More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal

More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal
Volkswagen has admitted it installed illegal software into 11 million 2.0 liter and 3.0 liter diesel engines worldwide (AFP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Volkswagen emissions scandal

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.

QZ8501 (AirAsia)

Leaders see horror of French Alps crash as probe gathers pace

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Eight ‘taxi drivers’ arrested for scamming tourists at Schiphol

DutchNews, April 14, 2017

Eight men have been arrested for scamming tourists arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport by charging them extortionate fees for short taxi journeys, the public prosecution department said on Friday. 

Several of the eight men picked up had official taxi licences but the others were operating illegally, the department said. 

The taxis picked up foreign tourists at Schiphol who wanted to go to Amsterdam. At the end of their journey they attempted to charge their passengers ridiculously high fees and put considerable pressure on them if they refused to do so. 

One Swedish tourist was charged €595 for a trip to the centre of the capital. As he only had €300 in cash, the driver forced him to withdraw the rest from an ATM. In another case, a tourist from Japan was held hostage in the cab because he refused to pay a bill of €300. 

The eight men come from Amsterdam and Zwanenburg and are aged between 23 and 31. Four of them have been remanded in custody. 

Police also found a gun and two tasers at the home of one of the suspects. 

Haarlemermeer town council introduced a ban on taxi touts in February. Drivers caught breaking the law can be fined up to €1,500. 

Last year, a taxi driver tried to charge a group of Chinese tourists €485 to take them from Schiphol airport to their hotel in the west of the city. 

When the group tried to leave the taxi after refusing to pay, the driver drove off with them inside. In the end one of them managed to break a window and the taxi stopped.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Meet Mumbai's first women rickshaw drivers

Yahoo – AFP, Vishal MANVE, April 13, 2017

Authorities in Maharashtra State, of which Mumbai is the capital, has launched
 a scheme ensuring five percent of rickshaw permits go to women (AFP Photo/
PUNIT PARANJPE)

Mumbai (AFP) - Chaya Mohite slowly turns the accelerator as she carefully edges the salmon-coloured rickshaw forward, one of Mumbai's first female auto drivers to make use of a government scheme aimed at empowering women.

The 45-year-old was one of 19 women who recently started jobs ferrying passengers through the notoriously congested streets of India's financial capital in their new three-wheelers.

"This job is much better than doing household work. I can make more money and it helps us secure our futures," Mohite told AFP as she got in some last minute practice.

The mother of three has spent the past two months learning how to drive at a training centre in Mumbai's eastern suburbs and is thrilled with her new skills and financial prospects.

"I couldn't even ride a bicycle but today I can drive an auto rickshaw. I'm independent and it makes me happy," says Mohite, who hopes to earn 1,000 rupees ($15) a day.

Female drivers receive different colour rickshaws to the traditional black and 
yellow ones, to discourage male relatives from taking them. (AFP Photo/
PUNIT PARANJPE)

She is benefitting from a scheme introduced by the state government of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, that reserves five percent of rickshaw permits for women.

It announced the plan in early 2016, saying that 465 licences would be made available for women in Mumbai and the neighbouring district of Thane.

Unlike similar schemes in New Delhi and Ranchi, where some pink autos are driven by women for women as a safety initiative, the Maharashtra drivers take both male and female passengers.

'Ready to drive anywhere'

Services started in Thane last year but Mohite and her new colleagues, who will sport white lab-coat-like uniforms, are the first to ply the streets of India's most populated metropolis.

"I've taught them the A to Z of auto-rickshaw driving. They are now experts and have passed an official RTO (Regional Transport Office) test," Sudhir Dhoipode, the women's instructor, told AFP.

Dhoipode says he is currently teaching more than 40 women how to drive while around 500 others have expressed an interest in learning despite some community opposition in the conservative country.

"I couldn't even ride a bicycle but today I can drive an auto rickshaw. I'm 
independent and it makes me happy," one female driver says after taking part in
 a scheme to encourage more women taxi drivers in Mumbai (AFP Photo/
PUNIT PARANJPE)

"People mocked us for leaving our homes and choosing to drive rickshaws but we hope we can inspire other women to come forward and take advantage of this great initiative," said driver Anita Kardak.

