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, May 30, 2015

A driverless future could be nigh - or not

A future in which electric cars drive themselves and be hailed through a smartphone app may be closer than we think. Or not. Chris Cottrell reports from the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany.

Deutsche Welle, 29 May 2015

Google self-driving car

It's fitting that the movers and shakers of transportation policy have descended on Leipzig this year for their annual summit. It was here that two of the Romans' massive, intracontinental trade routes once converged, and it is here that global leaders from the fields of trade, transit and tourism have been discussing the future of mobility.

Buzz words at the International Transport Forum (ITF) have included autonomy - as in autonomous, or driverless, cars and trucks - electromobility and the sharing economy.

More than a few people here have raised the possibility of a future in which urban centers are entirely void of gas-guzzlers piloted by humans. Self-driven, battery-powered vehicles are the goal, they say. Some are eagerly waiting for these prophecies to come to fruition; others are investing heavily to ensure that they do.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group forecast that Germany would have self-driving cars on the Autobahn by 2017 and in cities by 2020. By 2025, commuters here could be sharing nearly every roadway with fully autonomous cars.

"This is a visible signal that mobility is changing," German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said moments after arriving at the transportation summit in a pilotless BMW i3, a sleek, black SUV that rolled to a gentle stop outside Leipzig's trade fair grounds.

Big changes

The auto industry is in the throes of big, often eye-popping changes and Germany's engineering and design prowess has put its carmakers in a unique position to get behind a possible shift to a driverless future.

A few floors up from where Dobrindt arrived, luxury carmaker Audi was showing off how those changes have manifested themselves in a virtual semi-driverless cockpit of the future, dubbed "James 2025."

This Delphi automotive Audi Q5 is fitted with laser sensors, radar and multiple
(AP Photo/Delphi)

It wasn't a full prototype, just two black fabric front seats and a dashboard, but it was turning heads all the same. Sebastian Hinzmann, an engineer in the group research division at Volkswagen, Audi's parent company, said the model was based on the A6.

Audi is of course already testing its self-driving cars on a specially allocated stretch of the Autobahn in Bavaria. Just two months ago, Dobrindt took a spin there in a souped-up Audi A7 named "Jack" that was equipped with autopilot technology.

But what set "James 2025" apart from "Jack" were the extra bells and whistles. Push two buttons on the black leather steering wheel morphs into an airplane yoke-like control and sinks into the dashboard, while a sleek instrument console with touch controls softly pings the driver to alert him or her of any imminent danger.

Audi says consumers will first be able to get their hands (so to speak) on its semi-driverless technology in 2017 in the A8 model. But it's not only German auto giants that are hedging their investments for the future.

Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and executive chairman of the Ford Motor Co., said in an interview with Bloomberg that he was aware that car and truck sales wouldn't be enough to guarantee his company's existence for another 100 years.

Urban migration

Ford's remarks added another layer to a debate that has been going on here as well about urban migration and how to prevent crippling gridlock as more people flock to cities. There has been ample speculation in the last few days in Leipzig of the potential benefits that could befall urban centers if all vehicles in cities were one day driverless.

"If we replace all the private cars and all the buses in a city, just leaving the metro and the shared, autonomous cars, we would need only one-third of the vehicles and 10 percent of the parking space," said Jose Viegas, the ITF's secretary general.

But ITF economist Philippe Crist isn't so sure. Not because fleets of shared, electric cars that run on autopilot wouldn't reduce congestion and eliminate the need for parking, but because there's no guarantee that's where things are headed. There is precedent for cities being blindsided by trends they did not expect.

Asia, for instance, and China in particular is home to a majority of the world's 21 million electric vehicles. But rather than cars, drivers there get around on battery-powered two- and three-wheelers. That's compared to the roughly 500,000 electric cars that are registered around the world.

"The model for replacing a fuel car with an electric car - the same car, same size, different drive train technology - that's not the winning electromobility strategy in the world," Crist said. "The real winning strategy is a small, low-range, light, city vehicle."

