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

Iran's 'catastrophic mistake': Speculation, pressure, then admission

Iran's 'catastrophic mistake': Speculation, pressure, then admission
Analsyts say it is irresponsible to link the crash of a Ukraine International Airline Boeing 737-800 to the 737 MAX accidents (AFP Photo/INA FASSBENDER)

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. …

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Korean Air Joins Cathay Pacific in Curbing Shark Fin Transport

Jakarta Globe, Jasmine Wang and Kyunghee Park, June 24, 2013

Shark fins dry in the sun on the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong
 (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)

Shark fins’ ride in plane bellies is beginning to end.

Last week, Korean Air Lines Co. said since March it had stopped moving the delicacy used in soups. The Seoul-based company joined Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Air New Zealand Ltd. in saying no to transporting the commodity.

The airlines’ ban on carrying the cargo may aid steps by environment lobbies to protect sharks, whose fins can cost as much as $800 per kilogram ($364 per pound). Hong Kong is the transit point for about half of the global shark fin trade, which largely goes to the Chinese market, said Alex Hofford, executive director at MyOcean, a marine conservation group.

“The airlines know it’s good to be seen as doing the right thing as passengers become more environmentally aware,” Hofford said. “Economically speaking, it doesn’t affect them one bit as it’s so tiny compared to all the other things they carry, electronics, phones or other cargoes.”

About 10 percent of global shark-fin trade is freighted through air with the rest moving by ships, Hofford said. Hong Kong imports shark fins from all over the world including Africa, Europe, south Pacific, Indonesia, Japan and the Middle East, he said.

Fishermen obtain the fins by slicing them off sharks and leaving them back into the ocean, a process called “finning”, Korean Air said in a June 20 statement. More than 73 million sharks are finned around the world every year, it said, citing research data.

Higher-Value Goods

Korean Air’s decision came after a similar move by Air New Zealand last month and Cathay’s September announcement to only carry shark products from sustainable sources.

Asian airlines and airports are aiming to move to higher-value goods to counter a weak global air-freight market, which declined for a second straight year in 2012 amid a slump in demand across Europe.

Changi Airport, Southeast Asia’s largest freight airfield, plans to attract more gold bars, tuna and vaccines to Singapore as it seeks to increase handling of high-value cargo to make up for slowing trade.

Cathay Pacific, the world’s biggest international air-cargo carrier, aims to replicate its business-class strategy in a cargo trade upgrade. The airline said in February it wants to fly more diamonds and medicines rather than T-shirts.

Shark Rescue

Environmental groups, including Shark Rescue and MyOcean, last month also sent a letter to Fiji’s Air Pacific, urging it to stop the carriage of shark fins and related products from the south Pacific on flights to Hong Kong.

They plan to lobby Qantas Airways Ltd and Air France-KLM Group to urge them to stop carrying the fins, Hofford said.

Air New Zealand suspended the carriage of shark fins on May 21, while a review of this issue is underway, the carrier’s spokesman Andrew Aitken said in an e-mailed statement last week.

Cathay Pacific in September announced a restrictive policy that it will only accept independently verified sustainable shark and shark-related products. While the carrier is still working on the implementation of the policy, it has reduced the volume of shark fins carried to 3 tons in the six months ended March from about 300 annually before the announcement, according to an e-mailed statement from the carrier on June 20.

Wedding Banquet

“We will only ship from sustainable sources and will continue to do so,” its Chief Executive John Slosar said last week in Hong Kong.

Transport restrictions could make a soup, made with 76 grams of shark fins, pricier than the HK$1,320 ($170) it sells at the Fook Lam Moon Group restaurant in Hong Kong.

Shark fin consumption in Hong Kong is going down as young people have increased awareness of protecting endangered species, Hofford said. The older generation of people continues to consume shark fins, he said.

Cissy Ho, a 27-year-old who is getting married next month in Hong Kong, said she had to agree to her family members’ decision to include shark fin soup in the menu for her wedding banquet.

“I would choose bird’s nest dish over shark fin soup, but I failed to convince the elders,” said Ho, who works at a Hong Kong-based company. “They still think shark fin soup is a must-have item to show their generosity towards guests.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Biofueled Airbus makes air show entrance

France24 – AFP, 20 June 2013

An Airbus A321 aircraft using Biojet A-1 Total/Amyris, a biofuel produced from
 an innovative sugar-processing technology, is parked on the tarmac at Le Bourget
airport, near Paris on June 20, 2013 during the 50th International Paris Air Show.

