Malaysia Ranks 2nd in Southeast Asia and 26th Globally for Tourism

A photo of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

A photo of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
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The World Economic Forum is a Swiss-based nonprofit organization that gathers information related to global finance. Each year, they publish the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.

This year’s report revealed that Malaysia is number two among nine Southeast Asian countries for tourism income, losing out to Singapore and followed by Thailand and Indonesia. Overall, Malaysia came in 26th place out of the 136 countries included in the Index report. Those countries account for 98% of the world’s GDP.

In part, this index measured “sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector,” which includes international openness, prioritization of travel and tourism, the labor industry, health and hygiene, and safety and security. Malaysia saw 25 million arrivals in 2015, and has seen growth due to airline connections, low prices, and beautiful natural resources. Those are key to maintaining its growth, especially the protection and preservation of those natural resources.

Tourism is a crucial source of income for many nations around the world, as the globe becomes increasingly interconnected via travel and the Internet. With more people visiting foreign countries each year, and travel prices becoming generally more accessible, this is going to be a continuing trend. People are more interested in traveling to other countries, something which was once the domain of the rich, but which is increasingly within the hands of the world’s middle class.

With that increased emphasis on tourism in the global market comes an increased attention to it within various nations. Improved relations and a stronger focus on freedom of movement has probably benefited the world politically as well, and with economies shored up by trade, reduced resources in other forms are less of an issue. Tourism can help sustain local economies as well, provided that tourism is kept sustainable, and not reliant on flukes like hosting the Olympic Games.

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University of British Columbia Develops New Water Filtration System

African children reach their hands into clean drinking water that's coming from a hose.

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In the U.S., clean water is so plentiful and accessible that we tend to take it for granted. We often forget that there are some parts of the world where water is hard to come by. Untreated water sources are often polluted or otherwise contain dangerous bacteria. Without access to clean drinking water, the health and wellbeing of people living in remote or poor areas is significantly compromised.

There are a number of purification systems out there, so it’s not the ability to purify water that’s the problem–it’s the resources needed to do so. Filtration systems are generally expensive and require quite a bit of maintenance and upkeep, but a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new system which is both cheap and requires little effort to maintain.

The filtration process starts with straining water through a film, which filters out most pollutants and debris. Afterward, the water is then run through a biofilm of beneficial bacteria that break down any remaining toxins. This simple two-step system removes up to 99.99% of contaminants.

This is the first system that uses gravity to remove contaminants from water, which makes it easier to operate since complex mechanical processes aren’t involved. Additionally, there are only a few valves that need to be operated each day in order to ensure the proper functioning of the system.

Researchers plan to test the new system in remote areas in Canada first. But since the project was funded in part by the Canadian-Indian organization IC-IMPACTS, it’s likely that the system will be tested in India as well.

If proven to be successful, the system can be dispersed to poor and rural areas throughout the world. It’s pretty exciting to know that a significant portion of the world could have access to safe drinking water soon.

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Offshore vs. Onshore: Are We Heading for Another Oil Crisis?

A businessman in a suit clutching a yellow construction hat. There are oil drills in the background.

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It’s been a rough year for the offshore oil drilling market, with investments way down and interest turning to short-cycle supplies that peter out quickly but provide returns more quickly. With 90% of the global supply still in long-cycle oil projects, however, it’s imperative that these projects get the investments they need. If they don’t, Hess Corporation CEO John Hess suggests we’re headed for a significant future gap between supply and demand.

Hess Corporation, whose board includes energy experts such as Marc Lipschultz and James Quigley, is like many modern energy companies in that it has its fingers in many pies. Unlike many of its contemporaries, however, Hess is still concerned with its longer term investments, including offshore drilling.

“While the spotlight has been on shale, the lights are off on offshore deep water assets,” said Hess at this year’s CERAWeek in Houston. “We’re not investing enough to keep the offshore development pipeline full, and that’s going to start showing itself three [to] five years from now.”

To combat this potential problem, Hess Corp. is diversifying its investments. “We’re investing through the cycle,” Hess explained. “While most people don’t think that offshore can make economic sense at these prices, there are exceptions, and we’re very fortunate to have one of those exceptions in offshore Guyana.”

Hess Corp.’s Guyana investment is a 30% ownership of the Exxon-operated Liza discovery offshore Guyana, which is viable at $40/barrel. This discovery has been confirmed as one of the largest in the world in the last 10 years.