He said this was allegorical for what may happen with the rollout of automated vehicles too.

"Many expect these vehicles to be used the same way," Crist said. "I wouldn't put my money in the bank on that."

Friday, May 29, 2015

US aviation authority to review pilots' mental health screening

The deadly crash of a Germanwings jet has regulators not just in Europe thinking about how to prevent such mishaps. Now the US regulator has said it has plans to study pilots' mental health.

Deutsche Welle, 28 May 2015

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday that it had instructed its Pilot Fitness Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to make recommendations on how to better screen the safety of pilots flying in American airspace within the next six months.

It said the study, which is to be conducted by FAA officials and representatives of the private aviation industry, was aimed at finding more effective ways of monitoring the mental and emotional health of pilots.

The statement specifically referred to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean last year, as well as Germanwings flight 4U9525, which slammed into a mountain in southern France on March 24, killing all 150 people on board.

While there is still no evidence to suggest what caused MH370 to disappear from the radar, the preliminary results of an investigation into the Germanwings crash has suggested that the flight's co-pilot deliberately crashed the Airbus A-320 after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.

The ARC, which according to the FAA statement, is to include both American and international "aviation industry experts," is to be tasked with examining not only the methods of evaluating pilots' mental health, but also barriers to reporting any suspected issues.

The Reuters news agency quoted a statement issued by Claudia Lange, a spokesperson for German flag-carrier Lufthansa, which owns budget air carrier Germanwings as saying that the airline "highly welcomes efforts that serve to further increase international aviation safety and will fully support these efforts."

pfd/jil (AFP, Reuters)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Houston submerged as wild weather kills 20 in US, Mexico

Yahoo – AFP, 26 may 2015

Vehicles are left stranded on Interstate 45 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015, 
after heavy rains put the city under massive amounts of water (AFP Photo/
Aaron M. Sprecher)

Houston (AFP) - Torrential rain left large parts of Houston submerged Tuesday and trapped fans at an NBA basketball game, in savage weather that has killed nearly 20 people in the United States and Mexico.

The southern US states of Texas and Oklahoma, and northern Mexico, have borne the brunt of several days of violent weather, including tornadoes, which have left scores dead, missing and injured on both sides of the border.

More than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain fell in just a few hours in the Texas city of Houston, triggering the worst flooding there in at least a decade and stranding at an arena a Houston Rockets player and spectators who had gone to see the basketball team Monday night.

Hundreds of vehicles, some fully under water, were abandoned on Houston's roads. Some people were trapped in their cars, others marooned in their homes, as flood waters rose menacingly up around them.

Two people died overnight in the flooding in the city, Mayor Annise Parker said, with the toll expected to rise. Both had drowned.

"I want to ask and urge people to continue to be safe and recognize that we may have more rain later today," she said, encouraging people to stay at home in America's fourth-largest city.

The southern US states of Texas and Oklahoma, and far northern Mexico, 
have borne the brunt of several days of wild weather, including tornadoes, which
 have destroyed homes, seen rivers swell to record levels and left cars 
submerged on highways (AFP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)

"We have cars littered all over the city," she told a press conference, adding that emergency crews were attempting to reach the abandoned vehicles to see if anyone had been trapped inside.

Downtown Houston, where the Toyota Center is located, was not under water, said Parker. But about 200 fans had been unable to get home from the NBA game for several hours after the deluge and a few settled down for the night in the arena.

At least one Rockets player, center Dwight Howard, was among those stranded into the night after learning of the treacherous road conditions.

"There's no need to try to push it," the Houston Chronicle reported him as saying.

"I don't think it's smart for anybody to try to be out in this weather."

President Barack Obama called the flooding in Texas "terrible" and said he had offered urgent assistance to state Governor Greg Abbott.

'I love you. And pray'

Fears were growing meanwhile for at least 12 people still missing in Hays County, also in Texas.

