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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ryanair to appeal against Dutch court over fuel allegations

DutchNews.nl, Friday 18 April 2014

(NOS/ANP)
Budget airline Ryanair is appealing a recent Dutch court ruling which rejected claims of defamation by Dutch broadcaster KRO in a three-part series, the Irish Times reports.

Current affairs programme Reporter carried interviews at the end of 2012 with four anonymous Ryanair pilots who said they regularly fly with less fuel than they would like on company orders.

The airline said at the time the programme was factually incorrect and criticised the makers for failing to contact it for a reaction. It then went to court demanding the series be halted and it be given access to unedited film material.

Three airports

The programme led the Dutch government to ask the Irish authorities for an explanation. Ryanair operates flights from three Dutch airports.

Ryanair described the Dutch court decision in favour of the KRO as ‘bizarre’.

This article was amended to reflect an inaccuracy in the Irish Times report.

Related Articles:


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Google buys drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace

Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2014

Google has purchased the company Titan Aerospace, a manufacturer of solar-powered drones. The Silicon Valley tech giant wants to harness drones to bring Internet access to people living in remote locations.


Google announced on Monday that it had acquired Titan Aerospace, placing it in competition with Facebook to expand global Internet access using drone technology.

Google did not say how much the acquisition cost.

Titan Aerospace, based in the US state of New Mexico, is developing solar-powered drones that can run for five years at an altitude of 19,812 meters (65,000 feet). The drones look like gliders and have a wingspan of 50 meters (164 feet). The technology is expected to be ready for commercial operations by 2015.

"It's still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring Internet access to millions of people and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation," a Google spokesman said in a press release.

Facebook was also reportedly interested in acquiring Titan, but opted instead to buy Ascenta, a British company that specializes in solar-powered drones. The acquisition cost $20 million (14 million euros).

Google is also developing Project Loon, which aims to transmit the Internet to remote locations via large, high-altitude balloons. Titan Aerospace will also work on Project Loon, according to Google.

slk/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)
Related Article:


Thursday, April 10, 2014

First glowing road opened near Oss

DutchNews.nl, Thursday 10 April 2014

The glowing lines on the N329

A 500 metre stretch of highway near Oss has become the first in the country to have its markings made from light-absorbing paint which glows in the dark.

The paint was developed by construction group Heijmans and absorbs light during the day. It then glows for up to eight hours, showing motorists where the edge of the road is and other key markings

The 'glowing lines' project was devised by artist Daan Roosegaarde, who says the paint is a good option now some road lighting is being switched off at night.

'The focus is always on making cars cleverer and more energy neutral, but roads help determine the landscape,' he told the broadcaster.

Heijmans is keen to use the paint on other roads but has not yet negotiated any more contracts, Nos said.

Indonesia Takes Delivery of Presidential Jet

Jakarta Globe, Ezra Sihite,Apr 10, 2014

Indonesia’s first presidential plane. (JG Photo/Ezra Sihite)

Jakarta. Indonesia took delivery of its $91 million presidential plane on Thursday, a Boeing jet the State Palace will use for official business instead of chartering flights from flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

“This is the first time in Indonesia’s 69 years of independence that we have our own presidential plane,” State Secretary Sudi Silalahi said at the delivery event at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in East Jakarta, as quoted by his officialwebsite, Setkab.go.id.

Sudi said the Boeing Business Jet 2, which has a capacity for 67 passengers, had been customized to meet the requirements of the government.

“After meticulous calculations along with deep consideration and input from many parties — especially the House of Representatives — the ownership and usage of a presidential plane [was determined to have] more benefits,” he said.

The government has been keen to emphasize the cost-saving benefits of the plane, countering those who believed the plane was an unnecessary expenditure.

“From our calculations, we can save the state budget around Rp 114.2 billion [$10.05 million] every year from the use of the plane for the years ahead,” he said.

Sudi said the livery was chosen by the government and dismissed critics of the ministry’s color scheme. 

“Why does it have to be blue? Ask why does the sky have to be blue,” he said. “Blue is part of camouflage in flight security and it’s the color of the Air Force.”

Next generation solar plane unveiled in Switzerland

Yahoo – AFP, Agnes Pedrero, 9 April 2014

People look at the second Solar Impulse experimental solar-powered plane,
 the HB-SIB, to be used for a round-the-world voyage next year, during its
presentation in Payerne on April 9, 2014 (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Payerne (Switzerland) (AFP) - The masterminds of sun-powered plane Solar Impulse formally unveiled their new aircraft Wednesday, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight.

Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel.

"These two airplanes are the most energy efficient airplanes ever designed," pilot Andre Borschberg told a 500-strong audience of officials, sponsors and diplomats at Switzerland's Payerne airbase.

"The first plane was a prototype, a flying laboratory," said the former Swiss Air Force jet pilot.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard (L) and
 Andre Borschberg, who flew the Solar
 Impulse experimental solar-powered
 plane on a transcontinental trip, present
 on April 9, 2013 in Payerne their second
 solar-powered plane, the HB-SIB (AFP
 Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger, better version of its predecessor, he said, reeling off the new aircraft's statistics.

The new plane has a wingspan of 72 metres.

While that is the same as an Airbus A380, at just 2,300 kilos, Solar Impulse 2 is less than 1 percent than the weight of the super jumbo jet.

That is thanks to the fact that the plane is built from carbon layers that weigh less than 25 gramme per square metre -- one third of the weight of a sheet of paper, Borschberg said.

It will be powered by a massive 17,248 solar cells spread across its wings and fuselage.

The goal, Borschberg said, is to be able to fly for at least 120 hours non-stop around the globe.

After test flights in Switzerland starting from next month, the plan is to take off sometime after March 1, 2015 from a location in the Gulf, ideal for its weather conditions, and head eastwards.

"We will need at least five days and five nights to fly from China to the US and from the US back to Europe," said Borschberg.

While that cannot compete with traditional air travel, the point of the project is to push the boundaries of green-flavoured research, said fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, the latest member of a dynasty of Swiss scientists-cum-adventurers.

Dumbo

"If you say you want to fly around the world in a solar airplane, everyone thinks you're crazy," said Piccard, who in 1999 was the first person to fly around the world non-stop in a hot-air balloon.

"But technology doesn't come out of the blue," he added, noting that spin-offs from such projects are crucial for sectors from energy to auto manufacturing, and bio-science to chemicals.

The new solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse (AFP Photo)

Borschberg said that the plane's designers had wrestled with issues such as the fact that more reliable technology tends to be heavier, but that weight means less performance.

Other issues to resolve have been how to ensure pilot safety at an altitude of 8,000 metres on a flight that will cross oceans.

"We didn't want to spend time taking swimming lessons, so we really want to make sure we have no trouble in the air," Borschberg said, laughing.

Borschberg and Piccard founded the Solar Impulse project themselves over a decade ago, after previously having struggled to get traditional aircraft manufacturers to take them seriously.

"Each time I look at this airplane, I have a memory of my childhood coming back and I am sure you have the same memory: it's the Walt Disney animation cartoon Dumbo," a tongue in cheek Piccard told the crowd.

"When Solar Impulse was born 12 years ago and we could show the enormous wings and the light weight of its structure on a computer design, all the specialists in world aviation started to laugh like stupid people can laugh at Dumbo. Today this airplane exists."

The first Solar Impulse took to the air in 2009.

The following year it notched up a 26-hour flight that proved it was able to stock up enough electricity during the day in order to keep flying at night.

Before its trans-American flight last year, the plane had already flown through Europe and crossed the Mediterranean to reach Morocco.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Toyota Recalls More Than 6 Million Autos, Among Biggest Ever

Jakarta Globe – Bloomberg, Apr 09, 2014

A visitor looks at a Toyota Motor’s car at the company show room
in Tokyo on May 8, 2013. (Reuters Photo/Yuya Shino)

Toyota Motor, the world’s largest carmaker, called back more than 6 million vehicles to fix a range of safety defects in one of the biggest recalls in automotive history.

The company found five types of safety hazards in vehicles including some of its top sellers such as the Camry sedan, RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Corolla cars, according to a statement today.

The carmaker isn’t aware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the defects, it said.

The recall, Toyota’s second-biggest since late 2012, is a setback for President Akio Toyoda, who has spent years trying to restore the company’s reputation for quality after calling back millions of vehicles in 2009-2010 because of unintended acceleration.

Scrutiny of safety practices in the auto industry is rising as US regulators investigate General Motors for its handling of deadly ignition-switch flaws that the company knew of as far back as 2001.

“Something is wrong,” Koji Endo, an analyst at Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, said by telephone. “They may even need to review their production process. Even if the problem is with the suppliers, Toyota should be responsible for it.”

Though details weren’t available for precise calculations, Endo estimated that the recall could cost Toyota about 60 billion yen ($588 million) to 70 billion yen, or 10,000 yen per vehicle.

