More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal

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

Volkswagen emissions scandal

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

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

QZ8501 (AirAsia)

Leaders see horror of French Alps crash as probe gathers pace

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

… The Shift in Human Nature

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Indonesia's Batik Air to launch international service

Google – AFP, 27 February 2014

Two air hostesses stand next to a Boeing 737-900 plane of the new Indonesian
 airline Batik Air in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta on April 25, 2013 (AFP,
Adek Berry)

Singapore — An airline owned by Indonesia's Lion Group announced Thursday it will launch international services with a flight from Jakarta to Singapore later this year.

Batik Air, which is part of the Lion Group that also owns Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air, will start the flights by November or December, said its chief executive Achmad Luthfie.

The airline, which operates as a full-service carrier with meals and drinks and offers business and economy class seating, began operations in May last year servicing domestic destinations in Indonesia.

"Our first international destination will be Singapore and we aim to have more than a daily service on the route," Luthfie said in a statement.

"We chose Singapore as our first international destination because we can see that demand continues to increase," he added.

Speaking at a news conference in Singapore, Luthfie said Batik Air plans to fly next from the Indonesian capital to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Luthfie said that eventually it is looking to fly to Southern China and Western Australia.

On the domestic front, the airline plans to more than double its network to 22 destinations including Palembang, Solo and Batam.

Luthfie said the carrier is currently filling 90 percent of seats.

Batik Air operates six Boeing 737-900ER aircrafts and is based in Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport.

Six Airbus A320 aircraft and four Boeing 737-800 planes will be delivered by the end of this year, the airline said.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of over 17,000 islands cutting across three time zones, relies heavily on air transport and is experiencing a sharp growth in its aviation sector, thanks to a rapidly rising middle class.

Australian carrier Qantas to axe 5,000 jobs

Google – AFP, 27 February 2014

Struggling Australian carrier Qantas said Thursday it will axe 5,000 jobs in a 
major restructure, after posting a first-half net loss of Aus$235 million (US$210
million) (AFP/File, Greg Wood)

Sydney — Struggling Australian carrier Qantas on Thursday said it will axe 5,000 jobs in a major restructure after posting a first-half net loss of Aus$235 million (US$210 million).

The airline, battling record fuel costs and fierce competition from subsidised rivals, is working to slash costs by Aus$2 billion over three years.

Part of the restructure will see 5,000 full-time positions lost from its 32,000-strong workforce.

The carrier also flagged "significant changes" to its fleet plans and network, and a reduction in capital expenditure of Aus$1 billion across the next two financial years.

"We are facing some of the toughest conditions Qantas has ever seen," chief executive Alan Joyce said.

"Hard decisions will be necessary to overcome the challenges we face and build a stronger business."

Following a profit warning in December, Moody's and S&P both downgraded Qantas' credit rating to "junk" status, increasing the cost of financing for the carrier and restricting access for investors who do not put their money in lower-rated companies.

Qantas has since been working on its finances to convince the government it deserves a debt guarantee, and also lobbying Canberra for a relaxation of the Qantas Sale Act, which limits foreign ownership in the airline to 49 percent.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dutch scientists flap to the future with 'insect' drone

Google – AFP, Jan Hennop (AFP), 23 February 2014

A view of the DelFly Explorer, the world's lightest autonomous flapping drone,
 during a demonstration at the Delft Technical University, on January 29, 2014
(AFP/File, Charles Onians)

Delft — Dutch scientists have developed the world's smallest autonomous flapping drone, a dragonfly-like beast with 3-D vision that could revolutionise our experience of everything from pop concerts to farming.

"This is the DelFly Explorer, the world's smallest drone with flapping wings that's able to fly around by itself and avoid obstacles," its proud developer Guido de Croon of the Delft Technical University told AFP.

Weighing just 20 grammes (less than an ounce), around the same as four sheets of printer paper, the robot dragonfly could be used in situations where much heavier quadcopters with spinning blades would be hazardous, such as flying over the audience to film a concert or sport event.

A view of the DelFly Explorer, the world's
lightest autonomous flapping drone, next to a
 F-16 army plane during a demonstration at
the Delft Technical University, on January 29,
2014 (AFP, Charles Onians)
The Explorer looks like a large dragonfly or grasshopper as it flitters about the room, using two tiny low-resolution video cameras -- reproducing the 3-D vision of human eyes -- and an on-board computer to take in its surroundings and avoid crashing into things.

