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India vote to start on April 19, Modi says confident of win By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past the Election Commission of India office building in New Delhi, India March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi//File Photo

By YP Rajesh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India will elect a new parliament in seven phases between April 19 and early June, the country’s election authority said on Saturday, in what amounts to the world’s largest election with nearly one billion eligible to vote.

The election pits two-term strongman Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his regional allies against a bickering alliance of two dozen opposition parties, with surveys suggesting a comfortable win for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

A victory would make Modi, 73, only the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s independence hero and its first prime minister, to win a third straight term.

“We address you at a precious moment, when we as a nation are set to reiterate our pledge to electoral democracy, when Indians will together express their will once again,” Rajiv Kumar, the head of the independent Election Commission of India, told reporters.

The last of the seven phases of voting will be held on June 1 and votes counted on June 4, he said.

Modi said the “biggest festival of democracy” had started and his party would campaign on its track record of “good governance and public service”.

“I have full confidence that we will get the full affection and blessings” of more than 960 million voters for the third consecutive time, he said in a series of posts on X.

Modi and his party have been in campaign mode for months. The prime minister has been flying around the country almost daily, inaugurating new projects, taking part in religious events and addressing public and private meetings.

In his speeches, Modi has been showcasing India’s economic growth, with India becoming the fastest-growing major economy in the world at present, as well as investment in infrastructure and welfare programmes for the poor.

OPPOSITION ALLIANCE STRUGGLING

A main talking point has also been his party’s agenda for Hindu reawakening, including the inauguration of a grand temple to Lord Ram on the site of a destroyed mosque.

Modi has set a target of 370 seats for BJP and 400-plus for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) it heads in the 543-member lower house of parliament, up from the 303 the BJP won and more than the 350 the NDA won in 2019.

The 2019 performance was the best ever for the party which was formed in 1980.

Modi will be challenged by an alliance of some two-dozen opposition parties led by the main opposition Congress party called INDIA or the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance.

The alliance formed last year has, however, been struggling to stay united and share seats amicably.

Congress, which has ruled India for 54 of its 76 years since independence from Britain, has sunk to record lows after Modi swept to power and is struggling to revive support.

The party is highlighting unemployment, rural distress, what it says is crony capitalism, the need for more affirmative action for the so-called backward castes and the need to end religious polarisation and hate in its pitch to defeat Modi.

“This will perhaps be the last chance to save democracy and our constitution from dictatorship,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge posted on X. “We the people of India will together fight against hatred, loot, unemployment, price rise and atrocities.”

Nearly 970 million people are registered to vote at over one million polling stations in the mammoth electoral exercise with 2,400 political parties likely to contest.



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Ex-Post Office boss regrets ‘missed opportunity’ to halt Horizon scandal

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“On reflection, and I have reflected on this very hard, when I finished being the Horizon programme director [in early 2000] it would have been very beneficial if I had notified both the lawyers and the [investigations team] that Horizon was a new system coming in, and that they should be very cautious about evidence coming out of that system,” he said.



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Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and debt restructuring efforts By Reuters

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COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s government rejected a proposal from its international bondholders on Tuesday on restructuring the more than $12 billion the country owes to them.

It means a near two-year spell in default will drag on for Sri Lanka and that the country’s next tranche of vital IMF support money could potentially get delayed.

Below is a timeline of the key events in the crisis and the efforts to resolve it:

2021-2022: Sri Lanka’s economy crumbles after years of overspending leaves its foreign exchange reserves critically low and the government unable to pay for essentials, such as fuel and medicine.

The country’s bonds suffer from multiple downgrades by credit rating agencies warning of the increasing risk of default. At the start of 2022 it manages to make a $500 million bond payment but it leaves its foreign exchange reserves precariously low.

MAY, 2022 – Sri Lanka is declared in default after it fails to make a smaller $78 million bond coupon payment.

JULY, 2022 – Public anger drives protesters to storm then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office and residence. Rajapaksa flees to the Maldives, before moving on to Singapore.

Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe is voted into power by Sri Lankan lawmakers.

MARCH, 2023 – The International Monetary Fund approves a near $3 billion bailout for Sri Lanka after talks with Wickremesinghe’s government and assurances about its plans to repair the country’s finances.

OCTOBER, 2023

Sri Lanka announces an agreement with China’s EXIM (export/import) Bank to delay payments on about $4.2 billion worth of loans the Chinese lender it has extended to the country.

NOVEMBER, 2023

Other creditor nations including India, Japan and France agree to restructure about $5.9 billion in debt.

MARCH, 2024

A group of Sri Lankan officials arrives in London to meet with a number of investment funds that hold its more than $12 billion worth of government bonds. Talks advance to the key “restricted” phase where proposals are discussed privately and those involved agree not to buy or sell any of the debt on the open market.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the main business district as rain clouds gather above in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

APRIL, 2024

The government rejects a proposal tabled by the bondholders. The main stumbling blocks are that some the “baseline” assumptions used differ to those of the IMF and that the plan did not include a contingency option for the government in case the economy fails to recover as expected.





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AI could gobble up a quarter of all electricity in the U.S. by 2030 if it doesn’t break its addiction

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Before artificial intelligence can transform society, the technology will first have to learn how to live within its means.

Right now generative AI have an “insatiable demand” for electricity to power the tens of thousands of compute clusters needed to operate large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4, warned chief marketing officer Ami Badani from chip design company Arm Holdings. 

If generative AI is ever going to be able to run on every mobile device from a laptop and tablet to a smartphone, it will have to be able to scale without overwhelming the electricity grid at the same time.

“We won’t be able to continue the advancements of AI without addressing power,” Badani told Fortune’s Brainstorm AI conference in London on Monday. “ChatGPT requires 15 times more energy than a traditional web search.” 

Not only are more businesses using generative AI, but the tech industry is in a race to develop new and more powerful tools that will mean compute demand is only going to grow—and power consumption with it, unless something can be done. 

The latest breakthrough from OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is Sora. It can create super realistic or stylized clips of video footage up to 60 seconds in length purely based on user text prompts. 

The marvel of GenAI comes at a steep cost

“It takes a 100,000 AI chips working at full compute capacity and full power consumption in order to train Sora,” Badani said. “That’s a huge amount.” 

Data centers, where most AI models are trained, currently account for 2% of global electricity consumption, according to Badani. But with generative AI expected to go mainstream, she predicts it could end up devouring a quarter of all power in the United States in 2030.

The solution to this conundrum is to develop semiconductor chips that are optimized to run on a minimum of energy.

That’s where Arm comes in: its RISC processor designs currently run on 99% of all smartphones, as opposed to the rival x86 architecture developed by Intel. The latter has been a standard for desktop PCs, but proved too inefficient to run battery-powered handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. 

Arm is adopting that same design philosophy for AI.

“If you think about AI, it comes with a cost,” Badani said, “and that cost is unfortunately power.”  

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