Share This!The holidays are coming….she says…..in May…..If you are planning your Walt Disney World holiday vacation, you have been anxiously awaiting key holiday dates to be announced and today, I can share with you that the Epcot Festival of the Holidays will be taking place from November 18 – December 30.The Epcot Festival of the Holidays provides holiday cheer throughout the park. It includes special entertainment, storytellers, Holiday Kitchens, and holiday decor, as well as a special holiday presentation of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.”In addition, we also have the dates for the beautiful Candlelight Processional. The popular holiday tradition which combines an orchestra, a choir, and a celebrity narrator all there to tell the story of Christmas, will occur from November 22 and run through December 30.No celebrity narrators have been announced for the event, as of yet, so stay tuned to the blog for more information about both that and the Epcot Festival of the Holidays as it’s released.
Metrorail is the cheapest form of transportation in South Africa and is used by millions of people. Minister S’bu Ndebele announced Prasa’s new strategy to improve Metrorail. (Images: Bongani Nkosi) MEDIA CONTACTS • Logan Maistry Spokesperson Department of Transport +27 83 6444 050 RELATED ARTICLES • Gautrain on final straight • Soweto’s university on the train • All aboard the Tshwane express • Kei rail steams aheadBongani NkosiTrain commuters in South Africa can look forward to greatly improved services in coming years, thanks to a R97-billion (US$14.5-billion) investment into the transport network that caters for millions daily.The state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has unveiled its multibillion-rand New Rolling Stock Programme, which will see it buying new trains and beefing up its entire rail network over the next 18 years.Prasa is currently meeting potential manufacturers and financiers in a three-day seminar at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. The seminar has attracted both international and local groups. Financiers have been invited to help the government to raise part of the R97-billion required.A tender for production will be awarded towards the end of 2012. The winning company will have to deliver the first batch of coaches and locomotives from 2015.Better experience for commuters A large chunk of the new programme’s funds is expected to go towards improving Metrorail, Prasa’s short-distance commuter rail network, which has been in dire need of attention for many years and has not had such funding for more than three decades.Prasa admits that there has been a “massive historical underinvestment in the sector”.“At the moment, the current rolling stock is old and dilapidated, with the majority of the current fleet built between the 1960s and late 1970s and still driven by 1956 technology,” said transport minister S’bu Ndebele.The passenger experience, especially in Gauteng, is currently anything but laudable. Delays are the order of the day and in many instances desperate commuters have resorted to burning down coaches to vent their anger over poor services.Up to 2.4-million South Africans in four provinces use Metrorail to commute daily to and from work in the cities.Several Prasa-owned long-distance services, including Shosholoza Meyl and Premier Classe, will also benefit from the investment. “This programme will enable Prasa to procure new rolling stock and locomotives for the Metro service and the long-distance rail services,” Ndebele said.Most of the government’s recent R25-billion ($3.7-billion) investment into passenger rail improvement projects went to Gautrain, the new high-speed locomotive currently operating between Sandton and OR Tambo International Airport in the east of Johannesburg.Gautrain will start operation between Johannesburg and Pretoria in June 2011. “It will enhance passenger comfort between [the cities], carrying over 40 000 passengers each way in under 38 minutes,” Ndebele added.Development of Moloto Rail CorridorNdebele said Prasa’s new venture will not only result in new trains, but will also expand the country’s passenger rail transport network by creating new routes.The Moloto Rail Corridor is one of the projects tipped to gain momentum through this new venture. The government has been looking to introduce passenger trains on the 50km stretch between Pretoria and Moloto in Mpumalanga.Over 40 000 workers and students commute by bus daily via the Moloto Road, which is notorious for deadly accidents.To keep ticket fares affordable, the government pays private operator Putco about R400-million ($59.7-million) each year as subsidies for the mostly indigent commuters.Moloto passengers are mostly minimum-wage earners such as domestic workers and construction industry labourers.“We are spending per passenger more than the average wages of the commuters we transport every day,” said Ndebele.“Both the Moloto Road example and that of Metrorail remind us of the extent to which we operate inefficient publicly funded transport systems.”Jobs galoreThe government must ensure that most of the new fleet is manufactured in South Africa, in line with its New Growth Plan. The plan is a blueprint for the creation of no less than five million jobs over the next decade.Up to 100 000 new jobs for skilled and semi-skilled locals could emerge from Prasa’s new drive.“Stimulating local rail industry will facilitate the up-skilling of South African engineers, and training of mechanical and electrical engineers, technologists and technicians,” said Ndebele.Prasa also wants the manufacturer to include South African small to medium enterprises, as well as black economic empowerment partners, in manufacturing and maintenance of the new rolling stock.“The long-term benefits of developing rail infrastructure will advance government policy to promote local manufacturing capacity,” Ndebele said.
The Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) has recently announced the first LPF Learning Day for 2019. The one-day seminar will be held Tuesday, March 12, at the University of Indianapolis from 9:00am – 4:00pm and is dedicated to the loss prevention industry and the opportunities it affords. This event is being held for anyone interested in a career in public safety, business or related fields, as well as current LP professionals looking to take their career to the next level.The agenda includes speakers Kevin Whiteacre, LPQ, and Jim Perillo, LPC, from the University of Indianapolis, as well as speakers from the following industry organizations:Axis CommunicationsProfitectSimon Operation Intelligence CenterSimon Malls, SensormaticLP Magazine7-ElevenFleet PrideSearsLifeWay Christian StoresWicklander-ZulawskiLPM Media GroupSTANLEY SecurityInstaKeyProtos SecurityThe Loss Prevention FoundationThese industry professionals will share insights on asset protection, professional development strategies, and security techniques including crisis management, cyber crime defense and intelligent CCTV systems.- Sponsor – Do not miss the opportunity to get a closer look into the LP/AP profession, earn CEUs towards your Loss Prevention Certification (LPC), have a chance to win an LPF course scholarship, and meet some of the top retail LP/AP leaders and solution providers within the industry.Register at: http://www.cvent.com/d/zbqsnq. Stay UpdatedGet critical information for loss prevention professionals, security and retail management delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now
Not only do flowers and trees bloom and flourish in the spring, but it seems accolades for Philly do, too!Over the past few weeks, Philadelphia has received celebratory write-ups in national publications like Bon Appetit, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and more.The accolades have featured everything from Philly’s excellent walk score to the city’s vibrant vegan dining scene.Check out five of the spring accolades, below.
Wearable health IT devices have been a hot topic for the past year or so. To find out more about the promise of patient generated health data and what CIOs need to be thinking about, Intel Health & Life Sciences General Manager Eric Dishman sat down with Dr. Andrew Litt from Dell, Dr. Bill Crounse from Microsoft, and Dr. Graham Hughes of SAS to discuss the advent of new wearable health IT devices and the potential impacts on patient care.The above video is the third clip in a series from this conversation. See the other clips on making health IT data actionable and the benefits of health IT analytics.What questions do you have about health IT wearable devices?
