SNP) which had until then enjoyed only marginal support.

He steered the party towards the political centre — four years before Tony Blair did something similar with a battered Labour Party.

David Torrance, author of “Salmond: Against the Odds”, said Salmond and Blair, who is also of Scottish origin, were similar in that they were more pragmatic than dogmatic.

Torrance said the slogan for both could be: “Whatever works”.

In 2000, the SNP suffered a setback in elections to the regional Scottish Parliament set up by Blair in Edinburgh as part of a series of reforms to decentralise the United Kingdom.

Salmond left the leadership of his party “forever”, only to come back four years later saying: “I changed my mind”.

Elected first minister in 2007, Salmond has kept a tight grip on SNP. His style is feisty and he likes to remind people that his father was a fan of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 2011, the SNP took an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament and Salmond won a promise from London to hold a referendum.

He recruited the Scottish actor Sean Connery to bolster his campaign and cultivated sometimes controversial ties with US tycoons Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.

Salmond’s aides say he has an “explosive temper” and he has an instinctive sense for the scathing political put-down.

Salmond rails against the London establishment but defends himself against accusations of being “anti-British”.

Suspected at one point of holding republican views, he had promised to keep Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and wanted an independent Scotland to be a constitutional monarchy.

Sociable in public, he is discreet about his private life.

His wife Moira is 17 years older than him and is only rarely seen by his side. The couple have no children.

His passions are horse racing, good wine and curry, along with football and that most Scottish of sports — golf.

Salmond also likes a good singalong. His favourite tune is “Scots Wha Hae” — an ode to an epic victory against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn 700 years ago.

HT

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Scots vote on freedom, UK’s fate on knife edge

Scotland voted on Thursday in an independence referendum that could break up the centuries-old United Kingdom and create Europe’s newest state since the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Some 97 per cent of eligible Scots -nearly 4.3 million people – have registered to vote, underscoring the passions that the historic decision has ignited across the nation.

In queues snaking outside polling stations, voters spoke emotionally about the momentous choice they were faced with. “It’s an important day. This is a decision which lasts forever, which will impact my children,” said Charlotte Farish, 34, who turned out early in Edinburgh with her two children before taking them to school and heading into work.

In Glasgow, 23-year-old Aidan Ford said: “I felt different today than in most of the previous votes. I might be making a difference and my vote counts.”

Close outcome

After months when it looked like the independence camp could not win, a surge in support in the final two weeks has left pollsters warning the outcome is too close to call.

One of Scotland’s most famous sportsmen, tennis star Andy Murray, appeared to lend his support to separation in a last-minute tweet accusing the “No” campaign of negativity.

“Let’s do this,” wrote Murray, who no longer lives in Scotland, echoing a slogan raised by pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond in a final fiery campaign speech.

“We can take our future into our own hands,” Salmond told AFP after voting in the village of Strichen in a farming region in northeast Scotland where he is the local lawmaker.

“We’ve got the chance to build a more prosperous economy but also a fairer society,” the Scottish National Party leader said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pleaded with Scots to vote in favour of keeping “our home” and has warned the break-up will be a “painful divorce” full of economic risks.

If Scots vote “Yes”, it would end a union dating back to 1707, could force Cameron to resign and might raise serious questions about Britain’s status on the international stage.

Financial markets have been volatile for days on uncertainty over the outcome, which is being watched closely around the world.

The force of the “Yes” campaign has encouraged separatist movements, such as Catalans in Spain, while a number of Britain’s allies have urged the Scots not to leave. “I hope it remains strong, robust and united,” US President Barack Obama said in a tweet.

The question for voters at Scotland’s more than 5,000 polling stations is “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and they are asked to mark either “Yes” or “No”.

Polls close at 21:00 GMT (02:00 IST Friday) and the result is expected in the early hours of tomorrow (Friday) morning.

DH

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Google testing drones that could provide Internet access to remote lands

image

A model of the Solara 50, Titan Aerospace’s commercial “atmospheric satellite,” hangs above the company’s booth at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference in 2013.

Sean Gallagher

Google has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to conduct tests on drones that could eventually be used to deliver Internet access to remote areas.