Toyota fell 3.1 percent to close at 5,450 yen in Tokyo after the announcement, dragging down the benchmark Topix index, which declined 2.1 percent.

Biggest recalls

The recalls involve 6.39 million vehicles, some of which are being called back for more than one issue, pushing the total tally to 6.76 million, the company said.

The Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker recalled 7.43 million vehicles in October 2012 to fix power-window switches on models including its Camry and Corolla cars.

Toyota last month admitted to wrongdoing and agreed to reviews by an independent monitor who is assessing its safety reporting practices as part of a $1.2 billion settlement, the largest criminal penalty ever imposed in the US on an automaker.

Toyoda, 57, has pledged to improve the company’s recall process after calling back more than 10 million vehicles for problems that led to sudden acceleration.

Lawmakers last week drew parallels to Toyota’s unintended-acceleration recalls as they pressed CEO Mary Barra on GM’s handling of flawed ignition switches that the company has linked to at least 13 deaths.

The largest US automaker is being fined $7,000 a day for failing to fully answer questions about the flawed part in cars including the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Spiral cables

In today’s recall, about 3.5 million of the vehicles — more than half in North America — are being called back to replace spiral cables that may prevent driver’s-side airbags from deploying.

Models involved include RAV4, Corolla, Yaris, Highlander, Tacoma and Camry that were produced from April 2004 to December 2010. Another 2.3 million vehicles are being called back to inspect and replace the front seat rails of three-door models.

Springs that lock these rails may break if the seats are frequently adjusted back and forth, the company said.

The models involved with this issue, which could lead to seats that move in the event of a crash, were built from January 2005 through August 2010.

The vehicles are the Ist, Vitz, Belta and Ractis in Japan, and Scion xD, Urban Cruiser and Yaris in other markets.

Unstable brackets

Toyota also will fix noisy and potentially unstable steering column brackets on about 760,000 vehicles globally.

The remaining safety campaigns are to replace windshield wiper motors of about 160,000 Ractis vehicles in Japan and the engine starters of about 20,000 vehicles in Japan and Hong Kong.

“This is Toyota being more active in calling back vehicles to ensure quality,” said Takaki Nakanishi, a Tokyo-based analyst for Jefferies Group LLC, who has a hold rating on the company’s shares. “The number is big, but the faults are minor and not critical.”

Among other big recalls in automotive history, Ford Motor called back more than 14 million vehicles in 2009 for a faulty cruise-control switch that could cause a fire, according to the US Transportation Department’s website.

In 1996, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker recalled 7.9 million vehicles for defective ignition switches that could short circuit and cause fire.

GM called back 6.7 million vehicles in 1971 to fix mounts that may cause the engine to lift and loss of vehicle control.

Factory freeze

Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder, has instituted a three-year freeze on new car plants to tilt the company’s priorities to quality and efficiency after the 2009-2010 recalls.

Following its crisis, Toyota said it improved procedures that had been too dependent on decision-making in Japan and didn’t give regional operations the autonomy to make fixes.

The carmaker also formed a global quality group that Toyoda has chaired.

This is the second major global recall for Toyota this year.

A recall of 1.9 million Prius hybrids in February covered more than half of the models sold since its debut 17 years ago.

The company has updated software in Priuses to fix glitches that could cause them to lose power or shut down and stop.

Toyota apology

“We sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and concern brought by this recall announcement,” the company said today in an e-mailed statement. “Toyota has rededicated itself to strengthening its commitment to safety and quality. In part, that means refocusing on putting customers and people first, by listening better and taking appropriate action.”

Recalls haven’t slowed down Toyota’s earnings. The company has forecast profit for the year ending March 31 will surge to a record 1.9 trillion yen. Toyota also has set a target of selling an unprecedented 10.32 million vehicles in 2014 after leading GM and Volkswagen AG in global auto deliveries for a second straight year in 2013.

With assistance from Ma Jie in Tokyo

Bloomberg

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beijing steps up promotion of new-energy cars

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-04-08

A new energy car on charge during a promotional event in Kunming,
Yunnan province, April 3. (Photo/CNS)

Chinese vice premier Ma Kai recently visited Shenzhen to promote new-energy cars and hosted a work conference for the industry, signaling the central government's determination to promote new-energy vehicles, reports the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily.

Ma said many problems remained in the development of the sector, including a lag in the construction of charging facilities, insufficient support from government policies, an incomplete profitability model, local protective barriers, as well as a relatively low price-performance ratio.

The conference in Shenzhen was attended by several government agencies, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance and the National Energy Administration, as well as high-ranking officials from 19 provincial cities, the paper said.