Vehicles are left stranded on Highway
 288 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 
2015, after heavy rains put the city
 under massive amounts of water 
(AFP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)
One person was already confirmed dead there and two more died in Oklahoma, which is located to the north of Texas.

Many of the dozen missing in Hays County were from one house that was torn from its foundations during a terrifying flash flood over the weekend.

View galleryVehicles left stranded on a flooded Interstate 45 in …
Vehicles left stranded on a flooded Interstate 45 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015, after heavy rai …
There were two families staying at the A-frame house in the picturesque town of Wimberley for the long Memorial Day weekend, NBC News reported. Among them were three children.

Inside was Laura McComb, who was on the phone with her sister when the house, built on stilts, broke off and was swept away.

"We are in a house that is now floating down the river," she reportedly told her sister, Julie Shields. "Call Mom and Dad. I love you. And pray."

Shields told the NBC affiliate KXAN that the phone call ended when McComb thought she saw a light from a helicopter that had come to rescue them.

She has not been heard from since Saturday night.

Baby found dead

Vehicles left stranded on a flooded Interstate 
45 in Houston, Texas on May 26, 2015,
 after heavy rains put the city under massive
 ammounts of water (AFP Photo/Aaron M. 
South of the border, Mexico has also felt nature's wrath.

A savage twister roared through the border city of Ciudad Acuna at dawn Monday, killing at least 14 people and flattening hundreds of homes in a deadly six-second blast.

Among the victims of the tornado’s 270-300 kilometer-per-hour (168-186 miles) winds was a baby boy who was ripped from the grasp of his desperate parents and flung into the air.

His body was found on Tuesday after a frantic search.

The child was "catapulted by the tornado," Mayor Evaristo Lenin Perez said.

"It was horrible. It started raining in the morning. Very early, the wind came and everything started to fly around and then it all fell to the ground," Ciudad Acuna resident Juanita Perez said tearfully.

The federal government said the tornado destroyed 247 homes and damaged another 450.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

GrabTaxi Enters Jakarta’s Motorcycle Taxi Service Market

Jakarta Globe, Vanesha Manuturi, May 20, 2015

Malaysia's GrabTaxi adds motorcycle jockeys to its line of services in Jakarta
 on Wednesday, as part of an expansion to cater to Indonesia's rapidly growing
urbani population. (Antara Photo/ Zabur Karuru)

Jakarta. Malaysia’s GrabTaxi is adding motorcycle jockeys to its services in Jakarta on Wednesday, as part of an expansion to cater to Indonesia’s rapidly growing urban population.

The Kuala Lumpur-based startup, which connects taxi drivers with customers through a smartphone application, rolled out the trial run of its “GrabBike” service starting Wednesday. The service focuses solely on motorcycle taxis, better known as ojek, according to a statement on Wednesday.

“GrabTaxi is strongly committed to create a safe and efficient transportation system in Southeast Asia. Ojek is a very popular mode of transportation in Indonesia, so [our entry] was only a matter of time,” Cheryl Goh, vice president of marketing at GrabTaxi Holding Group, said in a statement.

Under the trial version, the pickup service is currently limited to the business districts of South Jakarta – Kuningan and Setiabudi – although delivery or courier services will be available across the capital city in the future, according to the statement.

Jakarta is the third city where GrabTaxi is rolling out its GrabBike service, after Ho Ci Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam last year.

GrabTaxi’s GrabBike service will be competing head to head with homegrown startup Go-jek, which has connected ojek drivers to customers for services ranging from transportation to courier since 2010.

GrabTaxi entered Jakarta offering online taxi booking services last June. It has since expanded to Surabaya, East Java and Padang, West Sumatra.

First established in Kuala Lumpur three years ago, GrabTaxi boasts an application that has been downloaded more than 4.4 million times while more than 83,000 customers and drivers are using its services across Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All bodies from Germanwings plane crash identified

The remains of 150 people who were killed in a March plane crash can be sent home to their families, French authorities have said. The victims aboard the Germanwings flight were identified using DNA analysis.

