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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indonesian Air Force Forces Down Australian Plane, Detains Pilots

Jakarta Globe, Oct 22, 2014

Personnel from the Indonesian military escort an Australian man from a
light aircraft in Manado, North Sulawesi, on Oct. 22. (Antara Photo)

Jakarta. Indonesian Air Force officials in North Sulawesi forced a civilian aircraft flown by two Australian men to land after the plane entered Indonesian airspace without permission on Wednesday. Pilots Graeme Jacklin and Richard MacLean — both Australian citizens — have been detained by the Indonesian military.

Indonesian Air Force spokesman First Air Marshall Hadi Tjahyanto said the Beechcraft airport was heading to Cebu in the Philippines from Darwin, Australia.

“The aircraft was detected by the national air commando radar and it violated our airspace,” Hadi told Indonesian news portal Vivanews.co.

Hadi said the plane was detected by officers at 8 a.m. on Wednesday while flying over Manado.

Two Sukhoi jet fighters were then scrambled to intercept the aircraft.

The Beechcraft was then forced to land at Manado military air base at 10:30 a.m. Jakarta time.

“After we searched them we found out they didn’t have the necessary documentation,” Heru said, adding that an investigation would continue.

In April another civilian aircraft was forced to land for entering Indonesian airspace.  Officers arrested the pilot, 65-year-old Heinz Peier, who was on his way to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Peier, a Swiss national, was released after obtaining the necessary licenses from the foreign ministry, the transportation ministry and the Indonesian military.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tesla opens patents to rivals in China to expand industry

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-10-19

A Tesla electric car on display at an auto show in Shenyang, Liaoning
province, June 26. (File photo/Xinhua)

Tesla Motors, the world's leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, is allowing the use its patented technology free of cost by any auto manufacturer in China, according to the president of Tesla's China operations Veronica Wu.

Wu reiterated the company's policies on patent use Oct. 14 on the sidelines of an event during which Tesla and China Minsheng Bank announced that they will set up at least 400 charging areas at the bank locations in 20 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

"We don't exactly know how many people are making use of Tesla's patents as they don't need to inform us in advance of using them," Wu told the China Youth Daily.

Usually, if someone wants to develop electric cars by adopting technology that is the same as or similar to a patented one, they would need to pay the patent holders first, Wu explained.

In this case, however, manufacturers who use Tesla's patented technology do not violate any patent rights as the automobile giant is willing to let its competitors use its technology free of charge, Wu added.

"Our offer aims to let more people enter the industry with low investment costs spurs development of the electric car market. We believe that the industry is still in its formative stage and needs advanced technology to progress," Wu noted.

Tesla has 400 patents of its core technology under its name, including those of electric car battery management, battery charging systems and the development of new types of batteries.

A patent that stands out among the rest is one that the company was granted in 2010 for a new, innovative new type of hybrid car battery, which allows cars to travel long distances without greatly raising the cost.

Tesla pioneered innovations that lowered the manufacturing costs and increased the safety of battery packs. It is now permitting its biggest rivals to make use of their patents in an attempt to nudge the rest of the automotive market to make advancements in technology related to electric vehicles, Wu remarked.

Cab-hailing services expand into ridesharing in China

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-10-19

Taxi app advertisement. (Photo/Beijing XiaoJu Technology)

The competition between cab-hailing apps has moved beyond helping customers find a taxi and is now focused on building a platform for transportation services, Shanghai's National Business Daily reports.

"After spending 1.5 billion yuan (US$245 million) over two years, we can be called the internet startup that has burnt the most money," said Cheng Wei, CEO of Beijing Xiaoju Technology that operates cab-hailing app Didi Dache.

Cheng's remarks on Oct. 11 were made after his company and rival Kuaidadi ended a cutthroat subsidy war over the cab-hailing services market earlier this year. The two are now battling it out over establishing transportation service platforms, the newspaper said.

"No one can say how much will be invested over the next five to ten years, but we and our investors would not dare make such investment if we did not think of the travel service platform as a valuable market," Cheng said.

Given the massive room for improvement in the transportation sector, industry insiders told the newspaper that cab-hailing services are unlikely to rely on subsidies for customers or stay in one sector for the long term.