Ma previously visited Shenzhen as well as Hefei and Wuhu in eastern China's Anhui province in January, to inspect the development of the new energy automotive industry. During the trip, he paid visits to 10 local electric car makers, including BYD, JAC Motors and Chery Automobile.

"I learned a lot during my visit to Shenzhen and Hefei in January," Ma said, adding that Beijing is determined to stimulate the new energy automotive industry.

Meanwhile, local protective barriers, which have been major obstacles to the sector's development, have been resolved gradually through Chinese high-ranking officials' promotion of new-energy cars, the paper said.

Firts-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have recently partly allowed the entry of non-local brands for formulating new measures related to new-energy cars, which has significantly expanded market demand.

According to public figures, 1,738 new-energy cars were sold in February this year, up by 1,682 from a month ago. Shenzhen-based BYD said its Qin, a plug-in hybrid compact sedan, reported sales of 834 units in February and the company also sold 238 of its e6 during the same period. Since the company's new-energy cars went on the market in December last year, BYD has sold over 6,000 vehicles. However, the company's most popular cars are still not permitted to be sold in Beijing.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Airbus gears up for assembly of A320neo in Tianjin

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-04-05

Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier answers questions at a press
 conference introducing the Airbus A330-300 in Beijing, Sept. 25, 2013.
(File photo/Xinhua)

The year 2016 will mark the opening of a new chapter for the Tianjin plant of France-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which will begin gearing up for assembly of the A320neo, the company's new model set to make its maiden flight later this year.

The Tianjin plant has been assembling A320 aircraft since it became Airbus's third assembly line in 2008 after plants in Toulouse — where the company is headquartered — and Hamburg. Airbus has a 51% stake in the Tianjin plant, formally called Airbus (Tianjin) Final Assembly Co, while the remainder is held by the Tianjin Free Trade Zone and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Workers at the plant assemble planes from parts shipped from Europe and are responsible for the interior and painting. Each plane is tested before being delivered to customers, mostly in China. Airbus (Tianjin) has provided more than 160 A320s to Chinese airlines — about 16% of the passenger aircraft in service in the country.

The assembly line is up to the same standards as the Airbus plants in Europe, Airbus (Tianjin) vice general manager Zheng Qi assured Shanghai's China Business News.

The plant's original contract with Airbus was set to expire in 2016, but China's president, Xi Jinping, took the initiative during his visit to France last month to sign an extension that will see cooperation continue in a second phase through 2025.

"The second phase of cooperation will see a one-step increase in assembly and production capacity of A320neo aircraft. We will work to advise parts suppliers to set up shop in Tianjin to build the area surrounding our assembly line into an Airbus logistics center for Asia," said Airbus (Tianjin) CEO Chen Juming.

The plant was established with an initial investment of 4 billion yuan (US$645 million), but Chen said the upgrade to equipment and facilities to prepare for assembling A320neo models from 2017 will cost extra on top of that.

China Business News meanwhile has reported that Airbus is looking into the possibility of assembling wide-body aircraft in China. If the European manufacturer does in fact build a wide-body plane finishing and delivery center nearby, Tianjin could become only the third city in the world offering delivery of both narrow-body and wide-body airplanes.

Related Article:


US gives Boeing green light to sell plane parts to Iran

Deutsche Welle, 5 April 2014

Boeing has announced it has been given limited US government approval to export spare parts to Iran. It is part of a temporary easing of sanctions against Tehran by world powers.


Boeing, the world's biggest plane manufacturer, said late Friday the US Treasury Department issued it with a license allowing the airline to do business with Iran for the first time since 1979.

A Boeing spokesman said the company would now be allowed to export certain spare parts for commercial planes that were needed to ensure older aircraft could fly safely. The license covers a limited period of time and does not allow Boeing to sell new planes to Iran.

The company will contact officials in Iran to determine which specific parts are needed. Boeing's last delivery to Iran was a 747-100 jumbo jet in August 1979, three months before US hostages were seized at the Tehran embassy.

The Islamic Revolution that year led to US sanctions that were later broadened over a dispute from Iran's nuclear activities.

Last year, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear operations in exchange for a temporary easing of severe economic sanctions from Britian, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US. A permanent agreement is currently being negotiated.

The sanctions were introduced to put pressure on Iran to reduce or halt the capability of it producing a nuclear weapon, an ambition that Iran has denied.