AFP - An Airbus airliner flew from southern France to the Paris Air Show on Thursday with one fuel tank partially filled with farnesane, a biofuel made from sugar cane as the industry experiments with green technology.

The gambit was to show that the fast-growing air transport sector is eager for clean fuels, but the ability for green fuels to compete with petroleum-based kerosene that spews tonnes of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere remains way off.

The sugar fuel was developed by Amyris, a US company owned by the French oil major Total, and could be on the market starting next year.

Other key partners in the demonstration were Air France and Safran, which built the engine used in the test.

"Technically there are solutions, but economically it has not taken off, that is for sure," said Pierre Porot, a biofuel specialist at the French institute IFP Energies Nouvelles.

Parked on the Le Bourget airport tarmac, the A321 looked quite similar to more conventional passenger planes and attracted hardly as much attention as the sleek combat jets sitting nearby.

It was only the second time a plane has flown with this kind of fuel, the first being in Brazil, where Total produces farnesane.

The flight, which lasts about an hour when commercial planes make it, used 10 percent farnesane, consuming about four tonnes of sugar cane.

But developers said use of sugar for fuel would not affect food markets, a usual complaint against biofuel technology..

"Sugar cane is not considered a food product by the (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization, it does not compete therefore with food sources," said Philippe Marchand, head of Total's biofuel unit.

For now however the main issue is cost.

Experts contacted by AFP estimated that existing "biokerosenes" cost between 30 and 50 percent more than the normal fuel.

So while airlines like Lufthansa and KLM have begun to incorporate biofuels in their operations, and a flight using only biofuel took place in Canada late last year, no carriers use it in significant quantities.

"Test flights are easy because they need only a few thousand litres of fuel," noted Claire Curry, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

"But to obtain large quantities you have to build refineries costing $200-300 million and the problem is finding the money," she said.

Total's Marchand is not deterred however, and once the new fuel has been certified, he intends to expand production facilities to Europe.

"French beet farmers are very interested in diversifying their activities because of the weakness in the ethanol market," he said.

Philippe Boisseau, head of Total's New Energies division said: "In four to five years, the goal is to make the fuel with non-edible parts of plants. To transform cellulose into non-food sugars that are then turned into biojet" fuels.

Other possible end products include biodiesel, cosmetics, medicines and even perfumes.

The cost issue could reverse meanwhile, because standard kerosene prices and carbon taxes will likely climb higher, forcing airlines to come up with alternatives.

Major aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing and Embraer have said they are mulling joint programmes to develop biokerosene, since their futures also depend on a sustained source of jet fuels.

Environmental groups are bringing pressure to the air industry too. On Thursday, the French activist group Reseau Action Climat denounced the pollution generated by constantly growing traffic.

"Flying is the most polluting means of transport. Measured by passenger and by kilometre travelled, it is three times worse for the climate than cars," the group said.

Total hopes to have its farnesane fuel certified by the end of the year, and possibly have planes flying with sugar-based fuel in 2014.

Related Articles:

An ENN laboratory in Hebei province. (Photo/Xinhua)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jakarta to Test Green Bajajs From Sweden

Jakarta Globe, Lenny Tristia Tambun, June 20, 2013

A Clean Motion Zbee vehicle. (Image courtesy of Clean Motion)

Fresh on the heels of the central government’s plan to offer incentives for the production of low-cost green vehicles, the Jakarta administration has expressed its interest in purchasing electric rickshaws from Sweden to replace the capital’s aging fleet, known as bajajs.

“Sweden has explained their electric bajajs, and we agree that they are better than the gas-powered models. Plus, the price is not too expensive,” Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjhaja said on Wednesday.

Basuki said that he has asked the Swedish company that produces the electric bajajs, Clean Motion, to send the vehicles over to Jakarta so that city administrators could test them.

“They have to send some over so we can conduct tests. The company said it would deliver them this month, but it seems like they will arrive late,” he said.

Previously, Clean Motion said that it would launch its Zbee electric rickshaw to replace traditional 3-wheeled taxis in order to offer a more environmentall -friendly mode of transportation.
The company also announced its plan to manufacture Zbees in Indonesia by building a factory in East Java capable of producing up to 100,000 of the green vehicles annually.

Basuki said that he would let the people of Jakarta decide if they want to switch from the gas-powered bajaj to the electric Zbee.

According to the Jakarta Transportation Agency, there are 11,669 gas-powered bajajs officially registered with the city. Less than 3,000 of them are blue bajajs, which are powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).

