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.
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Super material has chink in its armour

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Nov 2014

Subatomic proton particles, as produced by this "Synergium" machine, can
penetrate super material graphene, it has been discovered (AFP File)

Scientists said Wednesday they had found a chink in the impermeable armour of graphene, the world's thinnest material, and one of the strongest.

The team said they were surprised to see the super material known to repel all gases and liquids, let through sub-atomic particles called protons.

And they hailed the unexpected finding as a potential breakthrough for fuel cells -- a non-polluting version of a traditional battery.

"The discovery could revolutionise fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies as they require a barrier that only allow protons -- hydrogen atoms stripped of their electrons -- to pass through," said a statement from Manchester University, whose researchers took part in the work.

Protons, along with neutrons, make up the nuclei of atoms, the building blocks of matter.

At just one atom thick -- many times thinner than a human hair, graphene is stronger than steel and acts as a barrier to even the smallest of atoms, hydrogen -- making it a perfect ingredient for impermeable coatings and packaging materials.

Led by physicist Andre Geim, awarded the Nobel in 2010 for his work on graphene, a research team set out to test whether protons, like atoms and molecules, would also be repelled by graphene.

They "fully expected that protons would be blocked, as existing theory predicted as little proton permeation as for hydrogen," said the statement of the findings published in the journal Nature.

"Despite the pessimistic prognosis, the researchers found that protons pass through the ultra-thin crystals surprisingly easily, especially at elevated temperatures..."

This made graphene an excellent candidate for proton-conducting membranes key to efficient fuel cell technology, said the statement.

Fuel cells, a kind of battery used in some electric cars and backup power generators, for example, use oxygen and hydrogen as a fuel and convert chemical energy into electricity.

They require membranes that allow protons to pass through, but not other particles.

"It looks extremely simple and equally promising. Because graphene can be produced these days in square metre sheets, we hope that it will find its way to commercial fuel cells sooner rather than later," said study co-author Sheng Hu.

Graphene was aired as a theoretical substance in 1947. But for decades, physicists thought it would be impossible to isolate, as such thin crystalline sheets were bound to be unstable.

The problem was resolved in 2004 by Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who used ordinary sticky tape to lift a layer from a piece of graphite.

That layer was itself pulled apart using more tape, and the process repeated until just the thinnest of layers remained -- a graphene sheet.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New energy car batteries to be subsidized in China

Want China Times, Chen Chang-jui and Staff Reporter 2014-11-22

Workers inspecting new energy cars at a factory in Hefei, Anhui province,
Aug. 19. (Photo/Xinhua)

China plans to introduce subsidy policies on batteries used for electric vehicles as the high battery prices have become a roadblock to electric cars gaining popularity in China, our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily reports.

International car makers have been increasing their investments in the Chinese new energy vehicle market in recent years. The subsidy policies on batteries may be a turning point to its development in 2015, the report said.

US electric car manufacturer Tesla Motor, a major player in the Chinese new energy car market, has built 20 super-charging stations in eight cities nationwide and more than 400 destination-charging stations in 61 cities.

It is said that Tesla had approached the Shenzhen-based electric car and battery maker BYD for partnership in manufacturing, but hasn't received a response from BYD yet.

Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Company, a joint venture between Japanese automaker Nissan and China's Dongfeng Motors, launched its first electric car in September.

Besides the battery subsidy policy, a draft aiming to promote new-energy vehicles in China has been released on Oct. 30 by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and eleven other government departments.

The draft details plans for improved infrastructure such as how new public parking lots should reserve sufficient space for electric cars and charging stations. Charging posts will be set up in current parking lots, highway toll stations and truck stops.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Singapore Moves to Regulate Taxi Booking Apps

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Nov 21, 2014

The Uber App is shown in this Feb. 14, 2013,
 file photo in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/
Paul J. Richards)

Singapore. Singapore on Friday announced new rules for mobile taxi booking apps, including US-based Uber, in the latest move by governments around the world to regulate the increasingly popular services.

