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. …

Friday, October 25, 2013

Elon Musk: oil campaign against electric cars is like big tobacco lobbying

Tesla chief executive likens attacks on electric cars to campaigns of misinformation by big tobacco and climate sceptics

The Guardian, Adam Vaughan, Thursday 24 October 2013

Elon Musk in the new Tesla Model S high performance electric car in the
showroom at Westfield London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Attacks on electric cars by the oil industry are on a par with misinformation campaigns promoted by big tobacco companies and vested interests undermining climate science, according to Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur who founded PayPal and the brains behind both the space exploration company SpaceX and the electric sports carmaker Tesla Motors. The oil giants, he reckons, are attempting to sow the seeds of doubt.

Speaking before the opening of Tesla's new luxury store in the Westfield shopping mall in Shepherd's Bush, London, last night, Musk told the Guardian: "It's kinda like the battle against 'big tobacco' in the old days, and how they'd run all these ads about how tobacco's no problem.

"Ninety-nine per cent of scientists can agree on one thing, but in the public mind [lobbyists] try to convey that scientists disagree. Technically true, but absolutely misleading," he said.

Tesla has cornered the high end of the electric car market in the US, selling more than 14,000 of the base-priced $62,400 (£38,609) Model S in the past year. The car will be delivered to UK customers next spring, and is expected to cost between £55,000-£85,000, depending on the model's specifications.

That is substantially more than the £16,000-£30,000 price range at which most other electric cars have been pitched. But Musk still has his eye on the mass market. The next Tesla car, currently dubbed "Gen3", would cost less than £35,000 and will probably arrive within three years. The Model S, he said, would subsidise that car's development.

"When somebody buys a Model S they're helping pay for that in a way that buying an Aston Martin or Ferrari is not. Aston Martin is going to make more Aston Martins, Ferrari is going to make more Ferraris, but what we're trying to do is make a compelling mass-market electric car."

Musk, who is said to have inspired the character of the charismatic genius Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, does not think governments are doing enough to support the electrification of cars, despite a grant scheme that knocks £5,000 off the price of new plug-in vehicles.

"If we start seeing bazillions of electric cars on the road, then maybe we can reel back the incentives. The acid test is are there tons of electric cars on the road? Well, no, probably the incentives aren't strong enough."

Musk is standing by recent comments that hydrogen fuel-cell cars are not a plausible rival to battery-powered models like those made by Tesla. "They're like obviously bullshit, it's not even a question mark in my mind … In the case of hydrogen fuel cells, take the current state of the art, and compare how much space, weight and cost is associated with the powertrain of a fuel cell, and compare that with the Model S … it loses on every category."

Musk, 42, considers himself an environmentalist, but says he is not "ultra hardcore".

"That's not me," he says. "I sort of think we should figure out how to enjoy life and not have environmental catastrophe."

He rates himself as "greenish" in his personal life. He switches off lights when he leaves a room, and has installed solar panels on his home, but "it's not like I've got LED lights everywhere, and I'm not a vegetarian.

"Trying to convince the population to have some monk-like existence is simply unrealistic," he says.

Born in South Africa, Musk was a teenage computer nerd with degrees in physics and business when he moved to California to study for a PhD at Stanford. He then quit within days of embarking on his studies to become an entrepreneur.

His first venture was an internet city guide, which he sold aged 28, banking $20m. Paypal followed, which eventually brought him an even larger fortune, and then came SpaceX, which aims to send people to Mars within 20 years.

Tesla Motors, which takes its name from the 19th-century physicist, Nikola Tesla, was venture number four. Musk joined as an investor in its early days, and the firm made its first production vehicle – the two-seater Roadster – in 2006.

The company, based in Palo Alto in California's Silicon Valley, was listed on Nasdaq in 2010 and the Model S hit the road in 2012. Celebrity owners Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Stephen Spielberg and Demi Moore have generated publicity, as have the firm's "stores" – in premium shopping districts rather than traditional dealerships. The shares have nearly quadrupled in value this year.

The new electric high performance Tesla car in the mini showroom at
Westfield London. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

A few weeks ago the company's image took a hit when footage emerged of a Model S on fire after a piece of metal had gone under the car and made contact with the battery.