Related Article:

FBI admits to domestic surveillance drone use

Robert Mueller tells Congress bureau uses drones in a 'very, very minimal way' as senators describe 'burgeoning concern', Dan Roberts in Washington, Wednesday 19 June 2013

FBI director Robert Mueller said: 'It is worthy of debate and legislation
down the road.' Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

The FBI has admitted it sometimes uses aerial surveillance drones over US soil, and suggested further political debate and legislation to govern their domestic use may be necessary.

Speaking in a hearing mainly about telephone data collection, the bureau's director, Robert Mueller, said it used drones to aid its investigations in a "very, very minimal way, very seldom".

However, the potential for growing drone use either in the US, or involving US citizens abroad, is an increasingly charged issue in Congress, and the FBI acknowleged there may need to be legal restrictions placed on their use to protect privacy.

"It is still in nascent stages but it is worthy of debate and legislation down the road," said Mueller, in response to questions from Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono.

Hirono said: "I think this is a burgeoning concern for many of us."

Dianne Feinstein, who is also chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said the issue of drones worried her far more than telephone and internet surveillance, which she believes are subject to sufficient legal oversight.

"Our footprint is very small," Mueller told the Senate judiciary committee. "We have very few and have limited use."

He said the FBI was in "the initial stages" of developing privacy guidelines to balance security threats with civil liberty concerns.

It is known that drones are used by border control officials and have been used by some local law enforcement authorities and Department of Homeland Security in criminal cases.

Mueller said he wasn't sure if there were official agreements with these other agencies.

"To the extent that it relates to the air space there would be some communication back and forth [between agencies]," Mueller said.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Airbus plane takes off at Paris Air Show

Google – AFP, Marianne Barriaux (AFP), 19 June 2013

Airbus's next-generation A350 plane takes off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport,
southwestern France, on June 14, 2013 (AFP/File, Eric Cabanis)

LE BOURGET, France — The Airbus next-generation A350 plane took off commercially at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, winning multi-billion-dollar deals and the European manufacturer said that more deals were in the air.

The news comes just days after the new plane took to the skies in its first ever test flight on Friday, stealing the limelight before the start of the air show -- a key event where Airbus and Boeing compete fiercely for plane orders.

The two rivals are currently head-to-head -- $44.6 billion in new plane orders or agreements for Airbus versus $44.8 billion for Boeing -- after Ryanair boosted a lagging Boeing by confirming a huge order for 175 medium-haul 737 planes.

Airbus-side, Air France-KLM also confirmed an order for 25 A350 planes -- which make extensive use of lighter composite materials to reduce fuel costs -- in a deal worth $7.2 billion at catalogue prices.

An Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner flies over
 Le Bourget airport, on June 18, 2013 at the
 International Paris Air show (AFP/File,
Eric Feferberg)
"Despite the difficulties that Air France-KLM is facing, we are in significant good shape to be able to plan for the renewal of our long-haul fleet for the long term," said Alexandre de Juniac, head of the airline group.

The agreement comes with an option for a further 25 planes, and the aircraft will come into service in 2017, he told reporters. The airline group had first announced its intention to buy the planes in September 2011.

SriLankan Airlines, meanwhile, took an option to buy four of the new planes -- an option expected to be exercised within two weeks -- and placed six firm orders for Airbus's popular A330 aircraft in a deal worth $2.6 billion at list prices.

Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier promised more deals to come for the A350. Asked by a journalist whether further orders could be expected at the show, he replied: "before the end of the day."

The A350 is due to take off on Wednesday on its second test flight in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, where Airbus is headquarterd, and if all goes well again could fly over the Paris Air Show on Friday.

The plane pushed Boeing out of the limelight on Wednesday, but the US firm had stolen the thunder on Tuesday with the launch of a long version of its next-generation Dreamliner -- the 787-10.

Intended as a message that it is firmly back on track after a slew of technical problems forced the grounding of its entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide earlier this year, Boeing announced more than 100 orders for its newest plane.

On Wednesday, it said plane leasing firm CIT Aerospace had ordered 30 of its new, medium-haul 737 MAX planes in a deal worth $3 billion at catalogue prices.

The 737 MAX is a modernised version of Boeing's older 737 and has yet to come into service. It is part of a new generation of planes emerging onto the market which consume less fuel and enable airlines to reduce costs.

Other smaller competitors have also made a mark at the air show -- the world's biggest -- with ATR, a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, announcing one of its biggest orders this week.

Brazil's Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and 100 orders, with 215 other intentions to purchase the aircraft.