A soldier firing an M-4 carbine.Nearly three years ago, Amethi’s young MP Rahul Gandhi unveiled the foundation stone for a Rs 408-crore factory in his constituency. The Gandhi scion commended the jawans of the Indian Army for laying down their lives to defend the country in regions as geographically diverse,A soldier firing an M-4 carbine.Nearly three years ago, Amethi’s young MP Rahul Gandhi unveiled the foundation stone for a Rs 408-crore factory in his constituency. The Gandhi scion commended the jawans of the Indian Army for laying down their lives to defend the country in regions as geographically diverse as the Siachen Glacier and the dunes of Rajasthan. “It is our duty to ensure that top-of-the-line and world-class equipment be made available to them,” he added. There was also a history to his statement. Just two years earlier, the army projected a requirement for over 4 lakh sophisticated 5.56 mm carbines, a compact automatic weapon meant for close quarter combat. Two types of carbines were required-2 lakh close combat carbines to be imported and licence produced and 2 lakh protective carbines would be made by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). These would equip nearly half the 1.1 million-strong army. The deal was worth Rs 6,583 crore, easily the world’s single largest contract for importing small arms. With an assured order for nearly three lakh carbines, including 1.6 lakh imported weapons that would follow from the close quarter battle (CQB) contract, Amethi was set to become India’s hub for sophisticated small arms.Over two-and-a-half years later, Rahul would be embarrassed to be associated with the project. The factory buildings at what will be the OFB’s 41st plant are just a year away from inauguration. It turns out that putting up the buildings was the easy part, for the defence ministry does not have a carbine to build in the Rs 13.6-crore plant. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and OFB designed weapon have failed to pass the army’s tests. Its plans to import carbines continues to be stuck in red tape. “Without a weapon being selected, we cannot order the specialised machinery required to build them,” says an OFB official. The factory is a testimonial to bureaucracy, bungling and delays in the defence public sector and a yawing capability gap staring at foot soldiers fighting Maoists in central India, insurgents in the North-east and in Jammu and Kashmir.advertisementRahul laying the foundation stone of the Rs 408-crore factory at Amethi.The factory project has drawn heavy fire from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) whose report calls it ‘ill-conceived and tardy’ and has asked the government for an urgent review. But the clump of empty factory buildings is only part of the story. It will be at least five years before a jawan in either Siachen or Rajasthan can hold a weapon that rolls out of the plant. With the army unhappy with the indigenous INSAS rifles and using the sturdy but ageing AK-47 for its counter-insurgency operations, the requirement for new assault rifles and carbines remains as important today as it was five years ago: “Right now, the infantry is utterly neglected and is desperate for a modern assault rifle or a carbine,” says a senior infantry official.The need was first felt in October 2005, when the army cited an ‘urgent operational requirement’ for a new close quarter carbine. This is officialese for a virtual alarm. The army was progressively phasing out the British designed 9 mm 1A1 ‘Sterling’, a weapon with a distinctive banana shaped magazine developed after the Second World War and mass produced by the OFB since the 1960s. The DRDO designed compact INSAS carbine (among a troika including an assault rifle and light machine gun) had been rejected a decade earlier. In April 2006, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) green-lighted the proposal for a new carbine producing factory and a site-selection committee zeroed-in on two sites: the OFB’s Field Gun Factory (FGF) in Kanpur and surplus land at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) plant in Korwa, Amethi.The DRDO’s 5.56 mm MSMC (left) and the OFB’s Amough carbine.It is still unclear why the OFB wanted to set up a new factory when three of their small arms factories at Tiruchirapalli, Kanpur and Ishapore near Kolkata were running at less than half their capacity. Even its busiest Rifle Factory at Ishapore, with a capacity of 80,000 assault rifles had been producing just 50,000 rifles for the past three years. “Producing small arms to expand the facilities at any of these three locations would mean spending just Rs 50 crore,” says an OFB official. It was not the first time that a factory was being set up for political considerations, but the OFB did not even learn from its earlier experience of setting up its 40th factory, the ordnance factory in Nalanda, then defence minister George Fernandes’ gift to his constituency. The project was to be completed in 2005 but despite a spend of over Rs 2,160 crore, it is yet to be commence production.advertisementThe Korwa factory will be completed by 2011 but has