China's power generation climbs 8pc

BEIJING (XINHUA): China's power generation continues to expand, up 7.8 percent year on year in the first seven months of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. The growth was slower than the 8.3-percent expansion recorded in the January-June period. Ongoing scorching weather and a high demand for electricity from industrial manufacturers propelled the rise in power generation. In July, China generated about 640 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power, up 5.7 percent year on year. The daily power generation reached 20.65 billion kWh, the highest on record. In breakdown, thermal power saw a slight increase of 4.3 percent year on year in July, yet the growth rate was down 2 percentage points month on month. The growth rate of hydroelectricity picked up its pace and expanded 6 percent year on year, as the average rainfall increased 18.9 percent in July. As for new energy power, wind, nuclear, and solar power generation increased 24.7 percent, 14.2 percent, 10.9 percent year on year, respectively.

The power generation data was released together with other energy indicators.

The output of raw coal amounted to almost 2 billion tonnes in the first seven months, up 3.4 percent year on year.

In July, coal imports surged to 29 million tonnes, the highest since January 2014.

Crude oil output saw a slight drop of 2.1 percent in the January-July period, reaching 109.95 million tonnes.

China picked up the pace in importing crude oil in July, from a 4.9 percent decrease to a 3.7 percent increase.

Gas output saw a 5.5 percent rise to 90.5 billion cubic meters in the first seven months this year.

Gas imports continued to grow at a high speed. From January to July, China imported 49.43 million tonnes of gas, an increase of 34.3 percent year on year.

Tech giants face fines under cyber laws

SYDNEY (AFP): Tech companies could face fines of up to Aus$10 million (US$7.3 million) if they fail to hand over customer information or data to Australian police under tough cyber laws unveiled Tuesday. The government is updating its communication laws to compel local and international providers to co-operate with law enforcement agencies, saying criminals were using technology, including encryption, to hide their activities. The legislation, first canvassed by Canberra last year, will take into account privacy concerns by "expressly" preventing the weakening of encryption or the introduction of so-called backdoors, Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor said. Taylor said over the past year, some 200 operations involving serious criminal and terrorism-related investigations were negatively impacted by the current laws.\ "We know that more than 90 percent of data lawfully intercepted by the Australian Federal Police now uses some form of encryption," he added in a statement.

"We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm."

The laws have been developed in consultation with the tech and communications industries and Taylor stressed that the government did not want to "break the encryption systems" of companies.

"The (law enforcement) agencies are convinced we can get the balance right here," he told broadcaster ABC.

"We are only asking them to do what they are capable of doing. We are not asking them to create vulnerabilities in their systems that will reduce the security because we know we need high levels of security in our communications."

The type of help that could be requested by Canberra will include asking a provider to remove electronic protections, concealing covert operations by government agencies, and helping with access to devices or services.

If companies did not comply with the requests, they face fines of up to Aus$10 million, while individuals could be hit with penalties of up to Aus$50,000. The requests can be challenged in court.

French unemployment drops

PARIS(AFP): French unemployment dipped by 0.1 percent in the second quarter, provisional figures showed Tuesday frustratingly slow progress for President Emmanuel Macron who has promised his economic reforms will generate jobs.  "It's a step forward but it's still not enough," Employment Minister Muriel Penicaud, who usually avoids quick-fire reactions to jobless figures, said in a tweet. Unemployment was at 9.1 percent in the March-June quarter compared with 9.4 percent in the same period last year, just before Macron came to office vowing to shake up the economy with business-friendly policies. His centrist government has since pushed through controversial reforms to France's famously rigid labour regulations, along with tax cuts -- particularly for the wealthy -- that prompted critics to label him a "president of the rich".  National statistics office Insee had forecast in June that unemployment would drop 0.2 percent in the second quarter. Elected in May 2017, former investment banker Macron pledged on the campaign trail to bring unemployment down to seven percent by 2022.

While that appears a long way off, the prime minister's office insisted in late July that it remains "reasonable to think that unemployment will fall" and Macron has said his reforms will need two years to take effect fully.

Youth unemployment -- a stubborn problem under Macron's Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande -- appears to be easing.

Some 20.8 percent of French workers under 24 were unemployed in the second quarter -- the lowest level since 2008.

The 0.1 percent drop in unemployment overall reported by Insee is within the 0.3 percent margin of error for such estimates. The statistics agency might adjust the figure in its final estimates.

S Korea bans recalled BMWs from streets

SEOUL (AFP): South Korea Tuesday temporarily banned from the streets all recalled BMW cars that have not yet passed safety checks following a spate of engine fires.   BMW Korea last month started recalling 106,000 vehicles with an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) module, which it says caused the recent fires. The recall applies to 42 models, all with diesel engines. An average 7,000 cars have been inspected every day but some 27,000 vehicles had not yet been checked by late Monday, the transport ministry said in a press statement, leaving some 20,000 cars to be hit when the measure takes effect midnight Tuesday. Once the ban comes into effect, drivers are forbidden from driving their vehicles unless they are taking them to be tested, the statement said, with a senior official telling Yonhap news agency drivers would be liable in the event of a fire. Images of BMW vehicles bursting into flames have made headlines in South Korea recently, with Yonhap reporting 39 cases so far this year and some parking lots refusing to accept the cars because of fears they could catch fire.

BMW is facing a series of legal actions over the issue in the country, and has said the problem was "not Korea specific".

In South Korea, six out of 10 imported cars are from Germany, with BMW selling nearly 39,000 in the first six months of this year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.