Rickshaw permits are highly sought after in Mumbai and can be big business, with owners often renting them out for a fee or lending them to others when their shift has finished.

Transport officials say they decided the women should have a different coloured rickshaw to the ubiquitous black and yellow ones to stop male relatives from taking them over.

It has led to some fears the women will be at risk because they will stand out, but Mohite isn't concerned.

"I don't think there's going to be any safety issue as we're capable of looking after ourselves. Driving the rickshaw is a fun feeling and I'm ready to drive anywhere in Mumbai," she said.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

United Airlines finally apologizes, as image takes beating

Yahoo – AFP, Nova SAFO, With Luc Olinga in New York and Roland Jackson in London, April 11, 2017

Oscar Munoz, President and CEO of United Airlines says the company will
conduct a "thorough review" of its procedures, including "how we handle oversold
situations" and how the airline partners with airport authorities and law
enforcement (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Chicago (AFP) - The chief executive of embattled United Airlines unequivocally apologized Tuesday for an incident in which a passenger was dragged off a plane, and promised a thorough review of the airline's practices.

The apology came after a torrent of criticism of the carrier's action on a flight Sunday and its initial explanation of it. In images now seen around the world, a passenger was forcefully removed and bloodied in the process -- the entire event captured on video by passengers and posted on social media.

The 69-year-old passenger had refused to be "bumped" off the overbooked flight -- an airline practice that has come under increased scrutiny since the incident.

"I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard," CEO Oscar Munoz said.

"I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."

The comments were in stark contrast to the company's initial response, in which it seemed to at least partially blame the passenger, inflaming worldwide outrage.

US media published an email Munoz sent earlier to employees, in which he said the passenger "defied" authorities and "compounded" the incident.

"Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this," the CEO wrote.

'No compassion or concern' 

Andy Holdsworth, a crisis management specialist at the British PR firm Bell Pottinger, said United's initial response focused on the wrong thing.

"Whilst the passenger's behavior was not good, United have shown no compassion or concern for the man," he said.

Munoz said Tuesday that the company will conduct a "thorough review" of its procedures, including "how we handle oversold situations" and how the airline partners with airport authorities and law enforcement.

He promised to release the results of the review by April 30.

But the public relations damage was done, with calls for boycotts, the US Department of Transportation promising a review of the airline's actions, and even the White House weighing in.

"Clearly, when you watch the video, it is troubling to see how that was handled," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

The furor battered United's stock Tuesday, sending it down 2.9 percent in afternoon trading and closing down 1.1 percent.

It was the second time in about two weeks the airline found itself in the middle of a firestorm.

In late March, two teenage girls were prevented from boarding a flight in Denver because they wore leggings. The airline defended its action at the time by saying the girls were flying on passes that required them to abide by a dress code in return for free or discounted travel.

"They will need to be careful that these small incidents all start to add up and only remind us of the last incident as well as the current one," Holdsworth said.

'You don't really have any rights'

The passenger on the overbooked Sunday flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky was one of four involuntarily bumped off in order to make room for United crew that needed to be repositioned.

The incident shined a new light on the practice of overbooking and bumping passengers off flights, which airlines increasingly rely upon to avoid losing money on empty seats when some passengers do not show up for scheduled flights.

If they were to stop overbooking, "the only way of trying to compensate for that over the long term would be to raise fares on everyone else," said industry analyst Robert Mann.

Instead, airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on a plane, and are generally able to properly forecast demand to avoid major disruptions in getting passengers to their destinations, Mann said.

But, sometimes, they miscalculate and there are more passengers than a flight can handle.

In those instances, airlines offer travel vouchers and cash compensation to entice passengers to voluntarily give up their seats for later flights.

When enticing does not work, airlines have wide latitude under the law.

"If you're still in the terminal waiting to board, you can be told you can't board, even if you have a reservation," Mann said.