Deutsche Welle, 19 May 2015

Information on the victims has been forwarded to Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said in a statement on Tuesday, allowing the bodies to be repatriated and laid to rest.

"The 150 death certificates have been signed, as well as the permits for burial," Robin said.

French crime experts had previously identified all of the people killed in the crash, by matching the DNA samples found at the crash site to those provided by passengers' relatives.

The identification process, which had lasted six weeks, was cojmpleted on Friday, the prosecutors said.

The experts had previously predicted it could last between two and three months.

Co-pilot 'rehearsed' the crash

The Airbus 320, belonging to German low-cost carrier Germanwings, flew into a mountainside in French Alps on March 24, while on route to Düsseldorf from Barcelona.

Investigators believe that the plane's co-pilot, 27-year old Andreas Lubitz, intentionally crashed Flight 4U 9525, killing himself and 149 other people aboard. Almost half of the victims were German, another 51 were Spanish nationals.

Lubitz had struggled with severe depression and suicidal tendencies in the past, and was written off sick from work a number of times, including on the day of the crash.

In its interim report, French aviation safety authority BEA said that Lubitz "rehearsed" putting the plane to a descent several times on the outbound flight to Barcelona, prior to the crash.

On the way back to Germany, the young co-pilot allegedly locked the captain out of the cockpit and put the aircraft into a nosedive. The flight recorder, retreived several days after the crash, showed the pilot's frantic efforts to open the door, which is heavily re-enforced to prevent hijackings.

After the crash, several countries announced they would require that two people inside the cockpit at all times, which is already a rule in the United States.

A full report on the crash is expected to be published within a year of the incident, as is typical within the industry.

Relatives to fill out a form

Robert Tansill Oliver, father of one of the victims, said he and his wife received notification that DNA was matched with remains of their son. They also received a form they needed to fill out so they can have their son's remains sent to Spain in June.

They were also invited to Paris to identify items possibly belonging to him.

Oliver, a retired American teacher who has lived in Barcelona for decades, said he had no complaints about how long it took to identify his son's body.

"I hope they have done the job correctly," Oliver said. "Better to get it done right than quickly."

dj/msh (Reuters, AP, dpa. AFP)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Green lights for our self-driving vehicle prototypes

Google Blog, Friday, May 15, 2015   

When we started designing the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle, our goal was a vehicle that could shoulder the entire burden of driving. Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error (PDF), reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car.

Now we’re announcing the next step for our project: this summer, a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety drivers aboard.

Our safety drivers will test fully self-driving vehicle prototypes like this one
on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., this summer.

We’ve been running the vehicles through rigorous testing at our test facilities, and ensuring our software and sensors work as they’re supposed to on this new vehicle. The new prototypes will drive with the same software that our existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs uses. That fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the roads since we started the project, and recently has been self-driving about 10,000 miles a week. So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on—in fact, it’s the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.

Each prototype’s speed is capped at a neighborhood-friendly 25mph, and during this next phase of our project we’ll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed. We’re looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle—e.g., where it should stop if it can’t stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion. In the coming years, we’d like to run small pilot programs with our prototypes to learn what people would like to do with vehicles like this. If you’d like to follow updates about the project and share your thoughts, please join us on our Google+ page. See you on the road!

Posted by Chris Urmson, Director, Google Self-Driving Car Project

Russian rocket carrying Mexican satellite crashes in Siberia

A Russian rocket carrier has crashed in Siberia shortly after its launch, the Interfax news agency reported. The recent numbers of accidents has tarnished the reputation of the Russian space industry.

Deutsche Welle, 16 May 2015

The Interfax news agency reported on Saturday that the Russian Rocket, Proton M, carrying a Mexican Satellite crashed in a sparsely populated area of Siberia.

It was not immediately clear if there was any damage caused by the crash in the Chita area of southern Siberia where the rocket came down, the report said.