The driver escaped unharmed, but the incident led Musk to take to his blog in defence of the car, which has been billed as one of the safest ever made. "Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse," he wrote.

Musk told the Guardian that the company was committed to Europe, and he expected to be manufacturing electric cars in Europe "probably" within five years. They are currently made in Fremont, California, with some assembly carried out in the Netherlands. "It's a bit silly transporting cars across the Atlantic," said Musk, who also envisages a new European technical centre, focused on research and design.

The firm also plans to build a network of "superchargers" in the UK – charging points that can replenish the battery within 30 minutes – ready for when its right-hand drive Model S cars are delivered to customers in spring next year. The cars will eventually be powered by solar panels, he said, which should generate more power than is used by the cars recharging.

"What we're trying to convey is that, if you have Tesla Model S, you'll be able to drive for free, for ever, on sunlight."

Tesla's Model S

When you drive the Model S, it quickly – very, very quickly – becomes clear that it's the opposite of the electric car stereotype of a Noddy car that doesn't go very fast or very far. It's packed to the gills with state-of-the-art technology, from the enormous string of batteries that make up the entire floor and enable its 300 mile-plus range, to the in-car entertainment and navigation system whose touchscreen makes an iPad look positively puny.

The exterior is classy and understated, rather than screaming, "No combustion engine!" as, say, the G-Wiz and BMW's new i3 do. Tesla's other car, the Roadster, is the sort to turn heads and attract Instagramming hordes, but the Model S barely raised eyebrows during a few hours in central London.

More than anything, the car is memorable for its astonishing acceleration. Unlike conventional cars, electric cars give instant torque and that, combined with the powerful motor here, means that putting your foot down results in a truly exhilarating rush.

Saudi women inching closer ever to the wheel

Google – AFP, Acil Tabbara (AFP), 23 October 2013

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, drives her car in the Gulf 
Emirate city on October 22, 2013, as she campagins in solidarity with Saudi women
 preparing to take to the wheel on October 26, defying the Saudi authorities (AFP/File,
Marwan Naamani)

Dubai — Saudi female activists are gearing up to test a long-standing driving ban, with more defiant women already getting behind the wheel as the authorities seem to be taking a more lenient approach.

Under the slogan "women's driving is a choice," they have called on social networks for a turn-out on Saturday in a campaign in the world's only country that bans women from driving.

"October 26 is a day on which women in Saudi Arabia will say they are serious about driving and that this matter must be resolved," said Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested and held for nine days in May 2011 for posting online a video of herself behind the wheel.

In a protest she led the following month, a number of women were stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to drive again.

The 34-year-old computer engineer who now lives in Dubai told AFP women have already begun responding to the call, and "more than 50 videos showing women currently driving" have been posted online during the past two weeks.

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif, who now lives in Dubai, drives
her car in the Gulf Emirate city on October 22, 2013, as she
campagins in solidarity with Saudi women preparing to take
to the wheel on October 26 (AFP, Marwan Naamani)
With the exception of two women who were briefly stopped by police, authorities have so far not intervened to halt any of the female motorists.

This, combined with what seems to be more social acceptance to the new phenomenon is encouraging more women to get behind the wheel along major roads across the kingdom.

A video posted on social networks this month shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh as male motorists and families give her the "thumbs up" in support.

"There will be a November 26, December 26, a January 26, until authorities issue the first driving permit to a Saudi woman," said Sharif.

To reduce the risk of accidents, only women who have driving licences issued abroad are being invited to participate in the campaign. Obviously, none are issued in Saudi Arabia.

Dangerous for the ovaries?

But conservative religious figures are still opposed to women driving.

A Saudi cleric's warning last month that driving was dangerous to the health of women and of their children sparked an online wave of mockery.

"Physiological science" has found that driving "automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis," Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan warned in remarks to news website

"This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees," he said.

One female tweeter retorted: "When idiocy marries dogma in the chapel of medieval traditions, this is their prodigal child."

"What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots," said another comment.