"And once you're on board, you are subject to being deplaned based on the order of the crew. So you don't really have any rights."

Last year, 434,000 passengers volunteered to be bumped off flights, while another 40,000 were bumped involuntarily and compensated.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

First 'Silk Road' train from Britain leaves for China

Yahoo - AFP, Robin MILLARD, April 10, 2017

The train, carrying whisky, soft drinks, baby products and pharmaceuticals,
will take 18 days to make the 12,000-km (7,500-mile) journey

The first-ever freight train from Britain to China started its mammoth journey on Monday along a modern-day "Silk Road" trade route as Britain eyes new opportunities after it leaves the European Union.

The 32-container train, around 600 metres (656 yards) long, left the vast London Gateway container port laden with whisky, soft drinks and baby products, bound for Yiwu on the east coast of China.

It was seen off on its 18-day, 12,000-kilometre (7,500-mile) journey with a string quartet, British and Chinese flags, and speeches voicing hope that it will cement a new golden age of trade between the two countries as Brexit negotiations loom.

The first train from China to Britain arrived on January 18, filled with clothes and other retail goods, and Monday's departure was the first journey in the other direction.

The rail route is cheaper than air freight and faster than sea freight, offering logistics companies a new middle option.

After the last three containers were lifted onto the wagons, the driver gave a thumbs-up and tooted his horn as he got the train rolling at the port in Stanford-le-Hope, east of London.

"Restoring the ancient Silk Road as a means by which China, north Europe and now the UK can exchange goods is an important and exciting initiative," said Xubin Feng, the chairman of Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment, which is co-running the service.

"We have great faith in the UK as an export nation and rail provides an excellent alternative for moving large volumes of goods over long distances faster."


Nine countries in 18 days

The train will go through the Channel Tunnel before travelling across France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan before heading into China.

The containers, which also contain vitamins and pharmaceutical products, will be taken off and put on different wagons as they leave Poland, as the former Soviet Union countries use a wider rail gauge.

The containers switch back to standard gauge wagons at the Chinese border, an operation that typically takes around two hours.

Boosting trade with China is a top priority for Britain as it leaves the EU and becomes free to strike its own trade deals.

London was hailing the first export train as part of its "global Britain" plan, recalibrating its post-EU trading outlook.

Rupert Soames, Prime Minister Theresa May's business ambassador for infrastructure and transport, told AFP that the new route was "positive and timely".

"I genuinely think that this is quite an historic day," said Soames, a grandson of World War II prime minister Winston Churchill.

"In some quarters now, globalisation is seen as a bad word. But here you see trade in all its glory and possibilities."

China was Britain's seventh-biggest export market last year, behind the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland.

Some £13.5 billion of trade headed to China, according to UK government statistics, with an average annual growth rate of 12.9 percent since 2006.

In terms of imports, China is Britain's third-biggest market after Germany and the United States, with trade worth £35.8 billion last year.

The freight train is part of China's "One Belt, One Road" programme announced in 2013, reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes to Europe. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Garuda Indonesia Appoints First Female Captain

Jakarta Globe, Sarah Yuniarni, April 06, 2017

Garuda Indonesia operational director Novianto Herupratomo and Ida Fiqriyah,
the flag-carrier's first female captain, on Wednesday (05/04). (Photo courtesy
of Garuda Indonesia).

Jakarta. Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has appointed its first ever female captain, the first major Indonesian airline to do so.

Ida Fiqriyah was officially appointed as a captain on Wednesday (o5/04). She regularly flies the narrow-body Boeing B737-800 NG and single-aisle aircraft for Garuda. She has clocked in 10,585 flight hours in more than 18 years with the flag-carrier, beginning her career in 1999 as a co-pilot.

A 1996 graduate of the Indonesian State Aviation School in Tangerang, Banten, Ida has been flying all types of aircraft for Garuda Indonesia, including Boeing B737-300, B737-400 and B737-500 and the wide-body Airbus A330-300 and A330-200.