The heavy subsidies ended in May after Kuaidadi and Didi Dache each secured funding from e-commerce giant Alibaba and web portal Tencent, respectively, the newspaper said.

With cab-hailing services unable to turn a profit, Kuaidadi, and later Didi Dache, launched ridesharing services to tap into a more lucrative and high-end market, the newspaper said.

Kuaidadi further established partnerships with Air China, Alipay, and online map services AutoNavi and Baidu, while Didi Dache teamed up with over 100 car rental services and hired its own drivers.

Compared with food, clothes and housing, Cheng said transportation is a sector that has not seen close integration with the internet, and the rise of mobile internet has provided the opportunity for just that.

Meanwhile, Cheng does not expect his company to turn profitable in the next three to five years and his company has no plan to go public.

According to a forecast made by industry insiders, the ridesharing market in China is expected to reach a scale of 400 billion yuan (US$65 billion) in 2016.

Uber, which established the ridesharing market in the United States, and AA (Anytime Anywhere) are both existing players Didi Dache and Kuaidadi will compete against in the Chinese market, the newspaper said.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Japan unveils first passenger jet in four decades

Yahoo – AFP, Antoine Bouthier, 18 Oct 2014

Guests look at a Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) during a ceremony at the Nagoya
airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Komaki (Japan) (AFP) - The first passenger aircraft to be made in Japan in nearly four decades was unveiled Saturday as its manufacturer pushed into the booming regional jet sector with an eye to taking on industry giants Embraer and Bombardier.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a military contractor best known for its "Zero" World War II fighter, pulled back the curtain on its new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), a fuel-efficient, next-generation aircraft that claims to offer more passenger comfort with lower operating costs.

The jet, which will be delivered to customers from 2017 and was built with assistance from aviation giant Boeing, was unveiled at a ceremony in Komaki, near the central city of Nagoya, on Saturday.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) CEO and president 
Shinichiro Ito delivers his speech during a
 ceremony of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) of
the Nagoya airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on
October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)
"The dream of a Japanese-made product that can be proudly presented to the world for top-notch efficiency and top-notch passenger comfort is finally coming true," said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries chairman Hideaki Omiya.

"This wonderful aircraft that Japan has created after (a wait of) half a century carries with it many people's hopes and dreams."

The plane marks a new chapter for Japan's aviation sector, which last built a commercial airliner in 1962 -- the YS-11 turboprop. It was discontinued about a decade later.

Teruaki Kawai, president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Aircraft, recently said that the plane boasted "state-of-the-art aerodynamic design, and a game-changing engine (that) will significantly cut fuel consumption, noise and emissions, helping airlines enhance competitiveness and profitability in the future".

Japanese firms were banned from developing aircraft by US occupiers following its defeat in World War II.

The country slowly started rebuilding its aviation industry in the 1950s, starting with carrying out repair work for the US military, before expanding its scope to start licensed production of US-developed aircraft for Japan's military. Japanese firms have also long supplied parts to Boeing.

Eye on 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Mitsubishi's short-to-medium-haul regional jet, which comes in a 70- and 90-seat version, was backed by the Japanese government and a consortium of major firms including Toyota, with research and development costs of around 180 billion yen ($1.7 billion).

A Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) moves into the hanger for a ceremony at the Nagoya
airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

The company has secured 375 orders and options from carriers including All Nippon Airways (ANA), US-based Trans States Holdings, and SkyWest.

Japan Airlines (JAL) has also signed a Letter of Intent for 32 MRJs, which have a list price of $40 million, to be used on domestic flights.

The MRJ project got off the ground in 2008 after ANA agreed to buy two dozen of the planes.

But it quickly hit trouble as the global economic downturn battered the aviation industry, forcing many carriers to slash jobs and routes.

The project took off again as Tokyo tried to lure more overseas visitors ahead of the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Japanese government is also aiming to expand firms' foothold in the global aviation and military sectors as the domestic market shrinks due to a rapidly ageing population.

Guests look at a Mitsubishi Regional 
Jet (MRJ) during a ceremony at the Nagoya
 airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on 
October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi
The jet will compete with small aircraft produced by Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier, as well as jets designed by Russian and Chinese firms.