Women who have been calling for three decades for the right to drive in the ultra-conservative kingdom have learned that public gatherings can get them in trouble in the absolute monarchy where any protests are officially banned.

In 1990, 47 women were arrested and punished after demonstrating in cars. The minister of interior subsequently banned women from driving but no law was ever promulgated.

This time, "there will be no demonstrations or rallying points," activist Aziza al-Youssef told AFP.

Youssef spoke of "positive indications" from authorities. In particular, she cited the chief of the notorious religious police, Sheikh Abdullatif al-Sheikh, and Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa affirming this year that no religious text bans women from driving.

Even so, Saudi Arabia's appointed advisory Shura Consultative Council rejected on October 10 a move by three female members to put the ban up for discussion.

Activists argue that driving does not violate Islamic law (sharia) as claimed by conservatives who support the ban.

"Just as wives of the (Muslim) Prophet (Mohammed's) companions travelled on camel and horseback, it is our right to drive using the transportation means available during our modern era," activists said in an online petition linked to Saturday's campaign.

The petition has amassed more than 16,000 signatures since September, despite being blocked only two weeks after its launch.

In another argument, activists point to the kingdom's underdeveloped public transport system and say many families cannot afford to hire drivers.

"My salary is 3,500 riyals (around $941/682 euros) and a driver costs me 1,200 riyals," a divorced mother wrote on the campaign website.

Women's rights have always sparked controversy in the kingdom.

King Abdullah's appointment of 30 women to the 150-member Shura Council in January drew protests from radical clerics in the kingdom.

His predecessor, king Saud, had to dispatch troops to protect the first girls' school in the 1960s.

For Sharif the campaign aims to push women in the kingdom to demand "rights which are even more significant than the right to drive."

Diplomats at a UN review of Saudi Arabia's human rights record on Monday condemned the kingdom's failure to abolish a system requiring women to seek permission from male relatives to do basic things such as leave the country, and criticised the ban on driving.

Saudi women, forced to cover from head to toe, still need permission from a male guardian to travel, work and marry.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beijing looks to cooperate with Asian nations for mutual gains

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2013-10-21

Buses on the first Sino-Vietnam highway, which links southwest China's
Yunnan province and Vietnam. (Photo/Xinhua)

China is pushing for cooperation with Southeast Asian nations in infrastructural investments to foster closer links with the regional economy, reports Beijing's Economic Observer.

During a meeting with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta in early October, China's president Xi Jinping proposed the establishment of an "Asian infrastructural investment bank," aiming to fund infrastructural projects between Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member nations and other countries in the region.

China's premier Li Keqiang, meanwhile, expressed China's willingness to deepen relations and cooperate with countries in the region during his Oct. 9-15 trip to Brunei, Thailand, and Vietnam. He also announced plans to build a high-speed rail reaching Southeast Asia.

"Once the projected China-South Asia hi-speed rail is built, all the way to Singapore, trading activities and logistics operations will emerge along the route," said Wang Yigui, a professor from the School of International Studies at Beijing's Renmin University of China. Wang added that Southeast Asia has a great need for infrastructural investments, which can be a powerful driver for their economies amid the global economic slowdown.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono responded enthusiastically to the Chinese overture, saying during the recent Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Oct. 6, that heavy infrastructural investments are needed to improve a low-efficiency supply chain and facilitate cross-border trade and services, which would not only stimulate the economy but also create jobs.

James Gagne, CEO of Agility Logistics, said the company has scored a 10% growth in emerging markets in recent years, much higher than the industry average, attributing the exceptional performance to marked improvement in infrastructural facilities in Southeast Asia.

Many economists and entrepreneurs believe infrastructural facilities will be a major growth driver for emerging markets in coming years. Hemant Kanoria, managing director of the India-based SREI Infrastructure Finance, said that India has a great need for investment in such infrastructural facilities as highways, power, and water supply. He added that there is a funding shortfall of US$18 billion this year, an opportunity which has caught the eyes of private equity funds worldwide.

Meanwhile, other East Asian nations, such as Cambodia, are also in dire need of infrastructural investments, forming a favorable setting for the establishment of the Asian infrastructural investment bank, according to Li Wei, also a Renmin University of China professor.