According to Russian space experts, the rocket may have been carrying up to 10 tons of toxic fuel.

The rocket was lost after taking off ffrom Baikunor for the International Space Station in Baikonur in the central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan.

The satellite on board the rocket carrier was intended to serve Mexico and other parts of South America.

The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, reported that in a separate space failure on Saturday, the Russian spacecraft Progress failed to ignite its engine and to adjust the orbit of the International Space Station just a few hours before Proton's crash.

According to Russian media, the lives of the crew are not in danger.

Russia's space program in trouble

The Interfax news agency, however, quoted industry sources saying the crash could result in the suspension of all upcoming Proton-M launches, including the next one in June for a British satellite.

Russia's space program, which pioneered space exploration with the launch of the first satellite and the first man into space, has experienced a troubling number of accidents in recent years. This is the latest breakdown to hit Russia's troubled space industry.

ra/bw (dpa, AP, Intrerfax)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Eigth person found dead after US train crash

Yahoo – AFP, 14 May 2015

Rescuers work at the scene of an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

Washington (AFP) - The death toll from the derailment of a passenger train in Philadelphia rose to eight Thursday with the discovery of a body in the wreckage, as investigators focused on the actions of the engineer in the run-up to the crash.

All 243 people who were aboard the train late Tuesday when it ran off the rails, leaving some cars overturned and reducing others to twisted heaps of metal and debris, have now been accounted for, officials said.

Amtrak Train 188, which was traveling from Washington to New York, crashed as it entered a curve while moving at a little over 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour -- double the 50 mph speed limit, according to investigators.

The compromised state of some of the cars left rescuers with a difficult job ensuring all bodies had been removed.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said recovery workers found the body with the help of a cadaver-sniffing dog. The victim's identity was not released.

"We have confirmed eight deceased from this horrible tragedy," Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters.

"But all individuals that we had any reason to believe were on that train have now been accounted for, and we know their whereabouts completely."

Besides the eight fatalities, more than 200 people were injured in the wreck.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (front 2R), and Pennsylvania Senator 
Bob Casey Jr. (L) look on as Senator Pat Toomey speaks during a press 
conference regarding the wreckage of an Amtrak Train in Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015 (AFP Photo/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

'Reckless' train driver

Nutter had previously described the actions of the train driver, identified by US media as 32-year-old Brandon Bostian, as "reckless" but on Thursday distanced himself somewhat from the remark and said he was merely being "expressive."

"But I don't think that any common sense, rational person thinks that it was okay to travel at that level of speed, knowing that there was a pretty significant restriction on how fast you could go through that turn," Nutter said.

Bostian's attorney Robert Goggin told ABC News on Wednesday night that Bostian had no explanation for the crash and no recollection of it either.

Bostian has provided a blood sample, turned over his cell phone and is cooperating with authorities, Goggin said, according to ABC.

Bostian "was interviewed by the police department, but I believe it was a pretty short interview in which he apparently indicated that he did not want to be interviewed," Nutter said.

"He doesn't have to be interviewed if he doesn't want to at this particular stage -- that's kind of how the system works."

This May 13, 2015 still image from video released by the National Transportation
 Safety Board (NTSB) shows wreckage at the scene of an Amtrack train that
derailed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (AFP Photo)

Investigators recovered the train's "black box" data recorders but the National Transportation Safety Board has cautioned that its first assessment of the data was preliminary, and that it would need more time to piece together what happened.

Experts and some lawmakers say the crash could have been avoided if Amtrak had fully implemented a high-tech backup system called Positive Train Control, which prevents trains from speeding or going through red lights.

Though Amtrak has been installing the system for years across its vast rail network, the stretch of track where the crash occurred was not covered.