Iran has said that the sanctions have prevented it from renewing its airline fleet, forcing it to use sub-standard Russian aircraft and continuing to use planes that should have long been retired.

jr/dr (AP, Reuters, AFP)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Man holds flight attendant hostage on Lufthansa plane

Deutsche Welle, 1 April 2014

A Lufthansa flight made an emergency return to Munich airport on Tuesday after a man armed with a razor blade took a flight attendant hostage. Police apprehended the man peacefully.


The 28-year-old Kosovo man had boarded the flight to Budapest, after being deported from Germany due to the rejection of an asylum request. A police spokesman said the man threatened a female flight attendant with a broken razor blade shortly after takeoff.

German newspaper Bild online says the man barricaded himself in a toilet with the flight attendant after other crew rushed to help. The pilot then turned around and landed back in Munich.

The 76 other people on the plane were able to disembark, leaving police to negotiate with the man, still on board with the flight attendant. Police say the Kosovo passenger, who spoke Albanian, surrendered with the help of an interpreter.

Three flight attendants suffered injuries in the confrontation. It is unclear how the man managed to bring the razor blade on board.

jr/rc (Reuters, dpa)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Malaysia Airlines' ticket sales suspended by 2 websites in China

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-03-29

A screenshot of the notice on the Elong site announcing the suspension
of Malaysia Airlines ticket sales. (Internet photo)

Two Chinese ticketing websites announced that they have suspended sales of Malaysia Airlines' flight tickets until the company reaches an agreement with the families of the 153 Chinese passengers on the missing plane MH370, reports the Chinese-language Beijing Times newspaper.

One of the two websites Elong said it made the decision because two of the passengers on the plane that disappeared March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur bought their tickets through their site. The firm said that they have also been dissatisfied with the airline's response to and handling of the incident. It began the suspension Thursday and will not lift it until the families reach an agreement with the airline. People who have already bought the airline's tickets through the site can still use them or get a full refund from Elong. The Chinese firm will also provide compensation of 100,000 yuan (US$16,100) to each of the families of the two passengers who were booked on the flight through the website.

Another website Ly.com also announced a suspension for an indefinite period of time and offered full refunds for customers who wanted to cancel flight tickets and tours they had bought through the ticketing website. The refunds are available to all customers no matter whether or not Malaysia Airlines have agreed to refund tickets.

The Malaysian civil aviation authority pledged to continue the search for the plane for as long as it takes, citing the example of an Air France plane, for which search teams spent two years looking before recovering the black box of the crashed flight in 2009. Several countries have been taking part in the search effort for the missing plane, and there has been no talk of putting an end to the search as yet.

The black box of the missing flight is set to run out of battery in ten days. The air operations commander of the Royal Malaysian Air Force Lieutenant General Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad said the search area for the missing plane has been narrowed. A ship specializing in probing has also joint the search effort.

Related Articles:

INTERPOL rejects claim attributed to Malaysia that checking INTERPOL's databases may have slowed immigration checks

Interpol, 28 March 2014

LYON, France – Malaysia’s decision not to consult INTERPOL's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database before allowing travellers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or INTERPOL. If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia's Immigration Department.

INTERPOL’s SLTD database takes just seconds to reveal whether a passport is listed, with recent tests providing results in 0.2 seconds.

The fact is that the US consults this database more than 230 million times per year; the UK more than 140 million times; the UAE more than 100 million times and Singapore more than 29 million times. Not one of these countries, or indeed any INTERPOL member country, has ever stated that the response time is too slow.

The truth is that in 2014 prior to the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370, Malaysia’s Immigration Department did not conduct a single check of passengers’ passports against INTERPOL’s databases.

Consequently, two individuals possessing stolen Austrian and Italian passports were able to board MH 370. Had Malaysia consulted INTERPOL's SLTD database, the fact that both passengers were using stolen passports would have been discovered almost instantaneously.

Malaysia’s Immigration Department owes it to all passengers boarding flights originating in, or passing through, Malaysia to make sure that passports registered as stolen or lost in INTERPOL’s databases cannot be used to board any flight.

In this regard, despite this unjustified attack on INTERPOL, we remain ready, willing and able to help Malaysia better safeguard its citizens and visitors from those seeking to use stolen or fraudulently altered passports to board planes.

INTERPOL has no idea why Malaysia’s Home Minister chooses to attack INTERPOL instead of learning from this tragedy.

After years of witnessing countries fail to consult INTERPOL’s SLTD database prior to allowing travellers to cross borders and board planes, INTERPOL created I-Checkit which will allow airlines and cruise lines to ensure that no passenger can use a stolen or lost passport registered in INTERPOL’s database to board one of their planes or ships.