Mitsubishi pointed to expected global demand of 5,000 regional jets over the next two decades.

"Five thousand is not a small number," Kawai told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published this month.

"I'm claiming we can get 50 percent of that. That's what we are aiming at right now. But in 20 years, I'm saying, not in three to five years, if our research is correct. We have to be ambitious.

"For a long time, Japan has been successful in industries such as automobiles," he said. "It should last, but we need to find new industries. Aircraft manufacturing can be one of them."

Automaker Honda is also developing a business jet, with its first delivery expected next year in North America and Europe.

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S. Korean official in apparent suicide after concert tragedy

Yahoo – AFP, Park Chan-Kyong, 18 Oct 2014

Policemen stand guard near a broken ventilation grate after concert goers fell
 through it into an underground parking area in Seongnam on October 17, 2014
(AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-Je)

A South Korean official handling safety measures at a concert where 16 people died apparently committed suicide hours after the tragedy which happened when a ventilation grate collapsed, authorities said Saturday.

The death of the 37-year-old local government official, surnamed Oh, was announced as South Korean police launched an investigation into Friday's incident at an outdoor pop concert in the city of Seongnam.

South Korean National Forensic Service
 members check a broken ventilation grate
 after concert goers fell through it into an
 underground parking area in Seongnam on
October 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-
"I am sorry for the dead victims... Please take a good care of my children", he wrote in a short message to his wife, according to officials.

The victims were standing on a ventilation grating to get a better view when the structure collapsed under their weight, sending them plunging 18.7 metres (62 feet) down into an underground parking area.

Amateur video footage obtained by the YTN news channel showed shocked spectators surrounding the collapsed grate as the popular all-girl K-pop band 4Minute, apparently oblivious to the accident, continued performing on stage.

The incident comes as South Korea is still grappling with the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 dead, most of them high school students.

Disaster relief spokesman Kim Nam-Jun told journalists Saturday that Oh, who worked with a group sponsoring the concert, jumped off a building near where the tragedy took place.

He was found dead early Saturday a few hours after he was interrogated by police over the disaster, YTN TV said.

Kim also said authorities had inspected the site Saturday.

"A joint team of police and national forensic experts scoured the site this morning and closely inspected gratings and related structures," he said.

South Korean National Forensic Service
 members check a broken ventilation grate
 after concert goers fell through it into an
 underground parking area in Seongnam 
on October 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Jung Yeon-Je)
Police have questioned 15 people, including officials of the local Internet news provider which financed and organised the concert, Yonhap news agency said.

"If it turns out that safety regulations were ignored, we would bring criminal charges against them," a police official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

No security

Witnesses told media there were no security guards or safety fences to prevent overflowing spectators climbing onto the grate after some 400 prepared chairs were fully occupied well before the concert kicked off.

More than 700 people were believed to be attending the outdoor concert.

"Many people on the vent gratings were chanting and dancing to the music. I was worried about their safety but there were no security guards around," a 45-year-old man who runs a restaurant near the site was quoted as saying by Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

"The show host repeatedly told the spectators to come off the grate but no one paid heed to the warning," another witness told the paper.

"(Immediately after the accident), screams for help were all drowned out by the din from the concert", Lee Sang-Hoon, a witness, told Dong-A Ilbo daily.

Policemen stand guard near a broken 
ventilation grate after concert goers fell
 through it into an underground parking
 area in Seongnam on October 17, 
2014 (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-Je)
A safety engineering expert, Professor Chung Jae-Hee of the Seoul National University of Science and Technology, said the incident was another "man-made" disaster.

"Basic safety precautions were all brushed aside. The organisers of the show should have at least set up temporary safety fences or deployed security guards there," he told AFP.

"These kind of safety hazards are latent in many places all over this country.

"Over the past decades, economic expansion always took precedence over safety concerns, resulting in the lack of safety conciousness among Koreans."

The Sewol ferry disaster prompted government promises of a national review of safety standards, as it became clear that poor regulatory oversight was a major contributor to the scale of the tragedy.

In February, the roof caved in on a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. An investigation uncovered evidence of structural flaws and lax management controls.