"We had to change a lot of things on the corridor to make it work, and we're very close," Amtrak chief executive Joseph Boardman told reporters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Toyota, Nissan recall 6.5 mn cars over exploding airbag fears

Yahoo – AFP, 13 May 2015

An employee sews an airbag at Takata's crash-testing facility in Auburn
Hills, Michigan, in 2010 (AFP Photo/Bill Pugliano)

Japanese auto giants Toyota and Nissan on Wednesday said they were recalling 6.5 million vehicles globally in the latest chapter of an exploding airbag crisis linked to several deaths.

The world's biggest automaker said its recall of five million vehicles affected 35 models globally produced between 2003 and 2007, while Nissan said it was calling back 1.56 million vehicles also due to faulty airbags made by embattled supplier Takata.

Nissan Motors Chairman and 
CEO Carlos Ghosn speaks 
during the company's financial 
results press conference in 
Yokohama, on May 13,
 2015 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi
"This will affect many of our markets, including Japan, Europe and North America," a Nissan spokesman told AFP, adding that the explosion risk was among a range of problems seen in the defective airbags.

"There might be many factors. (But) we have seen risks that the metal casing for inflators can malfunction."

Nissan's recall affects a range of models produced between 2004 and 2008.

Both firms said there were no reports of deaths or injuries linked to their latest recall.

The announcement comes after some 20 million vehicles produced by automakers also including General Motors and Honda were recalled because of the risk that their Takata-made airbags could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the occupants.

At least five deaths have been linked to the defect, with one in the United States initially investigated as a murder due to her grisly injuries.

Despite the ongoing problem, Nissan's results appeared to be relatively unaffected.

Just after the recall announcement, it said fiscal-year net profit soared a better-than-expected 17.6 percent to 457.6 billion yen ($4.2 billion), with the firm crediting a weak yen and new model rollouts.

Nissan projected an even stronger 485.0 billion yen profit this business year, including ongoing recall costs.

Last week, Toyota said its annual net profit rose to a record $18.1 billion. However, Honda's annual profit turned down 8.9 percent to $4.4 billion -- it is Takata's biggest air bag customer and accounts for a bulk of the recalls.

Air Force Lt. Stephanie Erdman, whose eye was injured by airbag shrapnel 
from her 2002 Honda Civic, is surrounded by pictures showing the accident as she
 testifies on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, on November 20, 2014 (AFP
Photo/Jim Watson)

Ongoing investigations

Toyota said the latest recall affects 1.35 million vehicles sold in Japan, 637,000 in the United States and 1.26 million in Europe.

"We have been conducting various ongoing investigations regarding Takata-produced airbag inflators," the firm said in an email.

"Among the parts collected from the Japanese market, certain types of airbag inflators were found to have a potential for moisture intrusion over time. As a result, they could be susceptible to abnormal deployment in a crash."

Takata has said the defect surfaces mainly in humid, hotter regions and resisted US authorities' call for a national recall of cars with its airbags.

The firm had an open disagreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which accused Takata of not helping with its investigation into the defects.

Tokyo-based Takata, one of the world's biggest air-bag companies, is a key supplier to major automakers with dozens of plants and offices in 20 countries, including the United States, China and Mexico.

Japanese auto parts maker Takata's child car seats at a showroom in
Tokyo on May 8, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno)

Facing lawsuits and regulatory probes, Takata recently acknowledged that the crisis has taken a toll on its earnings, but added that it expects to eke out a small profit this year.

Despite the global crisis, Takata's top executives have largely stayed out of the public eye and remain tightlipped about the situation.

The announcements were made shortly before Tokyo markets closed. Toyota shares fell 1.06 percent to 8,196.0 yen while Nissan lost 0.95 percent to close at 1,246.5 yen.

Russia delays return of ISS crew members after supply ship failure

Yahoo – AFP, 12 May 2015

A picture taken on September 17, 2006 shows the International Space
Station over Earth (AFP Photo)

Moscow (AFP) - Russia said Tuesday it would delay the return of three astronauts from the International Space Station after the recent failure of a supply ship.

The journey home of the three crew members, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed until June, senior space official Vladimir Solovyov said.

