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. …

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Malaysia Airlines' ticket sales suspended by 2 websites in China

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-03-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

Interpol, 28 March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AAM: Please do not.....

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

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

The Guardian, Juliette Garside, Friday 28 March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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

Google – AFP, 27 March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former President Habibie Grumbles Over Plans to Procure Leopard Tanks

Jakarta Globe, Mar 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China, France sign major business deals on Xi visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France's 'duty'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Article:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rolls-Royce accused of sacking senior engineer for whistle-blowing

Company denies Hilmi Kurt-Elli's claim he was dismissed for raising potentially serious safety concerns over jet engines

The Guardian, Rupert Neate,  Tuesday 25 March 2014

A vacuum chamber for aero engine tests at a Rolls-Royce mechanical test
 facility in Dahlewitz, eastern Germany. Photograph: Sebastian Willnow/
AFP/Getty Images

Rolls-Royce has been accused of sacking a senior engineer after he blew the whistle on allegations of potentially serious problems with the company's jet engines.

Dr Hilmi Kurt-Elli, who was a senior design engineer on Rolls-Royce engines used on more than 30 different types of passenger jets, claimed at an employment tribunal on Tuesday that he was dismissed after raising safety concerns with the FTSE100 company's chief executive, John Rishton.

The company said it had thoroughly investigated Kurt-Elli's claims, which relate to alleged errors in a computer modelling system used in designing engines, and found "no evidence to substantiate product or safety integrity concerns".

Rolls-Royce said Kurt-Elli was not sacked for blowing the whistle, but for his unreasonable attitude and the total breakdown of his relationship with colleagues and senior executives.

Kath Durrant, Rolls-Royce's human resources director, told the tribunal in Nottingham she was horrified when she read Kurt-Elli's letter to Rishton outlining "a set of extraordinary allegations".

"I took your claims very seriously," she told Kurt-Elli. "A genuine whistleblower coming to us should expect to be taken very seriously, and that is what I did. We would have been on your side."

Durrant said investigators were called in to investigate Kurt-Elli's claims, first made in October 2011, and Rishton was personally briefed on their progress.

She said Kurt-Elli refused to accept the investigators' verdict that there was no evidence of any safety problem, and he went on to accuse Rishton and other senior executives of "corruption, potentially illegal acts and behaving unethically".

Durrant said Kurt-Elli alleged that "multiple layers of management were involved in a conspiracy to cover up information". Kurt-Elli, who was Rolls' vibration specialist until he was dismissed in February 2012, said it was his case "that the CEO and yourself [Durrant] conducted a sham investigation. It was designed specifically to not uncover the truth."

Durrant denied there were any safety concerns or a coverup. "Dr Kurt-Elli starts from the basis that everybody in the company is corrupt," Durrant said. "I started from wanting to understand what the hell was going on here."

Durrant said the company had no choice but to suspended, and later dismiss Kurt-Elli after he refused to accept the outcome of the investigation and continued to make serious allegations against "so many people".

"The claimant made personal attacks on everyone who would not agree with his position," she said. "I've never seen such language, such allegations used against colleagues. After such a long period of issuing the same allegations there was no relationship on which we could continue."

Kurt-Elli, who was representing himself at the tribunal, said: "People have lied, people have misled." He also alleged that the company did not follow a proper dismissal procedure. Rolls-Royce said the dismissal was carried out correctly.

Tribunal judge Richard Hutchinson said: "We have to decide whether you were dismissed because you made a protected disclosures [blew the whistle], or if it had all to do with your behaviour, not the disclosure.

"They say you made unfounded allegations about your work colleagues leading them to believe you could no longer work in the organisation. If we decide it was because of the protected disclosure, they are in trouble."

Kurt-Elli is seeking compensation of £450,000 from Rolls-Royce.

The tribunal continues.

The case comes as Rolls is subject to a criminal investigation into claims raised by separate whistleblowers that the company paid bribes in Indonesia and China.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Indonesian Bureaucracy Grounded MH370 Search Flights, Military Pledges ‘Fullest Support’

Jakarta Globe, Harry Jacques & Josua Gantan, Mar 19, 2014

Students stand next to a giant mural featuring missing Malaysia Airlines flight
 MH370 displayed on the grounds of their school in Manila’s financial district of
Makati on March 18, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Jakarta. International search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hit a setback after Indonesia failed to give clearance for six foreign aircraft to fly over national airspace into the Indian Ocean on Tuesday in spite of assurances that Indonesia’s armed forces had extended its ”fullest support” to the continuing search.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) issued approval for search planes to fly through national airspace earlier this week, but delays in subsequent sign-offs by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs forced three countries’ search flights to remain grounded in Malaysia, testing relations between two countries well used to locking diplomatic horns.

