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. …

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dutch police eagle on standby at Nato summit to take down drones

DutchNews, May 23, 2017

A police eagle in uniform. Photo: Eric Brinkhorst via HH

There will be an extra Dutch visitor at Thursday’s Nato summit in Brussels – an eagle trained to take down drones, news agency ANP reported. 

Dutch police have been involved training eagles to catch drones since early last year and decided to go ahead with the project last September, after a successful trial. 

Now one bird, an American sea eagle, will be on standby in Brussels in case drones are flown in unauthorised airspace, ANP said. 

In total, 29 government leaders and heads of state, including US president Donald Trump, will attend the meeting amid a massive security operation. 

A police eagle was also on duty in Rotterdam last week when Feyenoord celebrated winning the Eredivisie.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

China hosts Silk Road summit in shadow of North Korea missile

Yahoo – AFP, Yanan WANG, Laurent THOMET, May 14, 2017

China's President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony of the Belt and
Road Forum, in Beijing, on May 14, 2017 (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)

China touted on Sunday its new Silk Road as "a project of the century" at a summit highlighting its growing leadership on globalisation, but a North Korean missile test threatened to overshadow the event.

President Xi Jinping was preparing to host leaders from 29 nations for the two-day summit in Beijing when US and South Korean military officials confirmed that Pyongyang had launched a ballistic missile.

Delegations from North Korea and the United States were expected at the forum, though not their leaders. Few Western heads of government made the trip.

The summit is showcasing Xi's cherished One Belt, One Road initiative, a revival of the Silk Road that could cement China's growing global clout on trade and geopolitics.

"This is indeed a gathering of great minds," Xi said, addressing leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Xi pledged to pump an extra $124 billion in funds into the initiative, calling it "a project of the century" in a "world fraught with challenges".

Map showing China's ambitious plan to revive the ancient Silk 
Road trade routes (AFP Photo)

The Chinese-bankrolled project seeks to link the country with Africa, Asia and Europe through an enormous network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

The initiative spans some 65 countries representing 60 percent of the world population and around a third of global gross domestic product. The China Development Bank has earmarked $890 billion for some 900 projects.

The project is seen as a practical solution to relieve China's industrial overcapacity. But it could also serve Beijing's geopolitical ambitions as Washington retreats into "America First" policies.

While Xi did not mention North Korea during his speech to the delegates, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement saying it opposes such missile tests.

It urged all parties to "exercise restraint and refrain from further aggravating the tension in the region".

North Korea relies heavily on trade with China for its economic survival, and US President Donald Trump has urged Xi to use that leverage to put pressure on Pyongyang.

The White House called on all nations to impose "far stronger sanctions" following the latest test, which came days after South Korea elected a new president.

Sunday's missile launch "is absolutely an embarrassment to Beijing but it also shouldn't be overstated", Christopher Balding, economics professor at Peking University, told AFP.

"This will not overshadow (the summit) in an enormous way but it will absolutely continue to raise US frustrations with Beijing," he said, adding that Washington was "frustrated" that North Korea was also invited to the summit.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with his Chinese counterpart Xi
 Jinping during a bilateral meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, 
on May 14, 2017 (AFP Photo/WU HONG)

Respecting sovereignty

Xi focused on his initiative, boasting that it represented a "road for peace", but he cautioned "all countries should respect each others' sovereignty... and territorial integrity".

He warned that "isolation results in backwardness".

The new financing that he promised on Sunday includes 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) for the Silk Road Fund and lending schemes worth 380 billion yuan. He also urged financial institutions to contribute 100 billion yuan.

Praising Xi's initiative, Putin warned that "protectionism is becoming the norm".

"The ideas of openness, trade freedom are rejected more and more, very often by those who were their supporters not so long ago," Putin said.

For his part, Erdogan said Belt and Road was "going to be the kind of initiative that will put an end to terrorism".

India, whose Prime Minister narendra Modi is seen on May 12, 2017, has voiced 
displeasure at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Belt and Road project aimed 
at linking northwestern China to the Arabian Sea (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Indian concerns

Some Belt and Road projects are raising concerns in certain countries.

India has voiced displeasure at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Belt and Road project aimed at linking northwestern China to the Arabian Sea.

The route cuts through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, disputed territory that India claims is illegally occupied.

Human Rights Watch raised fears on Saturday about the treatment of people along the new Silk Road route in Central Asian nations with poor track records in infrastructure projects.

The US-based organisation said Chinese authorities have "heightened surveillance and repression to prevent potential unrest that could impede" Belt and Road plans in the western Xinjiang region.