But the Paris air show, in its 50th edition this year, is not just about commercial battles, with the long-awaited A400M military transport plane taking to the skies as well as Russia's Su-35 fighter jet.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Solar Impulse lands in Washington en route to New York

Deutsche Welle, 16 June 2013

The solar-powered plane has landed in the US capital, Washington, in the penultimate leg of a transcontinental trip to New York City. The project's creators want to demonstrate the potential of solar power.

The single-seat Solar Impulse plane touched down in Dulles International Airport on Sunday, after making an unplanned stop in the Midwestern city of Cincinnati because of difficult weather conditions.

The trip from Cincinnati to Washington took 14 hours. Solar Impulse runs on four electric propellers powered by 12,000 solar cells mounted on its 63-meter (68-yard) wingspan. At night, the plane reaches an altitude of 27,000 feet and then glides downwards, using virtually no energy until the sun rises again. Solar Impulse travels at a speed of approximately 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour).

Solar Impulse will be on display in Washington for two weeks, at the Udvar-Hazy wing of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

"To be hosted by the Smithsonian Institution is an honor for Solar Impulse," said Bertrand Piccard, who is swapping the piloting duties with his fellow Swiss national Andre Borschberg.

 Solar Impulse's US route. The plane made an unplanned stop in
Cincinnati, Ohio

Preparation for 2015 world tour

Although Solar Impulse had originally planned to fly directly from St. Louis, Missouri, to Washington, poor weather conditions meant that Piccard would have had to pilot the plane for longer than the 24-hour set limit. Instead, an unscheduled stop was made in Cincinnati.

The first leg of Solar Impulse's transcontinental journey took place on May 3, from San Francisco, California, to Phoenix, Arizona. Solar Impulse is expected to complete its US trip and land in New York City in July.

Piccard and Borschberg are using their US trip as preparation for their ultimate goal, a flight around the world in 2015.

slk/mkg (AP, AFP)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

TEDGlobal: Are drones tools of war or a social good?

BBC News, Jane Wakefield, Technology reporter, TEDGlobal, Edinburgh, 12 June 2013

Military drones need strict rules, thinks sci-fi writer Daniel Suarez

Related Stories 

Speakers at the TEDGlobal conference have been debating the positive use of drones in society.

Delegates heard how drones, more usually seen as military tools, are increasingly playing a positive role in civilian life

They are offering new ways of transportation and carrying out vital conservation work.

But, warned one speaker, far stricter controls are needed over the use of such machines in war.

Sci-fi author Daniel Suarez called for international treaties to limit the use of autonomous combat drones that are increasingly being developed by nations such as the US and Israel.

"There are tonnes of great uses for unmanned drones but we need a framework for robotic weapons as it puts too much power into too few hands," he said.

"Increasingly combat drones are making lethal decisions about human beings."

In 2011 US drones created 300,000 hours of video surveillance, for example.

"This is outstripping the human ability to review it all so increasingly people will rely on visual intelligence software," said Mr Suarez.

He also warned of the threat of anonymous war, where terrorists or criminals could launch drone attacks which would be difficult to trace back. "Such a war would tilt the geo-political balance on its head," he said.

Delivering supplies

Tests in Haiti showed how drones can be used to deliver supplies

On a more positive note, delegates heard how drones can play a vital role in civilian life.

Andreas Raptopoulos is currently building a network of drones to provide vital supplies to hard-to-reach places.

"In sub-Saharan Africa 85% of the roads are unusable during the rainy season," he said.

"Imagine if you are in Mali with a newborn in urgent need of medication - it may take days to come."

To overcome the issue, he is using small flying vehicles known as octocopters, which can deliver goods such as medicine in a few hours.

The firm he has created, Matternet, grew out of a challenge set at the Singularity University in Silicon Valley to find solutions to global poverty.

Prototypes have been tested in Haiti, delivering supplies to camps set up in the wake of the 2010 earthquakes and the firm is now planning a wider trial of the technology.

The method is cheap. "To deliver 2kg [4.4lb] over 10km [6.2 miles] costs just 24 cents," he said, although currently a vehicle costs about $3,000 (£1,900).

Mr Raptopoulos hopes to bring costs down to around $750 (£480) per vehicle.

He thinks that the project has huge potential.

"This could be the next big network, offering millions of people access to better medication and other supplies in the same way as the mobile network offered them access to the internet," he said.

Drones are helping to count dwindling orangutan populations
Such drones could also have a future in the heavily congested megacities of the future, delivering goods to businesses and consumers much more quickly and efficiently.