And like an insect, the drone which has a wingspan of 28 centimetres (11 inches), would feel at home flying around plants.

"It can for instance also be used to fly around and detect ripe fruit in greenhouses," De Croon said, with an eye on the Netherlands' vast indoor fruit-growing business.

"Or imagine, for the first time there could be an autonomous flying fairy in a theme park," he said.

- 'Real small insects' -

Unlike other drones that use rotor blades and can weigh hundreds of times as much, the Explorer has two wings on each side that flap rapidly to create lift.

"We got our inspiration from real small insects," De Croon said.

While smaller "flapping" drones exist, such as the RoboBee developed by students at Harvard University in the United States, they are tethered for power, control and processing, and thus far from autonomous.

The Explorer has its own small lithium polymer battery that allows it to fly for around nine minutes, while it "sees" with its onboard processor and a specially-developed algorithm to make instant decisions.

It has wireless analog video, gyroscopes and a barometer to calculate its height.

Different algorithms would allow it to perform different tasks, and because it is autonomous it could be sent into enclosed spaces such as concrete buildings or mine shafts, where radio control would be impossible, to search for casualties or hazards.

"The DelFly knows precisely where obstacles are located," said De Croon as the aircraft, built from composite materials including carbon fibre, fluttered towards a wall during a demonstration flight before veering elegantly away in search of another route.

Chief Developer Guido de Croon releases the DelFly Explorer, the world's lightest
 autonomous flapping drone, during a demonstration at the Delft Technical University,
on January 29, 2014 (AFP, Charles Onians)

The idea of building a flapping-winged drone began around nine years ago when a group of students at Delft Technical University's prestigious aerospace faculty first designed the DelFly I.

Over the next few years, research continued and the machine became smaller and smaller, said Sjoerd Tijmons, 28, who helped write the algorithm for the latest DelFly Explorer's "brain".

An earlier incarnation, the DelFly Micro with a wingspan of 10 centimetres, was in 2008 declared the "smallest camera equipped aircraft in the world" by the Guinness Book of Records.

But De Croon admits that humans are not quite able to produce swarms of autonomous robotic insects the size of bees or flies, mainly because of restrictions on battery life.

"Still there are some major challenges... and if I have to put a number on it, I think we are still a few decades away," he laughed.

Related Articles:



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bhutan to become green car showcase in deal with Nissan

Google – AFP, Patrice Novotny (AFP), 21 February 2014

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn (right) and Bhutanese Prime Minister
 Tshering Tobgay shake hands after unveiling the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle in
Thimphu on February 21, 2014 (AFP, Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Thimphu — The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan signed a deal with Japanese auto giant Nissan Friday to become the ultimate showcase for electric cars, taking advantage of its abundance of hydropower.

The announcement was made during a visit by Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn to Thimphu, the picturesque capital of Bhutan.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said electric vehicles would help meet a target of zero emissions.

Bhutanese students participate in
 celebrations at the National stadium in 
Thimphu on February 21, 2014 to mark
 King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck's
34th birthday (AFP, Dibyangshu Sarkar)
"An important part of that plan will be sustainable and environmentally-friendly zero emission transport," he added at a joint press conference with Ghosn.

"We don't want to rely on and we don't want to buy fossil fuel," he added.

To mark the announcement which came on the birthday of Bhutan's revered king, Nissan said it was donating two of its Leaf electric vehicles to the government.

It will also supply Bhutan's pool of government cars and fleet of taxis with the same model for an undisclosed price.

Nissan plans to set up a network of charging stations across Thimphu, which industry experts see as vital in persuading motorists to shell out for an electric vehicle.

Wedged between India and China, the 'Land of the Thunder Dragon' is famed for its Gross National Happiness development model that specifically takes into account the environment as well as psychological well-being.

Landlocked and mountainous, Bhutan is teeming with rivers and waterfalls that enable it to operate four hydroelectric plants with a combined capacity of 1,400 megawatts -- equivalent to a powerful nuclear reactor.

Most of the electricity is sold on to India but Bhutan also has to import traditional fossil fuels to meet the needs of its motorists.