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

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"The Timing of the Great Shift" – Mar 21, 2009 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Text version)

“… Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader. Remember where you heard it... in a strange, esoteric meeting with a guy in a chair pretending to channel. [Kryon being factious... Kryon humor] Then when you hear it, you'll know better, won't you? "Maybe there was something really there," you'll say. "Maybe it was real," you'll say. Perhaps you can skip all the drama of the years to come and consider that now? [Kryon humor again]

These leaders are going to fall over. You'll have a slow developing leadership coming to you all over the earth where there is a new energy of caring about the public. "That's just too much to ask for in politics, Kryon." Watch for it. That's just the beginning of this last phase. So many things are coming. The next one is related to this, for a country in survival with sickness cannot sustain a leadership of high consciousness. There is just too much opportunity for power and greed. But when a continent is healed, everything changes. .."

".. Many years ago, the prevailing thought was that nobody should consider China as a viable player on the economic stage. They were backward, filled with a system that would never be westernized, and had no wish to become joined with the rest of the world's economic systems. Look what has happened in only 30 years. Now, look at Africa differently …”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stratospheric solar plane makes first test flight

Yahoo – AFP, May 5, 2017

Raphael Domjan, who initiated the SolarStratos project, shakes hands with pilot
Damian Hischier after the first test flight in Payerne, Switzerland (AFP Photo/
Fabrice COFFRINI)

Payerne (Switzerland) (AFP) - The first solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere made an initial low-altitude test flight over Switzerland Friday.

The SolarStratos, a super-light, sleek, white two-seater aircraft with long wings covered with solar panels, took off from Payerne at 8:00 am (0600 GMT), according to an AFP photographer at the airbase in western Switzerland.

"The maiden flight of the prototype ... went off without a hitch," the SolarStratos team said in a statement.

Pilot Damian Hischier took the craft for a seven-minute test flight, reaching an altitude of 300 metres (nearly 1,000 feet), it said.

"The group will now study the test flight results before scheduling a longer flight at higher altitude," the statement added.

Eventually, the plane is expected to be able to fly at an altitude of 25,000 metres (82,000 feet), an impossible feat using a propulsion-driven aircraft.

Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan, who is behind the project, aims to take the plane on its first stratospheric flight next year.

Harness potential

"We must continue to work hard to learn how to harness the potential of this solar-powered treasure," he said Friday.

"We want to demonstrate that with current technology, it is possible to go beyond what fossil fuels offer."

The SolarStratos is 8.5 metres long, with long wings covered with 22 square metres (237 square feet) of solar panels, which are meant to provide it with 24 hours of autonomous flying time.

The plane weighs just 450 kilos (992 pounds).

Domjan, who in 2012 became the first person to sail around the world in a fully solar-powered boat, is aiming to go on a five-hour mission into the stratosphere: two hours up and three hours back.

The stratosphere lies above Earth's lowest atmospheric layer, called the troposphere.

At middle latitudes, the stratosphere runs from a lower boundary of about 10,000 metres to an upper boundary of about 50,000 metres.

Until now, reaching the stratosphere has required large quantities of energy or helium.

Reaching an altitude of 25,000 metres will pose huge technical and human challenges, SolarStratos points out on its website.

The plane and pilot will also be subject to temperatures as low as -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.

And for weight reasons, the aircraft will not be pressurised, forcing Domjan to wear a spacesuit, meaning he will not be able to get out of the plane using a parachute in the case of an emergency, SolarStratos said.

The project comes after two of Domjan's compatriots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, completed the first-ever round-the-globe trip in a solar plane last July, in a bid to showcase the possibilities for the future of renewable energy.

Related Article:


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Made-in-China passenger jet set to take wing

Yahoo – AFP, Albee ZHANG, May 3, 2017

The C919's test flight comes after almost a decade of effort by Chinese
 authrorities to build a domestic aviation giant and reduce reliance on
Boeing and Airbus

China is expected within days to carry out the maiden test flight of a home-grown passenger jet built to meet soaring Chinese travel demand and challenge the dominance of Boeing and Airbus.

The C919, built by state-owned aerospace manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), was set to take wing over Shanghai and could be cleared for takeoff as early as Friday, according to state media.

The narrow-body jet represents nearly a decade of effort in a state-mandated drive to reduce dependence on European consortium Airbus and US aerospace giant Boeing.

"The first flight itself is not a huge deal. (But) of course, it's going to be a hugely symbolic moment in the evolution of China's aviation industry," said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at industry publication Flightglobal.