"We have now proposed for this landing to take place in early June," Solovyov was quoted by the state TASS news agency as saying.

Russia's Progress M-27M cargo ship 
blasts off from the launch pad at the
 Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan on April 28, 2015 (AFP Photo)
Meanwhile, the mission to replace the three astronauts -- one from Russia, one from NASA and one from the European Space Agency -- has been set back to late July, Solvyov said.

There are currently six crew members on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The delayed rotation follows the recent failure of an unmanned Russian Progress supply ship to dock with the ISS after suffering a communications breakdown.

The Progress craft eventually burnt up as it plummeted back to Earth last week, in a fiery end to a mission to deliver oxygen, water and supplies.

A commission is currently investigating the cause of the incident.

The exact date for the next launch to the ISS will be announced after it comes out with its finding on May 22.

Russia's space agency said Tuesday a provisional investigation showed a problem with the separation of the Progress spacecraft from the Soyuz rocket taking it into orbit.

The malfunction meant the cargo craft ended up on an orbit that was about 40 kilometres too high, the agency said in a statement.

Since the mothballing of the US Space Shuttle programme, Moscow has had a monopoly on sending astronauts to the ISS from its Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

But Russia has recently suffered a series of problems exposing shortcomings in its own programme.

A Progress supply ship crashed in Siberia shortly after launch in 2011. Moscow has also lost several lucrative commercial satellites.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Drunk co-pilot picked up at Schiphol, poised to fly out, May 11, 2015

Schiphol airport police picked up a drunken co-pilot who was about to fly out on Sunday morning. 

The pilot was poised to join the flight when he was stopped by police who were tipped off that he had been drinking. 

A breathalyser test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.375, which a police spokesman told local broadcaster AT5 was a ‘considerable’ amount. Air crew are not supposed to drink for 10 hours before a flight. 

Police have refused to say which airline the man worked for or what the destination of the plane was. He was banned from flying for 15 hours and fined €6,000.

‘What he was doing was extremely dangerous because he was really about to fly,’ the spokesman said.

Monday, May 11, 2015

For sale: solar powered car (red) with 4,000 kilometres on the clock,  May 10, 2015

Not your average luxury car. Photo Gijs Versteeg via

Always wanted a solar-powered car and have you got several hundred thousand euros to spend? Researchers at Twente University may have exactly what you are looking for. 

The university’s team of solar researchers have put their 21Connect vehicle, which took part in the 2011 solar race across Australia, up for sale. 

Bright red, streamlined and with just 4,000 km on the clock, the 21Connect is up for grabs on Dutch online auction Bidding for the car, which has a maximum speed of 140 kph, had topped €317,000 by Sunday. 

The students plan to put the money raised into the production of a new solar powered car and say the sale is not a stunt.

‘We want to sell this solar powered car to a serious bidder who will give the 21Connect the place it deserves,’ said spokeswoman Justine Wolters in an online statement.

‘The car has taken years of hard work to build, all the parts were designed and assembled by hand,’ the Marktplaats advert states. ‘There is only one of its kind in the world.’ 

The team is again taking part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia, which starts on October 18 and say they have high hopes of winning this year.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

China to launch direct air routes to Africa

Want China Times, Xinhua 2015-05-08

A Southern Airlines flight at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport,
Dec. 16, 2014. (Photo/Xinhua)

China will launch its first direct air route to Africa, according to an announcement by China's Southern Airlines.

Operated by Southern Airlines three times a week, the new route will fly from China's southern city of Guangzhou to Nairobi, Kenya starting on Aug. 5, significantly cutting travel time between China and Africa.

In addition, Air China will follow the suit, opening a Beijing-Johannesburg, South Africa route on Aug. 30 and Beijing-Addis Ababa, Ethipoia on Oct. 26.

Official data showed that the number of air passengers flying between China and Africa increased 15% annually in recent years.

African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Mauritius launched air routes to China last summer.