"We are an equal-opportunity employer. We always reward good performances," Garuda Indonesia operational director Novianto Herupratomo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Novianto said to become a captain is no easy task; pilots have to go through a lot of hardships and face many challenging situations before they can even be considered as a captain at Garuda Indonesia.

He also said Ida's appointment as captain should inspire other Indonesian women to pursue a career in aviation.

Garuda Indonesia currently employs 30 female pilots out of a total of 1,380 pilots at the company.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Elon Musk: tech dreamer reaching for sun, moon and stars

Yahoo – AFP, Glenn Chapman, March 5, 2017

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has an estimated current net worth of $13.4 billion from
interests in transport, payments and space technology (AFP Photo/Karim SAHIB)

San Francisco (AFP) - Sending tourists for a trip around the moon is the latest big idea launched by Elon Musk, a Silicon Valley star known for turning his passions into visionary enterprises.

Musk has become one of the United States' best-known innovators. He was a founder of payments company PayPal, electric carmaker Tesla Motors and SpaceX, maker and launcher of rockets and spacecraft.

SpaceX recently announced that two private citizens have paid money to be sent around the Moon in what would mark the farthest humans have ever traveled to deep space since the 1970s.

In a sector where entrepreneurs often speak of "moonshots," Musk is one of the biggest dreamers.

The 45-year-old South Africa-born entrepreneur has channeled a dot-com fortune into a series of ambitious ventures.

Besides being the head of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk is the chairman of SolarCity, a solar panel installer recently bought by Tesla.

He also operates his own foundation focusing on education, clean energy and child health.

And he drafted a paper detailing the feasibility of an ultra-fast "Hyperloop" rail transport system that would transport people at near supersonic speeds, then made it freely available to enterprises willing to pursue the project.

The SpaceX plan to fly tourists around the Moon in 2018 (AFP Photo/AFP)

'Doesn't sit around'

"He is a visionary who has some key passions which he pursues with vigor," Jackdaw Research chief analyst Jan Dawson said of Musk.

"He doesn't sit around and wait for people to do something about them; he goes out and does it himself."

Musk's penchant for rocketing after his passions may appear to spread him thin, but he has built a record of success.

Musk appears strong on painting big ideas in broad strokes and then enlisting people skilled at tending to the nuts-and-bolts work needed to follow through, say observers.

"He doesn't seem to be able to focus," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said.

"He just likes coming up with the ideas and is good at picking other people who can deal with the plumbing -- that is why he is able to do a lot of stuff."

And while some may wonder whether hubris or realism reigns in Musk's moves, his businesses have gained value, with the jury still out on the wisdom of the Tesla acquisition of SolarCity.

"He can certainly sell his ideas," Enderle said.

"The fact his businesses have held together so long indicates he is not a con man."

Visionary or mad scientist? Elon Musk's Tesla aims to conquer the car market
in the oil-rich Middle East with electric vehicles (AFP Photo/Karim SAHIB)

Fighting against evil

Musk more than a year ago took part in creating a nonprofit research company devoted to developing artificial intelligence that will help people and not hurt them.

Musk found himself in the middle of a technology world controversy by holding firm that AI could turn on humanity and be its ruin instead of a salvation.

Technology giants including Google, Apple and Microsoft have been investing in making machines smarter, contending the goal is to improve lives.

"If we create some digital super-intelligence that exceeds us in every way by a lot, it is very important that it be benign," Musk said at a conference in California.

He reasoned that even a benign situation with ultra-intelligent AI would put people so far beneath the machine they would be "like a house cat."

"I don't love the idea of being a house cat," Musk said, envisioning the creation of neural lacing that magnifies people's brain power by linking them directly to computing capabilities.

Elon Musk's SpaceX venture carries cargo to the International Space Station and  has
 plans to send two private passengers on a trip around the Moon (AFP Photo/
BRUCE WEAVER)

Living in a game

Some of his ideas have prompted questions about whether Musk is a visionary or mad scientist. He has raised eyebrows with a theory that the world as it is known may be a computer simulation.

"I've had so many simulation discussions it's crazy," Musk said while fielding a question on the topic at the conference.