Observers are upbeat over cooperation between China and Asian nations in infrastructure project, as the former has a need for overseas investments due to its huge forex reserves and overcapacities, while the latter are actively seeking foreign investment in infrastructural facilities in a bid to invigorate the economy, create jobs, and create an improved setting for external trade, the paper said.

Related Article:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Philippines Airport Terminal ‘World’s Worst,’ Jakarta Airport 6th Worst in Asia: Survey

Jakarta Globe – AFP, October 18, 2013

Passengers rest on a bench at the airport in Manila on April 27.
(Reuters Photo/Cheryl Ravelo)

The Philippines’ main Manila airport terminal has been named the World’s worst for the second year in a row in a survey by an online travel website.

Officials on Friday brushed off the survey results, insisting conditions were being improved.

“The Guide to Sleeping in Airports,” a popular travel site, said Manila’s crowded Terminal 1 was the worse in the world, based on a traveler survey that assessed comfort, convenience, cleanliness and customer service.

Reviews for Manila’s Terminal 1 posted on the site mentioned “dilapidated facilities,” dishonest airport workers — particularly taxi drivers — long waiting times and rude officials.

“These are old issues,” Manila airport Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta told AFP, adding that the problems were already being addressed by the government.

He conceded that the Manila airport, with a capacity of about 6.5 million passengers annually, was overstretched, handling 8.1 million travellers last year.

Indonesian airports did not occupy any positions on the list, but Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta airport was ranked the sixth worst in Asia, behind Manila, Calcutta, Islamabad, Chennai and Mumbai, respectively.

The terminal at the Italian airport of Bergamo was named the second-worst in the world. According to the site, “people [there were] loafing around without T-shirt or without shoes as if they were in their homes and no one gives a hoot.”

The third-worst was Calcutta, just edging out Islamabad, ahead of Paris Beauvais.

The best rated airports were Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon, Amsterdam Schiphol, Hong Kong and Helsinki Vantaa.

Manila’s Terminal 1, the oldest of its four passenger terminals, was built 32 years ago. The government has launched a 2.5-billion-peso ($58 million) renovation programme for the terminal.

It is also attempting to reduce congestion by moving at least three million passengers a year to a newer terminal.

Agence France-Presse

Volvo consign normal car batteries to the history book

Cars UK, October 17, 2013

Volvo has developed a new concept for storing electrical power in a car using car body panels instead of a battery.

As our cars become more and more reliant on power from batteries – either to run the multitude of technology or top provide power for electric motors – the cost and size of the batteries needed continues to grow.

 But Volvo have been working on an alternative for the last 3.5 years which can potentially do away with the battery and instead store power in body panels.

Volvo has built an experimental S80 which has body panels made of carbon fibre and polymer resins and structural super capacitors. The carbon fibres sandwich the ‘battery’ bit and get moulded to form things like door panels to store the power.

Power can be put in to the battery layer from regenerative braking or by plugging the car in to the mains, and so far Volvo has created two components – a boot lid and plenum cover – on an S80 using this technology.

The boot lid – which has the potential to replace a normal battery – actually weighs less than a conventional boot lid, and the plenum can replace the rally bar due to its rigidity, and store enough power to replace the start-stop battery.

Volvo reckons that using this system could cut overall weight by 15 per cent, improve economy and be more sustainable.

It may be a few years away from production, but it’s a very smart way to go.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Search for bodies after deadly Laos plane crash

Google – AFP, Kelly MacNamara (AFP), 17 October 2013

This picture taken on February 25, 2011 shows a Lao Airline ATR-72 500
aircraft on the tarmac of Luang Prabang's airport, northern Laos (AFP/File)

Pakse — Rescuers searched for bodies on Thursday after a Lao Airlines plane believed to be carrying 49 people, around half of them foreigners, plunged into the Mekong River during stormy weather.

Seven French citizens, six Australians and five Thais were among those thought to have been killed when the turboprop ATR-72 came down on Wednesday near Pakse airport in Champasak province.

Debris was seen floating in the river at the scene of the disaster, while suitcases were wedged in mud on the riverbank, according to an AFP reporter.