Taxi-booking and ride-sharing apps like Uber, Hailo and Lyft have spread rapidly in recent years, drawing protests from cabbies in cities from London to San Francisco who say it has led to soaring competition from unlicensed drivers.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority said the apps will have to apply for a three-yearly “certificate of registration” starting from the second quarter of next year.

“Third-party taxi booking services facilitate more efficient matching of taxis with commuters and have become increasingly popular,” the LTA said, adding the new rules are designed to “safeguard commuter safety and interests”.

Apps operating in Singapore will need to agree to dispatch only licensed taxis and drivers, while information on fare rates and other fees payable for a ride must be disclosed to passengers.

The apps will be barred from requiring passengers to disclose their destinations when they make bookings due to concerns some taxi drivers may try to avoid certain routes, the LTA said.

Operators are also required to provide “basic customer support”, including lost and found services and a platform for customers to file complaints.

Passengers in Singapore can only use Uber to connect to registered taxis and limousines, unlike in some other cities around the world where the app is used to hire private cars and ride-share to cut fares.

Other similar apps operating in Singapore include Britain’s Hailo, regional player Easy Taxi and Malaysia-based GrabTaxi.

At present, these apps already comply with Singapore’s new requirement for the taxis to be licensed.

Michael Brown, Uber’s Southeast Asia general manager based in Singapore, on Friday welcomed the new rules.

“We appreciate that the LTA has acknowledged the benefits our technology brings, and like Uber, is putting the interest and safety of consumers and drivers first,” Brown said in a statement to AFP.

Uber has been battling scandal in recent days, scrambling to allay fears that its employees have spied on passengers through a “God View” feature that shows where riders are located at any given time.

Emil Michael, Uber’s executive vice president of business, also sparked anger by outlining a vision of spending $1 million on digging up dirt on journalists critical of the start-up.

Michael apologized for the comments and stressed neither he nor Uber would ever actually resort to the kind of tactic he suggested.

Agence France-Presse

Monday, November 17, 2014

Indonesia Raises Subsidized Fuel Prices by Rp 2,000 a Liter

Jakarta Globe, Dion Bisara, Nov 17, 2014

(Antara Photo/Fanny Octavianus)

Jakarta. Indonesia raised subsidized fuel prices by an average Rp 2,000 per liter, in an attempt to curb fuel usage and narrow the gaps in the current account and the state budget.

The price for low-octane gasoline, or Premium, will rise to Rp 8,500 per liter, from Rp 6,500. Subsidized diesel was raised to Rp 7,500 per liter from Rp 5,500. The prices would go into effect at midnight on Monday.

The move would also help to reduce state expenses on the subsidy and that money could be used for other programs such as education and health care.

President Joko Widodo announced the prices increases at around 9:10 p.m. on Monday in an address that was broadcast via television.

“The increase is moderate even by recent latest increases standard because we see a decline in global oil price trend,” said Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said before the announcement.

Sofyan Djalil, the coordinating minister for economic affairs, said in a press briefing on Monday that the government has so much infrastructure that needs to be built that “we need to save some of our budget for productive spending.”

Bambang Brodjonegoro, the finance minister, said that the increase will save Rp 120 trillion ($9.8 billion) in the 2015 state budget.

Indonesia’s current account deficit has narrowed to 3 percent of gross domestic product in the third quarter from 4.3 percent of GDP in the previous three-month period.

The government last raised subsidized fuel prices in June 2013 by an average Rp 3,000 a liter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

World's first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands

Solar panels embedded in the cycle path near Amsterdam could generate enough electricity to power three houses, with potential to extend scheme to roads

theguardian.com, Philip Oltermann in Berlin, Wednesday 5 November 2014

SolaRoad in Krommenie, the Netherlands, will be the world’s first cycle path
with embedded solar panels. Photograph: SolaRoad

The bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer is popular with both school children and commuters: around 2,000 cyclists ride its two lanes on an average day.

But next week Krommenie’s cycle path promises to become even more useful: on 12 November a 70-metre stretch will become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels.

Costing around €3m (£2.4m) and funded mostly by the local authority, the road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.