"(Electric vehicles) will help Bhutan to reduce the use of fossile fuels and the need to import foreign oil," said Ghosn in the press conference.

Ghosn said the deal would make Bhutan an environmental role model, predicting that the government investment would encourage consumers.

"What we are talking about is the very initial step. Because of this vision that we see for Bhutan, you can expect hundreds or hopefully thousands of Leafs (to be) sold in Bhutan," added Ghosn.

- Self-sufficiency -

Tobgay, who came to power after winning Bhutan's second ever elections last July, sees electric cars as a way of becoming more self-sufficient and of demonstrating the rapid development of a nation that only introduced television in 1999.

The prime minister acknowledged that the high price -- the Leaf costs around $20,000 in the United States -- could scare off motorists but said he was hoping for outside help.

"If we can get international agencies and individuals to support us to subsidize one third of that price, it becomes very affordable," he said.

Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (2nd left), watched by Nissan chief
 executive Carlos Ghosn (left), plugs in a receptacle to charge the Nissan
Leaf electric vehicle in Thimphu on February 21, 2014 (AFP, Dibyangshu Sarkar)

While other capitals in South Asia are often cloaked in pollution, the residents of Thimpu enjoy a largely pristine climate.

As all vehicles have to be imported and are heavily taxed, car ownership is relatively small and taxis are widely used.

Nissan has emerged as the world leader in the electric car market having invested four billion euros with its French partner Renault, which owns more than 40 percent of the Japanese company.

Launched in 2010, the Nissan Leaf is now the best-selling electric car in history after becoming the first model to pass the 100,000 mark for worldwide sales at the end of last year.

One of the Leaf's chief attractions is its special fast charger which can be fired up in just half an hour, a vast improvement on the eight hours that it takes to recharge batteries linked up to the mains electricity.

It can reach speeds of up to 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour and has a range of 200 kilometres.

The limited range of most green cars and their relatively high prices have proved major hurdles to a growth in sales.

But while the market remains tiny, industry experts expect demand to grow sharply in the next few years as emissions standards across the world are toughened.


2012 Nissan Leaf Taxi in Sao Paulo


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jakarta Governor in Mission to Rid City’s Procurement Process of Graft

Jakarta Globe, Lenny Tristia Tambun & Markus Junianto Sihaloho, February 19, 2014

The Jakarta administration so far this year has received a total of 656 buses.
(SP Photo)

Jakarta. Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is using the investigation of fraud into the Rp 113 billion ($9.6 million) purchase of new buses as shock therapy and leverage to rid the city’s notoriously rigged procurement processes of corruption.

Joko and his deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, vowed to bring those officials involved in the markups in the purchase to justice, an unprecedented move that could set an example of how the country could get rid of corruption in procurement processes, where the state has allocated more than Rp 400 trillion this year alone, making it the biggest potential source of corruption.

Joko vowed on Wednesday to bring all corrupt officials to book, emphasizing the need for stricter monitoring, management control and field inspections as his administration starts to implement a number of high-value projects.

“We need is better management of control. The city’s inspectorate office may be able to handle the smaller ones, but some projects are very big and we don’t have the necessary monitoring measures. That is what we want to do with the project management office,” Joko said on Tuesday.

Among the bigger projects undertaken by the government this year are the mass rapid rransit project, the monorail project, the TransJakarta project and the construction of low-cost apartments, all of which involve trillions of rupiah from the city coffers.

“This is to assist, monitor, control and audit the bigger projects. But we’re still discussing it,” Joko said.

“The city administration lacks control management, but it is impossible for me to check [on the projects] directly. Even the inspectorate cannot do so. We are assisted by the BPK [Supreme Audit Agency] and the BKPP [Financial Development Comptroller]. The inspectorate currently monitors 57 budgets.”

Indications of fraud have emerged from an investigation by the Jakarta Provincial Inspectorate office into the purchase of new buses, after the units were discovered to be unfit for use shortly after arriving in the capital from China, where they were manufactured.

“I have received the report from the inspectorate about fraud involved in the procurement of the feeder buses and buses for the Integrated City Busway facility. Apparently the irregularity was found in the tender procedure,” Basuki said.