“For the flight permits to be given out, there needed to be approvals from three different government institutions — the defense ministry, the transportation ministry, and the foreign affairs ministry,” TNI spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul told the Jakarta Globe. “Government institutions other than the TNI had to work on this, too, so the permit was stuck.”

Some 26 countries have banded together since March 8 to search for the missing Boeing 777-200ER over a search area spanning some 22 million square nautical miles, and Indonesia has assumed an important role as the gateway country out of Malaysia to one of two search areas. The southern corridor begins west of Banda Aceh and takes in a vast arc past Western Australia into some of the most remote expanse of the Indian Ocean with an average water depth of around 4,000 meters.

“It probably is the largest peacetime armada of assets and satellite information-sharing that we have ever seen for a rescue and search operation,” Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said, as quoted by Reuters.

The Indonesian government has so far lent 11 assets to the ongoing search, according to the Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia.

“We have one aircraft — a Boeing 727-200 from the TNI Air Force,” Ambassador Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim told the Jakarta Globe. “We have one Cassa C-212 aircraft, which belongs to the Navy, and five ships also from the Navy.

“We also have one helicopter and three rescue boats from the National Search and Rescue Agency. That’s what we have on record.”

The BBC reported on Tuesday that the southern search had been hampered after the central government banned six planes from flying over Indonesian territory.

Four aircraft from the Japanese Self Defense Force, including Hercules and P-3 Orion planes, as well as a South Korean P-3 Orion and a US P-3 Orion were grounded in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

“We were supposed to take off 7 or 8 hours ago originally to head out over the Indian Ocean south of Java and to search a grid pattern for signs of the missing Malaysian airline,” Rupert Wingfield Hayes, a senior BBC reporter in Kuala Lumpur, said on Tuesday. “All of these aircraft are sitting on the ground.

“There is no search, no aerial search anyway, going on from Malaysia [on Tuesday]. The reason for that is that we have been waiting all day for the Indonesian government to give the foreign military aircraft permission to overfly it’s territory and it simply has not come.”

The Malaysian Embassy’s First Secretary Khairul Tazril Tarmizi would not be drawn on the delay in granting clearance, saying on Wednesday only that the Malaysian government’s position regarding Indonesia’s cooperation remained unchanged.

“Indonesia has been fully cooperative,” Tazril told the Jakarta Globe. “The ambassador’s view is still the same as [on Tuesday].”

The State Palace said it was unaware of the issue when contacted on Wednesday, adding that it would be discussed at a meeting later in the day. But according to Rear Adm. Iskandar, the TNI had tried to expedite the permits. The delay in allowing the six aircraft to take off was a consequence of the labyrinthine bureaucracy of other government bodies, he said.

‘Fullest support’

“We want to get things straight — they [the grounded planes] have received their permits from the TNI,” Iskandar said. “It is incorrect to say that the TNI did not give them the permits. This is a humanitarian problem and it is only right that we help as fast as we could.  The TNI’s principle is that we will give our fullest support. You can see that we sent five warships to the Malacca Strait to help.”

Indonesian Naval commander Adm. Marsetio spoke with his counterpart in the Malaysian Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, and dispatched the five ships to the Strait of Malacca on Mar. 9.

“[The Mar. 18 flights] were just delayed, we did not reject the permits,” Iskandar said. “There is a mechanism; it was just a bureaucratic problem. We never intend to slow down the process. Please get this right, the TNI never intended to make the process difficult.”

The Indonesian armed forces said there should be no additional overfly clearance issues as the search continued.

“I have checked this with the intelligence, all the grounded flights have been granted access,” Iskandar said. “By now, they can operate.”
A Chinese family member of a passenger on board the missing Malaysia Airlines
 Flight MH370 is brought into a room outside the media conference area at a
hotel in Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Mar. 19, 2014. (Reuters Photo)

Background checks

While Indonesia’s nebulous bureaucracy grounded search flights from taking off from Malaysia to search into the southern corridor on Tuesday, the Malaysian government said there had been no holdup in Indonesia’s willingness to supply background information held by the country’s intelligence agency on the seven Indonesian passengers on flight MH370.

The passenger manifest lists the Indonesian travelers as Firman Siregar, 25; Ferryindra Suadaya, 42; Herryindra Suadaya, 35; Lo Sugianto, 42; Indrasuria Tanurisam, 57; Vinny Chynthyatio, 47 and Willy Surijanto Wang, 53.

Only Russia and Ukraine had failed to hand over the results of background checks conducted by national intelligence agencies on Wednesday, according to a tweet by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The countries that did submit reports of their nationals abroad MH370 found nothing suspicious in their investigations.