A non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt are meant to help the rain wash off dirt and thus keep the surface clean, guaranteeing maximum exposure to sunlight.

Since the path cannot be adjusted to the position of the sun, the panels produce roughly 30% less energy than those fixed on to roofs. Nonetheless, when the path is extended to 100 metres in 2016, its creators hope that it will produce enough energy to power three households.

The Netherlands’ TNO research institute, which developed the concept behind the solar bicycle path, think the potential of their idea doesn’t stop there. Sten de Wit of the institute told the Guardian that up to 20% of the Netherlands’ 140,000km of road could potentially be adapted, helping to power anything from traffic lights to electric cars. Tests have seen the solar panel units successfully carry the weight of heavy vehicles such as tractors.

While Krommenie will become the first community in the world with a publicly accessible stretch of solar road, the idea of using existing road infrastructure to harvest solar energy is gaining momentum across the globe.

Two US engineers, Idaho couple Julie and Scott Brusaw, have been developing solar panelling units for road use since 2006. In 2009, their company Solar Roadways received a contract from America’s Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype.

In March this year, the Brusaws replaced their own parking lot with solar-panelled units, and thanks to a popular viral video, they have raised $2.2m (£1.4m) to put their design into production.

If all the roads in the US were converted to solar roadways, the Solar Roadways website claims, the country would generate three times as much energy as it currently uses and cut greenhouse gases by 75%.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hyundai, Kia to pay $100 million over fuel economy suit

Yahoo – AFP, Kerry Sheridan, 3 Nov 2014

Hyundai and Kia agreed to pay $100 million on November 3, 2014, to settle a US 
government investigation into exaggerated fuel efficiency on 2012 and 2013 car 
models sold in the United States (AFP Photo)

Washington (AFP) - Hyundai and Kia agreed to pay $100 million Monday to settle a US government investigation into exaggerated fuel efficiency on 2012 and 2013 car models sold in the United States by the South Korean automakers.

The US Department of Justice said it marked the largest civil penalty ever secured under the four-decade-old Clean Air Act.

"This will send a strong message that cheating is not profitable, and that any company that violates the law will be held to account" said Attorney General Eric Holder.

The settlement involved the sale of nearly 1.2 million vehicles, many of which now need to reduce their stated fuel economy by one to two miles per gallon.

"Because they used inaccurately low numbers to demonstrate compliance with emissions standards -- cherry-picking data and conducting tests in ways that did not reflect good engineering judgment -– Hyundai and Kia calculated higher fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions than these vehicles actually have," Holder told reporters.

The result is that the six vehicle models implicated will emit approximately 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, above and beyond what the automakers certified with the Environmental Protection Agency.

As part of the settlement, Hyundai and Kia will "forfeit the greenhouse gas credits that the companies wrongly claimed based on their inaccurate reporting," Holder said.

Relinquishing those 4.75 million metric tons of credits could be valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.

The automakers also agreed to have an independent certification test group oversee its fuel economy testing, training, data management and reporting in the future.

"Businesses that play by the rules shouldn't have to compete with those breaking the law," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, describing the settlement as "historic."

The six vehicle models implicated will emit approximately 4.75 million metric tons of 
greenhouse gases, above and beyond what the automakers certified with the
Environmental Protection Agency (AFP Photo/Scott Olson)

"This settlement upholds the integrity of the nation's fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs and supports all Americans who want to save fuel costs and reduce their environmental impact."


Hyundai said in a statement that the agreement requires the company to adjust about a quarter of its 2011-13 model year vehicles, reducing their combined city/highway fuel economy by one to two miles per gallon.

In addition to paying a $56.8 million civil penalty, Hyundai agreed to forgo the use of approximately 2.7 million greenhouse gas (GHG) emission credits, representing the difference between the original emissions pledge and the newly adjusted one.