Around a dozen rescuers were using a crane perched on a floating platform in the middle of the Mekong to try to winch the submerged aircraft from the river, which was swollen by a recent tropical storm.

Divers from a Thai rescue team were on the scene to assist in the operation.

Map locating Pakse in Laos, near to
 where a jetliner crashed killing all
44 people on board (Graphics)
State-owned Lao Airlines said more than half of the 44 passengers and five crew onboard were foreign nationals.

Rescue teams have recovered six bodies so far but no survivors, said an airline official in Pakse.

"We can't find most bodies or the plane yet because the aircraft has sunk," he told AFP.

Citizens from up to 11 countries were reported to have been on the flight from the capital Vientiane.

Some of those killed were taken to a mortuary at a Chinese temple in Pakse, which is a hub for tourists travelling to more remote areas in southern Laos.

Three bodies draped in blue plastic sheets were seen in the building, which was guarded by some 10 policemen, some armed, who turned away onlookers.

"They are foreigners from the crash," staff at the centre told AFP, adding that their nationalities were unknown.

Lao Airlines said the aircraft hit "extreme" bad weather while witnesses described seeing the aircraft buffeted by strong winds.

"The plane was about to land but appeared to be hit by a strong wind, causing its head to ascend and pushing it away from the airport area and out of reach of the air traffic control radar," state-run Laos news agency KPL quoted a witness as saying.

France said it was rushing embassy officials to the site of the crash in Pakse.

French President Francois Hollande learned of the disaster "with profound emotion and great sadness" and offered "sincere condolences" and full support to the victims' families, his office said in a statement.

According to a passenger list published by Thai media, people from the United States, Vietnam, Canada and Malaysia were on the flight.

'Devastating time'

Australia said six of its nationals were feared dead, including a family of four.

'Absolute horror'

The family of two Australian men missing, father and son Gordon and Michael Creighton, issued a statement requesting privacy "at this devastating time".

"We have lost a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a fiancé and a best mate in one tragic circumstance and are trying to come to terms with our loss," they said.

Thailand said five of its nationals had died.

Three South Koreans were also among the victims, according to the Transport Ministry in Seoul.

Taiwan said one of its citizens was killed while Beijing's official Xinhua news agency said one Chinese was on board. It said an earlier figure of two had included the Taiwanese victim.

The QV301 flight set off from Vientiane on time at 2.45pm (0745 GMT) and was supposed to arrive in Pakse just over an hour later.

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR said the twin-engine turboprop aircraft was new and had been delivered in March.

The director general of the country's Department of Civil Aviation, Yakua Lopangkao, told the Vientiane Times newspaper that the accident may have occurred due to bad weather triggered by tropical storm Nari.

Founded in 1976, Lao Airlines serves domestic airports and destinations in China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Impoverished Laos, a one-party communist state, has had 29 fatal air accidents since the 1950s, according to the Aviation Safety Network, whose data showed that the country's safety record had improved dramatically in the last decade.

The last fatal air accident was in October 2000 when eight people died after a plane operated by the airline -- then called Lao Aviation -- crashed in remote mountains in the northeast of the country.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Putin Builds North Korea Rail to Circumvent Suez Canal

Jakarta Globe – Bloomberg, Ekaterina Shatalova & Nicholas Brautlecht, Oct 16, 2013

A train operated by OAO Russian Railways arrives for the opening ceremony
 of a reconstructed rail link between Khasan station in Russia to Rajin Port in
North Korea on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (Bloomberg Photo)

Vladimir Putin is inching closer to his goal of turning Russia into a major transit route for trade between eastern Asia and Europe by prying open North Korea, a nuclear-capable dictatorship isolated for half a century.

Russia last month completed the first land link that North Korea’s Stalinist regime has allowed to the outside world since 2003. Running between Khasan in Russia’s southeastern corner and North Korea’s rebuilt port of Rajin, the 54-kilometer rail link is part of a project President Putin is pushing that would reunite the railway systems of the two Koreas and tie them to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

That would give Putin partial control over links to European train networks 8,000 kilometers away. The route is as much as three times faster than shipping via Egypt’s Suez Canal, which handles 17,000 ships a year, accounts for about 8 percent of maritime trade — and is increasingly beset by pirates and political instability in Egypt and Syria.