Indonesian National Police chief Gen. Sutarman, center, addresses a press
 conference in Jakarta on March 19, 2014, clearing seven Indonesian passengers
 on board the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet of terrorism links. (JG
Photo/Ezra Sihite)

Sidney Jones, a leading expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia and director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told Reuters on March 16 that she would be ”extremely surprised if any group from Indonesia, the Philippines or Malaysia itself would be directly involved.” A subsequent statement from the Indonesian National Police ruled out any involvement in terrorism by any of the seven Indonesian passengers.

“None of the seven passengers have been involved in a banned organization.” National Police chief Gen. Sutarman said at the State Palace on Wednesday. ”We will give full support… so that Malaysia can have access to the information.”

Malaysian officials in Indonesia said they were working with the Indonesian intelligence agency to conduct further background checks on the seven Indonesian passengers.

“The screening of the passengers’ background is being done by the police, Interpol and the CIA,” Zahrain said.  They are all involved — it’s an international issue. Indonesia has been cooperative in this.”

Cabinet meeting

The Malaysian Prime Minister and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke on the phone earlier this week to discuss cooperation efforts, while defense minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that a meeting of the cabinet chaired by the president was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesday to further discuss the search for MH370.

The outcome of this meeting could not be confirmed by deadline.

Purnomo told reporters on Wednesday that Indonesia had not detected MH370 on either its civilian or military radar systems.

“[On the morning of Mar. 8] we did not get detection from any of our radars,” Purnomo said. “There was no detection of any strange plane; there was none.”

Despite the delay in allowing six aircraft to leave their stands in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, the Malaysian government said that it remained satisfied by cooperation with Jakarta.

“The search will continue until we find the plane,” the Malaysian ambassador said. “How long that takes, I don’t know — we don’t know where the aircraft is. The best thing now is to pray.”

—Additional reporting by Reuters

The family of MH370 passenger Firman Chandra Siregar watch television
at their house in Medan, North Sumatra, on March 9, 2014. 
(EPA Photo)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Missing jet reveals uncomfortable Malaysian truths

Associated Press, Chris Brummit, 17 March 2014

Malaysia's acting Transport Minister
 Hishamuddin Hussein looks on a map of a
 search corridor during a press conference at
 a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur International
Airport, in Sepang, Malaysia, Monday,
March 17, 2014. Twenty-six countries are
involved in the massive international search
for the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that
disappeared on March 8 with 239 people
aboard. They include not just military assets
on land, at sea and in the air, but also
investigators and the specific support and
assistance requested by Malaysia, such as
radar and satellite information. (AP Photo/
Vincent Thian)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - It's apparently a challenge to find people satisfied with the Malaysian government's performance in its search for Flight 370: A mainstream daily newspaper here ran a story Monday on praise being lavished by an anonymous Facebook user from Sweden.

The mysterious disappearance of a Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard would test any government, but Malaysia's is particularly strained because its elite are accustomed to getting an easy ride. Decades in power and a pliant media have cushioned them from scrutiny.

Its civilian and military leaders have struggled to provide answers from Day One of the crisis, when it took several hours to even declare the plane missing. They said early on that the plane may have doubled back, but took days to say it was military radar that suggested that and days more to confirm it.

In response to criticism, government officials have repeatedly said they must wait to confirm information before they can release it. But that has not prevented them from making mistakes.

On Monday, the defense minister said police visited the homes of the jet's two pilots soon after the March 8 disappearance, contradicting the country's police chief, who had said officers did not go there until a week later. The minister also raised doubts about earlier reports from Malaysian officials that a key data communications system had been turned off before the cockpit spoke to air-traffic controllers - a detail that has increased speculation that the pilots were responsible.

China, where most of the passengers are from, has been especially dismayed that it took a week for Malaysia to come up with details on the plane's possible location. The official Xinhua News Agency said the delay "smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information."

Passengers' relatives, holed up in hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing and desperate for word, have picked up on rumors and false leads in the media before the government has, adding to their anguish.

Asked on Monday by a foreign reporter about the criticism, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said it was baseless. "I have got a lot of feedback saying we have been very responsible in our actions," said Hishammuddin, the main face of the government's response to the crisis. "It's very irresponsible of you to say that."

The disappearance of the jet touches on issues that officials normally wouldn't discuss publicly. The incident now appears certain to be a security failure at some level of the government, and has raised questions about the national airline and the defense readiness of the air force, which was unable to quickly spot a jetliner in Malaysian airspace and off its flight path. The possibility of Islamist militant involvement is also highly sensitive in the multiethnic country.

