Samsung to slash number of smartphone models

SEOUL (AFP): Samsung Electronics has announced plans to slash the number of smartphone models it issues next year by up to one-third as it tries to cut prices in the face of intense Chinese competition. The strategy, confirmed by a company spokesman Tuesday, was unveiled during a presentation in New York by the South Korean conglomerate's head of investor relations, Robert Yi. Yi said the company - which last month reported a near 50-percent plunge in third-quarter net profit following a 20 percent drop in the previous quarter - would reduce the number of smartphone models in 2015 by between one-quarter and one-third. The strategy is expected to be accompanied by a significant increase in the production of remaining models that can be sold more cheaply to compete with cut-price Chinese rivals. The recent nosedive in Samsung's fortunes followed several years of stellar growth and a seemingly endless succession of record quarterly profits driven by its all-conquering mobile unit. Its flagship Galaxy S smartphone has suffered in the high-end market from the popularity of arch-rival Apple's new iPhone 6, while its dominance of the middle- and low-end handset segment has been challenged by Chinese handset makers such as Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo. For the moment, Samsung is still the comfortable leader by sales volume, but its share of the global smartphone market has fallen from 35 percent a year ago to just under 25 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.



Japan cuts Antarctic whale quota

TOKYO (AFP): Japan said Tuesday it has cut its Antarctic whale-catch quota by two-thirds in a move it hopes will convince international opponents it is conducting real science, not hiding a commercial hunt behind a veneer of research. The International Court of Justice - the highest court of the United Nations - ruled in March that Japan was abusing a scientific exemption set out in the 1986 moratorium on whaling. The court said the controversial programme, which sees taxpayer-subsidised Japanese boats harpooning the huge mammals and then selling their meat, supposedly as a by-product, was a commercial hunt masquerading as research. Judges said any nation that wanted to avail itself of the scientific exemption must show why it was necessary to kill whales as part of its study. Japan cancelled its 2014-15 Antarctic hunt after the ruling, but said it intends to resume "research whaling" in 2015-16. "We will explain the new plan sincerely so as to gain understanding from each country," Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa told reporters. In the new plan submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its Scientific Committee, Japan has set a new annual target of 333 minke whales, down from some 900 under the previous programme, the government said in a statement. This level of catch is "necessary" to obtain information on the age of the population, detail Japan says it needs to allow the setting of "safe levels of catch limits" and to ensure sustainability.


SMS alerts cut elephant deaths in India

VALPARAI, India(AFP): Geetha Thomas owes her life to a text message. The 38-year-old tea plantation worker was able to scramble onto the roof of her home in southern India as a herd of elephants rampaged through her village thanks to an alert on her mobile phone. The warning was part of an initiative by the environmental group Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) aimed at reducing the number of deaths caused by elephants in the area by alerting communities to the animals' presence. Dozens of people have been killed by elephants in Valparai, a tea-growing area surrounded by forest in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where around 70,000 people live mostly as workers on tea estates. The area is a key corridor for elephants migrating from one section of forest to another, and the local population has little choice but to coexist with the large animals. NCF came up with the SMS scheme after research found that 36 of the 41 deaths from elephant attacks in Valparai since 1994 could have been prevented if the victim had received a warning. The group set up a network of local people to observe the elephants and provides regular updates on their whereabouts, sending out SMS messages when they had pinpointed an elephant's location. "In a split second, up to 1,500 people, mostly tea pickers, are informed in English and Tamil," said NCF researcher Ganesh Raghunathan. The NCF also set up red beacon lights that are activated with a missed call from a mobile number and can be seen from far away, reaching people without mobiles or in areas where connectivity is poor.