Orangutan nests

Meanwhile, Lian Pin Koh showed off how basic model aircraft fitted with video cameras, autopilot systems and software to programme them can become vital conservation tools.

"For the price of a decent laptop we can built a conservation drone with tremendous potential to monitor the health of wildlife and combat wildlife crimes," said Prof Koh.

Traditionally, orangutan populations have been measured by sending teams into the forests of Sumatra with binoculars to find them

Now airborne drones are finding dozens of nests in the trees and, with the help of automated software, are making the process far more efficient.

Subsequent systems have been used to map the health of forests, showing where illegal logging is taking place, where forests are contracting and plantations expanding.

Meanwhile at the TEDGlobal "flying lab", quadrirotors developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are being put through their paces all week.

Demos show the drones performing a variety of tasks, including acrobatics, batting balls and balancing poles.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tax Break for Eco-Friendly Car Producers Now Official: Minister

Jakarta Globe, ID/Damiana Ningsih, June 5, 2013

A model poses next to a car displayed at the Indonesia International
Motor Show 2012 on Sept. 20, 2012. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

The government has officially issued a decree to support the production of low-cost, environmentally-friendly cars in Indonesia, a minister confirmed on Wednesday.

Industry Minister MS Hidayat said on Wednesday that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the 2013 decree number 41 on luxury items tax, which includes vehicles, on May 23. The decree was legalized on the same day by Legal and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin.

“This regulation will cover some programs related to eco-friendly cars, support conservation of energy use and [the use of] alternative energy, for example low-cost and green cars, hybrid, electric cars and cars using biofuel. It will curb taxes and boost demand for greener cars,” he said.

Hidayat said no luxury tax would be imposed on cars or station wagons with engine capacity of up to 1,200 cc and with a minimum fuel consumption of 20 kilometers per liter.

Tax exemption would also apply to diesel or semi-diesel vehicles of up to 1,500 cc, also with minimum fuel consumption of 20 kilometers per liter.

The current tax for new vehicles ranges from 10-75 percent depending on engine size. Only emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, are tax exempt.

Some analysts have forecast that the policy could eventually boost Indonesian vehicle consumption by a third.

Indonesian auto sales, buoyed by an expanding middle class, hit a record 1.1 million last year though the figure is expected to be slightly lower this year because of likely fuel price increases and higher downpayment requirements.

Hidayat said the automotive industry could now launch eco-friendly car production in line with the regulation. He added that the regulation was aimed at spurring a long-term movement toward sustainability, rather than immediate commercial interests.

“Relating to the price [of the vehicle], even though there was a pricing set by the Ministry of Finance, I wish for flexibility. The pricing should be as fair as possible when complying with the adopted technology. Don’t make it solely as a commercial purpose,” Hidayat said.

Previously, Astra International said the company would delay production of its eco-friendly vehicle, the Ayla, until government regulations on low-cost, green cars were finalized.

Astra Daihatsu Motor opened a new plant in Karawang, West Java, in April that has a production capacity of 120,000 units per year. Daihatsu had set a goal to produce 3,000 Ayla cars per month in the facility.

Hyundai Unveil the World’s First Mass Produced Fuel Cell Vehicle

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Germany shies away from comment on possible role in US drone war

Deutsche Welle, 1 June 2013

It looks like a computer game, but it's deadly serious news in Germany: US soldiers control drone attacks with a joystick. According to new media reports, military bases on German soil play a key role in the drone war.

The attacker has a decisive advantage: he can attack without being in personal danger. Everything is controlled remotely off-site and the opponent can be thousands of kilometers away. Drones have become an essential part in the US's post-September 11 war against terror in Afghanistan and other regions, but their use is ethically and legally controversial.

According to reports from German TV news show "Panorama" and the daily newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung," the US use their German military bases to conduct attacks and targeted killings. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), based in Stuttgart since 2008, and the US Air Force base Ramstein in particular are said to play substantial roles in the drone war.

 Has AFRICOM controlled drone
attacks from Germany?
AFRICOM coordinates all US missions on the African continent from Germany. Within this context, the reports said, it's safe to assume that AFRICOM also coordinates the use of drones in Africa. Drones were used to kill suspected terrorist in Somalia, for example. Since 2007, up to 27 people, some of them civilians, have died there in attacks by the unmanned planes, according to the London-based "Bureau of Investigative Journalism."

Ramstein a key location?