The inspectorate had initially found no issues in the administrative process of the procurement, but eventually discovered several irregularities in tender documents, including a significant increase in prices up to the process of determining the winning tender.

“In China [the buses] are supposed to be priced at Rp 1 billion, but instead it is sold here for Rp 3 billion. So if you look at the documents, of course it is China who benefits most, it is very clear,” Basuki said, adding that he would leave the matter to law enforcement to probe.

Further review

Basuki also called on the BPKP to subject the documents to further review by financial experts and those with knowledge of project implementation issues.

He also indicated that those involved in manipulating the documents tozz conceal the foul play, were Transportation Office officials responsible for the budget and members of the committee involved in the tender process.

“They’re all very smart. The tender committee is also full of problems,” he said.

Chairman of the Jakarta Inspectorate office Franky Mangatas Panjaitan said they would be summoning the goods receipt committee as well as the TransJakarta Management Unit to clarify its findings.

“They will be asked to provide information on the goods receipting procedure and documents pertaining to the inspection of goods that were received,” Franky said.

He called on the public to remain patient while waiting for results from the probe, emphasizing that it was necessary for the institution not rush to any conclusions when making its recommendations.

Franky confirmed that there had been indications of fraud in the tender process.

“However the city administration has not yet received all of the units so we can’t come up with a general conclusion just yet,” he said. “We will have to run tests [on the buses] and test their performance. Only then will we be able to make a finding.”

The city administration so far this year received a total of 656 buses, comprising 346 for the BKTB and 346 for TransJakarta. However, less than a month into their use, 10 BKTB buses and five TransJakarta buses were found to be unfit for use, with some of their components not working properly and being rusted.

Some people have also called on the city administration to involve the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in its investigation.

“The TransJakarta case is best handled by the KPK. We are calling on Basuki to be proactive and report it to the KPK,” said Habiburokhman, central executive board chairman for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), of which Basuki is a member.

The KPK has expressed its willingness to support city officials.

“If they want to report it to the KPK then go ahead. However, as of today, we have yet to receive any reports,” KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Monday, as quoted by Inilah.com.

The procurement of goods purchased by government institutions have become very prone to acts of corruption.

In the most recent case, the Jakarta High Court sentenced former traffic police chief Djoko Susilo to an 18-year prison term for his involvement in the graft-ridden procurement of driving simulators.

Meanwhile, in Banten, the KPK has also uncovered allegations of embezzlement in the procurement of medical equipment for state hospitals in South Tangerang.

The central government has allocated a total of Rp 201.88 trillion for the purchase of goods and another Rp 205.84 trillion for capital expenditure in its budget for 2014.

Additionally, the state has also allocated Rp 341 trillion to provinces and districts across the country.

A recent Indonesia Corruption Watch report showed that up to 98.12 percent of the 267 corruption cases reported in the second quarter of 2013 were in regional government institutions, most in North Sumatra and East Java.

Last year 35 regional chiefs were mired in graft scandals, prompting ICW to warn of a “corruption emergency” in the country.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Swiss fighters grounded during hijacking as outside office hours

Google – AFP, 17 February 2014

A F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft of the Swiss Air Force takes off on February 20,
2013 at Payerne airport (AFP/File, Fabrice Coffrini)

Geneva — No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled Monday when an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane and forced it to land in Geneva, because it happened outside business hours, the Swiss airforce said.

When the co-pilot on flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome locked himself in the cockpit while the pilot went to the bathroom and announced a hijacking, Italian and French fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane through their respective airspaces.

But although the co-pilot-turned-hijacker quickly announced he wanted to land the plane in Switzerland, where he later said he aimed to seek asylum, Switzerland's fleet of F-18s and F-5 Tigers remained on the ground, Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP.

This, he explained, was because the Swiss airforce is only available during office hours. These are reported to be from 8am until noon, then 1:30 to 5pm.

"Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend," he said, adding: "It's a question of budget and staffing."

Monday's hijacking, carried out by 31-year-old Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn, according to Addis Ababa, took place in the very early hours, with the aircraft and its 202 passengers and crew landing safely in Geneva at 6:02 am (0502 GMT).

That was just two minutes after the airport opened for business, and two hours before the Swiss airforce is operational.