"In Malaysian political culture, they are not used to answering questions straight and honestly," said Bridget Welsh, a political scientist from the Singapore Management University. "They are used to 'government knows best for government,' and have been very slow in realizing this is not a Malaysia crisis - this has global effects."

Malaysia has enjoyed rapid economic growth since it gained independence from Britain more than half a century ago. Although nominally a democracy, the same ruling coalition has been in power for more than five decades, helped by gerrymandering and affirmative action policies that have won the support of the ethnic Malay majority.

But in recent years the government's grip on power has weakened; the ruling coalition didn't win the popular vote for the first time in elections last year, though it managed to hold on to power. The plane disappeared the morning after a court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy, a verdict widely seen as politically motivated. It has since emerged that the pilot was a supporter of Anwar, though that has not been widely reported in government media.

Greg Barton, a Southeast Asia expert at Australia's Monash University, said the country has a tradition of distrusting the West, a "third worldism" political philosophy that was a legacy of the pugnacious rule of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir.

"There is a natural instinct not to ask for too much Western help," he said. "It's made it hard for the government to move quickly."

Malaysian officials have said they are working with foreign experts and countries, including the sharing of sensitive radar and satellite data.

Apart from online news portals, the print and television media in Malaysia are unabashedly pro-government.

"Stop bashing SAR (search and rescue) efforts, says Swede FB user," read the headline in the mass circulation New Straits Times, which went on to quote at length from the Facebook page of the anonymous Swede defending the government.

"Can you imagine the burden they (the government) carry on their shoulders and how much precaution they have to take before announcing anything?" the Swede was quoted as posting on his account. "No. Because you are not in their shoes."

The government said soon after the jet disappeared that there were indications it might have turned back from its last known position over the South China Sea after it stopped communicating with the ground, but didn't fully explain why. It took a week for it to confirm that military radar data had confirmed the plane had flown over the country and then north toward the Indian Ocean.

"There is a bit of haziness there," said Ibrahim Suffian, the head of the Merdeka Center, a Malaysian political research institute.

Like several others, Ibrahim said he thought the government's media management had improved in recent days, perhaps because they had contracted a crisis management company to advise them.

The fact that the air force didn't apparently spot or react to the jet flying across its airspace has brought the military unusual scrutiny. Some aviation analysts have said authorities were slow in tracing the plane, in shifting the search area from the South China Sea, and in investigating the pilots' background. Suspicion has fallen on the pilots, although Malaysian officials have said they are looking into everyone aboard the flight.

"I think they were a bit tardy in getting onto it," said aviation expert Tom Ballantyne. "It may be the pilot was very experienced, he was obviously highly respected, perhaps they thought it was out of the question (that he might be involved.) Certainly, his home and that of the co-pilot should have been part of the initial investigation."

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Paris restricts driving as pollution hits danger level

Google – AFP, 15 March 2014

Vehicles drive past an information board asking to limit their speed to 60km/h
on the ring road on March 15, 2014 in Paris (AFP, Francois Guillot)

Paris — The French government will on Monday introduce alternate driving days in Paris for the first time in nearly two decades to tackle dangerous levels of air pollution in the city.

It is only the second time the French authorities have ever resorted to the drastic restriction, which means that drivers will only be able to use their cars on alternate days.

The government made the announcement after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for five days running in the capital and surrounding areas.

All public transport was made free over the weekend to persuade residents to leave their cars at home.

By Saturday the number of pollution particulates in the air had fallen slightly after hitting a high of 180 microgrammes per cubic metre -- well over double the safe limit -- on Friday.

These so-called PM10 particulates are created by vehicles, heating and heavy industry, with the safe limit set at 80 per cubic metre.

But with pollution levels forecast to rise from Sunday evening, the prime minister's office announced the decision to restrict drivers in and around the capital for the first time since 1997.

Motor bikes are also covered by the restriction, which will allow only vehicles with uneven numbered plates on the road on Monday.

The government also unveiled other pollution-lowering measures including restrictions on vehicle speed and on burning fuel.

It said it would take a call on Monday about whether to extend the restrictions further.

The smoggy conditions have been caused by a combination of cold nights and warm days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing.

The pollution particulates in the air can cause asthma attacks as well as respiratory and heart problems. The World Health Organisation has said finer particulates -- known as PM2.5 -- are cancer-causing.

Automobile associations criticised the restrictions as "stupid".

"I am amazed to see that a small lobby has managed to convince people that cars were behind this peak in pollution," said Pierre Chasseray, head of a drivers' association called 40 Millions d'Automobilistes.

"This measure is worse than unfair, it is stupid."

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