The contact between the pilot in the US and the drone in Africa is supposedly relayed through a satellite facility in Ramstein, a military base in the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The media outlets quoted a US Air Force paper saying that the attacks aren't possible without this relay station. Ramstein is also home to the central Air and Space Operations Center (AOC).

The drones themselves are not stationed in Germany. For missions in Africa, there are bases in Djibouti, Niger, Ethiopia and on the Seychelles. But personnel and the technology needed to control the drones is reportedly based in Germany.

Maj. Ryan Donald, spokesman for the United States European Command, replied to a DW inquiry saying that the AOC supervises flights, but does not directly operate airborne objects.

Violating international law

Most experts agreed that the use of drones outside of war zones, including Somalia, is not acceptable under international law.

"The targeted killing of persons through drones would be impermissible here," Andreas Zimmermann, professor of international law at the University of Potsdam, said on the German public radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Thilo Marauhn, an international law activist, took the argument even further. "When the German government knows about the killing of a terror suspect by drone outside a war zone and doesn't protest against it, this could constitute a violation of international law," Marauhn said in the "Panorama" report.

Schäfer: government has to
investigate drones connection
The opposition demanded clarification from the government.

"The government has to get to the bottom of this," said Paul Schäfer, a member of the parliament's defense committee for the Left Party. "Otherwise, the suspicion that Germany is part of international law violations remains. That cannot be left out there."

Troop law counts

There seems to be not a lot the German government can do at the moment though, because of a statute that governs the presence of US troops in Germany.

"We'd have to start new negotiations about the troops statute," Schäfer told DW. "I'm afraid that currently, the German government's opportunities to intervene are limited. We lack the legal authority."

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin that there was an on-going dialog with US officials. "The result is that we don't have any evidence for behavior that violates international law," Seibert said. "Speaking for the German government, I cannot confirm the claims that were made in the media."

Kerry doesn't see a violation

Drone attacks are a legal response
to the 9/11 attacks, Kerry said
US Secretary of State John Kerry did not want to comment on the media reports either when he met his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Washington. "I will not discuss details of the operation here," Kerry said. "Our actions are legal. We were attacked on September 11. As a final means, this is self-defense."

The German government seems to shy away from an open discussion on the actions of American troops in Germany. When the decision was made to base AFRICOM in Stuttgart, the German Foreign Ministry wrote to the US government asking, according to "Panorama," that Germany not be publicly mentioned as the new AFRICOM home as it would cause "unnecessary public debate."

Related Articles:

3D printing technology used in Chinese fighter jets

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2013-05-31

A large 3D printer at Northwestern Polytechnical University in northwest
China's Shaanxi province. (Photo/Xinhua)

China is employing 3D printing technology in the development of its military aircraft, from the J-16 fighter to the next-generation J-31, reports Huanqiu, the Chinese-language website of the nationalistic tabloid Global Times.

At this year's annual legislative and consultative conferences in Beijing this march, J-15 chief architect Sun Cong revealed that 3D printing has been widely used in designing and producing the latest carrier fighter prototype which had its first successful test in October.

The rapidly improving technology, which has allowed the development of Chinese fighter jets to take off, so to speak, has been used to manufacture critical titanium alloy load-bearing structure on the aircraft, including the entire nose landing gear, Sun said.

Plane enthusiasts can already create small plastic planes with a computer and a 3D printer, but the technology could soon be extended to creating a real jet. 3D printers have already been used to create plane parts without the need for casting, forging, assembly or other traditional manufacturing processes.

According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, the C-919, China's first domestically-designed commercial aircraft, the J-15 and J-16 fighter jets, the J-20 stealth fighter and the next-generation J-31 fighter already all employ 3D printing technology.

On March 24, at 16th China Beijing International High-tech Expo, China's AVIC Heavy Machinery Co went away with the state technological invention award for the world's largest 3D printing titanium part for military aircraft.

The laser additive manufacturing technology is said to boast a significant advantage over traditional manufacturing methods. Aeronautical materials expert Wang Huamin says China only needs 55 days to "print out" the main windshield frame of a C-919 commercial jet, compared to at least two years and US$2 million for a European plane manufacturer.

Traditional jet manufacturing not only takes time but also wastes raw materials, with only 10% going into the final product, Wang said. US manufacturer Lockheed Martin requires 2.8 tonnes of titanium to build an F-22 fighter jet, but only 144kg of titanium will end up in the plane itself, he added.

Wang says China's large-scale 3D printing technology has already surpassed the United States, partly because many American companies do not yet take the technology seriously.

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