Savary said Switzerland relies heavily on deals with its neighbours, especially France, to help police its airspace outside regular office hours.

He explained that French fighters can escort a suspicious aircraft into Swiss airspace, "but there is no question of shooting it down. It's a question of national sovereignty".

Swiss airspace is under constant electronic surveillance, he pointed out, adding that the wealthy Alpine nation is also studying the possibility of expanding its airforce coverage to a round-the-clock operation.

That plan is however not set to kick into action until 2020, when Switzerland is expected to replace its fleet of fighters with Swedish Gripen planes.

The purchase of the Swedish planes meanwhile rely on whether it is approved in an upcoming popular vote, with a poll published Monday showing 53 percent of Swiss oppose the deal.

Security forces stand next to the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane
at Geneva airport in Switzerland. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

Related Article:


Monday, February 17, 2014

Passenger plane carrying 18 missing in Nepal

Google – AFP, Deepak Adhikari (AFP), 16 February 2014

Aerial view of the Himalayas seen from Pokhara, some of 200 kms west of
 Kathamndu, taken December 4, 2007 from an ultra-light aircraft (AFP/File,
Prakash Mathema)

Kathmandu — Rescuers in Nepal's mountainous west searched on foot Sunday for a missing Nepal Airlines plane carrying 18 people, as officials called off a helicopter hunt due to poor visibility.

The plane carrying 15 passengers including an infant and three crew lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the popular tourist town of Pokhara, airline officials and police said.

The aircraft from the state-run carrier was travelling to the town of Jumla, 353 kilometres (220 miles) west of Kathmandu, when air traffic controllers lost contact.

It left Pokhara at 1.30 pm and disappeared 15 minutes later, police spokesman Ganesh KC told AFP.

One of the passengers is from Denmark, said airline spokesman Ram Hari Sharma.

The rest of those on board -- including Manab Sejuwal, a local politician from the ruling Nepali Congress party -- are from Nepal.

More than 150 police are taking part in the search, which is now focused on the hilly district of Arghakhanchi, 226 kilometres west of the capital, said local official Govinda Panthi.

Heavy rain hampered earlier efforts with two helicopters forced to turn back because of bad weather, said Bimlesh Lal Karna, chief air traffic controller at the country's largest airport in Kathmandu.

"The weather was not bad at the time the plane went missing... it worsened later on," Karna told AFP.

"We have now stopped the helicopter search. But the search on foot will continue until we find the plane."

Police fanned out across villages in the remote region, trekking uphill to locate the missing aircraft.

The incident again raises concerns about the Himalayan nation's aviation sector, which has come under fire from international authorities after a series of fatal accidents.

The European Union in December banned all the country's airlines from flying to the EU.

Nepal, which counts tourism as a major contributor to its economy, has suffered a number of air crashes in recent years, which have usually been attributed to inexperienced pilots, poor management and inadequate maintenance.

A Chinese tourist and a local pilot were killed when an ultra-light aircraft crashed into a hill in Pokhara last October.

Last May 21 people including eight Japanese tourists were hurt when a small plane skidded off an airport runway in northern Nepal and plunged into a river.

Fifteen people were killed at the same airport in May 2012 when a plane carrying Indian pilgrims crashed into a mountain.

In September 2012 19 people, including seven Britons and four Chinese, were killed after an Everest-bound plane crashed minutes after taking off from Kathmandu, in an accident which the government blamed on a "panic-stricken" pilot.

At the time of the blacklisting last year, EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said the country's safety record "does not leave us any other choice".

Government officials said the ban was "unfortunate" and came after months spent on upgrading safety and monitoring aircraft.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wanxiang's Fisker bid marks its shift towards electric car production

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-02-16

Lu Guanqiu, second left, Nov. 24, 2013, in Beijing. (Photo/Xinhua)

Wanxiang Group, China's leading auto-parts maker, is poised to foray into the realm of electric cars, by first taking over Fisker and then working with Tesla, both US electric-car makers, according to Lu Guanqiu, founder of the group.

The result of the group's flirtations with Fisker have yet to become clear with no news after the Feb. 12 auction of the US company's assets by the bankruptcy court of Delaware State.

The two main bidders were Wanxiang and an energy firm owned by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li Tzar Kai. Lu Guanqiu said he was confident of winning the bidding, and has said that his group enjoyed an advantageous position.