“Shipping companies face higher costs to secure their cargo,” said Thomas Straubhaar, director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, in an e-mailed response to questions. “The rail route will get attractive if Russia increases efforts to ensure a secure and reliable transport on the long stretch between Asia and Europe. Customers don’t want their Porsche to be stolen along the way.”

OAO Mechel, Russia’s biggest supplier of steel-making coal, will be among the customers in the first stage of the North Korea project, sending shipments eastward to Asian consumers, according to Moscow-based Russian Railways. The Rajin facility also can be refitted to move Asian goods westward to Europe. Mechel’s press service in Moscow declined to comment.

Shipments to and from western Europe and Rajin will be delivered in just 14 days, compared with 45 days by ship, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Yakunin told reporters in North Korea Sept. 22.

Getting the two Koreas to work together on the railway and a long-stalled plan to build a pipeline to supply both Koreas with Russian natural gas is fraught with financial and political hurdles, said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy research group in Moscow. They stem from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and lingering animosity from the 1950-1953 Korean War.

“Russia’s position is to get North Korea involved in profitable projects to make them realize that cooperation is better than isolation,” Lukyanov said by phone from the Russian capital.

Nuclear development

North Korea is under United Nations sanctions for its atomic program. Six-nation talks that were designed to remove nuclear weapons from the peninsula were abandoned in 2009, when it detonated another device. The Koreas are technically still at war, having ended their military conflict with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty. In 2003, the two countries opened a highway through their demilitarized zone, one of the most heavily armed borders in the world.

“The Korean project is strategically important for Russian Railways,” said Igor Golubev, an analyst at OAO Promsvyazbank in Moscow. “But it shouldn’t expect fast returns on its investment because at this point I doubt global companies are willing to risk sending cargo via North Korea.”

While Russian Railways says time savings will make up for the higher costs compared with the Suez route, the services train operators already run between China and Europe are too costly, said Michael Tasto, an economist at the German Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics. They thus lack the capacity to take major market share from container-shipping companies such as A.P. Moeller-Maersk.

“The rail route is faster but more expensive, so it will probably become a niche product,” Tasto said by phone Oct. 7. “Cargo trains are not mass-transportation vehicles like container ships.”

None of that has stopped Russian Railways and its partners in the European Union and China from developing new links between the world’s two largest exporters, touting the routes as alternatives far removed from the political instability in Egypt and the wider Middle East.

Far East Land Bridge, a Russian Railways venture, opened a new service between Suzhou in eastern China and Warsaw on Sept. 30. The first shipment, of “electronic and technology items,” will make the 7,600-kilometer journey in 14 days, linking with the Trans-Siberian via Mongolia and reaching Poland through Belarus, the Vienna-based company said in a statement Oct. 7.

Direct link

Russian Railways and its counterparts in China and Germany in August introduced a direct link between Hamburg and Zhengzhou in north-central China that takes as little as 15 days and travels through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland.

“Our goal is a daily service,” Ruediger Grube, CEO of Deutsche Bahn, said after 51 shipping containers of goods from China arrived in Hamburg by train on Aug. 2.

The Russian and German rail operators opened an 11,000-kilometer service between Chongqing in southwest China and the German transport hub of Duisburg via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland in 2011. The travel time varies from 16 days to 23 days, according DB Schenker, Deutsche Bahn’s cargo unit.

Major customers include BMW, which ships auto parts west to factories in China, and Hewlett-Packard, which transports computers the other way.

While the Chongqing line is focused on shipments between Europe and China, the Korean link caters to traffic between Europe and the rest of eastern Asia, Russian Railways said. China, Japan and South Korea together account for about a quarter of the global economy.

Korean support

Putin has urged South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who assumed office in February, to work with North Korea on relinking their rail networks, most recently last month at the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg. Park publicly affirmed her commitment to reunifying the Trans-Korean when she met with officials in Busan, South Korea’s largest port, in July.