The last major accident at a music concert was in 2005 when 11 people were crushed to death and nearly 80 injured in a stampede as thousands tried to enter the stadium venue in the southeastern city of Sangju.

Related Article:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Electric taxis from China go into service in Brussels

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-10-17

One of the BYD e6 electric taxis in service in Brussels, Oct. 15. (Photo/Xinhua)

Belgian officials on Wednesday welcomed 34 fully electric Chinese-made taxis into service in Brussels.

"Using electricity in public transportation, including the taxi sector, is vital for European citizens' quality of life," Pascal Smet, Brussels' minister for mobility and public works, said at the official launch of the e6 taxis made by BYD, a Shenzhen-based Chinese manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and automobiles.

Smet said the electric taxis generate less pollution and noise.

Addressing the ceremony, the Chinese ambassador to Belgium Liao Liqiang said China had paid great attention to the development of greener vehicles and the energy-saving industry at large.

"These 34 BYD e6 taxis symbolize the leadership of Chinese new vehicle technology, helping to electrify transportation in Brussels," he added.

Liao said that the Chinese government was encouraging more companies such as BYD to invest in Belgium.

As part of its fight against climate change and other environmental issues, the European Union aims to use 20% renewable energy by 2020. This has encouraged more and more member states to explore the use of electricity in the transportation sector, instead of traditional fuels.

"As one of the biggest cities in Europe, Brussels will not be left behind by other cites," Smet said.

Fully electric vehicles are becoming a major trend in the world, especially in densely populated cities where it is a pressing imperative that this mode of public transportation become cleaner.

Along with its pure electric taxis, BYD is introducing a range of ebuses in several major global cities, with more than 36 in Europe already test-running the BYD ebus.

BYD Auto Europe's managing director Isbrand Ho said that the e6 will also provide cost savings when compared to diesel fuel.

"Taxi passengers will also enjoy a quiet and comfortable ride," Ho added.

BYD describes the e6 as a spacious, five-passenger, crossover vehicle powered by BYD iron-phosphate batteries. Such pure electric cars can travel for up to 300 km with zero emissions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Great wall of Jakarta' plan to combat floods

Yahoo – AFP, Sam Reeves, 15 Oct 2014

Children residing in the slum area play along a dyke as construction of the
Jakarta sea wall begins, October 9, 2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)

Jakarta has launched a multi-billion-dollar scheme to build a huge sea wall to combat flooding as the Indonesian capital sinks, but there is scepticism about its chances of success in a country with a history of corruption and failed megaprojects.

The 35-kilometre (22-mile) wall, across the Bay of Jakarta off the city's northern coast, is the centrepiece of a project that will cost up to $40 billion over three decades, and also includes reclaiming land for 17 new islands.

The whole project will form the shape of a Garuda, the mythical bird that is Indonesia's national symbol.

Children residing in the slum area play 
along a dyke as construction of the 
Jakarta sea wall begins, October 9, 
2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)
While the aim is to prevent floods, it is hoped up to one million people will live and work on the islands, and help take pressure off a crowded city notorious as one of the world's most uninviting urban sprawls.

Supporters of the project, which officially got under way last week and is run by the Indonesian government with help from Dutch experts, say it is the only long-term solution.

"It's a life-and-death situation," said Purba Robert M. Sianipar, a senior economics ministry official with a key role in the project, adding hundreds were at risk of losing their lives from severe flooding if action was not taken.

However, some wonder whether such an ambitious plan will ever be completed, given Indonesia's bad record on infrastructure projects, such as plan to build a monorail in Jakarta that was embroiled in a storm of corruption six years ago.

Chief Economics Minister Chairul Tanjung suggested as much at last week's launch event, saying disagreements with future governments could knock the project off schedule.

Others question the approach entirely, saying the project will not stop the city from sinking, while graft is also a major danger, with officials sometimes awarding tenders to unsuitable firms in exchange for large kickbacks.

Jakarta has long been hit by floods during the rainy season, when tropical downpours cause rivers to burst their banks and deluge inadequate drainage systems, forcing tens of thousands out of their homes.