Before the bidding, Chinese-language 21st Century Business Herald cited an insider who said that the outcome of the contest is still uncertain, and that Fisker's assets have been overvalued.

With the Chinese government's policy apparently leaning towards pure electric cars, rather than hybrid models, Wanxiang expects to start turning out complete cars quickly, should it win out in the bid for Fisker. As a reflection of his eagerness, Lu Guangxi made a final offer of US$35.7 million, a whopping premium of 87.5% for Fisker.

The Fisker takeover will help Wanxiang ease the bottleneck for the further development of its auto-parts operation, which is facing multiple difficulties, including an inability to produce key components/parts, low added value for products, lack of key technologies, and the dearth of support from both municipal and central governments.

Lu decided to transform the operations of his group during the global financial tsunami in 2008, when its orders plunged by one third in two months. One key move is a foray into the electric car sector, for which Wanxiang inked an agreement with Ener1 in 2011 to set up an auto lithium battery venture.

The takeover of Fisker, if successful, will enable Wanxiang to enter the complete-car production sector, as the company already secured a complete-car manufacturing license from the Chinese government in Nov. 2013. Wanxiang has opted for the production of pure electric cars, in order to sidestep the formidable competition posed by Japanese firms in the sector of hybrid models. Previously, Wanxiang acquired A123, the sole battery supplier for Fisker's Karma electric car.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Two dead, flights disrupted as Indonesia volcano erupts

Google – AFP, Bintang Senandung Nacita (AFP), 14 February 2014

Indonesian airport personnel inspect ash-covered planes at Yogyakarta airport
 after the Mount Kelud volcano in erupted in East Java province on February 14,
2014 (AFP, Ninoy)

Blitar — A spectacular volcanic eruption in Indonesia has killed two people and forced mass evacuations, disrupting long-haul flights and closing international airports Friday.

Mount Kelud, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the main island of Java, spewed red-hot ash and rocks high into the air late Thursday night just hours after its alert status was raised.

Villagers in eastern Java described the terror of volcanic materials raining down on their homes, while AFP correspondents at the scene saw residents covered in grey dust fleeing in cars and on motorbikes towards evacuation centres.

An Indonesian military soldier carries a
 collapsed resident during the evacuation
 in Malang, East Java province, on Feb.14,
 2014 (AFP, Aman Rochman)
Sunar, a 60-year-old from a village eight kilometres (five miles) in Blitar district, said his home also collapsed after being hit with "rocks the size of fists".

"The whole place was shaking -- it was like we were on a ship in high seas. We fled and could see lava in the distance flowing into a river," said Sunar, who goes by one name.

A man and a woman, both in their 60s, were crushed to death after volcanic material that had blanketed rooftops caused their homes in the sub-district of Malang to cave in, National Disaster Mitigation Agency Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Dian Julihadi, 32, from Blitar district, said: "It was like fireworks. There was a loud bang and bright red lights shot up into the air."

Nugroho confirmed the materials were still raining down on villages within a radius of 15 kilometres from the volcano on Friday, but said that some activities were resuming "as normal".

Some 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate, though some families have ignored the orders and just over 100,000 are now in temporary shelters, Nugroho said.

Several people tried to return home to gather clothing and valuables -- only to be forced back by the continuous downpour of volcanic materials.

A resident clears volcanic ash on the road of Kediri in East Java province
 following the eruption of the Mount Kelud volcano on February 14, 2014
(AFP, Juni Kriswanto)

- 'Too dangerous to fly' -

The ash has blanketed the Javanese cities of Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Solo, where international airports have been closed temporarily, Transport Ministry director general of aviation Herry Bakti said, while grounded planes were seen covered in the dust.

"All flights to those airports have been cancelled, and other flights, including some between Australia and Indonesia, have been rerouted," Bakti said, adding it was too dangerous to fly near the plume.

Virgin Australia said in a statement it had cancelled all its flights to and from Phuket, Bali, Christmas Island and Cocos Island on Friday, adding that "the safety of our customers is the highest priority" and that the airline would keep monitoring conditions.