Putin plans to make his third state visit to Seoul for talks with Park in mid-November, Chosun Ilbo reported Oct. 1, without saying where it got the information. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, declined to comment on the report.

North and South Korea resumed cross-border rail service in 2007 for the first time in 56 years amid a mood of detente, though North Korea closed it down after 18 months and hasn’t reopened it since.

“I have personally dreamed of a railway that starts at Busan and reaches Europe via Russia,” Park told Putin at the summit, according to the website of her presidential Blue House office. “It is an important agenda item for the new government to strengthen Eurasia cooperation.”


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BMW Mulls Boosting Electric-Car Capacity on Early Demand

Jakarta Globe – Bloomberg, Christoph Rauwald, October 15, 2013

Sporty, chic and futuristic: the i3 tanks up

BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury vehicles, will have to increase investment in electric-car production if demand for the new i3 model continues in line with initial orders.

Customers have reserved more than 8,000 of the battery-powered i3, which will cost $41,350 in the US, even before the car hits showrooms in Europe next month, Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said yesterday in Amsterdam.

BMW expects to sell more than 10,000 of the four-person car next year and “will adjust capacity according to demand,” he said at a press conference. “If demand holds, which is what it’s looking like, we will soon have to invest more.”

The maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles is upgrading its lineup with the i3, the new 4-Series coupe and a revamp of the X5 sport-utility vehicle to maintain its sales lead over Volkswagen’s Audi and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz. Both competitors have vowed to surpass Munich-based BMW in deliveries by the end of the decade.

The i3 will go on sale in Germany for 34,950 euros ($47,440) on Nov. 16, followed by the US, China and Japan in the first half of next year. The model made its public debut July 29 at simultaneous events in New York, London and Beijing. The push to sell the electric car and recoup investments in the technology underpinning the vehicle include an international print, TV and Internet advertising campaign.

Margin Targets

The spending on development of new models and expanding production capacity caused the operating profit margin at BMW’s auto division to narrow to 9.6 percent in the second quarter from 11.6 percent a year earlier.

“We’ll have to work very hard to keep profitability within our target corridor” of 8 percent to 10 percent in the coming years because of large investments required to meet stricter emissions regulations and the weak car market in Europe, Eichiner said yesterday.

Sales gains in China and the US have helped BMW cushion the effects of the sovereign-debt crisis on Europe’s car market, which is sliding to a 20-year low. BMW, which doesn’t anticipate a recovery in demand in its home region before the second half of 2014, expects deliveries to rise this year for its third straight annual sales record.

“Demand in China and North America continues to be strong,” Eichiner said. “It makes sense for us to think about expanding production capacity in North America,” with the U.S. and Mexico both options, he said.

The rollout of the i3 will go ahead as planned next month and won’t be impacted by issues that typically affect the ramp up of a new model, he said. The executive was responding to a report by Wirtschaftswoche over the weekend that problems bonding carbon-fiber components for the car led to a 10-day production halt.

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Germany criticized as EU's introduction of carbon emissions rules for cars stalls

Deutsche Welle, 14 October 2013

Germany has been accused of slowing the European Union's efforts to limit vehicle emissions. Fresh talks on when new rules would be introduced faltered, with Germany wary of harming its car industry.

European Union environment ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the implementation of new rules governing vehicle emissions.

In June, governments and the European Parliament had agreed to force carmakers to limit the average carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020. A limit of 135 grams per kilometer, agreed in 2009, is scheduled to take full effect in 2015. As some ministers sought stricter targets for 2020, Germany was blamed for pushing to delay the new plan until 2024.

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard raised concerns at the latest road block to a solution. She said an agreement must be made “within weeks” if the current European Parliament can approve the changes before its term expires in May.

"This cannot be a never-ending story ... There was a very clear understanding that this has to be a very swift thing," Hedegaard said. "The room for maneuvering is quite limited."

Hedegaard was one of many critics of Germany's delay tactics. Sweden's Environment Minister Lena Ek called the move "dangerous." Greg Archer, the spokesman for campaign group Transport and Environment, spoke of "dirty deals."