"Hyundai has acted transparently, reimbursed affected customers and fully cooperated with the EPA throughout the course of its investigation," said David Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai said its adjusted fuel ratings are 27.2 miles per gallon for 2011, 28.3 mpg for 2012 and 29.0 mpg for 2013 model year vehicles.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thick Haze Returns to Central Kalimantan

Jakarta Globe, Nov 02, 2014

Haze at a airport in South Sulawesi, in this Oct. 6, 2014, file photo. (Antara
Photo/Herry Murdy Hermawan)

Jakarta. Thick haze, usually caused by forest fires, on Saturday made a comeback in parts of Central Kalimantan that had just experienced a smoke-free week.

The Sampit area East Kotawaringin district was blanketed in smoke so thick that flights had to be diverted.

“The air here in East Kotawaringin district was free of haze for a week, but since Saturday the haze has come back and blanketed Sampit,” Sumi, a resident, told state-run news agency Antara on Sunday.

Fadlian Noor, head of East Kotawaringin’s Communications and Informatics Office, said visibility was just 10 meters — a far cry from the minimum of 2,000 meters for safe flight movements.

“The haze seems to have gotten worse — so bad that flights coming here have had to be diverted,” he said, as quoted by Antara on Sunday.

“Yesterday there was even a flight from Jakarta [to Sampit] that had to be diverted all the way to Surabaya [in East Java] because of the haze,” he added.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pilot dead as Virgin spaceship crashes in US desert

Yahoo – AFP, Michael Thurston, 31 Oct 2014

This image obtained October 31, 2014, courtesy of NASA and Mars Scientific/Clay
 Center Observatory shows SpaceShipTwo as it completed its second powered
 flight on September 5, 2013 over the Mojave desert (AFP Photo/Handout)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Virgin Galactic's pioneering spacecraft designed to take tourists into space crashed Friday in California, killing one of the two pilots and scattering debris across the desert.

Television images showed the wreckage of SpaceShipTwo, a test vehicle that flies to the edge of space, amid brush east of Mojave, a few hours' drive northeast of Los Angeles.

The incident is second disaster involving a US spacecraft this week, after an unmanned Orbital Science rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded after launch on Tuesday.

A scale model of the Virgin Galactic
Spaceship Two is seen January 23, 2008
at the America Museum of Natural History
in New York (AFP Photo/Stan Honda)
It is also a huge blow to British tycoon Richard Branson's long-held dream of offering the first passenger space flights, which have been snapped up by celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Virgin chief said he was heading straight to the site.

"Thoughts with all @virgingalactic ... I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team," he wrote on Twitter. It was not clear where the globe-trotting tycoon was at the time of the crash.

"During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. Our first concern is the status of the pilots," the firm said in a tweet.

Virgin Galactic said the fate of the pilots was unknown but the California Highway Patrol confirmed reports that one pilot had died another was serious injured, and taken to hospital.

"We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates as soon as we are able to do so," Virgin said.

Reserved seats

The spaceship had been carried aloft on a bigger aircraft known as WhiteKnightTwo and then released for a test of its rocket engine above the Mojave desert, the latest in a series of tests.

"SpaceShipTwo has been released by WhiteKnightTwo, and is now flying freely," the firm wrote in a blow-by-blow account of the flight, adding: "Ignition! SpaceShipTwo is flying under rocket power again."

The next tweet announced the "anomaly" followed by a series confirming the crash. The company added that WhiteKnightTwo had landed safely after the accident.

The US air safety agency, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said it was sending a team to the site of the crash.

More than 500 people have already reserved seats -- and paid a deposit on the $250,000 ticket price -- for a minutes-long suborbital flight on SpaceShipTwo, which can carry six passengers.

It is the commercial version of SpaceShipOne, the first private spacecraft to reach the edge of space in 2004, and which is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Private companies are rushing to fill the gap left by NASA, which ended its 30-year shuttle program in July with the completion of the final Atlantis mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

DiCaprio and fellow actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are among those already reported to have booked their place.

Earlier this year, "Titanic" star DiCaprio auctioned off a trip with him into space, raising 700,000 euros.

Friday's incident is the second involving an American spacecraft this week, after the Orbital Science rocket exploded six seconds after launch on a resupply mission to the ISS.