Related Articles:

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts



....SB: That’s very good, Lord. Thank you. I’m going to move quickly to Flight 370, and then hopefully a short talk on global citizenry.

Ashira said that Flight 370 had exploded, but he didn’t say what the cause of the explosion was. Others have said that a secret naval weapon was used to cause it to disintegrate. And recently a prominent channel said the plane was suffering from hydraulic failure, was in an uncontrolled state, at risk of imminent destruction; whisked out of the air in mid-flight, was taken aboard an enormous spaceship from Sirius claimed to be part of the Federation fleet under the Ashtar Command whose full report is available from a certain website.

Now, Ashira said they took a few people up who still wanted to remain in form, but the rest — they passed on. What is the truth, Lord?

AAM: This is not an action — let us put it this way — this is not an action that your star brothers and sisters have been deeply involved in. This is an action of what we would refer to, or Gabrielle would refer to, as of violence, of sabotage, of subterfuge. And it has continued.

So there are lies upon lies upon lies. And what is occurring … this is a terrible situation. And it is painful to so many. But what it is also doing for humanity, it is bringing up what we would call shared compassion and grief. Because if you were to look at the grief and the confusion and the compassion component of what is being felt and emanating from the hearts of the collective, individuals all over the planet, it is out of alignment with the situation even including those who have been on the plane and who have suffered and the families that are left suffering the loss of their loved ones.

So it has amplified and shown the global community, in a time when there has been much strife and conflict on the ground, the other side of the scale, where you are seeing the global community coming together in compassion and sending healing for many. It is also bringing together the global community in saying, “We require, we demand truth.” Because there have been such significant untruths, every step of the way. And now what is occurring, among what you think are responsible agencies of many countries, is that they are looking for scapegoats. They are looking for situations to hang this on.

The truth will come out, but the function of this act of violence has been hijacked in many ways not by your star brothers and sisters but by the Company of Heaven to teach several very important, critical, timely lessons. The ship has not been taken on board a mothership elsewhere. That is false hope.

SB: Where is the ship, Lord? Is it blown to smithereens, or is it at the bottom of the ocean?

AAM: For all intents and purposes, it is not intact. We cannot give you the totality because that would be breaking our agreement.

SB: And then of course you couldn’t tell us what nation did it, either?

AAM: It is not so much a nation as individuals acting independently.

SB: All right. I’m not sure whether I should go further in trying to get more details, or…. whether….

AAM: Please do not.....

Facebook buys UK maker of solar-powered drones to expand internet

Mark Zuckerberg has plans to expand broadband coverage using unmanned high-altitude aircraft, satellites and lasers

The Guardian, Juliette Garside, Friday 28 March 2014

Just 16% of Africa’s population used the internet last year, compared with
75% in Europe. Photograph: Yannick Tylle/Corbis

Facebook has bought a Somerset-based designer of solar-powered drones for $20m (£12m) as it goes head-to-head with Google in a high-altitude race to connect the world's most remote locations to the internet.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, has unveiled plans to beam broadband connections from the skies, using satellites, lasers and unmanned high-altitude aircraft designed by the 51-year old British engineer Andrew Cox.

His Ascenta consultancy will become part of Facebook's Internet.org not-for-profit venture, joining a team of scientists and engineers who formerly worked at Nasa and the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Facebook is building its Connectivity Lab as a direct challenge to Google's Project Loon, which is launching high-altitude balloons over New Zealand and hopes to establish an uninterrupted internet signal around the 40th parallel of the Earth's southern hemisphere.

The race to put the first man on the Moon was led by the US and Russian governments, but today it is private companies – the cash-rich digital corporations of Silicon Valley – that are driving the sub-space race. The ambition is to connect the billions of people who currently have no access to the world wide web.

"In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we've been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky," Zuckerberg wrote on his blog. "Today, we're sharing some details of the work Facebook's Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites … and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone."

With 1.3 billion users, Facebook has already reached a large number of the estimated 3 billion people who use the internet. Connecting the other 4 billion will hugely expand its potential user base.

In what the Internet.org website describes as "one of the greatest challenges of our generation", engineers are trying to solve the problem of beaming fast, responsive internet signals to and from the Earth's surface from heights of 20,000 metres.

Facebook is exploring the potential of two types of craft – satellites, which could be used in remote rural locations from the Highlands of Scotland to the Amazon basin, and drones, which would fly over suburban areas.