He maintained that "the odds that we are in base reality is one in billions."

Musk lives in Los Angeles and holds US, Canadian and South African citizenship.

He moved to Canada in his late teens and then to the United States, earning bachelor's degrees in physics and business from the University of Pennsylvania.

After graduating, Musk abandoned plans to pursue further studies at Stanford University and started Zip2, a company that made online publishing software for the media industry.

He banked his first millions before the age of 30 when he sold Zip2 to US computer maker Compaq for more than $300 million in 1999.

Musk's next company, X.com, eventually merged with PayPal, the online payments firm bought by Internet auction giant eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

Forbes estimates Musk's current net worth at $13.4 billion.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Metro aims to break new ground in car-mad Qatar

Yahoo – AFP, David Harding, March 9, 2017

Construction site of a new metro line in Qatar's capital Doha (AFP Photo/
Karim Jaafar)

Doha (AFP) - Qatar's metro, once completed, will run hundreds of kilometres across ultra-modern Doha, along the coast and into its expanding suburbs. But whether car-mad Qataris will actually use it remains an open question.

Driverless three-car trains are to serve 100 stations, easing into gleaming newly-built destinations with names such as Ras Bu Fontas, Al-Shaqab and Legtaifiya.

Now the main task for those behind the approximately $18-billion project -- in a country where car is king -- is to ensure it draws enough passengers to justify the huge outlay.

"We are not a culture that is used to the metro, not like Europe," said Khaled Al-Thani, a civil engineer with Qatar Rail, the state-owned company responsible for the metro.

"This is all new for us."

The Doha Metro is a massive venture even by the standards of the energy-rich Gulf desert emirate where infrastructure mega-projects are commonplace.

Officials at Qatar Rail are cagey about terming it the world's biggest ongoing engineering project, preferring to call it one of the largest.

Since ground was broken in the summer of 2013, a workforce of 41,000 has been digging, tunnelling and building. Large tracts of land in Doha have been set aside for a network of tunnels and stations.

Tunnel boring world record

Qatar even set a world record for using 21 tunnel boring machines at the same time in November 2015, the highest number ever recorded.

Ninety percent of the metro will run underground when operational. The station designs have been approved by the emir himself, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Qatar's metro, once completed, will run hundreds of kilometres across ultra-modern 
Doha, along the coast and into its expanding suburbs (AFP Photo/Karim Jaafar)

Qatar Rail says its target is to have completed 70 percent of the network by the end of 2017, with the opening due in late 2019 or early 2020.

"With metros in other developed countries, when they develop a metro they introduce a new line, but for us in Qatar, we're introducing a whole network system," said Khaled Al-Thani.

Probably the most symbolic part of the Doha Metro will be a station around 20 kilometres north of the capital.

Lusail, the final stop on the Red Line, will serve the $45-billion city emerging from the desert that will be the venue of football's 2022 World Cup final.

"We are actualising a vision," said Abdulla Abdul Aziz al-Subai, managing director of Qatar Rail.

Gridlocked Doha

The company has begun holding special classes for Doha residents to make them aware of the metro and to encourage them to use it.

"I'm very confident that the metro will be a hit," said Thani on an upbeat note.

"It takes me approximately one hour every day to go to work. So, with the metro you have a safe and dependable transportation to reach from point A to point B."

The target is to remove 190,000 cars a day off Doha's heavily congested roads.

A report from the Qatar Mobility Innovations Centre (QMIC) found that commuters spent an average of 109 hours in traffic on the country's roads in 2016.

That was an increase of seven hours over the previous year and equivalent to around $1.5 billion in losses for the Qatari economy, according to QMIC calculations.

Many question whether Qataris will swap their beloved cars for public transport, and say foreign workers -- as in Dubai -- are more likely to fill the carriages.

The country's population could rise to 3.6 million by 2031, from 2.6 million today, and Qatar Rail wants 1.65 million people at year to be using the metro by that time.