The C919 is the country's first big passenger plane and the latest sign of growing Chinese ambition and technical skill, coming one week after China launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier and successfully docked a cargo spacecraft with an orbiting space lab.

The C919 can seat 168 passengers and has a range of up to 5,555 kilometres (3,444 miles).

Long way to go

China is a huge battleground for Boeing and Airbus, with its travellers taking to the skies in ever-growing numbers.

China homegrown jet

The Chinese travel market is expected to surpass the United States by 2024, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Airbus has estimated Chinese airlines will need nearly 6,000 new planes over the next two decades, while Boeing foresees 6,800 aircraft. Both put the combined price tags for those planes at around $1 trillion.

But aviation analysts said Shanghai-based COMAC has a long journey ahead before it can challenge the lock held on the market by Boeing and Airbus.

"This is an important milestone for China with this new aircraft. But for it to move to the next stage, which is to sell this product, is not going to be so easy," said Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.

But COMAC may be able to rely on purchases by fast-growing Chinese airlines as it looks to get sales off the ground.

COMAC had already received 570 orders by the end of last year, almost all from domestic airlines.

Waldron agreed it will take time, but said that over the next century China will become a world aviation player.

"You are going to have three big companies. You will have Boeing, you will have Airbus, and you will have COMAC," he said.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) had already 
received 570 orders by the end of last year, almost all from domestic airlines

China has dreamed of building its own civil aircraft since the 1970s, when it began work on the narrow-body Y-10, which was eventually deemed unviable and never entered service.

COMAC's first regional jet, the 90-seat ARJ 21, entered service in 2016, several years late.

Long-haul ambition

The ARJ 21 is currently restricted to flying Chinese domestic routes as it still lacks the crucial US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification that would allow it to fly US skies.

The C919's first test flight had been due to take place in 2016 but was delayed.

Besides the C919, China is also working with Russia to develop a long-haul wide-bodied jet called the C929.

Although the C919 is made in China, foreign firms are playing key roles by supplying systems as well as the engines, which are made by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric (GE) of the US and France's Safran.

During a visit to COMAC in 2014, President Xi Jinping said not having a homegrown plane left China at the mercy of foreign industrial groups, state media reported at the time.

China last August launched a new multi-billion dollar jet-engine conglomerate with nearly 100,000 employees, with the hope of powering its own planes with self-made engines.

After the C919's first flight, it will still need to pass a series of tests to obtain Chinese airworthiness certification before it can sell the aircraft.

China also has for years been in talks with the FAA to obtain certification for both the ARJ 21 and the C919, without result.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Students claim breakthrough with biodegradable car

DutchNews, May 1, 2017

The Lina, built from flax fibre panels, takes shape.

 A team of students at Eindhoven University have built the world’s first fully biodegradable car using flax fibres. 

‘It’s the first car in the world that can be completely recycled,’ said team member Loes van der Beuken. The students are applying the finishing touches to the car by May 8 ready for its inspection by the vehicle licensing agency RDW. They then hope to begin road trials.

 ‘Flax has an extremely resilient structure,’ Van der Beukentold NOS. ‘If you overlay it at different angles you can make panels that stand comparison with carbon fibre and aluminium, which are used extensively in regular car production.’ 

The project has won support from TomTom’s Traffic Solutions division. Its president, Carlo van de Weijer, said: ‘Yesterday’s stupid idea is tomorrow’s breakthrough. They’ve thought of something that would never have occurred to me.’ 

The lightweight materials used in the Lina’s construction have the added benefit of reducing its fuel consumption, but the effect is cancelled out by the greater energy needed to produce the car. The Lina has an electric motor and can carry four people. 

Van de Weijer said the project was promising but it was unlikely to be rolling off factory production lines in the near future. ‘Manufacturers tend to be reticent with these sorts of experiments in house. But I’m sure they will be keeping a close eye on what the students are doing.’

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Africa rejects Europe's 'dirty diesel'

Ghana and Nigeria are the first countries to respond to reports of European companies exploiting weak fuel standards in Africa. Stricter limits on the sulfur content of diesel will come into force on July 1.

Deutsche Welle, 29 April 2017


Governments in West Africa are taking action to stop the import of fuel with dangerously high levels of sulfur and other toxins. Much of the so-called "dirty diesel" originates in Europe, according to a report published by Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, last year.

The report exposed what Public Eye calls the "illegitimate business" of European oil companies and commodities traders selling low quality fuel to Africa. While European standards prohibit the use of diesel with a sulfur content higher than 10 parts per million (ppm), diesel with as much as 3,000 ppm is regularly exported to Africa.