In addition, Hess Corp. continues to develop its other offshore investments in the North Malay Basin of Malaysia and Stampede in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico. These are expected to come online in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

In general, however, the market is turning toward short term projects that produce higher yields more quickly. Chevron, for example, is focusing on shale and subsea tie-backs, though they haven’t completely gone off long-cycle offshore fields—deepwater assets still make up 10% of Chevron’s overall portfolio. The trouble is that the market is far from certain, and the expenses involved in short term oil projects are far less than those of long term offshore drilling, which can take years to show returns.

While the future of the offshore market remains unsteady, the companies involved are making an effort to stay viable and on the cutting edge. Noble recently partnered with General Electric to create a data-driven product that will increase efficiency for offshore rigs, potentially making the process more financially appealing. The product is set to be tested in a fleet pilot program on four Noble drilling rigs. The manufacturers are estimating that they’ll see a 20% reduction in repair and maintenance expenditures as well as gains from drilling processes and predictive asset management.

Given the current fluctuations in the market, it remains to be seen whether or not these innovations and warnings be enough to prevent a potential future oil crisis.

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An Up-Close Look at Norway’s All Female Elite Special Forces Unit

The silhouette of a female soldier.

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It’s called “The Hunter Troop” or “The Jegertroppen” as it’s known in Norwegian. It was established in 2014 and is the world’s first all female special forces unit.

The women who serve in this unit march for miles carrying gear that weighs more than they do. During survival training, they are subjected to extreme weather conditions and are forced to hunt wild animals for food. They are also experienced paratroopers and harbor the ability to sneak behind enemy lines without being detected.

It’s not an easy job to do, which is why only 11 women were chosen this year out of more than 220 applicants.

19-year-old Jannike was one of the few that were chosen. She said that the highly selective process is part of what drew her to the position.

“I wanted to do something bigger, the toughest the army could offer me,” Jannike stated. “I wanted to [see] how far I could push myself.”

Norwegian military commanders claim that the war in Afghanistan is what demonstrated a real need for this unit. In conservative regions like the Middle East, highly skilled female soldiers can be used to gather intelligence by interacting with women and children.

But make no mistake about it, just because they’re women doesn’t mean their training is any easier than the men’s.

“To prepare them we try to give them the best training possible, as realistic as possible,” said Captain Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, a veteran special forces operator that oversees the program. “We have them go through the exercises so many times that they are comfortable with it.”

And even though the program has been successful so far, the likelihood of a similar program being implemented in the U.S. is pretty low. That’s because attitudes surrounding women in the military aren’t quite as progressive as they are in Norway. For example, a 2014 Rand Institute survey found that 85% of men in the U.S Special Operations command were against allowing women to do specialized jobs, with 71% being against women joining their units all together.

The U.S., it appears, has a long way to go before an all female special forces unit will even be considered.

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Pirates Hijack Ship Off the Coast of Somalia

A photo of an armed silhouette of a man against the backdrop of the sea.

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On Monday, March 13, pirates seized an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, making it the first successful Somali pirate attack since 2012. Officials are concerned that this is the beginning of a resurge in violence in the region.

But some officials say they aren’t surprised by the attack. Take Gerry Northwood for example. Northwood is the chief operating officer at maritime risk management consultancy MAST. He says that mounting political tensions are responsible for the sudden resumption of pirate activity.

“With the current political situation in Somalia and the increasing confidence of those transiting through the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, it was very likely that such an attack was going to occur,” Northwood stated.

Things took a turn for the worse on Thursday, when the pirates exchanged gunfire with Somali maritime forces. A security official said that one soldier suffered critical injuries.

As of now, pirates still retain control over the oil tanker, called Aris 13. A total of eight crewmembers are currently being held hostage.

“The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them,” said Bile Hussein, a man who claims to be in touch with the pirates.

Fortunately, Somali pirates are normally in it for the money and the money alone. In other words, so long as they are able to collect some type of ransom, they will likely leave the crewmembers unharmed.

As far as future attacks go, Emma Gordon says there’s no reason to panic. As an analyst at global risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft, Gordan doesn’t believe this particular attack shows any indication that the amount of piracy cases will resemble anything like those seen in 2012 and the years prior.

“Pirates need at least $30,000 to mount complex missions against large commercial vessels. With the rate of success dramatically lower due to international naval patrols, financiers will not want to fund expensive pirate missions.”

Perhaps that provides at least a little bit of reassurance for maritime workers in that area.

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