no weapons to produce because the army and MoD are yet to finalise a design. The OFB’s Tiruchirapalli small arms plant had 1,300 acres of surplus land that was fenced but it wasn’t even considered. The OFB’s FGF in Kanpur had 200 acres of surplus land. This was not to be. The OFB rolled out a number of excuses why its Kanpur factory could not be used to manufacture the carbine. Why Amethi was chosen is anybody’s guess because the MoD specifically instructed its site selection committee to ‘use only available surplus defence land to avoid problems like land acquisition and rehabilitation and to avoid overall expenditure’.BREECH LOCKThe world’s largest procurement of small arms-over 6 lakh carbines and rifles worth over Rs 11,000 crore-for the army and police forces has been delayed by over five years due to development delays and bureaucratic hurdles in the defence ministryWhat: Close Quarter Battle CarbineHow many: 43,318 to be purchased, 1.6 lakh to be manufacturedHow much: Rs 4,400 croreStatus: Cleared by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in February 2006. RFPs issued twice and cancelled. Army yet to issue fresh RFPs.What: New Generation Protective CarbineHow many: 2,18,320 carbines to be designed and made indigenouslyHow much: Rs 2,183 croreStatus: Cleared by DAC in February 2006. OFB design rejected by army in 2009. DRDO design selected with modifications. Trials slated for early October 2010.What: New Generation Assault RiflesHow many: 2,00,000 weapons to be imported off the shelfHow much: Rs 4,949 croreStatus: Cleared by DAC in November 2009. It was meant to replace the 5.56 mm INSAS rifles in frontline army service. RFPs to be sent out to manufacturers. When HAL offered the OFB 34 acres, it did not take into account the fact that this land was barely sufficient for the factory. The OFB ended up asking the Uttar Pradesh government for more land to build houses for the factory employees, a request that is still pending. Meanwhile, DRDO and OFB efforts to design carbines for the huge army order hit road blocks. The OFB’s ‘Amough’ a 5.56 mm carbine that superficially resembled an AK-47 was rejected outright by the army several times between 2006 and 2009. The DRDO-designed 5.56 mm modern sub machine carbine (MSMC) was also pronounced unfit for induction by the army. The OFB and DRDO were asked to work together on a new design. Last year, the two partners modified the DRDO’s MSMC carbine and now plan to hand it over to the army for trials in early October. DRDO officials say the carbine could be ready for production within a year but only if it passes the army’s stringent trials. If these delays weren’t enough, the carbine deal was nearly scuppered last year by a whiff of corruption when former OFB chairman Sudipta Ghosh was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Ghosh had allegedly received bribes from several vendors including Singapore Technologies, a bidder for the army’s carbine contract as well as a prospective collaborator to build 48,000 weapons in India for the home ministry.The army, meanwhile, is having troubles of its own trying to import a new CQB carbine which it had so desperately wanted five years ago. It sent out a request for proposals (RFPs) to several global small arms manufacturers like Heckler and Koch, Colt and FN Herstal in April 2007 but withdrew it a few months later. A fresh proposal was sent out in April the next year but withdrawn in June 2009. Army officials say a series of factors repeatedly scuppered the contract: insisting on weapon sights (not made by small arms firms), disagreements with other partners like the OFB, and offset clauses mandated for purchases over Rs 300 crore. If fresh RFPs are issued today and all goes well, army officials estimate at least two more years just to acquire new carbines.advertisement”The problem is a cumbersome acquisition procedure involving the army, the ministry, defence production ministry and defence acquisition council, each with their own bureaucracies,” says defence analyst Brigadier Rahul Bhonsle (retired). OFB officials say part of the problem has to do with the army’s vacillation. “The army is not clear on what it wants. Their last carbine RFP did not even specify the calibre of the weapon,” says B.S. Bhatia, former member of the OFB. With the carbine import-and-build proposal now buried under a pile of pending requests for infantry modernisation bulletproof jackets, helmets and night sights-the army plans to float yet another RFP for two lakh assault rifles worth nearly Rs 5,000 crore. One more proposal to add its already bloated pending wishlist.With no weapon in sight to make at a plant which is fast nearing completion, the OFB made a last ditch attempt to make it relevant. Last year, they suggested that the plant be used to manufacture sporting rifles, another fact heavily criticised by the CAG. In the current stalemate the CAG has questioned the necessity for continuing with the Korwa project and asks for a cost-benefit analysis of setting up a new factory, now just an academic argument. The world’s largest small arms buy is already a big embarrassment for the MoD.