Yael Maguire, an Internet.org engineer, explained: "In suburban environments we are looking at a new type of plane architecture that flies at 20,000 metres, at the point where the winds are the lowest. It's above commercial airlines, it's even above the weather. They circle around and broadcast internet down but significantly closer than a satellite."

Invisible infrared laser beams, which can carry large amounts of information at high speeds across space using free-space optical communication technology (FSO), will connect the satellites to each other and to receivers on the surface of the Earth.

The plans may sound like science fiction, but Jon Excell, the editor of The Engineer, said the use of sub-space drones as an alternative to satellites was already a credible technology.

"A lot of people have looked at this area," he said. "Satellite launches are just phenomenally expensive. Solar-powered craft are a lot cheaper because you don't have to launch them into space. They are also much easier to maintain. Satellites stay in orbit until they stop working, but these craft can be brought back down and repaired if anything goes wrong."

Just 16% of Africa's population used the internet last year, compared with 75% in Europe, but the drones and balloons being sent into space could soon bring it to areas where individuals do not yet have electricity or computers. Even in areas where there are no masts, however, the mobile phone is nearly ubiquitous. One in five people already own a smartphone.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Japan's ANA orders 40 Boeing, 30 Airbus planes worth $16.4 bn

Google – AFP, 27 March 2014

All Nippon Airways says it will buy 70 new planes worth $16.4 billion,
with almost half from Airbus (AFP/File, Yoshikazu Tsuno)

Tokyo — All Nippon Airways (ANA) said Thursday it would buy 70 new planes worth $16.4 billion, with almost half from Airbus in a move that marked a victory for the European aircraft maker as it tries to prise open the lucrative Japanese market.

The airline will buy 40 aircraft from Boeing, its major supplier, and one that has had a virtual stranglehold in Japan for decades, and 30 from Airbus to expand its fleet ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a statement said.

The order includes 14 of Boeing's troubled Dreamliner as well as 20 units of the 777-9X, and six 777-300ERs.

It will also buy seven Airbus A320neo and 23 Airbus A321neo.

The aircraft will be delivered between 2016 and 2027 and will increase the size of the ANA fleet to 250 aircraft.

The new Boeing aircraft will serve mainly international routes while the Airbus planes will operate both overseas and domestic trips, ANA said.

"ANA Group?s introduction of these new aircraft will help it respond to the needs of the increasing number of passengers expected to arrive in Japan in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will support the Japanese government's plans to boost the annual total of foreign visitors to Japan to 20 million," the firm said.

The orders, collectively the biggest in ANA's history, came as the airline aims to expand its international presence.

Shinichiro Ito, president and chief executive of ANA Holdings, said the choices of aircraft were made based on the products' quality, not by brand.

While the order will give Airbus a morale boost in a market dominated by Boeing, Ito hinted the US manufacturer's 777 model was simply a better plane than the equivalent produced by its European rival.

"We considered the large size 777-9X while also studying the A350. We studied the quality and economic feasibility as well as when they can be delivered, when we can own them," Ito told a press conference.

"Also we studied which model would be the most compatible to what we already have. As a result, we decided to choose the B777," he said.

"We never make our orders because it is Boeing or because it is Airbus. Our main concern is whether the aircraft matches our needs and economic feasibility. That is how we made the decision this time and will make our decisions in the future."

Former President Habibie Grumbles Over Plans to Procure Leopard Tanks

Jakarta Globe, Mar 27, 2014

Indonesian military officers look at a German tank, 62 ton-MBT Leopard Evolution,
 during the 2012 Indodefense expo in Jakarta on Nov. 8, 2012. (AFP Photo/
Bay Ismoyo)

Jakarta. Former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has strongly criticized the government’s decision to go proceed with the purchase of Leopard tanks.

“I received information last October that we were going to import Leopards. But Leopards are used in deserts; it’s not for a maritime country like Indonesia,” Habibie said at a discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday, adding that Indonesia should develop its weaponry in accordance to a potential war scenario within the country.

“They should use their brains, don’t just [buy Leopards] because it’s cheap,” he said. “I don’t want to criticize anyone… We need to learn from our mistakes and fix them for the good of the future.”

The Ministry of Defense announced it plan in 2012 to purchase hundreds of Leopard main battle tanks as part of efforts to modernize Indonesia’s defenses for the 2011-2015 period. Such plans inspired critics to claim the project was prone to turn into a means for corruption by those involved in the deal.

In 2012, Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) chairman Neta S. Pane also raised concerns over the procurement.

“What Indonesia needs are small and tactical tanks to secure our vulnerable border areas,” Neta said in a report by Inilah.com in 2012, which also mentioned the Leopard’s unsuitability for this country’s environment, which was said to comprise mostly beaches, forests and swamps.