From July 1, diesel being sold at the pumps in Ghana and Nigeria will have to meet a maximum 50 ppm standard.

"We're very happy to see this change in policy," Public Eye's Oliver Classen told DW. "We are still hoping that other West African countries will follow suit, such as the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo or Mali."

Health risks of dirty diesel

During an investigation spanning three years, Public Eye tested the fuel for sale at gas stations in eight African countries, five of which were in West Africa. They found that more than two thirds of the samples taken had a sulfur level 150 times the European limit.

Africa's cities are growing quickly. Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, has a population of 21 million, and estimates suggest this number could almost double by the year 2050. Bigger cities mean a much greater risk from air pollution. While rapid urbanization and the poor quality of the largely second-hand car fleet in the region are partly responsible for the high levels of air pollution, low quality diesel also has a significant impact.

Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, already has a population of 21 million

Fuel pollutants have been linked to the development of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The Public Eye report claimed that switching to low sulfur fuel in Africa, as well as introducing cars with modern emissions control technologies, could prevent 25,000 premature deaths in 2030 and 100,000 in 2050.

"Double standards"

Classen explains that Public Eye has been driving a "two-fold campaign" in order to force change in the fuel industry.

"Our partner organizations in West Africa made sure that this strong message from the people who are suffering from these sulfurous emissions on the ground is heard by their governments," he says. "In Switzerland we put pressure on the companies that take advantage of these double standards - shamelessly, ruthlessly, systematically."

The report focuses on Swiss trading companies that use a process known as "blending" to combine low and high specification fuel, creating a mixture that complies with weak African regulations. As the report explains, "the closer to the specification boundary the product lies, the larger the potential margin for the trader."

The harmful effects of diesel have been well publicized in Europe in recent years

This sub-standard product, known in the industry as "African Quality," could not be sold in Europe, but it is not illegal for it to be sold elsewhere. The blending process - which takes place either in European ports or en route to Africa, via a "ship-to-ship" transfer - complicates the matter, because fuel from various suppliers can be mixed into one product.

According to Public Eye, Swiss companies also own, or are major stakeholders in companies that own, a great deal of the "downstream" infrastructure used for blending, transporting and distributing fuel - such as ships, storage tanks, petrol stations and pipelines.

Despite having significant oil reserves, West Africa lacks sufficient refinery resource to process its own higher quality oil and has therefore welcomed cheaper imports from abroad.

Whose responsibility?

Following the report, governments in five West African countries were quick to pledge an overhaul of fuel regulations. Ghana and Nigeria are the first to follow through on this promise. But what about the commodities traders in Europe?

"They actually didn't respond at all," Classen says. "We brought up a petition here in Switzerland, and 20,000 people signed that petition asking those commodities giants to stop selling dirty diesel to Africa. But nothing happened. Zero."


The two main commodities companies implicated in the report were Trafigura and Vitol. Both told DW that, while they accepted that the problem of high sulfur fuel needed to be dealt with, the onus was on the governments in Africa to ensure the quality of diesel being sold at the pumps.

Vitol added that, under current regulations, European companies cannot be certain that what they supply to importers from a certain country will then be sold in that country. "If Vitol, or any other supplier, were to supply EU-specification (at a financial loss) to an importer, there is nothing to stop the importer from reselling the cargo, at a profit, and sourcing a cargo with a cheaper specification for local use."

Pressure on the middle men

Around 50 percent of the European oil that ends up in West Africa flows through the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, known as the ARA region. Public Eye called on these "export hubs" to ban the export of fuel that does not meet European standards.

"There's a huge public debate going on in the Netherlands and Belgium," Classen explains. "There have been parliamentary motions and a whole lot of media coverage on the issue, and there's pressure on their governments there. We are hoping to see some change of mind which would put Swiss commodity traders under sever pressure to change their business practices."

In response to concerns about tougher regulations pushing up fuel prices, Public Eye points out that five East African countries adopted low sulfur fuels in January 2015 "with no impact on prices at the pump."

Ghana has significant oil reserves but only one refinery, the state-owned
Tema facility

Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President of Ghana, said that the introduction of the new regulations would see Ghana "moving to be at the same level as the western countries or the East African countries."

He added that the changes "will reduce respiratory diseases triggered by fuel toxins with higher sulfur content."

Nigeria has also announced plans for all domestically produced fuel to meet the 50 ppm standards by 2020. At a meeting of African fuel producers in February, Ndu Ughamadu, the spokesperson for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, said that the installation of equipment to cut sulfur emissions was already underway or planned at three of Nigeria's four refineries.

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A lorry near Accra. Photo: Carl De Keyzer – Magnum


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.