Sharing the blame

Germany has some support, however, with Lithuanian Environmental Minister Valentinas Mazuronis - also chairman of Monday's talks - moving to deflect criticism leveled at Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He told journalists no one country "could be blamed or suspected of anything."

Prior to the talks, Germany's Environment Minister Peter Altmaier defended his nation's stance to journalists and pointed to its "cutting edge" environmental protection policies.

"But as environment minister, I'm also saying that we have to take care not to lose jobs to countries that pursue less climate protection," he added.

Altmaier had also expressed confidence a compromise could be reached within weeks.

ph/msh (AP, dpa)

Friday, October 11, 2013

BYD introduces its electric vehicle E6 to Taiwan

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2013-10-11

The BYD E6. (Photo/Chen Chi-chuan)

BYD, a Chinese car manufacturer, brought its pure electric vehicle to Taiwan on Oct. 8.

"The BYD E6 is designed for taxi drivers. The more they drive, the more they will save. On the whole, a taxi driver will be able to earn an additional NT$10,000 (US$300) a month," said Chen Wei-jen, president of BYD Taiwan.

Chen made his remarks during a press conference on Oct. 8 to introduce the E6 to Taiwan's market. A total of 1,500 invoices from taxi drivers have been received as of now, although the vehicle will not be available in the market before the first quarter of next year.

BYD Taiwan was established by BYD Hong Kong and Taiwan Solar Energy under 51:49 share ratio. Chen, Taiwan Solar Energy's general manager, has taken position as the new company's president.

Chen said that Taiwan Solar Energy would join the business because they believe electric vehicles will become more and more popular, as gas prices continue to rise. The E6 is already in use by taxi cabs in Shenzhen and Hong Kong and will be introduced to Singapore, London and the United States as well.

The vehicle was designed as a five-door hatchback sub-minivan. It only takes eight seconds to accelerate from 0-100 miles, with a top speed of 140km per hour and a driving range of 300km when the battery is fully charged.

Chen said that it only takes two hours to fully recharge the battery but approximately 80% of the battery life will be restored within 40 minutes. The E6's battery has a 10-year warranty, he said.

The E6's pre-launch price is expected to hit NT$1.7 million (US$56,600).

More Saudi women defy driving ban

Google – AFP, 10 October 2013

A Saudi woman gets out of a car after being given a ride by her driver in
Riyadh, on May 26, 2011 (AFP/File, Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh — Saudi women are increasingly getting behind the wheel in defiance of a driving ban ahead of a nationwide campaign planned by female activists for later this month, witnesses said.

A video posted on social networks this week shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh as male motorists and families gave her the "thumbs up" in support.

"Several women are now driving but not being filmed," said activist Khulud al-Fahd.

"I saw a woman in (the eastern city of) Khobar driving. This is becoming more acceptable and is no longer rejected as it once was," she told AFP.

Residents of the Red Sea port of Jeddah say that seeing women drive is becoming increasingly common in the country's commercial capital known for being more socially open than other regions of the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Female Saudi activists are planning an October 26 initiative to defy the long-standing ban on women driving.

On Tuesday, three female members of advisory body the Shura Consultative Council filed a recommendation that the ban be lifted, said one of them, Latifa al-Shaalan.

Their recommendation urges the kingdom's top consultative body to "recognise the rights of women to drive a car in accordance with the principles of sharia (Islamic law) and traffic rules".

"There is no law that bans women from driving. It is only a matter of tradition," Shaalan said.

Last month, a Saudi cleric sparked a wave of mockery online when he warned women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring "clinical disorders" upon their children.

King Abdullah has been carefully treading towards change, introducing municipal elections for the first time in 2005.

In January, he appointed 30 women members for the first time to the 150-member Shura Council which advises him on policy but cannot legislate.

A petition signed in March by 3,000 Saudis had urged the council to launch a debate on the ban in the only country where women are not allowed behind the wheel.

An earlier campaign in June 2011 saw some women being stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to drive again.

The 2011 call, spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and punished after demonstrating in cars.

In addition to the driving ban, Saudi Arabia imposes other major restrictions on women, including the requirement to cover themselves from head to toe in public.

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