A resident takes photos during the eruption
 of Mount Kelud volcano from Kediri town in
 East Java province on February 14, 2014
(AFP, Juni Kriswanto)
Australian nurse Susanne Webster, 38, was on a late-morning Virgin flight from Sydney to Bali that was turned around.

"About two hours in, the pilot announced over in Indonesia there was a volcano that erupted and that we were turning the plane back," she told AFP, adding they were still in Australian airspace at the time.

Australian airline Qantas postponed Friday flights between Jakarta and Sydney to Saturday, while Singapore Airlines cancelled its flights to Surabaya, a popular destination for golfing tourists.

Air Asia cancelled flights to several Javanese cities, with 21 flights affected in total, including three between Indonesian and Malaysia.

"The ashes could... compromise the safety and performance of the aircraft, such as (cause) permanent damage to the engine," Air Asia said in a statement, adding visibility was also a concern.

On the outskirts of Yogyakarta, authorities closed Borobudur -- the world's largest Buddhist temple, which attracts hundreds of tourists daily -- after it was rained upon with dust from the volcano about 200 kilometres to the east.

Map of Indonesia showing the location of Mount Kelud volcano (AFP Graphic)

Around 400 people remained at a temporary shelter in the village of Bladak, roughly 10 kilometres from the volcano's crater, after spending the night on the floor wearing safety masks.

The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said there was little chance of another eruption as powerful as Thursday night's, but tremors could still be felt Friday as communities began clearing piles of ash up to five centimetres high on roads.

The 1,731-metre (5,712-foot) Mount Kelud has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 deaths in a massive eruption in 1568.

It is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this month another volcano, Mount Sinabung on western Sumatra island unleashed an enormous eruption that left at least 16 dead and has been erupting almost daily since September.

Aviation biofuel goes into commercial use in China

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-02-14

Sinopec's company logo. (Photo/Xinhua)

China started commercial use of aviation biofuel on Wednesday, in a bid to ease fuel pressure and cut carbon emissions.

China's top oil refiner, Sinopec, was given a license allowing commercial use of its aviation biofuel, said the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The license, the first of its kind, permits Sinopec's No. 1 Aviation Biofuel to be used by airlines, some of which have showed willingness to cooperate with the refiner.

Xu Chaoqun, deputy head of CAAC's Flight Criteria Department, said the development is a significant breakthrough for research, production and use of aviation biofuel. The development also makes China the fourth country in the world to produce aviation biofuel, after the United States, France and Finland.

Sinopec started research on aviation biofuel in 2009, and its application for commercial use was accepted by CAAC in early 2012. Last April, a test flight in Shanghai powered by the biofuel was a success, and the fuel went through several rounds of more strict tests before it was given the green light.

Sinopec can produce 3,000 tonnes of such oil a year, from materials like rape seed, cotton seed and wasted cooking oil. The refiner is also considering joining with private enterprise in planting, collecting and processing materials, after working with McDonald's to collect cooking oil.

"Aviation biofuel is one of the major trends in global aviation," said Xu. "With our research on aviation biofuel, we have built a set of technological standards, and will have a bigger say in international carbon emission reduction." Research shows that carbon dioxide generated by biofuel is 45% or less than that produced by conventional fuel.

The International Air Transport Association forecast that 30% of aviation fuel will be biofuel by 2020, and a few western airlines have been testing commercial flights with biofuel since 2008.

China is the world's largest oil importer and 58.1% of its 2013 supply relied on imports.

With an annual consumption of nearly 20 million tonnes, China has become the second largest aviation fuel consumer and demand is estimated to be expanding by 10% every year, while the global average is less than 5%. By contrast, the country has abundant biofuel-refining resources: vast areas of oil-rich plants and a huge amount of wasted cooking oil. However, analysts said there may be a long way to go until large-scale application of aviation biofuel due to costs.

Xu Hui, vice director of Sinopec's Science and Technology Department, said the production costs of aviation biofuel are two to three times those of crude oil. He said some three tonnes of wasted cooking oil can generate one tonne of biofuel, and collecting cooking waste suitable for refining is expensive.

Refiners and airlines have to split the cost, and the final price will be determined by the market based on emission-cutting efforts and an application scale, according to Xu with Sinopec.

"The most important thing for now is to diversify biofuel sources and upgrade technology," said CAAC's Xu.

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