Residents gather along a dyke in Jakarta
as construction of the Indonesian capital's
 sea wall begins, October 9, 2014 (AFP/
Photo By Romeo Gaca)
However in 2007, a new type of flood set alarm bells ringing.

Rivers could stop flowing

Slum neighbourhoods were inundated when a high tide surged over sea defences in northern Jakarta, something that had never happened before and which highlighted the severe land subsidence in many areas.

As Jakarta has rapidly grown to a population of about 10 million, increased water extraction for drinking has caused the ground to compact and parts of the city to sink, a problem seen in other coastal conurbations, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

Parts of coastal north Jakarta, which is built on soft clay, are sinking as fast as 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) a year, meaning they could be metres below sea level in a few decades, according to those behind the sea wall project.

"Basically we are pumping ourselves into the ground," said Victor Coenen, from Dutch consultants Witteveen and Bos, which devised the master plan for the project.

The subsidence also means the 13 rivers in Jakarta may sink below sea level and stop flowing, increasing the risk of inundations.

After the 2007 floods -- which forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes -- officials scrambled to come up with a plan.

It involves strengthening the current, low sea defences over the next few years to provide temporary protection for north Jakarta, home to more than four million people.

A wall of giant iron reinforcement pipes is installed during the construction
of the Jakarta sea wall, October 9, 2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)

Work will then begin on the main wall, which will sit six to eight kilometres (four to five miles) from the coast and will be seven metres (23 feet) above sea level.

Construction of the wall will be finished between 2025 and 2030, while development on the islands -- which will have a mix of high-end and low-cost housing -- could take another decade.

A huge reservoir will be created between the islands and sea wall, where water from downpours can be stored so it does not flood the city, and into which rivers will be able to flow freely.

Plans are also in progress to slow the land subsidence by providing piped water to Jakarta from other areas and stop extraction of ground water.

Related Articles:

Draft of the Master Plan for National Capital Integrated Coastal Development. 
(JG Screen Grab courtesy of the website of the Coordinating Ministry of
Economic Affairs)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Russia, China sign deal on Kazan-Moscow high-speed rail

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-10-14

Li Keqiang and Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev signing a joint
communique in Moscow on Monday. (Photo/Xinhua)

Russia signed an investment agreement with China on Monday to build a high-speed railway project between Kazan and Moscow. The link will be a pilot program for a Moscow-Beijing railway that will link Russia, Kazakhstan and China, reports the state-run Reference News, a newspaper which selects articles from major international news agencies and journals and translates them into Chinese for readers in mainland China.

The agreement was signed by China's National Development and Reform Commission, Russia's transportation ministry, China Railway Corporation and Russian Railways (RZD). The design process for the railway may begin as early as this year or next year, according to RZD president Vladimir Yakunin.

The 770km-long railway spanning six Russian regions will reduce the travel time between Moscow and Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan from 11.5 hours to 3.5 hours. The project is the first part of a Moscow-Beijing railway project that will be over 7,000 km in length and will span Russia, Kazakhstan and China. China has built a Beijing-Urumqi railway that is set to open before the end of this year.

The two countries have been negotiating on Chinese investment on the part of the project between Moscow and Kazakhstan, the Russian railway company's first vice president Alexander Misharin said in September, according to Russian non-government news agency Interfax.

The railway project is one of multiple deals Premier Li Keqiang of China and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, signed during Li's visit to Russia on Monday. The deal includes a bilateral currency exchange of 150 billion yuan (US$24 billion) and 815 billion rubles (US$20 billion) over the next three years, co-development of long-haul wide-body aircraft and heavy helicopters, exploration of two natural gas fields, construction of a new natural gas pipeline and a part of the facilities at a Chinese nuclear plant, expansion of Russia's Zarubino port and information exchange between border customs of the two countries.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Uber-Heated Battle as Mobile Apps Rattle Southeast Asia’s Taxis

Jakarta Globe, Bhavan Jaipragas, Oct 13, 2014

A smartphone displaying the Uber app of the timing and availability of taxis within
the area at Raffles place financial district in Singapore. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Singapore. Southeast Asia’s notorious taxi market is undergoing a shakeout as Uber and homegrown mobile booking applications gain popularity in a region that has long endured inefficient cartels and price-gouging drivers.