“Google recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems (‘UAS’) for high altitude, long endurance flights,” Google wrote Friday in a request that the FCC keep most testing details confidential. “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation. The STA [Special Temporary Authority] is needed for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”

Google bought Titan in April, with plans to integrate the company into Project Loon, Google’s initiative to deliver Internet access from balloons to parts of the world with limited connectivity. Google is also reportedly planning to deploy low-orbit satellites to provide Internet access. Titan’s drones are powered by solar energy and can stay aloft for up to five years, as we reported in a profile on the company last year.

Google wants permission to carry out its drone tests for 180 days beginning Oct. 6, 2014. The coordinates point to a test site “in a square east of Albuquerque and south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, centered roughly on the unincorporated community of Stanley,” consulting engineer Steven Crowley noted in a blog post on Google’s application.

Google would transmit at frequencies from 910MHz to 927MHz and from 2.4GHz to 2.414 GHz. Exactly what Google will be transmitting was redacted from the public version of the document. Google declined to comment on its application.

Google told the FCC that it will be able to avoid interfering with other known users of the spectrum. The 2.4GHz spectrum “overlap[s] the lower channels of Wi-Fi,” Crowley wrote.

The 900MHz spectrum is used by wireless Internet service providers, smart meters, toll readers, baby monitors, and other devices. There are plans to use the 900MHz spectrum for enhanced 911 location service, but Google’s application noted that this has not started yet.

“Google understands that there may be some federal operations in the 900 MHz band in the vicinity of the test site,” Google wrote. “Google is prepared to coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to avoid harmful interference to any federal operations.”

Unmanned flight is all the rage at Google. In what is apparently a separate project, the company is also reportedly developing a drone-based product delivery service.

Google has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to conduct tests on drones that could eventually be used to deliver Internet access to remote areas.

Google’s plans for Android, gaming, smart homes, healthcare, robots, and much, much more.

“Google recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems (‘UAS’) for high altitude, long endurance flights,” Google wrote Friday in a request that the FCC keep most testing details confidential. “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation. The STA [Special Temporary Authority] is needed for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”

Google bought Titan in April, with plans to integrate the company into Project Loon, Google’s initiative to deliver Internet access from balloons to parts of the world with limited connectivity. Google is also reportedly planning to deploy low-orbit satellites to provide Internet access. Titan’s drones are powered by solar energy and can stay aloft for up to five years, as we reported in a profile on the company last year.

Titan’s Solara, first commercial solar drone, can fly five years without landing.

Google wants permission to carry out its drone tests for 180 days beginning Oct. 6, 2014. The coordinates point to a test site “in a square east of Albuquerque and south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, centered roughly on the unincorporated community of Stanley,” consulting engineer Steven Crowley noted in a blog post on Google’s application.

Google would transmit at frequencies from 910MHz to 927MHz and from 2.4GHz to 2.414 GHz. Exactly what Google will be transmitting was redacted from the public version of the document. Google declined to comment on its application.

Google told the FCC that it will be able to avoid interfering with other known users of the spectrum. The 2.4GHz spectrum “overlap[s] the lower channels of Wi-Fi,” Crowley wrote.

The 900MHz spectrum is used by wireless Internet service providers, smart meters, toll readers, baby monitors, and other devices. There are plans to use the 900MHz spectrum for enhanced 911 location service, but Google’s application noted that this has not started yet.

“Google understands that there may be some federal operations in the 900 MHz band in the vicinity of the test site,” Google wrote. “Google is prepared to coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to avoid harmful interference to any federal operations.”

Unmanned flight is all the rage at Google. In what is apparently a separate project, the company is also reportedly developing a drone-based product delivery service.

TG

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Microsoft unveils keyboard for iOS, Android, Windows tablets

WASHINGTON: Microsoft has developed a keyboard designed for iOS, Android and Windows tablets in its latest move to underline the company’s focus on providing software services.

The new Universal Mobile Keyboard is a lot like Logitech’s K480 keyboard, reported The Verge. Microsoft’s version includes a key to switch between iOS, Android, and Windows Bluetooth modes.

The keyboard is unique in Microsoft’s range of wired and wireless keyboards without the conventional Windows key. It requires only 10 minutes of charging for a full day’s use.

The company plans to release the Universal Mobile Keyboard next month for $79.95.

TG

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