Initial investigations into that explosion centered on the pair of rocket engines providing its thrust, which were made during the Soviet era and refurbished.

The Ukrainian-designed AJ-26 engines date back to the 1960s and 1970s, and Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California has a stockpile that it refurbishes for Orbital Sciences.

The Virgin crash also raised questions over a reality TV show, "Space Race."

The show, which was commissioned last year, pits contenders against each other to win a flight on the Virgin Galactic spacecraft, according to entertainment industry journal Variety.

Related Article:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Russia offers US space station help after rocket explodes

Yahoo – AFP, 29 Oct 2014

A NASA video image shows an Orbital Sciences Corporation unmanned spacecraft
 exploding on October 28, 2014 at Wallops Island, Virginia, six seconds after launch
(Photo AFP)

Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off.

"If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request," Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance.

An unmanned rocket owned by private firm Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on what was to be a resupply mission.

Orbital's Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost, a US-led multi-national collaboration.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

People who came to watch the launch walk away after an unmanned rocket owned
 by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded (background) October 28, 2014 just 
seconds after lift-off from Wallops Island, Virginia (Photo AFP)

Europe stopped delivering supplies to the ISS this summer, and the outpost is now resupplied by Russia and two NASA-contracted private American firms -- Space X and Orbital Sciences.

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched its own supply mission from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Russian cargo ship Progress took off for the ISS on a planned mission to replace a sister vessel.

Krasnov said that the impact of the loss of the rocket on Russian operations at the space station would be "minimal."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Saudi women's driving campaign a 'success'

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Oct 2014

A Saudi woman gets into a taxi in the city of Riyadh on October 26, 2014, as a online
 campaign continues to call for an end to the driving ban for women in the country (AFP
Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh (AFP) - Activists pushing for women's right-to-drive in Saudi Arabia declared their online campaign a success Sunday, in the world's only country where women are not allowed to operate cars.

The campaign that began last year and revved up again since the beginning of the month encouraged women to post online images of themselves driving.

Dozens of women have driven and posted during the latest campaign, one activist said, although she knew of only two who hit the streets Saturday and Sunday as the campaign peaked.

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif drives her
 car in Dubai on October 22, 2013, as she
 campaigns for women's rights to drive in
the country (AFP Photo/Marwan Naamani)
"A day hasn't gone by without receiving one or two videos" of women driving, said the activist.

Men and women have also posted messages of support.

More than 2,800 people have signed an online petition at www.oct26driving.com asking authorities to lift the ban on women driving.

The activist said she did not want to be named because the interior ministry has threatened her with arrest if she speaks publicly about the campaign.

Last year, activists also focused their demands on October 26, when at least four driving videos were posted on YouTube.

Sixteen or more women were fined for taking the wheel on that day.

There is a "huge risk" for female drivers, the activist said when asked why more had not posted images of themselves this year.

Women have previously been arrested, cars have been confiscated, and one received 100 lashes, she alleged.

"So, women are afraid," the activist said.

She added that, apart from driving, the campaign is also about "creating a storm" over the issue.

On Thursday the interior ministry issued a warning to would-be female drivers and their supporters.

The ministry said it would "strictly implement" measures against anyone who "contributes in any manner or by any acts, towards providing violators with the opportunity to undermine the social cohesion".

That means the campaign has had an impact, the activist said.

"I think it's pretty successful. If we're getting a reaction, that means we're effective."

'Half a citizen'

Sahar Nasief defied the warnings and got behind the wheel anyway on Sunday.

"The roads were full of police cars... everybody was on alert," she told AFP from the Red Sea city of Jeddah after running a 15-minute errand in her car because her driver wasn't available.

The authorities' response shows the driving campaign has been "very successful," she agreed.

"Its sad that you live in a country where you feel like half a citizen, that you are a threat to national security," another driver said in a YouTube video posted on Saturday.

Dressed in black with only her eyes exposed, she said she was driving in Riyadh on the weekend.

Saudi women are required to dress in black from head to toe and still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry.