San Francisco-based Uber, which allows customers to hail taxis or private vehicles via smartphones and pay with a credit card, is expanding rapidly in the region while fending off legal and regulatory challenges in various markets across the world.

Founded in 2009 and backed by Google Ventures, the investment arm of the Internet giant, Uber now operates in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam after first entering Southeast Asia in Singapore last year.

The firm, whose valuation was placed at $18.2 billion after an investment drive in June, employs smartphone and satellite technology to match taxi supply and demand.

A list of the world’s 10 worst cities to hail a taxi compiled by industry website tourism-review.com in March included Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

In Singapore, locals grumbled in pre-Uber days about vanishing taxis during peak periods, with cabbies refusing to pick up roadside passengers while waiting to earn extra fees from reservations made via antiquated phone-in booking systems.

In some cities, it was not uncommon for cabbies to demand exorbitant fares before taking passengers at peak periods, during heavy rain and floods, or at times of day when taxis are scarce.

Regulatory tangles

Uber executives say they welcome competition and are more than ready to go head to head with the likes of Malaysia-based GrabTaxi, Indonesia’s Blue Bird, and Easy Taxi, a regional player backed by German startup incubator Rocket Internet.

“As long as people are giving people options, that’s a good thing,” Michael Brown, Uber’s Southeast Asia general manager, told AFP in an interview.

“What makes Uber bristle is when special interests try to protect monopolies and keep new entrants and new competitors out,” said Brown, who is based in Singapore.

Despite threats to have it banned in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, Uber continues to operate there.

The firm is also facing legal threats in San Francisco and other major cities including New York and Frankfurt.

It is has also run into opposition in Seoul, where officials believe it should follow South Korean laws regulating taxi or rental car companies.

“Uber insists that it is acting as an online broker connecting drivers and customers rather than acting as a rental car company,” a Seoul city official told AFP.

“We do not agree with their characterization of their business.”

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta also say its car-hailing service makes use of private vehicles that do not comply with strict regulations that traditional taxi operators come under.

Uber has vehemently denied the accusations.

The firm does not own its own limousine or taxi fleet. Instead, its app allows customers to summon cars in its network, usually from a private car company.

It takes a cut of the total fare from the driver, which is paid electronically. Other taxi app players allow their members to take cash.

“Up to this day our principle remains that this taxi service is illegal,” Muhammad Akbar, head of Jakarta’s transport authority, told AFP.

In Malaysia, authorities say they began a crackdown on private cars using Uber on Oct. 1, fining drivers up to 10,000 ringgit ($3,070).

Giving people options

Commuters and market analysts say unyielding bureaucrats are not seeing how taxi apps like Uber have the potential to significantly improve the standard of living of city dwellers.

Jakarta resident Winda Rezita said the arrival of Uber in the Indonesian capital was a relief.

“When I am too lazy to drive in Jakarta’s heavy traffic jams or when there’s a long taxi queue at the mall, I just switch on the app,” the e-commerce business founder told AFP. “It’s so much better than waiting outside a building or standing in a long queue.”

Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, a consumer trends consultant at research firm Euromonitor International, said “inadequate and overburdened public transport systems” coupled with the emergence of more middle-class consumers have boosted the usage of taxi-hailing apps in Southeast Asia.

Expansion plans

GrabTaxi, which first launched in Malaysia in 2012 and has since expanded to Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, is aiming for further growth.

Unlike Uber, the firm, backed by Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings, has so far avoided regulatory difficulties.

Its app mainly matches customers with registered taxis. A recently launched function called GrabCar allows for booking of private vehicles just like Uber, but so far it has not been flagged by authorities.

“We’re the leading taxi booking app in Southeast Asia including Singapore, and we are well-positioned to extend our lead,” Lim Kell Jay, GrabTaxi’s general manager in Singapore, told AFP.

The firm says it gets one taxi booking every two seconds in the whole region, with more than 300,000 people using it at least once a month.

Taxi drivers say they hope the intense rivalry between the apps will continue.

A Singaporean taxi driver who only wanted to be known as Tan said his revenue has increased by 20 to 30 percent since he signed up with UberTaxi last month.