However, a British-based military contractor who has supplied the Indonesian military with tactical equipment, disagreed, saying the Leopard is a “good all-round MBT [main battle tank].

“It’s a multi-roll tank used in both deserts and in urban settings,” the contractor said.

He conceded that the armored vehicle was “suited for desert conditions due to its air filtration system [but it] can go anywhere as long as the terrain allows.”

“Twelve European countries have the Leopard,” the contractor added. “It has seen combat in Kosovo as well as Afghanistan.”

Still, Indonesia’s former president aired his concerns regarding the purchase on Wednesday, saying that in its war against Vietnam, the United States focused on the use of fighter aircraft instead of tanks.

China, France sign major business deals on Xi visit

Google – AFP, Marianne Barriaux (AFP), 26 March 2014

French President Francois Hollande (R) shakes hands with Chinese President
 Xi Jinping, at the end of a joint press conference, after a meeting at the Elysee
presidentiel palace on March 26, 2014, in Paris (AFP, Alain Jocard)

Paris — Beijing and Paris signed scores of deals Wednesday worth 18 billion euros ($25 billion) on the second day of a lavish state visit by the Chinese president, in what Francois Hollande said would bring much-needed growth.

Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan have been given VIP treatment on a nostalgia-tinted trip to France marking the 50th year of full diplomatic ties between the two countries -- a visit due to culminate with a concert at the Versailles palace on Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon, after kicking off his trip in the eastern city of Lyon, Xi travelled to Paris where he met with Hollande and signed a raft of deals.

"Eighteen billion euros of contracts -- that is jobs, growth and, most of all, significant prospects for the coming years," Hollande said during a joint press declaration with Xi.

By far the biggest deal was a Chinese order for 70 Airbus planes worth more than $10 billion.

The order covers the purchase of 43 mid-range A320 planes and 27 long-haul A330s, the European aviation giant said.

China had already announced its intention to purchase the planes but subsequently froze the order due to a row over EU plans to impose a carbon emissions levy on airlines.

This forced Airbus to take the 70 planes off its order book, so Wednesday's contract is considered a new order.

Airbus Helicopters and China's Avicopter also announced a deal to jointly produce 1,000 civilian helicopters over 20 years.

And the two countries signed agreements in a number of other areas including the nuclear, financial and automotive sectors.

France's 'duty'

France lags behind some European neighbours, especially Germany, in trade and investment links with fast-growing China.

Last year, France had a trade deficit with China worth 25.8 billion euros, and on Wednesday, Hollande told Xi that Paris had a "duty... to re-balance trade between our two countries".

His comments came as the number of jobless in France surged by 0.9 percent in February to a new record of 3.34 million, in what is likely to increase the deep unpopularity of Hollande's Socialist government.

Xi and Peng began the French leg of their trip on Tuesday in the eastern city of Lyon, a former silk centre that forged enduring links with China from the 16th century.

The power couple were treated to a lavish dinner at city hall, and sampled regional delicacies such as wine, saucisson and Beaufort cheese.

On Wednesday, the couple visited bioMerieux, a French diagnostics firm run by a prominent Lyon business dynasty that has old trade links with China.

"In the near future, the Chinese health sector will greatly develop and this will be in the interest of the Chinese people and the whole world," Xi said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) signs the golden book on March 26, 2014
during a visit to the Fondation Charles de Gaulle in Paris (Pool/AFP, Eric Feferberg)

He then visited the city's Franco-Chinese Institute before leaving for Paris to meet the French president.

Xi is scheduled to make a major speech in Paris Thursday highlighting historical bonds such as the experiences of Communist Party luminaries Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who both studied in France.

Xi's wife Peng, China's first prominent First Lady and a famous singer, is also a Francophile.

And while she no longer has a French counterpart after Hollande split from his partner Valerie Trierweiler, Peng has her own activities planned that will see her named special UNESCO envoy for the promotion of women's education.

The question of human rights in China was ever-present on the vi sit amid an ongoing, government-backed crackdown on dissent, with Tibetan exiles planning a big rally in Paris on Thursday.

Since 2009 about 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protests against the authorities, denouncing what they say is an erosion of their religious freedoms and culture and discrimination by the country's Han majority.

The issue of human rights was not mentioned in either of the leaders' declarations on Wednesday, where journalists were not allowed to ask questions.

The Chinese leader is on his first-ever European tour and after visiting The Netherlands and France will head to Germany and Belgium.

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