"To change this culture, it will take time," said Abdulla Alsayed Zahran, a manager with Qatar Rail.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Construction starts on NL’s first energy-neutral highway

DutchNews, February 16, 2017

Photo: Regering.nl 
On Thursday, the Netherlands started construction of the first energy-neutral highway, reports the Financiele Dagblad

The A6 to Almere expansion project has already won a European Procura+ sustainability award, in 2016.

Last June, infrastructure minister Schultz van Haegen announced that the Dutch road and water network will be fully energy neutral by 2030, with solar panels along roads and waterways, and roadside grass cuttings converted to green gas. 

The current motorway widening project on the A6 will have 30km of solar panels to supply the energy for road and traffic lights, while infrastructure body Rijkswaterstaat is also trying to develop a type of asphalt that will reduce fuel consumption by producing less drag. 

But, reports the Financiele Dagblad, the A6 project has not been without problems as, due to “mistakes” made in the local municipality, it does not have access to all of the land it required and so “must improvise”.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

India puts record 104 satellites into orbit

Yahoo – AFP, Arun SANKAR, February 15, 2017

Onlookers watch the launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) at Sriharikota on Febuary 15, 2017
(AFP Photo/ARUN SANKAR)

India successfully put a record 104 satellites from a single rocket into orbit on Wednesday in the latest triumph for its famously frugal space programme.

Celebrations erupted among scientists at the southern spaceport of Sriharikota as the head of India's Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced all the satellites had been ejected as planned.

"My hearty congratulations to the ISRO team for this success," the agency's director Kiran Kumar told those gathered in an observatory to track the progress of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the scientists for achieving the feat which smashes a record previously held by Russia.

"They have hit a century in space technology," Modi said at an election rally in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

The rocket took off at 9:28am (0358 GMT) and cruised at a speed of 27,000 kilometres (16,777 miles) per hour, ejecting all the 104 satellites into orbit in around 30 minutes, according to ISRO.

The rocket's main cargo was a 714 kilogram (1,574 pounds) satellite for Earth observation but it was also loaded with 103 smaller "nano satellites", weighing a combined 664 kilograms. The smallest weighed only 1.1 kilogram.

Nearly all of the nano satellites are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and 96 from the United States.

Eighty-eight of them are from Planet Inc - a San Francisco-based Earth imagery company - and weigh 4.5 kilogram each.

Only three satellites belonged to India.

Scientists sat transfixed as they watched the progress of the rocket on monitors until the last payload was ejected, and then began punching the air in triumph and hugging each other.

This was PSLV's 39th successful mission, known as India's space workhorse.

India space mission (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

World record

The launch means India now holds the record for launching the most satellites in one go, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014.

And it is another feather in the cap for ISRO which sent an unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 at a cost of just $73 million, compared with NASA's Maven Mars mission which had a $671 million price tag.

ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus.

The business of putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is growing as phone, Internet and other companies, as well as countries, seek greater and more high-tech communications.

India has carved out a reputation as a reliable low-cost option, relying in part on its famed skill of "jugaad" -- creating a cheap alternative solution.

Experts say much of its credibility stems from India's successful launch of the Mars orbiter, which gave it an edge over its rivals in the space race.

"India is proving to be a very viable option because of the cost and the reliability factor," said Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

"India has been doing these launches successfully and has established itself as a very reliable player."

Mathieu J Weiss, a liaison officer for France's CNES national space agency who is currently in India, said ISRO had pulled off a major feat.

"It's a great technical challenge to launch so many satellites at once into orbit on the right trajectory so that they don't make contact with each other," he told AFP.

Weiss said India had become a major player in the space race by making itself so competitive with its low costs and by working with private companies which are space specialists.

"India has become a space power in its own right in recent years," he added.

Last June, India set a national record after it successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites, including 13 from the US.

The 50-year-old space agency plans to send four more rockets into space later this year ahead of its second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 slated for 2018.

Modi has often hailed India's budget space technology, quipping in 2014 that a rocket that launched four foreign satellites into orbit had cost less to make than Hollywood film "Gravity".