The service connects Uber users to registered taxis, just like rival GrabTaxi.

“With the apps like Uber, it’s like a win-win. You (passengers) wait around less, and we drivers don’t have to roam around hunting for passengers, saving time and petrol,” he told AFP.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Four Uberpop taxi drivers arrested, face fines of up to €4,200

DutchNews.nl, Sunday 12 October 2014

Four drivers who picked up passengers using the Uberpop private taxi service in Amsterdam on Saturday night were arrested for acting as illegal cab drivers.

The four were caught out by transport ministry inspectors posing as passengers. They face fines of up to €4,200 which will be increased if they are caught offering taxi services again.

Taxis in Amsterdam have to have a licence and officials pledged to take action against Uber drivers when the app was launched in July.

It is the first time Uberpop drivers have been fined.

This summer Uber raised $1.2bn in extra financing to expand its operations, valuing the companby at $17bn.

Related Article:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dutch FM Timmermans: MH17 passenger 'wore mask'

The foreign minister of the Netherlands has said one of the victims of flight MH17 was found wearing an oxygen mask. This has raised the possibility that not all of the passengers died instantly, as had been thought.

Deutsche Welle, 9 Oct 2014

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans (pictured) first reported the finding Wednesday during a late-night chat show on national television.

"You know that somebody was discovered wearing an oxygen mask and had time to put it on," Timmermans said.

On Thursday, Wim De Bruin, a spokesman for the National Prosecutor's Office, which is leading a criminal investigation into the crash confirmed Timmermans' account.

De Bruin said Dutch forensics experts had tested the mask "for fingerprints, saliva and DNA and that did not produce any results. So it is not known how or when that mask got around the neck of the victim."

He also said the victim in question, an Australian national, was the only one of the 298 killed in the crash to be found wearing an oxygen mask.

Timmermans under fire

Timmermans, who is to leave his post as foreign minister shortly to take up the job of vice president of the European Commission, has come under fire for the remarks, which may have caused distress to some of the victims' families. Apart from the relatives of the Australian, no one had previously been told about the discovery.

De Bruin said his office had received a number of calls from relatives of the victims - 193 of whom were Dutch - on Thursday.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry released a statement on Thursday in which Timmermans apologized for his remarks.

"I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the next of kin," he said in the statement. "The last thing I want to do is compound their suffering in this way."

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 came down over a part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia rebels on July 17. An initial report by Dutch investigators said it appeared that the Boeing 777 may have been shot down by a missile, suggesting that the victims may have been killed nearly instantly. Kyiv and other nations have pointed the finger at the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Next-generation Airbus A350 plane gets EU green light

Yahoo – AFP, 30 Sep 2014

A cameraman aboard a helicopter (back) films the test flight of an A350 XWB plane
 of European planemaker Airbus at the Airbus headquarters in Blagnac (Haute-Garonne)
on September 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Pascal Pavani)

Paris (AFP) - EU authorities gave the green light Tuesday for Airbus's new long-haul A350 plane to enter service, opening the way for delivery of the next-generation aircraft to first client Qatar Airways.

Designed to help the European manufacturer catch up with its American rival Boeing in the market for long-haul, fuel-efficient planes, the A350-900 makes extensive use of light composite materials which reduce fuel consumption and costs.

"Airbus demonstrated that the aircraft complies with the regulatory safety and environment requirements defined by EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency) for the European Union," the EU aviation watchdog said in a statement.

Airbus has positioned its A350 between the Boeing's popular 777 and its 787 Dreamliner, hoping to eat away at both planes' markets.

"Every new type of aircraft needs to obtain a ... certificate before it can be delivered to an airline," EASA said in its statement.

"This EASA certificate guarantees that the A350-900 is set for delivery from a safety and environment point of view."

The plane can carry 315 passengers over a distance of 14.500 kilometres (9,000 miles), and to date, 750 A350 aircraft have been ordered by 39 customers worldwide.

In August, Airbus had announced that the plane had completed its "route proving", a round-the-world in 20 days trip aimed at testing the aircraft's readiness for airline operations, during which it flew 180 hours and stopped off in 14 airports.