Activists say women's driving is not against the law.

Tradition and custom are behind the prohibition, which is not backed up by an Islamic text or judicial ruling, the online petition states.

But activists said they feel the conservative society is becoming more accepting of women motorists.

"A lot of people now are for the campaign," Nasief said.

Another activist, Aziza al-Yussef, said people notice that she is a woman driver and don't seem to care.

"We are just waiting for a decree from the king to allow it," she said, optimistic that a change is coming.

Hardline clerics protested when King Abdullah, in January last year, decided to give women a 20 percent quota in the previously all-male Shura Council, an advisory body.

The unnamed activist said "it's hard to say" if women are closer to the right to drive.

In the meantime activists say they will keep raising their voices, and getting behind the wheel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

China launches first mission to moon and back

Yahoo – AFP, 24 Oct 2014

A rocket carrying an experimental spacecraft intended for the moon and back
 launches from Xichang space base in China's Sichuan province on October 24,
2014 (AFP Photo)

Beijing (AFP) - China launched its first space mission to the moon and back early Friday, authorities said, the latest step forward for Beijing's ambitious programme to one day land a Chinese citizen on the Earth's only natural satellite.

The unnamed, unmanned probe will travel to the moon, fly around it and head back to Earth, re-entering the atmosphere and landing, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said in a statement.

"The first stage of the first return journey test in China's moon probe programme has been successful," it said after the launch, from the Xichang space base in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The module will be 413,000 kilometres from Earth at its furthest point on the eight-day mission, it added.

The official Xinhua news agency said it would re-enter the atmosphere at 11.2 kilometres per second (25,000 mph) before slowing down -- a process that generates extremely high temperatures -- and landing in northern China's Inner Mongolia region.

The mission is intended to test technology to be used in the Chang'e-5, China's fourth lunar probe, which aims to gather samples from the moon's surface and will be launched around 2017, SASTIND said previously.

Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise, as well as evidence of the ruling Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

The military-run project has plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually to send a human to the moon.

China currently has a rover, the Jade Rabbit, on the surface of the moon.

The craft, launched as part of the Chang'e-3 lunar mission late last year, has been declared a success by Chinese authorities, although it has been beset by mechanical troubles.

Related Article:


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Russia detains crash airport employees

Russia's top investigative agency says four airport workers have been detained over the runway crash that killed the chief of the French oil giant Total. Two executives of Moscow's Vnukovo airport have resigned.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Oct 2014


Russia's Investigative Committee said on Thursday those arrested included an air traffic supervisor and a female trainee who was directing the takeoff of Christophe de Margerie's small executive jet.

Its collision with a snow plough also killed the three-member crew of the Falcon 50 plane (wreckage pictured on left) as it was leaving for Paris from Vnukovo, one of three Moscow airports.

The agency, which reports to President Vladimir Putin, said the head of runway cleaning and head air traffic controller had also been detained.

"The investigation suggests that these people did not respect the norms of flight security and ground operations," said the agency in a statement.

A Moscow court was to decide on Thursday whether to order the formal arrest of the snow plough's driver, who was initially detained for 48 hours.

Vladimir Martynenko was shown on Russian television telling investigators that he strayed unawares onto the runway.

"When I lost my bearings, I myself didn't notice when I drove on to the runway," he said.
Martynenko's lawyer had previously denied a initial claim by investigators that the driver had been intoxicated.

Vnukovo airport announced the resignations of its general director and his deputy "due to the tragic event." They were not detained by investigators, however.

Total announces replacements

At an emergency meeting in Paris on Wednesday, the French oil giant appointed Thierry Desmarest, a former chief executive and chairman at Total, to replace Margerie as chairman of the group until late 2015.

It also appointed Philippe Pouyanne as replacement chief executive.

De Margerie, who had also held both posts -- CEO and board chairman -- had been an outspoken critic of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine.

Total employs about 100,000 employees worldwide and posted revenues of nearly 190 billion euros ($240 billion) in 2013.

ipj/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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
Kitamura)
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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