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dutch town launches traffic light for zombie smartphone users

DutchNews, February 14, 2017

Photo: Bodegraven town council

Officials in the town of Bodegraven are running trials of new traffic lights which warn pedestrians staring at their mobile phones that they are about the cross the road. 

The new traffic light consists of a led lighting strip in the pavement which officials hope will alert ‘zombies’ who are looking at the road not at traffic.

‘Social media, games, WhatsAp and music are major distractions in traffic,’ said town alderman Kees Oskam. ‘We may not be able to change this trend, but we can anticipate problems.’ 

The +Lichtlijn, as the traffic light is officially called, is linked to existing traffic lights and changes colour at the same time. 

Dutch road safety organisation VVN said it did not think the new lighting would be a solution. ‘What you are doing is rewarding bad behaviour,’ a spokesman said. 

The system has been developed by Bodegraven firm HIG Traffic Systems which hopes to sell it to other local authorities. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Travel to US down 6.5% after Trump travel ban: report

Yahoo – AFP, February 8, 2017

People arrive at the international terminal of Los Angeles International Airport on
February 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California (AFP Photo/Frederic J. Brown)

Washington (AFP) - Travel bookings to the United States fell 6.5 percent in late January compared to last year in the wake of President Donald Trump's travel ban, according to a report Wednesday.

The travel restrictions apparently deterred travelers from outside the seven Muslim-majority countries hit by the ban, according to data from ForwardKeys, a travel analysis firm.

The executive order, signed January 27 and suspended by the courts since February 3, blocked the arrival of travelers and refugees from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

Arrivals from those countries from January 28 to February 4 were down 80 percent from the same period of 2016, the report said.

But bookings from Western Europe and the Asia Pacific region each fell about 14 percent, while those from Northern Europe were down 6.6 percent. (The data excludes China and Hong Kong due to the Chinese New Year holiday impact.)

"The data forces a compelling conclusion that Donald Trump's travel ban immediately caused a significant drop in bookings to the USA and an immediate impact on future travel," ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager said in the report.

"As inbound travel is an export industry (it earns foreign currency), this is not good news for the US economy."

While he cautioned that the data represents just an eight-day snapshot, the report said the period represents the first consistently long run of declines from the corresponding year-earlier period since before the presidential election in November.

In addition, total international bookings for travel to the United States for the coming three months have slowed amid the continuing immigration controversy. While they are currently 2.3 percent ahead of last year, they had been running 3.4 percent ahead just eight days earlier, the report said.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Netherlands must prosecute dirty diesel exporters: report

DutchNews, February 7, 2017     

Photo: Depositphotos.com
The Netherlands and Belgium could prosecute dirty diesel exporters Trafigura and Vitol for contravening international agreements, environmental law experts have told Trouw. 

The diesel, which is blended with sulphur and benzene in the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp, is commonly sold to African countries by European oil companies who are taking advantages of the weak fuel standards in those countries, the experts say. 

Swiss-based commodity traders Trafigura and Vitol are responsible for 50% of dirty diesel exports. 

There are no EU rules banning such exports, but according to the Centre for International Environmental Law (Ciel), the practice contravenes the 2005 Basel Convention which says that the export of the fuel is illegal if countries themselves prohibit the import of dangerous waste. 

Ciel says this the case since most African countries have signed the Bamako agreement (1991) which declares such imports illegal. 

‘Therefore the export from Belgium and the Netherlands of fuel with a high sulphur content is in contravention of the Basel Convention,’ Trouw quotes the report as saying. 

Ciel’s lawyers say the export of dirty diesel is also in breach of human rights because the Netherlands and Belgium both signed up to a UN agreement which obliges them to respect people’s right to health. 

Sulphur 

Dirty diesel can contain up to two hundred times the amount of sulphur allowed in Europe. 

Milieudefensie spokesman Bram van Liere, said he expects that minister Lilianne Ploumen, who called the practice ‘scandalous’, will now prosecute the two oil companies ‘with the tools we have given her’. 

The Ciel report, which was commissioned by Swiss NGO Public Eye and Dutch environmental group Milieudefensie, was sent to parliament on Monday.